A year ago I hung this little wool and wire sculpture in a lilac bush in my front yard:
I said I would photograph it monthly for a year, and I have, and now I can stop.
Here’s what it looks like today:
eleven months | ten months | nine months
eight months | seven months | six months
five months | four months | three months
two months | one month | the beginning
Three months since I hung this little sculpture in the lilac bush. It looks about the same to me as it did last month.
It has been hot this month, which makes the studio unappealing. I have been working on my social life instead, which feels mostly exhausting and weird (with occasional pockets of deeply rewarding).
I recently complained to someone that the internet is making my head feel like ten pounds of other people’s opinions in a five-pound sack, which means you won’t be seeing much of me on Facebook.
I’m starting to work my way through Lynda Barry’s Syllabus, which has me making lists every day of things I did and things I saw. Here are today’s lists:
- software updates (ugh)
- took a nap
- went for a walk
- Notebook Club with Julie and Sam
- picked up trash in the park
- killed a bunch of ants on my sofa
- made a mushroom risotto
- piece of black foam like a giant liquorice allsort lying by the side of the road
- rabbit prints in the driveway
- a woman tying her leopard print scarf across her face as she waited to cross the street
- Sam’s bird dance
- Julie’s orange pants
- a groundhog racing into the knotweed by the river
- a hummingbird investigating the foxgloves
As you can see, there’s lots more rust than there was last month.
And what have I up to, while my little sculpture has been busily rusting?
– Killing bugs. I have become a Bug Killing Machine. In addition to the ongoing moth issues in my studio, there are carpenter ants in the southwest corner of my house. I hear them in the living room ceiling, chewing and chewing and chewing. It’s an awfully big noise for such small creatures. The walls have been injected with poison, and I have contractors lined up to take the house apart and deal with the rot (carpenter ants love rotting wood) later this summer.
– Cleaning the mouse smells out of my car. Nature’s Miracle has become one of my favorite things ever.
– Regular vigorous walks. Also squats and lunges and push-ups, oh my.
– Exploring materials other than wool for my next sculpture
– Trying, as always, to find a balance between solitude and connection.
Dave and I went to Alaska for a couple of weeks. I didn’t take many pictures during the trip. The experience defied my limited photographic abilities and my grasp of language.
We came home to a mountain of mail, a very clingy cat, and a car that reeks of dead mouse. There’s no more snow on the ground. Lilacs are blooming. Mornings and evenings, I can hear a wood thrush singing in the nearby woods.
Last month I hung a small sculpture from one of our lilac bushes. The wire is starting to rust, and the wool appears to have been picked at by birds looking for nesting material. Here is what it looks like now:
More cleaning today. Took down all the small felted sculptures in the back room.
Some of them went in the trash. Others are in my freezer.
One of “birdhouses” had a pair of moths in it. I hung it from a lilac bush in my yard, and will try to photograph it every month so we can all watch it weather.
If you look closely, you can see one of the moths inside.
Other things that are in the freezer include Lindsay’s wig and necklaces.
The freezer is very full.
A couple of the smaller sculptures got thoroughly sprayed with insecticide. The bigger ones in the front room too.
What really bothers me about this whole mess is the hat I made a couple of months ago. It is out there in someone else’s life, possibly with moth eggs in it. I feel sick.
The moths are back. They are almost definitely Tineola bisselliella, in case that matters to anyone. I set traps last summer, and I caught a lot of them. Then the traps stayed empty for a few months, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
But now they’re back. When I sit down on the sofa, I inevitably disturb a moth or two. They skitter across my mat while I’m practicing yoga. I actually kind of love them. They are quiet, and they don’t bite. The adult moths don’t even have mouths. If only their children weren’t eating my work…
This time around, I can see the evidence of them in my stash of fleece: eggs, frass, the web of a cocoon. It’s easy to miss in a big fluffy pile, especially when the wool tends to have little bits of leaves and grass in it. But it’s there.
Their favorite food and nesting material seems to be the pre-felted fleece that I used to cover “butterfly soup.” Someday maybe it will be okay with me if her skin gets eaten away. There’s a little part of me that thinks it would be interesting to watch. But not this year, please.
So every day I go into the studio and do a little more purging. I have thrown out the first felted wire sculptures I made. Small experiments, not much bigger than my fist.
I threw out a lot of fleece. Sorry, sheep! Sorry, farmers! Sorry, past versions of me! On the other hand, think of the birds and rodents and (yes) moths that may get to enjoy it now that it’s not in my studio anymore!
The things I couldn’t bear to get rid of are stashed in my freezer,where I am hoping the cold will kill any eggs that might be hidden in them. I am looking for good airtight containers to store them in when they come out of hibernation. And I am hoping I haven’t accidentally brought any eggs home with me.
I think this one is going to be called “second brain.”
I’ve been working on this for the better part of a year, and I think I’m finally finished. It took me more than a week just to get her hung properly. She insisted that she wanted to be in the corner of the studio. It wasn’t until I photographed her that I understood why. I think it’s fitting that something called “butterfly soup” should have ghostly wings:
Here she is with the light turned off:
Someone asked how much she weighs. The answer is: not very much, she’s mostly air. She may, in fact, weigh less than the chain she’s hanging from. I’d be surprised if the chain and the sculpture together added up to even 10 pounds.
You can see her in person next Friday, August 1st, at my next open studio.
These little bastards have been hanging out in my latest work.
They are probably either tineola bisselliella or tinea pellionella. I have ordered traps for both. I am not too concerned about the sculpture itself: the adult moths don’t chew. It’s the larvae that do the chewing, and they prefer dark places. I have numerous small felt-covered sculptures around the studio. They’ve been there for years, and nobody has chewed holes in them. Probably the caterpillars are nesting comfortably in a box of fleece. That’ll be a nasty not-quite-surprise when I find it.
I know they’re just minding their business, but still: little bastards.
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:
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.