Sunday, November 28, 2010

Peace and Quiet

I'm sitting in the Pittsburgh airport and quite enjoying myself. Spending Thanksgiving at Sarah's was just what I needed. It was wonderful to be around family. As with most larger gatherings, I can sometimes get overstimulated and irritable but this year, things felt just right. I took some alone time when I needed it, didn't force myself to do things I didn't want to do and was able to spend individual time with some of my family. While I'm a little stressed about everything I need to do when I get home, I'm mostly feeling very relaxed and rested.  Here are a few pictures of the fam. 

While I was waiting for my 1pm flight out of Pittsburgh, they asked for a volunteer to take a later flight since they'd oversold the original flight I was on. It was kind of pathetic but I thought, "well, I don't have anything waiting for me at home except a chilly apartment so I'll just hang out in the Pittsburgh airport for a few extra hours." The $250 voucher for my next flight didn't hurt either. I gotta tell you, if you have to be stuck in an airport for a few hours, Pittsburgh's kind of a fun one to be stuck in. It's absolutely empty and very quiet. So...I can do whatever I want! I'm sitting here naked right now, just to see if anyone walks by. 
Before, I walked around to the shops. They have good ones here so it was a bit dangerous. Found a very cute cardigan in the Gap but managed not to buy it. Saw a purse I fell in love with in 9 West but managed not to buy it. Tried on some shoes there too but managed not to buy them. Was tempted by some good smelling unctions at L'Occitane and managed to get out of there with only a few samples on different parts of my arms. It's funny but of the perfumes they had, I preferred the mens cologne.  I almost always do. I think the womens stuff is just too flowery and strong. I wore Lagerfeld in college and over the weekend, got some of the same stuff my brother-in-law wears. Maybe I'm really a man trapped in a woman's body. That could explain the hair growing on my chest.
All I ended up with is a few pairs of socks (or sox as the store name would have it). It was fun to window shop anyway. 

So...I think my plane will be boarding in about 15 minutes so I'll start to gather my things and head to the gate. Hey, they just asked for a volunteer to give up a seat again -- the ante's up - $300! I could go to Hawaii!! Hmmmmmmm....Maybe I'll just travel from airport to airport giving up my seat to pay for the next flight. Naahhhh.
I hope everyone had a great holiday and is feeling rested and ready to get back to work!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hidden Genius

How did the adults in my life miss the uncultivated artistic talent that I had as a child? In looking through some old pictures my sister had, we found this unbelievable work of art from when I was 4 years old. It was a valentine for my great grandmother.
I think they must have been threatened by my talent. Or maybe they were concerned that the world would be so enamored of my masterpieces that it would chew me up and spit me out before I even grew up. I guess I should be grateful that they protected me! :-) 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Back to the Basics

The holidays are upon us. Except for my annual Thanksgiving cold or sinus infection, I generally really look forward to the holiday season. Thanksgiving is probably my favorite given the particular prominence afforded to one ginormous meal (at least in my family). Favorites -- a forkful of turkey, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato souffle. Any one of these without the others just doesn't taste like Thanksgiving. And then there's the whipped cream to pumpkin pie ratio - 10:1. If I get these two things, I'm a happy camper.

Luckily, my body decided to get its cold a week before Thanksgiving so that by the time I fly to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the cold will all but have disappeared. I'll get the flu shot on Tuesday afternoon, just to be safe. 

This year is a tough one though because I won't be spending the two central holidays (November 25th and December 25th) with the family I thought I'd be spending every holiday with until I died. The first year of that kind of shift is always the toughest. 

I'm very, very thankful that I have a loving family during these times. I'll be traveling to Sarah's for Thanksgiving and Lisa's for Christmas. It was a little difficult to invite myself to Christmas but I knew I didn't want to wake up alone on Christmas day this year. While I have dear friends who would have gladly included me in their festivities, there's no replacement for being with a family who has known me all or most of my life and will welcome me with love and understanding and a listening ear if I need it. I will miss the time I could have spent with Toby and Maddy while they're here but I just don't feel strong enough yet to weather these holidays alone.  

I'm a big fat sentimental baby so I give a lot of meaning to these kinds of changes and it's very painful for me. What it does remind me of, though, is that I am so lucky to have family (and extended family -- brothers-in-law, nephews, soon to be niece by marriage, brother-in-law's parents) whom I genuinely look forward to spending time with and the means to get to them when I need to the most. I hope you will also be spending your holidays with people you enjoy and love. Even if your heart is breaking.  

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Have I mentioned before how much I love taking art classes? For those of you who haven't taken an art class, in my experience, anyway, they're usually pretty long (3 hours) and there's often "studio" time where the students can work on their pieces while the instructor is there in order to get feedback and guidance. At least I'm assuming that's why they schedule them the way they do. When we're each working on our individual pieces, there's often at least one moment in the class where everyone's quiet and focused. I almost always catch it. The energy is hushed and kind of suspended. I love that moment. 

One of the assignments that spans the semester is what our instructor calls "color observed." We had to find a landscape or other "tableau" that we could observe live. I found this shack. 

I took the picture one day and then went back another day to observe the actual color, pick paper that matches the colors and then put it all together in a pretty picture. It looks different, of course, because the lighting was different and, well, it's a bunch of cut out paper!!

We have to do three of these. I'm hoping I can wait until it snows and do one then. The third one can be anything we want it to be. I might us origami paper or some other patterned paper to do mine. I also thought about getting a bunch of National Geographic and tearing pieces from there. I'm stealing that from Sarah who did an amazing self-portrait using NG mags. Pretty cool! She probably doesn't even remember I have it. I love the naked baby on her jawline.

We're also working on two other projects. They're designed to help us learn about mixing paint. For this one, we were to use one color, black and white and mix them to create a basic geometric piece. The one I haven't finished yet will be with the triads (purple, orange and green) and white, mixing them to create another piece with the same geometric pattern. I know, fascinating, right?! 
Whatever the final products look like (1st grade art?), I'm loving it!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wood Type Redux

I made my second trip to Hamilton Wood Type Museum last weekend. It wasn't as fun and new as the first time I went but I'm still glad I made the trip. This time, there was a conference. The drive up was really nice. I took state highways so got to see the countryside more. On the way up through Illinois, I passed through a windmill farm. For some reason, those things fascinate me. I think it's their sheer enormity. The few times I've been anywhere close to a cruise ship, I've had the same reaction. They're just so big! The windmills just seem eerie, surreal, futuristic, foreign, and maybe even a little sinister. 

I stayed at the same kitschy Lighthouse Inn where I stayed before. When I checked in, they told me I'd been upgraded to a lakeside room. I didn't argue! I opened the window a crack so I could hear the waves even though it was a bit chilly outside.
Same sort of out of date slightly weird vibe. Check out the do not disturb sign.  Clean it up NOW, woman!

There were about 80 people at the conference and we were split up into 4 groups and attended 4 separate sessions. As always, I felt extremely shy and awkward around a bunch of people I didn't know. There were a couple of people who were nice to me because I'd met them at the workshop I went to in the summer but they're kind of big whigs in wood type (I know, small pond!) so they were in high demand. I just have such a hard time mingling and approaching people. So...most of the time, I was alone in the crowd. It was lonely at times. Especially the meals. People were friendly enough but had their own groups. Besides, they're all in the field and I'm an outlier since I just do it for fun! How weird is that?

I really enjoyed learning more about wood type and history, though. For people who aren't interested in Wood Type, it may not be so interesting but I thought it was great! One session was by a man from the Newberry Library in Chicago. One of the things that companies who made Wood Type did was create specimen books. These were basically the catalogs they sent to potential customers. Most of them were ok but not particularly artistic. 

One, however, was from a very high end company -- Wm. H. Page & Co. -- whose specimen book was basically an art book. The presenter showed images from this specimen book (of which there are very few and they're very expensive). Here's a blog (by one of the other presenters) where there's an image of one of the letters. An artist also used one of the blocks from the Page company and made prints for those of us attending to have. It's just beautiful!! There's a different block for every color and the artist had to run it through for each color and get it lined up just right. I'd love to have the equipment to play around with this stuff!  

Two of the presenters talked about the history of wood type in Italy. There's a museum in Italy that I would love, love, love to go to called Tipoteca Italiana. The presenter talked about the museum but also talked about the area of Italy it's in. So beautiful!! It's one of those situations where the community of people interested in this stuff is small enough that if I contacted him and let him know I had been at this conference, he would help me as a tourist. Man, that would be so fun...

There's a place in Nashville called Hatch Show Print where they've been doing wood type prints since 1879 and have had a resurgence as modern musicians have used them to print their posters. The guy that runs the place spoke at dinner and he was a major, major narcissist. Yuck. The place seems interesting but jeez, he was full of himself. 

One of the most interesting things about the conference was learning about a font and wood type that were specifically created for the Lushootseed language spoken by the Tulalip Tribes in the Northwest US and into British Columbia. Lushootseed was not a written language until it became less commonly spoken and the people wanted to develop a way to record it so it wouldn't be lost. An alphabet was developed but the tribes were having to use fonts already available like Times New Roman. Because these fonts were not specific to the language, they weren't entirely accurate and they didn't look very pretty which might discourage potential speakers - i.e., younger generations - to want to learn it/read it and to feel pride in it. 

Juliet Shen worked with the Hamilton Wood Type Museum to develop wood type from her font that could be used to educate Tulalip children in Lushootseed at a summer language camp (and beyond). Here's a story about it with some other links. Pretty neat.

If you're still reading, I'm sure your eyes have glazed over, but...the last thing I'll mention is that there was a faculty member from U of Texas who curates the Rob Roy Kelly Collection. The web site is really nice and gives some background about wood type with examples.  

On the way back home, I had a beautiful drive through the Wisconsin countryside on my way to see Maddy in Madison - I guess I can just call it Maddyson from here on out. As always, it was really fun to see her and spend time with her. We had lunch, shopped, went with her and her roommate Katie to the craft store and bead store so they could get some fun projects since neither of them has a car and can't get out for that kind of stuff often. Maddy's learning to crochet and Katie's learning how to knit. The drive home was very long and boring but I survived. It was worth it!