Welcome to MissouriBendStudio!

This is an online journal of my artistic investigations and a way to communicate about my work, ideas, quandries and queries! I welcome comments and conversation and do hope you enjoy these musings. My artwork is available in my shop MissouriBendStudio on Etsy.com or on my website.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Two In One

I got a little chuckle yesterday when I read Gloria Freshley's most recent post from her blog, Gloria Freshley Art and Design...as she was surprised and delighted to discover the back side of a printed fabric.  It's often the case that we find the beauty in the unseen and undiscovered.

I had the same experience a few days ago when I decided to tear down a larger drawing that had been laying around for many years.  I liked parts of it, not enough to keep working on it, but just enough not to throw it away, so in moment of do or die, I started to tear it down into smaller pieces.  The drawing started out about 11x15" and was on the handmade paper that my husband makes periodically, so earthy and sturdy and lovely to work on.  I'd painted the piece a kind of minty green and it had been dipped in beeswax, with some drawing and sewing on it already, much of which I'd ripped out...but that made it even better...the trace of the earlier sewing and the holes left behind.  So, since I've been working smaller lately, I thought I couldn't go wrong by tearing it down and reinventing the piece.  As I thought about continuing to sew on one of the new small pieces, I casually turned it over and fell in love with the backside...unpainted paper flecked with bits of of color left from the ink on the prints he'd torn down to turn into the paper, made all the more luscious and rich by the addition of beeswax.  So exciting! I finished the little piece and added it to my shop titled Lost Book Page.  As you see, I think of it now as a book page, a fragment torn from an ancient volume, so there is recto (front) and verso (back)...2 pieces in one! I know, for me, which side is the front and which is the back.  Here it is, back side and then front side below.

Here's to the happy surprises...keep your eyes open!

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Walk Through The Universe: Palimpsest

I have to say that, once again, it's been such a pleasure discovering new wonders as I forge ahead on this journey through the universe.  I'm happy to share with you my latest discoveries and hope you are as inspired and delighted as I am!  I made some preliminary queries online for "palimpsest" to see just what might pop up and then went over to etsy with the same search to see if any artists were utlizing palimpsest in their work.  There were two really amazing finds in those early searches, both of which I'll share here.  The first is an artist, Aria Nadii, whose Etsy shop WildMuse immediately became a favorite.  Her beautiful work so much embodied the notion of palimpsest that I contacted her right away. I was going to begin this post with an explanation of palimpsest, but Aria has done that so nicely, I'll just relay her contribution in its entirety!  Aria's writing has also nicely provided the introduction for the second gem I'd like to share on the subject of palimpsest, for me a fascinating subject.  I'm sure you'll fall in love with Aria's work, as I have!

Third Orbiting

From The Garden By Sea

Pisces Logic

The Road To Amyoun


The Devil's Darning Needle

Undersea Dreaming, Pompeii

Palimpsest (from the Greek palimpsestos (‘scraped again’) is often found in the earliest illuminated manuscripts. A palimpsest is reused writing support of papryus or parchment from which the underlying text has been erased by washing or using pumice or other scraping devices. Erasure was not always complete and an underlying text would bleed through. There came a point when I realized that I was creating pieces that were reminiscent of palimpsests, and it  after this realization that I took a closer look at the concept and began exploring it more directly.


In my work, the written word is ever-present, but is not intended to signify anything specific. The words are there to be perceived, evoking rather than meaning. There are many layers in the construction of each piece, and texts are buried, scratched or sanded away. Sometimes they just peek through in ghostly fragments. These textual apparitions are reminiscent of the words of philosophers and poets, thought to be heretical in their time, whose carefully recorded thoughts were literally "rubbed out" and over written with religious scripture. Before the invention of paper, writing supports were expensive and the ancients were resourceful, recycling anything they could and letting very little go to waste. There is also something symbolic in this practice, that goes beyond thrift, even if it was accidental.

The canvas base of my small works are fragments of old oil paintings, which are hidden by the layers subsequently affixed. In the stitched and embroidered works, the surfaces were once parts of clothing or other textiles, onto which I layer papers made transparent by age or deliberate rubbing. I then sketch, glaze or stitch over them, partially or completely obscuring what they once were. There is meant to be a kind of poetry in the re-use and layering, resonant with that sense that comes from seeing a palimpsest, knowing that there's something hidden, half-erased beneath.

-- Aria Nadii

As she mentions in her own writing, ancient texts that included  the writings of philosophers and poets were often written over with religious scripture. I knew this to be true in an abstract sort of way, but was amazed to find a link in my search to the Archimedes Palimpsest, which can be found HERE.  An actual palimpsest!  This manuscript, undergoing extensive research and conservation at The Walters Art Museum, is a 13th century prayer book written over erased texts from the 10th century that include seven treatises of the Greek mathematician, Archimedes. Two of these are texts that exist nowhere else.  Purchased by a anonymous collector in 1998 at a Christie's auction, the palimpsest was deposited immediately at The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore for study and conservation and at this date, twelve years later, efforts are ongoing. The website for the project is a goldmine of information, images and video about the history of the manuscript, Archimedes, and the conservation efforts.  It's quite fascinating! Here's a tidbit to share...we have Archimedes to thank for many things we take for granted including the pulley, the fulcrum, and the lever...and he is apparently the first to have understood the concept of buoyancy!

Hope you can visit Aria Nadii's shop and the Archimedes Palimpsest site...both will provide a fascinating look at the layers of history both concealed and revealed in a palimpsest. 

Which reminds me...where does this path lead for next week? So many possibilities, but since it's a common connection in Aria's post and the Archimedes Palimpsest, how about looking at medieval prayer books, specifically the Book of Hours!  Love to hear your comments and anything you'd like to share about palimpsest or the Book of Hours!  

Thanks for stopping at Missouri Bend Studio!


Journey To The Black Hills

Wow...it's been a long time.  Johntimothy and I left mid-week for our trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Our destination was Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota for the closing reception of our exhibition Awakening Breath, and a mini-workshop on drypoint and mezzotint that Johntimothy conducted with the students there.  Of course, we spent the weekend in the splendor of autumn in the mountains.  Does it come as a surprise to anyone that we have mountains here in South Dakota?! The Black Hills are a gorgeous part of the country, with spectacular scenery and amazing wildlife.  In Custer State Park we were just a few feet from a buffalo as he sauntered across the road right in front of the car and later in the day the wild burros provided quite a delight as they poked their curious heads right in the car window just checking things out.  Photos coming soon, when I get them downloaded. Also had a lovely drive over to Devil's Tower in Wyoming, which is another specatcular site in this part of the country, just over the border of South Dakota.  A brisk morning hike to one of the falls in Spearfish Canyon was a real highlight and I was struck especially by the color and pattern of the bark peeling on the aspen and birch trees...inspired a whole new body of work that I can't wait to get started on!  Actually, Johntimothy and I were both inspired and have concocted ideas for more collaborative works based on these trees. But first, we have to download and sort through the thousand or more pictures Johntimothy must have taken!

Of course, I'm feeling very behind in the studio and all sorts of other things after being away, but it was a much needed break and we are both rejuvenated and refreshed!  I've posted a portrait of the first three sugar pumpkins we just harvested this morning from the garden.  We're very excited by our success and by the yummy dishes that await us when we cut into them!  Sugar pumpkins make wonderful soups and pies and I'm sure, all kinds of other things that we'll soon discover.

I'm working on the Walk Through The Universe post for later today and I'm very excited to share with you my palimpsest discoveries!  So, stay tuned, I'll be back later this afternoon...

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Walk Through The Universe: Balance

As I thought about "balance" this week, I traveled a good many places in my mind and found myself investigating a number of sources for the path.  I read a little more about Japanese aesthetics, a topic which I've been quite drawn to in the last few months, as the work that I am making seems to come from a place that does not make a separation between art and life.  I recently read Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren and very much identified with the beauty that wabi-sabi embodies in form and spirit. In the West, we tend to think of balance in terms of equals, a fifty-fifty kind of thing, but in Japanese aesthetics there is balance if all parts make the whole.  There is an elegance in the assymetrical balance that is a reflection of life.  

I turned to Donna Watson, a mixed-media collage painter, whose work and life seem to embody the principles that manifest themselves in quiet balance.  As many readers of this blog know, Donna has a wonderful and inspiring blog, Layers, which you can access here.  Donna has provided some beautiful images and her own reflections on balance below.

Faded Memory

The Way



I consider myself a mixed media collage painter.  Balance is important to me on several different levels.  As a painter, balance is one of the principles of design.  This is an important principle in my paintings, as I try to balance elements such as texture.  I may have a large area of texture in one area, and smaller patches of texture balanced with smooth areas in other parts of the painting.  I use the same principle in my collages.  I will move around pieces of paper that includes text, which I see as texture, until I decide there is a balance with other elements of texture, color, and shape.  Balance adds to the quiet essence in my work.  On another level, my art work in my studio helps me balance my life with my family.  This balance enriches my relationships, my beliefs and outlook on life, which then influences my art work in my studio.  On even a larger level, my gardens and nature really influence my work.   All my work in my gardens has to do with balance.  My choices in what to plant, and how I balance stones and water features among the plantings is intrinsic to my aesthetics.  I may place all the textures of the plants, pots, stones in an order that is pleasing to my eye, but this is all balanced by the whim and laws of nature.
-- Donna Watson

Donna's collage work is a big inspiration to me.  I love her use of subdued color, texture, mark-making and layering.  They are quiet, beautiful and seem to point to something else, something that is both there and not there, inner and outer, microcosm and the macrocosm...all one.

As in any journey, stepping one foot ahead of the other, forging a path, I pored over Donna's pieces, contemplating the link for next week's post.  I thought about their structure and the use of space, formal and informal, playful and serene.  But that wasn't quite it, then I saw it in the surface and the layers themselves.  It was the way the layers reflected the history of their making, but also pointed to history that is stored in memory, in objects, in the marks we leave behind.  They were a kind of palimpsest, another long interest of mine...palimpsest...time for more investigation. 

Please visit A Walk Through The Universe next Monday and if you have thoughts related to palimpsest you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them.  In the meantime, there will be a few posts during the coming week.  Thanks so much to Donna Watson for making the beautiful work that is hers to make and sharing her thoughts about balance in her art and life. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Following Instincts

I'm so thankful for the things I learn while I'm not looking with my eyes open...that's when I seem to see things the most clearly...in some sort of state of dreaming.  I'd been coming to terms with justifying this new work that I'm drawn to make...this simple stitching on teabags, or mending and patching holes in paper and allowing myself to follow these instincts, even as I chastised myself for not making the work I felt I should be making.  I'd started those Season Cycles pieces in the spring and intended to follow it through the year, with the four seasons providing the thread that would carry the work through.  I made twenty-five in the spring and not even half that in the summer, as I explored a myriad of other things in the studio.  Here, autumn is upon us and I kept feeling as if I should get some 5 x 5" pieces of paper going with layers of paint...and yet, I kept stitching on teabags and delicate Japanese paper.  But in my sleep, when I'd let go, I understood that these things don't have to be different at all.  Why would I insist on treating them separately...it's all one thing and the next day I went into the studio and stitched delicate lines in the colors of autumn, arranged awkwardly, like the trace of falling leaves.  Today, the teabags are mounted on 5 x 5" Japanese paper and here is the first Season Cycles, Autumn no.1.  

I think that we have to follow our instincts, one foot in front of the other....there is work that's asking to be made that only we can create.   

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mending Paper

So, here I am again...searching, thinking, ruminating on what makes it all work.  In the studio, I seem to be unsettled, that is, unless I once again begin to make those tiny stitches on paper.  And now, I've begun thinking about the idea of mending, patching tears, and piecing bits together as a way to point toward some larger idea that I cannot put into words.  I seem these days to be drawn more toward random marks, less refined, almost clumsy I'd have to admit, that evoke a kind of being in the moment, and a trace of the search.  This little piece seems almost too radical, some sort of black sheep that I should keep in hiding, but here I am bringing it out into the light.  I'm drawn to it as something that just is what it is....paper patching holes with stitches that mark the time that put them together once again.

All of this plays into my thoughts this week surrounding ideas of balance, as I contemplate the post for Monday's "A Walk Through The Universe".  I welcome comments and your thoughts about balance...what it means in your life, how and where you find it, and perhaps how it manifests itself in your life and in your art.

Back to making stitches.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Walk Through The Universe: Cairns

So, here we are with the first feature post in A Walk Through The Universe. The first subject in this journey has to be the cairn, which I first learned about several years ago as I read a wonderful book by Sheila Nickerson, Disappearance: A Map, A Meditation on Death & Loss In The High Altitudes.  Written from her home in Alaska, this book is a beautiful meditation on the lost and missing and on disappearance, both actual and as metaphor. In it, she mentions cairns, the rock piles made by explorers setting off into the unknown, in which they placed records of their journeys (or often the actual records were placed 10 feet truth north) along the way, including such things as projected routes, condition of the members of the party, previous routes traveled, discoveries, claims, etc.  They were leaving the trace for those that would come after, whether a search party, later expeditions or the unknown future generations.

The trace, leaving the record of our having passed...isn't that really what all of us are doing...I lived, I made this, I made a small difference in the world by having passed by here?  Such a simple gesture, piling up the rocks laying about, themselves a record of place and time. Sending a message to those who come after, forging the link in the unseen chain that binds us, one to another, generation after generation.

So, in the last few days, I began seeking more information about these small rock piles and my search brought forth some rich and delightful surprises all connected to a fellow by the name of Bill Dan of San Francisco.  He has been engaged for a number of years now in the work that has taken the utilitarian notion of the rock cairn to a stunning new level.  These pieces are all about beauty and balance and a kind of quiet defiance, as you'll see.

Bill provides a wealth of information and links regarding rock piles and cairns on his website here and on his delightful blog here. He graciously provided the following photos of his work, as well as links to his blog just for kids here and some video here.

I've barely had time to explore his sites, but I know there is such treasure awaiting me...these images take my breath away! They speak so powerfully to so very many things with such an economy of means.  Perhaps you're thinking the same thing I am...next week's Walk Through the Universe has to be about "balance"...

New Feature Launching!

Hope you've had a fine weekend!  I've still been working with those delicious old teabags, as you can see from this little drawing/embroidery I listed this morning...details here.  I may have mentioned (or not??) that I've been mulling over ideas to add a weekly feature to this blog to make it more expansive and enlightening.  I so appreciate all the efforts of the other bloggers I'm following and rather than just adopting something someone else is currently doing, I wanted to think of something new, a post that would allow us all to learn and perhaps encounter the unexpected.  And now, it seems to be coming together, so I'll tell you about it before I do the first post of this new feature that I'll call (at least for now) A Walk In The Universe.  Hoping to do the first post later today and have it be a Monday feature each week.

I've always been intrigued by the idea of the "journey" as an actual experience of travel across time and space, but also as a metaphor.  That came into play as I contemplated what this new "something" for the blog would be...so whatever the feature ended up being, it would need to be open ended, and allow for surprise, discovery and fresh insights...like the best journeys.  I like to think that we end up somehow larger in our outlook at the end of a journey.  What if each week the information revealed through the feature post provided a natural link to another subject that might not, at first, seem to be related?  Like following a trail...like a walk in the woods, only these links could be anything at all....more like a walk in the universe!  As the anticipation and excitement of this possibility began to gel into a real idea, I knew exactly where I would begin the journey and just, as I had hoped for, it worked....the first post I began to research quite naturally told me exactly what the topic of next week's post would be.

So, I hope I have your curiousity piqued!  My real desire for this new feature, A Walk in the Universe, is for it to help build an expanding community and conversation with the followers of this blog!  Let's see where it takes us...check back later today!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rolling Fog Across the Missouri River

Yesterday, in my haste, I forgot to post the photo I took in the morning of the fog over the farm field across the river.  The Missouri River is beautiful and wide and in this part of the state, is the dividing line between South Dakota and Nebraska.   We look out over farmland and the bluffs of Nebraska and sometimes the fog rolling through is spectacular...I looked out the window as I was eating breakfast and hopped up to find the camera!

Thought I'd show you the finished little sewn drawing that I showed you yesterday while it was in process.  I know I've said this before, but it's just so satisfying to sew on paper!  This Japanese paper is so soft that it feels almost like cloth.

Enjoy the weekend, if I'm not back before Monday!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lost and Found

Started stitching on top of the drawing.

Well, I'm back after a bit of a break. Johntimothy and I had a quick getaway in Omaha, which is about two hours from here. For us, it's going to the "big city", which means visiting the museum and the contemporary art center, the gardens (for the first time) and the zoo. Lots of sensory input, which for me, as wonderful as it is, often sends me into an artistic tailspin! It takes me time to process things and as much as I find myself in a hurry so much of the time, I operate best in a slow unfolding of time. This is a lesson which I must relearn periodically, as I did yet again this morning. Yesterday, I was all excited to be in the studio, to sort of pick up where I left off, but found myself adrift and at a loss. Actually, quite lost and so frustrated. I always try to analyze what's happening inside when this inability to work seizes me. I think there are wires crossed in terms of making the work that is inside me to make...the kind that is made with slowness and takes time...and the work I put pressure on myself to make so that I can create art that is affordable for people to buy. There is an inevitable conflict that arises and I have to just give myself a time out and sort things out internally. Just before I went to bed last night, in the faith that today would be a new day and my internal compass would right itself, I adhered three used teabags to three tiny sheets of Japanese paper. I didn't know what I would do and the only inkling I had was that I had a craving for stitching...just like when you get a craving for some food, but you're not quite sure what it is. This morning I went down to visit those pieces of paper with the lovely mottled teabags awaiting me. I made some little stitches on the first one and knew I'd made it back from lost. On the second one, I thought I'd test out this new white marker pen I got, but after making some tentative marks, I knew that it was really the stitching I was craving and now I am there making tiny stitches over the marker...ever so much more interesting I think. Tiny stitches...the slowness of time...making the work that I am called to make....why do I always have to be reminded of who I am?

I am also so very thankful for such a supportive husband who has never put the pressure on me to make the work that does not come naturally to me. It's a pressure I put on myself and although he completely understands how I get off my own track, he is quietly happy to see me find my compass. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Square of Chaotic Stitching

I've done a slight bit of studio reorganization in the last couple days, since I added some corkboard to my "pin up" area, which until now has been a not-nearly-big-enough magnetic board.  I uncoverd this little stitched piece that I did a couple of years ago from under the menagerie of stuff attached precariously to that magnetic board.  I looked at it again as if meeting it for the first time! It reminded me that, although I badly want a sewing machine for some aspects of my work, there is nothing quite like the mark made by one's own hand....the hand-drawn irregularity of it all cannot be duplicated by the machine.  Once this little piece tells me it's name, I'll post it in my shop.

I'm looking forward to a break from the routine...we're going to Omaha to the museum, to the zoo and to the gardens this weekend...not to mention eating at interesting restaurants.  What fun!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Scroll For Dancing Colored Dots and Notes of Appreciation

The Scroll For Dancing Colored Dots is the third venture in my tiny one inch scrolls!  I just posted it today in my shop...the link is here for more information and other views.  This one measures six feet in length and is filled with tiny dots cut from colorful postcards.  Pretty fun to make and I hope to view!

On another front, I just want to express how much I appreciate all the artists whose blogs I have visited and those that I now follow.  It's easy to get lost in the "blogosphere", but it has become my morning ritual to sit down and read all the blogs I follow in Google Reader.  It's sort of like reading the newspaper once was (I still miss having access to a daily newspaper....can't have one delivered where we are in the country), a time to reflect and savor.  So, I make sure I have enough hot tea (my daily morning ritual of assam) left in my cup and then I scroll through the latest on the blogs and following this link and that link, I'm led to new sites, to new blogs, and in the process I make notes, learn all kinds of new things, add more blogs to my list and become very inspired! And just as importantly, I feel connected to other artists....all the kindred spirits out there....I thank you for sharing your thoughts, your work and your life with the world.

And, one more thing! I must also mention my appreciation for the followers of my blogs, this one as well as MissourBendPaperWorks. I know there are quite a few readers out there and we are all part of the neverending conversation that moves across time and space.

I'm working on new ideas to broaden the scope of this blog, so as things begin to gel, I'll let you know!
Thanks for staying tuned.  Enjoy the weekend and the slow transition into fall.