BadAssHerstory: I AM HER(E) NOW

 

When Shannon Downey put out her call for BadAssHerstory, I knew I wanted to participate.

Initially I started doodling, so to speak, on these two pieces which were left over from aikido uniform jackets. I had this idea about cloud chambers and a secret code being representative of different stages of my life, but when I got to the top of the left side, where I start to spread my wings, I didn’t know where to go from there. So I put it down. (The blue side was dyed with indigo a year after I did the stitching in blue, and then I just started stitching in white as a contrast to the other side.) This piece is more about mark making than it is about me or my story.

IMG_0634.JPG

In the meantime, this past spring, in April, I decided to start a bullet journal. The idea was never that I would use it faithfully every day. In fact, I barely touched it over the summer, BUT I have used it regularly and one of the things I use it for is to write down or (gasp!) sketch ideas. One day, I had this very strong idea of just presenting myself in mountain pose saying  in bold letters I AM HERE NOW.

Continue reading

Wonder: Establishing and Maintaining a Creative Practice

I have blogged about this before, in part, but yesterday I gave a talk and I know some of my friends who live in the ether wanted access to it as well.  I departed somewhat from the script and talked about specific mistakes, but basically, this is what I talked about.

——-

quilt3

Because I was talking to a group of quilters, I started with my first quilt. I will note I have not attempted piecework this complicated since.

Take what works for you and leave the rest behind.

Start with the basics: get enough sleep, eat well, exercise. Take your medications.

Commit to your creative practice — REGULAR PRACTICE. Good writers go and write for X many minutes/hours or whatever it is a day. If you want to be creative, you have to do it. Not all of us have the luxury of doing it every day, but for me, even if I’m not in my studio, I still spend part of the day thinking over ideas.
Three main components:

Structure (physical, chronological,)

Inspiration — many sources

Challenges — how to challenge yourself and what to do when big challenges (ie, mistakes) occur
Structure:

Physical: have a dedicated space — it doesn’t have to be a whole room. Some people manage to work out of a tiny corner. I find having a whole room dedicated to my practice enormously helpful. I can maintain an organized stash of materials that are at the ready when inspiration strikes. Or when I need to just force myself to sew two pieces of fabric together.

 

Having the machine set up and ready to all the time made a huge difference in my willingness to get down to business.

Time: Commit to your practice.  1 day a week every day for an hour.  Whatever works for you. Know what time(s) of day work for you and don’t sacrifice them.

Continue reading

Kintsugi

2016 was a pretty terrible year for me. I experienced heightened anxiety that randomly started in April and it was August before I realized it wasn’t “just going to go away.” I spent another two months adjusting to meds before I realized how impaired I’d been. I cannot tell you what a relief it is not to have to worry that my body is going to dissolve when I go out though.  The meds do not “take the edge off”: they provide a sort of prosthetic skin.

So, when I got a commission in November, I was a bit cautious, wanting to understand what the person wanted, especially as it was for a usable quilt and I’ve not made anything other than strip quilts for a couple years.

The person wanted a strip quilt, as I’d done before and color preferences were for green, blue, and purples. So, off I went.  When I make strip quilts, I try not to think too much ahead. I just work with the colors I have in hand and make sure they work next to the colors around them.

This is good therapy for me. It’s useful for me to not overthink when I’m creating and let’s my subconscious do the driving.  I noticed as I got about half way, that it was no longer straight on both sides, so I added a sliver of orange/red, inspired somewhat by Leonard Cohen’s death and his lyric about the cracks being where the light shines in. That is why I call this quilt Kintsugi.  It’s about being made of pieces and mending the broken or wonky parts when we need to. It’s about letting all the parts of ourselves exist in harmony together, even if they seem disparate. We contain multitudes and we are star stuff.kintsugi

Decay, Disintegration, Distortion

Charity Janisse recently posted a picture of rusted metal on Twitter, which got me thinking about decay. I realized that I tend to focus on themes of vitality in my work and working on the flip side could be interesting.

flame-1024x1024

Flame taken by Charity Janisse and posted in this online article.

 

Then Lorie McCown came and gave a talk about her work to my quilt guild. She uses a lot of textiles in her work with frayed edges. Boy did she get me thinking about disintegration (as well as making your mark). You can find some great detail shots of her work on her Instagram account here.

And I’ve been talking to people who do computerized generative art. I think it was Anders Hoff who got me thinking about distortion when he posted these.

 

So, when I found myself with a week with one kid who was going to be gone from 9-4:30 every day, I jumped on the chance to work on a series of 5 panels which I dubbed “Obsessive Stitching 1-5”.  My initial idea was to work with all over patterns, as I had done in the Trajectory: Escape Velocity initial and final panels, but after two days of that, I got bored.

Here is day 1 and day 2.

 

I had hoped that the above finished panel would be more buckled (as it was promising to do below and like the panel from day 1), but it smoothed itself out in one dimension, while warping the shape!

Day 3. Here’s what happens when I do the same thing over and over. I have to change it up. This one needs more quilting, but I wasn’t able to finish it in one day.

 

Day 4 I decided to go back to the all over pattern and not worry about distorting the fabric. I was focused more on accentuating the pattern that the dye had created and adding texture. I used two metallic threads (black and red) in one needle (one eye, not two). Here is the result. It’s very subtle. I am quite pleased with how this turned out and think I might add some beads before I call it completely done.

By Day 5, I was exhausted, had run out of food, and had other things to attend to, so I only had a couple hours in the studio. I decided if I worked small(er), I might be able to get something substantial done. Initially I was going to make coccolithophores in space, but that seemed too daunting by Friday afternoon, so I switched to jellies instead. This picture is a bit of a cheat because I only made three jellies the first day. Also, the tweet is misleading. There are 12 jellies on that panel.

All in all, I have to say it was an interesting week. I rarely get concentrated time like that to work, and certainly never 5 days in a row. Working only with hand dyed panels felt very different to me. It is certainly a way to more easily incorporate organic patterns into my work. I also don’t usually focus on the stitching. That has typically been a way to just hold the thing together and add color. Using stitching as way to get to texture was very satisfying, especially as I think of my work more and more as 3d.

I look forward to playing more with stitching and themes of decay, disintegration, and distortion.

 

Women artists who inspire me

For International Women’s Day, I like to talk about some women who inspire me. I am sorry I do not have pictures for this entry. Please click on the links and see what joys await you!

Jen Athanas is someone I’ve known for almost 20 years. She helped me when I started sewing clothes. Any time I had a question, she’s always been available. Her support has been invaluable, so you can see why she’s important in my life, but she also works incredibly hard, has very high standards (something she helped instill in me), and is tenacious.

Athanas set out to get a degree in textiles at Rochester Institute of Technology. They axed her program before she finished, so she left. In the meantime, she moved to the Washington DC metro area and determined to finish her bachelors. She went to Marymount University and got a degree in fashion design. For her senior project, she used upcycled fabrics, something she continues to do today. She has been making beautiful bags for over 10 years and is just branching out into non-functional art.

Athanas does not just sit in her studio and create, she also a vital part of the art scene. She was juried into the Torpedo Factory last year and is now on the board. She teaches classes in the area and also volunteers at Scrap DC. She reminds me that all work and no play makes a dull gal. She finds time for yoga and other social activities too! Visit her at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria VA or check her out online at her website jenafusion.com

In my last entry, I mentioned friends I’ve made on Twitter. Immy Smith is one of them. She is an artist who has left the lab. Her work is stunning and thought provoking. I love seeing her trials and works in progress. Smith seeks out collaborations with labs and other artists. Her work aims to communicate science. I think she does this brilliantly, both as a fine artist and a cartoonist! Check her out on Twitter (drimmysmith or cartoon_neuron) or find her website and browse immysmith.com

I met Megan McGlynn at SfN14 and was privileged to have a booth next to hers. We shared inspirational images with each other all week. McGlynn went to art school and studied neuroscience at U Penn concurrently with getting an art degree at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She’s interested in architecture and often couches neuroscience in this perspective. She works with ink and paper as well as sculptural elements. I cannot tell you how awesome it was to sit next to a booth with a 4 foot pyramidal neuron that everyone who walked by was drawn to. She also teaches sometimes. I wish I could take a class with her! If you are in the Philadelphia area, see if you can find her work. It’s worth seeing. You can read more about her on meganmcglynn.com.

Last, but not least, I met Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle last summer. They sing together and create amazing, intense crankie shows. Their beautiful harmonies complement the art that scrolls past, no matter if they are hand sewn, lino cut, or even shadow puppets. Their material ranges from somber to hilarious. They also have a radio show, somewhat in the style of Prairie Home Companion, that they organize on a monthly basis. They perform, they teach, they invite people to collaborate. They live their passion and inspire. Check them out at annaandelizabeth.com.

Best of all, even if you can’t see these amazing women in person, you can purchase some of their work.

Liminal spaces, heterogeneous communities, and letting go of fear

A few months ago I was wanting to write a piece on living on the edges, in the liminal spaces. I started that post at least four times and abandoned it every single time. I could not make it cohere. It wasn’t until some time in the last week or so that what I was really trying to express had to do with where I felt most fully myself.

For years I thought I had no communities that I really belonged in, but what I’ve come to realize is that communities that are heterogeneous are much more comfortable spaces for me. I am not neatly defined by most labels (without qualifiers) which is why I thought I just existed on the edges, but I think what’s really going on for me is some sort of Venn Diagram. Forgive if I’m using the term incorrectly. I can’t think of a better analogy.

Finding the #sciart community has been nothing short of amazing for me. No one is out there with a ruler checking your scientific knowledge nor are they judging your art pedigree (no matter the format). We are all just excited about art and science and trying to express that in our individual ways. As I said to CartoonNeuroscience (on Twitter), it’s a way for me to start a conversation.

Finally, I was reflecting on wanting to let go of fear specifically as it relates to my art. I went to a meeting of a fiber art(ists) guild. I was so inspired! It made me realize that groups that represent more than one monolithic Thing are where I feel more comfortable and where I am more likely to not only be inspired, but also supported. As 2015 approaches, I say to the darkness, I have many questions and I want many beams of light to shine towards them.

In the spirit of the season, I’m posting a picture of the Deconstructed Santa I made last year. May we continue to ask questions and have interesting conversations.

Deconstructed Santa

Report from the trenches of SfN14

I am having an amazing time at the Annual Society for Neuroscience Convention. As one of six artists exhibiting this year, I feel enormously privileged and I’m thoroughly enjoying chatting with everyone there about brains and beauty.

I am trying take some notes about things that have particularly captivated me. Here is what I’ve collected so far:

Someone suggested making a series of quilts that changed as you went into a house/building with the theme of evolution. I thought that doing a series from the microscopic to the astronomic would be pretty exciting. Oooh, in that case, the size of the quilt could even change. Anyone want to commission me to do that? 😀

 

Had an interesting chat with Fiadhiglas from twitter about her flavor of synasthesia. She was telling me how different colors evoke different emotions for her (if I understand correctly). It got me thinking about the effect colors have on moods.  Still thinking about it.

 

Talked to the nogginnw.org people about neuroscience outreach. They do enrichment classes for at-risk youth and incorporate art into the curriculum. Nothing short of brilliant.

 

arco_iris56 stopped by my booth today and later tweeted this incredible brain print picture that made me think of thumbprints and now my brain is all happy and fizzy.

  Met a man with a tattoo of a neuron he’d imaged on his forearm (incredibly gorgeous tattoo) and also has purkinjee neurons on the back of his neck (see this tweet).

Finally, two of the official bloggers are interviewing the artists and here are there interviews with me.

Katiesci’s (from twitter) writeup is here.  Shelly Fan, also from Twitter, posted my interview here.

And now I’m falling asleep. Until tomorrow!