“Finding Home”

This piece was inspired by the beautiful red hermit crab I so abruptly disturbed along my walk on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico (see earlier entry: "Bringing Home").

As I started to type this entry a song by the group “The Head and the Heart” was playing….”I am on my way back to where I started…”

I am on my way… and I’m back… I have spent the last seven months learning to transition from a full time teacher to a full time artist… from being on a rigorous schedule to having to find the discipline to stay on a schedule…. to basically move forward in life.

Some of the work I began last summer at the Hermitage was calling out to be completed… I knew this piece was waiting for me…. The crab here is not a “hermit crab” as in the photo in my earlier entry “Bringing Home”… but is actually drawn from a “Ghost Crab”… little white sand crabs that run out on the sand at dusk and dawn… so quickly… it’s as if a ghost has passed by.  But the inspiration for the piece was definitely the hermit crab… so comfortable in its home…. retreating when disturbed.

Returning home after my wonderful summer at the Hermitage brought many challenges and transitions… I have a home… a bed… a family…. but I have abandoned much of my “comfort zone”… some by choice… some not.  I’ve spent the last few months trying to establish new areas of comfort… a place within that is “home”… Not every open door is “home”… Initially one feels that every open door should be entered… but when there is no comfortable place to sit down… you know it’s not “home” for you…. so I will continue to try out a few more sea-shells… maybe stay in one for awhile… maybe not… move on… and try a few more… but I do know … I’m on my way to Finding Home…. thanks for travelling with me!


Last February, “2 Plus 3”, the group of artists that I am a member of was hosting a show on the theme Conflict.  Over the years, I had created artwork that addressed various contoversial topics, especially environmental.  Prior to the exhibit, I was contemplating which of those pieces I would select.  Simultaneously, I and my family were just beginning to make decisions regarding my mom’s care and living arrangements.  The exhibit would have to take a back burner for now, and perhaps I would have to opt out of participating in this one.  When the decision was made to have my mom live in a place where she would be able to get more physical and medical support, we had to begin the task of packing her personal belongings and determining which she would need or want, and which were unnecessary for the moment.  This became a daunting and emotional task, sorting, reminiscing, questioning and deciding.  There is little to prepare someone to categorize a lifetime of accumulation of  material possesions and the various memories attached to them.  By the end of the weekend we were all emotionally drained, not only from this task, but from trying to make life-changing decisions in our mom’s best interest.  The concept that “all the possessions in the world cannot bring you health and happiness” became such an accute reality, concentrated in a single moment. 

Suddenly there was a realization of “Conflict”  in a much more personal and human form than I had previously addressed in my artwork.  There were two areas of conflict that seemed so real to me… one as an heir apparent, to differentiate between the actual objects and the memories attached to them… and the other… that we often fill our worlds with stuff to pacify the inner conflicts we face in our lives. 

My ideas for the exhibit began to solidify in my mind.  With only a few days remaining to prepare my work, I combed through my fabric stash… and pulled out various pieces of vintage linens.  I began by writing some of my thoughts on a linen napkin,then stitched a torn vintage handkercheif over the written area. Various other bits of materials were added including a piece of a decomposing crazy quilt, a piece of a pillow case and some rich, golden brocade fabric. To reflect a nail polish stain on the hanky, hand stitching in shades of red meander through the various pieces.  Charcoal and gold and acrylic paint images of decaying plant roots were drawn over the entire piece, unifying the various discordant parts.  Gold colored grommets were added at the top of  the final composition through which  gold thread connected it to a gold-painted wood molding.

The entire piece, “The Decay of Pretentious Relics” reflected the contradiction between fine luxury and its eventual decay; between possession and loss, between prescence of mind and fading memory.  I stayed up all night, finishing the piece just in time for the deadline, all the time, processing these contradictions though my work.   The opening reception happened to fall on my birthday….I celebrated that I didn’t need more “presents”, but precious memories.

 Below is a quote from South Florida art critic Candice Russell’s review of the Conflict Exhibit.

<“The Decay of Pretentious Relics,” an intriguing fiber work by Andrea Huffman, is cleverly layered with bits of cloth. The interplay of shapes and the suggestion of time’s ravages engage the mind as one’s eyes travel up and down, following the tracery of stitching.>

Link to George Carlin’s comedy routine “Stuff”:


Bringing Home

While enjoying my days at the Hermitage, basking in its beauty and serenity, occasionally this peace was interrupted with some familiar chatter in my brain.  Negativity can creep up in many ways…. usually unannounced… fears,worries, anger, sarcasm (who me???), comparisons, even stress can just pop right up and can quickly consume the moments.  One morning, in the middle of some wallowing, I caught myself and wondered: “what is that doing here?”  “Silly girl….” answering myself…”you brought it with you”.  I thought about how carefully we plan for our retreats from our daily grind… picking the perfect getaway, packing the right items, researching all the details to make it perfect.  Yet we still bring with us our “homes“, all that we carry with us everyday… the good and the not-so-good stuff.

I remember the amazing hermit crab I saw a few days earlier.  Walking on the beach I spotted a huge conch shell washed up on the shore.  So excited, I carefully rolled it over with my flip-flops, only to be greeted by a pair of bright red claws retreating back into the shell.  This beautiful shell was the crab’s home that it carries around on all of its journeys. Picking the perfect one, it needs to meet all of the requirements for the crab to live in… have room to retreat and hide, grow, be easy enough to carry around and be vacant and available.  Wherever the crab wanders, so does its home.  So too, when we wander, we not only pack our suitcases, but ourselves.  We take ourselves and all that we are. 


It was difficult to leave the beauty and serenity of the Hermitage.  Arriving home, there are still the same problems waiting: chores, paper-work, responsibilities.  But there is also the same good qualities: family, friends, a backyard filled with surprising critters… and room to grow.  So returning back home, I still have the choice to meander off,  listen to the chatter in head, and become distracted from the journey that I am on, or I can carry with me everyday those attributes that I will need to make this journey one that is productive, amazing and filled with new opportunities.

Guess who was in my back yard when I came home.

The Guardian



Four years ago I attended a workshop where I learned how to print digital images onto fabric.  I played around with Photoshop, altering some of my original images.  The figure seen here was taken from an old book with black and white photos of Renaissance sculptures to which I added some color, text and diagrams from an old biology book.  The fabric sat in a pile of  “maybe someday I’ll get to it” stuff.  When  packing materials to use on my work at the Hermitage, I noticed the shell motif

Over 100 hatched egg shells are discovered in one nest. These five will be returned to the nest..

surrounding the sculpture and thought it might find its life here. 


 I also happen to have a silk-screen of sea shells I wanted to print on fabric.  I had no idea how it would all come together. 

In doing research on the sculpture I learned that it represented “Charity”, part of the three virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, created by Mino da Fiesole, only this version of  Charity was holding a baby.  I thought with the shell for her crown, perhaps she was really caring for the sea and its creatures. In taking the translation of Charity even further, the original Greek was Charis or Kharis, whose name came from a character in mythology named Algaea, who symbolized beauty, splendor and glory.  I also found Amphitrite, the wife of Poseidon, who according to legend, fed all the creatures of the sea.


The mother loggerhead turtle tracks when she comes on the beach to nest.

I wanted to represent some of the many creatures I’ve encountered here, with the same simplicity as in the sculpture.  Using some of the decorative stitches on my sewing machine, I created turtle tracks, dolphins leaping, sea oats and turquoise waves.  I NEVER use the decorative stitches, but this time they seemed to say what I wanted without fuss.  The old “biology diagrams” became the waves at the bottom, filled with strange sea creatures.  A small nautical map accompanies the crescent moon, directing its light.

Here on Manasota Key, there are those we call the turtle ladies.  Every morning from early May until the end of October, they each walk a one mile stretch of beach at first light.  If large tracks indicating a new nest are discovered, they mark it with the date on a post and tape it off so people won’t walk over it.  If an older nest shows small tracks, or is more than 70 days old, these genteel  ladies will get down on the sand and dig up the nest, reaching a full arm’s length into the ground to make sure all the babies have made it out safe.  If there are live babies, they will carefully carry them to shore’s edge to find their way out to sea.  Any unhatched eggs are carefully returned to the nest and covered with sand.  occasionally there are  hatched turtles that never found their way out, and need to be removed from the nest.  These “turtle ladies”, or Guardians of the sea are volunteers, carrying out a labor of love, of Charity.  Walking with them and gleaning their knowledge, they not only look after  baby sea turtles, but they also pick up trash found along the way,  toss a live sand dollar  or hermit crab back into the sea, and will encourage children, tourists and anyone else to walk with them and learn about the life in the seas.  To these Guardians, who are so very charitable, I dedicate “Kharis Oceana”.

Surfing, shopping and shark teeth

If you’ve ever spent any time “surfing” the internet, looking for something specific, you know how easy it is to get distracted from whatever it was you were doing before.  In your mind, you keep saying …”just one more link… maybe this one will be perfect”….and before you know it… hours have passed.  I find shopping can often be a similar experience…. I spend hours inside a shopping mall seeking the perfect….. whatever, and then realize I missed those hours of creating art, resting, bike riding, or even catching up on necessary chores.  

Arriving on the Gulf Coast, I found a popular activity, especially for tourists, is to comb the beach looking for fossilized shark teeth…. “oh… there’s one beach that you can find hundreds of them”  were among some of the comments I would hear.  There is an abundance of unique shells, many encrusted with barnacles and other great finds from the sea to be gleaned here, without even trying.  But I found that the lure of shark teeth less than seductive to me.  With so much to see, hear, smell and experience, I could not envision my limited time here  sifting through buckets of sand looking for that perfect shiny black triangular object.  Had my head been in a bucket of sand, I might have missed the pod of dolphins two days ago, bobbing up and down like carousel horses, the fish jumping out of the water, the school of small fish swimming around my feet or the osprey flying over, carrying a fish for its next meal.

I’m not suggesting that no one should look for these little gems… it can be fun, adventurous, even meditative… Many tourists will bring these back for their grandkids or neighbors in landlocked towns.  Surely this a souvenier far superior to the obligatory t-shirt.  But for me…. owning these will not enrich my world more than the moments that would be missed had my time been spent on the pursuit of the shark tooth.


Yesterday I walked mindlessly to my studio, a million thoughts racing through my mind.  As I got close to the door, fumbling for my keys, I heard some rustling around in the roots of the Banyan tree.  Before I could even process the sounds, an adult armadillo ran off under a bulilding, nowhere to be found.  I had startled the creature and missed the opportunity to watch it meander… digging for grubs and ants.  I tried to find it, camera now ready, but it eluded my sight. 

Now I try to walk more purposefully, pausing, listening, looking around, allowing my steps to meander from the urgency of the moment. I have learned to differentiate the sounds: a quick brush of leaves is usually a small lizard jumping from a branch;  quick, short movements- a bird hopping from one branch to another; slow, rustling of leaves on the ground- a scavenger such as an armadillo.  This morning I heard some movement in a cluster of sea grape trees… waiting quietly, I realized it was a cardinal.  As I followed it, there were several…. a whole family of cardinals.  Later in the morning, more movement in the same location.  I stopped and waited and out emerged a baby armadillo.  It would submerge itself under a pile of leaves, completely hidden, scrounging for food.  As I stood with my camera lens aimed and ready, my peripheral vision caught a glimpse of movement in the grass.  Shifting my gaze from the rustling leaves, a snake had caught a lizard for lunch and was seeking a shady spot to dine on its feast, almost its entire body length, and twice its width.  I promptly pulled out the books, identifying it as a juvenile black racer… Wheeew!  Glad it was nothing to be concerned about.

Can I take this thought with me?  Can I meander away from my mental “to do” list and listen?  Listen when another has something to say…. Listen to my body when it needs rest or exercise…. Listen to the seasons…when its time to celebrate, discuss, cry or be angry? These opportunities will emerge when listening or run off and hide if I can’t meander from the moment’s agenda.

Sunset and Thunderstorms

In Florida, early evening thunderstorms are expected in Summer.  This was the view from my window last night at sunset.

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