Monday, August 30

Back to School

The best part of my day was walking into Tyler and seeing David Bruce's ambitious, enormous, elegant, networked, orbescent steel structure. Incredible.
The day was all downhill from there...

Sunday, August 29

Last week of summer

Friday was exhibition day to wrap up the visual arts camp week at NLArts! This summer our theme was "GAMES", so for the visual arts portion I interpreted that to include making toys/games, creating interactive public art, and artmaking as playing. Above and below you can see some of our kids personal gameboards they created and designed. Some are more "playable" than others, but they all reflect the kids' imagination and logic. I'm very pleased with the open parameters of this gameboard project as it promoted art-making as meaning making (sorry, as an art ed grad student I'm a bit preoccupied by the whole point of art education)The image above also includes the 8-year-olds public art project. We took a tour of area public art and paid attention to materials, and interactiveness before coming up with our own public art project. They worked in teams to mix and pour plaster into dish-washing gloves/molds, worked in new teams to paint the plaster hands, and finally made individual "balls" to add to the center of the sculpture. As this was a group that often had trouble cooperating in other activities, it was very important and positive that they let go of the ownership of the piece and worked together.
It also seems symbolic of the controlled chaos of the whole week!Our 7-year-olds created a hoop/ball game we installed in the yard, and their personal balls for the game are above. We made them out of plastic bags, rubber bands, and yarn. They are surprisingly bouncy! They came up with the name "Shoot the Looptiloop", but somehow we never came to a consensus on rules for the game- they were too interested in just slam-dunking their balls to even think about how to turn it into a group/team game. Ah well.Our 5-6 year olds went on a neighborhood mural arts tour and played "I Spy" at each site. We have a lovely mural by Paul Santoleri (I believe) next to the community center in what we call the "concrete park". So we made a visual clue public art version of I Spy by observing the mural and drawing details, finding familiar shapes, noticing colors. We laminated and zip-tied their drawings to the fence looking out on the mural so visitors could play an I Spy game on their own.The thing I'm most proud of this week is the gameboard mural our 9-11 year olds created in Liberty Lands park. I've often thought there needed to be something more to do at Liberty Lands- the playground area seems so geared to little kids and my older kid would get bored sometimes.So this game was designed by our campers collaboratively and they all had a hand in priming, designing stencils, and painting the mural. Although we kept running out of primer and blue paint, it all came together and somehow got completed in 5 days! Hopefully it will last for a long time!

I feel like we achieved our process over product goal for the week. The kids had plenty of time to think, reflect, and collaborate. I hope their work on the public art projects makes them even more connected to this community they live in.

Now I have a whole year to think about new themes and projects for next summer.

Saturday, August 28

How I do

Sometimes people ask me how I get started one of my embroideries. For me it starts with sketching or a photograph or a combination to break down the composition into simple geometric areas. Then I select the fabric I'm going to use, perhaps applique. Then I go to the threadbox and pull out my "palette". I find it easier to make choices when the selection is limited, so I narrow it down at the beginning, before I start stitching. It makes for a more harmonious whole in my opinion.
Happy stitching!

Wednesday, August 25


One of the projects this week at NLArts was to do mosaics with our 11-13 year olds and artist Natalie Wieters. To learn how to do it they started off with a personal piece about 1 foot square with a symbol or monogram. My own practice piece is above and the kids' are below. I still have to grout mine- been a little sidetracked with all the other projects going on.
Having figured out the process, now the kids are working together to create a mosaic sign to hang for the Northern Liberties Community Center, where all our NLArts activities are held.

By the way- I was very pleased to see that the Hand Embroidery Network selected my "Brick House" photo for a featured piece today! Hooray! And a big welcome to anyone who found me through HEN. It's kind of an eclectic blog, but I hope somebody out there enjoys reading it.

Tuesday, August 24

She's (got) a Brick House!

I'm used to how long fiber arts takes, but it's mostly within my own physical control and endurance. Ceramics takes FOREVER. At least when you depend on studio techs to do all the loading and firing.... But anyway- my Brick project from my summer ceramics class is finished and I'm happy.I threw slabs of red clay, scored and tore them down to brick size, notched a hanging depression in the back and then used a needle tool to poke LOTS of holes through the clay. Everybody thought I was being crazy.Some of the dots are just surface texture and don't go all the way through. I used a mulberry underglaze, then an espresso and a white glaze to spatter, and a final light sweep of clear glaze over the bisque fired bricks. This past week I've been stitching them with a random cross stitch in perle cotton for some surface texture and color.
I have a total of 9 bricks, but I'm not happy with the stitching on one- the holes closed up a bit and I couldn't get the stitching very dense. They'll be installed in a wall-like installation above in the art educators show at Tyler next week!

Monday, August 23


This week and last week I'm over running a camp at NLArts in Northern Liberties, next to this lovely mural. Our theme is games, so we've been thinking about artmaking games, interactive/public art, and making our own games and toys.

I have been stitching, worked on my summer ceramic/fiber fusion piece, working on my commission piece, but I haven't got into a rhythm of uploading photos on my new computer yet. Part of the reason for my slow posts of late.

Check this out, one of the inspirations for our artmaking games this week.

Summer is rapidly coming to a close... I go back to the grad school grind next week.

Thursday, August 19

Fibers at Fleisher

The annual Faculty Exhibition is on display at Fleisher Art Memorial through September 19th. Before my last class of the summer session I stopped in to take a look and snap some photos to share. The fibers faculty is basically myself (see my piece above) and Nikki Virbitsky (her crewel embroidery Matryoshka doll is below). Although sometimes the book arts faculty are grouped with us as well. We're part of a larger crafts model with glass... it's hard to nail us down.Nikki has taught spinning for adults, but she's a jack of all trades like me, and also teaches in the children's program. Her Matryoshka doll is an ambitious scale, and has mostly satin, long and short, and french knot stitches.Although I think only 2 of us on the faculty call ourselves fiber artists, there was an interesting range of works in the show that had a fibers sensibility or inclusion. Lee Wilkinson's print below has fabric-like patterning and I can just imagine this creature materialized as a softie. Allison Stigora's "Eloi, Eloi" is a large scale drawing about 5 feet high, and reminds me of a giant scary ball of all my leftover fabric and thread clippings come to haunt me. Gina Fisichella's spray painted canvas has a thready feel to it as well, like a giant bobbin of variegated yarn.
This final piece I'd like to share stole the show, in my opinion. Jill Allen is one of the ceramics instructors, and I had the pleasure of taking her class this summer.
Her piece has patterned fabric stuffed pods budding off the ceramic base and held with wire. I love Jill's contrast of hard and soft, patterned and textured, linear and voluminous. The fiber forms are an interesting counterpoint to her ceramic forms.
Go see it for yourself! 7th and Catharine through September 19th.

Wednesday, August 18

Tweens (feel free to roll eyes)

There's been a bit of a Twilight obsession going on around here. I can't complain as reading time is up, TV time is way down, and it has encouraged a flurry of creativity. Below are the "Edward and Bella" hand puppets my daughter and I collaborated on this week. She came up with little skits to perform and everything.
Ah, the things we do to indulge our children...

Saturday, August 14

A week of Book arts

I had the honor of being a substitute book arts teacher this week for my friend Michelle, who is now on her move West to California. She had to leave before the last class, so she gave me the materials and instructions for how to create tunnel books.
Tunnel books are a series of "pages" with cutouts that allow one to see through a series of images. The pages are held on either side with a skinny accordion fold. Pages and cutouts are attached to subsequent layers of the accordion fold, creating separation between the pages and visual depth. It's a very theatrical form of book, you see everything in 3-dimensions all at once, not like the sequential, unfolding nature of most books with pages to be turned. The students really enjoyed this opportunity to insert some content into their books, which up to the last class had been various technical constructions and bindings of blank books.
They each searched through magazines, pulling out pages that caught their eye, then found ways to connect the images through cutting and layering. There was a lot of experimentation and great results.
That was not the only book arts fun this week- I finally finished the accordion book I'd been collaborating on with a high school student through the WCA. This afternoon I took all the books over to the Free Library at 20th and Vine to install in the cases on the 2nd floor hallway to the Print and Pictures Department.
Since the cases were only viewable from one direction and all the books were double-sided I purchased small mirrors to prop and make the back sides visible. I also included photos of the workshops and descriptions of the project. Stop by the Free Library and check it out! They'll be on display from now until October 29th.

Friday, August 13

Commissions in progress

Ok, my fingers have been a little busy. The background beachy "frame" for the beach house commission I'm doing is complete. It's a piece of silk painting with organza overlay and lots of running stitch and seeding. Next up is to do the house inset applique... question is whether to do reverse applique or not....Warning: my photoshop skills aren't so hot. However, I've been playing around with this photograph to create a plan for an art quilt/embroidery out of ties. I think I'll sort out the ties by value and then follow the gridded photograph for some piecing. My goal was to have these done before school starts, which means I have 2 weeks. Right.

Wednesday, August 11

Loopy Samplers

My own embroidery production has been slow of late due to all the teaching and planning I've been doing. In fact my fingers have often been employed with the needle- but all for the benefit of others... My Stitch and Surface students, however, have been very productive and have created some stunning explorations of color, line, and mark for their original loopy samplers.These 2 responded to some existing color on the fabrics they discovered in my grab bag. The one below is the most angular of the group- and for some reason reminds me of The Jetsons.The next two pieces show a really wide range of stitch exploration. I think both students were working through a stitch encyclopedia for inspiration and mastery.The fly stitch/french knots are lovely..These are mostly needlepoint and counted stitches but they're offset by the random placement of overlapping shapes and some more mark-making areas.Best of all this loopy sampler has transformed into a tree and she has discovered color blending of threads on the needle for some more gradation of color.
Keep Stitching!

Kay Healy- Window on Broad

I had to go over to UArts yesterday and had the pleasure to come across Kay Healy's Window on Broad Installation.She's taken a page from Catherine Jansen's book creating life-size stuffed versions of household objects.Kay's studio is apparently in Studio 1026, and the printmaking tradition remains strong as evidenced by her extensive use of screenprinting in this installation. I love the hand-drawn quality of the prints, and it's like an illustration from a children's book had sprung to life, only requiring our imaginations to supply the characters about to walk in the stuffed door, turn on the stuffed light, and have a pot of stuffed tea.
As I'm about to start planning my screenprinting syllabus for my teens this fall, this recurring theme of screenprinted, 3 dimensional objects I've seen lately is holding a prime spot in the creative soup.
Healy's Window on Broad will be up for about another month- so take a walk down Broad between Pine and Spruce on the East side to catch a glimpse for yourself.

Tuesday, August 3

Substitute teacher

Due to my training week, I had to miss teaching my Stitch and Surface class this week. Luckily I have a fabulous fiber artist friend who could take over for me last night. I've featured Rachel Udell before, but she has some new embroidery pieces that were recently on view at Rocket Cat Cafe. The one above is the one I lust after.

I hope she had fun with my students and that they enjoyd her and her work!

Monday, August 2


Can you believe I missed out on seeing this with my family by staying in Philly this summer? *sigh*
I'm scheduling some posts since I'm away the next few days.

Sunday, August 1

Art and About

I'm off to Harrisburg for the week to attend a professional development training workshop for the residency I'll be doing in the Fall, so I doubt I'll be able to post anything this week.

If you're in need of a Marie Elcin art fix, there are 2 opportunities:
The annual faculty exhibition at Fleisher Art Memorial is opening soon. I just dropped the piece above off on Thursday. It's much better in person. Fleisher is at 7th and Catharine Streets.

The Cathedral Summer Show is up through the end of August. My crocheted water pieces are on exhibit along with photography by Elaine Crivelli and paper sculpture installation by Stephen Robin. The Philadelphia Cathedral is at 38th and Chestnut St- stop by on Wednesday at noon for a two-for, as their organ concert series is happening then.

Stay cool.