Friday, March 25, 2011

How I Work

It seems as if I had a million deadlines March 15th including producing and submitting new work. I thought I would add to my plate by documenting my creative process. I made a conscious decision to show the process in chronological order, beginning to end; I couldn’t post at each step, or, unless someone stopped by every day, they would see the end before the beginning. I enjoy many of the tutorials of other artists, but I usually come late to the party so I have to find the first post and work forward, which I do not like. All this is to say, this is going to be one long post. We’ll start with the view out my studio window

Cool, huh? BTW, some of the text has been taken from pieces I’ve written for the March 15 submissions, so, if any of this sounds familiar, PICK ME PICK ME PICK ME!

I see my process in three stages:

     Concept and Design
     Preparation and gathering of Materials
     Actual production

A piece can start with almost anything; a thought, a feeling, a smell, a sight. Often for me it is one of these that leads to another. Most often, I stand on my deck in the dark when most of the world around me sleeps. I close my eyes, turn my face to the sky and breathe. A peace always fills me if I am willing to surrender to it (not so easy in a cold rain). I spread my arms wide and let thoughts drift in and out. I see a beginning.

   I take that beginning (be it a word or image) to my design wall.  I pin an appropriately-sized piece of black or white paper to the wall, step back, and visualize what I can. 

   I then add to it; perhaps I write the word(s) on another piece of paper and add that.  I may add fabric in the general shapes and colors I see when I close my eyes.  I step back again.
  I move, add, remove and change the image for as long as it takes to make a grin spread across my face and my feet start a happy dance.  It may take quite a while (hours-days-weeks-months!) for that grin/dance to erupt, but when it does, I know it’s time to think about actualizing the concept. 

    I then enter hunter-gatherer mode.  I open my cabinet of many colors and textures and pull one possibility at a time.  I don’t put any away until I’ve found as many pieces of the puzzle as I can. 

As I’m doing this, I see how each piece fits with the others. The color may be right, but the texture wrong. I visualize embellishment. I don’t start until I have most of what I need.

    I take each part from the wall, one at a time, use it as a pattern to cut the puzzle part it represents, and replace it on the wall with the fabric I have chosen.  It is a fluid process, some things work, some don’t.  It’s never done until it’s done, and then the wonderful thing about fiber is it can be undone!  It’s tedious to undo, but if it’s not right, it’s wrong.
I appliqué most of my work, and utilizing a variety of other methods including, but not limited to, fusing, basting, trapunto, beading, embroidering and quilting.  This is my thimble:
Yes, it's painters' tape.  I cannot work with a regular thimble.  Once in a while I can use a "rubber finger" we all used to page thru paper to file (ugh; the VERY BEST THING about computers is, if you can stand to allow it, the computer will file for you!!!).  The first workshop I attended as an "adult" was at Arrowmont in Tennessee.  I thought I was so creative to use the blue tape, but nooooooo; three other attendees had the handy stuff in their stash!

     So, this is really getting long and I'm almost out of words, so I'll let my pictures say thos thousands of words they're supposed to:

Yes, it's a different piece; I told you I had a lot to do!  It is, however, my sewing area.  Don't you just love the chair upholstery?u just love the chair upholstery?

And the OFFICIAL photograph of the finished piece:

And, for fun, some oth my other new work:
The last piece is a version of one of my first pieces; I have always felt the need to re-visit it with more practices skills.  Same silk screen, tho.  I'm afraid the screen is done for good because I didn't clean it well enough 2 years ago.

So, that's it.  I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at documentation.  It, like my textile skills, will get better with practice, right?  If it were warmer, this is how I'd celebrate:

And, leave my studio as it was March 16:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Pitter-Pat of Little Feet -or- THE BATTLE OF THE SQUIRREL

My studio had a cathedral ceiling. Last year, a squirrel began keeping me company by scurrying in the eaves. It was worrisome at first, and not little scary as my BFF had recently fought her one battle with (gasp!) roof rats. Luckily, my neighbor spotted the squirrel entertaining friends (possibly a cocktail reception in celebration of his new digs?)

It didn’t happen often, and I really didn’t want to hurt the little fellow. Spring came and the squirrel left. Yea! I didn’t have to make any decisions about my former tenant.

Fall came. So did the squirrel. Okay, now I did have to take action; who knew what kind of devilment he could get into? Damage was certain to follow, if had not already occurred. I called he-who-for-a-fee-will-humanely-remove-your-furry-infestations. He came, he placed a big trap, noted that as long as “that hole is there” the squirrel would have no incentive to hop into the trap. I would insert a photo of the “hole” at this point but it is “hole” no longer.

Months pass. The pitter-patter of squirrelly toes continue over my studio. The trap remains vacant. One morning I hear the aforementioned pitter-patter above my head as I wake. In my bedroom. ARRRRGH. He’s expanding his territory. A few days later when I was watching Private Practice (don’t you just love to see Taye Diggs smile?) in the living room, you guessed it, pitter-patter.

Meanwhile, we receive a tax refund. “Wa-hoo “ says my DH, “can we get an estimate on enclosing the deck?” To maintain a peaceful life, I call a recommended contractor. He came, we shared our differing thoughts about the deck and I asked, innocently, “Do you have a minute to look at another little problem we have?” I pointed to a juncture of several rooflines in the bedroom that has been damp in the past. DH had been in the attic seeking the reason last rainy season, finding no obvious reason.

Up into the little opening in my closet (Really? My closet? He was lucky to find a place to set the ladder!)

Mr Contracter says, “Uh, there are a few problems up here…come on up an look…you can see daylight” First, I looked at DH who reckoned it was dark when he was investigating. Then I said, “that’s okay, we believe you; can you fix it?”

Well, of course he can. To his credit, he did a very thorough job of finding all the problems and offering to fix them. No, now don’t be jumping to conclusions; my furry tenant had nothing to do with the shoddy roofing job my house had. Hey, it was built long before we moved in, so I don’t even have a builder to fuss at or about. However, the gutters did have a problem that Mr Squirrel had exacerbated by leaving nesting material in them. Remember “the hole?” – part of the problem, of course.

Cut to today; I visit with “the guys” for a moment. Ronnie, who is the most chatty, proudly asks, “Did they tell you I caught that squirrel?” He demonstrated, from high atop a ladder, how he accomplished the task. His nameless helper added, “Yup! That squirrel ran down that way and jumped off the roof! Plop! Landed flat on his stomach, didn’t even use a tree! Plop! Got up, and high-tailed-it” (literally, I assumed) “up between those houses”

And so, the BATTLE OF THE SQUIRREL was waged and won.

What about the deck, you ask? Hahahahahaha. One of the joys of homeownership is putting the needs of the house before your wants.

Adieu, friend squirrel. Adieu, hole. Adieu, tax refund. Hello lovely soffit and fascia and chimney cap, and…

UPDATE!  I found a piece of "the hole" and, either the first squirrel is back or one of the party attendees just woke up.  The battle goes on.  I hope my friend, Buster, has better luck! Check out his progress: