Feelin’ Fine, Valentine

There are those who love Valentine’s Day and those who loathe it. I find the holiday contrived, but full of potential. Red roses, drug store chocolates and gaudy jewelry do not make my heart flutter. However, the valentine, that little declaration of affection, adoration, like-you-a-lot, gets me all hot and bothered. You know, in a creative energy sort of way.

This February I  participated in an annual activity guided by Jennifer Rosner of the Delaware Valley Chapter Guild of Book Workers– mail art valentines. I got really excited and couldn’t commit to one image, so I made 4 sets of 5 for the 19 other people participating in the project.

Each set of valentines involved some light collage and wonderful messy cutting and pasting. I not only got them done 2 weeks ahead of the due date (because I was that excited), I had the privilege of receiving spectacular valentines from 19 creative people.

valentine_reverse

Now where’s my chocolate.

 

 

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Christmas with Cthulhu

Every Yule, I have visions of distributing thoughtful handmade gifts and edibles to my loved ones. On time.

Each holiday I fall short of that goal. This past December, like always, my intentions were good. The  Kitchenaid made an appearance and I concocted crumpets, caramel marshmallows and baklava. They were beautiful. After a quick sample, they were unceremoniously covered in saran wrap, thrown into ziplocs and shipped around the country. January is really close to Christmas. Receiving your presents after the fact is like a post-holiday bonus. Right?

I had three non-edibles that took longer than I expected; a stocking, an ornament and a pinata. I was determined to make a Cthulhu stocking for a tentacle-loving friend. I borrowed a pattern from a fellow sewer and adapted it. I used purple silk velvet and green upholstery velvet for the exterior and hot pink silk for the lining. I was able to present the stocking on the agreed upon exchange day, but I snatched it back to finish twenty minutes of hand sewing (that took another week).

Cthulhu stocking

Cthulhu stocking

The second gift was an ornament meant for my friend and her husband. In the past few years they have married, moved and had a baby. They are in the process of creating traditions unique to their family. When they moved in together, they took Janus as their house god after an apropos parking incident. He is the Roman god of transition and change. I wanted to honor that and I began a doorway ornament. Each side was different, representing the two heads of Janus. I used fishing line through the piece, so that it could spin. It was made from bookboard, paper and a little bit of mylar. Why did it take so long!

Janus green

Door from side

Janus moon

Door from side

The final project wasn’t a holiday present. I just wanted to do something kind for someone who was experiencing some tragedy. She was angry and grieving. I thought the best way to address both was to make a pinata- she could hit it and get goodies. I collected objects for months- candy, alcohol, candles, magnets… I bet you’re picking up on the time issue. My mother had recently retired and offered to start the paper mache body. Halfway through she lost interest, but forgot to tell me. There went another two months. Time continued to pass and the guilt of not completing this project weighed on me. I had to get this thing done! I finally took a week, finished the paper mache, filled that sucker with booty and got out my trusty glue gun. I’m convinced a pinata might be the gift for any occasion.

pinata front

pinata back

This year, I’ll start early. All projects will be completed by mid October. I’ll have a whole month to wrap and ribbon. Items will be sent and received the week of Solstice to open, or put under the tree. Baked goods will be Pinterest worthy. Maybe, I’ll even decorate. Or maybe, I’ll be hiding in my studio, working late into the morning in order to finish my sister’s book trio by July. Time will tell.

Think Fast!

In June the gallery manager and curator of the Bellefonte Art Museum asked if I had a textile piece I would like to install in their Sharon McCarthy Memorial Garden. I said “Yes, I would love to,” knowing that I had nothing appropriate. After all, I had three months. It was an unusual space, outside and under a staircase.

Under the Staircase

I thought about it in an abstract sense for the first two months. In the meantime I took road trips to the Outer Banks and Indiana, started talking to my estranged ex and accepted a full time job as a social worker. At month three I realized belatedly, I didn’t want to make a two dimensional piece. In an unrelated thought process (Oh, but it’s all related) I was reflecting about how difficult it was to place many ocean creatures as flora or fauna. I immediately decided to make something reminiscent of sea tubes and barnacles. Unfortunately, my mock ups were a little too reminiscent of other animal parts. A lot of artists explore sexuality and the duality of the masculine and feminine, but I had just inadvertently mocked up a strap-on and a fleshlight. After an emergency critique from a friend, the tube got tossed and the fleshlight became a sessile suspension feeder once again.

mockups

And now with a secure vision and two weeks until the install date I had to manufacture 35 softly structured hexagons of various sizes, complete with lining and batting. That’s 630 pieces of fabric. They needed to be cut, tied, dyed, adorned and sewn. Totally under control.

patterncutouts

dyebath

sewing

I had originally wanted the barnacles to connect together seamlessly in a smooshy, randomized fabric U shape. I also wanted it to have interactive qualities. To reach that end, I put two to three neodymium magnets in each barnacle so that they could be playfully rearranged. It was only partially successful. The magnets I used were strong enough to attach the pieces, but too difficult to find quickly once embedded in the fabric. I needed larger magnets for the barnacles to have actually supported each other without some sort of secondary attachment. My friend and I, at the last minute, attached the barnacles to a cotton fishing net (authentic ocean smell!) with tiny brass safety pins. The choice made the shapes less abstract and more representational. However, once the installation is down, the barnacles will be abstracted once again and able to be piled and maneuvered with the magnets as the stabilizing factor.

Barnacles on Parade

In Progress

Once I hit the sewing stage, I got a little bit panicky. The project being under control was an illusion. I still had a week, but my new job also started within that time frame. After a few days without sleep, I enlisted my friends and family, shelving the question Is it still my art if someone else fabricates it? I was still sewing the Saturday morning of the install date before I left for my current job. After work, I rushed back home, gathered the almost completely finished barnacles and rushed them and my friend to the museum. We spent three hours installing the piece and finished at the last possible moment.

Full Front

Full Side

thinkfast

Close Up

I received positive feedback from the gallery. Always appreciated. And I was able to return to seven glorious hours of sleep a night.

Mom, Bonnie, Karen, Abby and Ben- THANK YOU for your help.

Hug?

In January of 2014, Mary and I began our monthly collaborative book projects once again. We were struggling by February. We decided on a two color print (because, somehow, that would take less time than a book). Mary completed hers, a stunning sea slug, that can be found for sale at her Etsy shop, only slightly behind schedule.

I took a little longer. I also picked an underwater creature, an urchin. I made screens, but I couldn’t get a smooth print no matter how much I tweaked it. I got frustrated and put it away.

Screens

Two months later, I made a lino-cut. It had been years, but digging into the linoleum was satisfying and renewed my latent love of block printing. Until it was time to print. I don’t have a press, so it was baren, or bust and I busted. The prints were spotty and uneven. I used water based ink and they dried too quickly. I put it away for many more months. In August, I visited Bloomington, Indiana for a few days. Mary and I planned a printing day using her press, but due to unforeseen circumstance, it turned into a printing hour (or two). I managed a few test prints, but nothing solid.

Linocut

Linocut

In September, my friend Abby invited my to an informal intaglio class. Determined to finally print The Urchin, I brought a copy with me. We used diamond point scribes to etch our images into plexiglass. Until then I had only etched in copper. I was delighted to discover the possibilities with plexi- it’s affordable, readily available and it is good for four to five prints. The limited run appeals to me, as does the DIY feel. And we had a press!

Etched Plexi

I only managed two prints before I had to be elsewhere. They’re rushed and dirty, but I’ll take ’em.

Hug? Blue

Hug? Pink

Hug? is what a friend of mine would call “bathroom art.” It elicits a smile and limited contemplation; something you find at the tourist shop, not the gallery shop. I never intended to put so much time into such a frivolous picture, yet after rendering it three different ways I chose to love it. It’s not fine art, but it’s got heart.

All Manner of Banners: 2014 Arts Fest Banner Competition

Every year from July 9th through the 13th, State College shuts down its streets and welcomes hundreds of artists into town for the Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. As a kid I remember looking at tent upon tent of beautiful creations, being gastronomically enticed by vendors selling strudels and kabobs, hearing music everywhere and above it all were banners floating in the sky. As an adult, I am, dare I say, a bit more cynical about it all, but I still enjoy perusing the art, sampling the edibles and listening to whatever band is playing at the Festival Shell. And I still dig the banners. They’re everywhere, all colors and themes, reigning over the festival.

I’ve always wanted to make one and this was the year. First, I had to come to terms with the banner size- 72″ x 30″- which I’m sure is perfectly normal in bannerland, but it is more fabric than I am used to working with at one time. The banner hangs fifteen to twenty feet above the ground, so I needed imagery with clear color and definition. I adapted a scarf design I made a few years ago to fit the required shape (thank you Dad, for the use of your projector).  I used yellow canvas bought at the local fabric store for the base and the rest of the cotton was donated by a generous friend. The pieces were cut and stabilized with double-sided fusible interfacing. I sat down and had a quiet talk with my sewing machine and proceeded to applique my heart out. At some point I came up for breath and tea. Hours later, covered in thread, I had twelve feet of fabric with two peacocks and four elephants adhered to it. I folded it over, created space for a dowel at the top, sewed in a metal rod at the bottom for weight (the festival site suggests chain, but that is unwieldy and unattractive) and just like that, I had a banner. On time, even.

Trunks and Tails placed third in the professional category of this year’s competition. The awards ceremony is Saturday, July 12, 9 a.m. at the Allen Street Stage if you care to check it out. Next year, I’m taking first place.

Banner, side A Banner, side B

Yellow elephant closeupRed elephant, closeup

Elephant and peacobk closeup

Peacock closeup

P.S. The books arts are represented this year by Kirstin Demer of Green Trike Press and Regina and Daniel St. John of Chena River Marblers. Check the Arts Fest website for their locations and support the arts!

Christmas Quandry

This past Christmas a good friend subtly hinted at what she might like for the holidays by emailing me a template for a handmade Kitchenaid cover. The step-by-step instructions made an already easy project a breeze. Thank you, Debbie!

But let’s back up a minute. Although I received this hint well before December, it wasn’t completed and sent until February. Wait a moment, you say, didn’t you just claim this project was a breeze? Weeelllll, the sewing part was. The picking out the perfect fabric part took me over a month. In the end, I decided to create my own textile design. I cut a small rose stencil from quilter’s template plastic and chose medium weight unbleached cotton to print on. Using a mixture of acrylic and screen printing ink, I sponged paint through my stencil in a somewhat random (yet intentional) pattern. Once it was dry I applied the leaves in the same manner. Then I heat set it with the iron.

Hand stenciled roses

I liked the result, but it still looked too unfinished and country-kitchen for my taste. I decided to outline the flowers in black to make it feel more contemporary. Since the initial goal was quick and easy, I picked up a few fine tipped fabric pens and just to be on the safe side, some Sharpies. I proceeded to outline the stenciled flowers. And do you know what? It looked horrible! As if someone had taken the time to hand stamp a pattern and then just markered the edges. Sigh. That meant I had to outline them using a paintbrush. It took hours. Hours. I had hand, neck and shoulder cramps for days afterward. The results, however, were spectacular.

 Hand stenciled roses with outlines

Once the fabric was painted, the rest came together quickly. I quilted the pieces to encourage structure and stability. Then, a little sewing magic, some piping for purty and bias tape to finish it off. And suddenly, one completed Christmas present.

Kitchenaid cover, front view

Kitchenaid cover, side view

My friend loved it. She couldn’t believe that I found a fabric that fit her tastes so perfectly.

Pull Up a Seat

A few months ago I received an email from one of my local art organizations inviting me to take part in a charity auction. The Bellefonte Library discovered a number of chairs with no historical import in a dusty corner and decided to turn them into an opportunity to raise money for literacy. They invited artists to pick up a chair, work their will on it and return it painted, primped and bedazzled. The chairs will be auctioned off in May to the highest bidders.

The chair I brought home was decorated in black and gold. I’m sure it was a solid choice at the time.

Original chair

I stripped the black paint and was rewarded with another coat- a white monster paint no solvent would touch. So I broke out the hand sander.

Stripped chairAfter a white primer, I started the fun part.

First coatI went with an ocean theme and stopped short of a pirate ship.

Finished chair

There’s an angler fish lurking under the seat for surprise factor.

Angler fish

chair_back

The Art for Literacy Chair Auction will be held Saturday, May 17 from 2-4 p.m. at the Historical Museum Community Garden at 203 North Allegheny Street, Bellefonte. The admission is $20.00 and it includes a live and silent auction, complimentary wine, hors d’oeuvres and live music.

Tickets can be purchased at www.centrecountylibrary.org and proceeds benefit the Centre County Library and Historical Museum.

Anchors away!I’ll see you there.