Wishing you JOY in the next year,
no matter how slippery those rocks are!

If you fall… (we all do sometimes) pick yourself up and start all over again. This time around though, kick up your heels in one of my shopcoats. They can be had here and here.

Pikku Myy rakastaa hyvin pieni myymälä takki! Lilla My älskar sin extra liten shopcoat!

‘Good Work’

photo 2
A note to the self employed:
Don’t hang your hope in luck. I know you can’t control inspiration but you can work… it keeps the ship moving, it keeps your skills active. It makes a person focused and engaged through the good times and keeps you going through the difficult ones.
So you can say Good Luck, but good luck always means Work Hard.

Picture is of my templates and working samples for the dress ornamentation on Mother Ginger’s costume for The Tulsa Ballet’s Nutcracker.

Carrying On


A Tumbler costume from Tulsa Ballet’s Nutcracker – Mother Ginger and her gaggle of Clowns and Tumblers.

I began this project (designing and constructing) thinking it would be such a breeze. It has been more work than even I bargained for, a good deal of it managing the process, the volume of work and keeping a vigilant eye on time and expenses. I think that with deadlines such as these, the last push always turns into a fight to the death. With everything and yet nothing left to lose, one dives in again, oddly liberated by the thought that I will be no worse off than before.
I’ve been learning this lesson over and over again; to throw caution to the wind and trust that it will work out. After all these struggles I have to admit, I kind of like this one!


The exterior of the home I grew up in was always painted grey. Usually a Payne’s grey pigmented with a mixture of ultramarine, black and Sienna. My grandmother insisted on this and I used to think how bleak and unclear that color was, how the house and it various dependencies could have used some color definition.
I have come to realize that there were many personal and socio-emotional reasons for this choice. The color historian Eva Heller states “grey is too weak to be considered masculine, but too menacing to be considered a feminine color. It is neither warm nor cold, neither material or spiritual. With grey, nothing seems to be decided.”
Grey (or gray) is an intermediate color, a neutral or achromatic color (color without color). It is the color of a cloud-covered sky, of ash, of lead, of humility and modesty. It is associated with dusk, with goblins and elves. It is recessive, less visible from a distance and will look either dark or light, depending upon the color next to it. Since it can be made up with an extraordinary complex selection of other colors, it is a good background color for many situations and sits beautifully within a natural setting. People believe it is the color of conformity – has no personality of its own. I have come to appreciate how it adapts to any other color.

For me, it is the color of truth.


Platon-Main Gate


Building a shop worktable

I have just finished building my professional worktable. 39″ high, 48″ deep and 72″ long. This will allow for heavy bolts of fabric to be rolled out, traced and cut as well as offering a smooth surface to flat pattern on. A lot of heavy lifting and my wrists are beyond help, but it fits perfectly and, with locking swivel casters, can be moved with ease.


I built it using these instructions as a guide: The changes I made were in the height as well as the support construction for the bottom shelf. My costs came to $125. as I already had some of the 2X4’s, plywood, surface layments and locking casters.


Measuring accurately is key, use a level and carpenters square. Pre-drill all holes. For the table top surface (placed on top of the 3/4″ plywood) I prefer using a 4′ X 8′ sheet of homasote cut down to size. I screw this down into the ply (gently – and just screw the heads down flush to the surface), then cover that with thick melton wool, which is then covered with a smooth/tight canvas. The wool is denser and has a better life than batting, if you cannot afford wool yardage, then find an old wool blanket (no holes) at the thrift store. Word to the wise, never ever bungee cord your plywood to the roof of your car. Just don’t do it!


In the Atelier Today

I always like the “deconstructed” look during the embellishment process. Should I to stop right there and use those basting threads in the finished piece?

A very small “White Swan” Tutu bodice with it’s very first layer of embellishing… feathers, beads, sequins, crystals… all waiting patiently to be applied.

Scaling down the “Black Swan Tiara” to a small “White Swan” or “Cygnet” size. I will be using larger white gems wrapped in gold tull as well as Aurora Borealis crystals for their warm pink tones. Layers upon layers of wood putty and gesso to soften the shape… endless sanding. A project that is all about delayed gratification!

The finished tutu bodice and skirt. Small, white, feathery and very sparkly!

What little girl would not squeal with delight upon receiving these in the mail? Bloch’s tensus demi-pointe embellished, with real silk satin custom dyed ribbons. SWEET!

Small Gestures + Bare Rooms

Some thoughts on work, inspirations and beginnings.
Pictures taken at the Visual Arts building on the UVIC campus.

Everyday we think of things we would like to do, we have inspirations that have developed over time or remained small and curious.

Relationships, friendships require communication. Creation requires this as well as reflection…the human is nothing, the work is everything… the work is nothing, the human is everything.

In a bare room we first focus on space, small gestures… which then reflect back to us. An empty space reveals the subject matter, a metaphor for space, which is not empty. It is full, a plenum as opposed to a vacuum, and it is the ground for the existence to everything, including ourselves.

Not empty but full of hope… raw energy, anticipation of pleasure, self judgement, to being human. It is possibilities, beginnings, accountability and work.

The work helps us understand the nature of chance. Serene, incomprehensible, ART should do as nature does… fill us with wonderment. Art is not a mistake, not anarchic, not idyllic, not an undisciplined way of life.

Agricultural Patterns

I’m a big fan of topography maps, the lay of the land as seen from above, of geological shapes, patterns, of colors of the terrain in the landscape. It is no surprise that I love the patterns made by farming and in particular ones that use the Center Pivot Irrigation system to irrigate the fields. Perhaps it is the random quality of the patterns, the pace, the line breaks, and the unexpected end revelations.

The center pivot irrigation systems is said to be the most significant mechanical innovation in agriculture since the replacement of draft animals by the tractor. In many states like Nebraska, where rainfall is unpredictable, 7.6 million acres are under this irrigation method.

From above, the fields roll out in an quilt of circles and squares. An efficient grid of crops without sight of trees. What have we learned from our past, where is the older agricultural practice of planting trees as "shelter belts" along with food crops? I was taught that trees reduce evaporation from soil and transpiration from crops while reducing wind erosion...

One of the drawbacks of center pivot systems was that the circles of well-irrigated land they produce are usually forced to fit into a square system of land parcels and roads. When the first pivot systems were being installed in the 1950s and 60s, most farmers were working quarter-of-a-mile sections of 160 acres. The center pivot systems were able to reach only 133 acres of that "quarter," and the corners inevitably produced poor crop yields.

One way to solve the problem of wasted land is to buy enough land to break the square pattern of land distribution and install the circles in a hexagonal pattern that minimizes the space between circles. This approach was used in the 1960s in Libya, but it doesn't work very well in most of the U.S. where land is already divided into square and rectangle parcels.

Some farmers tried to solve the problem by planting more drought-resistant crops on the corners. The main field would typically be planted in corn and the corners planted in milo. But those different crops have different water, chemical and harvesting needs, so it was an imperfect solution (herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides are chemigated through the pivot system).

Thoughts from a 747 window over Western USA

If I can’t train my eyes
to love, how else can I praise
the farmers
who shape the land,
a tessellated blanket of parched hope
and tired soil.

© cjdldesign

A crop circle in the Saudi Arabian desert. An installed quarter-mile-long center pivot system costs about $70,000 to $120,000 on average. The pivot’s speed is adjustable. It takes 36 hours to make a full circle on 167 acres, putting down a half-inch of water.

The majority of our food is made up of the same genetically-modified crops, just four crops — corn, rice, soybeans and wheat. The irony is that this harvest is not eaten, directly, it is milled and processed into flours or starches, or used to fatten animals on feedlots. Washington determines how our farmers farm. They do it through the farm bill, a mammoth piece of legislation that designates American agricultural policy every five years. It’s really a FOOD and Farm bill, a sweeping bill in every sense — nutrition, conservation, genetic engineering, food safety, school lunch programs, water quality, organic farming...

Resembling a work of modern art, variegated green crop circles cover what was once shortgrass prairie in southwestern Kansas. Corn, wheat, sorghum, each of these crops is at a different point of development, accounting for the varying shades of green and yellow. Healthy, growing crops are green. Corn would be growing into leafy stalks by late June. Sorghum, which resembles corn, grows more slowly and would be much smaller and paler. Wheat is a brilliant gold and the fields of brown have been recently harvested and plowed under or lie fallow for the year.

I see our extraordinary stamp of on nature.
I think of language, I hear music – whose rhythms are fragile –

the pattern is percussive, a score, a chart, a test, a work of architecture…

I also see irrigation subsidies.
© cjdldesign

Agricultural fields south-west of Perdizes, Brazil. Central pivot irrigation draws water out of a single well in the center of the field. Long pipes perched on wheels rotate around the pivot, showering the crops with water. Because the water falls directly on the crops instead of being shot into the air as occurs with traditional sprinklers, less water is lost to evaporation and more goes to nourishing the growing plants.

Central pivot irrigation also creates perfectly circular fields. The larger fields shown here in Colorado are 800 and 1,600 meters (0.5 and 1 mile) in diameter.

The Wadi As-Sirhan Basin in Saudi Arabia. For scale, the agricultural fields in the images are about one kilometer (0.62 miles) across.

The thirsty plants that rise out of the Arabian desert are quenched by water that dates back to the last Ice Age. In a more temperate past about 20,000 years ago, this “fossil” water filled aquifers that are now buried deep under the sand seas and limestone formations. Saudi Arabians have reached this underground water source by drilling wells through sedimentary rock, as much as a kilometer beneath the desert sands.

Although no one knows how much water lies beneath the desert—estimates range from 252 to 870 cubic kilometers—hydrologists believe it will only be economical to pump it for about 50 years. Rainfall averages just 100 to 200 millimeters per year and usually does not recharge the underground aquifers, making the groundwater a non-renewable source.

In 1953 while drilling for oil in southern Libya, workers found instead a huge freshwater sea beneath the sands, a vast ocean called the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System which stretches beneath Libya, Egypt, Chad and Sudan. The water had accumulated during the last ice age. Its reserves are estimated to be the equivalent to about 500 years of Nile River flow and are expected to last a thousand years.

Near Santa Cruz, Bolivia, the radial-pattern fields are part of a planned settlement scheme in a rainforest area. At the centre of each unit is a small community, which is surrounded by fields. A small buffer of forest separates the settlements from one another.

South of Khartoum, Sudan, where the White and Blue Nile rivers join, a dizzying arrangement of irrigated fields stretches out across the state of El Gezira. Given the semi-arid climate of the surrounding area, this geometrical spectacle of fertile green fields depends on thousands of miles of canals and ditches that connect the region to the Blue Nile in the west. The man-made rivers and streams are part of an irrigation project called the Gezira scheme, which the British started in the colonial era to grow cotton for export back to Europe.

The Orange River between the border between Namibia and the Republic of South Africa. Along the banks of this river, irrigation projects take advantage of water from the river and soils from the floodplains to grow produce, turning parts of a normally earth-toned landscape emerald green. A network of bright rectangles of varying shades of green contrasts with surroundings of gray, beige, tan, and rust. Faint beige circles reveal center-pivot irrigation fields apparently allowed to go fallow.

A Dyeing Process

One of the most important tools, in this particular process of hand dipping - or "mottled" dyeing - is a set of gloves and liners that protect your hands (as you plunge the fabric into the boiling acid dyestuff).

Acid Dyes will be used for this process. Acid dyes are used to dye protein fibers such as woolen goods, soy protein fibers called Soy Silk, and the synthetic polyamide fiber nylon. They produce a very even, single-color solid effect. Either vinegar or diluted acetic acid can be used to set them.

Acid dyes can safely be dissolved in hot or even boiling water without making them go bad but you must be very careful to completely dissolve the dye. I often add a drop of a surfactant, such as synthrapol, to aid in the dissolution. Another method is "pasting" the dye: mix a very small amount of water with your dye and stir it until it forms a smooth paste. Gradually add more water, stirring until smooth, and only then mix in the rest of the water.

The dyestuff is brought up to a rolling boil, and I mean hot! The warm/wet fabric, in this case the woolen pants, will be bunched up and plunged into the boiling dye, held there for 12 to 16 seconds. This will be repeated over and over with different color dye-baths until the layered and mottled color effect has been achieved.

The wool pants in their pristine state. I have not slit the button holes, the back has been left open and they are unhemmed.

Halfway through the process (it is lengthy), the color is starting to build up on the pants.

I intentionally sewed these pants with a polyester thread that does not take in the dyebath. The stitching adds a contrast note to the overall effect, plus it is strong and will hold the garment together better than a natural thread would.

Pants are pressed and readied for shipping.

The idea is that they should look just like the rendering!

Designing Leotards

Designing for stretch dancewear demands a knowledge of close fitting patterning as well as an understanding of working with a fabric whose character is both loose, fluid and elastic. It is also about how one divides the human body into sections that accent a torso’s physique. The work is complex yet minimal and the seams used are very important. There are countless possibilities, therefore countless quick sketches...

My quick sketches are translated into pen and ink, then I scan those into the appropriate application for coloring and finishing the renderings. I will usually work up many more than needed, from there, it is a process of elimination but always a collaborative one.

1 of 3 Designs. Trying out an idea for color gradation, but the coloring is not set yet, most likely it will change. At this point I can start collaborating with my patternmaker Marilyn Burbank, of Entr’acte Dancewear, on the build. I will be dyeing these after the fact. If you click on the rendering above you will be taken to The Entr'acte Costumes website.

Here are the fabric prototypes for the first design. A combination of solid nylon lycra stretch with a foiled sheer mesh and metallic foil trim.

2 of 3 Designs. Variation on a theme.

Worked up in fabrics. We go back and forth to revise proportions as well as lines and curves.

The mesh unitard will be worn over the leotards. The neckline mirrors the neckline of the leotard, but 1” up, which causes headaches to the patternmaker as they are working with a fabric that has a different stretch ratio than the leotard underneath.

Third design. Yet another variation.

The third design worked up in fabric. Next step will be to vat dye them into a selected color palette.