12 Sep

Real life, real messy, real me


People tell you to “be yourself” like that’s the easiest thing in the world. But at age 64, I’m just beginning to get the hang of it.

I wonder, is everyone else born with a  clear identity and the guts to live it? Or do most people go around lying a lot? I kind of hope it’s the latter, because otherwise I’m even odder than I thought.

My life is not like the Facebook posts I see. It’s messy, confusing, challenging (and pretty great, actually). I’m full of hope and despair, joy and anger, gratitude and pity, clarity and fog…and a few threads that hold the whole thing together.

To be honest, I seem to learn the same lessons over and over. And over. I know, because I’ve been keeping a journal on and off since I was 18 (that’s a lot of years, not to mention journals). While I don’t look back at them often, I do it enough to see the recurring doubts and fears – as well as dreams and accomplishments.

One of the recent conflicts is this blog. I wonder why I’m doing it or if anyone cares, and I struggle with the technical side of things. Until now, that is. Now I’ve got Teresa Williams on my side, helping me recreate debzweb, reconsider its value, and return with new energy and enthusiasm.

So here we go again. Real life, real messy, real me.

26 Jun

The Law of Unintended Consequences


The Law of Unintended Consequences | DebzWeb.com

Our landing has had a lot of lives.

The latest incarnation was designed to be a place for me–to write, practice, and make things. But as soon as we put the new table, chairs and rug in, it turned into a gathering place for the family (and, of course, the cats’ new favorite post.)

You never know what will happen when you make one small change. It’s called the Law of Unintended Consequences, which is usually a bad thing. Like when my father forbid me to date non-Jewish boys, it made them much more attractive.

Sometimes, though, unintended consequences are an unexpected delight. I’m thinking of the bridge built in Austin Texas, which turned out to be an ideal place for bats threatened with extinction. The city now requires bridges to be built in the same manner, and crowds watch clouds of bats fly away in the late afternoon.

We actually have a family of bats living in our chimney, but that’s not the point. The point is, some of us like to shake things up and see what happens. You could call it perverseness–or maybe creativity.

20 Jun

Thanks, Kid. I Needed That

Thanks, Kid. I Needed That | DebzWeb.com

It’s astonishing, shocking, thrilling. Samantha was the bright light in our family yesterday, when everyone else was wallowing around in the dark.

Why is that amazing? My daughter has fought severe depression, anxiety and addiction for the last decade. And when I say “severe,” I mean the kind where getting out of bed is a major achievement and social interaction is impossible.

But suddenly, she’s getting better, and it seems to be related to her new medication, Brintellix. (I say that guardedly, since there have been so many meds and so much hope–and so little change–over the years.)

My brother, the chemist, tells me that there’s a huge placebo effect for all psycho-pharmaceuticals and little evidence, other than anecdotal, that they work. My experience, backed by no science whatsoever, is that they do.

I remember when I first took Prozak. For the first time, I experienced what is apparently common for other people: a moment to think before responding to a stimulus. It changed my life.

I hope that something similar is happening to Samantha. Since she started taking the new medicine, she’s gained energy and clarity, and is losing the weight gained from previous medications.

Hope is everything, and I can see that she has it, for the first time in a long while. Me, too.

16 Jun

This Wall Needed Something

This Wall Needed Something | DebzWeb.com

It’s taken years to actually do something about the big, blank wall that frames our fireplace.

We’ve had plenty of ideas and suggestions, but none really took until now. And now that it’s mostly done, the solution seems so obvious: writing a few quotes to remind us of what’s important:

  • It is never too late to be who you might have been. – George Eliot
  • Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. - Plato
  • Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.  – Goethe
  • Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.  - Thomas Merton
  • Comparison is the thief of joy.  – Theodore Roosevelt
  • Remember that not getting what you want is often a wonderful stroke of luck. – Dalai Lama
  • I came to live out loud.  – Emile Zola
  • With our thoughts, we create our world.  – Buddha

But the wall says more than the words. It’s a statement about me: that I’m more confident about my skills, more willing to put myself out there, and more able to accept the results.

By the way, I’ve already had one request: Sam’s favorite quote from Dune. “Fear is the mind-killer…I will face my fear, and when it moves through me and around me, there will be nothing left. Only I will remain.” – George Herbert

Do you have a favorite I’ve missed? There’s still room for more…

This Wall Needed Something | DebzWeb.com

11 Jun

Making Books: Show and Tell

Making Books: Show and Tell | DebzWeb.com


This has been my week for making books–and I’ve made so many, I don’t know where to start. (Actually, it’s the fact that I like them all so much that makes it hard to choose.)


So I’ll take them in order, starting with the color wheel “flag” book above.


Making Books: Show and Tell | DebzWeb.com

Illustration 1: I didn’t finish this book in class, so when I came home I embellished the “flags” with images.



Penny Arrowood taught us how to make all the colors in the flags from just three paints, as well as how to put this structure together.





Is that cool or what?


Next, I took a class from Kathy Steinsberger where we made four “long stitch” books–in a weekend! That’s a lot, even with all the preparation Kathy did for us (like pre-cutting the paper and fabric).


Making Books: Show and Tell | DebzWeb.com

I  learned something about myself in this class, too: it’s hard for me to follow oral instructions without something visual to reinforce them. For the third book, that meant I ripped out two stitches for every one I sewed in the right place, holding up the rest of the class. (Next time I’ll pay more attention to the very detailed instructions in Kathy’s handouts.)




Anyway, I love the results–maybe even more because of my struggles.

03 Jun

Making Stuff From Stuff I Made

Making Stuff From Stuff I Made | DebzWeb.com


Beautiful handmade books with nothing inside…

Projects started and never finished…

Piles of paper saved for something, someday…


Can you relate? If you’re like me, you come home from a class, put whatever you made on a shelf, and then–

Nothing. You forget all about it, and by the time it’s unearthed, have no idea how you did it.

This time I was determined to do something different–to actually use what I made. So right after the Gelli plate class, I made more paper and taught a few friends how to make their own.

Making Stuff From Stuff I Made | DebzWeb.com



By then, I had a lot of hand-painted paper, which made it easier to tackle the next step: cutting it up to make stuff.



I’ve already used the paper to make some notecards (top three photos) and to cover an altoid tin (last two). This tin looks to me like it’s calling out for some angelic mischief, whatever that means.

What’s next? Finishing a few things–once I find them.

Making Stuff From Stuff I Made | DebzWeb.com


Making Stuff From Stuff I Made | DebzWeb.com


Making Stuff From Stuff I Made | DebzWeb.com

28 May

Art-Making is Contagious

Art-Making is Contagious | DebzWeb.com

Illustration 1: Margaret Thomas 5.1.14

This is what I want to do in life: inspire grownups to express themselves–playfully.

The first step, I think, is to change our vocabulary. Let’s get rid of the word “artist,” which makes everyone crazy and strangles our voices. I propose that we call ourselves “makers” and what we make, “stuff.” As in, “I just like to make stuff.”

Feel more relaxed already? My friends do, when they come to my studio.  Like Margaret and Susan. Smart, serious, competent women who need just two things to let their creative spirits come out:

  1. Permission to play.
  2. Suspension of judgment.

That’s what they got this week–and look at the results! Margaret made the paper above and Susan the one below, and they’re both spectacular, textured, unique creations. (I’d say they were works of art, except I’m not using the A-word any more.)

I wish you could come over and play too, but  I know it’s not always possible. That’s why I created this blog–so I can bring my studio to you, one post at a time.

Art-Making is Contagious | DebzWeb.com

Illustration 2: Susan Fowler, 5.27.14


19 May

Coming Out of an Art Funk

Coming Out of an Art Funk | DebzWeb.com


Thanks, everyone. You got me out of my funk and back into the joy of making art.


Thanks Donna Downey, for creating a great place to learn–and shop–in Huntersville, NC, a short drive from Raleigh. Your studio is my idea of heaven, with all kinds of supplies for students to use, interesting things to look at everywhere, and to top it off, lots of candy!



Thanks Stephanie Ackerman, for teaching us how to use the Gelli plate and sharing your techniques for painting paper and creating depth. I’d read about this tool, but hadn’t seen one and had no idea what it was for, how to use it, or why I would want it. (Yes, I bought one and can’t wait to experiment some more.)

Thanks classmates, for your support, kindness and interest in me, my journal, and my work. Your attention was like sunshine for my soul.

And thanks Sam, for driving me, patiently waiting, discovering Cafe 100, and encouraging me to take myself seriously.

All this reinforcement makes it impossible to stay stuck. Guess I’ll just have to pull out my Gelli plate and paint and get back to work–and by that I mean play.

02 May

Trash or Treasure?

Trash or Treasure? | DebzWeb.com

“If I found that box in my house, I would have thrown it out.” That’s what Steve said when he saw a bunch of paper I bought at the flea market.

I get it. I treasure stuff no one else wants, like:

  • Postcard with scribbled notes (“Roses are red, violets are blue, you don’t love me like I do you”)
  • 1936 memo book, with time sheets, purchases and spiritual musings
  • Love notes sent to “Susan Etchison At Home” in  1878
  • Class of 1918 50th reunion notebook
  • Well-used Rama the Adventurer coloring book
  • 1950s issues of Life magazine

These things speak to me of lives lived, lessons learned, loves lost (and other things that don’t start with an L). They make history come alive, expand my perspective, and charm me.

In the past few years, I’ve been exploring ways to share that pleasure with you. My latest attempt is the collage above. If you look closely, you’ll see scraps from a children’s book about trains, my mother’s recipes, a 1949 tax return form, notes on church music, and random pieces of wisdom (“Just being happy is a fine thing to do”).

Isn’t that worth something? I think so, too.