Saturday, June 11, 2016

Inspiration on two levels at Northampton

Balance - how does one maintain that in the world we live in?
Balance between fighting for important causes, being supportive
of your own family members, and keeping creative juices flowing
to have the energy for the rest of life.  For me, one way is to make
sure I get a regular dose of inspiration from other artists.

Originally my husband was scheduled for hip replacement surgery
the end of March. So after ACC Baltimore, I opted to take a break
from shows until the Northampton Paradise City Arts Festival
over Memorial Day weekend.  Then life threw a few
is often the case.  Some medical issues were picked up which had
to be dealt with before surgery so hip surgery was rescheduled for
May 18. I could have cancelled Northampton, but it still seemed
feasible with the usual hospital stay and my hubby encouraged me
to go forward.  Long story short, hospital stay was extended and
a couple complications, though nothing drastic, were added. So
I would have to  leave for show only three days after my hubby
was discharged.

Cancel at the last minute - or go forward? That's when other artists
and family kicked in and made us realize how excellent our life
choices have been all these years with respect to the communities
we have chosen to live in.Our close artist friend, feltmaker Miriam
Carter offered to drive down the 1 hour from New Hampshire to
work the show for me if I went, but then suddenly had to leave.
 Meanwhile two of our children living in Brooklyn said they would
 come up and  "cover" for me with their Dad.  So..taking a deep
breath, and knowing a couple days away would probably be good 
for me, I packed up and went off.

And who should be there to greet me but the dragon musician above
and these creatures below created by the talented wooden rocking
 horse/ carousel animal and polymer fantasy creature sculptor
Tracy Kochanski.

This was Tracy's first trip to the Paradise City Arts Festival. Her
 creatures lifted my spirits..(even the caged fairy in the back of the
 booth! -After  a few comments by attendees, she made sure the door
 to the cage was open. Though we all agreed, some fairies occasionally
 need to be contained..).

 Chris Willimas' dragon soared watching over us all...and his sea
creatures inspired me to push my new line of deep sea journal

The metal sculpture at the show always attracts me. I' look
forward to  seeing what Matt Evald Johnson will bring along -
I am usually astounded by his energy and creativity.  This year
was as true as ever.  How could I resist a piece like "Modern
Promethes"...A bookbinder stitching and stitching her/his torn
and needy books.....

Matt's chess table made me wish  I had paid
 attention when folks were trying to teach me chess. I  can just imagine a game played on this table in some awesome living room or castle dwelling or perhaps in  some Game of Thrones court scene?  Check out the dragon "knights" on the black side.  

Kimberly Willcox , one of my  favorite 
sculptors was also there.  Her variety,
sense of line, movement, and design
always encourages me to work harder 
and go for it with my own work.

At one point things became a little dicey back home, but
in the end resolved for the better.  Everyone at the show-
artists and promoters supported me and kept checking in 
and our kids on the homefront did beautifully problem 
solving  - a wake up call perhaps that we parents are 
aging and not  invulnerable...but also to their competence
..and our confidence in them. Other folks back home
 helped out as well with food and backup if needed.  

My husband I ended feeling extremely blessed. I have 
learned to savor each day (As Muhammad Ali used to
say "don't count the days, make the days count")...but
knowing we wake up to exist in such supportive and 
loving communities, reminds me to offer a gesture of
gratitude each morning.  

Adventure on.  Wendy

Friday, April 29, 2016

Encouraging Teachers to Play with Materials

A couple weeks ago,  I was invited as a visiting artist to
Ed Pazzanese class "Art-infused Early Childhood Education
Activities" at the Urban College here in Boston.  I visited last
year as well and had such a good time with his "students", I
gladly came again.  His students are teachers and caretakers
in a combination of headstart, preschool, kindergarten, and
other situations supporting young children.  After working
all week long, these amazing folks show up for a 4 hour
class on Saturday mornings to further their education. One has
a dream of starting her own schools.  Ed's philosophy
of education is deeply rooted in the child centered Reggio
Emilia approach to early childhood. To use his words,
this course"focuses on the interplay between art, play, literacy
and the environment. "  His course is filled with great readings,
writing challenges. active discussion  and lots of experiential
practicum in the arts.(Check out the artwork created using
masking tape created at a previous class on the wall here:
The class began with a discussion of the value and importance of
developing multi-generational programs. Ed had previously shown
the students a video of the Families Creating  Together organization 
he  began a number of years ago whose focus is offering opportunities
for families to gather  in a multi-generational and inclusive
environment, welcoming adults and children with and without
disabilities and offering Spanish and sign language interpreters
if needed.  I led a "our neighborhood our stories"  mixed media
workshop for FCT last summer...will lead another this summer...
it's an amazing group!! Judy Battat, FCT program advisor and
evaluator was there this Saturday to talk about FCT and other
programs she is involved in. 

After a break, it was my turn to present  -
The art challenge this Saturday was to use the various recycle
materials Ed picked up at Extras for Creative Reuse 
plus some materials I and some students brought and
to create a city scene...could be imaginary or realistic. The students
were divided up into two group tables..and told to try to look at
the materials from a kids' point of view.  Then each create
something which would be combined with the others to
create a story scene...requiring working together in a cooperative
way (sometimes a challenge for adults and children.) At the
conclusion, each person told about their part...and then one
or two people wove a story incorporating them all.

Some dug right in, others took a little longer to come up with ideas,
not unlike the variation in children I would guess.  With support
from others, ideas were stirred and structures emerged: 
I was pleased to see that some ideas begun, morphed into something
else.. (a fence into a track for a subway car..with car..) The individual
pieces and use of materials (ribbons for wall covering for example)
were quite wonderful.   We had everything from city street scenes
(complete with bicycle and sports car:
To dress shop, hotel, Prudential Tower with water fountain with tossed coins:

  even a car wash (check out the face on the happy car being washed!)
To backyard scenes with BBQ and places to relax:

In the end each group gathered round while the table participants
presented their piece and combined all into a single story or two...
If we had had more time those stories could have gone on and on..

 A granddaughter came with her Nana and enjoyed the final
results:  That's the morphed orange line subway car on the track
in the center I mentioned earlier.

Last year when I worked with Ed's class, the materials were
a little more challenging and odd...the end results ended
up more in the imaginary realm...made me realize the impact
of exactly what materials are presented.  These creations
were wonderful, but another time, I think it would be
fun to challenge even more.

It will be fun to hear what from this experience the students
took back to their classrooms.  Last year Ed reported
many did similar projects albeit it ones geared to appropriate
ages in their classrooms.  

I admire tremendously Ed's passion for spreading the
importance of art infused education to promote
problem solving,  creative thought,  cooperation and
skill development . I'm still working up the exact description
for the 5 weekly mixed media workshops I will be leading
for the Families  Creating Together this July..tentative title
"Story Creatures".

But before then...tomorrow I'm gathering folks at the
Hawthorne Youth and Community Center to make
signs for the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute's  Mother's
Day Walk for Peace....and to share community stories. 
The theme for this year's walk is  "Celebrating the Courage
of Community".  I'm heading up a team to walk in honor
of the director of HYCC who died last year...after
a lifetime of commitment to families and community.

More about the LDB Peace Institute and the walk in
my next post.

Peace and onward!    Wendy

Monday, April 11, 2016

Creatures and more offering inspiration at ACC Baltimore

Just when I begin to wonder if I should take a year off from shows,
I take a little time to wander the aisles...and remember why I love
participating.  Inspiration at ACC Baltimore this year came especially
from  Thomas Harris's work pictured above and below.  His hand
built work's  form, texture and color drew me in...of course
that he had reliquary jars with creature heads and a dragon
head protruding from the wall didn't hurt. I treated myself
to one of his functional mugs.  Check out his website:
to see the full range of his work. 

Several artists had wall mounted heads this year  - including this
intriguing one by Allen Littlefield  I keep encouraging him to show at
Arisia.  I think folks there would really appreciate his work.

 And then there were surprises -like this large chair  from Simon
(Semyon) Kaplan  "Artist sculpture in wood" who brought 30
years experience from the tribal and folk art worlds.  Unfortunately
I was never able to connect with him in person at the show. Trained
in Alaska, he lives in Brooklyn now.

I left the fasion scene years ago, but appreciate artists like
Starr Hagenbring  who  are really pushing the limits..

and having a great time in the process!!

Starr is  one of those energy filled artists who ask us what do we
have to lose by exploring new ideas, stretching ourselves and our
customers! Next time I'm in New Orleans, I'm definitely checking
out her store on  Magazine Street - optical shop and art  -leave it
to Starr!!

Wholesale started off rather slow for me this year, but bit by bit grew
including nice orders which have been called in since the show.  The
weather was great for retail days, no snow storm like last year...which
curtailed crowds.  The result was much better retail sales...including
a very special sale....Pageante and Roland the traveling librarian
dragon duo found a new with a VERY appreciative and
persistent young person who fell in love with them...and promised to
keep their stories going.   Another fun sale was to a couple whose son
does not like books because of his dyslexia...they decided to give him
one of  my large flying dragon books with a story...customized to
include his name. Thought he might love it.  They guessed correctly.
When it arrived, they sent me a photo of him beaming.  Seeing
imagination and story sparkle in customers' eyes is worth every hour spent.

Finally  - you never know what ideas a customer might have. One
asked if I could make a leather ipad cover with  more than just one
eye.  Certainly, I said and gave her a box of eyes from which she
could choose....not expecting her to pick out 13...and ask for two
red ones to be added to those!!  This was the result - 12 eyes on the
front, 3 on the back...

Next time I might suggest the number of eyes...but it was fun to make
and has inspired some new ideas....maybe some sea creature covers?
Octopi? squid?....stay tuned.

For now I'm thinking spring...beginning to get some planting of greens
in the raised beds down at our community garden..filling orders...and
dreaming up new ideas...all while waiting for my hubby to get a new
hip so that we can travel again to far off limes together..

My next show is the Paradise City Arts Festival, May 28-30,
Memorial Day weekend...out in Northampton.

Adventure on!  Wendy

Sunday, February 28, 2016

New materials, new dragons...

As I mentioned in my last blog...a couple new dragons
showed up after the Arisia show...incorporating some
materials I found there. 21" tall  Akhai-Kath, the strong 
pictured above was one.
Since folks seem to like process photos, I thought I'd share 
a few of Akhai-Kath in the making as well as another
dragon named Gryclaw, the colorful.  This is what Akhai-Kath
looks like under his leather...Hand stitched muslin over
a wire armature wrapped by polyester.  He has a stone
in his rear end as well as his snout!...holding lots of stories:

 Apoxie sculpt helps attach the snout to the wire armature as well as
hold the eyes securely.
Here he is getting his claws!

Then on to adding paint patina to the leather....

He undoubtedly had some comments about my messy studio,
but discretely kept them to himself.
Next came his gorgeous black beaded belly. Given to me by
my supplier-of-wondrous-things-buddy, Martha Bergeron.
She hadn't found a use for the piece, beaded in Macau,
and thought just maybe a dragon (and his maker)
might like it. So brought it over to the Arisia show along
with a few other goodies and we made a trade.
 Akhai-Kath's belly was built to size for the black
beaded piece - Beading goes from chin to between his
lower legs. Fortunately I had matching beads to help
attaching the piece to the leather.

I have been thinking of making a dragon with a beaded belly and
thought about beading it all myself. However, ACC Baltimore was
soon upon us... and my price point for the piece would have to be
radically different.  I still plan on doing one. This Spring I am taking
bit of a hiatus from shows to help my hubby while his hip is replaced my next show at the end of May such a creature may
appear.  The creatures have a way of determining when they want to
show up.

After attaching the beaded piece, rawhide spokes and the beaded leather
braid that goes with them is the final step. ...No wings for his character.
Related to the eastern form of dragons, he is confident he'll be able to
fly without them.

But speaking of wings...the second dragon who appeared after Arisia,
does have them.  Here that dragon is patiently waiting...

I played with a slightly new shape.. As I explained in the last blog my dealer
table was next to Cloak and Dagger Creations
booth.  There was a basket of remnants of trim right next to me which I had fun looking through. Hmmm I thought- bellies for small
dragons perhaps?  I had wanted to incorporate more color into the dragons so found one to
use on this dragon....on belly and for anklets.

And Gryclaw, the Colorful emerged! (Named by our 10 year old
grandson living in South America.  (Have to love the internet!!)
Gryclaw is 24 " long (with curled tail) and about 12 " tall depending
on how the wings are arranged. 

Both dragons enjoyed posing for professional shots by Bob Barrett
photographer set up at ACC Baltimore. Bob took the first photo in this
blog as well as the one just above of Gryclaw. I really appreciate Bob
setting up in Baltimore. He is the source of most of my professional
photos for the  past several years.  The dragons joined several other
dragons in my booth at the show - big and small - sculptures, Rpeggie
dragons (holding RPG dice), book form , on journal covers and more.

 Inspiration often hits just before a show. Having worked with the
garment  trim for Gryclaw's belly....I looked over the Celtic trim
pieces I had picked up and saw their potential  to add into  a
complimentary line of card holders, journals, checkbook holders
etc. to my line with eyes.  I love the pieces with  eyes, but I know
they are not for everyone. (Actually I enjoy that customers seem to
know just whom they are for, and for whom not.) I've been thinking
about my Celtic roots of late.  So  the week before ACC Baltimore, I
produced these items to see  what the response might be.  It was very
positive looks like it will be  added to my sculptural leather items
for a while  anyway. I especially  like  the dragon/griffin trim in the
lower right corner,  but do love Celtic braids...

After the first couple days at the ACC Baltimore show, I was
questioning whether I should consider taking a year off.  It is
very expensive to exhibit at the show. But the next day I
wandered the booths and was reminded of the extraordinary artists
I meet there, the community that gathers and the inspiration that
it generates for me.  Fortunately the weather cooperated this year
(last  year there was a snow storm on Saturday), the retail attendance
was up and sales brisk...including major ones for me.  (Pageante and
Roland the dragon traveling librarian duo found a great new home.)
So.... looks like I will apply once again for next year.

Next post, I will share images from a few of the artists who
stirred my creative juices!

Adventure on.    Wendy

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Navigating worlds and finding inspiration

Last post I promised to try to do better keeping up with my blog in 2016. Hmmm. In an attempt to post at a minimum of once per month, I figured I better write today...the last day of January.

I've been pondering how it is we navigate the various worlds
we inhabit, the challenges and the inspirations we receive
from wandering through.

The political scene in the U.S. at the moment seems at times
like a fantasy or horror film depending on your perspective. I'm guessing many directors would find the script so
incredible that they would not be willing to take it on. 
Certainly it provides  plenty of fodder for late night comedy
shows and cartoonists.   Yet, of course, it also provides a
deep insight to the varying passions and opinions which
coexist in the United States.  The challenge is to figure a
way to actually listen to different opinions without dismissing off hand preventing any sort of deeper understanding.

When asked why I incorporate eyes in my work, I often
mention my belief that each of us "see" the world through
our individual perspective, life experience and filter.Sometimes
those filters are so opaque that is is impossible to see or
listen to others who don't see things as we do.

January is when from a show perspective, I venture into
a different world than the usual fine craft scene. As I have done
in previous years,  I participated in the art show and had a table in
the dealer room at Arisia, the fantasy/sci fi convention held
here in Boston Jan. 15-18.  I love seeing the care and flair visible in
the  costumes attendees wear and their comfort in their various

Certainly my customers have a bit of a different look than those at other shows.  I feel close to my costume designer brother who died years ago when I look at details. I was set up next to Cloak and Dagger Creations who sold corsets cloaks, googles and more.Although I've never been interested in wearing a corset, it was fun watching all shapes
sizes of folks trying them on. (Wired undergarments were one of my brother's specialties.)
It is different, and yet wonderful to be in an environment which is open, accepting, and "safe" for expression of creativity and exploration of identity.  There is a lot of fun, music making, gaming, film watching, listening to panels with a literature focus, etc, but likewise many panels exploring images of gender, sexual orientation, discrimination, racism in literature, games, films and society.  The teens have their own unconvention and determine what topics they want to discuss.  Like most worlds, there are strong opinions, conflicts and disagreements...and yet it seems like a place that encourages listening and trying to understand another point of view.

I am always intrigued to see the impact knowing I'm participating in the show has on my artwork.  I don't specifically create for Arisia, but items I see or pick up there from year to year find their way into my work.  A number of items (like kindle
and ipads covers and checkbooks with eyes) were the result of
orders at Arisia. Last year I became fascinated with roll playing
game dice and began using some in figures.  This year, a species of
Rpeggies showed up to dance on my table. ...each incorporating an
RPG in their heads and holding a removable one for playing.

Wandering in worlds which are on the edge of my comfort zone stirs
up creative juices, challenges me to sort through my opinions, and
if I am lucky ends up presenting new materials.(Next post I'll
show images of a couple new leather dragons incorporating items picked
up at Arisia!)

May you wander in new realms this year - both physically and in spirit
and see what opens before you.

Adventure on.  Wendy

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year end reflections & thoughts for a new year

Here we are once again reflecting on the past year and contemplating
the turning of the new.  It's been a year of challenges, celebrations,
confounding occurrences, and blessings.  Through it all
my blog postings became erratic and absent....My apologies to
followers for that.  I'll try to do much better in 2016..

 Starting with the positive:
   We survived the most snow filled winter in Boston records.
I felt very lucky to have my studio inside my home.  Also
fortunate to be only a couple blocks away from where I helped
with an after school program (when school wasn't closed.)

    Our four children and their families all gathered in Brooklyn
to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary....coming from
Virginia, Ecuador and Brooklyn to be there. 

     In September, our 7th granddaughter was born...rounding
out our grandling number to 8...two for each of our children.
All healthy  and coming into their own in beautiful and
amazing ways... a blessing not to be taken for granted.

     Shows continued to offer inspiration. Being surrounded by
creativity of others always pushes me. Exploring new locations
worked out well - especially my last show, Chicago One of a Kind
where I walked down memory lane. My years there as a
child contributed majorly to my love of cities and the path to
becoming an artist. Interesting how just 5 years can lead the way.
The One of a kind show succeeds in getting a large and
diverse public to attend. Response to my work was very
enthusiastic with brisk selling.  I have signed on to return next
year. Wish it was a little closer, but hope to convince my hubby
to drive with me again next year. I would like to explore the
public art in Chicago more next year. 

Challenges and future plans:
   As I posted earlier, Sam Sadd the director of the
Hawthorne Youth and Community Center where I have been
artist in residence for the past several years, died in January.
She died the day the concrete was poured for the new energy
efficient expansion of the long enough to know
her expansion dream would be a reality.  Grief and loss are
processed by each of us in our own ways. Her absence was
a shock and challenge on various dimensions.  I ended up
helping keep the  after school program going until the end
of  the year - 35 hours/wk instead of 2. (blog posts tended
to slip through the cracks.) The experience reinforced how
much I enjoy working with children, but also challenged me
to figure our what hours and ways made the most sense. 

   The center rehab is largely complete, but HYCC transition
has been difficult financially. To date no replacement director
has been  hired and no regular programming for youth is
going on there now. A real saddness for me especially as
First Night roles around.  For the past several years, neighbor
artist, Lisa Lee and I have facilitated a First Night parade
project which gathered youth and broader community to
participate in the parade on New Year's Eve.  It was an
important way to connect neighbors and past participants
at the center and to make everyone feel a part of Boston.

   In July I led art workshops for the multigenerational inclusive
organization , Families Creating Together.  Neighborhood
places and stories was our focus.  Being in a larger environment
and one with good support staff was awesome. I hope to work
with them again.

   I'm still trying to figure how I will work and interact with youth
in 2016.  Helping youth feel they are "seen" and cared for seems more
important than ever as we face the uncertainties of an unpredictable

What will 2016 bring?  I wish for thoughtful debate, action, and
agreement on important issues on the political front - an unrealistic
dream? perhaps...but the world will indeed be a dark place if
dreamers don't dream on.

I heed the words of Michael Coady's poem "There are also Musicians"
shared by Brian O'Donovan on his WGBH radio program and
at the end of the  Christmas Celtic Sojourn performance we attended.
  "Though there are torturers in the world
  There are also musicians." is our role as artists to continue to lift up the beauty and joy
that persists in the world while we work hard for justice and peace.
When attendees passed by my booth at the Brooklyn Museum show
this past November, I saw many visibly relax and smile....prompting
a smile and breath may just be my job right now. 

May creative energy flow in 2016 encouraging problem solving,
listening to each others stories and celebrating life.

Adventure on.  Wendy