Friday, September 29, 2006

Studio Friday - toot your own horn!

This week's topic for Friday September 22nd suggested by Gabi: TOOT YOUR OWN HORN... LOUD! "Studio Friday, for me, is a network of artists from all over the world. It's a fabulous way to communicate ...I would love to see a showcase of what YOUR art is. ...I'd love to see a piece that you have created that you are most proud of. SHOW off your STUFF!!" ~Gabi
This is hard, particularly for women, I think, because many of us were taught from an early age to be modest, but as working artists, I think a certain amount of horn-tooting is necessary (so thank you Gabi for the suggetion)... and my blog is definitely a place where I want to show my art - not just for exposure, but also for inspiration and feedback, and to allow me to feel that I am a part of a larger artistic community.
This is an altered book that I created last year, as a featured piece in a juried gallery show that I was fortunate to be able to do along with my friend, Debbie. The show was entitled "Facing Pages" and included swap journals, individual journals, handmade books and altered books. Although my personal journals are a treasured source of inspiration and therapy for me, this altered book was my favorite piece in the show. It tells a rather sad story, however...
A year after my husband and I bought our first house, we found a bird's nest in a large hanging pot of impatiens on our front porch. Every day, for five days, when I would take the pot down to water it, a new egg appeared in the nest. I very carefully watered around the nest to keep it dry, and I patiently awaited the arrival of the little birds who would be born among my flowers. I was so pleased that mama bird had chosen my porch as a safe spot for building the nest, and that my daily watering had not deterred her. I saw this as a symbol that this was indeed a wonderful home in which to live. One morning after watering, I returned to my kitchen and poured a cup of coffee. Moments later I heard a dull thud outside. I looked out toward our mailbox and driveway, thinking it might be a car door, or our mailman.
I saw nothing and forgot about it. About an hour later I went out to run some errands and saw what had made the sound. Because of the very hot summer day, I made sure to really water my impatiens pot well, so that the flowers that hid the birds' nest would not wilt. The pot was so heavy from the giant blooms and water that it crashed onto my porch, tossing all of the eggs onto the pavement. I was (and still am) heartbroken. I felt so sad for the bird who had so carefully crafted this perfect nest, and had so patiently sat on her precious eggs day after day. The nest was still sitting perfectly among the flowers.
I left it for a few days, hoping that perhaps mama bird would forgive me and return to start again, but she did not. So instead, I decided to memorialize the nest in an altered book that I hope tells a story of the importance of a home, and the simple perfect beauty of nature.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Studio Friday - on the outside...

"I'm curious to see what is just outside everyone's studio. I face a wall so I don't have a view but I have the desert to inspire me if I need it." ~ Lilie

My studio currently has two windows facing equally uninteresting views. One faces a chain link fence on the border of our neighbor's yard, and from the other window you can see our Rubbermaid shed. So I'm going to venture a little beyond the windows of my studio to some of my favorite views of late.

These are some pictures I just took last weekend at the town park, where I've been hiking with Max on weekend mornings. For the first 15 years that I've lived here, I never ventured beyond the park pool, but I've recently discovered (thanks to Max) wonderful hiking trails through the woods and along the river. No matter how often we follow the paths, there are always new things to see and hear.
Nature is never boring. Last week, I took pictures of tree man during our walk.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Fabric ATCs etc.

This is my second round of ATCs for the one swap I am participating in. I am loving the ability to try new techniques in a small format, and also then giving away my creations. I like that they're 'out there' for someone else to enjoy (at least I hope they're enjoyed.) The first swap was themeless. For this swap, the theme was FABRIC! (ooh, such fun.) I created these using Judikins new Tranz It transfer medium. Very much like gel medium except that it seems to work with a larger variety of originals - everything from color copies, to b/w copies, to color lasers - which never worked for me with gel medium. I created the transfers on muslin and then hand-sewed the muslin and embellishments to pieces of wool felt.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Studio Friday - A Floral Treat!

Thanks Leslie for this fun topic - I love flowers (who doesn't?) I originally hoped that I would have an opportunity to paint or otherwise create a piece of floral art, but this is my busiest month at work, and was busy in a thousand other ways I won't bore you with, so I snapped a few pictures of these magestic sunflowers that have grown in the community garden down at the grade school where I walk Max.
The garden was created by the sixth grade class two years ago, and now each year, grade school students, their families, and volunteers from the community tend it and watch it grow. The garden is still quite new and not yet very artistically laid out, but each year the sunflowers grow to eight feet tall, and I never cease to be amazed by them. I had a little Photoshop fun with these pictures, but they are actual shots that I took, about a week ago. This phrase came to me as I was playing, but I probably stole it from someplace else. Does anyone else do that? - make something up, and then discover later that they really saw it or read it or heard it somewhere else before? I do it rather frequently, and I'm always annoyed when I discover that I'm not as clever as I'd imagined.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Polymer clay tile cards...

Once a month, I teach a class at the local senior center, for a lively and energetic group of women who could run circles around me, and usually do. I take summers off, so last night was my first night back since June. We've been meeting for about a year, making greeting cards, and assorted small crafts that involve painting, rubber stamping, and other mixed media techniques. After our summer hiatus, I thought it would be fun to do something different, so we created polymer clay tiles to make a jewelry pin and several greeting cards. Unfortunately, my class was left off the weekly newsletter, and only three of the twelve women scheduled to attend remembered that we set this date back in June. Of course, the four of us had a great class, but I am really bummed that the majority of our regular attendees missed learning about stamping on clay, because it was a cool technique that I would like to work into future classes, and now I'll have to do the intro all over again -- not to mention that I conditioned and prepped clay sheets for 12 people - can you say CARPAL TUNNEL?! I do have a pasta machine, but the clay still requires hand-kneading before it will even go through the machine. Ugh. Anyway, I'm just venting.
On a completely different topic, for those of you who want a tiny glimpse into where I came from, read the comments associated with my previous blog (A walk in the woods with Max). These are my family members - mother and two sisters, all of whom I adore, by the way - who are vacationing right now on Martha's Vineyard. Apparently, after a few glasses of wine - and more than a few for my mom, it seems, they visited my blog and left comments. I am sorry that I am not there, but this is my busiest month at work, so I want to believe that's why I was not invited :>) - love you mommy & sissers & Avery!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A walk in the woods with Max, etc.

Max and I went to the town park again on Sunday, and enjoyed a crisp fall-like morning walking through the woods. I tried to take lots of pictures of the sights along the trails, but my camera needed to be recharged and it was kind of dark, so many did not turn out very well. Still, I wanted to post what I saw...
fungi-covered tree stumps and "tree-man" a big dead tree with a face on it and his branch arms open wide - see? It's really so beautiful at the park in the early morning. There are very few people - mostly dog-walkers, and it it so quiet... just the sounds of geese and crickets and nature minding its business. This is only our second visit to the park, because we usually go to the local school grounds, which are much closer. But it's so much more peaceful and there's so much more to see (for both of us) on the hiking trails and along the river, that we're going to start to go more often. Rumor has it that they even plow the trails in winter for cross country skiers and crazy winter dog walkers like me.

I got back to basics last weekend and made some simple greeting cards. Before I began to pursue mixed media art, I was an avid handmade greeting card designer, and I still love to make cards, though I don't spend enough time doing it anymore... these are simply stamped & punched...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Extreme makeover...

Due to an overwhelming number of requests to see my new hairdo (okay - one request, and I'm not even sure who it was, except that they obviously know me), I am postponing my previously scheduled blog and posting some photos here. After taking (and deleting) about 60 pictures with my digital camera, I am now sitting here asking myself - when did my nose get so big... (okay sisser, don't answer that) and my lips get so small... and where did that extra chin come from.. and have I always had buck teeth...and those circles under my eyes???? AND why did I bother having my hair cut and then coloring it when it's framing THAT face!!! Of course, I am colossally cheap when it comes to self-maintenance, so the total cost of cut & color -- with a tip for the hairdresser -- was only $30, but maybe investing in a giant hat & a pair of sunglasses would have been better.
So these are the best of the pictures, taken just moments ago. Last week, the color was what I call "blackish-red," in spite of the fact that Clairol Natural Instincts calls the color nutmeg. Upon hearing the name, my husband said it should have been called "nutjob." In addition, I had blow-dried it and styled it in a flip-under, which looked utterly ridiculous.
My husband's keen and unfortunately accurate comment when he saw me was that I looked like Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp version), sans top hat. So now I have opted not to dry & style my hair, but to scrunch & spritz instead... and since this is a wash-out color, it has mellowed a bit over the past week. Still this is why you will be seeing more photos of artwork and fewer photos of me as the years go by. To my online artist bloggers who participate in self portrait challenge - you're all very brave & more beautiful than I fully appreciated before.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A shrine to Dambi

Anyone who reads my blog with any regularity (that would be both of you :>), will be familiar with Dambi, the name I gave my paternal grandmother (before I could say Grammy) that all of the grandchildren were then forced to perpetuate. Well, this shrine is a tribute to her, and was made almost entirely with items of meaning that came from Dambi or that remind me of her for special reasons.

I found these wooden house boxes at a local dollar store, and they've been sitting in my studio for weeks -- sometimes it takes months, or even years before things get used so this was not so bad!! (the box in the background is what they look like unembellished). They probably would have sat longer, but I was making gift tins for a class and I had to wait for paint to dry. I decided to give a quick coat of paint to one of the little houses, and I could see immediately just what I wanted to fill it with. So I gathered small items from my sewing box - a box made by Dambi and passed on to me, and I began to place them in the little compartments. Once my tins dried, I abandoned this project for awhile, but over the weekend I felt compelled to finish it. It's simple, and quaint, and encompasses so many memories of my creative grandmother...
The backs of the compartments & roof shingles are pieces of an old fabric that covered a small vanity bench in Dambi's bedroom. I inherited the bench, but could not bear to throw away the fabric when I reupholstered it. I loved the burgandys, & pinks & browns in the floral pattern, and the texture of a good upholstery fabric. It was extremely faded on top, where exposure to sunshine & derierres wore it out, but underneath, the fabric was still bold and beautiful, and small pieces have made it into several of my works.
In the triangular roof cubby is a manufactured label that says "Fashioned & handmade by Lillian." That was Dambi's given name, and I have a packet of these labels that she used inside of items she crocheted for her six grandchildren SIDEBAR: anyone else familiar with headhuggers? These were little granny squares sewn together into ridiculous little potholder hats that we thought wer just wonderful when we were little dorky kids.
Other items of note include, in the lower left box, a garter fastener, as Dambi always wore stockings - never pantyhose - "your privates need to breathe", and a bobbin from the old Singer sewing machine with foot pedal in a flip-up cabinet and wrought iron legs that I also inherited - and altered(a later feature).
And for some reason my sisters and my cousins used to refer to Dambi as "Lilliana Rosebud" - I don't remember the story behind this, but it always made Dambi laugh, so the addition of a dried rosebud seemed appropriate as well. All of the other items - thimble, old measuring tapes, buttons, wooden thread spools, came from her sewing box - a treasure trove of collage materials & usable sewing supplies. And in the top center compartment sits a tiny copy of an old photo of my grandmother, when she was still Lillian VonKampen, not yet Dambi.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

End of summer blues...

It goes by so

This is a favorite summer photo from about 35 years ago. I'm on the left, then my cousin Susan, my sister Cheryl, and my cousin Bonnie, seated in age order. I think I was about 7 years old in this picture, so I am guessing that somewhere in the background is my sister Jennifer, age 1, too young to sit by the pool in her navy & white sailor bathing suit with the red belt... and my cousin Frank, who would never have a navy and white sailor bathing suit (thankfully), was not yet born. There are days when it feels like that was a million years ago, and other times when I feel like it was yesterday that we were at my grandmother's pool, spending endless summer days swimming, eating homemade chocolate chips - that my grandmother (Dambi) baked in her hot kitchen while we were swimming! My grandfather (Opa)would stand in the low end of the pool and toss a ball to each of us to catch as we flew off the diving board.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Studio Friday - Artist's Block

"You've heard of 'writer's block'. Well as an artist, I sometimes suffer from "Artist's block". What is this you ask? It's when you sit and sit and can't come up with anything. This can go on for hours, days, weeks even months sometimes. --I want to know how you break free of Artist's block! " ~ Gabi

These days, I don't seem to ever have artist's block - mostly from having so little time to get into my studio, so that when I do, I have little notes and sketches that have accumulated in my pockets and my purse and my journals,of all the projects I want to create... but even so, I do find that certain activities make my juices flow better...

One is making art in one of my art journals. Since they're meant for experimentation rather than a finished project, it's easy to just say "what if" and to put the paints, etc. to paper.

Other sources of artistic inspiration that always work for me:
1. taking a walk - I get more ideas just walking than almost any other way;
2. flipping through my favorite art/decorating/food magazines;
3. making an artist's date with my friend Debbie. When we commit to one another and bounce ideas off of each other, we never leave without having made some art;
4. re-organizing my art room. This always sparks ideas, as I rediscover items that I forgot I had.
...and on this topic, there are also things that cripple my creativity, even if I have ideas, so I try not to do them too often, such as:
1. compare my work to that of other artists - particularly with the accessibility of online sources, there are days when I surf a few of my favorite artist sites, and instead of becoming inspired, I get the "Oh, God, I'll never be as good as that," blues;
2. deadlines & commitments - this is tough for me, because I do make my living as a graphic artist, and I also teach classes, so I have lots of deadlines & commitments. But there's nothing like a looming deadline to make me feel like, "I don't want to make that today, I'd rather do this other thing." So essentially, I'm very immature. In this case, I try to achieve balance, by allowing myself some real play time within my work time -- and I remind my childish self that I am so lucky to be making a living at something I love!
3. Rules. This is another curious problem, because this works both as an inspiration & a paralyzer for me. If I am participating in an ATC swap, for example, I like having a theme or some rules/limitations to work within, as long as the subject matter is open. When I am planning a class, however, I don't like being limited to a particular set of materials or a limited list of companies- I mention this because I teach at retail stores, and sometimes this is a very real dilemma for me, since they have to be able to purchase materials for sale. My problem in this case is that I inevitably find the perfect embellishment, or final touch that is very difficult to find, or that comes from a retail vendor who is slow, etc., and I hate compromising my final design because of some vendor who can't deliver.
Wow, so much to say on this topic! - I can't wait to see what others have to say.
And to my few but faithful regular readers, I am in the throws of our convention season at work, so my hours are long and my blogging time is short. I apologize for not posting more often. Hopefully my schedule will slow down again to normal pace in a few weeks and I'll be able to post at least a few times a week.