Somewhere, there is a Jungian therapist who has written an academic paper that analyzes the metaphor in the deconstruction of the book with aging.

Last summer, working on a long-distance collaborative art piece, I deconstructed an inexpensive poetry pamphlet. The pages and the words on those pages became elements in a “fresh” work.

Today, as I work toward completion of a small collage, I realize that I am repeating myself – or rather reliving those psychic forces in a concrete fashion.  Over twenty years ago, I created and published an artist’s book, Sweet Potato, in an extensively large edition of 350! Needless to say, I never completed the complicated assembly required of all the folios, and do this only upon request.

This morning I have taken one folio and let it “rearrange” itself into something completely new.  As I ponder this process my thoughts lead me here: both creative forces – creating something new from that which is “finished” and aging – require the willingness to face fear.  Fear that the destruction a work of art is too inviolable to cut apart and re-imagine; fear that an aged life and eventual death are, in fact, the finished piece.

The beautiful circle in all that has occurred this bright, summer morning is that the artwork re-created is a wedding gift for a young couple.  Rebirth.

spsm sp2sm

pf6aA gracious gift to those who teach is summer.  As each one cycles through my year in education, it is time to reconnect with my previous life as an artist.  My expectations of artistic accomplishments during these brief months are quite simple – create one piece from the heart.

The artists are raising their eyebrows at this seemingly simple statement and thinking that this goal is, indeed, larger than I think.  You are quite right. Being a working artist is a nine-to-five job like any other job, yet the work itself – well, I will leave that description to other artists.

This began as a most unsettling summer.  I could not find a quiet center within myself regardless of books I read, visits with friends and family, or my love of gardening.  Restlessness permeated my days and nights. It was not until I “turned my ankle” during my relentless drive to clean up the yard that put me where I belong.  Sitting still.

More than twenty years ago I began to make a type of western “prayer flag” as a gift to those whose heart breaks or joys are difficult to contain or express with flowers and gifts.  It was a tangible way to offer love beyond my small self – an offering for the other to the universe.

Sharing this art form with you is “my creative work from the heart” this summer.  I hope it inspires those who are in need of a nudge, to adapt, improvise, and create.

 Tina Hudak’s prayer flag

  1. Choose a paper that is strong, but flexible in the wind. I use my own handmade paper for two reasons: the papermaking is part of the prayer, and I can choose my fibers and shape.pf3a

  2. Collage or create your image according to your artistic style that holds meaning.  Here, I use calligraphy, my photo scanned on handmade paper, print on handmade paper, stencils from my hand cut design.  Spray with a workable fixative.

  3. Cut “air holes” so that the flag meets less resistance from the breeze.  If not, it will most likely be torn down in a forceful wind.pf4a

  4. Reinforce the ribbon or string used to hanging to withstand the wind.pf1a

  5. At the bottom of the prayer flag, attach an object to weight it, but not enough to tear through it.pf5a

  6. Hang outdoors.  With all prayer flags, as it weathers, the prayer is released to the heavens.pf2a

au revoir

02/07/2014

Summer.  I dislike it.   Nine o’clock this morning I am awake, but motionless.  Our gentle, orange tabby taps my face with is velvet paw. Already humid with incessant sun, the insects are tedious with their constant presence.  I take my morning coffee indoors.  Entombed in my closed, cool studio, I feel uncomfortable.  No, it is not a lack of comfort – too superfluous – it is loss.

cafe2A forty-year friendship was packed up carelessly today. Thrown willy-nilly into a small box to be abandoned at the curbside.  Three decades of champagne toasts and Christmas treats, countless drives along the dull, Pennsylvania interstate to share in a  “sisters’ visit”, belly laughs and silliness with midday trips pushing strollers laden with croissants and juice boxes along concrete sidewalks  - now still.  Then, a decade of letting go, “keeping in touch”  insinuating itself between us. Stealing intimacy. Sharing an occasional cafe seated at your kitchen table. Bon mots sprinkled generously along with the sugar.

I am not blindsided, dear friend, clutching the box of memories against my heart.  I am, simply, bereft.

He has what it takes to be a good teacher – compassion, a comfortable manner, humor, and the ability to zero in on what is important. goo.gl/pyYZnP

This was included in a reflection written about my “too-quick” judgement of a particular student I teach.  This morning I am reflecting, once again, on my own teaching style.  While this may be obvious to others, I have come to realize that teaching is an extension of one’s essential self.  It changes spirally as one’s own development changes throughout the years.  As the decades pass for me, and I observe the shifts in myself, and I ponder what I am offering to my students. I find that when I am thwarted in my efforts to offer what I think is my best, I plunge into a rejection of myself, as teacher.  I am unable to look at myself as teacher, objectively – removed from the “academic” imprint from the educational system.

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for seeing beyond a label – whether it is as a student or a teacher – to be grateful for the ability to change, grow, and to zero in on what is important in life.

My husband's great-grandfather as a young student.

My husband’s grandfather as a young student.

a brick house

02/10/2013

Today, I realized while I was teaching my sixth grade students a lesson in short essay writing, that I needed to give them a personal example.  The one I had chosen from a very good book was just too long.  Below is what we will be looking at in class.  For them it is about structure and form; for me, it is a sweet memory.

My Life Before Cats

brick houseThe house always seemed a little too quiet for my tastes, as a child.  We lived in, what were called back then, row houses.  This is where one house is slammed against the other, as if they are trying to hold each other upright.  What this also meant was that you and your next-door neighbor shared a wall.  You also shared the sounds each house made, if it was close to the wall.  It was important to BE quiet. Fortunately for our neighbors, my two sisters and I were fairly well behaved. Oh, this was not because we were born that way; rather, because my dad meant serious business if he told us to “quiet down” and we ignored him!  We rarely had pets of any sort. Once, when my older sister was doing a science project, we kept the guinea pigs afterwards. But, my mom got asthma and they had to go even though they were fairly quiet. Then, my other sister brought home a stray dog.  We kept him too, for awhile.  That is, until my father found a home for him with the daughter of someone who he worked with at the steel mill.  The man had a daughter who was not quite right; she was what we called back then, “simple-minded.”  She did not have a lot of friends and she was lonely.  So the dog went to her.

When I grew up and had my own family we bought a house – standing all by itself and surrounded by a big yard. It was living here when I finally got a cat.  She was a tortoise-shell stray who just showed up and stayed.  She was not terribly friendly or cuddly, but I liked the way she strutted around, talking incessantly.  Next, my sons found an orange cat – a stray, too.  He was very friendly and very talkative.  Finally, the animal shelter called us to ask us if we wanted another homeless cat – a little black one.  We took her.  So there we were for many years in our house with the three stray cats. Until on an autumn night a fourth feral kitten came to our kitchen door.  The following week we brought her in.  It was never quiet after that!  There was alot of meowing, howling, growling, and two boys fighting.  Oh! did I mention the dogs?  My life was no longer quiet at home…except at meal times.

meatballs

Our school begins rather late, after the American Labor Day, in early September.  The hectic pace is exhausting, despite how prepared I think I am for the new year.  Inevitably I bring home a substantive amount of work for the weekend.  This, coupled with the fact that we have had such beautiful weather here lately (also something unusual), made the weekend work somewhat painful. I would rather have been out and about, than sitting in a chair at a computer or surrounded by calendars.

Regardless, I needed to attend to this work.  But I also needed to have a some moments that were “mine.”  I am sure that you too, dear reader, have experienced this very same series of events.  So, on the past Sunday afternoon I found myself alone at home – a rather rare event in our household -  and I snatched it for myself.  I played Pandora Radio – French Cafe music – and made Italian Wedding Soup.  With this marriage of cultural experiences in my very American kitchen I pretended to be elsewhere as I gathered the ingredients to begin an epicurean form of relaxation.

Being of Italian descent you might think that I have this special recipe handed down from Nonna to Mama to me, but alas, I do not! So I do what all others do – go online @http://allrecipes.com/recipe/italian-wedding-soup-i/.  As I stood at the counter, mashing and mixing while swaying to “la musica”, my thoughts began to wander to my childhood and my father.  He, being Slovak, made homemade meatballs and spaghetti sauce for our family every weekend (and also to give my mother a much needed break from cooking).  On Saturday evening I could follow the scent of hot olive oil to find him at our stove “browning” the meatballs before immersing them into his homemade sauce. Our ritual consisted of the following: entering the kitchen I would engage him in some inane ten-year old conversation, and while he pretended to be distracted I would “steal” a cooked meatball cooling on the counter.  Of course he would “catch” me in the act and pretend to be angry.  Scampering away I would shove that sumptuous morsel in my mouth and anticipate our Sunday noon dinner – after Mass.

There I was on this Sunday afternoon, standing at my counter making meatballs, and wishing I had my children with me or perhaps a grandchild to reenact this vignette. On another Sunday, in another year, I will make homemade meatballs…with my grandchild.

a small book

a small book

Toward the end of May, the art teacher at our school gave me a small selection of decorative papers, and said to me, “Here, I know you will do something with these.” These have been sitting on my drafting table since that day; I finally decided to do something. How could I face her in September without having tried? I will admit to you here, that working as a full-time school librarian leaves me little energy or time to continue to make art. Summer offers me a bit of time to return to the profession I loved for twenty years.

Materials

Used booklet, Peer Gynt, 6” x 3.5” purchased for 25₵ (previously priced at 50 Pfennig)

Decorative paper

Wood slats for bookbinding – Ikegami, Kojiro.  Japanese Book-Binding: Instructions from a Master Craftsman. New York: John Weatherhill, Inc., 1986.

Watercolor of an English robin, monoprints (by me)

Unique handcut & designed stencils (by me)

Acrylic paints

Old calligraphy scraps from my previous projects

Selection of bookbinding tools

Process

Deconstructed the book; kept together a core group of pages for folding, and maintained the original height of pages, but modified the length.

Re-imaged the watercolor and monoprints; reproduced these on the book pages and handmade papers

Stenciled images, collaged prints on the book pages, covers, and wooden slats

Adapted and adulterated the traditional 4-hole Japanese bookbinding technique

This one simple project brought me back in touch with a life I led for twenty years.  As a working artist, my hours revolved around visual imagery, pondering materials, reading poetry, and spending hours (where I lost track of time) trying, failing, trying again, and succeeding in making something I liked. Here is a thank you to my art teacher for giving a bit of my past back to me this summer.

Peer1

Peer Gynt

tools

variety of tools

one page

one page

Frontview.unbound

unbound

Bound, back cover

bound, back cover

Prudence knew she was a rat.

Why everyone else insisted that she was a cute, little mouse,

she hadn’t a clue!

Pru3

pru·dence  noun \ˈprü-dən(t)s\

1: the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason

2: sagacity or shrewdness in the management of affairs

3: skill and good judgment in the use of resources

4: caution or circumspection as to danger or risk

“Prudence.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 5 Aug. 2013. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prudence&gt;.

bow-tieYears ago I began a series of “Prudence” sketches whenever the mood hit me.  She has turned in to quite the character, of whom I am quite fond. Today, being such a beautiful day, I thought of how I might share her with you…she is a bit leery, but I assured her that you, dear readers, are very kind.

One Summer Day.end

22/07/2013

drawing of fireplaceAbraham realized that he had been duped.  Taken in with words because of those persuasive voices, and stunning beauty.  Simple in their dress, it was the angels’ luminescent eyes, lilting voices, and easy familiarity that had drawn him into their web. If only he and Sarah had a girl instead of this sweet-tempered boy.  Yes, a girl…there would be no problems. No worries about inheritance and sharing.  She could have married Hagar’s son, after all.  Sarah and Hagar would have been pleased.  No animosity. No petty arguments within the household. His life would truly have been blessed.  The angels brought him nothing but grief! He felt too old to assert himself with these women any longer. He needed time away from the women.

It was then that he decided he was going to the mountains and beg the heavens for a solution, or at least a respite from all the bickering.  Yes, the mountains.  He would ask his God for advice to settle things once and for all.  Slowly pulling himself up, he walked past Sarah without speaking. He could feel her anger directed straight at his back.  With a slight turn of his head, he gave her a weak smile while he fastened the lead on his favorite donkey.  As he was walking away from the house, he heard her shout out in a shrill voice, “For heaven’s sake, take Isaac with you!”

This simple bit of writing was an assignment during a writer’s workshop. Each participant was assigned a reading from the Christian Bible (according to Wikipedia – 11:26-25:18 of the book of Genesis), and asked to write a story from a particular view point.  Not having a theology background, I called upon my immediate experience as a mother of two energetic, young boys.  Imbuing “Sarah” with feelings of an older mother, and “Abraham” with a father out of his depth, this was the final piece.  I apologize in advance to all “older” parents, as I KNOW this is not representative of everyone!

 

One Summer Day.2

20/07/2013

drawing of fireplaceAbraham sighed. He was a dutiful husband and father. He knew that it was his duty to listen to Sarah, and bear her tirade. After all, had he not chatted it up with those strangers – who knew exactly what to say and how to say it – none of this would have happened. It seemed like such a good idea at the time – a child, their child. Now it did not seem to matter how many times he told her that she was his first wife, and he loved her above all others. It always came back to Hagar and her son. He half-closed his eyes, sat on his favorite rug, and continued to listen.

“…I don’t understand why you keep her. You don’t stay awake long enough to enjoy her! God knows that she is good for nothing else. Why just the other day she was here, in my kitchen, using my best oils and herbs for those odious scents she smears on herself. Do you know what myrrh costs us? An Egyptian, Abe! Really! It is just too much for me to think about sharing your wealth with Isaac and her son. I didn’t go through this childbearing and these sleepless nights so our son could be usurped by this pagan. I am too old for all of this…either she goes or I do!”

He knew Sarah was beyond reasoning with now. Imagine, an ultimatum! This jealous streak of hers would drive him to an early grave. Closing his eyes, he slowed his breathing, sat with utter stillness amid her icy silence, and pondered his situation. Why did God have to give them a child, anyway? Life was calm before all this motherhood business. Despite all their years together he still felt a quiet excitement run down his spine at the touch of her hand; her scent of rosemary filled him with desire. But all she did was complain endlessly, about housework, child care, money. He could no longer get close enough to even touch her. Those damn angels!

end of Part 2

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