Home again.


Here’s Farmer Brown, back after an “exclusive three year tour of Europe, Scandinavia and the subcontinent”. (Obligatory Blues Brothers reference.)

Actually, I don’t really know where it’s been, other than off touring with Quilt National ’11. It left two or three years ago. Yesterday evening it landed back on my doorstep, borne by an exhausted FedEx driver. I was amused to see that the folks at the Dairy Barn had preserved all of my original packaging, including the pool noodle (priceless extruded polyethylene!) and giant plastic leaf/garbage bag (more costly polymers!). They are meticulous people.

My husband has always had a sentimental connection to this piece. It’s something I usually don’t relate to, at least about my own work. I see it differently, I guess, as the culmination of a drive or a set of processes which I either executed successfully or I didn’t. For now, this particular “culmination” will hang in the dining room, providing a backdrop to the Lego bricks which festoon the table and the dirty socks which eternally litter the floor. Then I’ll roll it up and put it in the Closet of Banishment. I could have put it up for sale, but sentimentality triumphed over economics. In fifteen or twenty years I’ll ask my son whether he wants it.

One chapter closes and another begins.

I’m not a big fan of accumulating UFOs (UnFinished Objects), but I seem to have a pile of them right now. Several more ideas for the Domestic Mayhem series, sketches for a new series, a partially stitched portrait, and an experiment in distorted geometry. The latter is particularly annoying because the stitching quality isn’t as I’d like. Maybe I should send it out to the garage to become an oil changing rag, or transform it into a sort of grotesque shopping bag.

I spent a month over the summer designing and starting a new piece for this fall’s IQA auction, only to realize that I couldn’t complete it according to my standards in the time allotted. I then did a panicked survey of the UFO collection and found one that was mostly complete and might be suitable; I’ll post about it another time. I noodled away at it until last weekend then shipped it off, just short of deadline.

All told, I spent about three months on this process and none on the work I’d originally planned. Since I’d given my word, I couldn’t very well back out of it. I’m not sure how other artists manage the business of donations. I don’t know if they don’t have youngish children, don’t do their own home renovations, or are simply more efficient. However, I may, regretfully, have to step away in the future. We’ll see. It’s probably a bit premature to make sweeping statements.

I need to design a new piece, a more personal piece, and I’ll be interested in hearing others’ ideas. More on that in a minute. I’ve been on a sort of mad painting frenzy, redoing the master bedroom and the exterior of the house. The latter is a painstaking process, since the last paint job was of very poor quality. There are drips and runs, peeling areas, overspray, you name it. Oh, and wasps. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of reaching up to remove a rain gutter cover and discovering a wasp nest the size of one’s fist right at eye level, covered with annoyed little buzzers. That was the day that I discovered that I can levitate.

I think I gave one of the neighbors a bit of worry. One evening I went out on a date with my husband and, since I have very low alcohol tolerance, came home utterly lit after just one margarita. That was when I had the brilliant notion of removing the wasp nest. Why not? It was nightfall, cool out, and the wasps had probably all returned to their nest. I think my husband had gone in another room or something; otherwise he surely would have stopped me.

Up the ladder I went in my little black dress, drunkenly emoting to the wasps. “I’m very sorry,” I told them, “but I’m going to have to kill you. It’s nothing personal.” I sort of dimly heard a neighbor’s sliding screen door open, but it didn’t register. It was taking all of my concentration to balance on the ladder with the can of wasp spray. “I’m so sorry,” I repeated, “but I’m going to have to kill you. I hope this will be quick and it won’t hurt much. I just can’t paint with wasps buzzing me.” I let loose with a vast toxic stream of wasp spray that cascaded over the rain gutter, then I lurched down the ladder. The neighbor’s screen door opened and closed again. I can only imagine what the person was thinking.

As for the bedroom, this summer I suddenly realized that the business of being a Woman of a Certain Age is upon me. I know this is a first world sort of problem, the sort of issue people living in mud huts would love to have. However, I really don’t want to be a Woman of a Certain Age without ever having had a proper bedroom. A bedroom with matching furniture that my husband and I selected, as opposed to a motley pile of crumbling junk, some of which I’ve had since childhood and never liked to begin with. A bedroom with a real bed with a real headboard, not a mattress and box springs thrown on a metal frame with wheels, a frame which lurches around like a roller coaster when someone gets up to use the restroom. Did I mention the headboard? Yes. A headboard, not a disgusting grease spot on the wall behind the pillows.

I admit that I have a fairly wide tacky streak, that I enjoy things like flamingos made of old car tires and taking my dog outside at night so he can watch rats scurry across the power lines. However, even I have my limits. I don’t want to reach my fifties, sixties or seventies sleeping on a sagging mattress with a grease spot behind my head. I just don’t. And if I don’t take action, some of these things won’t change.

Accordingly, this summer I began muttering about headboards and beds. Should I design my own or look for plans? What of the dresser and nightstands? Should I go price maple? Practice making mortises on scrap wood?

Did I imagine a fleeting expression of alarm on my husband’s face? He stated, in his usual diplomatic fashion, that he had no doubt that I could design or build whatever I pleased, and that it would be wonderful. However, perhaps we should at least go out and look at beds in stores to see what was out there and get some ideas. His evil scheme worked: a day or two later we’d ordered new furniture, a sort of Mission Style meets Shinto affair, much nicer than anything I would have designed or built. Bless the man.


Of course, once there’s new furniture, one has to think about other aspects of the room. Light fixtures, for example. I found the perfect table lamp for the room! It’s a blue dragonfly lamp executed in stained glass, made by Tiffany. Unfortunately, it’s in the Chrysler Museum of Art. I’ve found a number of other fixtures I like almost as well; they’re in the $50,000 range. Perhaps the business of lamps will require more thought. It would be good to find lamps which can actually, you know, be purchased or made. Something a little nicer than suspending flashlights from the ceiling with a piece of yarn, but not soaring into the five figure range.

I also want new art for over the bed. Originally I was thinking in terms of a giant wood carving. Now I’m thinking of making a new piece of fiber art, to be mounted on a stretcher frame. Something lush, lyrical and romantic. A piece evocative of Pre-Raphaelite art, Art Nouveau, or the golden age of illustration. However, not the type of thing one would see painted on the side of a 70s panel van or in a children’s nursery. We are adults. We don’t need to be eyed by dragons or teddy bears or have Humpty Dumpty leering at us as we get dressed in the morning. Of course, other than that, I have no idea of the subject matter. This is completely the reverse of the way I usually work. Maybe I should just jam some glow-in-the-dark plastic stars over the bed and call it done. After all, I still have a third of a house exterior to paint. I should focus on that and get it done before the weather turns nasty.

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