Category Archives: Art is a tart

Afterwards: The Miracle

white camellia


I lost my beloved crazy sister just before Thanksgiving, tragically and in a house fire. She died of smoke inhalation and when the firefighters reached her it was too late. She was cremated and I wondered about that and wrote this.


There is beauty in this can of ash that is not ash
It is the story of you.
Sometimes I still hear your voice and always, your laugh.
I opened the container,
Just a cookie can from an old Christmas,
and I looked inside.
Would it make you smile,
to know you sit on a child’s chair in my living room?
The chair you found for me,
The one we both loved in Carlsbad.
You put it in a cardboard box and mailed it to me with that antique bowl,
The one that was Oaxacan green and it was broken before I got it.
It was so beautiful I saved all the broken pieces from the box,
And we both cried over losing it.
I wanted to find the perfect container for you, as perfect as that bowl was,
but there you are in a cookie can.
My sister and my first best understanding of unconditional love,
my measuring stick of love and crazy.
I wondered if I had your kneecaps in that can,
or your beat up dancer’s feet or your collar bones
made strange by childhood pellagra?
I love that your bones are the story of you,
everywhere you lived, the water you drank, the food you hoarded,
all those dances you danced, the pain and the joy that marked your life,
everything was saved and marked in your bones,
unique and amazing.
It seems that we are each a map sketched out by the table of elements,
all of us one-of-a-kind wonders,
our bones like fingerprints or snowflakes.
I love knowing that since the beginning of time
things had to happen just exactly the way they happened
for us to be sisters.
Miracles really do happen don’t they?
And I think you were mine.

Me and Marji on a beach day.

Me and Marji on a beach day.

Old Protestors Never Die, Just Cause

The finished poster

The finished poster

Prowling around in my archives and hunting for a photo of Los Angeles theater marquees I took a few years back, I unearthed this piece of memory: the National Lawyers Guild poster I did in 2009.

This story actually began when I got a call from a friend,  “Would I be interested in talking to the NLG about doing an image for the poster for their annual meeting in Seattle?”  I had to stop and think about it. What was the National Lawyers Guild anyway? I do poster art regularly but I did not know what they did, who they were, and about their work across a sea of causes and cases. They were involved to their eyeballs in representing the people who were arrested in the melee that became the “Battle of Seattle.”

The NLG is serious business, and although I am fairly well known as an artist here in my corner of the Pacific Northwest, my work has been cursed with the rubric “whimsical”, so was I really a good choice for this?  On a meltingly hot July day, fortified with a pitcher of iced tea and a fan, I met with the guys from the Evergreen Law group to try to get a handle on what they wanted from me.  I wound up promising to think about it and to put some sketches together and I did my research.

Even a tee shirt. Capitalism at its best.

Even a tee shirt. Capitalism at its best.

On November 30, 1999, thousands of people disrupted and ultimately shut down the World Trade Organization talks in Seattle. The crowd was mostly peaceful with a few idiot anarchists mixed in. The Seattle police assumed the worst and responded to the mass of protesters by firing tear gas and rubber bullets point blank into the crowd. Hundreds were arrested, many were sickened by the gas and others were hurt in the melee.

The protest was organized by the Direct Action Network who decided to shut down what they considered the most undemocratic institution on the planet, the WTO, aka World Trade Organization. The WTO ostensibly negotiates and aids countries in making trade easier between member nations, but in point of fact much of what they do is heavily skewed to making rich nations richer and poor nations poorer. They have fallen off a wagon that was supposedly oriented towards development-friendly outcomes in all participating countries towards a ‘market access’ direction. Poorer countries, especially those in the third world,  are being pressured to open up their agricultural, industrial and service sector leading to exploitation by the bigger WTO fish.

This scenario electrified organizers who truly believed a peaceful demonstration could send a message around the world. They began by marching out 7:00 a.m., setting up blockades around the city. Word spread and before too long a lot of people in Seattle spontaneously joined the demonstration. Linking arms and keeping delegates out of the meeting. They were amazed that they were actually shutting it down with people who had never demonstrated for anything previously.

A wood cut version of the art that became a shirt.

A wood cut version of the art that became a shirt.

The Seattle police under shaky leadership panicked, put on full riot gear and showed up in force. By 10:00 a.m. they had opened fire with chemical weapons, tear gas, concussion grenades and brought in armored vehicles to fight unarmed citizens. The people didn’t give in, shutting the meeting site down until after dark. That same day, there were corollary actions across the globe. The longshoremen  shut down every port up and down the entire West Coast.

I had seen the slanted news footage of “looters” and “rioters”, the media loves a good rampage and played it to the hilt. Slowly, the truth came out, the police were brutal that day, and it was completely unnecessary in the face of what should have been a non violent protest.

I thought a lot about the genesis of a political image. Was I a conscripted hack, a tool for the left? The answer was a solid no. I grew up in the late 60’s and my history is closely intertwined with Vietnam protests, the struggle for racial equality and women’s rights. The words that galvanized my own life? My parents saying to me, “We can’t pay for your college, we have to send your brother because he’ll marry and need to support a family. You can just get married and stay home, it would be a waste.” It may feel like a small drama in a domestic teapot, but that was when I understood how pervasive and complacent American attitudes were towards women, minorities and non-wars like Vietnam.

That was 1966 and I never did get over being angry about it. I finally finished college and like a lot of women in America, I graduated in my 30’s as a single parent, with a long history of kicking up dust along the way. I’m not sure how much has really changed since then. We are still complacent and still about 85% sheep looking for that magic shepherd who won’t morph into a wolf and eat us. The important thing seemed then and seems now to keep trying, to leave the herd, to find my inner moral compass and follow it.

So I looked at NLG on the web, I looked at photos, I talked to friends, and read up on the “Battle in Seattle”.  I thought about what this image should say. I thought about it a lot. I thought about the accidental warriors and those who set out to change things, those people who cannot and will not give up. nlg art

The result was a whole wastebasket full of discarded muddled mixed up drawings. I really didn’t think I could do it. I knew what I wanted to say but I couldn’t seem to say it. I was so far out of my bright, fun, snarky wheelhouse that it was miserable. It felt like I was drawing wearing boxing gloves and a blindfold. It seems simple, but this is the hardest drawing I’ve ever done. I had to scrape it out of someplace inside that was buried and collecting dust, and when it came, it came whole in one quick sitting, like someone else was guiding my hand and holding my pencil.

The simple graphite on paper image is homage to the great artist and Polish worker for social justice, Kathe Kollwitz, who created searing personal images of oppressed people in the early 20th century. The couple in my drawing is drawn as Kollwitz might have portrayed them, androgynous because I wanted the viewer to bring their own story to what happened in Seattle. For me, this is everyman and everywoman who fought back and stayed in touch with their internal compasses along the way.

Art is not always easy. Its not always pretty, and it wears so many faces they are uncountable. Painting is words made with pictures and you experience the best stuff viscerally. It might be Kathe Kollwitz who almost makes me cry or it might be Helvi Smith, whose ridiculous Pink Fifi Poodle painting made me laugh out loud at her perfect catching of the essence of poodle.

Snarky Fifi cracks me up!

Snarky Fifi cracks me up!

I’m glad I had a chance to reach past my limits, yep. I am.

More than a Cup

My mysterious cup

My mysterious cup

Un souvenir lointain, the French phrase for a distant memory seems to fit perfectly around this little cup, a souvenir in the American sense, from another time and place.  I find that thrift shop fragments of other times are almost Proustian to me, remembrances of things past triggering a cascade of not-my memories. I must have been a cat in another life because I find myself endlessly curious about such things in this one.

I am the Sherlock Holmes of broken china and porcelain orphans, and I want to know more. How did this cup from Bethlehem, New Hampshire wind up in Lacey, Washington over a hundred years later? Where did the saucer go? I know where the chip came from because I banged it into a metal rabbit on my desk and sadly, gave its first nick since manufacture in Germany a long time ago.

The cup is a demitasse, almost certainly a souvenir and not one of a set to be used for sipping after dinner coffee. It was made specifically for American trade as the mark on the bottom is in English. Made in Germany could indicate one of two things–it’s a prestige item and the “made in” was a selling point, German porcelain to the nouveau riche Americans would be appealing as all get out. Or, it was made after 1914 when the McKinley Tariff was revised from just country name to the added “made in” on imported items.

Manufacture after 1914 seems unlikely for several reasons. World War I launched on July 28, 1914, and made an unholy mess of Europe–including Germany for several years. I considered  the style of the decoration too.  Very Victorian, a black and white engraving of a tree lined street with no automobiles on it would seem to place it earlier in time. The bottom of the cup tells the truth of the tale: “Copyrighted by Charles Pollock, Boston”.  More research turned up a well-known Yankee photographer, the ubiquitous Charles Pollock. Pollock seems to have had his work everywhere in the 1870s to the early 1900s, he even had a photography shop selling stereopticon equipment and photographs in Boston.

With Mister Pollock's compliments

With Mister Pollock’s compliments

My little cup was new most likely in Bethlehem’s halcyon days, 1870 to about 1910. It turns out this little town in the White Mountains was a bit late to the party, missing incorporation by losing their paperwork before the Revolutionary War, but they did manage to become a town by 1798.. No one knows where the name came from, but Bethlehem it became and still is, with their final claim to fame being the ability to cancel stamps at Christmas with a Bethlehem postmark.

In the 1870s the trains came, as many as seven a day, bringing tourist trade from the sooty cities of the east to the clean air of the mountains. The Bethlehem  entrepreneurs who discovered this mountain paradise first were not exactly slow to respond. Thirty resort hotels came into being in short order to serve these vacationers; and a whole of lot of wealthy folks including PT Barnum and the Woolworth family built lavish summer “cottages” to get away to for the weekends.

In 1887 the wealthy folks came up with the idea of a “coaching parade” and decorated horses and coaches to the max for the contest. A few cost as much as five grand to kit out according to my reading. Barnum is said to have remarked it was, “the second greatest show on earth.” The parade lasted almost forty years before dying away with the advent of the automobile, which also killed off the town as a major destination. No one had to take a train anymore, cars could get you further and go places trains couldn’t.  The town was rediscovered as a summer destination for Jewish folks with hay fever in the 1920s or so. Yes, that’s what the literature says, and I can actually picture my Jewish grandma using that as an excuse to get away for a few weeks of R&R.

The engraving

The engraving

So what exactly is on this cup anyway? Hunting around for historical reference to match I discovered a wonderful old post card on line, and identified it as the Highland Hotel.

The Highland in its heyday

The Highland in its heyday

Here is a description of  the hotel at its beginning: HIGHLAND HOUSE, J.H. Clark, on Main Street at the west end,
accomodates eighty guests. This house possessed spacious apartments
with closets, open fire-places and baths, hot and cold water on every
floor, electric bells, and other modern improvements, and has a fine
lawn tennis and croquet grounds. Good livery in connection.

And hilariously enough, the back of the postcard:Postcard BackI really want to know what buttons were not in the tub….

I am now happy to put this little cup on the shelf in my studio where I can see it and admire it and wonder who bought it, a gift? a souvenir? What was their life like? Why did they choose this cup over all other souvenirs.  Things I cannot know but I know enough to make me content.

And the postscript to this story made me laugh out loud with delight. The Highland Inn, circa 1983, is now a hotel in Bethlehem, NH which caters to women only. It is one of top lesbian destinations for vacation in the country according to Planet Pink.  Life goes on.


The Boyscouts and I Tackle the Art Question

Is graffiti art? There’s a whole other discussion. Graffiti bees on an Olympia bridge.

I was recently privileged to be asked to talk to a pack of boys, okay, a small troop of Webelos on their way to becoming Boy Scouts. The last thing they had to accomplish was to talk to an artist and complete an art segment in their ‘road map’ to scouthood. I found it interesting that art wound up last on the list, but I’m grateful to the Boy Scouts for including it all. The meeting was at a local Catholic church, upstairs in a small room. I dragged my clothes basket of art up the stairs and found six fresh-faced boys and two parents seated around a table, all chattering and working on a word puzzle. They looked quite interested at my covered clothes basket, with good reason more interested in the basket than  me, the lady artist, old enough to be their grandmother. They were amazingly engaged and polite and reminded me so much of my own son’s scouting days at the Lutheran Church. Ever notice Scouting is always at a church?

Knowing I would be talking to the boys and their age, I actually sat down and thought for quite some time about What is Art? It’s one of the universal questions in society, like Why Am I Here? –and just about as easy to answer. The good thing about the art question is that there are actually some fairly good answers, consensus if you will, in our society, here and now, about what art is.

When does a photograph become art? Can a flower be art?

1. At is on purpose. It must be consciously created. It cannot be just a beautiful flower or a beautiful mountain, although artists are inspired to include those things in their art. It doesn’t have to be beautiful to everyone, or anyone, but it often is. It can make you think, it can make you angry. It is made on purpose by the artist to convey meaning. It is not accidental, again the flower is beautiful, but its beauty is both accidental and incidental. Nature created it because that is what nature does, we see it and judge it beautiful because that’s what we do. Art is conscious. It is made with intention.

2. Art must be original. An artist can even take apart something and reform it into something entirely new. Witness the artists who show their work at the wonderful Matter Gallery in Olympia, me included. That work is all upcycled and repurposed. It was all something else, a piece on the wall used to be a sail on a ship, or bicycle parts, a sculpture might have been screws and washers. One of my pieces was a birdcage and now its a birdcage that is a metaphor for a way of looking at life.

Winged Victory, standing now in the Louvre

3. Art is intended to convey meaning. We may not understand the language or even like it, but the artist is telling you his/her thoughts, beliefs, feelings or attitudes towards something or about something. Think about how much public art we love or hate, are bronze statues of generals on horses art? I’m not sure, but for me they are simply memorials. The Winged Victory of Samothrace standing in the Louvre, is definitely art. In its time, it may been a memorial, that’s a thought worthy of more discussion for me. What was the original intention?

4. Art must be recognized by society as art. It doesn’t have to be good or appreciated but it must be recognized as art. Two ends of the spectrum come to mind here. All the rotten paintings I have seen of Mt Rainier or even worse, bad ocean scenes, is one end of unappreciated and Robert Mapplethorpe’s inciendiary male nude photographs were at one time (for many in America) the other. Mapplethorpe stood the world on its ear in his time although now he is recognized as a 20th master of the photograph. Often great art pushes boundaries and makes people very uncomfortable, especially when it is in a shared space. Public art, there’s another discussion!

Incredible tramp art shrine, from, for sale on their site.

Which brings up a whole other set of things: when does a photograph become art? I may need to chew on that a few days and do some reading up to refine my thoughts.

5. Art is not craft, but art is crafted, and craft can become art. Tramp art for example. Its heyday was the Civil War through the 1930s, and it was not art for the most part when it was made/created, but definitely a craft using whatever was at hand by some very clever hands. Today, it is sought after and has transcended craft to become art.

I construct both art and craft, and for me the difference is very clear. The boxes hidden under the tablecloth I showed the Boys to their delight, were art. I consciously intended to tell a story of Lost Childhoods. Thinking of the icons of my life, Aunt Jemima, Uncle Sam, the Grim Reaper, King Neptune, and so many more, I wanted to tell the story of what their childhood’s were.  They were definitely crafted but their intention was to tell a story.

Father Time’s Lost Childhood, a constructed piece from my series Lost Childhoods

When I create a garden ornament with an old salt shaker  or a piece of tin, my intention is to bring pleasure and joy to the new owner. They are one of a kind pieces, but they don’t tell a story, they fill a function and are definitely not art. The same is true for those who make work in multiples and sell it. The first piece may indeed be art, but the multiples become craft, fine artisanal craft but they cease to be art because they are not original.

Metal garden art made from a ceiling tin

The Webelos and I had a lively discussion and they loved the two pieces I brought, especially the more macabre ‘Grim Reaper’. In the end, I felt like I took away more than I gave because of the thought process involved. Ihope they retain a scrap of the discussion as they grow up and it gives them an ha  moment some day. I’m still having ah ha’s around here after this experience, what more could I ask for?



Get the Flock Out- Show Off Your Collections for Christmas

Loving the sparkly lights, crystal and my sheep collection for Christmas

I am sitting here in front of my computer, writing and listening to Percy Faith and Mantovani”s Orchestra playing the Christmas music of my childhood. Thank you iTunes for not letting this wonderful stuff disappear from my life. I got a new photographic backdrop this week and I was just dying for a free morning to play with it.

Between Instagram and my new gradient background-winning! These are my first two sheep, Germany and 56 years old.

I love what it does to ‘product’ pix!  For fun, I got my two sheeps, yes sheeps, out and took their portrait. That reminded me of childhood Christmas memories of being a kid in Germany. There is no place more magical during the holidays than a German city. Its like every old fashioned Christmas card ever printed. To this day the smell of coal burning almost makes me cry with nostalgia. I loved living in Europe and I still miss it every day. that being said, I’m lucky I have so many amazing memories of Christmases past–including my sheeps.

These two funny looking animals are made of plaster or clay with cotton flannel ‘wool’, painted faces and wooden legs, circa 1957. We got them as a gift from Saint Nicholas, one each for my brother and me. They always had pride of price in the manger when we were growing up although they didn’t match anything else in that elegant Italian manger.

Tiny Wade sheep and English sheep and Japanese sheep mix it up.

I have to hand it to my mom, she knew how to entertain kids. She would hand us a giant enameled tray and send us outside to build the landscape for the manger each year. Moss, trees, sticks, rocks and hours of labor went into the building before it was carefully carried inside and installed. Then we got to put the actual pieces in place. Three wisemen, a camel, a cow, a donkey, Joseph, Mary, the baby Jesus, a shepherd, his sheep and our sheep.

Not sheep, but I love, love, love what happens when  you cover little trees with glue and roll them in glitter. So pretty!

The years rolled by and I left home and sheep behind. Over time,  I kept looking for the right sheep to replace those two funny looking sheep of memory. Sheep became one of my first collections and mostly they live in a cabinet these days.

I couldn’t resist these goofy sheep from a thrift store. They remind me of my youngest son’s favorite story from his childhood, “Sheep in a Jeep”, although this is definitely a sled.

I never found a sheep to replace the first two, but last time I was home I found THEM. They were abandoned in a drawer in my mother’s antique desk. I tucked them in my suitcase and now here they are, Christmas again, 56 years later. Holy crap, how did that many years pass me by?

Pretty and romantic.

I decided to bring the flock out and use them to decorate for Christmas. After all there were sheep in the Holy Land when Jesus was born right? I highly recommend to anyone, if you have a collection you love, bring it out and integrate in your celebration decoration.

vases are pretty with crystal garland wound into arrangements, light catchers!

I mixed my sheep with little bits of crystal, perfume bottles and spheres, because they do such a great job of catching and reflecting light.

The fat sheep in the background was made by a famous Dutch artist who lives in France, I got to stay at his bed and breakfast and buy this little sheep treasure.

There are my two old faves and a charming china doll, tiny, along with a crystal jar that has an enameled lid. Sparkle!


If my brother ever finds out I liberated his little sheep, in the foreground, I’m in trouble. It needed a home and now it has a whole flock!

Project Snowman Conversion


Snowmen formerly known as Salt Shakers

I can never resist a saltshaker, especially those big heavy glass ones that no one uses anymore. Glass bottles make me happy too, especially little ones. But what do you do with a batch of bottles? In this case Snowman conversion.

I started with this idea last week and made a batch of heads using Celluclay, a papier mache mix that comes pre-packaged. Add water, squish until its the consistency of butter and shape. I keep bamboo skewers around and they are the perfect head handle. Macabre, I tried not think of a head on a stake… I dried the heads for a few days and then got to work.

Saltshaker, German glitter, paper mache head made of celluclay papier mache mix, great stuff!

The next step is to wash and dry your containers–save the tops, especially the cool metal ones. I decided I wanted to put something inside my containers.

I like words in the bottles

I couldn’t find quotes I liked so I wrote snowmen haiku and printed them out. I printed my haiku on silver paper in landscape format, that’s lengthwise, because I knew I would be cutting them out in a long narrow strip.

Haiku for Christmas

Meyer Imports on line carries exquisite, gorgeous, fantastic German glass glitter. Its the stuff that is made of glass, shiny and old school. I like that for sparkly outsides but I have discovered glitter inside a jar can cloud the walls with a static electricity cling. The answer? Tiny glass beads. They are available in the glitter section of your local craft store and come in a ton of colors, Martha Stewart makes my favorites in color, but Meyer Imports gets my vote for buying a large quantity.

Glass beads, just enough for a “pop” of snow and a haiku in place.

I carefully rolled my haiku around a pencil and worked them into the bottle necks, using a skewer to help them untangle and unroll. A quick pour of about a 1/4 inch of beads for effect and a few pearls for pretty and the bodies were done.

I took the heads and fitted them on each bottle because each one has its own personality and it was fun to decide where they looked best. Before they got glued down with E6000 killer glue, I used my dremel to make a hole for the nose, a toothpick in its original life. I trimmed the toothpick to fit for length and put on a quick coat of paint with a Qtip.

I made small holes for the eyes and mouth.

I used my pointy tool, which is really for starting nail holes, to ‘drill out’ a little opening to set each small black piece of coal in the face, aka tiny black beads.  I put a good dab of E6000 in each hole and set the beads and the nose piece. I glittered the face at this point to make sure the glue got covered. Voila, sticks to the excess and I don’t have to go back and glue paint the details of the face. Smart me.

Finished face before glittering with my pointy tool and glue tube.

I let the eyes and mouth set for about ten minutes before I went back with white glue and a small paintbrush to coat each head thoroughly before dipping it in my glitter box and sprinkling glitter all over.


To keep my studio from looking like I just murdered Tinker Belle, I keep the glitter I am working with in a wooden cigar box, I use a piece of sandpaper for a scoop and pour it over the piece. When I’m done it makes it easier to collect and save the unsued glitter and it keeps it from spreading everywhere like fairy dust.

drying time again.

I leave the heads on their skewers to make it easy to work with them until I set them in place on the bottles. While they dried I cut out scarves.

felted sweater bits, handy to have around.

Old wool sweaters that are felted and shrunk are wonderful things for a lot of reasons, they cut just like material and don’t fray like woolly is wont to do.

teeny little scarf, cut and measured.

These tidbits from last year lent themselves nicely to become tiny snowman scarves. I wrestled with them and tied them down first, then lifted and dabbed glue on to hold them in place.

Next task was to set the heads on with E6000, I resprinkled the heads and necks with glitter to disguise any excess glue, being careful not to tip the bottle and lose the head.

Ready for my hat!

The most fun of all is selecting which salt shaker lid works best for a hat, who knew these little doodads would make such charming helmets? I even put rhinestones on one snowman in place of a scarf, making it a snowgirl with a lot bling.



Snow couple finished and ready for Christmas.

These are a complicated project and there are a lot of specialty bits required, that being said, if you wanted to tackle something like this everything you need is easily available and not expensive. What are you going to make this Christmas?

Is it Dark in Here or is that Just Art?

The first backyard martyr, the accidentally murdered St Squirrel

I am bemused today. The gallery that handles my work returned 3 pieces to me yesterday. I am not upset, I understand why completely. The 3 pieces were from the series “Backyard Martyrs” and they are deeply satirical and very dark, but not at first glance. I love Matter Gallery, Jo is super supportive of her artists and in a funny way, I think I just made my first real statement with my art.

The gun that threw viewers for a loop in Saint Squirrel

The series takes a look at the animals we love to hate–with a vengeance–when they come in our yards and destroy OUR gardens, OUR yards and OUR space. It was originally sparked when I accidentally killed a squirrel last year. Honest, I shot at it with a pellet gun to scare it, not commit homicidal mayhem on the squirrels that were absolutely destroying my bird feeders. Sara Jessica Parker’s character on Sex in the City summed it up, “You can’t make friends with a squirrel.Squirrels are just rats with cuter outfits”. They may be cute but they are rodents and they are not fun to have around when they are destroying flower beds and bird feeders. Yes. Its what they are programmed to do but I would prefer they did it somewhere else, along with 90% of the gardening and bird feeding population.

Yes. Rats with cuter outfits

Mea Culpa people. I started out to make an altar to honor the squirrel as he was martyred in the line of duty, but this devolved into something darker when I started really thinking about it. Backyard Martyrs.

The raccoon I love to hate

Among the martyrs: I have a raccoon visitor I loathe because it destroys our pond just for fun. We had koi once upon a time. They were eaten, but the stupid animal still thinks we’ll be repopulating the buffet real soon. I have contemplated killing it because raccoons are gnarly and truly evil but its so cute with those little hands. Have you seen their teeth? They are vermin infested burglars who are saved by their human-like hand-paws.

Imagined mayhem for the raccoon

Crows. I love crows thanks in part to my old friend Carl Cook who passed away a few years back. Carl loved crows and convinced me to slow down and take a look at them too. I do however hate them in the spring, when the whole damn family is talking to each other at the top of their lungs at 7:00 a.m. Crow babies have horrible voices. They sound like old ladies who swallowed a kazoo and a bullhorn at the same time.

The crow, another backyard martyr

Among the cast of characters are the deer who ate the neighbors raspberries and roses–in the middle of town. Go figure. There is a mole that I have been trying to murder for years. I am waiting for my house to topple into his tunnel system which is more extensive than the French Metro by now. Cats. I love cats, I just don’t love my neighbor’s cats. They are proud that their cats are bird killers–in my yard. They also poop in my flower beds indiscriminately. I don’t love them. I would like to spray paint them purple and send them home.

I love the wings on this piece

So, Backyard Martyrs is a series that takes a look at the American obsession with anthromorphizing critters we also loathe. Yin Yang. How many cute raccoons, moles, mice, cats and birds has Disney given us? We persist in saying ahhhh….cute.

The bottom of Saint Crow is hammered spoons with crow words

I myself am guilty of being a rabbit devotee although they can be yard and crop destroyers bigtime. This from the girl who shot jackrabbits in her teenage years. I should have known I would kill that squirrel because I have always been an excellent shot. What was I thinking?

Top of the raccon martyr with Froggy

I digress. It seems that people who saw these pieces were drawn to them by their bright Mexican colors and feel; and of course, the cute animals wearing crowns in the paintings mounted on tin panels. When viewers got closer feeling all warm and fuzzy, Good Heavens! A gun, squirrel poison, arrows! Folks were shocked and appalled at the potential for mayhem I laid right out there as part of the work. But I’ll bet most of them have actually tried to do harm to their own backyard martyrs. Its not all Bambi out there although for some reason we want to think it is.

Each piece has the latin name of the martyr. Crow has a bit more in English.How very Catholic of me.

The true weirdness. Here it is. Viewers were shocked and surprised at the mayhem portrayed, not even portrayed, just the potential for critter harm is depicted for the animals we love and hate. Yin Yang still going on. But, a metric F*** ton of people and the kids of these people play violent, bloody, do-as-much-harm-as-you- can video games. So why are these paintings/collage/sculptures so disturbing? Our culture provides instant access to violence and mayhem on television, in the movies, even in music. Yet the suggestion of shooting a charming squirrel who is actually, really truly doing harm is over the top? I would love to know what people think.

Or was it the poison bottle that says “Why Not?” on the squirrel piece

This culture of ours is truly odd. I make dark art that is also fabulously bright and funny at the same and it is too disturbing for people. Dance floors in clubs are crowded with people doing moves that 25 years ago would have had them arrested, seriously. There is no subject too taboo to talk about on the boob tube. Women in clothing that leaves nothing, nothing, to the imagination are all over the media. Violent porn is a mouse click away. At the same time there are at least three men running for public office in the USA who believe that there are degrees of rape and one of them had a daddy who told him some “girls are easy”. Check my favorite blog for details on this particular info.

Every Saint wears a crown as Saints should–and a halo.

So in conclusion, Americans are daft. We are the most open minded close minded, blind people on the planet. I’m satisfied. I finally made art that is too much to take for people who don’t think about more than the surface. I’d like to think that the people who were appalled are the same ones who buy art by the yard to hang over the couch.

I’m wondering how to explain these pieces to my grandchildren as they are in residence above my couch and I’m truly enjoying the work. That should be a fascinating discussion…

And by the way, this work is for sale at $200.00 per backyard martyr. $175.00 each for all three. Such a deal!


Queen Day is Coming to a Head Near You


Princess Kate’s tiara–you can buy this replica for under thirty bucks and feel like Prince Charles’ daughter-in-law

Just, because everyone needs to wear a tiara upon occaision and because its just one of those days I propose Queen Day. I know there are several takers out there who will embrace the concept with open arms and empty heads. Okay, empty as needing a tiara on top. All the women I know are of course, brilliant. We have evolved beyond being princesses and will leave that for royalty and Barbie.  We will be QUEENS!

Princess Margaret’s wedding tiara, sold later for a million bucks!

Everyone taking part will wear their tiara and take a photograph of themselves en tiara delicto, sort of like en flagrante delicto but with clothes on and a tiara on top. Wearing of the tiara for the entire day is to be encouraged as is feeling good about oneself. Cultivate an “I am the queen” attitude and be kind to your subjects if possible. The photograph should be taken in the grocery store, gas station, car wash, school, work, or other place where other humans abide. NO hiding your crowns in the shadows ladies.

I have been known to slap on one of my two tiaras for doing loathed chores around the house. It helps. In light of the imminent celebration of Queen Day, I started looking around for tiaras on the internet and the history of tiaras. Eye opening. This is from Wikipedia:

“Traditionally, the word “tiara” refers to a high crown, often with the shape of a cylinder narrowed at its top, made of fabric or leather, and richly ornamented. It was used by the kings and emperors of some ancient peoples in Anatolia and Mesopotamia, notably the Hittites. The Assyrians used to include a pair of bull horns as a decoration and symbol of authority and a circle of short feathers surrounding the tiara’s top. The Persiantiara was more similar to a truncated cone, without the horns and feathers but more jewels, and a conic-shaped tip at its top.”

tiara tiara boom de ay! English royals

Maybe we could scrape up a Texas Tiara with horns? Personally I find it hilarious that the pope’s hat is called a tiara. Crowns for royalty that are basically half a crown and worn only in the front wound up being called tiaras too and the Russian ones are crazy! (Do you think the half a crown concept was invented by po’ folk royals who couldn’t afford an entired jeweled doo dad for their noggins?)

Russian tiara, too fierce for words, Countess Alexandra Feodorovna

The American Princesses Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn wore them best IMHO

Grace Kelly’s wedding tiara from Van Cleef and Arpels jewelers. Very Nice.


I propose to mark the occaison of Queen Day with a mascot, a mentor, a fearless leader, a guiding light, one to whom fealty may be given, etc. etc. Looking for a Queen with a September or October birthday I ran across Queen Matilda of England, also known as Empress Maude. Like many of us modern day ladies she had to fight like a crazy girl to attain the position that was due her. Those English royals really did know how to throw a war…

Our Mascot Matilda of the English

She didn’t get to be Empress and Queen for very long after she finally managed to fight to the finish and become the Queen, but she is a marvelous colorful and strong woman–besides Queen Matilda just makes me laugh to say it. I am naming my next cat Queen Matilda in her honor. This is the Wikipedia short history of a long fight for you to read if you are so inclined. Her birthday was September 10th, close but we missed it. What the heck let’s just name it the Merry Month of Maude! The kids are back in school, life is settling back to normal, the weather is gentle. Its time to celebrate us. So get yourself a tiara girls and get ready!

I hereby propose September 28th be named Queen Day in celebration of the Merry Month of Maude. This gives everyone a few weeks to obtain a tiara should one not already own a few. There are copious places on line which have tiaras for sale at a plethora of price points. This is a picture of the one I am coveting at 30 bucks.

I love this. Want. I already own two so I don’t exactly need this one but….

And then for those who need everything largesized I give you the ulitmate in trashy tiaras….

wow, this thing probably gets six channels and sheds enough light to read by. Its called the large Mideastern Crown.

I love tiaras and have acquired two which I adore, but I would be happy to have more, just not that crazy crown thing, thank you very much. Here are my own sparkly head blingy things. One was acquired in celebration of a family wedding. I bribed all my helpers with tiaras. You know who are and you’d better haul those things out and dust them off! The other is my true treasure, my beloved niece Heather, aka Hed, sent me her wedding tiara as a gift. It makes me happy to wear it, the Hedpiece.

The Hedpiece, my favorite tiara

The first tiara I ever owned








Mark your calendars, shine up your tiaras and get your cameras ready! Post your tiara pix to Facebook or email them to me so I can share them.  Matilda Tiara Queen Day is September 28th, unless someone has a reason we should change it?

The Bird is the Word, Is Life Safer in Cages?

The  Bird is the Word. The genesis of this piece was a delicate glass bird with a broken head. Instead of throwing it out, the thrift store gave it to me when I asked for it. I carried it home and sat it on my work bench where I stared at it and thought about glass birds for a few days. It needed to be covered, the first layer of meaning over our glass skeletons.

I started pulling pieces out of my stash of emphemera, old early 20th century broken-spined McGuffy Readers and a book of tunes from the same era. All dreadful old parlor piano music that  seems to feature people who have died, drowned, been lost, pined away,  or are otherwise Croaked, but still haunting the living through these lugubrious tunes.

The Readers are a fascinating glimpse into a morally upright past in which God is on every page of school textbooks. Children are directed down the path of righteousness with tales that feature bad dogs, bad things and some of the most overblown hyperbole ever. I do so love the Victorians, even their poetry is decorated with the equivalent of literary doilies. All of this literary excess got me thinking about the American Political Process we are in the throes of dealing with at the moment. We are suffering from our own literary doilies in Congress and we seem to be heading backwards in time at a high rate of speed, undoing advances in social justice and women’s rights in which many women seem to be complicit. I find this deeply disturbing because we burned bras and draft cards for a reason back in the day….

I chose snippets about birds and flight and morals. My favorites include, “Winged Worshippers” and “Joy Seldom Weaves a Chain.” The entire bird is collaged in Bird Words and on her crown she wears antique rhinestones and 3 feathers I found in a ghost town in Northern California.  I confess, I thought of the the 1% when I constructed her ‘diamond’ necklace from chandelier pieces.

This bird is mounted on an upside down antique martini glass that has her heart trapped inside. Inside the heart is a tiny copy of a photograph of my great great grandmother in a feather hat, and the words “She loved diamonds most.” The heart is permanently mounted on the cage bottom and sealed under the glass which is also circled with antique rhinestones. No one will ever know what is really in her heart.

The floor of the cage is a cut out artists canvas board that has been collaged top and bottomwith appropriate sheet music–for this bird to sing. “Diamonds” are scattered on the cage floor. There are four triangular mirrors marking the points of the compass and on them is a stamped word. The four points together say, “What Will She Do.”

I love the old cage I found. It has been wire brushed and sealed with clear sealer to protect it in its current state of tasteful decay.  The cage can be unclipped from the base and the bird can stand alone too.  I designed it to hang or stand on a table for display. I worked to make sure it looks simple but the assembly was incredibly complex and layered and a lot of intellectual fun too. The bird has hands instead of wings which too me was the obvious choice.

A lot of what I build has hands, a head or legs, so I have quite a macabre stash of ‘body parts’ in my studio. These are models of old Italian Santos hands I found in a little shop in Seattle and they fit perfectly with my intention.  This bird, we might like to call her Ann, actually, holds a chain in both hands with a key and a lock. She can open her own prison if she wants to do so, but will she?

Her Master’s key.

Her Master’s lock. I love that it says “Slaymaker.”

An antique cut glass saltshaker has a heart mounted on it instead of its top and inside it saysthree times, ‘Her Story Repeats Itself.’ This hangs from the cage top like a bird feeder might,  adds a pop of color and repeats the heart motif.

Over the cage top is a woman’s hand holding on to the cage. The cuff is hand-crocheted lace that has been stitched over a copper band and there is a blingy ‘cuff link’ on the wrist. I love, love, love this old ring. It was given to me in a stash of broken jewelry and it was obviously much worn and loved as it is scratched thoroughly. It was missing a few little stones which I remounted and I think it is perfect on this odd hand. 

I love the saying, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” I kind of wish that hand would slap a few faces and say, WAKE UP! This hand is mounted with a copper ‘bolt’ that allows a chain mounting to hang the cage while keeping the hand stable. 

For me the thing that finishes the piece and says it all succinctly is the Yevgeny Yevtushenko quote on the wrist back. “He who is born in a cage, yearns for a cage.”.

The finished piece, not weatherproof, but photographed in my garden.

Another view of the finished piece.The Bird is the Word.
















Magic Gardens in a Glass


Spring Victorian style sealed globes and glasses are underway. The first ‘clutch’, my Easter egg word, goes to Finders Keepers for sale today. Some are a bit like snow globes, I’m not sure what to call them except fun?

To Sing, Victorian style upcycled Spring globe

They are all made from upcycled or green materials. Little birds and vintage tiny animal figures I cannot resist picking up wherever I find them. Glassware from candle globes to wineglasses, flashing–as in metal roof flashing, bits and pieces of moss, sticks, straw, yarn, feathers and tidbits. Most of the little nests I made from pieces of my curly willow that blew down in the winter storms. The words on paper are from a very old, old falling to bits McGuffy Reader from the late 1890s. The blue eggs? My own little secret in construction.

This one has a message on a metal tag that says love and patience.

Each jar is decorated on top with recycled piece of jewelry. I do love the bling thing… and each one has a message inside on paper or metal.

This one holds a tiny old metal owl and his own forest with mushrooms!

There are also spring things that are just fun. Little animals are fastened down so you actually turn the jar over to read the free-floating words.

This one is a little mouse bootmaker in a cordial glass. His message is Love Life.

The little ‘Snow Globes’ all have tiny glass beads in them. The beads are German glass and come in such fun colors!

Easter bunny used to be a salt shaker, now he's an Easter Egg bunny.

I made tiny flowers for several of them and found other tiny tidbits. All that saving of Stuff with no Useful Purpose actually does come in handy!

The bluebird of happiness in a wine glass with a free floating word, Hope, and a tiny feather.

Such fun for an Easter present or Mother’s day. I purposely did not make very many that were specifically Easter. I think spring should last a long time and not be packed away, we need it around here to chase away the gray.

Tiny bottle with a tiny altered photo and green glass beads. The butterfly wings say Fly Away

So many more to make, I love creating these tiny worlds.


The words say Dream Big, but the cat is pretty small.

I have got to control my bottle collecting nature though. I’m like a magpie when I see tiny bottles. Sooner or later I will construct something fabulous with the whole lot so I’ll have an excuse to go find MORE.

This little guy in antique creamer jar says Cherish.

I’m not sure when I get time to sleep because I love all the things I do so much. I would love to teach a glass on constructing these little jars this summer. So much fun to make and a great introduction to soldering. The bottle cap is included for scale but what a cool cap.

Best friends.

Which came first? The Chicken or the egg?


Love this monkey, he still has a tag on his backside from manufacture. He's holding a mirror and a message: Appreciate. Take time to appreciate YOU is my message.


This one speaks for itself. It says Attitude inside



This last one sort of speaks for itself…Its the cutest little bull with a rose and the word “Attitude”. Useful in a wide variety of situations, no? I do have other photos of each container, thank you Iphone, if you need or would like to see another view. Just let me know.

Soldering done waiting for patina. My studio workbench.

These little jars will be at Finders Keepers today and they are priced from $12- $20. I am hoping to have several ready for Etsy soon too. These make wonderful presents, fun little things for gifts. Non-fattening, celebrate spring, green and affordable. Check. Perfect.