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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Yes My Deers, This One is For You

May I tell you a story of leather and intentions?

What if there is a Totem Cameo Cuff for you at the end?

Well then, let's begin.

* * * * *
I'm fairly certain I began accessorizing while still in the womb and, like many creative types, began making my own jewelry when "recess" was still a part of my daily vocabulary.  I loved it big and bold, I loved it piled high, I loved wearing the pieces that others said "I could never get away with wearing that."
In short, I amassed a great jewelry collection and just kept adding to it.
Then, several years back something clicked.
I opened my jewelry box one day and was struck by the sad lack of soul, the mass marketing, the cheaply fabricated pieces, the void of feeling I experienced when I laid them against my skin.

I tell you true:
I purged that box like wildfire.

Because I suddenly realized how important it was to ME that if I was to place art on my body, well then it better be ART and not some knock-off (no matter how cheaply or expensively it came).  I'm no Tiffany's girl, you can keep your produced-by-the-thousands tennis bracelets and diamond solitaires.  I'm no plastic bangles or stamped-out imports either, I want to follow my pieces back to the two hands that created.  I'm the girl who wants to feel some soul, who wants to wear a story, who wants to walk into her closet each day and decide what truth she will wear and accessorize from there.

Fast forward just a little bit in time.
Something stirred in the farthest reaches of my overactive mind, building speed and mass until the drawings began pouring forth from my fingertips.  What if, just if, I could take the emotion and meaning of my paintings and wear them on my own body?  What if these lessons I learn, these truths and beauties I discover could wrap themselves on my skin in the most intimate understanding, nearly art through osmosis?  The funny thing is that I'm almost more interested in finding ways to physically connect with art than to beautify my body, however if the two can become one, well, now we're onto something.

So I bring you to today, and the first of my offerings in leather.  A Totem Cameo Cuff, Doe Edition, absolutely, positively, one of a kind.  A painting for your wrist.  A reminder for the woman who intrinsically understands what it is to move like wind on delicate feet, to know the power of gentleness in her cellular makeup, to feel the push of love radiating from within her.  A slice of art to wear in the freshness of this new year and for many years to come.


In the painting shop momentarily...

Cheers my does and deers!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

To a Woman named V

Yesterday we walked the beach: a bouncing pup, a glittering cloudage, a golden sky, a raging surf.  As we scuffed sand onto our toes and watched the waves crash with sprays twenty feet high, I was reminded, in the most violent of ways, of the ferocity of the ocean.  To befriend the sea is to befriend the wildest beast of the jungle; she'll awe with sleek power and rippling mass, she'll entertain for hours, she'll tease the snowy plovers and reveal the slippery otters, she'll offer herself as soul-balm and liquid spirituality.
But make no mistake.
She is a wild thing.
She demands respect, she will never be tamed, she may purr and rub your ankles but she may also bare her claws and strike.

Yesterday we saw the family of a woman who's face I'll never know.  The sand shone bright, but their sorrow permeated the air thicker than fog.  Giving great distance, I bore witness to their tragedy.  The story of she, V, is not my own but today weights heavy on my heart.  I do not know why we chose that beach, that time, or that particular stretch of surf, but we collided with their sobering reality and something deep inside me shivered.

~ V ~
You and I were not meant to meet in this lifetime, but sister, I've lighted a candle and pray to the heavens that you've found your way home.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Bread Wears Hats

Maybe not always Pope hats, but they certainly do wear little toques in the oven and they certainly have been blessed by the heavens.

Which brings me to the discussion at hand: namely BREAD BAKING.  A few months back I promised some lovely bake-tresses that I would post my very own bread recipe, but it's possible I became sidetracked for a hundred or so days.
I've been baking my own bread for years now, tweaking and experimenting with various recipes until finally developing a hearty loaf with a chewy crumb and a touch of sweetness that lends itself scrumptiously to poached eggs, jams of all sorts and smears of brie.  It's practically perfect in every way.

There is so much about baking bread that makes me feel intrinsically connected with the act of feeding my little family.  I know every ingredient that goes into my bread, I'm able to make purchasing choices I believe in (buying local and organic ingredients), I work over the bread, kneading and forming the loaves, timing the rises with other kitchen tasks, the whole while allowing the heady scent of bread to fill the house.  
Honey Whole Wheat Bread
(makes three loaves)

You will need:
3 Cups Warm water (110 degrees F is the going rate for "warm")
2 Tbsp Active Dry Yeast (or two packets)
2/3 Cup Honey (divided)
3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
1 tsp Salt
5 Cups Bread Flour
1 Cup Oat Flour**
3 Cups[ish] Whole Wheat Flour
2 Tbsp Ground Flax Seeds**
~ Step One ~
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast into warm water.  Add 1/3 Cup honey, give a stir, then add in 5 Cups of Bread Flour (stirring the dough after each cup is added will help with the mixing process).  Set the bowl aside for it's initial rise in a room temperature spot for 30 minutes - or until the dough is puffing up into a large and bubbly (but very gooey) consistency.
~ Step Two ~
Melt the butter in a small bowl, then pour over dough.  Add salt and remaining 1/3 Cup honey to dough then give the mixture a good stir.  Add oat flour, ground flax seeds and 1 Cup of whole wheat flour to dough and stir gently (I only say gently because vigorous stirring generally results in this:).
~ Step Three ~
Turn out the entire doughy mixture onto a well [whole wheat] floured surface (be it a large cutting board or a clean kitchen counter), sprinkle liberally with flour, and get kneading!  Continue to add flour as the dough becomes sticky, counting on adding anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 Cups of flour.  In the end, you want the consistency to pull back and feel tacky, no longer a gooey mess, but a smooth, easily rolled ball of dough.  At this point, grease a large bowl and set your dough inside, flipping it once to coat the dough.  Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set in a warm place to rise, about 60 minutes or until dough has doubled in size (I turn my oven to a low setting and set the bowl nearby, rotating it every 20 minutes or so).
~ Step Four ~
Once the dough has doubled in size, give a solid punch-down then turn out onto your work surface.  Divide the dough into three equal portions, then give each a light kneading and shape into loaves (more than anything here, you are making sure that any air bubbles are released).  If you need direction on shaping loaves, a simple youtube search will do the trick.  Place the bread-to-be into three lightly greased loaf pans and set back in your warm place for their final rise, about 20 minutes or until the dough has risen and topped the sides of the loaf pan by about one inch.  Meanwhile preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
~ Step Five ~
Bake Em'!
Bake your loaves for 25 to 30 minutes, interrupting the baking process half-way through to place the bread hats - a single 6"x8"ish sheet of foil - over each loaf to keep the tops from becoming too dark and hard.  Turn the loaves out onto cooling racks when done, and prepare to carb-overload!
~ A few tricks and tips ~
**I buy rolled oats - the same kind used for oatmeal - and whole flax seeds in bulk and grind them to a floured consistency in a cheap coffee bean grinder.
* Buy great quality flour.  I've always loved King Arthur flours, but recently I've been playing with a local organic flour - but of course don't let a lack of flour keep you from baking!
* When testing the bread for doneness, tap the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  A "done" loaf should give a hollow knock - but if you're still in doubt, do insert a wooden skewer and be sure it comes out completely clean.
* This recipe makes three loaves - perfect for slicing into one immediately and freezing the other two for later consumption (once the loaves are completely cool, wrap them well and pop 'em in the freezer - they'll defrost beautifully).
* Buy real butter.  I'm just saying.  Smear it on and take the stairs.

Full bellied and Loafily yours,
- Umber

Friday, January 21, 2011

The studio has never looked brighter (or greener.  I can not stop purchasing house plants.  Today I stopped by the nursery for a bag of cactus potting soil and came home with a rex begonia in shades of fiery pomegranate and a fern whose tag said only "Mother").  My head has absolutely been brimming with new ideas, bubbling over faster than I can even record them.  However it's a funny space (my head, not the studio that is); my imagination is at a full gallop with imagery in paint, on stone, on leather, on canvas but as soon as I try to reach out and grab just one of those thoughts, the vision dissolves like a mirage.  I can no longer see the piece as a whole, just tiny details.  Random bits.  My pencil seems blindfolded when I set it to paper.  The concepts are so strong in my mouth, but translation falters before my eyes.

Yesterday I wanted to call out to the heavens:
"It's a sticky place to be in, my darling muse.
Sweep away the curtains!  Let me on with my business!
Chop chop now, quit your heartless teasing and give me my sights!"
(except insert a few saucier words of your choosing)

I've pressed on, but it's been one of those weeks where entire days in the studio are lost to a slip of the leather shears, or [multiple] two hour drives working out the details of what our future looks like, or kitty boys who teach a neighbor cat a lesson, resulting hours spent at the veterinary clinic (my Thai!  My little bruiser has a shaved neck and a drain that requires cleaning every so many hours but he is a trooper like none other, demanding food sacrifices for his valiant behavior.  Also, for the record, the other cat leapt into our yard - our boys are never allowed free wandering!).

At the same time, there has been writing, photographing, tooling, painting, drawing and all manner of just looking.  But as of this very second, nothing I'm ready to show.

Sometimes the ideas come so easily I forget about the struggle.
Sometimes I don't trust the fast ideas and often, when ship sails smoothly along I miss the struggle.  The wrestling with unpracticed imagery, the discomfort of stretching into a new concept, the ache of potential failure.  It's like the burn in your calves when the hill is steep, the fire in your lungs when the trail stretches farther than you've ever run before.

It hurts.

I feel as through I'm acquiring creative stretch marks.

But I asked for that growth, and I went after it with gumption.  So here's to believing with every fiber of my being that the struggle reveals the answers, that the pruned branch bears the sweetest fruit.

Here's to the struggle.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sketchbook Writings

~ From my Sketchbook Writings, Thursday January 20th 2011 ~
The Moon, like a pied piper, stole my heart away this morning, dancing and luring it through cerulean skies.  I stood on the stoop and shivered in the blue light, stamping my feet and blowing great clouds of heat through my lips.  There was no time for photoshoots, no time to arrange myself to watch the show, for directly east, the Sun was charging over mountaintops in a shameless flood of luminosity.  He chased La Luna like a jilted lover, warming her skies with toasted apricot hues, warming my cheeks to a rosy glow, warming the breath of the crows to puffs of pure white, like tiny steam engines in the grass.
She, however, only laughed and slipped westward over the sea.  Westward singing my heart over the waves.  Westward till only the frigate birds could spin in her reflected light.
I tried to drink it all in, tried to record those subtle shifts of color with absolute precision, tried to imprint my mind with the way the atmosphere vibrated when their lights clashed.  But like all moments of glory when the heavens open and mere mortals peek inside, I found myself dumbstruck with beauty.  Drunk and heady, stumbling forward with wide eyes.  I opened my mouth but only single notes and the scent of paperwhites came out.  
Now, I look at my hands and recall, ever so faintly, when the sky was the color of my fingertips.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

UmberDove and the Return to the Interwebs


It's been a week of small details, quick footsteps, huge talks, grey drives, and overload of scrumptious fare and the future shaping itself into view.

I feel like there are plenty of points that I should cover, so in no particular order, here's what on my mind:
* * *
I love house guests.  I love the people I know, the ones who drive hours and hours to stay in your humble abode, the ones who love deeply on your beasties, the ones who are quite content to entertain themselves with journaling OR squander whole days eating, drinking, antiquing and trying on vintage coats.  If this sounds like you, then you should come over soon.  I've got crisp white sheets on the guest bed and a new jadeite mug for you to sip from.
* * *
I started Radiation Therapy last Monday, the start of a [near] daily affair between me and a giant laser beam for six weeks.  He (the laser) gets to see my lady-goods (with his super X-Ray vision), and I get to fall back asleep on a metal table and let the final "cancerous cell clean-up" do it's business.  On that note, things are looking good, real good.  There was a tiny scare, which lead to an even tinier biopsy, which challenged me greatly in light of my determination to Dwell in my own skin, but in the end, ALL came back negative.  Which, really, is positive.  
* * *
I've spent a great deal of time last week finishing up small projects and tying up loose ends.  I'm striving for that clean slate feeling, where Time looks shiny and bright before you, uncluttered with the to-dos of yesterday.  I have too many thought of "new" in my head, and I'm determined to wrap up that which came first.  Reading back, this seems like the most mysterious blurb ever, but I know exactly what I'm talking about, and I suppose this paragraph is more a commitment to myself than anything else.
* * *
One last thing:
Sancho would like you to throw for him.

Dog Park = SuperFun Time
He's available for kissing parties.

Also Endlessly.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Day in the Life of The Dove

[A photographic account of a single day in my life, images largely unedited, dust left right where it sits, moments of the day straightforward and simple]

~ Monday January 10th, 2011 ~

6:42 am
7:42 am
8:08 am
8:58 am
9:57 am
10:28 am
10:28 am
11:13 am
11:55 am
1:10 pm
1:26 pm
2:12 pm
2:12 pm
2:29 pm
3:21 pm
3:01 pm
3:25 pm
4:51 pm
5:14 pm
5:57 pm
7:38 pm
8:58 pm
11:28 pm

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why Yes, I do love you Leather

In the exact opposite spirit of how I generally function 'round these parts, I can not wait another second before sharing this with you.  I'm quite literally too excited to sit still enough to tell you all about this piece, my first foray into the world of leather tooling and the first step in a body of work I've been dreaming about for no less than a year.

But for this moment, I MUST just play show.
Tell will come later.


This cuff, a Totem Cameo Cuff with one of my favorite Californicus creatures, and I salut you!

Cheers to a New Year, Cheers to New Beginnings!
Umber and the Jackrabbit

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Studio Peekery Sneakery

My studio smells like Jesus, a leathery, cedary, balsamish Jesus.  It's spirituality by virtue of air quality.

I may or may not have purchased a jasmine today and whisked it into the house while BC was distracted with the puppy-face.  But honestly, if more plants indoors equals better feng shui, then is there really any reason to put a cap on the number of green growing things in a studio space?  I think not...

If you know where I torn this image from then 1) you probably also have fabulous taste and 2) know that when I die I hope my bedroom in heaven looks exactly like this one.
I've been swinging a hammer.
There's a new medium to explore and it's name is leather, supple, malleable, lusciously paintable leather. This piece, the very first in what I hope to be a long line, is not quite done but I'm so beside myself with excitement that I had to show you.  It's the type of obsessive excitement where other todo's drop off the face of the earth in favor of following the muse.  It's the type [disclaimer: OTHER ARTISTS.  DO NOT THROW ME UNDER THE BUS.  I KNOW YOU DO THIS TOO] of excitement where you squirm in your chair because you need to pee but just...  need...  to...  work for ten more seconds.  Which inevitable turns into 20 minutes. 
I'll show you as soon as it's done, which will be sooner than later as I can barely tear myself away.  It's a doozy this one.

That said, I'm popping on a mixed CD and hustling back to work.  Hope your evening is filled with pomegranate liquor and vegan cornbread, as mine surely is!
Sayonara minxes and minxettes!