Sunday, October 30

gray, grey, payne, pain

payne's grey or gray

secret lentil artifacted linen, detail

I'm fortunate to work in a building full of artists. Yesterday I grabbed one of my new pieces and went down the hall to ask A Real Painter: "What color is this?" I was betting on Payne's Grey but did not lead the witness. He look perplexed for a moment then said "Payne's Grey." Then he explained that at his other job he has to guess ahead and gauge if the person wants to know if it is merely black, blue, gray, or something more subtle, so he was assessing his audience. Everybody got what they wanted. Plus I got to borrow a tube of paint for a real-live sample.

But. Yuck. Right now my building is mostly a source of consternation for me — for reasons too inflammatory/distracting to detail here. It's the standard stuff: life is unfair, people are complicated, organizations with more clout/money do what they want while other people are denied. But it has me feeling like I've been punched in the gut. I'm taken aback by just how strong this sensation is.

Here's the thing: I need to like my building. The building is where I connect with other people who know what Payne's Grey is. Within that my studio is the dedicated, sacred space where I make things. I need some baseline agreement that this place is, for the most part, set aside for making art, and will be amenable to the peculiarities that come with that. Heck, it might even be supportive. At the very least I need to not feel sabotaged. And right now I feel sabotaged. It feels bad.

In my head, where all the trouble starts, I am trying to tell myself that I moved into this place eight years ago with no expectations. Can't I just dial that back? Can't this just be a room I pay for by the square foot and nothing more? *pats silly head on the head* Poor head. My head still thinks logic can rule the day. Even when talking about making art.

If I'm adding meaning to things as an artist, summoning objects into the physical world that have meaning, then meaning matters, right? That's the deal, right? Meaning matters. Intention matters. Relationships matter. Support matters. It's what I've chosen. More specifically: it's what I've chosen over other things that are probably no longer available as options. It's — and yes this gets a bit dramatic — literally what I have staked my life on. I have cut off other paths that now cannot be walked down. I have forged myself into this person who makes things that matter — even with all its inherent paradoxes  — so if I don't double down on that, what am I left with? Frankly, logic isn't even making any helpful offers.

Younger Helen would have already fired up A Righteous Anger and stomped off to Elsewhere feeling great about Being Right but sacrificing lots of other good stuff for that feeling. (Honestly I have no regrets in that regard.) But Older Helen doesn't want that to be the only choice, wants to choose battles wisely, and wants to hope it can still be okay here. Because for one thing, I've got Important Owl Shit to do and would like to just keep doing that.

Okay. About that. This batch of clothes is almost black. It's deep and saturated and in some lighting looks just like black, or charcoal gray, but then if you pair it with black you'll see there's more blue to it as well. It's deep Payne's Grey. I think it should be "gray" not "grey" — it's just a better looking word — but I appear to be outnumbered on that front. But look at me choosing my battles! I can do it, I think.

secret lentil handmade hand dyed linen clothing

Friday, October 14

I'm not making this up.

I really thought Mike and I had an earnest conversation about adding giant gelatinous desserts to the backgrounds of pics from our photo shoot with Stefanie. I think it must have been a dream I had after reading, at bedtime, that Salvador Dali's 1973 cookbook Les Diners de Gala is being re-released. (You can pre-order it now.) Well I'm happy to take a Dali dream as inspiration, any time.

industrial strength tunic from secret lentil
industrial strength tunic

twisted sailor dress from secret lentil
twisted sailor dress

linen jacket, tunic and skirt

Wednesday, October 12

Brotherly Love, or "We are an adorably pragmatic family."

I got an email from my brother in Arkansas: there is a birthday gift from him waiting at my local Lowes. Okay, I'm intrigued. For days I wracked my brain trying to guess what he could have possibly thought up. Last night I finally made it there. I gave the woman at the customer service counter the order number.

"What is it?"

"I don't know. It's a gift. For my birthday."

She looks it up on the computer then turns around with eyes wide.
"CHEMICAL GLOVES? That's your birthday gift?" Laughter ensued.

I dyed my hand black.

Then I remembered mentioning in a recent email that I had a glove failure and dyed my hand black. Never again! Thanks Russ.

Sunday, October 2

serving suggestion

hand-dyed artifacted linen dress over wool jersey dress with one very, very long sleeve, plus a necklace made from silk and nice rocks.

Saturday, October 1


secret lentil layered dresses with distressed wool shawl

Friday, September 30

In the studio this week.

secret lentil vintage typewriter and macbook
crucial machines

secret lentil spec sheet
special documents

 secret lentil studio

secret lentil work in progress: wool shawl
work in progress

Thursday, September 8

zen splortch.

secret lentil jersey tunic - hand made, hand dyed, zen splortch.

secret lentil jersey tunic - hand made, hand dyed, zen splortch.

  zen splortch.

Friday, September 2

Please admire my new bowl.

Pretend my hair is less messy. Thank you.

I just got a new bowl. Oh my goodness. It's so lovely. When you can't touch handmade ceramics ahead of time you can't really ... know them. As soon as I picked this up out of the box I knew I wanted to live with it for a long time.

Marie Nagy of  Kilnmaster Pottery made it. I know from chatting with her that she often uses a technique called soda firing, which is responsible for the gorgeous luster inside this beast.


May I also add: packing ceramics is probably also an art, at least when you do it as well as she does. And yes, I looked it up: some of the soda involved is soda ash, just like you use for affixing dye to fabric with fiber reactive dyes. *sings "It's a small world"*

Saturday, August 27

So, this is happening. Upcycled Secret Lentil on Etsy

50+ upcycled Secret Lentil pieces at super discount prices -
now available on Etsy.
Skirts, shrugs, tunics, dresses, sweaters ...
I'm still adding more.
When they're gone, they. Are. Gone.

Click to see them all.

Sunday, August 21

artifacting: the creation of artifacts.

I remain interested in the creation of artifacts. We are drawn to objects with provenance, with history, drawn to things that show use, wear and repair. We want to see where others' hands have worked, want to place ourselves in relation to those hands, want to be a part of the world of making, unmaking and remaking. To be part of that is to enter the flow of time, without resistance.

The dark underbelly of this is that authentic provenance is often attached to authentic suffering: to people who lived and died so close to the ground that mending and reuse were linked to literal survival. I don't know how to reconcile our desire for such an aesthetic with our dark human desire (think diamonds and gold) to thrive on the fruits of the suffering of Others. I've spent my adult life, mostly in undramatic ways, trying to build a life of right action and connection that avoids as much of that as possible. A life I feel okay about. I'm not able to be heroic about it. I just do my best.

That's what has been milling about in my mind as I consider what to call this work. And that's why I settled on my own word instead of anything connected to other peoples' histories, struggles or traditions: I'm calling it artifacting. The creation of artifacts. I may have offended some people with my radical verb-making, but I'll take my chances with that crowd.

I assert that our desire for a decayed/repaired aesthetic still has intrinsic beauty, appeal and meaning without an attachment to ruthless consumption. So yes, artifacting is a conceit but it's an authentic conceit. It's my beauty, produced from my hands, to be delivered to you for your participation in the good, big flow of life.

You can click here to see what artifacted pieces I have available right now.

Monday, August 1

today in the studio ... fetch me a bucket

Oh I'm sure all the master pattern cutters of the world use bucket lids when they want a big hole in the side of a dress ... probably.

Tuesday, July 26

Before and After, or A Stitch Before Dyeing (booooooo)

secret lentil linen brooches, before and after hand dyeing

I've been making these pins out of layers and layers of linen ... sewing them with my machine plus adding some rough hand-stitching ... and sometimes using rubber stamps that I've carved over the years. This is what they look like all raw and white (and sometimes baby aspirin orange and pink - I had scraps to use up!) and then, poof — post hand-dyeing.

it's okay: hand dyed linen brooch from secret lentil
it's okay: purple linen brooch
with fringe on top

winged skull hand dyed linen brooch from secret lentil
linen brooch with hand stitching
and winged skull

it's okay: hand dyed linen brooch from secret lentil
it's okay: purple linen brooch

pushing:  hand dyed scarab beetle linen brooch from secret lentil
pushing — linen brooch with
scarab beetle and dung ball

Tuesday, July 19

Making Of A Backdrop: The Gif-ening

New Secret Lentil backdrop.
Here's how it happened, minus some swearing.

Sunday, July 3

it's okay: water, fire and the anagama collection

Here's what happened to me in May: I got sick. Not life and death sick, but I couldn't eat for five days sick. And then late on the fifth day, when food seemed like something almost worth considering, I was so wiped out that I did something thoughtless — well actually, stupid (ummm, maybe squint while you read this next part) — and I spilled boiling pasta water on my feet. Gah! I know.

I'm fine now — really — though foot modeling is definitely off my career list. But I ended up spending a few weeks at home. If you are a self-employed person I know your soul is cringing because you know what that means. If you are a self-employed artist, you are double extra cringing. Your eyes may even be watering. We do not spend three weeks at home. It's unheard of.

Here's the thing: it was the best thing that's happened to me in years. You know how people always tell you to walk away from your creative work when you're stuck? I'm really bad at that. I had to be knocked on my ass instead. I felt ill enough that All Things Secret Lentil got flung clear out of my head. I didn't care about it. I almost forgot what it was. That is a luxury I cannot afford under normal circumstances. I live, breathe and sleep Secret Lentil, for better and worse. I go to sleep thinking about responsive newsletter formats and wake up thinking about a way I may be able cut a certain hip angle. In between, I dream about color combinations.

So I ended up on an extended Zen couch retreat. I was able to use the distance I felt to turn and face my work freshly and explore how to newly embrace it. I emerged with an intense desire to return to it in a different way, possessed with a level of grounded clarity that has no room for doubt. What I wanted: to cull some aspects that have been dragging me down energetically, to embrace some new techniques, to draw on some of my old work that still sparks with magic for me, to focus the materials I use and to build a new studio flow that better suits my curiosity and habits and passions. And I thought a lot about beauty, and how I just want to make things that express beauty, in whatever odd or lovely (or raw or ugly!) way that means for me.

That's where this work, the anagama collection, came from. It's just the start of this new thing. An anagama kiln is an ancient style of Japanese wood-fired kiln for ceramics. I only know about them from stalking my cyber-friend Lavinia Hanachiuc. I'm always enamored with her artist brain and her ever-changing body of work. I like to look at ceramic artists in general for inspiration. (Most recent favorite: Janaki Larsen - or find her here on Instagram) Something about the hand-building of their work strikes a resonance with my own process, though I've always thought of them as higher-level risk takers since they put all that effort into making before they risk it all in fire ... until now. Now I'm working almost exclusively in white fabrics then hand-dyeing the completed garment. I'm smitten with handling them during their bisque-like rawness, while I lay the groundwork with line, shape and texture that will be transformed by that final dye-firing step. Enjoy:

(You can click on the first one then scroll through from there if you want.)

desert dress by secret lentil linen lagenlook hand-dyed
anagama collection: the desert dress
detail of desert dress by secret lentil linen lagenlook hand-dyed
detail, the desert dress
secret lentil cotton hand dyed scarf and silk and stone necklaces with skeleton key
hand-dyed cotton scarf, necklaces with silk, stone, vintage bead and skeleton keys
it's okay - linen brooch from secret lentil - hand made and dyed
it's okay: dyed linen brooch featuring hand-carved stamp

secret lentil linen lagenlook plus size long layeirng vest hand dyed
anagama collection: long linen lagenlook layering vest

silk, vintage lucite beads, skeleton key necklace from secret lentil
hand-dyed silk necklace with vintage beads, skeleton key

cropped linen hand dyed linen lagenlook vest from secret lentil
cropped hand-dyed linen layering vest

it's okay: hand and machine stitched linen pin brooch from secret lentil
it's okay: hand and machine stitched linen brooch
earthenware hand dyed linen dress from secret lentil
earthenware dress

detail, earthenware dress
earthenware dress

it's okay: hand and machine stitched linen pin brooch from secret lentil
it's okay: hand and machine stitched linen brooch

hand dyed cotton plus size lagenlook dress from secret lentil
watch that curve: cotton jersey dyed dress
cotton jersey asymmetric lagenlook earthy dress from secretl lentil
cotton jersey dress with sproinky cutaway hem

Plus size earthy lagenlook tunic from secret lentil
cotton jersey tunic with high sculpted collar

linen zipper pouch hand dyed with nerve stamp
hand-dyed linen pouch with hand-carved nerve stamp

desert dress with long linen vest, scarf and necklaces from secret lentil
layering it all up real good

back, plus size lagenlook vest with holes and giant textured pockets
linen vest with holes, back

plus size lagenlook vest with holes and giant textured pockets
linen vest with giant textured pockets and holes

linen lagenlook vest and dress with silk and vintage bead necklace
Silk and vintage bead necklace over linen dress and vest

Plus more. See it all here: anagama collection on

Tuesday, June 28

Jennifer wearing Secret Lentil!

YAY Jennifer!

Friday, April 29

matte, moths and clunky boots

I just started a vision board on Pinterest for a future top secret project. It's an idea that will take some time to build properly. Long-term projects are not exactly my forté (see also, ADHD) but after years of making objects (that can also be worn) in a fairly non-stop for-a-living pace I'm relishing adding on a simultaneous differently-paced creative effort. But right now mostly I'm just having fun putting these images together and mulling over moods and moths and clunky matte black boots. It's satisfying.


"... perspective is an attempt to standardize the metaphor of the depiction of space." — Rackstraw Downes

Today I felt some kind of instinctive animal-y urge to clean up my Pinterest page. Certainly this is the most important thing I have to do, certainly. I deleted a few boards that I now find drab — "Are you sure? Once you delete a board and all its Pins, you can't undo it!" — ummm, yes, I think I can live with the consequences of losing cyber-collections of aspirational mindcrap. I meant sacred aspirational mindcrap, excuse me.

I did want to save these "over here" first though, for posterity or just for my own entertainment. A few years ago I started making quick digital collages every morning while my coffee brewed. Sort of a light, stream-of-consciousness, nonsense-is-best exercise.

And by every morning, let me be clear: I mean four.

Ad Hoc
People like to mention 3-D printers.

"Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Coleslaw."