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Wednesday, July 31

Sketches from Montana

There is no way I'm ready yet to distill my experiences of traveling cross-country on my way to Montana. But I've been away from home for a week now, and am becoming saturated with beauty and fresh air. I miss my family and environment back home, but I'm having a great time just making art and absorbing new inspiration out here. Here's a sneak peak at my sketches from the past few days:
 The retreat is on a property surrounded by fir trees and stumps leftover from clearing the overgrowth. Our host mentioned an idea to personify the trees, and suddenly all these stumps became symbols of people intertwined by root systems just as we are connected in social relationships.

 Today we drove out to Glacier National Park and I sketched the entire time- I love to do "snapshot" sketches when on road-trips to capture the fleeting landscape. The Rockies are immense and scary and breathtaking and awe-some in it's true sense. We kept saying "Wow!" which does not express the overwhelming awe of seeing the peaks rise straight up from the valleys, and waterfalls gushing down rock faces, and narrow roads that wind up and over along the cliffs with a mere stone wall separating you from a precipice.
When you see such incredible vistas you wonder why you waste life in a tiny row-home in a crowded, littered city neighborhood....
I will enjoy the present, the landscape, and the time to be with other creative people doing what I love.

Wednesday, July 24

competition and emulation

I had a good and unexpected conversation with a colleague this afternoon that made me think about work ethic and drive. We were talking about my alma mater, and I mentioned some individuals from my graduating class that I have felt in competition with ever since undergrad over a decade ago. At the time, my sense of competition was tinged with jealousy, almost a sibling-like rivalry for professor's attention, and later for career opportunities and recognition. But now I'm seeing this sense of competition as something incredibly healthy and vital for my artistic life. I have to keep working, teaching, exhibiting, BEING an artist, because these other people are DOING it, too. And I am. And it's what has led me to be who I am and doing what I'm doing.
In my first graduate education course at Tyler, my professor asked us to think and write about our former art teachers. Many people had positive memories, but my most memorable art teacher was one who frustrated me (while a great teacher, he'd always draw on my paper, which made me really mad- so I'd erase his drawing and do my own). As an art teacher now, I have a sense of pride and perhaps superiority because unlike him, I do not draw on my students' papers. It's a little silly, but it's something I hold myself to. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that even bad experiences, frustration, rivalry can be as valuable as the caring, attention, and encouragement we receive from others. They can drive us to be better, push us to succeed, and prove ourselves. They keep us on the road to success.

Sunday, July 21

Animation and softies roundup!

I said earlier that working felt good. I'm lucky to have a job I love, and no matter what's going on in life or in the world it's hard to stay sad or mad when being creative with kids. I had morning and afternoon workshops at Fleisher summer camp last week, and both classes were TOTALLY full! This is the 3rd or 4th summer I've taught "Critter Softies" but never to such a large group before. Sixteen kids ages 7-10 came out and learned how to sew and construct stuffed toys.
As usual, we started off with a simple 2 sided felt animal so they could learn the basics of sewing. It's important they learn how to thread a needle, start and stop a thread, and do whipstitch, as they need to use the skill for closing up the opening on a machine-sewn softie too. 
 
We did  story and character brainstorm to come up with ideas for a hand-colored softie. I have the kids draw and color with fabric marker on plain muslin, and then do either a colored front and back or a colored front with fabric back. There were lots of Happy Feet penguins, a Totoro, and several  Loraxes. Kids who had time also made a friend for their character so that they could do imaginative play.
 These stuffies are sewn on the machine, but some kids added on handsewn limbs. I love seeing kids 2D drawings turn into 3D stuffies they can play with!
 With the kids ranging in age from 7-10 there's a huge difference in motor skills and craftsmanship. The rabbit sleeping on the moon below was AMAZING! She appliqued the silky white bunny over the muslin moon on both sides, stuffing under the applique before closing it up. I was really careful on the machine for her, and it came out perfectly!
The last project was a build-a monster. We did a roll-the-dice game inspired by the cartooning game "Pick and Draw".  I didn't have a deck, so I drew out 6 options for body, head, arms/legs, and facial features, and gave the kids a dice to roll to select their part. I wanted the kids to get the idea of how the pieces would fit together in sewing as well as get some inspiration. In the past I would have the kids draw their design, and then I would draw out the patterns they needed, or have them draw them. Unfortunately, it's REALLY hard to get them to understand the need for a certain scale when sewing, and they always draw things too small or skinny. So for the first time ever I came up with some simple templates that gave them construction options, and showed them how they could mix and match to make a creature of their own design. It was a good happy medium between my need for scale and consistency, and my desire to let them have choice and creative expression.. For the monsters I let them use any fabrics they want from a big bin- mostly rescued upholstery samples from the design center interior design showroom (I still have 3 huge bins full from when I worked at one 5 years ago!!!) So the creatures have very interesting patterns and textures.
We ended up making over 60 stuffies together over the course of the week. They went home with full arms and happy faces. 
video
I hope this video uploaded okay. My mornings were spent with fifteen 11-13 year olds for an animation workshop. This was the very first time I've taught the workshop and taught in our digital lab, so I had a bit of a learning curve. We started off with making flipbooks from videos of the kids in the courtyard. We watched a bunch of stop motion animations and learned the history and process of stop motion animation. Then the kids spent an entire morning working in teams to make the animations in the video above. Finally, I met with each team for editing while the kids worked on some photoshop drawing animations:
video
I was really pleased with how well the students worked together- one thing that helped was a worksheet I had them complete to plan out their storyline, shooting location, and supplies needed. The content was totally up to them. Some groups were very invested in telling a story while others explored movement of figures and materials. On the last day we invited parents for a viewing party, and we had a great turnout.

I'm very thankful I had these creative kids to work with this past week. Art is life-giving.

Saturday, July 20

July moments

It's been a tough week.
My Jolie kitty passed away. The house and my lap feel very empty.
 I escaped to the studio this afternoon, even though it's 92 degrees in there. Working feels good. At one point I glanced out the window and saw a helium balloon float by.
I stitched some more grass and gathered up some supplies for my upcoming residency.
 Tonight I watched blueberries float up and down in my seltzer while a thunderstorm rocked the skies and cooled the air.

Monday, July 15

teen screenprint roundup

I'm only doing 2 weeks of kids camp this summer. Here's what came out of last week's silkscreen class for 12-18 year olds. We started off with collaborative abstract shape layers topped with an individual line layer. I love the serendipity of what happens in this process of sharing screens and colors. It generated a ton of diverse prints that created a perfect opportunity to talk about what makes a good print or bad print, good composition and bad. etc. These were the best of about 40 prints:
I love how the black line print looks like a shadow of the purple layer.
 This print in 2 transparent color layers showed how colors can mix.
 This very simple line layer makes this print look like an abstract color wheel to me.


 The kids donated a few of their least favorite prints to cut up and turn into an installation in our stairwell. I've always thought we needed more color in there!
 The rest of the week was devoted to screenprints. I actually borrowed the digital lab this time so the kids could develop their own computer imagery- Many brought in internet images they wanted to use. They're always very satisfied to select imagery to print instead of drawing their own. I think it's okay when working in screenprinting and embroidery- like appropriation is part of the medium itself. Additionally- it takes the pressure of adolescents worrying about their artistic skills. You don't necessarily have to be a great artist to be a good printer.

 Not bad for 8 kids who've never printed before.

Saturday, July 13

Bella Vista Patterns

 I need to collect more imagery. The idea of neighborhood patterns is still playing in my brain. A walk around Bella Vista before my class at Fleisher yielded these. Above is the sanctuary door at Fleisher.
 These are two walls, the remnants of a recently knocked down building.There's all different wallpaper patterns- I find it fascinating to see these ghosts of buildings. I'm sure I'm not the only one. And I'm sure it's not the first time I've mentioned it.
I should walk around some more neighborhoods.

Tuesday, July 9

Sunday studio glimpses

3 hours.
Finished printing my reduction relief print experiment using a Softcut block. I like that it's easy to carve, but I kind of wish it were firmer to print against.
 Stitched down that blue doorway.
Did some shibori over some dye monoprint experiments to layer some pattern. I did a polewrap over the orange just by twisting and spiraling the fabric instead of binding it like traditional arashi. The turquoise has two layers of pleating and clamping. Unfortunately, I think I'm binding too tightly, or folding too much- I'm resisting more fabric than I want to resist. Either that or the fabric is getting exhausted and just isn't taking the dye.
I'm back in the classroom this week for teen screenprinting at Fleisher. Next week brings animation and soft sculpture. After that I'm off to an artist residency!!!

Saturday, July 6

Happy 4th of July

A bit belated, but with the 4th in the middle of the week, there were lots of activities still going throughout the weekend. We ended up down at Penn Treaty Park for  free concert by Rockfish. Sometimes living in the city can make you feel anonymous, but our neighborhoods have strong identities and tonight Fishtown felt like a small town.
 The band was meh. We listened, but had more fun just hanging out making clover chains with my daughter and playing with my new camera.
 The grass was soft and cool, and the river brought  breeze to cool off the day.
 My desire for holiday tradition has been appeased. Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 3

One step closer

It blows my mind that this piece has been in progress for 6 months already. I love my job, but I also wish I could spend more time in the studio. I thought summer break would find me there 24/7, but between family and house stuff, and a professional development workshop I've only made it over 4 times in two weeks. Ahh, excuses, Excuses.....Today, however, I managed to get the sampler portion complete!
I hung it up to check the composition and found the right side felt too empty. The actual wall has some doors in it, so I pinned in a piece of blue stitched denim (a scrap of patch from an old pair of jeans). I have to think about it some more. My pattern obsession is flirting with the piece too now. What if I overlaid a pattern by printing on top of the wall as well?!? My fear of ruining 6 months of work might win out over any desire to print over this thing..... Ah well. Next up is filling in the grass. It's a little weird seeing this small picture of the piece which actually measures about a yard square.