Owl-Eyed Athena

I finished my portrait of Penny Nickels.

It took a long time.  I had a mostly finished portrait for a while, but I just wasn’t happy with it.  I couldn’t get the phrase Owl-Eyed Athena out of my head when I was working on it.  Since so much of Penny’s work is about mythology, I thought of her as a warrior/genius with big, creepy, owly eyes. 

I’m confused about this portrait.  I hate it because I’m shaking with self doubt all day every day lately.  I feel like a fraud artistically.  I also love this.  Honestly I think this is the most beautiful portrait I’ve ever made. 

Whatever.  It is what it is.  Now I need to make peace with my life and art and move on.

Submersed in the culture.

The best way to learn a foreign language is to be submersed in the culture.  You need to order your breakfast, ask where the toilets are, and pay for movie tickets in the native tongue.  Medicine is the same thing.  You can’t dip a toe.  You have to dive in.

closeup

If you’ve never been to nursing school, it’s nothing like college.  This is hard.  You study (yes, even the really smart people who never have to study have to study) like a maniac, then get up at 5 in the morning for rounds.  You take care of actual live human beings and try really hard not to fuck up and hurt them.  You work until you want to cry some days.  You run every time there is a bedpan to empty or a bed to change because you have to prove yourself.  You have to want to succeed and you have to prove it to your instructors and the hospital nursing staff.  You clean up puke without gagging, you do procedures that hurt the patient and you don’t cry.  You suck it up and keep going.  Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning.  Then I remember that drama isn’t going to help me, so I get out my books. 

This piece is called “Waiting Room.”  It is hand embroidery with cotton and linen floss on a scrub smock from the Army hospital where I was born.  This shirt used to be a deep burgundy, but it has seen countless surgeries, lives and death.  This shirt has seen blood and vomit and tears.  It’s been washed too many times to count.  Now I see the blood and the scrubbing and I watch to see how it will change my colors. 

I’m just plain grateful to be a part of medicine.

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.

Anybody want to see my impression of Richard Saja?

If you aren’t familiar with Richard Saja, he is a fine artist who often works with textiles and embroidery.  He is often known for his altered toile scenes–French livery with mohawks and punk clothing, pastoral barns on fire, etc.  He’s actually quite a bit more interesting than that, so I recommend that you visit his blog and search the internet articles about him.

This bit of embroidery is a Father’s Day gift for my dad.  We don’t always see eye to eye, but that’s only because we are equally stubborn.  We have the same birthday, the same crappy skin, the same sense of humor, and the same horrible neck problems.  I decided to sew a neck pillow for him because I know how helpful mine is.  I hope he likes it. 

The fabric came from Hobby Lobby.  It’s nothing big, but the man is getting an Alexandra Walters embroidery piece for the low, low price of being my dad for 36 years. 

Before you start thinking that I’m a good daughter, let me tell you that I still haven’t mailed it.  I’ve been very sick for a few weeks and just found out that my thyroid quit working.  My doctor can’t see me to prescribe anything until after July 13, so I am functioning of 12-14 hours of sleep a day.  I manage to get nothing done except feed the kids and keep the house from becoming a health hazard.

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.

not good enough

, originally uploaded by beefranck.

I’m nervously awaiting school applications. I’m trying to get into nursing school. If accepted, I’ll be 36 when I start classes. Here is my favorite fear stitched in my favorite font by the lovely and talented Beefranck.

Something about this embroidery makes me smile a little bit. It’s kind of like when I have a headache and my husband tells me it’s probably a tumor. That’s hilarious to me. Maybe it’s actually the opposite of Stuart Smalley.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvgMIerTXl4

Wish me luck!

Watercolor Eye Embroidery by Corrine B

wip: eye embroidery, originally uploaded by Corrine B..

I started a new Flickr Pool for artists who would like to be considered for writeup on my blog.
Please don’t be shy. Feel free to join the pool. Feel free to add me as a Facebook friend. I’m not a snob. Really.

One of the first contributions is this eye from artist Corrine B, a WIP titled Leadbelly. It’s based on a watercolor sketch from when her son was shot in the eye with a bb gun. See the post here.  I love the dreamy, washy look of this piece. There is a lot of emotion. She really has the look of tears and watercolor come through in an amazing way. 

Believe me, achieving a painterly look with embroidery isn’t easy. Go check out her Flickr Stream here.

By the way…I still hate my current WIP and I’m going to abandon it for now. I don’t feel like I’m losing or giving up. I feel like I’m free to walk away from situations I can’t win. It feels good.

194 eyes

194 eyes, originally uploaded by sekhmet17.

I don’t know much about this artist. The Flickr profile reads, “Jodie A. Currie is a Canadian who seeks healing from clinical depression, social anxiety, and complex post-traumatic stress through art therapy.” See more work at deviantART.

I’m really intrigued with these drawings. When I first started using craft as self-soothing, I used to crochet huge mandalas from any type of string I could find. It was the early 1990s and I was a poor college student, so I often used scraps of twine, plastic bags, strips of fabric, and cheap yarn. I’d work on them until they were heavy weights sitting in my lap, then I’d give them away. (Or throw them away, I was into purging back then.)

Maybe try a mandala. I’d love to see what you can do with the concept. How could you make it meaningful to you? I’m going to Flickr to stare at these mandalas a little more and try to get some inspiration.

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.

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.

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.

How to piss off liberals and conservatives with one piece.

Stare into its piercing yellow eyes

I’m back on the military wife art bandwagon.  So much of my life depends on my husband’s job. 

Full image

This piece is wool (some handspun, some commercial) on a linen back.  I’ve mounted it to canvas stretchers.  The piece measures 11″ by 16″.

Gay for Eagles

I guess I’d best describe this work as my take on gays in the military.  Let them in.  Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is stupid.  We’re all in love with our country if we’re willing to give our lives to the military.  Who cares whom soldiers date?  I mean, really? 

Closeup of feathers, all stitching done in wool

Don’t tase me, bro!

Taser

I really wanted to stitch a TASER.  I did.

Downward Dog Taser

I spun the floss for this project.  I dyed it all by hand.  I’m fairly pleased with it. 

Dead Dog Taser

I’ve gotten a lot of negative comments for stitching such violent subject matter.  What I’m trying to do with this work is to soften what is harsh, cushion and protect what is vulnerable, and connect with my husband.  The heart of the matter is that David is a calm and kindhearted man.  He’s working for peace.