Monday, October 31, 2016

My new art endeavor

After thinking about it for years, I decided to apply for, and have been accepted to membership to Pyro Gallery, a local co-op with about 20 members.  I think I'm ready for a different kind of opportunity to display my work, after years of relying mainly on juried shows where you have one piece up for a short period of time.  For one thing, I have dozens of pieces that have aged out of all the juried shows, although they have been seen only rarely and I'm still very proud of them.

The gallery has hired a marketing consultant who is spending time with each artist to look at our work and make suggestions.  Our immediate goal is to fill the gallery for a pre-holiday show of more affordable art, aka smaller things.  Since I've been mostly working on a huge scale for the last several years, I went through boxes and boxes of old work to haul out some small things to show him.  And I changed out the quilt on my big display wall to hang one of my old postage stamp pieces.

Originally I intended this quilt to drip down into a pile of "stamps" on the floor, but since my big wall at home descends with the basement stairs, I was able to let it hang to full length.

Postage 4: Spaghetti Sauce, 2008 (installed on floor)

Postage 4: Spaghetti Sauce, 2008 (installed on tall wall)

The consultant thought the most original and interesting things were the postage stamp quilts (I had some smaller ones as well as the big one on the wall).  His reason was that they were different from the standard quilt format and therefore would be more likely to catch the eye of a designer or buyer.

That wasn't surprising.  What was: second on his list were a batch of "quilts" I had made many years ago with tea bags and rust-stained fabrics.

I hadn't even brought them out to show him at first, but as he was leaving I said "take a look at these and be honest -- if you think they're too insubstantial or too schlocky, please tell me."  But he liked them a lot.

Again, he thought these were different, and that the neutral colors would be appealing to a lot of people.  Apparently in California, where he's from, tea bars are all the rage these days, like coffee shops were 20 years ago, and tea aficionados would be thrilled to have tea bag art in their homes.  (Not sure that's true in Kentucky, but I'll put a couple of them out and see what happens.)

I'll keep you posted!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Fiber art and encaustic 3 -- Linda McLaughlin

Early this month I had the pleasure of visiting Linda McLaughlin in her studio and couldn't help but fall in love with her encaustic paintings.  Knowing that she's primarily known as a fiber artist, I had to ask how she made the leap into encaustic.

Q.  How long have you been doing fiber art / how long have you been doing encaustic?

I have been sewing for 60 years; about 25 years ago I got really serious and creating my own work became a driving force. 

I first became aware of encaustic about 6 years ago and 5 years ago I went to an encaustic camp to learn more. I was very enthralled at first but my interest has faded. I keep thinking I should do more, but then never do. 

Q.  Did you feel that encaustic was a natural progression from your fiber work, or a totally new thing?

I approached encaustic as a new thing and then tried to find ways of including fiber. I've even thought of doing a relatively large piece of fiber art and then encasing it in encaustic on a wood panel.  I even have the panel (20" x 24").  I just need to do it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Fiber art and encaustic 2 -- Shelley Baird

Shelley Baird is an artist primarily known for her enigmatic silkscreened designs, enhanced by dense machine quilting.  She has had work in several Quilt Nationals and other prominent art/quilt venues, and took up encaustic a few years ago.

Sometimes she uses her screenprinted fabric as the first layer in an encaustic painting, as in this piece:

Sometimes she re-uses a favorite screen in both fiber and encaustic.

Shelley Brenner Baird, Blue Cypher, fiber/quilt (detail)

Shelley Brenner Baird, encaustic

Q.  How long have you been doing fiber art / how long have you been doing encaustic?

I have been using fiber as a substrate for my work for about 15 years.  I come from an eclectic art background that involved painting and drawing, then a degree in printmaking and another degree in photography followed by work in graphic design and illustration.  I have always made art and fell into fiber/textiles/art quilts/surface design by serendipity, seeking out teachers and mentors.  Once I discovered the many options in surface design I began to develop a body of work that includes a variety of media.

Living in central Ohio with QSDS and Nancy Crow's barn very close to home has enabled me to work with people from all over, including instructors and participants, so the textile community has been very accessible and varied.

Q.  Did you feel that encaustic was a natural progression from your fiber work, or a totally new thing?

When I start any kind of work I just begin with a blank sheet (panel, paper, fabric or an actual sheet sometimes) and approach it just as I have always worked in any medium.  I don't categorize myself as any particular process person so encaustic is just another way to use my ideas.  Fiber can be easily used in encaustic and the transformation from the wax and paint and incising can be another way to look at one's work.  Since I do make all of my fabric with screens and painting I don't see much of a distinction.

I enjoy a break from the tedium (oops, should I admit that?) of stitching.  The ability to work more quickly and move on to the next thing something I appreciate.  Working smaller also enables me to work through more ideas.  I suppose a lot of this is really not about encaustic per se.  So some the things I like about encaustic involve the ability to scrape and incise and melt and remove.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fiber art and encaustic 1 -- Terry Jarrard-Dimond

Late this summer I got to see the Bluegrass Biennial, a juried all-mediums show of Kentucky artists, which had a handsome complement of fiber art and also some striking encaustic work.  One encaustic piece was made by an artist whom I know through fiber art circles, and I realized that I know at least a half dozen people who work in both those mediums.  That got me thinking about whether there's a special affinity between encaustic and fiber art, so I asked three of my friends to tell a bit about their experiences in the two  mediums.

I'll start with Terry Jarrard-Diamond, who is probably best known in fiber art circles for her large pieced quilts (she won best in show at Form, Not Function a few years ago and served as a juror for Quilts=Art=Quilts this year).  In recent years she has been doing a lot of work in painting and encaustic.

Terry Jarrard-Dimond, Smoked Ring, encaustic

 Q.  How long have you been doing fiber art / how long have you been doing encaustic?

I have been working with fiber for perhaps 16 years and began exploring encaustic about 5 years ago.  I had been aware of the medium for years but more in connection with sculpture than painting but when I began blogging I became aware of the work being done in this medium.

Q.  Did you feel that encaustic was a natural progression from your fiber work, or a totally new thing?

The step into encaustic painting was not a progression but rather a lateral move.  I had wanted to paint for several years and as I read about this medium the desire to try it developed.  Much like fabric and sewing, there is a significant technical learning curve with encaustic.  Easy to apply encaustic paint.  Not easy to make the work look professional and resolved.

Q.  Do you think encaustic has an affinity with fiber?  and if so, why/how?

The only connection I can see is perhaps the versatility of both of these mediums.  I do think encaustic painting has been and still is an "It" medium meaning that it has come into the awareness of the art-making community and has attracted many new users.

There is often a direct relationship to the final look of some of my painting to pieced fabric work done several years ago.  This is due to how I see space and organize shapes in relation to a space and each other. 

Terry Jarrard-Dimond, Quietly Red, fiber

More fiber/encaustic artists next week...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The silkhorse project goes live

Several months ago I wrote about a new work that I got involved with, making paper quilts in aid of a Kickstarter campaign.  The project is to gear up for production in India of some fabulous silk scarves, screenprinted by hand by artisans using traditional methods and natural dyes.

I got to use the paper proofs of the scarves to make some of my "postage" quilts to illustrate the gorgeous designs, and had the pleasure of getting to know the artwork intimately, as I fussy-cut the proofs for my own quilts.  I found it intriguing to think that my friend Keith had manipulated multiples of the original horse image in Photoshop to come up with the design of the scarves, and then I got to manipulate multiples of his designs to come up with my third-generation version.

Here's the original:  Manaki, the Hindu sacred mare.

Here she is in silk!

Here's Payal Parekh, the mastermind behind the silkhorse project, wearing the orange scarf as a shrug, helping me with the black scarf.

Check out the Kickstarter pages HERE.  Supporting this project is a great way to help keep those traditional textile arts alive and well in the 21st century.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Know your audience

I know advertisers are loath to show unattractive women except as the "before" picture.  That's why you see 30-year-olds on TV explaining how they keep their dentures in, why the guys in Viagra ads have wives who look like Melania.

So I was not surprised, but a little disappointed, to see this ad from Quilting Daily, selling tutorials on various aspects of quilting.

Does this chick look like a quilter to you?  Do quilters tend to watch webinars while lying on their beds?  Aren't her elbows going to get tired long before the webinar is over?

Interestingly enough, the actual titles all feature photos of the presenters, and all of them are ordinary looking real women.  Some of them middle aged.  None of them wearing lingerie.

Funny how these photos of real women are OK to inspire buyer confidence in the actual products, but they have to find a hot model to advertise the sale.  I think it would be more persuasive to show a real woman watching her tablet while sitting upright by her sewing machine.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Making a little book 2 -- pasting

I wrote yesterday about how to make a very simple accordion book for your newspaper poetry.  But that was the easy part.  The hard part -- pasting the clippings into the book -- shouldn't be that hard; didn't you learn pasting in kindergarten?  And it's a whole lot easier nowadays than it was when I was in kindergarten, thanks to the invention of glue sticks.

But there's a difference between kindergarten pasting and artisanal pasting.  I wish I was better at the artisanal kind; some of my artist friends who specialize in books seem to have way better pasting skills and equipment than I do.  But I do not claim to be making books for the ages, so all I want to accomplish is to get the pieces stuck on straight and not have them fall off tomorrow.

First tip: there are glue sticks and there are glue sticks.  I want one that will go on smooth and white, not grainy and tacky and purple.  Some glue sticks are too elastic -- no sooner have you smeared them on but they pull together and recede from the edges.  Some are too dry -- you have to really scrub at the paper to get the glue to stick.  Don't buy those.

I haven't tried every glue stick on the market, so you may well have one that you love and I don't know about.  My go-to is the Staples house brand.  I have also used and liked Elmer's All-Purpose.  Whatever brand you choose, make sure you get the white, not the purple; I think they're much creamier.

Second tip: little bits of newspaper are difficult to handle with your fingers.  I couldn't do collage or newspaper poetry without my tweezers, which make it easy to pick up and place the bits.  I have also seen people do this with the tip of an X-acto knife, but I do better with the security of a two-point grip.

Third tip: don't try to be frugal with your glue.  When you put a teeny weeny bit of paper down and glue over it, don't try to just use the edge of the glue stick or try to just dab a little on.  Rub that sucker firmly over your little bit, realizing that you are applying way more glue to your work surface than you are to your clipping.

Yes, you're wasting 75% of your glue, but it's the only way to get a secure bond.  (That's why I buy my glue sticks in the 18-pack.)  If by chance you get too much glue on your clipping, and it oozes out onto the paper, clean it away with a toothpick or the tip of your tweezers.  Better to lift the excess glue, if you can, than to wipe or smear it.

Final tip: don't try to be frugal with your work surface.  If you accidentally place your clipping face down into an area with glue on it, you'll make a mess and perhaps ruin your work.  I like to cut pieces of scrap newspaper about 3 x 4 inches, make a big pile, and take a new sheet with almost every paste.

But after all these tips, I'll wind up by saying don't get too precious about it.  Newspaper is ephemeral and non-archival to begin with.  At least in my mind, these little books are more about the concept than about the execution.  I want them to be read, not locked up in a glass vitrine for the ages.  So I try to get the words pasted on straight, but I don't fret over a bit of crookedness.  This is a hand-made piece of art, and it's OK if it looks hand-made.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.  Like glue.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Making a little book 1 -- cutting and folding

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about making a little book with what I call "newspaper poetry" -- words clipped from papers or magazines that can be rearranged into poems or other interesting text displays -- and challenged my faithful readers to try their own hand at this art form.  Now at least one of those readers has assembled a pile of clippings and wants to know what to do next.

Fortunately making the little book is probably the easiest part of the task.  I don't mess with any of the myriad fancy ways to assemble and stitch paper together, but I love the simple ways.  One easy approach is to mark or fold a single sheet into eight "pages," then cut 3/4 of the way across the center.

Fold along what's left of that center line, and then fold the two halves back and forth to make an accordion.  Voila, a little book!

I suggest you try the folds first on a scrap piece of paper and keep that as a model for folding your actual nice book.  Paper is forgiving -- to a degree -- about letting you fold in the opposite direction if you make a mistake, but it's better to fold it right the first time.

Or you can make a simple accordion from a single long strip of paper.  Fold to whatever width you want your pages to be, and when you get to the last page, just paste on another strip.  That's how I made the book I wrote about in the first post.

You may want to make a separate cover so the book will have a little more protection.  Cut a heavier paper to size, a little bit bigger so everything fits without being crammed in.  I made two little slits for a ribbon to tie the book shut, but you can use other methods -- or you can make a conventional book, with regular covers that just close of their own volition.

After I made the cover, I pasted the first page of the accordion to the inside of the cover, leaving it free at the spine and at the back.

Tomorrow: how to paste it all together.