Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Returning to Italy

Yes, I did begin to blog about our trip to Italy in April and then months just got away from me, as they seem to do more and more, but I have returned and I’m remembering our first trip to Italy in 1972 and our return to Italy this year, 47 years later. 

In 1972 Ray and I had been married for less than two years and had little money but a burning desire to see Europe. Ray was teaching and I had accepted a teaching job for that fall, so that summer we were unencumbered, had saved as much as possible of our meager paychecks and we had a plan. We ordered a new Volkswagon Beetle, bright yellow, that we picked up at the factory in Germany and bought camping gear in Berlin. It was a grand summer, and by the time we got to Italy we were pretty skilled travelers. We were thrilled by Rome and Venice and  Pisa and Florence, so when we got to Milan  it seemed a bit drab by comparison. And it was raining. I clearly remember the grandeur of the cathedral in Milan and the fact that it was black. 

But it is not black. And probably never was. 

When we saw it again in April I couldn’t believe my memory could have been so faulty. I took to the internet and learned it was cleaned between our visits.  Old photos showed it dark and dirty, but not the black I remembered. Maybe it was the rain? Maybe it was my brain. Nevertheless, a magnificent piece of art and architecture. 

We were not camping this time, but staying in a modest, but quiet and comfortable Air BnB in a nice neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. 

Just down the street was a charming coffee bar near the train station and our short train ride into the center of Milan. 

Despite its ancient, grand architecture, Milan is a very modern city, the centers of business and innovative design. We were, coincidentally there during “Design Week” and got to enjoy some exciting special exhibits as we walked around the city. 

Store windows were filled with beautiful displays. 

This big public sculpture of a threaded needle (sorry, I cut off the top) pays honor to Milan’s fashion industry. 

I remembered the beautiful covered shopping gallery across from the cathedral from 47 years ago. It was filled with small shops. I bought a book in English on our first trip—“The Exorcist”—then scared myself silly reading it at night in our tent! There are no sweet little bookshops there now, only Designer showrooms. 

We spent our last day in Milan wandering through the Monumental Cemetary. We missed that back in ‘72 and were glad we found it this time. Incredibly moving and beautiful. And, like our long ago time in Milan, it was raining. 

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Last month we went to Italy...

We take a “big” trip almost every year. For several years now we’ve gone with organized tours, which have been wonderful, but this year we decided to revert to our old way of traveling on our own. Our first trip together was a summer in Europe in 1972, when we bought a Volkswagen Beetle in Germany and drove it around Europe.  It was a great trip, despite our being young and naive and making some mistakes. We had our copy of “Europe on $5 a Day,” our car, a tent and a sleeping bag. We survived, had a wonderful time and came home with our appetites whetted for seeing more of the world.

One of our favorite places in 1972 was Italy, so 47 years later, it seemed like it was time to return.  We would revisit a couple of favorite cities and explore some new ones.

From recent trips we’ve learned that flying from Oregon to Europe in one continuous go is brutal, especially for old people, so it seemed prudent to break it up. Maybe a day in New York, coming and going would help. (It did!). When I learned, months ago, that the Brooklyn Museum would be hosting the exhibit of Frida Kahlo’s work, historic photos, clothing and other artifacts at the same time we were to be there it seemed like it was all meant to be. I am such a fan! So we booked a hotel in Brooklyn near the museum and arrived on a crisp spring day.

Brooklyn was lovely. We walked around, enjoying the charming neighborhoods, then found the museum, where we waited for our ticket time in the vast lobby.

The Frida exhibit was wonderful! Photography was not allowed inside the exhibit until until the very end where you could take a photo with Frida, so I will just direct you to the Brooklyn Museum page about the exhibit, which gives a good overview here

We left the museum, found a late lunch, retrieved our luggage from our hotel then headed to the airport for our overnight flight to Milan. 

Goodbye Brooklyn! Goodbye Frida! Our visit was short, but oh, so sweet...

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Everybody has one...

An opinion? A belly button? No—a website! And now I have mine.

This was a New Year’s resolution, to finally build an online home for my stuff. It was probably good that I waited so long because it is finally easy. I tried creating a site years ago and gave up—way too fiddly, but the modern website builders are really user friendly. What I did wait years too long for, however, was to buy a domain name, using just my name. All the other Terry Grants in the world had snapped up the easy ones, like terrygrant.com (international stunt driver!) and even some slightly more obscure ways of using the name. Disappointed, but not surprised. Over coffee, one morning, my husband, son and I brainstormed and Ray suggested “terrygrantastic”. It was available, and thus my new identity was born—terrygrantastic.com. I hope that’s memorable enough. 

Check me out!  terrygrantastic.com

Monday, February 25, 2019

Here we go again...

Copyright. Intellectual property theft. My work is mine, not yours. Why is all of this so hard to understand? Someone made a copy of my campfire quilt, above, and posted it on her blog and on Instagram and even entered it into a contest, all without my knowledge or permission. I won’t reveal her name or show you her copy. I’m not out to shame her or embarrass her here, but rather to just continue to help spread the word that, common though this practice is, it is unacceptable. I truly think that most of the people who copy the work of artists are not doing it for malicious reasons. They are well-meaning people who would be shocked at the idea that they have committed a theft. But the theft of intellectual property is theft in the same way shop-lifting, pirating movies and plagiarizing are theft. It is illegal and it is unethical. They will protest “but I gave you credit” or “I’m not trying to make money off of it.” And, yes, this copier said both, though the mention of where she got this image was buried pretty deep, but that’s not the point. The point is I did not give her permission to use my work. 

“What’s the harm?” you might ask. Maybe I seem petty, getting upset over such a small thing. After all there are artists who have been ripped off in far more harmful ways. Paula Nadelstern, for example, had her original designs ripped off by a big carpet manufacturer and used on carpeting in a large Houston hotel. She sued, and won.  So the possibility of such brazen theft that financially benefits the thief is one harm. The other, I see, is that the small-time copier may not gain financially, but she gains in reputation and credibility for a skill she doesn’t have. When I discovered the copy posted on Instagram, there were complimentary comments, praising her imagination and skill.  It hurts, a little, to see that. It was tempting to leave my own comment, but I didn’t. And the real harm is that if people aren’t called out for this, it goes on and on and grows ever more common.  I am far from the only person this happens to. In my online communications with other fabric artists I read about it ALL THE TIME and everyone hates it. 

Artists work hard. A piece like the one above requires weeks in planning, experimenting, making design decisions, discarding what’s not working, picking out tight little stitches and redoing sections. There was a lot of invention in that piece. It was a lengthy process. The woman who made the copy wrote that hers was made in less than a week. I had already done the hard part. I’ve never made another one like it and probably never will. I have no desire to see other versions or copies. It is one of a kind, which is kind of what art is. I’m proud of it. It might be one of the best things I’ve ever made. I sold it to a woman who truly loves it, which is the highest compliment I could get. Does this help you understand how I feel about it and how I feel about seeing a poorly executed copy?

So, I say, if you really, really want to copy someone else’s work, really think about what you are doing, then if you just can’t help yourself, make that copy and hang it in your bedroom, but don’t show it to anyone else. Don’t enter it in a show, don’t enter it in a contest and, for goodness sake, don’t post it all over the internet with your own contact name and information watermarked prominently on the photo. Just DON’T.  

Sue Siefkin pointed me to this brilliant chart  explaining intellectual property theft, designed by Ginger Davis Allman.  It covers it pretty well. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Taking Care of Business

This is what I’ve been feverishly working on these past three weeks. It is my submission for the Oregon SAQA exhibit, “The Edge.”  It is called “At Home at the Edge of the Continent” and my interpretation of my Oregon experience of “the edge”. I decided to take a chance on another 3-dimensional piece and had a lot of fun figuring out how to make a 15” tall wing chair. Lots of false starts and horrible messes ended up in the trash along the way. Two sets of legs were failures, before I finally made these paper mache ones. 

I haven’t had great success with this Regional SAQA show. My last two submissions didn’t make it, but I’m trying again.  I completed the online submission today. I realize that, for whatever reason, this particular show seems to favor dramatic, abstract work, so I might, once again, be too far out of step here, but it was what I wanted to do, and it makes me smile. It’s a tribute to my pioneer forebears, who came by wagon and by ship, to find a home out here on the edge, and my own journey to Oregon so many years later. 

So, one deadline down and one to go. Then on to some “unbound” projects!

Wednesday, January 02, 2019


For the past 11 years I have chosen a word for the year rather than making any rash resolutions. This year I thought long and hard and had a hard time finding a word that suited my current state of mind, my hopes and intentions for the near future and how I was feeling about myself and my work. My words have mostly related to the kind of art I was wanting to make in the coming year. Honestly, my thinking lately has been more about the things, related to my work, that I don’t want to do. Here’s the thing—I spend a lot, really most, of my art making creating work for specific exhibits that tell me a theme to follow and a size the work must be. In addition, there’s a deadline, of course. I am bound by the parameters set forth. Bound. While it’s always a thrill to be asked or chosen, I am feeling itchy to do something different, of my own choosing, maybe altogether new. 

I’m signed up for two exciting classes this year. Where might those lead? I have ideas I want to try. I have different expectations than I did 10 years ago. I want the freedom to follow an unknown, meandering path. I’m older and slower, but still engaged and no longer feel the drive to do more, more, more; become famous; win prizes and recognition; travel in lofty circles. While I will probably be responding to the call of the big exhibits, it will take much more to tempt me in. I am loving the idea of small, experimental, local and community-oriented. I long for a space of time unbound by rules about sizes and conforming to themes and meeting deadlines, and packaging and mailing requirements. And so, the word is UNBOUND. My little banner of declaration hangs on my studio wall with all those more ambitious words of past years. 

So, how to accomplish this “unbinding” process? One of my last acts of 2018 was to turn down an invitation to submit work to an impressive-sounding national exhibit. The people organizing it are terrific. The theme is intriguing. I’m sure it will be excellent. It was pretty tempting, but the size requirement for the piece is so big I knew it would dominate a huge chunk of time and energy, and I would have all those rules and restrictions— my new mindset took over and I said “no” without regret. The same day, I bought a book about a printmaking technique I’m eager to try, so “yes” to learning something new and having the time to experiment!

Another plus to fewer big exhibit projects is that most of them prohibit sharing ones work-in-progress online, which has frustrated me. I hope to be blogging more about what I’m currently on, so check in from time to time and see what I’m up to!

Happy New Year all! I am hoping, fervently, that this coming year will be one of hope and renewal. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

That third dimension...

Forest Spirit

This is a recent piece that is currently traveling with our latest High Fiber Diet show called “OMG—That’s Fiber!” We were urged to push some limits of the medium for this show. Though it hangs on the wall, it is a 3-dimensional piece. I’ve been asked a lot of questions about it, mainly how I made it.  I actually took a few photos as I was working on it, so I could add some visuals to my explanation. I am definitely not the first person to create fabric sculpture. It’s a thing, and there are lots of ways to approach it, but I kind of figured out on my own what my approach would be. Rather than sew a shape that would be stuffed with something that would give it form, I was interested in trying to create form from flat pieces that fit together in a way that resulted in creating the appearance of a rounded object, kind of like the way a soccer ball is made up of flat hexagons. 

I started with a paper maché mask purchased at the art supply store. I visually identified flat planes and potential places where planes come together, and began cutting and recutting paper, and joining them together with tiny pieces of masking tape, refining the pieces to fit nicely together and deciding where two pieces could easily be more efficiently cut as a single piece, until I was satisfied with the form. 

Since the face is symmetrical, it seemed easiest to just create half the face in this initial version. 

I carefully removed the tape so I could lay them flat and trace each piece, flipping it after one side was drawn to draw the mirror imaged opposite side. I needed a sturdier paper for my pattern, so I traced the pieces onto some of my supply of used file folders. (These are endlessly useful and free!)

Now I had all the pattern pieces for cutting the fabric and interfacing for the final piece, but first I taped it all back together again just for a final check to see if everything fit together. 

At this point I could see that it went together pretty well, but was smaller than I wanted, so I traced each piece onto paper, scanned all the pieces, opened them in a graphics program on my computer and enlarged all the pieces by the same percentage and printed out my new, larger pattern pieces on card stock. 

I have used this method before for other projects. My father was a mechanical engineer and I remember him building small cardboard models of all, or parts, of machines he designed, often to determine the ways planes would intersect or join together. I think I got my ideas for my methods from observing him. Several years ago I blogged about designing this crow in a similar way. (See here)

I find that adding that third dimension is a welcome challenge. More of the exhibits I like to submit work for are accepting 3-D work now. This week I started working on a new piece in 3 dimensions. I have barely begun and it is proving especially challenging. 

Perhaps I’ll update this one as I work. Perhaps it won’t ever come together in an acceptable way. I don’t think you can tell yet what I have in mind. I have a deadline looming, however, so my fingers are crossed....   

It’s an adventure, this third dimension.