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?
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.
In the clouds
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
Below is the finished drawing, with watercolor, of the octopus at Friday Harbor Labs. His name is Enzyme.The next drawing is a work in progress, a Prismacolor drawing of the octopus named Silence. I was feeling a bit frustrated with it on my last day in Friday Harbor, but now that I am going back to it, I think it’s okay. So I’ll keep plugging away at it.
Inspiration for my next project is below. It’s going to be an installation piece and I’ll give a hint – Plankton. I’m quite excited about it, so much so, that I couldn’t fall asleep the other night, but had to get up and order supplies at 1 a.m.
I spent yesterday drawing more octopus and today I finally used a large sheet of D’Arches 140 lb cold press watercolor paper. It has been a while since I’ve used anything besides handmade paper, and I forgot how well a nice sized paper takes watercolor. After all the sketches, I was very happy with the final results. I’m hoping to make one more large drawing today – thanks to the Whiteley Center and Friday Harbor Labs!
I was given the opportunity to feed one of the octopuses tonight. Silence is a bit moodier than Enzyme and he usually hides and changes color a lot when I watch him. Tonight, after some coaxing, he grabbed the crab from my hand, latched onto me, and started pulling and exploring. It was so amazing and a bit unsettling. He is very strong and I had to tug a bit to get him to release my hand. I’m going to be very sad to leave these octopuses after tomorrow.
My studio mate and I have been making great progress. We spend hours in the studio, and yesterday Ashwin even went out to sell his wares. He made enough to buy a Lego mini figure. I’m still trying to figure out what works best for the octopus drawings and will begin a large one over the weekend. This afternoon we are going on a whale watch, but Ashwin and I already saw a pod from the shore on the West side of San Juan Island. I’m hoping to see some up close today.
Below are some results, the good the bad and the ugly. Please let me know which one you prefer if you have a moment!
Meet Arkham, he is a bit larger than the other three octopuses at Friday Harbor Labs and he is a bit bristly. He is the main man in the study being done in Gire Labs, where they are studying navigation and sensing. Because he is a bit darker and moodier, he is more reclusive, but when I manage to take a photo he is quite dramatic. He uses something called papillae in his skin to make the dramatic horn-like bumps.
While here, I have also been given a studio. Ashwin and I spent hours in the studio yesterday, where I draw and he writes in his journal. I knew I would want to do some sketching here, but somehow ‘a place of ones own’ makes all the difference. Now I may want to buy some big paper and go larger! I can’t wait to get back to the studio again today, it’s bright and airy and smells of fresh wood.
In between sketching sessions we go down to the water to scavenge for treasures, the shore is full of driftwood that we take up to the studio. I know I want to draw octopus, but I think I could also get swept into drawing pieces of driftwood, or printing the grain. I’ll just have to come back again for round 2!
How do I love thee, let me count the ways.
On my first night I held a small crab in my fingers and fed it to an octopus – Enzyme aka Slimey (Ashwin’s name for him). He lunged at my hand and wrapped his arms around, I could feel his suckers attached to my skin. It was love at first sight. I am at Friday Harbor Labs where my husband Venkatesh is collaborating with a colleague from University of Washington, studying the way octopuses move and track. In three days I have learned more about Octopuses than I have in my life. They are fascinating to watch and yesterday I went to the lab to draw and take photos. They move so much in the evening, it was hard to sketch, but I took 145 photos! I’m just a little obsessed.
Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that I have been drawing octopuses for a little while, mainly from National Geographic photos. But there is nothing quite like drawing an octopus you are familiar with, from your own photos. I feel that Friday Harbor Labs is full of interesting people doing cool things. It’s such an inspiring environment and I feel very lucky to be here.
After seeing the apartment we went downstairs for a traditional South Indian Meal. We begin by washing our banana leaf with water and wiping it off with our hands. There are no utensils given for this meal and it is thought that both the banana leaf and eating with your hands enhances the flavor of the food. I don’t profess to know all about the ins and outs of the South Indian Meal, and it varies from region to region, but I do know that there is a prescribed variety of foods that are placed in precise areas of the leaf. My meal began with a small mound of salt on the upper left and a sweet tapioca paysam on the lower right. Then across the top is a row of pickle, chutney, salad and some vegetable. We we given papdum crunchier on the left side and in this case we were served a baby mango curry. The main course is served in the center beginning with a heap of white rice and some sambar. In this case were were also given bisi beli bath on the left side. Once the sambar is finished we are given rice and rasam and then mosuru, or curd rice. Then desseSome people fold their leaf when they are finished eating, but I was told by my sister in law that this can have various meanings for different occasions. Best to follow what those around you are doing.
Did I mention that the meals are served by many shirtless men wearing lungi (South Indian wrapped skirt)? How could I forget? They move up and down the aisles with their stainless steel buckets of food, ladling out each variety before you can say ‘bus’ (enough)! It is only after all the guests are served that the hosting family will sit down to eat.We are sent home with two bags. One has a coconut in it and we are given banana. The second one has a prescribed set of gifts that vary little. Below, the green package at the top is a blouse piece, to be stitched at a tailor to go with your sari. Underneath is a 10 rupee note that was given by a family member during the meal and an envelope with 200R. On the right is a sweet block of jaggery and betel leaves, and on the left are bags of crunchy snacks and ladu sweets. At the bottom is a packet of betel nut powder to be eaten with the betel leaves, and red and yellow kum kum (to dot your forehead). I couldn’t resist including this beautiful Laurie Baker style home with that was next door. Venkatesh has been a big fan of his designs, built with brick open work patterns, for years.
Well I’m back home in Evanston but there are some things I never managed to post, so I will continue for a bit. It’s chilly and rainy and a bit too quiet for me here. I am missing my second home – Bangalore. Ashwin said to me, ‘ Aren’t we lucky Mummy? We have two homes.’ and indeed we do – and we are.This guy presented himself to us one morning and just look what he can do!
He flattens himself out and draws his front legs together in front to look like a leaf and stem. We found him in the living room and it looked like a leaf had just stuck to the wall. I spent my morning taking some pictures of the ground floor apartment where my in-laws live. I want to capture some of these vignettes of home before they change. When I think back to my first visit to India in 2002, so much has changed and is now lost.