24 December 2013

Merry Merry


I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry, Merry Christmas from down under!


More on my adventures in Sydney soon...

30 November 2013

From Venice to books & letters, writing & running, persimmons & milkshakes...

Once again, SORRY for the long absence since my last entry. This one covers a whole slew of topics, at times only tenuously linked, but you could probably say it's a fairly accurate representation of the state of my mind, & my studio.

It's funny how things seem to go in phases, and I have been in a rather 'closed' one—probably as a response to not having much time in the studio over the summer. I think, also, that the lapse of blogging has something to do with not taking so many photos lately; in part this is because of the diminishing hours of sunlight and the considerably fewer blue-skied days...nothing inspires me to take photos more than the presence of sunshine.

I have, however, been immersed in images that I've taken over the course of the year (and earlier), while putting together several new calendars for my recently opened Etsy shop. One of my favorites of these is the Venetian Quartets shown below, but I've also collected photos of things I like to photograph locallythe Arno's reflections & Florence's rose garden, as well as still lifes of produce & flowers.

Speaking of images, I have been enjoying dipping into those of the second volume of 500 Handmade Books, juried/curated by Julie Chen. One of my artist's books was chosen (Where Sea & Sky Meet), so I was delighted to find a copy from the publisher in my mailbox recently. Below it is opened to a spread with two of my favorite discoveries: on the left-hand side is Ying-Ting Chen's Dictionary of Textile Terms, made of tea-bag labels, banana fiber & cotton thread (I can't seem to find any info/links for the artist); and on the right is the evocative, somewhat ethereal, Bottled-up Emotions, by Leslie Pearson.


Exhibition image by Anastasia Kariofyllidis

Another creative endeavor I am thrilled to have been part of is A Letter a Week: Artistic Travels through the Alphabet, a six-week exhibition at the Butter Factory Arts Centre at Cooroy (near Noosa, Australia), which ran from 10 October to 16 November 2013. Fiona Dempster, an Australian artist who created A Letter a Week (ALaW) in 2010, organized this exhibition of pieces made during the annual editions thus far. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend, but it sounds like it was a great success. Hop over to the ALaW2014 blog to learn about the upcoming edition.

I ended up recreating both of my 2012 alphabets for the exhibition. For Be Amazed (& other words to live by), I took advantage of having an excuse to redo the cubes as I had meant to the first time. (In this blog entry I explained how I had wanted to mask each of the nine cube faces for each color to be different, i.e. so the spotted pattern would be different.) 

Here are a couple of photos I took before sending the piece off; the second one perhaps clarifies how the newly 'masked' patterns are each different in this version...

And this next photo is from a more recent 'photo shoot' of the water+oil concept that inspired the patterns I created for the Be Amazed piece. Please see the Persimmon Shake recipe (later in this post) for a new 'dotty' design to come from my latest experiments with this concept. Just as with traditional marbling, I found a 'size' of some sort was necessaryotherwise the multiple circles quickly became one. Once again, I tried the ground cornmeal used to make polenta, and it worked perfectly.

As for Twenty-six/Fragments, I was concerned about safely shipping a piece measuring 50 x 50 cm (approx. 20 x 20 inches) to Australia, so I re-did the letter fragments as a 'meander' book, i.e. a single sheet of paper scored/cut & folded into a 7 x 7-cm booklet. (The original piece is shown in this blog entry.)

Exhibition image by Anastasia Kariofyllidis

And here's a photo before sending the piece to Australia, showing it in book form...



Another activity that's kept me busy lately is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The challenge is to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November (i.e. thirty days). The emphasis is on quantity over quality, which is completely the opposite of everything I believe in...but I suppose is equally useful for that very reason. My daughter also participated, so I have been in good company. This is our third year, and though it's surprisingly difficult to stay on track with an average of 1667 words per day, it always feels great to have strung together those 50,000 words. In fact, they equate more of a novella, as opposed to a full-length novel, and each year I have actually continued building on the first year's story. As someone who reads more non-fiction than fiction, and is also more comfortable writing non-fiction, I have to say that NaNoWriMo has been a great experience; I love how characters wander in & out, and how the story evolves & takes on a life of its own. And it's possible that another few years may even see a completed novel (though, as of tomorrow, it will be good to have an 'extra' few hours each day)...


C25K, or 'A cautionary tale' ~

My daughter & I also joined forces to motivate one another in a different kind of challenge: C25K. The nine-week program gradually builds you up to a thirty-minute/five-kilometer run. I was horrified to find how out of shape I had becomemy usual form of exercise is yoga/simply walking around Florence to take care of business, so to speak (those fifty-five steps up to our apartment should count for something too). The last time I had run was about twenty years ago, and even this gentle program, which introduces brief spurts of running between periods of walking, proved a rude awakening for my body; within two weeks I had developed extremely painful shin splints. While running doesn't really appeal to me as a form of exercise, I found myself already hooked during those first 'workouts', and was truly disappointed at the thought of not continuing. (Besides, I hate giving up on something once I've started.)

I tried various treatments and, interestingly, the most helpful one ended up to be rolling the arches of my feet on a tennis ball frequently throughout the day (apparently several ligaments end somewhere down there, and 'massaging' them in this way helps to release the painful tension). I was able to pick up again within a couple of weeks, and came to quite enjoy this new routinewhich brought a few firsts for me in Florence: my first time wearing running shoes (something locals don't do in public, except the few runners, of course) & my first time experiencing the city while listening to music. I must say that I've enjoyed observing the nighttime reflections as we ran along the Arno, and noting the rise & fall of the water and its turbulence vs calmness as it followed the usual cycle of autumn rains. I was surprised to find I didn't use the time to work out details for projects I'm working on, but rather to simply 'be'. While I'm turning more to yoga again now that it's grown so cold, I do hope to still get out there in my running shoes a couple of times a week. And one thing is sure: it feels good to be in better shape again.

If you're interested in the details of the C25K program, please click here.

Locally, the persimmon trees are some of the few to take on ragingly gorgeous, track-stopping colors; first the leaves turn shades of gold & orange, then the leaves fall to the ground, leaving a ring of color under the tree. Any unpicked fruit continues to hang from the bare branches like orange Christmas ornaments, reminding me of my maternal Grandmother, whose Christmas tree for many years was decorated completely in orange. (Surely memories like this have caused me to gravitate toward orange, the color I most associate with joyfulness.)

We usually eat persimmons as one would a puddingby simply piercing the skin with a spoon and scooping out the soft flesh. Sometimes I add a generous dollop of plain yogurt & a sprinkle of cinnamon. But recently I decided to try making a persimmon shake as one of our end-of-the-running-week treats. Very autumn-y, almost reminiscent of pumpkin (though possibly this is merely suggested by the inclusion of spices and the pale orange color).

As always, I offer recipes more as suggestions/starting points for tailoring to your own preferences & what you have on hand; I'd love to hear if anyone comes up with a new twist. (Drag the recipe below to your Desktop/right click to save for an enlarged view.)


Alternatively, you can use persimmons at room temperature; the consistency will be more like a smoothie, as opposed to a luxuriously thick milkshake. (I often keep frozen almond milk on hand, which can also lend thickness to a smoothie/shake if the fruit is not frozen.)

To celebrate completing the C25K program, we made a persimmon shake with ice cream instead of yogurt -> delicious! You could get very creative with complementary ice cream/yogurt flavors as well as other spices; I hope to be able to try out more variations before the persimmons disappear for another year.



Marathoners brightening up Piazza Pitti last Sunday; a band played as spectators danced & cheered on the runners.

And I'll leave you with a song by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, The Runner. I like to live-stream the weekly Sunday Classics show on K-SHE95, the rock station I listened to as a teenager in St. Louis (a  l-o-n-g  time ago), and they played The Runner this past Sunday. I had forgotten this song even existed, and loved that the reminder came on the day of the Florence marathon (24 November)...which was also the day of my daughter's and my last official run for the C25K program.

08 October 2013

Into the arms of fall...

Hello again (after so long). As I returned to the draft for this blog entry, which has been awaiting attention for quite some time, I wondered if maybe I was procrastinating because I didn't want that last entry—about cherishing those last days of summer—to be replaced...

Yes, autumn has definitely reached Florence. We're living in that unpredictable balance of passing the day in a shroud of clouds & trying to take in as many hours of breathtaking golden light as possible. I think often of my early visits to Florence, which were at this time of year. Leaves are changing to yellow, beginning to fall, and the produce stands display a whole new palette: the deep purples, dusty greens, rich oranges & variegated reds of figs, grapes, plums, pears, persimmons, pomegranates & apples.

After a few months of inactivity, the oven is back in use again. We've made scones (recipe in this entry), fig tart (using the sweetened version of the crust in this entry) & (twice!) a lovely rustic plum cake from my friend Tessa Kiros' first cookbook, Twelve. Unfortunately it's now out of print, but she's had several others out over the last decade. I treasure my copy, as it has the black & white cover from her original self-published version.

On the subject of books, the one shown in the image at the top of this entry (along with the fig tart) is a lovely adaptation by Peter Sis of The Conference of the Birds. I first came across it in the US during the summer, and was compelled to order several of his beautifully illustrated books once I returned to Florence, including this one. I remember some of his children's books from when my daughter was younger, but The Conference of the Birds is his first adult book. I love the story itself—a metaphor for the journey that this life is & the many ways people choose, or are destined, to live it—and the illustrations eloquently complement the text. (Details on the original poem, written in Persia in 1177, can be found here.)

Returning to the fruit... Shown in the apothecary jars below are the small green 'Claudia' plums & uva fragola, 'strawberry grapes', which are deliciously sweet. Their brief season has already finished, but now is the time for the intense little grapes found in schiacciata all'uva...a sweet flatbread with a bit of crunch from the little seeds, which remain among the sticky, semi-caramelized grapes.


And it's already time for the olives to be picked, so we can expect new olive oil soon—the first pressing always produces the most fragrant & flavorful oil. And on that note...

Below are some more 'story strips' from last month, using fallen olives from my favorite olive tree up at the rose garden. I was attracted to the intense purplish-browns & rough texture of these random olives, which had shriveled on their stems and then dropped to the ground. The leaf at the top of the right-hand 'page' (second image) is unusual for an olive leaf, but somehow they occasionally end up with irregular edges. I can hardly wait to get back to the rose garden again one day soon...I'm sure that its palette has also undergone quite a transformation.


And here are a couple of shots of the Arno—the view looking east(ish) from Ponte Vecchio, and then a detail of the reflections. The colors seem to convey the feeling of autumn around here right now...

One reason for my absence in Blogland lately is that I've been immersed in working on a new line of items for my online shop, PaperSynthesis. You may also have noticed a new addition in my sidebar—an 'Etsy mini'—as I'm in the process of moving items from my former shop to this new 'space'. I'll post more about the whole process once things are a bit more settled/organized. And one of these days I will reestablish the pleasant ritual of visiting all of the blogs I have been missing in the last couple of months...

So, to conclude this long-overdue entry, writing the words "deep purple" earlier in the post made me think of Deep Purple and, consequently, a song I re-discovered through my daughter earlier this year: 'Perfect Strangers'. I love the rhythm (and it's truly ingrained in me after hearing my daughter playing it on the drums for the last several months!). Enjoy...

31 August 2013

As summer begins to fade...

You can already feel summer taking its leave—in the cooler air, in the scent of early morning fires in the fields, in the sun reaching further in the room. I've barely had a chance to look at the last several months' photos until now, as I design the 2014 calendars for PaperSynthesis... In a way, I have also been reliving the summer. I equate fall with nostalgia, something I always assumed was related to decades of back-to-school memories, but lately I've been wondering if maybe the nostalgia is for those hot, glorious days of summer. I know some are ready to embrace fall (and I can relate to this because it was my favorite season ever since I can remember), but as I get older I find I love summer even more. Before it slips away this time around, I thought I'd share a few moments of this summer.

The photo at the top of this entry shows a weaving I made with these strips of green 'ribbon' that came in with Venice's modest tide each day. They smell like seaweed, salty & pungent. Below is the weaving back in the studio, after being pressed/preserved in my journal for a few days. I was surprised to see that the green strips had retained their color, as the handful I brought back in my 'shell' tin had blackened as they dried. So now this 'weaving' joins those I have been working on in the studio over the last eighteen months, since my early forays into found poems (images to come, one day).

It can actually be quite discouraging to see how long it takes me to carry an idea to 'completion', especially since I usually seem to 'get' about ninety percent of the way upon the initial inception of a concept...it's that last ten percent that can take months, or even years. But I also find the 'magic' comes from those last ten percent, so I believe the wait is worth it.


I have been trying to make more time to read fiction, and what better time than summer? The vast majority of the books on my bookshelves are non-fiction, and I'd say I probably acquire seven or eight non-fiction works for every novel. I had been looking forward to reading Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers since picking it up on my final bookstore browsing session in the US. It finally came along to the beach with me earlier this month; in the (occasional) periods when I could tear my attention from the water, I enjoyed losing myself in the story of the main character, Victoria—a young woman whose traumatic upbringing in the foster care system made it difficult to communicate with the world, but who managed to find her voice through the language of flowers.

A dictionary of flower meanings is included at the back of the book, as well as an interview in which the author comments that "some will never forgive me for attaching a negative definition to their favorite flower!" Indeed, I was a bit disillusioned when I learned the meanings of some of my favorite flowers. Hydrangeas signify 'dispassion', acanthus 'artifice', and peonies 'anger'. (But then there are dahlias'dignity'—sweet peas—'delicate pleasures'—orange roses'fascination'—and ranunculuses—'you are radiant with charms'.) I loved how Victoria was able to silently 'speak' her feelings with a well-chosen flower. At first it would be one that expressed sentiments like the anger, bitterness or mistrust she felt. But eventually, as chapters alternate between her past and the present as it unfolds, in the role of a florist she finds herself fashioning bouquets to convey the emotions her customers sought either for themselves or wished to elicit in the recipient. Ultimately, Victoria reaches a point where she can expresses positive feelings of her own: forgiveness, reconciliation, gratitude, hope.

I finally finished reading the book, a chapter at a time with morning coffee, after returning home. I liked that it wasn't a 'page turner' (a type of book which I tend to avoid). The first-time author describes some of the writingand the inevitable rewriting—of the book as quite intense, but I came away feeling that her delicate crafting of the story paid off beautifully. And, with its salt-air & salt-water wrinkled pages, it will serve as another reminder of this sweet summer. (Not to mention as an inspiration when I participate in National Novel Writing Month again this November).




The heat in Florence can be pretty energy-sapping & brain-numbing in July and August, and a/c is not a given. One way we stay cool is by making granite (plural of granita). Machines at the front of most bars (i.e. caf├Ęs) in Italy churn around colorful icy mixtures that are generally flavored with fruit-'inspired' syrups (though some of the better gelaterie make them from fresh fruit). At the sea, a granita generally means a cup of granulated ice squirted with what is probably the cheapest, highest fructose corn syrup-y liquid available (but my, do they taste good after a few hours on the beach!). Making them is so easy, though, and I've found you can use just about anything, from cranberry juice to limeade, orange soda and milky coffee. And no extra sugar needed. Simply pour the drink of your choice into a freezer-proof glass that can withstand prodding from a fork & freeze until it begins to harden. You can break up the semi-frozen liquid with a fork at intervals during the freezing process or leave a completely frozen glass of your chosen beverage at room temperature for ten to twenty minutes, then use the fork to break up the semi-melted mixture until it's uniform.

The granite shown below are, from left to right: cranberry juice; almond milk with cardamom & cinnamon; pineapple & watermelon blended into a juice; and tonic water + lime juice, garnished with mint (unfortunately this last one had melted considerably by the time I got the photo, but was still icy-cold & very refreshing).



Though the Red Hot Chili Pepper's Song in the video included below is not named for the Italian Venice, but rather Venice Beach in L.A, I can't help but think of 'la bella Venezia' whenever I hear it—the melody is haunting, soulful, multidimensional and beautiful, just like Venice. The lyrics are a tribute to the woman who counseled lead singer Anthony Kiedis to the other side of his drug addiction, and sadly died of cancer soon after he bought her a house in Venice Beach. Below I've included a live version played at Slane Castle. Around minute four, John Frusciante picks up his acoustic guitar, taking the song to a whole new level. The studio version can be found here.


Some of my favorite lines ~
...In the moment of the meantime...
...Do it all then it all again...
...Disbelief that I do suspend...

'Venice Queen' is from the 2002 album By the Way, which my daughter & I finally bought in the US this summer, and played over & over on a road trip to visit our friends in Chapel Hill. Besides 'Venice Queen', my favorites are 'Universally Speaking', 'Dosed', 'The Zephyr Song', 'Midnight', 'By the Way' and 'Can't Stop'. I only have to hear one of these songsor, better yet, the whole albumto take me back to Highway 85: windows down, hair flying, singing at the tops of our voices. Even though we traveled in the slow lane (it had been seven years since I'd gotten behind the wheel), that trip embodied the sweet freedom of summer.

And on that note, my word for August is 'dream'. It seems to encompass my frame of mind at the moment, as I dream on these perfect summer days of dreams for the future.

Wishing happy dreams to you as well...

15 August 2013

Violet in Venice


This month's ROY G BIV photo challenge color is 'VIOLET', so I was quite excited to find that the Lido (where my daughter & I spent our beach week) is full of purple-tinged shells. Even though we've gone there for the past few years, I must admit that it had never registered just how many of the shells are purple inside.

Each morning I spent some time at the edge of the water, looking to see what the waves had brought, and (no matter how hard I tried to limit myself), each evening my little tin was full of shells when we returned to the hotel.


They amounted to a plate's worth by the end of the trip...


Many of the purple shells were in fact fragments, reminding me of shards of broken china, or the finds from an archeological dig. I don't know what they may one day become, but I did enjoy composing them into 'story strips' (an ongoing experiment that you may remember from past posts), shown in the first image, as well as the simple arrangements below...

While most of our stay was spent on the east (beach) side of the Lido, one evening my daughter & I sat for a while on the west side of the island, facing Venice as the sun disappeared into a haze of purple & orange...

We took turns with the camera. As with the past visits, I was most interested in the reflections on lagoon, but it was my daughter who decided to photograph the final stages of the sunset in ten-second increments, and I'm pretty sure the photo above is one of hers.


After the past couple months of 'gallivanting', it feels good to be back in the studio again. There is a lot to do, but I hope to find some spare moments to share more photos, books, music & other good things as I work through the projects awaiting me. I have resisted the desire to share a slew of purple-themed songs for 'VIOLET', but leave you with a favorite U2 song of mine, 'Ultraviolet'...

* The ROY G BIV photo challenge was begun by artists Jennifer Coyne Qudeen & Julie Booth in 2012. Each month is devoted to a different color of the rainbow—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo & violet. Guidelines are here if you'd like to join in this month, or in future rounds.

30 July 2013

One little rock


I spent a few hours at the sea recently, on my way to see my daughter drumming in the end-of-the week concert at CampRock. The train stopped in the town of Cecina, and from there I turned west and headed toward the sea. After about forty-five minutes, the Umbrella Pine-lined road brought me to the water's edge. The beaches in this area are naturally stony (though sand is sometimes brought in to complete the picture of a proper seaside), and where the water meets the land I started noticing little rocks (stones? I am never quite sure just what distinguishes one from the other) traced with intriguing white lines, some straight, others circular. As I continued along the shore, I picked up several to bring home to the studio for further study—each was unique—but it seemed ridiculous (and a bit greedy!) to take so many, so in the end I chose my favorite. It has come around with me quite a bit lately, but finally made it onto the studio table. And then onto my tea tray. And the series of photos that follows could perhaps be called 'Anatomy of a rock'.


Photographing the rock's many faces led to more image-making. The deep gray called to mind that of my collection of new pencils (among them a dozen Palomino Blackwing 602s). Likewise, the Japanese tea pot on the platinum-rimmed 'tray'. And the rippled reflections of the amber glass I've been using as a pencil holder also captured my fancy (below), reminding me of July's reflection in my 'Arno Reflected' calendar (in the image at the top of the post). I love discovering these little connections between things as I go along, and it's been a while since I've had time to play around with the camera like this...


Glancing back through the last few weeks' photos, I then came across this stand of candles in Montepulciano's Cathedral. Their shape echoes the long slender Blackwing pencils, and even the golden flames seem to be mimicking the shiny gold eraser holders.

And yesterday I made a quick watercolor in indigo (still on my mind after this month's ROY G BIV challenge, mentioned in the last post). As an homage to the tradition of Batik, which I associate with the color of indigo, I'd love to explore this idea further using a wax resist technique.


I will continue to turn over the image of my pretty rock & its pattern of crisscrossing white lines in my mind, even as my daughter & I head for a much-looked-forward-to week at the sea. This brings brings me to my word for July: wander. As we began the month, we shall end itwanderingthough this time a little closer to home... 

Here's hoping that, summer or winter, you are finding joy in this season.




Below (as well as the image next to the indigo watercolor) is the sea at Cecina, upon whose shores my little rock came to rest...

19 July 2013

Flying in a blue dream (II)

The last time artists participating in the ROY G BIV photo challenge went searching for the 'I' (indigo), most of us were rather stymied. Thinking that at the very least I could pin down the color using a variety of art supplies labeled as 'indigo', I opted to create a handful of cubes with indigo-colored materials—watercolors, pencils, sequins, marbled paper, string. But I still came away feeling that I didn't really have a true grasp of exactly what indigo is.

It turns out that Isaac Newton is to blame for its inclusion in the rainbow moniker, but I was interested to come across a passage in an 1869 publication that listed a string of people who contested Newton's definition of indigo. While Newton placed indigo beween blue & violet on the color wheel, one of the professors cited believed it to be in the cyan-blue region that sits between blue & green; others compared it to Prussian blue or ultramarine. Perhaps one difficulty in pinpointing/defining indigo stems from the fact that, in its dry lump form, it possesses a violet aspect, yet a greenish one when transformed into a powder or dissolved. Personally, I've always associated it with a warm midnight blue.




Now, as promised, I'll see if I can explain the title from two posts ago. I had originally meant to include a video of Joe Satriani's Flying in a Blue Dream as a sort of footnote to my blues for June's ROY G BIV challenge, but forgot. So then I thought I'd add it to my return journey photos, taken from the plane—more blue, plus the obvious flying theme. But the explanation became such a digression that in the end I decided to simply save the video and make it the centerpiece of 'INDIGO'.

It's one of my favorite songs of Joe's and, though it was first released twenty-four years ago, he still plays it at nearly every concert. I was thrilled that it kicked off the one my daughter & I saw in northern Italy two summers ago, and was played third when he came to Florence this past May. The song is in part inspired by childhood dreams he had about flying over the world. Even though, like nearly all of his music, Flying in a Blue Dream doesn't have lyrics, I think it does a beautiful job of summoning up an ethereal sense of wonder & delight. And surely some of those blues in the video are indigo (whichever version of the color you subscribe to)...




Another exciting—and unexpected (there was no prior publicity)—discovery the night of Joe's appearance in Florence was Oli Brown, whose band played a few songs before Joe took the stage. Oli is a young Brit with a jazzy-bluesy-rock-y sound, and I can't imagine a better opener for Joe Satriani. Here's a video from the European tour he did as the opener for Joe (+ a little more blue)...




Technically, I haven't fulfilled the requirements of the ROY G BIV challenge (as the images are supposed to be your own photos), but visiting family & more travels mean that I will likely not have a chance to play around with indigo much this week/end. But who knows? Maybe my fifteen-month-old niece will be interested in hanging out in the studio when she wakes from her nap momentarily...

 ~ Wherever you are, here's hoping the music is good! ~

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...