It was 1989 and my friend Robin Hiteshew asked if I wanted to attend a poetry reading by Seamus Heaney at Swarthmore College. I was familiar enough Heaney’s work to jump at the chance. Later I got to meet him, but was too shy to do anything but mumble and shake his hand.
Thirty years later, at the opening of his show, “Portraits of Irish Writers” Robin compared a photo portrait of Heaney he took during that visit to Swarthmore with one he took almost a decade later in Cambridge where Heaney was teaching at Harvard. In the first photo, a slightly disheveled Heaney struck a casual pose under a tree on the Swarthmore campus. In the second picture, Heaney was wearing a tailored jacket “Look,” said Robin pointing to the first picture, “his trousers are rolled. That’s before he won the Nobel prize and the game got more serious.”
Robin Hiteshew has been photographing Irish writers (and musicians) for more than forty years and it has been a labor of love. His portraits are personal and revealing in a way that is truly beyond the words. And he has a story to go with each one.
Robin’s new show, “Beyond the Words: Portraits of Irish Writers” will run until June 26 at the McNichol Gallery which is located in the Thomas A. Bruder, Jr. Life Center at Neumann University. Admission is free. For directions, press here.
Colored porcelain jewelry elements waiting to be bisque fired.
Experimenting with different textures.
Colored porcelain pinch pots.
The cracks can stay
I work on fabric or canvas
The polymer side of the table
Making fish (taught by Amy Sutryn at May meeting of Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild)
One lazy Bluefish
I’m done! I have finished painting my bedroom and redoing my powder room. Of course, nothing is easy in my funky little South Philly house.
See the before picture here.
I bought a new fixture for the powder room sink which a friend offered to install for a dinner in return. The faucet install, which should have taken one hour tops, took five hours and entailed trying a myriad of tools (most of which I had, believe it or not). Why? Because the person who first installed the sink attached the old faucet first and then nailed the sink to the wall effectively blocking the gaskets that would have to be removed 28 years later to install a new faucet. After trying a number of things, Mike ended up chipping off the old gaskets v-e-r-y carefully with a chisel and a rubber mallet. Everyone was starving by the time we sat down to dinner. The homemade crab and scallop pasta was good but the flourless chocolate cake almost made up for the funky faucet install. Get the recipe here.
The walls are not straight in my bedroom and you feel like you are working on a ship in a storm as you are cutting in the paint line near the ceiling. At least I did.
But at least I didn’t hit the ceiling fan with my paint pole. That was my biggest fear.
I decided to try some decorative painting on our ultra cheap and wobbly closet doors.
I think the broken mirror mirror looks better on the newly-gray walls. Before
I painted the decorative frames around the windows silver with black accents. They had been gold.
I think the gray paint sets off my husband’s night table nicely, too.
I will post pictures from the powder room redo in the fullness of time. But for now, I gotta get packing. I’m heading to ClayConnection2018 later this week.
I’ve decided that it’s time to redo my powder room and master bedroom. I’ve been wanting to paint the bedroom for a while while but could not decide on the paint color. I finally settled on Special Gray by Sherwin Williams. I needed something that went with the purple headboard I painted on the wall years ago. People thought I was insane to paint a headboard on my wall back then. Now, I am happy to say, the Internet is loaded with images and ideas for painting a headboard on the wall. Those who came to scoff stayed to paint.
I have started prepping the powder room for painting. I’ve selected Positive Red for the walls and Gulfstream for the trim and the funky ornate framed mirror that I found at a thrift shop. I’ll post pictures if I ever finish. In the meantime, here are some pictures of some unconventional paint jobs in my house.
My insanity is not limited to headboards. I went through a funky painted furniture stage. This is my husband’s nightstand. He said he quit drinking because he was afraid of waking up one morning with a hangover and seeing it first thing.
And this is the broken mirror mirror that goes with it.
These are some shots of the upstairs hallway. I made the built-in bookcase on the left from an old wooden ladder and paneling. Necessity is a mother.
This is the kitchen door and the third floor dormer. I painted clouds on the dormer walls because it’s the highest room in the house.
This is the front door. Yes, that’s a picture frame in the right hand corner. Here’s the story behind that: My husband threw a shoe at the door during a rather heated discussion we were having. The shoe left the perfect image of a shoe on the then white door. We ceased our donnybrook to admire the image. Better than a marriage counselor. When I painted the door, I put a frame around the image and dated it to preserve the memory. My Stepson noted that the image resembles George Bernard Shaw from a certain angle. And so it does.
These images show a counter that I tiled and a wall of empty frames in the living room. The counter mosaic consists of cut up scrap stained glass, broken dishes, and pottery. Most of the frames are street finds or flea market purchases.
Boris likes to hang out in the hallway so I guess he approves.
I used to love to bake. I would try any recipe-the harder the better-and was generally successful. But learning how to make petit fours was difficult. Not the baking so much as the assembly and decoration. Each little cake was a project in itself and if I had an exposed cake crumb or a blob of icing, the cake was no good and had to be discarded. Or fed to a friend who would sit happily in my parent’s kitchen (this was while I was in high school) and gobble down whatever rejects came his way. And still managed to maintain his girlish figure, I might add.
Nowadays I am learning how to make rings and set stones. One good thing about learning how to make rings is that they’re small. You can make a ring a day for a month and still fit them in a small box. (Not so when you are learning how to throw pots.) Another good thing about making a lot of rings is that you can give them to friends. Oh, I know, people ask me why I don’t sell them. As if all I’d have to do was open up an Etsy store and the orders would come flooding in. And then I’d have to make them. I’m not sure I want to go that route.
Making rings is fun and designing them is fun and giving them to my friends is fun. Here are some pictures of rings I have given away and some that have been promised to adoptive fingers:
Chalcedony and sterling silver. I am having fun with twisted wire shanks, too.
I made three of these rings and still have to give two of them to their new owners. The stone, an Amazonite, is actually a bead that I set to look like a cabochon.
Here are three love knot rings. The one in the middle is the one destined for a friend’s finger. It’s made of 16 gauge sterling wire. The one on the right is 14 gauge sterling and it’s really too thick for this design. The one on the left is 18 gauge white brass and a little too delicate for my taste.
This is my split-shank “Sword in the Stone” Plume Agate. Why Sword in the Stone? Because I didn’t think it would ever fit anyone, but it fits my friend, Sherman, beautifully. And so it is his when next I see him. I should have given it to him when he first tried it on, but we were going to wait and do a trade. We probably still will, but it is his in any case. Hear that Sherman?
My Father served in the 100th Bomb Group during the Second World War and was stationed at an airfield in Thorpe Abbotts, England. After he completed 35 missions, the Army shipped him to a hospital where he learned how to talk again. Then he started his life over.
He never wanted to return to Thorpe Abbotts and I can’t say I blame him. But I had always wanted to visit the place that must have changed him so much. I finally got to visit Thorpe Abbotts on my last trip to England. And I felt closer to him than I have ever been. Strange that it took a visit to such a far away place to feel this way. I made the journey for me, but I had returned for him.
I caught a train from London at Liverpool Street Station on the Norfolk line and traveled to Diss, the station closest to Thorpe Abbotts. A few years ago, I found a stub a train ticket stub for a London to Diss journey in my Father’s old wallet among some family papers. He had taken the same route from Liverpool Street Station when he returned to Thorpe Abbotts after a leave in London in March of 1944.
Thorpe Abbotts is a country village surrounded by millions of acres of farmland near the east coast of England. A perfect place for an airbase and there were many of them up and down the English coast. Before World War Two, Thorpe Abbots had a population of about 40. When the airbase opened, the Americans station there increased the population to 3,500.
Now it is a quiet village again and the rich and valuable farmland has been given back to the farmers to grow crops.
Here are some pictures:
The tall structure on the left side of the road is All Saint’s Church. Some members of the 100th Bomb Group were married there. Many more had funeral services there.
If you are in the area, try to visit Thorpe Abbotts and the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum, started in 1977 by the locals.
Jazz and Philadelphia have always gone together in my mind. One of my fondest Philadelphia memories is attending a Sun Ra concert on Halloween night many years ago. Sun Ra and his Angel Arkestra played on the altar of a church in West Philadelphia (I forget which). We all wore costumes. I was probably a gypsy-that’s my all purpose go to getup for Halloween except for the Halloween when I got married. But I remember one boy who was dressed in a marching band jacket, and had painted a red heart on each cheek. He informed us that Vladimir Mayakovsky was also known for painting hearts on his face. I would not be surprised.
Sun Ra and his Arkestra were masterful. They could get into a piece by Coltrane and transition seamlessly into a Bag Band Standard like “Take the A Train.” At the end of the night, Sun Ra led his musicians in a kind of conga line down the middle aisle of the church and the audience rose from the pews and joined in dancing and chanting around the church. Space is the Place!
It has been a difficult summer for me, but Philadelphia did not let me down. There were free Jazz concerts all over and I was lucky enough to be able to attend many of them. Here are some pictures and links from two wonderful series of music, one in City Hall and one in South Philadelphia. The artists have videos on YouTube and I encourage you to sample all of them.
Goodbye my friend. I’m glad you enjoyed the music.
I started making these quilts in 2011 right after I made Nathan’s baby quilt which was my first quilt. (I am not a quilter, so I decided I should start out with something small.) Ok, ok, it only took me four years to finish these, but I didn’t work on them continuously.
I started with sewing scraps of fabric together just to get a quilting mojo thing going. Then I started buying old clothes at thrift stores and taking them apart for the fabric. Some friends gave me fabric. Someone across the street threw out boxes and boxes of great fabric! I bought fabric sample books
on eBay and a box of scraps from a quilt maker on Etsy.
Gradually, I settled on Log Cabin Pattern. Since the idea of making the blocks all the same made me want to stick a needle in my eye, I decided to make them all different and had fun with each one. The only rule was that the colors had to work. Oh, and I settled on a size of 12 inches square for each finished block. I taught myself to chain piece and I became a quilt block berserker for a while.
The quilts are 6 blocks across and eight blocks long
Years ago, I painted a headboard on my wall. Makes it hard to rearrange the furniture!
My husband said he quit drinking in case he woke up one day and looked at his night stand. This is from my painted furniture phase.
I made my own binding, machine sewed it to the front of the quilts and hand sewed it to the back. Here’s a good quilt binding tutorial.
I used fleece blankets as the filling and flannel sheets on the back. I machine quilted by stitching in the ditch around the blocks. It wasn’t that difficult with a walking foot.
The view through the mirror on the wall. This is the companion piece to the nightstand.
I don’t have plans to make another quilt although I do have a third quilt top left over. It could happen!