Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Artist books and Small Ceramic masks

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I'm participating in a local
summer arts festival organized by our ArtRox collective on
July 10. I'll mostly be displaying my small work there. Such
as this little book:

I've always loved making small books. Most of my storytelling
figures have one or more with them. Above is one of a miniature
version of my Legend of the Pudding Stone People complete
with 2" x 4" beaded leather pouch incorporating a piece of pudding stone.

I've also had fun with more elaborate books playing with themes
such as this one titled "Out of the Fire" - That's a detachable
dragon inside the book!

Here is another. My tribute to Brother Blue the legendary
Cambridge storyteller who did so much for the growth
of storytelling in the New England area and beyond. It
incorporates his phrase, "From the middle of the middle of
me to the middle of the middle of you".

And finally a couple of the small ceramic masks (4" across) I'll
be showing. They tend to come out around this size because 4"
is just the width of my hand. A ball of clay fits there nicely to be
sculpted out.
An avian:

and a bear:

I hope everyone has a fun, safe 4th of July!
Journey on!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Leather card holders and journals

Although sometimes I love the challenge of making really
large sculptures, small is beautiful too! Lately I've been
concentrating on making small items to be available for a
July 10 festival organized by the ArtRox collective to which
I belong.

Networking seems more important than ever these days, so
I've been hand stitching suede lined black leather
two-pocket card holders. One side for your cards,
the other for those of the people you meet. Measuring
4.25" x3" they allow for individuality. I've had fun
with varying styles:

Classic with sculpted swirls and colorful suede lining:

black leather with painted swirls:

And for the more venturous -ones with faces:


and bird and/or dragons wings on the covers:

The card holders are also perfect for putting a credit card
or subway pass on one side and a few dollars when you are
going out and don't feel like bringing a wallet. Whatever
their use, they feel soft and luscious since I use Japanese
black plongé. Appreciating that the economy hasn't exactly
really turned around yet, I've kept the price super reasonable.

In case inspiration strikes when you're out , I've made
replaceable leather journals in similar styles to bring along.
Standard 4"x6" or 5.5" x 8.5" sketchbook/journals slip in and out.

I've also been working on artist books with leather pouches
and some new small ceramic masks with beads...I'll
show images of those next week!

I hope everyone's summer is full of adventure.
Journey on! Wendy

Friday, June 18, 2010

Buenos Aires -Brightly painted houses, artists and tango..

We spent the last four days of our South American trip in Buenos
Aires -a bustling beautiful, complex and culture filled city with
contrasting neighborhoods,artisans selling everywhere and
amazing public sculptures including the iconic 23 meter high Steel
and aluminum flower designed by the Argentinian architect,
Eduardo Catalano. It opens at sunrise and closes at sunset in the
middle of a 40 meter reflecting pool in the UnitedNations plaza.
Check the web under Floralis Generica to see lots of images.
The internet is filled with images of Buenos Aires, but I'd like to
share just a few from our wanderings. First - if any of you are
thinking about a new paint job on your house, check out these
two houses from the Boca neighborhood:

Apparently the tradition here was to use left over paint from
ship building...Then the idea caught on and stayed to flavor
this district..definitely a contract from other neighborhoods!
Our house does need some paint...hmmm

Artisan fairs were abundant the weekend we were there.
The one we spent the most time wandering was in the San
Telmo district. We walked blocks and blocks up Calle Defensa
on our way to the Plaza Dorrego where each Sunday (yes -
every Sunday! least in decent weather) there is an antique
market, artist fair, and plenty of Tango demonstrated.
The street was filled with street performers,

puppeteers, musicians, singers, an invisible man.

and artisan booths on the street and on side paths. I loved
Lucas Per's artist books incorporating metal, leather and
stones.(His card reads: but I
had a hard time accessing it.) I also talked to Mercedes
Bascary for a long time. Mercedes makes primarily small
figurative sculpture with a great sense of movement and
gesture.For images of her work, check out her blog:
Here I am at another favorite artist's booth - Victor Pacini:

Victor uses exclusively recycled materials and does wild fun
pieces. His website is:
To see lots of images check out his blog:
I'm going to have fun following his work!

Back to leather work - With the motto "Contemporary design
inspired by antique techniques" I saw beautifully crafted
and designed leather bags in one booth. Their principal display
is at the Dos Semillas shop at Carlos Calvo 421. To
see images of that work check them out on flickr:

And speaking of antique techniques - Here is a sample of the
leather displayed at the Plaza Dorrego antique market:

Tango music drifted around the plaza as we watched couples,
old and young perform and learned to appreciate the passion
and amazing variety of styles of Tango.

And so our trip ended...images, memories and inspiration to
be integrated into our life and my work. I can never
predict what will show up soon or down the road after such
a trip, but look forward to being surprised when it does.

Now back to home studio life and to making work for a July 10
summer Festival the ArtRox collective I'm part of is holding
nearby. I'm experimenting with small items for that...will
share images next week of what I'm working on.

Until then, journey on! Wendy

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fantasy Courtyard Model by HYCC kids

As promised this post is about the work I've been doing with
the Hawthorne Youth and Community Center's programs here
in Roxbury. For quite a while now I've been working with the kids
(ages 6-11), other artists and sometimes broader community
members on various art projects including several First Night
parade projects, prayer flags, handmade paper and for last three
springs 3-D architectural models (in '08- a Dream Theme Park
in '09- a community cafe including a green roof for growing food).
Once completed, the children give a presentation about the
project to the community and the model they create is displayed
in our local library over the summer.

For many years HYCC along with 7 other community groups has
also participated in a Community Creations program connected
with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, or "Isabella's House"
as the kids call it under the leadership of artist, Johnetta Tinker.
(If your name is Isabella - you get in free for life!)
The kids work on art inspired by some aspect of the Gardner
museum. At the end of the program, their work is displayed in
the special exhibitions room for one week-quite an honor. I've
told them many professional artists never get to see their
work in such a famous museum.

This year their model architectural project was combined
with the Gardner museum opportunity. The challenge put
before them (and me!) was to create a 3-D courtyard model
inspired by their Spring visits to the Gardner's courtyard. For
those of you who are unfamiliar with the Gardner - it was built
like an Italian Renaissance villa around a sumptuous courtyard.
Museum website is: for the
fascinating history of Isabella and of her art collection.

The photo above shows what the courtyard looks like in the Spring
complete with 3-story trailing nasturtiums.

OK - 3 story walls (there are 4 total, but we decided 3
was enough and besides the museum is really on the first 3),
mosaic (the Gardner's has Medusa in its center), sculpture,
plants, benches - a lot to think about - idea: inspired by,
not exact model (thank goodness!).

Kids preliminary work involved looking at courtyard images,
building courtyards with blocks, drawing and a couple
visits to the Gardner where they observed and did some
small art projects. Back at the center, they decided what
needed to go into "their" courtyard - a mosaic with their own
mythical figures ,walls, flowers, sculptures, windows, paintings
seen through the windows (including a few empty frames to
honor the empty frames left there after the infamous theft
of major works) and of course inhabitants! We decided on
a rough scale of 1" = 1 foot.

First the mosaic - Using tile left over from a previous mosaic
playground wall project from years ago (I love folks who don't
throw out materials!),they worked out general tile designs
laying tile on paper first, then glued down their tile designs to
a 3 foot by 4 foot piece of plywood.

The creature on the right is called "Vudo, the cloud controller".

Then lots more tiles, and grouting:

And the "grass" - cut out, glued, and stapled.

Sculptures, benches -(low fire white clay - sculpted, fired,
and painted like marble, rather than glazed), plants,bushes
and fountains -cardboard and tissue paper. We had thought
about a real fountain with real water..but thought better
of that - this time around anyway!

The walls: cardboard interior wall with cut out windows,
exterior wall with 2" space between - foamboard. Attached
together with small square foamboard slotted pieces.

Kids used texture paint (with pumice) to add relief to columns
(I'm not sure I'd do that again!), then a base coast of paint and
finished with acrylic sponge painting to create "marble" effect.

Next coloring in flowers...and adding nasturtium vines
of thread and tissue paper.

But what is a courtyard without inhabitants. The two
fifth graders in the group provided animals, aliens, and
super heroes each representing one of the students in the
after school program. There was a lot of discussion about
who should be next to whom in the windows. We printed an
image of Isabella from her portrait to look out one window
and they made painting for the walls. In her will the real
Isabella specified that nothing was to be changed in her
museum. We suspected she might be a little startled to
find alien battle scene paintings and soaring super heroes!

The final model - HYCC's 3' x 4' x 3' fantasy courtyard
completed at the community center:

and on exhibit at the museum:

All in all a fun project. The museum even decided
to use the image of the model on their community
creations exhibition page pleasing the HYCC's director
and the kids!

This Friday they will give a presentation of the model
and then it will be moved to the Dudley Branch library
for the summer.

Next week...a short report on the end of my S. American
trip -artists I saw in Buenos Aires and a bit of tango!

Journey on!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gaucho leather and silver and artisan markets in Montevideo

In an effort to understand some of the history of craftsmanship
in Uruguay,we went to the Gaucho Museum in Montevideo
actually combined Gaucho and Mint Museum. It is housed in the
Palacio Heber whose entryway you see above with the building
reflected in the modern one across the street. Built in 1896 it is
an intriguing eclectic high Victorian structure with both Italian
and French influence and worth checking out just to see the building.

I suspected that the longest craft tradition might be related to
leather and silver work connected with Gaucho life. At the
museum intricate carved leather saddles and bridles are
displayed but I was most taken by the silver...and of course
the bird imagery in them.

Most mates for drinking yerba mate are made
from gourds often with leather covering, but in
the 1800's these silver ones were made for special

The one above which I purchased from a street vendor
is more typical (if a bit small - I wanted it to fit my
hand) of those you see being carried everywhere along
with a thermos of hot water.

The Gaucho museum also had an abundant display of
stirrups of a variety I'd never seen and intricate
spurs. Look carefully and you can see the fantasy
bird in these spurs from 1840.

An extra treat at the museum was the retrospective
of Norman Bottrill on the second floor. I'd never
seen Bottrill's work and was fascinated by his
pen, ink, watercolor and acrylics which depict
a world of fantasy with an edge of mystery, satire,
and sad depth. I was disappointed not to be able to find
any books with images of this very well known
Uruguayan painter. Googling him will show you
some images. It's definitely worth a search!

Enough of the past, I was looking for present
day artisans in Uruguay. I had been disappointed
by some of the craft shops we had seen outside of
Montevideo so was pleased to find the two stores
managed by the Uruguayan Craftsmen Association.
The cooperative Mercado de los Artesanos has
small display areas representing 300 different
workshops in Uruguay. Artists share staffing the
2 locations. I talked to a couple of the artists
about how the shop worked and managing
in the present economy. It's difficult there
as here. (In case you're upset about the price
of gas these days. It's about $6.00/gallon
in Uruguay!) We brought home this
8 1/2'" wire sculpture by Gustavo Genta.

Gustavo works in Montevideo, but exhibits in other
countries as well. He writes:" I make lamps and light metal
sculptures. Each lamp is of unique design where colors,
movement and transformations play with each other. I love
adjusting lights and metal in a near equilibrium that evokes
a feeling of tranquility, yet recalls the weirdness of the
irreal world around us." Check out his sculptures and lamps
on his website and you'll definitely see what he means!
I'd love to get a bigger one of his sculptures someday!

Since I've been home from Uruguay, I've been spending
a lot of time helping the kids at a neighborhood after
school program complete their own fantasy project -
a model of a courtyard inspired by their visits to
the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum complete
with mosaic and superheroes....Images in my post
next week!

Journey on! Wendy