Sunday, September 24, 2017
In 1979, I guess, because that's the copyright date, I bought a set of World Book encyclopedias.
Son #1 was seven years old and it seemed like this was a good time to get set up for the inevitable school routine of looking things up for reports. Strangely, I don't remember that we ever used the books all that much. The boys weren't old enough for the Internet to become the school routine of choice, but maybe the style in pedagogy was to downplay looking things up. Or maybe they did it in the school library. Or maybe they just blew off their homework.
You must realize that I was raised to worship books. I thought it was a venial sin to set a book open on the table face down or crack its spine. It was a mortal sin to write in a book, or cut it up. The thought of defacing a whole set of encyclopedias was terrifying.
But I told myself that (A) we hadn't opened the books in decades. (B) this was not a valuable artifact; probably there are 3 million unused sets of World Books lying around in offices, basements, attics and landfills. (C) nobody else could possibly use them; even if paper encyclopedias themselves aren't obsolete, the 1979 version surely is. And (D) if I used them for art it would be better than not using them at all. So I cut out pictures and articles for a series of daily postcards I was sending to various family members.
Since then I've gone into the encyclopedias with gusto. I've cut out pages to use for found haiku; I've cut out pictures for collage; I've cut out words and phrases for my daily text project. Never a week goes by without me consulting the books; surely a lot more than we ever used the books in their first career.
I still haven't reached the point where I'm willing to tear the covers off the books, although I have made art with covers from other people's discarded World Books. I still need mine for "reference" -- if you need a picture of Harry Truman or a fish, it's so easy to just grab the right volume off the shelf, look it up and cut it out.
Saturday, September 23, 2017
Having gotten seriously crabby on Thursday doing an entry on CaFE, I am compelled in fairness to report that on Friday I did another entry on CaFE and sailed through it in about five minutes. I am therefore revising my opinion of that system. Namely, it works well if you are extremely familiar with how it works. It works even better if you want to submit an image that you have already used for another show.
That's what happened to me yesterday. I submitted two of the three quilts that I had submitted on Thursday, so there they were, already uploaded and their thumbnails right there for me to click on. The titles, dimensions and materials had been typed in on Thursday so I didn't have to do it again. I remembered what happens under each of the tabs in the website, and with only one misstep got through the process with only a few clicks.
It worked because I had spent an hour wrestling with the system the day before, and because I was entering the same pieces. (That was possible because Thursday's show is an exhibition in print, where you don't have to actually send the work, so double-dipping wasn't going to create conflicts.)
But how long will it take for me to forget the quirks of the process, thus making my next encounter just as painful as it has always been in the past? I guess if you're a compulsive enterer, responding to many different calls, you could get comfortable. I still wonder why the system has to be so difficult for the casual or first-time user.
And despite being not so crabby, I can't help but note the strange schedule of this show. The juror is going to have results announced four days after the entry deadline, which I think is fabulous. I hate it when shows keep you in suspense for weeks or even months. But the delivery date is only ten days later -- after which the artworks will sit in a back room for two whole months before the show opens! (This is clearly a museum with a lot of storage space.)
I wonder why they need the work so far in advance. If you have a good piece of art that you would like to send out to several juried shows, this is a long time for it to be out of commission while the clock ticks on its shelf life.
Friday, September 22, 2017
... if you weren't crabby already, just do a show entry using CaFE.
You are asked to submit images "1200 pixels or larger on longest side," and then the call goes on to say "Please note that uploaded images are scaled by the system and two monitor versions are created: a small 100-pixel thumbnail and a large 700-pixel image. These images are available for you to preview in your portfolio after you upload."
What image do you suppose the jurors will see? If they're going to see 700 pixels, why don't they just tell us to upload a 700-pixel image? If they're going to see 1200+ pixels, why tell us about the 700-pixel image? Why do I need to know this?
They tell you to submit "A brief artist statement (50-100 words, maximum)." Does this mean somewhere between 50 and 100 words, or does it mean 100 words maximum? Scratch your head all you want to (is my 45-word statement going to be disqualified for being too short?) but never mind, because when you get to the place to type in the statement, it now says "1000 characters maximum."
I got to the website by clicking a link in a message from Surface Design Association, which is sponsoring this Exhibition in Print (no actual show, just a catalog). After that, I clicked my way into the CaFE website and started filling out the application. Despite confusing directions, I managed to upload my images. I was not distracted by ominous remarks like "If Modify or Remove options are not available, click to archive past entries, then return here to modify or remove media." or "If you need to add artwork samples, save first before returning to MY PORTFOLIO. You may come back to your saved application from MY CAFE ENTRIES to complete or review the application prior to checkout."
Now it's time to attach the images to the entry form. I had misread the ominous remark about coming back to my saved application, and mistakenly went to the page where you would select what call you are responding to. The form told me to select the organization sponsoring the call. I typed in Surface Design Association and it said "showing 0 events." I typed in Exhibition in Print and it came up with a show in New Mexico sponsored by somebody else. Hmmm. I started clicking around on all the many tabs on the website and eventually came back to the page I started from, which indeed had the right show listed. Sigh of relief.
I had uploaded three full images and three detail shots. But the system told me to attach two or three images to my entry. Hmmm. I went back and read the call and sure enough, it had said "up to 3 images total may be submitted; artists are encouraged to submit at least 2 pieces and no more than 1 detail. Submission of a detail is not required." So I uploaded just the three full images.
Why do you suppose the system is set up to discourage detail shots? I've rarely encountered fiber art shows that didn't want details -- as in any materials-based art, how it's made is always a big viewer magnet. I've made art where the full view is almost meaningless without a detail shot, so if I want to enter such a piece, and have to submit the detail, then in effect I can only enter two pieces instead of three. What's that supposed to accomplish? Do you think this was a deliberate decision made by SDA, or an unintended consequence of the program?
The only other show I've entered recently was a relatively small regional show, and the entry process couldn't have been easier: send an email with your images, put your info and list of the pieces you're submitting into the body of the email, call them the next morning and tell them your credit card number. I know you can't reasonably offer this kind of service if you expect hundreds of entries (or can you??) but all the bureaucratic complexity of the automated programs has to be a turn-off to potential entrants. It wouldn't be so bad if the directions weren't apparently written by the same people who write user manuals; maybe geeks can follow along, but those of us who just speak English have serious problems.
That's why I'm crabby today. But if you're willing to put up with the hassles, you can still enter SDA's Exhibition in Print until midnight tonight. Click here to get to the call; after that you're on your own.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Thoreau warned us to beware of enterprises requiring new clothes; I might revise that advice to cover new clothes requiring alterations, since I'm the one in the family who has to make the alterations. While I adore mending, I'm not so hot on alterations. Nevertheless I do them.
Yesterday I got to step up to the plate for Isaac's new Cub Scout uniform, which set his mom back more than $100 (!?!?!?!?!?!?) at the Scout store on Tuesday. Cubs Scout pants have to be the only kids' pants still sold in the United States that come without hems; they're made six inches too long and somebody has to take them up. I wonder how families without sewing grandmas deal with this challenge.
But I rose to the challenge, not only with hemming the pants but also sewing the troop number on the sleeve. I was happy that the other patches, indicating the local Boy Scout Council as well as the American flag, came pre-sewed. After years of mending only for big men, I had forgotten how small little boys' sleeves are and how hard it is to get your sewing machine in on those little numbers without inadvertently catching some other part of the garment in the seam.
I guess the Scouts still value those old traditional survival skills like sewing. I wonder if they will instill them in the boys as well as demanding them of the moms and grandmas!
Monday, September 18, 2017
I've been trying for the last several months to get rid of things that I no longer need, but keep coming across boxes of stuff stowed away in closets and under worktables. Sometimes it's straight to the grab bag pile, but other times I find work in progress, often things that I started in workshops years ago but never finished. And often those things aren't half bad, just not exciting enough to have made me work on them once I came home.
I've thought, seriously, that perhaps my next body of work should be using up all those partially pieced expanses. Because my fine-line piecing is so complicated and labor intensive, there's an awful lot of work invested in those little bits, and I hate to flush it down the drain. Uncut yardage can always be donated for charity quilts, but who wants to inherit a bunch of little modules of varying shapes and sizes that cry for more intricate piecing to match?
Last month I found a box with leftovers from an experiment in piecing with stripes. It happened at the Crow Barn in 2007 or 2008. I was struck by this array of batiks in the fabric store, variations on brown and chartreuse. I was just starting to experiment with striped fabric as the very fine lines separating my small shapes, so the striped fabric was also appealing. I also bought a chartreuse fabric marker so some of the white dots in the brown-and-white fabric could become green.
I sewed up a bunch of samples and was unimpressed. I have never been a fan of brown, and though I love chartreuse, there was too much just-kinda-plain-wishy-washy-green in this bunch of fabric. But I carefully folded and bagged up everything and took it home with me, to languish for a decade.
Halfway through I realized that I needed to make a quilt for my International Threads challenge, on the theme of "integration," and this could be it. So I made the piecing fit the IT size, quilted it up, and sent it back to Europe with Uta Lenk, who was visiting.
Not a masterpiece, but finished. Actually, not half bad -- I like the graphic contrast of the light and dark, and the many different variations on the simple three-color palette. And I love how all that long-ago sewing paid off in the end. There's plenty more unfinished piecing where that came from, and maybe I'll start working with those UFOs. I have enough square footage already sewed to occupy me for the rest of my life.
Sunday, September 17, 2017
In 2013 I had a solo show at the beautiful art gallery at St. Meinrad Archabbey and Seminary, a monastic institution in St. Meinrad IN, an hour or so west of us. It was founded in the 1850s by Benedictine monks sent from Switzerland to the frontier; their presence generated a large and thriving Catholic community that still exists in southern Indiana.
My husband and I drove over to deliver the quilts, and as we went through the closed gallery we saw that the artwork from the previous show was still there, leaning against walls and stacked near the door. It was sculpture by Brother Martin Erspamer, a monk at St. Meinrad with an MFA who paints, designs worship spaces, and makes furniture, ceramics and stained glass.
Ken fell in love with a ceramic Jesus and we bought Him and took Him home with us. It's a ceramic bas relief, about an inch thick and amazingly heavy. After we got it home I went to hang it on the wall and realized to my dismay that there was no hanging apparatus -- no holes so you could slot the piece over nails in the wall, no wire loop embedded in the clay. Hmmmm.
Jesus leaned against the wall in Ken's office for several months until my wonderfully practical son figured out how to put Him securely on the wall. The solution was two wooden railings, long enough to be screwed into the studs, rabbeted to make lips that keep the ceramic slab from coming loose.
I particularly love this piece of art because it was Ken's choice. For 47 years he has been graciously welcoming art of my choice into our home, with only a few pointed comments about how so few of my paintings have any people in them. (Yes, I'm a landscape junkie....) This time he got what he wanted.