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.

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