frenchtown fiber

Chris Mundy and Kate House try to make art while navigating the crap life throws at them.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I'm Hot...

As you can see from the collage in my last post, I am having hot flashes and night sweats that prevent me from sleeping enough. I also feel cranky. I haven't busted out crying yet, I feel more on the angry side. I work with someone who is lame at best, and I am not able to deal with her well these days. I feel like screaming, "What the fuck, you've been working here 10 years!" She tends to act stupid about things in an effort to get you to say, oh, never mind, I'll do it. Often, it works.
But anyway, Art. It's about art. I've been working as much as I can on my art journal. I'm enjoying it very much. I'm usually too busy to do much during the week, but I try to slip into the cellar-studio and stamp a word on a collage, or iron a piece of fabric I know I will use soon, or file some color copies I made at work. I came across the absolutely cutest picture of a dog in the newspaper. I'm going to use him in at least one collage and maybe on the cover of my journal book, but I don't like using news print. Not sturdy, not terribly archival. I generally don't worry about that, but newspaper is over the line. So, I took the clipping to work to copy it to better paper. I'm also not usually a fan of cute, but this dog is too much. The headline of this article was, "Who are you calling ugly?" but that dog is so not ugly. Here, let me show you a link:

Look how worried he is! Don't you just want to hug him and tell him everything is OK???? I think his main problem is he has no hair, otherwise, he is fine. Anyway, he is my new buddy/ icon and I will use him in collages. I was thinking about submitting my art journal to one of those magazines for consideration when it is finished, but they warn you not to use copyrighted images or words. What constitutes that? I mean, someone took this picture, and it wasn't me. I don't think that there is a problem if I cut this out of the newspaper and use it, but what if I make a color copy? What happens if it appears in a magazine? Is it OK if I haven't made any money?  These are my questions. I will go ahead, but I don't know what it all means. There is a long tradition of artists using clippings in collage.
Meanwhile, keeping the idea of copyright images in the back of your mind, it does compel us to make and use our own images. We can take our own pictures, alter them by hand and by hand, and we can draw. Or, I can try to draw. I think that even if my drawing is kinda sucky, it is authentic.

I have a lot of finished collage, but I keep forgetting to bring them to work for scanning every day. Pictures soon.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Traces Left Behind

Joe and Kate and I went to an antique mall yesterday, Gristie's in Buck's County. I was excited, because, not only had I never been to this place, but I had been itching to go antiquing for a while. I wanted to find some interesting ephemera for my collages. I found this little book with the name of a club on it, kind of like an record of dances with people. I believed that I had something from a country club, maybe with some record of this archaic ritual. The handwriting looked old, and the graphics in the book looked old. When I got home, I realized that the entries in the book started in 1982. That's not too old in my world. It has to be from before I was born to be considered old. I was reading the entries, and some of the people who signed the book had rubber stamps of themselves! One guy had glued a mini picture of himself. He seemed to be on stage with a microphone.
I Googled the name of the club, which is The Century Club in Westfield, MA. So, get this. The century club is a square dance club. Here is a quote from the website:

"The Century Club was introduced to Square Dancers at Ralph Sweets Powdermill Barn in Hazardville, Conn. on August 26, 1960. It was the idea of two couples who had graduated in May of that year. After having danced to twenty callers already they deemed it possible to dance to 100 different callers and perhaps get other dancers to circulate and dance to other callers at different clubs."

So, you send them a couple of bucks and they send you this little book, which is like a passport, and you get signatures of the different callers. It is designed to encourage people to travel and meet different square dancers. It says on the website that after you fill one book with 100 callers, your next book is GOLD! Well, my book is gold and it does indeed start with number 101. It's got the couple's name right in the front of the book, Lyle and Helen. The first 2 pages have signatures that were written on a separate piece of paper and glued in. I am thinking that this was done because they had to wait for their new book. I pulled one of the separate pieces of paper off, it was Lyle's business card. He was a travel agent. When you look through the book you can see that these people did indeed travel far and wide to square dance. Milner, North Dakota, Aurora Colorado, Bethlehem, PA, Los Angeles, California, Abilene, Texas, Altoona, PA.

At the bottom it says, "Song about a Pig."

The entries stop abruptly in 1992, at number 175. I was wondering what happened, so I Googled Lyle. I did not find an obituary for Lyle, but I did find one for Helen. She was a school nurse at Metuchen High School, and she died in 2008 at 85 years old. Lyle died in 2002.

I find this fascinating. First of all, that you can find this little thing that someone left behind, and  that you can discover a little snippet about their life just with a few keystrokes. I wish like hell I had a picture of these folks. As it is I am excited about making a collage with these pages. I've also figured out that this is why I am so interested in old things. People used them in their lives. Everyone dies, life is so short, what is left of us? Just these little traces. If we haven't done anything amazing, there is maybe a tombstone, some photographs, and now digital records.

Happy VD!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Here is another Journal page. I have had the pictures of the shells running along the left side, I am not kidding, for probably 8 years. See that blue circle grid thing? I've had that at least as long. I have about ten more of those. Here is the story about those.
When my son was still in high school, he was fascinated with industrial ruins. We had a huge abandoned GAF factory in the town we lived in at the time and he was always trespassing in there. I was afraid he would fall down a hole and we'd never see him again. One time we were driving somewhere down a back road, and we came upon an abandoned quarry. I agreed to stop and look around. I must admit I am also interested in ruins. We explored all of the buildings and in one room was some kind of recording equipment. By that I mean people must have punched something, or a mark was made on these circular sheets of paper when "something" occurred. As you can see a circle represents a 24 hour day. I have used these things in a number of collages over the years. I feel happy about using stuff that I have had around so long. I've maintained a rather precious attitude about these things in the past. In other words, I've liked some of them so much, that I didn't really want to use them. Now, if it is the perfect item for a piece of art, no hesitation, I am just going to use it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One More Thing...

Here is a little addition to my recent post. Someone sent me this link.

I find it rather amusing.

Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry

I uploaded this picture and I'm thinking of how I am going to explain it. It is the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. How does this fit as a journal entry? I don't know. When I started this collage, I just had the background. I have 8 boards for this project, and I painted and/or put transfers on the front and back of each board right at the start. So, I took this one background and started looking for an image. Wait. Maybe I had the image and started looking for a background? I forget, but these two were meant for each other. So now what? Something made me think religion. These people look like they don't have it too easy. I would bet they pray for help. So, I began to look through my saint cards. Some of them are in Spanish. I was thinking  Padre Pio. It turns out that though the card is in Spanish, he was Italian. In the end I chose OL of G. She is just so colorful, and what a great story. You simply cannot beat Catholicism for colorful stories and saints. So in the end, I wrote out a condensed version of the story on the collage. There is no direct connection to the imagery, but I feel OK with that. I feel like it isn't hard for someone to make a connection by themselves.

Back to the beginning, when I was thinking of how to talk about this collage, it occurred to me that I could do a book of Saint collages. I'm all over the place with this, no telling where it is heading. But seriously, if you click on the Padre Pio link and read his story... amazing. I could do a book just on saints that had the stigmata! If that isn't enough, Pio is the "unofficial" patron saint of stress relief and the January Blues. WTF??? (You've heard? January 22 has been declared the most depressing day of the year. There is significant research behind this) This is because of his famous saying, "Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Art and Fear

Art and Fear is a book I read a long time ago that talks about the realities of being an artist. I highly recommend this book to anyone who makes art. One thing they bring up is how it is possible for you think your art doesn't look like art. It doesn't look like other people's art, therefore, it isn't right. I suffer this a lot. I have been working on an art journal. I'm not sure what I want it to be exactly, since I have never made one before. I've been all over the internet looking at examples of Art Journals and have come across videos on techniques. I made 2 pages and I liked them very much. But, now, a few days later, I'm not sure. The problem, I believe, is my handwriting. First of all I'm not even sure I have anything to say. Also, how much do I want to reveal? It's hard to envision any piece of art I could make that would not be seen by anyone. I could not imagine what kind of art I would make with the idea that no one would ever see it but me! But, I digress. My handwriting looks like my handwriting. Not what one commonly sees on this type of work. Sometimes it is old handwriting from some piece of ephemera. Sometimes it is rubber stamped or printed. So, when I see my own handwriting on the page it doesn't look right. It doesn't look like art. I'm resisting the urge to not use my own writing. Of course, it is unique to me, and where else can you get that?

Joe was away all weekend skiing, so I spent a lot of time art-making and some time watching TV. Joe and I never watch TV. When he is not around, and I am doing hand-work, I like something on the TV that I can listen to while I work, like a documentary. At any given time, there really is almost nothing I am interested in. Often times I will land on Discovery Health. On Sunday I caught this show about some clinic in NYC for morbidly obese people. Generally what finally gets these people into the clinic is some other disorder that no surgeon will operate on until they weigh 400 pounds or under. That gives you the idea of how big these people are, typically 500 or 600 pounds. One guy had some kind of tumor on his leg that was absolutely huge, like, it took over his whole leg. They kept showing close ups of it and him trying to move around with this thing. It was so disgusting, yet you could not look away, know what I mean? He had been in the clinic for 2 years and had gained 36 pounds! I'm watching this and thinking that it was almost like porn, it was so strangely titillating (Not in a sexual way for me, but I understand there are people out there like this) that it really was exploiting the people on the show. There are so many overweight people in this country, I'm thinking part of an appeal of this show is so that you can say, "At least I'm not like that!" and feel pretty good about yourself. On top of all this is the commercials that repeat over and over again. If you don't watch TV you aren't used to this and it drives you crazy in a hurry. I probably won't watch TV again until Joe goes away for a weekend again.

Back to art, I found a web sight that lets you download images for free. I believe it is called The Graphics Fairy or something like that. Then I found another connected to Art e-zine, which is out of the UK. I downloaded some stuff, but I'm kind of unsure about all of it. I want images that no one else has. That means going into an antique store and finding you own ephemera and photographs. Maybe this weekend? My art journal will have 8 boards, which means 16 pages. I need Joe to drill them for me. I have a seashell on one of the pages, and I should have waited until he drilled first, but I was too impatient. I wish he would do this tonight, but we already have a date to go food shopping after work. We are in code white as far as food goes. Code white is when you open the fridge and your eyes are blinded by the whiteness--- emptiness of the thing. We'll probably spend $250 minimum.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Floor Plan: Attic Studio

Here is a little floorplan I worked up just for the heck of it. All I can think of is my little studio.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ice Day

Today I "worked from home" rather than brave the ice and snow. A lot of trees down and traffic lights out. I mostly monitored my e-mail and calmed the fears of people that want their posters printed on time.

Joe also had the day off, the plumbing company he works for shut down. Unfortunately, he will not be paid. He made the most of the day, however, BY WORKING IN THE ATTIC! I had the idea that this could be an art day, but when I wasn't responding to e-mails, I was helping Joe. He was putting up insulation (a multi-step process) and I was helping by holding it up while he stapled it. It is terribly awkward for him, here is a picture:
But we got one whole side of one end finished. We aren't even working on my end of the attic yet.

Meanwhile, here is a picture of my new desk space in the cellar. I can't wait to mess it up with a project

Here is my sewing machine on the desk. Really not cutting it. Notice the shower curtain hung up in front of the wall. It keeps the constant crumbling grit from getting near the machine. *sigh*

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Transformation of my Wretched Studio Space

Kim says thank you for permission to throw out her own fabric scraps and thread trash, as I related in my previous post. You're welcome. Here is the dilemma. We throw away too much. Recycling is a noble act. At the same time, if we save everything, not throwing away because the item is perfectly good, we will be consumed by crap. I've gotten to know a number of annual and bi-annual rummage sales in my area and I give the "perfectly good" stuff to them. They'll make a couple of bucks and I am relieved of the item and the guilt of throwing it away. Some things are more tricky. I burn a lot of candles. What do I do with the stubs? I could save them in a bucket, melt them down and make more candles. I even have molds from my candle-making days. But seriously, when am I going to make candles? And, will they be any good? Maybe if I was unemployed this would make sense. Also, I read about a project where someone was making tote bags out of the material that encases a brick of coffee. I thought, now that is cool. I was saving the coffee brick wrappers for a while. One day my husband asked me why I was saving them. As I began to explain it to him, I realized how crazy it was. At least, for me. This is also part of the ADD thing I have going on. I have so little spare time, Should I spend it sewing together trash? Maybe I will someday, but not now. I try to remain focused. I try.

My studio is in our cellar. Our house is very old, and the cellar is made of stones. It is extremely damp and very cold this time of year. There is virtually no natural light, because my evergy-nazi husband has blocked the tiny windows with insulation. Most people I am sure would consider this intolerable, but this is my space and I make the best of it. There is an on-going project to finish our attic and make my studio up there. I expect this to take another year.

So, in my recent switch over to more mixed media than art quilts (Which is not a big leap, really) I began rummaging around the studio and then reorganizing. I had my sewing machine on an old kitchen table, and a storage "thing" on top of a desk where I was supposed to do other work. The space left on the desk was small and usually cluttered with  stuff. So, I decided to switch the sewing machine to the desk. I really like the new space I made for myself on the table. But the desk really is too small for the sewing machine, too. It's OK, because I see now that what I need for the future attic space is two tables, not a table and a desk..

Joe, my husband, has been actively working on the space lately. I go up there to help him when it is feasable, and we have discussions about what I need. He is going to replace the crappy windows up there and cut a skylight into the roof. We have talked about the placement of my different workstations, what kind of outlets and storage are possible. Of course, in an attic, the biggest challenge is the lack of straight walls. As a joke, I asked him if I could get a sink up there, but he said it was possible! Like a little stainless steel prison sink. Ijust want a water source. Joe is also going to install electric baseboard heat up there, and we were in Home Depot talking to someone about the gage of wire that was required. The man at the Depot asked how big the space was, and ha ha, we didn't know! I need to go up there and measure it. I want to sketch up a floor plan and make little furniture pieces and move them around. Maybe I will get to do that tomorrow, as we are expecting a wicked ice storm around here and maybe we will get another weather day off!