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It’s February, the dead of Winter, a month of such sensory-deprivation that it can make you a little crazy. It can drive you to make drastic travel plans.

Well, that’s what I wrote (on page 31, see above) in my book, about the February of 1985 when I made the most drastic travel plans of my life: I bought a one-way ticket to Ireland.

Yadda yadda yadda, everything worked out well…I didn’t make it around the world, I only made it as far as the middle east, met a handsome stranger that I brought back to the states on a fiance visa — the usual story (that’s what happens when you make drastic travel plans).

But it all started in Ireland. All those rainy days that kept me indoors in various youth hostels and flea bag hotels (and, once, in a bus station all day) – good thing I’d packed my embroidery kit. 

I was in Ireland for six weeks, and this is what I sewed on all those rainy days  in all those youth hostels and flea bag hotels (and yes, even in the bus station). I taught myself the Irish alphabet, learned how to do Celtic knots, even drew the long-necked bird on the Irish 2P coin — it’s all here, in my first art journal.

(This sampler is 25 ” x 17″, sewn on muslin that I’d bought in Galway on my second or third day in Ireland, when I realised that my not being a beer drinker was going to give me many long lonely hours unless I found a way to keep myself busy.)

And you can say that this is page two:

It’s 26 years later and I can still look at these, my first art journals, and re-experience almost every stitch.  I can remember which bits I sewed in Belfast, Derry, Donnegal, etc. I can remember conversations I had with people curious about my work, I remember wonderful people who just wanted to watch me sew, people who were inspired by my stitching and made me presents – a cup of tea, a book about The Book of Kells, a  hand-drawn map of Ireland. I met soldiers, travelers, university students, musicians, and, once, a horse breeder just because they saw me sitting on a park bench/in a bus station waiting room/by myself in a hotel lounge and had to come talk to the girl quietly sewing her dragons and feathered beasts and Celtic  strap-work.

And see that little picture, up in the top left-hand corner of page 31 (see above), the view of Dublin from my hotel room? I painted that picture completely from memory — I know that view so well because I sat in my hotel room for two rainy days, sewing M – P, looking out the window at that view (stitch by stitch, that’s how you make a memory).

Speaking of drastic travel plans, I’m all set for my visit to the Great Northwest! I’ll be in Seattle and Portland May 17-24 ; I’ll put the whole list of events up here on Monday — book events, tea events, workshop events.

I can’t tell you all how excited I am about this trip. After all, I consider myself a connoisseur of rainy days, and Seattle is where rain is a way of lilfe, a philosophy, an art, a calling.

Can’t. Wait.

4 comments to Drastic art journal.

  • JOAN

    Being Irish and longing to make a trip to Ireland…it’s on my Bucket List, this post had great appeal to me. Not that your others don’t, but this really piqued my interest. I am also an embroiderer/stitcher. My first love is Redwork, but I like all forms of needle arts. I knit, crochet, weave (a bit), make quilts, counted cross stitch, Brazilian embroidery…I love it all.

    I’m sure you’ll love the PNW, I love to visit, but couldn’t deal with constant rain, where they tell you not to drive a gray car lest you become a road hazard (they can’t see the car with all the gray!)…who knew there were rules for color choice of cars determined by your geographic location?

    Enjoy your trip and be sure to tell us all the details…can’t wait to hear all about it.


  • How interesting that so many people approached you while you were sewing. I hate to admit it but I would have probably been in the pub.

  • Deborah

    I would be the one striking up the conversation, not the one embroidering.

    Wish I could make the Seattle talk(s) — but my brother’s schedule in May is: Texas; home for 2 days; Ottawa; Indiana; Germany; Indiana. Sort of George Clooney in Up In The Air. So keep posting whatever talks you have in NY…

  • Hooray, you’re coming to the left coast.

    I’ve ordered up a big dose of sun so you can actually see our gorgeous mountains. However, if you do get rain while visiting, Ireland will have been the perfect preparation – very similar kind of precipitation.

    I celebrated my birthday with a collage party at my house where I introduced my friends to your book. They loved it (I knew they would). What I wasn’t prepared for was how much it resonated for them. In fact, one friend liked it so much that I gifted my copy to her (now I need to go get myself another copy at Elliott Bay Book Company). This is all to say that you should have no worries about speaking to empty rows of chairs when you’re here!

    I’m looking forward to getting your event information so I can pass it on to your ever-increasing Pacific NW fan base.

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