Interesting exercise.


Bought the laurels above for almost nothing, played with them for a couple of years, and gave up.  It is too hot here for Mountain Laurels, and they all developed holes in their leaves.  So not a lot of money was lost.


Neither was it with all these Agave.  They all come from one mother, which is in another place on the acreage.  These love the sun here.  Same pots on the columns; common Prickly Pear is in them now.  This pool environment has lots of spiky things, counterintuitively.


The Holly bushes on either side of the entry gate must be about two years old here.  A plywood box covers the machinery for the pool.


Above, the hollies make a tunnel over the gate.  Brick has been added to the entry, tile to the pool deck and a little silo to cover the pool equipment. Confederate Jasmine almost covers the back fence now.  It was completely covered about four years ago, so much so that its density absorbed garden space and we had to start over.


This is Sidney’s Live Oak, planted in 1997, the year he died.  Look at the sandy soil.  It is only with a system and a well that we can have grass.


Here is the adolescent live oak today.  Have more of these, it takes some work to photograph and crop to make a good comparison.



Tannic acid.  What makes the slow moving Edisto river waters murky/black and a symbol of equally slow southern living is also making the deck around my pool a mess.  Above, the area under the blue line undulating like the Edisto behaves in the low country of South Carolina,  was grouted only two days ago.  Above the line to the left,  today.  Today, that grout is clean.  Wait until tomorrow.

To be sure, my aesthetic is shabby. I do not expect perfection.  Our house is a 1940’s farm house, mostly tongue and groove, and many planes meet other planes in a happy approximate way.   It is filled with stuff from that decade and the next;  my pocketbook can only afford these precious items that have a “history”—a history of being well used!  We all have our bumps and bruises.

But I will tell you what.  We have had a summer to remember down here.  Today is the first day we have had zero chance of rain since the middle of the spring.  Might have been the beginning of spring.  My head is swimming.

Don’t even know how to describe how wet this spring/summer has been.  Wilting, humid, dirty-feeling, wet-feeling, doing things outside in the rain because it just will not stop, crinkly body parts, fungus, mold, unrelenting, opposing optimism, ponds in places they do not belong, mosquitoes where they were not before, wet paper, wet bedclothes, wet wet wet.

moldI poured bleach on this black mold already where the bricks offset the old entrance to the studio.  Dangerous stuff.  You can see how it is still an issue.  And then there is mildew.

I have heard about mildew in old television commercials.  Saw it years ago on old cheap shower curtains.  It was the old experience of mildew that made me decades ago declare that a shower curtain would never darken my door again,  and ten years ago realize that showers did not need coverings anyway.  Of any kind.

But I never saw mildew as a kind of indoor snow before.  Inexperienced, this is what we did.  Happily living here without air conditioning in the big house for many years now., we invested in a whole house attic fan.  And Glenn had some kind of a system added with our recent construction to pull hot air out of our steep attic.  Both things helped, kind of.

Man did that fan pull the cool air out of the woods and into the house!  It was wonderful!  And this has not been a hot summer for us, just wet.  We would watch the indoor/outdoor thermometer and when temps equalized in the morning, we shut the house up and turned on the dehumidifier.  It worked!  Everything was tolerable until I found the white snow.  First on a fine old hand made table with a marquetry top, which had some varnish problems anyway.  Guess I kind of generalized the two problems together.  Head in sand.

But then I saw snow on the side of the dresser, and looking closer, everywhere.  Battle stations!  And the end of a certain way of life.  My weakness makes me sick.  Do you know what pushed me over to the other side?  Ringworm.  I got a fungus this wet, wet summer on my ankle.

Good bye to this part of green living.

1-clean tile

The other side of the pool deck has no damage from oak trees plus water.  Around it are hollies, papyrus, acuba plants.  Watch, next year we will be complaining about something else.


Pretty soon, it will not be fun working with water outside.  Things need to be grouted up tightly at the pool.  Then I will begin with the shower in the new bathroom.  Its portland cement bottom is being created today by a real expert:  the man who taught me to lay tile.

White grout will be added here to this area that is slowly getting more beige (or whatever.  I think names for colors is just silly.  How can a name describe a color and value?).

This tile rug was created last week in an effort really to simply take up some space on a huge pool deck.  The outdoor table will sit here.  The flea market provided the jewels and I usually listen to the universe when she offers something up.

In all my work, whether textiles or this, I like to see a frenzy kind of settle down into strict pattern in places.  That is the reason for the little vignettes of rectangles here.

The orangey center of this rug will be grouted with a color called “malt”, half of it is now, in addition to about a foot of the white tile  around that center.  Then I will start in with white grout beyond.

So with the addition of the white grout, this whole area will get brighter as it works out and away.  And another subtle change is happening on those outer edges.

This tile is from the Crossville Tile Company of Crossville, Tennessee.  They have an area of experimental or damaged tile that they give to art teachers.  I often stop when going across I-40, and got these kind of screen printed examples there.  Breaking these up creates a subtle difference in the area surrounding the rug proper.

At the bottom of the image above you can see the screen printed tile.


Working at the pool for the last couple of days, I have been thinking about what grout can do for a mosaic image.

I am using bright white grout now.  It looks great around the pool at this point, but we will see how it ages and maybe curb our enthusiasm!   I decided that in all areas, the grout will either get whiter near the edge of the pool, or at least a lighter shade of what is being used in more intensely colored areas.  That has been done in the area of the horseshoes and the acuba plant forms in the image above.

Also at the very edge of the pool I will use white cement paint to continue the white up to the edge of the liner.  Not wanting to interfere with changing the liner in years to come, the grouted edge stops well short.

The tile in the ground area of the design is getting subtly darker as it migrates towards the foreground in the picture above.  Therefore, the grouted white lines will be more readable there than in the lighter areas.  I want that to happen: for me, color and value must always be changing.

Additionally, I am experimenting with using totally different grout colors within the prickly pear leaves.  They were grouted first, and the white grout added later.  I am looking for a kind of approximated painterly line where the two grouts merge and have not succeeded with that yet.

In the piece above, done a couple of years ago, my changing color and value philosophy gave me fits.  My idea was that in the center of this piece, the grout would be midnight blue.  As it worked towards each side, it would get yellower, finally being the yellow of the tile surrounding this rug (but before it would get yellow, it would be greenish, thanks to color theory).   I wanted the tile rug to have dark drama, but also wanted the lines in the big yellow area around the rug to disappear.  If midnight blue had been used for the area around the mosaic, the bold lines against the yellowy tile would fight with the mosaic image.

Looking at the central area of the piece when the grout application was first finished ( a rectangle bounded by two arrows),  it looks as though there is a haze caused by not wiping the grout well on either side of an area which has the  darkest grout.  The problem here was not my failure to wipe and therefore causing a haze on the tile, the problem was color theory!  The tile being on the yellow/gold side, and the midnight blue grout having a handful of yellow/ivory thrown in, created a complimentary color situation in that area that read as “haze”.  It was absolutely confounding!

The first of the three pictures above shows the ungrouted problematic rectangle.  The second is a detail of the rectangle after it has been grouted according to my plans.  You can see that the center of the shape is clear, the edges of the shape are clear, but between the two, where I was mixing the two colors, a strange effect is happening.  It looks hazy, but is not.

In the last of the three pictures, the problem has been solved by using only midnight blue throughout that entire rectangle.  It reads fine and is not confusing considering that the rest of the mosaic contains grout which is gradating from blue to yellowish.  Experience is a great teacher.


The work going on with the new room addition sucks the day away often, but yesterday there was time to work at the pool.  Do you see the tiny elements which are stuck down into the expansion joints in the cement?  They are waste, and I have used this stuff for various reasons, aesthetic and not,  for years.

When these little man-made elements are tumbled into these shapes, they are worthless.  They start out looking like something else, spend their little lives in a huge tumbler with manufactured tools, helping to remove the unwanted harsh edges, and are dispensed with and thrown away by industry when they look like this.  I often use these shapes in mosaics, and in the pool here, they have been inserted in the joints so that the grout used will not have to cover more space than is recommended.

Years ago, when the big house was first moved here and under renovation, the old windows had to go.  I went to the big box store  to purchase eight windows for part of the house, and stumbled upon a wonderful thing.  Someone had returned seven custom windows and they very nearly fit my needs.  And they were priced at fifty dollars each!  They were not standard sizes.  I snapped them up, and what you see above is how some of the windows were made to fit.  My contractor inserted cement board in this space, and along with marble pieces, little garden pot feet (bought a bunch of these years ago for five cents apiece), and my amazing WASTE, the bargain windows worked fine!

Look closely and you can see another joint filled by these shapes dividing the crescent shape and the acuba plant shape. This area is yesterday’s work.  My grout color is getting to be a deeper and deeper brick color (through mixing grout colors) as the tile becomes redder and redder.

At the top of this picture is the deck area that I am tackling next.  There is papyrus in the garden next to the studio which is pretty much obscured visually by the yucca in the foreground,  and I feel like making lines to reflect it in the composition.


Around here, when it rains, we feel like prisoners.  We have had rain all afternoon, and it slows us down.  Hate to say that with all of the Midwest shriveling up like a dry orange peel.  We have to keep busy inside.

Warmer colors are starting to creep into the decking around the pool.  I am thrilled to see space on shelving where tile used to be.

Below is a urinal/sink that Glenn found in a ditch years ago.  We have been using it for pansies and creeping things outside in a garden.  The flowers are elsewhere now as this urinal is going into the master bath as a sink.  The particular hardware for this thing cost six hundred dollars.  Still below our allowance for the cost quotation.

Glenn says these have always had split personalities.  He has run into them as sinks as often as urinals.

Here is the sink waiting for installation.  Glenn has made a shelf to stand behind the top of the sink out of old barn wood, highly polished with polyurethane .  It has to be installed first.    Shelving will be custom made for under the sink.

The aged barn wood is from an old barn on Glenn’s former acreage in Missouri,  knocked down about two years ago.   We brought the wood  here to infuse this place with Glenn’s  history.  Below is a detail of the door he made for the enclosed commode area which will be just to the right of the sink area.   It still retains on the inside patterning from old paint and use.

So the old barn wood will be used in three places, the sink area, the commode area, and a strip will line the perimeter of the shower/commode/sink cluster at the top, at eight feet.  The ceiling is contoured to the design of the outside roof.

Below is another instance of old wood that will be in the new bedroom/bath:  the old pine siding from 1939.  You can also see a part of the contour of the ceiling.  Don’t know yet about paint color (or maybe sanding and poly) for that sided area.   Any opinions?


Here is where work is taking place today, although this image is from a couple of days ago.  The reddish area under the iron gate is grouted and a small part of the area with the glass horseshoes.  In an earlier post, I stated that the pool wall area was a sort of sketchbook;  the deck is turning out to be much the same.  There are natural dividers in the deck created when it was poured and I seem to be relating to those separations as different canvases.

I am interested in reflecting the plants in the gardens around the deck in the tile compositions.  A goal as well is to use the same grout in the different tile compositions and to unify contrasting patterns.  In the case of the horseshoe area,  would that big space be more interesting with subtly different grout colors used within it? But my major interest is, and one that has not been accomplished yet,  is the idea of “approximation” (my term).  I want to make mosaics look more like paintings and not be as static as they usually are with grout color not being local to a shape.  I want grout color to kind of  “shadow” a shape, but not define it.  I want the shapes to look like ghosts.

Above is the plant and the image on the deck, without grout.

This morning this leaf was grouted with color used elsewhere.  I did not try to get this color grout in every space at the perimeter of the leaf.  I want to let another color “play” on that edge and let the shape look more approximated and painterly.  We’ll see how that works.

The image above records today’s grouting and also other elements that are used to relate different compositions together:  the red pieces within the horseshoes on the left, and the occurrence of larger differently colored shapes in the composition.  Not taking the grout used today all the way to the perimeter of the pool,   I am going to leave that vacant for a while and think about one unique color to circle the pool only.


Getting erratic/crazy this summer,  without a commission for a while, I wonder how my time is better spent:  trying to generate interest in my work via the computer, or investing energy in projects around here that make me happy.  Our building addition is going dreadfully slow;  so tired of the house being in upheaval, but there is nothing to do about it.  This is just one of many reasons to be outside, where amazingly I am most content.

The wall above surrounds the pool.  The inside of this wall is a tile and color frenzy.  Maybe six months ago this project was started with whites and neutral tile, and the same types of grout colors.  After finishing something somewhere else and having thin set left, I use it here.  The same with grout, if it is in the neutral colors or white.  So a long time is never spent on this, but slowly work is getting done.  I hate to tell you how long these walls are.  We have a pretty big pool.  Best not to think about it.  The bushes in front of this part of the wall are white azaleas.

Last week, in a wave of energy, and dreaming of  the by product of using up some of the tile packed into my part of the barn, I started to lay compositions inside the aforesaid wall, on the deck.

Restricting myself from normal composition, all tiles here are 3/8 inch.  Have to be for bare feet.

Above is how the deck looked last week, below, today.  This deck is a life’s work.  More.  Having worked on the interior walls of this for just YEARS, I am already doing repairs to earlier lame work .

The first thing done to the stucco walls was hang these funky medallions found at a Hagar Pottery that was going out of business.  Months later, foaming at the mouth, I added some green tile a friend gave me after they tore out their bathroom.  Then just a little more work; those nice planes at each column.

Gawd, how these bushes have grown!  They are now a tunnel.

See that line of thin cement blocks on the right side of the pathway?  I think they could use tile.


For years, and it may be true even to this day but I cannot say for sure, Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger, with friends and family have performed the Friday after Thanksgiving at Carnegie Hall.  We discovered this one year when in NYC for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Trolling around for something to do, we got two singles way up in space the day of the performance.  The kids were left to responsibly take care of themselves at the Marriott Marquis, and they loved the independence.

This image is from 1995, and it very well might be the year that we were there.  My husband left early; he could not stand the heat in the “ceiling” where we were seated.  I was in a world all of my own.  Being in New York, alone for a while, and listening to the music and ideas of the sixties was almost too much for me.  I was overwhelmed by my youth, and wondered how some of us had moved so far away from where we were then.  It was a night to remember.

Often, I take a personal oath that we will be there again this (or that) Thanksgiving, wanting to share this experience with everybody.  Somehow it just has not happened again.  No one to blame but myself.

So last weekend Arlo was on Prairie Home Companion.  I was in the pool, cooling off and listening.  When Arlo plays  “City of New Orleans”, all that old blood from what?  1969? 1970? starts rushing through my veins.  I feel like I can whip the world.  I get ideas.  I get stimulated.

So what do I do with all that creative energy?  Start laying tile.  I know, this is a really crazy response.  “Laying tile” is probably not the correct way to state it.  My response to important stimulus is to make art.  Right now, for me making art is about laying tile.

Above are the two sides to the entrance to the pool area, one before Arlo started singing last Saturday night, and one after.  Now this is a pretty good response to “art”.  Create.  But look at the size of this job!  All the tile work you see on the wall was finished last year, and it took many years to complete.  Basically, what is now being done is the deck around the pool.

What I am doing is taking the composition from the wall, which incorporates lots of different ideas as I essentially used the wall around the pool as a sketchbook.  Now, to unify the whole thing, I am repeating the basic elements in the wall on the deck but using the complementary colors.  Look at what a dead horrible space that cement was when viewed next to the wall.  Everything looks much better without that space, even with only  these first patches of  tile work.

This morning, while taking pictures for this post, my husband said “Now don’t you wish you were forty?” referring to the amount of work that I have gotten myself into.  Yeah.  How many reasons can I come up with to wish I were forty again?