Wednesday, December 31, 2008
There's a powerful energy of change that is accompanying the arrival of 2009. I firmly believe that the earth is in the midst of a transformational shift. Birthing entails a process of labor and delivery and we seem to be in the midst of the contractions and expansion that will usher new awareness and directions into being.
Yesterday I dialed in to a teleconference hosted by Christine Kane, a musician and creativity coach who provides excellent inspiration and practical advice for artists in all mediums. She outlined key points for how each of us can create new outcomes in the coming year.
The most important tool for manifesting desired outcomes is SETTING INTENTION.
This coming year I will focus on being more intentional in every way, combining it with ATTENTION to hold my focus on my vision for my life.
I've spent a number of years now breaking down large goals into small steps and acknowledging each one I accomplish. Bit by bit, I've been able to create and complete an amazing amount because of this practice.
So what am I choosing to do on this final day of 2009 that will pave the way for the year ahead?
1. Celebrate progress. Savoring accomplishments is as important as looking ahead. Take some time today and make a list of all the good work you've done this year for your career, your family, and/or for your community. Let yourself savor and appreciate what a worthwhile and productive person you are in every aspect of your life.
I set yearly and monthly goals and then choose action steps each week towards completing them. Doing this helps me stay focused. I print them and file them in a folder labelled, "Make It Happen." It's a tool that works to remind me at self-critical moments that I am working to the fullest of my ability.
2. Daydream and imagine. How wonderful it is to let the imagination soar and contemplate a life that will give us the greatest joy. What better time than the eve before a brand New Year to consider what truly gives us the greatest happiness?
3.Create a visual touchstone for dreams. Visual imagery is powerful. I am working on a Vision Board. I used to use these when I taught creativity classes years ago, but haven't made one of my own for 12 years! I am cutting images and words from magazines and collaging them onto a piece of foam core. Make one or make a number of them all through the year to keep your focus strong.
The images and words link to my desires for this coming year. Looking at it will bring my focus back to what I am seeking to manifest in my life.
4. Choose action. Intentions, vision, positive attitude are all important, but nothing beats focused action for manifesting dreams. There is great joy in working when each step leads us closer to our desires. Few gardeners say they LOVE cultivating and weeding, but they do it. They know it creates more space for seedlings to blossom into beautiful flowers or delicious vegetables.
5. Share abundantly. The smallest gestures have far reaching consequences in increasing harmony and peace in this world. A smile, a friendly e-mail, a phone call or note of appreciation cost nothing and fuel goodness and love on a grand scale.
On this final day of what has been a fulfilling year, I wish to share my deep appreciation for each person who has touched my life in some way. My good wishes go out to you for your happiness, peace, prosperity, health and fulfillment. May grace and goodwill abound in 2009!
Sunday, December 28, 2008
I even went sledding down our front hill with four-year old Sadie, who soloed for the first time!
After a full day and Christmas Eve, Christmas day is always quite low key for us. We enjoyed breakfast with our stepson Bob and his future wife, Sarah, who stayed overnight. Once they headed out, we made a beeline for the couches. We relaxed, watched some good movies and I talked to my two children and niece that couldn't be here for the holidays. A truly pleasurable holiday in every way as I've taken a mini-vacation from working on any art works in progress or spending time at my studio.
But gradually my thoughts are returning to my life as an artist. While 2008 is quietly concluding, I'm resetting my compass for the approaching New Year with a Big Choice.
I've decided that I've avoided marketing long enough; it is time to accept it as an important part of my artistic life.
To prepare for this new chapter, over the past week I've been reading -- a LOT.
First I read Paul Dorrell's book, "Living the Artist Life," which is the inspiring story of how he persevered through a number of adversities to build a profitable Kansas City art gallery and finally become a published novelist.
Then I ordered Alyson Stanfield's book, "I'd Rather Be in the Studio", which is EXACTLY what I've been saying about marketing for years. Actually PROMOTE MY OWN WORK??? -- a squirmy, uncomfortable topic for me.
But the more I read, the more I have to agree with everything that Alyson writes. If I didn't know better, I'd suspect that Alyson is writing directly about ME (git out of my hard drive, Alyson!)-- I confess that I practically RUN from the work of organizing my data and making a concerted effort to market myself. I'll stick a toe in the water now and then, but have never taken that all important leap to make a commitment to marketing as an integral part of my life.
Well, that is about to change. How much and how fast will unfold over the months ahead. Your success stories and tips are most welcome!
Look for more frequent blog posts as I turn up the burner and put myself in the hot seat to let the world know that I am HERE -- even if it feels a bit like I'm a Hoo from Hooville shouting "We are here, we are HERE." Even so, the small Hoos DO find a Horton -- and so, I suspect, can we all, once we make our presence known.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
(Another little painting/printing experiment, playing with language/composition ideas)
Every week I receive a newsletter from Chiro and Yuka Ichiroya in Osaka, Japan, owners of Kimono Flea Market ICHIROYA. They sell Japanese fabrics, vintage and antique kimono,obi and other items. Sometimes their newsletters describe Japanese holidays and culture, sometimes Chiro's Japanese perspective on world events. They are always interesting.
In newsletter No. 275, Chiro wrote his response to the American automobile industry crisis and the huge salaries of American automaker CEO's by comparing their income with the much lower ones of Japanese CEO's.
In Japan, many CEOs practice "sei-hin", the Japanese word for honorable poverty. When a company is not prospering, the CEOs may cut or freeze their own salaries. Even in times of prosperity, many CEOs live in small houses, commute to work by train and eat lunch in company cafeterias.
In Japan, CEOs often spend many years coming up through the ranks and "are selected as if they are selected as the captain of the baseball team." This approach can create problems as well, according to Chiro, because people of average ability rise to leadership positions simply because they get along well with others.
To attract visionary leaders, some Japanese companies are starting to offer larger salaries, but that also creates problems. In Japanese culture, especially among the older generation, "when people see very rich, they are apt to think he must be enough avaricious to be able to do something dreadful thing to others."
Now contrast this with today's "Daily Quote" from Abraham-Hicks. "You have to find a way to be all right with thriving because you are always going to want to thrive...The economy is moving forward in response to the desires of people."
"And depriving yourself of something does not make more money for someone else to spend...If there were not people who were purchasing things, then all of the people who are working at manufacturing and marketing them would have to find some other ways of making their living."
One of the questions that the above quote and Chiro's newsletter discussion of "sei-hin" raise in my mind has to do less with "honorable poverty" than redefining abundance.
To me, the current times feel transitional but exciting. Dealing with challenges in every form and on every front stimulate creativity. Choosing new ways of living as individuals and as nations may actually lead us to discover new definitions of abundance. Perhaps this shift will lead more and more people to discover the joys of creative living and applying creative problem solving to innovate solutions for current national and international problems.
Perhaps we are in a time when a balancing is taking place and becoming more oriented to creativity in the workplace and in dealing with our social concerns may lead us to wonderful new ways to address our national and global problems.
I feel incredibly rich and privileged to be able to spend a part of each day creating. To engage in creative activity of any sort, to waken each day with such heartfelt enthusiasm about your work,to dive into the trying parts of creative process while keeping your intentions and focus strong -- to accept problems and failure as a natural part of attaining mastery and success -- this is all part of the incredible challenge and wealth that a creatively inspired life offers. Surely something so wonderful can't help but catch on!
Imagine creativity flourishing in board rooms, in hospitals and in educational systems. Imagine as well a time when storytelling and music and art making and healthy foods and lifestyles are part of EVERY life.
What we imagine we can create, and those of us who are artists and creative people of every kind may be at the forefront of a huge shift in how people live and what we desire for happiness and fulfillment in our lives.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Every year we plant an amaryllis bulb to bloom as close as possible to Christmas. This year I chose a light pink variety and love its delicate colors. It's already in full bloom and is a wonderful tonic for cold December mornings.
It's one of the strategies I use to give my spirits a boost at this grey time of year. There are others!
I throw new ingredients into the creative stew of my imagination by reading more articles about art and artists. One juicy tidbit from an article in the Jan/Feb 09issue of The Artist's Magazine,is about Tanja Softic. Tanja, a native of Sarajevo,combines printmaking and drawing in her work. She teaches at the University of Richmond, where she advises her beginning students not to focus on creating an exact replica of a subject:
"If you do that, you stay on the surface and miss an opportunity to encounter a whole world of interpretive possibilities. Focus instead of understanding that object: its shape, volume, color and relation to its environment. Establish a relationship with it; then think about it as an image. Your rendering will have depth and feeling; it will have individuality and will carry the imprint of your visual sensibility. You'll have more than the subject: You'll begin to develop content."
Migrant Universe:The Map of What Happened, Tanja Softic (acrylic, chalk, graphite and pigment on kozo paper, 42" x 108" )
Winter winds may blow and snow may pile up in the dark northeast, but toasty fires fueled by artistic ideas will carry us through.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
...git along little doggies!... This old cowboy ballad is about riding along in the saddle driving a herd of cattle to Wyoming. I confess that I'm a fan of American folk songs.
That tune came to mind this morning as I sat and finished hand stitching the hanging sleeve and label on Translations 2. Sometimes working on a piece feels like riding herd on a long, lonesome trail!
So I couldn't help but feel like celebrating when I put the last stitch on the label. Yippie ti yi yo, this little doggie has been a thorny one from the very beginning, challenging and stymieing me on all fronts -- composition,color and value issues.
The light it hid under its big ol' bushel? I discovered that I absolutely loved painting onto the stitched surface, creating shifts and plays of color and softening the hard edges of the applied letter forms.
It's a different and hopefully more successful approach to blend some shapes and highlight others so they appear to come forward on the picture plane. I still don't quite have the depth I'd like, but I do have wonderful color and shape contrasts. The topographic stitching enhances the sense of movement in the piece as well.
Art making as a process rewards hard work and commitment by slowly building trust in our personal creativity and our eye for composition and color. This piece made me stronger.
That being said, it will soon be time to send this piece off to the RAFA exhibit at the Arts and Cultural Council for our January 6-30, 2009 group exhibition called "New Year, New Directions."
Riding the trail can be a long road for sure. A cowgirl just has to tilt back her head once in a while and croon a few tunes in the saddle!
Monday, December 8, 2008
Thanks, Rayna, for presenting me with the Creative Blogger award!! What a nice way to end 2008 -- I think I'll imagine it as a seed that will grow and blossom into more great validations that the universe will bring to me in 2009.
So I'm doing just as Rayna's instructions to me "require."
1. The winner may put the logo on her blog. (done)
2. Put a link to the person you got the award from in your blog (done)
3. Nominate five blogs. (see below)
4. Put links to the blogs. (ditto)
5. Leave a message for your nominees. (about to do next)
Alas, I have to make a confession. I spend so much time making art and doing art-related research that I haven't gotten to know many of the wonderful bloggers that are out in cyber space. I'm hoping to correct that in 2009, so would appreciate any and all recommendations for a list of "Best Artist Blogs" to start off the New Year with some inspiration(and maybe help improve mine too!)
I DO have friends near and far who have blogs, so let me introduce you to them.
I met Karen, who lives in California, when she flew east to take my Glorious Textures class at Pro Chem. She loves creating textural surfaces and actually uses some of the techniques she learned in that class in her work. Check out her small works, they're really good.
Priscilla travels the world alone purchasing amazing items from crafts people around the globe, then brings them home to sell and use in her amazing jackets. I totally admire her moxie!
Beth is the most knowledgeable person I know about Procion MX dyes. Her current fascination is with marbling. She also is a marvelous photographer and her blogs are always entertaining.
Marcia started studying improvisational quiltmaking with Nancy Crow approximately eight years ago. She began entering her terrific "jet trails" themed pieces into juried shows just within the past year and has gotten into every one she has entered save for one -- it took courage to put her work out and boy is she on a roll now!
Gosh, why am I putting a "famous person" in here? Well this famous lady is my friend and I am lovin' her new idea to challenge herself creatively (and she is for sure!) with a blog that commits to photo-journaling an image each day that requires her to be present and to "see" the beauty all around her.
Whew, I did it! Came up with five!! Now I get to bestow each one with the honor by sending them an e-mail and then get back to making new work!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
I had submitted my Seeds of Compassion piece and held my breath. Would they relegate the work to a dark corner because it was a textile wallhanging? Or would they appreciate a fiber arts piece on its conceptual and technical merit just as any other work of fine art? Would they be inclusive about textiles as a contemporary art medium and hang the work with respect?
They did! It hangs in the center of the second gallery space and looks spectacular there! The salon style hanging of the works created great contrasts and interplay among all of them; the staff and volunteers did a great job curating the hanging of such a diverse group of works.
I met my good friend and fellow artist Paloma there who also submitted a piece.It's the digitally manipulated red and golden yellow and black image that is one of her "she wolf" series. Visit Paloma's website -- http://palomaayala.info -- to see more.
The painting next to her piece, based on bone imagery, is wonderful as well. There were a number of pieces there I would love to own -- not surprisingly, among my top favorites were several subtle monoprints.
All in all, it was a good, validating evening for me as an artist. I hope the exhibition -- and my piece -- will attract lots of positive attention and recognition.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Life has always been a grand adventure to me and I have always believed, even through our darkest times, that the outcome of our time on this planet will be to choose goodness and love and light over darkness, fear, hatred and misunderstanding. The vehicles for us to express this positivity are wide-ranging and diverse; the common denominator is the fruits that these choices generate.
Joy and compassion are the bottom lines on the ledger sheet of life and we each get to choose whether to live in grace and compassion or fear and alienation with every thought, every action. And the moment we choose to think and act differently, we change our personal world and contribute to the positive change on the entire earth. So if we choose fear or hatred one day, we can wake up the very next day and CHOOSE to change. There's no door that closes on personal awakening and nothing that holds us back from making new choices. A whole universe of support opens to us when we align ourselves with that energy.
When my brother and sister were tragically killed last year on the same day that my mother died, I felt stripped of all illusions. If physical life can end at any minute, then how did I wish to fill my remaining time, not knowing how short or how long that may be? I wanted to throw off all the extraneous activities and time fillers and find the heartbeat of what would create the deepest satisfaction and meaning. I wanted to choose to live consciously and creatively and, most important, be present.
As with all good intentions, there needs to be some action plan to help implement it. Here's what I've come up with this past year as my current practices for being present.
- Wake up and acknowledge that you are surrounded by a loving universe.
- Help your body be healthy and vibrant with fresh air, exercise, healthy foods, stretching and breathing.
- Commit yourself to action -- to doing work that you are passionate about, to learning and absorbing new experiences, to exploring and experimenting and keeping that creative work exciting and challenging.
- Make it a practice to share laughter and good times with partners, family and friends. Spread good cheer and positive energy wherever you go, from the check-out person at the supermarket to the friend who needs a few words of encouragement or the worthy causes that need your physical and financial support. When someone is rude or impatient, practice responding with a deep breath and a smile instead of snapping or snarling back.
- Cultivate an attitude of appreciation. I now end my days by writing an appreciation list before I turn out the lights to fall asleep -- some days I am amazed at just how many happy, pleasant things I've attracted and enjoyed, from a smile and hello from a stranger to an unexpected check in the mail or an extra specially delicious bit of chocolate. It never fails to amaze me how easy it is to find moments to appreciate even on my most "out of sorts" days and how that practice actually lifts me out of a low mood to feeling more harmonious again.
That way we can look forward to each new year expanding our successes and accomplishments - and enjoy all the minutes and days and weeks and years overflowing with joy, love, creative ideas, engaged practice, successful completion, expanded prosperity, friendships, good health, vitality and well-being!
Holiday blessings to you and your loved ones.
Monday, November 24, 2008
"They're ruined," I announced to Paloma and Dawn at my drawing class on Friday afternoon, "So I'll just use them for experimentation." They both thought otherwise, suggesting that I could find a way to address this unexpected alteration in the cloth and make it work.
Bless the presence of fellow artist friends and their supportive voices. My brain started chewing on the problem and by 3:30 AM I woke up with an enticing idea. I had to coax myself to relax and stay in bed until 5:30. Then I quickly dressed, drove up to my studio and leaped into action. Feeling almost possessed by the need to see how my idea would look on the surface, I masked off all the black cocoon shapes one by one and then silkscreened one of the invented texts around them in white. The idea worked out as well as I had hoped; the contrasts are exciting.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
While I liked the contrast of the dark brown letterforms on the earlier pieces, they were very domineering, drew my eye and kept it stuck there. So I removed all but one softer brown on the lower left of this version. Then I started varying the scale of the letterforms within each of the little groupings; they really start to appear to be falling into the picture plane in some areas, creating a nice sense of dimension. Some of the groupings don't have three letterforms in them either, which also provides contrast and more interest.
The last thing I did before I called it a day was to remove the dark brown on the lower left and try a rust color in this area. This piece is coming alive, becoming more and more interesting as I play with subtle shifts and changes to emphasize letterforms in one area or make them almost blend into another. I imagine that stitching will add another layer of detail, texture and contrast.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Almost two years ago, an author from England, Drusilla Cole, invited me to submit images for a new book she was writing. Last week I received a contributor's copy of Dru's excellent compilation titled Textiles Now, in which she has collected and published works by some 120 U.K., European and American textile artists ( and delightedly, I'm one of them, two of my pieces are included)
This work is by one of my favorite U.S. artists, Bean Gilsdorf. "Ghost", 420" x 62" (yes, not a typo, Bean worked on 13 continuous yards of fabric to create this piece!) is dyed, painted and bleached. It is a portrait of Bean's 1966 Plymouth Valiant.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
It's a syndrome that in honor of Halloween this Friday, I'm going to name "The Haunted Mansion." Even though I just wrote that I don't always FEEL optimistic, my writing and playing with metaphors usually cheers and motivates me. Let's hope this is the case today.
Mansions are majestic places, opulent and luxurious and huge. That's our potential as human beings and artists. Since thoughts truly are things, I've been constructing a gorgeous mansion in thought and committed action as an artist. I have patiently and consistently practiced my craft, challenged and stretched myself to grow, and put my work out into the world (trying to remember to breathe at the same time). I have listened to and heeded that inner voice that pulls us away from the safe and familiar to explore uncharted and often uncertain, new directions.
I've met with failure and disappointment and recognition and praise enough that none are as important to me as my own sense of believing in my work, my vision and my ideas and engaging in my artistic practice to bring them to expression. While some people are outer directed, I am very inner directed and being so, very conscious of the landscape of my inner terrain. That's why it is one of my life challenges to keep putting my work and my perspectives out into the world, to turn thoughts and intentions into action and practice. I've been doing that now committedly for well over a decade and will continue to do so for as long as I am able.
So when whispery, ghostlike figures begin to wander the hallways of the lovely mansion I am hand-crafting with great care and attention, and I start to question my own worth as an artist, I know that I'm being haunted. The moaning, sighing ghostly apparitions?? -- my tired old doubts and fears that I still haven't totally let go of that seem determined to scare me out of continuing to craft the gorgeous dwelling that I'm building for my artistic self.
Maybe you are one of the fortunate artists who never fall prey to the voices of doubt and fear inside your head and you're sailing through life showing and selling every work you make. For your boldness and confidence, I salute you! Or maybe you're living the other extreme and those ghostly voices have you locked in a vice grip and you're so overwhelmed with doubts and fears that you're not creating anything at all. Perhaps like me, you're upbeat most of the time but every once in a while find yourself creeping down dark, shadowy hallways with nothing but a lit candle trying to convince yourself that you're brave and strong and can overcome ANYTHING.
What do we do when these apparitions begin to haunt our creative lives? In the good old days before slasher and gore films, the "ghosts" usually turned out to be "bad guys" trying to scare the owners off so they could buy the property for peanuts -- and of course for some reason that very property was soon going to be worth a fortune. That's one key to chasing away the ghostly apparitions: reality versus appearance. Doubt and insecurity are feelings, often based on fear or fatigue or disappointment, and they seldom hold up to rational thinking.
Step #1. Acknowledge that you're feeling haunted and a bit frightened and surrounded by darkness and then TURN A LIGHT ON. Rationally, none of the self-critical, hopeless thoughts that any of us think are 100% truthful. They're usually exaggerated, biased and contaminated.
Factual Statement: The basic concepts behind this body of work are solid, I just have not yet resolved this current work to my satisfaction. There are solutions to this problem that will resolve it. I am making a list of options, which I will test and choose from to complete it. I will learn from trying out these options. I am confident that one of them will work out satisfactorily. My confidence is based on having faced other design challenges and resolved them to my satisfaction. I know that working through this will further increase my confidence in my artistic abilities.
Step #2. DON'T GO IT ALONE. Don't you just know for sure when the good guys enter a dark building and one says, "Let's split up. You go this way and I'll go that way," that one of them is SO going to run into Someone or Something Terrible???
Factual Statement: We are communal beings. I have some trusted people in my life that let me moan and whine a little and then remind me that I'm making a great body of work, that it's being recognized and acknowledged in the world and will continue to be received and appreciated even more in the future. I have good friends who share my love of creating and who accept and enjoy me.
Step #3. KEEP WORKING. In scary movies, the hero/heroine never gives in, gives up or falls down, no matter how many times punched, thrown or dangling off the edge of a precipice. The hero/ine opens the locked door, climbs the tower or enters the dark, cobwebby tunnel. Perhaps art is not for the faint-hearted, the scared or timid but for the bold and adventurous -- or PERHAPS those who start out scared or timid and stick with their art practice eventually become the heroes and heroines of their own story!!
Factual Statement: I feel so much clearer than when I started writing this. I'm a doer and not just a talker or philosophizer. On that note, I'm going to stop writing, get in my car, drive to my studio and get back to work!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
With a mixed-blessing predisposition to being responsible and organized and "Getting Things Done", so I can check items off my much-valued to-do lists, it has occurred to me I've recently developed a severe case of "serious" artist. When was the last time I just PLAYED for the sake of play, without any goal posts or end zones in sight?
Enter my ALMOST four-year-old honorary granddaughter, Sadie. I met her, her mom and little sister Abby yesterday at a local garden center that had set up a Halloween family event. Sadie and I spun around together on one ride, slid down the giant slide on a burlap bag and put glue and glitter all over a tiny pumpkin, then stuck purple and pink and blue feathers on it. We sat inside a small, decorated pergola and ate tiny cupcakes, hidden from the crowd. We met a giant parrot who sat on people's arms and seemed to enjoy all the attention. We petted kittens from the local pet shelter and Sadie told me why cats have litter boxes. In short, it was one of the best artist dates I've had in a LONG time!
It's no coincidence that a book came into my hands just a few days earlier to remind me that my own creativity is hands-down bigger and offers more entertaining rides than Disneyland --- and even better, there's never a wait in line! The book is Keri Smith's "How to Be an Explorer of the World."
Somewhat SARK-like in its use of hand printed text and whimsical illustrations, Keri's book takes a simple artistic premise -- collecting and documenting -- and develops it into a delightful series of numbered suggestions for personal explorations. Some are her ideas and some are freely borrowed from and attributed to others. Together they are gentle, smiling reminders to relish and find inspirational treasures in the everyday, small wonders that are all around us.
Here's an example of Keri's exercises. " Exploration #10: Choose an everyday object. This can be something you find on the street or something you have. Look at the top half of the object for 15 minutes. Record everything you see there in detail. Then do the same for the bottom half. The longer you look the more you will see. "
THE LONGER YOU LOOK THE MORE YOU WILL SEE. Isn't this just about the best one liner any artist could adopt?
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Every morning the view of the horizon outside my front door creates a new and unique panorama as daylight replaces darkness. If I painted just this single view every day, I could create a unique and different painting every day for the rest of my life. Whether I painted the scene realistically or abstractly, the source of inspiration would be the same, a view from a doorway -- and it could become a purposeful, exciting and energetic life's work to translate that scene into two dimensional art. Making art is a form of translation, one that gives us total freedom to alter the source and express a visual idea exactly as we choose, regardless of what the reality of the object or scene is.
Many artists paint fall scenes and the Western New York State rolling hills and valleys near my home attract photographers and plein air painters. Local entrepreneurs sell pumpkins,canned concord grapes and tangy, sweet grape pies at makeshift roadside stands. There is a romantic allure to capturing the changing landscape of the world around us in representational art and it's a wonderful, engaging occupation. Someday I might even do it.
It is not that I see these letter form compositions as the ultimate destination point in my artistic growth. So often as we grow as artists, we become attracted to a particular theme or subject, sometimes almost compulsively drawn to explore it. Rocks and cliffs have fascinated me for a number of years with their incredible variety of patterns and marks on their surfaces. A number of years ago I spent months trying to translate these patterns to fabric using paints and dyes. The endeavor taught me a lot about creating visual texture on a surface. While I still use the techniques -- and still love and collect rocks and stones where I go -- my attention has shifted. The intensity of the absorption remains constant however.
In my current language imagery phase, I seem drawn to observe language everywhere. Artists who use it in their work intrigue me. So do rough, hand lettered signs set at the side of the road, graffiti, city streets filled with diverse business signs, posters nailed to telephone poles.
Getting comfortable in your own skin means being willing to follow your artistic impulses and do the necessary digging and cultivating to bring whatever imagery that attracts you to use in your work to the surface. So often that internal editor or critic -- and sometimes an outer voice -- slams an interest before we really can even begin to develop ideas around a subject or concept. Quietly slipping past that moment of self-doubt and continuing to work steadily and quietly helps the imagery develop as we work.
What happened on this first effort that I love and want to develop are the letter forms where the strong shifts in value create some portions that are defined and others seem to disappear. A WONDERFUL discovery, which I decide to explore more in the next revision.
This version works to emphasize the vertical rows of the letter forms, varying the sheers to emphasize the idea of receding and advancing as well as partial forms contrasting with complete ones. At this stage I like parts of the piece, but there is more editing and revising ahead. Once I am totally resolved about the composition, I'll fuss with the shapes and align them so they flow smoothly up and down the surface.
One idea that I am considering for when I return to this work tomorrow is how I might interrupt the vertical flow of shapes in one or more of the lines to add more interest to the composition or replace a more dominant element (in this case I removed smaller scale dark rust sheer letters to the right of the larges ones) with one that almost fades away totally into the ground.
Still, this one is close to being resolved as a composition and I'm pleased with its evolution. Since I have another ground fabric ready and waiting in the wings, I can move right on to another work that refines and moves these ideas forward.
Once we are comfortable in our skins as an artist, the inevitable problems and missteps in the creative process don't trigger a barrage of self-doubt about our artistic worth or talent. In this self-assured state, ideas can fail, works can be fatally flawed or even just ORDINARY, but because we trust that inner voice, our artistic voice will begin to shine through each work, and with each new work, it will shine a bit brighter...and truer...and more powerfully. The key is trust. In ourselves as creators, in our ability to work through design problems successfully and in the deep, universal archetypes of growth and change.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
One of the amazing benefits of taking any workshop is the concentrated energy of so many people focused on learning and creating together. The ah-ha's and satisfaction when new processes connect with ideas and imagery are the rewards.
Patrice had learned the basic freemotion embroidery stitches in my workshop two years ago at Fabrications, so this time she could focus on the relationship between the various stitch textures, color combinations and design possibilities. She began working on a freeform pattern of maplike shapes on her surface by drawing with her sewing machine, inspired by a book of aerial photographs of the earth. Then she started translating the shapes into color and texture with thread and textural stitching.
Here's one of her pieces in progress. . Patrice's green areas in this piece are done in a mossing stitch, which is worked from the back with heavier threads in the bobbin.
As a class exercise, I sent everyone on a field trip to the ladies room at the conference center. The marble tiled walls offered a candy store of design possibilities for freemotion machine embroidery. Each person selected and traced a design from the tiles, then edited the traced lines and shapes and transferred them onto fabric. The incredible variety of shapes and patterns on the tiles offered interesting compositions for practicing freemotion embroidery textures and stitches -- what a bonanza and a great reminder that design inspirations are all around us in the least expected places! I'm hoping that students will send me some of their completed compositions -- I'd love to offer a "gallery exhibition" of them on this blog in the future!
We created another sample to "mine" for design inspirations by purchasing pieces of hand-dyed and hand-painted fabrics that Desiree Vaughn was selling. These already have wonderful shapes and value shifts on their surfaces. By letting the shapes suggest ideas, either abstract or representational compositions can begin to develop. The piece above is one of Cheryl's samples where she "saw"and stitched some textural leaf shapes onto the surface.
On the sample above, done by Karen, you can see some attached lace and leaf shapes. As part of the class, we created various shapes by sandwiching water soluble in a hoop and then stitching. This method can be used to create densely stitched shapes that can be attached to other cloth surfaces without distorting them. We also cut out shapes in the fabric sandwiches and created lacy machine stitching in the openings, a lovely open window where a contrasting fabric can be stitched behind.
The class moved at a fast pace and all heroically overcame balking machines and the classic classroom issues of shaking tables, not having all the supplies at our beck and call that we have at home and our natural tendency to want to create a perfect finished piece instead of making samples. We enjoyed great food, lovely fall weather and plenty of creative stimulation from all directions thanks to Desi, Peg, Cathy and Kathy, the hardworking AND talented organizers of these Fabrications retreats!
Monday, October 13, 2008
Returning home from a time away tends to intensify awareness of how pleasurable these everyday, small routines are. The familiarity and repetition can be soothing. To travel brings new stimulation and connections with places and people but to come home is a comfort indeed.
Details from life experiences tend to linger in memory, often in bits and pieces. Look back over the course of a day, a week, a year, a life and often it's the most unremarkable details that become identified with experiences. An artist savors these bits and pieces of memories and recollections. Some memories may be summoned back intentionally, but many others rise to the surface just when needed and become integral to understanding the concept behind one's work.
It has occurred to me lately that my language series actually has grown from seeds that were planted in 1995, when I visited my daughter for 16 days in Taichung, Taiwan. We traveled from one end of the island to the other, delighted and amazed at how different the culture was from our American one. I could not speak the language or read any of the signs; when we visited markets and purchased fruits and vegetables, I held out my hands with coins in them and the vendors pointed to the correct ones so I could pay them. I felt both helplessness and a total trust.
One weekend morning we visited the Jade Market in downtown Taichung, where vendors sold food and all types of jade and crafts. Standing in the middle of this bustling, unbelievably noisy marketplace was a young monk. His head was shaved, he wore saffron robes and held out his alms bowl as he stood quietly amidst the noise. I felt magnetically drawn to him and intuitively recognized that in the midst of this surge of people intent on making money, he was practicing just being present. I walked up to him and placed money in his empty bowl; our eyes met and without words I knew that I was blessing and affirming him and that he, in return, was blessing and affirming me. The recollection of this meeting and connection still causes an emotional swell inside me. I realized that although the young monk and I could not speak and understand each other, we had communicated -- and the connection felt peaceful and powerful.
Language and communication are more mysterious than we seem to recognize. We say words and think because we share a common language that the other person automatically understands what we are trying to express, but this does not always happen.
It occurred to me after I returned home from Taiwan that I had experienced true communication, one that wasn't dependent on a shared language. I realized this most acutely by being in a place where I couldn't use my words to communicate with almost everyone around me. Now the idea of connecting beyond words rather than through them is one that most intrigues me in my work.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Since my last studio day on Thursday, I've been preparing for my drive to Michigan to teach a class called "It's All About the Stitch" at the Fabrications Retreat: http://www.fabricationsretreat.com/
Here's a class sample showing a few of the stitch and thread combinations that can be combined to build textural surfaces. The variables in freemotion embroidery techniques are the types and weights of the threads used and adjustments to the top and bottom sewing machine tensions.
Some stitches are worked on the back of the fabric using heavier threads in the bobbin, which builds up texture and pattern on the front. Varying the speed of stitching, types and colors of threads and machine tensions all provide different effects that can be combined to create fascinating surfaces that invite the eye to linger and explore.
Rich texture can also be created just by using straight stitch variations, shown in the detail of another class sample, above. Combining colors and building the surface with layered stitches is a fascinating process that lends itself well to small works, where the smaller scale creates a more intimate interaction. It is fascinating to learn and I enjoy helping other artists to expand their textile "vocabularies"-- back to that language theme again.
There's a pleasant undertone to teaching and traveling knowing that three new works in progress are waiting for me when I return. For these large scale pieces I'll be revisiting the palette that was in my piece "Translations", with a few new additions. I need to include some touches like the marvelous saffron gold in these Sri Lankan monks' robes to this neutral, earth-tone palette.
Here's a detail of the original Translations piece, so you can see how this new work is beginning to expand the palette. This piece started with a rusted fabric ground, so I also rusted new fabrics in my studio on Thursday for when I return.
Can you see the subtle Phoenician alphabet letters applied with wax resist before rusting on this piece? The results are very promising and I am envisioning doing more for future works. This will be a wonderful ground fabric to work with as a starting point for another new piece.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I still need to stitch the little slashes of color onto the surface and then add some hand embroidery accents and put on the facings.
I've felt a powerful connection to this piece since the moment I started stitching it. This morning I played with these small slivers of color to see what placement might look best. When it was time to leave for my studio, I stopped and took these pictures. I intended to come home and add more color. However, I shared the images with a friend and she thinks it looks complete exactly as it is. I respect her opinions so I will sleep on this tonight and revisit the piece tomorrow with the intention to resolve and complete it. I trust that whenever I take a question like this to bed that I'll wake in the morning knowing exactly what choice to make.