Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ode to Miss Myrna Welsh




This story begins with "back in my day" and ends with creative pondering on a stack of fabric.

When I was a lost and lonely 13 year old,  I had the good fortune to have Miss Myrna Welsh as one of my teachers. Myrna taught home economics and sewing, served as our adviser for S Club, and also started the peer counseling program at our high school. Needing an elective, I signed up for her introductory sewing class. It turned out that I really liked sewing and had some aptitude for it. Over the next few years, I created quite a bit of my clothing, and began three lifelong passions: thrift store shopping, garment deconstruction, and fabric hoarding.

Somewhere in the process of learning to sew a seam and tuck a dart, I found myself. Myrna was infinitely patient.  Her mantra to "make friends with the seam ripper" was one I learned the hard way. During those long hours in her stuffy, second-floor classroom, she became more than a teacher. She took what felt broken and lost in me, and helped me find value in myself through helping others. Through Myrna's tutelage, I slowly learned to be more honest, helpful and ultimately, proactive about my future. I became part of her inaugural group of peer counselors, and l learned about community service as part of S Club (a high-school version of the Soroptimist organization with which I'm active today).

Myrna has been on my mind this week as I've uncovered a stash of amazing fabric. Some years ago, a friend acquired a huge load of decorator fabric sample books and quite a bit of yardage. If I remember the story correctly, they'd been pulled out of a dumpster by someone else. They landed on my doorstep, and I remember putting them away in tubs in the garage, for "someday."

Someday arrived this past week when, sick from a virus and at home for a few days, I pulled them out and began to extricate them from their various bindings. These are seriously luxurious fabrics, ranging from intricately embroidered silks, to linen, velvet, flax and more. That they might have ended up in the landfill is appalling.

It's true that most of them are small pieces, ranging from about 6 inches to 2 feet square. But, I am a collage artist, which means I work with a lot of small pieces. As I've sorted and touched all this fabric, I've had visions of pillows, scarves, table runners, aprons, fabric-covered journals and more. My family is rather amused at just how excited I've been about the piles of fabric littering the family room.

There is something about fabric and the act of sewing that transcends generations and cultures. We need the homespun and the durable for work and play; if we're lucky, we may get to dabble with and enjoy more beautiful versions to enhance our lives. I think of all the women through history who have found joy in running fabric through their hands. I think of those who labor in sweatshops to make beautiful things they'll never enjoy.  I think of ancestors who labored in the textile mills in New England. History, connections, memory--the fabric of our lives.

By luck and happenstance, a very dear friend gifted me with a beautiful new sewing machine at Christmas. So I've had beautiful fabric and the right tool fall into my lap. No wonder the gears are turning! I'm looking forward to spending time re-immersing myself in fabric play this summer.

I do realize what a treasure trove I have here. And I realize what a treasure we all had in Myrna. I have no idea if she is still alive, but I tip my hat to her. Thanks for the teaching, the skills, the compassion, and for sparking creativity in a girl who thought she had none.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mini notebooks with monoprinted backgrounds


I periodically make huge batches of monoprints using plexiglass, various weights and textures of papers, and either ink, paint, alcohol ink, etc. This was a batch I made some months ago, utilizing various water-based dyes.

This week Ive been making up a number of mini composition notebooks. They're all lined and bound with washi tape, and utilize the monoprints, various embossed cardstock, and rubber stamping. Top left and top right both feature stamps by Viva Las Vegas Stamps, and bottom one, stamps by Artistic Outpost. These are fun little gifts to make and I try to always have some on hand. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Recent earrings

Late winter into spring is charity auction time, and I donate many jewelry pieces. Here are some earrings donated for an upcoming auction to benefit the local crisis nursery.




Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Man of Mystery

More recycled rehash. All the papers here (with the exception of the image of the central, collaged image), these papers were all created from assorted junk mail, embossed, painted and stamped to hide its humble origins. Some days I think I need never need buy paper again but--nah! :)

Recycling rehash

I'm getting ready to teach a workshop I owe to some folks, one that was delayed by a set of injuries to my right arm last year.

The premise of the workshop was card making with recycled materials. Here was an example, a card using recycled natural dryer sheets, packaging material, and painted collage pieces made from glossy junk mail. I love turning "trash" into treasure. I'll be drumming up new samples in the weeks to come.

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Random Reach" collages

Wherein I reach randomly into tubs holding bits and pieces of stuff and challenge myself to put something together. Grabbed vintage images of nude women, transparencies with doors. Added  metallic ink and some alcohol ink for colors. I like that these ATCs themed up around women's bodies and boundaries.




More quick "Random Reach" collages


Reached into boxes o' stuff for inspiration, randomly pulling backgrounds, embossed metal tape, acetate overlays. Here are two quick collages, working with green and yellow.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love the colors of "love day"

Love is love is love...every day, not just Valentine's, but here's a few pretties, made with handmade backgrounds, glitter, stamps and some leftovers from journal projects.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Rubber stamping was my gateway drug




As I venture back into art making and blogland after many months healing up from a broken wrist, severely pulled biceps tendon and dislocated thumb, I'm indulging in a little trip down memory lane.

Eleven years ago this month, on a sunny winter's day, I strolled across the street to my neighbor Jessica's for a Stampin Up! party. I honestly didn't know what Stampin Up! was, what I was attending, or why the exclamation point was there. What I did know is that I was mom to then not-quite three-year-old twins, and when offered the chance of two hours off, in the company of other women (people who spoke in whole sentences!), I did not walk, I ran.

To be clear, at that point I was not what you'd consider a creative person. I'd sewn a little, beaded a little, done some flower arranging, and I was a decent writer. But my eighth-grade art teacher's caution that I should give up any pretensions to art was one I'd heeded.

At the stamping workshop, I felt a little out of my element, but the demonstrator was friendly and made me feel that I could do what she was doing. She guided us through some hands-on projects: a card, and a couple of cool gift boxes. But when she demonstrated heat embossing, and the muddy-colored granulated substance she applied to paper turned to GOLD--well, I was hooked.

I am a very good researcher, and that workshop launched me on what I can only describe as an odyssey to learn about everything related to stamping. I spent sleepless nights trawling the web. In those pre-social media days, one of the ways to connect with others who shared your passions was via Yahoo Groups. There, I met a global community of kind, patient and encouraging souls. There were an unbelievable number of groups--and stamping companies, stamping products, and tutorials. I was hungry and I fervently believed that though I could not draw a straight line, I could create something pretty.

I believe I spent the next two years mostly collecting stuff. But somewhere along the line, and vastly encouraged by those kind souls, I began to Play. Stamps led to ink, which led to paint, and gesso, and molding paste, stencils, found objects, ephemera, collage...you get the picture. By the time I became familiar with Tim Holtz and his Products of Wonder, my fate was sealed, and I found a phrase that resonated: mixed media. I'd always balked at doing the same thing over and over and I'm fairly adventurous, so that worked. Mixed media!

And then of course, there were the Swaps. Artist Trading Cards, cards, canvases, jewelry, chunky books, techniques, decos, altered books, round robin journals. Oh my, I spent years creating and swapping with some very talented women (and a few men). Many of them are my friends today, and though I limit my swaps to a special few with old friends, I keep my box of these treasures.

I still love stamps and use them, though not as much or as I did back then. I've settled in what I know to be my style: slightly grungy, unapologetically colorful, very piecey. Somewhere along the line I picked up paintbrushes and pliers and added those to my repertoire. When not injured or recovering, I create a wide variety of stuff for friends and local auctions. I still struggle with the term artist, but I am a person who enjoys the creative process.

My husband's eyes glaze when I talk about this stuff, but he nods knowingly when I say that rubber stamping was my gateway drug. I tell him not to think too hard about it and just enjoy the pretty things.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Blog Hiatus

This blog has been on hiatus for a while and I will likely resume posting here this spring. Meanwhile, I am posting some current projects under my name at Pinterest. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"What being in the Creek Feels Like"

This 6 x 8 piece uses dye-based inks, embossing enamel, gold pigment, white acrylic, black India Ink, torn decorative papers, recycled twine (from something mailed to me), a bit of ribbon, a used Canadian stamp, shreds of packing material, and strips of torn brown cello bag from the bulk department at my local food co-op. I am frequently using "junk" in my collages these days. Feels good to re-purpose stuff,

Thursday, June 7, 2012

How does one begin to thank a teacher?

I made this piece for Mrs. Palow, who has taught one, and sometimes two, of my children over the past six years. I cannot express what she has done for my kids and how much I adore her. This was a canvas board I'd painted some time ago. I collaged it for her, wrote a letter and added it to an envelope  glued on the back.

The door is inspired by one done in a Fat Book swap some years ago. The door is from Altered Pages and it's oil pastels for color.

How can one begin to thank someone who touches lives and open doors the way she does?