Friday, February 25, 2011

Newly Published!!

I am madly racing about trying to meet several surprise dealines so this will be a very quick post. I just wanted to stop by and share that I have had a bit of artwork published in the latest edition of Cloth Paper Scissors!! HTis is the first time that my art work has been accepted by CPS so I am quite excited. I must also say that I think that Jenn Mason is doing a fabulous job as the new Editor in Chief and is working hard to bring in lots of new artists and their work to share with CPS readers. Way to go Jenn!! Also I must commend Barb Delaney of CPS for the wonderful job that she does in contacting we contributors and making sure that our art pieces are lovingly taken care of and safely ferried between home and the art studio. Bravo Barb!!!

I submitted my Denim Journal to the All Buttoned UP Challenge as I had used buttons as embellishments as well as functional tools throughout my book!!

In my efforts to meet my looming deadlines I did my First Solo Low Immersion dye batch. I would have prefered to wait till the weather got warmer as the Procion MX dyes are supposedly much more intense when the weather is warm and humid, but the time was NOW! I used the Quart Jar Parfait method and got results that I am absolutely thrilled with. You will have to wait a bit to see what will be created from all of these bits of linens that I have been rescuing from Thrift Shops and Antique Malls.

Here are some of the laces and trims that emerged from the dye baths. (I did batch them overnight to get the most intense color possible.)

Some of these pieces were real ugly ducklings with stains and some were stitched with several lots of cotton threads that had aged to different colors of biege and brown. The dye bath fixed all of those problems!!

On A trip tot he mailbox last week I did spot the first crocus of spring so if all of my dear friends in the midwest and northeast can hang on, know that spring actually is going to be here soon!! It seems that this year the groundhog may ahve been correct!!!

I promise that I will be back soon with news regarding these deadlines and all the activity that is turning my home into a full blown stitching studio complete with files of fabric and dyed bits, felted animals and spools of thread and yarns. A very colorful jumble to say the least!!!!
Happy Weekend All!!!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Today the topic is Food Security.

Sometimes we get so caught up in local (I mean US here,) issues of politics and budget cuts that we forget that there is a huge worl out there where people ahve problems much more dire and grave than ours. Recently I have heard stories from both my brother, Peter Jensen and my sister in law, Elise Jensen, that have brought a bit of perspective to the table. My brother works in sustainable agriculture in Africa and now South East Asia. His home base for the moment is Dar Es Saalam Tanzania. His wife Elise is currently stationed in northern Afganistan with USAID. They have two beautiful daughters , my fabulous neices Mali and Kate who are students. Mali is a freshman at Colgate university and Kate is in the 8th grade at the Embassy School in Tanzania. Peter is just returning home from his first trip to Cambodia and Vietnam to develop sustainable food production programs for people who are HIV + and who are desperately in need of new staregies to feed themselves and their children. I have introduced you to Peter and his family here before, but I feel that this might be a really good time to catch you up on what my wonderful brother is up to.
He does not know that I am doing this post nor that I ahve copied his letter here or posted this wonderful picture of him eating Star Fruit with his Cambodian host the "Cambodian way-" sprinkled with hot pepper and salt to cut the sour!!!. He will know soon, but I don not think that he will mind a bit! Peter is on Face Book and if you would care to follow along on his travels ,you can friend him at Peter Jensen, Dar Es Saalam.
Now for a heavy dose of much needed global perspective!!!!

Hello ladies,

I'm ouit of Phnom Penh enjoying a way too expensive latte again here in Bangkok. PP was SOOOO much calmer and cheaper - we ate liek kings for $3 each most meals, and they were delicious...but it is good to be on my way home to Tanzania, Kate and Nala. It will take me the better part of 26 hours to get there what with 2, 6 hour flights and 2, 5 hour layovers like this one in Bangkok (the other in Dubai) but that is what I have to put up with to do the kind of work I do so its okay.

Getting to stomp around in remote villages, visiting at length with struggling women eager and gentle men and charming, shy children living in real poverty..yet surrounded by a richness many coudl only dream of. But the richness of natural beauty is lost on you when yuo have only enough rice to feed your children one meal a day. And yet...we drove through miles and miles of rice paddy - as far as you could see till they melted into the haze of the foothills that eventually become Laos or Thailand. But all that richness and food is beyond their reach. They may work in the paddies but tehy can not eat the food they grow - nearly all of which goes to feed the billion in China and India - the real owners of the land all around us. It all comes down to a question of availability - which it is - versus accessible - which it is not. The luxurious third qwuestion of food security - proper utilization or balanced nutrition - is all too often lost on people who simply want to fill their bellies and stop the grumbling.

The work we did was very exciting. I got to travel and think and write with two great minds in the world of community development and agricultural sustainability. Most of my trips I am the sole voice in these matters so this was a real treat let me tell you. We laughed till we cried each night over beer, eel, and stir fried pineapple with duck and any number of incredible asian greens. But the day swere sobering to say the least. WE saw some excellent examples of local knowledge and fortitude to buoy us in the face of the poverty otherwise. The 'beneficiaries' of this extension methodology we were developing armostly HIV+ women and children...the men for the most part having since passed away.

We were writing, researching and field testing a series of "garden dialogues" to help individuals, within regularly meeting village self help groups, begin to decipher the complex world of the many horticultural possibilities which surround them and which could they could exploit to feed themselves. Much of this they are already doing in small ways so this dialogue really is just a tool they can use to empower themselves that they have many of the answers already within the knowledge base of the community. This is a series of leadign question 'role plays' in a way. if you will, leading questions, that will guide people to descern how best to maximize the resources around them cheaply and iwthout a lot of extra labor or money. And - without having to wait for the once annual visit from the know it all extension agents from the ministry (or worse, the know it all, overpriced foreign ag consultants) to swoop in, dump out the information like super heroes and leave without a glimmer of thought for revisits and follow up in many cases. With these dialogues, hopefully, we have begun the process of working ourselves out of a job.

What with 50+ years of agricultural development (This year is the 50th anniversary of USAID and Peace Corps) and what is there to show for it? Sure the Green Revolution saved India from starvation in the 60's but it has lead to a complete dependency on dangerous, expensive and increasingly ineffective chemical pesticides and fertilizer. Its all so expensive that, guess what, the farmer who used to own her own rice paddy has had to sell it to Chinese companies, go to work for pennies on his former land, and have little food at the end of the day to fill her children's bellies. Did you know that It is actually cheaper to buy Thai/Cambodian rice in Tanzania than it is to buy Tanzanian rice in Tanzania.?? ..they grow THAT much over here. So world hunger really has little to do with actual production..its all about distribultion and money to buy it. Sad really.

Ah - but I go on and on...too much latte I guess.

These 'sustainable livelihood garden dialogues', if accepted and moved into the field with our new cambodian friends (the ones who shared the laughter and deep insight on our field trips last week) leading the way, could be quite something I think. And if all goes well, will lead to more similar work in SE Asia as well as TZ, Rwanda and Zambia in the year to come.

Well - its midnight - got 2 hours to go till I can board the plane and hunker down for a little shut eye. Think I'll opt for some of that lemon grass tea that the lovely french lady next to me opted for. That would be a better choice!

I'll drop you a line when I return to lovely dar..and lovely Kate...and nala the wonder dog.

Peace ... and Good Eats!

Needless to say I am very proud of my baby brother. My life and lives of my family have been so incredibly enriched by his and his wonderful familie's, experiences. I am very grateful!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Prepping for Classes

It has been far too long since my last post!! I do apologize!!! I am in the midst of prepartions for a Beaded Zipper Cuff Class that I will be teaching tomorrow at Fredericksburg Center for the Creative Arts!! This will be my first teaching experience at FCCA and it is very exciting as we are working very hard to get lots of unusual and sought after workshops going for the Fredericksburg arts community. (You might notice the chocolate hearts in the above picture. It is understood that every art instructor always provides chocolate for their students!!!!)
I am also in the midst of organizing and designing a whole curriculum of classes to be taught at a dedicated classroom venue in Fredericksburg!! I am so excited aobut this new venture and I will be sure to share it with you as soon as all of the T's are crossed and i's dotted!!!!
I hope that you are all well and finding lots of wonderful ways to be creative every day!!!
Art ON!!!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Felted Rainforest Wall hangings

My adventures with the 5th grade class at Fredericksburg Academy continue, as we work on completing two glorious wallhangings . We have decided to create two pieces as the kids are creating such spectacular flora and fauna to include in our compositions. Just wait to you see what these kids ahve done!!! i am amazed and thrilled with the excitment, energy and inspiration that we have got going on with this project.
Just to remind you , we have been creating felted batts of felted roving. The kids have done all of the work. From the greens felted pieces I have pieced together two background canvases that are approximately 4ft wide by 5 ft long.

We then decided what other colors would be needed to create the inhabitants of the rainforest and made felted batts of wool . Then the kids created sketches and then cut up the felted batts to create their critters and flowers.
The felting was fun but the creation of the critters and foliage was amazing!!! Witha few suggestions and a few how to's, they took off!!

One girl spent some time creating a wonderful Tapir.
(seen here in progress)

The orange was perfect for the Toucan's beak.

Once the kids had laid out their animals on a piece of tuille, I took them home and carefully stitched the pieces all down to secure the compositions. I absolutely adore this anteater!! Isn't he fabulous???
We had one group of boys learning how to use needle and thread to stitch leaves onto vines that they had felted. They were so excited that they were sewing!!! Whooo hooo!! We had another group that was creating flowers and beading stamens, another creating insects and snakes and yet another group working on Jaguars and Lizards!!!

Our class work for the day!!

Here are a few closeups of some of my new favorite critters. I have placed them on one of the backgrounds so you can begin to get an idea of how this will all be built!!

Along with our hand felted batts of colored roving I had added pieces of felted wool sweaters inot the mix of available textile supplies. This lovely little scarlet macaw was created with a piece of a pink cashmere sweater that the Principal had donated to our cause!! The girl who created this wonderful bird ,cut feathers from a yellow wool sweater and from a blue felted batt.

The dragonfly was an inspired creation by a girl who used a doily for the wings and then ourfelt for the rest. The chameleon was put together using a felted batt that was made using bits of a blue net tub scubby captured in amoung the wool roving fibers. The young imaginations at work was a joy to behold and I consider myself so lucky to be so enriched and inspred by these terrifically creative kids!!!

We are getting to the point where we will be placing our trees ,vines, waterfalls and animals on our backgrounds; backing the wool with a sturdy fabric support and adding our wooden vine hanger. Stay tuned for the final reveal of our fabulous Wallhangings. The tough part is going to be putting these creations up on the Auction table at the Fundraiser!!!


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