January Thoughts

In spite of early snow and torrential rain (no exaggeration), the frost on Sunday felt decisively January.

On a sunny walk, my mind buzzed with thoughts of my commonplace book idea. I’d imagined 24 small books about flowers for the beautiful glass cases at the Miller, but lately, I’ve questioned that plan.

     Now I think about taller books, still about flowers, the year in flowers. Just a sampler, and, of course, Washington flowers this time. Some of the months will require revisiting past notes and blogs. And because the books’ size will better allow stems, I can begin with the branches of January.

     In these early months I get to check memory against reality – and observe new things – like this beginning to bud Ribes sanguineum decorated for some unknown reason with a teeny, tiny knitted hat!  

The Spring March

Everyone, everywhere seems to be glad to see the last of February this year – moving happily on to the promise of March!

And the booksellers Vamp and Tramp just leapfrogged over spring and feature my foldbooks “Summer Into Fall” with their offerings this month. (It’s a privilege to be included and always a pleasure to look at the artists’ books on their site (here).

Seeing those images reminds me of that best time of year here – hot days and harvest food. But, though chilly weather will linger before real warmth arrives in July, I am also grateful for the long Washington spring, with bare soft earth and emerging plants.

And light! Unlike a winter day when the lamp on my desk stays on, now, on a good day, sun shines into my little workroom from early to late. Outdoors, buds triggered by lengthening daylight begin to change the view.

And the soundtrack changes, too. In winter months only the muffled scuffle of boots on fallen cedar fronds and fir needles, and raindrops through the canopy break the morning silence on the woods walk. Now faint notes of the spring morning chorus begin – little bird twitterings and the haunting songs of winter wrens.

Winter blossoms – snowdrops, crocus, and hellebore bloom in the garden. But daffodils hold the most promise. Their beginnings lead the parade of flowers to come. Nosing through the compost in early February, March finds them six inches up and stretching, green buds brushed yellow.

I’m ready to begin “spring into summer!”

Daffodils in Millbrook vase

Foldbooks and Winter Cards

“A Bird Foldbook” and “A Foldbook for Spring,” foldbooks you’ve seen here, and one you haven’t seen (unless you were a Workroom participant) are now available in the shop on my website (www.katygilmoreartist.com).

Digitally reproduced from my original drawings and text using archival printing on lovely Moab Entrada paper, foldbooks, with their accordion shape, display well on bookshelf, desk, or table. They are 34 inches long fully extended, but fold into a five by four-inch cello envelope.

They’d make a good gift! And I’ve also added a selection of seasonal cards to the shop.

Please order by December 12, 2013 for delivery before the holiday.

Bird foldbook

The Sketchbook Project

Clearing the decks in the first week of January, I found the envelope I’d received from “The Sketchbook Project,” a project encouraging people from around the world – some 22,000 so far – to register, pay a fee, and receive a sketchbook. When filled and returned, the sketchbook will be archived at the Brooklyn Art Library. (They also organize exhibitions to travel across the continent.)

The little brown envelope contained a tan, stiff-covered, five-by-seven-inch, stapled booklet with 32 pages of white paper. It had a January 15 deadline for return.

This blank book in the emptyness of early January presented all the dilemmas of a bigger project – what to do, how to start, media, rules, motivation. It brought to mind a quote from the poet May Sarton about “keeping gear in order for that never-ending journey.” I found the whole quote and it seemed to fit: “If there is motivation here, it is always self-ordering, self-exploratory, a perpetual keeping gear in order for that never-ending journey.”

I think of that journey as work, creative work, and that’s what sketchbooks are good for, like writer’s notebooks – a place to practice, to gather ideas, to keep the hand in. And in this case to think about my own workroom. Because I hope to make a little book with the ideas and encouragements from The Workroom for participants, it’s good to focus.

A set of rules for The Sketchbook Project proclaims: “…dive in – there’s no better feeling than tackling that first blank page.”

Not. In spite of my short timeline, I dithered (doing dance steps of avoidance and distraction), and finally let the little book become my space for working all that out. I allowed just one page at the beginning to fill in later, stamped the cover with The Workroom – and started.

For the next bit I’ll post the pages of “The Workroom: A Sketchbook Project” – though the book itself is gone to Brooklyn – it did its job and got me going, Maybe, if you are not already well-begun, it will help you start your 2013 creative project!

A sketchbook project - cover spread

Her spirits rose…The Workroom!

Thinking about the new venture I wrote about here, it occurred to me that what I propose is most like a workroom – a place to go for creative endeavor. Not a workshop or a studio or an office – room titles definitely designated to particular activities – but a space, virtual in this case, where we go to work, to make, to be inspired, to see what’s going on. And our workroom has colleagues with whom to share the creative process.

I like to think about what’s in a workroom – a door for sure – bookcases full of inspiration and instruction – a table and a light – tools and storage – a welcoming place. The first session of “The Workroom” is definitely a beta effort – a learning process – and I’ve loved thinking about, and planning for it.

This session will run from September 17 to October 26 and cost $60. Because there is much to be learned from more experienced participants by the not-so-experienced, the group will be limited in size but not in skill level. While some will have already discovered a way to express their lives through work on a writing or art project, others might use this time and structure to begin to learn a skill like drawing or take a skill to another level.

We’ll have our own blog for The Workroom’s virtual space and learn how to negotiate the inner workings of a blog. (The blog can live on beyond the session – as community and resource.) The idea is that participants will set up and fill individual pages within our blog – a place for each to post about goals and progress – following the familiar arc of creativity – from loose idea and initial enthusiasm to specific thoughts and steady working.

To make that journey in six weeks, it is necessary to have a project fairly quickly in mind. When my young friend was 11, she said to her mom (in response to her mom’s vague comment about “not being inspired”): “if I waited for inspiration, I’d never get anything done.” Muses can only be wooed – not forced – but they do show up when we focus, and maybe for those who aren’t sure of THE project – this period of concentration on a small part of the big task might work – a real beginning.

Please email me (herspiritsrose@gmail.com) for sign-up details or with questions, and include a little about what you hope to get from our experience. I very much look forward to hearing from you.

Here’s to September and new beginnings!

A Gift for You

It’s so 21st century – to send a link as a gift, but that’s how I felt when a friend sent this to me. Do look when you have a quiet moment, and follow the photo narrative (by Edinburgh photographer Chris Scott) to the very end. What a lovely, lovely idea in support of art and books and libraries, executed with amazing intricacy and skill – such excellence and so anonymously!

For you:


I wish you a holiday filled with joys large and small!