The Long Wait for Spring

[This post was scheduled, of course, before Boston. It’s always peculiar, and happens more often than I like to admit, when events so thoroughly override anything one might have to offer. I don’t know what to do but go on – with a heavy heart. This morning a friend in Boston suggested observing the good things that do happen (]

Spring is here and warmth will surely follow – the birds know and the weeds know!

I’ve been revisiting springs past in blog posts while designing paperback foldbooks – little accordion-folded books, the size of a greeting card, but having eight pages – opened, they can stand on a bookshelf. I laid out the foldbooks adapting snippets from “Her spirits rose…” to accompany images of birds and spring for two books, and a third with encouragements from The Workroom.

While I worked, the wind howled, fir trees creaked and the ocean tossed angry whitecaps. The thermometer read 50° outside, but the house felt frigid. Frances wisely curled herself into an Oreo cookie lodged between bed pillows and comforter all day.

Reading the old posts I remembered how spring surprised me when we first moved here – disappointed me really. Being so accustomed to the late but lightning progression of an Alaska spring, I fixated on how long it took to get warm here, how many setbacks and stallouts. I realized the truth of Henry Mitchell’s words: “What we loosely call spring, meaning the season in which plants grow vigorously and come to flower in a time of nice skies and warm airs is partly imaginary.” Imaginary – or the memory of a day now and then.

At the end of last week I saw a proof of the foldbooks. A local photographer, David Conklin, using a large printer with archival ink, printed them three-up on a long piece of lovely Entrada paper. It was exciting to see them all on one piece of paper ready to cut and fold.

Spoonflower has also been fun to see this week. “Garden Tools, Garden Pleasures” is posted amongst the 12 pages of gardening tool-flavored fabric in this week’s contest (lots to look at there!). I have much more to learn – my fabric looks better here on the blog than it does in the contest. But in the way of creative contagion, the Spoonflower attempt energized me for the foldbooks.

I will post pages from “Spring – A Foldbook” while we wait for warmth – coming sooner for some than for others – but coming!

Spring Foldcard cover-2

Royal Bodies – Then and Now

The press has excerpted bits of Hilary Mantel’s London Review of Books lecture, “Undressing Anne Boleyn,” delivered at the British Museum (, reducing her literate comments to schoolyard insults leveled at the Duchess of Cambridge – and it’s causing a giant flap.

Maybe when we glance in fascination at the royals, we look for clothes and mistakes, but Mantel’s long gaze is historical and stares at monarchy itself – a foreign concept to us. But a fascinating one, and you know my heart is with the pageantry of it all – whatever would the British put on cookie tins without the royals?

So I like to think of Kate as smart, picture her recognizing her place in history (knowing she is neither Anne Boleyn nor Marie Antoinette but a modern woman), and rising above the media fray, embracing the fuss even. While Mantel describes herself, as “as a person of expanding girth and diverse afflictions,” Kate is young and beautiful, pregnant with an heir to the throne – royalty!

But Mantel wins with words! Oh it is delicious this piece. Mrs. Hughes, after reading it, said: “How does Mantel do that? Take every thread and weave it together in the end to make the reader feel so satisfied.”

That lecture must have been some event, an evening when the well-worn British praise “Brilliant!” would be exactly right. It’s “Wolf Hall” for our time with Mantel’s descriptive passages about Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana so true and imaginative at the same time.

As she works on the completion of her trilogy, Mantel’s heart must really be with the Tudors centuries ago – but her mind can look at now and make magic for us. She considers her own experiences with the British royals with a seemingly spot-on description of the slightly tacky ring to all of it, when the fairy dust blows away and the folding chairs and the sticks from the canapés are revealed. She is masterful. In her descriptions of the queen parting a room of trying-to-be-cool guests or Diana’s moment of transformation into princess, the prose sings – just like the books.

Mantel asks, “What does Kate read?” I hope she reads Mantel and chuckles. Truly, she has the last laugh. She loves her prince and he loves her, she gets to live in Kensington Palace – I wish her well. And I’m nuts for Mantel.

©Katy Gilmore

Repeating Patterns

On Saturday, the first of three fine weather days before our 70° Easter Sunday, I spent too much time in front of the computer – happy to be warm, sitting in a pool of sunshine, obsessively learning how to make a repeat pattern.

I had recently recommended Spoonflower to a friend. It’s a fabric (also wallpaper and decal) on-demand Website (I’d heard of it but not tried), and I got sidetracked big time in a wander through that looking glass.

All I could think, while watching the cherries and the wedding elephants I’d uploaded multiply instantly in brick or tile pattern on Spoonflower’s site – even appearing on a wall behind a table and chair – is that I would have died for this in my fabric screen-printing days. Now you can do anything with a few clicks!

Spoonflower offers software that’s easy to manipulate, no set up fees, and an eight-inch test patch for five dollars. It even includes access to PicMonkey, a “fearless photo embetterment” site that can crop or resize your image.

Spoonflower holds a weekly design challenge contest (last week was “Living in Jane Austen” and the fabrics are fun to see). This week’s challenge is to design a fabric featuring garden tools – that’s what set me off. I could imagine using the art from my garden journal, resizing and repositioning individual images to make a block to repeat – and also thinking with exitement of other possibilities from the archive – fabric with spring flowers, vegetables, shoes!

I did feel pangs of guilt, pushing those garden tools around with my mouse, thinking I should probably pick up a real trowel or weeding fork and go outside. But the excitement of challenge defeated guilt, and eventually I’d figured out the required “fat quarter” (a piece of fabric bigger than an ordinary quarter of a yard), and nervously posted “Garden Tools, Garden Pleasures!”

A detail:

And a miniature fat quarter: