Climbing and tripping my husband up on a little rise in the earth to attend the opening of the “Envisioning O’Keeffe” exhibition at Columbia College the other night, a friend questioned me about my favorite tools.  Gobsmacked, nothing came out of my mouth.

You know, she said.  When you were creating all your textiles, the needle was your favorite tool.  What is now?  Now that you are working differently?  I still had nothing to add to the conversation.


The needle was certainly my friend when it came to applying stitches to this crazy quilt of a fabric base also created by a needle in the sewing machine.  It was a means by which a message came forth.  And once in a while a needle would last for years. I would notice that.  In the piece above, my notation says that “Film Noir” was the 39th piece done in 1998.  Whew.  If a needle survived a couple of years, that is a lot of stitching.  Then, it simply snapped, which always was a surprise:  What the hell?!

Not having my mind on the means, but only on the satisfactory end, tools do not mean much to me.  Would that I could snap my fingers and chair rail would merge with window edge.  When my husband and I were dating, he would talk about “faith in tools”.  He is ga-ga about tools.  Observing this in him, our contrast is great.

One of my girlfriends is much the like Glenn.  I have seen her work through a tiny tooled process when pruning shrubs  here with great interest:  How can that shuffle possibly make the slightest difference?

And then there are the “Car Talk” guys.  They celebrate an opportunity to buy a new tool.  Not me.  That just makes my overhead higher.


Above is my piece for the “Envisioning O’keeffe” exhibition.  The piece, called “College Bound” tries to discuss what I know about Georgia O’keeffe’s brief history at the institution of Columbia College, as well as my own.  The best thing about my history there is that it got me here to South Carolina. That is huge.

This piece practically made itself, and required many tools.  Even a needle.  These shoes were worse for wear and yawned in the middles.  I made neat zig zag stitches to hold their sides together.  In the image below you can see the tiny tails at the middle of each shoe.


Perhaps finding elements for a piece is the most pleasurable for me.  Broken scissors, a line of copper from the sash of a window with the nails still intact, antlers sacrificed from the house, a wooden spoon that cradles and contrasts with the line of the shoe:  this is what gets my blood racing.

Envisioning O'keeffe

Above is the piece in situ.

Finally, after much thinking, I have an answer for my favorite tool.  Along with all the skills with wood I have learned from my husband, my answer is “gravity”.  Gravity is my favorite tool, and being cognizant of it makes lots of jobs much easier.

What is your favorite tool?


Went to a meet and greet  “all the arts”  interface at a private home recently.  It functions as a way for people working in the arts to kind of cross pollinate with other artists whose projects they may have not known about.  Some simply advertise as to what they are doing and invite others.   This took place the night before most of the Columbia, SC artists open up their studios for a well advertised self-guided tour and sale.  This event has been building for the past few years, and we cannot participate because we don’t live in Richland County.  Some in our situation rent spaces in downtown Columbia for the weekend so that they can cash in on the possibilities.

We met a dancer there that looked exactly like Selma Hayek  when playing Frida Kahlo.


There was a tiny opera singer there, a very fancy person.

There were magazine publishers there, and wives, and many “assistants” who ran the event and tried to sell the art on the walls.  I was able to meet and thank the publisher who just included an article on my recycling in his magazine as an Earth Day story.  There were journalists, filmmakers;  my raison d’etre.

It felt false.  I put some postcards in my purse, but did not give any to anyone.  I have two jobs right now and do not feel pushed in any way.  What about finishing my pool, my gardens, laying brick, sanding old windows?  We just created a gallery on the top floor of the barn and cannot find time to paint it.  What about my upcoming hike on the AT?

The life comes first, not the art.  If the life is artful, then the art will come.  Do not confuse the two.  The visual artists from last night looked lean and hungry.  Darting eyes.  I have been in that place and it is an uncomfortable and heavy place to reside.

I had a dream last night.  A good friend, not an artist, was making MY art and doing it better.  I tore off the fabric which made up my art from its stretchers, and found that the structure supporting the work was interesting.  I decided that the support structure would be the art instead.

It looked very much like this, only all the lines and shapes were contained within a square perimeter.


One of my current projects is to create two new embroideries,  something I have not done in years.  One is finished, and it was easy to slip into that old obsession.  It is my only thing where the expertise is unchallenged.


Janet Kozachek created and gave this painting to me in 1993.  The artist in her studio, but not making art.


Glenn and I hung her current exhibition of small works at the Orangeburg Art Center last week.  What fun!  The following is Janet’s description of the show.  It opens February 11, 2014 through March 31.  Read about it in Janet’s own words following:



What the heck?  My dad, a hard working government administrator, upright, publicly non-political,  fedora-wearing, came in the front door every day after work.  Just to the left of the entry of our moderately upscale tract house was the front closet.  It was mostly for the winter stuff and the vacuum cleaner.  He stowed his fedora in there on the top shelf, closed the door, and entered the family room.

There was other stuff up there; the hats that completed our brownie uniforms for example, and  there was much similar in the basement in the fiber drums we brought home from Japan.  We girls were pretty much low circulating hurricanes as we destroyed all that stuff.  My mother’s old dolls. The “Little Big Books”, whatever.

Looking for mittens or a scarf, one day I found an amazing plastic thing.  I got used to it being in there, in a little box, but don’t think there was any discussion about it.  It was just there.


Why did dad save this?  He was not musical in any way.  He did not sing in church; he just stood there.  And why did  we not destroy this as we did everything else?  Well, it was kind of out of reach on the shelf, and who would know how to play with this thing?

Turns out every soldier during WWII was issued one on their way to Europe.  My dad was only old enough for the occupation, and it seems then that the administration should be most worried about the men.  Not enough to do, when you simply “occupy”.  The Army must have had a great musical notion.  Dreams of an ocarina band of 25,000!  Can you imagine?  How about the ocarina salesman who got THAT order from the US Army!  Art goes mainstream, for sure!

Well I know that my father was not playing his ocarina ALL the time.  He had a French girlfriend over there.  I think the ocarinas were given to counteract the French girlfriends;  such a pure time in which to have lived!

Our book group went to see  my friend Janet Kozachek  to look around her studio.  Aside from being a brilliant painter, she has fun making mosaics, Chinese (it would be sumi-e if Japanese) pen and ink drawings of tango couples, books, wonderful pattern on pattern pencil drawings.  And ocarinas from local clay.


janets ocarina

Janet sent me the above image, and describes its features:

“This ocarina is a classic ten hole ocarina in the sweet potato shape.  Another fun fact about ocarinas is that the name comes from the Italian man who standardized the shape and scale – ocarina is Italian for “Little Goose.”  The ocarina pictured here is stoneware clay burnished with a rose colored terra sigillata glaze then pit fired.”
The ocarinas are like little personal sculptures.  And the one above is rather conservative in design, although a piece of art that is also a musical instrument has design limitations.  My favorite one was a face with imbedded pearls.  Emotional me wanted to buy that one, but I had the find the one where the aesthetics of the sculpture and the aesthetics of the sound were the best mix.  Mine is in the shape of a whale’s tooth.
1-my ocarina
The belly of the ocarina is the same color as the belly of my kitten, Pastel.  I love it!
1-underside of ocarina
The choice and range of animals in which Janet makes these instruments is amazing.  And she can play them!


As you know, South Carolina is not an asylum, because it is too big  (James Pettigrew).  In 1981, coming here to teach at Columbia College, my colleague said to me:  it seems strange but the SC State Fair is a great place to get your art seen.  Enter the thing.  Costs nothing.  Did it, won some money, but never tried again.

My husband, new to the state, missed the deadline last year.  I heard myself say the same thing to him that my colleague had said to me years ago.  Do it, it costs nothing.  He did, won some money.  How easy is this?

Maybe easy to score some money, but not easy to appreciate art in this venue.   There is something just so wrong about pegboard.


That base brown color and those round holes can destroy any work that does not possess superior inner strength.   You cannot NOT see pegboard.  It carries associations.  The back of my father’s workbench, on which tools are hung, for one thing.  Everything visible around an image factors into it.

Below in this image from a couple of years back, the entry numbers are smacked right on the picture plane, when  there is a nice information card right below the image.  Put the entry number on the card, or better, on the back of the piece. This is just rude.


The SC State Fair gives away several tens of thousands in prize money every year.  Why not go cheap one year and purchase some panels that do not destroy the spirit of the work that has been done?  And this is to say nothing about the way that the sculpture is being shown this year.  Below is Glenn’s winner, photographed in a way where the shape relationships can be seen.

1-new work glenn and lee 002-001

Below is the work displayed at the front of our house.


In the case of the front porch, the work cannot be seen as in the professional photograph; other elements on the front porch have their say as well.  But the sculpture is elevated on pedestals, and one can see the work from all sides.  Being placed on the front step removes the work a bit from the body of the porch population.  They have more power.


Here is our prizewinner amongst all the juried entries.  On the floor.  And even when not structurally necessary, the pegboard is there.  And who is responsible for this red rug??


Don’t wander into a place about which you know nothing, I said to me.  And if this place about which you know nothing is a source of satisfaction, don’t think about money.  Money taints most things.  And is not pure.

(I am having trouble realizing that the money I earn from being old is enough.  The impulse to make art and sell art seems to be meaningless now, after extended examination by moi.   A piece or two once in a while is just fine.  No sense to structure my life around selling.   Keep stashing your money in the Caymans, Mitt, make more.  You are paying for me, I know.)

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Having readers of my posts is exciting.  And more is more, right?  Therein lies the flaw in my thinking.  My daughter (brannyboilsover.com) upgraded me to leemalerich.com.  Found a coupon to have the designation for a year for free.  You get what you pay for!  I used to own that name, then let it go, and no one else picked it up.  There is another Lee Malerich, married into the family.  Synthetic.

(We did this on the prospect of getting ads on my blog, like she does.  She makes money over there at brannyboilsover, and I stupidly thought it was a good idea for me.  Another example on the ledger side of my being particularly unable to translate anything into money.  My blog couldn’t have been rejected any quicker than it was.)

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Blogging for those defined as being in their prime, not passe, is something quite different than my understanding about what writing is.   Wordy, and wanting to create a composition of an essay sort, this blog is not targeted enough.  Not tight.  For sure.  Understand why the blog was rejected.

(So what was my response to these facts?  I could not write.  If the passion doesn’t bubble up, the words don’t come.  And another thing.  My muse, my seventeen year old Mouse walked away into the woods to die more than ten days ago.  Could not write about it until fairly sure this is what she did.  Although I still look to see her walking down the long drive.)


Dragging your damn self into your creative act never gets you ads.  What was I thinking?