Archive for the ‘documentation’ Category

making art with plastic…

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

Underwater Garden, detail; recycled plastic, pool noodles, toothpicks, newspaper bag

I have just finished designing three pieces of art embellished with plastic. They are Plastic Ocean 1, Plastic Ocean 2 and Underwater Garden. It has been a long and winding road that led me to the point where I felt it important to make a statement about the massive quantities of plastic in our oceans.

I have been an avid recycler for 30+ years. I just assumed if I were recycling it, good was coming of it; yet I was astonished when visiting other states that had different recycling standards, if at all. Or other counties just in the Bay Area. Some recycle styrofoam, some don’t. Some take food containers while others don’t. Huh?…Aren’t we all living on the same planet?

So I was just going along being a good consumer, recycling as much as I could, when it suddenly came to my attention that there is a whole lot of plastic floating out there in the ocean. At first I was thinking, OMG, that is not right but really not thinking about it much more than that.

Underwater Garden: berry basket liner, berry basket, credit card punch, floss treader

Then I began to see on social media, especially, more and more posts about ALL the plastic in the ocean. I befriended folks who are picking up trash on beaches world-wide. I learned about the fish choking on plastic, turtles with straws lodged in their nose, marine mammals caught in fishing nets & line. I saw videos of tidal waves of plastic churning worldwide, and kids playing in a surf of plastic debris. It was becoming more and more difficult to avoid thinking about it; the I am doing my part by recycling, this does not affect me school of thought. It began to dawn on me that with education this is quite possibly something humans can have an impact on in the world. So why not educate through art?!

Last winter I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and see these incredible sculptures by Sayaka Ganz . She designed huge installations just from plastic trash recovered from the oceans. I was intrigued by these works, and the mind that created them.

Sakaya Ganz’ plastic sculpture

Sakaya Ganz’ rescued plastic garbage sculpture

 

I began to think about my own work, and my own voice. Since I was wearing braces on my lower teeth and using a huge amount of plastic toothpicks to clean my teeth, I began to collect them. Someone actually said eeew! to me about using my used oral implements, but in reality isn’t all of this plastic debris eeew?!

I continued to collect whatever plastic I was using. I stopped buying food packaged in single use plastic, abandoning my favorite place to buy groceries when they could not say if or when they will replace this packaging. I wrote to all the major grocers in my area and asked that they stop using single use plastic. Some replied they are ‘working on it’ while others told me to tell the produce guy next time I am in the store…talk about passing the buck! ¬†

credit card ‘guitar picks’

So as my personal plastic collection was growing, I began to design elements for these quilts. I stitched, both by hand and machine the aforementioned dental picks to a water soluble fiber. I punched guitar picks out of a collection of expired credit cards, drivers licenses and hotel room keys. Then I hand stitched those to the water soluble fiber. I cut disks from remnants of pool noodles, which I use most often to ship my work. I culled the newspaper bags (don’t even get me started on why the newspaper has to be robed in plastic every day year round, or worse why do we still subscribe!)

After designing and stitching two identical quilts, I began to hand-stitch the various plastic remnants on to it. I learned a few things. One, even using teflon sheets and pressing from the back, the heat will melt the plastic!  Two, plastic is really hard to sew through! Three, while hand-stitching is so meditative, hand-stitching around plastic is not. Four, while I never make work specific to a theme, my initial intention for this work shifted halfway through. I went a completely new direction, and crammed in one more piece to make a submission deadline, for an environmental center. If my work is chosen I will be making minimally 2-5 more pieces for the exhibit next year!

For these pieces I used the aforementioned newspaper bags, various other plastic bags, berry baskets, berry basket liners, toothpicks, pool noodles, food containers, credit cards, hotel room keys, drivers licenses, foil blister packs, nuno felt, paint and screen-printing.

All throughout construction, I did not allow myself to think about how to store this work, which essentially cannot be bent, or rolled. Or so I thought. Actually I was able to roll all three together around a cardboard tube, and then place in one bag. That was maybe the easiest part!

While I wait for the jury results, I am going to sort/purge my print studio, which is really overdue. And then start in on my next series about elder women….or possibly sew more plastic!

 

 

 

 

‘gun it granny…’

Monday, May 21st, 2018

After two weeks of delightful procrastination I finally got back to machine stitching my latest work today. Today I woke too weary to walk, after driving 235 miles in traffic yesterday. While walking may have been the best thing for me, I decided instead to pamper myself and stay home, do laundry (oh boy, now that’s pampering!) and stitch. Once I got started and the rhythm going, I changed colors 5 times and finished stitching the entire piece. Ah progress! It is actually just the foundation as now I will lay the design, the narrative, if you will, on top of the stitched base.

just how fast do you think you were going young lady?

Not long after I got into the swing of it a voice from the past visited….Chris Walberg and his gun it granny!¬†I was really zipping along or so I thought until I looked up at the speed meter and it read 50%. Well I think at 100% steam would have been rising from the machine!

When I was 15, I took drivers education as did all baby boomers. Because we were so populous there were 4 kids in every car in drivers ed. I was blessed to be relegated to a car with Chris Walberg. Undoubtedly it was because we both had last names that started with W-. Chris seemed to be my constant alphabetical companion in high school. So there I was driving some back road in Walnut Creek, and possibly a bit overly-cautious. I felt empowered, as if I was really now a grown-up, until Chris leaned over from the backseat, stuck his head between the instructor’s and mine, and snarled, gun it granny! Funny how that has stayed with me all these years. And it makes me wonder now, as I zip along at 70 in traffic on the freeway, if he is that guy slaloming between cars at 85?

So today, pedal to the metal at 50%… Chris Walberg, this one’s for you!

this baby stitches through 6 layers like a dream

completion…

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

my FRIEND Marion Coleman (image from Earth Stories exhibit)

A little over three years ago I began a project with my good friend and mentor Marion Coleman. We set a goal of each creating 25 large pieces before my 70th birthday, which was then three years in the future. We chose my 70th as hers was a year earlier so that gave us more time! We gave it a working title of Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming a Woman. Our plan was to explore personal, cultural, historical and social issues that formed us into the women and friends we are today. What made this project unique and meaty is that I am Caucasian and was raised in an affluent white suburb and she is African American raised in the segregated South. We hardly had anything in common, one would think and yet as very young girls we were already separate but equal.

Just as I was rounding the corner on my 24th piece in the series Marion got a nasty diagnosis which has halted her work on the project, diverting her attention rightly so to her health.

As I tried to wrap my head around this news I decided to make my final piece as a homage to her, my friend, which is titled Defining Moments 25: Homage. Not only are we rocking it as aging tall girl-friends, but she was my mentor for the Tall Girl Series, has always been so generous with sharing art biz, is one of the kindest women I know, an incredible storyteller, and very accomplished artist, both in the public and private sectors.

MENTOR

I gathered images of her person, her CV, artist statement, some of the pieces she created for this series. I digitally printed all to cotton sateen and pieced together with African fabrics. Only when it came to the photography of this final piece did I realize I basically made a textile of copyrighted material! You see we each own the copyright to our own work. So if you don’t tell her, I won’t.

I now feel completion with the Defining Moments series. I am still planning to tell stories as that is what I most enjoy, and have a few ideas in the queue. Stay tuned.

on intentions…

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Currents 25

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because to me they imply something needs fixing and one is bound to fail. Who needs that? I’ve spent the last 40 years shedding things that make me feel badly about myself. I need not conjure up new ones.

Instead I prefer intentions, or art goals. What would I like to accomplish in the approaching new year? And I write it down so at the end of the year I can see if I did it. For the most part, I do.

I don’t need to join a gym, or lose weight as I’ve been there, done that.¬†And I don’t want to do anything tangible every day for a year. I admire others who can do that, a collage a day, a stamp a day, a sketch a day, a stitched line, a novel page a day, whatever. To me, it is too much like homework or a job!

Besides I don’t think I really need more discipline. After all I am the one who set a goal of designing 25 large pieces in three years time and did it! So, yes I definitely need less structure and more fun!

I was thinking I might add a morning meditation as an intention, but that still feels a bit like a guilt trip. So maybe a mini intention, to work towards being mindful, say for 10-15 minutes each day. Of course this intention involves training others to either (a) join me or (b) not interrupt me to ask what I am doing, or if I am ok?! The answer to that takes me way out of mindfulness!

Perhaps the most manageable, the most reliable, the most possible intention of all is to do hand-work every night! As in what I did before the internet was born. To put down the iPad and the phone, and once again pick up needle/thread or needles/yarn and make something.

Ideally, it will serve several purposes; massage my creative gene, give me back that meditative time so challenging to maintain, and produce something. Way back in the last century before the internet, I knit almost every night. I have dozens of pairs of warm wooly socks that I still wear in winter, scarves for walking, a sweater or two and even a gorgeous wool coat. None of these would have happened if I had been solving a 300 pc puzzle online, or playing scrabble and mahjong against myself. And the bonus is I might go to sleep easier, not having to shut down my brain at night along with the devices.

So there you have it. My intentions for 2018 include staying grounded, retaining the muse and doing hand-work every night. I think I can handle that as they all tend to support each other. And if you see me prowling the internet some evening, don’t shame me. I feel bad enough about it already!

May 2018 be the year you figure out your best intentions, and follow through!

Happy New Year!

reflections on turning 70…

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

reflection of arch, st. louis, mo

As many know I offered a special inventory reduction sale of my work in honor of my turning 70. For what was supposed to be a 3-day event, I sold lots of early work to those who most loved it and wanted to live with it, or gift it to someone, who potentially will love it too!

It was one of the most gratifying things I have ever done. It was really validating that so many friends, other artists and complete strangers love my work and wanted it in their lives. And it was refreshing to cull some inventory from three closets and one cabinet in my home.

Before doing this, I pondered whether I would be devaluing the price of my work by selling for $70 ea? For me, the answer was simple. This one-time sale was about freeing up studio energy, which in turn clears my headspace and my willingness to share. It was not about money, not about art career goals, not about strategy. And that is probably why it all felt so good. It felt good for my work to be coveted. It felt good that people who might not otherwise be able to afford it, to own it. It felt good to prep older work to ship, to sign in thread those which had not been done before, to bid farewell to much loved colors, textures and designs. It was all a lovely and most gratifying experience.

So the first thing I learned since turning 70 was, if you want to do a quickie sale of your artwork, don’t announce it until the actual first day of the sale. I thought it prudent to put out advance notice a week ahead. I did not want to be processing orders on my birthday! The hits were fast and furious. I sold ten pieces in the first hour, a week ahead of time. By the time the official sale days arrived, there were only four pieces left!

Another thing I learned is there will always be people who want all my work for $70 ea, for which I got to practice saying NO. My favorite expression actually is …NO is a complete sentence!

For my birthday we went to a fabulous resort and spa on the Monterey Peninsula. We ate great food, indulged in a bit more wine & chocolate than usual, enjoyed the “Carol Cocktail” custom made by the bartender in honor of my big day, saw old friends, had a facial, revisited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and ate and slept like royalty!

I don’t know that I learned this so much as I re-acknowledged that I am not a spa person! Mostly I don’t like strangers asking me about my body parts, which always seems to happen in a spa. Sure it is unprofessional, but it happens and often, and I don’t like being put on the defensive when I am supposed to be there to relax!

It was a lovely spot, with all the amenities and yet I struggled to get out of the warming pool.¬†It was challenging to toddle around in men’s sandals which were way too wide for my long feet, which are way too long for the women’s sandals!¬†Just let me go barefoot already!¬†Just a weird combination of first world problems that annoyed me. So I re-learned, that I never have to go to a spa again!

And finally I learned that it is true, that by the time one hits this age we have definite likes and dislikes. We like our creature comforts. We like to sit on furniture made for tall folk and not have our knees dangling on the floor. We like to walk in shoes that fit. And we like to know when it is free day for tri-county residents at the aquarium, and not go on that day! You could say I am getting cranky, but in reality I am just getting smarter, one day at a time.

 

coming ’round the corner…

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

Defining Moments 23: The Aging Optimist

Today I photographed no. 23 in the Defining Moments series and put it up on my website. This piece, The Aging Optimist was another that sat in my head for weeks, figuring out how to design it. I had yet another roll of strips made of scraps from which I had started the series and I wanted to carry forth that same idea, although in the early work it referenced the Christian cross. On this piece I wanted it to represent the growing vine, the road traveled or any other metaphor for aging. I discovered though that the strip, already congested with many seams was not going to curve around and make a tight corner. So I cut it into sections, which almost resembles vertebrae and constructed my winding path from there.

strips that started the series

Now I am starting the text for no. 24. Again, all but done in my head, only to be done in real time and stitched. No. 25 is a true collaboration so no deadline stress! It will happen when it does. So there I am three plus years and 24 quilts later. A grand sense of accomplishment, indeed!

Throughout this project I have acquired both new skills and new equipment. The challenge remains to continue to create work that says something, tells a story, sparks conversation, gets people to think and put it out into the world. I do have my work cut out for me (haha)!

Meanwhile I have come up with a truly inspirational way to celebrate my 70th. Other than the spa day and dinner out, this is a way for me to spread the love and give back just a little bit. Stay tuned for the deets …

 

on deadlines…

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

scraps

Today while looking through birthday cards for all my favorite winter babies, I came across one with the grim reaper on it. Somehow it did not strike me as excessively funny.¬†Yet as one who is rapidly approaching a new decade, a BIG birthday (as if they are not all big) I didn’t find it particularly amusing. The punchline however was something about life having a deadline.

Which got me to thinking about the word deadline having the word dead as part of it. We never say I have a lifeline on Thursday unless of course we are anticipating some sort of help, escape or spa appointment. No we say I have a deadline on Thursday.

For me, the past 3.5 years of my art-making has been driven by a deadline. This self-imposed deadline is to finish the Defining Moments series by my 70th birthday. The idea of this partnership was each of us was to design and sew 25 big quilts before my December 2017 birthday. I am now designing #23 and where my partner in this project is, remains a mystery!

At least semi-annually my husband has said that I had put a big whambo (he has his own dialect) on myself in setting this deadline. I just brushed it off, half thinking he was right while the other half was driven to make it.

Because I keep great documentation of my work, I am able to share this exciting bit of trivia with you. For this series, in 2014 I made 4 pieces, 2015 was 5 pieces, 2016 was 6 pieces and year to date I have made 7.5 ! So clearly I function best with a deadline, grim reaper or not!

I did get a hitch in my deadline driven rhythm this week though when my wondrous dream machine had major tension problems. Hubs and I spent the better part of two days recording non-existent numbers & running the gamut from no tension to high tension on both top and bobbin. All this achieved was sheer frustration, an enormous waste of thread and several lovely samplers such as this. Finally I threw up the white flag, contacted the dealer, got his input and voila today finished stitching the background of no.23. I am back in business!

Granted I am not going to make the deadline, but I am so close that I am very pleased! This leaves me wondering what my next deadline will be?

stress inducer 101

inspiration in unexpected places…

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

doodle

Yesterday five women came to my studio to see what I do. This idea started over the course of a year when a long time friend from the local quilt guild said she wanted to be a ‘fly on the wall’ in my studio. Then another local friend of 40+ years mentioned that she too wanted to see my work and how I do it. Then a third wanted to see my work, and in turn invited two of her friends. It took the longest thread in the history of email to find a date that worked for all five people, as we of the retired tribe do love our travel!

I had some reservations as I am not big on being observed while working; just ask my husband! Nor do I much like doing Open Studios, which I have done once. I just want to make my work and essentially be left alone while doing so! Why else did my daughter hand-stitch a SCRAM sign for my studio door, years ago?!

The challenge for me was to figure out what parts of my process would be interesting to others, and how much time to allocate before my body would be unwilling to stand any longer. Finally I decided to demo the Thermofax screen-making process, the screen-printing process, stitching on the new love of my life, the Juki mid-arm, talk about digital fabric printing and lastly show some work that incorporated all of the above. I pulled about 8 or 9 pieces from my various series, and talked about each piece. I envisioned the visit lasting about two hours, with no refreshments, only art process.

It was delightful! There were lots of questions and photo taking and more questions.Two hours breezed by and my only physical complaint was minor voice strain. And the most unexpected thing happened. After they left I realized that I was so completely psyched about my own work! What greater inspiration to keep going?

Meanwhile…no. 22 in the Defining Moments series is finished, but not yet photographed. The second layer of paint was laid on the background of no. 23 during yesterday’s studio visit. The text for the overlay design is printed so this week I will get to batting & backing and get this puppy stitched, so that I can then design the piece. No. 24 has been rattling around in my head for weeks, and going through many configurations. After yesterday’s studio visit, it became abundantly clear exactly what I need to do, so this morning I trashed rendition #2 which was essentially creating way too much work for myself, and am now enthused about rendition #3!

I am now six weeks shy of the self-imposed deadline of 25 large pieces before my 70th birthday, but not the least bit worried. Rather I am excited about this huge endeavor I took on and have achieved. Stay tuned…

knowing when to stop…

Friday, August 4th, 2017

Defining Moments 20: The Harried Years, detail WIP

Knowing when to stop could apply to a lot of things in life. When to stop eating sugar, when to stop obsessing about your way too short haircut, when to stop expectations for others’ behavior, etc.

For me, in this moment knowing when to stop came last night as I laid yet one more layer on #20. This poor piece now has at least 6 layers of cloth and batt, with cotton and perle threads galore.

Decades ago when I was a weaver I had a mentor who said, if it looks incomplete, add more. I always have remembered that and have frequently put it to work. On the flip side is knowing when to stop. I have reached that point with this piece.

#20 is about the harried years, which for me were the 80’s and ’90’s when I was wife, mother, small business owner and employee in a medical office. I went swimming on my lunch hour, on the days that I was not driving my kid from daycare to preschool, then to elementary school, junior high and eventually high school. I was a ‘soccer Mom’ before soccer moms were cool! I was most often in my car, driving to work, to the grocery store, to the post office, to Brownies, 4-H, swim team, piano lessons, and so on. For the base of this piece I typed a list of words describing my life at that time, and screen printed the list to the cloth. I also screen-printed the same list to hand-dyed cloth to be used for lettering. On top of the background I layered the Brownie sash, a baby vintage ’79 t-shirt, an image of the cover of my favorite bedtime story (GoodNight Moon), the front of a hand-spun, handwoven baby bomber jacket I had created, the biz card from my yarn business, image of hubs and I in our respective hand-spun, hand-woven, sewn bomber jackets, a hand-stitched ‘how to’ book cover and pieces of a quilted pillow my grandmother had made for my daughter as newborn.

more letters…

Defining Moments 20: The Harried Years, detail How To book

Then I figured out how many of each letter I needed to spell out the words which I had previously screen-printed to the cloth. I decided not to use all the words of course as that would be too busy! First I cut Helvetica 2″ letters and fused and stitched those randomly, then I cut out Helvetica 3″ stenciled letters. I worried a bit about not having enough painted fabric for letters, so I painted more and continued to cut. In the end I had close to 50 extra letters! I laid the screen-printed stenciled letters on top of the printed background fabric and then hand-stitched each letter down, primarily to give it some contrast. The letters are fused but as we know that does not always hold into perpetuity. So I figured the hand-stitching added another layer of interest to this already busy piece. ¬†As I proceeded along I began to see quite clearly that it was next to impossible to read the lettering. There is not enough contrast between the painted background and the painted letters. I thought of my mentor long ago, just add more as I stitched along, for what seemed like forever, but was probably a month or so!

Defining Moments 20: The Harried Years, detail baby bomber jacket

Letters were all stitched and the piece went back up on the wall. Yep. Can’t read ’em! Oy vey, what to do now? Actually the first thing I did was start #21. I just needed an escape hatch from what was becoming a cumbersome piece.

Then I tried out pinning various widths of b/w strips under to the words to highlight them. That sort of worked but looked awful. So I ended up cutting little snippets of a curvy b/w stripe, fusing each one to a portion of each letter and then free-motion stitched them down. It actually made them slightly easier to read. Yet I knew I could not fathom putting one more thing on this piece! I knew it was time to stop.

The irony in all of this is the piece is about a harried time in my life. The piece is busy. Does harried not equal busy?! I think it works in some sort of bizarre way. When I have had a chance to photograph it in full, it will be up on my website but in the meantime these are just details.

After all… it is about the details!

 

peeling the onion, in reverse…

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Defining Moments 12: Motherhood, background under the needle

I have often heard it said that getting to know someone is like peeling an onion. My new style of working is more like peeling the onion, in reverse. It is a layering process.

Ever since I succumbed to the siren call of the mid-arm my whole style of designing has changed. Now, because I can, I stitch each piece in layers. First I piece the background and then quilt that. No more skies that start and stop at the edge of a building. Now the sky goes all the way across as a sky does. No more fused parts loosening up and dog-earring while stitching an entire piece. Now the machine appliqué parts are fused and then stitched, in their own time. It is so much easier and truly remarkable how much more professional the work looks doing it this way.

stitching text

I am currently wrapping up Defining Moments 19: Motherhood which has been a bear to create. It was a bear because I could not figure out what I wanted to say or how I wanted to say it.  I was reminded by my favorite aunt that motherhood for me was a challenge, and like all people, places or things that have challenged me in this life; they also have challenged me in the series. I was at a total loss for a design. I knew I needed to include Motherhood as a defining moment but oy, how? Finally I just sat down and started writing, free thinking if you will, just writing without editing. And what come out was remarkable.

free-writing, also screen the background

I wrote about how I never considered whether I wanted kids or not, because that is not what women in my generation did. We got married and had kids. It was the norm, it was expected. It’s what you did. Some might question how I could even admit that and yet I am here to tell you that my daughter, now grown, made¬†her own¬†decision not to have children, in her 20’s. When she told me, I thought what great courage and integrity it took to make that decision and do something about it. Perhaps her decision gave me permission to admit publicly I was uncertain if I should reproduce or not.

Another thing that came through the writing was my battle with postpartum depression. I struggled through it for many months and had never really spoken much of it, certainly not at that time. Those two issues alone make for a very strong piece about motherhood.

collage of daughter’s childhood images

Then I decided to then add something that personified the blessing that came to me through motherhood. So I made a collage on silk organza of some of the most wonderful photos of my daughter growing up. This adds the paradox of my motherhood experience; from all that worry and stress came this beautiful baby who grew into a woman of such integrity and conviction. She continues to be one of my greatest teachers, as I peel back the layers.

Happy Mothers Day!