Thursday, December 31

Goodbye 2009

Happy New Year everybody! Yesterday for Winter Camp we made Chinese dragon puppets and explored a bunch of other New Year's traditions from around the world. So now here's another one: the end of the year review...

I've had a really good year. Really. Knock on wood and all that.
I applied to grad school with a portfolio of cityscapes in pencil and embroidery, and found out soon after that I'd been accepted to Tyler School of Art at Temple University to get my Masters in Art Education. Hooray!

I got to be a part of Little Berlin's 80 person collaboration back in June, which led to new connections in the art community and a chance to explore my mapping ideas.

I continued to teach embroidery, color theory, and started teaching kids classes at Fleisher. With the new administration there it seems that fiber arts will continue and grow in the future.

In the summer I started to get involved with NLArts, teaching at their summer camp. Success there led to further opportunities to teach in their First Friday kids workshops and Winter Camp. Hopefully I'll get to be more involved with planning next year's summer camp too.

In September I got to teach an embroidery workshop up at Peters Valley Craft Center, which was a big highlight of the year... maybe even the decade!

I started attending the Philadelphia Cathedral and am happy to have found a faith community that feels like home. I've enjoyed singing with the Cathedral Singers, especially as much of the music is challenging and beautiful to hear in that space. They've learned I'm the creative type and have started to enlist my help with projects as well (more on that tomorrow).

Grad School is going well so far. I got to exhibit with my classmates back in September and my coursework has pushed me towards new areas of exploration both artistically and academically. My family has been supportive even though I haven't been able to pay as much attention to them as I'd like in this time. I've been incredibly busy and pre-occupied, and I'm glad I started this blog back in May to help me make sense of it all.

So- all in all, it's been a good year. Thanks for joining me on my journey, and health and happiness in the new year!

Tuesday, December 29

Keep your fingers crossed

I'm hoping to have some work published in an American Studies journal- wish me luck!

I forgot my camera today, but the highlights of Winter Camp so far were:
  • seeing how much kids love to put themselves into their drawings and how they all interpret things in so many different ways
  • reading stories to a bunch of captivated 5&6 year olds
  • Not having to wait too long for the copy guy
  • having one boy show me he could do 3 cartwheels in a row
  • seeing the older kids leading and playing with the younger kids

I like getting to see a group of kids grow and change and become more responsible and kind to each other. I've known most of these kids pretty well for about six months now, some of them for 2-3 years, and they're growing up so nicely.

Let's see how it goes tomorrow!

Monday, December 28

Christmas Vacation

I think I've had enough vacation now. I've been reading non-stop, but realized today that I need a bit more human contact. Luckily for me, tomorrow I'll be starting to teach a 2-day Winter Arts Camp at NLArts with a bunch of 5-11 year-olds.

Saturday, December 26

Happy Boxing Day!

One of the things I did for my daughter's Christmas stocking was to upcycle one of her favorite T-Shirts she'd outgrown. I cut out the graphic from the old T, used fusible web to attach it to a new T-Shirt, and the embroidered some details around it. There's running Stitch around the outside edge, chain stitch for the text, and some straight stitches ringing the eyes on the big owl.
Hope you got everything you wanted for Christmas. I'm enjoying a paisley shawl that my in-laws sent!

Thursday, December 24

Merry Christmas

These two videos show my favorite christmas music. I've done some baking today, finished up some present-making, and now I'll head off to church for Christmas services. God bless you and yours this Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, December 23

Christmas is coming...

the geese are getting fat,

please to put a penny in an old man's hat,

If you haven't got a penny,

a ha'penny will do,

If you haven't got a ha'penny then God bless you!

I'm still being crafty. I actually got Christmas cards out into the mail before Christmas this year, but it required a mile trudge through the snow to get them to the post office. I'm felting, and sewing, and framing, and I can't believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve!

This is the first year in a very long time that I truly felt the Christmas magic coming back. You know, it sparkles in your memory of Christmas as a child- the anticipation, Santa Claus, lights. But I felt like I couldn't create it for my own family in the same way (Santa never was taken seriously by my pragmatic child). But I don't know, this year feels different. Maybe I'm just more content with life this year in general.

Monday, December 21

Snow Day

Philadelphia decided to let the kids stay home today, so we're still hibernating. The tree is up, and I'm still making Christmas presents. The felt scarf I made looked like it needed some bling, so I made the brooch below to go with it. I'm not big on pins myself, being more an earring person, but I know someone who is...

Saturday, December 19

Baby it's cold outside

When it looks like that outside, I'd rather stay inside. So I've been christmas decorating and cooking to weather the storm. (By the way, see how small my backyard is?)
Last night I enticed my daughter to come down and felt with me. She really like the part where you throw the piece on the table, and we both got splattered in the process. It was a fun thing to do with her, though. I wonder sometimes what moments she'll remember from her childhood. If I were her, rocking out to christmas songs on the radio, slamming felt on a table with my mom would be on the list. After one failed attempt at nuno felting resulting in a pretty cobweb felt scarf instead (see previous post), and a second failed attempt on a cotton print (I think the fabric was too tightly woven and I didn't felt it enough), I finally ended up with two successes. One, below is purple, blue, and white and has a thin strip of silk in the center, bubbling up a bit on the edges. The other is the one being felted above on a cotton gauze, and is now around my neck keeping me cozy. The cotton one only has felt on one side and the cotton side is very crinkly-looking like a cabbage leaf.
I'm hoping the snow subsides soon. I've already missed out on one event today due to the storm, and I'm hoping our Christmas Lessons and Carols concert at the Cathedral doesn't suffer the same fate tomorrow. Stay warm and cosy folks!

Friday, December 18

Wooly Warm

So, it's reallllllllllly cold out here- in fact we're expecting a crazy amount of snow this weekend- and the pink fingerless gloves I stole from my daughter just weren't cutting it anymore. Added to that was a desire to pick up knitting once again- something I haven't done in 10 years, probably sparked by seeing all the knitted goodness the Handweavers Guild members were showing off.So I got my friend Colleen to remind me how to knit again, and I think I've figured it out now. Before , I never got into a comfortable way to hold the knitting needles, but 10 years of working in fiber arts has brought new dexterity.In case you're wondering, the mitten tops are knitted flat in garter stitch starting with 30 stitches, then after about 10 rows (I counted 10 ridges up) I decreased both sides one stitch, then up another 5, decreased both sides again, up 5 while decreasing each row one stitch at the side and the center point. Then I bound off, folded the mitten top in half and crocheted the sides together, then added a bottom border of crocheted fan stitch. The second one went a lot faster!
I bought fleece gloves at Old Navy ( 2pairs for $5- whoot!) chopped off the fingertips, blanketstitched around the edges and then stitched the back of the mitten top onto the back of the glove. They're vvvveerrrrryyy cozy warm, and I can flip off the mitten top when I need to use my fingertips.
In other craftiness, I tried to do some nuno felting onto what I thought was silk, but ended up with some cobweb felt instead. Ah well, the cobweb felt is quite warm but not at all bulky, and I think this scarf is destined as a present for someone.
I'm not normally this crafty- it's the holiday season, I swear. I will return to art eventually.

Monday, December 14

Work back in Progress

Back in August I started this multi-panel piece of a photograph of the backs of some houses and yards on Trenton St. The image is broken up into the map of the place. Unfortunately it got put on the backburner once the semester started.Finally I picked it back up again. Put in a needlewoven window screen, a random cross boarded window, and a buttonhole roofline. Now I'm ready to applique the final panel and finish this puppy. The top row should look something like this in the end. It's nice to do some embroidery! It's been a while!

Sunday, December 13

Fleisher Student Exhibition

I stopped by Fleisher on Friday to hand in all my contracts and syllabus stuff for next session, and had time to see the annual Children's Exhibition. I wasn't able to get photographs before of this last project my students did, so here they are- multi-figure gesture drawing compositions.
The students took turn standing up to be models, and they layered about 5 different figures on the page, then went back in to blur and redefine the figures' spatial relationships, adding color for emphasis. It wasn't the projet I would have chosen to put in the exhibition, but I let the students vote on which one they wanted to display. It turned out as a sort of class self-portrait..
The exhibit has a closing reception on Saturday, December 19th 1-3 pm. There's a lot more great art by kids to see!
Found out all 3 of my classes are running next semester!!!

Friday, December 11

Strange Beauty

Today was freeeeeeeeezing, and though beautiful, I can't believe these blossoms are out. They show how I feel right now, though- bright and blooming to have successfully completed my first semester of grad school, enjoying a short break, and looking forward to the next season. I love the light this time of year- the low slant and no leaves on the trees makes the light very clear and sparkly. I love wearing hats and scarves and mittens, and braving the freeze armed with a hot cup of coffee.
I managed to get lots of planning and deadline-meeting done today. I'll be leading arts activities at NLArts 2-day winter camp, so went over today to schedule the activities with the director. It's going to be fun! Then headed over to Fleisher to turn in all my contracts and syllabus for next session. Found out I have enough students for Stitch and Surface to run!!!! Hooray!!! So I'll be teaching 3 days at Fleisher and going to school 4 days, and life is crazy but wonderful...

Thursday, December 10

Final Presentation

Wish me luck! I'm presenting the results of my pilot study in Arts Education Research tonight entitled, "Artists Who Teach: Finding Common Dispositions of Artists and Teachers".

I interviewed 3 teaching artists and 1 high school art teacher to learn their views on art education and how they define themselves as artists and educators- something I'm trying to define for myself as well.

So the question of the evening is why do artists want to teach and how can teaching artists successfully encompass their dual roles as artists and educators?

Wednesday, December 9


Today I worked on planning the syllabus for the next session of Painting&Drawing for 12-13 year-olds, so here's an idea of where I got my inspiration:
(Fleisher's current artist-in residence planning a community procession)
(artist whose cityscapes and construction of space I love)
(one of the Wind Challenge artists at Fleisher in 2010)

Oliver Herring

(artist with whom I got to experience Fluxtask! seen below)

I'm hoping it will be a fun semester!

Tuesday, December 8

Tis the season

Unabashedly in the swing of things. One more class left at school, singing this song with the Cathedral singers on the 20th, and trying not to get sick.

On the art front, I cleaned out my studio at school and moved what I could into a locker in the fibers dept. I did sketch out another google streetview onto cotton this morning. My problem with school semesters and big projects is that once they're over I flounder, not knowing what to do next. So I'm trying to keep on a roll now. I think I'll attempt to finish the Trenton Ave piece I was working on over the summer but diverged from, and work on the streetscene panoramas.

Monday, December 7

The Craftiness- oh my, the Craftiness!

I picked up a bag of roving and a needlefelting tool at the Independent Craft Market on Saturday, and have been having fun making these little birdie ornaments. They're all about 1.5 inches long with some embroidered details.
Once again, this proves my reactionary artistic sensibilities- the semester and the crits are over relieving me of all the conceptual art and critical thinking, but I still need to keep my fingers busy. It's also a symptom of the holiday season. Bear with me, I'll make some real art again soon, I promise.
On a more artistic note, I may get to create an Easter altar front for the Philadelphia Cathedral in the Spring. I'm also trying to brainstorm plans for a Winter Break kids camp at NLArts and my next semester of Painting and Drawing for 12-13 year-olds at Fleisher.

Lastly, WELCOME to anyone reading this for the first time- I noticed a whole lot more hits in the past few days than usual. Feel free to leave comments.

Saturday, December 5

Freedom and craftiness

Today, free from grad school assignments and whatnot, I went to the Handweaver's guild Holiday Party this morning. It was a potluck and show-and-tell. Somehow we got on the subject of people not valuing handcrafted things and I though WHAT??!?! Are these ladies hiding under a stone? There seems to be a generation gap, cause man, there's a lot going on right now. This afternoon I went to 2424 Studios for the Philadelphia Independent Craft Market for some holiday shopping, where EVERYTHING was handmade.
I picked up a terrarium from a lady who I think sells her work here. Some earrings from this fine lady and ran into the lovely and talented Rachel Udell, seen here in front of her installation.Rachel's a girl after my own heart, and was busily crocheting away while she talked and chatted with us and her customers. Her work was on display primarily for an exhibition going on in the 2424 skybox (up through December 18th, better catch it quick), but she came out with an additional table and wares for sale for today's craft market. I love how unabashedly explosive and colorful her work is, and how spontaneous it all seems despite the fact that it is all hand-made and must take hours of work.
The forms are organic, creature-like, some feeling more like plant-life, others nautical, others alien.

More than anything I'm reminded of a particular branch of mathematics that deals with hyperbolic surfaces, for which crochet is the ideal model.
I met Rachel recently through the Women's Caucus for Art, and I'm excited to see more of her work. I'm sorely tempted to start up Knit night/Crochet soiree again...

Wednesday, December 2

Embroidering a new culture

Thought I'd share the results of my Art History presentation I made yesterday morning. I researched the arc of American embroidery from the 17th century colonial period, through the Federal Period "Golden Age", and concluded with some contemporary work. My thesis in the presentation was that Embroidery is an art of appropriation, and therefore reflects the culture and art of its period. I supported the idea by finding print media and artwork for comparisons.
Here is the Elizabeth Hudson of 1700 sampler I've shown you before from the Haddonfield Historical Society and the Sarah Stone 1678 sampler juxtaposed with a series of band patterns from the Gilbers 1527 Modelbuch I composed together as a band sampler. As soon as there is widespread printing of books there is dissemination of embroidery patterns!

These two embroidered pastoral scenes from New England show the "clip art" style of composition. I found engraving shop catalogues from the 18th century that listed "Children's lottery prints" with images of animals, ladies and gentleman, and assorted "droll subjects" which I believe would have been selected for embroidery compositions. I also believe that the foliage in the trees and the landscape style were influenced by the Indian Palampores, which would have been imported in Europe and the colonies and used as bedhangings.The American sampler moved from narrow bands of patterns to a more "painting-like" rectangular format with the bands becoming a decorative frame, and started to include more text. Instead of just an alphabet and the maker's name and age, the samplers started to include religious phrases and quotations as well as family registers listing the births and deaths of the stitcher's family members. I discovered a printed version of a family register by Brunton in 1808 which I believe appropriates the compositional characteristics of samplers that set the tradition. Moving into the Federal period, samplers become far more pictorial- graphic, decorative frames shift to more floral and representational imagery. Embroiders start looking more specifically at fine art for inspiration, and so Embroidered paintings become more sophisticated.This embroidered painting by Mary Esher is the only embroidery for which I found a specific reference, and that was to a Seymour engraving published in a 1791 edition of the Holy bible. Materials in this period shift from cotton and wool to fine silks. Text in sampler work nearly disappears, save for the maker's name. Unfortunately, the Civil war, the industrial revolution, and increased formal public education opportunities for girls meant that schoolgirls no longer made samplers and handwork no longer held the same high value. While Ladies magazines and pattern books abound between the end of the 19th century and continue through the 20th century, there does not seem to be a great deal of embroidered "masterpieces". Perhaps this is due to the more decorative application of embroidery in this period.However, the Feminist and Craft movements of the 60's and 70's brought renewed interest in textiles to the attention of artists. Fine artists look back on the traditions and continue the language of appropriation. Contemporary artists (like Elaine Reichek above) appropriate the visual language of historical samplers, quote various sources of information, refer to other artists and artforms into embroidered translations, and appropriate vintage textiles and the work of past needleworkers for new purposes. DIY embroiderers also carry on the handwork traditions in the decorative vein.

So over the arc of American embroidery, the craft moves from the hands of young girls as a method of education into the hands of women (and ok, some men, too) as a way of preserving traditions and making a feminist statement. Throughout the entire history of American embroidery, makers have always looked to other sources for inspiration and their work becomes a reflection of the times. I concluded my presentation with the burgeoning internet community for embroiderers, which allows for even more appropriation and dissemination of patterns, images, and ideas.

Tuesday, December 1

Final Grad projects crit

Today was my final Graduate Projects in Fibers critique, where I presented the final(?) version of Flatiron. Success! I met with just the Craft Dept heads, and they seemed quite pleased with how this piece grew and how my work has stretched and changed throughout the semester. This is probably the only course I'll take with the MFA students, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to participate in a graduate level studio course. I have 4 more studio classes to take, but they'll probably all be undergrad studios taken for grad credit.
As a result of this class I've become much more aware of intentionality. I think my status quo is to be in a mode of process, but not necessarily making choices in my art for specific reasons. I've just been doing, under the guise of "making is thinking". But this course pushed me to be doing and thinking, and to really question my choices.
I'd like to move forward, not revert to old practices, but find a way to merge my practices and modes and materials, and....and.... and keep being an artist.