2021-04-11T06:13:59-04:00

THE CAT THAT LIKED CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES BLOG #18

THE CAT THAT LIKED CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
BLOG #18
April 11, 2021

By Emily Lee Stehle

Well, it’s 5am and do you know where your children are? Remember that PSA?

I don’t have children but as I am typing the first four words to this blog I hear that solemn voice in my ear…and had to write it.

Seriously, I can’t sleep and have been thinking about this week’s post. I’ve been working the past three weeks at the Florida State Fair doing admin work and prepping for the Florida Creative Living Competitions. The baking, the preserving, quilting, sewing, painting, drawing, ceramics, jewelry, basketmaking, etc. It’s been fun but hard on the feet walking the concrete floors of the Florida Center. I’m getting my steps in. Highlights of my time has been sampling the baked goods (cakes, pies, cookies, candy) after the judging and getting previews of the fine art painting and drawings. I am so taken by a young artist’s charming drawing of an owl that I’m sponsoring a $25 Creative Spark Award for him. You’ll see a photo of this work after it’s displayed at the fair.

I have been too tired to sit at the PC to write but this has been heavy on my mind.  This woke me up.

It’s time for the second short “Bird Nest Story.” This one is based, again, on a true incident, a treasure of my childhood. So put some cookies (preferable chocolate chip) out on a plate. Pour yourself a glass of milk.

It’s reading time!

The Cat that Liked Chocolate Chip Cookies
A Bird Nest Story
July 9, 2019

My parents didn’t allow us indoor pets, but for a while we had a cat. He showed up one day at the house. A striped black, brown and grey tiger that Richard, my brother, named “Dodiebird.”

He was a very big kitty with big white paws. He had a thick fur coat. We had never seen a cat like him. He might have been a Maine coon cat. Both Rich and Tina say he was a regular tiger cat.

During the winter, we all felt bad for Dodiebird because my parents wouldn’t allow him to stay in at night. He’s got a fur coat, they said. He’ll be alright.

Us kids said: How could he possibly stay warm? He’s a little cat! It’s freezing outside. Sometimes it’s snowing!

Those times, Mom and Dad relented and we would call, “Kitty, kitty” at the door when it felt really cold out. Dodiebird would come running.

Despite the fact that he stayed outdoors during the day and really didn’t hang out with us, Dodiebird was a gentle cat. He never scratched (and we teased him a lot) and didn’t seem upset when we picked him up and dragged him around, pull his ears to look inside (his ears were big). Dodiebird didn’t mind when we covered his eyes playing hide and seek with him. He would let us hug and kiss him.

A close-up of a brown mackerel tabby color cat. We have no photos of Dodiebird but this one  resembles him.

He was so mellow that he even allowed the boys to put a sock on his head. When it covered his eyes, he would just frantically shake his head from side to side. No loud meows or crying. We would laugh and laugh and finally stop when it dawned on us that we were being mean.

Dodiebird wasn’t picky about his food and would eat any food scraps put in front of him. He especially liked the salted fish that my grandmother would dole out every night, a little bit from her steamed plate.  He would sit and wait patiently while she plated his dinner and then chow down.

When I went away to college, I didn’t think much about the Dodiebird. I knew that on cold nights, he’d be warm and toasty napping in the hottest room in the house where the furnace was.

I always came home for Christmas break. Besides cleaning the kitchen I had to bake Christmas cookies. But not sugar cutouts. Our Christmas cookies were Tollhouse Chocolate Chip. It’s the only kind Santa would eat, I told my little sis, Tina.

So, here it is one Christmas Eve and I’ve made a double batch of chocolate chip cookie dough. It’s 11pm and I’m alone in the kitchen listening to albums: Laura Nyro, The Sound of Music, Joni Mitchell. I’m singing loud and carefully placing big spoonfuls of cookie dough on the sheet.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Dodiebird staring up at me. A curious look. He hadn’t seen me for a while.

“I’m me. What’s going on, Dodie? What d’ya want?”

The cat purrs and wanders between my feet.

“Are you hungry? Wanna cookie?”

Dodie purrs, looks up. Meows. Meows again.

What do you do when someone adorable asks for a cookie? You take a break. Pour yourself a glass a milk. You give him one. Or two.

Dodiebird ate 1 ½ chocolate chip cookies that night and then curled up next to my feet. He went to sleep. I continued baking.

Next week: For the Love of Strawberries

My Nest and Its Treasures: Childhood Memories, 2019

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2021-04-05T01:24:43-04:00

TELL ME A STORY: 66 YEARS LATER… BLOG #18

TELL ME A STORY: 65 YEARS LATER
Batman and Grandma
BLOG #18
April 4, 2020

By Emily Lee Stehle

I used to read a story to my little sister Tina every night at bedtime. She was four; I was 17. It was a ritual we started when she was old enough to talk.

Today I have a story for her that she can read for herself. It’s a story that is based on a true event that happened 65 years ago. A childhood memory that I treasured and used in a 2019 sculpture titled “My Nest and Its Treasures.”

I’ve been a communicator all my professional life and had just started taking myself seriously as a contemporary art basketmaker. Creating different shapes and forms with strips of recycled post cards was interesting (one of my signature shapes was a bird’s nest) but I needed to do more.  I challenged myself to find a way to tell a story through my art like most other fine artists.

Then it hit me.

My bird nest theme became literal. As birds had eggs, I would, too. The eggs would be the stories, the childhood memories that I’d never written down, much less told anyone.

I wrote three short stories, cut the paper in strips and then “wove the stories” into three eggs.
The first short story that you’ll read today is about my Grandmother, my brother and his favorite television show. Every reading makes me laugh.

CUE THE MUSIC: DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH…
Batman!

Batman and My Grandmother
A Bird Nest Story
July 7, 2019

My nine-year-old brother Rich loved to watch TV after school. This only happened after he did his homework, so he would hurry to get it done early.

Twice a week, he happily anticipated and talked about his favorite show, Batman with (of course) Adam West and Robin (Burt Ward). Batman not only was an action super hero, he told kids they should do their homework, eat their vegetables and drink milk!

It was kind of goofy, what with the action words coming across the screen in comic book fonts but Richard loved it. He was always ready to convert more family members to fans and watch the caped crusader’s adventures with him.

He’d settle down at the beginning of the show and we would sing loud “duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh” and yell “Batman, Batman, Batman!” We laughed and then followed the crime capers of The Riddler, The Joker, Catwoman, The Penguin, Mr. Freeze and other arch villains for the next half hour. We watched the fearless duo alerted on the Batphone, slide down the Batpole, race to the Batcave to the Batmobile to eventually land (BAM!) in the Commissioner’s office.

Batman and Robin picked up the clues left by the bad guys, got captured by the bay guy’s henchmen, got into more fights and then were recaptured and placed in a deathtrap. The cliff hanger ended the first episode and was the beginning of the next day’s show. Ultimately, Holy Batman (!) the caped guy and his ward had more fights and captured the villains, making Gotham City once again, safe, for all of its citizens.

How could anyone NOT like and admire The Batman?

Three generations: Grandma, Mom and me

Enter our grandmother. Literally straight off the plane from China, Rich’s next Batman recruit. She had come to live with us. Grandma was a little old lady, about 4 ft. 8, who dressed always in black; a padded black Nehru style jacket, black pants, black flat Mary Jane-style cloth shoes and a sweet black velvet beret. We didn’t know really how small she was as she wore layers upon layers of clothing.

We didn’t know how old she was either. She had wrinkles all over her face and bobby-pinned her ear-length grey and white hair behind her ears.  She could speak only Chinese.

On the big day, Richard went up to Grandma. I decided to eavesdrop.

“Do you want to watch TV? Watch TV with me?” he said.

I tried hard not to laugh. Grandma had a puzzled look on her face. She had not understood one word.

“Would you like to watch TV?” Rich repeated. “Watch Batman and Robin? It’s a good show.”

He took her hand and motioned for her to sit on the couch. Silently and politely she watched Gotham City’s super guys battle the bad guys for the next 30 minutes.

Later, that night, Richard asked Dad to talk to Grandma about Batman.

“Tell her how good it is,” he said. “Ask her if she wants to see it again.”

My dad spoke Chinese. We didn’t understand every word but the gist of his conversation with his mother was this: It was nice of Richard to share the TV with her.

But, she said, she didn’t quite get Batman. Thank you very much!

TALKING ABOUT MEMORIES
Growing up Chinese

I am the third daughter in my family of six kids. My dad, born in Canton, China, grew Chinese vegetables in New Jersey. All my life I felt (like Amy Tan and other Asian American authors who later described these feeling in their books of fiction based on their backgrounds) that I grew up in two worlds: one American, one Chinese. Never quite comfortable in either one as I didn’t speak Chinese (although I did as a young child) and because I looked very different from my classmates.

There weren’t many outright signs of discrimination but, at times, I felt awkward. You don’t know discrimination until you feel it and then again, you’re not sure. So as a child growing up in the ’50s I wasn’t sure if I was truly treated differently by classmates and my teachers or if it was my imagination.

I remember most adults and teachers were kind. The kids? Some name calling and perhaps a few who used their fingers to slant their eyes at me. I never responded. Kept quiet. Didn’t make waves. The inscrutable Asian.

I’ve had a relatively happy, safe life. In recent discussions with friends about racism, they were surprised to learn about my experiences and how as a young adult I was concerned about my safety as a woman and an Asian.

It pains me to hear and see the recent reports of Asian American hate crimes. Last week’s video of a 65-year-old woman knocked to the ground, kicked and slapped multiple times and ignored by at least two men who witnessed the assault, was shocking.

Anti-Asian American hate crimes reported to police rose 149 percent between 2019 and 2020 during this pandemic. Why is this happening? Researchers faulted negative stereotyping of Asian during the early rise of COVID-19 cases last spring. What’s more, the spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans occurred when overall hate crimes dropped seven percent overall.

It is a strange new world we’re witnessing. I’m relieved that woman’s attacker was arrested. I only hope we as a society can overcome our differences, fix this underlying problem of hate, and be the people we should be.

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2021-03-27T00:47:30-04:00

TRANSFORMATIVE INSPIRATIONS: Looking Backward BLOG #17

TRANSFORMATIVE INSPIRATIONS
Looking Backward
BLOG #17
March 26, 2021

By Emily Stehle

It’s interesting to look at “old” work and reflect on the changes and shifts in your creative path. I pulled out work that really are my “Aha” moments while preparing for my Emerging Artist video: They didn’t register at the time as being momentous, but they were and still are.

One of my first baskets. So that’s where I hid that handful of raffia!

I’ve been weaving baskets on and off for at least 30 years! My first class was at the University of South Florida Craft Studios in the Student Union in the late ’80s or early ’90s. My instructor brought supplies and taught one style of basket: Appalachian style egg or potato baskets in natural round reed with grapevine handles and god’s eyes.

No written instructions, she wove and I followed suit.  Very quickly I wove baskets like there was no tomorrow. I was in egg basket heaven. Round reed, flat reed, grapevine. I dyed reed with powdered Rit dye. Started harvesting naturals like philodendron sheaths, big leaves and vines. A boutique in Dade City became an retail outlet. One Christmas everyone in my family received this basket or a version called a “key” basket.

My teacher moved. I stopped weaving. Making the same basket shape bored me. There were few books on basketweaving..and no such thing as the internet and Google. Several years later, weaving madness struck again! My friend Jill invited me to a meeting of the Tampa Bay Basketmakers Guild (TBBG).

Transformative Moments
Betty Kemink’s Simple Berry Basket

Two basketry artists taught workshops that have influenced how I make baskets. Betty Kemink, one of TBBG’s original founders, taught my first formal class with written instructions. She exhibited for many years in Tampa Bay’s prestigious fine craft/art festivals and is credited for teaching many of the early days basketmakers.

Betty’s berry basket is a basic one and usually the first basket taught to a new student. I was somewhat leery of this project since the instructions called for at least 40 carefully spaced apart spokes.

All was well. My berry basket was perfectly shaped and symmetrical, and I was ready to tackle the rim and weave a pretty braid (never had done this). Before you start on the rim, you have to soak the basket in water to make the spokes pliable. Rather than fill the sink with water, I decided to save water and used a bucket.

Big mistake. Water expands reed…I couldn’t get the basket out of the bucket! After much pulling and tugging, my beautiful basket emerged, misshapened and asymmetrical. Wavy! Betty was a little horrified when I showed her the uneven, odd basket, but I went on and finished it, making up the random pattern on the braid rim until running out of reed. C’est la vie, they say.

I added a detachable bracelet woven in a sculptural peyote stitch. It  centered around a blue frog bead on a lily pad, and the bracelet took longer to make than the basket itself! I think I named the piece Blue Frog on Lily Pad.

This basket won awards in TBBG’s one and only basket competition it’s ever had since I’ve been a member:  Grand Prize and First Place, round reed. Beginner’s luck? I made $29!

SECOND MOMENT
Knotless Netting with Diane Lunow

Small basket (fits in my hand)  modeled after an urn on a Tampa Museum of Art postcard. It is knotless netted from the top down.

Diane Lunow from Texas came to town and taught her specialty, knotless netting weaving. This techniques takes the simple and ancient skill of making fishing nets from a line/thread (buttonhole stitches) sewn around a “spoke” of sorts. Since I’m a sewer and a good hand sewer, knotless netting was easy and fun for me. The process is meditative and very slow.

OTHER CONTEMPORARY ART TEACHERS
Not Necessarily Basketmakers I Met Through Florida CraftArt (at that time, Florida Craftsmen)

Other who have influenced my current work:

– Jerry Bleem: Works with non-traditional materials (such as colored strips of corrugated cardboard, strips of clear acetate and staples) to make baskets.
– Bob Ebendorf: Jeweler and maker who uses found objects.
– John Garrett: I never took a class from him but have seen his work up close. He recycles anything and everything. Jill took a few workshops with him, so I understand his creative thinking. His works look random but really are not.

Last spring this cardinal pair began hanging around our back yard.

– And The Cardinals: A pair of cardinals that flew around my garden last spring looking for a place to build a nest. After a few days of watching their attempts, I made them a “bird nest” basket and attached to vines underneath the eaves of the house with sandwich ties. The birds moved in and raised two hatchlings.

We (and Squeaky) watched the cardinals flying around these vines. And then we noticed bits of sticks and twigs on the ground.

 

 

 

 

Easy MacGyver solution: Make them a nest and wire it in the vines!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STORY-TELLING

The thought of story-telling through my baskets-turned-to-mixed media work was sudden. My bird nest theme (I’d been making and informally teaching random woven nest baskets made from scrap reed for several years) became literal. Birds have their nest “eggs. ” And, it seems, so did I.

My Nest and Its Treasures: Childhood Memories, 2019

Building a Nest Egg
This nest is made of trash picked up from the street, a garbage can from the Florida State Fair and various back yards and gardens.

The “eggs” or treasures are three short stories printed on blue cardstock cut into strips and woven around a softball-shaped and sized armature.

The three stories are childhood memories about my brother Richard, my Grandmother and a cat named Dodybird. Read about them in next week’s blogpost!

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2021-03-22T20:38:02-04:00

ALL-4-1 Blog #16

ALL-4-1: 12 HEARTS AND MINDS WORKING TOGETHER
A Collaboration and Installation
BLOG #16
March 19, 2021

By Emily Stehle

Did I tell you about a collaboration and installation I did two summers ago with 11 complete strangers at National Basketry Organization’s Biennial Conference?  We met in an open two-story room, a blank space with large glass windows with our notebooks and pens. Our supplies: Coils and coils of natural reed in big sizes that I never or rarely use. We’re talking #10, #5,  smaller #4 round reed and one-inch wide flat reed.

PLANNING: The Cycle of Life, Gravity, Nest?

Brainstorming: Themes, Forms, Meanings

A basket; a nest

Movement; Shapes

Soaking #5 reed

A BIG BASKET, OF COURSE
Guided by workshop leader Sculptor Gina Telcocci, “weavers” Ann Tompkins, Fern Tompkins Benson, Mia deBethune, Alex McClay, Jeanne Flanagan, Arlene Eubanks, Sarita Westrup, Amie Adelman, Howard Peller, Ann McClellan and I brainstormed, talked about and drew pictures to flesh out our ideas. We settled on our first shape. Of course, it was a basket. A big basket that would float in the space. Would our exhibit be astral? Strange alien shapes? Would it tell a story? We decided to just go ahead and start weaving, inspired by the materials and each other!

Situated around the room in a circle, we grabbed “supplies,” connectors, #5, #4, #3 reed and just started weaving. After about 15 minutes, we handed our piece to the person to the right. It was round robin weaving (as Artist Mentor Gabriel pointed out later, “The Exquisite Corpse” art project) with everyone adding to another’s form. They weren’t all structured as a vessel; our 20 or so randomly woven pieces each became its own sculpture.

About 3-4 of us broke off from the circle and began to weave the big net/nest. Over four days we wove. We added color to the natural fiber with green plastic strips and strips of cardboard from a Cheez-It cracker box. We taught each other different weaving techniques and began planning the placement and installation of each sculptural piece.


Amazingly, we worked pretty much in silence . Our group became one unit collaborating on a project but working as individuals. We found ourselves “finishing up” each other’s pieces. Some of us added another detail or turned the piece around… upside down. Others added them to be part of another sculpture.

Those who had experience with hanging cables, set them up. Others jumped on ladders to start hanging. Eventually, we all were up on ladders or moving pedestals or hammering on walls to install our All-4-1 exhibit.

Images of strange, exotic fish, alien birds, far away planets? To this day I’m not sure what we created. Perhaps a lyrical (the reed was flowing), fantastical world of otherworldly creatures that were under the sea or originated from another universe. It elicited awe!


 

A trumpet spewing out music? A bell? An atom? It’s up to your imagination!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howard wanted a hand. I made one with painted fingernails!

Opening night!

Our class picture: Collaborators of All-4-1!

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2021-03-14T14:19:07-04:00

Mick Fleetwood: “I see things with wonder each and every day.” BLOG #15

MICK FLEETWOOD: “I see things with wonder each and every day.”
BLOG #14
March 14, 2021

By Emily Stehle

SEEING, THINKING, THANKING

Whoever would have thought that Mick Fleetwood, one of the original creative musicians of the mega group Fleetwood Mac, and I share similar thoughts?

Wednesday I picked up his autobiography, Play On penned in 2014 with Anthony Bozza, at the Friends of the Largo Library Bookstore for $1. I love Fleetwood Mac, particularly the music written and performed by girl singers Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks. It would a good book for my brother-in-law Tom who sends us music (CDs) or books about bands. Last time we visited him, we played music together. He on guitar and harmonica, Mike and me on ukulele.

I began to read Mick’s fascinating recollections of his early days in music covering friendships, drugs, sex and rock n’ roll. It is a no-holds-barred look at the life of a man who grew up and, unexpectedly became a music icon. He’s gracious and constantly thanks those who have supported and inspired him.

One page 6, he writes: “I see things with wonder each and every day. Sometimes I wonder how the hell I got here. I love drumming and I know I’ve never been suited to do much else, but truth be told, I regard myself as a guy who happens to drum, not as a guy who is a drummer. It’s a strange and subtle contradiction..”

Left: Rings of Purple was inspired by the curvy vine. Right: Small basket was, of course, inspired by a geode.

That paragraph struck a chord within me. I vaguely remembered an artist statement that I wrote four years ago for Florida CraftArt: “I am an evolving and ‘restless’ basket weaver who finds new inspiration every day…A vine’s flowing arch, the shades of color on reed, the texture of sparkling beads, the mix of shredded postcards…I weave, I sense a graceful rhythm. All is well.”

So similar! I’m enjoying this book and while reading, revisit my thoughts over my artistic journey just as Mick did…

He says, “I’m still a student. I’m still ‘in process.'” I agree.

And his sage advice: “Go somewhere you’ve never been, somewhere you’ve dreamed of going…Go anywhere you can, because a journey is an adventure and adventures are how we learn who we really are.”

I am thankful for this journey and adventure.

THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF VIDEOTAPING

Last week we all turned in our videos, a requirement of the Emerging Artist Grant. I’ve done easy recordings on my iPhone of uke “performances” although I don’t call them that. So doing a video about me, my work, my “studio” should’ve been easy. But it wasn’t.

Rough videoscript

I had written a rough script and storyboard (plan for narrative and insertion of photos). In the course of videotaping, my phone repeatedly stopped so I ended up breaking up my story into segments. Creative Pinellas Curator Danny Olda would be doing the hard part of editing. At this time, I’ve been able to upload two segments…I might have to redo.

SURPRISE! GETTING NOTICED
I’m in constant contact with those marvelous, encouraging folks at the National Basketry Organization. A member for years (since its inception in 1999), I had dropped it for several years. Rejoining this group as been instrumental in my continuing growth as a maker. An NBO scholarship awarded to me in 2019 caused me to seriously consider installation themed work as a focus.

So, when I was awarded the Emerging Artist grant, I emailed NBO Executive Director Pam Morton and Administrative Manager Joan Ciolino the good news and promptly forgot about it. Someone at yesterday’s TBBG (Tampa Bay Basketmakers Guild) meeting said she was reading something on her computer when up popped an article about me and the grant.

Have to admit, as a former journalist and public relations person, seeing something in writing (that you didn’t write yourself), what we call “third party endorsement,” is thrilling and humbling. I am very grateful.

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P.S. Almost forgot. If you’re free on Tuesday, 4-6pm and want to make a music shaker, drop by Lealman Community Park, 3800 55th Ave. N, St. Petersburg. I’ll be teaching this activity at SPACEcraft (the cool shipping container just north of the basketball court)!

2021-03-07T20:36:38-05:00

THINKING OF BLUE…AM I BLUE? BLOG #14

THINKING OF BLUE…AM I BLUE?
It Depends on the Meaning

Blog #14
March 7, 2021

By Emily Stehle

This has been a “Groundhog Day” Week…a week of redos. Finally, it has ended, and I’m back on track. Probably had something to do with feeling tired for several days (think it was a reaction to the second COVID vaccine shot), wanting to sleep and not thinking straight!

I told Artist Mentor Gabriel at our last Google meet I would concentrate on the blue panel after most of the work was completed on the 41 Baskets. I thought it was almost done last week with the ordering of two string lights from JC Penney. Surely, they would arrive within a week?

Nope, and calling customer service meant no service. No one picked up the phone even after 30 rings. So I drove to the mall…long story short and 45 minutes later, I had one box of lights, received a credit on the second box and then reordered the second spare set as the store manager suggested. We were very nice to each other. No use ranting about this stuff during a pandemic.

I’m learning to be very patient.

BLUE. The color of the clear sky.
Color of constancy since the days of Chaucer (1500)
True blue (1400)

Symbolically: represents trust and harmony, holds the energy and meaning of calm. Peace, love, kindness. Tranquility.

Designers use it to create calm, cool and peaceful spaces, although blue is also associated with sadness, doubt and emotional distance.

I’ve been concentrating on the color blue as it evokes one of the strong emotions we felt during a turbulent 2020. Russian-born American painter Mark Rothko, a major artist in the abstract expressionism movement, used color to convey a range of emotion and what he described as “a religious experience.”

I’ve been studying his blue works. I’ve been thinking what do I use for “my paint.” It is because of Rothko that I’m constructing large 4 x 8 ft. and larger weavings, but my work won’t be similar at all in look, but perhaps in feeling or tone. I’ll show you the completed panel probably by mid-April. You can decide for yourself if I succeeded.

No. 14 White and Greens in Blue

Mark Rothko: Blue, Green and Brown

I’ve started four pieces for the blue hanging…

The start of the Blue/Green panel

The second Green section

Third section

Rejected! Color is too garish for this piece. But I can see this “spider” anchoring another work.

So I’ll weave this blue “monster” during the next two weeks and then will piece the sections together – like El Anatsui! And also thinking about placement of my “beads,” actually painted aluminum soda can and beer tabs, plastic bread tags, bottle caps and these colorful plastic round pieces (looks like from medical bottles or containers) mailed from a new Facebook ukulele friend.

Time to get the drill out!

You can see more photos on Instagram: emilystehle
You can see some of my earlier work and beading on Facebook @thehappiestrabbit.

2021-02-27T12:47:11-05:00

LET’S SEE YOUR STUDIO! Uh, it’s half a coffee table. Blog #13

LET’S SEE YOUR STUDIO!
Uh, It’s Half a Coffee Table.
Blog #13
Feb. 27. 2021

By Emily Stehle

This week we’re all thinking about our working studios. Our assignment is to videotape an introduction as Emerging Artists…We’ve been encouraged by Danny Olda, Tabitha Cervantes and Creative Pinellas Executive Director Barbara St. Clair, the creative brains behind the EA grant program, to do whatever we want.

Micro-alligator clips: Couldn’t work without these!

Talk about our artist’s journey, show our work, our studios, our tools, shed light on our inspirations, our mentors. How this COVID-19 pandemic has influenced and changed our work.

My identity as an artist has been defined during this tragic, unsettling and most uneasy time in my lifetime. As an “older” adult (I was on the “qualified list” of people 65 years and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine), I’ve had a long professional career in communication, marketing and public relations and witnessed many things. Looking back, I’ve had a wonderful 65+ years in this world.

A richness in history that I would’ve never imagined as a girl growing up in rural New Jersey (the Garden State, my dad grew Chinese vegetables)! Men walking on the moon. A war that was never declared that took the lives of thousands of young men, some who graduated from high school with me. The start of new music with the Beatles, the innovative, creative long-haired Fab 4!

My 101-year-old Dad and my “younger” Mom living every day cooking their delicious Chinese meals and watching Wheel of Fortune, Let’s Make and Deal and Jeopardy.

So my video will focus on how I evolved into a mixed media artist despite not having a real studio and how time has simplified “my mission” in creativity. I used to make for myself weaving traditional baskets, then I become very non-traditional. And now?

I still weave and create for myself, and now add in the audience element. Will they like what I do? Will they understand why? Most importantly: Do we speak the same language?

Look at how clean this is!

STUDIO ENVY

Photos of magnificent creative spaces show up all the time on Zoom. Since October, I’ve been lusting over those well-lit inviting studios, all clean, organized, even colorized!

A photo of Dorothy Gill Barnes in her studio

The Ultimate Studio Spaces: I can still dream, but I own too many art craft books.

My “studio” is all over the Stehle house. My stovetop in the kitchen with a cream tablecloth is my Photography Studio. The floor is one big organizing shelf.

The home office is the “nucleus.” It houses my Fellowes paper shredder and all of my basketry books. I do most of my thinking and organizing, my “To Do” lists on the PC.

Home Office: PC, shredder and basketry and art books live here.

The Garage: It’s my “storage facility” for many supplies. Rack cards (colorized) in bins, strips of paper in boxes, Ikea linen storage bags for reed (not using for this EA project) hanging from a shelf. The washing machine is my “before and after” prep area for cutting large pieces of cardboard on a desk paper cutter. It also serves as the table for finishing off pieces with a final coat of acrylic spray.

My past work, precursors of what I’m doing now in paper weaving, is artfully displayed (or not!) on shelves or stored somewhere in the house in bigger baskets.

Baskets made from workshop kits

All these areas will be included in my “virtual studio” video. I haven’t yet figured out what to do if someone asks for an on-site “studio tour!”

If you have time, check out “Conversation with the 2021 Emerging Artist Grantees” on Facebook, Creative Pinellas.

Oh, almost forgot: I DO have a Facebook page, The Happiest Rabbit, that kinda chronicles my art adventures (starting with beading) and a very new Instagram, emilystehle. So take a look here and forget about my messy “studio!”

Original baskets

2021-02-19T17:59:37-05:00

RETHINKING AND REVIEWING WORK Blog #12

RETHINKING AND REVIEWING WORK
Blog #12
Feb. 19, 2021

By Emily Stehle

I am bad with numbers. I think this is Blog #12 for me but other grantees list #13. Whatever it is…we’re almost halfway through this blog process, and I’m learning a lot about myself as a person and “emerging artist.”

Still new so I have a good reason to experiment and think of strange things (strange in that no one else I know is doing it, strange that I can’t find anyone doing it). I have permission to do anything for this exhibit  and can make and break rules. Freeing…but kinda scary because this feeling is new.

This week I’m reviewing my PART 1 work for this project called, “41 Comfort Baskets” or more specifically, “41Weeks of COVID-19: Comfort (food), Music and What We Needed to Get By.” It’s on the verge of being done. Waiting on the mail!

Other good news: Perseverance landed on Mars!

The hanging hooks from Ikea arrived yesterday. I’m waiting for one more delivery from JC Penney: one 10-ft. string of LED lights.

Those baskets are now packed away in a big zippered Ikea DIMPA plastic storage bag. Ready to go to Creative Pinellas. I have researched fishing line (dual-purpose fluorocarbon line to be used for stringing ukuleles, too) for hanging the installation. Calls for a short trip to Wal-Mart.

Some nice guy named Dave G, Waverly Street Ukes, posted this info on a Facebook group page.

FISHING LINE INFO FOR UKERS

In case you’re looking: Seaguar Fishing Line Sizing Chart
Concert/Soprano     G  (40)    C (60)    E  (50)     A (30)
Low G                         G  (80)
Light Tenor               G  (50)    C(80)     E  (60)     A (40)
Light Tenor Low G  G  (100)
Standard Tenor        G  (60)    C (100)  E  (80)     A (50)
Baritone                     100         150    130    80

Years ago, I “curated” an exhibition of sorts at The Pier Aquarium. I did not realize this at the time. We created an experience for folks to learn about water conservation and created the mood with a dramatic entry way of candles, hanging streamers and words. It was so enjoyable (so they say) that I must bring in light!

The Dollar Tree tea lights fit the bill. I’m making “holders.” Also we’ll be hanging LED string lights.

Tea light votives drying on the clothes washer.

There will be nine; three red, three blue and three black. Completed are the red ones. As you see, my photo setup is pretty primitive. I use the top of my stove in the kitchen and the washer in the garage as prep and work spaces.

The votive holders are recycled Oui glass yogurt containers. So ironically I’m really paying for the containers. We are not that crazy about the yogurt and prefer the vanilla Greek style with fresh fruit and nuts instead.

Updating my To-Do list is wearing me down. Been shredding some new “blue papers” and getting ready for PART 2. I’m very happy of the thought of weaving again!

Next week: a preview of my “work studio” (NOT an artist’s studio).

A preview: shot with no lights on.

We need to eat up Oui yogurt in the glass containers for the blue and black votive holders. Six more to go!

2021-02-13T21:44:27-05:00

WORDS: SONGS OF COMFORT BLOG #11

WORDS: SONGS OF COMFORT
Blog #11
Feb. 13, 2021

By Emily Stehle

Words have always been important to me. I went into journalism because I realized that my mom, born in Pittsburgh but raised in China since the age of 10, could barely read and speak English after returning to the United States nine years later. In high school, I remember Mom dictating letters to me for her friends.  It would’ve taken her too long to write them herself.

And then, when I was in J-school, I saw how she would read my “clips” to me. Every bylined article that I sent her (I was interning at various newspapers on co-op jobs) went into a large manila envelope. When I came home during break, she would take out the envelope and ask about the stories, reading them aloud. We read them together. So I was encouraged to continue using simple, common words to communicate with people like Mom who couldn’t read well and struggled to understand them. I found my profession as a news reporter and later, as a  writer.

Vincent Van Gogh

These thoughts about words came to mind while Mike, my friend Melissa and I went to see the Vincent Van Gogh immersive exhibit at the Dali Museum on New Year’s Day. Wall-sized moving images of the artist’s works accompanied by the loud, sweeping sounds of recognizable, and now popular and mainstream classical music were fantastic. But to me, it showed a commercialism that was amazing yet disturbing. Although I enjoyed the immersive experience, I think seeing his original work, in its original size and format in quiet solitude would have better conveyed Van Gogh’s mind and spirit. I was very fortunate to see many of his work at his namesake museum in Amsterdam decades ago. But it was a choice between the museum and the Anne Frank House. It was a hard decision. We had a few hours one afternoon and the line at the House was long.

I feel just the words on the walls would have been more expressive of Van Gogh as a thinking and emotional artist. But, what do I know? I found his written words, probably sent in letters to his brother Theo, more moving and profound than the large paintings and portraits.

Self-portrait Vincent Van Gogh

His Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, I have used words, in 11 Songs of Comfort baskets, in my COVID-19 basket series. I’ve chosen 11 songs that made me feel better during the 41 weeks (actually I performed more than 100) of the Pandemic 2020 and made the official sheet music or a page of my ukulele music into a basket.

11 Songs of Comfort

The construction of these baskets was a challenge. Since I’m using as many discards as possible, I had intended to print out the music sheets on the blank side of a cardstock poster and then, with a paper cutter, cut each song into strips. Then weave them around the reed armature, bead and finish the interior with torn pieces of lime green tissue paper.

It didn’t happen according to plan. The nice guy at the Staples copy center said he could not print on the blank side of my cardstock poster unless I had proof that the poster was printed on a laser jet printer. Ink from an  inkjet, he explained, could gunk up and ruin their expensive laser jet printer. I got it.

My solution was to go home, print out the music sheets on my inkjet printer on heavier cardstock paper, spray mount them to the blank side of the poster and then cut into strips. I wove each song sheet into its basket armatures, then beaded the basket and finish the interior with torn pieces of lime green tissue paper (donated to my basketmaker guild from the estate of artist who had recently passed).

MY TOP 11
But these 11 Songs of Comfort basket and the other 30 are completed and I’m excited. They are not all happy songs. Which did I choose?

You-u-u-u Send Me

1. Blue Skies by Irving Berlin
2. The Rainbow Connection by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher
3. The Circle Game by Joni Mitchell
4. The Water is Wide, traditional
5. You Send Me by Sam Cooke
6. Attitude of Gratitude by The Swinging Belles
7. Love is Like a Butterfly by Dolly Parton
8. Don’t Get Me Wrong by Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders
9. Mad World by Roland Orzabal
10. Summer’s End by John Prine
11. What if We Went to Italy by Mary Chapin Carpenter

I love these songs and will continue to play my uke and sing them. The exhibit will include the link to my YouTube posting of each song. They are not perfect and not intended to be!

This week we celebrated the Chinese Lunar New Year with lunch at one of our fav restaurants, Ha Long Bay in Dunedin. We had some of my favorite foods…beef chow fun, fried bean curd with stuffed shrimp, shrimp dumpling and roast duck. Haven’t been to HLB since mid-March right before COVID-19 was formally announced.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT WEEK
Ticking off on my “To DO” list:
1. Completed 41 baskets
2. Ordered hanging hooks from Ikea
3. Have an idea to use LED string lights: have three, need four

Need to do:
1. Buy one 10 ft. string of lights from JC Penney.
2. Research again using fishing line for hanging; fishing line that can double for stringing ukuleles (different weights for different strings).
3. Paint three wood dowels; drill holes.
4. Start weaving “the Blue Monster.”

VALENTINE’S DAY
We all know what tomorrow is. For everyone, a happy day. Be safe.

Lastly, a Valentine’s Day gift to all of you from fellow Emerging Artist Mason Gehring and my message to Mason:  I have not met you yet, but I do love your work. You are worthy, and your art makes me feel happy! I would love to stick your stickers on my uke cases.

Red Hibiscus on the Trail

Love Locks in Dunedin

Mike and I came across Mason’s Lover’s Kiss Bench while walking along the Pinellas Trail in Dunedin. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Mason’s Gehring Lovers Bench

 

2021-02-13T18:55:34-05:00

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS Blog #10

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
Blog #10
Feb. 5, 2021

By Emily Stehle

Today I’m writing about friends and how they’ve helped me. You remember that Beatles tune?

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends. Mmmm. I get high with a little help from my friends. Oh, gonna try with a little help from my friends.

This past week has been just like that. Friends and friends of friends have helped me through a wild week. And I can say with a huge sigh of relief, that today Mike and I waited in line in our car for less than 30 minutes and received our first COVID-19 shot! It was painless, and the process was unbelievably easy and efficient. Kudos to the organizers and medical team who made it happen!

We happened to get in line because my friend Carolyn and I (who have spent the past few weeks comparing notes on how to get an appointment), called Wednesday and asked for our emails, phone numbers and birth dates. A friend of hers had called HER and said a group through USF was compiling a list of 500 people (seniors) who need the vaccination and would add her name and our, too, to it.

Like magic, we received an email that night with the link and special code for the scheduling website. Excited, I could barely sleep! And this morning, we were in line early at Ed Radice Park in Tampa for our 11am appointment. We left there shortly before noon with bar code labels on our T-shirts, coded numbers and letters scrawled on our windshield and a Pfizer COVID-19 shot in our left arms.

I was humming this Beatles song to myself all morning. Now we can rest somewhat more easily, with our double face masks and safe distancing, as we go about our lives. We’ll sleep well tonight.

YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND IN ME
Go with y
our first hunch

Two of my friends who advised me last week about “the gnarly tails”

30 completed gnarly baskets; 11 Songs of Comfort baskets to go!

were right. Both Karen and Michelle went for the organic look of a basket with wild thread ends. I admit I preferred that look, too. But, I also thought that a cleaner, more finished appearance would be expected by viewers.

Facebook friends, many met through ukulele groups, gave thumbs up for the “little jeweled” baskets.

And then Gabriel weighed in tonight during our Google Meeting. “Don’t be afraid to go with your first hunch,” he said.

He also thought the juxtaposition of a rough (gnarly) baskets and smooth flat weavings would create an interesting tension.   Which makes me feel better since I had felt that all along. Just didn’t know how to express it.

Still I have to decide whether to keep the numbered tags on the 41 COVID-19 baskets. They might be too busy and not be a good design element. But then again, the tags might function as a label identifying the basket’s “comfort.” Decisions, decisions.

AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

The Swinging Belles

This is the title of one of my 11 Songs of Comfort. Written and performed by the Swinging Belles, an award-winning Canadian trio, the song infectiously lifts up your spirits. At least, Mike and I feel energized and “glad to be alive” whenever we introduce this song with both banjoleles and my Wazoo kazoo.

The Kazoo Kazoo

We’ve had three live, outdoor gigs and had the pleasure to see audience members dance and jump around when we’re singing this happy tune. We’re adding “Attitude of Gratitude” to our “must-perform-every-time” song list.

You need an attitude of gratitude, quit that saucy baditude.
Be happy for what each new day brings. 

An attitude of gratitude puts you right back in the mood, in the mood for you to dance and sing!

A few weeks ago, I wrote a fan letter to The Swinging Belles on YouTube telling them this wonderful song was a comfort to me last year during the early days of the pandemic. And that I had performed it as part of a Cynthia Lin Facebook project 100 Days of Ukulele Songs… and was including “Attitude of Gratitude” in my Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist installation.

Yesterday I received a charming reply asking me to provide a link to the exhibit when up! So blow me down…famous people really DO respond to your comments on YouTube (and Instagram). I feel like I know them already!

FEELIN’ GOOD, FEELIN’ GROOVY

So this week is one of major accomplishments. Forgot to mention, I will be teaching after all. Karen, my teacher friend, asked if I would teach basketweaving to her students. How could I say no? We packed up her car with boxes of food boxes, strips of paper, envelopes, odd things that art teachers and weavers (like me) use in strange creative ways.

We’re scheduling for March, either in person (second vaccine will be in late February) or via Zoom.

I’m proposing thee different projects: a box woven out of cardboard food boxes, a bookmark or placemat woven from shredded business rack cards, storage containers made out of soda bottles and strips of paper or my signature random woven bird nests. Whatever the kids want to make.

Reminder to self what I’m working on this week and next: Finish the 11 Comfort Song baskets. Buy wired fishing line. Buy hooks. Think about artist’s studio visit video. I don’t have a studio but work where there’s open table space.

Bonus Squeaky photo: I took this to show we use our iPad and television to watch two things at one time. I had no idea kitty ears would show up! As always, Squeaky makes me laugh!

 

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