Thursday, September 29

What am I doing?

I'm not very happy with myself today.
I have to write a thesis by December.
Bear with me here, I'm reflecting out loud.
Somehow I don't mind spending time writing on here, but academic writing seems so daunting.
I can't let all the wonderful other things in my life like teaching and making art stop me from getting my masters degree by procrastinating on a 50 page paper.
I've not been posting on here regularly. Sorry...
I'm notorious for sharing images of work without crediting the source. Here I am trying to write about blogging in art education for my thesis and I'm a copyright lawsuit waiting to happen. (so is it okay if blogging is different from serious publication- is all this sharing of images in social media ok? Yeah, probably not.)
Research is not just description- there's got to be some analysis.
I can't let myself get so distracted. It's so easy to wander away from writing seriously when there's my blog, and email, and facebook, and news, and other people's blogs to check in on. I bet writers got more done before the invention of word processing and the internet. Maybe I really need a typewriter.
My brain jumps off into so many directions at once, that making something linear feels unnatural.
I made this over at Zefrank's scribbler. My "Thesis" is somewhere in this one:

Yes, that is my brain right now. It's a mess of ideas and emotions. And this doesn't really help me, as I'm not a single sentence closer to my goal after this post. I need a good kick in the pants.

Thursday, September 22

Hey Jude

 My fabulous Stitch and Surface students finished up their feathers for Jude and brought them in this week. I can't wait to send these off to her!

In creating these feathers we talked a lot about various forms of collaboration. Personally I think collaboration is a vital part of being a contemporary artist, and including collaboration in the classes I teach to both adults and children is a form of community building and social consciousness-raising.

I'm going to wait till next week to mail these off in case any last contributions arrive. Then I hope they'll show up on the pages of the Magic feather Project. For more info go HERE.

Wednesday, September 21

Portraits, feathers, and collaboration

It's been one of those weeks when I've done nothing but stitch- in other words- a good week. I've been feverishly trying to finish the portrait that has been a UFO for a year. I think... maybe... I can call it done. There are a few things here and there that bug me, but are mostly due to the inaccuracies of my initial applique, not the intense stitching that went on top of it. I can't bear to tear out stitching. Most of the piece is done in seeding and chain stitch. It's a bit awkward working from a sepia photo of a person you've never met.
 My Stitch and Surface class kicked off last week and everyone seemed very happy to get to make a feather for Jude as a way to jump into our 10 weeks of stitching.
 These 2 are my contributions. I made them both on a patch of the 4-squares from my great grandmother's stash. The top photo is of a ring of 4 in Jude's Magic feather style (but in some bright colors). The ring of 4 got me thinking about cyclical time and how I was stitching on something my gran stitched on too.
 The single feather is a little more my style. I've been finding a lot of feathers outside the past few mornings. There was a nice pigeon feather on the sidewalk this morning that I'm recreating. It's almost done. Hopefully my students will have all theirs finished by tomorrow night and I can wing them off to join the others over at Spirit Cloth.
 It's exciting to participate in collaborative projects- especially when they come through this technological medium of the internet, something that sometimes seems cold and impersonal, but which enables the world and our sphere of influence to shrink to something comprehensible and more human.
Speaking of collaborations, the collaborative stitch bombing project got some love over at Craft Gossip. Thanks everybody! PS: the piece of glass at bottom right in the photo was affectionately dubbed "the breast"- it was the bottom of a wine glass with just a nib of the stem sticking out and looked just like a nipple ;)

Thursday, September 15

Stitch Bombing!

So, you're walking (or jogging, or biking) down the path along the Schuylkill Riverbank. This is a daytime shot, but maybe it's getting on towards dusk, and you've got to go under these dark sections of bridge- just a bit creepy.
You're halfway through the underpass, and something catches your eye.
Wait, what? What is that? Is there something stuck in the fence?
Oh cool-that's all fabric and some shiny stuff over there.
Woah! that's all stitched onto the fence- and all those pieces are stitched onto the fabric- cool.

Huh- those bits and pieces are all glass and trash and stuff. Weird. But that's pretty interesting. hmm, why would anyone bother?
And you walk away. And you're thinking. And the place isn't as creepy as it used to be because you saw something- dare I say- beautiful?
Or that's what you would do if you were me and think some graffiti is really art and you actually look at stuff in your environment and get transformed by how beautiful this gritty city can be.

This is a project I've started doing with my artist friend Johanna Marshall. Last week we gathered the bits and pieces of debris from the path between the art museum and the 676 bridge. We shisha stitched all the pieces onto blue fabric to look like Nazar beads, and then met up again today to sew them all onto the fence. We got 23 pieces onto the fence. There were supposed to be a few more, but I didn't dig deep enough in my bag to get them all out.  The Nazar symbol is supposed to ward off evil or danger, and we're planning on doing these in spaces that seem like danger zones to transform them.

It took about 2 hours to sew them on. A freight train went by 8 feet from our faces. Lots of people passed by without comment, but I saw a few back glances over shoulders and a few smiles. One guy tried to sell us a bike for $10. On our walk over, waiting for a light to change some lost-looking tourists walked by and I successfully gave them directions in French to get to the restaurant they were searching for. It was a truly beautiful day.

Sunday, September 11

Where it's at

All I can say is "Wow!" I went out to see some gallery shows last night, and started off with Little Berlin's show "Where It's At- Viking Mills Artists", which was a group show curated from the studios of artists in Viking Mill, which Little Berlin is now housed in. I feel like Little Berlin has really been taking things up a notch lately. They have a great new whitebox space, albeit off the beaten track, and this show really impressed me.
 Reese Juel's spiderweb of reclaimed fiber strips was like a bulls-eye. Where's it At? right here. I wondered if this piece was going to evolve throughout the show- there was a huge ball of wound strips still connected to the spiral, ready to keep going. The ball was probably supposed to help connect the wall piece to the floor piece, but I could have done without the floor piece. It's a challenge to elevate simple/recycled materials and push them past their trashy boundaries. The web could have done it. The floor collage of cardboard and notes and scribbles didn't, although that's probably where her ideas were illuminated. I know I was immediately drawn to the fiber piece just because it was fiber, but this installation was a good bridge piece between aesthetics among various parts of the show.
 There was some great sculpture in the show. Jay Hardman had several scale-model like constructions. One above) was like an architectural model for the aftermath makeshift building of flood disaster times, but so pristinely crafted. I love well crafted things. His pink lattice piece, below, was so simple in comparison, but had its own power. It reminds me of James Turrell light made solid and textured.
 Ally Crow had a small-scale sculpture in carved bleached maple. I actually would have liked to have seen this piece on the wall instead of propped on plexi on the pedestal. I bet it would have great shadows. This kind of intricate carving thoroughly respected the material, but created a sense of fragility and tension, which is surprising to see in wood. It reminded me a bit of heart ventricles and veins. Aggh! I just visited her blog where she has much better pictures of this piece on the wall (great shadows- I knew it) and shown as a MASK! Now I like it even more.
 Another fragile sort of piece was the wall of portraits on paper by Emily Kane.
 The portraits walked a fine line between caricature and sensitivity. I liked her grouping of them- like a family tree or like a screen full of facebook friend suggestion thumbnails. they're all awkwardly stuck with each other. A light coating of beeswax soaked into the paper gave them an aged look- like old photographs.
 I'm curious to see where Little Berlin goes in the next months and years. Their whitebox is beautiful, but their old space in its raw state and compartmentalization was so inviting for innovative installation. This show was really put together- is that a reflection of the artists in the show or new blood in the membership? I guess we'll see.
If you haven't been to Little Berlin yet, check it out. It's worth the visit to Kensington and the labyrinth of Viking Mill courtyards to find their enclave. Viking Mills is at the corner of Hagert and Coral st, just across the street from Coral Street Arts house.

Nature is winning

Here on the East Coast things are very wet. I wish we could send some of our moisture down to the Southwest. It doesn't seem fair to have all this flooding when other places are having drought and fire this time of year. At the supermarket today there was a sign apologizing for the lack of fresh green beans due to weather and crop problems. ..
So anyway here are some recent photos that I'm finding inspiring:
 Amazing mushrooms are sprouting everywhere. These are at the John James Audubon Center- an amazing place to visit if you've never been.
 I love ivy-covered buildings. I used to live in an apartment with ivy covering all the windows.... but that also brought tons of ants all over the house. Ah well, I'll admire this wall on Frankford and Susquehanna and keep the ivy off of my walls. Actually at my house now it's the morning glories I have to contend with.
 The Schuylkill river is raging. There's a small waterfall behind the Philadelphia Art Museum and just south of boathouse row. This week, standing at the pavilion overlooking the waterfall felt like standing at the edge of Niagara Falls with the incredible quantity of water rushing by.
 The pathways along the river and near the Waterworks are encrusted with bracken. I went looking for glass and metal bits for a new project I'm doing, but the debris was mostly natural, with only floating objects like foam, plastic bottles, and a surprising number of balls (tennis, beach, soccer, etc) among the sticks and seeds. The number of seeds was amazing- a reminder that disasters like floods and fires are sometimes a necessary part of the cycle of life which spark new growth.
This beautifully patterned wrought iron staircase normally leads to a short path with various sculptures depicting river life along it- but the bank, the walk, and the sculptures were all completely submerged. Huge tree trunks and more bracken were caught up along the bank, looking like beaver dams. It's awe-some and scary- a dangerous kind of beauty. I think it's what "sublime" means.
In the whole man vs. nature dichotomy, nature is definitely winning this week.

Thursday, September 8

Planning another 10 weeks of Stitch and Surface!

My next session of Stitch and Surface starts next week, so I've spent the morning planning my syllabus and deciding on projects to do. It's a class that often has students come back for more, so I'm always looking for ways to keep it fresh. There's always some kind of sampler project, a surface design technique, and an extended image project. I aim for 3 total finished projects, but sometimes people end up only doing 2. Embroidery is an art not to be rushed.
We're going to start off talking about the communal qualities of the history of stitching and begin with 2 pieces to participate in group collaborations. I'm going to have everybody create a feather for Jude Hill's Magic Feather project. It's really lovely watching all the feathers float in around the world to Jude's call, and I think my students will have fun participating. Here's hoping for 15 more feathers for you Jude! Then I'll have everyone make a shisha patch for a collaborative fence tagging project I'm doing here in Philly with a friend. Since most people rarely show up with proper supplies the first night, this will  put something into their ready hands right away.

In honor of Fall, I thought we'd do a leaf rubbing Sampler piece. We can start with using dye pastels for the rubbing and then practice various stitches for texture and detail over it. 
 The Wind Challenge exhibition will be on display, and first up are artists Alana Bograd and Sarah Steinwachs, both working abstractly. Sarah's work is especially entrancing with many layers of cut paper patterning. So I think we'll visit the show and use her work as inspiration for an abstract layered pattern embroidery project. Before that, though we'll try out some rusting and bleaching on fabric to get a base layer of color and pattern on fabric for our surface design technique.
And finally, if we can squeeze it in, we'll satisfy my current obsession with mosaics and do a bead or button encrusted piece.
The fun part about teaching, of course, is trying out all the stuff you wish you had time for in the studio, but never try for fear of veering from the "Body of Work" you're committed to. *sigh*
I think it will be a fun semester! The class is full, but I'll be teaching a new one in the Winter and Spring sessions at Fleisher, so keep your eyes peeled.

Monday, September 5

Polly and Pins

The Artist's Life: Polly Apfelbaum from NYFA on Vimeo.

I love Polly Apfelbaum for color and fabric and playfulness.
I've joined Pinterest and have been exploring- it certainly has potential. I like it visually too- all the square thumbnails of pictures people like. I just started, but here are my boards.

Now back to my stitching marathon. I'm laboring away on Labor Day.

Saturday, September 3

Some more black lines

My summer camp work is over and I have a few moments to breathe and think and make some new things.

 I'm doing a Philly skyline embroidery. I've been happily stitching on this in the evenings for the past few weeks, just drawing in black thread. It's very hard to share, though- the actual size is about 4 inches by 30 inches. It took 3 scans to composite the above image, and the huge width makes it hard to post in blogger. I've still got about 6 inches to finish stitching to bring the view back around to the Delaware river.
It's mostly whipped backstitch with some seeding, isolated chains, and french knots for foliage. I'm enjoying the panoramic length despite the documenting difficulties- it satisfies my love for the small scale while allowing me to work "bigger".
This weekend I'm picking up a standing embroidery frame- slightly scary to imagine I'll be making things large enough to require one, but it's free and will offer new possibilities.