29 December 2008

Rest in Peace, Abbie

We took Abbie for his last visit to the vet this morning. He's been declining for the last three or four weeks -- arthritic, semi-incontinent (though he tried, heaven knows), not much more than a familiar furry presence camped out on the heating vent in the living room.

He stopped eating a few days ago, even tuna, and stopped drinking voluntarily yesterday. Up to that point, though, he still yowled to be picked up and placed on the bathroom sink, his favorite oasis. But this morning he refused the syringe of water I was trying to administer, and was too weak to stand.

The vet said that his temperature was 92 degrees, way below normal. Clearly his systems were shutting down. They say you know when a pet's time has come, often because there's no there there anymore. But Abs was present until the last moment -- vocalizing, though faintly, registering his surroundings, nestling in for strokes, looking at us with his big blue eyes.

Being more or less snowbound the last couple of weeks turned out to be kind of a blessing; lots of lap time for the Abster, two full-time servants tending to his needs. This is the last picture I took of him, earlier this month, with the capacious Stella Luna in the background. I posted a birthday tribute when he turned 19 last April. We'll toast him in absentia on his 20th. You were a damn good cat, Abbie, and we'll miss you more than words can tell.

23 December 2008

Snow Fun

I last posted a week ago Sunday, when the snow started falling. Here we are almost ten days later, and that initial snowfall seems balmy and bucolic by comparison. The headline above is from this morning's paper. It's snowed almost daily for the last week and a half. Until today, when we did nudge 32 degrees, temps have remained well below freezing. I'm tired of the cold, the cancellations, the constraints on getting around. Whiiiine.....

But the wintry weather does have its compensations. It's beautiful, of course; I put up a bunch of mostly-artsy pics on flickr. And it's primo weather for hot-tubbing. Squint and you could be at an expensive ski resort in Vail or Aspen, a handsome cowboy waiting for you in the steamy water:

We've been walking every day, as usual, breaking through the crunchy crust, trying not to slip as we follow foot-deep vehicle tracks on the mostly-deserted streets. I spotted this vanity plate (below) just around the corner from us. Yes: visualize rain!

I made up a new word the other morning, as each step we took fractured the ice-covered snow into sharp, ankle-biting shards: Snice. Here's a representative specimen:

And here's a snice example of ad hoc automotive sharkification:

As a matter of fact, I do have cabin fever, and apparently some of my neighbors do, too. On the other hand, our old kitty, Abbie, is losing ground, and it's nice to have an excuse to stay home, catering to his needs and providing almost-unlimited lap(top) service.

14 December 2008

Still Not Used To It

I only have four years of personal data to go on, but I'm reasonably sure by now that it snows most winters in Portland -- just not very much or very often. The last part of that sentence probably accounts for the tizzy into which the entire city seems to be thrown every time flurries enter the realm of meteorological possibility. I keep reading about our "mild" Northwest winters, and I suppose they are, compared to, say, New England, the Midwest or Greenland. After all, here it is mid-December and some of my roses are still blooming. But I spent half my life in that sunny C-word state to the south, and snow spells "serious winter" to me.

It's also primo hot tub weather, even better than rain. We dunked ourselves a couple of hours ago, and I felt like I was in a ski resort in Aspen. Hot-tubbing is my favorite winter sport, I fear.

The snow started around 7:40 this morning. At 7:30: nothing. Suddenly, the air was filled with huge fluffy flakes. Hours later, it's still coming down, finer and with quite an east wind behind it.

Another couple days of this would be just fine in my universe, but by mid-week I'd like it gone, please, so I and the other weather wimps in town can get on with our lives. And to think that winter is officially still a week away...

The Pattern from Hell

Many months ago I picked up a pattern for a multi-pocketed totebag designed for schlepping crafts projects around. It had loads of compartments and specialized holders for knitting needles or paint brushes and other accoutrements. When I finally started the project I was appalled at how badly the instructions were written, with ambiguous and unhelpful illustrations, missing steps, measurement errors, and -- my pet peeve -- an inefficient workflow overall. The tech writer in me wanted to redo the entire thing.

An inexperienced sewer would have thrown up her hands in frustration. Instead, I grumbled my way through the process, making notes and drawing arrows and asterisks for the order in which I wanted to proceed. What a hassle. I had to force myself to work on it, a sure sign that something's wrong. But I'm actually rather pleased with the result, and now I know that I'm perfectly capable of designing and drafting my own patterns, duh, at least for a stupid totebag.

03 December 2008

The datebook ritual

Since 1970 or so, I've been keeping track of my life with a Sierra Club datebook. Despite my technolust in other areas, I'm not a PDA person; good ol' paper and ink give me the context I need. I can tell by the density of the markings on the page whether it's going to be a busy week or a light one. When an errand or to-do item slips by a day or two, I merely draw an arrow. An arrow squoogle that meanders down the page from Monday to is-it-Friday-already? denotes a certain urgency. If it doesn't get done that week, I re-enter it in what I think of the "sometime this week" space at the top of the next page. Or the one after that. Sometimes the act of writing and rewriting makes me reflect on whether it's worth doing at all.

The format of the Sierra Club Engagement Calendar, as it's officially called, hasn't changed in at least four decades. It's spiral-bound, a convenient size for whatever bag I'm carrying that year (truthfully, I tend to choose purses based on whether the datebook will fit). There are lovely nature photos on each facing page. Saturday and Sunday are grouped together, properly, at the bottom of each week. (One year I acquired a freebie datebook from some other source that I thought I could use instead, but pitched it as soon as I realized that Saturday was at the bottom of the page and Sunday at the top of the next one. In a week-at-a-glance calendar, it makes no sense to split a weekend like that. I would have been disoriented for the entire year.)

I make note of everything in the datebook -- birthdays and anniversaries, meetings and deadlines, concerts and theater dates, dinner invitations, due dates for bills, calls to make, chores and projects to get done. Before menopause, I put a cryptic little mark (okay, it was a "P") on the day when my next period was due. I literally would be lost without my datebook.

At some point I treated myself and my datebook to a slip-on leather cover, which helps it endure a year's worth of daily wear-and-tear. It also provides a couple of pockets for loose lists and other slips of paper. The cover itself is pretty beat up at this point, but it made me look slightly more corporate, back in the day, in meetings with Day Runner/Filofax people.

As next-year commitments accumulate, I list them on one of the blank Notes pages in the back of the book. When I start worrying about conflicts and double-bookings, generally sometime in November, I know it's time to buy my new datebook and start the transfer process. First, I go through my perpetual birthday book (you knew I had one of these, right?) and write all the pertinent names in the appropriate daily spaces. Then I transfer the recurring events -- monthly meetings, weekly volunteer gigs -- and finally the random items from the back of this year's book.

Both datebooks are in play from now til the end of the year, depending on the day on which New Year's falls. This year, I'll get to transfer the leather cover to the 2009 book around Monday, the 29th. Before archiving 2008, I'll look back through it and review the year in my mind. This is useful on general principles, but especially on those rare occasions (don't hold your breath) when we're inspired to write a holiday letter. My husband has noodged me not to cross old items out so heavily. My biographers will be grateful, I'm sure, to discover my datebook stash, since it's the closest thing to a journal I've ever kept.

The datebook is, of course, my personal scheduling assistant. It's way too much information for the other human in the household. For the basics of our shared life -- dinner dates, ticketed events, doctors' appointments and so on -- we keep a standard wall calendar by the phone in the kitchen. Here, I have no brand loyalty. For 2009 I think it'll be the Cat Lovers Against the Bomb calendar, which is published by Nebraskans for Peace and comes chock-a-block with commemorations related to peace and/or felines. Starting right in with January 2nd, I learned that, on that date in 1972, a cat in Scotland turned 43 and, exactly 20 years later, the UN established the first Conventional Arms Registry.

Clearly this calendar is going to be useful and entertaining when one of us is waiting on hold. Bet you didn't know that on August 18th, 1950, a four-month-old kitten, following a climbing party, scaled the Matterhorn in three days. And here I thought that August, with the exception of my birthday, lacked occasions for celebration. I wonder if Nebraskans for Peace has thought about doing a datebook?

Why I haven't been working on art

My studio worktable has been occupied with thousands of tiny (and astoundingly pricey) Lego components, thanks to my adorable nephew Josh. Oh, you say, he only visited for a week over Thanksgiving? Well, I thought I'd give it a shot.

Yes, I've been lax on blogging, as well as art, the last several weeks. But I have another post on a different topic just about ready to go, and I did just put up twenty or so photos on Flickr, dating back to mid-October, when Jer's daughter and her partner visited and we did a wine country tour one day and the Crown Point-Multnomah Falls trip another. There's a pink stretch Hummer, to pique your interest, and a psychedelic cactus, as well as the usual spectacular fall foliage around the neighborhood, waterfowl at Crystal Springs Lake, and artsy shots from Oaks Bottom and the Bybee Bridge. Apparently I've been more into looking than talking the last few weeks.

I did not have my camera along, alas, a week ago Sunday, when we went to hear Joan Baez at the Aladdin. We had good seats and I could have kicked myself, had I not been enjoying the moment so much. She's still glorious, and I think my little phone-cam shots have a certain, um, primitive appeal.

05 November 2008


For as long as I've known him, my husband has been fantasizing about "a charismatic leader" for this country, someone in the mold of JFK. Last night he got his wish.

We spent the evening at an election night party on the next block. What a wonderful contrast to 2000, when the mood started out fairly optimistic but turned nightmarishly grim. There were tears of joy this time around, instead of rage and frustration.

It's raining this morning in Portland, but the future of this country seems brighter than it has in years. Good luck, Barack. It ain't gonna be easy.

10 October 2008

A Permanent Part of Portland

A little over a year ago, Jerry and I bought a brick in Pioneer Courthouse Square. We specified that the inscription read JEREVA, 8.3.2005- . Shortly after I submitted the order, the brick mavens got in touch to make sure we were aware that they couldn't go back sometime in the future and add another date after the dash. I assured them that this wasn't a tombstone-type engraving.

They batch the brick orders, apparently, so ours wasn't installed until a couple of months ago. We got a map and a certificate, suitable for framing, signed by Mayor Potter. Ours is brick number 2273, in square 49 on side C, on the upper level near Broadway and Yamhill. We finally got over there to look for it; it took us a while to find it, but I think we have it triangulated now. I suppose we'll have to add it to our tour-guide itinerary. You've been warned, out-of-towners.

August 3rd, 2005, was the day we moved to Portland and began our new life in the Northwest. We're planning to keep that dash open-ended as long as we possibly can.

03 October 2008


No, I'm not referring to Sarah Palin's performance (and that's what it was, in the sense of scripted and theatrical) in her debate with Joe Biden last night.

I've had this quilt on my design wall since last spring. Now that fall is here, I was determined to git 'er done. I posted about my original inspiration and design process here. My hangup was that the brownish squiggly fabric that I'd conceived as a unifying element just wasn't strong enough to do the job. I tried shadowing with fabric paints; still not assertive enough. (This is a very busy quilt!) Eventually, over the course of several sleepless 3 AMs, it came to me: dark organza.

The penultimate version is on the left, the finished product on the right. Unlike Biden and Palin, you can barely distinguish them, especially on a computer screen (though you can click the image to enlarge it), but to me, the sheer overlay makes a huge difference. I had just enough yardage from a natural-dyeing workshop (Was it walnut? Logwood with an iron mordant? Who knows?) to lay over most of the surface, quilt roughly along the seams of the problematic brown squiggle fabric, and then clip away the excess. Here's a detail of the overlaid and stitched-down organza:

I'm pleased with the result, and glad to get another UFO out of my workspace. It looks like fall is here for sure, and with it, quilting weather.

30 September 2008


My main accomplishment last weekend was harvesting the bulk of the plums from our backyard tree. These are gorgeous, meaty Italian plums, with purple skins and yellow-gold flesh. I triaged them into (1) wrinkly: stew into compote for freezing; (2) firm-to-ripe: bake into tarts and/or eat over the next week or two; and (3) ready to go NOW.

I can't think of too many things more fulfilling than standing on a stepladder in your own back yard, shoulder-high in fresh fruit, sunlight glinting on the leaves all around you. Abundance.

The yield looked a lot like this picture from the year before last. I see that the harvest was two weeks earlier this season. Curious, since we had such a late, cold spring and a not very warm summer.

Speaking of matters agricultural, I've been meaning to post something about the bee-in (my term, not theirs) that we attended at Zenger Farm -- a working organic farm about 10 minutes from us in outer Southeast Portland -- a couple of weeks ago. A beautiful young woman, Jill Kuehler, executive director of Friends of Zenger Farm, introduced us to the place (note the solar panels above her) and then turned us over to a series of mini-tour guides -- Laura Masterson of 47th Avenue Farm, Mace Vaughn of the Xerces Society, and finally Wisteria Loeffler of Zenger’s Community Bee Project and her comb-wrangling colleague whose name I didn't get.

We learned more about pollination than I thought was possible at our age, including the fact that tomato flowers, because of their structure, are very hard to pollinate and require specialized vibrational behavior (a hum job, you might say) on the part of the bee.

The filmmaker who produced The Real Dirt on Farmer John happened to be there, with a sound guy, shooting footage for his next film. He really got in those little guys' faces.

Yesterday, I pitted 170 plums (I counted the pits) and stewed up a vat of plum compote. I'll freeze most of it in smaller containers. It'll be great for spooning over pancakes this winter, or ice cream, or folding into cake batter, or eating straight. Tomorrow I plan to bake a plum tart or three.

Back in April when the plum tree flowered, the blossoms seemed fairly sparse compared to the last couple of years. Plus, we had to cut one major branch in preparation for building the deck. I thought the harvest might be down this season, but that's obviously not the case. Good job, bees, on that pollination thing.

26 September 2008

When I'm 74

Today is Jerry's birthday. Doesn't he look good for a boy his age?

I got him a super-geeky gift, a t-shirt that displays wi-fi signal strength at the wearer's location. See? It's four bars inside, and two on the porch. This should be lots of fun strolling Hawthorne.

And here's the cake. It's chocolate, of course, under all that chocolate. Some people make fun of quilters for cutting up perfectly good fabric and sewing it back together again. This icing is just bittersweet chocolate, melted and mixed with a little cream. When it sets it's basically pure chocolate again. I see nothing wrong with that.

I've discovered that eating chocolate late in the day -- say, after a dinner of poulet Dijonnaise en filo, which is Jer's traditional birthday request, therefore on the menu for this evening -- keeps me awake at night every bit as much as coffee. So I encouraged the birthday boy to cut into his cake for breakfast. It didn't take much to persuade him. Happy birthday to you, sweetie.

17 September 2008

Just desserts

We've been on a baking kick lately. A couple of weeks ago, Jer made this cream-cheese-fruit tart with a shortbread crust. It was insanely delicious and, of course, very rich. He's making it again for dinner guests this weekend.

I was in the mood to do a big ol' classic streusel-topped coffee cake. I used Oregon hazelnuts in the topping and added a layer of apples and pears -- all windfalls from trees in the neighborhood -- plus a handful of local blueberries. This ended up as one of our contributions to the Rural Street block party.

Now that September's here, the Italian plums on our backyard tree are starting to come in. We're not deluged yet, but check back in a week or two. My mom used to make a plum kuchen, but I couldn't find her recipe so I used another one. The crust is more delicate than what she called her "cookie dough" crust, not that that's a problem. I need to do some more digging, though, and find Mom's version. It's around here somewhere.

01 September 2008

The Pony Project

We're behind the curve, curb-wise.

The Portland Horse Project started not long after Jer and I moved here. I added it to the list of reasons why I loved our new home town. I even acquired a couple of dollar-store ponies, thinking we'd tether them to the pair of rings right down the block. That was ages ago; inertia is a very powerful force.

According to Platial.com, there's a significant installed base of plastic equines around town. I don't know if anyone is actively installing ponies in Portland anymore, but we still spot new ones occasionally. So we finally got our act together, and turned Shadow and Goldie out to graze across the road from each other on Rural Street.

Are we kids, or what? Neigh; we're conceptual artists!

Breaking Through

I've had this piece on my design wall since early March -- literally six months ago, oy -- and finally finished it a couple of days ago. I began by pawing through my bag o' remnants, mostly commercial fabrics, pulled some out, arranged them by color and value, and strip-pieced a series of scraps into a long, meandering ribbon. Then I added the spiky shapes on the sides, piecing some into the background, and fusing others. The paler spikes on the bottom are sheers -- plant-dyed organza and a cut-up polyester chiffon scarf (thanks, Mom) -- that I appliqued on, last thing.

I still haven't decided which perspective to take; it could be a plant growing out of the ground or sunlight shining through a slot canyon. My husband suggested the name Breaking Through, which I like because it works either way. It also symbolizes for me the political struggle that's been going on in this country for most of this year; I hope it'll prove prophetic and that we'll truly break through into the light, come November.

Jer has been gung-ho about this quilt since the beginning, and had it up on the wall behind his comfy chair half an hour after I finished sewing. It's sort of a companion piece to Occasional Sunbreaks, which hangs across the room.

30 August 2008

100% Hybrid

100% Hybrid
Originally uploaded by revalani
Does this make sense in any known universe? I don't even know what they intended it to mean.

21 August 2008

A Shucking Discovery

A Shucking Discovery
Originally uploaded by revalani
I've never seen anything like this before. Well, yes, I've seen something like this...

18 August 2008

Let rise until duh- oh

Let rise until duh- oh.
Originally uploaded by revalani
I used the same recipe as last time, the classic Tassajara whole wheat bread with some millet flour added because I happened to have it. I realized partway through -- i.e., when I walked into the kitchen and saw this -- that I usually cut the quantity in half.

It turned out fine, despite the mess.Two of the three loaves and fifteen of the sixteen burger rolls are in the freezer.

I don't use butter per se very often, but a slather on fresh-baked bread is butter's highest calling. Yes, "slather" is a noun, at least in this household.

09 August 2008

Watch for Serendipity

We were out walking last Sunday and I commented to Jer that we might take in an open house or two. Just joking; I know that touring real estate at random is not one of his favorite pastimes. That's probably a gender-linked characteristic.

Lo and behold, the REX house -- Recycle Everything eXperiment -- was open for inspection. This is Shannon Quimby and partners' attempt to do a major remodel without a dumpster on site. Not only did they reuse much of the original framing lumber in the new structure, they've imaginatively repurposed everything from archaic electrical wiring components (now cabinet door pulls) to trashy old miniblinds (plant markers for the garden). She's been blogging about it for the Oregonian, and I've been following the process, so I was jazzed at the chance to see it near completion. Once I dragged Jerry inside, he was fascinated, too.

On the way home we noticed this colorful reminder: Watch for Serendipity. We hadn't been, any more than usual, but apparently it was watching for us.

Unrelatedly, my birthday dessert photo was in my camera all this time. Here's Chef Jerub's Peach Bavarian. He'd never made one before, but it turned out beautifully, of course.

01 August 2008


The girls next door believe in leprechauns. They showed us a tiny dwelling the other day that surely belonged to one. It looked like a bird house, but it was bright green (the same color as their garage door, oddly enough), and carpeted in rose petals. I'd move right in, if I were a leprechaun.

They also believe in magical fairy gifts. On more than one occasion, we've answered a knock at the door, realizing en route that it was best to rein in our distance vision and act surprised, and found a spray of flowers or a painted rock on our doormat. Most recently, it was a pair of stones, each wrapped in a leaf and tied with pink string, with a shell balanced on top. Later, a deconstructed coda: a rock in a leaf in a shell. Art is all about exploring your medium to the fullest.

Today's my birthday. It's an off year; I'm 61. Unlike most days, the friend calls outnumbered the telemarketers by about 8 to 3.

Jer and I acknowledged a while back that birthdates are arbitrary; we give each other gifts all year long. He cooked waffles from scratch last week, and chicken tagine served over bulgar with green beans almondine, and an incredible veggie dish consisting of shiitake mushrooms in a pinot noir sauce with asparagus and polenta. I'd requested salmon for my birthday dinner, and he made this amazing rendition with fresh basil, tomatoes and onions, cooked in foil on the grill. Sort of like a stone wrapped in a leaf, only much more succulent.

18 July 2008


Just one more post about last week's workshop. Unlike most of the fiber arts classes I've taken, this one included several accomplished printmakers who'd never worked with fabric or fiber-reactive dyes before. Gerrie and I proved to be resources for those folks, and they in turn gave us a new perspective. I'm generalizing wildly here, but it seems to me that printmaking is about precision; the desired result is a discrete object, the print itself. Art quilters have a different attitude; they'll try anything that might result in an interesting surface. There is such a thing as art cloth, where the finished yardage stands on its own, compositionally. But we don't hesitate to cut into the middle of a fabric we've created to get just the right fragment for a work in progress. Unlike printmaking, painting or weaving, the whole-cloth design often doesn't matter.

I've developed a practice of bringing unsuccessful efforts from previous workshops, or boring fabrics from my stash, to class, just to see whether a new process, an additional layer or two, might redeem them in some way. This piece (below) started life as a portion of a bedsheet. I overdyed it with purple and screen-printed my own made-up mysterious runic symbol all over it. Ho hum. In last week's class I painted a shadow effect around portions of the markings, hoping to get a sense of depth. Mmmm, not so much. I used a dye that someone had labeled "purple," but that turned out to be blood-red. Quite the color combination there:

But as the dye dried, either the soda ash in the dye mixture or some interaction between the red and the earlier turquoise, or the even earlier purple, pushed out a fine white line between colors. The overlaid red on turquoise is kind of interesting, too. Tiny portions of this overall failed effort actually show promise. If and when I use this piece, I'll probably zoom in on those cool little bits and leave the rest of the fabric in tatters:

Another piece started life as solid yellow commercial yardage, which I wrapped and overdyed in an indigo workshop last year. Experimenting with dye painting, I did a few brushstroke squiggles, immediately realized my error, and attempted to wash them out. But because I'd used orange, of which the red component is a notorious dye bully, the squiggles remained. The piece, overall, reminded me of light filtering down through water. So, in last week's workshop, I screened on several fish. I remembered to account for the eyes, but the overall effect was a basic silhouette, too elementary-schoolish (no pun intended). So I stenciled a few markings onto each fish and discharged them with our bleaching agent of choice, thiourea dioxide, a.k.a thiox. As it happens, neither turquoise dye nor indigo bow down to the lightening powers of thiox, so the blue crept right back in when I washed the piece. What to do? Common household bleach to the rescue! It turns out that Soft Scrub (tm) or lotion-style Comet (tm) with bleach does the job. I used the same stuff later to print my leaf stencil (visible on the red and orange fabrics here) onto denim. It worked great, and it's the perfect consistency for screening right out of the bottle.

Shortly after I first started quilting, I acquired somewhere a length of men's shirt-like fabric, light gray with faint stripes and a tiny pink-and-magenta repeated motif. At some point I stamped it randomly with a magenta grid pattern. That did not alter its deeply uninteresting nature; if anything, I'd managed to transform it into something overtly ugly. Last week in class I did a series of swirly monoprints over it, in green, and, on top of that, printed my Japanese maple photo emulsion screen. Close-cropped, it's more interesting, at least, than it used to be. If it doesn't work as whole cloth, I can always cut into it when I need a gray-magenta-green sort of busy intertwined fabric with men's-tie motif markings. You never know.

17 July 2008

Poet F#@kin' Laureate!

This is the best news I've heard in days. I'm so happy for Kay and her spouse Carol. I just hope they don't expect her to write a poem in praise of the current Administration.

16 July 2008

Don't try this at home

One takeaway from the workshop way of life is the realization that there are some techniques and processes you just don't want to pursue on your own. That, in itself, is often worth the price of admission. You get to try something new without investing in equipment and supplies that you'll probably never use again. Last week's screen printing workshop produced two such "never again" conclusions.

One was devoré, the process that produces those beautiful cut-velvet scarves and other garments you see in stores. It involves applying a pattern using a toxic chemical solution that eats away the cellulose fiber (rayon or cotton, for instance) in your fabric, leaving the sheer silk backing. After the solution dries, you iron the treated portions til they turn the color of café-au-lait. At that point the nap starts falling off in those areas; rubbing gently usually gets rid of the rest of it.

All this time you're wearing a fume respirator -- not just one of those puny dust masks -- and rubber gloves. One runs the risk of starting with a too-hot iron and, peut-être, scorching portions of the backing fabric all the way to espresso. When rubbing off the nap, one might rub a hole in the delicate, now-compromised, silk. Ask me how I know this. Between the ambient toxicity and the fiddliness of the process, I strongly suspect that this might have been my sole attempt in life at doing devoré. Still, I'll mend the holes with silk thread and dye the piece, and perhaps produce a scarf that comes with modest bragging rights.

I hesitate to dismiss photo emulsion as cavalierly as I have devoré. It's an interesting process and fabulously versatile, but it requires a darkroom, a light box, and considerable deftness in applying the emulsion to the screen. You start by preparing a black line image -- an ink drawing, a stencil pattern, a photograph that you've tweaked in Photoshop to get rid of the gray scale values -- and copy it onto transparent acetate. In the darkroom, you coat a screen with a liquid light-sensitive photo emulsion and let it dry. Then you lay the acetate on a light table, position the treated screen on top of it, and expose the image for four or five minutes. Finally, you wash the screen quickly, under a strong spray of water, while the image gradually emerges on the emulsion. On the unexposed portions -- the parts that were black on your original image and on the acetate copy -- the emulsion washes away, leaving clear areas on the screen. From that point on, you work with it as with any other stencil; the clear portions allow the dye through, the coated portions block it. You can burn more than one image on a large screen and, when you print, mask off the ones you're not using. I used a public domain Japanese stencil design (thank you, Dover Books), and one of my own photos of a Japanese maple. Here's my first screen in its virgin condition:

And here are a couple of the prints I made with them. I'm pleased with the crispness of the black stencil on denim, and with the multicolor tree on a hand-dyed orange-y cotton:

Later I burned another stencil, a delicate bamboo pattern, on a smaller screen. It gave me eight or ten nice prints, and then started producing big blobs along one edge. I realized to my horror that the emulsion was peeling off. Apparently these things happen. It was nice while it lasted. I'll just think of it as a limited edition print run: