Monthly Archives: May 2009

Arriving at the John C. Campbell Folk School


So, here I am in my cozy room for 6 – women, that is – sleeping dorm-style.  I have forgotten my toothbrush, but not my toothpaste.  So, I used my finger.  I hope I can sleep – I don’t think it will be a problem.

I am housed in the main HQ – the Keith House.  That is where all of the social gatherings happen, and where there is wi-fi.  I don’t even have to go downstairs to access it – I can get it in my room.  My classroom is in the basement.  The dining hall is a short walk away.  It is ironic, because the Campbell School campus is pretty large, and I expected to have to walk all over the place to get to class, to eat, and to go to functions.

Now, I don’t have to exert myself at all.  But I will – I have to walk off all of the pecan pie I ate tonight.  I also want to see the place, not just one building.

I got here at about 3:30 PM and checked in.  I lugged my stuff upstairs and picked out a bed.  I was going to choose a window bed, but opted for one nearer the ceiling fan and right across from the bathroom instead.  After cooling down a bit and meeting my new roomies, we had a meeting downstairs.  There are a lot of people here – a full house – all taking various classes in arts, crafts, music, and woodworking.

There is also a large contingent of mostly men who are here to raise a new building.  It will be the new blacksmith shop.  They have come from all around to add to their “timber-raising” experience.

After the meeting, we went to dinner.  In camp tradition, we sang our blessing – “Make New Friends”.  There was a marinated salad, meat loaf, heavy brown bread, and mashed potatoes.  Dessert was the aforementioned pecan pie.  It was all very good.

Our instructors met with us from about 6:30 to 9:00 PM, and we introduced ourselves.  There are 10 students in our class, which will center on printmaking and bookmaking.  We did a little preliminary cutting using an eraser.  I carved my initials, and learned that it is easy to take too much off!  That’s okay – I am just learning and I got a good print before I went crazy with the knife.

Now, I’m going to sign off and get some sleep.


La Vibora


I am waiting for us to go and see Jonathan Coulton at the Variety Playhouse.  I have gotten some things done today, despite my exhaustion from packing up my room and doing ESOL record keeping for the past 4 days.  Tomorrow, I am going to the John C. Campbell Folk School for a week-lonlavibora9by12g workshop on printmaking.

Later:  The Jonathan Coulton show rocked!  Paul and Storm, formerly of DaVinci’s Notebook, opened the show.  They are hysterical, but my husband pointed out that their act is 7o percent patter and 3o percent music.  I thought they would NEVER end their act – they have this pirate song, and all of the audience was saying “AAARRRR(G)!  without end.  They do have a fun bit about fighting nuns – I have to find that on YouTube.  Yep, the link is above.  Here are the lyrics – you don’t have to be Catholic to find this hysterical.

Jonathan Coulton went on a little late, but he still played a long set – we left before the encores.  After the Zombie Song, of course!  His stuff is great.  It’s not just joke music, like Ray Stevens.  It’s soulful!

The image to the right is one of my newer Vintage Loteria designs.  I love how I made that old viper look pretty!  Check it out at my CafePress Shop!

Gluten-Free Gumbo


Recently, my father came to visit us. Every time he comes, he expects us to expect him to cook. No time for diets, here. He especially excels in Southeastern Louisiana cuisine – Cajun, mostly, and always makes a gumbo or jambalaya.

Since my husband has gone gluten-free, this kind of threatened to cramp Dad’s style, but he rose to the occasion. Now, he could have made a jambalaya – that is rice-based, and he does a killer smoked meats version. But he wanted to make a gumbo.

In case you are not aware, gumbo begins with a roux. A roux is traditionally made with flour – wheat flour. The standard ratio is 1 part fat (oil, usually), and 1 part flour. (I have seen different ratios, but that is the one my Dad uses). You heat it up slowly until it browns to the color you want. You add half of the vegetables to stop the roux from cooking more, then you add the stock and other things.

This is not a tutorial on how to make gumbo.  I tried to keep track, but Dad is more of an instinctive chef, and it was hard to keep up.  Besides, there are plenty of good recipe books, cooking shows, YouTube videos, and websites to help you with that.  Here’s a recipe from Emeril LaGasse for Delmonico’s Seafood Okra Gumbo!

I will say that Dad planned ahead to make a shrimp and okra gumbo with chicken, because we had some on hand.  Okra is a natural thickener, but cannot replace a roux completely.  I had already done a little reading up to see what gluten-free blogger had worked with a roux before – it’s also the base for cream of mushroom soup, for instance.

We had some masa harina on hand, and I thought that would be a good substitute for flour.  I find rice flour a bit gritty, and am not familiar enough with other varieties of gluten-free flour to choose amongst them.  Masa has a good smooth texture, and I thought it would be good.

After experimenting a bit – Dad made a “fat mixture” of chicken fat, butter, and olive oil – he added masa to the fat until he thought the ratio was correct. As I mentioned earlier, the usual ratio of fat to flour is 1:1.  Dad ended up using 3/4 cup of the mixed fat to 1/2 cup masa.  It made quite a bit of gumbo – he also had about 3 cups of okra in there with the shrimp and chicken.

If I can organize the notes I took, then I will share the recipe later.  In Dad’s opinion, the gumbo was a tad “sweeter” than one made with a traditional roux.  But we thought it was fantastic – I am no stranger to gumbo myself and my husband was grateful for the gluten free effort.

So, gluten-free does not mean gumbo-free.  Give it a try!

This is not my dad's gumbo, but it looks like this...

This is not my dad's gumbo, but it looks like this - maybe a little greener.

School’s Out!


At least it is for the kids. Okay, at least it is for the kids that don’t have to go to summer school… but they have a little time off before that happens.

We teachers have Memorial Weekend off – then we close up shop. I am moving to another campus, so I have to pack up my room and try to label things so that they make it to my new room. I don’t know where that is yet, I just know it’s at the Sixth Grade Academy.

Yep, I started out my career here teaching 6th graders (Exploratory French and Spanish), then moved on to 7th and 8th graders. I volunteered to move because I am ready for a change. I seem to remember that 6th graders were cute. We’ll see if my memory serves me well.

Next weekend, I leave for my week at the John C. Campbell Folk School for my block print and book making class. I am looking forward to it! I need to buy my supplies, though – maybe tomorrow. I also have a chance to put some collages into a show in Blue Ridge, GA, so I need to get to framing!

So, if you don’t hear much from me next week, that is why! I will try to blog from the Campbell School, but I don’t want to be at my computer all the time, either! Balance. That’s what it is all about.

Publishing Student Poetry


It’s the last week of school – Yay!  One project I am trying to get finished up is a book of poetry using the photo albums I bought a couple of months ago.  The photo albums are small (4 1/2″ by 6 1/2″ by 1/2″) and hold 16 photos (4″ x 6″).  I already purchased blank white 4 x 6 index cards to slip into the photo sleeves.

The thing that was stumping me was how to cover them.  My first thought was to paint over the outside of the booklet with gesso, but that would be messy.  I did try gluing white copy paper over the outside, but it looked ugly.  I wasn’t sure that all of my students were dexterious enough to wrap the books in wrapping paper (using a glue stick and tape), but that was a possibility.

Last week, some of the science classes were having students make rockets out of big plastic bottles.  One of the supplies they used was duct tape.  There are all sorts of colors now, but they can be pricey.  In the future, I may have each student bring a roll and see if they can share. When I finally decided to use duct tape, I went out at 10PM (on a school night) to WalMart to see what they had.

They just had regular duct tape in the packaging department, so I wandered around, looking for other possibilities.  I brought a cart with me and picked up some other stuff as well: a drying rack for my husband, popcorn, hair color – hey, since I was there… I found some electrical tape and bought several packages of mixed colors (white, red, yellow, blue, green), two bigger rolls of black tape, and two rolls of extra silvery duct tape.  Then, I waited half an hour to check out. Oy vey!

I had my students (I have only 1 ESOL/Language Arts class this year) wrap the tape around the covers. The duct tape was the easiest to use – they just wrapped it in strips around the outside and inside of the books.  With the electrical tape, they could use more than one color, but I asked that they NOT cover the inside covers.  We cut out coordinating paper rectangles to cover up the loose edges.  Some of my students wrapped their books in the colors of the Mexican flag.  I still am working out how to put the front cover title on the book.  One student brought scrapbook stickers to decorate hers with.  Anything goes!

Over the past two weeks, I had been having my students write poetry – mostly pattern poetry. I had this copy of a Cambridge University Press instructor’s book called Writing Simple Poems: Pattern Poetry for Language Aquisition by Vicki L. Holmes and Margaret R. Moulton. It is such a handy resource – I had just uncovered it while packing up my room. It has 25 different poems for students to do (acrostic, I am, diamante, cinquain, haiku) and the lessons are geared toward English Language Learners.

The students are typing out their poems and we are going to glue them to the index cards and slip them into the album.  I also would like for them to illustrate their poetry with collage and drawings.  Since the booklets hold 16 index cards, I thought that we would use the first page for a title, then use two-page spreads for the illustration (on the left card) and poems (on the right card). If the poem is particularly long (like the alphabet poem) we can use two cards and decorate around the edges.

Eventually, I would like to see how to work this out in Microsoft Word or Publisher. I would like to make the finished pages print out in 4 x 6 card size with illustrations.  This year, I just had them do 7 or 8 poems. Next year. I will start earlier and have the students do 13-14 poems! I will photograph an example later.

Also, check back for links to poetry lesson plans and templates!

Cordel Art of Brazil


I have recently gone on a Brazilian kick.  I almost bought a ticket to visit there, even.  On last Friday, I was doing a random check on airfare and found out it was only $525 RT to Sao Paolo!  I have friends who have relatives there, and was waiting to find out if anyone would be home.  (Interestingly enough, that was more important than waiting for the “go ahead” signal from my hubby…).  Alas, by the time I got an answer, the airfare had shot up to $760.  Dang!  You snooze, you lose.

So I have had to satisfy my urges by visiting my local Brazilian grocery.  There, I bought two savory pastries, one called coxinha and the other was a Brazilian kibbeh concoction called quibe.  I loved the former – a lovely chicken croquette with crispy bread crumbs on the outside (Here is a recipe link).  The kibbeh was too salty.  I also bought a square of orange colored cake with a cocoa icing.  I gave that to my Brazilian co-worker because I am supposed to be on a diet.

The main cultural aspect of Brazil that I have been researching is called cordel literature, or literatura de cordel. (from “Literatura de cordel” (string literature) are pamphlets or booklets that hang from a piece of string (cordel) in the places where they are sold. These are long, narrative poems with woodcut illustrations on the cover, often done by the poet himself. There are traditional themes (romances, fantastic stories, animal fables, religious traditions) and themes based on current events, famous people, life in the cities, etc.  Cordel literature can be hilarious and very racy, too.”

Here is an article on electronic cordel literature.

Here are photos of cordel displays in Brazil.

The poetry of d.s. levy, which follows the cordel form.

Article on literature de cordel on

Another piece on cordel literature.

Brazilian Collection and information site on Cordel Literature (in Portuguese).
Acrobat file on native poetry forms of the Americas – first page is on cordel literature.
Arizona State University professor’s article on his cordel collection.

Lesson Plan:  Stories on a String from

Article on a family day at a San Angelo Texas museum focusing on Brazilian culture.

Another Event: the Green Cordel Festival May 2009

Galleries with Brazilian Woodcuts:
Indigo Arts
A Hopeful Madness
Mariposa Arts
Tesoros Trading Company – You can even buy Cordel Literature by J. Borges

Books about Cordel Literature:
Lampion and his Bandits – English Version of Cordel literature legend, Lampion – a sort of Brazilian Robin Hood.
Stories on a String – by Candace Slater – very important resource.

Jorge Amado: New Critical Essays
Article in Callaloo Journal
The Cambridge History of Latin American Literature by Roberto González Echevarría, Enrique Pupo-Walker

That’s just the beginning.  One of the reasons I am going to the John C. Campbell School is to learn a bit about woodcut printing!

I’m going back to camp!


I just signed up for a class at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Georgia! Yay! I had been thinking hard about whether or not I should go, and now, I am going! My mother and aunt have gone in the past – it is not that far from Atlanta.

The class I am taking (unless they contact me and tell me it’s full…) is called Print It! Book It! and it is taught by Gay Bryant and Bob Meadows. Here is the class description:

“Enjoy working in related disciplines, learning the art of block printing, and then incorporating the prints in several handmade books to showcase them. Explore how to create images, transfer them to blocks, carve them, and pull prints. Then it’s on to binding the prints into books designed to preserve them. Want more? Create boxes to hold and protect the books. It’s layers upon layers of art! All levels welcome.”

Doesn’t that sound fun? The class, I think is only for five days, but I will arrive on Sunday and leave the following Saturday. I have chosen to live “dorm” style, in a room with 4 to 6 beds – it was the least expensive option. All meals are included. I am waiting for the supply list – that will probably be extra.
Here is what a typical week looks like, according to the website:

Arrival:  On Sunday afternoon you will register, settle into your room and then attend an orientation meeting to learn everything you need to know for a joyful and enlivening Folk School experience; after a welcome dinner, you’ll meet your instructor and classmates for a short session in the studio.

Class Day:  Coffee (make that Diet Coke for me!)  and the morning papers are available in Keith House starting at 6:30 a.m. You can choose to join a guided morning walk or explore the Folk School trail system on your own; attend Morningsong, a Danish custom of music, singing and storytelling led by a different performer each morning; or wait to start your day with a hearty breakfast at 8:15 (oh, yes, on second thought, that probably will be me!).

Class sessions are held from 9:00 to 12:00 and after lunch from 1:30 to 4:30. For most classes there is also optional studio time in the evening. Classes are usually limited to 12 students or less, and are designed by the instructor to include a combination of demonstrations, individual instruction and time to work at your own pace in a non-competitive environment.

Meals:  Three delicious meals are served family style each day in the Olive Dame Campbell Dining Hall and offer a substantial menu, including homemade breads and produce from the Folk School’s gardens. There is always a vegetarian selection and special diets can be accommodated. Fresh fruit, bread and peanut butter are available throughout the day.

Activities:  Optional activities are scheduled each day in the late afternoon and after dinner, giving you a range of choices. Learn to contra dance, attend a concert, poetry reading or blacksmithing demonstration, or visit a local artist’s studio. Take a break from class and get a chair massage or participate in a yoga session. Each week’s activity schedule is a little different, but there’s no doubt you’ll find many options to your liking.

You are also free to explore our beautiful 300-acre campus in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, visit other studios, shop in the Craft Shop, relax with a book in the Library, visit the History Center to learn more about the school’s fascinating story, Appalachian culture and folklore, or, just sit awhile on a porch rocker or in a swing.

Ending the Week:  Friday marks the end of the class week with a student exhibition and closing ceremony in Keith House. During this informal presentation, you can admire the work of each class displayed on tables and the stage in Keith House, sample creations from the cooking class and listen to melodies played by members of the music class. Departure is Friday afternoon for five-night weeks and Saturday morning for six-night weeks.

I will certainly miss my husband and dog, but I am looking forward to focusing on myself and on my art for a week!  No more pencils, no more books, no more students’ dirty looks!  Ha!

Lover’s Eye Art


I had a little time on my hands today, so I thought that I would play around eye pin edwardwith Adobe Photoshop.  My inspiration was an 18th century art form known as the Lover’s Eye.  I found a few in a decorating magazine and used them in a collage a couple of years ago.  I don’t know what brought them up again – oh, I was doing a search for heart ex-votos, and this shop had some up for sale.  they run about $3000 to $6000!

Generally, they were miniature portraits of a person’s eye, set in a frame, box, or locket.  Usually, the story was that they were the eye of a secret lover, but they were also popular mourning pieces for the dead.  They were often made into brooches, surrounded by stones.  Pearls, in particular, are supposed to represent tears.

I started surfing the Internet, “collecting” eyes – well, entire faces, of course, but in order to use the eyes.  This one is – can you guess? – Edward Cullen.  Many of the girls in my class were able to recognize it, but my husband was not.  I found a photo of Robert Pattinson and tweaked it (a lot) in Photoshop, making his eye golden, then giving the piece a painted effect.

I used a fabric sample picture for the “gold” frame and settings.  I decided to use black pearls, just to be unusual.  I am sure Edward would prefer black pearls over white.  I found some garnet earrings set in diamonds and added them.  I really like the effect.  I don’t know what I will do with it next – it was just a fun exercise.