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—

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Fifty years ago

1968 was a significant year in the history of our country and a significant year in my life. It was the year president Lyndon Johnson, thoroughly beaten down, declared he would not run for a second term. It was the year that, in April, Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis. Two months later Bobby Kennedy was murdered in Las Angeles. The darkness and grief of that period are indescribable. It was that same June that I graduated from Idaho State University. Here I am in 1968, filled with hope, full of self doubt. 

I loved college. I loved my friends and I loved my classes. My grades were good, not great. My social life was great. One morning I came out of one of my final exams and walked toward my dorm and the enormity of it all crashed down on me. It was a crisis of confidence that just overwhelmed me. I would soon be a "college graduate" and I was not prepared for anything. I was, in fact, a fraud, not even deserving of a diploma, much less the pride and celebration of my graduation. I was duping my family at the very least and had squandered their financial and emotional support. I knew I hadn't done my best, nor appreciated the opportunities that had been put before me and now it was too late to make it right. It was a terrible feeling that didn't leave me for a long time. I never shared those feelings, however, and played the part of proud graduate. But I truly left college in a serious funk and without a plan. I had a degree in art. I had no job or even an idea of what I might do. On a whim I had applied for a job with the national organization of my college sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi. It was a real long shot, but amazingly I was offered the job. I would be one of two national representatives, visiting college chapters to advise and report on them. It was a great opportunity to see the country and it would buy me a year before I would need to decide what I wanted to do with my life. Little did I realize, at the time, what a view I would have of history as I traveled from coast to coast, nor did I anticipate the turmoil and change happening on college campuses across the country. 

I went to Indianapolis, in August, for training and met my counterpart, another recent graduate from Wisconsin, who I would cross paths with only a few times that year. Then 50 years ago this week I started my first "grownup" job. My first visit was to a brand new chapter in Ames, Iowa who were preparing for their first rush—that series of events and parties where sororities and fraternities recruit new members.  One afternoon we were in the dorm lounge, working on party favors and decorations when someone turned on the TV and what we saw was shocking. Anti-war demonstrations outside the Democratic National Convention, at first peaceful, had turned violent, with police attacking the demonstrators. It was horrifying. We watched, in real time, as police beat demonstrators with clubs and dragged screaming people to police vehicles. The scene cut to inside the convention where chaos ensued as the anti-war supporters of Eugene McCarthy clashed with the more conservative supporters of Hubert Humphrey, who would become the candidate. 

I sat in that dorm lounge and began to shake. I felt scared, I felt alone and vulnerable and unprepared, once again, for what lay ahead, but I shook it off and determined to simply keep moving forward into the unknown. It was quite a year, that year. I made great friends who I left behind over and over. I stood in Times Square the day Richard Nixon was elected. I rode the Staten Island Ferry and saw New Orleans for the first time and walked the steps where James Meredith had walked to enter Ole Miss as its first black student. I challenged one chapter's policy of denying membership to Jewish students, and lost that fight, but I wrote a scathing report that brought the issue to the attention of the leadership and led to eventual change. I presided over the closing of one of the sorority's oldest chapters as the university did away with the Greek organizations. I saw campuses in the grip of a revolution. 

With the advantage of hindsight I understand now how much I grew in that year and what marvelous and unexpected things I saw and did. By the end of the year I was ready to make a plan, buy a car and get a job. But that year was such a rollercoaster of joy, sadness, loneliness, confidence and its opposite, and existential questions. I called my mother often. I cried often, and I realized this experience was mine alone. I would never have anyone to reminisce about it with. So, alone, I now remember 1968—just before my real life began. 

Fifty years. It seems like yesterday. It seems like a million years ago. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

I seem to have taken the summer off...

It wasn't intentional. It just happened. I wrote my last blog post about our Morocco trip in May and then I haven't written since. I don't know what has happened with my blog. It used to be a big part of my life, but in the last few years, not so much. I started writing it almost 13 years ago and I was mad for all the blogs out there. Now there is so much content on the internet it's hard to keep up and so many of the blogs I read and loved have disappeared. In the early years I spent a lot of time thinking about "blog fodder"—stories to tell, observations to make. It seemed nothing was too trivial to immortalize on my blog –"look! I got new glasses!"  It's a little embarrassing. At the same time it was a good record of my life, what I was thinking about,what I was working on, where I'd been. I don't feel so inclined to record and share it all these days. These are different times and I am reluctant to use my blog to air my complaints and general sadness about so many things that have changed in the past 13 years. BUT, I do want to continue blogging in some form. So here's, maybe, a new start. Not so often, not so trivial, more art?  So this morning I looked back at the pictures I've taken this summer to remind myself what we've been up to. 

I think I post nearly identical photos of flowers and garden every year, but that's what sings me through the summer. Ray works really hard in our garden. I don't, but I appreciate the heck out of it. It has been a record-breaking hot summer and the last two photos were taken last week when Portland had the second worst air quality of a a major city IN THE WORLD. ugh. And it's not over. See the chairs on the front porch? They are new. In 2009 I blogged about an old chair I dragged home from a yard sale (https://andsewitgoes.blogspot.com/2009/05/another-chair.html) It has been on the front porch since, but it has gotten tired and faded and in need of paint.  It needed some love and attention and I put it on my mental list to tackle. I put it off. It seemed like so much work. Then in a moment of clarity I asked Ray to drag it down to the end of the driveway. We put a "free" sign on it and went and bought two new chairs and a little table. The old chair was gone when we got home. This is the new, "mature" me. I'm not so up for big projects as I used to be. Am I getting old? Probably. 

There are more photos and more summer posts, so I think I'm back. I was going to hit you with the whole summer in this one post, but I've thought better of that. We'll just deal with one thing at a time. Don't give up on me, yet! 

One more photo—