The End of a Journey; Post Art Show Reflection

As quickly as the Boneyard Arts Festival came upon me, and I rushed to complete my artworks, it flew by even quicker. After a month of hard work and pushing myself, it is both soothing and weird to be able to just lay back and relax. My brain is still scouring for the next urgent “to-do” and it feels lost and somewhat panicky, as though I’ve forgotten something. This past week has been especially stressful, as I had to pull all-nighters to finish my work on time alongside dealing with some pressure from my day job. I actually went to work Wednesday on not more than 90 minutes of sleep. I did it, though. I pulled through and each piece was a success, as was my live demo. If you’d like to follow this particular journey from the beginning, see my earlier posts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Community Center for the Arts (C4A):

C4A is largely a space for music, but they are starting to become a space for visual art as well. They provide various music lessons for a variety of instruments and ages and many of their members are talented musicians on their own. I had 3 pieces on display here, and they will be on display through the rest of the week.

Acid Tears
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I originally created this piece for the Hatch show I participated in the early part of March, however it didn’t muster jury approval. Perhaps proof that the opinions of a jury aren’t the most important and that having a piece rejected isn’t the final word, this piece actually sold before it was hung for Boneyard, based on a photo that circulated. Even if it hadn’t, I would have still been very proud of it. I put many hours of blood, sweat, and tears into it. It is this piece in particular that deeply reflects my own struggles and how the echos of the past can color the present.

Silent Screams
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This was the piece I started with and it was the piece I finished with. This is the piece that I am perhaps most critical of, because I know that it does not match what I had in my mind. Despite all of the flaws that *I* see, the feedback I have had from others who have viewed my piece has been positive. We are always our own worst critics. We have to realize that what we give birth to as artists will not always mirror the image in our minds, and it may grow into it’s own. There is also no law that says any artwork cannot be improved upon just because it’s been shown.

The Cycle
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Perhaps the most powerful of these three works, at least for me, this one captured my attentions and my focus from the minute I began to work on it. As I mentioned to a friend on Facebook, this is my art-incarnate fetal self. It is my mother, my grandmother, it is the any-woman. A spiral that carries with it all the hopes and fears through time and generations, asking the ages old questions about fate and free will.

Of course, I was not the only artist to display here. These are my 2 favorite pieces.

From Carmen A. Egolf:

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From Sarah Keenan-Jones:

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Habitat for Humanity of Champaign:

This was especially fun for me. I was asked to do a live demo for 4 hours and, at first, I wasn’t sure what to expect. With limitless possibilities of activities to choose from, it was hard for me to narrow it down. Since I still had several balls of tshirt yarn left over from when I did that knitting workshop about a year and a half ago, I decided to do something with tshirt yarn. Wanting to be able to teach something new to passersby, I anticipated questions and brought enough supplies for others to join in if they wanted. For 4 hours I sat at the little table that the ReStore staff graciously let me pick out, with crochet hook in hand, and proceeded to craft a beautiful little flower as store patrons looked on and asked questions. Aside from my friend and fellow textile artist, Rachel Suntop, no one took up hook or needle alongside me, but I had a number of interested onlookers, including a little boy of perhaps 7 that exclaimed, “I want to learn how to do that when I grow up!”. You have no idea how much that really made my day. I hope I sparked an interest that sticks. It would be so nice if that little boy eventually grew into a man that could work wonders with hook and yarn!  I will likely never know, but it’s a happy daydream all the same.

Some photos of me working the demo, thanks to The News-Gazette and photographer, Heather Coit.

Photo by Heather Coit from The News-Gazette

Photo by Heather Coit from The News-Gazette

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Be Kind, Please Rewind: VHS Tape as Yarn

I’m not entirely sure why I decided to try my hand at working with VHS tape. Perhaps I just wanted something different to try, perhaps it is because VHS tapes are hard to recycle where I work and I wanted to help find a way to make use of them (I work for a second hand retailer, we try to recycle almost everything that doesn’t sell/ can’t be sold, but last I checked, we didn’t have a place to send VHS tapes). In any case, I’ve been playing around with using old VHS tape as yarn, on and off,  for the last couple of weeks.

WARNINGS

While writing this article, I came across a Flickr discussion on the topic citing health dangers adherent in magnetic tape (VHS and cassette tape). Read the full discussion complete with further links here: Warning- Crafting with old cassette/ video tape. Basically, the tape contains cobalt, chromium and iron, which can break down or come off as dust from the tape. The iron may not be so much of a problem, as humans naturally have iron in their bodies (though too much iron can be bad), but cobalt and chromium are certainly toxic and can cause cancer. I am not telling anyone not to use these tapes, and I, myself, have not had any issues with it yet, but I want to bring the health concerns to attention so you can make up your own minds.

Trial and Error

While I don’t really have any finished projects right now, there are certainly some things I have learned in the process of trying to work with this material that I want to share.
The first idea I had was to use it to make a “Letters From Mr. Right” letter holder/wallet/clutch from Melissa Horozewski’s Austentatious CrochetThis required that I pull on the tape to stretch it and make it thinner and more pliable. It is harder to get the tape stretched out uniformly if you are impatient and are trying to get a lot of it in a short time. I ended up getting blisters/ friction burn on the sides of my index fingers. I recommend using leather or garden gloves, this will not only help prevent the blisters I got, but it will also help prevent getting any dust on your skin if your tape happens to flake off on you. I also learned that if you pull too hard the tape will snap apart. If you look, it’s kind of hard to see the texture of the cluster stitch used. It just looks like a blob to me.

Because I got tired of pulling on the tape so much, I decided I’d also try using a bigger hook and crocheting with the straight tape, no stretching. Because there is no prep work needed, it works up a lot quicker. I don’t have much done with it yet, and it’s entirely possible I’m just going to scrap the exercise because I’m just not fond of it. This experimental piece is just a single crochet around a chain, in the round.

Other VHS Artwork

Now, while I’ve determined that I’m not entirely fond of working with the VHS tape, there are other people out there that do work with it and have done things with it that I like:

Diane Gilleland used it to make flowers to accent a straw purse. She also used the casings to make bookends. – Craftstylish.com

Cindy from My Recycled Bags made a cute little sling purse – MyRecycledBags.com

Adrian Kershaw manages to turn VHS tape into absolutely gorgeous fine art – Crochet Concupiscence

Zilvinas Kempinas created this awesome tunnel installation – Lost At E Minor

Erika Iris Simmons created several portraits from VHS and cassette tape – VHS Art Representations

Running from Frustration

I have yet to determine whether this works to my benefit or to my downfall, but, I am forever juggling multiple projects at the same time. More often than not, I start a new project because I’ve gotten fed up with a previous one. I’m trying to be better about going back and completing already started projects… I currently have 4 projects I am in the middle of: The Rag Rug, a jacket I started around this time last year, a latch hook kit, and an afghan I started in September. The only thing anywhere close to completion is the afghan.

Complications with The Rag Rug

  As of right now, I have completed 49 out of 176 rows of the rug. I’m not nearly as far along as I originally hoped to be by now. (Granted, I’d be at least 5 rows further along if I never had to undo and redo rows because I didn’t pay attention to the pattern.) There are multiple factors for this. The project isn’t portable at all, so I only work on it when I am home. When I *am* home (when I’m not at work, out of town visiting family, at an art show, or spending time with my boyfriend), my attention is also being taken by trying to clean my apartment or watch a movie, which is hard to do while I work on the rug as my back is to the TV. It’s also while I am at home that I work on writing these blogs, check email, Facebook, etc. As the weather gets nicer I find myself getting cabin fever quicker, always wanting to go for a walk and enjoy the sunshine. Of course, allowing myself these pleasures cuts down on my productivity. However, there is one other reason I’ve been avoiding the rug lately: I’ve noticed that the lower rows of the rug are bulging out. I don’t know if this is a tension issue, or due to using scrap material of varying thicknesses, or what. I don’t know if this is something that can be easily smoothed out once the rug is taken off the pole. Because of this, I’ve been somewhat putting off rug production – I’m worried I’ll do all the work, think it’s done, but then have to go back in and fix it somehow.

The Mandarin Jacket

I started working on the Mandarin Jacket shortly after I finished the Nowhere Man jacket early last year. I replaced the entire front panels (by hand!) so that I could create and utilize frog button closures. I then used brocade to make the bottom band and the collar. The collar was hard for me as I had no pattern to work from and was using scrap fabric to try different variations. Because an iron will melt brocade without a press cloth (and a press cloth obstructs my view of the fabric), I had to create the creases with tiny hand stitches near the edges. After all that, I learned a valuable lesson when trying on and trying to close the jacket: brocade has no stretch. Suddenly, a jacket that fit me fine before no longer wants to close. I was so wrapped up in the concept that I failed to consider the properties of the fabrics I was working with. I haven’t touched it since, but I still have it, waiting for the day when I will come back to it.

The Latch Hook Kit

I picked up the latch hook kit from the I.D.E.A. Store a couple months ago. I knew it had a hole in the mesh when I got it. I’ve just been trying to work around the hole in the meantime. I know I have extra mesh around my apartment somewhere…  Until I find it, this will wind up in the unfinished pile.

The Afghan

I started the afghan when my mother came up from Florida to visit. I knew I wouldn’t be able to work on the rug, so I began this endeavor so I would have a decent travel project. The pattern I’m following is called “Blue Star” from the book Blue Ribbon Afghans. This is probably closer to being finished than any other project right now, simply because it is portable – I take it to work and to my boyfriend’s all the time – and because it doesn’t take much brain power for me to follow a pattern (unless I stumble upon any errata).

Crocheted Bowties are Cool

My boyfriend and I are both avid Doctor Who fans, and while I know that there can never be another Doctor quite like David Tennant, Neil seems to believe that Matt Smith is somehow better. (It’s ok, I’ll let him have his delusions, they’re kind of cute sometimes ❤ )
A few months back, using crochet thread and a very teeny tiny little hook, I made him his own 11th Doctor inspired bowtie.

I wasn't sure exactly how big around his neck was, so I made it adjustable.

I think it turned out rather nice, and I was quite pleased that it managed to meet Neil approval.

The Doctor opening the door with his sonic screwdriver.

How would you like to have your very own crocheted bowtie? I’ve decided to make more and sell them on Etsy (click here), so now, you can totally snag one for yourself and for that Whovian in your life.

Re-Domestication: Are We Re-Claiming the Feminine or Being Herded Back into the House?

I read an article in Forbes this morning entitled, The Redomestication Of The American Woman. It really struck a chord and I have so many things spinning through my head as a result. I will try to organize those thoughts as best as possible.

DIY Marketing: Targeting the wants/needs of the current generation

For those of you who aren’t already familiar, the last decade has seen a bit of an explosion with DIY (Do-It-Yourself)/ crafting. There are numerous concepts and ideas tied into this explosion – wanting to go green, wanting to be less dependent on/ fighting against mass consumerism, wanting to save money, hoping to make money, wanting to create something – the list is rather long, and different people come to DIY/ crafting for different reasons. I’ve seen a lot of books and sites that market themselves on taking traditional activities (sewing, crocheting, etc) and bringing them up-to-date/ de-grannifying them. (My favorite line from The AntiCraft’s AntiFesto: Never again would we be forced to gleefully execute a sweater of intarsia puppies.) I actually got a book from the library yesterday titled, The New Granny Square, which boasts that the patterns in the book “are not your granny’s granny squares!”
Of course we don’t want to do the same things our mothers and grandmothers did! But… why? Why does this marketing work and what is it saying? Is it as simple as new generation, new wrapping paper? Is it really even new wrapping paper? There is an excellent article in the Fall 2007 Interweave Crochet magazine, “Crochet Heydays”, that discusses the cultural role of crochet in the 1960’s and 70’s. From the IC article:

Crochet was play, but in the late sixties it was also political as a highly visible communication of a generation’s radically different values. Crochet was one way to express the young generation’s need to craft its own image and identity and to move beyond conformity and the status quo.

So much for being different from our parents and grandparents, huh?

Who’s Space is it Anyway?

Handicrafts such as knitting, sewing, etc. have traditionally been considered to be feminine. Because women were homemakers for so many years (and in many parts of the world, still are), there is a kind of social tendency to associate these activities with femaleness. Do we still feel this way as a society? I’ve seen a handful of knitting books and blogs geared toward men (See: Knitting with Balls and a similarly titled blog Knits with Balls that I follow), 6bdf47c13bd10525354272ea646edfccbut these still seem to be novelties to me. By and large, most books and patterns are still written with women in mind. But at least we’re starting to acknowledge the fact that men like to pick up hooks and needles too.
I can remember going through a phase during high school/ my first couple years of college where I was steadfastly tomboy and wouldn’t give the time of day to anything traditionally deemed “feminine” or “girly”. I considered myself to be a feminist and, at the time, I was convinced that somehow wearing men’s cargo jeans and working on cars with my Dad was somehow superior to wearing a dress, carrying a purse and cooking or fashion. Of course, I eventually realized that what I was doing was still giving power to men/ maleness/ masculinity and denying myself things I would come to love. (I am reminded here, of the song “What it feels like for a Girl” by Madonna, where she intros, “Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots, cause its ok to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, cause you think that being a girl is degrading.”)
So, as I read the Forbes article, I can certainly understand her concern that, “scratching at the organically-sanitized surface … is the haunting notion that the pro-creativity movement is in bed with strong societal forces to bring women closer to procreativity (and ideally “full-time” motherhood) …” However, I think, so long as we are aware of what is going on, aware of our own interests in these activities, and we’re not choosing to engage or not engage in them based on what society’s ideals for us are according to what we have between our legs, I think we’re safe. The important thing is having options, knowing what they are, and making our own choices. (I suddenly want to watch Mona Lisa Smile for the millionth time. Re: The part where Julia Stile’s character tells Julia Roberts’ character, “This *is* what I want.”)

Donated Treasures

During the day, I work for a second had store. Working at a second hand store, I am always getting to see interesting items that people donate (like a really cool antique spinning wheel). Sometimes I get to see some not so interesting items (like nasty, cruddy underwear – ewww). I like looking at the clothes that come through. I like to note little nuances in style, in piecing – I especially love looking at clothes that others have altered from their original state as well as other home made goodies. Some months ago, we got in what was quite possibly the coolest thing I have seen to date. Someone crocheted a giant dragon from garbage bags. I was on break when a co-worker came to show me, and I happened to have my camera in my purse that day.

Trickster Crow at 3rd Thursday Art Show

Three days ago, I was at the Third Thursday Art Show in Springfield, IL. It’s quite possibly my favorite function on the planet. Every month (the 3rd Thursday of each month, thus the name), local artists from in and around Springfield gather together to show their art, mingle with the public, and generally have a good time. There are live bands at every show, which adds to the atmosphere and, I think, brings everything together. It’s inspiring how the local arts community is close knit and supportive of each other. I’ve even been known to sit at a table and sew on some easily portable project at these events…

Elizabeth Ross' wonderful 3T cozies...

Another great thing about these shows, is that the range of art is not just limited any one medium. While paintings are more common (and there are some very talented painters in Springfield, IL), I have also seen some knitting and crochet on display. Elizabeth Ross made some very cool crocheted hats, potholders and drink cozies. :::throws fist in the air playfully:::  Textile/Fiber Represent!

And so it was, while I was sitting at a table, listening to the live music and soaking up the awesomeness of this atmosphere, that I witnessed what was quite possibly the coolest display of live costume/ theatre art I’ve seen with my own eyes to date. There was no warning and no introduction. He just showed up, passed through, and disappeared without a sound. (I’ve heard a couple people mention a flyer or something about it, but I never saw it.) He was, Trickster Crow.

"The Trickster Crow meets Jeff Williams as Felicia Olin looks on under Ryan Sponslers's latest painting." Photo and Caption Quote credited to Ted Keylon

He (or possibly she, as I’m unaware of the identity of the person behind the beak) slowly and silently made his way through the crowd, handing out sunflower seeds. I later found out these were “seeds of knowledge” that he gave unto anyone that would have them. (I’m now happy to say I ate all 3 of the seeds he gave me.)

Not only was this a very cool, mysterious experience. But, I am in complete and total appreciation of the costume. I do not know who made it, but it’s amazing! I love all the symbolism and representation.. crows and ravens carry this kind of sense of dread, but they are intelligent and being creatures of the sky, they can see everything and so even have a slight foresight. Also, he’s wearing a trench coat. Trench coats also have this association with mystery and danger… you find classic detective characters wearing them, I recall David Boreanaz’s character, Angel -a vampire- wearing one, and then there is the trench coat mafia. Fear of the Unknown, Foreshadowing, Intrigue, Mystery, Danger… so many concepts and feelings are tied into this work…  and then the total surprise of it which left art show attendees talking about it afterward. Trickster Crow, you have my awe as well as my utmost respect and recognition.