Keeping the Faith: Inspired by the Storied Quilts of Faith Ringgold

Keeping the Faith: Inspired by the Storied Quilts of Faith Ringgold

WEB2I recently led elementary school-aged students through a project inspired by the storied artist Faith Ringgold, progenitor of the art of the “Story Quilt

WEB9Students used pieces of “eco-fi” (made of recycled plastic bottles) felt, upon which they built their “story”, using pieces of cloth/fabric/textiles, ribbon, more felt, “pom poms“, feathers, fabric tape and so forth. All materials soft fabric or adornment materials.

WEB7Some young artists glued two to three pieces of felt together, some used a single sheet.

WEB1Students learned about gluing different sorts of materials together. How does one glue down feathers to a surface, while retaining their “feather-like” quality?

WEB3Students worked in close proximity at the cafeteria tables where our class is held, interacting and sharing about their pieces as they went along.

WEB4The color and texture of the materials seemed to affect the makers. The young girl above in the flowered dress put her piece to her cheek a number of times, enjoying its softness.

WEB6This young artist displayed incredible patience, cutting and gluing multitudes of repeating shapes onto the felt, bordering them with fabric tape, and even backing the piece with black felt.

WEB8All of the makers displayed relish and joy in the materials, and unbounded creativity. Whether working abstractly or figuratively, the students shared their stories with shapes, color, texture and imagery!

What a JOY!

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Inspired by Faith and her Storied Quilts

Inspired by Faith and her Storied Quilts

Teaching a class for the C.R.E.S.T. Enrichment program of Santa Monica entitled, “Making Art Inspired By Great Artists” allows for many exciting possibilities.

The artist Faith Ringgold is a natural for children, as she has written and illustrated for them herself. She created a unique “hybrid” art form she calls the “Story Quilt”, which combines quilting and painting, with a focus on cloth.

WEBjStudents aged 5-9 worked with pre-cut pieces of Eco-fi “felt (made from recycled plastic bottles), and developed their scenes or stories by adding cloth,pom poms, ribbon, leather, textiles, feathers and fabric tape.

WEBiMany of the students chose to glue pieces of the felt together, to create larger works.

WEBdAlthough some look abstract, each holds a story that expresses aspects of the maker’s experience. The piece above holds an ice cream cone, and later pizza was added!

WEBbWhen I asked the talented young artist why she put a dollar sign on the piece above, she shrugged and said simply, “I don’t know.” Somewhere in there, is a story!

WEBaThis young artist kept putting her piece up to her cheek, enjoying its tactile softness.  She said it depicted a “state”.  Did she mean flag?

WEBfWEBgWEBe1It was fascinating to see how several students used pieces of the same textile or cloth.

WEBhThe piece above is actually backed in black felt, and the six-year-old artist framed it with a border , hallmarks of Ringgold’s “Story Quilts”. This first grader’s old’s patience in piecing together all of the felt rectangles, (which she also cut out), is stunning, as is the finished piece!

As all of the “Story Quilts” are.  Inspired, and inspiring!

Pushing the Envelope

Pushing the Envelope

Using the form of the envelope to create an artist’s book can be evocative, provocative,  crafty, conceptual, fun, somber, expressive, “artistic”, creative, engaging, and baffling. As with many artists’ books, the question can be raised, “What are these for? What is their purpose? Are they meant to be read, observed and perused, handled, shown behind glass?”  And in the case of the envelope book “…sent through the mail?”

I don’t presume to answer these questions, and can imagine another post which delves more deeply into them.  In this one, my  intent is to share a few of my own envelop books, the materials used in them, some of the motivation, thinking and feeling behind them, and let the observer draw their own conclusions, and perhaps becoming inpsired to explore, and even create one of their own.

Note: in this post,  we see books created in the form of an envelope…as opposed to books created from existing envelopes, which is a whole other story. Also, hemp cord was used to bind the sewn books, and acid-free UHU glue sticks were used as the adhesive for anything glued on all the books depicted.

WEBa WEBbCutting, Folding, Stamping, Sewing…

In this book, the basic form is cut and folded, and a single signature is sewn into the last fold with a pamphlet stitch.  A single rubber stamp image stamped in varying ways is used to develop and adorn the piece, and delicate handmade paper containing plant material adds a finishing touch to the pages.

WEBdWEBaWEBbWEBcLone Stories Connect…Discover “I Think I Can”…It’s Everything

In the piece above, the basic structure is cut and folded from a sketchbook cover, and the pages created by a concertina/accordion folded paper strip glued into its next to last section.. The collaged elements, ranging from printed material cut from magazines,  personal writing, repurposed corrugated paper, ribbon scrap and copied illustration images, tell a story of pain and isolation with the potential of redemption through connection and story.

WEBa WEBb WEBcPainfully Animal

This mini book opens on four sides, with pages sewn in a single signature into one fold. Soft handmade paper is used both for adornment and  pages, attached with a running stitch which is threaded back into the sewing holes so that the two ends can be tied together. The single message greets the viewer right in the center. What does it mean? Well, ponder it for awhile, and notice your associations with the phrase, “Painfully Animal”. What does the term evoke for You?

WEBa WEBb WEBcMixed Media Envelope Book: Work in Progress

This mixed media message piece has been underway, along with a number of bookish siblings, for over two years.  It’s structure is cut and folded, like the first envelope book depicted in this post, and it’s graph paper pages stacked into a single signature, and sewn into the end fold with a running stitch as described above. The  painstaking, step-by-step process of developing the book’s content requires time and focused attention.

Every bit of image and text must feel ‘right’ in how it looks, what it evokes and where it is placed in the book. The ‘story’ that emerges, however non-linear, is discovered in the doing as much by the artist, as it may be later by the observer. Time itself is one of the most significant materials used, as such a piece can’t be rushed.

In these works, many aspects of the creative process come into play: patience and impulse, technique and tension, methods and materials, effort and evocation.

The medium of the envelope book may be on  a mission to become a missive to the outside world from the maker’s heart and soul, hands and head. If it gets a little heady, or crafty in-between, well, that might be just another aspect of this long strange trip we’re on.

Object Lessons: Vignettes 2

Object Lessons: Vignettes 2

What makes a place your own…that goes beyond style, decoration and decor, becoming a personal expression that spells H-O-M-E, even  if the space involved is your place of business, work or office?  The way we put our objects of meaning together is a form of creative expression that is unique to each of our beings… in ways we don’t even seem to be conscious of.

Birds of a feather…flock together, or, do they?  There seems to be a common human urge to organize our aesthetic views by placing objects that have commonality together.  It might be common physical characteristics such as  color, shape, pattern or size, a common function, such as things to read, things to drink from, things to put plants in, or  a common material: ceramics, metal or  glass.

Or…the assembled objects may have a commonality known, and felt, only by the assemblers, and those they know, love and live with.  The “collection”, however spare, may be composed of objects which resonate with shared memory, joy, triumph, or transcendence, and which have an ineffable but profound effect on those in the know who gaze on them.

Other groupings may combine a number of these attributes, and create whimsy, humor, an inside joke, or, an outside joke.  The choice to display objects from different cultures which inter-relate on the basis of color, pattern, size and scale add other layers of meaning, and their juxtaposition may create new associations, or uncover existing ones.

The associations of “new”, and “old”, vintage, or contemporary, “My mother bought me that TV” or “My sister brought those slippers home from India” , speak to our memories, where we are now,  and even where we want to be- our longings, desires, dreams, hopes and wishes.  They are all there, impelling our choices, informing our decisions, coloring our moods, our plans,  our moments and our minds.

Reflected or unknowingly  expressed in the way we place our “stuff”…whether seemingly thrown together, or carefully designed and thought out on a conscious level, may be the design and drama of our whole lives, and an expression of the highs and lows, the needs and aspirations, the joys and sorrows therein.

What have YOU expressed through Your H=O=M=E arrangements, assemblages, collages, collections, compositions, and displays?

if You feel so inclined, please share about them with us here.

We love to hear from You.

Remember, we are all designing, assembling, collecting, gathering and displaying our way through this thing called Life, together.

LA Stories VI: A-door-ing


LA Stories VI: A-door-ing

What is a door? A magical portal into worlds of fantasy, mystery, magic and even mayhem?

Recent explorations of LA area beach towns have yielded some a-door-able results. Please see below some examples of the door that keeps you coming back for more.   Turn the key of your  perception,  and prepare to have your imagination turned on!

This amazing find in Venice near the storied Canal District looks straight out of Alice in Wonderland. What extraordinary creatures are playing croquet on the lawn beyond?  Privacy seems to be the goal here.

Here is a more rustic version on a delightful street in Mar Vista, minus the hedge, and plus a “half”  wall! The house and yard are in full view beyond.  The door seems to be there for the sheer joy of it.

Energetic red animates a cottage-like Santa Monica residence, set off by soft yellow, and the colors of nature.  A visual target, our eye is drawn to this door like a magnet to metal.

The red door is used again here to great effect, as a “real” element in the midst of a children’s mural.  Red elements all around it integrate it into the scene, yet it stands out as a strong element, letting us know where to go to get to the other side of a seemingly safe and self-contained world.

Venice’s Canal District is home to many remarkable architectural design gems and delicious creative elements, including mosaic-ed columns which lead us down the path to the door to the door!

Giant bowling balls? Well, maybe. At any rate, these strong forms direct us to the portal of  “UMG”,  the  Universal Music Group Offices in Santa Monica, where some of the giants of the music industry do business.

Who says a door has to be real? And what is “real”, anyway? Madame Chou Chou Bistro Patisserie on Main Street in Santa Monica is the perfect place to indulge your appetite for fantasy, and  your sweet-tooth.  Highly recommended for an elegant, yet fun indulgence.

What magical doors have YOU opened lately, and what fantastical worlds have You entered?

If you so choose,  please share about it with us here.

We love to hear from You.

Remember, we are all opening the doors to this thing called Life, together.

Brand New 2

Brand New 2

What is a “brand“?  I added a link to the term, because I think Wikipedia describes the concept better than I can, at least at this stage.  One of the salient words used in the definition is “identity”.  Specifically: “A brand is the identity of a specific product,  service,  or business.” My colleague  Elka Eastly Veratransformative coach and brand consultant, defines it such: “A brand is like soul DNA. It’s what people recognize you for. It’s where the “you of you” meets the world. It’s the essence of your business. “

Jim Moran, founder and manager of Co-Op, a NYC-based branding firm, says,Brand is really the DNA that defines your company. Branding is about storytelling.  it’s about bringing the DNA to life and creating perceptions.”

When Frank Mahnke, of the International Association of Colour Consultants/Designers says that color is a form of communication and information, he is talking the language of branding.  How do colors, patterns, textures, shapes, forms and images create  ‘soul DNA’, and story?

It took me awhile to realize how much like graphic design and marketing decorative painting could be.  When I worked with the talented graphic designer Dianna Jacobsen, of Jacobsen Design, on the creation of my website, business cards, brochure, and postcard, I went through an in-depth process of determining how I wanted to beam my business, my work, my self, out into the world.

It’s not just about making things beautiful, but creating an experience for people.” says Dianna, about bringing the “brand” into physical spaces.

When I found myself working with clients ranging from businesses and  organizations to  non-profits and institutions, I discovered that I was helping them do just that through visual, and often verbal elements as well.

Let’s take a look at a few of them who employed the painter’s brush as a tool for communicating their message.

921 Front Street is a historic building dating from 1859, located in the North Waterfront area of San Francisco. Originally a warehouse, it is now a commercial building providing office space. The signage in the lobby is based on the building’s logo, so there is an immediate tie-in to the brand.  The metallic copper and steely silver colors used in the lettering reflect the natural and industrial materials used in the lobby.

Maitri Compassionate Care provides exemplary, innovative, and compassionate hospice care. The Maitri Mover Campaign Donor Recognition Arch above was designed to honor the donors who participated in the capital campaign supporting its present facility. Names of donors are hand-painted onto the glazed surface of the industrial arch which supports the one-time parking garage.  Like 921 Front Street,  the lettering is done in metallic paints to draw the eye to the words, and make them stand out from the background.  Whether said background be black or white, and the words words sparse or abundant, all visual and verbal elements support the branding.

“On the Fly” is a specialty men’s store designed by  Martinkovic Milford Architects The broken stripe design suggests stitching, as well as the classic men’s pin-striped suit sold inside. The stripe patten reflects the visual branding image used in the brand’s marketing materials. The “hands on” stripe application both communicates and enhances the store’s established visual message, and is “tailor-made” for the venue!

Also communicating directly out onto the “street”, but in a whole other way, the mural above depicts an imagined “Land of Oshun”, where a host of interacting Oshun figures express the colors, symbols, and attributes of this beneficent and inspirational goddess figure. Oshun Center, a drop-in center for women and their families, is a program of the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics.   Oshun is the name of an “Orisha” or goddess in the Yoruban (an ethno-linguistic group of West Africa), Brazilian, and Cuban religious pantheons.  Oshun’s color is yellow, and her metals are gold and copper. Other symbols depicted in the mural include peacocks and mirrors, reflective of vanity and physical beauty.  Oshun represents life’s joys, and all that makes it worth living, and this is the “soul DNA”, message, story,  brand, of Oshun Center, supported in turn, by the visual language of the mural.

When we think about how everything we see, indeed everything we experience through any of our senses, transmits something, carries and provides associations, and potentially stirs our emotions, we can see just how powerful visual and verbal elements can be in telling the story of our soul, and communicating the soul of our story.

How have You communicated the essence of your own work or business, or that of another,  through the elements of color, pattern, texture and imagery?  What about words, text, or as the brand editor Abby Kerr would say, “phraseologie”?

Please share about the richness of your experience with us here.  We love to hear from You.

Remember, we  are all branding through this thing called Life, together.


Featured Work: A Mid-Century Tale

Featured Work: A  Mid-Century Tale

Once upon a time,  in March of 2011, I had two wonderful and creative Clients who wanted a special decorative / design application on a perfectly blank wall in their master bedroom.

Here’s where we started…

And..here’s where we ended up.

So…what happened in-between?

Well, having done a custom application in their guest room,

I had familiarity with the Clients’  home, tastes, design style, and color preferences.  It was immediately apparent upon entering their space: these Clients have a passion for  Mid-Century/ retro style and design.

Their strong affinity for hues of orange fit right into their Mid-C sensibility.

The Clients’ unified approach to their home decor and design is expressed in just about every detail of their space, including

tray tables…

shower curtains….

coasters,

textiles,

a sunburst clock,

vases (and furniture and ornaments),

and more vases (and furniture and ornaments).

We began our collaboration with a small gem of an idea…a snippet of  inspirational pattern that caught my Clients’ sensitive eye.

We played with the scale, the sizing and the spacing,

 

and I created custom stencils.

We did the math (a few times…), and I marked out the pattern on the wall with chalk.

I did the first stencil application. The pattern emerged, and,  the wall came alive…  the pattern just animated that wall!

The secondary stencil animated the pattern, design, and wall surface yet further.

Little rings of fire did their job…added energy, snap, crackle and pop that was just, well, FUN.  (As my Clients are).

The result, though we had planned for it carefully, surprised us all in its whimsy, uniqueness, and aliveness.  (Also qualities of my Clients.)

Somehow the wall, and the design, the pattern  and the treatment became more than the sum of their parts…

one of the happiest outcomes of the Arts!

And here we have the happy ending of the tale…or, is it a beginning?

Have YOU ever had the experience of your collaborations and creations becoming more than the sum of their parts?

If you feel so inspired,  please share it with us here.  We love to hear from you.

Remember, we are all creating this story of our LIVES, together.

May You have JOY and Aliveness in your Life, as you Live it!