Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mental health day...

OK, so, I haven't updated in almost a month.  Shame on me.  It's one of those things I always think about at 11 at night and then I fall asleep before I can do it.

So anyway, what did I do this weekend?  Well, here's the thing.  I don't know about you guys, but for me, the environment I'm making art in matters.  And my environment, my apartment, was getting unbearable (plus I accidentally stepped on a mirror and broke it and no one wants to walk on powdered glass ground into the carpet).  It was to the point where it was actually making my anxiety problems flair up again (OK, so that's probably also having one month left of school ever and feeling behind in literally everything, but the mess wasn't helping).  Don't believe me?  I documented it.

And yeah, I made them tiny. Sue me, there are limits to my sharing.

So I cleaned. It was necessary for my mental health. And now it's all clean and shiny!

OK, so it's not perfectly clean. But it's about a million times better. I can get out of bed in the morning without tripping over shit!

I did get to some art related stuff though. Just not studio stuff. I'm about 2 weeks behind on my art history research paper. Meaning I'm supposed to have a complete bibliography and abstract done and I'm still researching. So I worked on that a bit. Still not as far as I should be, but at least I'm getting a better idea of the direction my paper is going in. As anyone reading this blog knows, I'm working with sewing and embroidery in my work. So that was my basic topic going in. I've been reading about the origins of the feminist fiber art movement. The basis for the valuing of 'high art' like painting over 'low art', or crafts, like sewing, was that sewing was woman's work. The reclamation of fiber arts as legitimate art was a way for women to assert that the traditionally feminine had value.

I've been wondering, the past couple of days, how male artists who use fiber and sewing play into this. On the one hand, the goal of feminism is equality. So the breaking down of gender barriers is a good thing. On the other hand, does that mean that art using fiber and traditionally crafty processes can only be legitimate if men do it?

Stay tuned for more...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It seems like it's been awhile since I did this...

OK, so, as far as last semesters go, this one is going pretty OK so far. Well, sort of. Ironically, since this is my blog for sculpture, sculpture is the class I'm feeling the least great about. But let's talk first about the classes I am feeling great about.

Printmaking. I am having a really good semester in printmaking so far. I'm using thread to incorporate myself with figures from old family photographs, which are drawn on lithograph plates. None of these pictures are great, but they were taken quickly. They still give the general idea.

This one was accepted into the undergraduate juried show.

As was this one.

The lighting was terrible, that's supposed to be white paper.

Lots of knots.

I've started the next plate, with a pic of my dad. Which actually looks more like my brother, IMO. Which, yeah, they look alike, but it really does look more like Carlin than dad. Oh well. Anyway, yes, there is a reason stuff is coming out of his head. You'll just have to wait and see.


First off, I know awhile ago I posted pics of a large painting with a vagina embroidered in the middle, and promised to explain later. That piece is in limbo right now. I need a break. So you'll just have to wait some more because I don't wanna talk about it.

What I'm working on now is very different. I wanted to scale down, and really embrace the highly decorative. I've always had a thing for patterning and line work. I spent a good 2 hours at the MET in the Japanese and Chinese Decorative Arts section.

So anyway, I started painting these little miniature silhouettes on these tree slices that I found at Et Cetara (store in Seward).

Since I've been using family photos in printmaking, one of the things that's come up is making sure that a viewer who has no connection to my family and doesn't know any of the stories can still connect to the piece. And it just made me think. There's this craft movement (I guess you could call it a movement) that utilizes old photographs. Decoupage, scrapbook covers, all sorts of things. "Art" projects for the Sunday hobbyist. You can find packets of old photographs at some stores, or garage sales, or the internet. And people just use them, for decoration. But what about who these people are? Does that not matter at all? And it just made me think-

What if you were decorating using pictures of a serial killer?  Or something else really terrible?  

So these little miniature, anonymous, faceless portraits, are part of a series I'm calling the Jane and John Doe series. Each one will be attached to a beautiful, ornate bit of embroidery. But each hoop has a placard on it, which immortalizes the 'crime' for which this Jane or John Doe is famous for.

I started by embroidering the label.

Then I cut it out, basted it to the main piece of cloth, and started to stitch it on.

I stitched around it, both on the inside, and on the outside, to create outlines where I was going to satin stitch.

Which I then did.

After I cleaned up a few loose threads, and marked where the wooden portrait was going to go, this is what it all looked like.

So then I embroidered a frame around where the portrait will go. I thought I had more in progress pics, but I guess you'll have to settle for the finished product.

BTW, the wet spot is because the pen I use to mark everything erases with water.

And hey, look at that, I just found my close up lens for my camera!

I still have to slap everything together, and then I'll have one done. I have 6 or 7 to make (I'm hoping for 7 but one of the wood slices has a weird crack in it, which is either going to make it extra cool or impossible to work with, I'm still deciding).


OK. So, yeah. It's not that it's going terrible, it's just...not quite clicking yet? Like, I still fee like I don't really know what I'm doing.

I really wanted to work with the idea of passing down information. I really love the written word, and I think it's fascinating to have something like my great grandmother's autobiography. I wanted to do something with books.

We had a show at the Eisentrager Howard gallery a month ago or so, and in it we had a Duchamp piece. It's a recreatable piece. Basically, you set up a dictionary, and people can go in and add words, or cross out words, or change the meaning of words...basically, they get to shape the next evolution of the English language. And I really liked that idea of interacting. And I wanted to set up something where the audience would get to interact, and leave their own little bit of history behind.

I don't really know how I'm doing that yet. Nothing I think of feels exactly right. But I decided to just forge on making a book, for now, so that at least I'm working and my mind is on the problem. I have the paper all torn and folded, and I started stitching the cover. I wanted to embroider the cover because that's what my great grandmother did for her book, and that made it extra special. I want it to look like something someone cared about.

I started by drawing out a frame. I sort of envision the 'title' going inside the frame, whatever that ends up being.

So then I just started filling it in.

I got the first part down and then drew on the second layer of curls.

And sewed those on.

Then I went ahead and erased the blue lines because I wanted a nice clear picture.

This is not the final design, though. This is the drawing I did. I decided I'm not going to put that final layer of scallops on the outside, but I didn't have an eraser with me when I was drawing.

So, yeah, that's where I'm at. I'll just keep plugging along now.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


OK, first, sleeves are evil. Evil evil sleeves. The first one took about 3 hours. The second one only took 1 since I screwed up everything the first time. But hey, they're on now.

Then I had to cut up the rest of the transfers.

So, yeah. That's been a process. It's...not a disaster? But 'it's going well' feels like it would be an overstatement. It's...tricky. Some of the time it transfers cleanly. Others don't want to transfer. And for the ones that aren't quite stuck on, sometimes putting the iron back over them sticks them down and sometimes it melts it off. And since sometimes it melts it off, I have to be really careful about touching the iron to other, already placed sentences.

And in the process of trying to avoid accidentally melting words, I instead burned the crap out of the top of my thumb. Because I'm just that talented. So I'm taking a break in order to ice it. But this is what it looks like so far.

I don't know. I don't think I'm going to have it done by Tuesday afterall. It was looking really promising, and then the zipper and sleeves set me way back. My original plan was to have the entire dress made yesterday and to spend the whole day today ironing. Instead I didn't start transferring until nearly 6. It's taken me three hours just to get part of the bodice done.

I think I might be only doing the center panels on the front and the back, though. Just from what I've done so far, I don't think I'm going to be able to maneuver the fabric to get clean transfers on the sides, particularly the sleeves and shoulders. Obviously if that looks horrible I figure something out...but for now that's what I'm going for. I just don't think I'm going to get there.

Oi, I'm going to go sulk over my burn for a little while. Then I guess I'll get back to it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Starting to get there

Oh goodness, what did I get myself into? It's actually turning out pretty good, but my oh my is it like pulling teeth to get there.

OK, first off, I'm working at home all weekend, which required me actually cleaning off my table. Vala thought this was for her benefit apparently.

Also the ironing board.

So I had the main structure of the dress done already, and I had done the fitting, and I had gone back in and made the alterations and finish stitched all my previous basting. So then I had to work on the lining for the collar.

Attaching the interfacing, with the help of my furry assistant.

After I've sewn it on and pressed it the right way.

This has everything put together except the sleeves and it's not hemmed yet.

Close up of the bodice (you can see the stitching that attached the neck lining)

Vala also wanted to help put in the zipper.

Which, by the way, was a total nightmare. It took me 4 tries to get it pinned right, using 4 different instructions. The ones that came with the pattern were useless, the ones that came with the zipper weren't enough. I finally had to resort to youtube.

In the end I don't think it turned out too horribly. Could be better, of course, but for a first time it's certainly not terrible. It works, that's the important thing

And it fits! OK, maybe it could fit better, but again, first time making cloths here. The fact that it actually looks recognizably like an article of clothing would be a win in my eyes. Close to proper fit is a freaking miracle.

So tomorrow I just have to hem it, figure out how to sew sleeves, sew the sleeves, finish cutting out all the iron on transfers, iron on all the transfers, and sew the eye hook at the top of the zipper. Possibly not in that order.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Quick entry (that I nearly forgot to do) because I do not have enough hours in my day.

This weekend was primarily about painting because I have a crit this week.  I don't have any pictures though, because it's currently not in a really photographable state.  Yes, I just made that word up, sue me.  Let's just say there's lots of stitching of lots of words.  And my fingers hurt.  And I'm still nowhere near done, and I don't think I'm going to be done in time, and I'm stressing out majorly.  If I hear one more person tell me being an art major must be so much fun, I might just punch them in the face. 

So what am I doing for sculpture?  Well, I decided to make a dress.  A dress covered in truths and lies.  I guess I want to highlight the transient nature of identity and the written word.  You can read my previous post to catch up on the thought process in detail.  In addition to that, as I've been working, it's also made me think of more modern communication like twitter and facebook and how we reveal ourselves in little soundbites (well, 'sound'bites, but you know what I mean).

What I've accomplished so far:

I bought a pattern.

The long sleeved version

I went back and forth on what kind of dress to make. On the one hand, I've only ever helped make clothes before, and that was awhile ago, and they were really simple.  On the other, I didn't really want to make a sack dress either. This was a compromise of sorts. It's complicated enough to challenge me, but not so ornate and over the top that I stand no chance of completing it. I'm confident in my ability to make the dress.  Fitting it to me?  That could be trickier.

I bought fabric.

I had no preconceptions about color going into the store. No idea what I wanted. The pattern tells you what fabrics work for the cut of the dress, so that's where I started. And of course I wanted something that wouldn't cost $20 a yard. I had a hard time because everything seemed to have a really obvious pattern, which doesn't work for what I want. And then I found a linen blend (one of the suggested fabrics) in pink, on clearance, and that worked for me.  I like the pink.  One of the reasons I'm getting into using textiles and fibers is because of the feminist reclamation (just got several books out of the library on the subject, so excited to read them but I have no idea when I'll have the time!), and I think pink fits into that in a way.  Nothing wrong with being traditionally feminine and 'girly'.

I printed words.

I'm still cutting them up. I forgot to flip the first one I printed, so I used that as a test. It transfers cleanly (iron on) but it's shiny, so I have to cut it as close to the words as I can to minimize random blocks of shininess. So what I was hoping would be really quick is taking forever. This one sheet took me over an hour. And I still have 6 to go.  But I very seriously doubt I'm going to be ready to iron them on until at least next week, so I keep telling myself not to panic and don't kill myself trying to get everything done all at once.

I honestly don't know how long this is going to take me. I'm also concerned that I'm going to start thinking of it more as 'fashion' than 'art', and I'm trying to keep my crazy random thoughts reined in. I already had one project change on me in the middle of making it, and that's why I'm so behind now in painting.

So, tomorrow, I finally get to open that pattern up and start cutting! I would have started that this weekend, but my cat would have taken one look at the tissue paper and decided that it was play time, and then I'd be out a pattern and really annoyed, and that just wouldn't help productivity.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What next?

With as many studio classes as I have this semester, I'm already beginning to feel a bit burned out.  Which isn't good, since we're barely two weeks into it.  I have 3 months left to go.  So here's what I've decided.

I had my concept that I'd been working from.  The idea of looking back at family history.  I won't go into the details again, you can look at previous posts for that.  But basically, I've decided to sub divide that concept so that while all my work is in a similar concept, each class I'm dealing with different content.  That way it breaks up my day a bit.  Otherwise I'm dealing with the same thing all day Tuesdays and Thursdays, and it gets dull and monotonous and it starts to feel like I have to force it.

So in Painting I'm going to focus on the Trundle Bed Tales, the book of family stories from my maternal grandmother's side of the family.

In Printmaking I'm going to work with The Grandma Christine Story, the autobiography of my maternal great grandmother.

And in Sculpture I'm going to go a bit more meta and focus on the entire idea of written history, and the value we give to the written word even though it's completely subjective.

For the next sculpture project, the one I have to start on Tuesday, I've been thinking about what we did the first day of class.  Two Truths and a Lie.  We've all played the game.  It's just a silly, fun way to get to know people in class.  But it does make me wonder.  Did/does my family play the game when passing on family history?  What they don't say is almost as interesting as what they do say.  Am I getting the whole story?  Is there any way to reliably pass on the 'truth'?  It's really all just a story.  One supposedly based on real life events, true, but how can we really be sure?  Especially in the case of the Trundle Bed Tales, which involves stories dating back to around the time of the Civil War.  We can look at their letters and pictures and listen to the stories, but we can't really be sure that it's 100% accurate because there's no one around to corroborate. 

But we still treat it like it's an accurate record of our family history.  Because it's written down.  If you pass something on verbally, it's like a game of telephone.  You expect there to be little inconsistencies or embellishments.  But something written, well, that means they took their time and got it all right, right? 

As with my last 'planning' post, I don't really know yet how these thoughts are going to manifest yet.  I have the beginnings of an idea, but it still needs to percolate for a little while before I share.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Busy little bee

Nothing like spending 7 hours in the studio to start your relaxing weekend off right.

I decided to make a structure out of fabric and wood with the express intent of installing it outside so that the elements can wreak their havoc. Because of the time constraints I wanted to keep it fairly simple. I ended up building a cube frame.

Simple, and also has that man-made/did-not-come-from-nature feel to it.

I ended up painting it white. The paint helped hide some of the construction boo boos I had to fix with putty, and the whiteness will help show any wear and tear. I used muslin for the fabric. I wanted something simple that would show degradation, and, well, muslin's cheap and I had some already.

I used upholstery tacks to attach the fabric to the frame (also ended up throwing some finishing nails in between the tacks since it was gaping just a little too much and I was out of tacks). They didn't hammer in that well. They'd go in about halfway and after that I was really more bending what was left until the head was flush. One in particular wouldn't go where it needed to go and I kept having to reposition, until finally it decided it had had enough beatings for one day and jumped ship.

But a little 90 second epoxy from Walgreens took care of that.

I stretched 4 strips of fabric on the inside of the cube. I wanted something that at least vaguely referenced the source story, about the bridge that washed away. After they were on I soaked them with water so that they'll stretch tight ( works with canvas, I'm just assuming it works with other fabric).

I'll need to touch up some of the paint. The corners are looking dingy from getting turned a million times, even though I cleaned off the table first. It's all going to get dirty eventually, but I want it clean to start off. I also have a length of rope that I still need to attach. It's supposed to be a hanging sculpture. But I have to look up good strong knots first. I want to make sure it's not going to fall on anyone.

My plan is to hang it somewhere (where exactly, I don't know yet, I haven't gotten that far) and photograph it at regular intervals. I haven't gotten any more specific than that yet, but for now I'll just settle for finishing it on time for crit Tuesday.

Sculpture wasn't the only thing I got done today, though. The paint was still drying when I was done sewing the muslin panels, so I went up to the painting studio and got my plastic and fabric nailed to the wall so I can start painting it on Tuesday right away.

Yes, that is a vagina cut out and embroidered. But that's a story for the next post.