Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Change in Plans

I hope you all are ready for a fun, long weekend. Our plans changed somewhat when I got a call from the school nurse on Thursday. My youngest daughter had a collision in gym classes and the base of her right hand took the brunt of the fall. Just six months ago we removed her cast for a fractured scaphoid bone in that hand. Back to the orthopedist we went. From the looks of things it's possible she's damaged her growth plate but unfortunately, her hand is too swollen to get a clear x-ray, so we're headed back next week. Until then, it's contained in a splint with hopes that it might just be a really bad contusion. Alas, this morning her hand still looks nasty and it's a hard kind of swollen - yech!

So we've had a change in plans. I'll be digging and she'll be putting plants into the ground. I snapped off a shot at the garden center when another customer said my wagon was pretty as a picture. They were right; don't these look lovely? They also smell great. For me, the scent of fresh basil puts me in the summer mood. There will be pesto on the table soon.

I'm hoping the mailman will deliver my sketchbook for the Art House Coop Sketchbook Project today; I got an email that said it's been shipped. I chose the theme, "This is not a sketchbook"; I figure that leaves things wide open for me. It should be fun and I'll have lots of time this weekend to get started. Anyone else involved in this?

The mailman did deliver something fabulous yesterday. I received an advance copy of the June/July 2010 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine and there, on page 75, is my "Inner Animal" challenge piece. Woo Hoo! I have to say that the QA staff sure knows how to take a nice picture -- my scan here doesn't do it justice. I'm so excited!

I think we'll go out for ice cream to celebrate ... and to soothe my daughter's spirits .. and to beat the heat .... I guess we'll be going out for ice cream more than once and that sounds like a fun weekend to me. What are your plans?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wet Felting Fun

I became interested in felt after seeing the amazing "Fashioning Felt" exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt Museum a few months ago. Oh, the works in that exhibit were absolute wonders! Well, yesterday, I took my first wet felting class with Natalya and a few other friends. It was so much fun and there's nothing like a hands-on class to really help you appreciate the work involved in any art form.

Linda Brooks Hirschman was our intrepid teacher and we met at her wet studio for class. I was a complete neophyte when it came to felt, so Linda was kind enough to take a few moments to explain the principles of felting. In order to create your own felt, you have to start with roving. Roving is wool that's been carded. Each tiny little fiber in the roving bundle is a piece of wool; in this case, merino wool. Each piece of roving has little scales, for lack of a better word, that stick out from the shaft. As you work with the roving, these scales interlock and get tighter, allowing the wool to felt, or stick together.

The process of creating felt isn't all that difficult. You start with roving which you've pulled apart, using the heel of your hand to anchor the bundle and pulling gently with the other hand. You end up with a wispy collection of fibers which you lay on your surface (we used bubblewrap squares). You lay your first layer of roving all in one direction, overlapping the sections a bit so there's something for them to grab on to. If you have a skimpy layer, or sections that don't overlap, you'll end up with holes. That may be your artistic intent at some point, but we wanted to have the pieces hang together to start. After you've completed one layer, you lay a second one in the same fashion, but perpendicular to the first. If there are any subsequent layers you'd like to add, you have to continue going in opposite directions.

Two layers of roving, all laid out and ready to go

Once you've laid all your roving, you wet it with soapy water. The soap acts as a kind of glue for the fibers at this point. We used olive oil soap shavings dissolved in some water. Linda very cleverly used plastic water bottles with holes punched in the tops for this step. You can drizzle the water atop the roving without too much trouble. You certainly can't put this bundle under the tap! In any event, you next lay a layer of plastic atop the wet roving and press on it a bit, making sure that the water gets distributed throughout the layers. There's no need to worry about too much water.

Wetting the layers of roving

After you've made sure the roving is saturated, you begin the agitation step. This was so much fun! To start, you roll your roving around rods, pool noodles, bamboo sushi pads ... you name it, we used it if it was round. This is the step that helps the fibers all interlock. As you roll, water gets squeezed out and the whole thing starts to knit together. You may find you have holes (oops or hurray) or you may find that some sections are a bit thicker than others. That's part of the serendipity of felting. Once you're satisfied that the fibers are well connected you can start to knead it in your hands; you can even throw it unceremoniously onto the table to further bind the roving. (That last bit was very fun and created the coolest, knobbly texture in the felt.) This is also the stage when the felt really starts to shrink up. You have to be careful here because you can't undo any shrinkage. Once it's small, it's small forever. When you do get your felt to the size you'd like, you simply rinse out the soap.

A classmate rolling her felt

Once we'd made a simple piece of felt, we made another, this time adding all sorts of fun things to the mix: multiple colors, curls (wool that hadn't been carded), yarn, even lemon bag netting and sticks.

A table full of goodies to choose from and use

The process is the same for more complex pieces of cloth, except that you have to "veil" any non-roving materials, meaning you have to lay a fine layer of roving atop any such object so that the fibers around it can hold it in place. You can also rub some bar soap atop things such as yarn to help them stick better. I really enjoyed adding funky stuff to my felt and here's what I made.

Our last project was to use a resist to make a non-seamed vessel. This one is a little tough to explain without pictures, but suffice it to say that all managed to successfully make a vessel. How cool is that?

This was such a fun day and I'm looking forward to making more felt. Perhaps I'll try a scarf next!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Westchester Biennial 2010

On Friday, Natalya and I went to the Westchester Biennial 2010 at the Castle Gallery of The College of New Rochelle. It was .... interesting. It's clear from this exhibit that I need some education before I could possibly become a curator or juror because there was a lot of art here that I simply didn't understand. However, there was one piece that I feel in love with: "Junk Spirit" by Tomoko Abe.

"Junk Spirit" 2009, Tomoko Abe

Abe believes that "all that exist in the world have spirit and life of their own" and as such, she mixes what others would call trash with her own ceramic work to create marvelous installations. One of the gallery workers informed us that the piece on exhibit at the Biennial was slightly smaller than the artist had intended due to space constraints, but at 6 feet x 9.7 feet, it didn't feel cramped. The arrangement of the objects within the installation were arranged as if flowing in a current, the flotsam and jetsam of the sea, but beautiful. Abe mixed plastic containers, shells, even parts from an old computer and allowed them to circulate around ceramic work she created.

I was glad that the gallery used a white wall for this installation because the color didn't compete with the objects on display. But it also allowed for the third element of the piece to be better appreciated: shadow. Gallery lights were placed at opposite ends of the room, shining back onto the piece, so the light intersected in the middle. All the elements were wonderfully highlighted and given additional depth, but some very playful shadows were also created. It was almost like a game to discover all the different variations.

I was very glad to hear that Abe has been offered a solo show later this year (or early next year, the docent couldn't recall) and I'll be on the lookout so I can attend. Have you seen any cool art lately?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Great Art Right Under My Nose

Yesterday evening, I went to our high school to view the district-wide art show. My attendance was mandatory because my youngest was playing flute at the reception and my oldest daughter, who takes photography, had to go to the show or write an essay. I also needed to go because both girls had artwork selected to be in the exhibit.

As it turns out, I should have gone whether my children were in the show or not. It was absolutely incredible. One gym was filled with the art from the "regular classes". The presentation was organized by theme. Moveable screens were covered in photography and graphic design assignments. Tables were laden with sculptures and plaster figures. Painting, drawings and sketches hung all around on the walls. Another room was set aside for the AP students. Here, each student had a 6' x 4' screen to cover with selected pieces, along with a statement about what art has meant to them. Each was a cohesive mini-exhibit within the screen and they were all marvelous.

It was lucky I had a child to pick up or I would have wandered this exhibit for hours; I was so enraptured. It was electrifying to see and hear through art, the voices of all these young people. Their perception of the world -- the way they look at details -- all of it was very exciting. I strongly urge you all to go to your local high school's art exhibits. You just might be as amazed and invigorated as I was.

Detail from "Self Portrait"; charcoal drawing on craft paper, student name withheld

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Frosty Ferns

I've had a UFO pinned to my design wall for over a year. I'd cut up a piece of fabric I had gelatin plate printed with ferns and stitched the pieces onto white fabric. And then.... the thing languished on my wall. I tried a few ideas but nothing spoke to me; I didn't know what to do next.

As I was out in the garden last week, I brushed up against some of my ferns. They're not giant-sized yet, but they are a very pretty shape. I brought a few indoors, traced around the edges, and free-motion quilted the silhouette of two of the ferns. An intermittent vein detail done with a running stitch in a contrasting thread completed the quilt.

Now to pack it up and send it off to the New Mexico Quilt Association Spring Fantasy Quilt show. They've accepted Frosty Ferns for their upcoming show!

Frosty Ferns: 18" x 24":


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Handprint #2

Well, it's done -- the piece I've been working on for our upcoming Fiber Arts NorthEast exhibit. I like the concept, but the jury's still out on the final look. I was having a lot of trouble with the composition so I dashed over to Natalya's house for suggestions. As I laid out what I was working on, Natalya saw it from the side -- well, to her it seemed right side up, but I had thought it was sideways. We both agreed that looking at it from her angle made the piece look better. Who knew that turning things in a new direction could make such a difference? I'm going to have to keep that trick in mind.

In any event, the piece is done and ready to be mounted onto the exhibit canvas. I'm not sure I like the way the hand turned out, but I invested too much time in it to completely scrap it. I also think this would look better as a rectangular piece, but I didn't think that was conducive to the square exhibit canvas. But, this has given me some new ideas and I hope I have time to pursue them.

Handprint #2: 12.5" x 12.5"; paper fabric made from newspaper

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Trying to clear my head

I took a walk this morning to clear my head -- because I'm catching a whooper of a cold and to help me solve a composition problem I'm having with my piece for the upcoming Fiber Art Northeast exhibit. My walk was only partially successful. I did forget about my cold as I took pictures, but my brain didn't do any behind the scenes work to resolve my design issue. I think I'm just going to have to muddle through it by trial and error.

In the meantime, here are some pictures from today's amble. Yes, I love poppies while they bloom! And though it seems odd to take a picture of the leaves in spring, I just had to do it. I thought the colors of the Japanese maples leaves were just beautiful with the sun shining through.