Flash Friday: Zentangle

Many bloggers do weekly round ups, one word or one picture posts, link-ups and plenty more. I’m considering the idea of a “Flash Friday.”  A snapshot of my life, whether in words or images, that illuminates some of the smaller moments of my life.

So much of my life, volunteering, and hobbies revolves around using the computer or writing words.  I’m highly word oriented, and love using the computer, so I’m not complaining that screens dominate.  But every now and then I remember that I should perform less pixelated activites.

In April I picked up a book called “Zentangle a Day” and I’ve been doodling in spare moments or just to relax. Zentangle involves combining “repetitive patterns of deliberative strokes” into a single image.  All you need is paper and an ink pen, though of course, there are certain recommendations given by the experts.  I’ve had a lot of fun progressing through the book, learning some of the ‘official’ and ‘unofficial‘ Zentangle patterns, which have funky names like “Pepper,” “Verdigogh,” or “Hollibaugh”  and am on “Day 16.”  To me, this art form is the perfect combination of structure and creativity.

You might consider tangling yourself up in this idea too.

Zentangle3  Zentangle2  Zentangle1  Zentangle4

PS. Feel free to check out my lil’ Pinterest board about Zentangle, and explore others designs there too.

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Unconventional Yarn

My wonderful sister loves to crochet afghans.  She has made me two (one is technically for Ethan), and her goal is to crochet 100 afghans in her lifetime.  She’s well on her way to meeting this goal at the age of 24.

For a long time though, I didn’t want to learn to crochet because I have no desire to ever make an afghan.  I mean, ever.   But this summer I’ve learned that writing off crocheting like that, is a little like deciding not to run because you don’t want to complete a marathon. Totally uninformed.  It turns out there’s a million ways to use that little hook and some yarn that doesn’t involve learning the afghan stitch.

Now that I’ve (almost) mastered the single crochet, double crochet, and the slip stitch, I know all the basics of crochet.  I’ve even made (one) granny square.

With my newly learned skill fresh under my belt I heard that the PEM was having a gathering to celebrate unconventional art – like mime, busking, graffiti and yes – yarnbombing!  I had to go!

While I was there I got a few more ideas for what I can do with my new skills – like make funky picture frames – or amigurumi vegetable toys.  No afghans for me!

Also, the free cooking demonstration by Scratch Kitchen was phenomenal.  I’m definitely heading there the next time I don’t feel like cooking.

The Lenten Close on the Eve of Easter

Lent is a somber season occurring the forty days before Easter.  It is one of Christianity’s most secret seasons (that is, un-commercialized), and in a way, the most private, since it is a time of reflection and confession and sacrifice.  Lent has been a more recent addition to my own Christian life as not every denomination chooses to observe this season and my own childhood church was one of them.

Yet, though I heard of Lent nine years ago, I didn’t participate in a visual and visceral way until this year.  There are many practices during this season which one could incorporate, but I chose to forgo eating desserts and sweet things, and to create artwork depicting two scenes from the life of Jesus.

Not eating desserts was easy for the first five days, and then… it wasn’t.  Mostly because we ended up with a cake in our freezer then!  But by the end of the weeks I’ve found myself endowed with more self-control than I had, and a deeper ability to take my eyes off annoying things which are present in my life, but not necessarily positive or proper to focus on.  That is, there are times in life when it is necessary to endure “thorns” in the side, but they mustn’t be dwelt upon.

Although I appreciate art, enjoy galleries, and frequently cite the need to see art in the everyday, my own art-life halted around age 10.  That was the last time I took a class.  So, in order to heighten my own senses of both spirituality and aesthetics I created a collage, and a painting.

This is a scene of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemene.

Jesus Transfigured on the Mount

This is the scene of Jesus transfigured on the Mount.

I have been refreshed and reminded during the past forty days of Jesus life and death but, I am excited for Sunday when we will all shout a joyful “He is Risen!”

Handmade Art for the Home in Salem.

Honestly, I hardly ever make it down Boston Street headed to Peabody, not my neck of the woods, I probably have driven on that street for well over 3 months.  But I was on my way to check out a cool local art gallery to celebrate March as Arts and Crafts month, and as I was driving I saw this:

I knew I had to check out the building:

This shop recently opened (in December) featuring handmade arts and crafts, jewelry, pillows, furniture, and plenty of other beautiful home arts.  The place has a cozy feel inside, friendly staff, and even a small corner of child-directed art.  Definitely a place to check out and find a new decoration for your home, or your baby’s nursery.  I’m so glad I was heading down to Peabody and saw this!

A MetroWest Suprise

Thought there was nothing good west of Weston? The Coffee Loft in Marlborough delivers warm coffee and wonderful Art for the MetroWest.

My hometown of Hudson, MA is only about an hour from Salem, but I don’t make it down there much more often than once a month.  You get used to living near the ocean after a while, make new habits and new friends.

But, a very close friend of mine drew me down to Marlborough for the day on Wednesday and she was oh-so-proud to show me a brand new coffee shop she’d discovered.  I was surprised and a little skeptical.   One reason I chose not to live in the Metrowest was the lack of coffee shops, cafés, restaurants, art galleries, community events, and mansions. (It’s no Beverly Farms or Marblehead).  But, this coffee shop was very hip and beautiful, definitely a reason to be proud.

So I’m equally proud to introduce you to the Coffee Loft on 406 Lincoln Street in Marlborough, Ma.  It combines condos, art studios, art galleries, and a damn fine coffee shop.  It was here where my friend and I sipped piquant lattes and mused on the direction our lives have taken since high school.   Truth be told we’re still very much emerging when it comes to ascertaining our vocation and careers.

 As for Art there, we looked through some of the work on display at the White Rabbit Studios.  The colorful floral painting and mixed media of Elisa Sweig captivated me, and my son especially.

If you ever find yourself in what my friend and I affectionately call “the Boroughs”  (which we named for North-, South-, West-, and Marl-), definitely make a stop off at the Coffee Loft, pass through their wrought iron gate, and enjoy their wonderful beverages and atmosphere.

The Coffee Loft in Marlborough, MA.

Magical Marblehead

A tour through the Marblehead Arts Association’s King Hooper Mansion.

I’m in love with Marblehead.  Well, perhaps adulation is the more proper term.  Whereas Salem contains pockets of urban detritus it is easy to stumble across, even the shabbier parts of Marblehead are like a decaying fairytale.  This explains why I venture there every two months or so, wander into the miniscule boutiques, bookshops, and gawk at the artfully restored Marblehead houses.  Yet, once I’m on 114 it’s as though a glamour slips over my eyes and I forget how quaint, charming, picturesque, and enchanting the place is.  Yes, like a fairy tale.

This time, I had gone with the intent of seeing the Frost Folk Art museum, neglecting to notice that’s it’s closed at the end of October.  So after wandering around downtown in search of something else to see, I found myself drawn into the Marblehead Arts Association.

Inside the restored King Hooper Mansion are three floors of artwork by local artists.

I was excited to see collages, which I have lately been thinking about and collecting materials for making.

Emerging Artist Eshibit: Aaron Berger: Cartography

A few other highlights for me were the nude paintings on the top floor.  (A reminder that painting reflects the interior of the artists head as much as the model.)

The antique tile work around the fireplace on the first floor depicting Biblical scenes.

The gift shop with some crafts from local artisans.  The FiberArt Mobiles by Sandra Golbert were of particular interest to me.  The below is an image of her work from her website.

Hand-dyed silk mobile by Sandra Golbert

For a complete listing of the current art exhibits and classes, be sure to check out the Marblehead Arts Association website.  Also, I would happy to visit it again with anyone who wants to go!

ReFraming Wind Turbines

A Piecing together of Wind Turbine News in Salem and around Massachusetts

Wind Turbines are a hot Massachusetts topic.  The Cape Wind debates have been ongoing since I was in high school, or a little under a decade.   Finally, last fall, a lease was approved for the land in order to put up 130 wind turbines off the coast.  These are expected to provide power for 200,000 homes, or three-quarters of the Cape.

A little closer to my North Shore community, Ipswich put in a wind turbine this year.  Additionally, there are plans for a wind turbine to be put in Lynn at the wastewater treatment facility. Here’s a small map of some of the other wind power sites in Massachusetts.

//update 2013: Since writing this post several new Turbines have gone up in Gloucester.

via massenergy.org

Now, I’m against rushing into decisions, even ones that are green, or support renewable energy.  Environmental impacts needs to be studied, and a balance struck between preserving existing structures and constructing new ones.

However, part of the reason for the debate over planting wind turbines on the Cape was the appearance of the turbines.  Perhaps over a decade ago, wind turbines seemed alien, something for farms in Texas, with hundreds spackling the landscape.  Their streamlined appearance maybe belied the organic roughness of the ocean.   They weren’t something rich Cape dwellers wanted to see from their oversize saltboxes.

However, Usually what we deem beautiful or ugly depends on what is familiar and socially sanctioned.  Marketing, familiarity, and the status quo have a big deal to do with our ideas of what’s aesthetically pleasing.

For evidence of this, feel free to reference ongoing debates about what the most attractive size is for a women’s body.  Another way of knowing how to react to structures is how they’ve been portrayed in art.  We’ve seen beautiful pictures of clipper ships, the Eiffel Tower, and Delicate Arch in Utah.  We know how to react to these things based on what others have portrayed.  Yet, in and of themselves, they are neither beautiful nor ugly.

How do we react to Wind Turbines? 

Artist Mark Beesley, from England, gives this representation below.

A wind turbine painted by Mark Beesley

Wind turbines are not something we’ve been taught to believe are beautiful, or that we often see painted in soft hues, with radiant lines and alluring balance.   This raises the question, is the landscape something unchanging – and our perception of it unalterable?  Is the possibility of renewable energy only perfect if it involves no landscape change?

Mark Beesley, quoted in Grist magazine in 2006 doesn’t think so.  “Beesley rejects the view that renewable energy must have zero impact. “I don’t buy this argument the countryside has to be preserved,” he said. “The landscape is constantly changing.””

I think we can go one step farther.  As the landscape changes, we can adapt of vision of what is aesthetically pleasing.  Though not an argument for sloppy design, functional can be beautiful, as boats are already seen, and often many skyscrapers.  The more we normalize and celebrate wind turbines, the more they can be seen as something beautiful.

Furthermore, our other producers of power,  coal and oil, can be equally unlovely, or lovely, depending on their portrayal.  The Salem power plant is by no means the feather in the cap of Salem’s waterfront, but it is easy recognizable and a touchstone of the harbor.

Salem Harbor Power Plant

The same could be said of the Friendship, or any of the hundreds of sailboats in the harbor.  They aren’t natural, but they do represent something.  A wind turbine can represent the power of a community pulling together in order to support one another from their own natural resources, something they have in common, coming from their own land.  And that’s beautiful.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Salem Wind Project, check out their blog.

If you are interested in finding out more about Wind Power in Massachusetts, check out the Mass Energy website.