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?


Have been buying old chairs for several years now.  Luckily, we have enough space in the barn for the horde.  One just has to buy them when the price is right and for me, that price is two bucks or less.   For a while it seemed fun to dream about  mixing the parts of these chairs to make funky examples.  But the path of art can change things.  I knew chairs were in my future, but not this way. They are being layered into my windows.  Just noticed this diversion.

1-second chair

Bought six of these chairs many years ago for five bucks apiece.  Two have been broken, four are still around our computer table.  Love the bentwood design.  They are from an old restaurant, and have a kind of bad habit, especially when it comes to teen aged boys.  If one is too rough, the support for the back rest breaks.  That happened, but nothing is wasted around here.  Notice the chair leg below.


Up to this point, my typical 2-D orientation stuck.  I layered windows on the wall.  And chairs, as it turns out.


It was making work for the “Envisioning O’Keeffe exhibition that got me thinking about working in the round.



Above is my piece.  Called “College Bound” I intend to sift together my experience of teaching at Columbia College with that of Georgia O’Keeffe.  Neither of us lasted too long.  Anyway, it was fun to work on both sides of this dangerous piece.   A new game!

The piece is a smooth and shiny as it looks here.  Layers and layers of varnish have been applied. To me this surface suggests that this collection of shapes in intentional, not an accident of collection.  To make the objects work together better, they have been given the same “skin”.

Other pieces came later that have the same “feel” to me, and the same shiny varnish.


“Thinly Orchestrated”  2015  This is the second side of the first image discussed.  It has a bent wood leg, and two armrests from another chair.



The two images above represent both sides of “From Blackjack to Florissant:  Polly and Her Mantel”.  There are two pairs of chair legs in this piece.  The story behind this is as follows:  As a child, our family adopted a Siamese cat from the small town of Blackjack, near our home.  A couple of years later, my mother salvaged a mantel from the same house, to install in our family room. The chair legs here to me seemed like a mantel.  Again, layers and layers of shiny varnish to make all the parts of this composition seem intentional.

The following are just studio shots but you can see the idea keeps having legs.




Years ago, coming to South Carolina to teach at Columbia College was the beginning of my education about the American South in all respects.   My image of it at that point was fairly close to the old “Andy Griffith Show”.  Never had been to the South, and had only been to a beach in various big Japanese cities.  No Atlantic.

I had a lot to learn, and it was pretty much based on the political philosophy of the South:  State’s Rights.  The place looked inward, and this view was very different for me.  School children had to memorize all the counties in the state.  They knew a lot about “honor” and called women something between Ms and Miss.  With new acquaintances, one would verbally search around until you found common kin.  It was an interesting ballet to a foreigner like me.

And since the natives knew so much about their native sons, they kind of generalized that proposition.  I was a wet behind the ears new college instructor, wondering all the time about what I did not know,  so I was always punting.

Robert Mills was the first guy that the proud students knew more about.  He designed the Washington Monument, the White House and many other federal style buildings in DC.  He was a big fish locally being educated in Charleston.  But unless as a student (outside of SC) of American architecture, one does not run into him all that much in survey courses.  It is Thomas Jefferson who set the style and who is studied, not the (dare I say?) followers, although Robert Mills may have been the first American-made architect and worked under seven Presidents.

mills house

Credit: © Katherine J. Trimnal, Columbia, South Carolina

What is called “The Robert Mills House” sits in the heart of Columbia.  It is associated with him by name, not the owner because the man died before it was finished.


Photo: AgnosticPreachersKid

Above is the White House.  Notice the similarities.  And you can find many expressions of this style in county buildings all over the state and in DC.

And then there was Carl Blair.  A generation older than me, he had taught in at least three major institutions in South Carolina.  He is a favorite native son, a very unassuming man.  Associated mostly with Bob Jones University which has a collection of art well beyond its otherwise influence, he helped to forge the profile of the arts in this state.  His brilliant oils and acrylics are like visual poetry.  He speaks in a well-honed language.


blair 2

I re-met Carl again last weekend at The Manor House   http://www.manorhousebb.com  in Greenville.  We have been in at least one exhibition together:  “A Hundred Years, a Hundred Artists”, mounted by the State Museum in Columbia, I don’t know how many years ago.

Carl “hangs with” the beautiful and brilliant owner of the bed and breakfast.  It was a treat to talk with him, and to be in an environment that features exquisite art eclectically mixed.   He wears a ball cap that says “Koren War Veteran”.   He makes a quiet statement simply in that gesture.  He has done us all proud!