how bees work

Here’s another view of the latest one:



It’s called “how bees work.”  I think I might have mentioned that it surprised me.  I didn’t see it coming.  It was a little like being carjacked.

Anyway, it demanded that I use this antique eggbeater, which was left behind in one of the failed restaurants in the Copeland Block.  The eggbeater reminded me of a dream I had a long time ago.  In the dream I saw a swarm of bees with transparent abdomens, and inside their abdomens were tiny eggbeaters.  “Can I have a stinger?” the force behind the sculpture asked.  How could I say no?

I’m never sure how much to say about what a particular sculpture represents to me.  I know that people are often curious.  I also know that I don’t want to deprive them of the opportunity to make their own meaning of it.  I heard a story about this piece resonating with someone while it was at the photographer’s studio in a way that I never would have imagined because it’s so far from my own experience.  I’d really love for people to weigh in on this issue if they have opinions.

This piece is an ending of sorts.  I’m not sure exactly how to explain it.  It’s like an exclamation point on the end of a sentence.  Someone who saw it when it was freshly finished said that they had a sense of a soap bubble stretching and stretching and finally breaking apart into two separate bubbles.

I’m a long way from being done with wire sculptures about living in a female body, and I suppose I could get carjacked again by another piece of my past, but the ideas in my queue are all based on a plaster cast of my own 45-year-old torso.  The work I’m planning now is about the present, about being middle-aged.  It feels incredibly vulnerable to be putting my own shape on display like that.  It feels vulnerable to even talk about it.  It also feels necessary.


May open studio

Sometimes I am really bad about publicizing my open studios.  People have complained about it, which is fair.  I don’t have open studios every month.  The least I could do is be consistent about telling you that they’re happening.

So if you are reading this, consider yourself notified that I will be having an open studio this Friday, May 2, from 5 to 9 pm.  Yippee!

Here are some things I’ve finished since my last open studio:

happy birthday

how bees work

plan D

I ended up having to rip all the felt off the piece I was talking about way back in December.  It was just too tedious.  If I worked on it for more than about 20 minutes in any given day, I would end up with a throbbing pain in my left hand that sometimes woke me in the middle of the night.  Totally not worth it.

I still think it’s important for this piece to exist, and for it to have a skin, so I went back to the drawing board.  I tried several different approaches, including covering the whole thing with paper.  Nothing felt right.  It was really frustrating.

Finally I ended up making a lot of small doilies with some off-white fingering-weight wool yarn that I found stashed in a corner of the studio.  I’m sewing them onto the wire frame with a curved needle, and applying the felt on top of them.  It is taking a long time, but it’s a lot easier on the fingers than trying to put the felt directly on the wire.  I can work for long stretches without hurting myself.

I spend so much time looking at it that this is what I see when I close my eyes:

plan d

Here’s a wider angle.  You can see where I’ve started to apply felt over the belly:


Almost everyone who’s seen it has expressed dismay that I’m covering the doilies, until I remind them that this thing is a lamp and will have a lightbulb inside.  The lace will still be visible when the light is on.  So there.

sneak peek

I managed to finish a sculpture this week, in spite of the weather (I am so ready for this winter to be over).

hbw detail

The idea came to me about a month ago, during an extra-long drive home.  It grabbed me by the hair and demanded that I order a new mannequin.  Then it took me to an antique store to shop for kitchen tools.  It demanded an eggbeater.  It rummaged through my studio and claimed an old wishbone and a little Russian doll.

I started working as soon as the mannequin arrived.  And now I am finished.

I have a queue of ideas that stretches back 10 years.  It’s unheard-of for me to have a new idea and start working on it immediately and complete the piece within a month.  I’m not quite sure what to make of it.  My head is still spinning.

More pictures later, when I’ve had some time to live with it.

studio tour: Lindsay

This is Lindsay.  Last winter a couple of girls, maybe 11 years old, were visiting the studio and asked me what her name was.  I told them she didn’t have a name.  I said that they could name her if they liked.  So she’s Lindsay.


She didn’t always have a red face.  I painted her and smeared her with plaster.  Someone recently referred to it as “warrior paint.”  I like that.  I didn’t make her hat/wig.  I bought it a long time ago at Revolution.  I never wear it.  It’s itchy.  I did make all those necklaces.  They are mostly knitted i-cord made from various kinds of sock yarn.  I wear the necklaces sometimes, even though they are itchy.

I bought Lindsay a few years ago and used her as a form to make a piece I call “the hunter.”  Here it is, partly finished:


The hunter is the most cathartic thing I’ve ever made.  For several months, I had trouble being in the same room with her.  I was thinking of nkisi nkondi when I made her.  The making was a ceremony, during which a lot of odd things happened in my head.  She’s easier to live with now, but I still experience her as a vehicle of tremendous power.  She’s not so much a sculpture as a ritual object.

Lindsay stands near my bench and watches me while I work.  I don’t know if I’ll ever use her as a form for a sculpture again, but I’ve grown fond of her.  She can stay as long as she likes.

studio tour: dance in the body you have

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while.  Last summer I promised myself that I was going to try to use my words more.  One of the ways I was going to practice that was to photograph things around the studio, and then write about them.  So here goes.


This piece is one of the first things I made after I moved into this studio, almost six years ago.  She is called “dance in the body you have,” and she sits near the door of the studio.

Next to her, on the floor, is the white noise machine I bought to muffle noises from the hallway and my neighbor’s office.  I had my hearing tested eight years ago, just before I had surgery to remove a tumor from my left ear.  They told me I had the hearing of a six-year-old boy.  They tested it again after the surgery.  It remained freakishly good.

The tumor was benign and slow-growing, but would have destroyed my ear if it had been left there.  Or so they told me.  As tumor-having experiences go, it was not too bad.  If you must have a tumor, I recommend a small glomus tympanicum.

After the surgery, I lost 50 pounds.  They had been concerned about my blood pressure during the surgery, and my primary care physician (who is a little high-strung) actually wrung her hands at me and begged me to lose 5 or 10 pounds.  I have mostly kept the 50 pounds off.  My strategy is pretty simple: I eat a lot of vegetables and refuse to buy larger pants.  In your face, Doctor!  I still have to take medication to keep my blood pressure down, though.  I suspect that would be true even if I lost another 50 pounds.

The form I used to make this sculpture was a duct tape dressmaking form, covered in plaster, made from my own body while I was in the middle of losing the 50 pounds.  I had intended to make the sculpture pear-shaped, but she ended up looking more like a butternut squash.  And that’s okay.

She has left the studio twice: for the 2009 Summer Juried Exhibition at the AVA Gallery, and for a 2013 show called Down to the Wire at the Attleboro Arts Museum.

I bought that table at Sclafani’s in Claremont (which, sadly, closed last year), and painted it with BIN primer.  The sculpture went to the AVA Gallery without the table, and I was sorry.  She will never travel without it again.

Here’s a bonus pic of her in Attleboro, with her table, waiting to be installed for the show:


epic tedium

I’m still working on covering my most recent sculpture in felt. My work always involves tedium, but this project really takes the cake. If I look at more than a few square centimeters at a time, I despair of ever finishing.

Today I curled up on the sofa in my studio for a nap, and dreamed that I was small enough to be sleeping inside the sculpture. When I woke up, I took this photo so that you could see what the inside looks like (in one of the more finished areas). In my dream, it was pretty cozy.


When I get too tired of working on the sculpture, and my neck is sore and I’ve stabbed my fingers one too many times with the felting needles, I get up and work on this canvas:


It’s taking a long time too, but at least I only have to go over the surface once. Also, I have never managed to stab myself with a Sharpie.


Here’s the latest piece, hanging with two of her sisters. The one on the left was made with a mannequin, padded out with plastic bags and duct tape. The one on the right was made with a duct tape dress form that got covered in several layers of plaster. The one in the middle is the most recent, made with a plaster cast of my torso.


Before she’s finished, I will have gone over every square centimeter of her dozens of times with my handy 3-needle felting tool. I probably will have stabbed my fingers dozens of times too. She’ll end up completely covered in felt, like this thing:


I think I will have to start a new wire frame soon, to give me a break from all that felting.

the origin of the world

I finished it this spring, but it has taken me until now to take it out and get it photographed. I needed to live with it for a while. I have been more unhappy with this piece than with any of the other Basket Cases, probably because my experience of it is so different from other people’s reactions to it.


Recently I read an article called “Art and the Dread of Experience.” It was written by a psychotherapist. An artist friend of mine complained that the article focused too much on product instead of process. “You can tell he’s not an artist,” she said. But a lot of artists focus excessively on product too.

What I liked about the article was the idea of a work of art as a container for for emotional experiences, especially the kind of extreme emotional experiences that people tend to dread. That is exactly what the Basket Cases are, and it tickles me that they are literally vessels. The studio itself, because of the work I do there, has ended up being a container for those experiences too. My artistic process is also a sort of container.

So anyway, this latest piece is a container for my gnarliest feelings about motherhood in general, about my own mother, and about the kind of mother I might have been if I had chosen to have children. At my last open studio, a lot of people described it as “sweet.” I did not feel sweet when I was making it.


“There is a sweetness to that flower, though,” said my process-oriented friend recently. “Maybe there’s more sweetness in the experience than you’re willing to admit.”

Maybe so.  They never end up being about only one thing.