Monday, February 19, 2018

Working in Multiples, Working in a Series

Most of my adult art life I have been working in multiples, a natural activity for a printmaker. A great deal of time is spent creating a drawing, then transferring it to a block or plate, and then choosing and mixing the colors. The printing is the easy part, so creating more than one is optimal. I still enjoy this process and have now shifted over to printing on cloth in order to create quilts. Multiples are still part of this process, but I've only just encountered a new process, known to many artists: working in a series.

When I cut up the cotton fabric (usually muslin) and prepare it for printing I have been guesstimating; I don't have a rule for how much I need, and for now, since I'm not working with silk, the material is inexpensive. I print whatever I prepare, and this usually means I have leftovers. I get a second chance, or maybe a third, to approach the same subject. I usually create a new element as well.

It started with the 2017 Osprey quilts for the theme of "Night: from Dusk to Dawn." Although they were finished in a different order, this was the order they were conceived and begun. (Larger images on my website.)

When Birds Sleep.

Sweet Osprey Dreams.

Nightlights on the Bay.

Since I can submit up to three works to be considered for a show with the same fee, I decided this was a good idea. In the past, I've had so many ideas that once I've made one into a tangible object I've been ready to move on right away: going broad. Now I found I get to go deeper and explore the subject from different angles. I guess I started this with Housework but hadn't realized it. That's also when I first included a quilt with my bookwork. Each house looks at the idea of home from a different point of view: lichen, deep sea, a house torn down becoming a garden, homelessness, roommates, and more.

The next two quilts are for the 2018 theme, "Metamorphosis."


What Are We Becoming.

I had a third partially worked out, but it needs to simmer. The deadline is the end of February, but I've learned (finally!) not to rush a project.

So far, it seems that the first of each of these two series is the complicated one, sometimes the one with several ideas going at once. The second is the one I probably wanted to make from the beginning, and the third is like the last song on the album (remember those?)—the "experimental" one. I push boundaries and learn quite a bit from this last quilt. From all, really. Knowing in advance that I will make more than one will likely influence the work overall. We shall see!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Scrappy Valentine's Day

Here's some love for you. Small sachet hearts made from my Seraph: the Holy Quilt scraps. The quilt just has black and white and silver, but I had printed some with pink. They are filled with cotton batting trimmings and lavender.

Stitched up with pink embroidery thread, kinda like a football.
Little punky, wabi-sabi hearts.

If you would like one and you are one of the first three people to comment and are willing to send me your paper mail address (U.S. delivery only) by email, I'll send you one!
Thanks for reading.

Scrappy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 12, 2018

New Art Quilt: What Are We Becoming

New quilt-of-the-month is the second in a series for the "metamorphosis" theme. It was an offshoot of   the quilt, Becoming (process posted here). 

This one blows up the concept of gears and ears and the merging of the biological with the mechanical or the organic with technology. The letterpress printed text from wood type is: Becoming / What Are We Becoming / You Look Becoming / Becoming. I also carved one large linoleum block and printed it in various colors, then cut it up and rearranged it and pinned it into place.

I cut up the text to disrupt the reading.

After piecing one full panel of the print, I started reworking the design.

And layering the print pieces again. The rust red was just too bright.

It finally calmed down and settled into place.

I pieced it, then ironed hems in the print pieces and sewed them down as patches.

My socks seemed to match that day.

I embroidered details in the top panel and spirals, eyes, squiggles, tiny screws, and springs to quilt and unify it. The eyes were inspired by the Klimt exhibit; I noticed he used spiral and eyes. My spirals are both a reference to the inner ear and to a watch part.

It turned out to be the perfect size to fit on a door. I feel a metaphor coming on.

I enjoy the process of traditional binding.

I've been working on my corners.


We have amazing new technology that helps someone function, that can augment their body in some way (hearing aids, cochlear implants, artificial limbs, eyeglasses that can enable the blind to "see" ). But at the same time our technology is changing our social fabric: how we relate to each other and to our environment  It's going to take a conscious effort to retain empathy, anticipation, compassion, tolerance, intimacy, and patience. What Are We Becoming? And what do we want to become?

Friday, February 9, 2018

Proficiency and Identity

I was recently talking with a colleague who had worked with Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. and the colleague reiterated how Amos says he's "not an artist." The colleague also mentioned they like to write but when people ask if they are a writer they say not really. I asked my question of why people feel compelled to say they are or are not something. My colleague immediately said, "I think it is about proficiency and identity." We both stopped and thought for a minute, surprised at how clear that seemed.

Let's look at that idea, because I think that is the answer to my previous post, "Talking about Art."

Proficiency is defined as "a high degree of competence or skill; expertise." Asking someone if they are proficient at something gets complicated when you look at all the underlying questions: Are you competent or skilled at this thing? How does it show? Do you believe you are? Do others believe you are? Do others have to believe you are good at it in order for you to actually be deemed proficient? Which others have to believe this? Why is their opinion valid or more valid than another person's?

All those underlying questions can be positively off-putting! Here's an example: I used to practice calligraphy (high school and a little in college). I would get paid to make place-cards, address envelopes, make signs. Those who did not do calligraphy themselves would say I was very good, proficient. But when I compared my work to professional calligraphers, masters in the field, I knew that I was not. I could see that my strokes weren't parallel, this o wasn't the same as that o. Did I call myself a calligrapher? At the time, yes, and did until I realized I was not going to become a master of it. It's possible I could have, if I had solely done calligraphy, but I did not. Those outside the field would say I was proficient (and they would ask me to continue even after I quit). Those inside the field probably would have said not so much. Outside, inside. Judgments. Curious to think about.

Self-confidence about what you are doing and commitment to the work are just as important as how others view what you are doing. Even if you aren't as skilled as you would like to be, believing you are at least somewhat skilled or have a little talent or aptitude for the task will keep you moving forward, learning, and becoming more proficient.

Identity is a popular word right now. It is defined as: "the fact of being who or what a thing is; the characteristics of determining this; a close similarity or affinity." I think identity gets tricky when we are talking about groups or characteristics of people. Because, what are we doing? We are creating stereotypes of that group. Sometimes those stereotypes are accurate; sometimes those stereotypes, or generalizations are true sometimes and for some people. Perhaps they are the median characteristics: many people are like this, but not all. 

I identify as a writer and as an artist. Within those broad terms, I identify as a writer of short stories and poems. I often say, "I am not a novelist." Within art I say I am a printmaker, printer, book artist. I have said, "I am not a painter," although I do paint on paper. When I think of painters I think of painting on canvas. Because I do not paint on canvas, I do not identify with the group I generalize as painters, who, in my mind, also have shows in galleries. My paintings stay in a drawer or become books. I don't identify with painters as a group. Calling myself a printmaker or printer, I identify with ink on one's hands, a mellow and friendly working style, a sharing culture, and a geeking out on certain kinds of marks.

It seems, then, that having both proficiency with the medium and identifying with the group of makers would allow a person to call oneself a writer, artist, calligrapher, painter, novelist, etc.. Being confident about who you are and what you do definitely helps you accept the title(s). (I wrote about this from a slightly different angle back in 2012: "Success = Self-Confidence + Humility.")

These days, I'm working on accepting a new term for myself: quilter. I still feel more comfortable as a printmaker working with fabric and as a bookmaker working in large-scale, open books. I suspect this allows me to skirt around my insecurities. But I am definitely making quilts, which is also what quilters do.