O Prosper Thou Our Handiwork

Come to think of it, that would make a good name for a pious crafting blog. I’ll file that under “good ideas”…

I’ve been busy lately with a variety of domestic projects. I finished my first hand-knit sweater early this week. It only took 15 months or so…

I haven't worn it yet, so I don't have a picture of how it actually looks on a body.

Detail shot.

My current knitting project is a sleeve for my iPad. I have a hard case that covers the back and corners, but I still don’t want to toss it in a bakcpack “naked”.

The color isn't quite accurate here (it's more green/teal in person). Definitely a color that could be found in a Relic brand accessory.

Tomorrow we’re painting most of our first floor. I was planning to include an image of a color swatch from online, but the one that claims to be correct looks completely wrong. The color is “Withered Moss” (who comes up with these?), and it’s a nice green. I picked it out, so hopefully it’s not a failure.

I’m also baking a cake tomorrow for a birthday party on Sunday. It’s been a while since I baked a layer cake (a little over two years, in fact), and I’m kind of excited. Fingers crossed.


Book Review: Unbroken

“Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body would have surrendered it. The loss of it can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty.”

Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken

Like many kids, I used to stay up well past my bedtime, flashlight in hand, reading something I just couldn’t stop. Homework and college put an end to that habit, and I’ve spent the past couple months post-graduation trying to recover some of that interest. When I checked out Unbroken, I wasn’t expecting to find a page-turner that I couldn’t put down, chapter after chapter. That’s what I got, though.

Author Laura Hillenbrand (well-known for writing Seabiscuit, which I haven’t read) tells the true story of Louis Zamperini, troublemaking boy turned Olympic runner turned World War 2 bombardier turned prisoner of war turned…well, I don’t want to give the whole thing away. It’s a story that would be unbelievable if it weren’t for the 40 pages of citations at the end of the book (and the numerous photographs throughout).

It’s an incredible story of determination and dignity, with a fair bit of humor thrown in. I read the entire thing in two sittings, and despite the satisfying ending, found myself wishing it were longer. Highly, highly recommended.

Magnificat in the palm of your hand!

Oh, wait…the original version also fits in the palm of your hand.  Well, the iPhone app is quite nifty anyway.  Besides being able to get the readings, meditations, and art you’ve come to love, you can get them for less than half the price of a print subscription ($1.99/month or $19.99/year) or for free if you’re already a print subscriber.  Oh, and did I mention that the first month is free, if you want to try it out?  I know there are varying schools of thought on bringing your iPhone to Mass, but this would be handy on days when you can’t get to Mass at all.  The formatting is just like that of the print version, with the pleasant red titles, etc., and it’s extremely intuitive to use (see here for more screenshots).

Note: The folks at Magnificat have no idea who I am or that I’m writing this review.  The publication has been a great aid in my spiritual life, and I’m happy to see this new version.

Decorating with Paper

Although my apartment complex allows the painting of walls, I don’t think I’m going to do it in my room because I don’t think I’ll want to repaint them white while dealing with moving out.  Leaving the room solid white won’t stand, however, so I’ve spent the last few weeks devising various ways to break up the space.  My green bed and bedspread help a lot, as do the black shelves and bookcases I have.

Desk area. It looks more cluttered here than it feels in real life.

Wanting to add a little color beyond that, I turned to a simple, cheap, and easy decorating tool I discovered last year: Paper Stacks.  For about $20, I got way more cute, color-coordinated paper than I’ve been able to use in a year.  Last year, I hung full sheets in a grid behind pieces of clear plastic that I got from a home improvement store.  I haven’t done that yet in this new room, but I’ve used the paper in various ways around the room.

Around the border of my whiteboard. Measured, cut into strips, and attached with packing tape. So simple.

A full sheet on the door of my filing cabinet. I used an x-acto knife to cut a slot for the handle, and attached it with double-sided tape.

In the back of my bookshelf to lighten up the black a little. I think it took eight sheets or so (taped in) to cover the whole thing.

I also have some lining the shelf and door of my bright teal nightstand, but of course, I forgot to take pictures of that.

For the walls, I decided to create a little original art.  One of the advantages of being an art student is that one accumulates a large assortment of materials: acrylic gouache here, watercolor paper there…

I finished a piece that I started a couple years ago and abandoned, changing the color scheme to fit the room.

Each page is an individual journal entry, painted over so as to be mostly illegible, except where the flowers are.

It was concept art for a class when I started it, but I finished it in a way that I liked, which is much more satisfying.

I hung them with binder clips and cotton yarn, from thumbtacks stuck in the wall. I’m not sure whether I like the overall effect of that; I may look into simple frames at some point. For now, though, I’m quite happy.

The Pope on Artists, and Beauty in the Modern World

Sculpted by Raffaelle Monti (1818-1881)

Via Whispers comes an article about the Pope’s remarks on beauty and art, made at the opening of an exhibit of art curated in honor of his 60th anniversary of ordination. An excerpt:

Dear friends, I would like to renew to you and to all artists a friendly and passionate appeal: never separate artistic creativity from truth and charity; never seek beauty far from truth and charity, but with the richness of your genius, of your creative impulse, be always courageous seekers of truth and witnesses of charity. Make truth shine in your works so that their beauty awakens in the sights and hearts of those who admire them the desire to make their existence, all existence, beautiful and true, enriching it with that treasure that never diminishes, which makes of life a work of art and of every man an extraordinary artist: [the treasure of] charity, love.

(full text)

As an artist, I always find it encouraging when art – and specifically, the trouble of beauty in the modern age – is mentioned. I remember in particular one Mass when at the Prayers of the Faithful the priest, seemingly out of the blue, offered a rather lengthy prayer for Catholic artists, that they may persevere in seeking beauty in the face of adversity, etc. It was a reaffirming recognition of what is a very real struggle for artists. Nearly the only way to get an education in art is to do so in an educational culture that rejects every past tradition*. Students of music, in my experience, still learn about which harmonies are beautiful and are encouraged to follow certain principles that have been in place for centuries. In the visual arts, what students learn is the equivalent of a musician being told, “Here are the keys, push whichever ones you want. The further you are from Mozart, the better. Dissonance is the key to music.”

The Holy Father is absolutely correct in suggesting that art should inspire the viewer to seek beauty in their own lives. Consider this in contrast to the modern notion that “good art” is that which disturbs the viewer, the more deeply, the better. Consider the kind of world that would be created if man sought to make things more beautiful through their actions and creations, rather than a world in which men are increasingly desensitized to ugliness and brutality as artists continually try to one-up each other in shock value.

Those who are artists, and those who are not, should all take a cue from the Holy Father’s words and try to beautify our own corners of the world.  This isn’t a problem that will just be solved in the museums; it is one that will be confronted by beauty in our homes, beauty in our dress, beauty in our actions.

This piece ("Red Plank") falls more into the "drab" category than "shocking," unless you're shocked that it's in a museum.

*I know there are still places where one can learn traditional forms of art (figural bronze sculpture, representational mosaic, etc.), but the American university system is not the place to find them.

This little blogger went to market

After Mass this morning, I went to the local farmers market to have a look around.  It had been a few years since I’d been there, but armed with my roomy Harry & David tote bag, I dove right in and wasn’t disappointed.

This particular market is open year-round and has not only produce but baked goods (yes Jenni, the famed kolache!), meat, soap, etc.  There were enough vendors to have a good choice of different produce, which was nice

I didn’t get any berries, though the tables upon tables of them were tempting.  I got asparagus from Michigan ($2 for probably more than I’ll eat), and a basil plant for $3.  They were 2 for $5, but two plants like this would be excessive even for me.

And one final shot, for Jenni: