Category Archives: Rabbit’s Makes Art

Photos and descriptions of my (new) work in the studio and links to where it can be found. Painting, jewelry, found collage, glass, wirework and more.

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.

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!


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.

Shiny vs. Art: Is the Rabbit Really That Distractable?

Watches faces and hands waiting to become something new

Sadly, I’m as bad as the dog in “Up”. I can be on the trail of something deep and meaningful and suddenly  I hear, “Squirrel!” or see something shiny. Ooh,Shiny… and I’m off on another tack.

Lost Childhood of Anubis: front

I have epiphanies, sometimes as many as three a week, like an artist’s seizure for lack of a better description. My epiphanies have me swearing to complete the whole series of Lost Childhoods immediately, or make twenty poured resin pieces with original drawings, or master papier mache, or, or, or…there is so much I want to try and make and do.

In the studio with friends, working on My Pool

Sometimes I think I could just lay down and roll in the craft of art, like a joyful paint-covered dog. Now, if the days only had 36 hours each I’d be on to something.

I don’t seem to be able to work on just one thing. Is that wrong? It’s not about focus because I can disappear down that rabbit hole and emerge in a daze asking what day it is two days later. It’s about shiny…ooh, shiny….and suddenly like a two year chasing a butterfly I’m off in another direction. I make myself crazy.

Literally shiny, hanging next to my computer. I really do love shiny things.

Do I want to do just one thing? I could just paint. I could just sculpt. I could just design jewelry. I could just work with mosaic and glass, but I can’t. I see things and I think, I could do that, I could do that and make it better and different and more. And I do, but then the next thing shows up and I have to try that too. I exhaust me.

Ghost town glass ready for grinding

It’s almost garden season which is another facet of art making for me. My outdoor space is overflowing with plants and art. Its an art garden. The good news is that it is really restful when summer comes and I can slow my brain down a little, until…ooh, shiny….what if I???? And I’m off again.

I can relax for a little until...ooh, shiny...

Summer in the garden, my favorite time. My rabbit window and wonderful round things.

So my question for me is how am I doing walking the line between craft and art? Am I okay with not being a gigantic success hanging in a New York gallery? Writing this down has been a good exercise for me. I think I found my center again and it feels okay. I have made choices in life and I can’t regret those. My boys are amazing and when I could have chosen the big city and starving in a loft, I didn’t.

Salt shaker garden hanger. These are such fun to make.

I still think I need to figure out how to weed out some things but what?  What should I give up? I have no idea because I know the next time I go to Barnes and Noble and see something beautiful in a magazine I’m going to say to myself, “Wow, I can do that, and if I did this to it or that to it, it would be even cooler. Ooh, shiny…”


Does the View Inside My Head Make You Dizzy?

“Process gets you through times of no ideas far better than ideas get you through times of no process,”so sayeth my favorite college prof., Paul Sparks.  The quote is alleged to be from the Far Out Furry Freak Brothers. I really hope it is, because I have loved it for twenty plus years. Hearing it was an epic lightbulb moment when I was an art student lo these many years ago–and as an artist, that quote may be the truest thing I know.

One of three worktables full of pieces, in the throes of creating it can get pretty wrecked in here.

Process. It may be more important than the initial idea behind a piece because when the race horse of ideas goes through the fence and runs for the barn, the mule of process is still putting one foot in front of the other and plowing all day long. Yes, I do have a sketchbook or six full of jottings, notes, remember to dos, and ideas, but they all depend on process. I can say unequivocally for me  as a multi media artist,there is  a deep and grounded pleasure in using a tool I have mastered and having it do what I want. That’s process. Process informs everything from cutting glass, grinding glass, mixing paint, gessoing a board, bending metal, using a colored pencil, twisting a wire or laying down a bead or seam of solder. Its all about the process.

Process. Knowing the materials and how to make them make magic for me is the important piece of all.

I actually work very, very fast. I worry about that sometimes. Does it make me less of an artist because I don’t have to toil over six square inches of canvas for a month? Before I ever get to that canvas, or piece of wood or glass or whatever my hummingbird brain is enjoying today, I think. I think a lot. I think for days and weeks and months sometimes about a piece I want to make. I think about a lot of pieces a lot of the time, rather like Alice in Wonderland who worked on believing the impossible. To paraphrase her, “Sometimes I think about six impossible things before breakfast.” Yes. I write down what I think too. Sketch books, pieces of paper, sticky notes.

I try really hard to contain it all in one of about six sketchbooks I drag around with me. My poor books have grocery lists and what the kids want for their birthdays and the name of a plant I fell in love with yesterday, all jumbled up with websites I want to look at and things I want to hunt for and ideas for a new piece.

Creepy baby heads are tried out with different bits and pieces to bring them to life.

Which brings me to the process behind the series I call “Lost Childhoods.” These pieces may be my all time favorites and they take a lot of rumination before I ever start assembling them. The Lost Childhoods, so far there are four completed, are all about the imagined childhoods of cultural iconography in my life. Mother Nature, Father Time, Death, and King Neptune are finished. My starting point was to imagine what their early lives were like and then build cabinets which contained imagined memories and artifacts that defined who they were, although since they are not real, I guess I could say, who they weren’t. They are built with found and recycled objects. They all have in common: parts that open and close, words, photos, ideas, artifacts, hands, and heads. I am using doll heads and I have to tell you it feels pretty macabre dismantling baby dolls and stuffing their parts in a drawer. My youngest son is so creeped out he can hardly look at them which I find wonderful, it means I am connecting on some visceral level.

Mother's Nature's Lost Childhood. Doll head transmutation into something wondrous.

The latest piece on the worktable is Betty Crocker’s Lost Childhood. Betty has been on the list for over a year. I have hunted and hunted and hunted some more for the right body. Her head was selected last summer after I got it as a present from my friend Jaimie. Old and fantastic, it looks like Betty Crocker to me. I thought seriously about hollowing out a cookbook for her body.

Betty begins. Vintage doll head and antique hands and a vintage toy stove. Let the process begin!

I  was actually contemplating the cookbook idea until…insert angelic chorus….I was in Space Oddity, a weirdly cool basement level store in Ballard, Washington, last week with my hipster child/son Tor. Insert beam of light…there it was! An ancient Magic Chef Toy Stove. I managed to convince the owner to mark it down some from the sixty-five bucks he had on it and I triumphantly carried it off into the sunset. Okay, so Torin carried it off into the sunset for me, but Betty Crocker’s body was found.

Eureka! The Toy Oven

The same day in another of Tor’s favorite stores, Lucca, I found two sets of Santos hands. Beautiful carved wood hands. Eureka times two! Betty Crocker’s hands. Today, I finally had a chance to begin the project I have been accumulating bits of and ideas for, for over a year. This stove actually still had its electrical cord on it. Thank God, the plug is gone.

Tin snips and time. No bandaids needed. Fear can be a great motivator when you are worried about blood loss from cuts.

I remember this toy. At least one of my friends had one of these. This toy did not bake cakes with a light bulb. Nope, this puppy is wired for some serious heat. I was so curious as to what it was we were baking our tiny cakes and heating our tea with back in the fifties that I was determined to pry the back off and take a look. I turned it over and over and over, kind of like a dog with a Kong toy full of biscuits. There had to be some way to get into the thing. The inside of one oven was undone anyway, so to fix it I had to find out how it was put together in the first place.

And the oven doors even open, the pencil is included for scale.

I resorted to tin snips and carefully cut the thing up the back and then rolled the tin offf the rivets. The hubs came out to view the result and we both almost fell over. Holy Crap! I wonder how many house fires these little toys started? Not one but TWO porcelain heating elements are inside the back. I carefully rehooked the tabs on the ovens so I could use them as containers for Betty’s life.  I think I will put plexiglass on the back and use the oven innards as part of the piece too. Who knows what may lurk in the back of Betty? I cannot wait to find out as the process informs my ideas. That and the box of pieces I have been saving for Betty’s story. I plan to write about the process as I go sharing my process and the product, stay tuned.

Holy Cow! They gave these to kids!!!?? Check out those heating elements on all metal stove with tiny little plastic knobs and the top heated up too!

“All Mine”, The Back Story is All Yours

I love the work I am making now. Recycled, Upcycled, Green. It’s what I have always done living with my poverty pocketbook, but now its chi chi and has a name and better yet, a market. I seem to have caught up with the world again, or did it catch up with me?  The paintings I am doing now have a set of rules to them. Okay, I made them up, but they are part of the parameters that keep me on track.

I can use new paint. Oil, acrylic, poster paint, spray paint, whatever. It is important to use the right paint. I want anyone who owns my work to be able to enjoy it for years to come so materials and archival quality are important to me.  I use materials that are either recycled or in some cases, can be recycled. If I need a small chunk of wood to finish something and I’ve torn up the garage, the studio and the wood pile with no luck,  I will actually give myself permission to buy the chunk I need. I try really hard to con my friends out of their scrap plywood and masonite and even paneling. I have quite a stash now. My wonderful neighbor Kelli is always making stuff and I’m always taking away her scraps. It’s win win that way.

Nellie with her favorite purple crayon toy. What a girl, the original Bad Attitude Dog

Another rule is to try to use old frames. It is cheaper to buy terrible paintings and save the frame that to buy a new frame. I am now adept at putting funky old frames back together. It’s amazing what a coat of flat black paint will do. I have quite a stash of frames too. I look for cheap wooden trays at thrift stores too, the big ones no one wants are great canvases.  I now own a router, a jig saw, two dremels, and I’m angling for a little bandsaw. I have jars of bolts and nails and tins and Stuff.  I have access to a drill press and a hubs who can weld and build almost anything if I can draw a picture of it. I’m lucky that way. A lot of my work should have both our names on it.

another shot of All Mine, 24 X 42 inches. $480.00 at Matter Gallery after the Center show

I have been loving working on the bad dog and bad cat paintings this past year. To me they are not bad per se, they just exemplify all the crazy, often hilarious things our pets do that make us nuts. Eat newspapers, chew shoes, steal toys, swipe chickens off counter tops, hog laps and pillows, and chew through rocking chair legs. Okay that wasn’t funny at the time. But still, I have to admire the persistence of a 12 pound dachshund who could gnaw through a chair leg, and it is funny now.

Nell hauled all her toys to her bed. This is especially poignant because that is Terry's helmet in the background. About a month after the crash where he suffered brain damage, imagine what would have happened without the helmet?

People who know me know I have been painting Yellow Dog for years, he’s the sort of gentle Every Dog who stands in for humans in my paintings. He’s kind of a mellow guy and sort of a dog Gandhi, not a rocker leg chewing bone in his body.

How did I start painting dogs? A painter named Mark Fuller who was part of the early 80s art scene in Olympia painted these amazing snarly dogs and I painted a lot of red chairs back then. He liked my chairs and I liked his dog so we swapped images. That was the genesis of Yellow Dog. Yellow Dog led to Black Dog, the yang and yin of dogness. Black Dog had an attitude and he didn’t give a crap what anyone thought. He ran away to the circus and rode the horses. He chased cars and cats and ate newspapters. He wouldn’t let the kids in the pool and he hogged all the toys. The only thing that slows him down is Mean Cats. Yes, my world is populated with cats too.

That's a real newspaper from the twenties and Nell's frisbee and yellow dog have become art!

This new pieces has its own story. It’s 3D because I wanted it to be an homage to my own beloved Bad Attiude Dog Nell Bell. Nell died about 3 weeks ago at the age of 11 and a half. She was a feisty rat terrier and my buddy.  I miss her a lot. “All Mine” has a pretend dog bed in it with real things. One of Nell’s immense stash of tennis balls, her crummy yellow dog toy and a stick from our willow tree. The willow is said to be a feminine tree, Salix, the tree of joy and dreaming and its perfect to signify dog joy and happiness.

There is a rolled up newspaper which is real and carefully fastened with a rubber band to preserve it. It is from the 1920s and is part of a circular about art and history, an inside joke to be sure.

The dog of Albert Camus as photographed by his friend Jacuques Lartigue

On the wall behind Black Dog there is a picture. The photograph was taken by Jacques Lartigue of Albert Camus’ dog. They were at the beach in France and the dog looks just like Nell! I loved making this piece and solving all the issues that come with the craziness of working in 3D. I love the whimsy of the painted wooden scene, the cut out dog with a real collaged bandanna and the real contents of the dog bed.

This picture makes me happy too. No wonder I paint so many animals. Mom and Nell have gone on to the Rainbow bridge but I hope they haunt my studio forever and keep me company.

This makes me happy, making art makes me happy. I’m basically pretty happy…


I saved all the jointed pieces, they will make a fun project later.

Rabbit Takes an Inch: Inspiration and a Fun Vintage Necklace

A carpenter's dream? Inch by inch? Fun by any caption!

I made a version of this fun necklace today, and it was so much fun I had to share it. I used vintage buttons in addition to my cut up carpenter’s ruler, but you could use tiny red hearts or little bells or enjoy it without any additional bling.

I am one of the ‘squirrel girls’. What that means in English is that my friend Lynn and I both love discovering wonderful old Stuff to repurpose. Garage sale and estate sale season are winding down and  we are busy laying away those ‘nuts’, aka, bits and pieces that will get us through the winter with lots of creativity. One of my favorite things  right now is carpenters rulers and really old measuring tapes.

Perfect! A wooden folding carpenter's ruler is a good thing to find at a garage sale.

They are getting tougher to find but I had two I could sacrifice to today’s project. The third one is French and will be admired in one piece on my treasure shelf in the studio.

I saved all the jointed pieces, they will make a fun project later.

For this Carpenter’s Dream necklace, I used my heavy duty lineman’s pliers and whacked off one to two inch pieces cleanly. You can use a hacksaw or jigsaw or anything you can make a nice clean cut with on your wood. I saved the metal folding parts for another project and made a pile of yellow and white inches. How fun is that?

Glasses and mask are the gear of the day.

Before I took my stack of inches and sanded them I geared up. These are old and probably painted with lead paint. I’m not really fond on sawdust in my sinuses or eyes either so glasses and a mask are the uniform of the day.

I didn't make each piece a uniform size and I worked to preserve the numbers when I made my cuts.

I looked around and saw how small these pieces were, like an inch? hee hee hee. My small sander was overkill and the big grinder? Not in this lifetime. I hit on taking my dremel tool and putting a sanding wheel on it. I turned the speed to as low as it would go and secured it tightly in my little bench vise. I could have held it in my hand but this made more sense because I could turn each piece holding it  with both hands to sand and round the ends, making sure to get rid of any pointy bits. A  sanding block or a small sander would also work if you don’t have a dremel tool.

Sand all the pointy bits off and round the ends.

I took the sanding wheel off the dremel and fitted it with a small drill bit. It just took a few minutes to drill a nice neat hole through each piece, I made sure all the numbers faced the same way when I made the holes.  Notice the holes all over my work table? This is why I don’t have fancy work tables in my studio. I tend to make holes, drop paint and stains all over my work area and I don’t have to worry.

Drilling a hole. HOLD onto to the wood with one hand and drill with the other unless you want your numbers flying around and around the end of your drill!

I found oval jump rings recently, really big ones and the opening is on the side. These were perfect for popping on to the wooden pieces before I hung them on thelength of chain I chose from my ‘stash’ of chain. I went for something that looked old and vintagey since I was working with old pieces I wanted the feeling of all the  pieces to fit the concept.

I chose buttons with holes all the way through, I used vintage colors that worked well with the rulers, reds, greens and tans.

I chose a great big clasp and decided to make fasten it in the front on the right side for more visual impact. I thought about leaving the carpenter’s rule pieces as is, they were quite fun and made a wonderful noise when they clicked together on the necklace. Somehow, it just didn’t seem quite finished so I pulled out my button jar and picked out several that looked to have the same age and wear as the rulers.

I chose shiny brass wire, 18 gauge, but I dipped it in Novacan patina solution to blacken it. After I pulled it out I ran steel wool down it and presto, vintage wire.

Threading a button with wire.

I double wrapped the buttons in wire. I looped wire through the buttons-all two or four hole through and through buttons- and twisted it three times, added two or three slices of puka shell from an old scrounged necklace, and then twisted the back side too to make a button unit. I fastened on the buttons with jump rings, using red ones, green ones and tan ones.

Of course the office staff was snoozing through the whole process…

My office staff, moral support. Literally, underfoot.

The finished piece, detail

I hope you get inspired and look around to see what you have on hand that can make something as fun as this necklace. It’s not junk! It’s jewelry!

Another shot showing how pieces are mounted.

This necklace is currently available at Matter Gallery in Olympia, Washington.


Lost Childhoods Series: King Neptune’s Lost Childhood

The latest in the Lost Childhood series is finally finished. This is the first piece in this series that didn’t practically make itself, but I am really pleased with the final result of weeks of hunting bits and pieces and figuring it all out.

This series  of “doll boxes” examines anthropomorphic icons we all recognize, Uncle Sam, Father Time, Mother Nature, the Man in the Moon, Betty Crocker, Death, Lady Luck, etc.

I wanted to take a look at something no one thinks of regarding these icons: their childhoods. What if? The pieces are all meant to be touched, turned, looked at, opened and shut. They are mystery boxes that define what I imagine them to be, I love these pieces because they reflect that we are each our own mystery boxes and paradoxes.

The back of the piece with collaged and painted kelp seahorses and a mermaid, primarily found objects

Side view, that's a little cigarette case that now holds a Jimi Hendrix quote, "Even castles made of sand fall into the sea eventually."

Cabinet side with a photo of Neptune's sister and brother (in mythology he did have a few of these)

Detail of the drawer fronts

The first drawer has an image of Neptune as a baby in the classic naked baby pose. A rattle made of a glass starfish and the words his crib was the fragile sea complete the drawer.

This drawer has hotel key with the words, key to the sea on it, and a key that says unlock the sea's secrets and some spending money in the shape of a sand dollar.

Every kid loves stories, the one in the scroll is "How the sea became salt." The drawer is finished with a shell, sand and a salt shaker.


side view of Neptune's head and his crown, shell epaulets and jeweled ears.

On one side he holds a fish on the other fish bones, the circle of life. Shells hold family photos.

He wears a crown of fish and crystals and handmade strung necklaces in sea colors with a sunset medallion in the front and a blue starburst on his forehead. The top of his crown is a giant fish.

A final shot of the whole front.