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The Ecstasy and the Ecstasy


For several days now I’ve been in an ecstasy of looking. It started, surprisingly, not when I came home with three bunches of tulips thanks to a sale at Whole Foods, but when the double bunch of lush purple ones started to wither after doing that spectacular exploding in all directions thing tulips like to do. Normally I would have just chucked the whole lot in the bin, but since I’m home all day right now, I took a break from work and separated the ones that were still vibrant into smaller bunches around my apartment.


One ended up in a vase on the window ledge in my bathroom next to a pink Eiffel Tower and a giant glass jar that I use to store my soap. (It was once upon a time filled with hundreds of jelly beans, but I digress.) It drooped against the wall to its right, and I was struck by a sense of loneliness and melancholy. A few days later, it had straightened up but the individual petals had started to relax into a series of waves, and I thought, “ah, windswept.” It also, for some reason, reminded me of an older woman with a head of gorgeous silver hair.


I’d of course known people to go into raptures over flowers—May Sarton and Georgia O’Keeffee to name a couple—but I’d never experienced that particular rush of feeling myself. I was struck most by how, as the flowers wilted, they became even more sculptural, a little like bone, a little like wind. I was also struck by the fact that as I took the time to really look at each bloom, I felt something. I can’t quite articulate what that something was—a moment of pure aesthetic joy, perhaps?—but it was beyond merely noticing that they were pretty. Holding the gaze with each blossom resonated in some complex way I don’t understand. Perhaps the only way to put it is that it felt a little bit like holding a poem in my eyes without intercession of pen and paper.


I also felt the frustration of not being able to capture exactly what I was feeling as I took Instagram after Instagram each time a blossom made me catch my breath. But isn’t that always the frustration of the artistic impulse—that you can come close, oh so close to whatever has provoked you to write, paint, dance, but the experience itself always remains ever so slightly out of reach?


The tulips are gone, but a bunch of lovely ranunculus has arrived to take their place. I laughed out loud as I noticed that the only one that had so far opened up into a brash blossom had somehow craned its neck to separate itself from the pack in a most determined manner. Thank you, oh ranunculus, for that moment of pure, unmarred joy.

30 Days of Creativity…In My Bedroom

I posted here about joining the 30 days of creativity challenge. And I have, in fact, been taking a photograph every morning when I wake up. I’ve decided to confine my photographs to my bedroom, since that’s the room I live in the most. (I watch TV in the living room but usually I act like I live in a studio not a one-bedroom apartment with a living room and dining room, which is actually a reading room since I ditched my dining room table.) I’ve been taking the shots in the morning as it feels more spontaneous. But maybe around the 15th, I’ll switch to nighttime shots. Here are my first four days of photographs.

June 1. My Bed.

I wrote recently that I love photographing beds because they are pictorial autobiography. In this photo, you can tell that I am on my cycle, I tossed and turned a lot the night beore, I shop at Whole Foods, and I have way too much stuff shoved into my bedside table. Colette, later in life when she found herself confined to her bed a lot, called her bed her raft. My bed is my desk, my library, my refuge, my art studio, and yes, it truly is my life raft.

June 2. Three Objects

I have realized lately that I tend to group things in threes whether they are hanging on the wall, or on the windowsill. I bought the vase at the Fine Arts Fair in Silver Spring. It’s an unusual color for me, and I wasn’t sure where to put it. Until I remembered that that yellow appears in the small photograph of a tree in the field that @ArtByChristy sent me a year or two ago when I bought a larger photo of hers. The vintage travel clock doesn’t work, but I love when I happen to glance over at it and it’s saying the same time as my working clock. Maybe someday I’ll get it fixed. As for the string of beads on the left side—I bought two sets of plastic beaded curtains at the Buddy Holly Museum in Lubbock, Texas, in late 2005. When I moved into this apartment, I had nowhere to hang them, so I deconstructed them. Sometimes I let them hang out in a bowl. And I spaced five strands along my bedroom shade…to add a little sparkle.

June 3. Clock and candle.

I’d wanted this Pottery Barn clock for a really long time, but it was too expensive. I was excited when I found one on E-Bay. When it showed up, it smelled like smoke, which was weird to me. How can a clock smell like smoke? I bought the candle in a Dupont Circle shop that I can’t remember the name of. Some day I’ll actually use it all up and then the candleholder will become a vase for the flowers I never seem to buy.

June 4. Just Outside.

This is what it looks like lying in bed with just a slice of light coming through between the bottom of the shade (I can’t seem to get it all the way down to the sill) and the windowsill. There are two giant pine trees outside my window. They make me sad now because they were devastated in the winter storms we had two years ago and have yet to recover. When it storms they sway back and forth violently, and I used to worry they’d topple right through my window. Now I know they can pretty much survive anything. I hope.

Stuff I Like (6/1/10)

Photo by Tim Walker.

Bag Me with a Spoon. Well, yes, my wardrobe would be complete if only I had this. Clearly this girl needs her a gorgeous-girlie-yet-edgy-leather-handbag fairy godmother and how! Sigh . . . swoon . . . sigh . . . (via White Lightning)

Bead It! Here are my thoughts on this simple yet striking necklace by Kristina Clarin. Swoon. Sigh. Is it May 18th yet? Sigh some more. (via shiny squirrel)

Bead It #2! I’ve been a fan of Hannah Blount’s jewelry ever since I interviewed her for Her work is simple yet absolutely stunning. Like adding one perfect silver bead to this perfect string of turquoise beads. I’m going to go ahead and “Genius” this one. (And yes, you should consider this a plea for you to get me one.) (via Hannah Blount’s blog)

Ship Shape! I’m absolutely enchanted by this wallpaper, designed by eight-year-old Otto Dunker (whose mother is the ubertalented Swedish designer Elisabeth Dunker). I can picture Ohoy! in a powder room, or on one wall of a master bedroom, perhaps even instead of a headboard. Come to think of it, I’d also love it on the inside back of a bookcase for just a hint of nautical whimsy. In other words, the possibiities are kinda endless. p.s. If you haven’t checked it out already, give a looksie at Elisabeth’s site and blog One Fine Day. (via One Fine Day)

Land ho! I’m really loving these landscape paintings by Katherine Sandoz, full of bold strokes and broad swathes of color, kinda like actually being in the great outdoors. (via aesthetic outburst)

Eye, eye, eye. Dennis Hopper passed away a few days ago, leaving behind not just a long line of memorable characters, and a strong will that survived the excesses of the 70s and 80s, but an amazing eye, which resulted in sometimes gritty, always stunning images of the famous, the infamous, and everyone in between. (via Chasing Light)

P.S. Looking for something to read this summer? Check out Flashlight Worthy, which gives lists of book recommendations up the wazoo! I’m quite taken with their list of “Paris” books. . . and not just cause I contributed a title or two.  You can also follow them on Twitter: @flwbooks

Hitting the Links (9/9/09)


“New York City” by Shawn Rocco from Cellular Obscura

Baby’s got background. I heart this house-themed desktop wallpaper-slash-calendar from Lena Corwin.

Garden Pretty. If I had a deck or a porch or even a sunny enough spot in my living room, I’d consider splurging on this planter I found by way of Cool Hunting. It reminds me of those old-fashioned multi-neck vases meant for tulips.

Map Quest? So you’ve probably figured out by now that I have a heart-on for anything travel-related, especially if it’s also vintage and/or handmade (or at least handmade-looking). These gorgeous maps from A La Carte certainly fit the bill, and—bonus points—you can even order customized versions marking your favorite spots.  I’m jonesing to get the DC one ASAP and the Paris one as soon as it’s out in December. (And yes, that was a giant hint as to what you can get me for Christmas and/or my birthday and/or just because.)

Lickety split. Let’s face it. You can never have too many recipes for a good, tummy-tempting, split pea soup. This one’s by way of All the Best: A Passport to Stylish Living. Let me know if anyone tries this one out before I do. (And don’t be scared by the mention of the pressure cooker; a few lines down the recipe assures us that we can also use a regular pot. Just plan on it taking a little while longer for the peas to soften. And by the by, does anyone still use pressure cookers? Hmmm, might have to steal my mom’s.)

You had me at “Come in.” Another ooh-worthy moment from All the Best (thanks Ronda!) Check out this house tour courtesy of Eric Kohler design. I particularly love the stairwell-as-gallery—an idea I encourage you to steal immediately if you’ve more than one floor to your abode. I’m also in love with the various tablescapes, which encourage you to spend some time taking a good look at the various treasures.

Book’em Danno. So I never met a coffee table that I didn’t want to adorn with a coffee table book or five. On my wish list is photographer Shawn Rocco’s new book cellular obscura (also the name of Shawn’s blog). What’s utterly, absolutely, impossibly cool about this volume is that he’s taken all of these amazing photos with various CELL PHONE CAMERAS! Don’t believe me? Check out the neck-craning view of the Empire State Building above. Despite being shot using digital technology, I love how Shawn’s photos display all the moodiness of film. (Yes, you can get me this for my birthday if you’ve already gotten me an A La Carte map for Christmas.)

I’m still catching up with my Google reader, so more “Hitting the Links” or “Favorite Things” or whatever I decide to call this post tomorrow. . .perhaps . . . .

Better late than never?

Not quite sure how it’s gotten to be two weeks past when I originally planned to post this but I digress . . .

So, two weeks ago, Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center, sponsored a Handmade Arts Fair in downtown Silver Spring. I’d been counting down the days till the fair ever since I first saw it advertised in this cool coupon book the Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce (at least I think it was them) sent out.

Twas a beautiful sunny Sunday and after church and some “porch time” at Starbucks, I dove in. (Note: I somehow managed to buy not one single piece of jewelry by intoning every time I went near a jewelry vendor, “I’m on a jewelry diet.)

DSCN1216First up we have these gorgeous handmade cards–embellished with sweet buttons, ribbon, and printed paper–from Monica Stroter’s sugar paperie line. I love e-mail (and Facebook and Twitter) as much as the next person, but really people, it’s never appropriate to say “thank you” electronically. And, especially given today’s cyber culture, it’s uber sweet to receive a little something in the mail that’s not a notice about your overdue American Express bill.

DSCN1218Next up are these nostalgic letterpress cards by Moira McCauley a/k/a bookish lady. I first discovered Moira’s work in the Pyramid Atlantic store on Ellsworth Drive where I snatched up a few of her calling cards with which to encourage gentlemen callers. I was delighted to meet her in person and stock up my stationery arsenal. (At this point, please reread the above paragraph about why it’s important to have stationery on hand.)

DSCN1209Next up is a photo print on wood from one of my longtime faves, Cherie Lester. I  discovered Cherie’s work during the first year of DC’s downtown holiday market when I snapped up as a gift (no pun intended) her elegant photo of the  cafe chairs at Paris’s Rodin Museum. At this year’s holiday market, I treated myself to her photo of a doorway at DC’s Eastern Market, which had just been devastated by a fire. I admit that I can’t remember where this pic is from (yep, this is what happens when you don’t write your blog right away, sigh . . . ), but it’s probably no surprise that I fell in love with the industrial look of the old-fashioned screens. I also love that the black and white print has a soft, pencil-drawn quality to it despite the urban subject. Cherie’s also been working on some mixed-media collages lately that, to me, give off a mid-century vibe and are well worth checking out.


So this photograph (shown in situ in my “entrance foyer”) was my favorite purchase at the Handmade Mart. I was actually finished browsing and had decided to duck into Borders for a magazine or six (big surprise there, I know!) when I noticed this piece and several others displayed on a bench outside the bookstore. Turns out that the photographer Brian Rawson wasn’t actually part of the show, but his friends had told him to drive down from Philadelphia and Brian had set up shop right behind their stand. This photo reminded me of all the somewhat crumbling apartment buildings I’ve lived in the almost aggressive endurance of the doorbells as each successive tenant was peeled away, that tension between impermanence and persistence. I also liked that the hodgepodge of bells hinted at the very different people that might inhabit each apartment. So, you may be wondering why no link to Messr. Rawson? CAUSE THE LINKS HE GAVE ME DON’T WORK!  Which may be a tres good thing since I probably need to put myself on an art diet. Sigh. (I do have Brian’s gmail address, so I’ll let you know once he lets me know where to find his work in case YOU want to buy me something!

You had me at “Wednesday greetings collectors”

So you know how I said I’d probably mention 20× at least a billion times over the life of this blog, well, you can start counting.

Wednesday’s one of my favorite days because that’s when the 20×200 photography edition arrives. Today featured a double edition from Chinese photographer Shen Wei, and it was love at first sight for the first photo in the pair, “Blessing over the Rice Machine, Guiyang, Guizhou Province.” (The second half of the pair is gorgeous too, it just didn’t –to paraphrase Emily Dickinson–blow the top of my head off.)

I’ve been very drawn to industrial stuff lately, especially scenes that have a certain air of neglect, or maybe I’m responding to a sense of age, of staying power despite or in spite of. . . . In this particular photograph I think it’s especially  the luminous colors that draw me in, that pop of green in the lower right, the earthy paper of the blessing. Maybe I like the idea that there is aesthetic satisfaction to be found in even the most seemingly unaesthetic settings . Something about the composition feels almost postcard-like to me, in the sense that there’s a whole story waiting to be unpacked within the borders of the frame. This is one of those images that I could be lost in for a long long time.

I think I’m going to mosy over to 20× and see if there’re still any $20 editions left to order. I encourage you to do the same (but not if you’re getting the last one and leaving me heartbroken . . . )

More later, since I still have to report back on my finds at this weekend’s Handmade Mart in my hood.

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