Saturday, February 28, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Another trip to African Mama's shop this week where I enjoyed using my digital camera again and then playing with photoshop with the images. I love the intense colors, the designs, the craftsmanship, and the masks are fascinating. They all hold a story, a mythology of the people who created them.
And here is a quick African mask drawing I did in my Art-A-Day journal that I started last November. So far, so good, one art drawing or collage done for every day...
I was thinking again of my French cousins who recently made a soulful trip into the now unstable and dangerous Congo and came back with two adopted children. Quite frankly, an adventure that was quite hair-raising (rebel fights with machetes in front of their hotel, interrogations about trafficing children, and more). A story of courage, patience and perseverance with great reward at the end and a return to their home. Their compelling story and wonderful pictures can be found here. The most heartwrenching pictures are those of all the children in the orphanage looking out at you... It is all in French, but after all, I have provided some translators if you wish to read.
Some quick blogging notes on changes I made I thought might be helpful, Im no expert, but....
I discovered a much better version of the Google Translator which was improved thanks to Joel Robinson, and replaced my previous one. Now if you click on a flag it translates to the language indicated right here on this page and so eliminates the step of having to navigate away from my blog and then having to insert url or text. In addition, I've added the Dictionary translator which does navigate away but is handy for sidebars which don't translate with the Google Translator. You can add either gadget to your own by clicking on them and going to that site.
In Case of a Crash
I finally saved a version of my blog template in the dashboard which Blogger advises to do. But even better than that my programmer husband taught me this great easy thing to do that I will also pass on to you. Go to the current page of your blog, then go to the web toolbar, click on view, then source. The window opened up will show all of the codes which make up your blog. Now highlight, copy, and paste it into a word processing document such as Word or Wordperfect and save and date it. Occasionally, you may want to update that with your latest version. Now if your blog disappears (as I've heard some do) or some other blog mishap then you will have a better possibility of reinstating what you had. Additionally, the source codes appears to include ALL the postings that you have set your blog to show when opened.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
Here are various playful fiber experiments, small projects where I was trying out new methods or some different techniques. I would say needlefelting, needlepunching, and handstitching seem to create a rhythm that is quite relaxing and satisfying. These are things easily done in the evening hours with a good lamp and strong reading glasses (magnifiers).
Needlefelting requires a special sharp barbed needle that you use to prod and poke wool roving or yarns into the shapes and designs that you want. I have learned that wool hairs actually have barbs, so any poking or agitating (such as with wet felting) will begin the "felt" process where the fibers begin to get enmeshed and stick together. Needlefelting is done over a thick piece of foam to avoid poking yourself. I had done several flat pieces in the past, but recently went with friends to a class where we all focused on making whatever 3 dimensional animals we wanted (the middle grouping is the class photo). Getting dimension is all about creating a rectangle, triangle, ball, or other shape over which you sculpt whatever you desire to make. I am most pleased with the cat which I patterned after my own little tuxedo you can barely see in the background of one of the photos. You can see my initial beginnings of him in the class photo on the far right - all white and not much face. It takes patience to get small details the way I want them to look. Eyes, mouth and nose require small lines and only a very few hairs of fiber. It will be interesting to try out other dimensional shapes.
I enjoy handstitching now and then, and last year was in a sewing group that self-taught ourselves different stitches from a particular embroidery book. I'm thinking about a goal of going through an entire stitch book trying out each stitch in various ways. The small stitched heart sampler was started to practice applique, couching and French knots - one night at one of the "hooker's" (rug) meetings I attend regularly.
This is a friendly group of very talented women that share conversation and hooking (rugs, dolls, wall hangings, pillows). Now I haven't really taken to hooking, but I did start a small crow wall hanging (designed by a friend) and will show it later when finished. Instead I got interested in needlepunching, what I'd call "micro-hooking" because the effect or technique is similar, the results are just a lot smaller. Having seen examples at a rug show last year, I just had to try it. Here are two examples that I finished - they are commercial pattern kits from a fabric/craft store, however, I wanted to just try the technique to see if I'd like it. I do, so I have in mind to experiment with making a pattern using my own images.
Monday, February 16, 2009
About Starting a Blog
Friday, February 13, 2009
The baskets in the picture are African hand-made baskets in front of a Seattle storefront.
On a recent visit to the Bellevue Art Museum we saw some exquisite and unusual baskets in an exhibit called "Intertwined". Very unique sculptured creations and some very beautiful and traditional such as Hopi and Navaho. An incredible one was a woman's torso and head made entirely of lotus seed pods crocheted together with waxed linen thread and a face made with dried grapefruit peel, you can see her on the museum web. I liked the experimentation of that artist, and the others whose works incorporated unusual and different materials, such as zippers, wire, pistachio shells, horsehair, fish skin,and more. Then there was the life-sized human figure sculpture made up entirely of 1 inch or so tiny twigs connected together...
Nearby in a separate room was an enchanting large installation from a glass artist, Etsuko Ichikawa, a quite hypnotic effect using films of the fire she used to create glass projected on egg-like surfaces... and all surrounded by walls covered with the incredible burn marks of glass on paper (looked to be watercolor paper), a calligraphy of glass-making mark-making. She literally "paints" the paper surface with molten glass creating "pyrographs" or ethereal drawings with the smoke and fire that look like a secret ancient symbology or writing which as I stood looking, made my mind try to interpret while my heart just accepted it. Very beautiful. Interesting to note is that she is making new art out of her basic artform of glass, capturing the process and stretching that itself into becoming works of art.
The third floor holds a collection of antique American quilts from 1800 to 1900's. The workmanship and hours to construct these lovely well-loved and well-used works of art was breathtaking considering that most were all hand done stitching, some made at a time without the benefit of modern lighting. Outstanding applique work on several. And a few astounding examples of extreme patience, such as the quilt that was pieced in 1 inch squares of fabric which were themselves made of 9 tiny patches of different fabrics stitched together...and a quilt called a "string" quilt because the strips of fabric are so small.
I loved the part that "recycling" or "repurposing" played in these various artworks: the basketmakers use of found natural materials and found manmade objects, the glass artist taking a new look at her process and interpretation, recycling that into art, the quiltmakers reuse of clothing or other fabrics into wonderful new quilts that surely rested on someone's bed and wrapped someone up in love. These exhibits are highly recommended. I came away with great respect for the dedication to their art, expertise and creativity of the various artists, and inspired to keep experimenting and think of new ways to use different materials...
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I visited the revitalized Columbia City sector of Seattle with a small circle of friends the other day. We enjoyed two galleries and a delicious lunch at Geraldine's on the corner.
Columbia City Gallery is an artist's co-op with a mix of art: encautics, enamels, paintings, jewelry, small fiber works, and some wonderful 3D recycled map-paper constructed figures.
The most eye catching exhibit was in their Guest Gallery, "Retablos: Mexican Folk Art" by three brothers: Daniel, Hugo, Daniel & Luis Angel Vilchis from Mexico City who have international recognition as well as their famous father. Their's was a charming collection of oil paintings on sheet metal (about 10"x10") that depicted ordinary daily problems of living (we all seemed to notice the viagra ones!) and giving thanks to an intervening saint for their help. The miracle stories were captured both in the picture and short summary in handwritten words in the bottom of the paintings. I liked the way the words and pictures blend together and the real stories they tell. Learn more about this Mexican painting tradition by visiting the gallery website, or better yet going to the gallery itself. Go here to see the gallery web page.
Gather is a smaller gallery but had an interesting exhibit called 100 Dresses. The artist, Kumiko Ishida, made 100 one-of-a-kind little girl dresses using reclaimed textiles all displayed on hangers against one wall. I had to laugh and could relate, as I overheard a nearby conversation, one woman saying to another, "now, see! this does justify my 35 years of collecting in my basement... look what she did with recycled textiles."
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Sunday, February 8, 2009
On a foggy gray Sunday morning from the Northwest, here is a wonderful video of Powerful Ocean Waves with exquisite music/Gregorian chanting I found on You Tube... it is relaxing to take these few minutes to imagine being in the altar of nature at the beach, breathing in the sea air and just listening and mingling in the spaces between the endless waves... at peace.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
"But in my head I still feel like I'm in my 20's...." from my mother in her 80's looking in the mirrorIf you listen and observe enough you can pick up gems of wisdom from everyone. A quotation doesn't have to be from someone famous or published (such as "I sing the body electric" by Walt Whitman). Everyone, including yourself, if you listen hard enough, offers something you can learn. The two lines I used as quotes ran through my head as I thought of posting another recent junk mail collage from my daily art-a-day journal.
I've recently restarted going to the Y for various exercise classes, and feel as though there are muscles re-awakening that I'd forgotten or maybe didn't even know existed. Ouch! I am very sore, yoga, weightlifting and cardio (oh, and tango lessons) has got me moving and re-energized but tired. The paradox of feeling really tired, but better is always a wonder. I am focusing more on building strength and flexibility first.... a good thing to do as I sage into elder age, since I don't want to be rigid in any sense of the word!
Monday, February 2, 2009
Going through my books to read, I recently finally began The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (An Oprah book). An excellent read, and thought provoking. Set in Africa, in the Belgium Congo during it's fight for independence, with the CIA involvement and interference.... it focuses on the lives of 4 girls and their mother tied to a hell-fire preacher on a mission to change the people, the cultural and economic chasms in place which are exacerbated, and how Africa instead changes them over time. A very haunting description of some of the challenges of Africa that continue today, the poverty, disease, and conflict, how to benefit themselves from their rich resources.
This brings me to my African Mosaic created today from pictures I took with permission at African Mama's shop in Bothell, WA. African Mama is the delightful Atieno (second row, second photo from left) who is from Kenya (same village as Obama) and is closing her shop (after having a shop in Seattle area for many years) and returning to her homeland to establish a homestead that will support and send to public school 100 orphan girls... She was in DC at the inauguration and is inspired by Obama's call to service, and so is becoming an inspiration herself. The charming Wambua who assists in the shop is in the photo next to hers. The shop will close end of February, for those in the Puget Sound area who are able to stop in to see the wonderful fibers, art, music and more. I stumbled upon her shop on a day out wandering with a friend. You never know where you will end up......