Updating a 2020 artist statement

In early 2020, I participated in an art show at Webster University called “Back to Our Roots”. I dedicated my entry for the show to my late friend Mark Reed who passed away in 2018. At the time I was in this show, I started an artist statement to go along with my entry and I put it on one of my web sites. Like a lot of my projects, it grew bigger and more elaborate than I planned at first, and is still in progress. I ended up including grief about several other things in the process which is one of the reasons the series got bigger and bigger. It’s expanded almost to the size of a mini book, kind of like a mini memoir using my art journal and artwork as a jumping off point to write about my life so far.

My original intention in starting these pages which I’ll link to below was to help me process my grief over Mark and explain what my art journals were all about. At the “Back To Our Roots” opening I included little pieces of paper with the QR code to my web site so that show visitors could access the artist statement in progress from smartphones. The show was forced to close early, first from vandalism and then from COVID-19, so not very many people were able to see the original show.

Since I began the project, I have experienced more grief of an even more serious magnitude. It was caused by the type of trauma that when I hear about similar things happening to others I ask myself “how do people live through that”? I’m doing a lot better, thanks to therapy and a lot of writing and art making. While I’m getting better, there are people I know getting one piece of bad news after another. I just heard this morning from a friend whose family, like mine, has recently been impacted by suicide. For all those out there who hear bad news and wonder “how do people live through this”, or are wondering how they are going to cope with something in their own life, maybe my artist’s statement ongoing project will help.

If you would like to read what I’ve written so far, here is an index to all the existing “chapters” in progress. Just click the “back” and “next” graphical buttons to navigate forward or backward.

A. Introduction

B. John Ortbals design class and the projects Mark and I both did

C. The hand that wounds

D. Gardening

E. Shape pictures and clay objects with Mark

F. The gratitude and lack of fear of creating shown by a child

G. The courage to do a Mail Art project again after over 20 years

H. Coloring with adults and kids in a house full of art and art books, including prints by possibly my biggest visual art influence

I. Parts from an old project that I have revisited more than once

J. The ‘zines at Webster University in the art building

K. Finally getting on to a design team

L. Gallery in a box and the Book Arts shows

M. Permission from God to make art again and building a new life

N. Collage made with Mark’s artwork that helped give me the idea for this show

O. Mark coming out and changing his art to LGBTQ themes

P. Letting back in playfulness and conceptual art – #12daysoftomsbeard

Q. Mark’s memorial page

An uplifting trip to Bloomington, Indiana and inspiration from sports

The 2022 Winter Olympics are going on right now. When I was younger, I used to really enjoy watching the Olympics. It was inspiring to watch a competition from beginning to end knowing that for some of the athletes, the years of dedication were going to pay off for them in a big way. These days I’m not tuning in because apparently it’s impossible to watch a whole competition without buying a subscription to something I don’t want, or doing something shady with VPNs. It’s not worth the hassle.

Fortunately, I was able to experience the inspirational side of sports by going on a road trip with Tom to Indiana University for a track meet in January. Tom sometimes takes jobs as a track meet official on weekends. I had a great time watching Tom and watching some of the competition. I needed to get some walking in to help recover from my recent broken foot, so I walked from the hotel to the Harry Gladstein Fieldhouse where the meet was taking place. Along the way, I noticed a lot of fine limestone sculpture and limestone architecture.

I was reminded of one of my favorite books from when I was a pre-teen – Breaking Away. I bought the Scholastic Book Services version of the novel and later on I saw the movie. Indiana University is the setting for the book and the movie. In the Breaking Away story, the local young people were looked down on by some of the university students. They were nicknamed “cutters” as an unflattering reference to limestone quarrying being a major industry in the area. When I saw all the limestone, it brought back memories of the book and movie. Tom and I are going to be going back to Indiana University again, and when we do I hope to do more exploration of the stone architecture on campus. It’s really impressive! I might even see if I can get Tom to watch the movie before we go because I know he would enjoy seeing where some of the scenes were filmed.

After the track meet, since it was January and not the most comfortable time for leisurely strolls around campus, we went to the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art for some indoor art viewing. There is a lot to see in there. We toured it for three hours and didn’t come close to absorbing everything to my satisfaction, so I’ll be back. There is also a greenhouse on campus you can tour which I didn’t get to on this recent trip. I want to visit more indoor and outdoor sites the next time we go.

Seeing the college athletes competing helped inspire me to work hard to overcome my injury, and the wonderful art fired up the creative part of me. Overall, this trip was a huge boost to wellness. A road trip sure helps uplift my mind, body and soul. I’m looking forward to doing it again soon!

To see the pictures I took along my walk and inside the Field House, go to this photo album and click the right arrows:

Assorted Hikes and “Daily” Walk Photos

To see the pictures I took inside the museum, go to this photo album and click the right arrows:

Museum Visits

Paper Art and Crafting Technique – Making Templates From Chipboard

Directly above is a faux postage stamp sheet collage I started almost a year ago. Here is how it began. I was sorting through some old papers and I found two computer printouts that another artist had sent to me as mail art a long time ago. The printouts were of faux postage designs featuring computer manipulated photos of Ray Johnson – an artist who is considered by many to have been the founder of the modern mail art movement. Ray Johnson is the subject of a lot of mail art projects. I participated in one such project myself in the fall of 2019. I also featured some pictures of Ray Johnson in my #12daysoftomsbeard art project because when my husband Tom is clean shaven, he looks so much like Ray Johnson that when I was working on the mail art project, Tom thought at first glance that I was using pictures of him!

In the same stack of old papers, I found an advertising booklet that had black and white portraits similar in size to the Ray Johnson portraits in the old printouts. At least they were close enough in size to possibly be used together in a faux postage design. I took a faux postage base I made a long time ago and use a lot and started laying down the portrait pictures on it to get ideas.

I originally had the idea to put the smaller portraits inside silhouettes of the Ray Johnson images and alternate the two on the stamp sheets. I made templates from scrap chipboard to help me cut multiple silhouettes and negatives of silhouettes from colorful paper scraps to play around with. I ended up saving the smaller black and white portraits for a future project and I kept the Ray Johnson images for this set of stamp sheets.

When I make chipboard templates for a collage or other project, I keep them in folders named after the project they were made for so if I want to I can use them over and over for related art projects. If I’m really turned on by the designs, I am likely to use the templates many times. I also made a bunch of rectangle templates to go with my faux postage stamp background, using tracing paper as an aid to finding which piece goes where on the collage. I numbered the chipboard pieces and their position on the tracing paper to help me get organized the next time I use the templates.

I arranged the different colored small rectangles on my collage sheets where I wanted them. I glued on the Ray Johnson images, some miscellaneous found images, and used black permanent Sharpie markers and stencils to draw on some bold designs in black marker. I printed out postage stamp related words, phrases and images with black permanent stamping ink onto white blank sticker paper, cut them out and stuck them on my collages to make them look even more like sheets of imaginary stamps.

I thought they needed more texture to look finished so I used freehand drawing plus stencils again to apply marks with paint markers and colored pencils. The final marks I applied were a bit of colored pencil outlining the white sticker pieces to make them look more integrated with the whole.

Here are the commercial stencils I used in the project. They were designed by the Crafter’s Workshop company:

Mini Patterns

Mini Shape Landscape

Mini X Trail

Mini Rows of Lines

I probably will display the resulting “stamp” sheets as framed collages some time in the future. I’ve scanned them into the computer where they will be reduced to a smaller size so that they look more like real postage stamps. Then I’ll print out and distribute the finished stamp sheets to some other mail artists. Many mail artists collect faux postage as art or use the resulting stamps as part of another piece of mail artwork.

State of the Studio

Today is a good day to put away some of the partly finished projects I have lying around. It’s been almost three months since I broke my foot and toes and bruised up or sprained my shin area so bad it’s still somewhat swollen. I no longer have to sit for long periods of time with my foot elevated every day – it’s healing more and more. And it’s not a big chore to get up and down the stairs any more.

During the last three months I needed to have lots of projects within arms reach so I’d have something creative to work on to pass the time. I have more unfinished projects around than usual because sometimes I’d reach a stopping point where I would have to get up a lot, and instead of getting up I’d temporarily stop that project and start another one.

I do normally like to have projects around in various states of completion, because when I have a certain amount of time available for a work session I’m more productive if I can pick a task that fits the amount of time I have available. But they can’t all be out at one time. Some of it is going to be put away for awhile. To make the task more fun and to help me remember later what I was going to do, today I’m documenting each project before I put it away. I’ll keep adding pics to this page as I work. Enjoy!

Paint sample cards I used during #12daysoftomsbeard in 2020-21 and 2021-22. Together they make me really excited about color!
Tom challenged me to make some little collages with pictures of food. I was in a rainbow color mood so I took this wrapping paper from the Christmas gift he gave me and tried to match food pictures with paint samples and the wrapping paper. I originally meant to cut this up, but I started liking it as a whole. I decided to tape it to the wall temporarily for inspiration and to use as a #12daysoftomsbeard picture backdrop. I don’t know if I will try to get the wrinkles out of the wrapping paper and frame this as is, or use it for inspiration for a more serious art piece. Either way, I know I’ll want to get it out again someday!
Ornaments I made from bells I bought from Lee Wards (that’s how old they are) and upcycled jewelry that I took apart. Ornaments are a great excuse to use components and beads that are a bit more “loud” or “plastic” than I would normally use in jewelry for me to wear. Unless it’s for some kind of costume. I still love bright shiny things! So making ornaments is always a great treat for me. I was inspired by mid-century modern silver tinsel trees when I made these. I don’t own one – but I do own one of the rotating colored lights – waiting for the day that I may or may not get a silver tree. But until then, I got a kick out of these silver bells and bright colors that would look really good with one of those trees.
I cut these stocking parts out in 2018 hoping to do some beaded embroidery on cream colored satin. This is going back in the Christmas projects box for now. All I did this year is look at it!
I made a little bit more progress on this other project I started in 2018. I picked out what sequins and beads to use to finish it off, and bought blanket edging for the border. Dad took me to go buy the edging because I couldn’t drive at the time. It felt so good to be in a craft store even though I only needed one thing! Of course that doesn’t mean I only BOUGHT one thing…
One finished Christmas necklace, and four more in progress. They are made from upcycled ribbon and trim, felt, sequins and beads. They are little pockets with a snap closure for the flap. The chain is not attached. You can change the chain or cord by just sliding it through the flap.
Here is a stuffed pig and the front of a stocking on which I sewed strips of scrap fabric. The pig just needs to be stuffed and have the tail put on. I have several stockings started. I’m going to at least finish sewing on strips before I put the stockings away because they are laid out in the order I want to use them.

Now my studio is tidy! Time to have some fun!

Home makeover beginning and counting my blessings

Sometimes life smacks you in the face several times in a row and reminds you to put your circumstances in perspective. I own a house that I am working on fixing up. There are several things I’m considering doing with it once it’s done. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy DIY projects and perhaps planning some bigger projects for it that I’ll need to hire some help to complete. This is a diverting and enjoyable task, even though the events behind me getting this house to work on are quite sad. It’s therapeutic to try to turn the sadness into something even more beautiful and useful than this cute house already is.

I have been frustrated because of breaking my foot in October and having to halt my work for awhile. I had a second fall later next to our workbench and landed on my miter saw! I was lucky that I only got a superficial sawtooth scratch down my arm from that. I might have a scar but who cares considering how serious it COULD have been. Now my foot has improved enough for me to do a little more and I did some cleaning and organizing in the kitchen earlier this week while I churned ideas in my head. I’ve made a Pinterest board to help me brainstorm and plan – Bungalow Project.

Today at my desk taking a lunch break, I brainstormed and fantasized about home decor topics, such as collectibles and furniture I want to get out of storage when the house is ready to stage and display, paint schemes, tile ideas, etc. No I’m not a real estate professional but I am a design professional (not specifically in home decor) so hopefully I can grow creatively while I work. I am blessed to have the luxury of being able to tackle this kind of project rather than worrying about whether I am even going to have a home to live in this winter, like a friend of mine is doing right now.

An old friend of mine from the Route 66 Association of Missouri sent me an invite to his GoFundMe drive which he initiated to try to collect enough rent money to avoid being evicted from his apartment. With his permission, I’m including a link here in case anyone wants to contribute, share ideas, or spread the word – Fundraiser by Gary Adkins.

Because I know how fortunate I am, I have made contributions to this and other causes this holiday season as I do each year. I can’t help everybody who needs it and deserves it, no one person can. With so many people in distress, it can get overwhelming and seem hopeless. Maybe helping prevent homelessness for one person would be extra satisfying because I can find out the outcome later and see concrete results. If my injury was as serious as this friend’s injuries, and my situation was different, what state would I be in? I have been blessed to go over five decades without ever having an injury as serious as my recent one, and I don’t even need surgery to fix it. I just have to be patient and wait and try to stay healthy in the meantime. How much would it take for any one of us to be in the position of having to ask for help? Temporarily I have had to ask for help with things like driving and shopping while my foot heals. I’m not used to that and it’s sobering. I am grateful for what I can do and for everyone who is helping someone in need, whoever it is.

Instructions for #12daysoftomsbeard

WHAT: If you have ordered something from my Etsy store recently, or if you get a Christmas card from me, you will find inside one or both of the following invitations for #12daysoftomsbeard.

Invitations with tags to decorate. Sometimes I include a little packet of paper ephemera to help people get ideas or inspiration, if they need it. If you want an invitation and did not get one in the mail, you can download one at this link – #12daysoftomsbeard tag invite.

These tags are intended for drawing on or decorating, then sending back to me, so that I can hang them on Tom’s beard each day from December 25 to January 6. During that time I will take a crazy picture of the results to put on social media for people to find when they search for the hashtag #12daysoftomsbeard. Last year Tom and I experimented with different lighting effects, backgrounds and filters to come up with something unusual each day. Last year I tried to group the beard art items, background and filters by color because bright colors usually go far toward cheering and inspiring me.

Here are some examples of tags I decorated last year, a couple that people sent in to me, and a few images that resulted.

WHY: We mostly like to do this because it’s a lot of fun, and it makes us laugh! You should have seen my MIL’s reaction when she saw the orange picture of Tom! “What have you done to my son!!!” We could do this without any participation from others, but we appreciate it whenever anyone wants to join in. It’s an extra creative challenge to use something someone else sent in, and it’s a way to connect with people who are sometimes separated by distance or who I don’t even know in “real life”.

Why do people paint rocks and leave them for others to find? Why do Jeep owners put rubber ducks on random other Jeeps? Why did I put a banana peel on my head earlier this year and have my picture taken with it on? Why did people in Toronto make a memorial display for a dead raccoon and share it on social media? Group activities and performance art projects are a satisfying activity for some reason, for quite a few people. I will probably write more later about the psychological reasons why that is the case.

Earlier this year I started a SWOT analysis of #12daysoftomsbeard to try to use some of what I learned in marketing class to try to increase participation this year. I didn’t finish the analysis yet, but I will keep adding onto it in the future as I finish sections. Here it is if you want to read what I have written so far – SWOT Analysis of #12daysoftomsbeard.

HOW – One idea I want to try for increasing participation is to provide some more specific instructions. The wording on the invitations reads: “To play, color, glue, punch, stamp or otherwise decorate this tag.” For some people, that will be enough guidance, others might feel comfortable with something more specific.

I am going to suggest techniques to try, and post examples here on this page. Watch this space as I add them! Since I like to use mixed media a lot, it will be a challenge for me to use just one technique at a time, so maybe I’ll try that. Enjoy!

Drawing

Coloring

Stenciling

Stickers

Hole punches

Design tape – also known as Washi tape or Paper tape

Collage

Rubber Stamping

Image Transfers

?????????? – What other techniques could be used?

Here is a link to a slideshow of images from the web page of IUOMA – The International Union of Mail Artists. I’ve been uploading the beard pictures to this gallery as I go. Intermixed are images that other people are uploading of conceptual art that they are both sending and receiving. This slide show changes daily as new images get added and older ones drop off. It might give you some ideas! Sometimes I put this slideshow on the screen while I’m working for extra inspiration!

Slide show of photos from IUOMA

One of my best ever Christmas memories isn’t even from Christmas day…

…it’s from St. Nicholas Day! The stocking in this picture is from the 1970s. My Mom made a pair of these one year to put St. Nicholas Day treats in for my brother and I when we were kids. If my memory is correct, we each had a bag of white chocolate covered pretzels and a bag of little plastic toys. Larry had cowboys and Indians (that’s what we called them then!), and I had dinosaurs. I loved the insanely bright colors my dinosaurs came in – loud grass green, super yellow and hot red. Propped up near the stockings was a Chipmunks Christmas album. It’s hard to describe how much fun we had with these items! We played the album to death and I know we had fun with the toys. Decades later some of them would be unearthed from the soil under potted plants that used to stand in for “the jungle” during “adventures”. For some reason that St. Nicholas Day stands out more vividly than almost any other Christmas memory.

I’ve been trying to get my act together to make some new St. Nicholas Day crafts to bring back some of these memories and make new happy memories but I didn’t get on it in time. Like last year, I looked for some Dutch shoe patterns and looked at a Christmas and Winter Crafts Pinterest board I’ve been using to collect ideas for a few years but that’s as far as I got. The meaning of St. Nicholas Day is worth knowing and contemplating.

Tom knows how special these stockings and St. Nicholas Day are for me and he had a treat ready for me in one of them this morning. So now I have a big smile on my face! Thank you Tom! I love you!

Christmas Trees from scrap fabric

I made another item for my Woodland Animals and Accessories retail display project. There are several versions of this project floating around out there, but I got the idea for this tree from a blog called Crafting Cheerfully. The Crafting Cheerfully version is on the left and my version is on the right. I made mine with a hanging loop instead of putting it on a garland because I don’t know how many I’m going to end up making. I do want to make more though, after trying the acorn pattern next.

Trees made of fabric scraps
I’ve finished three stockings so far and I have more in progress. On the right are a couple of samples of paper flowers I made a few years ago that go well with the look I’m going for in this group, so I got them out to add to my display.

Here is a link to my Pinterest “Mood Board” where I’m posting finished items and inspirations.

Sewing Ideas: Woodland Animals and Accessories

Christmas craft bender 2021 edition

Woodland animals sewn from a commercial pattern using upcycled and leftover fabrics.

Even though I have a great deal to be thankful for, due to recent bereavement and a frustrating injury that is still a problem I was in a pretty bad mood for last week’s Thanksgiving holiday. Sewing has been keeping me from feeling a lot worse. Fortunately I’ve been really excited about making craft items to hopefully be used in a retail display someday. If all the parts aren’t done for this year I’m aiming for the next. One of the things I’m learning to get better at as I work on my Master’s degree is merchandising and displays. I wrote a paper in 2020 about some ideas I want to try and this project is an attempt at realizing some of what I wrote about. The professor wanted me to write the project as if it was a company with 50 employees, so I made it pretty ambitious and one person can’t do it overnight! So while some people have asked me if I want to sell these stuffed animals I just made, for now that is not the plan. They are inspiration for a “collection” that is going to have a lot of parts. I did find a person on Etsy who is selling some of the animals from this pattern for a very reasonable price.

I’ve wanted to try the pattern shown in the image above, Simplicity 1549, for awhile so this seemed like a good time. Sometimes I like to design my own patterns but this one was so cute I could not resist! I used all upcycled or leftover fabric for my versions. I didn’t make the owl yet because I think it’s kind of out of scale and I have another owl pattern I like better that I might enlarge a bit and use later. I do have some bird patterns for adding some woodland songbirds eventually as well.

The deer and the fox are harder to sew than the raccoon and the bunny because of their small size. I did make it harder for myself with some of my fabric choices – because I was using upcycled fabric and was initially making my choices based on color and pattern and texture, I didn’t consider the fabric thickness that much and I ended up using upcycled khaki shorts and upholstery fabric for the deer which were thick enough that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to turn all the parts inside out! But somehow I did it. If I ever sew the deer again I’ll enlarge the pattern AND use thinner fabrics so it’s not so difficult.

I’m continuing with my interpretation of a woodland/lodge theme as I make more items. Here are a couple of stockings I made with a pattern that my Mom used circa the late ’70s or early ’80s.

I altered the stocking ornament to make it a bit bigger, and I changed where the top piece was placed to make them a little longer. I used a scrapbooking stencil that my friend Julie gave me a long time ago to trace the leaves out of felt for the fronts. There are going to be more of these, and they will have a hanging loop.

I remember Mom making the tree skirt from this pattern, the ornaments, and I think the wreath. I’m not sure if she made the large stockings or not. I don’t remember seeing them if so. I know Dad still has the tree skirt and ornaments. She also made a matching table runner which Dad still has.

The memories this pattern brings back are intense. It was more exciting than I can say to be a young crafter watching my Mom make all these items (and much more!). And it’s difficult to describe the bittersweet feeling of finding those fabric scraps you see there in the envelope when I was getting out the pattern pieces. There are tears falling and drying on my keyboard as I write this. Mom probably put those scraps in there so she’d know what fabric to get more of if she ran out. They were probably in there for at least 40 years. The awareness of what has happened to our family between then and now is pretty shocking, and I know we are not alone. It’s part of the human condition, and crafting and the arts are great gifts from our creator that are powerful aids in helping us cope.

Each holiday season involves both the past and the future. To turn my thoughts back to the future for now, here is a Pinterest board as I made as kind of a “mood board” for this project. If you find the theme I’m working with inspiring you might want to check it out!

Sewing Ideas: Woodland Animals and Accessories

I finished Experimental Art Quilts #2 and #3

I started making this series of experimental art quilts for two main purposes – to learn some hand quilting skills, and to have fun challenging myself to try to make art with upcycled scrap fabrics.

I decided to treat these pieces in a similar manner to some of my art journal pages. I thought of the fabric scraps as equivalent to the paper scraps that start off a lot of my art journal pages. Then I used the quilting stage to kind of draw with thread over and around the scraps like I would draw with pens and pencils on an art journal page. These were intended as art for the wall and not functional quilts so I had a lot of freedom to experiment with different fabrics and textures. Following are pictures of each piece and some process photos I took while I was making them so you can get an idea of how they were constructed. Enjoy!

Experimental Art Quilt #2
Originally this was going to be a sample for a JoAnn class for beginners I was interested in teaching. It was supposed to be four 6 inch squares with embroidery on them. Then I got inspired and started adding and adding and adding parts…
I wanted to get the embroidered parts right so I plotted some of them out on the computer first by using Adobe Illustrator to draw lines over a picture of the quilt to see how it might look. The final step was to outline it with blanket edging that I bought at JoAnn. I also bought the rick-rack, tulle, and yellow sheer ribbon there. I bought the batting online from my wholesaler and all the other fabrics were upcycled or leftovers. There are a few scraps in there that I printed with rubber stamps, a few scraps from my Mom’s stash, a few pieces from a dress I wore in 1985 and a piece of curtains that my Mom made for my room in the early 1980s!
Finished Experimental Art Quilt #3
I assembled strips from scraps and used the reverse applique technique to insert then between strips taken from upcycled bed sheets and pillow cases. The large scale black and white Aztec-looking print was taken from my favorite shirt in the 80s. These are remnants of the sleeves and collar that I cut off when I made a vest out of it a couple of years ago. The color scheme is a result of having some fun with one colorful strip among all neutrals to make a focal point.
I added a border made of tubes of leftover fabric, then decided the piece needed a bit more color and to draw attention to the focal point a little more. I added a strip of leftover brighter colored fabric and started on the embroidery. I used tracings inspired by a shirt I’m still working on that was inspired by my old shirt from the 80s. Then I embroidered through the tracing paper and tore away the paper after I stitched it.

Experienced quilters looking at these pieces I’m sure are aware I need a lot more technical skill and knowledge before I’m a “real” quilter, that’s why I call these “experimental”. One thing I’m thinking about doing this winter is learning to make a traditional quilt block to help with my skills in repairing a vintage quilt I started working on last winter. I’m looking forward to learning new skills as always! And I expect I’ll keep making experimental art quilts (I have ideas and the beginnings of two more already) because it’s fun and it’s useful to have portable projects I can carry around with me.

My Experimental Art Quilts 1-3 are for sale as wall art – if you are interested here are links to my listings on Etsy.

Experimental Art Quilt #1

Experimental Art Quilt #2

Experimental Art Quilt #3