Beginning with the Very First Night

Digital illustration from a photo: Slide into NightFrom Darkness to Stars

Those distant notes of smoky, sighing dusk

That underlay and raise the early moon

Draw mystery from earth, as if its musk

Were growing far too fecund, far too soon,

To lie a moment longer there in wait

And hide the heart of what was made for strength,

The time when reinvention is so great

It imitates Creation, and at length,

Renews its potent primacy and grows,

Becomes, designs, accelerates, empow’rs

All who would build, each being here that knows,

The inspiration of the nighttime hours—

So break the stars of newness in the night

To bring from utter darkness brilliant light!Digital illustration from a photo: From Darkness to Stars

Building Dreams

Dollhouses were for other girls. I preferred to design my fantasy floor plans and build them out of cardboard and found objects in the built-in bookshelves in the upstairs bedroom. I built them for dolls if those happened to be handy, but since I wasn’t ever a huge fan of dolls except as handy models for my model homes or as fashion models for my clothing and costume designs, my time and energy were more happily spent on the architectural fantasies and the drawings that led to them.

There was never any hope of building the real-world, full-scale versions of any of these, since I started as a young squirt whose whole bankroll comprised a few allowance installments, then grew up (a little) into an arty type, yet another iteration of the sort never meant to have large hunks of cash lying around. I never stopped loving buildings and the magnificent, marvelous pleasures of dreaming up all of the different ways to make interior and exterior spaces work beautifully for all of the different people and purposes I imagine in them. As I grew, my methods leaned less toward bookshelf usurpation and more toward drawings and particularly, toward inner design: one of the ways to soothe myself to sleep when my brain is too hyper for relaxation is to choose a specific kind of building, close my eyes, and try to work out every tiny detail of it in my mind. Eventually, that usually leads to the perfect combination of dozing off and waking up with some new inspirations, often enough ones that can be applied to other things than mere mental building construction.

Just because I’m realist enough to know how unlikely it is that I’ll ever afford to build a dream house in reality doesn’t mean that there’s nothing purposeful in my fantasizing. I’ve invented all sorts of dandy details that would make the constructions more ecologically sound, longer lasting, easier to change and update over time, simpler to construct, more affordable, energy-efficient, attractive in a number of styles, and flexible for multiple users’ needs. All in my head, with the exception of a few on paper and a few in the old bookshelves in Mt. Prospect.

Anybody who has a pile of money just sitting around all unloved and unused and wants to contribute to the construction of my living-&-arts community complex should feel free to give me a jingle. Barring that, I will happily continue sharpening my mental prowess as a developer of mental real estate. Come on inside, if you can figure out how to join me here.photo

The Icing on the…erm…Chair

Being Crafty is something other people do. I admire the feats of those who can crochet spectacular Afghan blankets seemingly out of thin air or decorate their homes for the holidays with recycled coat hangers and tuna tins and somehow make them look like a magazine cover. People who have the know-how, skill and patience to embroider babies’ bonnets, build palatial birdhouses out of scavenged fence pickets and carve perfect portraits of great historical figures out of turnips impress me greatly.

I, on the other hand, have been known to abandon ship mid-craft, or at the very least change directions radically when I feel I haven’t a hope of getting the hang of what my project was initially intended to be. My youthful embroidery days were ended when I spent a lengthy evening working on the details of some would-be floral tea towel‘s featured bouquet, stood up to gather my sewing and head off to bed, and discovered I’d embroidered through both the tea towel and the lap of my nightgown. My candle-making artistry had only its propensities for melting and burning (and thus, quickly, disappearing) to recommend it. Unlike those who are able to make fabulous sand mandalas with the grains arranged perfectly meditatively into millions of delicate otherworldly patterns would be, if not appalled, then at least mystified and probably saddened, by the strange mud-pies that would be the only produce of my efforts in that direction.

Pretty well any craft that takes any real focus and attention, let alone proficient control of the medium, is likely to remain out of my reach.

There are, however, certain tools, materials and proficiencies in the land of Craft that I can and do manage. One of the media I have enjoyed manipulating for playful, if not crafty, purposes at times is lightweight spackling compound. This stuff, made initially for repair of wounded wallboard and the filling of trim gaps by builders and handy-persons, resembles cheap bake-shop frosting so strongly in texture (and, I daresay, probably in taste, though that’s moot here) that it goes through an icing bag and tip wonderfully well. So it’s great for not only creating faux frosty baked goods but also all sorts of the same kind of detail work that plaster and woodcarving and metalworking artisans have used to create architectural accents and furniture details for eons, especially in combination with other small sculptural elements. Thinning the spackle just enough with water to go through a pastry icing tip and retain its proper density and texture and shape while drying is virtually the only difference. In fact, the spackle can be tinted in many of the same ways as frosting, too, though it may be painted and colored in many ways after the fact.photoIn any event, I’ve had fun with this magical past on occasion. I’ve made customized and personalized ceiling medallions with it. I made a nice big window valance that had all kinds of pieces and parts–food and cookery gadgets and the like–blending its own form and meaning with the rest of the dining room in which it hung. I’ve used it to create baroque picture frames and mirror frames. Probably the most fun project with it so far was making a couple of very rococo side chairs by upholstering them with tapestry-like fabrics and then building equally over-the-top sculptural frames and backs out of small objects, some pre-made and some of my own making from plasticine or wood, bone or clay or metal, and then faithfully infilled with spackle ‘frosting’ before I gilded it all with metallic paints.photo montageWhat’s next? Who knows. But there are boxes full of fun waiting for me to make them into something new, and that little yet persistent itch returns from time to time, so undoubtedly there will be a next thing. Just you wait and see.