Monday, December 12, 2011

Collecting The Sparkly Bits : Chicago Holiday, Part II

There is something so satisfying about taking bits of color and texture and artfully combining them to make a whole that is so much more interesting than any of the elements involved. As the puzzle comes together, the brain plays lovingly with the new combinations to find meaning and story to amuse and delight itself.

That combination of bits is a great part of all the arts, as in the creation of a piece of jewelry, or a painting, or a woven piece of cloth. It plays into the creation of each new memory of time well spent. It is ultimately the formula of an interesting life.

A finely crafted day is especially wonderful when the bits and pieces include the experience of wonderful art. Those details double the fascination for me, and helps to create memories that enrich with the retelling.  One of my best reasons for wanting a city life in retirement is to be surrounded by the possibility of falling into art.  I like the serendipitous nature of the hunt. Knowing that it is all around me, on the street and hidden behind walls, a day in the city is a scavenger hunt for something I've never seen before, or a deeply loved favorite that I intend to revisit. Some of the findings will come from previous announcement through the media, and some will be by fortuitous accident. Every trip to Chicago has a mixture of these elements, and stumbling upon the unplanned feels like the universe is complicit in my pleasure.

The completed bracelet from last month, a labor of love and about forty hours of work. Don't know that I'll ever wear it, but who would buy it?

Such simple unassuming parts as tiny glass beads or over-sized rhinestones (rivolis). Here you see the beginning stages of adding the fringe. After sewing about seventeen different fringes between each rivoli, others were sewn around each of the beaded bezels and then around the edge of the beaded base to achieve that sumptuous fullness seen in the finished bracelet.

Self portrait of a couple off to have a city adventure
 on a festive Friday evening.

The big city is full of big street art. Tribune plaza has hosted Cows on Parade, "American Gothic" farmers, and now, Marilyn.

A view that we never really saw in the movie or the famous photos. This is the very heart of town, just over the Michigan Avenue bridge north of the Chicago River. She draws much attention, some controversy, and frankly was more beautiful than I thought it would be. She seems to embody the bold energy and excitement that you feel when you stand in this heart of American culture.

Just like last year, one of us took great advantage of the tree-house-like space of the window seat. Looking in from the perch...

...looking out on the night (at Wabash and Wacker, and the Chicago River).

Saturday we went in search of culture at (among other places) The Chicago Cultural Center. Formerly the main branch of the city library, the building was designed in a long gone era of fine craftsmanship and bold investment in public wealth. This was a palace for the people of the city. It is still awe inspiring.

A grand entrance serves as a gallery of amazing tile work.

Newly restored to grandeur, the Tiffany dome.

Beside the beauty of the building, the Cultural Center hosts fascinating free art exhibits, often with a more controversial, modern, or local provenance than the Art Institute. As usual we were not disappointed. The outstanding current exhibit, on view through April of 2012, is "Write Now: Artists and Letterforms".  
The trifecta of enjoyment was completed when we stumbled upon a festival  sponsored by the local public radio station, WBEZ91.5, called "What's Your Art: Celebrating the Art Centers of Chicago." In the huge ballroom-like Yates Gallery, were about twenty booths and activity stations, with enough live art to keep you busy for hours if you cared to immerse yourself in talking to all the artists. In addition to getting a sales pitch to buy hand blown glass from some enthusiastic local students, and a great talk about camera lenses with a local photographer, I had a linoleum block print custom made for me for free, and watched (although I sorely wanted to participate) an "impromptu" communal dance with knitwear.

Getting ready for the reveal...

Just like children's flip books, we each got to choose which head, body and feet went together to create our unique character.

Laid out on the floor covering the center of room was a zigzag of knit tubing (the kind we all made as kids on one of those spools with nails) connecting about 100 knit and crocheted hats of every imaginable style and color.

At the designated time, the dance leader gave a few quick rules of the dance, instructed the volunteer participants to don a hat and the music began.

What good is a giant hat dance without a rousing brass section a la New Orleans and Mardi Gras?

The Man waits patiently. Because I am not dancing
 he knows we will leave sooner than later.

And so it goes, it is time to culminate the weekend's festivities with the original purpose of the trip, a yearly dinner dance sponsored by the Association of Iron and Steel Technology. Never the best of the trip, but the catalyst to prompt us to experience the rest. 

A couple of pink "cosmos" make the table and me more festive.

 Happy Holidays to all my friends and readers. I hope you have enjoyed our adventures together this year and that I will see you again in the New Year. If you aren't already doing so, I hope you will sign up to follow, and feel free to leave comments on this or any post.


  1. Your photos are great, that tiffany dome and the whole building is amazing..looks like you had a marvellous time.

  2. I think your bracelet is gorgeous! I am sure it looks lovely on your wrist.
    Your trip looks amazing too! Great pictures.
    Merry CHristmas to you.

  3. As always, wonderful to read about your journeys...thanks for sharing with us readers, Cheryl! Happy Holidays!

  4. It was a Red Thread dance! I saw one in Michigan once while attending a weaving conference and decided to participate. Made a memory!

    Gorgeous bracelet (I made one in that same over-the-top vein) and Howcum I never knew about the cultural center??? What a wonderful place.

    Happy holidays and see you next year! Cheers!

  5. Just wanted to leave a comment and tell you how much I have enjoyed visiting your blog. I have enjoyed traveling with you to different locations..Chicago, Portland, and Greenville. I especially enjoyed your drawings and needlework/and bead work.

    Have a wonderful New Year.