Posts Tagged ‘wood’


Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Available! $1000

Central Core: Roots of Faith
wood, textiles, beads, silk flowers.

Rae did not quite finish this piece, and it was never in a show.  So the name is from a list she had for a recent show, one that did not fit anything else that was in that show, and I am assuming it referred to this piece, which was several years in the making.

The main structure is a section of a tree trunk, maple, with a large cavity, surrounded by the distinctive almond-shaped scar (hence the “Central Core”, look it up) where the tree continued to grow and try to heal over the opening.  The top of it, indeed the whole shape, is suggestive of a torso, and so Rae saw it, and planned the piece to take advantage of that.  The bottom was not large enough to balance and support the rest, so a separate tree stump was used, attached and carved to fit.  The joint is obvious but subtle.

Rae removed all the bark from the outside, but left the callus, the healed section around the opening, and removed a lot of soft, punchy wood from inside.  The outside was then smoothed and dyed with red and black, covered with clear varnish, and I leave it to you, as she did, to determine what it evokes in you.

Inspired by the wayside shrines of Europe, the kapliczki, and the art and craft around the Lady/Mother/Goddess represented by the Guadalupe shrines, she embroidered and beaded her own Lady to fit inside the piece.  She finished all but a few square inches of the sequin/bead fill at the top of the image, which was completed by friends visiting the house in the days after her death, so the piece could be fished for her “Birthday Party” May 16th 2009.

Mounted in the opening, surrounded by silk flowers, the piece was done and looks incredible!


Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

From the Age of Consideration

In the Collection of Dawn Roberts

Rocking Chair, Ash and Pecan.
Rae took several classes in woodworking at the UW, as well as having access to quite a few tools at home, since I (Math) had worked at the Amana Furniture Shop.  She wanted a rocking chair, one that she could fit in, as a large woman, and feel comfortable with, so she made one to fit her dimensions, and sturdy enough to be an heirloom.
She made several pieces of furniture out of Ash, including a queen-sized bed with matching nightstands, an easy chair and ottoman, and several stools.  But the rocker was given a title, signed on the bottom of the seat (making it one of the few pieces she actually put her name on), and given a place in Women, Domesticity, and Objects of Power.
And Rae did like to rock.  When we were younger she would dance, and even when in a motorized chair, she would spin and wheel around the floor.

When the Patriarchy Sweeps

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Curly Maple, ting-ting, barbed wire, basswood, felt.

Wow!  It has been over 8 weeks since my last post!  Apologies for those who might be waiting for them.

This is the last broom in the collection.  Only parts of it remain now, some were recycled by Rae for other pieces, and the whole was too many pieces and too difficult to box to maintain as a piece.

The piece was done as part of an anti-Gulf War show.  I don’t remember when the show was, nor who organized it.  Since it was during Desert Storm, it would have been 1990.  From the photograph, I’d say it was the 7th Floor Gallery at the Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus.  Rae did leave behind her Artist’s Statement concerning it, which I reproduce below.

The broomstick is a thick, somewhat subtle phallic shape, (for Rae it was subtle!) made of a solid block of curly Maple.  It was carefully rounded and shaped, and brought to a high polish.  If you looked closely at the top, there was even a slight ridge.   The skirt is strands of barbed wire, and a variety of floral shop selections, some with sparkles, some curling, so that the impression is that of the trails behind a missile lifting off.

Below the broom are a set of carved pieces of Basswood, cut into the shapes of the countries of the middle-east, though not to scale.  These were placed on a thick, irregular foam base, wrapped with black felt.

The other pieces she mentions below were never completed.

When the patriarchy sweeps

As an artist, I have the opportunity and the means to express my: hopes, fears, concerns, anger, love, political beliefs and spirituality in a visual way. My process can become a catharsis, a discharge and an exploration into my emotions, passions and thoughts. And as an artist, I am even egotistical enough to believe that the work/piece that comes out of this process — may make a difference: by supporting and validating the perceptions of some and by giving others and insights into a different perspective. Or by just being manifested into the world.

In magical societies the process of “making”, begins the process of transformation and change. When I heard the words “War is sweeping across the Middle-East today” and “As Desert Storm sweeps across the Middle-East” — my years of anti— war activism felt like a waste. I became glued to the TV like the rest of the US. But with each stroke of that camera — I became stronger in my resolve to make the art explored my concerns and despair. To begin the process of making/transforming/changing this reaction to all war, at least within myself.

War is wrong, there has to be another way to resolve conflict. The devastation of cultures is wrong. And when war, when the Patriarchy sweeps over an area, that area is torn apart. Its culture is devastated. Both the victims and the aggressors are injured. And the victims of war are not limited to soldiers or resistance fighters. Is what they called civilians/collateral damage.  That “damage” is women, children, the disabled and elderly.

When the Patriarchy Sweeps, is the first in a series of broom sculptures called SWEPT OVER. This is a war broom and speaks of the tearing apart of her region. It decries the devastation of cultures. He reveals the patriarchal assumption of its rights to have power over. It mourns victims of war — the women, children and others of all sides. When there is an “enforced peace”, who cleans up the devastation…  I hope it expresses the need for true Peace.


Honeysuckle Dreams

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

(honeysuckle, honeysuckle roots)

Sweeping Changes

I am doing another entry right away, since it was a long break, and I’d like to get all the work done.
This might be my favorite broom.  It is wild and sweet, and reminds me of her.  When I look at it, I see her dancing.  She used to love to dance, and even when she was in her chair, she would twirl and glide with music sometimes.  I still get at least a tear in my eye when I hear the Avett Brothers song, Swept Away:

Well you send my life a whirling
Darling when you’re twirling
On the floor
Who cares about tomorrow?
What more is tomorrow?
Than another day.

I am also going to use Rae’s own words for this one, again from Master Sweepings:

Southern women, tough strong, stubborn.  Mothers, grandmothers, not genteel, but wild, bodacious – dancing thru life – not ramrod straight, but laughing, courageous women who know how to bend.  Spinning, rocking, vining, rooting.

Each of the brooms could almost be considered a love letter to women, but this one is specifically to my grandmothers, who are the ones that taught me to love being a woman.  My grandmothers danced through many dramatic, sad or normal times, and each of them has given me an alternative picture of what older women are.  Wise, strong and outrageous in their own right, they worked hard, laughed, and argued with each other.  They taught me resilience.  The honeysuckle is resilient: cut it back or dig it up, and it comes back.  The honeysuckle is considered a flower by some, an invader by others, little better than a weed.  Like the honeysuckle, my grandmothers cared little for outsiders’ opinions, but grew in their own manner with their own belief system intact.
Poor women, with little education, they were anything but invisible or worthless.  Many old women live alone, cut off from affection, sexuality and life, but not these women.   Each of my grandmothers carried her own name  proudly.  They were short little women who were majestic in their stature, righteous in their anger, humorous and stubborn.  Never would these women sit meekly by and allow someone to dictate their lives, nor did they encourage their granddaughters to.  This broom is a message of reclaiming in that I want each of us to dance into our own power and catch/make our own dream.  This is the clearest message, maybe the only clear message, other than the importance of tenacity, that my grandmothers gave me.    The broom was also an acknowledgement of the skills and love of making that I got from them.  Each of my foremothers is an artist in her own right.  My great great grandma MacDowell was a weaver and a quilter, who lived to be 99, and held my oldest son in her arms.  Great grandma Nancy made quilts, hooked rugs and dolls, and raised literally millions of birds in her house and barn to sell to pet shops and bird houses.  She lived with a man for almost 30 years, and laughed about their great sex until he died when she was 74.  Grandma Dora was a seamstress and baker and the quietest of the lot, but she married her second husband at 72.  All of their art would have been considered craft  they define it as such themselves  but it is not just domestic objects that they made, used, gave away, traded and sold  it was something from the heart, made with attention and intention.  This was their gift to me.
The broomstick is made of the heavy branch of honeysuckle, cut in half and fitted back into itself so that the shape emulated an elegant classical “S” curve so often associated with women and their posture.  Grace and posture is a presumption all rural southern border state women must deal with.  My grandmothers did often tell me to stand up straight  but there was such grace, comfort and strength in their own easy posture it was easier to emulate.   I used honeysuckle because it has a relationship to the south.  I think it is the word itself that I respond to.  “Honeysuckle” rolls off the tongue, and has a sensuous sound.  We had Honeysuckle Queens and honeysuckle parades and festivals that had nothing to do with the plant.   The flying skirt of the broom is made of roots to give credence to my belief in the importance of roots as a nurturer of the strength to build the self.

Ghost Broom

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

From Sweeping Changes

Available!  $250

Driftwood, willow, silk
The Ghost Broom was Rae’s tribute to the craft of making brooms.  When she did the research for her MS in Related Art, it was clear that many of the old broommakers were worried their craft was disappearing.  While looking for what Rae said about this broom, I opened up her Thesis, Master Sweepings, and found this section on the Ghost Broom:

Something lost and drifting away.  Lost symbology.  Fading away, broom  ghost of what it used to be…

As a small child each of us may have played with, danced with, or imitated a parent cleaning with a broom.  How many of us learned from a broom about the relationships of space, extensions from our body, and moving in unison with something else? What happens now with electric brooms, vacuums, and carpeting? The broom has been replaced now by a baseball bat kept beside your bed on scary nights.  Who leans on their broom on the back porch, watching the sunset and relishing another day gone and the work accomplished?  When will we walk into another hardware store and see a flower bed of brooms sprouting up from a wooden rack, and watch the magic of a woman picking out her new broom?  What is our relationship to broom, to this artifact of culture being lost and replaced by technology and plastic? Why is everything domestic devalued?
One of the most moving experiences that really solidified my ideas about Ghost Broom happened in Chicago at Blindskills Distributors, a suppliers warehouse.  The neighborhood was rough and deteriorating and the owners were as well.  They welcomed me in, gave me ice water and stayed right there, but worked through the entire conversation, lifting and toting in oppressive heat and dust.  They supplied brooms to Shriners and Moose clubs and other organizations for fundraising projects.  The brooms they supplied to these organizations were from collectives/factories usually run by or for the blind.  They lamented that plastic brooms, brooms from overseas and even the loss of community organizations that ran these kinds of “down to earth fundraising projects” were seriously affecting these collectives.  (It didn’t affect their business  they were really suppliers of industrial carpeting).
Several of the broom factories I visited also had an impact on my concept of loss.  Mark Quinn of Quinn Broomworks, Greenup, Illinois, showed me his broom factory in progress with many people working, each making as many as 25 to 40 brooms a day.  He was animated and excited.  At each station, he showed me different aspects of broommaking  washing wrapping, sorting, dyeing, etc.  Much of the equipment he had was older, worn, and even rusty, but he had great pride in it nevertheless.  We then went to a different section of the factory, where it was very quiet, no thrumming of vises and clamps or busy voices.  There was a large machine (sitting idle) which, with two people to run it, would make 37 brooms in an hour.  According to Quinn, the greater capacity was needed because plastic brooms fall apart in maybe a quarter of the time that a “good corn broom” did.  When he spoke about the machine and how he needed it because so many folks wanted those plastic brooms, he lost that schoolboy enthusiasm.  The tactile quality of making a broom was gone: another tradition being lost.
I found a piece of honeysuckle driftwood, grey and white, bleached by the water and sun.  It carried in it a sense of loss, decay, and mournfulness.  I went into the piece with rasps and sandpaper to accentuate that sense, to cut away rot and expose hidden faces and craggy places.  I then found about 20 thin pieces of corkscrew willow to use as exposed bones of the broom skirt.  I stripped the bark, bleached them using the sun, vinegar, and bleach, and they began to take on that same weathered aged look of the broom handle.  I then drilled holes to precisely fit each stick to the broom handle in places that would encourage the illusion of the broom being one piece, such as little dimples in the wood, holes, and bumps where small branches had been.
I wrapped the piece with unspun silk, stretched sparingly about the broom to give it the look of cobwebs, disuse, deterioration, something abandoned in the corner of an old house.  I mounted the broom on a narrow rod that caused the broom to quiver whenever anyone walked by.  Many of the viewers of this broom seemed to respond to this sense of abandonment, because it was one of the brooms that people stood in front of, holding their hands out as if to touch it, to hold it, to make it better.

The broom itself has aged and transformed, is more of a ghost than it started as:

Jumping Knot Broom

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

Black Cherry, broomcorn

Rae completed this broom in time for a show in Appleton titled Exploring Domestic Myths in 2000.  The show stands out in my memory mostly for the trip up to pick up her pieces, because we were hauling a rented trailer, hit a patch of ice, and though I was able to keep the truck on the road, the trailer tipped over and was wrecked.  Very glad we did not have it full of her art!

At that show, the title was Age of Union: Passion Play; Sweeping Romance/Commitment.  But ever since, she called it the Jumping Knot Broom, (or rarely the Celtic Knot broom).

Rae loved to shop for her raw materials, especially since scouring the woods was out of the question with her arthritis worsening.  She found the cherry at BVC Hardwoods, and knew immediately what she wanted to do with it.  Rae had found a book she gave me on carving wooden spoons, and the history and traditions surrounding that.  Turns out Welsh “Love Spoons”  had quite a history, and inspired her to do a carved broom.

One time-honored wedding traditions, which Rae and I had participated in, is “Jumping the Broom” as art of a marriage ceremony.  Usually just a simple broom, often a hand-made one for Pagan handfastings, and occasionally very fancy, she designed one that combined the love spoon with the broom (though I would challenge anyone to hold this one horizontally for the jump).

The repeating part of the design was transferred onto a sheet of paper, then using carbon paper put on one side of the cherry “beam”  (2.25″ X 6″ , 6′ long)  The finial design at the top and bottom detail were hand drawn, holes drilled through, and the spiral drawn on the narrow sides, then it was a matter of removing all the excess wood.  Rasps, drawknives, spokeshaves, small saws, Foredem flexible shaft, then sandpaper.

The base was made by gluing and cutting more pieces, leaving a bell-like hollow underneath, and rounding with spokeshaves and sanding.  The top fits in with a tapered mortise/tenon joint, and the broomcorn attached to two dowels, making a pair of besom-like brooms for the skirt.

The natural cherry color will get darker red with age.  I personally think this would make a nice altar piece someday.

Sweep of the Milky Way

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

from Sweeping Changes

Cosmos Sequence, Wild Wood, dyed broomcorn.

Collection of Bankston-Thomas, Milwaukee

From Sweeping changes, and also appearing in Women, Domesticity, and Objects of Power, The sweep of the Milky Way is a subtle, beautiful interpretation of the night sky as a broom.  Rae had the stick, a found sapling with characteristic spiral caused by growing with a vine entwined around the trunk.  This wood cried out to be made into a broomstick, as so many similar sticks find their way into craft brooms at Art fairs and festivals.

She stripped the bark, smoothed the wood, and painted it flat black.  Then airbrushed and daubed pearlescent white paint for stars spiraling around the stem.  To make it glow, a clear coat of lacquer was applied.  The result looks like it could be floating in space, slowly turning with the eons and circuits around the galaxy.

The base is dark brown dyed broomcorn, tied with black cord in 5 bundles, making a star pattern.  The broom sits on a square of chamfered wood also painted black.  This is very much a Witches Broom.  Powerful and magical in appearance and energy.

Sensuous Successions

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Tulipwood, flax

Available! $500

One of the 13 pieces in Sweeping Changes, and not included in any shows since, I think.

This simple broom was an exploration of shape and texture.  A very hard wood, it took a lot of carving to get the spiral worked into it.  It also took the light oil finish well.  Not a lot to say.  Within the design and its interaction with the viewer are possible associations and stories.  I know Rae, as a weaver and spinner, liked to work with flax.  The raw flax in this is quite different from linen.

What do you see?


Goddess of the Crossroads

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Wood, Embroidery

vailable!  $750

She of a Thousand Names, an Ironing Board Exhibition Honoring the Goddess, curated by Lynn Slattery  Helmuth.  1997

Rae was asked to participate as one of 13 artists for this show, the format determined by Lynn Hellmuth, with the theme being honoring the Goddess in her many forms, the medium sculpture, the common factor that of the ironing board.  In 12 of the pieces, and actual wooden ironing board was used.

Rae’s piece took an antique pine ironing board, made a base for it with two crossed boards and a circle of pine around them, a Celtic Cross.  The ironing board fit into a curved slot carved into the base (curved because the board had warped over the years, and was no longer flat).  The base also had 4 wooden Celtic spiral emblems in lighter color, repeated also on the bosom of the piece.  This was Rae’s first experience using a jig saw, which also produced the Celtic knotwork making up the “belt” visible  in the picture, and the individual pieces making up the bosom, beginning with a large oval, with two rounded triagles cut out, then a double spiral, carved where solid to make the breasts, and finally two more of the emblematic disks, also called triskels.

The goddess’ face is an oval of wood, almost featureless but for the hint of eyes.


The belly of the piece is one of Rae’s signature embroideries, a beautiful Celtic knotwork with the colors flowing from orange to gold.

On the back of the piece is her hand-written Artist’s Statement:

Lady of Choice:
The Goddesses of The Crossroads

Each of us makes “choices” daily — from what to eat for breakfast, to far more important decisions.

The legends of many Goddesses say they spin out our lives, some even weave the patterns of the world — but the fates do not “choose” for us.  We have the power of self determination, we have “the ability to respond” — to our lives, our world, our ethical beliefs, our hearts.

The Journey through this life is not just about our bodies being born, growing, aging and ending.  It is also about our minds, hearts and souls…

The double spiral path, the three gates, the interlacing and nexus points of the paths of our lives (which are never lived in isolation) and the crossroads are symbols of the Goddesses who support and protect our right to choose…

For that ability — I see my hours of “making” as an offering to them, an acknowledge of this gift — to be a self-responding/self-determining creature…

One of the very few pieces Rae actually signed.

Others in the show besides Rae and Lynn were Janet Shapero, David Aguirre, Truman Lowe, Leslee Nelson, Claudia DeLong Pope, Nana Schowalter, Kitty Slattery, Nancy Cramer Lettenstrom, Paulette Werger, Helen Klebesadel, Kicki Hankell Persson.

Corn Broom/Broom Corn

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Quilted maple, spalted elm, cane, reed

Available!  $550

Rae first presented this piece in a group show called Conundrums, if my records are right.  It was the last time she used a lathe.  The handle was not too bad, but the large piece of spalted elm for the bottom was just a little too scary turning at 500 rpm.

The handle started as a piece of quilted maple, the same that Inspirational Simplicity came from.  After turning and polishing it, she carved corn ears into the parts she left square.  Then used wood dyes to color in the kernels of the corn.

She turned the base, mortised a square hole to take the top, and burned designs in, filling with more dye.

The skirt is a set of handwoven baskets, dyed to look like multicolored corn.  Many people on first glance start by wondering where she got such corn ears, they look so realistic.