23 August 2012

In My Hands

I spent the last week on vacation. My niblets were off to their grandparents' home, and I was off once again to Saco, Maine and the In The Company of Women conference at Ferry Beach.

I began attending three years ago to find myself, and my Self. I was struggling in my marriage, knew that I was interested in women but not sure what to do about it, and all in all not in the best place I could be. It was at Ferry Beach that I found a mental respite, a spiritual home. Not necessarily in the UU (Unitarian Universalist) sense, but wrapped in the guise of understanding women all on different paths than I, but still in the same place. It was here I could hit the boundaries I knew existed in my soul and mind, and decide whether I was ready to challenge them or accept them. I could also play, and remember how to have fun.

Last year I was the coordinator of my morning track, and found myself starting another journey, which has led to being the co-coordinator of the ITCW Conference this summer. After three years, I am still a relative "newbie" and could not have accepted stepping into this place without the support of a lot of women that I had met the last couple of years. I am grateful that I had time to play once again, in ways I had not tried before.

This week found me surrounded by the opportunity to make art in many different medias. While I have enjoyed crafts at various times these last decades, I cannot remember the last time I could "create art". On a chance, I decided to drop into the Spirit Doll session offered on Monday. It was there I faced holding a ball of sculpy in my hands, and allowing myself to create, to reach into my soul and manifest something without any reference except what was contained inside me.

My Autumn Lady in spirit doll form


That was hard. To reference: I loved art when I was young. I would spend hours creating stories in my head and illustrating them on scrap paper, reams of paper. Drawing and painting in school, sketches and clay. Art was part of my life the way that reading and eating were. Then I grew older, and when you are a teen, you do not always see yourself through a clear window. My art was still there, but there were challenges. My strengths were in the literal - I was great at copying line drawings, adapting sketches of superheroes and changing their clothing. Those who surrounded me - in my mind - created. I could not do what they did, and in that, I found myself lacking.

I had lost faith: in my art and in my self. The fire that I could easily feed through my childhood was gone, doused by doubts and low self-worth.

This week I found that fire again. I found the mediums in my hands, clay and sculpy, fabric, felt and wool, all finding the visions I created in the moment. Where it really manifested itself was in needle felting.

I had heard of this project before, but seeing all the three-dimensional sculptures that seemed to be the result, I never really found myself drawn to it. This lesson ended up being "drawing with felt". At least, it felt (see what I did there?) that way. I determined that I was going to make a tree. I love trees, but as my needles pushed the wool into the fabric square, I realized it was not looking like a tree anymore. As I pulled more colors of fiber from the various balls and bags, it became something else entirely.



And like a phoenix, my faith in my artistic ability burned alive once again. Of course, the discovery of a new medium can do that to anyone, and with my obvious love of fiber crafts, this seemed likely. However, it was more than that. The images that came across the felt were more than just ideas from my head. Here, I did not set down with any real idea of what was going to end up on my wool canvas, I just knew I wanted to paint it...in fiber.


I did make a tree (or two) eventually.

No tie-dye this year, but the spray batik was just as fun.

I even did some knitting!
Another summer of discovery at Ferry Beach for me. It feeds my soul in ways I never expected - the ocean, the sand, the art, the spiritual, the acquaintances and friends I have made there - and I cannot imagine my life without it now.

13 August 2012

@ The Library: Shifting Collections

One of the things I first noted when I interviewed for my current job is that the library is a small space. We have about 1000 sq. feet of usable space in the library on the main floor, another 1100 sq. feet down in the Youth Department. Obviously, when you have stacks, computers, sitting area, circulation desk...thing get tight pretty quickly.

The library itself is quite old and sits in a historic district. Of course, age has its charm AND its issues, but I am sure most librarian will agree that you want to make the best of what you have. For me, that meant making the collection more browseable for patrons, have books go together cohesively, and create some more display space.

While I have been using the rolling cart as temporary display area, of course I wanted something more permanent. We have been doing a massive weeding project on the main floor, starting with non-fiction.

I have been ruthless, I admit it. However the statistics on the books showed that more took up shelf space than circulated, so out they go. There are definite holes in the collection that will need to be filled, and sections like computers and travel need to be updated. Quickbooks 99, anyone?

With this weeding we ended up opening up a couple bays in non-fiction, which got me thinking. Originally, our biography section was clear on the other side of the library, and faced the young adult collection, which filled up shelving facing the main sitting area. I decided to move biography back to the end of non-fiction, and shift young adult around to give that collection its own space.

The previous shelving for part of YA. Now the back section is all YA,
and biographies have been moved to non-fiction.  

We moved the tilting bookcase behind the circulation desk, to replace a small-yet-awkwardly-placed table that we kept whacking our hips on. Then it was time to shift the New Titles.



Our patrons love browsing the New Titles, so we can combine it with displays throughout the year, satisfying everyone.

There are more collection changes to come in the library as we finish weeding and shifting some other areas. I hope that our patrons will find it easier to browse!

08 August 2012

ARC Review: Ironskin by Tina Connolly

The Book:

It has been five years since the Great War ended, but its tragic victims remain. For those marked by fey curses, the only way to protect others from harm is by encasing the damage in iron. For Jane Eliot, that means wearing an iron mask and having to get by on the remnants of her skills. When she applies for a governess job that alludes to a fey-cursed child, Jane is sure that she can help. What she cannot seem to help is the growing feelings she has for her young charge's father, or her concern about what is happening inside his studio...

The Yarn:

Alternate reality fantasy is a fun read for me, as it can be a terrific look at history through a different lens. In Ironskin, a Great War between humans and fey has dealt damage to England; the country still struggles in its aftermath of lost technology, and war victims try to live their lives with the damage that the fey bombs inflicted.  Jane Eliot has dealt with the fey curse that mars her cheek by doning an iron mask, protecting others from its twisted power. Taking a job as governess to one that is also afflicted, Jane works to help both young Dorie control her powers, as she has worked to control the rage that can course through her -- and others -- without her iron shield. Dorie also works to stifle the feelings she has for Dorie's father, Edward Rochart. It isn't difficult at first, as both Jane's shame at her scars, and concern about Rochart's work, make it difficult to trust him. Rochart's studio is closed to most, but as ugly women walk in, beautiful women walk out. Women as beautiful as fey. Questions abound, not just about Dorie's power or Rochart's studio, but in the truth of how far Jane will go to find true love - and true beauty - again.

Ironskin has been touted as a "Jane Eyre retelling", and I will have to presume that comparison as favorable as I have never actually read Jane Eyre myself - bad librarian!  Even without that, I felt drawn into this Victorian fantasy where fey and human used to work together and where technology existed before the Great War and humans must rely (once again) on coal and steam to power things. Jane's character developed through the entire book, and while sometimes she was frustrating (as heroines in love are wont to be) there was a thread of strength and caring, not only in her relationship with Dorie, but with her sister Helen as well. I will say that the story took turns I was not expecting, and I am intrigued to discover what will happen in the next book.

The Ink:

Title: Ironskin
Author: Tina Connolly
Publisher: Tor
Date: October 2, 2012
Read: Print Advance Reading Copy Provided by the Publisher

01 August 2012

Review: Black Blade Blues by J. A. Pitts

The Book:

Sarah Beauhall is a blacksmith, but since that kind of work doesn't really make ends meet, she also works nights as a props manager for her friend's low-budget fantasy film. When the lead breaks her favorite sword on set, Sarah agrees to reforge it so the shoot won't stretch on longer. One of the dwarf extras offers his help, but it seems he has a lot of incredible news for her, like the fact he is an actual dwarf. And her blade is magic. And she is supposed to kill a dragon. Before Sarah can say shape-shifter, things really start to get weird, and fantasy becomes fact as Sarah must go from behind the scenes to playing a very real role of heroine charged with saving the world.

The Yarn:

I was impressed with Black Blade Blues on a couple different levels. Pitts brings Norse elements into the storyline very cohesively. Sarah is a very fleshed-out character from the beginning, strong and sure in her work, but a bit hot-headed and struggling with her feelings. Being told that the fate of the world is in your hands would be difficult for anyone to handle. As a young woman who is a SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) member and who creates weapons for sale at fairs and cons, it would seem logical for Sarah to be a believer off the bat. But she doesn't buy in -- and that resistance mirrors the other thread of her story that goes through the book.

Sarah is a not-out-of-the-closet lesbian in a relationship with Katie, who is quite comfortable with her orientation. Sarah's outward life -- her work, her relationship -- is diametrically opposed to the her childhood belief system. Obviously this creates tension and clashes between Katie and Sarah. So, not only do we get to see Sarah work to believe in her role in the world's salvation, to believe that dwarves and dragons exist, but we also see her struggle with caring for another woman and the feelings she has to process to believe in her relationship with Katie.

Ultimately this is a story about being the heroine who is charged with "slaying the dragon." Sarah has more than just the live one threatening her world to deal with, however, she also has the one created from her fears. Pitts does a good job balancing this urban fantasy with Sarah's struggle to find her sexual identity, and neither storyline overshadows the other's importance. The book is the first of a series, and I have the sequel, Honeyed Words, sitting on my TBR Pile. Probably not for long.

The Ink:

Title: Black Blade Blues
Author: J. A. Pitts
Publisher: Tor
Date: April 2011
Read: Library Mass Market Paperback