I think it needs its own post... Here is my favorite page from the workshop last weekend. There are others that I like, of course, but this one seems the most "art" to me. When we were given the assignment (to make a palm reading), I could picture the base immediately in my mind -- white hands against a black background. And it all came together very smoothly; maybe the piece that took the least thinking. Juliana first had us lay down a layer of tape and then I painted with acrylic paint: black in the center and a dark antique silver on the edges. I didn't wait long enough for the paint to dry so when I rubbed iridescent white paint on my hands and stamped them down, as much paint came off on my hands as transferred to the page. The result is that the tape showed through from underneath, including a slightly disturbing red band across my fingers which makes me think of a bloody bandage. Sorry, but it's true. I don't know what that's supposed to mean. The left hand was to be the past and what has been and the right hand is the future, the results, what will be. After working in this book for a few days I finally took the time to actually read the text on the pages that I was ripping out. It's Organic Chemistry (my worst college subject) but it was really filled with a lot of poetry. The words that I cut out to be the text on the page are all from the pages of the text book. On the left hand: "that have been measured""PROBLEMS" "generally limited" "suggest a reason why" "products you would expect" "undergo attack by any of a number." The lines on the hands are the line of "is this likely to be?," the line of "structures and names" and the line of "transition." On the right hand: "we can see" "the reaction" "recognized through these facts." "even if the unknown" "could be converted" "and concentrated" "instead of melting" "through its resonance effect" "gives powerful support" "thus held together" "wherever possible" "only that they contain more energy." The lines on the hands are the line of "ease," the line of "surprisingly well," the line of "kinetics" and the line of "deliberate change."
Finally emerging a bit from the fog of my weekend away... So nice to be back! I haven't quite gotten back to my list of things to work on though. Now I'm preoccupied with my journal from the workshop but I'm sure I'll soon have to get back to magnet picture frames or some such thing. Emily brought us a new batch of mosaic picture frames and bottle cap necklaces. We're starting to look at catalogs for Christmas wrapping paper. I know, I know, it seems shockingly early. But I do love the Christmas season and am really looking forward to our first here at the store - - I already have visions of a window filled with various gift wrapping craft ideas.
We now have a little play pen for Lily which has elicited some amusing reactions. Everyone knows it is for something living but they aren't sure what so they have to walk up and peer inside. Then if Lily isn't there, they have to ask? Is it for a baby? or a puppy? The terrace chair collage is still set up at the craft table and we had some takers yesterday so that was nice. This weekend is Labor Day weekend and Taste of Madison so we could have a lot of people coming downtown. We'll see. And the students are moving back in and already some have ventured up State Street to find us so that's been nice.
And my birthday is coming up soon too. That's hardly news since I celebrate the entire month of August, but time has gone so quickly it doesn't seem like I've quite done the celebrating that ought to be done. There's always September. And October. (basically the celebrations will last through the premiere of the new James Bond movie and the latest Viggo movie).
Those who eavesdrop aren't supposed to hear good things are they? Well, then I shouldn't complain (and the complaining that I have done is really nothing compared to what I can do, just so you know). And I do feel really fortunate to hear all sorts of good things; Sachi added to the happy notebook while I was away over the weekend. And then there's all sorts of new fun ways to judge your popularity -- we have fans on Facebook; we are up to 7345 individual page views... which I figure can perhaps now safely be reduced to 1000 separate people.. an average of 7 views per person? I know some of you have much more than that, but I can see many that are just one view per person so I figure I can average that out. Anyway, it's satisfying.
And there are other people's posts such as this from ayoska: "Being in the store brings feelings of Spring and makes you feel like skipping." Thank you! to everyone, thank you!
The photo snippet workshop involves creating a collage with photos that you bring in. Possibilities include commemorating and event (such as wedding or anniversary) or trip. These pictures illustrate some of the possibilities. Photos are framed in a black 7 x 7 square frame. We use simple tools and construction to assemble the collage. Individual photos are cut into smaller squares using a paper cutter and set on top of paper. Because I tended to use my photographs for several collages, I prefer a paper cutter because it reduces waste and maximizes the number of images I can get from a photograph. Other people might prefer to purchase a square paper punch from a craft store. Any photos you bring in should not be precious originals. Squares are typically cut into one-inch or two-inch sizes, though you can choose any size you want.
My approach to photo snippets is not high on precision. Quite frankly, I'm not interested in perfection, because any machine can do that. The purpose of photo snippeting is to get you to see different aspects of a place and of a photograph. By cutting photos into smaller squares you can highlight small aspects of a place and often salvage a photo that might not be interesting in its original 4x6 form; it can also free you up to take photos without worrying about their overall composition.
Ideally, each individual square is from a different photograph. The basic format is a 4 x 4 grid of one-inch photos -- that's 16 photographs, set on a piece of paper set onto another piece of paper. Participants should bring in a minimum of 16 photographs; as many as 25 may be fit in one-inch squares into that size frame. And it's always fine to bring in extra pictures because you never quite know what images will cut up the best. If the 7 x 7 frame size doesn't suit you, you may bring in our own frame and we'd deduct the cost of the frame from your workshop fee.
The workshop fee includes use of our paper cutter and adhesive, as well as paper and frame for you to take home a completed collage.
Hmm... not sure how this all works, but Sachi was up early this morning to go to WORT 89.9 FM for the 8 o'clock buzz. Here is the link to their archives -- you're looking for the 8 o'clock buzz for Wednesday August 27th. It looks as if there is a podcast you can listen to anytime in the next 60 days. Of course, if you've made it this far, you probably know all the details that she mentions, but still...
I'm rediscovering crayons. I always loved them though -- especially those big boxes of... what was it in our day? 96? I think they've added more colors. A few years ago, I started using them again in my collages -- applying the melted wax technique that Claudine Hellmuth introduced me to. I learned it at a Valley Ridge workshop that she taught, which was based around her book: Collage Discovery Workshop. This was one of my first Valley Ridge classes and I learned SO much. It was pretty amazing. I recommend the book if you can't learn it in person from Claudine. She shares a lot of interesting techniques, including collage with melted wax. ANYWAY, more recently, I've been using crayons per the suggestions of Teesha Moore. In fact, I took crayons to this weekend's workshop, and used them to write my personal journal entries on the pages of my books -- then I watercolored over them. You can tell that there is text, but it isn't easy to read, which is pretty much the way I want it. Anyway, aren't the colors yummy?
Which you should know by now is not only one thing... This started out as a letter to my amazing companions from the journey we took at this weekend's Valley Ridge workshop but I realized that it was something I wanted to say to everyone. I will get to the point, but in my own usual meandering way.
First -- heck, why not? scare you off right away -- a little of my religious background. I know, I know, it even makes me uncomfortable to read about other people's religion. I'll try to keep in short. I was raised in the tradition of the United Church of Christ, a pretty liberal Protestant church (to give you some idea, EVERYONE is welcome at the communion table and it is possible to be a gay female pastor). My mom is a very active member of our church and I still attend the church that we first joined when I was a child. I am learning though as I get older how little interest and even respect my dad has for organized religion. He was born in Japan where religion plays a much different role, where the sacred is in the quiet and the everyday and the Zen of things. His general contention is that most of the bad things throughout history have been instigated by organized religion. Our discussions at Sunday brunch can get a little lively. Anyway, what I have gained from my upbringing and church-going is a rather loose idea of spirituality and religion. I think religion serves a purpose by compelling people to do good things that they wouldn't do out of their own self interest; I think church serves a purpose of providing community, which, of course, seems less important in these days when community is not defined as close geographically. I don't think there is heaven and hell in the literal sense of the word but I think there is an afterlife. It is the idea of afterlife born out of science. I studied geology in college and learned about scales of time that are beyond my comprehension and experience, about the life of a grain of sand or a piece of ash that circles and cycles. I will die, but there is so much of what I am made of that doesn't die; and there is so much of what I create or inspire in others that extends beyond any physical life. Most importantly, I believe in creation as a sacred and fundamental aspect of God, Universe, whatever you want to call it. There is too much beauty and mystery that is the underpinning of this world, and that cannot be accidental. As humans, there is nothing more fundamentally sacred than that we join in this process of creation. I joke that my understanding of the Bible is very simple and hasn't progressed very far: I'm still stuck on the first chapter of Genesis. I am stuck on it and stuck in it. There is creation all around. I'm not just talking about the creation of life, about babies and families. I am talking about all creation and all creativity. Color and vitality, paint and paper, flower and word. There is creativity and it is VITAL that we all do everything we can to honor our creativity, to give it time and space and to savor it. I think that is our ultimate purpose and calling and our connection to that which is sacred. Creativity - the ability to express it and value it in yourself -- this is ultimately my wish, my spell for all of you.
I recently went to a poem reading and someone presented a poem... it was really rather funny, where he was reading from the point of view of the sperm.. swimming swimming, competing against so many to reach the goal. And in the end, the poet said to always remember that there are MILLIONS who would have loved to be you, millions who died to be you. MILLIONS! I never really thought of it that way, but it makes ones own life seem so special and precious! How is that at all connected? Not only because one's life is so precious, but because what one creates is unique among millions and intrinsically precious. Which I find best stated by Martha Graham: "There’s a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost."
Oh my... I am completely wrung out. I've just returned from a four-day workshop at Valley Ridge Art Studios. Four days: driving the hour and a half out past Dodgeville, camping at Governor Dodge State Park, class starts at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. with an hour break for lunch (that's 6 hours of art projects each day). It is the usual art/spa weekend -- breathing in lots of fresh air, watching the stars at night, being cared for and pampered and enjoying a wonderful array of lunchtime treats. Kathy and Bill are such excellent hosts and the setting they provide in Valley Ridge is truly a blessing. Look! Isn't it lovely and relaxing! Who could have guessed what chaos lies inside the classroom building (the gray one).
And the class itself! There really aren't words. The workshop was led by Juliana Coles, our amazing instructor and guide. At the most basic level, this was an altered book workshop -- we brought in a book and used paint, pen, and paper to alter the pages. That's the physical description of our actions, but there was lots of psychology and analysis and intuition and sensing that went into these pages. Juliana led us through a mind-boggling array of exercises designed to utilize both our right- and left-brain; to combine word and image, thought and knowledge and intuition. We picked cards from many decks such as tarot, medicine cards and more. We painted, wrote on painful topics like regrets and sorrows. Hmm.. some vacation. I knew in advance a little of what was in store for Juliana has a reputation: she will make you pick out meaningful words of poetry and then she will make you pass them to the person sitting next to you; she will focus on the process not the product and she will make you dig deep. I won't give away all the details of the workshop -- you really should experience it for yourself. Suffice it to say that it was pretty much everything that I was hoping for even without knowing and it was also the most intense workshop I have ever taken. I am also really pleased with what I created in the workshop. And I promise that I will share some of my creation with you but it has to rest for a little while. Some parts are too personal to be shared with anyone; I'm very proud of other pages and eager to share a small part of the experience and my creation. The book is not at all done and I'm looking forward to and dreading the process of thinking and not thinking, drawing on intuition and inspiration to create more book pages. Anyway, that will come shortly. In the meantime, I'll leave you with the pictures of our work tables -- a little glimpse into the chaos of our creative weekend.
Are words really necessary? Can you even imagine hand carving such detailed images? Yep, they are HAND carved. At Valley Ridge, I quietly work away on my art projects, but faces become familiar after sharing classroom space several years in a row. Now at the beginning of class there are little waves and nods of recognition, "what class did we take together?" And there are very deep friendships that are formed as well. I'm getting sidetracked. One fellow classmate of mine from this weekend is Bonnie, who I know has been in a few classes with me. But, oh what talents she was hiding. She modestly brings out a bag at the start of class, filled with all these letters. The course description mentioned that we might carve our own alphabet stamps -- I think Bonnie was the only one who took that suggestion to heart. What patience! What a steady hand! My hats off to Bonnie, the mistress of the carved stamp. These are pictures of some of Bonnie's stamps and some papers she stamped. AMAZING! She says to tell you that she learned her stamp carving skills from Anne Bagby who is a stamp carving expert... I can't even get my head around anyone topping Bonnie.
Ta da! Well, I'm afraid you just don't get to see the whole thing. Of course it is better in person, and furthermore, just like the course description said, the book does contain a lot of secrets. It's not going to be available in the store for viewing like the other altered books I've made. Still, here's a little bit. After much deliberation over what book to use, I found my dad's old college organic chemistry textbook. It's dated Berkeley 1964. It's a perfect combination of science -- charts, the periodic table... that I like, and also poetry. Amusingly enough, each chapter has problems that you work through, which took on added significance as we journaled about challenges we faced, or didn't want to face, and other things that can be construed as problems. I found it particularly significant that there was this entire paragraph in the introduction -- I just left that as it was -- it seemed to apply as much to life in general as to organic chemistry. Anyway, here are some of the pages and a view from the side -- once I got started, all sorts of edges of collages ended up sticking out from the edge of the page, but that definitely changes the character of the book.