Sunday, 31 January 2010

Thinking out loud & Shifting perspective

Life is about constantly needing to shift perspective. That's how we change and grow. This can involve a mental shift. For example, changing an opinion, or discovering something new, which , as a matter of course, changes the way we "see" something. Or... it can be literal. For example, turning an object around, or standing on one's head. Thus, we understand the thing from a different angle, or, we "see" it in a totally new light.

And I'm thinking, this weekend (clunk, clunk, clunk... The Machine Stops...) about how shifting perspective is really the essence of Art. And of Life too for that matter! And possibley everything else? Since Science seems to work that way as well.

Therefore, does it follow that a "good" artist, is he/she who is successful in making that happen through their art? Which would basically equal human dialogue. And maybe then, a "good" person, is he/she who is succesful in making that happen through their Life (Living)? Which would basically equal human dialogue. The art of living... Living art.... Maybe that's why so many of us blog? Which, basically, equals human dialogue. And maybe that's what we're all looking in the end? Human dialogue! or at least to have communicated something to someone, and to have been understood, while we were here. Which is kind of an odd concept to be coming from a person who is rather a hermit :}

Hmmm.... Interesting!

Shifting perspectives can happen on a grand scale, changing our thoughts on huge, often controversial, human topics, such as sex, religion, or war (and yes, probably in that order!) Or, it can be in a small - but nevertheless totally significant - way, leading us to the point of, "Oh!... I never thought of it [saw it] that way before ". Personally, I like that kind best. In either case... Behold... the doors of perception begin to open! And no, I've never read Huxley, and I don't use non-perscription drugs! :}


What if... I lie on my back... and take pictures of what I see? Yes! I like the simplicity of that!

Me, on my back (again) ;}

Another great feature of Photoshop is Filters. Try playing with the "cut-out" option. A useful tool to artists and especially cloth makers, as it helps us to "see" the different planes of a subject. for example, with this new image above, I could easily come up with a self-portrait in cloth or stitches. The question being... would I want to? :}

OMG.... The trees are about to fall over!

I stared at this scene through the view finder of my camera for quite a while, and managed to convince my brain that I was really looking down into water, then seeing leaves floating on the surface, and branches below it. That was wild!

The trunk of a Ceropia tree. Amazing textures and could form the basis for an interesting abstract image.

The belly of a miniature hummingbird perched on a twig above me. Nature from below! It looks very neat! Imagine that you were going to paint, sketch, make an image on cloth on that theme. Actually, that would be a fabulous challenge to put out there! So I'll do that this week!

Do you have any idea what a bird looks like from underneath?... What is it's shape from that angle?... What about a butterfly drifting above you?... Do it's legs dangle down, or does it pull them up, like an aircraft's wheels?

I found that while I was concentrating my vision on the big blue beyond, my range of vision suddenly became like a fish-eye lens, and I was seeing everything as within a circle, with branches and leaves entering from all around. That was very cool! I think I might work on that idea some more! And when I'm done with that, I should probably visit my opthomologist!

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Osa... Art... Life... Advance

A pale cloth idea on the go.

I've been thinking... Oh! So that's what the noise was! ;)

A while ago, I started to think about the possibility of offering creative "retreats" here on the Osa Peninsula. And now, so many people have commented about this amazing place where I am fortunate enough to live, that I'm thinking, maybe, people would like to visit. In turn, that got me thinking about the word "retreat" itself.

retreat |riˈtrēt| verb [ intrans. ] (of an army) withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after a defeat : the French retreated in disarray. • move back or withdraw, esp. so as to remove oneself from a difficult or uncomfortable situation : it becomes so hot that the lizards retreat into the shade | [as adj. ] ( retreating) the sound of retreating footsteps. • withdraw to a quiet or secluded place : after the funeral he retreated to the shore.

Thinking about it from the perspective of visiting another place and kindling/fueling/firing one's creativity, in a fluid way, it suddenly seems like such a wierd word to use! What I have in mind is more about throwing oneself headlong into life... so, less of a retreat... and more of an advance! Not some kind of pre-planned course, with a teacher. Just one or two people at a time, immersing themselves in all that the Osa Peninsula has to offer.

I'm putting out feelers.

Just imagine it... 7-10 days of self-indulgement, creativity, exploring a tropical paradise! Painting, sketching, writting, needlework... or whatever is your thing. I'm trying to think about places to go, that would be inspirational, (yeah... that's not hard here!) and how to keep the costs down. I reckon it might be possible to organize something amazing.

Any one got any ideas or observations? I am just trying to gather some ideas for what might be possible. And I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Early morning

Change of plan. We decided that it made more sense for Rey to travel to San Jose alone today, and for me to go alone next week for my hospital appointment. That way, Nilo doesn't have to go at all! He and I can spend the week at home, quietly doing, while Rey gets on with work in the herbarium, without the need to be thinking about how bored we're getting in the meantime.

So, this morning I was up at 3:30 am to say goodbye to him. I couldn't see the moon to begin with, but then realised she was on the otherside of the house, peering at me through the forest.

Looks like batik!

It's definately worth getting up very early here. For one thing it's the only cool part of the day. Beautiful and peaceful...

This morning's first light at Los Charcos de Osa.

... apart from the birds. The Scarlet Macaws started up at 4:30am this morning, squawking their heads of, as is their want, and accompanied by a group of green parakeets. Bloody noisy lot! Waking up at Los Charcos is abit like waking up in a zoo. Not that I'm complaining. Although, there is the occassional morning when one feels one could happily strangle the laughing falcons, with their raucous cries of "Guaco" (pronounced Gwa-ko), for which they are locally named. Other than this, there is generally much twittering, cheeping, trilling, and beeping, and many other bizarre noises that only Dr. Zeus could name, and making Los Charcos an ornithologist's paradise!

And then, we all know that the early... spider... catches the... umm... butterfly?

A dainty breakfast, well under wraps. The weekend begins!

Friday, 29 January 2010

Living color

So far, I haven't done any sewing today, but have had a wonderful day, inspite of the fact that we had to drive into Puerto Jimenéz. I hate that town. We lived there for two years before moving to the country...not that Jimenéz is a bustling Metropolis! Actually, it's a scruffy, dusty, sun-baked, former gold mining town, a small port, and, as far as I'm concerned, one of the few things it has going for it is the fact that it's on the coast. Well... the Gulf. And that really is lovely!

Setting out from home, the forest is looking spectacular right now, as a certain species of tree is flowering and they flower en masse. Yellow! Interestingly, (or at least, I think so) this species favors open areas. So, when they're flowering, which is always at the beginning of the Summertime, you can spot where landslides have occurred in distant hills, or the forest has been logged in the past, as small swathes of yellow occur here and there.

Schizolobium parahyba (Fabaceae) flowering in the forests of Osa.

One of the things that we love to do whenever we go into town together - which is a pretty rare event, 'coz I love it up here on my mountain! - is to go out on the pier and see what what fishes we can spot. It was a beautiful Summer's day, and we lucked out, and the water was clear enough for my little compact Nikon to let me take these...

Needlefish swimming in the Golfo Dulce. (3:48am Saturday morning: I'm seeing these fish as little stitches! Der... didn't make the connection yesterday!)

Ummm... more Needlefish swimming in the Golfo Dulce (Ok, so I got a bit carried away on the "water-fish-dancing light" shots!)

A single leaf floating on the surface of the water.
(Note to self: Turquoise and tangerine = refreshing!)

The water's edge.

Beneath the surface.

Too bad that we didn't have the snorkel masks with us. It looked so inviting.

Random guy snorkelling near the pier in Puerto Jimenéz, Osa Peninsula.

We had lunch at our favorite seafood joint beside the Puerto Jimenéz "Malacon". Nilo said he wanted to take a picture of us, and that we needed to be kissing. So, here it is... the happy couple ;9 Trying not to laugh their heads off!

Reinaldo and Catherine. Puerto Jimenéz. (OMG, I look so... white!)

I took this photo from a moving car, as we were driving home. It was intense!

Harvested rice field in the midday sun, Cañaza, Osa Peninsula.

A day of living color!

I would like to say thank you to everyone who's left a comment on my previous post. It's all very encouraging stuff. Nice to feel one isn't working in a vacuum! Also, hello to all those who have started following me recently. What a lovely bunch you are. Wish you were here!

A special thanks also to Jude Hill for adding me to her sidebar. I consider it a real honor!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

To boldly go...

Having started to move in a paler direction, as always, one thing led to another, and my ideas have taken a monumental leap in completely the opposite direction! Oh well... ya gotta go with it!

I've been musing over an idea for a brand new, slow cloth, art quilt. A serpentine one! (I'll explain in more detail later). But for now, this is where that's taking me. I've had students all week (last night I cooked for 8 people!) and so I've been playing with this wee square meanwhile. Check ('scuz the pun) it out!

Very much inspired by Jude Hill and her amazing patchwork skills. I've been practising some smaller stitches. My stitching is always... crude... but I kind of like it that way. I've always been abit of a perfectionist, so crude stitches are a definite letting go for me :} And that has to be a good thing... since in the end, we have to let go of it all!

I might have mentioned already, that everynight, before bed, we play checkers - or "draughts", as we Brit's call it. Nilo, (who, by the way, is just 7 years old), is virtually unbeatable! He even plays against our university students, and he usually beats them, including Brazillians, Columbians, Chileans, Germans, and Costa Ricans! We got a new board at Christmastime and this is kind of where my idea originated. So I started with the idea of the checkered board...

... and I thought about adding some counters... and they immediately became eyes!

I thought, what if I combine these two?... circles and squares... just like the board.

But then I thought about doing this, reverse applique...

... I really enjoy the surprise element of this technique ("The only people who say ta-da are magicians and idiots", according to Nurse Jackie, the TV show... I saw a trailer for it the other night, and wondered is it witty, or not?)

And this morning I finished this first nine-patch square. And thought, I wonder how it would look as a repeat pattern? Let's find out!

The wonders of modern technology, eh?... (yes, I photoshopped the image!)

WOW! Virtual slow cloth! That's bold! I might just do this in real time! Just look at all those squares and circles (even the eye motifs form a ring or a cross!) And it has that tribal quality that crops up in my cloth from time to time. This one has a definite African feel to it. Not a bad start really.

Where the heart is!

For those of you who didn't already know, we own and manage a very rustic field research station - although "station" is really too grand a word for it. We called the place Los Charcos de Osa, (meaning swamps of Osa, which right now it is anything but!) Here we protect four hectares of tropical lowland wet forest. Both the Los Charcos Blog and our webpages are in dire need of updating. Although, this year, I'm thinking of using Facebook to promote the place, and will probably be loading some image albums shortly.

So... it's not much, but it's what we call home, and I love it! So much so, infact, that apart from my all-to-frequent trips to the city, I rarely leave the property.

When we bought the land, about 5 years ago, there was nothing here. And I have to say that I'm extremely proud of the fact that everything that's here now, we created, with our own hands... blood and sweat and tears! And, isn't it those things in life that end up have more meaning?

Anyway, I guess you could call it slow home-making!

We first started coming up here at weekends, to clear a strip of land, about 20 x 50 meters in total, in order to build on it. A patch of what is known as "tacotal", which is basically scrubby, low quality, secondary growth, and in our case, many thorny vines wrapped around everything! It was super hard work. While we were doing it, this is where we lived...

Seriously! With a two year old, no water, no electricity, cooking under plastic on a wood fire, and doing the necessary out in the forest, where it doesn't linger for long, thanks to a phenomenal diversity of fauna that exists in this part of the world ;}

This is my husband Reinaldo Aguilar, known to most as "Rey". He's world authority on the plants of the Osa Peninsula (although he's never gonna say that!) He's my best friend, and a great father. We've been together for 9 years now, and for some reason I'm reminded of the Michael Ondaatji title, "Coming Through Slaughter" ;} I love this picture of him, it was taken as he was about to leap into the forest canopy on a zip line, whilst working as botanical field support to a French film crew.

This is my house just after we built it. Note that I use the word "house" loosly! These days, it has a (nearly!) wraparound balcony, the view from which I will never tire of.

And here we have it! Can you spot the house, nestled in the forest there?

Here's a closer shot of it

This is the balcony of the guest cabin.

And this is an image of a painting, that I haven't seen in years ('coz, like all of my paintings, it's being stored in the UK). I'm sure there are more images somewhere!

Casablanca - Catherine V. Bainbridge(c).
Oil and oil pastels on paper.
Aprox. 60 x 40 cm.

Monday, 25 January 2010

A lighter shade of pale

Now that I've finished the outstanding Indie-pendant ... I will rephrase that, or else sound totally egocentric... Now that I've finished the Indie-pendant that was outstanding... sound any better???... I figure it justifies moving on to start something new... completely ignoring the existance of all of those other projects, which I still haven't finished! ;)

Yesterday, I considered starting to work on that first piece of shibori that I've recently created - Well, it's not the first piece of shibori I've created, it's just the first piece that I've created and known about it. Here is a much better shot of it...

Here, you can actually see the patterns that were created where the little pebbles were tied into the cloth and more of the tonal range.

However, lovely as it is, I have decided not to start working on it just yet. Instead, I've opted for a similar cloth - again, one that I dyed at the end of last year - but which I left too long in the dye base and it started to go moldy...

That's what the little grey specks are about, and I rather like that softly spattered effect.

I've basted it onto a plain piece of my peachy bark-dyed cotton cloths.

In turn, I think I'm going to baste that onto a kind of damask cotton with a raised block pattern, which comes from a slightly off-white colored pillow slip that I picked up in a thrift store in San Jose on the last visit.

It reminds me of this...

A photograph of me, taken in 1897(!) at the Las Cruces Biological Station, in San Vito, Coto Brus (Costa Rica), where, for about 3 consecutive years, I lived on site as a young explorer and artist-in-residence.

Time passes and everything becomes a lighter shade of pale! Here in the tropics, it also starts growing new life forms!

Speaking of lighter shades of pale and new life forms... just look at this by Jude Hill, and this by Arlee Barr... and this by Deb Lacativa.

Pale is where it's at!

Chad Frick & Co.

My husband has a friend called Chad Frick. I haven't met Chad yet, but we've been in contact recently and I've been admiring his creative work.

You have to see his paintings and also visit the The Chandrea Collection, a series of plush toys, that he makes with his wife, Andrea Alfaro Frick.

You can visit the Chandrea doll museum or shop at the YUKYUK store on Etsy.

Ok, I confess that I have rather a soft spot for monster art dolls. Each of Chad and Andrea's has a hand-painted canvas face, which gives it a totally unique personality. It's hard to choose between them, but I do love this one, it has such a delightful satisfied expression!

"The Chandrea Collection"- No.85
by Chad Frick & Andrea Alfaro Frick

Chad's paintings are adorable, have an educational imperative, and are based on his experiences in the field biology. This is one of my favorites...

Coleonyx switaki v. switaki - Chad Frick
Acrylic on Canvas
10" x 10"

My youngest son is an avid herpatologist. Lizards are his thing. I don't think there's a species here which he hasn't handled at some time or another (with parental supervision of course!) Chad's painting of Coleonyx switaki v. switaki makes me smile, and reminds me of moments like this, of pure contentment...

Nilo Francisco with a Casque Headed lizard at Los Charcos de Osa.

Thinking about it, there's something about monster doll No. 85 and Nilo's smiles...

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Indie-pendant #0004 - "N'goa"

Here's the fruit of today's effort. In the end I decided to finish up the accent piece for my latest Indie-pendant, this design is called N'goa

I'm considering keeping this one for myself. It's a nice size (5.5 x 5.5cm) and it feels good when it's on.

Whilst visiting the Pre-columbian gold museum(!) the last time I was in San Jose, I found and fell in love with this...

... and decided that I would use the color combination myself. Simple inspiration!

You can some of my other Indie-pendant designs here.

Turned out just peachy!

A while back, before Christmas time, I started some solar dying experiments. Some worked out pretty well, given that I didn't use any mordant (this year I'm going to try that!). Here's one that I untied yesterday. It was dyed using bark from a local tree species (can't remember which now, will ask husband about that and add the name later) and by wrapping small sections of the cloth around little pebbles and tying them with string, (which probably has some lovely-sounding technical name, except I haven't learnt it yet!) I don't know what I had expected, but it turned out a lovely soft rusty peach color.

It was fun when I unwrapped it... looked like a volcanic clothscape.

Or... belly buttons!

This is what it looked like once ironed. Very subtle color variations and little moon-flowers. Have some dusky-peachy-rose colored DMC thread. Might see how I go with that today. If I can find the sun-cream I might stitch in the garden even.

I like this... it goes well with today's cloth!

Arlee Barr kindly informed me that the technique is part of what's called Shibori. I've been admiring this technique on other people's pages, but hadn't got that the pebble-wrapping bit was part of it. If you're interested in finding out more about this traditional art, then you should definately check out this link, to where master clothmaker, Jude Hill, has a plethera of posts relating to the subject, with some fabulous examples, great explainations and links to others who are far more skilled at Shibori than I probably ever will be! :)

Saturday, 23 January 2010


8:30am. 8:40 and 8:43am. More earthquakes! Ok, this isn't funny anymore. =0 This is going to go all day!

Long Night Moon #4

Yesterday afternoon, this lovely butterfly stopped off for a visit. New wingéd eyes!

I haven't mentioned it recently, but I'm still working on this. Super slow cloth!

For a while, I wasn't sure how to deal with the triangular pattern on the border of the fore wings. But then I remembered that I had this cloth.

It was $1 from a bin in a thrift store in San Jose, and it's some kind of seat cover thingamejig. I loved the soft color combination in contrast with the bold pattern. And it turned out to be the perfect thing.

This is pinned still. Now I have to begin stitching it. This is what I'm working on in the evenings (before House!)

Another earthquake in the early hours of the morning and it was 5.2 on the Richter scale. Never a dull moment!
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