Women Painters of Washington Gallery

Normally, I plan to visit an art gallery. I’m therefore anticipating a feeling of delight and awe, and even a bit of envy, when presented with such talent. I’m emotionally prepared for those exquisite feelings.

But on this particular, pre-pandemic day, I wasn’t expecting to be treated to dozens of stunning works of art. I didn’t have the opportunity to look forward to it. I wasn’t braced for an influx of emotion.

The Women Painters of Washington Gallery snuck up on me. I had other business in the Columbia Center Building, Seattle’s tallest skyscraper. I planned to do that. I didn’t plan to do this. But there it was, on the third floor, beckoning to me, splashes of vibrant color peeking through the windows, an antidote to the evergrey of a Pacific Northwest winter.

“Hello,” I thought. “I wasn’t expecting to meet you. I didn’t even know you existed.”

This encounter happened at an opportune time. The gallery is only open Monday through Friday from 11am to 4pm. Otherwise I’d have had to content myself with pressing my nose against the glass. And admission to this treat for your senses is absolutely free.

I not only enjoyed the art in this gallery, but also the very premise of it. According to their exquisitely designed website, the Women Painters of Washington has a wonderful mission statement:

Women Painters of Washington empowers professional women artists to create, exhibit, and market their work while fostering art appreciation within their communities and beyond.

This group was founded in 1930 because, as I’m sure will come as no surprise to you, women artists face certain limitations when attempting to realize their artistic potential. What a fantastic idea. Three cheers for strength in numbers!

I encourage you to check out their website, where you can see dozens of works of art from the comfort of your own home. But if, like me, you think the website is of fabulous design, you really need to visit the gallery when this virus burns itself out. Its walls each contain a giant metal wheel which can roll along a metal track so that the placement and design of an exhibit can change with each passing display. I’ve never seen such a brilliant use of limited space.

What follows are pictures my husband took during our visit. Let me know what you think. And if you get a chance, stop by and visit one of Seattle’s best kept secrets!

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Traveling Vicariously

I’ve had several trips cancelled now, in this new, scary COVID-19 world in which we live. And travel is my reason for being. I love to go places where I’ve never been and see things that I’ve never seen. So, yeah, I’m getting a bit depressed. I’m feeling kind of claustrophobic. Which means, clearly, that I need to get creative.

I’m reading more about foreign lands. I’m watching more movies set in other countries. I’m thinking of clogging up my laptop with the Google Earth application again. I’m listening to songs sung in other languages. I’m looking at exotic recipes and wishing I could go out and get the needed ingredients. And then I’m wishing that I actually liked to cook.

I’m also playing Pokemon Go. Through that game, I’ve gone to this website and made friends from all over the world. We send each other digital postcards. It’s kind of fun, peeking into the lives of people I don’t know and will never meet. Every day I get these postcards from Spain and Norway and Mexico and Israel (to name just a few), and for a moment I feel like I’m there. There’s some fascinating art in the world.

Here are some of the postcards I’ve received that I found worthy of a screenshot. Sadly, I can’t tell you where most of these things are, because unfortunately the descriptors are less detailed than I’d like them to be. I just know that they’re anywhere but here. And that’s pretty darned cool, because at the moment, that’s someplace I can’t be.

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This Sharing Thing Is Catching On

In this blog I’ve written on numerous occasions about my little free library. The free exchange of books builds community and increases literacy. There’s no downside to the concept that I can see.

I’ve also written about chat benches and little free galleries and little free gardens and bug houses and even stick libraries for dogs. I’ve also heard about little free pantries where you can leave food for people, but have mixed emotions about those, for health and safety reasons. And then just today, I came across this amazing tweet about a little free fiber library with knitting books and balls of yarn inside. Awesome!

I love that the idea of sharing with one another has taken off and seems to show no signs of losing its momentum. It renews my faith in humanity. We are all in this together.

I suspect this trend has a lot to do with the fact that we’re starting to realize that we can’t count on help from those in positions of power. The one percent doesn’t care about us. We therefore must step up and care about each other.

Even the smallest gesture, like the gift of a ball of yarn, can make a difference. It’s a step away from selfishness. It’s a way to reach out.

We are taught the importance of sharing in kindergarten. But it never hurts to be reminded. And good things come from it.

Fiber Library

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Making Bookmarks

Every once in a while I get this overwhelming desire to be creative. Mostly when that happens, I sit quietly until the urge passes. The older I get, the more I feel the need to conserve my energy. But on this day, my artistic muse would give me no peace, so I decided to borrow a wonderful idea from some of my fellow little free library stewards and make some bookmarks to give away.

I had several children’s books in my inventory that were all but falling apart, so they weren’t suitable for putting in my library. But I find it really hard to throw out books, even when they are past their prime. It seems sacrilegious to me. So these books had been sitting forlornly in a corner for several months, no doubt contemplating their fate with dread.

The artwork in most children’s books is amazing, so rather than recycle those pages, I chose to upcycle them. Making bookmarks is really easy.

  • Simply cut out a page, positioning the art in question to show it off to its best advantage, and allow extra paper to fold over for added thickness. Bonus points if you can get cool imagery on both sides of your bookmark! (If you’re like me, cutting a book up will make you cringe. I find it almost as distasteful as throwing one out. I had to keep reminding myself that these books were too tattered to read, so it is better to make them into bookmarks than it is to let them fade completely away.)

  • Bookmarks don’t have to be a uniform size. It’s not like most of them hang out together, standing at attention like little soldiers. They are meant to be used. I do try my best to keep them at 90 degree angles, though, because otherwise they look strange, at least to my eyes. So I found it helpful to use a cutting board that has a grid on it.

  • Once you have the bookmark cut and folded, I use a glue stick to glue it together. Glue sticks are a lot less messy than liquid glue is.

  • Then I lay them flat under something heavy to ensure that they dry flat.

  • Once dry, I use a hole punch to make a hole in one end, and reinforce that on both sides with hole reinforcements that you can get at any office supply store.

  • Then I add a ribbon tassel to the end. (I bought a variety of colors on sale so I had a multitude of choices to compliment or contrast the art.) Done.

Now, some of my fellow library stewards laminate theirs, or use clear contact paper on them. I haven’t done this yet, but it is a good idea if you want the bookmark to last and stay clean. However, I know my history with bookmarks. They usually get lost sooner than that type of longevity requires. (That sounds much better than saying I was too lazy to laminate, doesn’t it?)

The best part about this project is that you can do it while watching PBS, or the channel of your choice. Call it multitasking if you must. I just call it twice the fun.

Here are pictures of some of the bookmarks that I made. It’s going to be hard to part with many of these, because I think they’re beautiful. But part with them I will, because I will do anything, anything at all, to increase someone’s joy of reading. I think that’s the most important gift you can give.

These bookmarks will be placed, a few at a time, inside my little free library’s gift cubby, in the hope that they’ll make some patrons smile.

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Bonsai Drama

I have always loved bonsai. This is where nature meets sculpture. It is the careful cultivation of miniature trees so that they draw you in to their magical world. Bonsai tell silent stories. They make you hear wind and water even if it is not there.

They also carry with them a history of love and care. Many are extremely old and have been doted upon for decades. They have a way of creating a universe of their own, and they allow you to visit, provided you behave respectfully. Bonsai make you want to whisper as you walk carefully among them.

So I was delighted to discover that the Pacific Bonsai Museum is not far from me, and I plan to visit very soon. It will no doubt be the subject of another blog post. But I am heartbroken by the reason that this museum has come to my attention.

Bonsai are not about drama. They’re subtle. They’re peaceful. They’re quiet. But sometimes drama is visited upon them.

Recently two bonsai were stolen from the Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way, Washington. (Read more about it here.) They were more than 70 years old, and each worth thousands of dollars. One of them had been cultivated from a seed, in a tin can, by a man who was held in an internment camp during World War II.

There is shadowy footage of two individuals walking in and just taking them in the early morning hours. It’s tantamount to an abduction. It’s horrifying. These trees require special care, and they’re not meant to be hidden away beneath a cloak of shame.

Fortunately, the thieves seem to have figured that out, because they left them on the road leading to the museum two days later, and they were discovered by security guards. One of them had been transplanted and had suffered some damage. The other one, thank goodness, was unharmed.

I don’t understand the instinct that some humans have when they see something beautiful and fragile and defenseless and can’t resist taking that thing and trying to possess it and ultimately ruining it for everyone. It happens all the time, and it defies logic.

We all should make space for quiet, tiny, beautiful things, and we need to share these things, gently and respectfully, with the wider world in a spirit of grace and generosity. To do anything less is uncivilized.

Bonsai

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The Most Beautiful Book on Earth

I have always been drawn to the Medieval era of European history. I even prefer the Celtic font above all others. If reincarnation is actually a thing, I often imagine I was a dangerously smart, albeit uneducated, woman back then. Nobody famous. We can’t all be kings and queens. No, I would have been a farmer’s daughter or a milk maid, and my life would have been nasty, brutish and short, but I’d have been a leader for all that. I love reading everything I can about that period. It feels strangely familiar to me. Like home.

So I was really excited to see this article, entitled The Medieval Masterpiece, the Book of Kells, is Now Digitized & Put Online. I’ve long thought this was the most beautiful book on earth, and I’m not alone in that assessment. It’s the most elaborate illuminated manuscript extant, and now, for the first time, we get to gaze upon every bit of it, all 680 pages, online, for free, here. What a treasure.

This book, believed to be from around the year 800, wasn’t really created to be read. It is a work of art, first and foremost. The illuminated portions of the text are so abstract as to be nearly illegible, and it’s quite clear that the rest of the words weren’t taken very seriously by the scribes. It basically is the four gospels of the new testament, but whole sections are missing, and long passages are mistakenly repeated, and some are even paraphrased, as if taken from memory rather than the source. Page numbers, added much later, include a duplicate page number. According to Wikipedia, the tables included in the Book of Kells, meant to allow the reader to cross reference the gospels, a table of contents of sorts, are actually useless since the chapters were never numbered. This book was all about the illustrations.

We cannot be sure how much of the book is missing, but the current tome ends partway through the gospel of John, and it’s believed that several of the illuminations have been “lost”. And by lost I assume stolen, because how do you lose one page of a book and not another? I admit that these illuminations are definitely suitable for framing. (I wouldn’t mind having one as a tattoo, if I could put up with the pain and could find an artist capable of such outstanding work.)

While researching this post, I also came across a feature length, award-winning animation entitled The Secret of Kells. I’m really surprised it isn’t more well known. It’s a fictional story, inspired by the book. You can see shadows of the book’s art in its brilliant illustrations. The music and the story are a surreal delight as well. I highly recommend it.

It really makes me happy, knowing that such beauty as the Book of Kells exists in this world. Humans aren’t merely destructive after all. We are capable of creating things that are magical. This gives me hope.

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Sightseeing in Your Town

I am in the process of planning a trip to Italy with my husband. I’m very excited. I’m sure we’ll be seeing our fair share of cathedrals and museums and art galleries, and we’ll also be experiencing new culinary delights.

I am ever mindful of how lucky I am to be able to do this. Not everyone gets to travel. They may not have the time or the money, or they may have very valid responsibilities that prevent them from doing so.

As I plan to poke my head into every publicly accessible edifice that I possibly can, and wander through every park, it occurs to me that I haven’t done so in the Seattle area. Not by a long shot.

There’s a botanical garden that I drive past at least once a week that I keep meaning to visit but I never quite get around to it. I have no idea what the largest churches in town look like from the inside. There are great works of art hanging in local galleries that I have yet to gaze upon. And heaven knows there’s a whole host of restaurants that I’ve never patronized.

So here we are, spending a fortune to fly halfway around the world to experience the new and exciting, when there’s plenty of that stuff in our own back yard. And a lot of these things are experiences anyone can have if they make the effort. Often museums have free or discount days. Most parks are free or very affordable. You can wander into pretty much every church, (but I wouldn’t advise doing so if a service is already in progress).

I wonder why so many of us think the only sights worth seeing are those that are far away? Is it because we know the local things will always be within our reach, and we assume we’ll get to them someday? Do we place a higher premium on all things foreign? Or are we simply too invested in our Netflix stream to get up off the couch?

If you’re reading this, I challenge you to get up and go experience something near you that you’ve always been meaning to experience. Go on! You’ll be glad you did.

soos-creek-botanical
A garden near me that I have yet to see.

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