inspiration where you find it

Yesterday I had the chance to watch a great documentary, called 'Rivers and Tides'. It's about a Scottish sculptor named Andy Goldsworthy and the creativity exercises he does. He goes outside and makes art with natural objects, sometimes deliberately placing them where they will be destroyed when the tide comes in, or the wind comes up. He makes beautiful, if temporary pieces this way. Rent the movie and watch it.

Today is one of the first warm spring days here in Illinois, so I took a walk and tried it. This piece was made by gathering oak bark and twigs in a small area, and laying them out ala a log cabin. I made three pieces in all, the biggest around 12" square. It's a very freeing exercise to stimulate creativity--because I knew it probably wouldn't be there tomorrow, and because all the supplies were free, I just played. It would be very easy to enter a meditative state doing this. Try it.

The other thing I have been doing on my walks is taking pictures of the cold patches on the asphalt--for some reason I keep seeing one of my personal symbols, the kayak, on the road...haven't figured out what to do with them, but they're cool I think.


Dance of the Blue Slash

Sometimes I intentionally work in series, exploring a certain idea, exploiting the same inspiration. Sometimes I find a series when I'm two or three pieces into it, when I lay the pieces side by side and realize the connection. Sometimes I've forced things into a series for expediency, as in the planning for my website (soon to be coming to a cyberspace near you). And sometimes the series just explode into my studio, linking the pieces together with some kind of synergy springing from my artistic brain, bypassing my scientific brain.

The Dance of the Blue Slash series is a prime example of the last kind. It began on the kokopelli quilt I discussed before, where the unfinished piece needed some bright blue pieces. I dyed a piece of silk the right color, and fused part of it. I cut off the pieces I needed, and they worked. But I had cut more than I needed, and so there were extras laying on the chest right beside my design wall.

So the March buckeye piece came along, and needed a border. The blue slashes jumped over and formed the border.

Next came an abstract view of the hills around me in their winter dullness...it needed the blue, too, five tiny pieces on the surface, floating in the space between the hills.

Fourthly, there was a piece of silk I had painted abstractly from a memory of the wooded riverbank in late fall--greys, rusts, some blues and a touch of yellow here and there. Although I had added some texture to the piece by pleating it, the piece was unfinished. Until the blue slashes said, hey, make us long and skinny and we'll fit between the pleats and spark the piece up. They do. I currently am trying to fight the fact that this piece would like to be in a windsock shape with a light inside of it--being silk, it glows...the mechanics of that are still giving me pause.

And fifthly, there was a small practice piece that has been kicking around for months. It is a prime example of more is more, having every technique I've been using lately on it almost. But it wasn't quite right, not finished. The small blue slashes danced on to it, and found a home. The piece is now quilted and ready to mat. The edges are uneven and ravelling, but I like it now.


March Buckeye

Spring is finally coming to the midwest, slowly but surely. The temperatures are milder, the grass is greening up, migratory birds have returned.
I decided that this month I wanted to use an actual photo of the buckeye as a basis for the piece. When I went outside to shoot it, I discovered the swelling buds were calling my camera. This closeup has been cropped and manipulated in Photoshop Elements, and printed on silk. I then fused it to a neutral piece that was slightly larger.
These scraps of sky blue were left over from the moon dance piece I talked about last time, and they make a good border--kind of like the sky peeking out with that intense blue we only get at this latitude in spring and fall.
I've been taking a course at Quilt University in using new, nontraditonal stuff. Through that I got entrapped the last few days with transparent ribbon--I'm trying to put it on everything. I used it as a binding on the knots piece (a dark blue that finishes the piece but lets the varigation in the fabric underneath show through), as a border on another piece. And now as strips across this piece. And as part of the beads.

Anyone who knows my art work well would tell you that I am fascinated by the effects of fire and heat on things. I frequently burn the edges of silk, and now I have added melted ribbon to the mix. The strips were first disperse dyed, then sewn in place. Then I melted them with a heat gun hovering over them. I then quilted the background, I wish I had done that before the strips were added, but these pieces are the equivalent of sketches--I learn from the doing, I don't redo them unless they really don't come out (hence the cutup earlier version of this picture currently residing in my stash of bits and pieces).
Wanting to add a dimensional touch, this morning I got the idea of trying to make rolled beads out of the ribbon. I rolled a short length around a wooden skewer, and added some small pieces of another sheer organdy on top. After pinning the ends in place, I went at it with the heat gun. It fused the layers together, and added texture at the same time. The base ribbon has a yellow edge on it, so when I was done the beads echoed the shape of buds on the buckeye.

March is a changeable time in the midwest, 60 one day, 30 the next. Grey one day, clear and windy the next. But it is a time when hope returns, when life returns. By next month the buckeye will probably be in full bloom, I'll be mowing, be outside without a coat. That will be good.