Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Practice, practice, practice

Art-making is all about practice - develop good skills in your chosen media, develop good work habits, and put it all into practice, again and again and again and again.  For me, the discipline - the commitment to keep practicing no matter what setbacks I encounter, what blows my confidence may sustain  - this is the hard part.  I love the work.  But sometimes the internal dialogue of excuses to avoid just going to the studio and doing it can be overwhelming.

Recently I was introduced to a wonderful little book:  Art and Fear:  Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland.  It was published in 2001 but is still readily available ('Art and Fear' at B&N.com) .  Practically every paragraph rings true for me. 

Many self-help books for creative people are actually discouraging to read, as they catalogue all the bad habits standing in your way and make you feel like you'll never get it right.  What I like about this book is that it actually encourages you to keep going and suggests how to stay better focussed on why you want to do what you do.  I'm trying to set a practice (that word again) of reading a bit every day, with the idea that when I get to the end, I'll start over.

I'm happy to say that so far this fall has been a time of intensive work and progress in the studio.  The summer was another matter, but it is done (Where did it go?), and I've moved on.  May this phase continue!

My work has been improving steadily since I began practicing (!) the techniques I learned in July's Long Beach workshops.  My vessels have become lighter in weight and at the same time sturdier and more stable.  I'm very pleased.

I'm also starting to play with some sculptural variations based on the vessel form.  I used to make needle-felted human figures, but I really don't enjoy the needle-felting technique.  So I'm excited by the possibility of making figures via wet felting.  Nothing elaborate so far, just these little owl-ish creatures.  But I hope there will be more, and better, to come.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What I learned in Long Beach

I was very fortunate to get into two workshops with Lisa Klakulak (whose name I now know how to pronounce - accent on the middle syllable) at Convergence in Long Beach last month.  One day was about making small ornamentation - balls, discs, cords - and was followed by a separate two-day class on felting a small vessel.

At this point you may be thinking, "But you've been felting vessels for four years.  Why do you need a class now?"  I figured that at worst I'd be bored, and at best I would learn a whole new way of thinking about felt.  Well, the best happened!

Lisa is an excellent teacher with an orientation toward technical detail.  That's not to say her art isn't imaginative, because it is.  But she taught herself felting using a very scientific approach.  So she knows not only what to do, but why - what's happening microscopically to the fibers under various conditions, how weight and thickness of fiber, and exactly how you handle it, all affect the results in very specific ways.  It's about achieving control over the material so the end product might actually approach what you imagined when you began.

Fortunately Lisa has the ability to convey this information in a step by step way that is easily understood.  Not all of it was new to me, but within the first two hours, I understood the reasons for some of the technical problems I've had with my vessels and what to do differently.  That alone was worth the price of admission. 

The differences may not be obvious to those who view or buy my work, but I can already see and feel a difference in my results.  And I have lots more experimentation to do.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A little feline fun

Last month my vessel "When Cats Dream" was part of the exhibit "Catnip Connection 6" at Spanish Village, Balboa Park, San Diego - a benefit for the Feral Cat Coalition of San Diego County.  This piece was an experiment and turned out to be great fun.  Maybe there will be more flying cats in my future!

Tomorrow I head to Long Beach, CA, just up the freeway, for Convergence, the biennial conference of the Handweavers Guild of America.  I'm really a lapsed weaver these days and hadn't intended to register.  But they caught me by offering felting workshops with Lisa Klakulak (http://www.strongfelt.com).  I'm looking forward to three intensive days of learning from a master.  I'll report in my next post.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A whole lot of stuff

Last week I bought some much-needed shelving for my studio.  Sounds simple, but you know how one thing leads to another... 

First, I moved all the bins and boxes that were stacked in the corner where the shelves would go.  Then (two trips to Home Depot later) my husband and I assembled the shelving.  Then all the bins, and more, went onto those blessed new shelves.  So far so good.
I also I wanted to move the desk and its hutch from their place, serving as sort of a room divider, across the room to sit against the wall near the shelves.  So of course I had to take everything from the hutch and the desk top and stash it somewhere in the meantime.  (Isn't that what work tables are for?)  Anyway, moving furniture was the easy part.  The hard part was coming face to face with just how much stuff I have in my studio:  books, magazines, papers, all kinds of aging art supplies, a decent amount of felting wool, and yarn, yarn, yarn. 

Before I became a felter, I had been weaving for nearly 20 years.  And if you're a handweaver, or you know one, you know that we are by nature yarn junkies.  Despite having woven only two scarves in the past year, despite my loom standing empty more often than not, I still have the most amazing yarn collection.  But why? (apart from the fact that I love looking at it all.) Clearly, I need either to part with most of it (NOOOOOOOO!!!!!) or to start weaving seriously again.  I'm pondering...
Here is a sampling - maybe 2% of my stash.  And below is my newly reorganized studio, almost ready to felt in again!  


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Time flies in my studio

Yes, I'm still here!  I've been felting away, producing lots of new work for spring shows, and somehow the months have flown past.  

We're enjoying southern California spring in all its glory, which means it's summer one day, raining and cold the next - even had snow in our local mountains two weekends ago, followed by 90-degree temperatures this past weekend!  Keeps us on our toes.

My garden inspires me in all seasons, and right now it is in full bloom.  The last freesias are fading, the blue hibiscus and orange lion's tail are vying for attention, mountain lilac and pride-of-Madeira cover the back hillside, and Meyer lemon blossoms smell divine.  It all means lots of color in new felt. 

Last weekend's Artwear show was a success and a lot of fun.  It was my first time there as a guest artist, and I enjoyed meeting the other artists, new clients and potential clients.  The setting was a fantastic house and garden in Carlsbad, 40 miles north of San Diego.  Here is my booth in the "Secret Garden" on a brilliant morning.  The vessels really glowed in the sunshine.

I'm pleased to report that I've recently been accepted as a member of Spanish Village Art Center, located in our wonderful Balboa Park.  I'm exploring whether to associate with one of the studios there or remain a member-at-large; watch for a post about that soon.

New to my vessel collection this spring are mini vessels.  Each is a unique "treasure keeper" for your rings, a beautiful bead, a few handy paper clips...  Lots of fun to make, and a terrific way to use up bits of wool and silk that accumulate in my scrap drawer.  Come see the assortment in my booth at the Talmadge Art Show on May 6.

Monday, January 16, 2012


I'm often not as well informed as I'd like to be -- I find it hard to keep up in this age of information overload.  But sometimes things work out anyway.

Last Thursday at my yoga class, a fellow class member who is a painter mentioned an exhibit right here in San Diego that she thought my work would be "perfect" for.  Unfortunately, she said, the deadline was only two days away.

The show was "Small Images", an annual event at Gallery 21 in Spanish Village (Balboa Park.)  It was news to me, but what did I have to lose?  I came home from class, went straight to my inventory, and found four felt vessels that I thought were worthy of being entered.  (Most of my favorites right now are either sold or out on consignment, and since I didn't have time to make something new specifically for the show...)  The next day, paperwork in hand, I headed down to Balboa Park and submitted my work.  And two days later (i.e. yesterday) I heard that one of my vessels, "Gold Canyon," has been accepted! 

Show dates and details are at right.  I'll be sitting the gallery till 1:30 on Wednesday, Feb. 15, if you want to stop by and say hi.

I've also expanded my gallery pages here with recent work.  Please take a look.