Sunday, May 31, 2015

beyond books

This was in my morning news feed, so yeah, I spent a few minutes in visual daydream heaven.

Who doesn't love books? My mother was trained as a teacher and she also collected books. She read to me often while I grew up, nestled together on the couch with the book between us so I could follow along. Those hours on the couch shaped me into the book lover I am. She volunteered at the local library where we went every week for a new stack. 

She got me a job at the library when I was 15. I loved that job the best of all my jobs. If it wasn't the case that librarians were having trouble finding work in the late 70's, I might have been one. Instead I took a winding path into IT. This winter I took a class in data management given by the library staff at 7 VA universities. Librarians have certainly moved beyond books!

On another path, artists have always shown their love for books by pushing their boundaries, too. There have always been art books. I've been to the Cloisters and have seen the intensely illustrated holy books of the Middle Ages. There are countless beautiful books that present art made in other mediums, what we traditionally think of when we say "art books". There are accomplished book designers who blur the lines between art and book, like Irma Boom. There are artists who create books from the paper on up. There are artists who take books apart, such as Brian Dettmer, Su Blackwell and Cara Barer. And last but not least, are the poets and the photographers, who use books as props.

Of course, fabric artists have to get in the game. Fabric and paper are similar in many of their properties, so fabric books are a natural extension of bookmaking. I found examples of embroidery samplers made into books. Fabric books look like great ideas for FloatingLeaf to explore. This news article claims the VCU art book collection has over 4,000 items. Must add a trip there to my Art Day Out schedule. My favorite piece from this list is the embroidered composition notebook. Love it!!

“Common Threads: Volume XXXVIII,” 2012
by Candace Hicks

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

the shelf project - Pantone piecework

Fabric is beautiful stuff and I love playing with it. The dense saturation of color in fabric is one of the things I love about it. I love to layer colored shapes to make new images. However, when fabric is cut, the edges ravel and begin to fall apart. The cut shape loses its clean edge. The essence of appliqué is to turn that cut edge under and stitch it down while still maintaining the desired shape. In turning that cut edge, though, tight curves and angles become quite challenging. 

Challenge is an interesting word. It can have both a positive and a negative spin. It means, simply that stuff is difficult. But difficulty makes one work harder and achieve more. It’s difficult to make tight curves and angles work in appliquéd fabric pieces.  Sometimes, the challenge isn't really worth it. Better to turn to a different medium entirely.

In comes paper. Paper can be made with the same dense saturation of color as fabric, but it has very different qualities. The stiffness of paper and the ability to maintain a clean cut edge were two material qualities I wanted to play with.

I found some paint chips at the hardware store. There was a big section of Pantone color chips at this particular store the day I was helping myself. I would have loved to bring home one or two of each color, but I think they might get suspicious I wasn't going to buy any paint. I kept it to a dozen.

I've been looking at images of cut paper designs. (I love you, Pinterest!) I played with an off-set target design while breaking up the image into 12 sections.  It's not earth shattering, but it was good practice cutting the paper mask. I'll play with this technique some more. It's fun to see the design appear with blade in hand.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

trip report - Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal

It was a chilly, rainy April day in Montréal. My better half was attending a conference for some obscure software thingy and I had tagged along to spend a few days exploring. One of my favorite places to go in a new city is an art museum. I prefer modern art if I can get it. Montréal has several art museums within walking distance of Vieux-Montréal, where we were staying. I was off for the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. But the rain and the cold...

The inhabitants of Montréal have that figured out. There is an underground city with passages that go just about everywhere one would want to go. It's accessible through subway stations, buildings and random street corners. One simply walks about looking for signs that say "RESO" and down one goes. I traveled from the convention center to the modern art museum all underground, through a 3 story bustling shopping mall with a huge fountain - dry and warm. 

The museum itself was delightful, if smallish. The two exhibits I enjoyed the most happened to both be video pieces.  The first was an actual movie called "The Column" that showed the creation of a marble column from the quarry to the finished piece. The carvers worked on it on board a container ship crossing the ocean, which made the process of carving almost surreal. Maybe I was tired from the long walk, but I sat there engrossed through the whole thing.

The other piece was a room full of several large "canvases" on which video projections of the backs of people's heads facing the ocean.  After the viewer was totally convinced this was all there was, the people would turn to face the camera and then fade out, to start the scene again with the backs of their heads showing.  There are several people and the timings were such that the viewer felt compelled to wait until everyone had turned around.  Part of the allure was the mesmerizing effect of the waves and the extraordinary size of the screens.

All in all, it was a enjoyable exploration.  Returning, I stopped for a tea in the underground mall and watched some day care kids parading around the gardens built around the fountain. There were raised wooden platforms to walk on and a small stage where the kids could climb around. They looked to be about 3 years old, all holding a long piece of fabric their teacher had anchored in her belt and singing cute little French songs.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


noun: greeting; plural noun: greetings
a formal expression of goodwill, said on meeting or in a written message.

I received a card in the mail the other day. This is a pretty unusual occurrence. It brought me joy on so many different levels. 

It was from a friends whom I haven’t seen in awhile and miss. They took the time to send me concrete good wishes on a speedy recovery from some minor surgery. I’d been feeling kinda low about how long it was taking to get back on my feet, and some long distance hugs were just what I needed. It was so good to connect with their lives and hear about mutual friends and good times.

The front of the card was a painting of some beautiful lilacs. Lilacs are special to me since they connect me to some happy memories of places and people I love. Just looking at the card sitting on my shelf makes me smile.

The back of the card really brought home some memories. The card was produced by a company that I used to sell for back in middle school. My maternal grandparents were nomadic and my grandmother was a voracious letter writer. She liked a particular brand of stationery and somehow I started selling the cards and notepaper door to door and at school, so I could get reduced rates on what I purchased. I was my grandmother’s main supplier. Along with her letters and cards, she would often include small poems, typed out on carbon paper.

This card also made me think of people in my life who might need a greeting in the form of some mail. I got out some blank cards I had made up for FLTQ awhile ago and got drawing. I even included a poem.

What goes around, comes around. Now, off to the mailbox!