Bit o’ Honey ~ the little things that please

The little things that please . . .

Tree of Life ~ Pt. 9

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I’m making good progress on the window, but it hasn’t come without glitches.  The gold-pink glass, though lovely and vibrant, simply overwhelmed the rest of the glass. I had concerns about ordering glass I’d never used before.  Each sheet is so unique and so difficult to assess from a catalog photo.  It wasn’t until I began cutting the glass that I realized it just wouldn’t work.  The color competed with the bright greens in the leaves.  In a fit of panic, I contacted the art consultant, who made a last-minute visit to the studio.  She agreed that the glass wasn’t right, then said the words I’ve been wanting to hear through the whole process: “Just do what you need to do to make it work.”

It was a disappointment not the use this glass – I spent $200 on this single sheet – but now I have an exquisite piece of glass to experiment with for future projects.


Here’s a peek at my progress so far:


 I redrew the entire image to fit the new dimensions.  Using a pencil allows me to adjust the design as I go.   



I deliberately left gaps between pieces to create a more interesting solder line.



I added a few pink leaves to break up the green.


I’ve laid out the entire canopy and have begun soldering.  I wanted to see how this looked before I moved on to the earth and stream.   At the last minute I found a pale blue for the sky below the canopy in place of the goldpink, which would have overpowered it all.   

I should have the front of the window soldered by the weekend, then comes the task of flipping the whole thing over!  Here, my father’s carpentry comes in handy.  He built the work table with a hinged top that opens up vertically for just this kind of challenge.  Thanks, Daddy!


Written by Janie

August 19, 2008 at 6:49 pm

Tree of Life ~ Pt. 8

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The glass has arrived!


Like Christmas in August!


It’s The Streakies!


Goldpink will become the Hopeful Sun.



Turquoise Streaky will become the Stream.  



And Green Streaky will become the Ground.


Nothing gets me geared up for work like unwrapping new glass!

All I need now to begin cutting are the final dimensions.   I’ll mull over the glass for a few days to get a sense of what details each sheet offers and how I might use them.  Then it’s me alone in the studio to meld the ideas from so many meetings with the best of my aesthetic and skill.  How it will all come together is still unclear, but I’m more confident now that I have the glass.  


Written by Janie

August 6, 2008 at 8:43 am

Tree of Life ~ Pt. 7

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You may want to sit down for this news . . . 


The design has been approved!  

It only took six weeks and four revisions.  


More leaves!  More green!


I cranked out this watercolor in record time to make a last-minute meeting this morning.  Not the quiet, subdued image I’d originally envisioned for the space, but it is a fair translation of the requests to make the design more vibrant and hopeful.  At this point I’m tired of looking at the darn thing. 

I still have to revise the final sketch to fit the new opening, but within a week I hope to begin cutting glass!


Written by Janie

July 31, 2008 at 9:20 am


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For all my skepticism in jumping on the latest technological trends, some friends are surprised I have a blog, including myself.  But for us creative folks blogs are a great way to reach an audience we might not find otherwise.   Like websites and other online venues, blogs free the work of writers and artists from dark drawers and solitary studios, offering it up to unsuspecting surfers, insomniacs and kindred spirits.  I’m continually surprised by ways people use blogs and the inspired by those who write them, but I do wish there were a more poetic name for the activity.

Take, for instance, BlueBicicletta.  I stumbled on her blog as I was creating my own, searching for examples of how bloggers were combining text and images.  An artist living in Davis, California, BlueBicicletta posted photos of her paintings, drawings and personal thoughts in a way that was honest without being confessional — no small thing, mind you.  Art, nature and relationships all make it into her blog, and like me she struggles to blend those passions with her working life.  I was particularly struck by her ink drawings, some reminding me of designs I’d made for my own windows.  I found more examples of art on her Flickr account.  The work is playful and unpretentious, the simple shapes and bold black lines refreshing.  Sometimes words serve as the main content, written in the same unfussy style as her drawings.   As an early birthday gift bought myself a drawing called “Tulip”, from a series of vessels.


It was tough choosing which of the series I wanted, but I went with my first instinct.  


The image is wholly feminine, but what I love most is the muscular interior that gives body and strength to its delicate shape.  Maybe its the fringed crown, but there’s a regal quality to the piece that became more apparent once it was framed and mounted to the wall.  Even the tulip’s poise – upright and open, filled to the rim – symbolizes those qualities I want to embody in the last half of my life.

So happy birthday to me and thanks BlueBicicletta!


Written by Janie

July 25, 2008 at 6:04 pm

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Tree of Life ~ pt. 6

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If you’ve ever attempted to bake bread you know that the finished loaf rarely ends up the way you imagined, no matter how closely you follow the recipe.  So too with art.  On this project I find myself experimenting with a recipe for a stained glass window . . . with four people in the kitchen.  Sketches, glass samples, and watercolor serve as raw ingredients, but no one can know the results until the window is assembled and set against light. 

When I presented my most recent draft to the committee some interesting comments came my way.  The leaves didn’t have the verdant quality one wanted.  Their colors were muted and dark.  And the sun didn’t seem to be breaking through the canopy.  The tree was lacking, in fact, of leaves.  Maybe more leaves and less sky?  And the earth, it looked like sand, like a desert.  Too reminiscent of death.  


Well, at least they were honest!


I really didn’t take their criticisms personally.  After all, it was just a watercolor.  Besides, there are so many ways to interpret a work of art, each legitimate in their own way.  But I admit, their concerns were surprising.  

I explained that I’d hoped to mimic the look of sun breaking through leaves by using a range of greens, from citron to olive, to give the appearance of light and shadow.  But where I saw leaves in shadow, others saw dying leaves.  And where I used a warm rosy brown for earth to contrast with green, others saw as desert sand.  As for the quantity of leaves, I simply didn’t want to bombard the viewer with activity.  Already I felt the design was drifting away from my original intention of serenity and simplicity.  Any new changes at this point will have to be subtle, at best, to preserve that intention.   

I’m not a literal artist or a literal viewer.  I prefer suggestion, nuance, and ambiguity in art, things that feed the imagination.  I’d hoped to bring something unexpected into what’s now a straightforward image of a tree by a stream.   And so another challenge presented itself in this collective process – to convince the committee to allow the opportunity for surprise, rather than overwork the design.  This sentiment was articulated by one member and understood by all, but nonetheless it was determined that certain points would need to be addressed.  Working with a committee means the majority rules.  Green ground and more leaves it is.  

So, it’s back to the drawing board for round four.  

Meanwhile, the project manager will be changing the original position of the window, which means the dimensions will likely change.  A entirely new sketch will need to be made.  It’s a hurry-up and wait routine, but I’m glad to have a little breathing room before I begin the new revision.  I’ll need the time to take the in the requests and return to the design with a fresh perspective.


Written by Janie

July 19, 2008 at 9:35 am

Ode to the Bookshop

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Since I won’t be getting to the Pyramids of Egypt anytime soon, I thought I’d pay tribute to a more local manmade wonder that excites the imagination in equal measure – the good old-fashioned, home-grown, used bookshop.  Yes Books in Portland, Maine is a favorite.  Situated at a busy corner of upper Congress Street, between a neighborhood sandwich shop and Paul’s Food Center, and standing directly across from a Starbucks, its very location speaks of its precarious place in the American story.      


Ah, Yes!


This time of year its door is propped open, most likely to catch a breeze . . . but I wonder, is there a purer symbol of democracy than this?  Inside is calm and hushed.  The stacks are disheveled.  The lightning is bad.   The aisles are narrow and cramped.  A small shop, I can easily feel lost inside.  Its homey disarray makes me want to plant myself on the floor and start reading from the nearest pile.  Yes Books is my piece of heaven.  The perfect respite from ordinary life. 


Where to begin?


This is my grandparent’s attic, my mother’s hope chest, the abandoned house we raided as kids.   A place suspended in time.  A place of ghosts, filling my head with voices other than my own.  I want to stay here all day, scaling the shelves for that overlooked gem that will change my life forever.  I want fall asleep here, wake up the next morning and start all over again.  


What’s this?


I never knew North America had its own arithmetic!




 My math skills might’ve flourished if I’d had this book in school.  


I fall in love a hundred times in the bookstore.  


What is it like to be a bird?


But I’ve learned not to grow too attached to every book I meet.  Some are meant simply to be admired.  Only a few get to travel home with me.  


Think I’ll pass on this one.



This has possibilities.


Since 1987 the National Trust of Historic Places has been listing its eleven most endangered places in America each year.  The Lower East Side, Cannery Row, Mesa Verde, even Route 66 Motels are listed.  I vote to put the independent used bookshop on that list.  And while I’m at it, to those noble independent bookstore owners everywhere, keeper of treasures, defenders of intellectual diversity, openers of doors – thank you from the bottom of my heart.




Written by Janie

July 12, 2008 at 10:59 am

Tree of Life ~ pt. 5

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With the composition set down in my previous sketch I felt free to loosen up the lines as I went along with this draft.  I left visible pencil marks to encourage this play when I begin my glass work.  I’ll be using a copper foil technique, which works well with organic shapes.  The less rigid I am following lines while cutting glass, the more interesting the end result.  After so many challenges sort forth by the committee, I’m pleased with how I’ve implement their ideas .


I hope this will be the last sketch . . .


And the last watercolor!


The next big challenge will be my choice and use of glass.  The fun has just begun!

I meet once more with the committee after the July 4 holiday.   Stay tuned.


Now, to clean my studio . . .