Tag: engineer and artist

The Engineer & The Artist Do Art Camp: Day Three

Communion12

Communion 12

I’ve long ached for an epiphany – for things to come whooshing in, connecting, clarifying, lining up. I’ve witnessed it happening to other women, and I’ve held the space for women so it could happen for them, but I’ve never had The Big Epiphany myself . . . until 4:50 this morning when I woke up with a start and clarity like I didn’t know was possible. I saw cloths, I transcribed my artist statement, I knew what I do and do not want to do. I couldn’t turn the light on, though, cause Andy was sleeping, so I just sent myself an email and when I copied it into my journal later this morning, it filled almost 20 pages. Astonishing in every way.

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Communion 10

(Communion is the series where I stitch what conversations with Nancy look like.)

I designed eleven cloths today, basting each one of them so that they’re ready to stitch. Yes, that’s right: eleven.

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Andy threw some more pots, but honestly, I’ve lost count. Late in the afternoon, I did accept an invitation to join the potters who convened on a nearby bar for drinks, and what a fun bunch they are! After supper, it was back to the studio for me. I could stay here forever.

Communion11

The Engineer and The Artist Do Art Camp: Day Two

“breakfast starts at 7:30,” he says in a bit of a startle when the alarm clock goes off at 7:10 this morning.

“so?” i say, rolling over for (at least) a 10-minute snooze.

“so we need to get moving,” he says in a tone that’s rather annoyingly urgent.

we have breakfast, and as i look forward to heading directly to the studio to start working on something – anything – he reminds me that class doesn’t start till 9, even though the studios open at 8. his engineer is showing.

when we meet for lunch, he’s thrown another 6 pots:

Arcpots2 1

AND he tells me that he’s gotten over his bout with perfectionism. i clap a little bit, delighted to know that he’s embraced the wonkiness factor:

Arcpots2 3

by the time we met for supper, he’d glazed all his pots and finished a face jug:

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[ :: ]

meanwhile, my day started out with a trip to the local cemetery where we did a few tombstone rubbings before the downpour turned us back an hour or so ahead of schedule. this is the one i rubbed:

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back in the studio, i set to work dressing up my key a wee little bit:

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and laying out and basting Rinse Cycle 5:

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as well as Rinse Cycle 6:

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i can’t begin to describe how relaxing it is to spend so much time in the studio. (even if i haven’t yet completely tucked in and shed the outside world.) oh, if my life could be like this.

there is stitching in my immediate future. and a lot of it.

[ :: ]

today’s bonus:
as we left the fiber studio when andy came to pick me up for lunch, i said i wanted to start putting in at least 37.5 hours on writing and stitching each week to which he said “and you need to get your studio so that it’s conducive to creating space wise.” oh man am i ever glad he came now cause after being in this fabulous fiber studio a few times, he sees how important it is to have a space that loves it when you’re creating. even if he hasn’t thought about the fact that i’ll need his help to make changes.

The Engineer and the Artist Do Art Camp, Day One

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honestly, i wasn’t sure how much i’d like being at art camp with my husband. turns out i like being here together. i like it a lot. not only do i have somebody to sit with me at all meals plus a roommate i don’t have to worry about short-sheeting my bed or hanging my underwear on the flagpole or anything such as that, it’s great, big, huge, heartwarming fun to see his work, to see him create. he’s taking a pottery class called Turners & Burners: Folk Pottery of Southern Appalachia, and man is he productive. in the first 3 hours of class on day one, he threw 4 pots and a pitcher.

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“some aren’t smooth and round,” he says in a (surprisingly) apologetic tone.

“they’re wonky, andy” i tell him. “they’re the ones you would buy or at least gravitate to if somebody else made them.”

“i know,” he laughs.

[ :: ]

while andy was throwing pots, i was in a fiber class. not so much productivity for me on day one, but i did make this key:

Key1

and meet susan lenz (the instructor) in person – finally – and see some of her beautiful work up close:

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and also meet rena wood, the textile artist-in-residence:

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“i think of it like doodling with thread,” she says of this puddling effect:

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this piece was done on a vintage tablecloth given to her by a woman who works here. rena dyed it black and started stitching:

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and this piece was inspired by the loss of memory she saw in her grandfather. he was losing his memory as she was building hers:

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[ :: ]

afterwards, there was a bonfire (complete with wine) then more walking hand-in-hand with andy as we strolled through the town.

you know, when i went to camp with my lifelong best friend, dianna, a few decades ago, my mother didn’t send me the first note or letter, even though i left a stack of self-addressed/stamped envelopes ready and waiting. as we settled into orientation, i get a text message from this same mother, asking me the name of the song that played when the ballerina jewelry box was opened. my goodness how things do change.

but hey, they don’t make me drink milk at this camp, so there.

the engineer and the artist: caregiving

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This time last week, my daughter Alison had a partial thyroidectomy. It was a harrowing time, made even more harrowing by the fact that she is a professional singer and actor and voice instructor. The surgery finally over, we joined her in the Recovery Room, where she enjoyed small cups of ice chips that I called mini-margaritas.

In the week since, while I set alarms every 2-4 hours round the clock for meds, crush pills up and bury them in applesauce then spoon-feed them to her, fill ice bags to keep on her throat to prevent swelling, find ways to make and keep her comfortable, The Engineer fills bird feeders, plants cyclamen and petunias, and does odd jobs around her house.

Three days after surgery, at 2 a.m. as I remove (with the surgeon’s approval, of course) the steri-tape strips covering her incision, because she is so very allergic to the adhesive in the tape, Alison cuddles with the oversized stuffed pink bunny that The Engineer bought his ever-little girl.

My mother washes clothes and cooks.
Dr. Frank Cole doesn’t give up until he finds what needs attention.
Donn Chambers (my brother-in-law, an anesthesiologist) points us to Dr. Liz Shaw. It’s who he’d have operate on him, he says, and a week later, I can sure see why. The woman has good hands. Real good hands.

Friends and family call and mail and email and text their concern and support. Some send flowers. One sends a stone that I carry with me to the hospital. People we’ll never know in person light candles and send prayers out and up.

Though it’s surprising how much energy the surgery saps from her and how long it takes to replenish the reservoir, she stays up a little longer each day and can stand more space between pain pills. They warned us to expect hoarseness, but there’s actually very little. And though she hasn’t sung yet (unless you count that one note the day after surgery), she will. In fact, she has an audition next Tuesday.

Forward motion.
Progress.
Recovery.

So many helping, supporting, praying, comforting. Through it all, an entire village – a large and powerful village – rallies, and we see quite clearly that regardless of how your brain works . . .

Beauty heals.
Science heals.
Love heals.

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It really is all we need, you know.

DahliaStruts

One

Alison’s recovery is nothing short of remarkable.
Yesterday, her surgeon came into room 713
and sat on the bed with Alison to remove the drainage tube.
Dr. Shaw: Now sing me an “eeeeeeee”.
Alison sang an “eeeee”.
Dr. Shaw, with a big smile on her face: “That was beautiful.”
Alison: “But it was only a G.”

Art and science collide.

Dr. Shaw,
the surgeon who loves science,
speaks in terms of the particular sound
that will allow her to gauge the performance of Alison’s vocal cords.
Alison,
the professional singer with perfect pitch,
and for whom music is oxygen,
hears and responds in terms of musical notes.

~~~~~~~

Two

~~~~~~~

Three

This is a love story written by a friend and former coworker of my son, Kipp.

the engineer and the artist: obsessions, planning, devotion

BenFranklinsDaypage

Ben Franklin’s Daily Planning Page

I am a list-making, task-and-project oriented kind of girl who likes to get things done.

The Engineer likes to get things done, but not in the same way. He doesn’t make to do lists (though he does, I’m happy to say, check things off mine when I, in preparation for a big event, create the “kitchen sink” list and lay it out on the kitchen counter, along with a pen for marking through and checking off).

I sleep better if I’ve laid out my tomorrow before bedtime. He likes to get up and see where the day takes him.

I enjoy the feeling of announcing what I intend to do, giving myself a start date, clearing the decks, then devoting myself to the project. He is more of a get-up-one-morning-and-feel-like-building-that-shop-I’ve-bee-thinking-about-building-for-years kind of guy.

I like having deadlines. He prefers getting around to it eventually.

I still have the term papers I wrote in high school – even the math term paper I wrote in 7th grade. I LOVE the deadline, the planning, the gathering, the pulling together. I love the A+’s. Him? Not too big on term papers.

The Engineer is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. Standing next to him, I can look for all the world like a short do-whack oddball. I can’t help it – I just love having a project I can lose myself in. Once upon a decade, it was my life. Now, it’s a way of life I want to recapture and reclaim. I want to put the blinders back on and focus. Back Then, it was the way I lived. Life went around a bend, though, and it became harder and harder and harder to devote myself to any project bigger than cleaning the toilet. (Somehow the world opens way for that, you know? But writing a book? That’s different. That’s harder to claim uninterrupted time for.)

Back Then, my brain could handle and hold Big Projects in the context of my life, but now . . . now my brain feels scattered, like it’s turned into a bag of birdseed somebody just opened and dumped into my skull. Like I told the Engineer late last year, I miss that feeling of (and the end result of) devotion, that immersion, that focus. I miss that satisfying, exhilarating sense of accomplishment.

So you know what I’m gonna’ do? I’m gonna’ get it back.

I have a Big Project that’s held a sizable chunk of real estate on my heart for eons, and before I can push up my sleeves in dedication to it, before I can immerse myself like I need to and long to do, I need to devote myself to a few other projects first so they won’t bang around in the background distracting (and guilting) me:

  • put the spit-polish on two books that have been languishing in the corner for several years
  • write the third book of the trilogy
  • as always, stitch Hymns of Cloth
  • and

  • offer that online Keepsake Writing Trellis I’ve wanted to do for who knows how long.

“What are you really doing when you devote yourself to a month of productive obsessing? You are learning how to extinguish distractions so that you can concentrate; you are accepting the hard existential fact that if you intend to matter, you must act as if you matter; you are retraining your brain and asking it to stop its pursuit of fluff and worry and to embrace its own potential. In addition, you are announcing that you prefer grand pursuits to ordinary ones; you are standing in solidarity with other members of your species who have opted for big thinking and big doing; and you are turning yourself over, even to the point of threat and exhaustion, to your own loves and interests.” Eric Maisel writes.

This is just what I’m talking about, and I tell you what: this really revs my juices and gets me going. So I’m sitting with my calendar this very day, plugging things in, scheduling my productive obsessions. The Keepsake Writing Tribe (you’re the Tribe, I’m the Trellis) is a series of three monthly productive obsessions that I’m gonna’ lead . . . The first month, we write about self; the second month, we write about others; and the third month, we write about things. So if you’re the kind of person who has always wanted to capture and preserve your stories and if you’re the kind of person who longs for the satisfaction of dedicating yourself to a productive project, perhaps you want to join us. Or maybe you just need the structure (the trellis, I call it) for three months of productive obsessive writing. That’s fine, too, cause really, whatever you write is your story, right?

Now I’ve had some very good questions asked by some folks who are already signed up and ready to go, so I’m going to share them here in case they’re questions you have, too. Should you have other questions, just drop me a line in the comment section or shoot me an email by tapping that cute little envelope in the upper right-hand corner and if all goes according to plan, it will magically open up a SASE email.

If you’re not interested in Keepsake Writing and just want to talk about productive obsessions, that’s fantastic, too. Tell me how you work best, what kind of planning and creative/work style keeps you going forward. I’m all ears.

[ ::: ]

Keepsake Writing questions asked and answered:

Q: Will there be daily writing prompts?
A: No. There will be kindling, though, that you can draw from if you run dry. If you’ve already registered, thank you and maybe you want to go ahead and start jotting down notes of stories when something triggers a memory.

Q: How will we know what to write about during the second month when we write others?
A: About midway through the first month, I’ll start sending you information – specific information about equipment to use should you desire to interview people; questions you can ask; how to keep the interview going; etc. BUT you don’t have to interview anybody to write about others. You might write preserve family lore that’s been handed down orally. You might write about pets. You might write stories about your children (I’ll tell you how you can turn these into treasured gifts.) You might write about teachers, good and bad, and how they shaped and influenced your life. What I’m saying is that writing others does not mean you have to interview somebody. You can, but you don’t have to. I have a whole bunch of tricks up my sleeve . . .

Q: What if I already have some stories written – can I use them?
A: Of course. We’ll just add to those stories. Maybe you feel like taking one out from your stash to polish instead of writing something from scratch. Or maybe you want to use one of those on a busy day when you simply don’t have time to write. (Yes, I will be taking roll, and I will be taking stock, and I will be handing out gold stars and dunce hats.)

Q: What if I’m not a good writer?
A: I’ll bet you’re a better writer than you give yourself credit for, and we’ll deal with that later. This first step is about gathering. Only gathering.

Q: Is this a writing class cause I’m kinda’ scared of sharing my work with a writing class.
A: While I will be sharing specific how to information about writing, this is not a writing class. This is about capturing your stories, your memories, on paper (digital or otherwise). If you sign up for the Torch Toter Tribe, you’ll send me 6 pieces on assigned weeks, and I will read your pieces and offer feedback. If you’re in the Path Whacker Tribe, you might want to share your work with others in the tribe, but you don’t have to. So breathe. And go sharpen your pencil.

The Engineer and The Artist: Protection

DahliaFlirts

“Where do you get gas masks?” I ask Him this morning as we eat breakfast, him reading stories on his iPad and me with my pencil and paper. “Haven’t quite finished my list yet, but looks like I need about forty-four or so. Do you think they offer quantity discounts?”

“What in the sam hill do you want with gas masks?” he asks.

And here I thought this was a relatively easy question. “I think the reason for gas masks is pretty obvious,” I tell him. “I just need to know: where do I go to get some?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugs. “Maybe an Army/Navy store.”

“I don’t want leftovers from World War II, and I don’t want any that have little pinholes in ’em. Don’t want any seconds or military rejects. I just want some good, tight, operational gas masks that I can give out to the people I love. I tell you what: this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, making this list. I mean, what about That Hussy in-law. Now that she and her mama are both out of jail, they’ve made up on account of how they have something in common, so I figure I have to get her a gas mask cause she’s an in-law (maybe I could get her one with a few pinholes, though, now that I think about it), but does that mean I have to get one for her mother, too, so she (the Daughter) won’t worry the stew out of us? Mean and Stupid are a bad mix, and I frankly don’t want to be known as The Woman Who Preserved That Tramp And Her Daughter The Hussy for all posterity. Anyway, I’d like ’em to fold up real small so they’re easy to carry around – the gas masks, I mean, not the Hussy and Her Mother – and it sure would be nice if they came in cute little bags. Oh, and they need to come with a warranty, too, of course.”

Right about then is when he remembers he has some hammering to do outside.

[ :: ]

Jeanne Hewell-Chambers can remember when he stopped for breakfast on his way into work, and she didn’t eat breakfast at all.

The Engineer and The Artist: Trees

“We need to take some trees down before they fall on the house,” he says.
As he points to this:

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and this:

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and this:

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I see this:

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and this:

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and this:

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And yet again, we look at the same thing
differently.

[ :: ]

Jeanne Hewell-Chambers (who some declare got thunked up side the head one too many times as a child)
is still getting used to her husband (the retired engineer)
being home 24/7.

Sands Through the OURglass

Out1

Forty years ago, I publicly promised to spend the rest of my life with this one man named Andy – a man I’d known a scant six months at the time. I’m still married to him though we don’t look the same and neither does our marriage . . .

Then we vowed to stay with each other in sickness and in health with only some romanticized notion of what that meant based on movies we’d seen and books we’d read. Now after his stent a few years ago and my recent bout with staph infection, we have a clearer idea of what that means, the patience it requires, the commitment is demands.

Then we spent a lot of energy finding ways to be together. Now that we’re together 24/7, we find ways to build some space in our togetherness – even if it’s only agreeing to work on our separate projects for three hours then meet in the kitchen at noon for lunch.

Then we looked forward to the weekends for the romps and recess they offered. Now that the structure provided by careers and children is gone, we create our own weekends by doing something outside the normal routine, even if it’s simply dropping the dog off at the spa then taking ourselves on a walk through the local village green to look at the new art sculptures on display or taking a leisurely trip to the local museum.

Then we were high on the thrill of discovering everything we could about each other. Now we deliberately find ways to lay out the welcome mat for surprise in general, even if it’s something as simple attending an art lecture on the Spiritual Language of Paintings and practicing our new vocabulary and pondering our new perspectives over pizza afterwards.

Then we held hands everywhere we went.
We still do.

Then we laughed as often as possible.
We still do.

Then we made it a point to argue and disagree in ways that don’t require follow-up apologies.
We still do.

Then we knew we’d spend the rest of our life together.
We still do, though we now know that forever isn’t infinite, and that makes all the difference in the world.

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