Choices and changes

First things first: the past three weeks have been uncharacteristically busy for me, so I haven’t gotten much done in the way of making my own art. I did get to witness some, however. In mid-June, I got to see both of my sisters perform in their studio’s biennial dance recital, and brought them back to Massachusetts with me for a few weeks of concentrated sister time. They live several states away, so I don’t get to talk to them and watch them grow up as much as I’d like to, and it was great to have that opportunity. On the art front, innumerable paper dolls were made, pictures were colored, Sculpey and air-dry clay formed a play ice cream shop, and thrills were had in the form of getting to paint on actual canvas- “just like a real artist!” said my youngest sister. (I actually think the painting that resulted was pretty good!) Bringing two kids into a normally quiet, adult-only household was a bit of a whirlwind, but we got through it without any disasters. :)

Now that the dust has settled, I’m on to other things. I’ve decided to defer my entrance into my textile and fiber art post-baccalaureate certificate program until next year, meaning I’ll be entering in the fall of 2015. It was a difficult decision, but a number of practical concerns, especially about transportation, made it the best choice for me right now. I’m so lucky they allowed me to defer a year- that will help me get things in order to make sure that I get as much out of school as possible. Where that leaves me is trying to decide what to do with the next fourteen months of my life. It’s not an easy project, but I’m working on it, and working on finding the right ways to incorporate self-defined structure into my days.

To be perfectly frank, the past year hasn’t been easy for me, between health issues, the demands of the Etsy shop and craft fairs, and the concentrated effort to try and figure out what I really want and should do. Everybody has their time for discernment, I guess, and this is mine, and it’s complicated, as it’s always complicated. What happens when what I wanted and prepared for is no longer the right path for me? What should I explore when it seems simultaneously like everything and nothing is possible? And what do I do now that the process of discernment is taking much longer than I thought it would, and I find myself longing to be confident and useful instead of so confused? I’m glad I have a partner and a therapist and a doctor who are good at supporting me through that process, and I’m hoping that other parts of the equation fall into place soon.

One thing is (almost) for sure: in less than two months now, we’ll be moving into our very first home! That project has been under way for a little while now, but I haven’t talked about it here yet since it was still early days. We’ve decided to stay in the same town where we’ve been renting, the town we chose when we first decided to follow our instincts and move out of the city, and have since come to love. It’s just a little Cape Cod-style house, tucked away on a quiet street near the woods, but it’s going to be ours and that makes it special to me. The closing date still seems far off, but it’s still exciting to know that there is a little house a mile away, with tall rhododendrons and dogwood trees and an attic for my studio and room for us to grow, and that house is just waiting for us to arrive.

In six weeks or so, my life will be pretty heavily taken up by packing and moving, but for the moment, I have a break to sort some things out. Heaviest on my mind right now is the lack of a “big project” for the moment. I know that there’s no use trying to force an idea out and starting a project I’m not really into, so I’ve been sticking to small projects- an ongoing blackwork embroidery piece, taking up again the needlepoint of my childhood, a little crochet, a little painting on fabric to be used in future projects. And, of course, lots of reading, blog-following, Pinteresting, and otherwise seeking out things that inspire and teach me.

What I really need to do is come up with a binder or notebook system that works for me, and be more diligent about writing down and fleshing out ideas as they come, then possibly setting them aside for later use- but not forgetting them entirely. With five thousand pins on Pinterest and innumerable saved blog posts, articles, and images, I need a way to organize my inspiration that’s better and more accessible than just folders on my hard drive or pictures pinned to the wall. I have some ideas, but I’m always open to more. Any suggestions?

 

Pulling out my 1979 copy of the Readers Digest Complete Guide to Needlework for some inspiration and instruction. Did anyone else grow up with this book as the go-to crafting guide? I have many fond memories based on this book, from learning about so many different forms of fiber art to teaching myself knitting and blackwork embroidery. I think it’s one of the first resources that made me recognize the possibilities of fiber and textile art.

(Photo from this Etsy listing- a pretty good deal, I think!)

Things that inspire me, July 5

  • I’m not exactly inspired, but motivated, by the realization that in a lot of my textile art, I’ve been using a fairly limited palette. For someone who loves color as much as I do, I’m surprised at how much of my work is all white, or black and white, or some other neutral palette. I need to learn how to better use color and more of it, how to better blend colors when needleweaving and otherwise working with fibers and fabrics, and how to make use of all the colorful yarn and thread I’ve collected for “someday….”
  • I’m inspired by rugs and rugmaking. I’ve never tried any method of making a rug before, but I don’t usually let inexperience stop me. :P I feel like making rugs could be one fruitful avenue for my fiber art, or at least something worth trying, something that could be displayed in my house in a different sort of way from the wall art I usually make.
  • I’m inspired by images of water and waves recently, and the many media in which they can be depicted- from media that are themselves transparent, like glass (check out Mario Ceroli’s sculpture “Maestrale“) and watercolor paint, to opaque paints and appliqued fabrics. Being someone who works a lot with lace, tulle, and layering, I’m always interested by transparency and opacity. And especially as someone who’s not a painter or illustrator, I’m always terribly impressed by people using opaque media to reproduce transparent effects, such as bodies seen through water- or the opposite, such as photographs of crashing waves that give the appearance of a solid, frozen mass.
  • I’m inspired by density of stitch- lots of little stitches coming together to form larger, textured masses- I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but check out the work of Japanese fiber artist Junko Oki to get an idea of what I mean. (I’m linking to a Google Image search because her personal website seems to be in Japanese, which I don’t speak.)

Things that inspire me, June 26

  • I’m inspired by the possibilities of quilting, and of all the elements that go into making a quilt, especially nontraditional and decorative quilts- the ways I can incorporate embroidery, beading, fabric painting, and other skills and materials I’d like to get more use out of. I definitely want to make more small art quilts soon.
  • I’m inspired by stretched, open knitting, like that of Christina Gohli, who I recently found through Pinterest. I can knit, technically, but I don’t much, and I’d really like to experiment with more netlike or lacy constructions in finer threads.
  • I’m inspired, as always, by hexagons- the way they fit together, the ways a hexagonal network can be pulled and distorted while maintaining its tiling, their connection to nature as they appear in the work of bees and wasps. Hexagons are absolutely my favorite shape, and show up often in my work and even more often in the pages of my sketchbook.
  • I’m inspired by handmade clothing and the process of making garments. It’s been over two years since the last time I made a piece of clothing- my wedding dress- and I’m beginning to feel the hankering again, spurred on by the work of friends and by the handsewn clothing of Alabama Chanin, which you should totally check out if you haven’t. I wonder about the possibilities of clothing-formed textile art- things conceived and built on my dress form, but meant for viewing and display on a hanger or form rather than for functional wearing. I wonder if I could use pins and a blunt needle to weave 3d items directly on the surface of my dress form. I wonder about what is meant or could be said figuratively by a garment that is impossible or not meant to wear. If something is shaped according to a human form, or sewn using the techniques of the garment industry, does that imply a wearer, and where is the wearer if not in the garment?
  • I’m inspired by book art, a field that’s new to me and that I’m learning a lot about. Who knew that so many different methods and finished products could fall under the heading of “books.” Of course, the connection between bookbinding and sewing drew me in, and I’m also intrigued by the possibility of combining textile and paper art, as I have before with my embroideries on watercolors.

Right now I have family visiting and other obligations and haven’t had much time for art, but I hope to get back to more regular practice soon- by which I miss it dearly and it’s very difficult to do without. I’m trying to at least keep abreast of Pinterest and the art/textile art blogs I read, storing up information and ideas for later use.

Quilting

Recently, I decided that I wanted to do a small art quilt. I’d never made a small art quilt before, but I figured that if I set my mind to it, I could do it. I used plain muslin as well as muslin that I’d painted with India ink and a variety of tools, and I’m pretty happy with how it came out.

You may recognize the figure from this piece- they’re both taken from the same photo, which I took of a friend years ago. I’m also calling this quilt “Maggie, Conjuring.”

Quilting is definitely a medium I’d like to explore more- the texture and three-dimensionality are fantastic to work with. But for the moment, I’m on a bit of a break; I have a variety of family things to attend to over the next few weeks. I’ll still be posting pictures on my Tumblr when I have work to show.

 

Practice

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my day-to-day practice as a person who makes stuff. (See how reluctant I am even still to use the word “artist” to refer to myself? There’s a reason why this blog is called “Perpetual Amateur.” :) )

I’ll write a longer post about my thoughts eventually, but for the moment, one thing I’ve committed to is trying to post at least one photo of my own work- generally work-in-progress photos- on my Tumblr, which you can find here.  It’s a way of keeping myself accountable for doing or at least thinking about something creative every day, as well as another way for me to share my work with people and get feedback, which is always nice. Hop on over if you’re interested! I’m planning on keeping this up throughout the summer, at least.

noodlings

Embroidery project of the moment: the text of my favorite verse of the prayer/hymn “The Lorica of St. Patrick,” aka “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heavens
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray
The whiteness of the moon at even
The flashing of the lightning free
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks. 

I’m working with a single strand of purple embroidery floss on 28ct evenweave fabric, so it’s kind of fiddly and slow-going and not the most interesting work. I’ll be happy when I have the text done so I can move on to a big, complicated blackwork edging.