Monday, December 20, 2010

Holidays - Tradition, story and memory

Holidays are a time of tradition, story and memory.
I love hearing tales of special foods, activities that
families share and how they choose to decorate their home
during holidays. Our family bakes two special breads for
Christmas morn - a brioche usually shaped like a Santa
(photo above)and a Norwegian julekage. Both recipes came
fromSunset magazine in the late 60's...and we've been making
them every since. One tradition associated with the julekage
is to make the dough, divide it in half and bake two loaves.
Then one is given to a friend or on Christmas
you are sharing the very same bread. One year we tried to
send the bread to my brother in London. Only it took too
long to arrive, so became we stick to sharing
with folks nearby.

That same brother in London started us on the tradition
of Christmas crackers....the British poppers with paper
crowns, silly jokes or riddles, and tiny toys. They guarantee
that Christmas night is filled with laughs and giggles...
and recognition that life needs levity as well as seriousness.

We as many families have a Christmas cactus..which if we
are careful blooms in late December. But our Mama
cactus has been passed down through the generations..
My husband's great aunts found a small Christmas cactus
discarded by a flower shop in Roseburg, OR around
1910....They "rescued" it and its been growing and
producing cactus generations every since. The original
"elder" resides in our kitchen with an offspring nearby.

I enjoy Christmas trees, especially for all the memories
stored in the decorations and the stories that are shared
in a family as they are placed on a tree. However,
now that we tend to travel to be with our children, we skip
or only have a small tree. There is one decoration that
continues to get more elaborate in our home - our nativity
scene. I made the original figures when I was about 10.
We always set up a small scene as I was growing up. There is
something about the scene that has always appealed to me -

Then in 1994 we traveled to Ecuador for the wedding of one
of our daughters. We were introduced to the tradition of nativity
scenes in Cuenca, Ecuador. Some which filled whole backyards
including mini volcanoes, living plants ,etc. Each scene was
clearly a labor of love by everyone who set them up. Ever
since then, our scene has expanded in both concept and items.
It covers the top of our piano.

Every piece in the scene is a story shard..connecting to
travels of friends, our children, ourselves. Others were
gifted for special occasions. Some are new, some old. Each
represent connections to people and times shared. The
tiny animal band I made of clay when I was around 11 is there.

The three kings of the original scene long ago disappeared, so
in our present version, these three musicians (gifted to us from
Peruvian friends) are the "kings".

When one of our daughters traveled to Greece, she didn't
find a piece for the brought back a few rocks (from
Atlantis perhaps?)

For me,our scene represents family and the hope and joy
which should be celebrated at the birth of each and every child
in the world. Some infants will grow to be extraordinary
individuals whose stories will impact the world in major ways
But every child has the potential of offering his or her unique
gifts and our job is to nurture possibility.

May this season however you celebrate it, be filled
with warmth, family, friends, tradition and lots of story sharing!!

Peace, Wendy

Thursday, December 16, 2010

American Craft NYC show Nov. 19-21

It's a busy holiday time of year for all of us..but I wanted
keep my promise of talking about the new NYC show
I participated in Nov. 19-21:
The image above is my booth.. Snarval and Wudaineon
welcomed customers into my space. My set up was simpler
than usual in part because the show provided black pipe
and drape for us. This meant I could use less of my set up
materials. I kept the focus on my figures for this show. I
plan on using a variation of this booth for ACC Baltimore in Feb.

For a new show, I thought it went well. There was
a wonderful eclectic mix of fine art and craft with an equal
spread of very established artists and emerging artists.
Live musicians set up in various areas to perform, large
paintings were painted on the spot, ceramic demonstrations
pulled in customers, and there even were live professional
models in an area dedicated to figure drawings complete
with chairs and pads of paper. (The figure drawing was
the favorite part of the show for my niece's 8 year old
daughter!). All in all the show had a rather funky, fun
New York City edge to it which I rather liked.

I have less images to share than usual since I forgot my
camera, but was able to borrow one to take a photo
of my booth...and that of Valerie Bunnell, a good
friend and awesome figurative artist:

I met Joanna Gabler who exhibited her photography
at the show: Joanna
writes: "Art is and always will be a sacred gate
between the invisible and the visible". I was
especially drawn to her "gateways and passages" series
dedicated to a friend who died recently. Check out
that section of her website...the second image is the
one that invited me in!

Since I was staying down in New York to celebrate
Thanksgiving I had a few days to wander. When down
in Chelsea I happened upon the Rubin Museum of Art
on 17th street between 6th and 7th Ave:
The museum is dedicated to the art of the Himalayas
and surrounding regions and is a breath of calm in
a bustling city. I spent the afternoon there
looking at its various exhibit..check out the website..
and watching a group of school children sketching
objects in a Tibetan altar and talking about why they
selected a specific object.

Then went over to the Lyons Wier gallery to see
the exhibit by Jan Huling:
who describes herself as a children's book author
and beadist!...Yes, beads, beads, beads..with humor!

I also spent some time at the Museum of Natural
History and its exhibit exploring the similarities and
differences between the brains of humans and other
animals and went to my favorite area of the museum
which has masks from the Pacific Northwest. The
creativity and humor of the art enthralls me.

Returned home bustled for a local holiday show,
finished up some orders (including a new journal cover...
with a phoenix!...stay tuned..may be a new series!),
worked with after school children and community
on a First Night Project (images on a future blog post)
and finally am doing some holiday baking.....

I hope your holiday preparations are filled with
lots of sweet scents and fun!

Journey on! Wendy

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Creating Sacred Spaces - Medicine Wheel Productions

I'm just back from the American Craft Show NYC and
will share sights and impressions...but first want to
lift up Michael Dowling's Medicine Wheel installation
for World AIDS Day, December 1. Michael is an
artist of vision who believes in cooperative work
and community involvement. Medicine Wheel Productions
website gives a glimpse of his extraordinary vision and

For the past 19 years Michael along with many volunteers
has turned the Boston Center for the Arts' circular brick
building into a sacred space for a 24 hour vigil of memory,
sharing, and offerings of music, dance, and poetry.
The installations rotate focus on the four elements, earth,
air, fire and water. This year was fire. The image above
shows what greeted you as you walked up the stairs into
the cyclorama this year: self-portraits (of Michael's students)
carved into plywood, red ribbons, and shrines.

Each year the main element are the 36 pedestals with
shrines arranged in a large circle. Visitors are encouraged
to add photos or mementos to the shrines which are put
into the pedestals at the end of the vigil. The pedestals
contain 19 years of such memories and thoughts.

This year removable gray walls assembled inside the brick
walls were covered with black 1" mesh. Buckets of red ribbons
were set around as well as piles of red ribbon arranged
in the center of the space for people to cut into lengths.
Designs were started on the walls...but were added to
over the 24 hour AIDS ribbons shimmering
in the light holding the circular space.

Anyone could add their designs to the walls.

Over the 24 hours artists, musicians, and performers
share their work, food is served, and quiet conversation
and meditation takes place. I've attended the vigil every
year I've been in town since it began, have helped when I
could. Last year, I spent the entire 24 hours there. This
year I was there only a few connecting as always with a
small group of friends who celebrate another year of survival
of the daughter of a friend born HIV positive 21 years ago
and remembering my brother and so many other friends who
did not survive.

Michael works with many youth and in particular with
a group of young men in recovery. This year they created
these full clear body sculptures. They performed
with them early in the day - something I wish I had seen.
The sculptures are made of clear tape.. body part, by
body part and then taped together with some red ribbons
inserted inside. Simple materials, amazing result!

In our busy world it is often difficult to find venues
to share, stop and just breathe. Thanks to Medicine Wheel
Productions, I find a moment every Dec. 1.

Next week - New York show and New York moments.

Journey on! Wendy

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dragons and eyes for New York City

Finally as promised..some images of what I've been working
on....with a little "before" and after. First the new dragon
named Wudaineon by our 9 year old granddaughter who was
just here for a visit. The head as it began - wood and
eye attached via apoxy sculpt:

And the finished head - spokes are wet-formed
goat rawhide:

hind quarters...and end of tail...have to come to
New York to see it as a whole!

Actually I hope to so some serious photography in NYC
..and have a complete image for you on my return..or at
a minimum one of my booth there! Wudaineon is between
4 and 5 feet long.

I'll also have new figures at the show. I've continued
to play with the concept of eyes...and how we "see".
Here are two in beginning stages...

At the last show, a young fan asked if I ever thought
about having the figures stand on their heads. Hmmm
interesting. Thought I'd play with that idea.
Here is the finished head stander.

It's named,"TaDaa". As a friend pointed out to us
this weekend, sometimes if you stand up, stretch
your hands in the air and say "Ta-Da!" the world
seems a happier place!

This new figures "sees" with her/his hands,
feet, chest, and back of the head! Look closely.

Please anyone in the New York City area...come
on over to the American Craft Show NYC at the
Javits Center this Friday-Sunday. Full info at: I'll be in booth
# 132. Would love to see you!!

With Thanksgiving approaching...I send my
thanks to all of you for joining me on this
internet journey .

Journey on! Wendy

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hot Flash! book by Pamela Hastings

I promised images of new work in my last blog - and I
will post some soon, but last week my copy of this
new book by my friend, Pamela Hastings
arrived in the mail. She sent it to me as a thank you
for my contribution to it.

Pamela and I met in the 70's when we were both doing
the craft circuit. I stayed, but she moved on to doing
a vast array of activities including doll making workshops
on and off line, getting trained as an occupational
therapist and more. We reconnected at a doll show
a number of years ago and she told me about this
project and asked if I would contribute to it. She was
reaching out to women artists and writers she knew to
reflect on the concept of "Hot Flash!" and to reflect on being
a women in this age we live in. Some of us responded to
her questionnaire, others contributed poems, thoughts,
insights, stories, images of artwork and ourselves and
even a few recipes! In all, over 60 women ranging in age
from 20's to 80's are represented.

The result is a fantastic compendium of stories and images
and insights into extraordinary individuals. Pamela
explains the organization of the book in this way:
"I have collected and arranged these contributions in a
non-linear way, like stories told around a late-night bottle
of wine by long-term and new friends. Long ago I noticed men
meeting each other share accomplishments, women share
stories. Welcome to your large messy collection of new friends. "

Pamela goes on to say, " I hope this book will start and continue
each of you in your collecting, listening to stories, making ART
out of your experiences. Couldn't all the Energy of Hot Flashing,
of experiences exploding, be harnessed to save the planet..or
at least our Selves! "

It's taken eight years to complete and worth every
hair tearing moment along the way. I certainly plan to get
to know some of these new "friends".

To get a glimpse of some of the stories, check out
Pamela's blog:

This book would be a great holiday gift for any
dear friend or yourself!! It can be purchased through
Pamela's website.

Now back to stitching a new dragon...

Journey on...Wendy

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Studio nests and altars

Some artists work in pristine open spaces or so I hear.
I don't know any such artists. My friends seem to have
studios and work spaces filled with bits and pieces of
work and life. "You work in a nest" is how folks have
described my space. It is true my studios have almost
always been upstairs, perched amidst the trees. Here
is a short photo tour of where I work. You'll notice
I didn't make any attempts to clean up before inviting
you in. You're getting a look at reality. My studio is
in the house where we live. It used to be on the third
floor next door, but there was a house fire, so I moved
the studio into our house. As our children grew up and
moved out, my hubby and I took over their bedrooms.
My main studio is in a room at the top of our stairs which
we divided into 1/3 and 2/3 for three children. I've
left it divided.
So here we go, climb our stairs with me:

and walk in - that is a mirror between the two spaces.

My work table is straight ahead along with shelves,
bins of leather, inventory, and a shore photo titled "the
aesthetics of chaos"...seems appropriate!

This is the wall I face when I work:

The poster is of :"The Tate by Tube" - given
me by one of our daughters when we were visiting
my costume designer brother in London in 1989.
The shelf I face when I work contains this small studio
"altar" - each item has a story and special meaning.
I find that most people and perhaps especially artists
gather small "altars" whether they call them that
or not. My studio walls have some other altar areas.

Below is the right side of the workspace. Upper left
shows the opening to the larger part of the divided room.

I have a fondness for images of older women!

Turn around (carefully it's a small space) and you'll see
my view outside facing the street. I haven't repainted
since our daughter slept here when young.

To demonstrate how long we've lived here. That oak tree
in the background was a tiny seedling that we let grow
instead of pulling it out. Years do fly by!

Walk around the wall, into the larger studio room. There
used to be loft beds in here, but now we just keep a single
bed for extra sleep space for friends and family. The window
straight ahead looks out on our greenhouse where I spray
paint and do felting. Yes, that is a big 4'x5' nest perched by
the window. It is connected to a long mythic folk tale I am

This is the reverse side of the work table wall - The costume
designer figure is a tribute to my brother. He died of AIDS
in 1990 along with so many other creative friends. I like
having photos of him in the studio..spurring me on.

To the right as you walk in is a wall with shelves with beads
and miscellaneous tiny things waiting until their creature or
figure calls them!

The wall is filled with tickets from shows, photos
of friends dear and lost, a favorite redwoods photos,
event buttons and a bit of everything else.

The greenhouse is down the hall. You can see it
is a multi-use space. There is some Swiss chard
growing in there now plus herbs drying.

I use the far end. Someday we might even finish the
space! My husband's business is creating beautiful
wood and glass sunrooms....only he finishes the ones
for other people. Old story of the shoe maker and his
children...Of course I could paint the walls if it
bothered me.

Finally - one last piece of equipment: my
kiln in our basement:

There you have it. The aesthetic chaos from
which my creatures emerge!
Hope you have enjoyed the tour...
Next week...images of new work for NYC!

Journey on! Wendy

Friday, October 22, 2010

Myth in Metal at Paradise City Arts Festival: Robert Alan Hyde and Mark Groaning

As promised last week, more mythic work from the
Paradise City Arts Festival, only this time in metal.
First,Robert Alan Hyde :
Robert is on the right in the photo above. This was the
first time I met Robert and saw his truly astounding
work. Arlo Guthrie has referred to Robert as a "living
master". I was drawn to his sculptures such as this

and to his mythic masks:

Here is a quote from Robert's website:
"With torch, steel, copper and brass, Robert sketches a
unique vision- blurring the boundaries between reality
and fantasy.His forms, founded in his acute observations
of humans, animals and nature, are shaped with masterful
skill— enlivened with enchantment and imagination."
Definitely check out his website to see the amazing range of
his work and vision. And if you can, see him and his work
in person at the November Paradise City Arts Festival show
in Marlboro:
Robert won "best of show" for his sculpture in the
sculpture garden in Northampton.

Another metal sculptor at the show with imagination
and vision was Mark Groaning:

A visit to Mark's website:
will show you all the materials he uses as both a painter
and a sculptor....expressing himself "as the Universe
moves me to do so." There is a cool video on
his website demonstrating the range and fun.
I, of course, focused on his dragons climbing and
soaring in Northampton:

Mark will be also be exhibiting in the November
Paradise City Arts Festival show in Marlboro.

Inspired by all the amazing individuals and art in
Northampton, time to get back to my work - a new
dragon and evolving new species. My next exhibit:
The American Craft Show NYC Nov. 19-21:

Journey on! Wendy

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mythic creatures at Paradise City Arts Festival - Lisa Hey and Jillian Barber

It was gorgeous weather last weekend in Northampton for the
Paradise City Arts Festival. Crowds and sales were up from
last year, so the atmosphere was positive and energetic.

Snarval, the dragon was there...looking for other
mythic friends. We definitely found some!

Lisa Hey, who was exhibiting for the first time at the
Paradise City Arts Festival, had a booth not far from
mine. It was filled with mythical felt sculptures.

Lisa's magical one-of-a-kind sculptures are created
completely through the time consuming process of needle
felting, using the sturdy built up felt as the armatures.
Her blending of story, mystery and vibrant color is a wonder.

I loved the rabbits with antlers! They reminded me of some
of the characters in the tales my Dad used to tell!
To learn more about Lisa, her process and work, go to her
Etsy shop at: Or better yet, go
see her in person at the next Paradise City Arts Festival show in
Marlboro, MA in November. Info
She told me about a wall piece she was working on for
that show which sounded astounding!

Shows are also about connecting with old friends.
Jillian Barber, and I used to show at the
same fairs years ago, but our paths hadn't crossed lately. Jillian
is both an award winning photographer and ceramic sculptor.
Fortunately we were able to reconnect last weekend. Jillian's
booth was filled with wonderful ceramic mythic creatures as well
as masks and other sculptures.

Her ceramic sculptures are intricately carved often
with textures of antique lace and shells, then painted
with under glazes and fired multiple times. I especially
loved these two creatures:

But it wasn't just women bringing along the myth
at this week's post will lift up two male
artists who added to the magic with their metal

Journey on!