Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tots of Surprises

sleeping sea otter for Linus
Last night Penelope grazed the corner of our counter top with her temple in a frantic game of chase  her brother.  She was fine after the requisite snuggling and icepack.  When I tucked her into bed she was reminded of her tender bruise and cried for her pooh blanket to snuggle with.  I fished it out of the fifteen blankets stacked on her bed like pancakes.  (It's so cold that we sleep like the pea in the Princess and the Pea story under a pile of mattresses).  The favorite pooh blanket was made lovingly by Pat's old boss who never even met Penelope.  Still there is a loving connection between child and handmade item.  As a child, I had attachments to certain ornaments, blankets, and toys that my Aunts and others made for me.  They're simply the best for reasons I haven't completely ascertained, but I suspect there has to be something to do with the intention and love infused into a gift.

This past week, I finished a pillow and blanket for a friend's baby who was born last October.  I really enjoy thinking about how these objects will be a part of shaping Linus' world growing up.  They are colors, textures, and images that will ultimately program his brain so that I will be able to control him and take over the world!!! Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!! (evil laugh)  And that is my plan, my friends . . .

More brain control happening at Elmhurst Art Museum in the Messy Business classes.  Below are some  examples of what me made yesterday.

Finally, a colored pencil card for my cousin Sue who is battling cancer for the second time.  More hearts to come next week as I begin my grand plan to swap snowflakes for hearts and in this way, warm the world with hugs!!!!!!

Linus' blanket made from flannel

gold fish in a bowl -- mixed media (including fruity pebbles)

kool-aid and glue

kool-aid sprinkled on wet watercolor paper

watercolor, salt and taped snowflakes to be revealed next week
hearts for Sue

Monday, January 27, 2014

"Knitti'n Kittens" or "Panty Hose Dolls"

For those reading in more hospitable climates, it's really cold in Chicagoland these last weeks!  Polar temperatures and the absence of the sun make me more than a little stir crazy.  Thankfully spending an evening crocheting with my sister and friend after an inspiring trip to the knit shop is the perfect remedy for the winter blues.  
Lisa worked on a stuffed owl project.  Laura made a cowl scarf and almost finished a hat.  I also made a cowl scarf.  All in all, an inspiring, hilarious, creative, and warm winter adventure. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Teaching and Stitching and Dreaming

 I started teaching a Messy Business class at Elmhurst Art Museum on Mondays.  I have two sections of 18 month to 5 year-olds and their respective grown-ups.  The challenge is coming up with projects that are interesting and accessible for a variety of ages.  The upside is that the accompanying adult can help out with the more advanced skills, but it is a balancing act keeping the adults enough out of the way so that the child can really experiment and have creative control.  I'm still struggling to find my teacher voice but am hoping that my enthusiasm for the process is being translated.  My main objective is to simply expose the kids to lots of media and methods and occasionally give them scissors. (Ha Ha!)  Here are pictures of a couple of projects. I'm trying to draw inspiration from Africa whenever possible.  The collaged faces are painted with dots which I experienced first hand while dining at Moyo's, a fun, South African restaurant chain.  I think painting with q-tips was a hit and limiting the pallet to black and white can produce great results. 

The other project involves tracing or drawing various sized circles and coloring them in with oil pastels.  Then the children painted over them with watercolors achieving a wax resist effect.

Finally, they worked collaboratively on painting a cardboard, cut-out zebra.   This was fun, and I plan on having them continue to add layers of black and white with other materials.  

In terms of personal work, I've slowed down a bit with everything happening--holidays, trip to South Africa, major school fundraiser sewing project, and new teaching gig.  I was able to eek out an embroidered pillow commissioned by my friend for her new niece, Cora.  I took Cora's embroidery with me to Africa and was delighted to be stitching an elephant while on their home turf--so to speak. 

I'm feeling hugely inspired to paint large pieces.  To accommodate such grand plans, I removed a table from my studio and shifted a couple things around.  I think the result is more organized and airy and less congested.  I'm hoping this helps with the creative flow and productive energy.  It certainly feels improved and better suited for giant paintings and humongous dreams. 

Cora's pillow

My desk organization.

South Africa Trip 2013/2014

representation of indigenous rock art of giraffes
Despite the challenge of having to pare down your belongings (I like having options), I love packing for a trip.  And I did really well with limitations this time around and probably only had one or two unnecessary pairs of shoes.  Similarly, I streamlined my sketchbook/journal into one slim, softcover volume with a favorite Christmas card washi-taped to the front.  Inside, I recorded daily our activities, sites, and reflections in a variety of inks (I was not very restrictive in my pen packing).  Also, I sketched things that interested me or that I had seen that day--often from memory.  It was dog-eared, having been carted in my purse along with the passports and considered as essential.  It was stained and smeared from food and drink, and its pages were practically full.  I reserved a handful for my final entry to be made on the 16 hour return flight from Johannesburg and for a few postcards and brochures I was planning on washi-taping inside.  Unfortunately, my treasured journal did not make the connection to Chicago, and instead remained sandwiched between the Skymall catalogue and the in-flight magazine.  I didn't realize it for a day or two after I was home and unpacking and wondering why I had packed so many pairs of socks.

I share this story only because the loss I feel for that paper-bound time capsule is similar to how I feel now, still, leaving me to wonder if a tiny bit of my soul failed to cross the Atlantic.  It's that strange feeling of not having fully returned.  Perhaps it is a little jet lag of the soul.  I've certainly had this happen before with other trips but none that has lasted this long.  Not only was the experience so grand and expansive but certainly transformative for all of us.  I think we are all a little hungry for the wide, green South African hills and broad, blue sky under which anything could happen--even getting eaten by a lion.

Below are some pictures. OK, there are lots of pictures of the more art-specific sites.  I would have to list about 738 pictures if I was going to include all of the pictures of inspiration.  Don't worry; they'll pop up in paintings and other work soon enough. 
top of 30 foot statue of Mandela which stands in Pretoria

treehouse in the Midlands
whimsical wood carving in the treehouse
Pastel piece made by Ezekial Mabote
Linoleum Print made by Ezekial Mabote

Looms at weaving shop in the Midlands
Print Studio at the Bat Centre in Durban (and yes, that is how they spell center, pretentious)

Bat Centre in Durban
Sculpture in Bat Centre Courtyard
Bat Centre Courtyard Sculpture

metal masks in the Midlands

Christmas tree in the Midlands

ceramics in the Midlands

Weaving Shop in the Midlands

Ardmore Ceramics Studio and Museum (in the Midlands)

Murals in Soweto

Mural at Victoria St. Markets in Durban