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Artist in Residence: Sunday, June 11

Camp Bullfrog Lake cabins are beautiful and breezy. Everything looks brand new and super-clean, even though the cabins are already two years old. Two large double-hung windows with screens, and doors at each end of the bunk walls, provide lots of cross-ventilation. There’s a high-power recirculating fan in the ceiling, too. I brought a small oscillating fan just in case.

 

My cabin has four bunk beds, but can actually sleep nine because one of them is a double. I could have had a large cabin, with a private washroom and shower, but using the shower house reminds me more of my early camp experiences, and I wanted to save the big one for someone who might really need it.

 

This morning I packed up the food, bedding, and art supplies for my workshop and personal use, plus an oscillating fan. Camping isn’t hard if you do a bit of planning beforehand, I promise! My son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren came along to help unload and share a picnic dinner afterwards, courtesy of my friend Marion and her husband Jon Baumgarten.

 

Everything is containerized in attractive baskets to make the cabin feel homey. I even brought a Mexican Star quilt I made years ago, and some coordinating throw pillows for a splash of color.

The walls, bunks and ceilings of the cabins are honey-toned wood, with an attractively sealed concrete floor. Each cabin is equipped with a large grey garbage can with liner, a fire extinguisher, and a collapsible laundry hamper with bag, for your wet clothes (it’s a lake, after all). The cabin was very clean. There’s a boot brush outside the cabin to clean your shoes after your jaunts, and even a nice rubber mat just inside to catch anything you missed. A barefoot-worthy floor, for sure!

 

Outside the shower house is a stainless steel sink for washing dishes, with a bench waiting for children bored with the chore, or the person waiting next in line. An emergency call box stands alert. Safety signage is frequent and to the point; not scary but helpful. The camp store has nature backpacks for loan, and some necessities for sale such as the ever-needed ice and bottled water. (Camp Bullfrog Lake is on well water; they’re working on getting it connected to a filtered supply.)

 

I am using the storage bench as my mini-kitchen. For a long stay like this, a mini-fridge is a nice option. I got mine on sale earlier this year!

 

An evening walk to the shower house reveals night-dark trees that counterpoint the still violet sky, which reflects in the mirror-smooth surface of the lake. Cheery cabin porch lights, a fresh stack of firewood, and benches under the lights welcome the traveler home.

 

Tomorrow I will figure out where to sew and assemble the watercolor pencil journals for the class. It’s going to be the hottest day of 2017 so far and it’s only mid-June! But there are some beautiful open pavilions with a view of the lake – maybe that will be a good place if it’s not too windy!

 

I was hoping to have this all done sooner, but I still have to sew the journals and tip them into their covers. But then again, how many people have seen a book actually being made? Bookbinding is almost a lost art, but fortunately there are a number of dedicated book artists keeping these traditional skills alive. I just think it’s cool I can make a book from scratch from recycled materials, don’t you?

 

Loose watercolor pages, and sewn book block, side-by-side. There are twelve students, so I’m making twelve journals for each to take home. Part of the workshop is to show them the inner parts of a book, so that they can go make one too!

 

My son, who does IT for a living, set me up with Wi-Fi so that I can blog here. So easy to get digitally distracted, but this brief span of time here is precious beyond measure.

 

Artist in Residence daily blog posts are written by Kathleen Garness. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Inset photos taken by Kathleen Garness.

Visit two of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County