Tailfeathers! Or, I’m sorry to start with an apology

There’s a thing that happens at readings sometimes that can annoy me: the pre-reading apology. The writer assumes their position on stage, and facing their audience, they feel uncertain. So begins the “I just wrote this yesterday” or “haven’t really edited it” or “this might be better on the page…” pre-reading apologies, which often just amount to the reader saying “I have no idea whether or not you’ll like my work, so please be nice.”

Have I done it? Hell Yes. Luckily, the more readings I do, the more I’ve been able to transmute most of my pre-reading jitters into something called excitement, and my early days of apologizing seem to be over.

Welcome to today!  I really want to show you some photos of some of the visual things I’ve been working on here at the residency, but I just can’t figure out my camera. I’m sorry! I am showing you pictures anyway, and they are not that great. Please be nice.

We haven’t had anything that even resembles winter in the Northwest this year, and I think this first piece is my embroidery aubade to the snowy mornings we’ve missed. It is an abstract piece on natural colored linen with cut-work in steely light blue silk, embroidered with many tiny french knots:

Future Book Cover: Icy Abstract Embroidery

Side view, Icy Abstract Book Cover Embroidery

My process for taking pictures at home is a magical mix of:

  1. A very fancy camera
  2. A tutorial-giving husband that knows how to use said camera
  3. The ability to hand over said camera to said husband when I get frustrated

Here at the Res, I have a small, non-fancy camera that I am still trying to make sense of. I can’t get closeups, so all the details in the work will have to be imagined. I fantasize about having David and Heather Gilson show up, armed with their cheery dispositions, camera knowledge, and baked goods. Well, we will have to eat while they make me a good photographer, right?

I promise to post much better pictures of the finished products after I return home.

I also promise to clap extra loud for the pre-reading apologists, now that I’ve put you through this.

Here are the finished Tawny Frogmouths, also in icy colors:

Tawny Frogmouths

Before I left home, I started this Roseate Spoonbill. She’s lovely – a little shy, but willing to scratch your back her beak after a little sweet talk.

Roseate Spoonbill

Now, into more fiery climes. This abstract piece is on seafoam colored linen with cut-work in rusty orange-red silk, embroidered with many tiny french knots and circles. From some angles, it looks like a figure sprinting, which is a nice enough metaphor for fire:

Future Book Cover: Rust Abstract Embroidery

Months ago, I told Kate I’d make her a book for her birthday. When asked about the cover art, she responded that she loves cats, cherries, chickens, rosemary, and pine cones. We decided to go with a chicken – a rooster, actually. He’s a Rhode Island Red. I embroidered him on mustard-colored linen. I wish I could get a good detail photo of his tail feathers – they are shot through with blues, an homage to a rooster I once had. His name was Cornelius. Kate has named her Rooster Emmet.

Emmet Crows

Sing it, Emmet!

As good of a shot as I could manage with his tail:

Tailfeathers should be one word.

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2 Responses to “Tailfeathers! Or, I’m sorry to start with an apology”

  1. David writes:


    I had to look up the word ‘aubade’.

    I love Emmet and the fire and all the french knots. They’re all so beautiful, even if they’re taken on a not-so-fancy camera without the help of your camera-wise husband. Can’t wait to see them on books!

    I love the Frogmouth on the left, the one hogging the nest and looking at the camera with a hint of a smirk and a raised eyebrow. I can totally identify with him.

  2. Elizabeth writes:

    Birds! I love them. Beautiful work as always.

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