Illuminated Letters

One of the perks of teaching for the folk school is getting to take a free class for yourself later that year, which I finally got to do this past week. I signed up for a calligraphy class on illuminated letter decoration and gilding. The emphasis was very much on the decorative patterns and learning to use a variety of media for color application, rather than actual letter forms, so it was open to people of all levels, which is good, because I haven’t practiced any actual calligraphic writing in forever.

Things I learned: Celtic knotwork is a fun brain puzzle, I have apparently been drawing Gothic ivy leaf vines all my life without knowing it was an Official Calligraphy Technique, and laying gold foil is way easier than laying real gold leaf.

Media used: Microns, gel pens, fine-tipped felt pens, brush pens, watercolor pencils, gouache, gold foil, gold leaf.

Also, I realized I hadn’t been at the Campbell in the spring before, as the temari class is usually held in the fall, and while we did have a lot of rain, it was also very, very green.


Art in Bloom 2019

We went to Art in Bloom again this year, once again conveniently scheduled around my birthday! I posted a few of preliminary pictures off my phone on Twitter, but here’s the full set of “best of” pictures from both my real camera and my phone. (We went on Saturday this time, which meant peak crowding, alas, but I still managed some decent shots.)

Do you have a favorite? Mine was the next-to-last one, the modern painting with all the stripes, which was, amusingly, directly across from the painting that was paired with my favorite floral interpretation last year.

This year’s amazing birthday card from my extremely artistic card-making aunt and calligrapher uncle was beautiful, as always.


Purple! They know me so well.

Happy Spring Equinox

It’s spring! (Or so the calendar says, anyway.) It may be a bit gray and rainy today, but I did change over the temari display from late winter blues and whites to springtime colors and flowers. Hopefully the weather will get the hint soon.

As you may have noticed, when I get into a hobby, I tend to get into a hobby, and while I do love that deep dive state of learning as much of a thing as I can, eventually I do reach a point where it gets a little, well, exhausting. After a while, every new project ends up being a big project in an effort to keep building on past skills and expanding new ones, and I recently got to the point where I needed to just not do that.

As it happened, I had also just reread a favorite story, in which one of the main characters owns a craft store and tells a customer that a Dimensions cross-stitch kit is a good choice for their kid with many hobbies, because it comes with everything needed and they don’t have to commit to more than just that one pattern, and it reminded me I had a cute Dimensions kit in my needle arts project stash box that I picked up on a whim years ago. This seemed like the right time to finally do it.


Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil tree frogs and Janice’s thread organizer

For such a silly little kit, it ended up being weirdly emotional, because I also ended up using the thread organizer I inherited from my aunt Janice. Most of own cross-stitching floss is on cardboard bobbins in plastic organizer boxes, because I’ve been doing really complex Teresa Wentzler patterns for the past, I dunno, twenty years now, and those all use too many colors to ever come in a kit. But for this? There was just a single length of each of a dozen colors, and while I could have just left them all laid out along the edge of a couch cushion, I realized I had the solution.

When Janice died, she was in the middle of cross-stitching a gift for my other aunt, and my uncle asked if I would finish it for her. The wooden thread organizer she was using, with a magnet in the end for needles, has been sitting in my stash box ever since, with the threads from that project still attached. Given that I was going back to the basics of the craft, and that Janice was the one who taught me my earliest needlepoint, it felt fitting to finally use it.

There really was something deeply satisfying about doing a project that I could finish completely in just a week of evening stitching while watching TV, and I got a bit of bittersweet happiness from Janice’s continuing presence in my life.

Christmas 2018

We’ve had a very low-key holiday season here this year, but I did put out all the Santas and little trees, plus the Christmas sampler temari. Seasons’ greetings from the new tansu in the front entryway and the nonfiction bookshelf in the living room.

Happy winter holidays to all!


One of the things Mark and I did on our impromptu trip to San Francisco in October was go to a consultation for him to get a new tattoo. It was something he’d been talking about doing for years, but hadn’t found any artists nearby that made him want to do anything about it, so since we’d found ourselves in SF anyway with no definite plans for our time, I suggested we see if there was anyone there with a style he liked.

Which is how we ended up going for a consultation appointment with Michael at Black & Blue Tattoo. He didn’t have time to get started on it that day, since he hadn’t had time to work on a sketch or anything and what Mark wanted was fairly specific (and big), so Mark scheduled a time to come back in November to get the linework done, and then in December to do the color.

During all this, of course, Mark asked if I wanted to get one as well, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was over the aversion to doing anything permanent. In looking through the portfolios of the other artists at the shop, I found Sid‘s amazing fine-line work and realized he was someone who could actually turn temari designs into clear tattoos. I emailed him about it after we got home, including a bunch of reference photos and diagrams, and he was both enthusiastic and able to schedule me for the same day Mark was flying back to SF for his linework.

I waited until now to post about it so I would have a picture of Mark’s completed colors, too, but here’s what we ended up with:

Just look at how clear that swirl temari ended up! And the shading on the kiku and asa no ha ones!

Amusing notes from my tattoo experience:

The first thing Sid said to me (after the usual greeting stuff) was, “You have such good skin for tattoos!” I always knew being this pale had to be good for something.

Sid, who is from Brazil, had been talking to me during the tattoo about how he still doesn’t think his English is very perfect, but when the artist at the station next to his came over to check the progress on my design and said, “Sid, man, I don’t know how you do it!”, he immediately replied, “Well, you see, we use needles and ink…” Sarcasm is definitely a sign of fluency, so I don’t think he has anything to worry about.

Also from the guy at the next station, upon learning this was my first tattoo: “Wow, you decided to go big for your first one!” Which I guess is a matter of perspective? They couldn’t have been any smaller and still showed the right amount of detail, and compared to what Mark was getting, this felt pretty restrained. The inside of my left forearm is also an interestingly obvious-but-not placement, since I’m right-handed. The person who most often sees my tattoo is me.

Anyway, we’re both pleased with the results, and it was definitely worth having to fly back to CA to get them.