Sunday, January 31, 2010

Today's Art Insight

I was looking for other blogs by feltmakers today. I happily found several of them, many are artists whose work I am familiar with and admire. I am a member of Pat Sparks Feltmakers list, and through reading the posts on the list I feel that I 'know' many of these people and their work. Some of these artists are also members of the Northeast Feltmakers Guild, or people that I have met at various fiber events.
Today I realized something about my art when looking at the work of other artists such as Velta's blog . I love Velta's felt. Her felt, and the photography are very dynamic and exude a sensuality.  The combinations of textures are bold and the main focus of her work. It is so alive and very different from mine.
This made me think about what would be the reaction from those I hold dear if I was able to create work like her's.  I think I would get looks that said "That's weird". In fact when I had her web page open my Dad asked "what on earth is that?" about one of her pieces. Now to me this says nothing about Velta's work and everything about my conservative family upbringing. No wonder my work is so conventional.
I know this aesthetic is also a reflection of being brought up in a small New England town. Most of my family makes very safe choices when dressing, decorating, or creating art. For example, I showed my sister this gorgeous piece that my friend Joei gave me in a trade. (I love it!)
My sister liked it, but said she would have liked it better with out the bright warm pink color. But THAT color is what makes the piece sing. Many in my family tend to be TOO matchy-matchy, even my twenty-something daughter often shows a conservative tendency, so this tendency is not age related. I often have to remind myself to add an accent color just to keep things from being too boring, even though I have studied this art stuff!
What is really interesting to me is that this does not seem to have been influenced by the artwork that I saw being done by my mother and older sister Francis. Fran painted mostly abstracts and her quilts usually have meanings and symbols beyond the obvious lovely colors and patterns.
My mother took art courses through the mail when she was in her forties. Looking at her work on these assignments recently I was struck by the way that while technically better the images lacked the life and quirkiness that her personal art had to it. Her drawings were very stylized and often included word play. Unfortunately, I always had a sense that she was unhappy with her work because it didn't look realistic. Here are examples of the art she did that was truly hers.


When I was young one of my favorite paintings was "Christina's World" by Andrew Wyeth. Not because of the feelings it evoked but because it looked "so real." My idea of a good picture was one which looked the most like the object being depicted. I grew up with many of my great aunt's paintings on the walls and always thought that she was not a very good painter since there was no definition to her work. I was familiar with the work of the impressionists but when it came to 'amateur' art I thought the lack of realism just showed lack of skill. I have a very different appreciation of her paintings now. This has become one of my favorites.

It is only recently that I have started to look at art in a more enlightened way. I think much of this is thanks to my work as a dictionary illustrator. I had to try to draw things as exactly as possible. It was an exciting challenge at first, but then it became boring because there was not much of ME in the drawings. They were nice but not truly art. The funny thing is that once I proved to myself that I could draw things in such a way that some people thought that they were photographs, I started thinking of myself as a REAL artist.
I finally fully understand what I had been told about the artist's mark and the value that it adds to a piece. The glob of paint, the brush stroke, all the things that show that the work was created by an individual give a piece of art a kind of soul. It is through these marks that the artist gives the work a voice. I had always tried to smooth over these marks, to remove all evidence that this work was created by an imperfect human being. I had tried to take out the ME. Now, as I get older I am seeing the good of showing the imperfections.  I am beginning to embrace my individuality.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Felt Landscapes

I realized that I don't have many pictures of my felt on here yet. And since I am not currently working on anything note worthy I will just post some of the landscapes I have done as a way introduce my work and as a record for myself. I start by laying out the colored wools and wet felting them. I then use a felting needle to add details.

This piece was my second felt landscape. It is close to 12 inches square if I remember rightly. It has flown the coop so to speak, sold at the Wesleyan Potters annual show and sale.

This piece is similar in size to the previous piece. I started this by laying out a lot of different green wools. I had been planing on making a mottled green background that I could needle felt flowers on. When the wet felting was done I saw a pond with reflections on the water. I enhanced the image and added the waterlilies with a felting needle.

This was the first landscape I did that was based on a photograph. The photo was in the Wet Canvas (an Internet art group) photo reference library. When I posted this image on Etsy the photographer saw it and sent me this message, "I happened to spot this lovely piece and did a double take! You see the reference you used was taken by me!I love it, it's so much better than the photo, I have no idea how you achieved it using felt!" I was astounded and very flattered to say the least.
This piece was rather large compared to the others. I think it was about 3 feet tall. I sewed actual stones and shells at the base of the tree and on the shore. This piece sold to an art collector:)
This piece is fairly big too, the frame is an 18x24. This is based on a reference photo that I took. (Notice the curves from my camera lens :P )
Two more before I trundle off to bed...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Painting just for fun

I had a good time working on an oil painting last night. I have had the urge to push some paint around with a brush for a while. (I have not done much oil painting but I like the buttery feel of the paint). All of my felting things got put away for Thanksgiving so that we could use the dining room AS a dining room. And with Christmas coming so soon after I just didn't do any felting until January. Well, I can't go that long without doing something creative. My daughter wanted to paint some glass ornaments for the tree. She and I had a great time laughing and creating some nice and some tacky things using glass Christmas balls from Goodwill, paint, glue, tissue paper, and GLITTER (which she calls the herpes of craft matterial because you never really get rid of it once it breaks out). I got a little too into doing decoupage with the tissue paper so I did some boxes.

We were able to do these in the space I have been making into a studio down in the basement. I needed a place to do my dyeing which I had been doing outdoors. I also wanted a space where I did not have to worry about the mess I make. It is not done yet but it was nice enough that I retrieved my easel out of storage and started a painting. It was a mess almost as bad as this...

(note the coveted table under all that stuff)

...and now looks kind of like this. This is the first time ever I have had a place where ALL my art materials can be easily accessible AND can be left out for however long I want. Here is the painting when I started it.

and this is how it looks after last night. I am learning a lot. One thing I am learning it that I don't really want to learn any more about oil painting at this point. I still like felting better.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Recurring Themes

I have had an interesting insight recently into the way that much of the imagery in my art is inherent . One of the things that has been occupying much of my time and energy lately is cleaning and organizing SOME of the stuff here in what has been the family home since I was three weeks old. Add to this a creative mother from a depression era farm, a very inventive and handy father, and the emptying of about 4 houses owned by deceased relatives and you have quite and assortment of 'things.' There are piles and piles of papers here and it is not unusual to find things from the 60's, 40's, 80's (1880's or 1980's) all in the same pile. (Dad says this just shows that the pile has been turned every once in a while!) Some of the papers I have found are report cards and various school papers from the 6 of us 'kids'.

The other day I found a child's drawing that seemed especially familiar to me. When I turned it over and saw my name on the back the reason for the connection became obvious and yet it seemed like I had seen the image much more recently. Then I remembered that I had done a somewhat similar drawing about 5 years ago. Now, it is not that unusual that this scene should show up in my work again. I squeezed though many barbed wire fences in my childhood tromping through the fields surrounding our house. What I find really interesting is similar feel of these two images. To me they are rather melancholy and lonely.

Another image that I have been doing since childhood is the sun face. I did a whole series of them in woodcuts (sorry no pictures, they are packed up) when I was at Smith College in 2000. When I was making my sun mask for the Felt United exhibition* I remembered that in middle school I had made a poster with a huge smiley orange sun. And I mean orange as the sphere was actually made to look like an orange with the star shaped stem spot and the word sunkist on it!? I have not found that one...yet...but I found this clay piece which has a '72 on the back.

I did this drawing for a children's dictionary.

The other thing that I forgot was that I liked poultry and rabbits when I was a kid. Is this an example of "the more things change, the more they stay the same"? Here is a rooster done with quilling paper. I remember that took a LONG time to make. A tissue paper 'stained glass' duck. And an "ether bunny".

*Please see the online exhibit of Felt United but don't bother looking for my photos. Thanks to my forgeter I sent my submission form but forgot to attach the images :(

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Of Chickens and Felt, part two

Another part of my quest for the simple life was to get chickens. Since I was living in an expanding suburb/city and still working I could not jump 'whole hog' into homesteading. But having a garden, and raising chickens seemed like a good way to further my dream. Now, I probably would have just continued to dream but my daughter facilitated the acquisition of 9 Buff Orpington chicks.

I had researched the breed on the Homesteading Today forum and, yet again, learned all I could from the wonderful world wide web. These are duel purpose birds, good layers, nice disposition, winter hardy... all good things for the homestead right? Well what I did not expect was that I would fall in love with them. Who knew chickens were so entertaining and that they have individual personalities?

They free ranged in MY yard and unfortunately on the neighbors immaculate lawn as well. I forgave them, as the grass WAS greener on the other side, but I am not sure my neighbor was amused (though he never outwardly complained). Here they are hanging out on my front steps, hoping I will come out with a treat.

Due to other life changing circumstances I found it necessary to sell my home and move in with my Dad. I was not sure how Dad felt about taking in a cat, a few rabbits, and me, never mind a flock of chickens. Happily the people who bought the house loved the chickens and wanted to keep them.

It has been a couple of years since, and I missed having chickens. My daughter and I were talking about chickens one day this spring and before the conversation ended we had placed an order for 26 day old chicks (10 Cornish X broilers, 10 Buff Orpingtons, 2 Black Astrolorps, 2 Silver Lace Wyandottes, and a Male and Female Golden Polish).

So January 2010 finds me living with my Dad in my old room, raising 14? chickens* and one cat, distance mothering my 3 grown children, and doing a lot of felting...and it is good!

*Although life was better before yesterday when I lost my Phyllis . This is the third time she went missing. The poor thing can't see too well with that feather hat so she spent much of her days searching for the other girls. I am not holding my breath that she will return this time as the neighborhood hawk has been hanging around our house lately.

Of Chickens and Felt

Many of the changes in my life over the last four years are related to the death of my mother on Dec. 19th 2005. That was a catalyst for me to try harder than ever to make a good life. I won't go into all the deep philosophical and psychological changes that happened. However, one small step down a path toward trying to be happier with how I spent my time on this earth brought me to the art of making felt and the joy of raising chickens.
I was working for a well known dictionary publisher as THE illustrator at the time. I am not all that well suited to sitting in a cubical in silence it turns out, and a co-worker and I started dream-talking about things we would like to do to make our personal worlds better. Much of the talk was about sustainable know, working less at a job, having less STUFF, making things and making do.

During one of our conversations she suggested raising angora rabbits as a way to start down that road. Theory was that I could sell the fiber and have the enjoyment of those wonderful creatures. Rufus T. Firefly shown here was my first angora. I got him from Chris Morgan ( and before I knew it I had five balls of fluff to love and care for. One thing I didn't have was a way to sell that fiber though. The afore mentioned friend told me that I could felt that surplus fiber so I looked it up on the internet and tried wet felting with my lovley angora. When I was done I had a holey piece of felt that looked a lot like a rabbit that had been runover by a steamroller...and I was hooked.
My next endeavor was using a felting needle to make a bunny from the bunny fiber. And then I discovered that a woman named Chris White sold wool in lots of colors from her home in a town not too too far away and so I made my first combination wet and needle felted landscape with angora AND wool.

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Felt Together

One of the things that got me interested in blogging is my friend Joei's blog- Art That's Felt. I met the talented Joei though the Northeast Feltmakers Guild and I am very thankful to have her as a friend. Joining the Guild has been a blessing for me. Women in the fiber arts seem to me to be the most caring and giving of artists. The acceptance of newbies and the sharing of information in the fiber arts is amazing and I can honestly say that that is not true among all the fine arts.
This past weekend Joei hosted a Felt-A-Thon. Joei invited me and Jane (another guild member and friend) to come visit. We did some felting, a lot of dyeing with indigo, and lots of talking and laughing. It was just what I needed in many ways.

Here is a happy Joei hanging up some ribbon and some silk after a second, or was it third? dip in the indigo vat.
The lovely Jane who did most of the dipping. Thank you Jane!

It was fascinating to see the color change from this beautiful teal to a bright blue when exposed to the air. Felters love those magic moments when the properties of the medium changes before our eyes or beneath our fingers.

Figuring Things Out

I am an artist by trade and is in the genes. I am taking a shot at this blog business because I want a way to keep track of some of the things that I have been doing. My memory and thinking have been rather befuddled in the past few years. I thought a blog might be a kind of mnemonic device that would help remind me of parts of this journey called life.
This blog is another leap into the cyber world for me. I have a shop on ETSY ( and I have used twitter and flickr. I have been on Facebook for several months and I like being able to share my images and feel connected with family and friends. However, I sometimes wish I could post more text, easily share information with non-facebookers, and have the ability to go back and see all the old posts and comments. I also like that a blog can be like a continuing story.
I expect that my blog will be mostly about art and chickens. Yes, chickens. I raise chickens as pets...outdoor pets. Most of my days are spent creating; felting and painting being the current obsessions, and taking care of my 14 hens and 1 rooster. That is when I am not doing housework!