Sunday, December 11, 2011

Upcycled Hand-Dyed Dresses from Indonesia and Beyond Timbuktu (Part 1)

What a find! Digging through the racks of my favorite shop, Beyond Timbuktu, in Edwardsville, IL with a textile project in mind for my daughter, I stumbled upon two beautifully hand-dyed dresses (3X and 1X) from Indonesia. Not only were they on the sale rack, they were each marked down from $98 to $10!! The owner of Beyond Timbuktu, Andi Smith, and her family, adopted my daughter and I into their family back when we were on hard times 15 years ago; and they have been an integral part of out lives ever since. Betsy worked for Andi for many years at Beyond Timbuktu while she was in high school and junior college before she moved to Ft. Myers, Florida to finish her Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy.

A few weeks ago, I called Betsy and asked her what she would like me to bring her for Christmas. (Yes, it will be tough, but I am spending Christmas week on a beach in Florida.) She gently reminded me that two years ago, as I helped her pack up her apartment, I vacuumed her office chair with the working end of the vacuum (the little brush was NOT doing its job properly!). The cloth on the chair lost the battle and the vacuum ate a bite out of the fabric. Not good!! But the chair went into storage until Betsy recently moved into a larger condo in Cape Coral, FL. So when I asked her what she wanted this year, my sweet voiced daughter (the same woman who can easily move a 200 pound man in and out of a hospital chair as an OT) gently asked if I might make her a new seat cover for her slightly damaged office chair. At first, I thought about dying fabric (in my spare time while teaching 30 art classes each week, ha!). Then I thought about buying fabric at Goodwill ... and I did. But the queen-sized baby blue quilt I found at the Goodwill was so beautiful and in such perfect condition, (yes, I am selfish) that I could not cut it up. So I put it on my bed for the winter since it was nicer than the one I had on the bed. Thus, when I found the generously sized, hand-dyed dresses at a place that means so much to both Betsy and me, it was already like Christmas!

Since Betsy's office is also her guest room, I thought it might be a good thing to make, not only a seat cover, but also a small pieced quilt and a few pillows for her new futon. Thus, this weekend, I put away my book binding and handmade paper collage supplies, cleaned off the work table in my dry studio, set up my beloved 1972 Singer sewing machine, and started cutting a pattern out of manila paper from the measurements and office chair photos Betsy texted me from Florida.  With a cup of coffee perched on the back right corner of my machine (as it has been for almost 40 years - YIKES!!!!), Dommie (our Bichon Frise) patiently watching from his corner chair by the window, and madrigal voices filling the studio from Itunes Radio on my Mac (plugged into my old stereo system), I picked up my scissors and made the first cut.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Making Daylilies into Paper

I had the pleasure of presenting my research in papermaking from garden plants and the crops of Madison County to the Southwestern Illinois Hemerocallis Society last evening. Since I knew there were teachers in the Society, my presentation focused on both the process and the interdisciplinary connections made in the classroom.

While the powerpoint images depicting the stages of papermaking from harvesting in the garden to the classroom and studio clearly defined the process, the members and their guests made tangible connections when they finally held my handmade books and closely inspected the construction of my handmade paper landscapes of Cornwall.

Sun Pans and Mica Drags

After carefully examining my landscapes, one member of the Society was excited to share that his grandparents came from Cornwall; and he had been to Liskeard, Cornwall for a family reunion!

The following is a short description from last night's program:

This presentation explores papermaking from plants as a means of experiencing real world interdisciplinary connections between the art studio or classroom and the local organic environment (farms or gardens). By growing and/or harvesting the waste materials (stems, stalks, vines, or leaves) of local crops or landscape plants, processing the pulp, and transforming the pulp into paper for painting, drawings, printing, sculpture, or bookbinding, art students will work together to explore chemistry, botany, agriculture, math, and the history of papermaking, while expanding their critical thinking, planned risk taking, self-motivation, creativity, responsibility, teamwork, time management, interpersonal communication, and a sense of self-worth gained for meeting or exceeding expectations. The presentation will offer step-by-step detailed descriptions and images of the process of papermaking from plants, as well as actual samples of handmade paper and books for teachers who desire art as experience from seed to final binding stitch.

Friday, October 7, 2011

OMS Art 1 American Sign Language Video Project and Art Exhibition

My 7th and 8th grade Art 1 students at Oakville Middle School just created a very special video demonstrating American Finger Spelling and American Sign Language. Our video (seen at this link) is the culmination of learning how to draw and paint hands representing the students' names or nicknames in fingerspelling, as well as learning the signs for a few of the Character Traits taught in schools through PBIS and Character Education programs. At the beginning of this project, the four Art 1 classes watched short video clips from the new ABC Family television show, "Switched at Birth," about two families that include adults and teenage actors who are deaf. After watching the television clips, the Art 1 students broke into small groups and taught each other a few signs through a Kagan-type activity using illustrated flash cards created for this project.

After the students' video was completed, edited in I-Movie and uploaded to Vimeo, it was shown to the entire middle school during Advisory along with a still image of this week's PBIS/Character Ed quote/question (below). The teachers discussed the video and the quote/question with their classes before each student wrote a response by applying a few words from the list of good Character Traits (below). The students also had the option to also illustrate their responses.

"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear 
and the blind can see." 

- Mark Twain (1835-1910) American Author

How might patiently learning the alphabet in American finger spelling or a few words in American Sign Language help you to demonstrate kindness now or someday in the future? 

Respect ● Responsibility ● Peace ● Self-Control ● Caring 
Integrity ● Courage ● Patience  
Service ● Goal-Setting ● Integrity ● Cooperation

As we do each week at OMS, the teachers will collect the students' quote/question responses, select the best from their class and submit it to me. As a member of our PBIS committee, I'll read the responses and choose the best one. The student who wrote the best response will be called to the office and congratulated by one or both of our principals. The student will also be given four privilege passes (such as permission to leave Advisory two minutes early at the end of the day) as a small reward. 

The Art 1 video was shown this week and the feedback from the staff and students has been excellent! It was hard work, but the art students enjoyed the entire project.  

In addition to the video, twenty-three of the Art 1 students' watercolor hand paintings, as shown in the video, are currently on display at the Midwest BankCenter on Telegraph Road in Oakville, MO (South St. Louis County) through the end of October 2011.  The remaining thirty paintings will be on display at OMS through October.

This project was inspired by my step-daughter, Chrissy, who is deaf and her siblings who learned sign language to communicate with their sister.  I am proud of you all.  The video was created for educational purposes. If you would like to use it in your classroom, please contact me at: 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Innovations in Textiles Opens at EAC This Friday Night in Edwardsville!!

Please join me this Friday, August 19, when the first of the St. Louis "Innovations in Textiles" events opens with a public reception from 7-9pm at the Edwardsville Art Center where my newly created, handmade paper landscape constructions, inspired by our recent trip to Cornwall, UK, will be on display.

The exhibit, curated by Laura Strand, Professor of Textiles at Southern Illinois University, includes a wide variety of artworks created by MFA, BFA and BA alumni who studied with Laura at SIUE: 
Luanne Rimel, Rachel Hayes, Courtney Henson, Christine A. Holtz, Chu Hui Chiu, Lisa Forsyth, Becky Grass, Alicia PiggElizabeth Adams-Marks, Jennifer Toje, Deborah Pontious, Angela Perkinson, Nicole Ottwell, Lillian Bates, Bridget Kraft, and Melissa Cunningham

"Innovations in Textiles" is a biennial event hosted this year by 19 galleries and art organizations in the Bi-State St. Louis area from August through October.  Check the Innovations website for a complete list of the artists, exhibits, artist talks, workshops, maps and bus tours.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sun Pans and Mica Drags - 19th Century China Clay Industry in Cornwall

Influenced again by the China Clay industry of Cornwall, UK, my newest abstracted handmade paper landscapes, which will be in the St. Louis biennial Innovations in Textiles exhibition at the Edwardsville Art Center later this month, incorporates 19th century sky tips, sun pans, pan kilns and mica drags as seen from the air, through the earth and across the moors. Our recent trip to Cornwall and a photograph of the China Clay workings near Hensbarrow Downs (below) was inspiration for my latest artwork.  

China Clay workings around Hensbarrow Downs, showing large sky tips, pan kilns and mica drags. 
The photo above was taken from an excellent interactive website, Flying Through Cornwall's Past

In Cornwall, water has always been used to wash the kaolin from the soft granite. In the early days of the 19th century, removing the clay was very labor intensive and clay was washed into shallow pits. As technology developed, the waste quartz and mica were removed and the clay was dried in sun pans until the first pan kilns were built in 1845. Waste materials from the pits were transported by tram to spoil tips on the surface which gleamed in the sunlight like pyramids.  Especially interesting to me is the history of the women clay workers. According to the brochure of the China Clay Museum near St. Austell:

Women were employed in the China Clay industry to carry out a particular task before pan kilns dried all the clay at each clay works. At first the clay was left to dry in a shallow tank called a "sun pan". The sun pan was lined with sand and as the clay hardened it was cut blocks were stacked in the air dry, a small open-sided structure where the clay was dried by the circulation of air through the building. The women were then employed at a daily rate to scrape clean the bottom and sides of each block. Two or three tons of day could be cleared in a day, and the women were paid about a shilling a day. 

For more information about mining in Cornwall in the 19th century, check out this link which is a copy of the printed brochure from the China Clay Museum in Cornwall. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Jacoby Arts Center's 7th Annual Juried Exhibition

I am pleased to announce that two of my handmade paper constructions inspired by Cornwall have been accepted in the 7th Annual Juried Exhibition at the Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, IL. Please join us at the opening reception Friday, July 15 from 5-8pm with the awards presentation at 6:30pm.  The exhibition continues from July 12 - August 21, 2011.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Quest for Doc Martin - Part 2

The set of "Port Wenn's Cobbler" in Port Isaac
Young actresses waiting for the next scene
At the close of the blog post, The Quest for Doc Martin - Part 1, lunch was finished and the cast was moving along the streets of Port Isaac, Cornwall onto the set of the "Port Wenn Cobbler" for Series 5. A pram containing a lovely baby "doll" was strategically parked outside the cobbler's door as the director blocked in the scene with the extras. While waiting, I noticed textiles in the window of the small shop next door to the set which pulled me away from the activities.  When I finally emerged without purchasing the lime green wool jumper that fit perfectly, Peter nodded towards a man sitting with his ruck sack a few feet from the shop door. It was Ian McNeice, better known as Bert, who was talking to a woman and signing an autograph. With a little encouragement from my husband, I grabbed a pen and postcard from by backpack before gingerly approaching. Taking a deep breath, I asked if I might have his autograph for my friend, Pat Vivod, who is a big fan in the States. 

Ian McNeice (Bert on the show) signing his autograph
Having the scarf in my hand, I quickly explained why we were visiting Port Isaac - to take photos of the scarf which had been created by my friend who is a textile artist - not realizing the crew was actually filming until we arrived. What a lovely man! Not only did he sign his autograph, he wrote a comment about the scarf before asking if there was a camera somewhere in the crowd that was now loosely gathering. I pointed to Peter; and Mr. McNeice took it from there. 

Hi Pat, Lovely scarf!!!

What a sweet man! He and I shook hands just as he was called to act in the next scene, leaving his rucksack tucked carefully behind the stone where he had been sitting.  As more people stopped to watch the filming, Peter and I climbed up a few steps of the garden wall across the street just as Martin Clunes arrived. 

Martin Clunes as Doc Martin

Although we would have liked to have stayed longer, dark clouds loomed on the horizon. The mizzle set in before we reached the car, blending the sea and sky together, bringing our Doc Martin quest in Port Isaac to a close.

But we could not leave the west of Cornwall without a visit to St. Wenn. We don't know if the creators of Doc Martin were inspired by the name of this little town, but we chose to take one more photo, just in case.  Thanks for inspiring our journey, Ms. Vivod. I have a little something tucked away in my backpack with your name on it!

The Quest for Doc Martin - Part 1

Since the ITV television show, Doc Martin is filmed in Port Isaac, Cornwall, we decided to drive along the north coast to the 14th c. village to take a few photos on location. What we discovered when we arrived was the cast and crew shooting Series Five!

Television crew's vehicles on the beach in the harbor in Port Isaac
Port Isaac, known as Port Wenn on the TV show, is a working fishing village on the northern, Atlantic coast of Cornwall. We arrived before lunch with plans to take a few photos for Pat Vivod, who is not only an amazing textile artist through organic printing and dyeing (see her blog Sentimental Pentimento), she is a devoted Doc Martin fan. While Pat was in a workshop in St. Louis with India Flint learning even more about the chemistry of organic dyeing, we decided to travel on a quest for Doc Martin on Pat's behalf with one of her silk scarves in the starring role. Since much of my work in handmade paper is influenced by the textures and colors of Cornwall, it is easy to see why I purchased this scarf (below) from Pat's collection. See if you can find it in the photos as it travelled through the village.

 The Pat Vivod silk scarf on beach pebbles
It was obvious that Port Isaac residents and guests knew that the television crew was shooting all week, yet the mood was very laid back about the experience. For example, the crew had prepared three or four small vignettes outside businesses which included a handwritten sign informing us that the leeks, beautifully displayed outside the green grocer's (actually an art gallery), were not for sale. As people walked by the display, we repeatedly saw women reach for the leeks, read the sign, then tell their friends, "Too bad it's for filming, they are such lovely leeks!"

Film set of "green grocer" outside a real art gallery (scarf in basket)
Film set of "green grocer" looking down street towards harbor
By the time we walked through very narrow streets and reached the harbor wall, we learned that the crew was currently shooting outside the "Large Restaurant" (actually a private home) above the cliffs along the harbor wall. 

"Large Restaurant,"center home above rock cliffs along harbor wall
Lunch scene from Series Five (Martin Clunes and Caroline Catz sitting at table; 
Ian McNeice standing)
Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) , Caroline Catz (Louisa Glasson) and Ian McNeice (Bert Large), along with a variety of extras were in the scene. Since it actually was lunchtime, filming stopped for everyone to eat, which gave us the chance to pop into the Golden Lion, often used as a set during Series One, for a pint and a ploughman for Peter and a zucchini & stilton pastie for me. 

After lunch, we walked the cliff path above where the filming had resumed to get a closer look at the crew through the garden gate. This also gave us the opportunity to photograph "Doc Martin's house" on the show - the third cottage up the path on the left.

While the show's audio tech could probably eliminate most background sounds from the beach below the "restaurant" set, each time a fishing boat returned, all production ceased until the boats had put down anchor and off loaded their cargo.

Filming the lunch scene took more than three hours before the director called cut and gave a thumbs up to the crew waiting on the harbor beach below. Because Doc Martin is not a period piece, it was almost impossible to tell the locals from the actors as they walked through the village to the next location at the "Port Wenn Cobbler."

Caroline Catz (Louisa Glasson on show) and Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) finished with lunch scene
Caroline Catz (Louisa Glasson on show) walking past Aquarium

Having no idea how long it might take to prepare the next scene, we walked back up the hill towards our car, past the Cobbler set. Suddenly, we realized the teenage girls and the gentleman pushing the pram surrounding us were not locals or tourists, but extras in the next scene. Not knowing how long it might take before filming began again, I decided to pop into a shop while the director talked to the crew and extras. Little did we know we would soon have the chance to meet one of the main actors.

Read Quest for Doc Martin - Part 2 for the next in the Series!