Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Unbound!



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. 

Peace

Unbound!



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. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Fooling around with more screen printing

So this is the post where the previous two posts intersect. I was doing a little screen printing a couple weeks ago, then last week I was contemplating making saints and angels. “Hmmmm...” I thought. “What if I made a bunch of screen-printed faces that I could use for a series of saints/angels?” So I did 



My idea here is that I can add color using my permanent watercolor pencils. 



It occurred to me that a hand that could hold something might also be useful, so I made a little screen and printed a few.  So then I had a starting place and I began to build a new angel. I made her a redhead and chose some favorite graphic and colorful fabrics—that’s always my favorite part—to surround her with. I like it, but it seems a little flat. I might add some hand embroidery for some additional interest. 



Well, this is kind of fun! There is an element of coloring book, with a touch of designing clothes for a paper doll. I could hardly wait to start another one!


Laying out potential fabrics with pieces and parts. What should I put in her hand. Flowers? A trowel? (I think she’s a gardener...) Not sure the paisley hair is working...  

More to come. 


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

My saintly obsession



I’ve been cleaning out and organizing my studio, and came across this small piece I made a few years ago. It was a challenge to myself to try using embellishments, like beads and buttons in a thoughtful way, after rashly stating that I just didn’t like that kind of stuff on my artwork. I tried it. I liked it. Quite a lot. So I’ve never offered it for sale, preferring to keep it for myself. In fact I liked it so well that I made another similar piece that I also kept and have hanging in my studio. I think of her as my own little studio patron saint. 



Why, you may wonder, such “saintly” images? I’m not Catholic or even conventionally religious, but I am slightly obsessed with a particular type of religious art. Images of saints. 

It might have begun very early. When I was 4 years old my sister was born at the Catholic hospital in our town. In those days 4-year-olds were not allowed into the wards, so when my father was taken in to see my mother and newborn sister I had to remain in the waiting room. A kindly nun came to sit with me and asked my name, I replied that I was Terry Ann, but my real name was Teresa. She seemed very excited to tell me that Teresa was the name of her very most favorite saint! She selected a large children’s book from the bookcase and thumbed through it until she found a chapter about St. Teresa, the Little Flower, with a beautiful picture of a young girl with roses in her hair and a halo behind her head, looking heavenward, very sadly. Then she read me the sad story. When I left she told me to remember St. Teresa, who was my special saint because we had the same name. I remember this all so clearly, and mind you, I was only four years old. I did remember Teresa, and as an older child I sought out books about saints. I especially loved the sad ones, where they died young and suffered greatly, inspiring all they knew with their bravery and piety. But most of all, I loved the very similar pictures, of their sweet, uplifted faces. 

Is it any wonder that I fell in love with the Russian Orthodox icon paintings of saints?
 

I especially love the Greek icons, with their big eyes and long, straight noses. 

Years later when we began to travel in Latin America, I discovered “Santos” the sculptural equivalents. They have the same, otherworldly look. 




I simply love these images. I posted photos in a blog post of Santos we found in a hotel, that was a converted convent in Nicaragua here.  Another magical find was a workshop in Ecuador where Santos were repaired, posted here

So my little button embellished saint is now hanging in my hallway and I’m wondering if I need to make some more. Real saints or imagined? Like I said, it’s not a religious thing for me, but I am drawn to the idea of people being elevated, empowered and remembered simply for being good. The world can always use a little more goodness—right?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Old ideas, new ways

Fall always seems like a new year begins. I know January is the real new year, but I guess I'm still operating on an internal school year calendar. New sweater, new pencils, new classes, new outlook. I'm cleaning out the studio and making piles of what I want to toss, donate or keep. Even before I unearthed my screenprinting supplies, I had been thinking about printing. It has always been one of my favorite ways of making art, but I haven't done any printing for a long time, and those thoughts might even have been part of my motivation for the cleanup and organizing. I knew I had "stuff"—just didn't know how much and how viable it was. My jars of screen print ink were dried out, but otherwise I was in pretty good shape. Off to the art store for ink. I also treated myself to a new knife, because the new ones always seem like they ought to be better than anything in my old collection, and a cute "little" squeegee, because I am thinking about little prints. I am equipped now for the self-taught workshop I am planning for myself. I plan to take a couple of classes this year, from good, famous teachers, but I find that periodically I like to see what I can learn by noodling around on my own for a few days. 

I made a little sketch of a pomegranate, using a photo I took in Spain several years ago for inspiration. 


Then I made a screen. There are lots of ways to create screens. My favorite is using knife-cut, adherable stencil film. I like it because it makes really durable, permanent screens. The edges are sharp and crisp and it does not have the bland perfection of a photo screen, but does have a personal, hand-cut quality to the line. My new knife is a splendid tool for the job of cutting the stencil. 

Screen done and ready to print. 


Using black ink I printed several prints on lightweight canvas drill. See what I mean about crisp edges? (Oops, little bobble on that lower leaf...)


So now I had some prints to play with. 

I painted this one, using Inktense watercolor blocks. 


Too heavy handed, I think. The blue background isn't pretty. I have nothing to lose so I tried removing some of the color.


Better, but the blue is still just yuck. 

I tried a paler, more watery one. This print is a little mushy, because the screen moved ever so slightly, but it's not a lost cause. 


How would some visual texture work? I dug out some stamps and freezer paper to cut a mask and added a new layer of printing. 


I think this is promising. I am thinking on this one...

Permanent pen dots for this one.


These, you understand, are small experiments, not finished work, and totally expendable. I am trying out some new-to-me ways of working with prints on fabric. This is quite satisfying—even the part of finding out what I don't like. I'll keep fiddling and post what I like. I'm wondering how I might combine screenprinting with some of my other favorite techniques, other fabrics, stitching...







Thursday, September 27, 2018

What got done this summer

Now that summer is officially over I am looking back and making note of things that were accomplished in part or full. It seems like every summer we line out a few "projects" to get done. Sometimes they get finished, sometimes started and sometimes they are put off until the next summer. Last summer we were going to replace the little bridge across our creek. Summer came and went and we lived with the old bridge for another year. Here is what the old bridge looked like. It was here when we bought the house. 



Really didn't look too bad, but the railings were wobbly and the whole thing was skewed and uneven. The stairs at the far end were in pretty bad shape and if it rained hard enough to raise the level of the creek, the bridge would float up off its supports and move downstream a bit, like this:



This would be a project best done when the creek was at its lowest, so a summer project for sure. Our new design would be sturdier, sit higher above the creek and, if possible, would have a deck that would not be as treacherously slippery when wet as the old one was. I also lobbied for a wider, flat, rather than arched design. Ray, who weekly wheels our garbage cans across the bridge, agreed. We looked at lots of bridges in parks and online and drew up a plan. We consulted with our engineer brothers and friends and were satisfied that we had covered the bases. The first step was demoing the old bridge and then painstakingly building and placing the base for the new one. Concrete supports were put in place before the base went down and everything had to be solid and level. This really was the hardest part. 





You can see already that it's longer and higher. From here it was just a matter of adding all the parts and painting. 









I love it. The deck is a manmade material, which should be less slippery and it's plenty wide enough for the garbage cans. I cross it everyday to get to my studio and always pause to admire the great job we (mostly Ray) did. Winter rains will be the real test. 

Another project that was ignored too long was repairing a tiled garden bench that I made several years ago. The tiles started falling off, especially the yellow edge tiles, almost as soon as I finished it. By this spring only a few of the tiles were still attached. I think failing to seal the wood before tiling was the mistake I'd made, so Ray removed the remaining tiles and grout and sealed it. I got some better (I hope) adhesive and retiled. It still needs grout, but I will do that soon. 



My other summer project was to make some small pincushions to give the Columbia FiberArts Guild Board members who have been so great during my tenure as president. I used my scraps of solid fabrics and then added a little "thank you" tag to each one. It was a fun project that I worked away on for several months. 





So now fall and winter. New projects include painting my kitchen, organizing my digital photos into some reasonable system, and cleaning out my studio. Life is really just one project after another, isn't it? Or is that just my life?z

P.S. I forgot to mention that the bridge project only happened because son, Andy and son-in-law Carlos dug the holes and poured the concrete footings for the bridge. These two strong young guys did the hardest part!


Sunday, September 16, 2018

A Big Bag of Magic

Wednesday was the day of the quarterly meeting of the Columbia FiberArts Guild (CFG)—my last as president of the guild, a position I've held for the past two years. I was looking forward to the meeting, as I always do. We had booked a terrific speaker, Kerr Grabowski, who teaches around the country, sharing her innovative fabric printing techniques and unique design sense. On Tuesday I was awakened very early by a phone call from Maria, the program coordinator, calling to tell me that Kerr was in a hotel room in New Orleans, sick as a dog—no chance of her making the trip to Portland for our meeting and workshops. Poor Kerr!  Poor us! Not an auspicious sign for my grand presidential exit meeting, but just like my first meeting as president, when the digital projector absolutely refused to communicate with our speaker's slideshow, we improvised and put together a last minute plan for a program. Our historian had unearthed a video, made by our guild 24 years ago, about the Guild's first 25 years, which proved to be sweetly nostalgic and showcased early members and their work, teachers and workshops and exhibits. I think everyone loved it. I did. We elected our new officers and recognized the outgoing board members and, to my surprise, I was presented with a large bag containing some tokens of thanks for my service—a few "treasures from member's stashes" which I took home to peruse later, not clearly understanding what had been given to me. 


Later, when I was home and started pulling little packets and rolls and envelopes from the bag I began to understand that it was treasure, indeed, of the kind that only such kindred spirits as this group is made up of could understand and recognize. Fabrics—painted, dyed, stitched, bits salvaged from favorite garments or carried home from far-off places or simply gathered for their beauty and uniqueness, or fashioned into a lovely item of usefulness. 



 And "stuff"—beads and baubles and buttons and things that sparkle and jangle and delight...



Many bits came with beautiful cards or sweet notes and even a pair ocrazy scissors (!) for my wall, but many were included anonymously. 



I have spent hours poring over the contents of this magical bag. Never have I received such a gift. I don't know how I will ever thank them for this. It really represents all that I think and feel about this group of charming, crazy, creative people. It is a special joy to know these people of the vibrant clothing and wild jewelry and amazing skill and ready smiles, trailing threads and fibers and scraps and glitter behind as they move through the world.  I am so fortunate to have found them!

The week ended with CFG's big blowout, public exhibit, fashion show and art sale. It was pretty great!










This week also marked my blog's 13th birthday. It has been a good week. 

And, Kerr Grabowski, wherever you are, we missed you and fervently hope you are feeling better—