Blue Mountain Center 2021

Blue Mountain Center in the Adirondacks, has been an enormous source of inspiration and support for my work for almost 20 years. BMC, I can’t thank you enough.

Studio shots from my most recent residency in the fall of 2021.

The visual artists’ studio building…Lucid dreaming reminder cards for us all…

The very inspiring Minal, a fellow resident, taking their new tote bag for a spin…

The BMC garden…

And the main house…

A big chunk of lion’s mane mushroom, harvested by the cook, Intaba, in the afternoon, and prepared for dinner that evening…

A view from the boathouse studio…

Upcoming residencies at La Ceiba Grafica y Rancho 2y2

I have the remarkable opportunity to spend 4 months this winter at the residencies La Ceiba Gráfica and Rancho 2 x 2. These are two incredible spaces for creative experimentation and cross-cultural collaboration in Northern Veracruz, Mexico.
There’s still time to help fund these projects by purchasing artwork from my Etsy site until Nov. 7th. And…free shipping! Use the code FREESHIPPING2017 at checkout.

Please help support a continuing exchange of ideas about papermaking, performance, printmaking, food, farming, sculpture, community, language, architecture, ethnobotany, the inventing of machines and the making of stuff.

To see cut-out woodblock prints of trout installed in an abandoned pool, collagraphs of spores, corn fungus, monotypes on cloth, toads printed on handmade paper with bits of locally grown kozo and coffee, please see this post from last year’s residency at La Ceiba.


Residency at La Ceiba Grafica

In February and March, I was a resident at La Ceiba Gráfica in Coatepec, Veracruz, Mexico. In addition to printing monotypes on paper and cloth in their printmaking shop, I ended up experimenting with papermaking, installation, and several editions of pizzas in their pizza oven. Making edible art out of local ingredients with the incredibly creative folks in the La Ceiba community was fantastic.
To all of you who participated in last year’s fundraiser to support these projects, I can’t thank you enough! To all of you at La Ceiba, see you again soon!

Animals of India at Work and Play, a coloring book in Hindi and English

My first coloring book is now available HERE!
Based on actual events, the 18 black and white illustrations were made in Orissa, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh, India.
This project was truly made possible with technical help from Chris Sullivan in New Orleans, USA and translation help from Ajay Pandey at Kriti Gallery in Varanasi, India.

You will surely be inspired pondering a palette for the complex lives of these brave beasts:
Let me know how it goes.
Also a big thanks to the first focus group, the students of Buddha’s Smile School. You kids are a motivating force, and fun, too…bss_aoi_

Baroda, Gujarat- The Chakali Project

The Gujarati word for sparrow is chakali. This is a linoleum block print of a chakali:
I made 100 of these prints while I was an Artist-in-Residence at Chhaap Foundation for Printmaking Trust.
I dyed them in turmeric,
then had them stuffed and sewn up.vrijeshchakali
Meanwhile, through an introduction by the organization Koshish Milap, I was conducting art workshops at a nearby school.collageclass
This extraordinary little one-room school was also a clinic in the evening.
The mission of Koshish Milap, headed by Drs. Kishor and Varsha Mistry, is to educate and provide healthcare to the ‘slum’ community of Muj Mahuda.
There are over 750 families in Muj Mahuda that use these medical and educational services.
The children loved making collages.
The word spread about their talent and enthusiasm, and the Times of India wrote an article about their good work!
I thought we could collaborate on the subject of chakalis…
They made some excellent collage birds,
I mean, really excellent…
and loaned them to me for an exhibit at Chhaap.
In exchange, all 50 students received one Chakali.
You can have one, too!

photo credits: Shannon Holman


Scrap Potential- Scavenging in India

scrap potential
Many folks ask where I find my materials to make collages.
Here are some scraps, sources and experiences from my last trip to India.
While an Artist-In-residence at Chhaap Foundation for Printmaking Trust in Baroda, Gujarat, I used a batter of coffee grounds and tea leaves, bindi powder, turmeric, and Celluclay (a dried paper pulp) to experiment with paper sculpture. The texture was made with a fork.

turmeric paper
Some of this paper I’ve paired with old portraits:


agni sati
These were found at the exquisite ‘Friday Market’ on the outskirts of Baroda.
friday market
This is a sprawling maze of live goats, tin charms, chai carts, torn saris, wooden game pieces, broken toys and, most lovely for me, old photographs.
friday market photos

tea cartfearfully
bombay red
love marriage
Scavenging for mid-century photographic ephemera outside of The States is quite challenging, our Kodachrome generation being unparalleled, so this particular market was really a gem. (On a side note however, it seems India’s snapshot culture of today is certainly catching up).

The upcycling at Friday Market also deserves some attention. Here are some wonderful hand-stitched oil-can cozies:
oil cans
I experimented with using some of the found objects as stamps, such as these keys:
Moving South, in Fort Cochi, Kerala, I picked out some paper goods at Junk Junction (Kumbarramukku, if memory serves).. Looking through newspapers, game cards, old books and ledgers, this passerby wanted to document a dusty picture of a famous 70’s movie star:
junk junction
The language there, Malayalam, has a beautiful alphabet, and I was quite inspired by it.
Malayalam ana
I was in India for a number of teaching projects, as well as dumpster diving, and the scraps came in handy for those, too. In this bookmaking workshop at Chhaap, students rummaged through a rag bag donated by a local fashion designer, Rupali. They used the pieces to customize their book covers.

It was an honor to have Jyoti Bhatt, one of India’s most renowned artists and photographer of Indian ephemeral art, among my students.
book making
In a nearby school run by the organization Koshish Milap, I brought in scraps of handmade paper and fabric in all colors and shapes. It was a great ice-breaker for them to teach me the colors in Gujarati (new to me), and having a full-spectrum palette easily accessible helped them to jump right in and start collaging (new to them).
The kids were overjoyed and seemingly not intimidated at the process of building their own beautiful compositions out of scraps.
collage birds

Thanks again, India, for all the inspiration and generosity. See you next time.

Activities at Buddha’s Smile School

In January of 2012 I was welcomed to Buddha’s Smile School, in Sarnath, India, to host some art workshops with the kids. Here’s some of the fantastic results and a glimpse into daily life at the school…
The kids used handmade paper, fabric scraps, glue, and scissors to cut out letter forms and piece together images in our collage workshops.


We cut out and decorated letters for a photo project to thank the donors of last year’s fundraiser. For all the donors names, please see The Thank You Project.


In the watercolor workshop, they learned about primary and secondary colors, how to mix colors, and how different ratios of water and pigment have different effects.colormixing2_colormixing_

A drawing collaboration in an accordian book between myself and a talented young lady, Jahida…book_jaida

In the courtyard, we shared paints and pencils working on the Thank You Project (you can see their lovely new generator in the background).drawingclass_
Everyday, after morning classes, lunch is made in their kitchen and served to the 221 students at their desks.meals1_lunch1_lunch3_
After lunch, there is a supervised time for the younger grades to learn how to wash their hands and brush their teeth.handwashing

An orderly line-up for time at the sink…
Toothbrushes are marked with every child’s name and distributed.toothbrushingtoothbrushing4toothbrushing1toothbrushing3

I was extremely impressed with how hard-working the teachers and staff were to create this structured time for the health and dignity of the children. For many of the students, it is the only time of the day dedicated to a nutritious meal and personal hygiene.
It made me so happy to see the leaders of the school taking a little time out for fun and creativity.

photo credit: Shannon Holman

Thank You from Buddha’s Smile School 2012

The students, teachers and founders of Buddha’s Smile School send their love and gratitude to those who participated in last year’s spectacular fundraiser…
…for helping to create the first Brooklyn Commune Community Scholarship for a Buddha’s Smile School Student. They were very excited to know our community took an interest in their well being!
To see more art projects and activities at the school, look HERE.

The Art Department in Portland, Maine

Some of the most inspiring work I’ve ever seen is being made at The Art Department, an arts space that serves “artists with intellectual and developmental uniqueness” in Portland, Maine.
I was invited to expand on their monthly theme of Album Cover Art by hosting a collage workshop. They were already off to an amazing start:
We all enjoyed searching through bits for the good stuff:
Jane chose The Mountains as the subject of her collage:
Devan chose to focus on Things That Are Scary:
Music and Neighbors of Poland, and Mythology were also subjects of the day:
Here’s some of the group with their finished pieces:

The arts program here was started a year ago by the fantastic Liz Mortati, now the Program Manager.
Artists are engaged in painting, paper mache, textile arts, sculpture, installation, film, exhibits, zines, book arts, photography, writing and text, signage, made-up language, community projects, interactive transparency and mylar shows, celebrity makeovers, and more! Their gallery was simply beautiful.
Here is Daniel Fuller, Director and Curator of the Institute of Contemporary Art, admiring an album & album cover bird mobile:
Tom Selleck made the scene…
As well as President Obama:
I was particularly drawn to a series of silkscreens prompted by the question “If your food could do anything, what would it do…?”
I am changed!
I’d like to thank Jane, Sophie, Devan, Abbott, Abby, Paulina, Steven, Justin, Liz, Sean and the numerous volunteers for making such a delightful workshop possible.
And a particular thanks to Adriane Herman for the introduction to The Art Department and the general whirligiging around Portlandadriane

Scholarship Fundraiser for Buddha’s Smile School

It was an overwhelmingly successful month. Dozens of you contributed close to $8,000!! The school, the students, and I thank you so much for all the support.
Details to come when I return from India next spring.brooklyncommunegrouphoto_


The Goal: To provide scholarships to 8 students of Buddhas Smile School: Paro, Vishal, Ravi, Khusboo, Rekha, Sunita, Brijesh, and Pooja.

Each scholarship of 25,000 Rupees (about $500) covers costs for school supplies, books, clothing, first aid, meals, and transportation for one year.

These are children previously holding down full-time jobs, mostly as garbage collectors and recyclers on the streets of Varanasi. For most of them, Buddhas Smile School, a non-denominational, non-profit school, is their first experience with education and with someone taking an interest in their well-being.

Here’s how you can participate:

All proceeds of any purchase on my Etsy site from now until November 20th will be contributed to the fund.
In partnership with the lovely Brooklyn Commune Cafe in Windsor Terrace, a print sale of my collages and drawings is running until November 27th.
All proceeds go towards the fund. Prints are 20 bucks. 25 prints= 1 scholarship.
If you would like to create a full or partial scholarship either by purchase or donation in your name, or in the name of your family, school, organization, press or label, I will make a one-of-a-kind certificate and present it to the school when I visit in January. Just think of it!

As always, thank you so much for your support.
If you have already contributed, your generosity is greatly appreciated!
Erica, Shannon, and Rajan (founder of Buddhas Smile School)

Residency in Gujarat, India

This December I will be returning to India.craft_

Chhaap Printmaking Studio in Baroda, Gujarat, has invited me for a one month residency. I will be hosting workshops, exhibiting my work, and experimenting with new media in their studio. Outside of their gallery, Chhaap is also facilitating mini-shows in unlikely places such as ice cream parlors and restaurants. This is something new for the art scene in India, and I look forward to participating.newmedia_goats_
Thanks to your generous support, I met my fundraising goal for this year’s India & Etsy Fundraiser!! From now through November 15th, all proceeds from any purchase made on my Etsy site will support a scholarship fund for Buddhas Smile School in Varanasi, India.
And thanks again to all of you who made the last India & Etsy fundraiser such a huge success. You can see photos of some of the projects you made possible HERE.
I look forward to sharing new art and experiences in Gujarat with you when I return.rickshaw_

Cover illustration- American Tensions: Literature of Identity and the Search for Social Justice

The Lives We’re Given, The Lives We Make | That Which Holds Us Together, That Which Pulls Us Apart | Landscape With Figures: Human Experience in the Natural World

These are the three sections of American Tensions, an incredible collection of fiction, poetry, and essays edited by William Reichard. He writes: This Anthology is full of threads and knots. If you enjoy discovering what connects each of us, the threads of experience and insight that translate across time, place, and culture, then you’ll likely enjoy the work you encounter here.

Published by New Village Press.AmericanTensions

Abigail Washburn’s City of Refuge cd

Abigail Washburn’s amazingly beautiful City of Refuge cd has been released.

This album is quilted from scraps of Nashville, China, a cello banjo, Mongolian throat singing, a fiddle, a choir, some talk about plagues, the future of tradition, the drive for global collaboration, the wonder of human connection, and an homage to the folks who came before us.

She talks about some of those things in this great little video.

It is my honor and pleasure to have contributed the artwork for the cover, website and tour…abbyposter_abigailwashburn_

Cutting out some shelter and staining a mass of humanity for the poster…unpaintedrealestatepaintedhumanity

Adding my grandparents, a monk, anonymous mid-century people doing good work, a doily from a cookie box of Katherine Holman’s (cookies recreated from Aunt Violet’s original recipes) and a rabbit for good luck…grandparents_detail

And an ominous incident over a mantle woven from Crescent Lake, Broken Bow, Bikando, Yangchow, Soochow, Ogallala, North Platte, Kyoto, Chinan, Kumos, Wuch’ang, Alma-Ata, Fengyuan, Keriya, Baba Hatim, Bon Aqua, Abiff, Lyles, Graham, Vernon, Only, Hurricane Mills, Scobell Island, Lucy Point, Kodak, Knoxville, Melville, Cuba Landing, Sugar Tree, Holladay, Yuma, Juno, Alberton, Coxburg, Lexington, Kimball, Sterling, Brush, Big Springs, Wildersville, Springcreek, Beech Bluff, Jackson, Oakfield, Coalfield, Windrock, Oliver Springs, Byington, Wartburg, the bends of Clinch, Bemis, Kamakura, Gomdu, Ndele, Gamane, Beri, Bimba, Jaunde, Jengone, Dancyville, Keeling, Denmark, Laconia, Germantown, Daylight, Campaign, Rock Island, Noah, Kuerhlo, Kara Shahr, Turfan, Telli,  Bulun Tokh, Ulughchat, Kashgar, Zaysan, Crab Orchard, Guma, Kobdo, Ulaan Uul, White Earth, Marylebone Point, Frogue, Zula, Susie, Alpha, Gartok, Chandigarh, Meerut, Moradabad, Jaipur, Agra, kanpuro, Lucknow, Varanasi, Katmandu, Montezuma, Finger, Milledgeville, Selmer, Serles, Pocahontas, Chewalla, Swift, Gillises Mills, Olivehill, Martins Mills, Lutts, Pickwick Lake, Cypress Inn, Gatliff, Moscow, Murtea, Mienyang and other places nearby.mantle

Cover art: The Nine Senses by Melissa Kwasny

Milkweed editions has just released ‘The Nine Senses’, Melissa Kwasny’s fourth book of poetry.

She writes about ghosthandkerchiefs, being dead and almost dead, the migration of birds, water, being mute, bridges, burlap, flour-bags, cloaks, shrouds and sacred cloth, venetian glass, linen and salt, frosting and a Cold Milk Moon, where the women of myths and fruit trees intersect, and almost every color.

Thank you, Melissa! I feel very at home on the cover of this lovely book. theninesenses_cover

Murals with New York City Kids

Urban Beautification with kindergarten-2nd graders at P.S. 74 Future Leaders Elementary School in Staten Island, NY, 20111ps74

Our neighborhood: New Dorp Lane with the 3rd grade class of PS 41, Staten Island, 2011
Action Word Wall with 3rd-5th graders at PS 261 in Brooklyn, 2008ps261_ps261_1ps261_5ps261_6ps261_2ps261_3ps261_8ps261_9ps261_10ps261_11

The History of Staten Island with the 4th grade class at PS 41 in Staten Island, 2009ps41_2009

Soapmaking in Guatemala

In September, I traveled to Guatemala to teach workshops on soap making.
I was invited there by the organization Oxlajuj B’atz’, based in Panajachel.

One of the workshops was in the village of Xeabaj Dos.
This community of people has been twice relocated in less than eight years.
Their original village, Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan, was completely destroyed by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. After reestablishing themselves high up in the mountains, Hurricane Stan came in 2005 and wiped out the new settlement. Many of the newly built homes in Xeabaj Dos have walls constructed from USAID tarps. They have a large, sturdy school, and just got electricity for the first time a few months ago.
You can see a photo essay here about the first relocation.

In the center is the structure we used for our workshop:
One of the goals of Oxlajuj B’atz’ is to provide opportunities for women to learn new skills and improve upon those that they already possess with the goal of developing more work opportunities, better income-earning potential and greater access to local and global markets.
The women in this village had requested to learn how to make soap, both for their own use and as a potential new product.

Soapmaking can be precarious; it involves a chemical reaction with a very caustic substance: lye. Measurements and temperatures have to be exact, and safety precautions have to be taken. Our experience proved one can still have great success soapcrafting in fairly basic conditions.

To make soap, you need three basic ingredients: an oil or fat, water, and sodium hydroxide (lye).
We started by heating up the oils over a wood-burning stove, and measured out a proper quantity of water…
Lye is a strong base, or alkali, and can cause severe burns if it splashes on your skin or in your eyes. When handling it, you must use protective gloves and safety goggles.
When it is added to water, it also creates toxic fumes. Make sure you have plenty of ventilation when mixing your ingredients!
After the lye, water, and oil have been mixed, the mixture is poured into molds and allowed to sit for 2 days.
These women had a particular interest in making soap that had medicinal qualities. Among the plants and herbs that grew in the area, we experimented with adding eucalyptus, camomile, calendula, lavender, and achiote (annatto) as a colorant.
Lye will react with anything in its path. In order to retain the natural properties of herbs and additives, it is necessary to add them when the soap compound is stable enough. This process is called ‘rebatching’.
After the cakes of soap have rested for a couple days, they should have a ph balance neutral enough to come in contact with delicate herbs or hearty hands. The soap is then cut into small pieces, re-melted, and the dried crushed herbs are added.cutting_
Once this mixture is poured again into molds, the soap should be ready to be used in 2-4 weeks, after all the lye has neutralized.

Soap making is a new process for me, too, and the excitement at the workshops was contagious.
After all, it was the request of the women of Xeabaj Dos to be taught how to make soap that inspired me to learn how to do it myself. I consider this a great and rich collaboration.
I hope this is just the beginning of a greater involvement on my part in bringing materials and information on soap making to the women working with Oxlajuj B’atz’.
I’d like to thank everyone involved for their invitation, participation, enthusiasm, patience, and humor.
See you soon!
Photo credits: Eddie Haynes, Erica Harris and Taryn

Itaparica, Bahia, Brazil

Some collaborations, collages & scenes from a 2 month residency at Sacatar Foundation, on the Bay of All Saints, in Itaparica, Bahia, Brazil.