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Saturday, January 28, 2012


"Is that what you think?  Haha!  I'm a lover not a fighter!"
- Michael Jackson

(thank you MJ!)

A Few Points for Your Saturday Night

Did you know I'm crazy for color?
We're talking knock down, mad hatter, singing in the rain crazy for it.  I think that's why I've needed a crisp white home and studio - someplace to de-stimulate while I splash chroma about.
One might call me a chromaphilliac conquistador - an explorer sent into global territories to conquer and collect color.  Ah HA!  
I had a dream last night wherein I wore some sort of french maid outfit and poured champagne for an extraordinarily wealthy couple who had several of my paintings on their walls.
No idea.
But I'm pretty sure I looked good, so at least there was that.

I snapped this photo of my little girl last week - my little girl who is getting her big girl face on so fast.  Right now she's passed out on her bed making dreaming barking noises that sound like a manatee burping.  All underwater, bubbly and warbling.
But what I'm really thinking about is how proud of her I am.  I blame it on our horrid neighbor dogs, but she's had some fear issues to overcome with new dogs.  We've been working so hard, training so intensely, and today, for the first time at the dog park, Freyja had FUN.  Like playing, rolling, chasing other dogs, open mouth grin, sparkles in her eyes, fun.  I can't tell you how huge my heart felt watching her romp.

It is with hesitating key-smacks that I tell you I've discovered dairy is one of my food sensitivity culprits.  I'm not terribly sensitive, but I would give up a pinky toe for the ability to eat as much cheese as I desire.
This is probably not true, but I feel a bit melodramatic about the whole thing.  The good news is that wheat is A-OK so I'll be back to my loaf baking in no time at all.  Kick out the jams!

Last year was a terribly slow year as far as books consumed; I read more shorts and essays and how-to's than anything else.  This year my goals include more fiction and thusly, I may start a new book tonight.  "Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver.  Have you read it?  What did you think?

I'm off to pull together dinner, put some Michael Jackson on the speakers and shake it all over this kitchen.
Shamone Baby!

~ Umber ~

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Daydreaming of Future Mountains

Daydreaming of Future Mountains
Daydreaming of Future Mountains
Watercolor on Arches Cotton Cold Press
10" x 12"

When I began,
a quick sketch, a puddle of color, a loose fingered wash,
I had already seen the image, lightly inscribed behind my eyelids.  By the time the doe opened her eyes, every mark had become so specific, so directly referencing the daydreams of my heart, that I put her aside and didn't touch her for a full week.
Sometimes you have it all figured out, and then your heart goes and says "wait! let me reveal an exact desire through your fingertips and so what if everyone can see it and you feel a little bit naked? it's true!  it's honest!"  And so you pick back up that paintbrush and chew on the wooden end and make another bazillion cups of tea and then you finally show it to a friend who says this within the first few seconds:
"Oh!  It's a self portrait!"

And she's right.
* * *

I'm not quite ready to place this original in the shop - I need to just live with her a bit longer - but I truly wanted to share with you.  But if you are the one this piece speaks to (and I always believe that painting is a bit like speaking in tongues: the image is given to the painter to create, and when it finds its right viewers, they understand that message like plants understand the sun), please do not hesitate to drop me a convo and I'll gladly share with you the details.
* * *

And one more thing!  This delights me, makes me love humanity and more than anything, hope and wish that in my next life I've got the gift of music in my lungs.  Or, at least, could belt it out with the best of the early 90's female hip hop artists.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Working by Rainlight

Working by rainlight
The skies have let loose.  I'm sitting in the studio without music, just listening to the rain thunder down.  The redwood just outside my window is covered in the most beautiful bokeh of droplets.  Down by the river a small but brave flock of birds is flying low; I counted seven between the birch trunks which are growing green.  This morning I found a gluten-free, vegan chocolate bar which I am devouring with licorice tea in a cup and saucer I had nearly forgotten about.

It's the kind of day where you don't even need a rainbow.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

For Your Radiant Sternums

For Your Radiant Sternums
For the days when golden light is pouring from your chest, when every cell is vibrating with life, when the world sings and the waves part.
But also, and perhaps more importantly:
For the days when the light is a bit dusty, when nothing sounds so fine as life under the covers, when the storms frizzle hair and your sighs are long and deep.
I offer a little help:
 A little reminder that your light will shine and until it's turned back up to 1.21 gigawatts, a little color goes a long way.

For Your Radiant Sternum Necklaces
~ in prehnite, chrysoprase and larimar ~
I've set these stones simply, swinging from a bar of sterling, that they never detract from your own bright and lambent light.  Small waves radiate outward and upward, full of movement, full of shine.

A brilliant Wednesday I wish you!
~ Umber ~

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Process

Good Morning!
Have you had your coffee yet?  Is the world white around you?  I've been watching with terrible envy as the pacific northwest receives a dusting and friends report they've been sent home from work for a snow day.  Here, a mere twelve miles as the crow flies from the ocean (and they do), the dawn breaks through a world of frost and freeze.  Everything glitters as the sun rises, turning hard crystals into dew.  I'm holding my breath for the snow flurries the weatherman promised, wool cowls and down vests at the ready.
Last night I finished up this ring; an ongoing learning project I've had tinkering about on the studio bench for the last two weeks.  It's about creative DNA and cellular ownership and our very marrow and I truly look forward to telling you all about it soon.  This particular ring fits my finger like it arrived with me from the womb: a sure sign that I must keep it close (to borrow a friend's words: an artist always knows when a piece belongs to her).
But what I'm really thinking about is process.
I'm not the speediest artist on the earth.  Those shows, the "America's Next Artist" type, are the things my creative nightmares are made of.  Now today we're going to tell you what to be inspired by and give you 48 hours to create a masterpiece and make it your own, but really make it exactly what we want to see.  No thank you (although don't get me wrong - I'll chain-watch Project Runway any day of the week and twice on Sunday - mmnn... fashion gluttony)!  I hem and haw.  I look hard, trying to commit shapes, lines, tonal values to memory.  I read.  I talk out things of wonder.  And when I finally sit down to work, I find my fingers make repetitive moves, mundane tasks, patient, patient work.  In that there is always a sort of meditation, a freedom to either daydream or carry on huge existential debates about the subject weaving itself from fingertips.  I sing just a hair off-key.  I talk aloud - crazy woman style.  Sometimes I get lost, lose my path entirely, set aside a piece for weeks, even months hoping that same muse will waltz back in.  Sometimes I catch myself thinking about painting while I saw silver, other times I'm mentally bending wire while spreading sweeping watercolor washes.  And if I'm very lucky, when the final polish is applied, the signature signed, the sealant sprayed, I've learned a fraction more about myself than I knew before.

Today I'll be working on a trio of necklaces in clear, dashing colors and spending time thinking deeply about what my deer painting needs.  The studio is cold these days; I nearly sit on top of my little heater while working and there is always a hot cup of something at hand.
Speaking of that, I think I might pour a second cuppa.

~ Umber ~

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Weekend's Account



glorious sun with a bitter chill on the air; a golden dawn, bronze light falling through sheer curtains
persimmons and the "best damn grapefruit you've ever tasted" (as the market vendor told me)
breakfast out, oatmeal with the works, stroll around the plaza
pine siskins.  clearing seed fast, sometimes ten to a feeder sock, a whirling, whistling, chattery group of yellow streaked wings and grippy little toes.
letter writing on graph paper, black ink smeared on a left hand

reading her book of poetry (it's so good I could burst with pride)
plantish retail therapy.  the woman who runs the nursery again commenting on my "massive growing collection" of house plants - "why here you are again!  a new plant every time!"  i refuse to be shamed
too much tea
painting, painting, and painting even more.  pushing water, finding deer, daydreaming, mountain hunting, budding twigs, swirling rainbows
blue apatite genuine paint on a "good" shirt.  blerg

"back-rub in a cup" - scratch brewed vegan chai
rasping sound of files on metal and the hot whirl of a polishing wheel.  prehnite, chrysoprase, larimar, color splashed along the bench
a kitchen well scrubbed down
scent of roasting squash
buckwheat heating pillows in bed, new fiction, mint tea, slumbering cats

my friends,
i hope the weekend was all that you needed with snow flurries on top!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On Pigtails and Histories

Ten Thousand Small Histories No. 4
Ten Thousand Small Histories No. 4
(because I can't stop)
The other day I was rooting around in one of my studio drawers, looking for something that still remains forgotten when I came upon these two coloricious bits of beach pottery.  When I took my first smithing class last winter I took along these two.  And I mean really.  Truly.  How could you go wrong with teal the color of Florida's gulf and chartreuse as bright as any budding fern?  They are a dynamic duo I tell you.  I dropped everything and went to work.  A songbird feather pressed into sterling, rusticated bits and rings reminiscent of pocket treasures... le sigh.  It feels lighthearted and ancient all wrapped up in one.

And while we're on the subject of lightheartedness, can I tell you about a physiological marker I reached this weekend?
Pig tails.
Really they're more like two tiny puff balls of curls and a mass of bobby pins BUT for the first time since the hair was lost, I've been able to put it up.  And somehow, with hair piled back on top of my head, I feel more like me.
Grow, grow you silly little proteins!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sketchbook Writings

~ From My Sketchbook Writings, Tuesday January 10th ~
It begins like this:
An uneventful sunset eases into busy hands and a quiet mind.  It progresses like any dream of flying; walking turns to running turns to leaping turns to earth rotating slowly below one's soles.  And somewhere in there, the mind gives way to wild thoughts.  The dangerous thoughts that in one's waking moments are too big, too grandiose, too ludicrous to allow among the elderly at heart.  The children, well, they've always been unafraid.  So we tie wings to their shoes and tell them to fly and sure enough,
they step onto thin air.
All the while our hands keep moving while the mind leans back and sighs and says yes.  That will do.
* * *

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Natives

The Natives: the California Quail and the Dark-Eyed Junco
6" x 6"
Watercolor on Arches Cotton Rag

It's the wildest thing:
We meet eyes.  They give me a wink.  And I know we are made of the same stuff: stardust, fern spores, redwood decay, salt air, limestone, blue sunrises and golden sunsets with a tiny pinch of silt from the crush of tectonic plates.
* * *

(A new mini series of watercolors)
(in the shop now...)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Personal Day

Good Morning!
Happy New Year!
How is your heart today?
(Get a load of that fruit bowl, right?  Pears, pomegranates, pinenuts, hemp seeds and raw cacoa nibs!  Delish!  I've just embarked on a strict elimination diet to identify a food sensitivity that has gone on for WAY too long, but LOOK at what I get to eat!)
I love everything that a new year symbolizes: the passage of time, a fresh opportunity to claim your destiny, a time to reevaluate goals and set them anew.  The last few days BC and I have walked miles with the pups, mulling over exactly what we want and exactly how we want to get there.  We've drafted lists and plans and I had the perfect excuse to order a gorgeous daily agenda from a lovely bookmaker.  It feels so hopeful!
The last few days we've been so hard at work that I've decided to take a "personal morning."  Way back in another life, when BC and I both were sprinting the fast track, working double jobs, I discovered that personal days were the key to my sanity.  They often fell under the ruse of food poisoning, but really you would find me strolling the streets of Santa Cruz eating a carmel apple with a sack of new-used books slung over shoulder.  I would buy two, count 'em, TWO latt├ęs and read fiction in a tiny rustic cafe.  They are some of my very favorite memories of that period of life and while the 70 hour workweek has passed, the personal day lives on.

That's how I'm being kind to myself today.  And I'm bringing a sturdy cotton bag for my [hopeful] book cache.
What are you doing for you this week?  This year?  I'd love to know!
~ Umber ~