mrs. basil e. frankweiler

these come to you, today, courtesy of a sudden flurry of activity in our garage. to say that my art files are a bit mixed-up is -- well, actually, they're not really that mixed-up, but these pen and ink drawings were not where i expected them to be, so it was a joy to come across them. all were done a dozen or so years ago. two of the pieces were created for the gap (i contributed art for several seasons in the '90s, and it was great fun to walk into the store and see it on children's wear and various other items). i also did quite a bit of personalized stationery and invitations, which explains the luggage (for a graduation party) and the houses (christmas card for a family). 


Some Teachers

There's a rhythm to posting every day.
I have forgotten it somewhat.
Working on getting back to it.

Can we talk about Sue Hanna for a minute? She was a teacher who changed lives. Taking her poetry class, freshman year, pretty much convinced me that my life would be dedicated to [fill in some blank here] and the only way to achieve that was to be an English Major. (English Majors: are they people who write? Read? Opt out of the studio art degrees they were supposedly going to school for -- or was that just me?)

Back to Ms. Hanna (she was the only professor at our school, in 1977, that insisted on that prefix; ahead of her time, always. But she'd have winced at me saying that -- she hated cliches). She read poetry. Loudly, somewhat. She insisted we read it that way, too. Maybe not loud but like we were invested in it and not just mildly considering it: we needed to feel the words come out of our mouths. We needed to be able to hear the poet. 

Who cares if anyone in the dorm thinks this is odd? she'd have said. This is the way you read poetry. My roommate told me, some time into that first semester, that I was reciting poetry in my sleep. (She wasn't super-thrilled.) That still embarrasses me a little, but not for the reason you'd expect. I wasn't reading it aloud, in the dorm, as much as Ms. Hanna insisted, and I supposed then that my conscience got the best of me and poked through even the shroud of sleep. And it was impossible to remember what I'd been reciting.

Because of Sue Hanna, the Harlem Renaissance and Pauline Kael and Rupert Brooke became, a little or a lot, guiding forces in my life. Because of Sue Hanna, I am on guard always but not often enough for some clanking metaphor or niggling cliche. Most of all, because of Sue Hanna, I will never see words without realizing that they can be employed in a way that could change a life (or many lives, as hers did). So many words, so often thrown around -- and yet, with care, what good they can do if well-employed.

Thanks. Some teachers deserve to be remembered. It bothers me that she might not have known how grateful I was for her teaching. If you still have time, maybe you can go thank someone who changed your life. Thanks, Ms. Hanna. Somewhere, I hope, you hear this. Aloud.


time's wingèd chariot and all that

update: the 'make-something-everyday' project continues ... but, as mentioned in the weekend update post, i won't be publishing every little thing each day. sometimes, yes. and there may be an end-of-the-month roundup. we'll see how how it goes. for now:
Let us roll all our strength and all/Our sweetness up into one ball, And tear our pleasures with rough strife/Through the iron gates of life: Thus, though we cannot make our sun/Stand still, yet we will make him run-
or something like that.



short flights

"The chief art of learning, as Locke has observed, is to attempt but little at a time.
The widest excursions of the mind are made by short flights frequently repeated; the most lofty fabrics of science are formed by the continued accumulation of single propositions."

- Samuel Johnson



today's project. small. gleaned rosehips. herbs from a winter garden. decoration for a gift.

weekend update

years ago, someone i once worked with asked why i never publish my art on this blog. art is where things started, the whole design bit was roundabout: for a long time, i drew bits and pieces and created logos and stationery for people. it was a small (happy) business. it was great, it fit all around raising 4 active kids, and the logos and stationery turned into events and flowers which led to houses and stores and, eventually, this blog. now, another small plunge. to put up (and admit to) something i've drawn. it's just a sketch (from December?), but it represents the style used while working.

which leads to the daily project thing. the doll in palaka definitely took more space than a day. her face looks pretty much like most of the faces i've drawn since second grade, only maybe a little more. there's a reason things hit a jam here. since drawing that face, everything has revolved around it. still working on the one-project-a-day-plan, just not publishing everything; some of them are quite off-the-cuff. the bird, below, is from day 15.


here's a picture i lifted (without meaning to) from someone on ebay; tried to go back and find it and purchase it, but didn't have the patience to sift through the piles. it wasn't even really expensive. it's all about patience, i guess. she looks full of hope, sort of, doesn't she? but pragmatic. (pragmatism can be helpful at times.) look at the mom taking the picture. she's in the mirror.


mr lennon on the mta

peter sis, for john lennon's 75th

oh to be in new york

this was me, yesterday

... when i learned that meryl streep narrated chrysanthemum. her version of the velveteen rabbit was (is, evermore shall be) one of the great childhood classics; we played it awfully often in our little house in connecticut. three small thornes listened with streep-induced rapture in a toasty living room while snow piled up outside the great plate glass windows of our tiny quarters. bravo, bravo mr. henkes and ms. streep. (and please forgive me borrowing chrysanthemum from your beautiful website, mr. h.)


lady in waiting

will be working on this
a bit more this evening,
but it looks as 'tho she'll
stretch into another day-

the dress is made from a 
scrap of palaka that came 
from H. Muira; we visited,
one last time, the summer 
before the legendary store 
shut its doors. more, here

surprise bonus!
paniolo in palaka:



1799 and all that

The pencil is lassoed to his hand so that it might dry in place. The sculpting material wasn't actually for me, but purchased a few years ago for lessons I was giving (it's quick drying, from the Netherlands). The driftwood is from Oregon, perhaps near Bandon (not the links but the older simpler town part, which is fresh).

As all of this terrible business has gone on in France, my thoughts have gone again and again to a chapter in Alain de Botton's work Status Anxiety. It's entitled "Art." If you are so inclined, I recommend reading it.

A friend's recent note mentioned that she liked words I'd posted a few days ago, the "how would they make a toy with no instructions, no wrong way to do it, and only the materials at hand?" bit. She wrote: "But what if we approached more of our projects with that attitude? So much could happen. I need to apply this to my life." (Btw, she publishes a brilliant travel blog.) I replied- something about not being afraid, and how that is a hard place to get to. Well, can I tell you something? Every post I put up lately makes me at least a bit afraid. Sometimes more. (And Thea thank you & I owe you a note, your mail made my day.) There's no road map, and I'm still scratching my head over the appearance of dolls. It's all so soft, I suppose. In this world, we are not really supposed to be soft and admit it, are we? Hard and clean and bright. Clear and concise. The soft world is not easily navigated. It's -- well, it's squishy. Neither here nor there. Primordial. Intuitive.

Which brings me back, sort of, to de Botton, the role of art, and going out on a (pear-tree) limb.

In Status Anxiety, de Botton examines the role of satire and caricature in 19th century France. Note, if you will, that the Frenchman Charles Philipon spent two years in prison for drawing the monarch as a piece of fruit: he drew a cartoon of King Louis-Philippe as a boated pear. As de Botton points out, the French word poire, which means "not only 'pear' but also 'fathead' or 'mug', neatly conveyed a less-than respectful sentiment regarding the monarch's administrative abilities."  In the same vein, we find that Napoleon, in 1799, ordered the closure of every satirical paper in Paris, because "the most powerful man in Europe ... would not tolerate cartoonists' taking liberties with his appearance."

This freedom of expression was not a "falling off the log" thing for the French.
"The most subversive comedy of all may be that which communicates a lesson while seeming only to entertain. Talented comics never deliver sermons outlining abuses of power; instead, they provoke their audiences to acknowledge in a chuckle the aptness of their complaints against authority," writes de Botton.  
He goes on to say this:  
"Furthermore (the imprisonment of Philipon notwithstanding), the apparent innocence of jokes enables comics to convey with impunity messages that might be dangerous or impossible to state directly."

There's the rub.


eve: finished
clothes: not



...is almost done. sleep won out. she might be finished before noon if the stars are in alignment. (she's clearly a californian, don't you think? 'tho her felt glasses are from a little store in dinkelsbühl, the bandana's from rei- leftover from another project- and her curls, straight out of the needlework store in menlo park. you probably can't see it, but there's a little lovely slub in the fabric that made her apparent in the first place: a tiny mouth. since i imagined she had something to say, i tried to gently stitch lips around it. we all need to have a voice.) 



on the constraint of finishing a project a day. and: dolls?

a few years ago (like: 2), i found myself immersed in classes and seminars and such. a part of me (directly related to the part of me that helped people with design challenges for two decades) thought that the answer to much of what we do and want and think we need was to plumb the depths of the mind- that whatever satisfied our spirit would be somewhere in a psychology text or so. i'm not very sure of that anymore, just as i'm not sure the perfect sofa will ever make a real difference (although a perfect sofa can be nice).

i found, while working in design, that people are always looking for solutions. perhaps we are often not looking so much for the solution to an actual issue but for a handy solution that would make us feel better (yet the feeling better only lasts a short while, and then it is off to another solution; the snake that eats it's own tail). something about infinite solutions in a finite world with limited time (and resources) can be profoundly unsatisfying. i always wanted my client to book the trip they talked about every time i visited them or maybe let go of the idea that a new sofa (while perfectly nice) was going to make life more worthwhile. what makes life worthwhile, anyway? (i vote for family, seeing the world, making stuff and so on. and love. always love. but that is just my vote and not yours. we all get to vote. we all get to decide which boxes to check.)

the jungian concept of going back to what filled you with happiness as a child: that stayed after all the psychology and compassion and god-knows-what classes. honestly, i kept thinking of bunny rabbit on captain kangaroo. and mr. moose. they- or was it the captain or mr. green jeans?- made things. out of shoeboxes and glue. paper, string, cardboard, scissors, stray pieces of material. tape, lots of tape. they made things a child could make, things that i could make. this made me profoundly happy- 

to make things. often out of bits and pieces that others might regard as junk, almost nothing. jung built the bollingen tower after he found solace doing something he loved to do as a child. jung piled up rocks. rocks aren't a far cry from paper, string, and scissors. simple stuff.

as a child, i spent a lot of time thinking (reading, talking, and creating strange little dioramas, probably) about settlers, people who up and moved to new lands. hour upon hour went toward trying to figure out how they got things done, what they took with them. was everything homemade? how did they know out how to make it? what was worth keeping? (what do you carry with you when there's so little room? theirs was not a world stuffed with infinite solutions.) resourcefulness was plentiful, resources were not. what would the children have? what did they make? how would they make a toy with no instructions, no wrong way to do it, and only the materials at hand? as i write this, i realize: i was a child in a military family. we moved often, as military families do. we moved to strange lands. resourcefulness was a necessity. deciding what was worthwhile was also a necessity. 

deciding what is worthwhile is actually always the thing, isn't it? 

some late day this december, having chosen not to make one single new year's resolution, i thought simply this: start making things. finish one a day. make a collage, stitch something, form a piece of clay, cleverly wrap a matchbox. just MAKE something. another of the lessons from the years of seminars and classes came forward: accountability. tell someone you're going to do it.

finishing the project in the same day isn't usually easy. i'll probably miss days. there are moments i want to stop- sometimes i find i liked the project better unfinished than finished. ribbon frays, stitches slip. things shift. 

still- i'm aiming for consistency here. start something, finish it, post it. start again.

je suis charlie


one never knows, do one?

life does tend to intervene, doesn't it?

due to time constraints today, i veered a tiny bit off course (from the "only using materials at hand" part) and went with something found on Monday at daiso (the place for felting wool that becomes unruly hair which isn't often letting itself be stitched down quite the way i intend it to be but we'll keep working on that, thank you)- anyway- went with something at daiso which they refer to as an "arm cover." 

thusly a rather quick puppet was born: the tiny (thumb) sleeve & a small snip on the right side allow the puppeteer to magically produce two arms and (by tucking their ring finger gently back) two legs. the face is a scrap from the nifty dishtowel which inspired the red head two days ago. i love sewing these, which sort of surprises me, yet it's kind of obvious that the royal school of needlework wasn't part of my career path. working on it, working on it. 



striped stockings were the original plan, but time and tide wait for no doll. her dress is a vintage dishtowel; the embroidery was too lovely to actually use it. you can't quite see it, but there's a frost of glass glitter on the velvet petals that hold (not an easy task) back her hair; those petals graced a snow-covered table in a long-ago christmas window. the heavenly felt leaves are from bell'occhio in the city (if you haven't been there you have to go, it's like the eighth wonder of the world).

beauty on the inside is perhaps more important than beauty on the outside, yes?