What I Get For Thinking

From this point forward, no more promises… I promise.

So, I’m still not quite ready to show you all the completed jacket. After I finished installing the back panel and tacked on the new cuffs, I noticed something…

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… The outer edge of the cuffs, and on the wrist along the bottom of the cuff, are more spots that are fraying too badly for me to just ignore. The entire reason I am doing this creative upcycle is prolong the life of this jacket for my friend. If I don’t do anything with these worn spots, they will eventually get worse. Well, even without those spots, the jacket will still eventually wear down, but I’m aiming for later rather than sooner.

As a result of this problem, I’ve been experimenting with different ideas on how to reinforce these weak zones without just throwing more patches on them. So, I had one crazy idea that I spent way too much time on only to fizzle out on me. I thought that perhaps I could use a decoratively cut strip of contrasting denim to cover those areas – providing the needed reinforcement while at the same time looking interesting.

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If you notice, while the band fits well at the cuff, it’s too short on the other side as the arm of the jacket begins to expand out. If I secure this band onto the jacket, it will cause bulging and puckering. So, now I need to come up with another idea. In the meantime here are some photos of the jacket showing the completed back panel replacement.

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In other news, I have about a week before I am set to share a table with another friend, Julia, at C4A’s Race Street Bash in Urbana, Illinois. This means the jacket is going on the back burner while I finish making things for that event. Given that the temperature has been in the 80’s this past week, I don’t think Melissa will be needing her jacket back just yet. Besides, as I’ve been experimenting on it, I’ve decided there are a couple more things I want to do, for the sake of aesthetics. 🙂

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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

Crunch Time – The Stressful Step on the Journey from Concept to Art

So, the Boneyard Art Festival is now only a week out. Despite my best intentions and efforts, I am behind schedule. This, however, is normal. Over the course of the next day or two I will metamorphose into a crazed superwoman that somehow puts it all together,  just in the nick of time,  with a crazed expression and excessively large bags under her eyes from stress and lack of sleep.

Anyhow, this post is going to be short and sweet so I can get back to doing what I do. How about some pictures!

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Outlining the vocal apparatus.

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Trying to quilt as I go.

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Starting to think this would have been easier if I have worked from the edge and gone outward…

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…Because trying to *smoothly* connect all these haphazardly angled sections was a real pain!

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The bright pink basting stitches were an eyesore. Hand quilting the layers together. Have I mentioned this is the *background* for one of the pieces?

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Try to ignore the ugly pink basting stitches. See that swirl pattern? That is freehand quilting… by hand! I’m such a glutton for punishment…

This is why I need a studio! And, fyi, I do much of my work hunched over on the floor because I don't have a big table.

This is why I need a studio! And, fyi, I do much of my work hunched over on the floor because I don’t have a big table.

As a reminder, in case you haven’t read my previous posts, each year, 40 North – the arts council for Champaign county, orchestrates the Bonyard Arts Festival throughout Champaign-Urbana, IL and the rest of the county. I am registered with 2 different venues (more details at the bottom of this entry) and have set to work creating artwork for this festival. At C4A I am set to display artwork during April 12-13 and at Habitat for Humanity I am set to conduct a live demonstration on April 13, from 1-5pm, on artistic things that can be done with used clothing.

Red Bull Fueled Late Nights – On the Journey from Concept to Art

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A page from my art journal. What started with one idea bloomed into an entire theme.

Right now, it is around 2:45 in the morning as I start to write this. Since I don’t have to work tomorrow (er, today), and I am behind schedule from where I would like to be, I decided to pull a late night working on pieces for the Boneyard Art Fest.  What started out with one idea grew into multiple pieces with an overall theme. And I am paying for it now. Check here to see how it started.

I’ve been looking back into my past and my experiences with domestic violence and have built each piece as various portraits of a woman – a hybrid between myself and my mother, but also extended into portraits of those who’ve had to endure these experiences in general as many of the feelings and themes are, sadly, universal.

The screams and cries

You may have already read the entry on Seeing Sound, or if you haven’t GEyou can go back and check it out. I’ve since hashed out the image I will be embroidering onto that denim hem background. I found a good diagram of the larynx online, and GEwith the help of a nurse friend of mine, we enlarged it to more or less be life sized. I then sketched out a rough (very rough) outline of what the embroidered image will look like. I still need to actually embroider it.

The Cycle of Violence

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Mother and Child planned layout

Violence begets violence. Children who grow up in an environment where there is domestic violence are more likely to learn and repeat those behaviors. This does not have to be fate, however. Cycles can be broken, but to do so takes effort. My mother made every effort she could to make sure the cycle would be broken with me, and I’d like to think that it has, but some days I’m not sure. It can be hard, when you’ve never seen an example of a healthy relationship, it can be hard to know what one is *supposed* to look like and it can be hard to tell if your reactions or feelings are normal and natural or conditioned.
I wanted to capture this generational cycle in another portrait. A portrait of the mother and child in utero. To plan the layout, I had a friend trace my outline onto poster board and I made the abdomen GEwider to incorporate a pregnant womb. It’s entirely possible that I’m not medically accurate as far as fetus size or belly size, but I made an honest attempt. I am currently in the process of creating the surprisingly complicated background for this piece and, once complete, intend to outline the body, womb and fetus with embroidered descriptor words and phrases (I may replace embroidery with a quicker method if I hit a serious time crunch).
For this background, I am using several different fabrics, all used clothing, in shades of black and blue (to symbolize bruising). This is what I was playing around with the other day. I am piecing these fabrics together crazy quilt style, to reflect the shattered lives, emotions and homes that must be stitched back together if we are to survive. And it goes deeper than that. I took a light blue fabric, the lining of an old prom dress, and wrote down the stories, the experiences, the feelings that have been handed down. Because I had to. Because in creating these works, I am digging deep into my own life and those stories needed to be GEthere. And I cut them into shards just like the other pieces and covered them with a layer of sheer fabric. I have done this for two reasons – 1) While these are my stories, they do not belong to me alone and I need to respect that. I’ve made it all but impossible to actually *read* them. 2) Like anything else, these histories are broken apart and distorted from time and perspectives. What I would have to say, what the other actors in these stories would have to say, are likely to be different parts of the same whole. And so, cutting them and obscuring them symbolizes that fact.

More to Come, Stay Tuned

I’ve more to say, but this is getting long and I need to get some amount of sleep. Check back Saturday, March 30th for more.

Seeing Sound – A Step on the Journey from Concept to Art

Materials

I like to use re-purposed materials in the work that I do. Most frequently, I make use of clothing or old bedsheets. While occasionally I will use non-traditional materials such as newspaper or VHS tape, I just prefer working with fabric. Perhaps you may not consider re-using old clothing as doing much to combat the landfills, or you may just see it as a fun hobby to upcycle clothing like the ReFashionista (an amazing site, btw), but you’d be wrong. I actually work for a 2nd hand store during the day, have been for over 3 years now, and I see every single day how much textile waste we create. What I use may not be making much of a dent in huge piles of waste we create, I also do my part to not add to that pile if I can help it.

Working with what I have

GERather than seek out some specific pattern or shade, I have to work with what I have available to me. While there are some constants when working with clothing – denim is plentiful and will almost always be some shade of blue – I cannot always anticipate what I will have at my disposal. Even with the items I have already, I often forget what I have shoved into the corners of my closet so it’s usually a surprise. It is good to learn the basic properties of common fabrics/fibers and how to identify them when there is no label present. There are entire books written on fabric properties/ identification.

Playing Around

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine paid me to hem several pair of jeans for him. As I often do, because I hold onto GEeverything and have nightmares about turning into a hoarder, I saved the scrap bits that I’d cut off from the bottoms of the legs. I decided to take them apart and flatten them out. When I did that, I noticed something interesting. The creases and crinkles of the original hems create a pattern which, to me, looks something like sound waves. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew I wanted to incorporate them into my artwork. Immediately, my thoughts are turning to the sounds of screams and crying – the sounds of arguments late at night. Of course, the sound wave patterns created by screaming look quite a bit different, so I’m going to claim a little bit of artistic license. My next thought is to isolate the throat, the organ that creates sounds. I do an image search for throat scans and throat xrays to get an idea of what they look like. Sure, I could go with the tongue and tonsil image I see when I open my mouth in the mirror, but I want to go a little further, I want to see the voicebox itself… And so it is that I will spend (waste) half an hour or better just looking for just the right diagram or image that I might want to incorporate…

What am I working on?

In case you haven’t read my previous post, each year, 40 North – the arts council for Champaign county, orchestrates the Bonyard Arts Festival throughout Champaign-Urbana, IL and the rest of the county. I am registered with 2 different venues (more details at the bottom of this entry) and have set to work creating artwork for this festival. At C4A I am set to display artwork during April 12-13 and at Habitat for Humanity I am set to conduct a live demonstration on April 13, from 1-5pm, on artistic things that can be done with used clothing.

Making Use of Everything – Recycling, Repurposing, Everyday

I’ve been spending most of my morning cleaning my apartment. I’ve been folding laundry, doing dishes, sorting the recyclables, etc. (I do my recycling with Green Purpose here in town.)

 

As a good practice I always clean out containers before I throw them in their bins, but today, one of the items I’m cleaning out is a tube of toothpaste. I cut it apart to be able to clear out all the remaining toothpaste residue.

However, it’s a little hard to get that bit in the opening. I don’t have any pipe cleaners and see no sense in buying any (especially since I’m kind of broke right now), so I made use of some scrap fabric.

The other day I cut the edgings off of some fitted sheets I want to use for quilting/ clothing and wasn’t sure what to do with them. This is one use 🙂   I’m also considering saving the flat portion of the toothpaste tube to make something with, perhaps a wallet or a purse, much like these capri sun purses.

The Finished Purse Yields Paid Work!

It’s been roughly a month since my last posting. I have since finished the purse I was working on (see parts 1 and 2) and after I took it to work, one of my co-workers paid me to replace the zippers in one of her higher end purses (and I am happy to report that she was pleased with the results). Around the same time, I had responded to an ad on Craigslist looking for a seamstress to do some custom work, and that sucked up about a good two weeks between design, production and fine tuning, but was worth it.

Anyhow, here are the photos of my purse!

The inside of the finished purse, from the top opening. You can see both the inside pocket zipper and the back zipper. The pillowcase turned out to make quite a nice lining indeed.

The purse from the back opening.