SWARM - Artist Research Residency

SWARM - Artist Research Residency

I wanted to write about my recent artist residency while still fresh in my mind. Parts of it are already starting to lose their shine and fade away as I slip back into the routine of daily life. I spent 8 days at the Ayatana Research Residency in Chelsea Quebec. The theme of the residency was insects.

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Blessings for the Living


I have always been fascinated with ancient Egypt.  When I was a child I wanted to be an Egyptologist. That was until a teacher told me that everything had already been discovered so I couldn’t be one. Looking back I realize what a terrible (and totally untrue) thing that was to tell a child. Despite her discouragement I held onto my curiosity and fascination. The city I live in has one of the best Egyptian museums in the country with beautiful grounds including a walking labyrinth, alchemy and peace gardens and much more. It also houses one of the largest collections of artifacts in the Western US.

I think my love of all things Egyptian is in DNA. My Grandmother was a member of the Rosicrucian order. I have an old box of her study materials from the 50’s & 60’s. My Mother would bring us the museum often when we were growing up. She always told us it was her sanctuary. I feel the same way about the space as well.  There is something very peaceful and calming about it.

They currently have a special alchemy exhibit. It is a really fascinating subject that I am enjoying learning about. Both physical and spiritual alchemy are fascinating to me. Recently I have been exploring some the aspects and symbolism of alchemy and Egyptian mythology in my artwork.

I just finished the piece below. It’s a 24x36 mixed media encaustic piece that includes 18k gold. It is titled “Blessings for the Living “and is inspired by Ra, the Egyptian Sun God.

Blessings for the living Blessings for the Living


Detail Detail

Detail Detail

Learning to draw with thread

Yesterday I took a wonderful workshop with artist Lisa Lokin. She is an amazing and prolific mixed media artist who uses a lot of thread, fiber, found images and books for her artwork.  I really love and am inspired by her artwork. Her teaching studio is fantastic and in a beautiful natural setting in El Sobronte, CA.  Lisa is also a great teacher and I cant wait to take another workshop from her. The workshop was about drawing with thread using your sewing machine, a special free motion foot and solvy. It was so fun and interesting. I also liked how you can include other elements like paper, fabric, etc. I love learning new techniques and I cant wait to try and incorporate some of the new ones I learned into my own art.

Here are some of the pieces I made in the workshop. I still need a lot of practice but I learned a lot.

locust in progressLocust with shredded money wings before it goes into the sewing machine

thread butterfly in machineTracing butterfly with sewing machine

three finished threadFinished thread insects

This and That – A week in the life of…..

Here is my latest edition of This and That – A week in the life of…..  A recap of what I have been up to, hope you enjoy. Listening to: I have been enjoying the Art for your Ears podcast by The Jealous Curator. She interviews a new artist every week. It’s fun to hear their stories and processes of each artist and has a bit of humor in each episode. It’s a quick and funny listen.

Art for your ears

Places: We brought the wee one to Children’s Fairyland in Oakland last weekend. It’s a really cool kitschy place that is lots of fun. Got to see a puppet show of the Wizard of Oz and enjoy lots of cute little attractions.

fairylandPhoto by Bobb Amidon

Practicing: I have been doing a 10 min mindfulness guided meditation each day through an app called Headspace. It’s a good practice to help clear my sometimes cluttered mind. I usually have a hundred things, projects, and obligations going on at the same time. It’s nice to stop and forget about all of those things for 10 min. I am hoping to slowly increase that time but for now 10 min is good.

Doing: I am still plugging along with my Tech shop residency. My featured exhibit has been moved to Sept. (thank goodness) so now I have more time to experiment and create my artwork. Here are a couple more of those experiments.

Cut Outs

Reading: I started reading The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. At first it was a little hard to get into the book but I am about halfway through and am enjoying it more. She makes some really insightful and informative points on artists and our relationship with our patrons/fans. Personally I have always had problems with asking for anything, especially help. I want to do everything myself, sometimes to prove I can do it or that I am self-reliant and don’t need anyone. It’s something that I have been working on because we do need others and help from time to time. I have been running into my limitations and don’t want those to keep me from crating, doing or accomplishing things.


A Monk Named Jimmy

Here is the story behind my piece of artwork “Making Obstacles into Opportunities” At times I dabble in jewelry making, it fulfills a more crafty, fun side of creativity for me. I haven't been making much jewelry lately, it has been on the back burner as I am concentrating more on my encaustic and book art work. Several years ago I started making jewelry out of old spent bullet shells. I would take semi-precious gemstones, feathers, bones and other natural and beautiful objects and insert them into the casing. Something about the juxtaposition of an object that causes destruction paired with something that is natural and beautiful. They were very popular for a while and I had them displayed at many places. One of these venues was KALEID Gallery in San Jose.

One day I received a message from the gallery that there was a monk named Jimmy who came in and really loved my amethyst bullet necklace. Jimmy didn’t have any money and wanted to know if I was open to any kind of trade for the necklace. So I went to KALEID to meet and talk to him. He wore the saffron robes of a Buddhist monk and had a large staff/walking stick that was filled with talismans that had been tied to embedded into the staff.  They each represented something important to him and he wanted to add the amethyst bullet necklace to it.  The meaning of it was important to him and resonated with his beliefs. He was a very kind and sweet person and as I talked to him I learned that he had had a very difficult life full of pain and addiction. He didn't really have anything to trade, he had barely enough money to live off of and that was in halfway houses but I could tell he really, really liked the necklace. So I asked him to write for me, write about anything he wanted, his life, dreams, experiences, etc. knowing that it would be interesting and that one day I might use those writings in my artwork.  So we traded, one amethyst bullet necklace for 3 written pages.

The writings were about his life and journey they were wonderful and sad and hopeful. As a child of parents who had many addiction issues I know all about the recovery process and how the disease can devastate. Jimmy and his writings really resonated and touched a sensitive spot in me. I saw him a few more times at the gallery but then he disappeared and I haven't seen him in many years. When I first received the handwritten pages I didn’t really know how I was going to incorporate them into my artwork so I held onto them. As I was working on my new series “In the End We all Return to the Earth” they seemed to fit perfectly. I used one of the pages as the substrate for the piece, making sure to highlight the ripped out binder paper edges and his childlike handwriting. The sewn sections representing healing and mending and the phrase that is highlighted in the piece and the title of it is “Making Obstacles into Opportunities". It is a common phrase used in recovery. I remember my Step Dad saying that to me when I was younger – we have to be grateful for what we have and learn how to turn our obstacles into opportunities.Making Obstacles into Opportunities

Creating an inspiration book

As an artist I often get inspired by a variety of things I see in books, magazines, galleries, museums, gardens, etc. If possible I try to take a snapshot, rip out a magazine page or keep some kind of memento of that inspiration. Many years ago this led me to creating an inspiration book. This is not a sketchbook or anything like that. Simply a place to collect and look at images and words that inspire and stir something in me. This is a place I can refer to for get ideas, motivation or just enjoy the beautiful imagery. There are several benefits to creating this type of book.
  • Appreciating someone else’s work can motivate you to take your work to the next higher level.
  • Creating & filling your book is a great way to relax and express your own creativity.
  • Looking at your favorite images or creations usually inspires you to get creative as well – sometimes a small detail might trigger a ground breaking idea.
  • Its a great way to organize all those bits and pieces you collect into one place.
A lot of people now use Pinterest for inspiration boards including me. There is just something really nice about having a tangible book to hold and turn the pages, something meditative that slows you down and makes you think.
For my book I just bought a large spiral bound sketch book. I went through and painted all of the pages with different colors to give the backgrounds a pop. I then glue or tape images into the book, I also write words, phrases or quotes that inspire me.
Here are some things you can fill your book with.
  • Images from magazine, catalogs or other print collateral
  • Art exhibit postcards
  • Lyrics from your favorite songs
  • Inspirational Quotes
  • Material from artists you admire and look up to
  • Images of your role models
  • Textures and patterns that you want to use, and subjects you want to explore
  • How to articles for techniques you like.
  • Special cards or notes from people you care about.
Below are some images of my inspiration book.

Front Cover                                                                    A note from a student




Words, happy thoughts

Painted Pages