Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Par Avion

I love reading Maggie Grey's blog because she is such a creative person, and she shares her working methods and ideas so generously on her blog and in her books. Earlier this month she announced a give-away on her blog, and, feeling adventurous, I replied in the comments, hoping to be one of the random picks. And gosh! I was! Today, par avion, (sounds so much more exotic in French) I received an envelope of random supply loveliness, plus a sample bit of Maggie's work, which you can see in all its bronze-y glory on the right.

There are pieces of material I have read about and not yet tried, like Lutradur and Sizoflor, some interesting prints and painted fabric, a gorgeous piece of etched velvet (the dark piece in the center- trust me, it is yummy),  and some intriguing water-soluble film that is quite thick. I had never seen film that thick.  Confession: I did wonder when I pulled what looked like a sheet of clear vinyl out of the envelope, so I did a quick "wet finger" test. Aha! It melts! This is going to be fun!

One of the most valuable pieces to me is the sample of Maggie's work. I am a hands-on person (see Confession above). That is why I have always loved things made of fiber, things that are stitched, and things that are beaded. I want to poke and prod and tease layers apart a little to see how something was made. Even the best photography cannot replace the experience of holding a piece of fiber art in your hands. So, thank you Maggie, and thank you Providence, for sending this little bit of work to me. It is not going to be a Don't Touch piece. I will cart it around and show it to my friends. We will hold it in our hands, and turn it over and look at the back. We will lift a bit of the top layer up and peek at what lies underneath. We will Discuss.

A Detail

This is a detail shot of the Tea Towel Saint. The scanned painting was printed on muslin with my inkjet printer, and then hand embroidered and beaded. To give you a sense of scale, those are size 11 seed beads. The embossed frame around the saint was a gold edge to some holiday ribbon. I just heat-gun melted the ribbon part off, and painted what remained so it would not be so bright gold.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Been painting.

I didn't start out with the intention of painting on old book pages. I started out with the intention of making an "altered book." You know, like everybody was making? I chose the perfect book to destroy: a college textbook about Gestalt Therapy. I shall not go into details about my relationship with college psychology classes except to say slicing that book into tiny pieces was- and continues to be- therapeutic.

However, I discovered that making an altered book was simply not my thing. So I stopped. But I had all these little oblong-shaped pieces of text-covered paper that were really nice for watercolors, and I had been reading books about icon painting. And from that came all these imaginary saints.

And then came the scanning, and the printing on muslin, and the stitching, and so on and so forth. Including the rescue of a big, blowsy, slightly crushed organdie hat flower from the trash at the theatre. The shells on the bottom are actually shell-shaped pailllettes. They were the correct shape, but the color of red and purple sequins, so I just painted them to look like verdigris.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Performance Art

It is difficult to imagine this big wonderful set has completely disappeared, but it has. We saved the balusters, because so many theatre companies around here will be happy to borrow them. They are not easy to construct, so it is prudent to save them. But with very little storage space, the rest of the set was dismantled, and much of it is bound for recycling and the great beyond. We have sold off some of the furniture pieces bought or constructed for the show. All that are left are memories and photographic documentation. I guess that makes me a performance artist!
The backdrops are digital projections. They were designed by the set designer, Jason Phillips. The rest of the set was of course designed by Jason, but is almost all my handwork. I was very proud of the concierge desk below. The faux marble top fooled a few people until they got right up to it.
This last one is what I call a "stealth photo." It was taken by an actor during the performance. She was standing in one of tunnels. The audience is to your right. It is a great view of the clever roulette table our props master Tracy built from a broken table, carpet tube, leftover naugahyde, a lazy get the idea I'm sure. It looked brilliant, and we sold it to a small production company for a bit more than it cost to make (which was only $40.00!).

Monday, March 1, 2010


This is a piece I have been working on for about a year. Actually it has been brewing and bubbling since 2006, when Mr. B and I had to travel to a job site in San Diego, and had some time to visit the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park. A wonderful exhibit called Symbols of Identity: Jewelry of Five Continents was there at the time, and I just happened to have my sketchbook in my bag. I was particularly taken with something from Tibet- some kind of back ornament, I think- long and heavily laden with silver and tassels. This is the result of my enchantment, long and heavily laden with, well, stuff I had laying around the studio, of course. Beads. Pieces from a disintegrating quilt top I rescued from the trash at a laundromat when I was in my twenties. A large Pellon spiral I had cut for another project that didn't work out. Rubber stamps, hand carved by me and printed on more Pellon with metallic paint. Hand made tassles and deconstructed costume jewelry. Little things I constructed just because. More beads. (It's no secret. I have lots of beads.)

I had to put it away for a few months when it was nearly finished. I had simply lost my way with it. As often happens, the subconscious was still working on this piece while the conscious was applying itself to other projects, and when I brought it back to the work table a few weeks ago, I knew how to finish it.

I approached this project a little differently than I usually do. I usually begin with vague notions and optimism, but no real plan. This time, I began with detailed sketches, scribbled notes, little samples of embroidery, and a pretty clear idea of where I wanted to go. It was a good feeling to get those last stitches in the binding, stand back, and take a good long look tonight. Did I create the thing that was in my head? This time, yes, I think I did.