Sunday, December 23, 2012

for the Restofus

Sweepings from a fallen christmas tree.

Happy birthday and Festivus to my youngest brother!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A New Thing

I recently enjoyed another scouting visit to Nashville. While there I got to meet Megan Lightell and see her painting studio. She is a smart and prolific artist, an active steward of the land where she lives, and a great point of contact for things land and art related. Very glad to get to spend time with her. You can see more of her landscapes here: Megan Lightell

Following the studio visit, I joined my cousin Peter Hart for a great tour of Ambrose Printing and helpful discussion/Q+A on the production side of printing. The Ambrose shop was humming with work and ink smells. So many machines printing, cutting, folding, collating, stapling, chopping, etcetera-ing at incredible speed. It was great to see and helped me think better about teaching print design and why we print things. Also saw there huge and inspiring wrapped bales of shredded paper waste and am trying to think about they could be used in land forms. Or moved cheaply for that matter.

I was aided and abetted to and from Nashville by the steadfast P-U-P. It is nice to be home with your dog. Since last I wrote the mourning sleeves were returned to me. But lo there was a new thing. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Look Back

I take back the things I said about not mourning Knoxville. I am sad and anxious to be leaving.

I've loaned out my mourning sleeves to some friends (whose grief is more significant than mine) but I thought of them tonight and would like to fling my arms out this way. [Interestingly, the woman shown below modeling the sleeves lives in Nashville.] Surely there will be great things to be born in this new future and something(s) must die to make way for the new, but that does not make it pleasant or easy.

I feel better just looking at these images. Perhaps the power in costume (and the other pieces in this series, Costumes to Save Your Life) is not that they alleviate the feelings of mourning (or despair, or so on), but that they give the sentiments new voice and direction. A trajectory. I'll take it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


We are moving soon from Knoxville to Nashville, TN. It is a distance of less than 200 miles, so I don't  feel the nostalgia of walking around your city thinking, "Oh, this is the last time I'll ___(verb)__ in Knoxville." I may be in denial of mourning this place that we love and, more importantly, the people it in. I run into friends at the grocery store or at the park and awkwardly blurt out, "We're moving."

This evening I found this description form Kunstraum Tapir (an artist residency in Berlin) and I read it as a fortune cookie or horoscope. As with those prophetic media I project myself into the words and have here changed Berlin to be Nashville.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Open the House, Sell the Art

If you live in the Knoxville area, please consider coming to the 17th Street Studio's annual OPEN STUDIO NIGHT. We'll have all our studios open to visitors. We'll be serving snacks and drinks. And some of us will have work for sale. It's always a good time and especially fun if you, like I, enjoy seeing the work spaces of artists and designers. Hope to see you there!

Here are the details to retain:
Thursday, November 29th, 7-9 pm
17th Street Studios
(in the attic of Redeemer Church -- accessible only by stairs)
1642 Highland Ave. (corner of 17th and highland)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Geek Out

This just came in the mail.

I want to eat this book for breakfast.

By which I mean read it thoroughly.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

the don't in don't shove

Good Earth Farmers, a farmer collective out of Jefferson county, sent out this link in their weekly updates: EB White on he meaning of democracy

Happy days after the election.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Coffee and Writing

I stumbled upon this blog by designers, thinkers, and writers Julia and Ellen Lupton. Ellen literally wrote the book on typography. Or at least one that is much loved by those introducing ideas of type to students.

One particular post by Julia talks about a book by her colleague Ron Carlson, "Ron Carlson Writes a Story." The book is about the art and craft of writing and Lupton highlights Carlson's description of coffee as a source of procrastination and distraction. Sub in a quick email, folding laundry, anything for coffee and you've got an apt description of how it feels to derail yourself with hope that, "Once I've tended to that one thing, then I will be productive."

Lupton writes:
A lot of the book isn’t about fiction writing at all. It’s about time management. In a sharp little chapter called “Coffee,” Carlson writes, “No one among us suffers the radical appreciation for coffee that I do. It calls to me, but I have learned not to listen.” Coffee takes you out of your seat; it breaks concentration; it persuades you that “you might be smarter in the next room.” And every coffee machine has a vacuum cleaner as its neighbor. Or an email account. Or a Face Book page.
 Or a blog post. Now back to work.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are perennial sunflowers native to North America. You may have heard of them as Jerusalem Artichokes. The plants grow 8 - 10 feet tall, flower in late summer, and have edible root nodules with a consistency of watercress and the culinary versatility of potatoes.

I got some plants several years ago from a friend who warned me that they take over gardens. I planted them and kept a close eye on them only letting 5 or 6 grow each year. That was mistake.

This tuber bearing rhizome is pervasive, tenacious, and pernicious. The crisp texture of the tubers means they are easily broken in harvest. Small uncollected pieces will root for the following season. I found the plump tubers tucked inside the roots of other perennials plants and throughout the soil. If I am here next spring I will try to pinch out every single plant that comes up. Even then the tubers may have enough stored inulin to see them through til the next year.

This is how we learn. We try things, observe the results, and take notes for the next time. I'd plant Sunchokes again if I needed a tall screen in a sunny place and did not plan to grow anything else there. Ever again. That said, they're tasty and it's neat to eat something from our front yard. As with many things we grow ourselves, the result is punier than what we can buy in a store. These tubers look paler and more elongated than most available commercially. I think that may be a function of being a second season crop. Will see how they taste.

I will scrub them, chop them, toss them in oil and seasonings, and roast them. Mahasti Vafaie (of the Tomato Head) made them into a tasty soup for the first Raise the Roots dinner and I'd like to try something like that with the roasted pieces. I made this recipe for Thanksgiving last year. Good stuff. Here's to being grateful for what comes up. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Will Travel

Genius Loci is up at the Hardin Valley Campus of Pellissippi State Community College for another week+. I've loved getting to meet and talk to the students and faculty there. Next Monday, October 29th from 3-5 pm, I'll return for an artist talk (and to distribute the fig cuttings from the show).

On the 29th I'll also take final stock of the seed ball trade that's been going on in the gallery. The show opened with hundreds of seed balls (made with clay powder, commercial compost, and wildflower seeds) set out in a grid. A sign in the gallery invited visitors to trade something for the seed balls. This is the first time I've presented seed balls in this way and I'm pleased with the results and eager to catalog the items traded.

I suspect the objects left behind reveal a sort of community portrait. I look forward to mounting this installation in another location and community to test that theory.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Family Loci

My family helped me load, transport, and install my show this weekend. Many thanks to them and to my assistant Amy Hand.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Leap Again

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Herida Abierta

This show, Viviendo Entre la Herida Abierta, by Leticia Contreras is up at the Birdhouse now and I dig it. It is the best show I've seen there in several months. Lucky you (if you live in Knoxville), you can catch the closing reception this coming Saturday, the 29th.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Genius loci

I have an upcoming show at the Bagwell Center for Media & Art at Pellissippi State Community College. Here is a flyer for you and yours to see, share, and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

sketch books

I've just started working in the final pages of a large sketch book and am resolved to stick to smaller books again. Less weight. My next one is partially started and I found this in it. Noam Chomsky came to speak at UTK in 2011. The book is all scrap paper bound in the style I learned from Andrzej Włodarski, but not nearly so well finished.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

your name in print!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Worthy 4

This is a link to a great article about Tallu Schuyler Quinn, executive director of The Nashville Food Project and a radiant, creative soul. I got to work with the Nashville Food Project (then called Mobile Loaves and Fishes Nashville) and their wonderful garden manager, Brooke Gillon, last summer through Urban Land Scout camp and it was a great experience. I'm pleased for Nashville to have an organization like the Nashville Food Project and glad Tallu is steering the ship.

Photo by Ashley Hylbert

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Propping Against the Dangers

My grandmother gave me a copy of Nikki Giovanni's Bicycles. I've not read more than the title piece, but it was a good one. Here's to talent sprung from East Tennessee and the indomitable spirit of Ms. Giovanni-- long may they live.


Midnight poems are bicycles
Taking us on safer journeys
Than jets
Quicker journeys
Than walking
But never as beautiful
A journey
As my back
Touching you under the quilt

Midnight poems
Sing a sweet song
Saying everything
Is all right

Here for us
I reach out
To catch the laughter

The dog thinks
I need a kiss

Bicycles move
With the flow
Of the earth

Like a cloud
So quiet
In the October sky
Like licking ice cream
From a cone
Like knowing you
Will always
Be there

All day long I wait
For the sunset

The first star
The moon rise

I move
To a midnight
The dangers

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Rest and Be Thankful

in the bamboo

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Garden Qi

It is unseasonably warm here as it is most places in the US right now. I've been looking forward to Spring since December and suddenly spring is upon us and throbbingly green and almost past. Last year I learned the term "spring ephemerals", the woodland perennial wildflowers and other plants that emerge early in the season, bloom, and then give way to the hot weather species. There are many of these at the park where I walk (trillium, solomon's seal, blood root, and so on). I think of them fondly. They mark the time.

Asparagus doesn't qualify as a woodland perennial, but its appearance is equally early and exciting. After two years of patiently not harvesting the stalks coming up in our yard, this year I got to enjoy several spears. The plants have since rocketed into full growth (up to 4' tall already) and will provide some visual height and contrast in the summer garden. Other good friends thriving (or trying to bolt) in the garden now: chard, bok choy, mustard greens, collards-- all flowering now, a beet left to go to seed, and an overwintered rainbow chard. Tiny beets are coming up and I hope for nasturtium success this year. It is the best time of the year when the weather is warming, but not hot and there is plenty of rain and everything seems manageable and fresh.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Yesterday I led an Urban Land Scouts workshop at Three Rivers Market in which we made vermicompost bins for home use. They're simple and affordable to set up -- two important criteria for me as I continue to develop the ULS curriculum.

In preparing for the workshop I was reminded of the amazing qualities of worms: they consume food equivalent or greater to their body weight every day, they have five hearts, they breathe through their skin, and on. Learning about the specifics of their lives and bodies heightens my sense of reverence for them. I also love that they eat my garbage. "Worms Eat My Garbage" by Mary Appelhof is the seminal introductory literature for those wanting to get started with vermicomposting. Appelhof's enthusiasm, meticulous experimenting, and semi-evangelical work promoting worm composting is a testament to the power of teaching.

In my beginning Tai Chi classes we begin the session with a bow to honor our teachers. I have many teachers for whom I am grateful. I think of some of them when I bow. Mary Appelhof died in 2005, but her legacy lives on in the literature she published and the people she taught. This is a good reminder for me as a struggle with my own trajectory and orientation in the day-to-day: what will you leave behind? When worms and associated microorganisms are breaking down my body, what essence or spirit of mine will carry on? Is it important to me that it carry my name? I do not often take this long view in my daily labor (making breakfast, writing proposals, drilling holes in worm bins), but it is comforting to me now.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Thanks to my dad Russell Ries for introducing me to the Seven Kingdoms.