Come What May

So, welcome to 2014. New year, new chances to lie to myself about blogging more regularly and finishing unfinished projects. This will not be a polished entry, this may even get personal. Maybe. Right now I’m just typing words as they escape my brain between shoving unhealthy snacks in my face.

I’ve got my laptop next to me, with my camera, my sewing machine is out, and I have bits of fabric on the table. What follows is an insight into my creative and thought processes, raw, unedited – chaotic and probably going nowhere. But why am I still typing crap? Here – look at some pictures.

GE

This is some sexy lingerie I bought several years ago. I only wore them once. They don’t even fit me anymore. I’m going to chop them up. Why not?

GE

Chop CHOP! Choppy Chop! Lace is pretty.

GE

Oh, remember these? Yeah, I’m still not sure what to do with them, but, they’re sitting in a pile on the table.

GE

This looks kind of neat.

GE

CRAP! I need pink thread! The stores are closed! All I have is embroidery and hand quilting thread! Grrr…

Do I want to just sew it with a contrasting thread color? Or use embroidery thread? I don’t want to wait until morning. I’m pushing through, making do, not putting it off. Embroidery thread it is. Such is life. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be messy, it can be chaotic, and it will be ok. It will. I promise. Screw the fairy tales and the picture perfect notions of what should be. The harder you push it, the less idyllic/idealistic it will be. Ideallic. Is that a word? Screw it. It is now. #Ideallic. Go trend that crap.

Idyllic -1:  pleasing or picturesque in natural simplicity; 2:  of, relating to, or being an idyll

Idealistic – 1: of or relating to the philosophical doctrine of the reality of ideas; 2: of high moral or intellectual value; elevated in nature or style; “an exalted ideal”; “argue in terms of high-flown ideals”- Oliver Franks; “a noble and lofty concept”; “a grand purpose”

Yeah, neither of those quite do it for me quite the way it feels in my mind standing by themselves. Oh, so, here’s a thing I’ve been working on off and on that I don’t think I’ve posted about:

GE GE

I got the pattern from Urban Threads. It’s going to take me eons. Ok. I’m getting kind of sleepy. I think I’m going to post this and come back to this in the morning. Maybe I’ll get a stock of posts done to schedule over the next few weeks. Maybe I can be more regular. Maybe I can convince myself that I don’t actually NEED to have a point or well-formed idea. Maybe I can stop avoiding the blog and the facebook page when I haven’t finished any of my many unfinished projects. Maybe.

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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.

From Concept to Art – The Beginning of a Journey

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.

Concepts

It is hard to say where concepts originate and as this is a work is progress, it is hard to say where it will end up. This is where making use of a sketch or art diary is quite helpful. There have been a variety of ideas and images floating through my mind, as well as personal conflicts and issues that I’ve had to deal with (or in some cases, will likely never cease wrestling with) that all influence each other and as well as my art. So, as it currently sits, these are some of the keys concepts influencing my art – a window into the inner workings of my mind, if you will:

  • The Mind Itself. While I have always had an interest in psychology and how the mind works, the more I learn, the more fascinated I become with it. I have a BA in Anthropology, but while I was in college I also took some courses in cognitive psychology and a course in cognitive anthropology in my final year that I keep looking back on. I saved all of my notes/recorded lectures/books. I’ve been re-reading some of those books for fun. It’s amazing how much more sense they make when I’m not trying to scan for class content or cram dozens of pages in overnight. I actually have time to take it in now.
  • Domestic Violence. Both as I read articles online and as shadows of my past run amok in the recesses of my head. Experiences I had as a child are part of who I am as a person today. Memories have given me many nightmares. They color the lens with which I see every romantic relationship. It is not that I choose to wallow in painful events or that I haven’t been able to let go, but that I accept it as part of my composition as much as I do the schools I went to or the communities I grew up in.
  • Human Anatomy and Biology. I’ve been watching a lot of House this month. It is one of my favorite shows of all time and I’ve only this past week gotten to watch the 8th and final season.

    The wound man was a figure from medieval medical books depicting various battle injuries. I’ve actually been intrigued by this since my high school days. Image from Retronaut.

    S0, I’m kind of keen on x-rays and MRI scans for their aesthetic value as well as various organs. I’ve always been a fan of eyes and anatomic hearts. However, beyond that, I am also interested in their functions – both biologically and symbolically. While we know it is not scientifically accurate today, I kind of find some old medical texts and ideas to be interesting – things like the balancing of the humors or the different functions and attributes placed upon various organs.

 

2013 Boneyard Details – 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.

Emulation: Part 2

What is a furry?

Trying to define exactly what is furry is actually quite an undertaking, despite my familiarity with the subject. You see, furries and the furry fandom are quite complex. From a very basic standpoint, a furry is an anthropomorphic animal, either a human dressed as an animal or an artistic representation of an animal taking on somewhat human characteristics (sometimes –but not always – bipedalism, speech, primate-like hands, etc). From this definition, Mickey Mouse would be considered a furry, as would the guy dressed as the Easter Bunny in the mall every spring. However, it’s not quite that simple. The furry fandom (the over-arching community of people who consider themselves furry, or who appreciate furry art) isn’t even in total agreement as to exactly just what constitutes a “furry” and what is just some guy in a bunny suit.

The Costume

When you look into the wardrobe of the furry community, you’ll find a wide range of selections from a fursuit that covers the entire body and face, to a simple collar. As aspects of furry culture enter the mainstream culture (mostly by way of anime), it is becoming more common to see people wearing mittens that look like paws or hats with ears on them. (In fact, I believe one of the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch books has a pattern for knitted cat ear hats.) However, as these elements become more acceptable and more mainstream, is it still “furry”?

My friend, Emily, in a knitted hat with cat ears. Yes, she made that 🙂

A Shared Culture

It seems to me, that what really sets apart a furry from a mall employee in a bunny suit, is a shared culture or sub-culture. Tygerwolfe, the author of Furry Logic (source 5), did some Freshman level ethnography of sorts on “Prancing Skiltaire” furries. Noting the demographics, she found most of the group (whose human forms could be visibly observed) were Caucasian and males predominated. In asking some of the furries why they chose to become furries, the responses were along the lines of respect for/ wanting to emulate their chosen animal and wanting to not be human for awhile. Indeed, being a furry allows for actions such as nuzzling or grooming which are inappropriate as a human, but are perfectly acceptable while one is “in character”. I can definitely see the allure of this… even as humans we have a need to feel loved and accepted, and physical closeness/ touch can be hard to find in everyday life sometimes. Several of the furries she interviewed also stated that they dressed as their chosen animal to feel closer to it somehow.

Mental Shifts

A mental shift is simply what the name implies, your mind shifts focus.  As Vexen Crabtree (author of source 3) points out, a mental shift itself is a normal thing, “Rugby players performing a dance before a game are enticing a mental shift. Some football fans hype themselves up to the extent that they undergo a mental shift whilst attending a game. Certain forms of martial art train and entice adherents to perform mental shifts during meditation or training…” In this context, the shift is from the human self to the animal (furry) self. There is a large overlap of furries and therians (people who feel such a deep connection to their animal that the animal is a part of who they are, or that they harness the animal’s spirit or power – similar in concept to having a spirit guide, but slightly different) and so, for some, becoming furry can be a near spiritual exercise.

In Closing/ Food for Thought

I first became acquainted with the term “furry” around 2005. I was looking up pictures of foxes (I’ve always been fascinated with them… they’re just gorgeous creatures) and chanced upon the artwork of Justin Pearce. Though, in a sense, I’ve been drawn to furries since I was a small child, long before I even really knew what they were. I can remember, as a very little girl, pretending I was cat. I used to try to curl up and sleep on the arm or back of the couch like our cats did. I would lick the back of my hand to wash my face and try to have conversations in cat-speak with our cats, as if I had some inter-special link to them that no one else had. Many children, actually, mimic animals as part of play. Even as adults, animals still hold importance and power for us. The Ranting Gryphon (source 4) wrote an interesting post that discusses the use of animals as symbols/ communication/ language. He cites company and team names incorporating animals in the names:

Without our animal symbols, the Miami Dolphins would be the Miami Intelligent-Yet-Very-Quick-And-Elegants. You would no longer own a Ford Mustang. It would be a Ford Wild-Majestic-And-Powerful. We use animals to capture the essence of their character in our communication, and in doing so, we add a fanciful and whimsical flair to our society and our human world.

He has a good point. Animals do carry cultural significance and symbolism/ connotations, so many that we would come up lacking if we erased them from our lives. It also makes sense considering how important animals have been to us in the past. Animals were the central subject matter of cave paintings, some of the earliest gods were animals, or part animal-part human. From a certain standpoint, furry-ism, if you will, is really just a re-boot of some very old concepts.

Sources

1) Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furry_fandom

2) PeterCat’s Furry InfoPage.  http://www.tigerden.com/~infopage/furry/

3) An Intimate Exploration of Furry Fandom.  http://www.humantruth.info/furry.html

4) The Ranting Gryphon. http://ranting-gryphon.com/Information/whatisfurry.htm

5) Anthropology 100 – Furry Logic. http://www.tygerwolfe.com/?page_id=344

6) Furry Psychology 101: Types of Furry. http://skuffcoyote.livejournal.com/70336.html