Integumentary





Integumentary

Skin, feathers, nails,

Hair, hooves, scales.

A girl can stitch,

Mother embroidery,

Sewing as meditation.

She protected me,

Like skin, enveloped,

Enclosed, wrapped, contained.

Broken, cut, sewn,

The skin mends,

She is my wrapper.

What I show to the world,

Pale, translucent,

Not my choice, but mine nonetheless.

This is what I am given,

Pain, pressure, sensation, temperature,

Light exposure – Protection.

The Binding Story

Well, it’s an old story and a new one. Some may remember my book based on the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Gules. I printed this book in 2005 for an edition of ten, and over the years I’ve only bound five. The pages and some of the materials have been sitting for the last ten plus years for me to finish. Now I really need to finish this edition, so I went to work preparing the boards and making boxes. This isn’t a perfect Instagram moment. I had exactly enough wood and leather for two more books, which seemed like it was meant to be. I planed the edges of the wood and attached the beautiful crimson red leather. I was almost ready to sew the binding, when one day I was driving my son home from school and it occurred to me…oh my god I planed all the boards and I’m supposed to plane only the outside boards! The inner boards for my dos-i-dos book need to remain flat so I can hinge them together.

All is not lost (I think). I know where I bought the leather and wood long ago and now I have enough planed boards for the outer covers of all five remaining books. I’ll just buy the matching materials and make the inner boards for all the books. Wow, maybe I’m way ahead of the game! 

So I go shopping. 

Well, Leo G. Stein has moved to the suburbs and they no longer have the beautiful crimson leather I once used, so I won’t be able to match the inner boards to the old ones. I find another leather that will work well and I buy a huge skin. Then I’m off to one of my favorite places on earth, Owl Hardwoods in Des Plaines. I look for my quarter sawn wood in 9 1/8″ width or more. I need 1/4″ planks cut to size for me, but they don’t have anything in this width except a 5/4 piece of rift sawn wood. It’s a beauty but such a waste when you only need 1/4″! Anyway, I went back and forth but this was the ONLY piece that was going to work for me. I’m told that quarter sawn oak in wider widths is becoming harder and harder to get. Oh dear.  Finally, Mo, helped me out. He had the guy in the wood shop rip it down to two planks for me and we crossed our fingers that it wouldn’t warp too badly. It worked beautifully and now there’s enough to make three new books from scratch. I am feeling sick about the waste of the old boards and having to start over. I feel like a total idiot and I’m so mad at myself.

So I start over. I have to make some lemonade out of these lemons!

Integumentary

I use one pair of boards and some handmade paper (that I made for end sheets on Gules but never used) to make a new book. Then I cut down some very old banner sheets with bird prints to make the pages of the new book. These 12 foot scrolls have been rolled up for fifteen years and I don’t intend to show this piece again – I love re-using old pieces to make new ones. I intended to make a new copy of an old book, with stories about each bird, but then re-reading the stories they seemed so old and I just couldn’t write them again. Things had changed too much, so I had to come up with something new. All told, the whole book concept came together in a day and I spent another day printing the wood type in Ben Blount’s new print shop, then stitched the binding that night. It still needed something, so I decided to do some more sewing on the pages. This was the most intuitive process I have been through in a while and I am very happy with the results. I’m really enjoying the sewing process, this is something I have been thinking about for a while and it is very gratifying to do. I feel  it ties in with my mother, and learning to embroider when I was a girl, yet it makes nice abstract shapes on the pages.



Well there you have it – lemonade!

Clay Birds

Just a quick one today. These are the results from combining old linoleum blocks with clay slabs. I hand painted the black image with underglaze (following the pressed pattern) and used a cinnamon glaze on top. If you look carefully, you’ll see that the image continues from block to block. I’m fairly pleased with the results!

Polar Vortex!

Well the Polar Vortex has reached Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago is shut down for two days, so I don’t have to go to work. I’m spending my days holed up inside my home, cooking good food and catching up on lots of small things that I rarely have the time to do. This seems like a good time to take photos of my new work in the light of mid-morning.

I have gone in a slightly different direction for my Plankton (nickname Tinkamink) project. I decided to make a limited edition artist book before working on the wall installation. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I have had some work accepted by Vamp and Tramp, and they are interested in the Plankton book, so I quickly finished in order to ship to them. Secondly, I have applied to the Whitely Foundation for an artist residency at Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island. It is there that I hope to focus, and complete the wall installation of Plankton. Wish me luck!

Plankton artist book

I have also taken photos of some of my recent pottery. I’m getting a bit better at predicting the outcome of some glazes at the Pot Shop Evanston and I feel I’m beginning to develop a personal style.

Ocean gleaming bright, salty tasting, glistening, never ending sea

Batter bowl, honey mustard glaze

Slab built tray at a Ware workshop (Ware glaze)

Sea urchin votive, honey mustard glaze with ash

Venkatesh’s Christmas mug, black underglaze with cinnamon glaze

Tinkaminks!

I have 119 Tinkamink prints and drawings so far and it looks like nothing!

Tinkaminks – so named by Ashwin, conceived at Friday Harbour Labs where they had these great paper key chains, and solidified by a fantastic book on Plankton. This is going to be an installation of perhaps a thousand keychain organisms. Today was all about printing Cephalopods, jellyfish, dinoflagellates and acantharians. Plankton contains plants and animals, from single cellular to embryonic and juvenile life forms. It is endlessly fascinating! Today I began printing some Tinkaminks using the most rudimentary printing techniques; carved rubber stamps and stamp pads. Who needs a Vandercook anyway?

Jellyfish Tinkamink

Hand drawn Tinkaminks. It could take a while to get to 1000!

My Small Tribute to Joe

I have had a tough month this past October but there are only a few people who know this, so I’m just going to put it out there. It doesn’t feel right to go on with a blog about pottery, without first acknowledging this big thing in my life. My ex-husband, Joe Rabel, passed away on September 27th, 2018. Out of respect for him and his family, I won’t go into the details, but I want to talk about this loss. I think that many might believe that an ex won’t be missed by their former partner. Our marriage dissolved right? Why would I still have feelings? In a way there isn’t a place for an ex-wife’s grief. Those who knew us as a couple 20 years ago, know that I still have strong feelings for him, but I walk around in a new environment now. There is no one to talk to in my daily life who knew him, or cared for him. Sometimes I just want to be with those who knew and loved him, but they are in Massachusetts, not in Chicago where I live. It feels strange to know that he is gone, that his family and friends are sorting through his things, getting ready to sell the house we bought together. He has lived many years without me, but they are still sorting through old pictures of our vacations, our record collection, and perhaps our old Christmas ornaments. That was my life too.

Joe and I reconnected at the beginning of the year. He contacted my sister and her husband, and for some reason I felt very strongly that I wanted to talk to him. We emailed and texted through the year, talking on the phone only a few times. We patched up a lot of things, reminisced about shared experiences that no one else can share, and I had the chance to say I’m truly sorry. We sent music and quotes and book recommendations, but the thing that I will hold in my heart forever is poetry. Joe was a poet, and he wrote poetry for me. I know he wrote for others as well, but the poetry he wrote for me, touched my heart and made me find the love I had for him again. He said I was his muse, and perhaps that’s true, but I know I was certainly his audience and sounding board.

Perhaps Joe would feel uncomfortable with this, but I know he would have liked to have been recognized as a poet, so I will share some of his best. He even inspired me to write some of my own. We were just kids, but we were together for 17 years, and those were very formative years. I will always hold Joe in my heart. I joked with him earlier this year,  telling him he could have one of the larger ventricles. I hope he knows that he has some very valuable real estate! I have to save some room for my lovely husband, and child, (not to mention friends and family!). 🙂 Without them I would be lost.

Some day

In the clouds

Our thoughts

Will mix and intermingle

The true you

The true me

For everyone to see

And you will know the true me

And I will know the true you

And we will share that

With a million other souls

Floating aimlessly

Amongst the clouds

Joe Rabel  2/2/2018

I find my words in everything

In the leaves

The changing colors of Fall

The lack of them inWinter

But you bring me Spring

And new blossoms form

But still I yearn for Summer

When all comes to fruition

And the circle is formed

Such is life

And the circle turns

Until we ourselves are done

But then we are gone

Though we can’t see it

The seasons carry on

The circle never ends

Joe Rabel. 1/29/18

Like bonsai

I hurt myself

Not to be more beautiful

But to be more refined

The pruning is that of the soul,

Removing the small branches

And keeping the strong ones

That are old and twisted

But can take the weight.

A cleansing

Of that which is no longer useful.

With new eyes I see the world,

And I learn to look inside for beauty.

I glance your way

And you seem to glow.

Joe and Mardy  3/11/18

Niagara, Canadian Side

Looking down from the top of the horseshoe falls on the Canadian side, that turquoise water that forms on the edge is stunningly beautiful. From this angle the power and the force of this water is unmistakeable. I do believe the view from Canada is the best – you can view the American falls from directly across and walk from there to the Canadian horseshoe falls.

American Falls, Niagara


The night before traveling to Niagara was not a good one. My husband holds a green card and he was worried about crossing the border. He had dreams of border checks and helicopters flying overhead. We argued and he barely slept. With the current American political climate I don’t blame him. Nightmare accounts of separated families and body searches are all over the news. I grew up thinking the U.S. and Canada were practically the same country -how did we get to the point where we we’re nervous crossing a bridge into Canada? Is it possible to turn around and go back if you cross the bridge by mistake?

Once we crossed the border we no longer worried about getting back into the U.S. The Canadian side is built up, with noisy restaurants, haunted houses, wax museums, go carts and Ferris wheels. We walked through a Hard Rock Cafe and Rainforest Cafe arcade to find a bar with free beer samplers. I don’t even go to those places in Chicago. Afterwards we found an Indian restaurant that was quiet and the food was good. Then as we walked along the falls, we realized how nice the view from this side is. There were lots of people, but the strip of walkway lined with gardens was so big, it never felt very crowded. We walked for hours, then we retired to our room at the Sheraton, where we had a perfect view of the falls and watched the fireworks. 

Old power station with lights for the falls


Early the next morning we left for Chicago, driving on the Canadian side to Detroit. It was smooth sailing the whole way – much better than driving through Ohio. And though the border guards are far from cheerful, we didn’t have any problems. Oh and we had to pay five bucks to get back in. What a rip off!