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December 2010

On Your Desk

Rima's desk 1

We have one last Desktop for today. This one belongs to my friend and neighbor Rima Staines, an artist and writer and accordion player and animator and book-binder and half a dozen other things besides. She lives in a tiny medieval house on the other side of the village square with paints and books and a poet and a hound, and makes marvels in that gorgeous little space. In this series of photos, we wind ever closer to the works in progress on Rima's crowded desk.

Rima's desk 2

She says: "This is my painting desk, a narrow dressing table actually, with six drawers full of papers and sketchbooks and pencils and tools, that has moved with me from house to house, even when the house had wheels. I work in our little living room, with one end of the room taken over by work space. Right next to the desk is another table for working on larger paintings, and the whole area is rather cluttered with stuff - rolls of paper, baskets of oil paints, jars of brushes and tools. I look out onto the old thatched Bishop's house opposite (and today over people dragging sledges past in the snow!), and surround myself with interesting objects and inspiring images to feed the work....

Rima's desk 3

"For me creating a space is a kind of magic, and there's something particular about working in your home, which I've always done due to having a small amount of space. Though I enjoy a certain amount of Aladdin clutter, when it reaches 'mess' levels I must tidy, or at least rearrange and make a little space before I can paint again. On my desk right now is a new watercolour painting of my favourite Russian folk tale character, Baba Yaga, due to be included in a book about her being published in the US next year."

Rima's desk 4

On Your Desk

Julia Latane

Today, while the snow piles up outside, I'll start in sunny Los Angeles, where my friends James Graham and Julia Latané now live. They are both wonderful artists, fairy tale fans, and founders of the Tooleshed Studios in downtown Tucson (where I had my art studio for many years).  Their work and careers are thriving in L.A., but they are still deeply missed in Tucson.

"I am sending this in for Julia," says James (of the photograph above), "who is having way too much of an artgasm to do anything else. This is her dry studio, just outside of our bedroom in Highland Park, Los Angeles. Julia draws in this room and welds and builds in the garage. She is working on a series of drawings about how to protect me from harm. [James has spent much time recovering his strength after two bad accidents.] We do have desks but she is too impatient to see her work on the wall to use them."

James is a photographer and writer (you can read his work in the archives of The Journal of Mythic Arts), and his workspace is below. "My little photo studio," he says, "is in the corner of our front room. Right next to the kitchen and the siren song of the fridge. It is small but perfect for my work, which is all still life color and form studies. Just past that is Julias drawing studio, so there is a lot of: 'c'mere look at this' between the two of us. "

James Graham

Now we travel to Toronto, Canada with three photographs from Cathy Francis of the legendary Flying Dragon Bookshop. (How I wish we had a branch of that shop right here!)

"My desk is tucked away in the depths of the bookshop," says Cathy, "behind the literary salon and storeroom. At this time of the year, I don't have much time to spend here as I'm on the sales floor. But in the afternoon, I love to sneak down for cup of tea and ponder the future of the store surrounded by the cozy clutter of windows past. After Christmas there will be time enough to go through, stacks of catalogs, order new books and envision wondrous displays. But for now it's back upstairs to find just the right home for each book in the shop."

Flying Dragon

Flying Dragon 2

Flying Dragon 3

The fourth photo (below) is of Cathy's desk at her country cottage -- where, she says, "I do my most creative pondering away from the store. There as I gaze out the window at the lake, I'm surrounded by my favorite books, projects on the go and my woolly mammoth of a dog, Calvin (not shown in the picture because he was sound asleep on the bed)."

Cathy Francis

The next desktop comes Virginia M. Mohlere, a writer and editor who lives on the outskirts of Houston, Texas:

Virginia Mohlere

Virginia writes magical, fairy-tale flavored work published in such excellent little journals as Goblin Fruit, Cabinet des Fees, and Mythic Delirium. She says: "I actually do very little work at this desk: I usually write wedged into a corner of the sofa with a notebook perched on my knee. But I'm taking a work-at-home day from The Dreaded Day Job (as a medical editor) - hence the ridiculous pajamas seen in the foreground (which I just had to include). Teacups and knitting are ubiquitous in my life."

(Look closely and you'll spot Jane Yolen at her desk on the computer screen.)

Our last photo of the morning is a delightfully atmospheric one from my friend and neighbor Miriam Boy, a German-born artist who lives just a few houses down from me here in Devon:

Miriam Boy

I love what Miriam has to say about the space:

"I make and design jewellery in a shed in our garden which I converted into a workshop," she writes. "It is very small, but very cosy, and all I need, since you don't need much space in jewellery-making. My window faces a big tree in the neighbour's garden, where I can somtimes watch a robin sitting in a branch very close...and behind that is the beautiful landscape of the Devon hills and the moor beyond. I have never cleaned the window, partly because I don't like cleaning very much, but partly because I like the cobwebs in the corners...and the fact that when I am working the rest of the world, and my daily busy life, disappear behind a veil of dust and become slightly invisible. (This is worth a lot, considering the fact that I have three lovely, lively children!)  My hours in my cosy corner are my refuge, my time to be creative, be calm, listen to classical music (the only station my very old radio wants to play), gather my thoughts and find the inspiration to do what I love doing: creating pieces of jewellery that have meaning, certainly to me and, I hope, to the people who wear them."

Her work definitely has great meaning to Howard and me, for she made our wedding rings (pictured below).

Rings & Roses

If you'd like to contribute a picture to the "On Your Desk" series, you are very welcome to do so. You'll find more information (and the address where you should send your photo) in the first post of the series. Click here for the full series so far, and here for our last photo series: "The View from Your Window."

On Your Desk

Jane big desk 2008

The desk above belongs to the Queen of Fairy Tales, my good friend Jane Yolen, whose work has inspired and influenced so many of us in the mythic arts field. There's magic in that desk. There must be, for Jane has produced an extraordinary number of books over the years, telling exquisite tales that seem to flow from her pen with an ease that I wonder at...and envy! Or is the magic all in her hands -- which we see at work, in a blur of motion, in the photo below?

Jane's hands
I'll turn to one of Jane's own poems to settle the question:

                    If you ask me,
                    I would have to say
                    all the world's magic
                   comes directly from the mouth.

And of course she's right.

Regarding her desktop photo, Jane says: "This is at the big desk at my house in western Massachusetts where I actually work very little. It was my husband David's old desk, in his old study. I now mostly work in the tv room with a laptop. Both photos were taken by my son Jason Stemple, in 2008, for an autobiography for kids we did together called On the Slant. And you should note that I have worked hard at losing 45 pounds since then!

"I envy folks their beautiful work spaces. And for about 20 years I had a lovely attic writing room overlooking Massachusetts farmland. Very nineteenth century view. But have given up the winding stairs for comfort and safety."

Charles de Lint

The next desk (above) also belongs to one of my very favorite people and very favorite tellers of magical tales: writer and musician Charles de Lint, in Ottowa, Canada. "This is my desk at home in the city," he says [rather than at his country cottage by a lake]. " I was tempted to stage it a bit -- clear up the clutter, maybe even dust for a change! -- but then it wouldn't be a snapshot of a working desk, would it?  And who has the time?

"I do most of my writing here--at least when I'm at home. I can write anywhere I can plug in a laptop.  For most of this summer my 'desk' was my sister-in-law Lynn's dining room table in the country, where I'd work in the morning before going down to the construction site that became our cottage, and then again late at night. But I don't have a picture of it.  Home's a favourite place to write with everything I like close at hand . . . but working in your library at the Tucson house beats it, mostly for the view out the window when I look up.  That's something I can't imagine ever tiring of.  Right now, all I see is a snowy street."

Here's that desert view that Charles is talking about (which I often miss too):

Rincon Mountain View

Speaking of Tucson, Arizona: The photographs below come from Tucson fiber artist Annie Gordon, whose work space isn't confined to a desktop but spreads out wherever she finds the room: the floor, the dining room table....


"I make wall quilts, clothes, and full-sized quilts," says Annie, "always with the help of my two red tabby boys, Duncan and Fergus. I moved to a two-bedroom apartment a couple of years ago so that I could have a room for all my art stuff. In these photos I am working on a commissioned jeans quilt, which was a lot of fun -- and afforded ample piles of fabric for the boys to lay on."



Carol Price, in Princess Anne, Maryland (on the Delmarva Peninsula), is another artist with muses in feline form. " I am a maker of things, which is perhaps the best way to describe my work.   I simply love to make.  I love textiles and fiber, therefore I sew, quilt, embroider, appliqué, knit, crochet, and hand dye fabric and yarn.  I also sculpt in paper mache and paint (mostly watercolor) and sketch.  I keep a written journal and a sketch journal of whatever catches my fancy.  I use my sketch journal as a nature journal and use it to plan fiber projects and paper mache projects (both journals are visible in the picture [below])."

Carol Price

Like me, early morning is Carol's favorite time of day. "I wake around 4:30am, feed my tribe of cats, make coffee, and commence with the project(s) of the moment.  Everything in the house is quiet and I can work in peace and solitude for a few hours, before I have to get ready for work and ready my son for school.  Also, my ever changing inspiration board is visible behind my current sculpture projects."

Our last photos of the day come from writer and artist Kris Waldherr in Brooklyn, the creator of many magical books and much wondrous art. We knew each other years ago here in Devon (back before either of us had ever published much of anything...lordy but weren't we young back then, Kris?), and we've kept in touch with each other's mythic journeys ever since. About the pictures below she says:

"My studio is set in a storefront in the Victorian Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn; we open it up as a gallery to the community on the weekends. Our children's art events are especially popular.

Kris Waldherr

"Right now, I'm writing a novel, The Lily Maid, which is set during the Aesthetics art movement of 1880s England. These days there are lots of manuscript pages cluttering up the proceedings, rather than paints and pencils.....

Kris Waldherr 1
"I've also included a view of my 'door of projects' (created with chalkboard paint). I recently started a digital publishing imprint, Art and Words Editions—the details are never-ending."


Kris Waldherr 3


More desktops and wonders tomorrow.

If you'd like to contribute a picture to the "On Your Desk" series, you are very welcome to do so. You'll find more information (and the address where you should send your photo) in the first post of the series. Click here for the full series so far, and here for our last photo series: "The View from Your Window."

And another brief interruption...

Taleof1 say that there's an interesting interview with Billy O'Brien (the Irish-born writer/director of The Tale of the Rat That Wrote, Isolation, and other films) over on my husband's blog today. Howard and his comics-collaborator, Rex, will be running "Around the Table With..." interviews with creative folks in various fields every third Friday. (The next one up is with the award-winning French illustrator Didier Graffet.) The table in question is our kitchen table, and the talk is all about creative process issues. Tasty indeed.