Sunday, August 30, 2009

Be Still

I recently had the pleasure of working on a cloth that will be hung in the chapel of a local church. The chapel is a wonderful space, just next to the church's main sanctuary. It has a very warm, peaceful, welcoming feel to it. I feel honored that my work will grace such a beautiful, sacred space.

The photo below is my original drawing of the proposed cloth. The design went through a few changes, however the final result is pretty similar. The cloth was to fit with the theme of the scripture, "Be still and know that I am God."

I had envisioned using a gradation dyeing technique in which the center of the cloth would be bright yellow and would radiate out into oranges, peaches and pinks. However, when I saw the space in which it would be hung, I realized that it needed softer, more subtle tones to coordinate with the sandy peach walls. We also decided the cloth needed to be larger than the original plan. The single cloth was dwarfed by the high ceilings and 14 foot wall of the chapel. So, we agreed upon having three panels, each 48" x 32".

I worked on this cloth in much the same way I work on most of my pieces. I set my intention for the cloth and each day, before I worked on it, I meditated on that intention. My intention for this cloth was that all who looked upon it would feel the light, love, peace and joy of Spirit. While I had a plan, after studiously testing color samples and design possibilities, I remained open to any messages from my intuition while I worked. This did result in a slight color change from the original plan.

Below is a photo of the finished cloth. It will soon be hung in the chapel and I'm looking forward to seeing it in that space!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Layering Resists

I've been working with resists for a long time now, although it's only been in the past year or two that I have really experimented with layering the resist techniques. Now, I find it hard to create a cloth without using at least two resists. When looking at the finished pieces, the resist layers may not be evident at first glance, however I feel they add depth that makes the final piece richer and more complex. Below are photos of some of the pieces I have created using multiple resists.

Centered was created with oatmeal, acrylic and print paste resists.

Ancient Wisdom was created with soy wax and acrylic medium resist.

One with Nature was created with soy wax, print paste and dextrin resist.

Awakening was created with flour paste and acrylic medium resist.

Fingerprints was created with flour paste, acrylic and print paste resists.

Seaweed was crated with flour paste, soy wax and acrylic resists.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Artist's Way - All Finished

I have finally finished working through The Artist's Way, a book about unlocking your creativity, by Julia Cameron. It is a 12 week program, but I took a bit longer because I skipped a couple of weeks here and there. Overall, I would say it has been a worthwhile experience. I have been pretty faithful in writing my "morning pages", writing in a journal every morning. I haven't been good at taking artist "dates" - spending an hour each week on an outing doing something I enjoy. With the 100 degree weather we have been having, I did not feel like doing much this summer!

So, would I recommend this book to others? Yes and no. I think it really depends on the individual and where they are at in their journey. I had some philosophical differences with some of the activities, and some just seemed silly. I know Julia would say that just means I really need to do those activities. But I took the book the way I take most things - I take from it what I can and let go of the rest. And there was definitely something worth taking, for me. The morning pages have been a great way to get in touch with my inner guidance. They have also helped me work through some stressful situations that have come up over the past 3 months. The affirmations have been helpful - helping me realize that the way I think about myself has a lot to do with how others see me and with how life unfolds for me. And some of the exercises have opened up my awareness - to my procrastination, to ways in which I sabotage myself and to small things I can do to nurture my creativity.

In the book, Julia says it's working if you feel an urge to sort out, organize and de-clutter your life. If that's true, it must be working for me! I have been slowly working on getting my home studio organized and rearranged.I'm almost finished and will post before and after photos when it's done. Now if I could just get that enthusiasm for cleaning the rest of the house!

Who would I not recommend the book to? Someone who isn't committed to actually working through the exercises. I don't know if there is much value in just reading the book. To me, going through at least some of the exercises is the only way to get anything out of it.

So, what next for me? I plan to continue the morning pages, because I can't imagine starting my day without them now. And there are a few exercises that I want to go back and revisit. I still want to incorporate artist dates, but I'm thinking I'll start that next month (so my procrastinator says!)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Small Works

In between my other deadlines this month, I have finished two smaller pieces from fabric I created at the ArtCloth demonstration I gave last month. The above piece, Bamboo Sunrise, was created from half of the cloth pictured below.

I added three additional layers to it - brown stamped bamboo leaves, some yellow screenprinting and a bit of gold leaf.

I overdyed the other half of the fabric, to tone down the orange. The first overdye was in a pale tobacco. It was too dull and didn't move the piece forward. I overdyed it in orange, but I discovered that the yellow dye I purchased on clearance doesn't seem to work well on cotton, so it turned pink! I think it has some potential, but now there is very little value contrast, so this might be a good candidate for screenprinting with bleach.

The second piece, Texas Wildflowers, was created with two fabrics from a deconstructed silkscreen. I layered the silk organza on top of the noil to print. I forgot to add soda ash to the print paste, so the colors on the organza are very pale. The noil is darker because I screened through the deconstructed silkscreen with thickened dyes.

I overdyed the silk in orange and printed it with a new thermofax I created that looks (to me) like a flower. This is one of the thermofaxes that came out of my design explorations days. I added a little bit of copper leaf to the noil (using the same flower screen) and layered the silks over a wooden frame. Both of these are already spoken for, so you won't see them for sale on my gallery page.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Perils of Perfectionism

What could possibly be the downfalls of perfectionism? Paying attention to details, getting everything just right - that's a good thing, isn't it? If one doesn't get too obsessive about it, there are definite benefits. There is nothing wrong with creating work that reflects technical skill in one's field and that is professionally and neatly finished. However, the strive for perfection can also cause paralysis, inaction, stress, feelings of frustration, and lack of satisfaction with the end result. Ask me how I know.

I have only become aware of my tendency toward perfectionism in the past few years. And I have realized that, at times, it can be a problem for me with my art. I want everything I create to be a wonderful work of art. This has caused me to sit and stare at a piece for days because I was afraid to "ruin" it. It has also stifled experimentation, because I felt that I didn't want to "waste" my time not really creating anything. When I have experimented, oftentimes I haven't been satisfied with the results. They didn't meet my high standards and weren't "good enough".

Becoming aware of my tendencies toward perfectionism has helped me overcome some of the negatives. And over the past few years, I have really made an effort to take that next step on a piece of art and not worry about "ruining" it. I have also allowed myself more time for trying out new techniques and that has helped my art grow and evolve. Despite all this, I continually have to monitor my thoughts to override some of those old messages.

I had a wonderful breakthrough last week in working on a project. It was a commission, so I put even more pressure on myself. It wasn't just about my satisfaction with the end result, I wanted my client to be satisfied as well. After I dyed the piece, I was a little disappointed. It wasn't "perfect", because it did not look exactly like the vision that was in my head. I toyed with the idea of handpainting the cloth to try to get closer to my vision. I waffled back and forth for a few days about whether to leave it or change it. Then, I had an insight one morning. I realized that the cloth was exactly as it should be. I had made some last minute changes from my plan during the actual dyeing. I had followed my intuition in doing so. I strongly respect my intuition and so I let myself trust in the guidance I received as I created the cloth. When I reached that decision, the stress melted away and I felt at peace with the cloth as it was.

Since then, I have worked on several other pieces and felt a similar letting go. Things that I would have been dissatisfied with in the past didn't bother me. Things that I would have spent hours trying to "fix", I surrendered with an exhale of my breathe. Does that mean I have relaxed my quality standards? No, I'm not saying that I am overlooking sloppy workmanship. The things I have decided to overlook are so minor, no one else would notice. For example, on one piece the border is slightly wider on one side of the cloth (by about 1/16 of an inch). I noticed it, but no one else did. Maybe there is something to be said for letting go of perfectionism. I feel lighter and less stressed. This may be just a temporary madness, but I hope not.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fiber Art - Call for Entries

The Fiber Artists of San Antonio are holding their annual exhibition on October 6-29. Any resident of Texas can enter the exhibition. The exhibition is hosted by Gallery Nord, a beautiful gallery with lots of natural light and high ceilings that are great for artcloth! It is a great opportunity to showcase your work in fiber. All of the rules and qualifications are listed in the call for entry, which is available as a Word document download. The deadline to enter is a month away, so there is plenty of time to get your entries finished.

Below are some photos from last year's exhibition.

Art Quilt by Maryann Johnson

Artcloth by Lisa Kerpoe

Art Doll by Linda Rael

Silk/Cotton bowl by Sarah Burke

Art Quilt by Laurie Brainerd

Artcloth by Susie Monday

Art Doll by Su Cooke

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Sacred Art of Altars

The Celebration Circle, a local inter-faith community, holds an annual auction of altars created by local artists. The artist is given a plain wooden box and has two months to transform it into an altar representing that which he/she holds sacred. Keep in mind that the group is very diverse and represents people from a variety of faith backgrounds and beliefs. The altars rarely fit the traditional expectations for sacred art.

I have participated in the exhibition for the past four years. I enjoy working on the altar and am always amazed by the myriad interpretations of the theme. All types of media are incorporated into the altar - painting, textiles, metal, sculpture, clay, found objects, mixed media. Below is the first altar I created for the event in 2005. I couldn't find photos of any of my other altars!

I've been working diligently to get my altar completed this week. It is finished and ready for delivery on Sunday. Below are a few photos designed to pique your interest. I'll post photos of the finished piece along with exhibition information when the exhibit opens in early September.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Pursuit of Happiness

I was reading an article in the newspaper the other day about someone who recently wrote a book about happiness (sorry, don't remember the author or title). His premise was that people really don't want happiness, they want contentment. He argues that we strive for material success, for things and they don't make us happy. It got me thinking about happiness and how I define it.

I feel that happiness does come from within. Maybe it's just semantics and we are really saying the same thing. I know that the "high" that can come from short term events such as winning an award, getting accepted into an exhibition, receiving a commission, or selling my work is only temporary. That feeling is not sustained over a long period. The happiness I feel comes from living a life that is true to my values. It comes from the satisfaction I have in my work, whether I am creating a piece of art or teaching others. It comes from the enjoyment I get when I sit on my patio surrounded by native plants, birds, lizards and other creatures. It comes from the joy of shared laughter with my husband over a humorous experience. It comes from the wonderful array of people who are in my life, people who share my values and interests.

And I believe that I can still be happy even if I face setbacks. My happiness is not determined by a single or series of events. I still have an underlying sense of happiness with my life even when some things aren't going well. I believe that while we may not be able to control the events that come into our lives, we can control how we react to those events. And our reaction, to a great extent, impacts our sense of happiness.

So, how do you define happiness? Are you happy? What contributes to or blocks your happiness?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Eden's Room, A Fiber Art Boudoir by Laurel Gibson

Laurel Gibson currently has a solo exhibition at Fiber ArtSpace in San Antonio, Texas. Laurel incorporates traditional embroidery techniques along with mythical imagery. She describes the exhibition this way:

"The identity of women as it is passed on through stories is transformed into embroidered clothing and wall hangings. These stories are ingrained in our innermost selves as glimpses of the past are reflected in our dreams, myths, and fantasies. The format of a bedroom represents something intimate and the wardrobe addresses how who we are clothes our outer selves. Through this installation the viewer sees myths likened to trying on a dress or wearing a certain cloak. Priestess, Queen and Goddess... clothing is a symbol of power. Eden's Room is an assemblage of many cultures with their exciting heritage of ideas, icons, and stories."

Song of Songs

Song of Songs is a textile version of the Book of Solomon. Each verse is handwritten on a separate piece of fabric and all are handstitched together.

The series, Suits of Nobility, includes 20 works that feature photo transfer to fabric and hand stitching.

The Series, Tree of Life and Death, is inspired by the Qabalah and includes depictions of ten tantric goddesses.

Mercy, Receptacular Intelligence

Cungi is one in a series of three altered dresses.

Laurel is giving an artist talk about her work on Sunday, August 16, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. The exhibit runs through August 29, 2009. Stop by and see it if you have the opportunity. The detail in her work is much better appreciated in person!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Adinkra Class

I spent two wonderful days in the hill country on Thursday and Friday facilitating an adinkra workshop. Adinkra is a textile art technique in which sacred symbols are stamped on a cloth in a grid pattern. There are over 100 adinkra symbols, so each cloth carries its own message based on the combination of symbols used. The technique originated in Ghana and was traditionally used for funerals (adinkra means “goodbye”). Adinkra cloth is now used for a variety of occasions.

The workshop was held at Majestic Ranch Arts Foundation, a wonderful art center in Boerne, TX. It is located on 525 acres in the hill country, with beautiful views and the peaceful sounds of nature all around.

This is one of my favorite workshops to teach. Participants start with white fabric and dye it to a color of their choosing.

Then they choose symbols that are relevant for the cloth they are making.

Once the cloth is dyed and the symbols are carved, the design work begins. Some participants chose to use the traditional grid pattern, others used a different approach, based on the pattern created on the cloth during dyeing.

Each cloth is created with intention. Participants are guided through a visualization process to help them determine who the cloth will be for, what symbols are appropriate for the cloth and how the cloth will be used. Examples of some of the cloth that have been created in the workshops include:
  • a cloth to welcome a new baby to the family
  • a cloth to represent a lifetime of growth and experience
  • a healing cloth
  • a cloth in honor of a son who had passed away years earlier
  • a cloth to honor a friend on her birthday

The symbols used and the meaning behind the cloth are as varied and individual as the participants. The stories behind the cloth are what make them so special.

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