The Strange Things that Christ Holds Together

 Below is today's entry from an Advent devotional put out by our church here in Durham, All Saints Church. Advent devotional guides are such a great way for me to slow down and to pay attention during this season. I especially appreciate that All Saints had invited artists to create visual works to accompany the entries.  I hope you enjoy this short reflection I wrote and a new piece I created for this Advent season. You can find the entire booklet online here.

"The Strange Things that Christ Holds Together" 

 This art piece is made from a strange family of elements: beeswax, sticks, string, a book page, some pieces of a dress pattern and gold oil pastel.  In much the same way that strange events and characters combine to form the story of Christ’s birth, so these art materials form a cast of “characters.” 

Layers of hot wax have been painted onto a board. Embedded in between these layers are bits and pieces of a dress pattern. Together they allude to the mysterious pattern that God lays out for us. His Word, symbolized by the beeswax, secretly but certainly holds all things together inside that pattern.

Sticks appear as a reminder of Jesus the Vine Dresser and the Root of Jesse. From both this Vine and this Root we receive our real sustenance. String is tied and stretched in a cruciform pattern.  Pages from an old Bible re-tell four narratives. John leaping inside of Elizabeth’s womb. An account of the Ascension. The wild birth of John the Baptist. The incarnation of God in Bethlehem. These stories remind us of the fantastical elements in the events surrounding Christ’s comings and goings. All these events are incredible and, across the board, un-expected. Surely we can only expect God to enter into our lives in a similar way—mysteriously entering when we least expect him, appearing, then disappearing, leaving us open-mouthed but always disclosing his everlasting love for us. God uses such strange and wild ways to accomplish his purposes. He fills people long empty. He astonishes us, as the Gospel writers might say.

Gold marks the center of the panel. This symbolizes the kingship of Christ. It is a kingship that appears at every point that we allow him to assume a place of preeminence in our lives.

Why did I make this piece? I did it to remind myself, despite my sometimes feeble faith, that all these things are true. His mother, for example, was a young woman like me, like many, who did not expect God to come in that way and at that time.  While I wait for Jesus to answer my prayers—and to answer prayers that I have yet to even pray—he is at work in all kinds of unexpected ways. If I only look for him to come in the way that I want him to, then I miss all the mysterious, beautiful ways that he is already present. I need to remember to wait for him. I need to trust that, like the string threading itself throughout this art, he holds all the strange, often puzzling parts of my life together, and the frustrating parts too. When I do trust him, I find that my heart is filled with gratitude. Some days it is filled with wonder.



"Innocence is not the prerogative of infants and puppies, and far less of mountains and fixed stars, which have no prerogatives at all. It is not lost to us; the world is a better place than that. Like any other of the spirit's good gifts, it is there if you want it, free for the asking, as has been stressed by stronger words than mine. It is possible to pursue innocence as hounds pursue hares: single-mindedly, driven by a kind of love, crashing over creeks, keening and lost in fields and forests, circling, vaulting over hedges and hills wide-eyed, giving loud tongue all unawares to the deepest, most incomprehensible longing, a root-flame in the heart, and that warbling chorus resounding back from the mountains, hurling itself from ridge to ridge over the valley, now faint, now clear, ringing the air through which the hounds tear, open-mouthed, the echoes of their own wails dimly knocking in their lungs. 

What I call innocence is the spirit's unself-conscious state at any moment of pure devotion to any object. It is at once a receptiveness and total concentration. One needn't be, shouldn't be, reduced to a puppy. If you wish to tell me that the city offers galleries, I'll pour you a drink and enjoy your company while it lasts; but I'll bear with me to my grave those pure moments at the Tate (was it the Tate?) where I stood planted, open-mouthed, born, before that one particular canvas, that river, up to my neck, gasping, lost receding into watercolor depth and depth to the vanishing point, buoyant, awed, and had to be literally hauled away. These are our few live seasons. Let us live them as purely as we can, in the present. "

- Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (pg 82)


Three Announcements!

ONE: The Shop!

The Etsy shop is officially open for business. Acknowledging that my goal to post hundreds of items for sale before I announce it is just plain silly, I'm opening it with only a few items. But the promise is that there'll be more to come. The shop is called The Ambrosium in honor of St. Ambrose, the patron saint of wax workers, and it can be found here. I'll be concentrating on filling it with more things after this weekend when we have....

TWO: "3rd Friday Open Studio" 
"Durham Art Walk and Holiday Market"!

Friday from 6-9 PM the Golden Belt Studios will open its doors to the public, and there'll be plenty of artists working away and selling their wares. Food trucks are likely to be hanging out and there should be a new show in the gallery. It's bound to be a great time. 

Saturday from 10 AM - 5 PM and Sunday from 1-5 PM the Durham Art Walk will be happening all over town. The Golden Belt artists will participate in the walk by offering art and christmas gifts and ornaments galore. It's a great place to do your Christmas shopping and to find unique--and, yes, affordable--things for all your special people. I'll be selling....

THREE: Prints!

For the first time I will have available prints of my watercolor series. They'll come in two sizes. This is a perfect gift for someone looking to spend $20-$35 dollars on an art print. You can find images of the series here.  The prints will be smaller in size than the originals, either 8.5 X 11 or 11 X 13. They will be printed on heavy weight paper with white border perfect for framing. The printer uses archival inks so they're sure to last for a long time. 

If you email me a pre-order form before Friday, then you can have a print for $15 or $30 instead of the full price I'll be offering over the weekend. If you live in another state and would like to pre-order, I can send you your prints next week for a small shipping fee. To pre-order: look at the images here and email me the titles of the ones that you would like to purchase. I'll send you a pay-pal link with your order so you can pay remotely if you live outside of Durham-Chapel Hill. 

So, to recap:

1. Etsy shop now officially open.

2. Studio open with fun things for sale: Friday 19th 6-9, Saturday 20th 10-5, Sunday 21st 1-5.

3. Prints available--first time ever. Pre-order by Friday for discounts. 


Week One in a Working Studio

Dried lichen from last spring that hangs above my work table. It's still neon green!

Last week was pure craziness. I had so much work to do. I'm glad I was able to squeeze some art making in between everything else. Until I have time for a real post, here are some shots from things I'm working on right now:

Ink dried in the bottom of a glass dish. 

I'm making small paper forms and experimenting with sewing on them in different ways. My plan is to sink the paper forms into wax in clusters. Sort of like a 3-D version of my cellular pieces I've been working on.  

I've been using all kinds of glass vials, test tubes, and small beakers to mold my forms onto.

This is one of my favorites. I love the red thread underneath one layer of thin paper. 

I'm trying some sewing with my own hair. It's pretty tricky to get it knotted, but I bought some cheap magnifying glasses to help me see the tiny ends. This takes total focus and good music in my i-pod.

I've been doing tons of simple cellular type drawings that I am going to turn into either watercolor/drawing pieces or encuastics. So far it has been too difficult to get really clean and simple details using the encuastic process. But, I'm going to keep trying different things to try and see if I can't figure it out. I'd love to have these drawings translated into wax somehow. 

My many to-do lists. It's great to have a whole wall that I can use for lists.

Wrapping up and sending off my first (trial run) etsy sale. I'll announce the etsy shop opening soon. This sale was to a friend who kindly agreed to be my guinea pig. This way I could walk myself through the whole process and make sure I'd gotten everything right. As soon as I finish filling the shop I'll have it open to everyone.

Making hundreds of business cards for the various events I have coming up. I love the process of tearing down and stamping each card. I'd never change to machine made cards, I just love these deckled edges too much!


Studio 3-103

Guess what? I moved. I am now a proud resident of Golden Belt Building 3: the Artist Studios. I moved in last week and spent days painting over a very dark fuchsia to get the walls bright and white. I'm having a great time working away in my new space this week. It's amazing how much more productive I am when I can't get distracted by laundry, cooking, plants to water, and other various and sundry chores.

I'm really excited about this chance to expand my creative pursuits to include teaching adult classes, doing more elaborate projects in my kids classes, and making bigger art! The building is open to the public each week day from 10-7 and weekends from 10-5. Come by and visit me and the other 40 artists working here. I'd love to see you!

 The Golden Belt building opened in 1900 as a textile manufacturing company. I'm so glad it's been renovated and is being used. It's beautiful and it would have been a tragedy if someone had torn it down to build apartments or something depressingly worse. 

Can you believe this color? Two coats of primer and another of white paint to cover it!

It feel so much bigger now that the walls are white. Even with all my stuff in here I feel like I could teach a whole class without having to move a thing. It's great to have some space to welcome people into the studio with me. 

 All moved in! Photos of stuff I worked on this week coming soon. 

My first event is the 3rd friday Open Studio on November 19th and the Durham Holiday Art Walk on the 20th and 21st. That whole weekend I'll be selling art and other things that make wonderful holiday gifts. I'll also be selling prints of my watercolor series for the first time. I'll have block prints for sale that I haven't printed in a while as well as ornaments, new encaustic works, and other things I'll be making over the next few weeks. Most of the artists will be here in their studios, so it will be a great time to come visit and see all that is being made in this creative space. Spread the word!


House Show, Prints, Cake!

If you live in the triangle area, here's some information on a fun thing happening this weekend. This house is for sale and it's super cute. Anyone you know that is looking for a house, likes to eat free cake or enjoys art should come and be with us Sunday afternoon. Also there will be Prosecco to sweeten the deal.

The really exciting news is: I'll be pre-selling prints of my watercolor series for the first time! The prints will be ready by November 19th, but you can pre-purchase the prints at the open house to ensure you get some before the holidays. I'll also be selling the prints at a holiday sale happening on the 19th but if you pre-purchase at the open house, you will get a discounted price and you won't have to fight the masses to get one, or five. :) Hope to see you Sunday!