Monday, August 13, 2007

Pittsburgh Adventure, Day 2: Chihuly at Phipps

This day falls into the category of, "just when you think an experience can't possibly get any does!"

I would have voted to just drive straight home the second morning, since I was so excited and stimulated by visiting Fiber Arts International that all I could think about was getting back into my studio to work, but we all decided we'd just make the "briefest" stop at the Phipps Conservatory to see the gardens and glass exhibit there. Here is the entrance; already looks promising, doesn't it??? Supposedly there was a nice Chihuly glass exhibit inside -- I figured a few pieces in a few rooms and then, zip, we're on the road. SOOOOOO wrong....We wallked through room after glorious room, oohing and aahing. Each one grew from a collaboration between horticulturists and Chihuly to design unique installations that blended organic blown glass shapes and colors with natural plant materials. This is pretty much what we looked like every time we walked into a new room!
This room was filled with bright orange cannas in the background and Chihuly's brilliantly colored Cattails in the foreground.

Some spaces had water features as large as ponds, where Chihuly's blown glass forms provided contrast while complementing the natural environment.

The forms and colors of the glass varied with each space. Some of the forms were tall and frond like, some sphere shaped, and others open and fluted. I fell in love with the space below, the Victoria Room, where all the elements, including the reflections from the vaulted glass ceilings on the water, seemed more breathtakingly beautiful together than I ever could have imagined. Chihuly calls these fluted forms his Persians. They're the result of his search for new forms over the course of a year, during which his assistants crafted more than 1,000 miniature experimental forms.

You could look across this space and through a glass partition into yet another glass and plantscape in soft blues, a wonderful contrast to the warm colors in this space.

Above this beautiful display a huge chandelier style sculpture, one of Chihuly's trademarks,
seemed to float over the water and surrounding trees.

That blue glass that you could vaguely see beyond this incredible display proved to be an equally breathtaking site when we made our way into the space, called the East Room. The plant materials in this room were all silvery and cool in feeling. With Chihuly's blue floats, cobalt Reeds and turquoise Marlins, the collection is known as Cobalt Fiori or "blue flowers."

Here is a close up that shows some of the different color combinations and patterns that Chihuly creates by rolling molten glass in smaller shards of colored glass during the blowing process. The interiors and exteriors of these petal like forms are different colors. This is possible because they are separated by a layer of white opaque glass.

The bottom line is that we spent the whole morning in the Conservatory and only left because we were hungry! Barb took pictures until her memory card was completely full and I came home with over 150 shots of my own. By the time we started the drive home, we all felt our whirlwind adventure had far exceeded any of our expectations and look forward to another one in the future!

Here's the Phipps website:

Pittsburgh Adventure, Day 1: Fiber Arts International

I vowed to finally make it to a Fiber Arts International exhibit this year -- after all, there won't be a chance again for another three years! - and invited my crit group to consider a field trip. The exhibition closes August 19th, so we couldn't delay. Four of us headed down to Pittsburgh bright and early last Wednesday morning in Marcia's comfortable SUV, made it in less than five hours and arrived easily at the Society for Contemporary Craft by 1:30 PM. This turned out to be my favorite of the two spaces that house the FAI exhibit. Large open ceilings, plenty of windows and natural light and freestanding portable walls added a lot of visual interest and architectural detail to this space, which felt open, airy and contemporary.

It also seemed that most of my favorite works in the exhibition ended up being in this space. We were permitted to take pictures of the overall space at SCC but not individual works -- although the second venue, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, allowed us free rein with our cameras.

The works in the joint exhibitions represent every type of fiber art. I found the diversity of materials and mediums, that included felted pieces, weavings, mixed media, assemblages, fashion, handmade paper, quilts and books, most stimulating. I find that same diversity when I attend the Surface Design Association conference exhibitions.

Another pleasing addition to the venue at the Society for Contemporary Craft were several cases that displayed samples and sketches and notes from a number of the artists in the exhibition. This opened a window into each artist's creative process and inspirations, which always intrigues me; here is one of the cases, which also serves as display works for some of the pieces.

Below are some reference materials and notes from Cynthia Corbin.
After visiting the gift shop and purchasing copies of the catalogue. we headed over to the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, shown below, to see the rest of the exhibit.

The first floor gallery spaces (there were four) offered ample wall space to appreciate each piece but the galleries felt more subdued.

As you can see from the picture below, the scale of the works in these exhibits ranges from huge to quite tiny. The lighting carefully highlights the works on pedestals as well as those on the walls.

We capped our day off by meeting an artist friend of Marcia's, Petra Fallaux, who took us to a wonderful little Italian restaurant on Reynolds called Pino's. She acted as our navigator so we could drive to the lookout point at the top of Mt. Washington, where we got to enjoy a view of the city and its rivers.

Here is our satisfied group at the end of long, full and stimulating day. From left to right are Marcia DeCamp, Petra Falloux, Nancy Murty, Barb Seils and me. If you'd like to see all the individual works in the show, you can purchase one of the excellent exhibition catalogues at for $25.

Monday, August 6, 2007

To "Execute": Livin' the Verb

Is it any wonder that the verb "to execute", in addition to meaning "to carry out, accomplish" and "to perform or do", also can mean "to put to death"????

After I laid out all these tiny page pieces on the water soluble fusible at my studio last week, I tested some different adhesives and how well and easily they wash out and the winner was: Elmer's Washable School Glue Sticks! My only complaint about these gems -- sold two to a bubble pack in Wal-Mart's Back to School sales blitz at 5 packs for $1 -- is the sad realization there is more packaging than glue, only about .6 oz per tube, and I can envision the piles of packaging and empty glue containers creating new mountains in land fills. I used five tubes to stick -- yes,one piece at a time -- all the pieces down to the water soluble fusible backing, then sprayed the whole surface with basting spray and covered it all with a second layer of the water soluble fusible. All well and good, but the basting spray on water soluble only seems to hold for the short term. It is now four days since I first sprayed them and some are lifting off the fabric and base layers. So now pins also assist in the process. It all is a learning curve and I'm ever the explorer, so while the sandwich stabilizing and stitching are tedious, I am sure that I'll streamline and refine my process with each new piece.

Since this is a series and ideas hammer on my insides begging to get out as I resolutely sew line after line after line, I did veer off course from sewing to do samples of the ideas for Pages #3, #4 and #5. The idea for #6 popped out yesterday and I managed to get a quick sketch down in my notebook. It amazes me how long the list of ideas are -- and working quietly and repetitively on the stitching gives my mind even more opportunities to free associate.

I am wondering if an industrial machine will look better and better to me after completing a few of these!