Sunday, June 30

Papermill party

 My studio building, the Papermill, had an art party tonight. Many artists from the building brought art down to hang in the big gallery space on the first floor. The theme was"Coloratura", which was plenty open-ended for the eclectic bunch of people we are. Some bands were invited to play.
 In the patio area some canvases were set up and some art materials were out for anyone to come draw and paint.
 And the best thing all night was that one of my pieces sold! I had pulled out some older works on paper that I did during grad school- 2 rust prints and a watercolor/collage. The big one at the bottom found a new home, and I'm a happy artist!

Monday, June 24

Summer studio

IS HOT!!!! I got into the studio around 10:30 today, and the lovely sun that streamed in Winter mornings keeping me cozy is now steamy light warming up the space a little too much! It was 88 degrees. Time to get a fan in there.... However, by noon the sun had shifted and some cool returned. Looks like I'll have to do afternoons over there instead of mornings. Despite the heat (why, oh why am I doing big pieces that drape over me while I work?!?), I made some progress on my graffiti sampler:
 And inspired by yesterday's museum visit I came up with an idea for a potential series and did a sketch:
 Just for fun, here's a peek in my sketchbook from another visit to the Wagner last week:
 Above is a pattern in some brain coral, and below a pattern in a sea fan. I love how patterns replicate themselves in a fractal way in nature, and systems in all structures mimic each other. How is space best filled? How to create flow? Grids and branching are found everywhere.

Sunday, June 23

Perfect Summer Sunday

It was a rather spontaneous day.
We headed up to Doylestown to visit the Michener museum. There's a fabulous exhibit called "Infinite Mirror" of work by American artists in all our glorious colors and backgrounds. My favorite image was the one above by Leamon Green, Jr. There were a lot of great silkscreen and litho prints throughout.
Afterwards we stopped at the Mercer museum, which is full of pre-industrial era tools in a castle-like building. The main hall is overwhelming, and even has things attached to the ceiling! 
 We had an invitation up to a farm near Doylestown for a solstice party with one of my Fleisher colleagues. When searching for my friends' houses I love to play the game "Where does the artist live?" Perhaps the one with a tree branch upended and adorned with a lion's mask:
 The one with sculptures in the birdbaths:

 It was so nice to be out of the city for a spell. There were musicians and a contradanse caller. I forgot how much I loved dancing and swinging around with a partner. There was a picnic dinner served on china plates. I felt like Martha Stewart could have been lurking around the corner to catch some of the bucolic air.
 Welcome summer!! What else will you have in store?

Saturday, June 22

Learning instead of teaching

It's been very fulfilling to sit on the other side of a classroom recently. As a teacher I'm always helping others be creative and giving them ideas, which leaves little in the well for my own artistic creativity. But when you get to be a student you only have to worry about your own project and ideas. I love how even in a room full of people my attention can shrink down to the space between my eyes and my hands and I'm on a little island of my own invention.
The animal sculpture class at Fleisher finished up about a week ago. On the final night we worked on painting and patinas to give the fired clay some life. My horse skull didn't need much- the raw fired white clay is bone-like, but I gave him a gold tooth just because.
Through the class we worked from live animals, from taxidermy, from real skulls, and from pictures. I used my own sketches from the Wagner Free Institute for inspiration. The crow I sketched here:

 Became 3 dimensional:
For structure I had to attach him to a stronger branch base, which I hollowed out. You can't see in this shot, but there's also a little beetle inside the log. The eggs and raven were painted with black gesso for a matte coating, and the log was painted with a bronze patina. Then I brushed gold acrylic over the eggs, and used black nailpolish on the eyes and feet to make them shiny and create more contrast.This turned out to be my favorite piece from the class.
Today I went to Square Peg Artery & Salvage for a modular origami workshop with Rich Cotton. He showed us how to tear down an A4 sheet into 32 small pieces for the proper proportions- surprisingly this form of origami does not start with a square piece, but a rectangle. Then we folded the units (hotdog, hamburger, 45 degree angles to center fold, 45 degree angles in on leftover flaps, fold flaps over, and fold in half to show triangle form with rear pockets.) Hahah! Those directions are really just for me to remember, and if anyone could figure out how to do it based on that sequence I commend you! The open ends of the triangles fit into the rear pockets of another triangle, and linking them into a chain can create a circular base for a vessel form. He showed how to make swan forms, but I just made an asymmetrical bowl. I'm not sure if I could do this with  any of my kids at school, but it's a thought.
The other reason for taking classes is to get new ideas or strengthen skills for my teaching. I've been a specialist in fibers for so long, but a really good art teacher needs to have a breadth of expertise. My sculptural skills are not as strong as my 2D, so these 2 workshops have been beneficial.

Wednesday, June 19

What I've been waiting for

 My classroom aloe plant has found a summer home in the studio, and finally after a week off from everything I'm back in the studio again too. A few more rows of running stitch on my endless brick wall project brought me to the decision to jump into the text detail.
 I enlarged the graffiti-esque alphabet from my sketchbook onto tissue paper and transferred it to the stitched cloth. Except guess what? Transfer does not really work all that well on bumpy stitched fabric.... So I went back and used a washable fabric marker over all the letters so I could see them. Could have saved myself a hell of a lot of time if I'd just freehanded it.
 But at last, at last! Not only am I back in the studio, I've finally gotten through all the boring background stitching to get to do some fun detail stitching. I'm using stem stitch to give a calligraphic feel to this urban sampler.
In other news, I received a lovely shipment from Dharma with some Kona cotton, silk organza, 5 lbs of soda ash, and a lb of sodium alginate. It's about time, too... look at the state of my last batch of mixed alginate:
It has turned an odd dark amber color and returned to a liquid instead of gel state. I'm afraid to open the container for fear of the possible stench it will elicit!! It is 6 months old now, so it's really not a surprise. HA!
Anyway, I'm hoping for more time and experimentation in the studio over the next few weeks. So nice to have my "artist hat" back on and give the teacher hat a rest. Anyone who complains about teachers getting summer break needs to spend a day or maybe even just an hour teaching in a classroom!

Monday, June 17

Summer fiber intensives!

 It's that time again! Registration is open and I'm in need for a few curious people to sign up for fibers classes at Fleisher. I'm offering Shibori in the am 10-1 and Stitch and Surface in the afternoon 1-4 the week of August 5th-9th. In Shibori, we'll learn a variety of resist techniques to get pattern and color on fiber, including pole-wrapping, clamping, stitching, and pleating. You'll become familiar with working with fiber reactive dyes, and you can work on cloth or on clothing blanks.
 In Stitch and Surface you'll be introduced to freehand embroidery techniques, sunprinting, and mixed media fiber collage. Projects will include a doodle sampler, an embellished sunprint, and an embroidery inspired by botanical prints. Or feel free to use it as open studio time to work on that embroidery project you've been stuck on.
To register for classes, head over to for more info. There's a 20% discount on the 2nd class for anyone who signs up for both!!

Saturday, June 1

Mind Map

I'm having a great semester with my 11-13 year old silkscreen class at Fleisher (partly because my daughter is taking it for the first time too!). The group worked so efficiently, that we ended up having time for an extra project. One of the adults who takes an evening silkscreen class had left an awesome sketch behind that reminded me of a system or diagram, but which was very open-ended for interpretation, and it gave me a great idea for a project. I wrote out lots of words on slips of paper and had the kids pass a bowl, take a word, and sketch whatever the word brought to mind. After several rounds, they had lots of disconnected imagery. We played with the copy machine, duplicating, shrinking, and enlarging the images, then headed back to the studio and made a collage that would make the images make more sense. Another copy machine trip turned the collages into a photo positive to burn our screens. They printed, and then added color to one print with colored pencils. They cut it into an organic shape, cut out some construction paper arrows, and then headed to the main stairwell to combine all their prints into one installation that made sense or became a system. My daughter's print is at the very bottom and has a sleeping dreamer. The kids thought their images could be a dream system.... an excellent way to make all of these disparate images come together as a cohesive whole. I love working at a place that lets me work as an artist with kids, and lets kids have authentic artmaking experiences. They work in a real studio with real art materials, and we let the work transform and change depending on what happens there. It's easy when I have 8 kids to work with. I wish I could find a way to work more in this vein in my elementary school. Art teacher and teaching artist seem to be different roles, and a lot of it depends on the institution one works within.