Things are getting more and more eccentric at Casa de la Swain. Changing styles in my textile work, falling in love again with painting and photography...and then there is the ever illusive quest for continuing creativity through working with Eric Maisel. Still on the road teaching, posting now at the Ragged Cloth Cafe and taking the pledge to keep handmaiden up to date.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Creative Spark Update

Just a little housekeeping as the year ends. Due to a couple of cancellations there is still room for two or three students. We will be starting later the week so if any one is interested, just drop me an email with your phone number.

Everything is ready to go for a great class. I have had such a good time working on the exercises. I look forward our time together.

Wila, I have mis-placed your correct email. The first one you gave me is still bouncing. Could you drop me a line again?

BTW, effortlessness seems to be working its magic already. It does help to use it as a mantra. I even have empirical evidence. Yesterday I called my former editor and begged, threw myself on her mercy for a couple of hours of tutorial. She agreed and came over for a couple of hours to get me on track. Thanks to her visit the first issue of Behind the Seams will go into production this week. Ya hoo! and many thanks.

Hoping that the rest of the year follow that same energy. Wishing you a happy, productive and creative New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

New Year's Non-Resolution

Last night I was reading Christine Kane's blog at
and found a great idea. Instead of making new year resolutions which we are all unlikely to keep, Christine and one of her friends pick a word each year as a touchstone for that year. A seed planted that they can watch grow to full bloom. An energy and commitment that they use a a reminder of what the year is to unfold.

Being enchanted with this, I have chose a word from Christine's list: effortlessness
Catchy,no? Imagine floating through the year effortlessly. I may even start this mantra before the old year fades away.

Take a look at this gorgeous face....I think Christine may already have the effortlessness thing down. Check out her site for a selection of words....or possibly you have some lurking in the little gray cells.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

More Back to the Real World

Looking back on my lack of posts during the Christmas frenzy, I dawned on me how much we focus on three single days of the year to share with friends and family....Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For goodness sake, it even prompted me to clean house. Now it isn't like I couldn't have done this weeks before but it was the expectation of everyone arriving that got me off the couch.

So I am going to approach 2008 with a new frame of mind.....I love the idea of not measuring it was a piece of fabric or how much something weighs. Success is not a measurement but a feeling. It is appreciating the small steps as well as the giant leaps. Since I journal about working, I will add to the journal daily joys, no matter how large or small. I will stop measuring success, especially by external, worldly standards, and start feeling successful....just the simple joys of daily life are successes if you truly feel them.

As I look back on the year, it has had it's turbulent moments but there have also been many fun, silly and productive moments. While the year fades into another year of unknown possibilities, my journaling will reflect back on some of these amazing moments.

Along with this, while compliments are always appreciated and external validation can bring a smile to any one's face, I have come to the conclusion that my art is only important if it matters to me. The trap of working for a particular exhibition, lines on a resume, pleasing the public for sales can be a maze where you run through continuously looking for the cheese.

The problem with the transition in my work was brought on by what others would think about the work.....not what I was gaining from the I discontinued the pursuit of the work. Oops, I lost sight....the importance of the work is what it holds for me.

Whether you journal or not, find a piece of paper and reflect back on the amazing moments you experienced this past year. Give some time to think about how you view success....but most of all, give yourself the gift of possibilities unknown for the coming year.

Clinking glasses of your favorite libation to Auld Lang Syne

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Gang's All Here

We had a wonderful Christmas Eve. Above are the Swain Boys, now Men. From left to right starting in back: Thom and Charles; in from, l to r: Craig and Chris. As you can see, some are sillier than others but no denying they are brothers. Imagine what our house was like when they were all younger....especially teenagers. They are all taller than both of us....and they were all arms and legs so instead of baby proof the house was teenage boy proof. In spite of the silliness, I think they are a handsome bunch.

The silliness continues as Uncle Craig devours home made Tex-Mex from Mom and daughter in law Jillaine. There was food sent home and still enough left for us yesterday. Please note my giant Christmas tree hidden behind Craig and the house plants. Never let it be said I don't go all out for Christmas. Watch out Martha Stewart, there's a new decorator on the block.....or not.

Jace, Chris and Jillaine's youngest, give Uncle Charles and Aunt Christy the eye. All the facial hair in the house put Jace in quite a state of "What's that on your face?" The good news is Grandpa has a white beard and albeit is slightly too thin to be Santa; the resemblance was close enough for Jace to get Grandpa lots of hugs and kisses. Jace is no fool....never take a chance with any old guy that might be Santa...butter him up just in case. Behind Christy is my assistant from Houston, Jessica and her daughter, Elle. Christy gave Jessica many thanks for going with me in her place.

Chris and Jillaine and my beautiful grand-daughter Jene. Jene just won first place in an America Idol style local contest for her vocal talents. She is also a wonderful writer and artist....proud betcha. Chris is doing his James Dean impression...Jillaine is relaxing after lots of preparation and cooking for Christmas.

There were some camera shy attendees....sweet Ronnie, our long time family friend Bill, Jayden, my glamour puss grand daughter who is usually anywhere a camera is being used and of course, moi, who was behind the camera. What a wonderful gift to be surrounded by family and friends. My love to you always make me smile.

So that was Christmas at Casa de la Swain. Fully recovered, I am back to working mode. After taking part of the day to prepare contracts and slides, I am determined to get some editing done. Going to slay that dragon one way or another.

Also want to announce a very special vist to handmaiden....on January 14, Eric Maisel will drop by as a part of a blog book tour for his new book, Van Gogh Blues....The Creative Person's Path Through Depression. I highly recommend this book whether dealing with depression or not. It is filled with excellent suggestions on how to develop a life plan for artist of any discipline. Mark your calendar and drop by if you have a chance.
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Coming Up for Air

Yikes, it has been forever since I apologies. I got so involved with creating, cooking and cleaning...all for Christmas that I was exhausted at the end of each day. However it was fun and now my house is clean, which has lifted my spirits incredibly.

Here are a couple of pictures of the studio during the great non-consumer driven attempt at Christmas giving. This was probably one of the best Christmas ideas ever. Alas, I did not get pictures of all the gifts before they got away but will post some pictures of what was given and received later. On to pictures of the big day in next post.
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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Knitting Answers

My thanks to all the wild women who knit for responding to my cry for help. The scarf or whatever,you know I am making this idea up as I go along, is currently 8 inches wide and 6 and 1/2 long. The yarn is 88 yards per skein and I already have another skein. I am knitting on size eight needles, with five stitches to the inch.

I am sure I have a magic book somewhere that would give me the answer.....but that would mean un-cleaning something I have already thrown on a book shelf or into a closet. Isn't that the way everyone cleans?

Originally the yarn was going to be a pair of socks for me....but I got side tracked by this idea. Being side-tracked seems to be my current m.o.

Thanks again for any help you can give...ho, ho,ho!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hectic Holiday Doings

No photos today again because they are Christmas gifts. Just wanted to check in to let you know how much fun I am not having cleaning this house. It is almost daunting but I know I will be happy when it is done. Of course, the danger of cleaning is I will never be able to find anything because I have put it somewhere that I will be sure to remember. You know, the if I put it here I will be sure to find syndrome.

Along with Christmas cleaning and creating, I am trying to finish all the paper work for next year's gigs. Sending slides, buying tickets....all that fun stuff. Blogging has taken second place but will try to keep up as much as I can.

It finally has decided to be winter in Texas just when I need to get out and ship and again another round of dreaded grocery shopping. Ain't that just the way it goes?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Knitting Maven...Help!

Calling all knitters....can this be saved? Here's the skinny: I wanted to make a neck warmer....not a long scarf but more the length of an ascot. Just long enough to fit under your coat collar or outside of your coat. Along with the knitted piece, I have this way cool pin to use as a closure,keeping the piece in place and said neck warm. I still have the yarn left that you see in the ball along with another skein of said yarn. It obviously hasn't been blocked yet which could help some but I am concerned about the length. So my question is do you think another skein of yarn will make this the length I need? Or should I scrap this and start with another yarn? Quick replies would be appreciated. I don't want to waste any more time on this if it isn't going to work....and therefore need to rapidly get started over. Thanking you in advance for any and all suggestions.

On a happier note, I have two of the hand made projects almost completed. Still can't reveal them but as soon as Christmas Eve arrives, you will be the first to know. I hope they receivers enjoy them as much as I am enjoying making them....and if they don't, I will be happy to add them to my personal collection and gladly given them a lump of coal as a replacement. Of course, with the energy prices such as they are I am not sure I can afford that many lumps of coal....sigh!
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Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Big Life Plan

I promised myself that I would get to the studio first thing this morning to start on the hand made Christmas presents....even got out all the stuff last night to get a head start. Am I in the studio,obviously not? Instead I woke up with The Big Life Plan whirling around in my head. Not a good way to get to the studio.

So with pondering illusions of making lists and what I want to be when I grow up, I came to a great insight. Who cares? I am 58 years old, can get senior citizen discounts in some places,not old enough in others. I am not going to live as long as I have already been alive....weird syntax,no? However, there are still a few good/acceptable years left in the old gal. But is there still a need for the big life plan?

Well, dear readers, I think I am way past that point. I think it is time to really take every day as it comes. This has long been my philosophy but I easily succumb to the All-American attitude of "We are humans doing, not humans being." I could only hold onto the take it as it comes for a few days or months at a time before I would start beating myself for not doing enough or for being off of the schedule I had set for myself.

This all came about late in life to me....actually,it all started when my first quilts sold and when my books were published. Prior to that time, I was a wandering gypsy.....moving every two years from theatre to theatre.....leaving divorced husbands in my wake and bringing up my sons in a trunk to be free spirits. Then things got serious...bells started tolling for me. Got married finally to the right guy, that was a good thing, had my last baby....and great decision on my part....and started making quilts.

Being the highly educated, over acheiving, good girl that I was I kept up all the mom/wife obligations and did a pretty good job even if I say so myself....well, at least, no one is a serial killer that we know of, yet. Then the whole quilt world opened its doors which required a plan.

How do you do art, travel, teach and maintain a household? You do everything half way....sure others see you as having it all together but I gotta tell you it is a juggling act of major proportions.But do I have to do that now? What is there left to juggle since my time is all my own?

Having digested this all morning, I am clear as a bell, sharp as a knife or dumb as a post.....take your pick. The answer to The Big Life Plan is there is no plan....been there, done that multiple myself so many times I could have a dozen a.k.a.s. No more of that for me. I have decided who I am right now is just fine for the rest of my life. Certainly, there are still things I would like to do being a curious Scorpio but I don't need a plan to do so. I will just do them as I come to them.

So with the holiday season approaching, I am returning to the true meaning of being together....seeing my family, hugging them at every turn and looking forward to what the new year will bring my way....not planning what I want the new year to bring. Expectations only bring disappointments; no expectations bring constant surprises....some good, some more difficult but hey,you gotta learn to love the rope.

Now that I have trash canned the big life plan, my head is clear and I am content with a small, daily excitement of the No Life Plan.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Christmas Clean Up

Now the real work begins. After a long year of traveling and teaching, house keeping has become a very low priority. With the family arriving soon,things have to be re-arranged and cleaned. My poor unused rowing machine will have to be folded and put away. A perfect excuse for not using it. Why didn't I think of that sooner? Out of sight;out of mind. Instead of being constantly in my line of sight taunting me, it could have been silently resting in another room. But no, I have kept it in plain sight on the off chance an intense urge to exercise might strike me...yeah, sure.

Sweet Ronnie and I are both pack rats so there is no hope of him suddenly developing an urge for neatness. The stack of detritus below belongs to me. Books to be read, journals and sketch books.....even some knitting. Into the studio with all this so that at least the carpet can be seen. How have I let things go this far? Joy of joy,I know, I can blame my mother. I was an only child and she always had a maid twice a week. Not only did I never really learn how to clean but also I never really had the chance. It was all done before I had a chance to even try. Notice how easily I abdicated the responsibility for my own deficiency.....what a great rationalization. You can use it for free.

And the final injustice, all the blue glass has to be washed. Dusting won't do since it leaves the inside of the glass filthy.....which effects the way the light shines through the glass. Moral of the story: Be careful what you collect; it can come
back to haunt you. Even with the task ahead, I would not trade a single piece of the glass. Each has a special memory of where it was found or who gave it to wash it I will, each and every dusty piece.

The reward for all this health department prevention is that I get to spend the entire weekend in the studio. Reward,reward for a job left to long unattended. What I will spare you from are the pictures of my closet. I think there is a suit case still unpacked from some trip...not sure where or when. I am shameless...and hopeless.

A quick note: The Creative Spark class is full. Thanks to all of you who signed up. Expect a call from me after the first of the year so we can talk about where you are,where you want to go and set some goals so I can refine the exercises to your needs. I am so excited about working with you and learning from you.

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Picture Free Post

This post is going to be less than visually stimulating but I promise to post the results at a later date. Reason: we are having a hand made Christmas. I am taking the pledge against over spending and shoving through crowds. Being an artist, hypothetically, I got out all my stuff (unknown for obvious reasons) and have started work on presents for my much loved family.

The only concession I have made is for son Chris and wife Jillaine....we are having home made Mexican food for Christmas Eve. Since some of my kidlets read my blog I can see the smiles on their faces having read Mexican food.

As you can read,I made it home safely from grocery shopping. Still there is something intrinsically wrong with this whole event. You have to drive to the store, put all the goods in the cart, take them out of cart on conveyor belt, pay out the nose, put bags back in cart,load them into the car, drive home, bring said bags into house, take groceries out of bag and put them in their proper places....and then to top it all off you have to cook the stuff. Great run on sentence, huh?

I did succumb to purchasing a yummy carrot cake....munch, munch. One needs to keep up their strength while in the throes of creativity.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

TheAvoidance Game

There may appear to be food in this pantry,but upon closer examination you will see that there is very little edible goods. Why is this? Simply put, I have a love/hate relationship with grocery shopping. The love part involves cooking. The whole process is reminds me of chemistry class....which if you think about it,cooking really is chemistry. You add heat, reagents, etc. and end up with a new compound. Mad scientist at work.

The freezer is also seriously lacking.....having cooked all the goodies I had stored away for a rainy day. There is a couple of bags of brussel sprouts....lonely looking for friends. Something must be done but you know what that means. I have to go to the grocery store.....the dreaded public food storage building...filled with people who are on a mission, run over you with their carts (please tell me they don't drive that way) and never enough check out lines to accomodate all the shoppers. My biggest complaint is that if they are out of something I need on the shelves asking someone to see if they have it in stock in the back is like asking them to climb Mt. Everest. First there is the rolling of the eyes,then the "Well,if it's not on the shelf; we probably don't have it" and then with a heavy sigh they finally agree to check. My point is if I don't spend $ they don't get paid so what's the big problem????

Obviously, the regrigerator is not in a good place either. There is no recourse but to be bold and face my avoidance and venture into the know world of grocery shopping. Our local Albertson's used to deliver to your door. Now that's my kinda shopping but they have discontinued the service...blast! How could they knowing how this experience fills me with dread and anxiety and rolled over toes. How unthinkable and rude of them. I no longer shop there.

So off to the shower, try to find something that fits my expanding girth,and keeping fingers crossed that I can get in and out without an accident. The upside is getting to cook, so in the end it will be worth whatever pain might ensue. Am I the only one who suffers from this phobia? Are there folks who really love grocery shopping?
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Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Tale of a Feline Thief

How harmless and cuddly and deceptive Busby can be. Who would think this sweetheart is a destroyer of quilts? Indeed, he is at heart a lover of fabric...maybe too much of a lover. I had started an Earth Strata tryptich in 2006, one of my students wanted to buy it unfinished. I told her it wouldbe awhile before I could get it done due to other committments. Never thinking it would take so long...ahem!

I put it in the stack with all my works in progress or at least I thought I had. When she emailed me regarding the quilt,I went in search of same. I had two of the smaller pieces finished but needed to finish the largest piece of the three. Quilts flying everywhere, fabric flying off shelves but no quilt to be found.

Enter Busby....somehow the piece managed to put itself in the closet where I keep my yarn and store finished quilts.....which, by the way is now full of Thom's clothes, so I can't find anything. Putting on my miner's helment and with shovel in hand, I began digging through various clothing and quilts. Finally crumpled in the far reaches of a corner, the quilt was found in a state of total dis-repair. Not only was it completely covered in cat hair but he had pulled the edges of the batting off and kneaded holes in the surface with his back paws. Just like he wanted it all nice and comfy.

I emailed the client that the quilt was not retrievable. Offered her one of my new art pieces or to start another Earth Strata. I haven't heard from her yet but hope to soon. I am devasted and yet Busby still lives. Seeing how taking his life would be bad karma, he is saved but only because he is so darn cute....and after all, it was only a major art piece.
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