Capturing & Collecting

I haveJournal_20130210_IdeaNotebook always been a fan of journaling, from my early childhood diaries (with all the things that ARE in the family attic, I sure wish I could find those!!!) to later becoming a devotee of Julia Cameron’s morning pages. Some years my journals consisted mostly of hastily scribbled grocery and other to-do lists, with little time for art or creative thinking. In other years I filled notebook after personal notebook; at other times I focused on writing articles for professional journals, writing solely at the keyboard and rarely using my favorite pen.

In more recent years, I’ve added David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology to the mix and found that a good excuse to add more, and different, notebooks to my life. Collage techniques and acrylic paints and mediums help to create artful covers to go with the various notebooks: one for “mindsweeps,” daily journals with perforated pages to “collect and capture,” . . . and of course the sketchbooks and art journals we keep to capture all those creative ideas that we must act on asap, or that must age for a time before their time comes. Here is another cover from my recent designs . . . yes, I seem to enjoy red and black these days!



Preserving History . . . Connecting the Dots

Today was one of those beautiful post-blizzard days in New England . . . just warm enough for a short walk with the Studio Pup, which meant lots of time leftover for making art.  Inspiration came quickly by seeing the connections between a box of vintage postcards recently unearthed in the family attic, waking this morning from vivid dreams of abstract acrylic paintings (a sure sign I haven’t been spending enough time in the studio!), and Jane Davies’ recent blog post on the threatened closure of her rural post office. Those who have ever lived in a small town know that the local post office is the heart and soul of a village, so Jane’s plight touched the hearts of artists around the world. Jane is a well-known mixed-media artist and teacher with a generous and whimsical spirit, so the overwhelming response so far is not surprising and certainly well-deserved!



I raided my new-found box of vintage postcards and used gesso, acrylics, thread and fabric to create new masterpieces over the originals.  Antique dealers might question my logic — the entire stash dates to 1906-1907, and many have already been postmarked — though the postmarks are clear, most of the original one-cent stamps have since fallen to the bottom of the box.  One of the cards I’ll likely be sending to Jane was originally printed in Cuba, but others are from far-flung states and small villages like Rupert, Vermont.

I sometimes wonder why I keep some of the things I do . . . but I always know that someday it will become obvious!

If you haven’t already, please send Jane an artsy postcard at:

P. O. Box 45, Rupert, VT 05768

Cityscape Mosaics

Traffic Jams . . . Gridlock . . . Cityscape reflections burned onto nearby windows on a scorching summer day.

I recently met the woman who can turn these stressful events into pure bliss, with her artistic interpretation of the everyday mundane.

As fellow member of the Surface Design Association, I’m always fascinated by the techniques and tools behind an intriguing artwork, and was not disappointed.  Karen Goetzinger generously shared her methods of attaching her collages to felt, and mounting the felt to solid backing (such as acrylic on stretched canvas, or cradled wood panels) with archival bookbinder’s adhesive.  Though her work is textile based and has some traditional hand stitching, if only blanket stitching around the edges, other mediums in her work include printing and even touches of encaustic.  It’s always a delight to meet an artist who is totally comfortable talking about their work and explaining their process. Though Karen’s mixed media textile constructions are featured at the Edgewater Gallery through June 30, you can also visit her online to learn more about her work and her process.

Added bonus:  if you loved “tangerine tango” before Panetone named it the 2012 color of the year, you won’t be disappointed by her color sense!

Synchronicity in the Matrix

AC II: Elements
© Mary Jane Russell 2006

As guest curator for Studio Art Quilt Associates’ May 2012 online gallery, I hope you’ll take a look at the exciting artwork in the virtual exhibit I’ve entitled “Matrix.”

My left brain loves order, grids and structure, and many of these pieces initially called me from this perspective.  Yet my right brain loves it when the matrix begins to slip, becoming slightly askew . . . and I was delighted to discover other images that dissolved into mystery and intrigue from a less structured base. 

While browsing the online SAQA gallery of thumbnail images, I began to identify “matrix” as my theme . . . but I didn’t realize there would be more connections to come.

Some beautiful artwork by Kevan Lunney appears in this collection, even though it represents more of the “mystery and intrigue” end of my theme than any type of grid.  It was her gold, bronze and cream colorway that first caught my eye; then the detail and depth of her surface design captured my attention — and still will not let it go.

It took me a while to connect that Kevan and I had met briefly at the SAQA-SDA conference recently, but only because we’d connected in another online venue just this month that led me to read about her self-portrait project.  But then as I looked at the closeup of her SAQA piece again while writing this post, I also realized that I’d been captivated by another of her pieces at  Art Quilt Elements 2012 — where it won the SDA Surface Design Award.  Kevan has certainly created an amazing body of work in her “archeology” series, so  I hope you’ll check it out!

Don’t you just love synchronicity? Have you experienced it lately?

Screen printing without a net

In the spirit of “make some art everyday, if only for ten minutes,” today I took a short break from gardening to do a little silk screening — on the front of my newest beehive.

This hive has been with me for a few weeks now and still didn’t have a name. I’ve called them “the nuc” (short for nucleus, which is a small colony with a laying queen) or “Pipsqueak,” which seemed rather insulting given their robustness.

A normal artist would have worn a veil; a normal beekeeper would have painted designs on the hives before filling them with bees!

But the day was bright and sunny, and my new bees are fairly gentle. Actually, they were more concerned about doing their jobs than pestering some artist trying to keep a flimsy thermofax screen taut in the afternoon breeze.

I hope that the bees from Ginkgo enjoy their newly decorated home!

Sharing is Caring

In late August 2011, Vermonters felt the 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Virginia.  Earthquakes are rare in Vermont, so that was a bit of a novelty.  A few days after the earthquake we experienced the tail of Hurricane Irene, which was “merely” a tropical storm by the time it arrived.  We expected some wind and rain, and maybe some power outages.  Yet Vermont’s topography meant we suffered as much as if our state were oceanfront property.  The several inches of rain that fell in southern and central counties funneled down mountainsides to our small streams.   Even our largest rivers quickly reached flood stage. The damage was quick, devastating, and unexpected by most.

Emergency workers quickly mobilized; communities rallied.  Eventually all the state’s roads reopened, but it took months before the hardest hit areas were accessible again.  Villages continue to struggle as businesses attempt to reopen after navigating the mazes of insurance coverage and the intricacies of claims for flood damage in areas where flooding seemed all but impossible.  Families mourn not only lost real estate and personal possessions, but irreplaceable heirlooms.

We all do what we know best.  Pam Druhen, an enterprising quilt artist, spearheaded the Winter Warmth Project shortly after this disaster unfolded.  I’d recently discovered the “postcard” quilt that I started as a Girl Scout, so I donated that to Pam’s call for unfinished quilt tops knowing that it was unlikely I’d get a bed sized quilt top completed anytime soon.

Some questioned my lack of sentimentality, but I’d already decided that my first quilt was a fitting donation for a family  that had lost all the tangible reminders of their own family history.  As my cousin’s young son used to say, “sharing is caring.”


A perch no longer fit for the Studio Prince!

The young prince,  Studio Pup,  has his nose out of joint these days.  For years he’s been able to lounge on the hand-me-down sofa in a corner of my studio, one of the few places that he can stare out the window and doze in the afternoon sun.

But my productivity and organizational system enhancements this year have ruined his royal lifestyle.  For months now I’ve chipped away at the “project” of enhancing certain aspects of my studio that I’d been tolerating, like the broken keyboard tray on my otherwise wonderful computer workstation.  And then came the loveseat.

It was the perfect size, and great quality.  The upholstery however was once nice . . . “back in the day.”  A trip to the local home decorating store,  a few weeks of patience, and more than a little cash and now I have a nearly new loveseat in a beautiful deep-eggplant color to complement the valances made by my dear friend Jan.

Fortunately the Studio Pup is well-behaved, and understands the words “no, not for dogs . . .” He is sure that I’ve lost my mind however, given that it really is the same loveseat in the same place that now he’s no longer welcome to use.  So this is why I’ll be spending the afternoon sewing a new dog bed rather than doing something artistic!

Submersion © MJ Russell 2012 13.5″x20″

Fiber Fantasies

The Flights of Fiber Fantasies exhibit has now been hung at Creative Space Gallery – and what a sight!  I’m thrilled to join fellow art quilters Marilyn Gillis, Pamela Druhen, and Elizabeth Fram in this exhibit.  Our fiber art is beautifully complemented by contemporary baskets by Tamara Wight, exquisite felt by Marsha Chase, and gorgeous paintings and prints by member artists.

The Gallery is open Thursday – Sundays, and is a stop on the Foliage Open Studio weekend sponsored by the Vermont Craft Council. Flights of Fiber Fantasy will be on display through November 5th – if your fall foliage travels include the Champlain Valley of Vermont, please drop by!