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: clayoh.com
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 home...one 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
...so maybe...by 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 ....so 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
personas.



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 center...living 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
world.

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."

....it 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



 

 





 


 


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Inspiration from other artists and varying venues

Is it just my imagination, or does time move faster as we age?
Here we are already in August, although after the almost golf 
ball hail ice storm day before yesterday,  I wonder what season
this is.  I've been  busy leading workshops and updating my
website,but didn't want to ignore sharing some images from 
Spring shows as promised in my last blog. So in another attempt
to catch up - Here's a quick summary of artists and their work and
settings that inspired me April to June.



In  April I participated in the new Art of American Craft in 
Hartford,  CT  linked to the Hartford Wadsworth Museum. I hadn't 
been in a CT show in a while, so why not see what can happen.
Attendance was low, but sales reasonable for me and lots of customers
asking us to hang in  there since Hartford needs a high quality fine craft
show.  It was worth  it for me to meet Gerard Ferrari and see his series 
of orphaned teapots and other work.  Definitely cool, edgy, and inspiring. 

I was pleased to see that Gerard will be in Northampton at the 
Paradise City shows in October.  I look forward to reconnecting 
with  him there. Come on out Columbus Day weekend to see for 
yourself! He's being chosen as a featured artist. 

Speaking of Paradise City Shows -  I returned to Northampton for 
their May Memorial Day show.  I was curious to see if May brought
a different customer base from October.  Although there is overlap,
I connected with folks I hadn't seen in a long time and new customers
as well.  Sold lots of small work which was a wake up call for the
volume of inventory I will need for the December  One of
a Kind Show in Chicago that I have decided to do.  OAAK/ Chicago
gets 40,000+ folks in attendance!!!

In Northampton, I was drawn in by the smooth, restful lines of
David Talley's furniture His business name: Dharma Design 
Furniture shows his orientation. 


Although Chris Williams sculpture  -  avian rather than dragon 
this year, is always a draw for me.  (This eagle flew off to a client by
the end of the show.) 
And I returned home with a new creature - thanks to Dale Rogers.
I've loved watching Dale grow and evolve into the amazing sculptor
he is.  It's fun to have a mini Rogers creature in our garden. 
In June - a new venue for three of my winged sculptures. I participated
in the"Inspired Art" show at Boston Symphony Hall - a collaboration of
Discover Roxbury with the Boston Pops Gospel night performance
including the legendary Blind Boys of Alabama.  Three of my winged 
sculptures were included. 

(The dressed up young lady in the photo is the daughter of one of
 the other artist and one of the children who attended the after
school program where I worked this year. Multi-generational 
cultural events are wonderful!) 

Speaking of multi-generational - my next post will be about the
workshops I helped lead in July for Families Creating Together.

Have a great summer everyone....Adventure on!     Wendy   

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Making cuddly pillow to process grief



  Lately, local, national and world events have made me do a lot of
pondering about how we  process grief and help others do the same,
especially children.   It seemed an appropriate time to write up the
pillow project I led in February.

  How to help the after school group of children understand and process
the the grief of losing someone who had been such a consistent
presence in their lives for so long?  That was the challenge when Sam,
director and surrogate grandmother/friend to all of us died in February.
We had told them she entered the hospital and explained it was serious.
They all wrote her sweet cards of love and appreciation with favorite
memories which we took to her. We reported back to the kids how
pleased she was to receive them and how it helped the hospital realize
how much Sam was loved. We didn't encourage get well quick cards.
We then  moved on to letting the kids know that she was not going to
be coming back....like so many other times...and yes was dying.  Then
told them  when she died.  We let them be sad, show emotions, show
grief as they all needed to. My challenge was to help them process in an
additional  way.


  Zina Worley( Z's Fashion and Accessories) had donated lot of  fleece
scraps to the center and I had picked up additional textile materials at
the  Extras  for Creative Reuse Center  in Lynn when I went up
gathering  materials for the First Night workshop. Making large
pillows seemed a  good way to go....lots of soft materials to handle.
Just laying  them all out on the table the day Sam died seemed to help
even the most emotional of  the kids.



  As with most HYCC projects, we did not rush...worked one day a
week (or a bit more sometimes) The  project took about a month -
planning, choosing colors, designing, and hand stitching. It is
informing to see how many kids have never worked with a needle
and thread and which ones have. As they were working, they
continued to talk about Sam and process the loss.


As you can gather from photos the final results varied beautifully.
The only consistency was general size.  I had purchased 20x20
inserts to put inside the pillow covers the kids made...so we had a
basic shape and size to aim for.  I figured an insert was definitely
the way to go. We machine stitched three sides with kids involved
in that as well; then each learned to do a blind stitch to close up the
fourth side.



It was sweet to get reports back from the kids and their
parents after they finished and took the pillows home. A few said
they slept better than in a long time.  In retrospect, I wish we had
extended the project to adults - board members and others who were
processing Sam's loss.  It might have been useful during this difficult
period of transition. Often kids are a lot more resilient than adults.

Next post....back to art and shows.....

Adventure on.   Wendy