Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Spirit Within

I did it! I backed off just a little. I gave myself permission to close my eyes and breath, and it had a wonderful effect. This week I am feeling so much lighter, so revived. I got caught up with the need for mental quiet and an incredible amount of energy poured in...and then the work poured out. It's been a great couple of weeks of completing things. Plus I have resumed reading blogs and searching around and joining again. I am pleased, and I say: there is a happy balance to be found.

Before I talk about the art that showed up I want to acknowledge all the people that do. My Baby Blog, born on October 28, 2010, will be six months old next week, just in time for Momma to turn, well, another decade older. But who's counting? Momma feels young as ever, Baby Blog is thriving, and it's all because of you, dear readers. You leave me wonderful affirmations, and return time and time again. I'm not always sure when I have something worth taking up a part of your precious day, but I guess if you didn't enjoy the visit you wouldn't keep returning. Just yesterday we reached 4,000 page views and 41 (Google) followers. Others of you may be returning by Networked Blogs on Facebook, or privately by email or RSS. There are so many ways to keep in touch, and I am grateful when you do. Please feel free to leave a comment, or if you are shy about the open page, contact me directly. So, thank you, new friends, and I hope you will continue to be entertained, or made thoughtful, or learn something new to enlarge your own creative world.

A selection of small accordion-fold watercolor journals, ready for action. They were an unfinished project from my sketching on location class, finally completed.

The covers were all made by me from recycled materials and parts and pieces left over from my mixed media class. The painted canvas box was made to store them.

As I mentioned at the start, lately the art is flowing freely. When I began this blog, I was just beginning to examine my need for a better level of creative adventure. Something deeper and more of myself than the rehashing of others' styles and designs. I began to be a student of creativity once again, through classes and mentors, through reading, and most importantly--daily practice. I was not sure how to proceed except one day at a time, and one image at a time, being open to materials, techniques and inspirations.

"Secret Garden," from a mixed media lesson in painting on fabric (the poppies are acrylic on muslin), the green is painted cotton batting, and the frame fabric (sunprinted with bleeding art tissue) was found in my stash.

I had been playing tentatively at this "student" business, but suddenly last week as I worked, I began to feel a vision of sorts. The art practice was truly building a framework inside me to hold and nurture the creativity. That is was jelling--becoming a real thing, something good and permanent and mine.

"Hippo Love--Purple Version"--a tiny mixed media book on Lutradur, with a torn, sewn and stencilled watercolor paper cover.

"Hippo Love--Pink Version"

Now I feel ideas are flowing more freely. I don't have to search for them so hard, they just come as I work. I have long been averse to totally planning an art piece. I work best in stages, leaving open the paths to go down as they beckon, as they seem the next logical way. The serendipitous find, the "Aha!" moments, they thrill me. I am studying this immersion process with Jude Hill in her "Whispering Hearts" class right now. She is there as an artist, creating for us in real time as we look in, and if we want to, participate. I am loving the insights.

"Crop Circles", a completed project in woven, embroidered and quilted fabric from Jude's "Cloth to Cloth" Workshop, also know as "The Husband Cloth" because it was requested by the same for his denim jacket.

The other revelation is just how much I live and breath this thing. I long to work on art. I wake up thinking about it. I constantly search for paper to jot down ideas. (Next comes the discipline of keeping an actual sketch journal for that purpose.) I run downstairs after retiring to bed to set aside fabric or other ingredients to add to the design mix for the next day. I have even dreamt designs that I was able to remember. The art sometimes seems as important as breathing. It is never a chore, unless I force it. When  I channel it, it is always joyful. I used to do "crafts" all the time, and by that I mean completing a copy of someone else's design. Whether knitting, beading, stained glass objects, I had to touch the materials, combine the colors, see something grow. Now I hope to see those well crafted items begin to express a deeper meaning, a more personal creativity. I am moving on. Will you be joining me?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Reach Out and Touch

It's been an intensely arty couple of weeks. No time to think about blogging. Sure, the Internet encourages instant sharing: it's possible to finish a piece of art or a step in a piece or a thought about a step in a piece, and within minutes your blog world fans can be there with you communing, commenting, commiserating, cheering. All the sharing, so warm and fuzzy...or eventually tiring and meaningless? I mean, how many times in one day or week can we find something that someone has done or said to be remarkable, say something witty about it, be kind and helpful, contribute in any useful manner?

At what point as an artist do you need to shut the door and just be with yourself, your muse, and your process? Too much Internet sharing and we not only lose time and energy better spent on the art, but we lose the integrity of our own vision. A poem (by someone who hasn't written one since high school):

We like too much,
we see too much.
Our art becomes homogeneous.

So as much as I love my blogging, online classes and forums, I am trying (with baby steps) to back off just a little, and give myself breathing room to work. That said, let me show you the recent reality.

One of the most constant creative muses in my recent life has been textile artist extraordinaire, Jude Hill, a true original. She doesn't teach her designs, she teaches how to design, how to think about design, how to let go of the rules and be original. Of course, we, her students, will tend to mimic her as we study, but we are learning something so much bigger as we build the pieces to a new type of "quilt" art, based on something ancient, but thoroughly modern at the same time.

Jude makes all her art by labor intensive hand sewing, and sells very little of it. So recently, when a small piece I had admired (as I watched it be born on her blog) found its way to her shop just at the moment I was paying attention, I was able to adopt this lovely creation. "The Edgekeeper" now lives in my sewing studio and looks over my shoulder as I work. Along with this small cloth came some of her magic thread, and an extra surprise cut from a piece of her exploratory work--treasures all!

The "Edgekeeper" under a March full moon

Fellow student and follower, deanna, has a marvelous blog that recently celebrated 200 entries with a giveaway, and somehow, on April Fools Day, I had my name drawn from the basket to win. Deanna's gift will serve as a daily reminder that my Internet friends are real (and talented) people.

A gift of friendship in my mailbox today

Lucy likes it! She says--no reason a pin cushion can't be beautiful.

Meanwhile my very real Designing Women met this week for the first time since the passing of our best pal, Jeri, in late February. It was a bittersweet reunion, because Jeri loved to try anything new, and missed out on a day of relaxed creative fun, food, and sharing. I passed along, to a great reception, the technique of making craft foam stamps that resemble entire paintings (as learned the best I could) from the article "Faux Silkscreen"by Patricia Gaignet, in the September/October issue of "Cloth, Paper, Scissors Magazine."

My friend, Jeanette, created the stamp, and gave me free reign
 to customize  a picture for myself.

For the past five weeks, I have been taking two classes online. One is "Mixed Media with Paper and Cloth" by Jane LaFazio, that has kept me massively busy producing parts and possibilities of interesting pieces that I will continue to work on for months to come. So far two are done (or nearly so.)

Time Machine--how a small paper/fabric collage became a quilt

Detail view to the layers of color and texture

Comfy Chair--mixed media paper on painted canvas,
 adapted from an original watercolor journal page

The other is an introductory course in shibori, or the Japanese art of shaped dyeing of cloth. It is taught by "Shibori Girl," Glennis Dolce. Motifs are dyed into cloth (rather than printed on the surface) through a combination of folding and clamping, stitching and drawing up, and wrapping around poles with string. The designs can be simple or complex, but are never identically the same twice. Again, I will be working on my own for many moons (an inside joke) to really put in the necessary practice to feel even somewhat accomplished.

Itajime Shibori--overdyeing with resists

Stitched shibori--mokume (wood grain)

Stitched shibori sampler showing the process

Stitched shibori scarf

As if my life hasn't been interesting and colorful to the max, I recently received a totally out of the blue surprise invitation to come visit an Internet friend on her own turf, a place I know from my youth, but haven't experienced for many years. I am more than stoked for that!

When I think about this creative life, it brings to mind the vision of a circle of people from my folk dancing youth. You always had to reach out both hands and take the hands on either side of yourself. Often they would belong to strangers. It didn't matter. They reached back and took yours. The music would start and the circle would begin to move. Together for just a moment in time and place, you shared a joyful creation through motion. Then over, but not lost. For the artist, the real creations are not the results, but the experience of the doing. Create something this week, alone or with someone. Make a friend, deepen a friendship, know yourself, find your place.