Monday, March 30, 2009

Texas Highlights, Part 1

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, this one sums up my week teaching in Texas. But you're going to get the thousand words with it as well!

If you're reading this, then you've found my new blog site. The old one got hijacked and now is some totally random spammy website. I will miss Exploring the Surface, but thankfully all the old files are now on this new blog. Please spread the word that I'm alive, I'm alive!! -- just with a new address. I chose the most practical, me-specific name I could get google to register, hoping that no random spam site would possibly want to register "Art by Jeanne Beck" as a domain name.

So back to the subject. To say that my time teaching at Quilting Adventures was a pleasure would be an understatement. The wonderful accommodations, perfect weather and Texas hospitality melted away memories of snow and grey skies almost immediately. A great tonic for a winter-weary north easterner like myself. Alice and Barbara, who run Quilting Adventures, do an excellent job of organizing the workshops and provide a top notch variety of classes and instructors for three weeks each spring and fall.

Our classroom was bright, open and spacious. We shared this huge open space with Creations, a quilt shop that sets up on site for the entire conference.

One of the first things we did was explore our materials. Rather than using paints straight out of the bottle, everyone practiced mixing tints, tones and shades, expanding their color vocabularies. Jean's sample charts were detailed and beautiful.

Here's Jean. She picked this reference image of a watercolor by Janet Fish to use as a color and design inspiration.

Here's her richly textured interpretation. I can't wait to see it with stitching.

Harla recently retired from owning her own floral business and created an entire design wall filled with very detailed, delicate and beautifully planned interpretations of her reference images.
Harla also is the new owner of the two spring landscapes that I posted on my blog before I left for Texas. They're en route to her right now.

Learning new techniques PLUS creating original designs from references takes total focus. It's tiring but exciting -- and everyone made truly unique work.

Jane did a number of layered pieces of fabric that were amazing. Hard to pick just one to show you.

Roberta threatened me with the Look of Death when I tried to take her picture with wet hair, so you will see her in the group photo below. I love the softness of this composition above and look forward to seeing how she will complete this piece.
Shelley actually completed a piece by the end of the week. Unfortunately I can't seem to find the picture of it. Instead, here's a wonderful sample of a completed piece she brought it to share. Since Shelley prefers machine to hand stitching, she brought her sewing machine and set up a sewing area in her room .

Sharon works as a web site designer and creates a lot of the imagery for her work with photography and computer software. She's excited about the possibilities of combining her printed images with painted fabrics -- and so am I!!

Look at the gorgeous palette she created on her design wall based on several reference images in the upper left hand corner.

Everyone in the class did wonderful work. Here we are at the end of a truly memorable week together. From left to right are Jane, Sharon, Harla, me, Roberta, Jean and Shelley. It's always hard for me to say goodbye to the incredible people who take my classes - and I do hope that our paths will cross again.
Next: Fun in San Antonio!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Off to Teach in Texas

Today is my last day of packing and preparing before I fly the friendly skies tomorrow to San Antonio, Texas and a week of teaching at Quilting Adventures. I'm excited about teaching, sunshine and warmth -- in that order -- so hope that Texas will shower me with moderate temperatures, sunny blue skies and lots of spring flowers!

While I'm packing and prepping to leave, I'm also leaving a stack of projects in progress. I am excited about the newest Seeds piece with the addition of the red seed shapes.

First, though, have to share these images with you of the two small, stitched 9" x 12" paintings that just came back from the framer (and unfortunately too late to display at my open house last Friday). The one got a bit distorted by my low-end digital lens, but at least you can see how nice the frames look.

The soft silvery wood frames set them off so much better than black. The price for each one of these is $225 or $400 for the pair. They're prototypes -- the stitching on the edges shows, which is why the prices are lower. They look lovely -- next time they'll be even better, but more expensive as well.

I'm packed and ready to leave the house at 5:00 AM tomorrow for the airport. That means up at 4 but since it's Sunday the airport security check-in should be quiet and quick.

Still haven't decided whether to lug my computer and try to share the experience with you this week or travel light and live "unplugged" for nine days. Still debating.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

In Praise of Those Who Attend Art Openings!

What a totally whirlwind week led up to our first building wide open house on Friday evening in conjunction with Rochester's First Friday gallery openings.

Bob finished installing the reclaimed cabinets, I filled and organized them, then we hung work on every available space to create a gallery feeling. Then Friday evening we put out some wine and snacks and opened the doors!

I confess that I didn't take a single picture of the event after I shot some images of the set-up. The first people arrived before 5 PM and we had a steady stream all evening, which kept me busy talking! Over the course of the evening we had close to 200 people visit our old factory buildings and wend their way through corridors and four stories to the wonderful artists who work there.

What an exciting response to our first building-wide event. It looks to me like we'll be doing more of these open houses!

I've been working on creating some small, framed works that can sell in the $100-300 price range -- though I think if I could find a way to create $30 items, they'd be the hands-down winners! - so in preparation for this show I've been playing with framing options.

This Seeds monoprint is 17" x 17". It's been stitched to 3/8" acid-free foam core with sewing thread, then slipped into a stock black wood frame. I do like the way the framing finishes the work and makes it easy to hang. This piece is priced at $300.

I tried another idea for "Letter rhythms" -- facings finish the edges of this stitched fabric painting. It has been tacked to 3/8" acid free black foam core and then mounted to a 20" x 20" painted stretched canvas frame. It sells for $350.

I tried a light oak frame on this painted, silkscreened and stitched piece, which is also tacked to foam core before framing. This 17" x 17" piece is $300.

I put most of my small works on this wall above the new shelving, which now offers people a glimpse at some items that inspire my work. The bottom shelf displays old carved wooden printing blocks from India. There are old handwritten journals and letters on the second and top shelves along with photographic portraits of late 19th and early 20th century women.

I love folk art craft traditions like the carved and painted animal sculptures from Oaxaca that are on the top shelf.

These are some of the cultures and "artifacts" that inspire me. It is extremely important to me as an artist to retain the mark of the human hand in my work. I seldom look for shortcuts or "time saving" approaches to creating. The slow accretion of layers, the gradual building of surface, the interplay of marks and textures are the ingredients that I return to again and again as I create.

An opening reception like we had Friday night throughout our building with artists working in so many different mediums is a true celebration of creativity. Being a "maker" is so important and integral to my life that I love sharing with others who appreciate the work and thought that go into the processes.

So a special thank you to all those people who attend gallery openings and visit art exhibits -- you validate and encourage and support those of us who commit ourselves to being makers.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

More Studio Improvements!

Habitat for Humanity opened up a new store near my studio where homeowners and contractors can donate materials in decent condition for resale. My husband decided we should visit there when I confided to him that I dearly wished I had more storage space in my studio.

We walked in just to see what they might have. We found the base cabinets I wanted immediately and three wall-hung cabinets as well. Talk about easy. In another architectural salvage store just a few blocks away, Bob found a countertop that was a perfect fit for the base cabinets for only $5! I'd have to say that the idea of repurposing materials instead of taking them to a landfill really appeals to me and I love that the money we spent supports Habitat for Humanity's home building efforts.

Bob did a beautiful job installing the base cabinets, despite floors that are hugely slanted and walls that aren't square.

We return tomorrow to tackle the wall cabinets. Or rather Bob tackles them and I provide that all important moral support and enthusiasm!

We do have a deadline for completing this. The Hungerford Building artists are working together to hold an open house this coming Friday evening as part of Rochester's First Fridays gallery openings. Once the cabinets get hung, I'll start arranging and hanging my work on the walls.

If you live in this area, please come visit. Here are the details:

Hidden Hungerford Open Studios
Friday, March 5, 5:00 - 9:00 PM
1115 East Main Street
Rochester, NY

Enter through Door #2, walk up the stairs one flight, enter the hallway and turn right. You'll be at Crocus ClayWorks. There's a display in the two studios there of all the participating artists' works, along with a map of the building that shows where each artist's studio is. You can walk around the building and visit all the artists, see their studios and more of their work.

We'll be serving wine and cheese in my studio, plus you can sign up for a free drawing to win one of my framed pieces. I'm hoping we'll get a great turnout!