Thursday, September 24, 2009

Inspiration is where you find it

Well, hello there!

What's with this shark?  Actually, it's just a little teaser that I'll talk about later.  I just realized that I never mentioned my Del. vacation and any art inspiration I soaked up while there.  Because I've already decided on today's topic, I'll save the shark story for next time.  No worries -- none of us was bitten; we didn't even see a shark, though we did find ourselves stranded on an island near the end of our trip.  There was a storm at sea, a strong nor'easter blowin', and an unusually high tide.

Check back in a few days for those, and more stories!

Q:  Can one find art inspiration by going to a baseball game?
A:  Of course!  You just have to keep your eyes open.  Inspiration is everywhere.

I had the unexpected honor of being invited to a Mariners game last Sat. night with my son, Max (20).  Well, I wasn't exactly his first choice . . . she couldn't go because she was called in to work at the last minute.  But he could've invited a friend, or even his dad, but he chose me, so I went.  They lost to the Yankees by an embarrassing amount that I can't remember, nor do I want to.

I did get to see that very cute Alex Rodriguez, who was booed throughout the game by his former Seattle fans.  (He sold out for big bucks and went to Texas several years ago and is now with the Yankees.)  I asked Max why Alex no longer had a cute butt (he's used to his mom's weird questions), and his answer was that Alex's now-flat butt is his natural one.  The one I formerly admired was acquired by his use of steroids.  After hearing that, I was no longer the sole Seattle fan cheering for A-Rod.

What's the link here to art quilts?

On the drive to Seattle, along I-5 near Tacoma, I noticed the concrete retaining walls along the freeway.  They weren't the solid blank ones you'd see around here, but were stamped with interesting designs.  Possible quilt designs.  I whipped out my handy digital camera and snapped a shot to refer to later.

I wonder who had the creative idea to include a design on these walls?

Chris, a member of the Fiberexplorations group, has been challenging herself to take 20 photos a day.  She said she's enjoying it on many levels and has noticed that she's paying much more attention to details now.  Like the drawing student, she's learning to SEE as an artist SEES.  Life is full of details; we just have to train ourselves to slow down and pay attention to them.  Practice, practice, practice.

One thing at a time.  Pay attention.  Be mindful.  "Multi-tasking" is NOT a worthy goal for me to cultivate.  Mindfulness is.  Take time to SEE.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Making handmade paper

I'm a member of the Portland-area "Multi-Media Cats," a chapter of MEOW (Machine Embroiderers of OR and WA).  Where most chapters work on free-motion machine embroidery, our group can be found elbow-deep in paper pulp, hand-marbling paper/fabric, rusting fabric, or playing with polymer clay.  In the next two months, we'll be "Felting using Potato Paper and Lutradur"  (Oct.) and "Stamp Design and Carving" in Nov..  Not much machine embroidery going on there!

At our Sep. 21st meeting, the project was handmade paper.  I've made some in the past, but this time our leader, Beth, taught me more than I'd ever known.  She even has a professional pulp beater set up outside her "studio," which is a converted 5th-wheel travel trailer.  (A reasonable solution when one has run out of space in the house!) 

Expecting a crowd, Beth had set up large tubs of different pulps:
Abaca (banana)
Cat-tail fluff
Cat-tail stems & leaves
New Zealand flax

But only 2 members showed up, so the three of us made paper all day.  With the leftover pulp, Beth continued "pulling sheets" alone the following day, ending up with an unbelievable 290 sheets of paper!  I, on the other hand, pulled 14 sheets.

This is a sampling of the basic papers I made (still curled after drying).

Then there are the more interesting pieces, like this laminated sheet of paper.  "Laminated" means that one sheet was placed on top of another.  Sandwiched between them were three thin cords of thread, so they'd meld together into one sheet as they dried.  It was also accidentally embossed.  Under one sheet of paper, I'd placed a twice-coiled "pull-chain" (is that the term??) so it would emboss that page, but when my "stack" was placed in the presser, the chain embossed several sheets on top of the intended one!  BONUS!  Just as in art quilting, sometimes our accidents turn into wonderful surprises.

And finally, this sheet where I'd added "inclusions," such as dried Queen Anne's Lace and other dried grasses and flower petals.  (Also accidentally embossed!)  I'll have to think of a way to incorporate some of this paper into my art quilts.

My neighbor has some iris leaves that I can have.  Years ago, I cookedsome down to make paper pulp, and fortunately did in in warm weather, when the doors and windows could be open.  It does not smell very nice, but does produce strong paper, due to its long fibers.

Again I realize that I could never narrow down my creative pursuits to one subject when there are so many that appeal to me!  So I play and experiment and continue to learn.  The more I know, the more options I have -- to add to my art quilts or to pursue further.  It's the experimenting that yields the most excitement!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Last Week of Summer

How do you feel when summer comes to an end?  For me, it's always predictable:

DISMAYED when sunsets arrive earlier and sunrise comes later.  (I want it to be light outside when I creep downstairs for my 5:30 a.m. trip to the bathroom, thrilled with the anticipation of another bright & sunny summer day!)
EXCITED about settling in for another year of learning and personal growth.  (A carry-over emotional response from school years.)  I always think, "THIS is the year I'll finally get organized . . .

We had our monthly Fiberexplorations meeting here Mon. night.  Not everyone finished this month's 9"x12" quilt project, but each person brought something to show that they'd been working on.  The group is getting better and better as each person begins to feel more comfortable with the format, each other, and in getting a better idea of what area of art quilting they'd most like to explore. 

We're more than halfway through the book we've been using ("The Art Quilt Workbook") and I've asked everyone to think of possibilities for the next book to study.  Last night I browsed through my own quilt library and pulled about 8 books to consider.  I think we need one more book arranged in "lessons" as our current book is.  On the other hand, simply studying the universal principles of design and applying that to our projects would be beneficial too.  We'll see!

My three Art & Soul classes (Portland) are coming up fast;  here's what I'm taking: 

Wed, 9/30:  "Tree Book" with Dan Essig  (note the tree growing out of the book!)

Thurs., 10/1:  "Charm School" (working with PMC silver clay to make charms)

Mon, 10/5:  "Watercolor Journeys: Inspiration from Travel" with Jacqueline Newbold (from Bend)   -- more pen & ink drawing, then watercoloring, ala' Jane Lafazio!

What a way to jumpstart a creative Fall!