Sunday, November 28

no idle fingers

I've been preoccupied with paper writing on the subject of Quaker schoolgirl embroideries... one more day to finish that up... But never fear, my fingers have still been busy.
In my sliver of spare time, when I just need to decompress, I've got this little cloth going. There are some silk scraps stitched down to a grey cotton. Next I have a piece of sunprint cloth to go over it all for some reverse applique. I started it as a sample during my last Stitch and Surface class, and I'm just enjoying stitching on it.
I'll sign off with a quote I've discovered on 2 different samplers recently- one was from CT and the other from Philadelphia:
"Count that day lost whose low descending sun, views from thy hand no worthy action done"

Thursday, November 25

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Not just because it's a day to see family and eat a feast, but because it's a day when our whole country regardless of beliefs takes time out to count our blessings.
Me- I'm happy to have a warm family, a chance to go back to school, time and means to pursue a creative life, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my belly. All the riches I need are right here.
Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, be thankful for the Gifts we've been given.

Sunday, November 21

My teenybopper Screenprinters

 Today was my final class with the 11-13 year old screenprint class. I can't believe they finished their projects!!! Whew! We spent the first half of the semester printing t-shirts. Starting with a collaborative screen, each student had to design a complementary screen of their own to work with the group screen.
repeated motif became a flower
Above you can see one student used the entire group screen rotated in a radial design and created the outside of the "petals" as her addition. Below another student only used the stars from the group screen and created her own sun and moon design for the front and back of her shirt.
fronts and backs
 The T-shirts took a lot longer than I expected and so our final project got a bit squeezed tight, but SOMEHOW we pulled it off today. I wanted the kids to create a 3-dimensional object from a 2-dimensional print. I offered them the option to create it on paper or fabric, and everyone chose fabric! They did a 2 color reduction print on canvas. Today everything was cut out, sewn, and stuffed. Each student made an "edition" of 2 objects. That way they had one to take home and one to leave for the student exhibit. Among the objects were 2 "Domo" figures, a giant cupcake, an ice cream cone, a puppy, and a gameboy. I think we'll arrange them as a picnic scene for the exhibit. Reception is December 18th at 1:30 at Fleisher Art Memorial.
printed, sewn, and stuffed

Thursday, November 18

Stitch and Surface Finale

Yesterday was the last day for my adult classes at Fleisher, and I thought I'd share some of my students fabulous work! It means a lot to me that there's such diversity in response to the projects I offer- meaning that they are not prescriptive, but generative in nature. I want my students to gain confidence in their own abilities to design and create works in fiber. So here we go:
 Betsy started off meticulously in this incredibly detailed yet tiny sampler piece (shown actial size here I believe). I didn't notice until just now seeing the image below in juxtaposition, but she has a strong and definite color sense. The piece below was in response to our map project, and is caught in progress. I can tell she was really opening and loosening up to experiment after her tight sampler project. I think it's very healthy for artists to experiment with modalities of process- controlled vs. spontaneous, monochrome vs multicolored, large vs small. It creates new possibilities.

 Fran has joined me for several sessions now. She's been taking cues from my project offerings, but she's really starting to use the class as studio time to develop her own work. Above is her blackwork project, which she has livened up with some surface painting and colored stitching. I love the expressiveness of her black mark in the tree trunk. Below is the beginnings of her map project. She usually places and pins everything down before basting and then stitching. She's becoming more selective in how her materials add to the meaning of a piece- note the fleur de lys ribbon and how that adds to this representation of a trip to New Orleans.
 Below is Gail's work in progress. She has an elegant minimalist approach to her work and a natural feel for materials. Below is handwoven steel core thread fragment appliqued over handmade Japanese paper affixed to taupe linen. She's started stitching her daily path across the "bridge", and I hope she'll share a picture when it's complete. I love the scroll-like abstraction of the landscape.
 Linda transformed the blackwork project. Inspired by Van Gogh's "Starry Night", she transferred the outlines onto black aida cloth and has been experimenting with a wide variety of stitches and colors. Some applique and shisha work as well as some woven wheels make the explosive stars, while the wind swoops by in patterns. The village houses are needlewoven, and I'm not sure yet how the Cypress trees will be completed. This piece makes me wonder how pared down one can take an iconic image and still hold on to its essence. Starry Night is sort of like the Mona Lisa in its ubiquity (see, it doesn't really need the quotation marks even!)- but this is definitely an intriguing and unique interpretation.
 Finally we come to Megan, who impressed us all with her incredible "stash" and craftsmanship. For her quote sampler in progress below, she took a quote from an 18th century gossip column stating "Women are armed with fans as Men with swords and sometimes do more execution with them". She makes working with metallics and rayon threads look easy. I'm very pleased with how the form and content of this piece became unified.
 The Piece de Resistance is Megan's blackwork sampler:
 It's a fabulous exploration of the transitions of patterns with an organic growth of composition. The only hard part was knowing when to stop! It includes some goldwork and pearl beads to add to its opulence.
Now I take a well-earned breather from teaching duties to focus on paper writing... which no, I still haven't really started.

Wednesday, November 17

On the walls and in the halls at Tyler

 There hasn't been a whole lot I've found impressive this semester on display at Tyler. But these intrigued me. I think they're from a foundations year 3-D basic design course.
 They're all sculptures made from component pieces made of plywood with notches for intersecting. I've seen many geometric style ones before, but the organic shapes in these make them unusual, and in turn the organic components lend to more organic wholes.
I think this could easily be done by young adolescents out of cardboard. And how much more fun would they be if they had the added element of color or texture? I really just want to play with these and reconfigure them all.

Tuesday, November 16

Happy Mail!

My copy of "Eco Colour" by India Flint arrived today!! I've been more and more interested in surface design and dyeing. I'd like to incorporate more of it in my classes, but am leery of bringing powder dyes into the shared studios. Just not the best or safest place for dyeing. So perhaps I'll find some new possibilities in this book. India Flint gets some great results- check out her website.

Alas, I'm super swamped with end-of-the semester papers to write, so I'm going to have to save "Eco-Colour" as a reward for my hard work in 3 weeks time. The blog may get a little slow... but I'll be back to full speed eventually.

Friday, November 12

Museums and galleries and some heavy lifting

It's been a very full day! We went to the Chemical Heritage Foundation museum this morning. It's a museum that shares the history of chemistry and its practical uses in the realms of consumerism, medicine, and technology. The best part was an interactive video menu illustrating the periodic table of elements. I also liked the part about dyes and color (hello Munsell!). It's been about 15 years since I've been in a chemistry lab, but I was surprised how much I remembered and could describe for my daughter. We only got about halfway through the museum- it's very text-heavy- so I'm sure we'll go back again. For more info check out the CHF website. The museum's on Chestnut St between 3rd and 4th and.... it's FREE!

The afternoon was spent dragging the heaviest sewing machine in the world out of a basement and into my friend's car. She's got an installation coming up at Fleisher in a few months and her sewing machine died. Hopefully with a new-to-her industrial sewing machine she'll be able to finish up her project on time. If you're curious at all, visit her website.
Finally, this evening I went over to Crane Arts for the 2nd Thursday openings, and in the Icebox Gallery saw the most gigantic concrete sculptures by Ledelle Moe. I love the rawness and sheer monumentality of her work. It reminds me of the massive scale of sculpture undertaken by the Egyptians or the Hittites in ancient times. Her drawings and etchings are impressive as well.. haunting and mythological. Check it out. Or better yet, head over to the Crane building at American and Master Streets in the South Kensington section before the end of the month.

Thursday, November 11

"scraps" book- coptic binding

I've been wanting to try out a coptic binding one a book, as I think I want to include it in my Stitch and Surface class next semester as a project. So after cutting up a watercolor painting for another project this evening, I collected the scraps to try out this binding. The best thing about coptic binding is it lays flat when you open it- perfect for sketchbook purposes. In fact my favorite sketchbook ever was a handmade, coptic bound book made by Michelle Wilson.
 Above shows the actual size of the book laid flat. Below shows the pages standing open. There's a lot of "spring" in it right now, which I hope will relax under some weights overnight. They're single page signatures, one side with watercolor, the other side laminated to a piece of black tissue paper. The cover is some recycled card stock laminated also with tissue paper and watercolor end pages.
If you're interested in how to do coptic binding I found this website tutorial very helpful! I'm going to have to do another book project for my watercolor class so I hope to do a  more normal-size book with a LOT of pages to show off the binding.

Tuesday, November 9

research finds

I had the luck to get my mitts on this book at the library today. (Reference use only malheureusement!)It's a 2 volume collection of samplers and embroidered pictures describing the teachers behind the stitches. If anyone wants to make my year they could buy it for me! I'm writing a paper for my History of Art Education course on the embroidery of Quaker schools in the early 19th Century. There were 2 whole chapters on the subject in here. One was on Quaker embroideries in general and another was on the Westtown school specifically.
Now if I could only find time and energy to actually read all these resources I've collected...

Saturday, November 6

The Great Kensington Fire

There was a 3-day long 5 alarm warehouse fire in my neighborhood last week... I keep thinking about history. I live in a place that was a major hub of industry about 100 years ago. My house was likely built to accommodate factory workers. Some of the huge old warehouses and factory buildings remain, and a few have been converted into lofts and studio spaces, but many still stand empty, yawning, just asking for trouble.
In the aerial views you can see the footprints of old buildings in the vacant lots- all the now "green" space you see above. The green spaces can be seen in another perspective in Anna Neighbor's work here, click on her hideout series.

Wednesday, November 3

Latest adventure in stitched watercolors

El bridge at Kensington and Lehigh on a rainy day
I left all the threads hanging down the front cause it's such a drippy bridge. Even if it's not raining it's a drippy bridge.

Tuesday, November 2

Mapping ideas

Kensington el bridge at Lehigh, part of my daily route
Today I introduced our mapping project in Stitch and Surface. Mapping is one of my main themes, perhaps because I've traveled and lived in so many places, I'm always trying to orient myself and understand place in so many facets. I shared some of my own work, which I don't usually do, and saw that mostly I tend toward the literal side of maps.
But for sparking imagination I gave my students a list of questions and possibilities to consider. Perhaps others might like to take these under consideration:
Where are you from?
How many different places have you lived in, gone to school in, traveled to?
 Where are your ancestors from?
 Can you remember your neighbors and landmarks of the place you grew up?
Are you concerned with international politics?
 What if you were to map the journey your shirt took from being made to being worn?
What is your daily routine?
What was the most amazing trip you ever took?
What would a map of heaven look like?
 What would a map of your attic look like?

The list could go on......... why not add to it in my comments section?