5 foot 2, eyes of molded plastic

I’ve been a little busy.  I’m in clinicals 3 days a week and working my butt off studying for two tests a week.  I mean I’ve literally been working my butt off.  I’ve lost 48 pounds.  I average over 10,000 steps per shift at the hospital.  My pedometer doesn’t measure moving patients, making beds, and generally shaking in my boots as I try new skills on actual human beings.  Then I come home and run (okay I jog) a few miles. 

I’ve managed to finish these two pieces.  I’ve always wanted to do portraits of Pez Dispensers.  They have a personality all their own.  I was playing with the concept of hero worship when I decided to use repuposed USAF uniforms as backgrounds.  They turned out okay!  I really can’t believe that I found the time to finish them.  They are headed for a show in Chicago this November.  I’ll post more details when I get them. 

In other news, I found out that I have Addison’s Disease.  I’ve probably had it for over 15 years as my body slowly attacked my adrenal glands.  It’s rare and incurable, but very managable.  My body quit making cortisol, the “stress hormone.”  You can’t live without it.    The symptoms are:  fatigue, weakness, dizziness, hyperpigmentation (my armpits turned coppery brown), low blood pressure, hypoglycemia and…depression.  I was weak and sick and exhausted.  Now that I’m taking steroids to replace what my body wasn’t making, I feel so much better.  The medication makes me hungry, but I am exercising so hard that it doesn’t matter.  I’ve also started taking some thyroid hormone.  I’m finally on a level playing field and it’s amazing what I can get done in a day with a functioning endocrine system. 

Life is good.  I wasn’t lazy and dwelling on my depression.  I was really fucking tired.

That said, I had issues.  I still have issues.  I can’t just give up on exploring my emotions because I found a physical reason for my overwhelming fatigue.  I know that a lot of you still have depression that won’t have a “quick fix.”  (It only took 15 years!)  For years and years doctors treated me like my exhaustion was my fault for not going to counseling enough, exercising enough, for eating too much sugar, because I didn’t drink enough water, because I didn’t forgive people fully, because I lived in the past, for feeling sorry for myself, for being too negative, for not wanting to get better, because I’m such a hypochondriac, etc.

I don’t think that anybody should suffer for years because medical staff act like the illness is the patient’s fault.  I was tired of hearing how my fatigue was due to my noncompliance and piss-poor attitude.  I follow doctors’ orders.  I blamed myself.  I struggled.  I sincerely hope that you don’t put up with it, whether your problem is physical or emotional.  Nobody deserves to suffer.  Keep trying.

Papa Badger’s New Stripe

My husband is getting promoted August 1st.  I’m pretty excited about it.  I’ve been getting ready for the ceremony.  We’re also looking at houses.  Our VA loan came through and I have my eye on a 4 bedroom on a corner lot with a fireplace. 

I love Sgt. Walters.

I know that this blog uses a lot of emotions–most of them painful.  I want to make it clear that my life is full of joy.   I’m tired of keeping my happiness a secret because I’m afraid to hurt the feelings of someone who is miserable.  I’ve done that for too long.

So many good things have been happening.  I’m in nursing school.  My husband is getting a brand new stripe on his arms.  We are buying one of three beautiful houses.  I am getting close to seeing the end of 20 years of medical problems.  I’m off Prozac.  I’ve lost 25 lbs since my birthday.  I’m training to run a 5K in November.  I have the most beautiful, smart, and hilarious second grader.  My husband loves me more now than he did when we got married.  I have two of the best dogs on the damn planet.  Life is really good.

Art works.  It’s the best form of therapy in the universe.  I am a whole person.  My past doesn’t hurt.  I embrace my mistakes for making me Alexandra.

Blah, blah, blah…whatever.  I hope you readers are doing well, too!

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Here is my self portrait. Some yarns are hand spun and dyed. The rest are commercial crewel wool. It also contains hand spun buffalo down in the hair. (I collected it from tree trunks while camping in Montana, Wyoming, and Utah.) The bottom half is covered in English paper pieced hexagons of repurposed ABU pixelated camo. They were scraps from my husband’s USAF uniforms. (The insides of pockets are sometimes cut out and sewn flat to give a neater, more professional appearance.) This measures 11″ by 14″.

The juror in a local fiber show gave me a stinging comment about my bad design. I know the formula for a perfect composition. I’m pretty sure that most high school freshman art students know it, too.   Edit:  My point is that I choose not to follow rules and formulas.  I make what I want to make. 

I hope that you can see a sharp disconnect between the head and the “body.” That disconnect represents the friction of being a military spouse. The heart and the head aren’t together. The head must soldier on in real life while the heart must stay flat. I hope this is making sense.

Soldier on, friends.

Sandra E. Finan

This lovely lady was my husband’s commander the day we got married.  I met her that morning at an orientation for new military spouses and liked her quite a bit.  She’s loud and had a huge presence.  She’s a part of my history now, not just David’s.  She’s like a great Aunt I barely remember.  She’s a part of my extended family.

I added a tiny bit of khamak embroidery to her uniform.  This type of embroidery originates in Kandahar, Afghanistan.  I was struck by how much their embroidery style reminds me of quilting blocks.  I added it, not to insult Ms. Finan, but to better understand the women of Afghanistan.  I want to know the women of the Middle East, who are as powerless to stop the war of their husbands as I am to stop the war of mine.   This touch of embroidery put Sandra Finan in context.   She was responsible for many troops during this war.  She ran the missile fields in Montana, Wyoming, and California.  I’m not attaching blame or glory.  I’m just saying…

I made a new Kindle cozy.  I use my Kindle for a medical dictionary quite a lot.  My old cozy had a pocket that covered the buttons.  The new cover keeps all of the buttons handy and doesn’t need to be taken off to charge the reader.  Plus it was a good excuse to use an old embroidery of mine, circa 2008.  I lined it with 2 layers of Timtex to make it sturdy. 

I really love my Kindle.  I know that you can get apps for other devices to read Kindle books, but it isn’t the same.  Kindle feels like a book, doesn’t hurt my eyes, it’s light to carry, I could go on for days.  I love this little thing.

Mini 'Zac

 I’m also making a mini Prozac.  My large work sold last year and I want a little mini buddy for myself.  I bought a kit to make a miniature pin cushion and promptly threw away the floral pattern suggested by the manufacturer.

Mission Accomplished

I’m done with Norman.  I really like how he turned out.  I’ve been worried lately that I’m all technique and no substance.  Doing a bunch of portraits doesn’t exactly help. 

I’m especially proud of how thick and tactile my stitches are.  They actually cast little shadows.  The reason I don’t use glass in my frames is that I’m inviting people to touch my work. 

I used woven stitch on his clothing.  It was fun.  I know it’s very literal, but I think it identifies my work as stitched rather than painted. 

I think the portraits say a lot more as a group than they do alone.  Thanks for sharing this experience with me.

Waiting for Norman to Dry



Bathtime, originally uploaded by alexcateye.

The entire time I’ve been working on these military portraits, I’ve had the lyrics to “Uncle Alvarez” stuck in my head. You can buy the album here: http://www.amazon.com/Uncle-Alvarez-Explicit/dp/B000TEC0LO

Uncle Alvarez
Liz Phair from whitechocolatespaceegg 1998

There’s a portrait of Uncle Alvarez
Hangin’ in the hall
Nobody wants to look at it
But Uncle Alvarez sees us all

Oh, oh, oh, imaginary accomplishments
Hey, hey, hey, you visionary guy
You might even shake the hands of Presidents
Better send a postcard and keep the family quiet

He’s not really a part Cherokee Indian
He didn’t fight in the Civil War
He’s just Eugene Isaac Alvarez
We feel sorry for the wall

Oh, oh, oh, imaginary accomplishments
Hey, hey, hey, you visionary guy
You might even shake the hands of Presidents
You’re gonna make ’em sorry when you die

And it’s a long way down
You’re hoping for a heart attack
Runnin’ around
Investing in this and that
And your beautiful wife keeps your life on a shelf for you
Safe in the bedroom
Where there’s no dust or mildew
And it’s hard to believe you were once a beautiful dancer

Better just to shake it off
As you write your resume
Don’t think of Uncle Alvarez
And the price he had to pay

Oh, oh, oh, imaginary accomplishments
Hey, hey, hey, you visionary guy
You might even shake the hands of Presidents
You’re gonna make ’em sorry when you die

Oh, oh, oh, imaginary accomplishments
Hey, hey, hey, you visionary guy
You might even shake the hands of Presidents
Better send some money to the alma mater

I went shopping for openbacked frames today and I can’t wait to take a picture of all three gentlemen together. I’m just waiting for Norman to dry.

Stormin Norman 50%



Stormin Norman 50%, originally uploaded by alexcateye.

He still needs clothes, but I have the likeness I wanted. I’m not going for realism. I want my stitchy interpretation.

I’ve been trying to bring more evidence of my medium to my work. I know that a lot of people think I’m showing paintings when they see thumbnails. While stitching the clothing for this portrait, I’ll be doing more of the fancy schmancy needle tricks that set embroidery apart from other art forms. I’m really excited about this.

Anybody have a favorite fill stitch you’d like to share? Please tell me about it in the comments.

Another One

Stormin' Norman

I hate this part.  I hate looking at what I’ve made and feeling like a failure.  I hate feeling like I’ve made a mess that I should hide from everyone.  I hate looking at that brown clump on the right side and wondering if David is right, that it looks wrong, that it’s too much brown, that it won’t look right, that it won’t look like a face.

When I was in grade school, I was the type of kid who tried so very hard to get things right, that I’d tear up my paper for the slightest error.   I watch my 7-year-old daughter struggle with pencil and paper the way I did at her age.  I could never make the pretty cursive that pretty girls made, so I didn’t want to try at all.   The leap from child to artist means that I have to live with uncertainty and imperfection–hoping for something more meaningful in the end.

My hand makes imperfect letters and imperfect stitches.  But I know my handwriting from anyone else’s and I love it–just like I love the exact color of my eyes–because it’s mine.  My artwork is marked with my hands, too.  It’s as personal to me as my fingerprints.  My heavy, clumsy hands have been all over it and it’s mine.   It means so much to me, it’s so beautiful, because it’s mine.  A thousand stitchers with a thousand embroidery kits couldn’t make what I made because it’s mine.  It comes from my very personal hands. 

It’s an Alexandra Walters.  I will work on it doggedly.  I will fuss and worry.  I will stare and regret and worry more.  When it is done, it will be fine.  It will be mine and it will be beautiful.

AK47

Mikhail Kalashnikov invented the AK47.   His butterfly wings flapped on the other side of the planet and the ripples affected my life.  (And yours.)

There are so many men in uniforms around the world who have influenced my life.   I’m really enjoying embroidering these military portraits.  I’m doing Norman Schwarzkopf next, followed by my friend Josh.

I’ve had some questions about what the military means to me and why it’s such an influence in my art.  My best answer is on the DonkeyWolf Blog.  Penny interviewed me last week.  Another answer is that so much of my life is left in the hands of patriarchs that I’ll never meet.  They decide where I live, when I see my husband, which doctor I see, how many bedrooms I can have in my home, when to cut the grass, etc.  A lot of people don’t realize how much of a life commitment it is to be a military spouse.  When was the last time you were locked down in the local grocery store?  Have you ever had to show ID to get on the road to your house?  It’s a huge part of my life and I didn’t directly sign up for it.  It’s still a strange concept to me.

Handsome Devils

Kalashnikov is about 50% done.  I’m pondering my next “ancestor.” 

I appreciate you, dear blog readers.  You are welcome to use my knitting and crochet patterns.  You can copy any garment I sew.  You can use the spinning techniques and the recipes.  These are all crafts, and I love sharing them.  I get a special kind of thrill from seeing my hat pattern on the head of a lovely little girl I’ll never meet in person.  Crafting is sharing.

I don’t appreciate art theives.  Please don’t use my artwork, especially to make money.  My embroidery and embroidered quilts are off limits.  Art is something personal.  It came out of my soul and the labor was painful and emotional.  It’s my intellectual property.  Please don’t copy it.  You are welcome to post any of my content as long as you link back to me and give me full credit.  Don’t steal anyone else’s art, either.

I feel so much better now that we’ve cleared this up.

I’m working on lots of things these days.

After finishing my Tinker portrait, I gained enough confidence to tackle other people.  I’m working on a series of portraits now.  My newest man is Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK47.  I love the idea of having stiff, formal portraits of men who have influenced my life as much as a family member, yet are in no way physically related to me.  It’s my little form of ancestor worship. 

I’m only about 25% done with this.  I have a lot of work left.  I’ll show a bigger and more detailed picture when I’m less ashamed of it.  The background is one of David’s dress blue shirts.

I’m also still working on my Odes to Common Things.  I can’t decide what to stitch next.

Who didn’t get her floss?

 

I had a blog giveaway last year.  Everyone won. 

I’ve been cleaning out my craft room and found one of prize envelopes.  It has my address on it, but not the recipient.  Email me if you didn’t get your floss.  I am really sorry.  You should have told me.   

This older work has been bothering me.  I had no idea what to do with it.  It’s not really my style–just an experiment with needlepoint.  I’m thinking I’ll applique it to something for funsies.

I am a 6 inch rifle.  That’s not small, it’s average.

Another machine gun

side view trapunto gun

This M4 was all done by machine.   My husband bought a new sewing machine for me.  It’s beautiful because the feed dogs drop easily and free motion quilting is now a joy.   The trapunto detail give the gun more dimension, so I plan to play with that more later. 

Even though none of these stitches were done by hand, I feel my hand in this piece.  It looks like my energy. 

free motion quilted gun with trapunto

Tinker


In an effort to connect with Oklahoma, I decided to join a stitchalong.


The Air Force Base where my husband is currently stationed is named for Clarence Tinker. I started studying him because I was pissed off that we were sent here instead of England and I wanted to know more about the man behind the name. Tinker was actually fairly interesting and admirable. He was the first Native American Major General in the United States Army. You can read more about him here if you like.


I tried to use a variety of stitches in the less detailed parts of the portrait to add texture and interest. My new favorite stitch is the bullion stitch I used for the shirt button.

The blue-gray areas are more bullion stitch. Tutorial here.

In case you can’t tell by all of the photographs, I am really proud of this.

After all, I am a sucker for a man in uniform.