Just monkeying around…

went to the animal fair, the birds and the beasts were there.
The big baboon by the light of the moon was combing his auburn hair… 


No post about artistic endeavors today folks.
I have just returned from a field trip to the National Zoo with 30 bloodthirsty kindergartners, and need time to recover. Sometimes the switch between roles is not so smooth.



Brilliant Buddies who Blog


I have a lot of friends who are talented. Very talented.

I know that I am biased, but I really do know some amazingly creative individuals. After all, that is the legacy a good art college leaves you with.
Some are well established designers, and some are just starting out. But if you are interested in design (particularly textile design), they are all well worth checking out. Which leads me to this, the idea for my latest blog:

The Idea…

A small number of these incredibly talented folks have blogs that help to give their work some exposure. However, there are millions of blogs out there, so it is pretty unlikely that you will discover their talent through sheer chance. So, I’m going to make things easier for you and share my friend-blog community with you.

“How?” I hear you ask. Well isn’t it obvious? I’m going to make a list 🙂

The list

Stop sifting through the vast blogosphere for a moment and check these lovelies out:

http://poppytreffry.wordpress.com/ makes gorgeous things with textiles and ceramics. A great blog to follow if you want to keep up with design-happenings in the UK

http://juliedegruchyeast.wordpress.com/ is a very talented designer

http://sanguinello.wordpress.com another talented designer with cool tips on how to make things

http://www.poppiesartworkshops.blogspot.com/ a very talented mosaic artist (seeing a pattern here?)

http://letoariadne.blogspot.com/ written from the point of view of a loom belonging to a very talented weaver 🙂

cutiehoots.blogspot.com will put a smile on your face if you like children and cute clothes. As a bonus, the blogger makes and sells very cute shirts.

There you go. Have a look at the blogs, have a look at their work, and then you will see that I’m right.
A very talented lot.

Mono-printing magic

A quick post.  I just wanted to share this with you.

Mono-printing is ridiculously fun. If you haven’t tried it, get yourself to an art store and buy yourself a sheet of vinyl, a carving tool, some ink and a roller….OR….carve a potato and get printing. Today I made this print:


…and these bookmarks for Viva Vienna:


Now I’m off to try some other, more painterly, methods of mono-printing. Can’t wait!!



Screen printing in my dining room #2 or ‘Covering up the mess I make’


This will not be a long post, because I am feeling a bit uncomfortable.
As I write this I am acutely aware of the mess I have made around me, and of the fact that in precisely two hours time, two hungry and extremely twitchy children will be back from school looking for things to break and/or eat. Some magic will have to happen between now and then.

Last week I started screen printing in my dining room – I’m still occupying that space. Today I have started mono-printing on my family-room floor. Have a look at the labels that I have been making for my work…


I live a double life (sort of like a superhero, I like to think :).

During the day, the entire house turns into my studio. However, by the time 4pm arrives, most of the evidence of my frenzied activity has disappeared.

If my husband came home in the middle of the day, this is what he would see (I do love making lists):

  • Dirty dishes that should be in the sink piled up on counters to make space for the printing equipment in the sink.
  • Wet printing screens propped up against the dishwasher.
  • More wet printing screens in the bath tub.
  • Artwork drying all over the floors, and on lines strung across the house.
  • My daughter’s finger-painting tray turned upside down, to be used as a surface to roll out printing ink.

Around 3.30pm I run around the house like a madwoman putting things away, throwing the laundry in the machine, and scrubbing surfaces with ink on them. By the late afternoon, the house has shifted back to normal, the kids are sprawled out on the family room floor, when suddenly I hear a scream

“mommeeee! My finger painting tray has turned a funny color!!

How does Clark Kent do it?


I wasn’t sure what to write about today, then a fellow blogger that I’ve been following told me about a website that I would be sure to like:

http://www.listography.com     …check it out.

Yes!! I love to make lists. Lists make me feel in control of my life, and help me through what I call my ‘creatively-dormant’ periods. What are these? No, they are not times when I find creative ways to lie dormant 🙂
Creatively-dormant periods, are stretches of time where I desperately want to work on a project, my head bursting with ideas and fingers itching to go, but can’t.

My kids have been playing germ ping pong lately, and every other week, one of them is laid up at home needing cuddles, medicine and constant attention, all of which I give willingly. However, I am one of those twitchy people, who always has projects brewing in my head, and a nagging need to finish off things that have been started. This is where lists come in helpful, they give me a sense of continuity when I take big breaks in the middle of projects.

A note about lists

Lists are an art-form in themselves. You can be very creative when making lists. Someone who truly loves making lists does not just make them about practical things (shopping lists, to-do lists), but includes the intangible and inspirational as well.
I make lists to help me keep on top of my life (such as lists of ideas for projects, lists of topics for blogs, lists of things to be finished) but I also make lists about interesting things I see, funny dialogues I hear in the grocery store, and cute things that my kids do. One particular list that I have is called ‘The Awesome List’, where I list anything or anyone that I deem awesome.

“But what purpose does this serve?” I hear some of you say (obviously, the non-list-makers). Well, on the surface of it, none really. But if you look beyond the surface, you will see that it all serves a purpose. List making is just a way of recording observations and information, and you never know when that information may come in useful, or moves you in a new direction. As an artist, I often have “aha” moments when suddenly, something on a list inspires me to start a new project. As E.M Forster wrote in Howard’s End “Only Connect!…Live in fragments no longer.”

So here are a few things from my interesting things list  for you to chew on:

Post-it notes
migration patterns
family reunions
Tree silhouettes
Medieval history
Books about Indian immigrants by Jhumpa Lahiri
Nordic woolen garments
Sylvia Plath
Math textbooks
open green spaces

Maybe, some of these will influence my work sometime soon. Maybe not.

As a final note, here is a BBC article about list-making as an art form: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8537856.stm

Now, what was next on my to-do list?….

I love to write children’s books because….

…..I’ll get to the end of that sentence in a minute (if you just can’t wait, scroll down to The Answer and give yourself a slap on the wrist). First I need to explain what I’m doing here.

I have been writing and illustrating a picture book for kids.

Writing and illustrating, that’s the fun part. Finding out what to do once you have written it, who to send it to, and how and why I should send it to them is the scary part.
I realized that I have a lot of learning to do. Navigating the jungles of the children’s book publishing world is no easy task,  and there are so many people out there who are writing and illustrating books for children. How do I make my book truly worth reading? And how on earth do I get my book to be noticed? Where do I start???

So I did what I always do when I am overwhelmed – research, research, and research some more.I joined a couple of writers and illustrators groups online, and trawled the internet for information. And that is when I found him ……(tadaaa!)

Harold D. Underdown – the high-guru of children’s publishing, author of ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing  Children’s Books’ and my own knight in shining armor (where publishing is concerned – note to my husband).

As writing practice, Harold suggests giving yourself a writing prompt and just seeing where it goes. The title of this post is one of the prompts suggested in his book.
I like it, because it answers a good question. Why do I love to write children’s books? Here is my unedited blurt out:

The Answer

I love to write, I have been told that I’m good at writing. When I worked as a teacher, I was always the member of my team who would happily take on the academic writing tasks.

I also love to tell stories.
I think good teachers need to be good story tellers. To capture the imagination of a group of bored middle school students, I would often revert to storytelling, weaving a new context and meaning into activities.
As a mom, I particularly enjoy telling my kids stories. Whether they are fantasies made up at the dinner table, or recollections of my childhood told to illustrate a point, I make sure that I tell them in an interesting way to hold their attention.

Here is another thing. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE children’s books. Even when I visit the library on my own, I always visit the children’s section, looking for books that have magical stories and pictures. My daughter and I have our very own list of favorite children’s books that I may divulge in another post.

Finally, and I think very importantly. I can still think very much like a child.
For some reason, I have very intense memories of how I felt as a child from preschool through to middle school (not memories of events – but memories of how I felt and reacted to things), and often draw on these when with children. People have often commented on my strong rapport with children and young people. I genuinely love being around children, and am fascinated with how they think. That is why I enjoy writing books for them.

So there you have it, Mr Underdown. Now I’m off to read to my daughter.


Screen printing in my dining room

So I just started screen printing again after a 10 year gap (I specialized in it at college).

Aaaah, I had forgotten how satisfying it is to just bang out a bunch of prints in a row. Instant gratification. Screen printing really is the medium of choice for the impatient.  In the textiles department at my college, we could choose to specialize in either printing, knitting or weaving. It was so obvious who the printers were. We were the ones with the messy work spaces, lids left off pots of ink, unbrushed hair, and fingers stained.
Of course dealing with messy materials is part of printing, but often the personality of the people in the printing department meant that things were always a bit more disorganized than in the other departments. Of course there were always exceptions, but as a group we were generally impatient, restless and prone to cutting corners (“what do you mean wash my hands, I have more important work to do”).

Today, I printed on my dining table, wearing the apron that I wear when I bake with my daughter. I used spoons from my kitchen for the ink, and washed my screen off in the bath tub. That’s blending art and domesticity for you. I’m totally not set up for this kind of activity here, but that makes it all the more sweeter. I overcame the odds and screen printed today! Who needs a studio? Well, maybe I do. I’ll get there one day.Image

Getting in the loop with other artists…


So I have a spot at the Ballston Arts and Crafts Market.
This makes me inordinately happy.
Happy like a small child with a great,big lollipop. No, a small child with a great, big, rainbow colored lollipop… with sprinkles. Why is this such a great, big deal to me? I think it is because it will be the first time in a long while that I will be working side by side with other serious artists and crafters. The kind of energy that is produced by this kind of connection cannot be underestimated. It will open up new dialogues for me about how to develop my work, and my skills. It will really get my juices flowing.
Lately to a large extent, I have been working in a vacuum. This is not an ideal situation for any artist – especially me. I miss my college studio days, and my time working in studios in London, when I was surrounded by other artists and designers bouncing ideas off each other and providing a context for our work.
I miss those rigorous critiques, when we would painfully analyze each other’s work and bring different (sometimes worrying) perspectives to it.
Many artists and designers miss the studio atmosphere when they leave college, and they seek to reproduce that atmosphere in their work situations. One of the toughest parts of moving from London to Virginia for me was the loss of my community of creative friends. There are many things I love about Virginia, but it just doesn’t match London for me in terms of providing a stimulating Arts environment.
Of course, I’ve also been busy growing my young family, so I really have not put enough energy or time into finding or becoming a part of the professional arts scene here, my priorities and lifestyle have changed. But I do miss the friction a good critique produces. I miss connecting with other professional artists, designers and crafters.
So being a part of The Ballston Arts and Crafts Market is a step in the right direction for me. Ready or not, here I come.

How do you connect with other artists?
social networking Linked in etc)attending classes and seminars at art schoolssharing a studio spacejoining a group/meet upI don’t think it is that important to connect with other artistsnone of the above….explain!Other:

My many lives

Hindus believe in reincarnation: after death the soul is reborn in a different body, living a cycle of lives until it ultimately attains enlightenment.


The funny thing is, since adolescence, my life has been a series of living reincarnations. Yes, I know that everyone goes through changes, and life doesn’t stay the same for anyone, but I think maybe I have chopped and changed a lot more than the average thirty-something out there. I seem to have a thing for reinvention.


Part of the reason for this, is my ‘puttylike’ personality (see my former post on multipotentiality). I have always had a lot of interests, and found it so difficult to find a specialism. At any one given time, I have about ten or more ideas and projects that I am working on, or swimming around my head, and this has made it incredibly difficult for me to be pinned down at any point.


Whenever I think back to one of my past ‘lives’, it is with some surprise and even a little disbelief – “Did I really do that? Was that really me?” and when I talk about some of those past lives to friends, everything sounds so surreal. Have I really lived through more changes than the average person?  I’m not sure, you be the judge. Here is a brief run-down of my main incarnations:


1. Nerd

This is one I have not grown out of. I was no ordinary nerd. I was a super nerd. My main domain was the school library , where I obsessed over Thomas Hardy, the ancient Greeks, time travel, and Apartheid, among other things.



Suddenly I’m alternative and a bit frightening. Even though I ended up studying design, I was always more of a Fine Artist. During this incarnation, I traveled to Paris, Amsterdam, Spain and Germany. I traveled around Northern India on my own, completely ignored my body’s circadian rhythm and spouted leftist politics.


3.Small time Editor

Out in rural Oxfordshire, I started working for a company that produced magazines about recycled printer cartridges?? I worked in a shed in the middle of nowhere, with an outdoor toilet. I walked for miles through the English countryside to get to work every day. People stared at the color of my skin, and I learned to be competent with computers, talk to tech people, and fix printers.


4. Fashionista

Back in London  I actually worked as a personal shopper and stylist, not just to frenzied teenagers, but stars. I have stood in the same dressing room as Liz Hurley, hunted down dresses for Kate Moss, and taken care of Jamie Oliver’s pregnant wife. I did on-stage makeovers, dressed models at shoots, and attended fashion shows. People would take pictures of the way I dressed for papers and magazines (I still have copies of them!). More importantly, I would think nothing of going into work wearing a sequinned dress and pink stillettos. This led to my next incarnation…


2. PR girl / designer

I worked as a booker at a modelling agency. My most glamorous, vacuous, and least suitable job. This basically involved being yelled at by photographers, booking models on jobs, and attending social events with them. This meant hobnobbing with very famous, and sometimes very obnoxious people, and consuming very expensive food and drink. In order to save my soul,  I made and sold T-shirts in markets around London with a friend. This was a time when I actually was asked to attend a party thrown by Justin Timberlake!?


3. Teacher and academic

Fashion was just not me. Inside I was still a nerd. I started to volunteer my skills at schools, and realized that I loved to teach, and learn. I studied pedagogy, researched about gender roles within Art and Design education, and really enjoyed working with middle and high-schoolers.


4. Stay at home Mommy

Settled in the suburbs with two kids and a husband. How on earth did that happen? Suddenly, I started feeling a real empathy towards my own mom. I have been known to spend hours in the sand box at my local park with my kids, smelling faintly of spit-up and banana, sporting unbrushed hair and cereal stains on my shirt. My gigantic purse would contain diapers, wipes, ointment, baby sunscreen, milk, snacks, two extra sets of clothes, a medical kit, no cell phone (I could never remember it) , and no mirror 🙂


5. Small business owner, blogger, artist, author and a bunch of other things.

Enough said. I’m still working on this phase.


Actually, after writing all that, maybe all of my different incarnations are not really the abrupt changes I thought they were. Yes, there is a pretty big difference between the ‘fashionista’ and ‘stay at home mommy’ lives, but I  realize that a little bit of each phase is still with me.

I’m still pretty geeky (medieval history, and Harry Potter are pretty high on my list of interests), and I have a socialist streak. I still make Art, and am interested in fashion.

Okay, I don’t work with celebrities any more, or go to glitzy events, but I’m ok with that. I’ll definitely get back into teaching one day, misbehaving printers don’t phase me, and I LOVE playing in sand boxes.


So the cycle of lives has made me what I am. I just hope enlightenment is on the way.