Archive for the ‘Defining Moments’ Category

on aging…

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

The end goal for finishing the Defining Moments series of 25 pieces is my 70th birthday. Since I am now working on no.19 one could surmise that 70 is approaching. Yes, indeed this is the year, should I be fortunate enough, to reach my 70th birthday. I find that prospect both exhilarating and daunting. Mostly I think a lot about how is this even possible? How can a young person like me be turning 70?! Ha. Twenty five years ago I was in the prime of my life at 44 and 25 years ahead I could be pushing 100, which in my family is entirely possible.

the key looking great past 70 is….hang out with older people!

Aging is both a blessing and a curse. I tend to focus on the blessing, keeping in mind my three dear friends who lost cancer battles and did not have the opportunity. I left two of them behind in my fifties and another two years ago.

I tend to keep my focus on my art and seeing light, color, texture, pattern and shape in everyday life. There is, especially today, so much I could be worrying about other than the next birthday. In fact too many things to worry about, any of which make the following post both shallow and immaterial.

Yet occasionally I am reminded by media, other people or even my own mirror that I am gaining seniority. The two most recent examples were a cashier at Trader Joes who spoke to me but never looked at my face. I was down there somewhere. The very next day the receptionist where I have my hair cut took my cash, made my next appointment and not once looked at me. Initially her rendering me invisible made me angry until my glass half full mindset thought how sad is it to be her and never look anyone in the eye, to never make a connection¬†with another human being. Perhaps it’s the¬†digital mindset.

And yet there are still those little reminders; the distraction while driving to barely avoid someone in the crosswalk (is it my eyes, am I going blind?), the ‘senior moment’ where I ponder is this normal aging or dementia like my¬†sister and my father before her? The dermatologist who with her tight face mentions that ‘unfortunately there is nothing available for YOUR old crepey skin and if there was I would be rich.’ Well bitch according to this ad there is something available and you missed the boat.

If only you had been smart enough to think of this, doc

…how to avoid wrinkles…NOT!

My father used to tell me, as a teenager, that I should be more concerned with what’s¬†inside than outside. (Was this before or after I was surgically altered to have a better appearance?! hmmm…good question!)¬†Still¬†we are bombarded with the media’s obsessional images of “beautiful” with¬†few¬†of the examples over 50; although¬†now 50 seems really young compared to 70! In reality the key to looking youthful is to hang around with really old people;¬†and it did not take me years of expensive education to figure that out.

And remember when flying….sit next to the window with the shade up and take copious photos of the glorious tapestry below. I’d rather be an interesting, visually stimulated old lady than a lifeless, wrinkle free digitized humanoid any day! And it is looking less likely that I will be a ‘nice’ old lady! And get off my lawn…

another defining moment…

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Defining Moments 18: Inner Growth

I just finished and photographed no. 17 and 18 in the series. With a total of 25 to do the light is at the end of tunnel, for which I have mixed emotions. This series like life has had its ups and downs!

I LOVED no. 18 start to finish and now I am staring down no. 19 which is about motherhood. While I have written the text the design remains elusive. So I will take some time to do other creative things and hope inspiration hits me upside the head when I am not thinking about it.

Most folks who have known me for less than 20 years do not know I was a hand-weaver and spinner in another life. It all started in 1974 right after we bought our home. I signed up for an adult ed class in silk screening, but was the only person to do so. Rather than refund my money they offered me another class, so I reluctantly chose weaving.

The teacher was fabulous. She was enthusiastic and supportive and had lots of ideas, both in books and experience. We wove on a piece of cardboard that we had wrapped with string for warp. I used a purchased¬†hand-spun as weft, as¬†I was not spinning my own yarn at that time. I wove an owl which was about 12″ long x 10″ wide. Hubs cut two wood circles which I colored¬†with black circles for the eyes. I was instantly hooked¬†so¬†he made me several frame looms and an inkle loom. Shortly thereafter I bought a four harness floor loom which took up most of my current¬†studio space and set out to weave yards and yards of fabric. Because I hate following recipes or patterns and am math-averse I seldom wove enough of any one cloth¬†to make anything. That is when I really started to patch fabric and¬†create garments from¬†my woven fabrics.

I like to say that I discovered I could buy fabric already woven when I gave up the loom for art quilts 18 years ago. I sold the loom and bought a much smaller Thermofax machine for creating printing screens. The remnants of my handwoven cloth have languished since waiting for divine inspiration. Along came this series and voila! My hand-weaving was definitely a defining moment in my life. I knew from the get-go just how I wanted to present that.

I decided to make leaves of the handwoven remnants, and some garments which I actually cut into! I also used some hand-knit scraps and nuno felting which I had done in a workshop years ago. I fused all the leaves back to back and with the exception of two¬†types. ¬†I whip-stitched the leaf centers and outside edges. The two exceptions were a tumbling blocks woven in 1/4″ ribbon and a twill woven from mylar strips. Both of those were so fragile that I machine stitched an edge of Clover fusible bias.

And I wanted the background fabric to be wide enough so a tree looked balanced and bright enough to pop all the handwoven colors. It was tempting to stop at 44″ wide so as to fit a shipping carton but it grew all the way out to 51″ wide, finished. The bottom, or ground on this piece is a fabulous piece of art cloth from a mentor,¬†Els Van Baarle.¬†¬†I do believe in supporting the arts, and other artists!

fused and stitched tree branches with leaves

In designing the piece I knew the best way to stitch it would be in layers. So I stitched the background first, then I fused on the tree branches and stitched those, both in and outside the lines for depth. Then I pinned on the leaves. My initial intention was to hand-stitch the leaves on, but I started with machine stitching the aforementioned special leaves. At that point I was thinking, oh this is too easy so I machine stitched all the leaves on! I stitched only down the center of each leaf which secured it but allowed for the awesome 3-D effect.

woven mylar vest

The tree seems an appropriate image for this piece. For through 25 years of weaving and knitting I grew so much as a person. I listened to a lot of Oprah while in the studio. I read a lot of self-help books and developed a sense of self worth for the first time. This tree is really represents the tree of MY life and my growth as a creative and as a woman.

So this is my first 3-D quilt! And I am so happy with it. It is joyful, just exactly how I feel in my creative life. And it may just be the signature piece of the series!

on dream machines…

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

 

18 in process

Right after my blog post about the rationalization of why I should not buy a mid-arm machine, I decided to buy one! Two things suddenly occurred to me.

One, the idea kept resurfacing¬†while I kept shoving it down, so maybe it was supposed to happen?! And two, that I could have a big machine¬†upstairs if I simply got rid of the futon sofa in the office/guest room. Seriously how often do we have guests?! Like almost never. So why was I reserving this entire wall for the almost never guest and so¬†the dog could snooze all day on¬†said sofa? Once that came to me I felt as though I had been given a tremendous gift…aka permission to break rules, as in every home must have a guest room?!

It was quite the process to prepare for the new machine. I had to get rid of the futon sofa, have new lighting put in, shop for a machine, buy a machine and get it set up. Now all that has happened and just today I finished stitching my 2nd piece on the mid-arm. I stitched the background for no. 18 in the series before designing anything on it. The next layer will be a giant oak tree which I figured would be best stitched, if the background was already done. The top layer will be hand-stitched so much work in store.

When I learned to drive at 15 my mother drove a Mercedes which in my mind was a dream machine. My entire adult life up until about 10 years ago I was obsessed with someday buying a Mercedes. What happened about ten years ago is my non-Mercedes¬†had to go into the shop for two¬†days. I was instantly aware that I never would want to drive a car that had to be taken out of town to be serviced. So at that point I decided I didn’t much care what kind of car I drove, as long as it ran, was clean, had hubcaps,¬†no dents and¬†wasn’t American made. I do have my standards after all!

Today while stitching away listening to Cajun music it struck me that this new Juki mid-arm is definitely my dream machine! It goes really fast, only needs oil, and is not American made!  Cross that one off the list!

the muse is keeping me awake…

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

handwoven cotton vest

Anyone who makes art knows how exasperating the muse can be. There are times when she has entirely left the brain, the building and the planet and try as we might we cannot ‘rouse her, no matter how disciplined or urgent the need may be. Then there are times when she is simply there, waiting but we don’t have the time. I have learned the hard way to never let this happen. When she is present, she must be noticed, she must be paid attention to and she must be fed. I can play digital mahjong when she is fallow.

And then there are the times when she is so present, she is dancing on the table, singing off key, shouting obscenities, anything to get my attention. Here I am. Pay attention to me dammit! And do it now, this instant, even if it is 3 am in the morning. 

For me that time is now. For the past three nights I have designed many pieces of work, in my mind’s eye while lying in bed between 3 and 6 am.

I am currently finishing the design of #17 of 25 of the current series; while no. 18, 19 and 20 are pacing outside the window. That is what it feels like, as I try to sleep but all I can do is consider construction, how will I execute that idea, should I try to hand stitch all those leaves, would it work if I tried to pillowcase them or would that be an exercise in futility? How big should I make that tree, what about the background? Do I have enough in my stash or should I buy more? What color way do I want to work in? How many leaves should I make? And the most anxiety producing question of all is when I finish the piece can I actually toss out the remaining handwoven remnants?

handwoven cotton-linen bag

This next piece is about my journey through hand-dyeing, hand-spinning and hand-weaving. It began when I was in my late 20’s and concluded at 50. In thirty years I wove all kinds of yardage and made garments, bags and scarves. I sold some, I gave a lot away and I sewed and wore some. Several¬†years ago, after I outgrew most of it¬†I gathered up a big pile¬†and shoved into a drawer in my studio, the famous someday drawer. Someday I will do something with this; until two years ago¬†I realized someday is here and I need to do something with it or get rid of it. So no. 18 is that something! I am excited at the prospect of the design I wish to create and yet still clearly in discussion with muse about how to actually achieve it, to communicate the idea without destroying the woven and knit cloth.

handwoven silk shirt

Ironically I am also experiencing the call of the spring cleaning genie which I am ignoring as best as I can. I don’t want to get sidetracked into tidying when I can actually be designing. And¬†I did the really big purge a year ago so how much can there be to sort through anyway? ¬†When no. 18 is complete I can depart with whatever remains of the handwoven cloth!

The essential ingredient in being able to let go of old and prized textiles, such as my wedding dress and now my handwoven is in creating something new and beautiful from them; essentially giving them new life. I need not drag around the remnants of old life for the rest of mine. It is quite liberating this art making!

 

 

 

and they said it wouldn’t last…

Friday, January 27th, 2017

detail of screen-printing, vintage crochet and bridesmaid dress fabric

Yesterday I finished the wedding dress piece...hurrah! I started¬†Defining Moments 16: Marriage early last year¬†by dismantling my wedding¬†dress. Then I¬†screen-printed our vows to the dress fabric as well as some of the flannel lining. I hand-stitched a strip of lace from the dress, fused on bridesmaid dress fabric in squares of various sizes, free-motion stitched the entire background, hand-stitched a photo image of the happy couple walking down the aisle onto my headscarf, hand-stitched my great grandmother’s hand crocheted headscarf to the piece and then, drumroll hand-stitched the entire headscarf on top of the crocheted scarf to the then¬†5 layers of cloth. That last step took many weeks but was so worth it because I love how it all turned out.

My husband helped me carry it downstairs to photograph. When I asked him what he thought he said HUH!  Man of few words then, man of fewer, now 45+ years later!

It was so fulfilling to me to make this piece. Many on social media thought it criminal that I was tearing apart and painting my wedding dress while I queried, what am I to save it for?¬†My¬†mother who made it would’ve been honored to see what I did with it, I believe. And for me the screen-printing and stitching of the

detail of hand-stitching

vows was a bit of a renewal in itself.

Onward to #17…

musings…

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

detail of screen-printed wedding dress, lace and bridesmaid dress

In 2012 right after my Dad died and I was recovering from my second knee replacement, I felt like I needed a lifeline. I had been ruminating for at least two years beforehand¬†about creating¬†a mixed media women’s art group. So I chose 7 regional artists to join me, and six accepted. One from my past life in fiber, another three I knew from the arts council¬†and¬†functions there, while others¬†I knew of their work but had never met them.

It was important to me that they be working in different media than I and that they were already established, with a list of juried exhibitions, website, sales history etc. I had been in groups where I was the only one with that history and there was nothing for me to learn. I wanted more! We had our first meeting, set up ground rules and started right in inspiring each other with our work and process.

Now nearly 5 years since, the group has redefined our intention, seen changes and moves, lost members, gained members, retaining three original and settled¬†into a very comfortable¬†dynamic.¬†Now we are a group of six, three here and three in Sonoma and it just feels so right. We rotate each month, meeting in each other’s homes and/or studios. Although my original intention was fewer fiber and more other media, we now are comprised of five who work with fiber (paper and cloth) and one who works with metal;¬†yet none of us does exactly the same work. And all of us have long marriages, which that in of itself in today’s world is¬†both unusual and spectacular!¬†One of the things I enjoy¬†most about this group is the wisdom that transfers between¬†us as we each move in,¬†out and through our individual creative processes.

Last week I had been asked, by a visiting artist friend, how much time I spend in the studio?¬†She asked me if I work in the studio every day? I laughed…hardly! It varies I said but I guesstimate I work in the studio on average 7-10 hours a week. And yet that seems so completely inaccurate to me so perhaps¬†I should keep track. Or maybe count the times I walk past the door?

In¬†yesterday’s art group meeting the subject of studio time came up.¬†Not so much from the how much time do you spend in the studio part but more from the how much time is spent in contemplation and research for each new work? It was then that I really¬†comprehended¬†that so¬†many of my waking hours are spent contemplating the message for¬†each piece in¬†the¬†Defining Moments series. In¬†addition there is thoughtful consideration of how, as in technique to implement that message so when the viewer looks at the piece they understand what I¬†am conveying.

A lot more time goes into thinking about the construction. I used to be very spontaneous in my work, and still am to some extent; but there is also careful thought¬†of just how to construct it to get the most impact; and that thought occurs everywhere, in the shower, at the gym, while driving, ‘watching’ TV, when I should be sleeping, etc. Then there is the stitching. As I am incorporating more hand-stitching into my work¬†I ponder a lot about that.

Most recently I have also dealt with my¬†inner perfection critic… just how perfect these stitches must be?! I used to say I was a recovering perfectionist but clearly there is more work to be done on that front! I find it rather¬†remarkable that I am so drawn to hand-stitching, and sometimes actually crave it, yet when I do it, it’s so tight. A good metaphor for the state of my brain perhaps. So there is more thinking about relaxing¬†which is truly¬†ironic, although a good overall trait to possess.¬†When all of this is added up it seems I spend hours and hours and hours on the process, but maybe just 7-10 hours a week actually applying hand to fabric.

hand-stitching my headscarf through 4 layers of lace, cloth and batting

That said I am putting the final stitches, by hand, onto #16 which is about our marriage, which truly was a defining moment in my life. Because I thought I would be through by now, #17 is being drafted and #18 insisted on 3 am contemplation last night.  So progress is being made on the final 9 pieces of this series, which I still very much enjoy even if it takes up most of my headspace.

So how much time do I spend on my art weekly? How many hours are there in a week?

 

 

it’s the little things…

Monday, December 19th, 2016

the image I wanted to stitch to cloth…just married (1971)

One of the things I most enjoy about this series work is I am continually challenged by how to convey my message or tell the story. The piece I have been working on (#16) these past weeks is about our marriage. A couple months ago I began the prep work by dismantling my wedding dress, which my mother had sewn from heavy cotton pique, lined with cotton flannel. This dress was so well constructed & sturdy, I could have gotten married in the Arctic in January, instead off spring in the Bay Area. After I took the dress apart, I made Thermofax screens of our vows from a fill-in-the-blank book gifted by the preacher.

I printed not only the dress fabric but some of the flannel as well. Additionally, I had retained one bridesmaid dress which was also made by my mother. The wedding theme was based on my Russian heritage. The bridesmaids and I wore headscarves and their dresses were of a flimsy, but lined, cotton voile in a red/white/blue paisley print.

the headscarf upon which I wanted the image

The dresses were ‘granny’ style with a wide ruffle at the bottom. Initially I thought to incorporate the ruffle into the new piece but nothing about that spoke to me. I decided instead to fuse different size squares onto the now pieced wedding dress background. That gave¬†the entire piece a bit of a whimsical feel which certainly was not my intention, but worked!

I hand-stitched a piece of the dress lace vertically to the piece. Then I basted my great grandmother’s hand crocheted lace headscarf to the base and hand-stitched that down. Only in doing so did I find a few areas of disintegration that previously were invisible to the¬†eye.

My idea was to then layer and hand-stitch my headscarf on top; but something was missing. It didn’t¬†quite feel right as the¬†headscarf was a large triangle bound in trim and¬†essentially blank¬†in the middle. So I decided to hand-stitch¬†the image of hubs and I walking down the aisle onto the headscarf before I stitched it to the base.

the reverse showing the image printed to silk organza

That became my challenge. I didn’t want to trace it and potentially ruin the one and only priceless heirloom. I thought of several options but none seemed right, so I asked an¬†artist friend and a mentor for their opinions. And voila, from that came the solution. I printed the image onto silk organza which I pinned onto the back of the headscarf heirloom. Then I gingerly placed it into a hoop and stitched the image through to the headscarf. Only after I lost the light when the sun went down did I realize I could perfectly see the image from the reverse side, so I flipped it over and stitched from the reverse, remembering to knot accordingly. Ah success.

the finished stitching of the image onto the headscarf

In today’s morning light I cut away the printed organza on the back side and voila! I have exactly what I wanted.

It’s the little things that bring so much joy!¬†Onward to the next layer…

 

2nd layer showing part of GGM’s headscarf and bridesmaid fabric on top of screen printed dress…stay tuned!

 

15 down, 10 to go…

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016
Defining Moments 15: Finding Mr. Right

Defining Moments 15: Finding Mr. Right

I recently finished no. 15 in the Defining Moments series! Now with just ten more to meet our goal I am really feeling the momentum. However, I must pause to whip up some small bags for the arts guild so have pieced the background of no. 16 to inspire me from the wall.

The interesting part to me of no. 15 is I probably would have given the box to charity if I had come across it before I was working on this series.¬†Thirty years ago we moved my mother-in-law to assisted living and cleaned out her home to sell it. I had long forgotten that we brought a box of hubs’ scouting stuff,¬†old photos and stuck it in the attic. Only last year when we¬†performed a massive attic cleansing did this box reappear. It sat for a while in the basement, the other out of sight, out of mind location. Then the box came upstairs and I began to look at the treasure within. By that time I had started this series and knew these items would be invaluable to it at some point. To think I might have otherwise donated to charity for some Halloween costume makes me shutter now.

detail, Defining Moments 15, Eagle Scout sash

detail, Defining Moments 15, Eagle Scout sash

So no. 15 is about meeting my husband aka Mr. Right. This piece contains his Boy Scouts of America shirt, which was pristine as it had been mounted to cardboard by his stepmother.

Defining Moments 15: detail

Defining Moments 15: detail

I also used his Eagle Scout sash and shirt, print transfers of the Eagle Scout commendation dinner, newspaper articles and a journal article about this achievement, photos of him as a teenager, high school graduation, in the Army and the insignia patch from his fire department uniform. And since we met by a computer match in 1970, I added a custom image of data cards as well.

It seems each piece I do I am learning something, gaining new perspective which is really something I did not anticipate. For example no. 9: The Homemaker was about my mother’s occupation as homemaker¬†who¬†had a black domestic who did many of the tasks. The epiphany¬†in doing that piece¬†was that my mother pretty much solely raised three children as my father traveled on business about 80% of the time. How she did that and survived is way beyond me!

No. 15 really reaffirmed what an all-American guy I met and married. A Boy Scout and Eagle Scout, Army vet and firefighter. It doesn’t get much more all-American than that, and he has been my personal hero for 45 years.

wedding dress screen-printed, background for no. 16

wedding dress screen-printed, background for no. 16

In preparation for the next piece no. 16 which is about marriage, I screen-printed and embroidered our vows to my dismantled wedding dress. I was one who never wanted to renew my vows as it seemed all too redundant. And yet in stitching and printing them I felt a sense of renewal. This is the start of no. 16 which is the upcycled dress fabric.

detail, screen-printed wedding dress fabric

detail, screen-printed wedding dress fabric

In the aforementioned box of treasure was an old photo envelope. The photos were relocated but the negatives remained and were mostly of hubs as a young lad.

I decided these also were too precious to toss so I stitched them to screening and have now hung it in the bathroom window. It is really fun!

vintage negatives stitched to screen

vintage negatives stitched to screen

great news…

Monday, September 26th, 2016
detail, Defining Moments 12: No Means NO

detail, Defining Moments 12: No Means NO

Apparently I did not blog post earlier about this piece and now I have very wonderful news. The Cliff Notes version is Defining Moments 12: No Means NO has been juried into the biennial Quilt National 2017.

With just 11% of the entries chosen for the 2017 exhibit it is a highly competitive process to have one’s work accepted. I have entered other years and my work never¬†made the cut. The last time I entered was 2009 as knee replacements stole my attention after that. This year I entered just the one piece as I¬†felt it conveyed¬†a very important message as well as good crafts(wo)manship. Traditionally the rules have disallowed online publication of said work before the exhibit opens, so the piece is not on my website nor have I posted it in total anywhere. But I will give you a taste, a detail of the hand-stitching which made this work so remarkable.

The design¬†evolved¬†when the Stanford swimmer got such a lenient sentence for his sexual assault on campus. His ‘victim’ wrote a very profound letter which stirred my repressed feelings about my own campus rape over¬†50 years ago. I got really angry, and I felt shame (for not reporting it). I¬†was just about to¬†commit to fight for social justice for women on college campuses nationwide when¬†I realized I hate being an activist! I’d rather make art. So make art I did. I made a new #12, squeezing it between two previous pieces in the series.

I screen printed my own story to white cotton, slashed to represent the shattering of my sense of personal safety and trust, and then hand-stitched like crazy. As I neared the bottom of the piece my stitching became much more intense and deliberate. Afterwards I realized that was old emotion leaking though.

There has been some rumbling on social media from artists whose work was declined. Some say no one wants to see narrative work, no one wants to be told a story. They want to see only beautiful quilts, work they would love to hang in their home. To these artists I say three things.

One, everyone is different. If we were all the same and made all the same work, how bloody boring would that be? Secondly, while I appreciate a beautiful quality piece suitable for the living room as much as the next person, I feel storytelling/narrative work also has a place. It takes great courage to excavate these old stories but in doing so¬†we give others permission to think about and tell their own…and everyone has a story! This work starts conversation. Just think what a different world we would live in if more people felt permission to speak their truth instead of bury it in addiction or aggression. And finally,¬†it is simply¬†good¬†karma to be happy for your colleagues’ success.

 

coming up on #15…

Friday, August 19th, 2016
memorabilia photo collage

memorabilia photo collage

After an incredibly short month, a quick trip, a class, and a whole lotta hand-stitching I finished the new #12 not to be confused with the former #12. My reward for same was that I strained my dominant rotator cuff from all the hand-stitching. So I have spent most of this week recovering and finally today was able to get back into the gym, and into the studio.

Now back to where I was before I interrupted the series. Number 15 is about hubs. It’s interesting the stuff that is saved for us by our parents and that we then choose to save for ourselves. A couple years ago we found treasure in the attic, i.e. a box of his scouting paraphernalia: his Boy Scout shirt front which had been super glued to a stiff piece of cardboard, intention unknown; his Eagle Scout shirt respondent in patches and decoration, his Eagle Scout sash with 24 badges, plus all the paperwork for the accomplishment, the menu from the celebratory dinner, the letter from the then president of the BSA, a newspaper clipping about it in Swedish, another in English and a journal article. Most of this is going into this piece, or rather on to this piece as well as his Army photo, a couple great teenage photos¬†and fire department imagery. The shirt will be sewn on last.

Undoubtedly there are some who would criticize my use of these materials, as if I am destroying them. I met with some of the same resistance when I decided to dismantle and paint my wedding dress. I figure those who are overly sentimental have never truly cleaned out their attic or even begun to think about where all this ‘treasure’ will go when they are no longer here. I am simply upcycling, making art out of treasured cloth, which to me is far more exciting that having it sit in a musty box in the attic, to then someday be given to charity so some kid can wear it for Halloween.

I am pretty stoked to be on #15 (out of 25). It feels as though I have reached the peak of the mountain and am on the downhill slide. It feels good, and yet still so enjoyable.