Amber M.

History. Part One

I can divide my history into three parts: childhood, San Diego and Marin.

In 1959, the United states welcomed 3 Important Arrivals, Alaska, HI, and me. I was in San Diego, but the family moved me to San Bernardino/Riverside area early on,. San Bernardino, or as I like to call it, the Life Sucking Vortex of Despair and Disappointment -- LSV for short.

The predominant positive message I got from my parents was, "you are smart, probably smarter than most people. You are talented, probably more talented than most people. Now, go be smart and talented at stuff." Whatever my sister and I approached, we were expected to master it. My sister actually did this for most of our childhood. Actually, she still is mastering whatever she does, right now it's chickens. Don't ask. 

The predominant negative message I got was, "why can't you be more like…?" Where the '…' meant any number of incarnations that mirrored Mom. In other words, the predominant negative message was that mom could and did withhold her love if I strayed too far from being my mother's mirror.

As soon as I got the chance, I made my way back home to San Diego, where I spent the next 20 years of my life. I married, divorced, married, divorced, started college, ended college,… Pursued every artistic venue I could think of, including some weird little tubes I found at the craft store that call themselves fabric dye. Those could be squirted onto fabric in random patterns, then hit with a spray bottle of water and pushed in any direction I wanted. I found this fascinating. I also found beading fascinating, and counted cross stitch, and on and on and on -- things I've discussed before, including my proudest moments accessorizing costumes for the old Globe Theatre in San Diego.

Somewhere in my teens I had become addicted to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, anyhow the Southern California version. Too far for me to comfortably travel, and LA backwaters are very very hot in the late spring, a trip to Faire would wipe me out and on the way home I would swear "Never Again!" By the following February I'd be pining for the Faire-site.

I couldn't wait for the next year. Then the LA property sold and Faire moved to my old backyard in San Bernardino. And I was very very happy. It meant I could see my mom every time I came to Faire, and I could still go home to San Diego and sleep it off. When I came to Northern Faire, in Novato, California, I fell in love. When I woke up on a hay bale one October morning, cool weather, distant music, voices drifting on chilly breeze from far away, I looked up… Not 10 feet away from me – staring right into my eyes -- Bambi's mother. My jaw dropped and I fell in love. It took close to 30 years, but I finally got to Novato. As you might expect, by now the Faire site, five minutes away from where I am currently living, has long since been turned into a golf course. But I'm here. And Mark, the greatest love of my life, is here.

And finally, I've discovered what Fiber Art is all about. Thanks to marvelous enablers like Dharma trading Company, and thanks to inventive pioneers like Ann Johnston, Kerr Grabowski, Ana Lisa Hedstrom, and others, I have made great strides toward learning new techniques to replace old ones I've lost. And I love it! No more little two-ounce squirt bottles for me, I'm buying it by the pound! (And then I'm putting it into little 2-ounce squirt bottles, among other techniques.)

I think that brings us up-to-date with my history. I left out a lot, but I've addressed what I left out in other essays. For much of the time anyway. My artistic life at present is racing to master techniques before a degenerative disease takes them away.

Process, Part Two

Part two is about the process. Jane has this to say about what I need to do here. 

"How do you work and what do you love to do? This is the alignment aspect of the assignment. You've already done some of this work is part of chapter seven's assignment...What processes or techniques you find yourself using consistently as relates to your art practice?"

As I've said before, my talents and processes change with the weather and the progression of whatever's going on in my joints. All my life I've been turning fiber into bits of art with varying degrees of success, including beading and embroidery on historical and theatrical costumes. For the most part, I've had to give up on the small motor, fine handwork, in favor of machine oriented stitching, and the development of fabric surface design, but I can't imagine a time when I won't be making something. And there will be textiles involved. Colors too.

My love for dyeing fabric goes back to childhood, when the hippies were wearing tie-dye, and I wanted to wear it, too. I did the best I could with the materials I had at hand, and continued to do the best with what I had at hand for many many years. When I moved to a new town, discovered I was two blocks away from a dye warehouse, I finally got the chance to go crazy with every color I could possibly imagine – and that's what I've been doing ever since.

I use whatever process I can discover in order to put color, designs, patterns, or word on white cloth – usually cotton, because that's what I can afford.

I do batik with biodegradable soy wax; I pull paints and thickened dyes through thermofaxes and silk screens and stencils; I fold, clamp and stitch a la shibori; and I cook silk in the crockpot. What I love best about all of these processes, is that I don't have to be able to draw anything. As an artist, I've always felt limited by an inability to draw stuff convincingly.

I still find from time to time that I do need to do the small work, even though there is a vastly painful price to pay for it. I find it meditative to obsessively make tiny circles on paper; I find it restful to make swirly lettered alphabets in my sketchbook; I need the beautiful results that come from small stitches in silk when I make a Karimatsu pattern in shibori.

Someday, degenerative arthritis will take away this choice: right now, I choose not to be paralyzed before I become paralyzed.

Content, Part Three

Week 8, Part 3 of the Writing this week: Content.” What do you care about? This is your passion, also visited in chapter 7, and it isn’t cheating to go back and reread what you wrote then. Might be color. Might be war. There’s a lot in between and it’s all good. Just write it down.”

Notes feature:

Golden Gate, Golden State. I love California.

I need to talk about how I feel about California.

I can't imagine living anywhere but California. I was born here, live my life here, probably gonna die here. The furthest I've ever straight was to Ireland for my honeymoon. Beautiful place. I'm happy I went. I'm glad I came home. On the plane ride on the way home from Ireland, the theme song to local news station was running through my head: "makes no difference where I go/you're the best hometown I know – hello San Diego…" I've driven from San Diego to Sonoma and Napa Counties – no further north – and there are probably 200 or 300 miles beyond where I've landed that I've never even seen! And still, I can say without any hesitation, California is the best place anywhere. My friends moved from California to Oklahoma and Texas, respectively, and I still call them crazy! "But Amber, real estate is so much cheaper here!"… "Yeah, former Californian--because it's Oklahoma!"

Driving the length and breadth as far as I have done, I understand about the Golden State G capital S. At first, coming from Southern California, I expected that Golden State was a fancy marketing way of saying Brown. California is very very brown, especially in the summer months – which where I came from lasted from May to early October.

Then I drove from San Diego to Berkeley in April… The season of the California Poppy. Poppies grow everywhere in California – the side of the highway is painted gold with – well – gold! Not just beside every highway, but in every vacant place on every hillside – everywhere the sparse rain touches, poppies! Wow!

I've also always wondered about the Golden gate, why it's called that. The bridge is red. Is it just to coincide with the Golden State thing? Poppies are not especially plentiful in San Francisco, so why would it be called Golden gate?

And then one day I was crossing it at the right time, around sunset, and the entire bay – every thing I could see – shot through with the light just as brilliant gold as the fields of poppies in April! And I understood. And I fell in love.

Words. Everything about language – etymology, linguistics, usage, writing, reading,….you know: words.

I once impressed a college speech instructor with my choice of the Oxford English Dictionary as my favorite reference book in the library. He said no one had ever done a dictionary before, and he couldn't imagine how it could be interesting. My jaw dropped. How could it not be interesting? The Oxford English dictionary is 14 books of words. Every word in English language is traced through its history all the way back to its origins. Everything you could possibly want to know about everyone who has ever spoken the English language – and beyond – is contained there.

World history, geography, science, religion, literature, everything is there. Not just what we know now, but everything we've ever known, is contained in the Oxford English Dictionary, because every word is attached to something real.

Mark my favorite author --  and his words.

The cats – Bruiser and Circe – as well as those in Happy Memory

Family – including those who have Passed

Beautiful cloth

Amazing patterns that come from diverse sources and yet somehow remain similar: ice-dyed random fabric that looks remarkably like slabs of marble, for example

Thought that occurred from nowhere:

“That which we call God is exactly the same as that we identify as love – both too vast to comprehend, so we split it up and put familiar faces on it.

Small work makes me happy. I’m sorry, Psoriatic Arthritis, and the joints I’m trying to save: I just love the small work. I’m finding myself consciously choosing to do Zentangles instead of my writing, even though I gave myself some real trouble doing a Karamatsu stitch on silk for a loved one. I found myself making tiny circles for no good purpose on paper, doing Zentangles one after another -- and although my hand really wanted me to stop, my mind was happy and my heart was happy.

And last week I was tweezing my way through seed beads and bugles, trying to separate them, good lord a hopeless thankless task—it’s not like I’ll be using them for beading any time soon. I think I’ve come to an understanding about this, however. Sometimes it’s worth hauling out the old skills, pain and potential damage notwithstanding, if for no other reason than to reconnect with the small bits of meditative delight I always find when I do it.