Monday, December 9, 2013

Bouncing all around

Things have been very un-normal around here since I last wrote. I feel like I have been in a time warp. I think that when I do so many different things I have a hard time feeling...stable. I had to pack up my studio to turn the room back into a dining room for Thanksgiving. We postponed our meal till Saturday so that we could have more family members able to attend. We wound up with a count of 22 people from 4 generations, and we were still missing many members. It was chaotic and stressful but also nice. It is especially nice to have little ones around on a holiday. Three days after that gathering my dad had elective surgery on his shoulder for a torn rotator cuff. Being a professional stress-monger I think those two events sucked up a lot of my energy emotionally and physically; that and the time of year have caused me to struggle a bit more than I have been, but I am still hanging in there and fighting the depression demon.
I was able to do some creative things, but even with that I was bouncing around. I finally tried the piece of sanded paper for pastels that my friend Debbie Wagner gave me back in August when she came east to attend the Felter's Fling. Debbie is a wonderful artist and her pastel paintings of sunrises are so beautiful and her spirit shines through each piece. Her story is amazing and can be read about at the above link. The piece of paper she gave me was one that she uses for her sunrise paintings; she brings her supplies with her when she leaves home. I asked her to show me how she does her pastel work and I learned a lot just watching how she manipulates the medium. I find this true of watching other people felt, just seeing how they hold the fibers and do a layout can be so informative. I was all excited to try the paper but other things were more pressing at the time. Since most of my felting supplies were packed away it was the perfect time to go down to the basement "studio" where I do my messy stuff like dyeing and get my pastels out and finally try that paper. What a difference it made! The pastels perform very differently depending on the ground. I don't have a lot of professional grade pastels so my color choices are limited but after trying a this better grade of paper I decided that I wanted to buy some more quality pastels. Yesterday, after making a bit of money at a craft show...and since I WAS so close to Dick Blick I invested in a set of Sennelier half sticks. Here is a photo of my new colors and of the image I did with Deb's paper. I can't wait to try the new pastels, I think the colors will be richer.

After the get together I got out some wool to felt some soaps for the craft show. (I am not going to get everything out because we need the dining room for Christmas dinner in a few weeks). I did some to look kind of like stones...soap stones! 

I also worked on making a 'Scape Scarf'; a scarf with a landscape or other image on the ends. I proposed teaching this as a one day class at the symposium so I need to make more to work out how to teach it. That takes a lot of noticing what I do and my thought processes instead of just 'doing'. It takes some of the fun out of creating when you have to be so mindful instead of just letting it flow. Here it is not quite finished but it will give you an idea of what it looks like.

Below is my first Scape Scarf made many years ago. 

While I was waiting at the hospital I worked a bit more on my piece from Wiawaka. It was good for distraction. I am starting to think that in a way this piece is a self portrait; the black and white symbolic of the extremes of emotion that comes with being bipolar, and the problems of having black and white thinking especially where decision making is involved. The antique laces showing my old fashioned sweet girly side but placed along with more modern, somewhat eerie or sinister elements ; the odd bits of often opposing textures and surfaces that combine to make a complex whole. The piece was begun in Sylvia Watts class and since Sylvia is a psychiatric nurse who specializes in art therapy I think I was reminded of some of the times that I was in the hospital. I would have loved having her for a nurse!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A busy week ending with one more felted landscape class taught.

It has been such a busy fall for me, and this past week was the windup. Last weekend I taught another landscape class at Robin's Luckystone Studio. But before that I had some other things to do, starting with a stop in at the New England Fiber Festival which is held only 5 or so miles from my house. How could I not go?  And I have a confession to make...I caved on my vow not to buy any more fleeces until I used the ones I already have. In my defense, I DID just earn some money from teaching, and I HAD shown great restraint at the other two fiber festivals I went to this fall, AND I just got a brand new drum carder to play with.  I am not having buyers remorse but I am starting to think that I have the same problem with buying fleece as I do with buying beads. I love them more than I use them...I may need a 12 step program to get it under control. Here are the 'three bags full'....

...a black Icelandic, mottled grey Lincoln, and a gorgeous and very clean, very soft Merino which was a first shearing (aka a hogget). One of the reasons I like buying fleeces is that I am buying local and supporting farmers in this country. The Merino is the only one that I have fondled since I bought it. Here is a photo of the washed fleece and a small felt sample.

Next I went to the opening of the Granby Land Trust Art show. I was VERY happy to have my sister Beth come with me and be there when I was presented the award. We had so much fun and she was really good at promoting me after that half a glass of wine she drank! I won the Helen & Al Wilke award, which was a new award this year, for my drawing of the grapes.

I was happy to have my pieces hung so that could be seen during the ceremony. I felt sorry for the artists whose work was hung in the vestibule.  And I am always proud to see my felt hanging with price winning oil paintings.

But the best part of the night was having Beth there with me.

The rest of the week was spent scrambling to get my pieces mounted to put in the Wesleyan Potter's Annual Show and Sale.  I am thankful that Dad has been helping me with making simple frames. I have shown all these pieces before but here they are finally mounted and ready to hang.

This next piece I took some sideways shots to try to show how the felt is sculpted to project off of the background.

I asked some of my friends for advice on how to mount some of these. This one I agreed looked better just unframed, but it still had to be stitched to a backing with a way to hang it on the wall. Sometimes this type of mounting is harder than just doing my usual framing.

I also had to do some touch up on the mounting for my Tiffany window piece since it has traveled a bit and got banged up. I am not good about taking care of my artwork. I put in six pieces in all. I found that the south facing wall of the barn makes a good place to photograph my pieces...and I can put as many nails in it as I want! I will be kind of sad if my Tiffany sells but I don't have room here to hang it inside and I don't think it would fair well out on the barn wall.

My class at Robin's Luckystone studio was a lot of fun, as usual. She has a great space that the atmosphere is always relaxed. Though I did have a bit of tension when we were way over time and things were not felting very well. One thing that caused the class to go long was the size of the pieces. I think I forgot to tell the students to keep the layout so that it is about 4" from each side of the plastic. And I was so busy making sure that the layout of white wool was in the right proportion for their image that I missed the fact that the pieces were so big. I also forgot one of the steps I do in the wet felting process. I should not be surprised that I could forget something like that when I forget so many things. In fact my forgetfulness is why I started this blog. It was not a total disaster and I kept my cool. It just made for a long day. Thank goodness that Robin was there to help with the felting and fulling! The second day went as usual, and everyone seemed very happy with what they learned. Because the pieces were large not many of them were nearly finished, but students left with a plan and the knowledge of how to further develop the piece. I think of my class as being geared toward learning principles and techniques and not a project class. Maybe more technical than some folks want. I am going to think about ways to tweak the class and or develop another more elementary class for people who don't care so much about landscape principals and just want to make nice images.

Here are photos of the pieces as they left the studio...though I missed one student's work.

This is by my friend Gail Trautz. I will see her again so I can hopefully see what she does to further develop the piece. I also know her well enough to tease her about it if she does not work on it more, as she said she would.  Do you hear that Gail?

Here is Lori's piece. She is another Guild member and has taken my class before.  She plans on beading this some more to give some shine and texture to the flowers.

Here is Bea's piece. It is interesting to me that in some classes there are several students who use a lot of the yarns, neps, burs, angelina, etc. that I bring for embellishing, while some classes use very little or none.

Here is Sarah's piece. It was so big that it did not fit on my pinning board. (Everyone starts off with the same size plastic to layout on)!

Here is Pat's piece. She used one of the new yarns I bought at Webs, another dangerous place that is just too close to my house. (My other pledge was that I will not buy anymore yarn)! I sometimes wonder if I just do this kind of work so I have an excuse to buy more crafty stuff.

And last but not least, here is Barbara's piece. Robin told me that she came to the studio later to buy some fiber and told Robin how much she enjoyed the class. I love hearing that!

Now that I am done with my scheduled classes maybe I can play with some of those new fleeces....

Monday, November 4, 2013

Teaching Landscape in Potomac, Maryland

I have been doing quite a few things that are outside my comfort zone lately; volunteering to help Susan in Rhinebeck , and agreeing to teach a landscape class down in Maryland were the big ones. My friend, Sharon Janda, invited me to come to her home studio to teach a felting group that she is part of. To me this was a BIG deal for a couple of reasons. For one thing it meant I would have to drive by myself for 7 hours in a very metropolitan area. Since I do not leave my house much and I live in a somewhat rural area the thought of driving down the coast through several major cities was rather frightening. Most of my trips are through New York state and New England, in more familiar and less populated areas. I also get a bit nervous teaching at a new venue. I know from experience that the facility does make a difference in how the class goes especially in the beginning. I need to remind myself that none of my classes has been a disaster because of the facilities and what matters most is for me to handle the challenges with patience and humor. But what was causing me the most anxiety was the fact that I would have Sharon and Renate Maile-Moskowitz as students. They are my friends but I am also intimidated by their talent, sophistication and mastery of felt making. I did not feel like I had anything to offer them, especially since my class is about traditional landscape painting and their work is contemporary. I am happy to say that I really had no reason to worry about any of these things. I am proud of myself that I took the leap and did not let my fears stop me. The entire time was a wonderful experience and I feel like I have gained a new confidence that I hope I can hold on to.
One of my goals when I am teaching is to help students achieve their own vision for their piece. I start the class with a lecture on the principles of landscape painting; the effects of atmosphere and light, techniques for seeing, value, color, etc.; all of which can apply to any medium or style. Then I try to guide students to use that knowledge to create a piece of art that reflects their own aesthetic. I did not discourage Sharon or Renate from using a reference work that I normally would try to steer a student away from, because I knew that a traditional landscape was not their style. For the class I want students to have a reference photograph that will give them a chance to explore the principles that I lecture about, the best is one that is a vista so that they can "create a sense of distance through color and perspective". 
Renate brought in a book of paintings by Samuel Bak and wanted to try to create a similar scene in felt. It was really interesting to me to collaborate with her on this and in the end I did feel that she found the class worthwhile. Here is one of Samuel Bak's pieces that I found on the internet that is similar to Renate's photo.

Here is her layout...

 And her unfinished piece at the end of class...

And here is Renate at the end of class...she was on her way to teach a class and I think she was feeling a bit harried (pun intended)....though come to think of it it WAS Halloween.

Sharon's piece was based on a photo that had been manipulated so that the detail was soft and the colors were adjusted to be rather vivid. Here is her layout.

Sharon has a FeltLOOM that she wanted to try using for this project. When she put it through the machine the layout got stretched a bit at the top into a kind of arch shape. We both liked the effect for her piece so when she wet felted it she stretched it a bit more. Here it is at that stage.

And here it is at the end of the day...and night, since we sat around drinking wine and talking while she continued to work on it.

Bev also had a photo that was dramatic in its lighting; not much detail showed since the contrast was so high. After she had been working on the piece for a while she said that it would have been better to have worked from a photo with a better exposure for the piece she did in class. She did a wonderful job but it was tough deciding what to do in the areas that were just black in the photo. Here is her layout.

After wet felting...

And at the end of class....

The other women worked from photos that were better suited to what I teach. The fact that several were my own photos might have something to do with that ;)

Here is Dalis's layout.

She had a lot of fun with the yarns and other embellishments that I bring. 
And here is the piece after wet felting.

And at the end of class.

This is Grace's layout...

After wet felting...

And after needle felting...

This piece was done by Paige...

After wet felting...

And after needle felting.

This piece was done by Joanne. She was having trouble with her leg and could not really walk but she was determined to take my class. We all helped her get the things she needed. It is so nice to work with a group of friends.

Here is the piece after wet felting.

And at the end of class....

I had a really wonderful time teaching these women, and spending time with Sharon. And things got even better when Joanne bought one of the 'paintings' that I brought as an example. I was so happy. This is the landscape that went home with her.

And one more blessing came my way while I was at Sharon's. I got a call from my Dad which made me panic at first, until he said that he was just calling me to let me know that someone from the Granby Land Trust had left a message and that I should return her call. The call was to tell me that I won an award for one of my pieces! Both of them got juried in so I won't know what piece won or what the award is. Either way I am thrilled and looking forward to the opening on Wednesday!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Finished felt landscape for the Granby Land Trust show.

I am going to write another quick post before I forget what I have done the past two weeks. I finished both the drawing and the felt landscape I had been making to submit to the Granby Land Trust art show. I even got them there with about 20 minutes to spare. I also found out that I am not alone in cutting these things to the wire. One artist brought in a painting that had wet paint! At least wet felt does not make a mess. ;) Here is the finished felt...

 I really don't enjoy the process of needle felting, but I love what it can do. By combining both wet felting and needle felting I can achieve looks that I could not get by wet felting alone. The barn would have been far less detailed without using the needle.

One of the things that I love about Autumn is the color of the haze-less sky. In this piece I wanted to emphasize that deep blue field.
This is one of the inspiration photos. I like to have several shots from which to work as each has a different view or exposure and I then have more information to base my decisions on. When I teach I explain that the photo is just a reference for the creation. I teach how to simplify and accentuate the things that attract us, and how to be able to see what is actually happening with the color in each landscape. Since this changes for each piece I have to give each student personal attention and that is why I don't want to teach large classes. I am going to the Washington, DC area to teach on Monday and I think that my doing a landscape right before the class helps me to take notice of and remember all the little things that I do just instinctively.

The other piece I was working on was a colored pencil drawing. It is based on a photo I took in which the light coming through the leaves forming shadows was the thing that I loved about the shot. It was fun drawing again, I think I got burnt out doing it for a job.

I was a bit more rush than I would have been because I answered a Facebook friend's plea for help with her booth at Rhinebeck, also known as the New York Sheep and Wool Festival. It was pretty brave of me and out of character to jump into the unknown like that. But one of the life lessons that comes from experience is knowing that doing something out of my comfort zone can bring benefits beyond the obvious. I made new friends AND got invited by Susan to possibly teach at the Midwest Felting Symposium (I hope I don't get in trouble for saying that before any plans are formal like I did for the fling. I have such a talent for saying things I shouldn't have).
It was an intense weekend with long hours...40 hours long. I have never worked that long at anything I don't think. I am not good with stress (though I should be since I seem to create my own from nothing) and many parts of the weekend were stressful for me. I hate having anything to do with money and math and sales (I don't even do it for my own booth!) and when I needed to assume that responsibility due to unforeseen events I kind of had a mini melt down. But working with Susan and Jamie and getting to know them was a treat. They are very fun and kind people and Susan is an absolutely amazing person for multitasking. I have never seen anything like it. I wish I have just a pinch of her energy and ability to think and act on so many things at once. Here are a couple of pictures of the booth set up to give a sense of what it entails.

 It was really nice to have a very tall and strong guy to do the lifting and reaching. And Jamie was very entertaining. Notice that there is no photo of Susan's face since she was always in motion!

My drive to and from Rhinebeck was nice and relaxing and the scenery was so lovely with the fall colors. I took many photos, stopping a few times on the way part just to wake up a bit since I was so exhausted.
On the way there on Friday morning....

 And home on Monday morning...

I loved the shadows created by this fence.

I am thinking that some of these could be reference photos for my classes or for my own work.