Friday, November 20, 2015

Another new adventure

I seem to keep having lots of new experiences since I took on the biggest new experience and moved to Massachusetts. My latest adventure was participating in the Amesbury Open Studio Tour weekend. I didn't actually open my non-handicapped accessible studio but set up, with six other artists, in the public space part of the tour at the Town Hall.

My expectations were low, since I was warned that this was not the place to make big sales, but I decided to add some of my snow-dyed cottons and then made a few ornaments, both lower priced items than my artwork. 

Saturday dawned cold and blustery and, as I walked into town, I saw the first snowflakes of the season. It was not going to be the kind of day people wander from place to place. But at the end of the day even without the crowds of people passing through I considered it a success--I had met a number of interesting people, had taken another step in settling into this community, and had had several substantive conversations about art and about my particular kind of art. By the end of Sunday I had simply added more of the above and had sold enough ornaments and snow-dyes to more than recoup my entry fee. It was a worthwhile way to spend a November weekend!

Monday, November 9, 2015


Yesterday morning I walked into my studio and found myself inside a golden cube. A unique combination of morning sun and yellow maple leaves from the trees that filled the windows had lit up the room with a glow that even warmed the deepest recesses of my spirit.

What an amazing quilt this would make! But as I began to envision designs, that inner critic began to whisper that "yellow is not a popular color," and then took an even mercenary tone--"It wouldn't sell."

Where did that come from? I have been preparing for the town Open Studio Tour (another story) and have had to focus on pricing my artwork. I hadn't realized how that shift from making to selling could leave a residual shadow when I returned to making. But now I am aware of another aspect of this complicated undertaking called the creative process, and let's hope the Buddhists are right that awareness changes things.

And I will make that yellow, glowing quilt.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Day of Art

Sharing is part of the process that we call art, and today I got to share some of my art. Art as Quilt: Transitions in Contemporary Textile Media, a juried SAQA exhibitopened at the Fuller Craft Museum Oct. 3 and today was the opening reception. The museum itself is a work of art nestled in woods next to a large pond south of Boston, and the show was well lit and well hung with enough space between works to allow viewers to focus on each one.

It's still a thrill to see people stop and spend time looking at my work.

And here is Spun Gold, one of my textured pieces without viewers:

There were many pieces worthy of attention at this show. The curators wanted to show the diversity of contemporary textile work and the works captured that diversity. Unfortunately, I relied on my phone for the photographs so several were too blurry to use and I apologize for the quality of some of these that I am including:
Dawn Allen and one of her striking three-dimensional flowers, Poppy II

Janis Doucette and one of her lively deconstructed screen printed pieces, Out of the Blue

Sharyn Raiche's dimensional Nexus (She used webs and it doesn't look like Halloween at all!)

The Myth of Meditation, a lovely piece with lots of hand stitching by Sharon McCartney
A wall shot, beginning with the largest, Flotsam and Jetsam by Rosemary Hoffenberg, then  Windows of Orvietto by Linda Gallagher, and Flowing by Jeanne Marklin

Another wall shot that shows a portion of Vessel of Life by Janice Jones, Tune in Turn on Dropcloth #4 by Sandra Donabed in the middle, and Crevices #9 by Valerie Maser-Flanagan

And many more--there is a total of 35 pieces in the show. One of the curators from the museum, who gave a talk at our SAQA regional meeting before the reception distinguished between art and craft by describing craft as focusing in on itself, its techniques and materials, but art opens out and speaks to something beyond itself. You could feel that happening in this show.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Not for the Faint of Heart

Warning: if you have an automatic flight reaction when you see a spider, just skip this post. I admit that a spider crawling on the bedroom wall at night must be taken care of or it takes me a long time to get to sleep, but I am also fascinated by these many legged creatures many of which create those endlessly metaphoric webs.

We have been favored with the presence of several large garden spiders around the back of the house this year who have created astounding webs across the back door and the deck door (on the outside of each, by the way!). I had watched one yesterday morning wrap up a yellow jacket for a later meal and I silently thanked it for removing one of those annoying creatures. I checked out its progress after lunch and discovered another much smaller spider approaching it and assumed that somehow their webs had crossed until I really looked and the little spider was thrumming the web with its front feet and setting up some kind of vibration that made the web strands holding the larger one move in a similar rhythm.

This went on for more than ten minutes with the little guy inching forward and then jumping back, all the time playing the web strands. Was this a mating ritual? Finally he moved very close, almost touching her but every time she started moving her legs he would jump back. 

No longer strumming, he kept trying to get up close and personal, but at the same time realizing that there were some real risks involved in this activity.

This approach and retreat went on for about ten minutes more. Like many great novels, however, the outcome of this story is ambiguous. I needed a cup of tea and ran the few feet to the kitchen to turn on the tea kettle and when I returned the little spider was gone. Had she eaten him?  I thought at least a few legs would still be visible if this had happened. Tom, who had also gotten involved, found the little guy on the deck floor, still alive but looking rather dazed. Had she knocked him off the web? Bitten him? We will never know if he successfully passed on his genes or what caused his fall. Subsequent research did verify that I was witnessing a mating ritual and often the male does not survive the experience.

And what does this have to do with fiber art? First of all, these were beautiful creatures with all their striped legs and patterned abdomens. And this does motivate me even more to try to weave a web into my work, since it is such a strong metaphor for interconnectedness, but the problem is that I have to do in such a way that it does not look like a Halloween decoration. I'm still working on that. But it also reminds me how important it is to look around--"You can observe a lot by just watching," said the Yogi.

And just as a final note, here is some spider art created by a spider with a little help from the wind outside my dyeing studio door--under the deck:

The actual spider is in the center a little toward the top.

And, if you're still hanging in there, thanks for the company--and happy early Halloween!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Another MA First

What better way to spend a crisp fall day than creating some color--and that's what I and two other adventurous spirits did this week, as I introduced them to the art of dyeing. It was the first class I taught since our move to Massachusetts and a bit of an initiation for my basement dye studio, a perfect size for me and for me and a friend as I found out this summer, but I wanted to see if it would work with more. I had planned some patio work that would have given us all some more room but the coolness of the day kept us inside and we managed to negotiate the space without any toes being stepped on and only a couple of stray drops of color falling on the wrong place.

We were all exhausted but still smiling by the end of the day and they went home with a full five-step gradation in one color, rinsed, washed, and partially ironed and several containers each that would sit quietly overnight and reveal their delights the next day. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Graphically True

I am in the middle of an intriguing book.  Nick Sousanis, who calls himself a comics artist, has written a philosophical treatise in a comics format that links graphics and words, and thus the format itself becomes part of the subject matter, one of those mind-twisting connections I love.  As I read, I continually find myself saying---Whoa! That is really cool!--or making some equally erudite or perceptive comment.

Unflattening begins with demonstrating that, because of our binocular vision, we are primed from the very beginning to see things from more than one viewpoint and the implications of that are significant for us citizens of a complex world. But I am not going to follow that path. Instead, I will focus on an art connection he makes on the way to making another point.

We live in both mind and body, in our thoughts and in our senses, one obviously influencing the other. Conceiving a thought and perceiving an object are two different aspects of how we function but creating art joins these two in a dynamic way: the idea in our minds becomes visible and tangible (take note, fiber artists) as the work takes shape, and then we in turn are perceiving, looking at, touching what was once a concept only in our minds. As we work, we continually move back and forth between conception and perception. His explanation of this point is of course enhanced immeasurably with his clever graphics.

Perhaps this joining of the two aspects of our nature is one of the reasons we can lose ourselves so entirely when we are making art.

And if I haven't entirely lost you, thanks for the company!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Old Craft vs. Art Question

So is this gracefully spiraling piece by Joseph Walsh, Lillium III, art or craft?

Or what about Poros by Nathan Cravan, which is actually a window (those bits of light you see are actually the trees, lawn, sky outside--and this is not a great photo)?

And then there is arrythmia by Chung Im-Kima piece that suggests a quilt because it uses industrial felt that is made of blocks silk screened (with a pattern based on an electrocardiogram) and hand stitched together.

Those of us who are artists who work in fiber or who call ourselves art quilters have had to deal with the craft vs. art question for a long time, but some museums and art galleries are just now discovering it. My local big name art museum, the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, just opened an exhibit titled "Crafted: Objects in Flux," which seeks to demonstrate that "the distinctions between art, design, and craft are shifting and porous." I, of course, had to see it. And it was well worth braving the Boston traffic jams to spend some time with all of the above works, as well as many more, like the spiralling room created by panels of indigo-dyed fabric sewn together and framed by one wall filled with the indigo plants the artist grew to dye the fabrics.

This exhibit implies that the MFA is answering the question in favor of the label art, but the exhibit also suggests that such labels become meaningless in the large gray area between the two. Many of the items in the exhibit play with your perceptions so that you are forced to see the world just a bit differently and that is always a worthy experience. And several of the works were created using CAD programs and 3D printers, another direction artists are taking and the art world will have to get used to.

And, to be fair, the MFA already places such works as one of El Anatsui's magnificent metal quilts made from found materials in the contemporary art section, but still they maintain a contemporary crafts gallery that houses such gems as this little sculpture made of wood, Familiar Strangers by Betty Scarpino.

Unequivocally art, in my opinion. But that is the point, I guess: The use of the two terms is opinion and only becomes an issue when a particular piece or medium is excluded from a show simply because of the labeling process. 

It's a beautiful, thought-provoking exhibit and, if you're still reading, thanks for the company!