This is one of the first things I see as I reach the top of the spiral stairway to my studio: a manzanita tree branch I secured in an old tin can and have used off and on over the years to display small items for sale or as now, just to hold some of my favorite things in its branches. Some friends used to make these wonderful handmade paper castings, and the little tree is also filled with calligraphic ornaments, feather decorations, prayer wheels I used to make from my mandala cards and whatever else needs charming. On the right you can see my old red clock, which after causing me no end of trouble by falling off the wall at inopportune times, finally fulfilled its true purpose in my life by becoming a Zen clock. By removing the clock hands, I can glance up at this clock and remember that time in the studio is not measured by the clock but by my own creative flow. Between the tree branches you can see a favorite strip of paste paper with the words “Be with those who help your being” from Rumi. There is an old Arcosanti bell mounted to the left and above this tree with a long rope hanging down to the foot of the staircase which, when I become too lost in my creative play, my husband or son yanks on to ring the bell and say, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, dinner is ready . . . ”
Here is a more complete view of the first corner of the studio. The little cabinet was a hand-me-down from a neighbor who was moving and had found it in a thrift shop. Since my studio is very very small, I immediately pressed it into service to store many odds and ends, and since this was during my home-decorating days, painted it dark green with white drawer fronts and an ivy stencil. The little shelf to the right of it is another thrift store find and is a kind of studio altar, holding a few of my everchanging small inspirations.
Another thrift store find for $5, many years ago, this cabinet holds a lot of my inks. Truth to tell, this needs cleaning out. I’m pretty sure those pink and blue bottles in the upper left are dried out.
Moving around the room, this is my slant board work station. It’s set at a much steeper angle than I used to have it, so I can sit more upright as I work, a very important consideration as I’ve gotten older. I’ve finally gotten things arranged so I can have the natural light from the left, but I still use the overhead lamp most of the time too. Books squirreled away in the background, and not the only case of them; old work on the wall I came across the other day and thought I’d look at for a while.
The view from another work station, where I do dry work, stitching, etc. This bit of Neuland-style lettering is something I like to look at as a meditation. The little pencil cabinet is from (no, not another thrift store) a garage sale. Always need a roll of white artists tape around, for everything.
The painting above these letters just seems to go with them. I always planned on putting other letters on this mountain, I never could quite bring myself to do it. I even have the tissue overlays for tryouts. I think maybe the letters are already there. The quote I was going to use was John Muir writing about seeing the alphabet writ large on the sides of mountains. This paste painting was made in 2001 after seeing El Capitan on my first trip to Yosemite. I waited far too long to go that place, after forty years of living in California. It is a place of Big Magic. I have been to a few others in my time.
Organizing my paper a few years ago by labeling the drawers of the flat file has made it easier to find and use.
This old wooden flat file was the property of the U.S. Army Air Forces. Later it the property of the Stanford University Geology Department, according to the label on the side. Later still it was the property of a calligrapher friend of mine, Mary Ellen Flinn. I inherited this flat file and the wooden slant board from her. She traveled a great deal and brought a lot of English and European calligraphers to San Jose in the eighties. I think of her often when I use her things, and of carrying on her love of the craft and art of calligraphy, and all the other scribes who have gone before me.
The back of this flat file is the view opposite the first one on this post, and what you see to your left as you prepare to descend the spiral staircase back to your regularly scheduled program. For many years I participated in an Open Studio in San Jose in the spring. I never could bring people into the studio as it is far too small, too small to swing a cat in, with apologies to the cat. Now it is just the cat and me and the occasional visitor who see my studio. I have been spending a lot of time up here the last couple of months, and will show you some of what I’ve been up to next time around.