Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Waxing Lyrical About This Session of FiberLAB



In ten days, on September 23, we will begin this season's first FiberLAB session. 

I am excited to share with you many of the techniques I've been playing with...

Sculpting with organza and thread
Dipped Organza in wax creating compelling surfaces to stitch into
Dyeing silks and threads with tea
Wire armatures
Metallic surface applications

Looking forward to hearing about what everyone is up to and our shared enthusiasm about all things fiber!


THE SCHEDULE:

Miller Street Studio, Somerville
Saturday 10 am - 1 pm

2017/2018 Session I - Fall
Sept. 23, Oct. 21, Nov. 4 
(please note the 4-week gap between the first two meetings)

2017/2018 Session II Fall/Winter
Nov. 18, Dec. 2, 16
(every other week)

Click here for more info


Monday, August 14, 2017

New FiberLAB Schedule



Join us as we launch into our 2017/2018 schedule beginning this September 23. 

Please check out the schedule and learn more about our enriching program here.

This Fall we will be following up with everyone's work, professional endeavors and personal goals. We'll be experimenting with fabric and wax, natural dyeing, armature building plus much more.

Space is limited for our Saturday group so sign up soon. 

If there is interest we can add another day/night too!

Later!



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Carciofi, Espresso and More



We just returned from a whirlwind visit to Italy. Starting in Rome, then a week in a glorious apartment in Lucca with friends, and finally a week touring the east and southeast of Sicily. 

My words can't sufficiently express the sensual experiences of  a country where personal relationships are rich with melodic conversation, passionate food and interpersonal connections. It comes across in the food, aesthetics, interactions and history. Italy, and particularly Sicily, contains the roots of western civilization with layers of time existing archeologically and metaphorically just beneath the surface of everything. 

As an artist, the depth of traditional themes found in every Duomo, museum and public space were universally about religious iconography and begged the question about what contemporary art could look like in the shadow of such strong history. This was answered with our visit Rome's Galleria d'Arte Moderna. Their curation of works by Italian and international artists was exceptional with many powerful juxtapostions of classical and contemporary artworks.

There is so much to absorb and I look forward to this summer when I'll be exploring more on the subject of western civilization's expression from the Etruscans to the present. 

Here are is a small selection of images... in no particular order...

It is artichoke season! A particular favorite is a fried version found in a restaurant
in the Jewish Quarter near Trastevere in Rome.


Light and marble mosaic floors in one of many of the Duomos we visited.

The ruins of the Roman Theatre in Catania. Built in late antiquity, around 300 B.C.
the theatre was rebuilt on an older Greek theatre from the 500 B.C.
Today it lives in the midst of an urban neighborhood.

Entrance gate to the Estruscan town of Volterra. The Estruscans here date back to 700 B.C.E.
It's tough to wrap your head around that timeframe.

Travelling through the towns becomes a study in Duomos.
Most have them and they are all devotional masterpieces. This is the Cathedral in Lucca.

Not all Italian expressions are large. 

Whether a fan of classical sculpture or not, it is breathtaking to see the
sensitive works at the Museo Nationale delle Bargello in Florence.

North of Mt Etna, near the hilltown of San Domenica della Vittorio.
We were on our way to visit Wayne's family's roots. 

Carciofi (artichokes) according to Wayne.

The chef at work in our Lucca kitchen.

The fish market in Siracusa with colorful characters who sing and yell to attract your
attention to their stands. Here are fragments of a swordfish.

The silver ribbon-like fish are called Spatola, which translates in English to 'spatula'.

Eastern Sicily was struck by an earthquake in 1693 which leveled everything.
The area was rebuilt in a baroque style which was the architectural trend of the 18th century.
It's tough to capture the grandeur of the Piazza Duomo in Siracusa in a photo, it is magnificent.

Our backyard at the farmhouse Quartarella where we stayed while visiting Modica.

Ragusa, a hill town in the South. This is the day of 18,000 steps.... most of them climbing!

One of the many views in Ragusa.

An embellished garment for a Madonna statue that is used in religious processions.
Just one example of the high level of craft as expression of devotion.
'We Are All Flesh' by Berlinde De Bryckere, 2012 - Investigating pain, suffering
and the horror of violence witnessed by both humans and animals.
The horse parts come from slaughterhouse waste. No animals were harmed in the making.

Compare to the 15th century painting (below) of a princess holding the severed head
of St. John the Baptist, artist unknown.


An Etruscan coffin in the Archeological Museum in Volterra.
The base contained the remains and the cover was a sculpture created in the image of the deceased.
There were hundreds of these caskets on display and all showed the individuals
in a reclined position - a symbol of their rich and happy lives.

An Etruscan with attitude.

Our last night was spent in Catania, Sicily on Vecchio Stratta.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Encounters


A detail from the crocheted afghan my mom made me for my 50th birthday.

I'm in a haze of post-residency spaciness. That state when you carry the goodness of connection and reflection into your daily life once you return home. Trying to hold on to it and embrace it for the long term.

My first week back from an almost 7-week absence, I'm spending most of my time tying up loose ends, picking up artwork and reconnecting with my colleagues.

Yesterday I found myself at Haymarket Station sitting next to an elderly woman crocheting an extremely large and colorful afghan, and in this post-residency state of mind, I decided to strike up a conversation.

It was delightful. She was very animated and I learned that a friend taught her to crochet at 16. She is left handed and has a unique technique. This orange, green and white granny square afghan is for her grandson's girlfriend. She's already made two for the girlfriend's unborn baby, so this one is to keep the mother warm when in hospital. She has 11 grandchildren who all live nearby except for one who lives in Washington state. The granddaughter from the west coast was home recently to visit the grandmother's sister who was ill with cancer. The sister just passed unexpectedly early according to her prognosis. 

I offered condolences and shared my mother's experience with cancer, her 6.5 year battle that involved more than her share of suffering, hoping that this would provide comfort for her sudden loss.

All this time talking she never looked up from her work, except once to abruptly interupt herself and tell me she loves my hair.

The train arrived, she hugged her mass of color and stood up. While waiting for the doors to open she wished me a happy holiday and asked for my name. Then I asked for hers, Anita.

My mom has 11 grandchildren, her name was Anita, and she loved to crochet. She often would tell me how much she loved my hair, especially since I take after her.

I know I'm in a jet lag induced haze, but this encounter has been haunting me since. Whether spectral or real, I treasure this connection made with my mom who I sorely miss.

Anita wearing one of her 'handmades'.



Sunday, November 13, 2016

Bamboo Sprouting



I sit here each day in the company of bamboo plants edging my porch. They look primordial and talk to me as beings with humanlike gestures and individual personalities.

It’s a grass, a flowering perennial evergreen. It is sustainable, rapidly self propagates and renewable. It is naturally antibacterial, efficiently converts carbon dioxide to oxygen, is naturally thermally regulated and stronger than steel by weight.

It’s long life makes it a Chinese symbol of uprightness. In India it is a symbol of friendship. Several Asian cultures believe that humanity emerged from a bamboo stem – both man and woman from a single split branch.

In Vietnam, it is a symbol of the soul representing ideas of hardworking, optimism, unity and adaptability. The Vietnamese have a proverb ‘When bamboo is old, the bamboo sprouts appear’. Meaning that they will never be annihilated because if a previous generation dies, children will take their place.

For me that proverb could also be about growth and maturity, the painful process of acknowledging ugly truths and working with them. To be upright in spite of the elements that suggest otherwise. I’ve spent this residency alone with the inspirational words of so many that I’ve had the gift of time to read, and alone with my personal vulnerabilities and alone from the chaos that is happening at home.


To grow into one's own doesn't happen overnight. In spite of how we value spontaneous epiphanies, these awakenings are dormant under the surface waiting for the crack in the foundation to let the light in (thank you Leonard Cohen). Cracks that usually happen during tumult and strife, and according to Buddhist thought, require attention rather than avoidance to dissipate their hold on us.

I'm halfway around the world to find space and time to reflect on all of this. Then there was the election. The results brought many of us out of our complacency to face the reality of what the other half of our country believes, and it’s chilling. This is a good time to look to bamboo for inspiration. To help us remember to stand upright, be strong, go forward and sprout blossoms.

This sculpture, in progress, is inspired by a young bamboo shoot from my grove. 
The fabric is cut from women’s blouses from the market, the stitching is meditative, 
the stuffed form is an abstraction of bamboo posturing as a human. Rebecca Solnit, in her book 
Hope in the Dark, talks about change. How it seems like it’s spontaneous 
but the roots already exist underground and that when these transformations 
happen it's rarely remembered. To continue the metaphor, my seeds were planted 
before I arrived and now they may finally be finding their way to daylight 
in spite of all the shadows. We’ll see. 



Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Alone Together


My residence at Compeung is down the street from Compeung Lake. There’s a narrow road along the banks of the river where I ride my scooter into the village. Tucked into the woods along the way you pass shrines, a thai massage parlor, a noodle maker and this wonderful thatched roof patio where, depending on the day, a smiley gentleman sews grass roofs or weaves baskets. My host told me that this maker welcomes visitors and so I set out to see what he is up to.

Unable to speak Thai or in this case the local Lanna dialect, I used my weaving loom to introduce myself. He was curious for a moment, tossed me some bamboo shavings, and then got back to work. I sat for a couple of hours weaving and watching his steps and it felt curiously safe and familiar.
He was making reeds for baskets from a large bamboo stalk. Tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain, he’ll be gathering grasses so that the next day he can sew some grass roofs. I’m hoping to catch him when he’s sewing so that I can learn. I’ve seen him working from the road… it will be great to get up close.

Simple tools and materials used to take a green bamboo stalk and convert it into the pliable flat reeds used to make baskets. He starts with on knife to shave away the green skin of the bamboo. A second knife shave off rough joins in the bamboo to make it smooth... plus as a splitting tool to break up the strips of bamboo lengthwise. Back to the first knife to continue shaving the outer edge and to shave away the soft pith from the inside.  All performed with a belied simplicity and ease.
This is the closest thing to authentic making that I’m experiencing.  All other opportunities involve staged showrooms and tour buses. In the mountain villages, the reality of daily life forces most people out into the fields or to the city for work… only the physically disabled or elderly stay home to look after children and work on folk handiwork for the markets.

Enterprising mobile shops travel from market to market depending on the day of the week. This was at Saturday market in Doi Saket village. Notice the black and white mourning bunting on the office building in the back.

The notion of maker communities is a romantic one that I have the privilege of living and believing in as a westerner. It is not so romantic here, most people do it out of necessity to eat and put a roof over their head and most are working alone.

An artisan giving demonstrations at a local umbrella factory. A commercially contrived experience but one where local artisans have the opportunity to sell their wares.
A week before I arrived the beloved king of 70 years passed away. Chiang Mai is cloaked in white and black and according to locals the news is all about ‘the black and white’ too. There is a serious political undercurrent among people who feel uneasy about their future as a democracy.  It is unlawful to speak about the royalty or the government with punishment of arrest thus inhibiting individuals from talking to each other and organizing for fear of reprisals.
 
A small shrine on the banks of Compeung Lake. The king is said to have visited here once thus deeming it a place of stature and respect. 
Brings to mind Ann Hamilton’s interview with Krista Tippet where she opens with the question “Where is it that we can gather and kind of be alone together?” She says there is so much Us and Them and we need to think about how we can all exist in the same space.

Noodles made daily and hung to dry. 
The street food is handmade and crafted in home kitchens and then brought to market. Here you can see eggs that have been emptied, fried with herbs and then placed back inside the shells and skewered before roasting on an open grill. Sticky rice is a big part of the diet at every meal and can be found wrapped in banana leaves, right next to the roasting bananas and typical Chiang Mai style sausage.
Today, I’ll continue with my naïve pursuits of connection. I’m looking for makers in the broad sense. Makers of community here at Compeung, makers of artisan food in the market and makers of roofs ­– to sit in the company of each other, alone in our foreignness, but together in our shared place and time.
  
Ong's mom with another resident Alex who is here with his girlfriend Manon from San Francisco. Ong and his family are the makers of this sanctuary. The meal times are communal, spiritual places with homemade thai dishes three times a day. The mutual love and respect among family and friends is genuine and deep.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Touchstones


My first days here at Compeung were spent reading, listening to podcasts, sleeping and eating home cooked thai food. A wonderful respite after an exhausting journey.


For one of my first adventures I found my way to the Warorot Market in Chiang Mai. I kept seeing these enormous spools of white cotton thread. It seemed they had a function more than as white string because they were always situated next to other ceremonial items like candles and lanterns. Compelled, I bought some and brought it back to Compeung where I learned from Ong that it is called Sai Sin and is used in Buddhist ceremonies, weddings and funerals as a conduit for connection.


At larger ceremonies there is often one big ball of string which is first tied around a Buddha image before being passed along to the monks in attendance. From there, the thread is passed along to everybody else in attendance. With each individual holding their hands in a wai, the thread is looped around each person. The thread may be strung around a person’s fingers or it can be looped around their head. The important thing is that the thread links everybody to the monks and the Buddha image. The chanting of the monks and the associated merit is then symbolically passed along the thread reaching all of the people in the congregation. 

Click here to read more about Sai Sin.

Later that day I was listening to an interview with Ann Hamilton conducted by OnBeing’s Krista Tippett. She mentions the importance of cultivating a space that allows you to dwell in the ‘not knowing’. How ‘a thread has to come out and it comes out at its own pace’, and ‘how we need to trust the thing we cannot name’. All of this is uncannily relevant for me given that I’m currently very far away at a residency with the sole purpose of providing time, space and experiences to enrich my next steps.

Her interview got me thinking about my own sculptures and how they show the presence of the human hand but through embroidery and other process oriented needlearts techniques. Hamilton inspires me to push this idea of 'embodied knowledge' and create entities that express human touch as simple abstractions that communicate through the material of the human body.


This brings me to what I started playing with at Compeung today.  I’m finding rocks on the grounds around my house and removing them carefully so as to not disrupt their spaces within the soil and fauna (a heroic act in the land of scorpions and centipedes). I then wrap each of them with the white string I brought home from the market. 

Symbolically, Sai Sin thread adds merit, protection and strength as it motions in a continuous circle. Personally, wrapping becomes performance, a meditative ritualistic act that 'takes information at the pace of the body while moving in space'.




When complete, I return them to their original location and in the exact footprint from where they were found. Each day I’ll add a few more. I consider these to be blessings and have been calling them my Touchstones. They’ll remain installed after I leave, the string will fade away naturally just like with the Buddhist ceremonies.