Saturday, 7 September 2019

Back To School Update: Fall 2018

Apologies for the delay in posting about my experiences with school last Fall. It has been an amazingly busy year with travel and art. But Fall 2019 is approaching so there is no more time for procrastination!

The best news of all about last Fall was that I met with faculty and advisors and we have come up with a plan for me to graduate in two more semesters! The changing curriculum and my slow pace with only taking classes in the fall so I can travel in winter made it a challenge. After reviewing my transcripts for previous education I was given credit for more courses which means I will only need to take primarily studio courses - wonderful!

I took three classes last Fall.

Fibre 327 was a directed studio. In this class we were able to focus on concepts and techniques of interest to us. I chose to take the time to do some research about the use of the body within contemporary art and to create pieces relating to the body. I also wanted to push my felt making expertise and experiment with techniques I hadn't tried. I learned a lot completing these four pieces.

The first one, Off Balance was a huge technical challenge of creating a hollow form using a resist, stuffing it, supporting it with an armature and incorporating a base.

Off Balance
Every so often, life pulls us ahead in all sorts of confusing directions into an unpredictable future. It unbalances us. Should we resist moving forward? Which path should we take? Off-balance is about that instant when we are faced with a challenging or confusing future. Everyone can be thrown off centre, It’s how we proceed that defines not only who we are but who we will become. The fibres on the base and incorporated into the body represent the paths that we have taken, the potential paths in the future and how they are integral to who we are.  

It's What's on the Inside
Over and over again we hear that it is what’s on the inside that counts. But in our visually-focused reality, how do we let our personality and inner-self shine through – and by doing so, do we risk losing something of who we are?

It’s What’s on the Inside represents this struggle. The literal display of “the inside,” and the lost fragments are a commentary on the challenges of representing who we really are to the outside world.

Suspension of Disbelief
Suspension of Disbelief is a representation of our ability to temporarily accept as credible something that we know to be incredible. Whether we are willingly able to suspend our disbelief as suggested by S.T. Coleridge or whether we are able to create imaginary worlds which operate under different logical rules as advocated by J.R.R. Tolkien, we overcome the pragmatism of reality and experience a host of emotions and unreal realities that make our lives richer. But with this can come a sense of absence or loss when we return to the reality of day-to-day life.

The suspended felt head armour (or chanfron and criniere) of a unicorn are intended to represent the beauty and wonder of the mythical while conveying its absence in the present reality. Positioning of the piece at head height with top lighting is intended to support the notion of a body being absent.

This piece was definitely my favourite but was also very tricky and involved creating and integrating seven prefects into the final piece. I submitted it to the Priddis and Millarville Fair this summer and it won the Award of Excellence for the Fibre. It can be worn as well so I'm thinking it may have another future. 

Like many other people, I was finding the political environment very disturbing last Fall which inspired the last piece.

It is human nature and comfortable for us to align ourselves with a belief system that makes sense to us, to associate with people who share the same views, and to seek out information that validates our beliefs. This tendency to polarize is being exacerbated within today’s political and social environment: the media clearly take polarized positions and seem to focus on fueling emotions rather than presenting information; families and friends are being divided by political dissention; and politicians tend to demonize those with different views rather than engage in knowledgeable debate.

Polarized is a visual commentary on the hazards of becoming polarized.  As we bath ourselves in what we want to hear and avoid re-examining our beliefs and considering other points of view, we run the risk of becoming encrusted  in our own narrow mindset.  
Yup - that's bee's wax on felt.

Painting 300 was a 3rd year studio class. From the get go, I asked my instructor to critique my work from a painter's perspective and to push me in ways I might not have thought of. One of the most important things that I got from this class was creating samples and trying to understand and explain the similarities and differences between blending colour with fibre versus paint. It is one of the things that has got me very interested in creating complex colours in felt.

Lots of experimentation with fibre, paint, fabric paint, and dying.

I have to admit that I put off taking PPRL  202 as long as I could. The issue was that a good part of the mark and effort involved group work which I was not looking forward to based on my experience at the school. In most circumstances I enjoy working in groups, but in school there are lot of dynamics which have the potential to go sideways. Suffice it to say that it was every bit as bad as I feared but I made it through and did well in the class. Despite the negatives of the group project, the rest of the course was extremely valuable. I learned a great deal about how contemporary art operates as a profession.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Back to School Update: Fall 2017

Last Fall was another great semester. Now that I am in 3rd year, the curriculum is shifting from experimenting broadly to focusing on our own practice directions.

I took an Art History course that focused on landscape and place within our local context. It was interesting to learn about local history and to gain a better understanding about the debates associated with landscape painting such as the works of the Group of Seven and Emily Carr.

In the studio classes I was able to turn my attention to felting and surface design.
In Fibre 312, we were given 4 concepts or ideas to work with.

 The first was about identity. Given the last Fall's time of heightened nationalism, political posturing, and mass refugee migration, it seemed that we were falling into an “us versus them” mindset. I chose to focus on identity in general rather than my identity. The message was that  despite our differences, we have a great deal in common with the rest of humanity - recognizing our commonalities can help us to understand and empathize with “others.”

Repair was another concept. In Heirloom Legacy I created an installation of items that I have inherited - the focal piece being my grandparents' lamp which I refurbished. The biggest challenge was recovering the lampshade with felt. It worked beautifully and is now a fully functional piece in my home.

In the third project we were challenged to create a garment that addresses a concept. The Gaze is intended to disturb the experience of looking at a garment and the body lying beneath it. The subject/object relationship is called into question as the subject looking at the garment becomes the object of the garment’s gaze.

The final project was to consider the concepts associated with "Pink".
Growing up during the feminist movement of the 70s I believed that I would, as a woman, have the opportunity and the agency to be a strong individual. For the most part, this has been true, but there have been challenges and compromises along the way. Since then there have been systemic changes that make it easier as a woman to obtain an education in a broader range of fields, to participate more equitably in employment, and to maintain personal safety, but issues clearly still remain and traditional values about the “female role” still pervade. It is more than a little dismaying that the Oxford Dictionary still defines femininity as: “having qualities or an appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness.”

Given this societal context, how does a woman frame herself as strong and yet feminine? Duality is about this challenge but also about celebrating the potential to be both – it is about embracing our own inner strength, taking hold of our own destiny, and framing ourselves as we want to be.

In Fibre 312, which focused on surface design, we were asked to define a series of our own objectives for the course and to create four to six projects that would help us achieve these objectives. This was perfect because I have a huge list of things I never get around to trying. I wanted to learn more about using different types of dyes and using resists and tying techniques. 

I particularly wanted to take the time to experiment with different surfacing techniques on felt. It was great fun and I can't wait until next Fall when I return to classes. This winter I am busy working in my studio, travelling and teaching workshops - life is great!

Friday, 8 September 2017

Millarville Fair Outcomes

The commemorative pillow challenge for the Millarville Fair got me motivated to submit some of my other work. I am very glad I did!
The pillow took first place as did Shamus for needle felting and 'Something's Fishy' for wet felting. 'Something's Fishy' was awarded best in the felt division. It was great fun and very rewarding to take part in this wonderful local fair.

Monday, 4 September 2017

More Felt Wall Hangings

What a fabulous summer - lots of warm sunny days and lots of days spent in my studio. Fall is coming very fast. I'll be back to school in a week and have several sales coming up so am busy making.
Green Floral #2
 Whimsical florals are always a joy to make.

Something's Fishy #2
I had so much fun creating 'Something's Fishy' that #2 was not far behind.

It is so interesting to see the fibre and resist embellishments resolve during the felting process. It is like unwrapping a Christmas present in slow motion.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

New Adventures with Felt Wallhangings

I love trying new things! I've done some experimenting before with shibori tying felt and adding on prefelt, but thought I would try creating some different types of relief on a 2 dimensional felt surface. 

In this one called 'Breakup', I overlaid the light blue felt and tucked in edges and stitched in some ridges to create  relief.

In 'Something's Fishy' I created the fish in prefelt and used resists to keep the fins from attaching to the background felt. 

A bit of 'stuffing' inside the fish created a quilted quality when stitched. The eyes are slices of felted marbles made from concentric circles of different colours.


Monday, 14 August 2017

Felt Pillow - Commemorating Canada's 150th Birthday

In an earlier Post about designing a commemorative pillow, I provided some pictures of its development and the inspiration. Here it is ... done!

It certainly was fun creating the landscape. It took a lot of thought and effort to pull it together into a finished piece. The buttons came from deer antler shed on our property.

One of the challenges was that I had to felt the piece to a much harder state than I would normally do for a wall hanging. As it continued to shrink the definition faded. Consequently there was much more stitching to regain detail. Lots of fun, but awkward to do on a pillow.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Back to School Update: Painting 223 - Methods and Methodology

One more painting class under my belt last Fall! As I have ranted before - for those of you who are not familiar with many of the contemporary art schools - painting classes are not about learning or refining technique, but about concepts and how to best relay them using a variety of media. Not surprisingly, as a second year course, we were required to experiment with different techniques and media.

Our first project was about consumption and, after doing several studies, I decided to try something completely different.  We have one of the most beautiful waste transfer sites in our community and I chose a view of a series of bins placed in what looks like a countdown. I decided to use "media" that would be going into the transfer site so ... this is a piece painted with garbage on the backside of an old art school project. Coffee grounds, egg, spinach, beets, burnt match sticks and anything else that was left over from supper went into this one. Enough said!

The second project was to be inspired by a quote about Andy Warhol by Mathew Collins (This is Modern Art). "Warhol was a genius but he was a new type of genius. He was a genius at expressing what it felt like not to be sure what you felt at all ... He wrote books, made movies, produced records and painted paintings. A lot of it wasn't good, but he looked at a wasteland and said this is modern art, and it was."
The final product is different than my original plan. The beige panel was to be a wall with a drawing mannequin looking through a window into a surrealist background. My instructor really encouraged me to push and experiment with minimalism so I focused on contrasting the minimalist wall with other elements. I expect to go back into this one and do more on it - maybe add the drawing mannequin.
In the next project, the instructor assigned each of us an artist to research and gain inspiration from. Sure enough, he assigned me Brice Marden who is a Minimalist and Post-Minimalist painter. I credit minimalism from completely turning my youthful self off art in the 60's and 70's so this felt like the worst kind of deja vu. However, after voicing my opinion, I chose to stick with him and I did find his later line work more interesting and inspiring. I have been experimenting for some time with combining painting with felt making. These pieces were experiments with creating pre-felts and drawing lines on them with various acrylic paint mediums. I cut out the line figures of two of the them and then further felted them. Lessons learned - it is really challenging to keep the paint from disintegrating or breaking off during the felting process so I probably won't do this one again.

"Neighbourhood" was our next project and I decided to experiment with photo transfer on stretched canvas. I used photos that I have taken of the amazing wild life that shares my back yard. I am not overly happy with this piece, but am happy with what I learned and plan to use the technique in the future.

The final project was about mass-communication and consumption. This piece became about process and the amount of branding and advertising we are exposed to. I have a stash of old tractor feed paper that I thought would work well to create a large number of logo rubbings and quick sketches. I went around my car and house to do rubbings on anything with an embossed logo. I expected a lot, but it was alarming (if you want a shock, check out the number of logos there are on your car). Next, I sat down for one hour of television and did a sketch for each ad. What was I thinking? I ended up with a "Black Box" spewing out a frightening amount of sketches of advertising images that I encountered in very short period of time.