I paint silk, throw pots and collage poetry books & cards in my enchanted adobe studio in Pilar, New Mexico.

At the Sacred Heart Cafe, I make art to feed the hungry heart. Open all night, a warm place to wander and browse, savor and enjoy.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The New Love of my Life

After nearly forty years of being a potter, I have found a new clay that has won my heart in a way unknown to me. "Clay?" you say. Yup. Clay.

Clay recently, lovingly dug from northern New Mexico. Clay full of MICA, which is a powerful insulator, numinously beautiful and energetically medicinal. Pottery made from this clay can be used as cookware on the stovetop. That's right. Over an open flame. It is durable and holds the heat for a long, long time. Food or beverages cook and served in it tastes.....enchanted. And it sparkles, sparkles, sparkles.

I just got back from a week in northern New Mexico, where I met Felipe Ortega, while staying at his eclectic Owl Peak Pottery and B & B in La Madera. He is a Jicarilla Apache traditional potter and medicine man....and gourmet chef and baker. The cup in the photo is one of his mugs, which I purchased there, hugged all the way home on the airplane, and loved for two weeks. Then I heard the voice of my friend in north Idaho, sliding into her winter sad, and I realized I had to send my mug to her to shine up her dark days. It was the thing I loved the most, so I knew I had to send it. Now, I hear the lilt in her voice when we talk long distance.

See the black markings on the mug? Those are called fire clouds. It is where the wood of the fire rested on the pot during the firing. Fire clouds are ephemeral, uncontrollable and a true gift of the fire. This mug's entire inside is black, with cloud shapes kissing the outside in certain places.

I have fifty pounds of Felipe's hand dug micaceous clay and slip in my studio now. Working with it is all I really want to do now....but I have a big illustration job on my desk with an impending deadline. So I think about that clay as I do my work, and know that soon I will have the unbroken time to make its acquaintance in my studio, on my wheel, in my hands. This clay. It carries the medicine of the Earth. And I have fifty pounds of it, two big dark brown bags of it waiting for me.

This mug is magic. It carries the Corn Blessing that Felipe offers as each pot goes into its final fire. As my friend holds it to her heart, its medicine flows to mine.

Update! I have made three mugs and a vase from the clay and I've added photos. Since they were my firstborn, I impressed rock art images of a birthing woman and Kokapelli, the humpbacked flute player of the Southwest.

These pots are now "leather hard". When they dry, I will apply mica slip and polish them with a smooth rock.. The last photo shows a chunk of the mica slip, which I will soften with water to apply it to the pots. It will add a glistening sparkle to the surface, and become the glaze.

Update 2: Handling the Handles.

As you can see from the photos, I am experimenting with handles. I followed Felipe's lead on the first one, attaching the handle to the plane of the rim, to create a continuous line. With this design, the thumb rests on top and serves as leverage when lifting and tipping the mug to drink. The other two handles are more traditional for me, "pulled" and attached to the wall of the mug, a bit below the rim, with a depression for the thumb to nestle into.

Update 3: Four More.

Today I finished four more mugs, experimenting with shapes, trimming a foot on the bottom of three, and leaving the cutoff wire scallop pattern on the bottom of the fourth. I left these mugs smooth, to practice the burnishing process, which is next. I used Felipe's handle design on all four. Pictures soon.

Update 4: Mica Slip and Burnishing

I was able to "slip away" from holiday revels and spend a happy hour or so in my studio today, sanding the drying mugs, then applying a first coat of micaceous slip with a sponge. After it dried somewhat, I burnished the mica surfaces with a smooth river stone, a quartz rock and a rubber rib. Experimenting with several to see what seems to work best.

The burnished clay takes on a smooth shine after burnishing. I get the impression that I am smoothing the platelets of clay molecules so the mica has a reflective surface to shine on. I'm not really sure if this is happening, but it seems so.

When I was finished I walked home through the woods, passing the eucalyptus trees where hundreds of monarch butterflies are clustered together beating their wings to stay warm as the evening chill descends. As I stood watching the wings fluttering, it seemed the tree was breathing. Monarchs are orange and black, the same colors as a golden orange micaceous clay pot with black fire clouds. I may add some butterfly accents to a future pot in honor of the monarchs who migrate here in the winter, on their way to Mexico.

Update 5: Bowls and a Butterfly Today (Dec. 28) I threw seven bowls on my potters wheel. I will trim the bottoms tomorrow by flipping each one upside down onto my wheel and finishing the bottom with a trim tool and rubber rib. I have learned that the smoother I make the pots on the wheel, the less hand smoothing/sanding I'll have to do later on. This clay requires so much hands on sanding and polishing. The mugs on the top shelf of my drying rack are now polished and are awaiting the fire. Once I trim, sand, slip and polish the bowls I will have enough to fill my kiln. Just for fun, I made some beads, bear, raven and corn goddess pendants from the clay. I shot the photo of the monarch butterfly in the woods by my studio. There are about five hundred more of them in the branches above!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Aurora Borealis StarMara Fused Glass Earrings

aurora borealis StarMara fused glass earrings
New from StarMara's kiln, wear these fused dichroic glass earrings and you will light up the night sky.

They glimmer and glow like the Aurora Borealis and will delight anyone who wears them, or receives them as a gift.

I will send them to you in an elegant black gift box, with fancy ribbons. Free shipping within the US and Canada.

To purchase, click on their photo in my Etsy shop (PayPal) or follow the link to my new 1000 Markets shop (Amazon).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ha de ansii? What are you lacking? Do ansii! I lack nothing!

I am full of the blessings of this rainwashed world outside my door. I warmed by the company of our grown-up son once again sleeping under the roof. ("Boy in the House", we sigh to one another, when our son is visiting. We breathe deeper, resting assured that for a brief and comforting time, our beloved son is home. And we get to listen to waaaaay different music. Of Montreal and The Killers are playing now. I like!)

Ha di ansii? Do ansii! is the traditional Apache greeting. What are you lacking? I lack nothing!

On this day before Thanksgiving, before the turkey is even completely thawed, I lack nothing.

Outside my door, growing profusely in my yard, white sage.
Are we human or are we dancers?

Monday, November 17, 2008

All I Ask of You Silk Painting with Dragonflies and black bamboo

All I Ask of You Silk Painting with black bamboo
"All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you".

This black silk is handpainted with golden gutta and Lumeire metalics. It glows with shimmering beauty, as four dragonflies hover around the tender words of this Sufi song.

The hanger is made of two pieces of black bambo0, beaded and wrapped with black hemp.

Listed for sale at my Etsy shop (PayPal) and my 1000 Markets shop (Amazon).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Benjamin of the Magical Fez at Owl Peak Pottery

Benjamin, one of Felipe Ortega's apprentices, holds his micaceous clay pottery, which we purchased. They are being shipped to us...and I can't wait to start cooking in them. I brought home bags of freshly blessed and blended New Mexico chili, four different varieties. Great fez, eh?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Felipe Makes a Pot and I Get to Watch

On the day we left Ojo Caliente and La Madera we returned to Owl Peak Pottery to pick up pots which we had purchased, and Iwas fortunate to be in the studio with Felipe as he made a traditional bean pot from the native micaceous clay.

It was a treasured interval of time to watch Felipe make pots. In this photo at the left, he builds the wall of the pot with coils. In the photo below, he is shaping the pot from the inside with a rib tool. He said "I tell my students that the beauty of a pot is not the outside shape. The inside shape is the beautiful soul of the pot." The finished pot is drying on the woodstove. Next it will be coated with micaceous slip, polished with sandstone and then fired in a wood fire. After this first firing, a corn blessing is offered then the pot is returned to the fire to call in the fire clouds, the black and silver colorations that are unique to each pot. Only then, after all the forming, polishing and firings, Felipe signs his pot.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Felipe Ortega's Micaceous Pottery

We stayed at Felipe Ortega's Owl Peak Pottery Bed and Breakfast, in La Madera, New Mexico, for three wild nights of meeting new friends, enjoying fabulous food cooked in his earthenware pottery, bread baked in the outdoor "horno" adobe ovens and marvelous stories flavored by the flow of good wine in good company.


Here are several of Felipe Ortega's and his students' pots.

See that glow? This is traditional hand built "coil and scrape" pottery made with local clay called "micaceous" because of the high mica content (40%). It is so thermally sturdy, it can be used as cookware on the stovetop. We bought mugs from Felipe and bean pots and a bowl from his apprentice Ben. They are on the middle shelf in the photo awaiting their final wood firing, for the smoke patterns ("fire clouds") to emerge. I will treasure these pots. Someday I will return and take classes from Felipe. The mica slip that is used for the final polish is exquisite. I can already feel that my own pottery will be changing, just from watching these potters at work and at play.

On the Road to Taos

This pink art gallery was on the road to Taos and I had to stop to photograph it. The big heart reads "AllOne". It was a blustery day, with big fat snowflakes and a stunning sunset. I love New Mexico! Everywhere we go, from the mineral springs at Ojo Caliente, to the La Fonda Hotel in the Taos Plaza, I am meeting Obama volunteers. We are still walking around with big cheesy grins, pinching ourselves. We have a new president! And New Mexico took names and kicked ass. All along the roads in the tiny towns of this enchanted country I see "Obamanos" signs.
Si se puede, indeed.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hospice Show on Dia de los Muertos

I spent most of the day on Friday setting up my show at Hospice of SLO. Here is the winged heart silk banner hanging from the ceiling. It was purchased almost immediately by one to the women setting up the big Day of the Dead altar for all the Hospice clients. This event will happen tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 2, and I am looking forward to the entire day long event.

Being with people who are in the sacred place of Grief is heart opening for me. I am in the company of tenderness. And everyone who works at Hospice gives me such a lift. Hospice helped my mom in her transition during her last stages of Alziemers disease, and I will be forever grateful to them, angels all.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hospice El Dia de los Muertos

I will be setting up my Day of the Dead artwork/altar at Hospice of San Luis Obispo for their beautiful event on Sunday, Nov. 2. I just unloaded another kilnload of latte mugs especially for the show. Details/map to Hospice here: www.hospiceslo.org

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And on Monday I'm phone banking and on Tuesday I am driving folks to the polls, or doing whatever needs doing to get out the vote. What are you doing for our America?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

All is Calm

Just wanted to bring a moment of calm to this busy world. This is an ACEO card (Artist Card Edition and Original) that I painted in a tiny rowboat on Mirror Lake, near Sandpoint, Idaho in September. It helps me stay centered as I get ready for the encore weekend of Open Studio. All is calm!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Open Studio First Weekend A Great Success, One More to Go!

I had a blast last Saturday and Sunday welcoming over a hundred people to my Open Studio Tour. It was wonderful seeing my faithful customers and I met many new ones too. My Day of the Dead jewelry was a hot seller: all the beaded dancing skeleton earrings sold quickly. I'm making more this week to replenish the earring tree which I made from a rock rose bush branch from our meditation garden.

On Sunday during the tour I had time to play a few songs on my accordion with my band Hear the Darlins Roar. Our drummer, Barry, emailed me today with the great news that his Day of the Dead skull mug that he purchased was a big hit at the office. More mugs will be going to live there soon.

Our Lady of Perpetual Chocolate Shrine and Snack Bar was visited with great devotion by all. The most popular item there was Aiden (11) and Nina's (12) home baked Pan de los Muertos, a sweet, anise flavored bread shaped into skulls.

This week I am filling orders and replenishing stock, in preparation for the second weekend of the tour. I sold three of my beaded turquoise and coral watches, so more of those will be next on my to do list.

I'm on a YouTube!

This month I participated in Little Black Boxes, a special offering of arts and crafts from Etsy artists. (www.thelittleblackboxes.com) Every month an indie artist Ali, makes a YouTube of herself opening up the little black box, describing each piece of art. I submitted a sampling of my illustrated pet angel cards, and Ali loves them. Too funny. Watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_604_6R9PI

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Greeting Card with Skulls & Our Lady of the Guadalupe Dunes

Fresh off the press, our new line of greeting cards: Fishtale Greetings! This card features six of my handpainted Day of the Dead sugar skull tiles. Comes with 100% recycled paper envelope, and is blank inside for your personal message.

Other images in our premier printing are: Our Lady of the Guadalupe Dunes, from an original illustration of mine celebrating our local dunes, as well as Bruce's amazing photography. His images include light paintings of our garden calla lilies, peacock feathers and his hilarious street sign and manhole cover photographs.

All of our new card designs will be displayed at my Open Studio Tour this weekend. (gulp!)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Countdown to Open Studio: 6 days to go!

Today, with six more days to go, I finished six silk chakra banners, three WooHoo! What a Ride! banners, one "Do not Stand at my Grave and Weep" banner and seven tiny "Peace in my Heart, Peace in my Home, Peace on Earth" beaded silks and two "All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you" beaded silks.

Monday, October 6, 2008


New Colorful Day of the Dead Tiles

I have painted twelve of these six inch ceramic tiles with colorful calaveras, in the tradition of the Day of the Dead sugar skulls. They are listed in my etsy shops for sale, and will be on my Day of the Dead altar during Open Studio. Each of them is one-of-a-kind, and we just sent art to the printer for greeting cards with six of these beauties. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Poker Face Ace, another Day of the Dead Handpainted Ceramic Plate

This plate cracks me up. For anybody who can play cards and not show your hand in your facial expressions, this is not for you. For the rest of us who can't hide our emotions when those aces appear in our cards, this plate is for you.

Here is the joy when life brings us sweet surprises, mystery grace, familiar connections~out of the blue.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Oh. My. Dog. Fastest Sale Ever.

I just sold the Catrina plate, after twenty minutes of posting it to this blog, and my etsy shop. I am stunned, and delighted and the expression on my face looks just like this one!

Guitar Hero Calavera Plate

A companion piece to the catrina plate below, this one is playing his guitar. For all the musicians in my life, still here or long gone, the music plays on.

New Kiln load of Calavera Plates

I've done three firings this week, and am relieved that all four of the new square plates emerged from the fire in perfect condition. These two calaveras (skeletons) plates were handpainted, inspired by José Guadalupe Posada, a Mexican engraver and illustrater, 1862-1913. They measure 11 inches square.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dancing Skeleton Beaded Earrings, Pendants and Ornaments

This skelly has jointed arms so they wiggle and jiggle. The skulls are handmade with paper mache, then hand painted and beaded with a black and white glass bead, sea opalite and seed beads. Too cute.

Open Studio is Coming SOON!

Save these dates: Sat Oct 18, Sun Oct 19, Sat Oct. 25, Sun Oct. 26!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fishing North Idaho

At large, from the panhandle of North Idaho, fishing every day with my husband....I'll post a picture this evening. We fish from dawn to dusk, and have waded into and enjoyed the beauty of rivers (Moyie, Clark Fork, Coeur d'Alene, St. Joe's) and lakes (Spirit, Mirror, Jewel, Cocolala). My soul battery is charged full!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Wedding Bells Ring for Marti and Kathy!

Saturday, Aug. 30, 2008 was a perfect day for a wedding. My Halcyon friends Marti and Kathy exchanged their vows under the silk chuppah. Surrounded by their large families and a warm circle of friends, they sealed their hearts forever. You can see them at the bottom of the photo, blissed out!

This was one of the most rewarding custom silks I have ever designed and painted. I loved the entire process. To see the chuppah being carried by four long time friends, under a clear blue California sky was a blessed joy. It doesn't get much better than this for me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"It's a mitzvah to sew a chuppah!"

I'm finished! I had a long day yesterday with a particular challenge sewing the nine panels, getting them all to align, and then hemming so it was finished elegantly on the reverse. At the end of the day yesterday, my target day for completion, I realized I needed to design special holders for the bamboo poles to slip into, then be tied down. I used blue leather to create sheaths to protect the silk at each corner. Now I am confidant that the chuppah will be nicely anchored and protected by the leather holders and the silken ribbon ties.

This morning I harvested four bamboo poles from my garden, and with the help of one of the brides, we walked the poles through the eucalyptus grove and to their home. The photo above shows it hanging from the eaves of their patio. The detail photo to the right shows the corner piece and me, proud chuppah mama. I can't wait to see it up on the bamboo poles, backlit by the sunny sky above. Illuminated silk has a shimmering beauty that is breathtaking.

Marti and Kathy are both touched by the beauty of their chuppah. And I am filled with joy for them. I look forward to attending their wedding on Saturday. Pictures, of course, will follow!

Here's a detail of the effects that are caused by salt sprinkled onto the wet, dyed silk. Gorgeous, eh?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dyes on Silk! Chuppah Design, Part 6

Yesterday, I painted all day long into the wee hours. Silk dyes are intense, concentrated and permanent. My style of painting is to work fast. I have to open up all my (Jacquard Dye-na-flow) dye jars, set out brushes next to them and have lots of clean water on hand. There is very little time to deliberate once I commit to painting a large area like the background of the center panel Peace Angel. I have to dive into painting completely....no slow "getting my toes wet" first. Once a line is painted in a large field it has to be followed up immediately with another and another and another. Any time spent between brushing will result in a "dry line" (my term for the concentration of dye that accumulates at the edge of each brush stroke, drying darker than the rest of the line). Sometimes I use these lines as a design element. This time I wanted a solid but translucent field in the background so I worked fast to avoid the dry lines. I had to make sure I had enough dye mixed (cerulean, midnight blue, periwinkle and black) because I couldn't stop to remix more. At the right and left lower edges of the background I decided to leave three"glow lines" (my term for saving the white of the silk as a highlight, or glow) by not painting the white, and letting the dye spread into it naturally.

Painting the Angel's body and wings was done with diluted washes of teal, violet and cerulean. I sprinkled salt on the wet areas to create a random patterning that changes every time. Salt finds its own way.

The four side panels were also painted with the diluted washes, and the calligraphy then overpainted with Lumiere "Light Body Metalic Acrylic" fabric paint, burnt orange. Salt was sprinkled on these panels.

The four corner pieces have an indigo background using the same mix as the center background, and the knot line work is painted with the burnt orange metalic Lumiere.

Today, I will be heat setting all nine panels, done with an iron, then washing in cold water, then ironing dry...then the sewing will begin.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chuppah Design Part 5, Stretching and Gutta Lines

Time to rrrrrrip silk! I measured the dimensions for nine pieces which will be sewn together to form the completed chuppah: center panel, four side panels, four corner squares. And ripped each piece. What an amazing sound.

Then, each piece had to be stretched onto an adjustable frame, using special metal hook/pins. Silk has to be stretched and suspended above the work surface when it is being painted. I stretch the silk upside down.

The next step is to place the inked pattern on the table and flip the stetcher frame onto it so that the top surface of the silk is facing up, and the pattern below is visible. The silk is now ready for gutta application. Gutta is a latex product, used to "trap" the dyes. Left to their own inclination, silk dyes spread like watercolor on wet paper. Most silk artists use a clear gutta, but I have become quite fond of using gold metalic gutta for most of my work. I use a plastic bottle with a needle nose and a special metal tip designed to control the flow.

I believe that gutta application is the step that requires the most practice and skill. If the linework is crisp and accurate, the stage is set for a beautiful painting. Without it, the piece is weak. I have experienced more frustration over the years learning how to apply gutta. It is an unforgiving teacher! If a mistake is made, there is only a tiny window of time to correct, by washing it out immediately. Maybe one minute....after that, it is permanent. The brand I use is Jacquard water based gutta, which does not have the toxic fumes of the solvent based brands.

I spent all day on Saturday stretching and gutta-ing the nine pieces of silk. I used up all of my stretcher frames. Once the gutta is applied then a drying time is necessary. If anything touches the wet gutta, disaster! When I am doing one silk, no problem, I just flip it over and let it dry suspended over the table. This time I had to find drying spots for each one of the frames, and walk very carefully around the studio and hallway and bathroom and office!

Here is the center panel Peace Angel with its gutta lines completed. With all nine panels done, I let the gutta dry overnight. Today is painting day. Goddess willing, the colors will blend and shine!

My goal is to paint today, and let it dry overnight, then heatset and sew on Monday. The wedding is Saturday, Aug. 30.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Whoops! Chuppah Design Part 3 and 4 Redesign

I met with Marti today and she had a few changes to make to the chuppah design. It was fun sitting on her patio beside the eucalyptus grove, talking about balance and symmetry and composition. We scrapped the bottom banner, moved the trinity celtic knot to each of the four corners and rearranged the calligraphic message. Added the peace prayer back into the angel's wings, this time inside the edge. I think it is an improvement, and it feels ready finally.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chuppah Design Part 2 I have a pattern!

The drawing is now 5 feet square. I had to turn my wall sconce sideways to make room on my wall to photograph the pattern. I have added the 8" borders on all four sides, and added the saying "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience" as requested.

I made a design decision to remove the "Peace in our heart, Peace in our home, Peace in our world" wording from around the Peace Angel. It felt like it was competing with the border calligraphy. Instead, I put the peace words onto a small ribbon banner on the bottom panel centered with a celtic knot heart, pictured above. And I like it! I will letter Marti and Kathy's names and the date of their wedding deep inside the celtic knot, to be a sweet surprise.

I'm now ready to transfer this pattern to the silk. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Chuppah Design Part 1, Pencil and Ink Rough

Here are my pencil and ink drawings. I had to tape together paper to create a 44" x 44" surface for the drawing. The inked drawing will become the pattern I will use to transfer the drawing to the silk. The scale is difficult to convey in these photos. This drawing covers my entire drawing table. I had to rotate it 90 degrees to work on each quadrant because I couldn't reach far enough over to the other side of the table.

Just looking at the inked drawing I now notice that I did not finish the arc of the earth that the Peace Angel is holding. I'll ink that in next, and I think I will emphasize the "point" of her wings in order to emphasize a heart shape. I'm also going to add a spiral before and after "Peace in our world" in order to balance the calligraphy.

This is the first time I have used a web photo to view my design process, and make changes based on what I see on the screen. Very different from my usual approach for larger pieces (draw it. . .walk away for awhile. . .put it up on a vertical surface. . .squint my eyes. . . make changes...put it up on the wall again....).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My First Chuppah!

I've been commissioned to create a handpainted silk "chuppah" for my Halcyon friends Marti and Kathy. A chuppah is a canopy used in Jewish wedding ceremonies that represents the home of the couple. It will be 5 feet square and suspended above them by 4 bamboo poles carried by their attendants as they say their vows outdoors at Rancho Miranda.

They have chosen my Peace Angel design as the central image. It will be surrounded by a calligraphic border which will say:
"We are not human beings having a spiritual expericnce. We ARE spiritual beings having a human experience."

I'll be posting pictures as I cut and piece the silk together, stretch it onto a frame, do the gutta line work, then paint. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Custom Wedding Silks

Today I finished a gorgeous custom wedding silk banner for Linda and Joyce. They have been partners for 35 years and will be getting married at the end of the month. Best wishes fly to them! Here is a photo of their custom silk, with a quote from Martin Luther King. Size is 44" wide x 36" tall.

PattyMara's Sacred Heart Cafe's Fan Box

Micaceous Clay Pottery from DolphinSmile Studio

Micaceous Clay Pottery from DolphinSmile Studio
click on the photo to go to my online shop for mica clay cups, bowls, Sacred Hearts and jewelry

The Value of Play in Creativity

"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves."

C. G. Jung