Sunday, January 24

Daily notes week 4

I've decided on a loose working title for this project, which will be "Daily Notes". i'm not thrilled by it, but the name is helping me organize pictures... I've kept this project going so far for 24 days. The assignment strategy is working to keep me focused and keep my fingers busy. Here is a bit of progress from week 4:

 All week long people were talking about the impending snowstorm to hit the east coast. or me this translated to lots of anticipation and waiting. It's been very cold. My magazine collages for the week seemed very dark, but then the fabrics I chose were rather light. So I overlaid a piece of itajime-dyed navy blue and white organza over the patchwork to tone things down a little.

Monday was filled with friends and family as I enjoyed a day off from school in honor of MLK. A visit with Anne Minich, one of my favorite artist friends helped me feel like this project is worthwhile. Her house reminds me o the descriptions I recently heard of Louise Bourgeois' home where the whole building exists in service of art. It's always inspiring to sit with her among her books and art and shells and driftwood.
Tuesday was long and tiring, but I had an amazing time with my basic design students at Fleisher exploring organic and geometric shapes in balance with each other.
The rest of the week was a rushed blur of end of the quarter grading at school and anticipation for the snowy weekend.
Again, Friday night found me rushing to my scrap pile. Before I emerged from my studio corner to think about dinner, 2 inches of snow had fallen from the sky. It snowed through all of Saturday, and I was in bliss, eating lovely food, stitching, and watching movies.
It's Sunday again, and icicles are dripping from the eaves. We shoveled out, but are in no hurry to go anywhere. This week's stitched strip now hangs with the others, and January is taking form and color on my wall. One more week and I'll have a month's worth complete.

Friday, January 15

New Year, New Project

I've always been exceptionally good at doing school assignments. I always found some way to fulfill the requirements but in a way that also satisfied my own sense of creativity. Having the prompt was what helped- some exterior stimulus to get the ideas flowing. But you only get assignments when you are in school. Although I'm "in school" every day, I'm always the one giving the assignments. I seem to be very good at coming up with assignments and interesting challenges for my students, but for some reason I seem to struggle with challenging myself in the same way.

I've been thinking about how to best arrange my life to allow for more personal creative practice. I don't want to reach the end of 2016 with so little to show for it as I did this past year. So, I've analyzed what works and what doesn't for me. Schedules and deadlines push me. Regular habits keep me consistent in work and exercise. 

I considered an "artwork-a-day" project but realized it would be too much pressure to complete something. Have to be realistic. But once a week might be doable. An every day habit of journaling is sustainable. I noticed I kept that up for 4 months last year. I can top that. Now, last year I made a piece that felt very personal and beautiful and expressive, which was prompted by an assignment in "The Artist's Rule", a book by Christine Paintner that the Cathedral used in a weekly book study last year. It was to make a book of days, marking your hours, finding moments for prayer and creativity. I made a long, narrow embroidered strip with color blocks representing each time period of my everyday schedule. As we are starting to go through the book again, I was reminded of the piece and the simplicity of it.
So assignment part 1: every day, jot down any significant events, feelings, colors, patterns, images, or experiences. Cut out a square of magazine paper colors, patterns, textures, etc. to collage into my sketchbook. By the end of the week I have a color sketch of a piece laid out along with a wealth of images, words, and sketches to draw from for inspiration.

Assignment Part 2: Sunday is art day. I know, I make art every day. But it's Monday-Friday middle school, Saturday community arts, and I'm exhausted helping other people be creative and annoyed to not be creative for myself. So on Sunday I'll use the results of Assignment 1 to gather fabrics that best match the color collage sketches. I iron and cut them into 3 inch squares to be sewn together as a strip.
Once the patches are sewn into a strip, I back it and topstitch it. The machine sewing is quick and gives the piece a finished look from the very start.
 Finally, I can spend most of Sunday afternoon or evening embroidering. But if it takes longer I can continue stitching through the week.
So far I have completed 2 strips. The first one only represents 3 days because January started on a Friday and I began the project on Sunday, January 3rd. For week 2, the longer strip was a challenge. I pieced it on Sunday, January 10th and got some stitching done. However, I stupidly chose seed stitch to fill a significant area, which took forever. I stitched a little through my substitute day, some more Wednesday night, and finally finished it on Thursday evening. Having the deadline of the weekend was good pressure.
I've so far managed to keep up the journaling for 15 days and finished 2 strips. I was so excited to get started this Friday evening, that when I came home from work I dumped out my whole scrap box to find the best pieces for the week so far, cut and sewed them up already. The strip awaits Saturday and  Sunday's colors now. 
This is the first time in months I've felt motivated to spend real consistent time in the studio. I hope I can keep this momentum, and that it won't be just another failed resolution. I think that sharing intentions helps build a sense of accountability. I am not going to stress about "having an idea",and I'm not going to worry too much about how it turns out. I am going to keep the format consistent and then see what happens over time. It will be an interesting experiment to see visually over time how I experience the world emotionally and visually. Happy New Year!!

Saturday, January 2

Looking Back on 2015

 Last year I made this piece, above.. "Thaw". We had a deep winter that never seemed to end. It matched my feelings and set the tone for the year, I think. All year I tried to thaw out.
In the Spring I took a woodblock printing class, and made the print, above, "Sawtooth Thorn". It still seems spiky, but there's a warmer tone in it and a circle like a sun rising.
In the summer I got an opportunity to design a piece for a future book. It was good to have an assignment. Sometimes I miss being a student and having teachers set a problem for me. I made a good design that I am proud of, but design work isn't fulfilling like one's own creative pursuits.
At the end of summer another design opportunity sprang up to compete in a mural contest in my neighborhood with the Mural Arts Program. I researched, designed, and painted for over a month. Again I made something I'm proud of, but popular vote didn't go my way. Sadly, I won't get to paint this mural after all. I feel sorry for designers who have to do this all the time- competing for work, going through the whole design process, but not getting to the final stage of production. Guess that's why I'm not a full time designer!

 My website host, Heavy Bubble, put a call out for one-fold books for a small winter show called "Ritual". So in November I completed two little books with painting, stitching, and drawing. They are melancholy pieces- one is titled "Tache" (Stain in French), and the other is "Anxiety". The show is up through the rest of January at the studios at 12th and Carpenter in Philadelphia.
I'm sad to look into my 2015 file of artwork pictures, because there seems to be so little completed. The Queen Wyeth piece, above, is nearing completion (oh thousands and thousands of French Knots!) but it has taken me all year to do. My artistic practice has been slow this past year, but other things have been happening instead.

Family has been very important this past year. I'm an aunt (and godmother!) once more. I've been coccooning with my daughter and husband. I've been reconnecting with my sisters. I've been trying to be more present and available for my parents.
Teaching has demanded a lot of creative energy, but beautiful things emerge out of it. I have amazing middle school artists and wonderful experiences with adults and teens in community arts.
 Basic Design and color theory continue to be tuition-free classes at Fleisher. Working in these foundation areas keeps my eyes always fresh.

 Printmaking with adult classes allows me time to experiment and be playful in one of my favorite mediums as I teach. I really enjoy encouraging adults to enter into material play and collaborative work. It's so different from what adults typically engage in.

 My teens at Fleisher always amaze me with their creativity. This past year I did a lot of screenprinting with teens, but also led a watercolor workshop and a drawing workshop in the summer.
Middle School teaching is an adventure every day. But I'm in the right place for sure. I know it in the enthusiasm and trust and playfulness I share with my 300 5th to 8th graders every week.
 This Fall I even started a fashion design club after school, where I get to indulge my Project Runway-inspired fantasies with a great bunch of fashionistas.
How do you measure a creative year? If I look at what has come out of my own studio, it looks like it was a bad year. It was a year of slow process and even pain. If I look at my family, it was a year of love and growth and reconnection.  If I look at my classroom and community work, it was a year of creative explosion, with hundreds of works of art made with my gentle encouragement. 

I just wish my selfish inner artist could accept the sum total of creative acts of love, care, and teaching as equal if not even more valuable than the works of my hands. Truly, the creative energy I put into my family, friends, students, and community will have more impact than any picture, print, or sculpture I could ever make. But, oh, my poor, neglected, selfish artist.... maybe in 2016.