Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Icons and Prayer

Your face I am looking for...
I think the universe may be telling me to stay home. I ventured out today to the most amazing exhibit by Russian artist Ludmila Pawlowska and had a flat tire. I would not have missed this opportunity though. Icons in Transformation was shown at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn. Mila's work (150 contemporary icons and 15 traditional Russian icons from the Vasilievsky Monastery) was shown in the sanctuary, chapel and fellowship hall. To see religious works in a church setting was perfect. The docents could not have been more pleasant answering all my many questions and allowing me to take photographs.  

Mila uses mixed techniques including oil, acrylic, metal, copper, lime stone and granite on wood panels. I found myself drawn to her work that had eyes and loved her use of texture, layers and the color red. I could see the influence of her work in textiles in her paintings.

I wish I had gotten the opportunity to meet her. It took her more than a decade to put the exhibit together and it has been traveling since 2001. Do not pass up the opportunity to see it if it comes your way. I wish I had remembered about it sooner because today was the last day. I spent two hours looking and reading and wish I could go back and look again.

Mila's story is an incredibly moving one. The Russian Revolution shattered her family. Her grandfather was deported to Siberia in 1936, when her father was two years old. Her uncles were taken by the state, separated and scattered across the nation to homes for children of state enemies.

Gravity of Love
Her father was a dissident, too - always limited by his refusal to join the Communist Party. Her parents were exiled to Kazakhstan. She was born in 1964. She and her father were not close, but her mother was her soul mate. Art was her refuge.

She had no religious upbringing, but chose to be baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church when she was 18--an act that was illegal at the time.

She was considered a child prodigy. At 15, she left her beloved mother and went to Moscow. She worked her way into textile design and magazine illustration.

She met Jan Lech - an early music specialist and lutenist who had moved into the business side of the arts and they started dreaming of a rural life together. They wanted to start a center where artists and art-lovers could come together, and Jan knew of an area in Sweden. There they started the Scandinavian Art Center.
On the Way

So 20 years ago, they left Russia. Her early work in Sweden was all about the natural beauty she saw around her: florals and landscapes, somewhere between realistic and abstract and influenced by her work in textiles. After a few years, her mother was able to come for an extended visit. A few months into the visit, she had a massive stroke and died. Her life changed overnight.

She traveled, looking for answers. In Russian monasteries- opened up by growing political liberalism- she found her answer. "All the art over these last years has been a spiritual journey."

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Black Journal: Come into My Garden

The weather was so strange today (only made it to 60 degrees). It felt more like fall instead of being just a few days before August. The long Chicago winters usually give me the blues so I decided to capture my garden in hope that it will feed me when winter finally does arrive.

There was a moment of panic when I realized that there was no opportunity to erase, but it passed.  This is not about perfection. It's about exploration. The Karl Foerster grass is my favorite part. It is also where I began. This journal and working only with a white pen is turning out to be more fun than I originally thought. I like the challenge. What are you doing to challenge yourself?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Gathering Stillness

What does gathering stillness look like to you? It took me a while to figure it out and while doing so I created a huge mess in my studio and went for lots of walks around the block. It wasn't until I started playing with lines and circles on a piece of paper that my idea came together.

The circles are dupioni silk that I dyed. The large one is hand appliqued, the smaller ones are fused. About half way through cutting out the circles, I had a "what was I thinking" moment. I am happy I kept cutting them out. The quilt is 27" w x 44" h. It will slightly overlap when sewed to the clay part.

I have also dipped the clay piece in the indigo vat a couple more times to get her bluer. In the photograph, she is sitting on a piece of light brown raw silk that I over dyed. I can't believe that I was able to make the silk such a great color blue without doing anything to it. It was dipped twice.

The next step will be sewing the quilt onto the clay piece then seeing if it can hang for a wall. I am also going to create a stand because it might be too difficult to hang in the gallery.

"Gathering Grief" is next. The clay part is dry enough to to be fired in the kiln. I have an idea for the quilt and am anxious to get working on it. The head part came out larger. Sculpting it was much more difficult than I thought it would be. Looking forward to also creating "Gathering Joy." What are you gathering in your life?

This is also my Off the Wall Fridays post. I do love seeing what other people have done with their week.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Butterfly Joy

The other day I was out in my yard when suddenly I was surrounded by about forty tiny white butterflies. I believe they were cabbage whites (pieris rapae). These not glamorous butterflies, but still nice to have around especially when they landed on my head and arms. I was afraid to breathe for fear they would leave. It was one of those rare experiences in life that touched me deeply. It also inspired me to tackle next month's ATC theme, butterflies, with heARTist Trading Cards.

My original plan was to use a photograph I took of a swallowtail on my buddleja and the quote, "For a long time she flew only when she thought no one was watching." I just couldn't get it a place where I was happy. I have learned to let go and move. Rejoice! Wish I had learned that lesson sooner.

When I came across the butterfly stamps from Hungary (They even have the names of the butterflies on them and I had just enough!), they helped me move in a new direction. I used Tattered Angels' Glimmer Mist which doesn't show up in the photo but it adds subtle effect when you look closely. The butterflies additional butterflies are rub-on transfers from 7 Gypsies. I am a sucker for stickers and rub-ons. They are instant gratification.  I did use the photograph on the back.  I still cannot get over how much I am learning and loving the journey of creating small art. Do you like making small art?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"You're Doing It All Wrong"

My husband has been worried because I am not getting out of the house so in an effort to make him happy, I took my black journal to Starbucks. I got my favorite coffee, nonfat vanilla latte, and settled into a corner to work. Before leaving home, I had randomly glued the eyes and dots. I was have a good time when the woman next to me said, "You know you're doing that all wrong." I did not know what to say which I guess looked like an opening to this woman. She had taken a class from a "big name art journaling teacher." When I tried to explain that I felt there was no right or wrong to keeping a journal, her voice got louder. I tried to explain that I am more of the philosophy of Eric Scott and David Modler of Journal Fodder 365. She informed me that she had no idea who these people were, I suggested that she check them out. Then I promptly excused myself and came home. I think the universe is telling me that it's okay to stay home.

I started making quilts in the mid1970s. My first quilt was a baby quilt. I did not have a clue as to what I was doing but that did not stop me. I created simple drawings with fabric crayons and alternated the blocks with solid yellow. My niece (she wasn't my niece when I made it) still sleeps with it (she hates that I share this). She has always called it  "my sunshine quilt" because of the sun in the center. Once I started being around other quiltmakers that the multitude of rules came out and a lot of the joy of creating quilts went away. When I finally decided that "rules" were meant to be broken, I became happier with quiltmaking. So I wonder what in the woman's life made it so important  for her to inject rules into my journaling, try to make me feel bad and not even attempt to listen to my point of view. I wish I could have figured out a way to ask.  How would you have handled this situation?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Getting All My Vices in One Room: Gathering

Last September, I took up pottery/ceramics to overcome a bad past experience and to push my comfort zone. The story begins while I was living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the mid-1980s, I took a ceramics class at Louisiana State University. I had always loved and collected pottery so I thought I would give it another try (a class in high school was my first but only involved hand building). The teacher was not the most encouraging person on the planet. We used kick wheels and she did not embrace the philosophy that everyone is built differently and needs to figure out what works for them. She was more "my way or the highway" kind of teacher. She actually told me that I was not cut out for clay. I was young and believed her. Fortunately, she did not kill my love of clay. Taking pottery up again is helping me slay yet another dragon of my past.

I have been trying to figure out how to combine my love of quilts with my rediscovered love of clay. If someone had told me that I would be sculpting faces, I would have told them that they were crazy and yet, here I am. This is the first of my series. It's called "Gathering Stillness" because it is something I am trying to accomplish. Today I dyed the clay with indigo and the look is just about what I wanted. Tomorrow I will dip her again in the vat to see if I can get her a little more blue. And yes, I know that potters use glazes but who made up those rules? I finished the quilt that I will attach (the holes at the bottom) tonight and will share soon. Next is "Gathering Grief" then "Gathering Joy." I am so excited that I can hardly sleep. I love this new direction!

Update: I thought I would just answer questions here in case others are interested.

-I choose to do scarification because it has always fascinated me and I wanted to show that we all have scars.

-I choose to dye her because I was looking for an effect that I did not think I could get from glazes or oxides. I tested a feather I made first. I love how it turned out.

-This was my third attempt. The first one the top of the head shattered. The second one the entire head exploded in the kiln. With help from Jon, we figured out that it was the newspaper I was using. It was holding moisture. I almost gave up but the idea kept me moving forward.

This is my Off the Wall Friday post.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

More Houses to Honor Carolyn

I wonder when I will stop thinking, "Oh, I need to tell Carolyn...."  Making quilts for The House Quilt Project is helping. I finished two more. Blue was Carolyn's favorite color so I had to make a blue quilt. I can tell my mood is lightening because the next quilt was colorful and fun. I don't want Carolyn's memory to be quilts that are filled with sadness. I cannot make anymore quilts until I find some more American flags (a requirement). So if you know of any sources, please let me know. My local quilt shop closed and JoAnn's did not have any fabric that had useable flags.                               
Carolyn would love the quilts and would have been touched that this was the way I choose to honor her memory.  She would have also told me that it was not necessary, but it seems more meaningful than writing a check. She meant a lot to me so well worth the time and effort even if she would not have thought so. Why do we value ourselves so little?  I hope the people who will eventually own them feel the love that went into making them.  They are on my mind too. Because my friend Marti is always reminding me that I need to share the size- each quilt is 12"w by 16" h. I encourage you to visit the project and make a quilt for a wounded veteran. How have you dealt with grief? Has creating something helped you heal?

Connecting again with Nina-Marie Sayre and her Off the Wall Friday.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Heather Lair

Yesterday I learned that Heather Lair had died on July 3. I "met" Heather through Postmark'd Art and got to know her even better when I interviewed her for an essay, "The Oldest UFO," in my book, Quilts in the Attic.  It was wonderful to have a Canadian quilt story and one with such a rich family connection. Who knew hoarders existed in the late 1800s was one of our favorite jokes.  Heather shared so honestly about her mistakes while she worked on the quilt. We touched base not too long ago and I teased her about the quilt still not being finished. I hope that someone in her family does take up the cause because it was Heather's desire that it be finished one day. Her death is a loss also to the quilt world. She was wildly talented and a very kind and caring person. I will miss her.

-all paths lead to the beach! by Heather Lair

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Gift Hummingbird: Another 6-inch Square

This summer I have been blessed with a very friendly hummingbird. While we usually have hummingbirds pass through during their migration, I have not had one stay around for this long. It has flown into my garage and buzzed around me on two occasions.  It has often stayed close by when I have been working in my yard. Honoring this incredible gift was a lot of fun.

The hummingbird was created out of paper. The background is again duck cloth painted with fluid acrylics. I am enjoying this new direction and want to play more with painting duck cloth. Are you trying anything new?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Just Like Potato Chips

Inchies (1" x 1" art) are just too much fun. What use to cause panic at the thought is now a joy. These were made for heARTist Trading Cards small art side trade for June. I wish more people had signed up and understand the craziness summer can bring. We won't be doing another inchies trade for quite a while so I may have to seek out others who would want to trade because once I start making them I don't want to stop. What fear have you overcome lately?