Friday, October 30

Happy Mother's Day (to me)

Sorry for a short detour into family life, but today marks a decade of being a mom to this amazing young lady. She's working on her second crochet project now- wrist warmers!Okay, back to our regularly scheduled program... today was a productive studio day. I spent a lot of time on my way to and from school gathering more glass and bits and pieces off the streets, with a few stops along the way to do some texture rubbings on black paper with copper caran d'ache. I'm not really sure about them yet. Just have to do more and see what happens. I pinned up the rust-dyed prints on the studio wall- here's what the assemblage looks like so far. I'd like to do a whole wall-full, but need more paper.
I'm really loving how the rust marks refer to the stitch-resist marks in the embroidered piece I've been working on. I've got some more bottlecaps stitched down on the right middle piece now, as well as all the bits on the bottom right tacked down to the fabric. I need a lot more across the glass constellation and I'm not sure now about whether to keep the bottom left finished piece in this grouping. It doesn't really fit right now.
One of the art history grads subbed for my professor yesterday- and something he said in his lecture stuck with me-- that the objects an artist choose say something about the artist, separate perhaps from what the artist is trying to say. It made me wonder what all these things I've been using say about me...

Wednesday, October 28

Shards and Fragments

Rust Dyeing paper in my basement.
Thinking about grids and maps and art made from things found in a particular place. All the rusty objects were gathered within a 4 block radius of my house.

I've laid out the objects, sprayed them with vinegar water and covered with plastic so the moisture doesn't evaporate too fast.
Here's the latest constellation of street find slow cloths. All the glass and mirror shards were found within a 2 block radius of Tyler School of art. I like how both the stitch-resist and the rust dyeing create a sort of glowing image on the surface. I think it's the strong light-dark contrast and the soft bleeding edges that make it happen.
It's been a good art day!

Red Velvet

What, were you expecting cupcakes?
I haven't mentioned it in a while, but I have been teaching Stitch and Surface at Fleisher for the past few weeks. Today we tried our hand at Velvet Embossing. The principal is that using heat and pressure, the pile of the velvet is crushed and so the pattern is visible by the differences in how the light hits the surface of the velvet. All you need is velvet, rubber or wooden stamps, and an iron. Please note above- hot irons and synthetic fibers aren't a good mix, unless you want holes in your velvet!
The higher the pile, the more visible the pattern, and medium to dark-colored velvet seemed to yield better results. Cotton velvet was okay, but Silk velvet was stunning.
I got my wooden stamps at Eyes Gallery on South Street (check the front room on the second floor). They're beautiful stamps and have the most exotic smell...
I have one student in love with the grid..

These two red pieces are by Francis Elling. He had a great collection of butterfly stamps he shared. He's been interested in making pillow tops, so he played with a more formal design, above, and a more random pattern, below. He discovered that by changing the pressure and time under the iron, he could create a contrast in "focus" with the embossing. The longer and firmer, the crisper the image, but the shorter, softer, and with some movement in iron application a "ghosting" appeared.
Francis also brought in his first completed embroidery project today, below. He purchased a silk pillow top and created his own design based on a microscopic view of a sea creature (sponge? coral?). By playing with the photocopy machine, enlarging and reversing the image, he was able to create a repeat pattern to transfer across the pillow. I applaud his ambition and ingenuity in making something so beautiful and unique for his home. Can you believe he's a first-time embroiderer?
Stitch and Surface will be offered in the Winter Session at Fleisher as well, and we always explore new topics in embroidery and surface design every semester.

Tuesday, October 27

Walk around the Block

Been working steadily lately- not much excitement, but lots of concentration. Yesterday (oh where did you go beautiful weather?) I went out into the neighborhood near school, took a walk around the block to collect more glass and mirror bits. The city is a veritable treasure trove! Above you can see how I'm playing with the placement. All the pieces on the right hand embroidery are all stitched down now. I'm trying to use the bits as a mark-making element in the compositions and have the roundish mirror and glass pieces echo the shibori circles in the piece. Once I get some more finished I'm hoping to photograph everything and perhaps submit work for an alumni show at Moore. (See, if I say that here, it holds me accountable and I'm more likely to do it.)

Been thinking about doing some rust-dyed paper pieces to make up for the slowness of my stitching. Also this morning I woke up and looked at the brass rubbing framed piece I have in my room, which is a silver crayon rubbing on black paper of a beautiful gravestone from Westminster? in London, I thought about texture rubbings around the neighborhood, but in a more elegant manner than the usual kids and crayon city texture rubbings...

This is an image of the same rubbing I have I found on the internet- the text says "When Oxford gave thee two degrees in art, And love possessed thee ruler of my heart, Thy college fellowship thou lefst for mine, And nought but death could....(illegible), Thirty five years we lived in wedlocke blessed, Conjoined in our hearts as well as hands, But death the love of best friends destroys, And ..." I can't read the rest off this image. Maybe I'll update this when I can get home and read it off the original. I've always loved how it shows the love in a marriage, between seemingly equals, even back in 1620.

Friday, October 23

art on the walls and in the halls

Thursday evening we stumbled out of a long midterm review class and onto this bit of loveliness in the hallway. I'm a sucker for rainbow sorting and buttons of course. One thing I sadly do not have (yet) is an old-timey button collection. Someday...

In the meantime I do have a kind of gross street find collection of glass and wire and metal bits, slowly making its way onto my slow cloths. Here's the wall I put up for my individual critique this week. I got some suggestions for some other ways to present the tagging series and encouragement to make lots more of the 8x8 street find slowcloths and arange them in a grid for a larger piece.
Today I rode out to Manayunk (6.5 miles) to the Philadelphia Handweaver's Guild for a critique group afternoon. It was nice to be back in the world of "wow, that's beautiful" for a bit. In grad school the words "like", "love", and "enjoy" are verboten. On the way back I tried to take a different route along the Schuylkill River in order to avoid the giant Laurel Hill, which ended up taking me 11.5 miles! So now... I am very...very sore.

Tuesday, October 20

Art in City Hall times deux

Last night was the opening reception at Art in City Hall for Fairmount Park's Colonial Elite, an exhibition of work by students and alum (that's me!) of Moore College of Art and Design inspired by the historic houses of Fairmount Park. I selected Woodford House which is on 33rd and Dauphin here in Philadelphia- go visit- it's lovely and contains the Naomi Wood Antique collection. Unfortunately the lighting in the hallowed halls of City Hall is pretty dismal, thus rather disappointing photos of the work below. But if you delve into the blog archives around August and September, you can see the work in progress. That dark blob of a ribbon on the bottom right reads "OUTSTANDING PARTICIPANT"- I even got a letter telling me how great I am... It would have been REALLY nice if the alumni had been eligible for cash prizes too- even the other honorable mention prizes for the students carried a $50 prize. But, you know, I'm making the big bucks now that I'm an established artist... Okay, enough cynicism. I really did enjoy the project and the process and I love that City Hall has an Arts program, extremely visible to those who work there and visit there- the movers and shakers of the City of Philadelphia.
While I was there I stopped down on the 2nd floor to check out the Paper Works! exhibit and got to visit the collaborative book Michelle Wilson and I created last year. The exhibit was curated by Winifred Lutz, and includes some amazing Philadelphia paper artists including Susan White, Lesley Haas, and Virginia Maksymowicz (those three are off the top of my head-and artists whose work I'm quite familiar with) It's an extremely well- curated show, and for once the showcases felt like the proper space for the artwork- much of it would be rather too delicate to be displayed openly in such a venue. Go visit this month before it disappears! City Hall is on the intersection of Broad and Market, and the artwork can be seen on the 5th floor (Fairmount show) and 2nd & 4th floors (paper show). Enter the building on the Northeast corner, sign in at the desk, and see the show during business hours M-F. You might even run into Mayor Nutter- who happens to have grabbed a cameo in the new film Law Abiding Citizen (City Hall is featured heavily in this Philadelphia-based movie).

Sometimes you just gotta google

or you'll never find cool stuff about yourself like this
The Hand-Embroiderers Network blog featured my stitch tags!
HEN is doing good things for me, I think, check out this as well.
I'm now a Joetta Maue fan- she's a great embroiderer, especially in her text explorations.
I even got some love from The Other Woman here (Darla was that you?)

Good night blogosphere.

You know life is crazy when..... only get to post once a week..

Here's why: in the past week I have

  • read 2 books
  • read 4 articles
  • interviewed 3 teaching artists
  • observed a teaching artist in the classroom
  • attended a lecture by renowned arts education researcher Dr Judith Burton
  • finished 2 embroideries
  • started 3 more
  • taught 2 classes
  • registered for next Spring's classes
  • attended my opening at Art in City Hall! (more on that later)

I thought I'd share the 2 embroideries I've worked on, sort of in progress...

For this one I did 2 layers of stitch-resist dyeing, mounted all the bits and pieces I've culled from the streets, stitched, etc. I was trying to use the found objects more as mark than as a collection. As it progressed little bits and pieces of imagery from around the studio creeped in- the ME tag, the fence, telephone wires. I'm not quite sure how I feel about it yet. Below, see it in mounted form:After completing that one I immediately jumped to a new piece of fabric. This time a rust-dyed and shibori dyed cotton. You can see some of my play with color and composition below:It progressed a bit as you can see below. The objects are roughly in their places here, but there's a lot more of the textured stitching in the bottom area, some more circles and swirls at the top, and even some text that says "just drop it". The fabric and round objects were calling out for a watery theme, and I was thinking of how the people in my neighborhood think the sewer drains are trash cans- they actually pick up trash off the sidewalk and lean over into the gutter to stuff it down the storm drains! So the text refers both to people's comments to their children about what to do with their trash, but also a reminder to myself not to interfere with the crazies around here.Here's the rest of my stitch-resist experiments. I thought it would be interesting to do some housetop/log cabin-like piecing with them to start some new backgrounds for embroideries. I didn't like how one of the purple slow-cloths were progressing, so it's now cut into four pieces and pieced with the other fabrics. I'll get some photos of it in the future.Oh, yeah- I also did 2 more nazar tags. This one found it's way in front of a SAFE AUTO billboard- excellent!This one landed next to Finnegan's Wake- did you notice the Bud Lite bottle cap echoing the Bud Lite sign on the bar? Note to self- early morning in the sun is the worst time for photos!

Tuesday, October 13

Letting things go

Went out this morning to re-spray my rusting pieces and found the large square I'd spent so much time stitching onto the fence had been torn off and stolen. GRRR! The 2 pieces I had wrapped around a rusty looking pole didn't have a single stain on them. GRR!

I must remind myself that the whole purpose of this collecting things and using the city as an art resource is to interact and experience the place. Part of the work is the risk taken- risk of somebody yelling at me for "invading" their space, risk of losing the work. I didn't mind so much with the graffiti embroideries, as once I stitched it and got my photograph my relationship with the piece was severed. But when I place a piece of fabric out for a time-based absorption of the place, I want it to stick around long enough for me to get a mark and reclaim the fabric.

The rust-dyed pieces aren't really rusty enough for my liking. I'm thinking of adding some stitch-resist on top of them. Results to come...

Monday, October 12

How I Spent my Columbus Day Vacation

The day started off waiting for the bus under I95, a convenient time and place to tag one of my new street find/tag combos. The beer bottle top is stitched on with blue thread in shisha work, making it look like a Nazar Boncuk to ward off the evil eye- I'm liking the good luck/drinking commentary that results.
I dropped off new work at The Art shop at Moore today (abstracts with text and my remixed Water, Water Everywhere crocheted pieces). While there I got to see Kim Knauer's "Keepsake" installation combining hair embroideries and this woven-hair bottomed chair. It's very Victorian reminiscent with the weeping willows (an image of mourning) and the antique chair.

I kind of wished she'd used the traditional octagonal pattern that's usually used in cane-bottomed chairs. I wonder if the strands hadn't been left hanging if the hair would have been a more interesting surprise.. I do find the hanging strands on the embroideries more interesting as it emphasizes the weepingness of the willow. The fraying of the fabric makes the hair and the fabric more related and makes the embroideries feel a bit like artifacts, a bit older.
Stopped inside the Galleries at Moore to see the bike show. I'm not really sure why it's in a gallery- it seems like something for the Franklin or some kind of technical museum. A few items saved it from being completely artless- some items from the Bike parts show by Neighborhood Bike Works. Below is Alex Paltz (spelling?) wooden fish sculpture encrusted with bike chain bits as scales. It creates great texture, and if it weren't in a bike show you might wonder for a bit what the heck he'd used.
I had to take a photo of this one because it's embroidery, although I'm not convinced that any part of it originally came FROM a bicycle. The imagery consists of scenes of Philadelphia creating a sense of journey- the road jagged and dangerous.

When I got home I FINALLY mixed up some vinegar solution, tore up some fabric, and hit the streets looking for rusty elements. I explored the fence around the local "parking lot" (really a basketball court not a place for cars, so you figure it out). The locals hanging out were curious, and after I explained I was trying to do rust dyeing, they assured me they wouldn't let any of the junkies who usually hang out round there mess with it.
Such adventures living in the great city of Philadelphia! Happy Columbus Day! May his adventurous spirit inspire you.
I'm home now enjoying tea and soup on this chilly afternoon.

Saturday, October 10

Lace and disappointment

I tried to go here today but they weren't open.... so we sneaked around the back to take a look at the lacy oil drum and enjoyed the lace chainlink fence.

Thursday, October 8

street find slow cloths

some new work to share with you... above is detail of below, a work in progress
All of the objects in these were found as I walked through the city. There's bottle caps, earrings, mirror chunks, washers, Dave and Buster coins, bits of plastic and metal and whatnot.

I tried to keep a map-like feel to these. They're all embroidered onto stitch-resist dyed fabric. Stitching, dyeing, unpicking, restitching, embellishing, the feeling of time adds up.
Here's a current studio view. Thoughts and focus are evolving. Someday I'll finish that Trenton Ave piece!

Wednesday, October 7

POST and some great artists

Last weekend I went to a few open studios during the POST tour. It's a great yearly opportunity to visit artist studios in the Philadelphia area.
I visited Rebecca Gilbert and Marisha Simons on Saturday- 2 awesome printmakers. And Darla Jackson and Lauren Comito on Sunday up at Richmond Mills studios.
Here's Lauren Comito in the co-op studio she runs- "the sweatshop". I enjoy the freshness of her painting. One of the great parts about visiting a studio is getting to see the environment that influences the work as well as all the extra sketches and old artwork that never make it to the viewer in a gallery. I especially liked the piece below, an old one with nails dangling down in front of marks on the paper. She said she really got into the act of markmaking/writing. Mark/language but not verbal. Definitely a process piece. POST continues next weekend with studios West of broad. There's just too many people I love to even start recommendations, so just check out the site and make your own itinerary.

Monday, October 5


Blogging's been on the backburner this week as I've been just a bit busy! Last week had a crit and 2 research proposals due, taught my stitch class at Fleisher, installed a WCA show at Holy Family College, assistant-taught a workshop at NLArts, taught my drawing/painting for 12-13 year olds at Fleisher, went to a bunch of POST studio tours, and --oh yeah-- MADE SOME ART. Check out how my grafitti idea has transformed:

Some places are more recognizable than others. If you're a Philly person you might figure it out. Most of them are in the Fishtown/Kensington/Port Richmond area. If you find one-let me know.