Friday, June 15, 2018

Star 82 Review 6.2 Is Live!

In this 22nd issue of Star 82 Review, we find protectiveness. Each of the writers and artists fiercely cares about something. Each gently protects it with kindness. Included is work from high school student, Lucy Wallace, published authors, Charles Rafferty and Simon Perchik, embroidery from Lucia Dill and Claudia Moore and more stories, poems, and art from emerging and established writers and artists. This issue is one of my favorites!

6.2 web is here.
6.2 print is here.

You can keep up-do-date with the news from the magazine and read the found poem created from the first two or last two words from each written piece at the Star 82 Review FaceBook page here.

Happy Reading!

Joe Albanese
Carol Barrett
Jennifer L. Blanck
Floyd Cheung
Audra Coleman
Cathie Crawford
Lucia Dill
William Doreski
Ricardo José González-Rothi
Jeff Ewing
Roger Gilroy
Ed Gold
Susan Gundlach
Christopher T. Keaveney
Herbert Woodward Martin
Sam McParland
Elaine Mintzer
Claudia Moore
Susan Paprocki
Simon Perchik
Charles Rafferty
Giancarlo Riccobon
Hannah Rousselot
Nathan Rudibaugh
Charlie Scaturro
Daryl Scroggins
Tom Sigafoos
Lucy Wallace
Penelope Weiss

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Never Mind the New Website & Print

It was time to update. With a little help from my friend, I was able to put together a simple, streamlined website that would be visible on the phone. Same web address: but new design. The old one became tangled as I moved back and forth from printing to felting to sewing, from one-of-a-kind work to editioned books and back.

In the new system I have a home page with a brief statement and in addition to a contact page, two main areas: art and writing. And if you like rabbit holes and worm holes and black holes, the old website is still there: the link is at the bottom of the home and contact pages.

It was interesting going through this process, looking through everything and choosing what to include. I could see my interests more clearly, see the throughpoint of my work, the common themes and styles even in the varied materials and processes.

To mark the occasion, or any occasion really, I've letterpress printed a postcard/small linocut print. Now available in a varied set of four with free shipping at nevermindtheart.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 11, 2018

When in Drought

Californians, among others, have been struggling with droughts, on and off, for decades. Water conservation was big here in 1976-77, for nearly ten years in the mid-2000s, and it looks like we are back at it again. Showers are short, and we eye the bathtub with longing. Exacerbated by climate change or not, a drought has always felt part of my life. In working with denim, I discovered denim takes quite a bit of water to produce: a pair of jeans takes 3781 liters of water from start to finish. Manufacturers are trying to reduce that amount and turn toward recycling as well.  You can read about it in this article.

When I dove into textile work nearly full-time I was happy to  incorporate the scraps back into whatever I was working on. But as I continued, the scraps started building up. I made little sachets, egg pin-cushions, and in the studio I have little buckets of scraps and a big bag of more. Denim particularly interests me. I like the variations it can have, how it shows wear and the human presence. Already pieced and in progress is a quilt with denim about crows, but I had some denim pieces leftover. I began arranging them on a board, then placed the board on some black cloth, a quilter's "fat quarter."

What was it? I wasn't sure, yet. I liked the materials as they were, particularly after I had stitched them down, but that wasn't enough transformation for me. I didn't want the piece to be just about the materials. In past works I've used denim with water in mind in the two "water and power" quilts: Pipeline and Ripples.  Layered denim looks like waves--the ocean is another love. I already had one scrap of denim that was printed with an open pipe. I thought about water, the lack of water, the drought, and drought-tolerant plants. And I thought about the current political drought and the lack of tolerance. Echinacea (coneflower), one drought-tolerant plant, is seen as a boost to the immune system. I liked the connection and the metaphor it could provide. 

After appliquéing/quilting the denim to a piece of worn linen pants and a black cotton backing, I drew the coneflower centers into faces and stenciled them onto the denim. The letters t-o-l-e-r-a-n-t are also in there, a subtle boost, a reminder. Lastly, I stitched, due to its color, what appears to me as a contradiction: dry rain. It's a small quilt: 17.5"w x 19.5"h.

When in Drought (2018)

It's a challenge to make work that has a message or meaning and that draws the viewer in. Every day holds a search for balance.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

More Coptic Journals

For travel, taking a "pocketbook"-sized notebook with me has always been a useful way to go. I've posted two more to nevermindtheart. Just in case you're going somewhere.

These have underpainting on the covers.
I distressed and painted the boards a solid black then overpainted just the fronts and backs, leaving the inner covers the contrasting color.
Metallic gold (red thread) or fuchsia (teal thread).
The paper is Strathmore drawing paper, the thicker version.

They are stamped "2018" on the backs.
You can get one of these two right now at nevermindtheart.

Instructions for making a miniature Coptic journal are here.
For a larger book, add more pairs of holes.

Just don't try to bind the book if you have a cat for a supervisor.

Monday, May 21, 2018

There Goes the Neighborhood: new work

Every time I go visit my childhood home, and my parents who live in it, I notice what has changed. It's definitely not the same city I grew up in. It has become very gentrified, perhaps considered chic. The main avenue doesn't have the nursery or the gas station or a hardware store. The local movie theater plays oldies and has special events with celebrities. But perhaps even more striking is the way the neighborhood houses have changed, as if the neighborhood was seasonal. An original house is put up for sale. Sold. A chainlink fence encircles it like a hopeful necklace. The bulldozers tear it down. And a new McMansion pushes up out of the ground in its place. There is no city style book so the blocks become eccentric melanges of Spanish villas, palatial monuments, Modern Art, Modern Ugly, and So Forth. And I do not feel the same among them. I feel like a stranger.

This feeling is likely what Gertrude Stein meant when she revisited Oakland and wrote famously, "there is no there there" in her book Everybody's Autobiography. (She lived at "Thirteenth Avenue at Twenty-fifth street" in "the old Stratton house" in East Oakland.) The full quote in Chapter 4, America: "anyway what was the use of my having come from Oakland it was not natural to have come from there yes write about it if I like or anything if I like but not there, there is no there there." She writes at length about how people are not the same people they were when they were young, when they spent time in a place long ago. She does not like seeing people she hasn't seen in many years, either. Her work takes place in whatever present it is when she is writing.

My childhood window faced the street. I spent a lot of time staring out of it. The house across the street was remodeled over the years, a second story added. But the house diagonally across just went through the seasonal cycle. Last I saw, the chainlink fence was up, the house was down. I took pictures when I saw the house was for sale. And when I visited, took a few more.

I made some solar prints of the house in its seasons onto silk organza. I also used a photo I had taken of a stick house (like Eeyore's in Winnie-the-Pooh) that was created on the mud flats at Coyote Hills. Later, I designed a page full of "there" and solar printed it as well.

After playing with the self-stick stabilizer (see the post), I created some puzzle-like patches that would become the basis for an art quilt or curtain, I'm not sure which it is. But if you mix these two processes, beware: the Sulky Solvy chemical will interact with some of the colors of the SolarFast dye and change up the print when you dissolve the backing! This didn't happen with the Mokuba. For this, it was okay. I rolled with it.

Meanwhile, as I was interested in alternate ways of sewing, the Korean style wrapping cloth, bojagi caught my attention. I found a video (she calls it "Pojagi") and began to learn how to sew these "flat seams." Off I went. Lots of machine sewing. This second video was enlightening as well, gave me a better feeling for the wrapping cloths and how they are used. This section is meant to feel like the chainlink fence.

And now it is finished. I really miss hand sewing, though.

It took a while to find a place to photograph it.

I think I like it best with light behind it.

I've found a home for it in my office. For now.

There goes the neighborhood. There it is.

See a larger image on my website, here.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Making Handmade Books in Translation

Geeking out on language today. A former student/colleague, book artist Casey Gardner just sent me a photo from the Pompidou Centre which started me off. Exciting to see my book on display down in front. Making Handmade Books was translated into French several years ago.

100 Modèles de Reliure Créative

It was translated into Spanish as well.
El Gran Libro de la Encuadernación

Finding the right title for these kind of instructional books has been more of a challenge than you might imagine. I always wanted something a little more poetic, but then no one would know what it was. So then I wanted something precise, so you would know exactly what you were getting.

It is interesting to see all of them together. Each one has a slightly different title and slightly different graphics. French translates as: 100 Creative Binding Models. I like looking at how the languages create meaning. Here, when translated back to English, the word Creative suggests art and/or craft; Binding refers to book; Models refers to examples and blank books, which is what they are. I think the cover they chose was one of the earlier versions.

In Spanish it is The Great Book of Binding: More than 100 Craft Bindings. Here, Great means large; Craft suggests making and art as well; and Binding is a catch-all term. The Spanish version stuck close to the original cover.

And in English to Making Handmade Books we add 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms. Each word is full of associations. Bindings suggests traditional; Structures suggests architectural; Forms suggests sculptural.

Well, no matter in what language you sew it, it still comes out a book.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Accidents and Reality

We talk about "happy accidents" sometimes in art. Something unplanned that might at first seem like a mistake. But after absorbing the experience and acclimating to it, we might see a new way, discover a new view, something we could not have imagined on our own. These often occur when we've planned something in our mind but find it doesn't work in the real world. Another scenario is we knock something over, sew something upside down, drop and break something. And then we either fix it, undo it, or run with it. 

I overheard a conversation about what appeared to be writing and the creative process the other day. The person said that his creative process was like you want to sky dive but have to build the airplane, then learn how to fly it. Then there's the moment when you just don't have the skills or capacity to do the next step and no one else you know does either. But (he continued the analogy) he said he builds the airplane, flies it and then when it's time to jump he builds the parachute on the way down. This did not sound like he would find a happy accident. I'm not sure this is a good analogy.

At the prodding of a friend, I hunted for and found a reference to "building a parachute on the way down." Reid Hoffman: "An entrepreneur is someone who will jump off a cliff and assemble an airplane on the way down." And someone's blog post, in which the person says this "myth" about building "the parachute on the way down" is "a complete lie."

There is a difference between the creative process and being an entrepreneur. There is a difference between taking risks for yourself and taking risks that involve others. Luckily, art is not usually a life or death situation; the stakes are much lower. Art, in most cases, gives you freedom and choices. You can choose to stop. You can destroy what you started. Or you can push through it. Part of what will enable you to push through it is if you know you have the option to stop or destroy it. If you give yourself that permission, it eliminates quite a bit of stress.

At present, I'm not skydiving and don't have either to look for a soft haystack in which to land or to prepare a will. And no people will be harmed in what I'm making. But I'm working on a project that involves a lot of machine sewing and silk organza, and I'm feeling out of my depth; the project has veered off my original track. My Plan B is that I tell myself I can put it all in a box if I want. But I'm still interested in it. I want to keep going. I'm letting all the accidents be part of the project, morphing from mistake to happy. I'm learning, which is partly why I continue. It's good to have a hard problem to tackle periodically; it's a wakeup call: pay attention, get better.

I keep reminding myself what I tell my students: aim for perfection, accept reality.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Mirror Mirror: Two Black Cats Quilt

This was a present. I loved making it and thinking about the recipient and her two new young black cats. The photos she sent showed them as they were just getting to know each other. One had to be sequestered for a while, but now they get along. I used scraps of velvet, some family clothes (pant cuffs, denim), a worn linen table napkin, and made the solar prints with negatives of the cat photos. Quilted with sashiko thread, which is delightful to sew with. Ears and whiskers. I guess you could call them my grandcats. 

And on its arrival, inspected.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Collage with Self-stick Stabilizer

The scraps are piling up, and they are too small to sew. So? Perhaps fifteen years ago, I had purchased a material called "Mokuba: free lace sheet," but I never used it. I've thought about it periodically, mostly because my friend Lisa Kokin uses Sulky Solvy, or a version of it, for her artwork. Lisa just had an exquisite exhibition called Lucre at Seager Gray Gallery in Mill Valley in which she created lacy wall pieces with shredded money and metallic threads. You can see the work at her website here. Her "Let Them Eat Cake" series is awe-inspiring.

I took out the Mokuba and had fun playing with my scraps. These little pieces would be nice inset on the cover of a black journal (see how here). I'll try out the Solvy next, since it seems easier to find.

Here's the scoop.

1. Cut a strip and peel off the backing.
2. Arrange your scraps/collage.

 3. Place the clear film over the collage.

4. Sew in any pattern you like, but do sew fairly close together. Grids are easy by machine stitching because you can align the presser foot with the first line and continue from there.

5. Now the magic! Rinse the piece. The film and the backing sheet dissolve like those rice wrappers you might have seen around candy.

6. Iron dry at a medium temperature.

7. Trim off stray threads.

And there you have it!
All connected and flat.
Now go see Lisa's work!

Addendum 10:10am: Just got back from JoAnn's and discovered the differences in the Solvy products. Sulky Fabri-Solvy would be the equivalent of the Mokuba bottom sheet, and apparently you can print on it. Sulky Solvy (lightweight), Sulky Super Solvy (medium: 2x as thick) or Sulky Ultra Solvy (heavyweight: 4x as thick) would be the equivalent of the clear top. I'm guessing the Super Solvy would work best of the three top sheets for this kind of project.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Pitch Black: A Graphic Novel

Just by chance, since it was sitting on the front hall table and checked out by someone else in my household, I picked up a slim, powerful book that shook me up. It told a story sparely and artfully, simply and subtly. It had a message that sunk in gradually. This was the graphic novel, or short story, Pitch Black by Youme Landowne and Anthony Horton. Perhaps because of the pictures it is classified as a teen or children's book.

It is the powerful true story of a woman artist who meets and befriends a homeless man, also an artist and of similar age, and the story of his life and how he began living in the subway tunnels of New York City. The subtitle, shown on the title page, is "DON'T BE SKERD."

Assumptions are questioned. As you might expect of a city, it contains an explosion of printed matter: street signs, billboards, store signs, warnings, and paper ephemera, all fitly rendered in black and white. Instead of simply repeating what they see, they use each sign as a catalyst for commentary: a "no parking sign" says "ever"; a "no standing" sign says "find an alternate." You have to be alert and willing and interested in searching for these. "Uptown train on downtown tracks" is another. A poster with a face and just "Diallo" reminds us of the shooting of Amadou Diallo by NY police. The woman and man meet at a sign: "Buy Your Self: at participating stores."

On the train when he asks to see her art and she shows him he says, "Hey. This is a black person." She answers, "Yup." It's a strong, nearly wordless moment. Since she is white, he is confused. 

The book only takes a few minutes to read, but leaves an impression for days. It welcomes us in and shines the light on homelessness, friendship, and injustice. And hope, too. It is a call to action, to activist action. First we reveal the problem. Then we spread the word. Next we look for ways of getting the power so we can make changes. We've had womens' marches and political rallies which heighten our awareness of certain situations. The marches by the high school students against gun violence is probably the closest to aiming at power; they are not just marching, but are asking for changes in the laws, very specific demands. 

Pitch Black is a rally in a quieter way (Landowne, in an interview says that it became "softer" as she wrote it). It is asking us to look around, pay attention, question the structure of how we treat people who are homeless, examine the "services" we provide that don't really serve, and how we treat people of color. These are hard problems, still pressing. In the end, the book is "Dedicated to LOVE." 

Be kind to someone and that kindness radiates outward as they may feel inclined to be kind to someone after. Translate that kindness into the society we want to live in by voting for those who believe we are responsible for each other. The ultimate power is in the vote.

Pitch Black was published by Cinco Puntos Press and the description and more information of the press and story is here. You can read more about Horton at the press here and a 2012 NYTimes article/obituary is here.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Miriam Schapiro: Femmages and Seamlessness at MAD

We recently returned from several days in New York City. If there is such a thing as flash travel, like flash fiction, that is what we do; we compress our expeditions ("expotitions" if you are Winnie-the-Pooh) into three days, packing in a variety of museums, eateries, odd shops, and so forth. One museum, that had not been on our radar previously, was the Museum of Arts and Design. Like many things in NY, it was a small museum with rich exhibitions. Surface/Depth: The Decorative after Miriam Schapiro was one of four shows that caught our attention and provoked discussion and thought.

In 1975, Schapiro organized the first meeting of the Pattern and Decorative Arts Group, which became a movement. (I wrote previously about Judy Chicago in a post here.) Her work creating self-described "femmages" are the launching point for the exhibit.

I asked my friend Celeste, who had been a student of Schapiro's, if she had any impressions or memories she would like to share. She said: 
"Miriam Schapiro taught courses at UCSD before and just after her collaboration with [Judy] Chicago on WomanhouseWhat I remember most vividly was that she revitalized my childhood love of cut'n'paste with a method she called FemmageShe got our class engaged in feminist issues and using stereotypical 'feminine' materials like sensuous, gypsy-patterned fabrics, crochet and lace bits and girly 'things': objects that women are associated with, even now, like lipsticks and their embroidered cases, mirrored cosmetic cases, and even women's undergarments as potential bricolage materials to combine and paint over.  As a young woman from New England who only knew about the existence of two or three women artists at that point (Cassatt, O'Keeffe, and Rosa Bonheur) this was radical and heady stuff. I owe her and her student, Suzanne Lacy, whose work Mimi evoked in lecture, a lot."
I wish the exhibit had had Celeste's statement, statements from her other students, or at least quotes from Schapiro, perhaps from her books Women and the Creative Process (1974) or Rondo: An Artist's Book (1988) on the walls, but the exhibition was fairly spare with wall text.

 Mexican Memory, 1981

Schapiro used traditionally and/or historically feminine shapes for her works: the fan, the heart, the house standing in for the hearth. What is so interesting to me is how all the disparate objects come together so seamlessly. It's not just cut'n'paste, but it creates a seamless whole new artwork.

 Baby Block Bouquet, 1981
You can see the traditional tumbling block quilt pattern used as pattern in this one.

House of Summer's Night, c. 1980
This house is appealing for its shape, but also for its elegant, minimalist treatment.

 Ephemera from her studio

Apparently, she would have an annual sale of objects she wasn't using in her work.
That sale would have been fun to explore.

 Flying Carpet, 1972
acrylic and collage on canvas

 Curtains, 1972
acrylic and collage on canvas

 These two, above, and the following two are from the series "Anonymous Was a Woman," 1976
Collotype on paper

These were created most likely by the actual lace or crocheted piece laid on top of a photosensitive plate and exposed, then the plate was inked up, paper placed on top of it, then put through a press under pressure to print the image. One of the textile pieces was on display in the case of ephemera from Schapiro's studio. The series elevates women's work in a straightforward fashion: these are printed impressions from the actual (most likely) woman-made objects.

Some open copies of issue 1.4 of a feminist collective's magazine Heresies were also on display, with the article, "Waste Not Want Not: An Inquiry into What Women Saved and Assembled--FEMMAGE" by Schapiro and Melissa Meyer describing the term "femmage," on page 68. You can download a pdf here. (You can choose a topic and read all the issues here.) I also found the complete article and more in the tome that was right there on my bookshelf when I got home, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings edited by Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz (1996, p. 152).

Out of fourteen criteria, Meyer and Schapiro write that a work could be considered a femmage if it contains at least half (seven) of these (direct quote): 
1. It is a work by a woman. 2. The activities of saving and collecting are important ingredients. 3. Scraps are essential to the process and are recycled in the work.4. The theme has a woman-life context.5. The work has elements of covert imagery.6. The theme of the work addresses itself  to an audience of intimates.7. It celebrates a private or public event.8. A diarist's point of view is reflected in the work.9. There is drawing and/or handwriting sewn in the work.10. It contains silhouetted images  which are fixed on other material.11. Recognizable images appear in narrative sequence.12. Abstract forms create a pattern.13. The work contains photographs or other printed matter.14. The work has a functional as well as aesthetic life.
Curious, and just for fun, I wondered if my pin cushion eggs fit this description and started down the list. 1. By a woman; 2. made of something saved or collected; 3. contains scraps; 4. refers to women's life (if we are applying traditional gender to sewing, yes); 6. addressed to "an audience of intimates" yes?; 14. is functional as well as aesthetic, yes. Score: 6. Seven or eight and yes, if you count hand sewing a kind of 9. drawing or handwriting and the egg as 5. covert imagery. Interesting.

While there were these numerous stellar examples of Schapiro's work, overall they seemed to be used as the context for work by contemporary artists: Sanford Biggers, Josh Blackwell, Edie Fake, Jeffrey Gibson, Judy Ledgerwood, Jodie Mack, Sara Rahbar, Ruth Root, and Jasmin Sian. While I would have liked to have seen a more in-depth analysis of Schapiro's work, it was good to see how concepts continue to be investigated, reinterpreted, and revitalized. I think it is important to show older work with younger work; there is always a new audience for it. Sometimes it helps us see one or the other works more clearly. For this reason, it would have been interesting to see Schapiro's work in its historical context as well, to trace the artistic lineage further back.

You can see a connection to Schapiro with this work by Sanford Biggers. He incorporated the tumbling block quilt pattern that Miriam did in her heart piece, above. It has embroidery stitching, sequins, and velvet, all scraps working together to create a new whole.

Ooo Oui, 2017
Sanford Biggers
textiles, fabric, antique quilt fragment

This work, in its own way, is seamless in the blending of materials to make one overall pattern referencing the tumbling blocks.


The quilt fragment he incorporated looks a bit like the one I just acquired.
I'm not sure I can bring myself to incorporate it into anything just yet.

I was particularly inspired by and felt the "call to action" from the energetic wrapping and stitching in these colorful woven pieces by Josh Blackwell. The wall text says Blackwell "uses recovered plastic bags and colored fibers such as wool, yarn, silk thread, and patterned cloth to create his Neveruses" linking them with marginalized objects, craft, and marginalized people. The work ties in intent, theory, and concept to Schapiro's work. 

Blackwell describes them in theory as "queer" or "androgynous" as, for one example, they subvert hierarchies and use stitching as mending rather than as surface "embellishment." The works call our attention to craft and materials, things that may be overlooked or not taken seriously, and are made with the flavor that Schapiro intended in her works, elevating them, placing them in a new context and new light.

All of these works point to seamlessness, asking us to question and rethink the notion of craft and "decoration" and "patterning." From them we can explore their perceived meanings,  and the constructed hierarchies of high and low art. What work gets marginalized and why? The exhibit provides continued inspiration for exploring textiles and fibers and our place as makers in the world.

Miriam Schapiro died June 20, 2015, aged 91.

It's hard to stop there. Upstairs, MAD has an arts studio, where in one glass-fronted room a school group had been making things, and in another, the jewelry artist Emiko Shinozaki was in residence. She called us in, and we talked with her about her new work making jewelry on which you could play music. Emiko had been a violinist for many years, but after studying fashion fell into jewelry-making and loved it. The new work of wearable sounds bridges her worlds and adds computer programming and working with arduino to the mix. Her website is here.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Couple More Eggs

I made two more enchanted egg pin cushions and posted them at nevermindtheart. I'm out of the stuffing, the garnet emery, so that's it for the moment. Projects are backing up, so I'm not sure when or if I will make any more. If you like, get one now. They are about 2 inches and 2 ounces and feel nice nestling in your palm. Added: Power of Pink and Deep Purple here.