Saturday, December 31, 2011

Daily art for 2012

We're almost to Happy New Year!  The first of January is a time for resolutions and plans, and for several years my plans have always included an art project.  Since 2001, with only one exception, I've always performed "daily art" -- a project in which I sew, make, photograph or do something every day.  I have found that the discipline of making art all the time according to defined rules has improved my eye, juiced my creativity, helped me through dry periods -- and been a lot of fun. 

Part of the fun, as we hit November and December, is thinking about what I'm going to do next.  Sometimes I rehearse my ideas to see if they will really work, and have abandoned some that didn't.  Always nicer to find that out in December than on January 5 when it's too late to start a new plan.  (Well, it's never too late to start a new plan, but I do like having the complete year.)

So here are my plans for 2012.

First, my daily art project is going to involve hand-stitching.  I've been doing a lot of hand-stitching in the last year, spurred by a collaboration with Terry Jarrard-Dimond.  Although embroidery was the first needle art I ever did, taught by my grandmothers when I was five or six years old, I hadn't done much of it in recent decades.  But I've rediscovered it, and decided I love it.

So, this year's project will be to hand-stitch a piece of solid color cotton each day.  I'm going to start with four-inch squares, but reserve the right to change the size later.  No rules on how much or what kind of stitching, what kind of thread, etc., and I'll wait till the end of the year to decide how to join and display the 366 pieces.  I'll show you some of the pieces as I make them.

Second, I'm going to continue posting photos to this blog.  I started the blog two years ago as a vehicle for my 2010 daily art project, which was to take a good photo every day.  In 2011 I changed the rules so that I continued to post every day, but didn't require the picture to be taken that very day.  This made life easier, especially when we traveled out of easy Internet access.  It also allowed me to do some "theme weeks" in which I chose groups of photos.

I learned that I really loved the theme groupings.  For a long time I have been shooting photos in groups, keeping my eyes open for favorite subjects.  And I enjoyed four weeks of collaboration with Linda McLaughlin last year in which we each posted photos on a theme.  So I've redefined my photo project for 2012.  This year I'm going to post a group of themed photos every week.  I think I'll enjoy choosing the themes, and maybe you'll help me by suggesting others -- after all, we've got 53 weeks and that's a lot of themes!

Stay tuned, and I'll keep you posted on my daily art as I make it.

And remember, it's not too late to start a daily art project of your own for 2012.

Photo du jour

palm view

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Student work

A couple of weeks ago we visited of St. Olaf College in Northfield MN, where our son had attended.  I always like to check out the art school when we hit a college campus, and was happy to encounter a student show.  Most students, particularly undergrads, are still on the heavy-handed side, with more technique than substance at their disposal, so it can be a bit frustrating for the viewer.  (And probably also for the teacher.)

But here was one that made me laugh out loud.






















Andy Kreienkamp,  Why are you even looking back here?


You had to lift the art to find the signage, hence the title.

Photo du jour

sea creature

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas! or whatever...

We have two shoeboxes in the hall closet labeled "Christmas cards" -- the ends and dregs of decades worth of card purchases.  I've always thought it was classy to buy new cards each year, so that all of them would match.  Kind of a dumb idea, when you think of it -- I don't suppose our friends from San Francisco are likely to be examining the cards hung from my sister's mantel in Virginia and noticing that they didn't get the same model.  But we persist.

This year we found ourselves under unexpected stress, since my surgery.  I'm recovering very well but am exhausted much of the time, certainly not up to a trip to buy new Christmas cards.  So we hauled our shoeboxes down and inspected them to see if we could make do with our existing supplies.  Any Christmas card that could be associated with an envelope went on the pile.  Some were more than 40 years old, bought when we lived in Germany.  Some were singletons, others had several copies.  Some were big, some were little; some had Madonnas, others had Santas.  Some said Merry Christmas, others Happy Holidays.  We had fun matching cards to recipients, using big ones for those with letters, small ones for those needing no additional messages. 

I recall a few years ago when some friends did a similar project, except theirs were the giveaway cards they had received from charities in fundraising efforts.  Our friends' message was apropos: they warned us that their greeting was not to be taken as an endorsement of any charity nor a suggestion to contract the disease in question.

To all my internet friends, please accept my very best greetings for your holidays, whatever kind you celebrate.  Want a manger scene?  Want a menorah?  Want a cute little dog on the snowy rooftop?  Want an original UNICEF art card?  Think of what would make you happiest, and let's imagine that I'm sending it to you right now.

Photo du jour

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fashion forward again

Even a broken watch tells the right time twice a day.  And even those of us who don't worry about fashion sometimes find ourselves ahead of the curve.  You just have to sit in your accustomed place and do your normal thing as the cycles of fashion sneak up behind you, and then -- wow!  You're hot!

I was pleased but not surprised to find that it has happened again, as I read in the New York Times last week that the latest must-have accessory is a canvas tote bag.  "The tote might be the ideal carryall for these post-luxury recessionary times. The tote’s status is stealth. It telegraphs not money but access, ethics, culture — encapsulating the idea ... that happiness grows more through experiences than purchases."

I have been there for a long time.  Shortly after I retired, a decade ago, I made a life-changing decision, which was to stop carrying a purse.  I had shlepped too many tons of irrelevant crap through too many airports in my business career, and when I realized I didn't have to do that any more, life got better.  I downsized to a little card case that I carry in my pants pocket, just big enough for a license, a credit card and a couple of bills. 














If I was carrying other things -- date book, handwork, kleenex, comb, checkbook, camera -- I would put them into a canvas bag.  I took to maintaining many different canvas bags, which lived in different places and were always ready to go, such as one with crocheting to take to meetings; one with crayons, books and kid stuff to go with me to my volunteer work; one that accumulates things to take to grab bag at my fiber art group.  Sometimes I carry two bags at once.  My collection of canvas bags grew larger and more exotic over the years, until I suddenly find myself in the flush of fashion.

Of course the New York fashionistas seem to be carrying slightly different tote bags than I do.  The article cites bags from big-name designers' shows and Halloween parties, fancy restaurants, international artists and celebrity charities.  Mine are a bit more eclectic but I like to think much more exclusive than those mentioned in the Times.

Sure, everybody needs a reminder or two of the global financial crisis.  When the good times rolled, the fancy firms got really great bags!  After it all hit the fan, family members of those employees left to sweep out the closets and turn out the lights got some nifty hand-me-downs.

International art mementoes are always good.

Travel souvenirs, exotic and not so much.






















Stains attest to the fact that I actually use these bags -- only working status symbols in this household.

As the Times wrote, access, ethics, culture.  Here's the one I bet you'll never see in New York:


And its flip side.  Now there's a statement for the ages.






Photo du jour

red leaf

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011

More prints gone upscale

No sooner had I encountered a whole room full of commercial print fabrics on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts than I walked up a floor and found a sculpture by Yinka Shonibare that featured -- they're everywhere!! -- commercial print fabrics.

Yinka Shonibare, Dressing Down, 1997

















Shonibare, a Nigerian artist, often uses batik prints associated with African or Indonesian fabrics to construct period European clothing, juxtaposing both sides of the imperial/colonial relationship.

Considering the subtext of the artist's identification with the exploited rather than the exploiters, I have always wondered whether Shonibare does his own sewing or sends it out to some nameless operative. An hour searching on the Internet failed to answer the question.

But it did find a couple of interesting scholarly papers pointing out that the batik fabrics used in Shonibare's work have a complicated history.

Originally, prints like these were made in Indonesia.  In the 1800s Dutch traders attempted to make similar fabric in Europe and sell to the Indonesians (didn't work; the Dutch cloth wasn't as high quality as the originals).  The European fabrics were then sold to Africans, still bearing the Indonesian-inspired designs, where today they are regarded as the next best thing to indigenous.  And Shonibare purchases the fabric for his works at markets in London.

Which reminds me of a beautiful length of batik that I bought in Antwerp several years ago.  In that Belgian city, like many other places in Europe, we saw many people wearing African dress, and happened upon some fabric shops that specialized in batiks.  Unfortunately, all the fabric came in five-meter pieces, apparently the length needed for a standard outfit (flowing dress plus headwrap).  I really wanted ten half- or quarter-meter cuts of different patterns, but had to settle for one big piece, as we were doing the Low Countries by train (and foot) with limited luggage space.  It took me a long time to decide on this one from the dozens and dozens of spectacular patterns.

Note how the selvage on the yellow edge of the fabric is in French; on the blue side it's in English.  I think UNTL is the logo of the fabric company.

I've used a few small bits of this fabric in quilts but a big hunk remains.  Probably not enough to make a victorian dress with a bustle and ruffles.


Photo du jour

quilt pattern

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Print fabrics gone upscale

After carrying on a lot recently about the commercial print fabrics in my stash and whether they are in any way, shape or form art-worthy, I was amused to find a display of print fabrics in a museum.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts had a special exhibit of British print fabrics from the 1970s, an extravaganza of Op Art design that whisked me back in time.

























The signage explained:  "Technological and stylistic change characterized the American and European printed textile industry in the 1970s.  On the process front, manufacturing advances eliminated the guesswork of hand screen-printing and created a technical and artistic precision that had previously been unattainable....

"By the 1970s, a new generation (of designers) embraced the optical illusions of the Op Art movement.  They produced designs inspired by computers, machinery and minimalist architecture...  Stylistically, these printed textiles effused energy and movement through repetition of form, strong graphics and bright color ranges."

As a lover of selvages, I was happy to see the fabric displayed with its beautiful ID markings visible.






















Heals was a high-end fabric manufacturer in the UK; Barbara Brown was their star designer.

And don't you wish you had three or four yards of this gorgeous stuff?  I could certainly think of something to make with it.


Photo du jour

found art

Monday, December 12, 2011

Change of plans

What I was supposed to do last week:              What I did last week:

Tuesday: attend a going-away                             got sick
reception for my dear fiber art friend
and her husband who are leaving town

Wesdnesday: get my 2011 Christmas                 got sicker
ornaments in the mail

Thursday:  attend the holiday party for             got sicker
my fiber and textile art organization

Friday: keep sewing on a new quilt that             had a CAT scan
I started in a frenzy of enthusiasm earlier
in the week

Saturday: go to the opening reception                 had my gall
for the 42nd Annual Mid-States Craft                 bladder removed;
Exhibit in Evansville IN, to receive                      went home three
an award of merit                                                    hours later

For next week: scratch the parties and the Christmas lunch, hope to get the ornaments in the mail, read some trash novels and maybe do some handwork.  It only hurts when I laugh, which is too bad because I'm feeling pretty happy to have been diagnosed and fixed so quickly -- and on a weekend yet!  It's a far cry from the greatest healthcare system in the world, but when it works, and for us lucky folks who can afford to participate, it does have its moments of glory.

Photo du jour

ice scene

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Print fabric update

I've been writing recently about how I can't figure out how to use my huge stash of commercial prints.

But wait! I had occasion last week to use one in a quilt! And not a throwaway quilt, not a baby quilt, not a placemat, but something that could become part of a new art series.  I'm not ready to share the full view with you, as it's not quilted yet, but it is sure DIFFERENT!

Interestingly, when I decided I needed a hunk of print, I knew exactly which fabric I wanted. It was a print left over from a dress, I think, probably dating back to the 80s or very early 90s. And to my delight, I was able to go to the right drawer and find it, and it was perfect for the quilt, just as I had thought it would be.

This a large-scale print -- what you see in this photo is about 15 inches across.  You might wonder at first glance how on earth it's going to fit into a quilt made by somebody whose art style might well be described as austere.  Or at least austere-wannabe.

I think one answer is that the print is so large and the shapes so unrecognizable that it appears in the quilt simply as a field of color rather than as flowers or fish. 

But it is DIFFERENT and that has given me a nice jolt of excitement.  I'll keep you posted on how this quilt turns out and whether any more prints will be allowed out of their drawers and into the art world. 







Photo du jour

guarding the museum

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Internet friends 2

I've written in the past about internet friends and how pleasant it is to meet them in person if the fates smile on you.  Let me tell you about one of my earliest -- and most distant -- internet friends, Olof Davidsdottir, who lives in Iceland.

In 2003 we took a trip to Greenland which started off with a day of free time in Reykjavik.  I knew that Olof, one of the frequent participants on the Quiltart list, lived in Iceland so I emailed her and asked for suggestions about what to do while we were there.  To our absolute delight, she asked where we were staying and said she'd pick us up.  She gave us the city tour, including the only quilt shop in Iceland.  Then we picked up her husband Snorri from his work and drove to Thingvellir, a national park/magical place about 20 miles outside of Reykjavik.

You may know that Iceland has the world's oldest parliament, which first met in 930.  Until 1789 the parliament met at Thingvellir, an open-air venue that still has remains of rock slabs where prominent families would pitch their camps when parliament was in session.  Yes, they continued to meet outdoors all that time.  You had to be tough to live here!

Thingvellir sits on the rift between the North American and Eurasian geologic plates -- which means you can stand with one foot in North America and the other in Europe.  The land shows many signs of geological turmoil, such as lava rock, chasms and upthrust rock fissures.





Olof's husband, my husband, and Olof walk ahead through the rift

As we explored the site, Olof took us to an area where her family would camp when she was a child.  How much more intimate and wonderful than the commercial guided tours!

I had asked Olof if I could bring her something that was hard to get in Iceland and she asked for Schmetz topstitch needles.  Even with several Schmetz packets and lunch, it was the cheapest and greatest five-star tour we've ever taken.

So fast forward to the present; Olof and I have stayed in touch by email and having perfect English, she reads my blog, although I can't read hers.  But she has started video blogging as well, and last week she responded to my recent post about striped fabrics.  She's speaking Icelandic, but has provided English subtitles, so all us underachieving monolingual dolts can get the message too.

Photo du jour

just wallpaper

Monday, December 5, 2011

Goodbye quilts

I wrote last week about my love of commercial prints, and how I am chagrined to realize how many fabrics in my stash are pretty disgusting.  Don't know whether this is a function of overall changing tastes (I sure had a lot of yucky browns and beiges dating back to the earth-toned 70s) or to my own growing discrimination as an artist.
 
About ten years ago in a period of creative blight I decided to make a bunch of "goodbye quilts." These were made from the ugliest, most misbegotten fabrics in my possession, without much worry about design or composition. They were generally large-lap-sized and used traditional quilt blocks. The rule was that if anybody expressed an unsolicited positive comment about one of these quilts, they got to take it home, and it was surprising how many pieces got to leave under those circumstances.


Some of them went to the Holocaust Museum in Houston in 2001, where Rachel Brumer had an exhibit of her quilts about holocaust victims. She wanted to be able to give quilts to museum visitors as an expression of human compassion, and I was pleased to send her some of mine to put on the pile.

I called them goodbye quilts because I got to say goodbye to these pathetic fabrics without actually incinerating them. Even though the quilts were pretty awful-looking, it gave me a thrill to turn them into something useful, and to have them leave my premises.  And after I had made a dozen or so goodbye quilts I found that my creative block had disappeared and I was ready to tackle something more demanding and rewarding.

I'm sorry that most of the goodbye quilts came and went in the days before I owned a digital camera and had gotten into the habit of documenting everything I made.  The two shown here are the only images I can find of that series.






















Today my stash doesn't include as many dogs as it did a decade ago, thank heaven.  I'm now down to a truckload of prints that are still mostly appealing to me, even if I don't know what to do with them.