First teach.

I had a special experience a few weeks ago, thanks to Lacey Hunter over at Loving the Lack. She generously lent me her class, and they kindly put up with my inexperienced teaching methods.

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I had never really taught before, so I was super nervous. This was a home for teenaged girls, but they were very kind and welcoming, an unlikely little family. (Thankfully) not at all like I was at their age. We altered wooden boxes using phototransfer, painting, and collage. I’ve found these to be my favourite “stop worrying about the outcome and just have fun” techniques.

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Just look how awesome they are! I was expecting to be anxious the whole time, but it turns out it is another feeling entirely. You help people make something, and have fun, and make a mess. You get this sort of glow in your belly, so much different than when you make something yourself. You know their work is good, you don’t have to struggle to view it objectively.

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So then I asked the universe to please give me some more opportunities to teach, and it has delivered! Last week I heard from Dana O’Regan about being his assistant teacher for another set of ArtReach workshops, this time on making art instruments with kids.

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Then I was contacted by my new friend Cheryl Lavigne, who teaches grade four french immersion. Her group was selected for the Fredericton Art Alliance/NB Gov’t program to bring artists into classrooms. We’ll be working together with a film and digital media artist to help the students respond to lessons about french language history.

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I’ve been struggling with where to place my focus this year since I am realizing I can’t do everything all at once. As my teacher would say, better to stretch it out on the timeline horizontally than to stack it up and do everything poorly.

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Decisions are hard, and although we like to believe otherwise, there is often no correct answer. In my art practice, when I reach a crossroads in a project, I look for a push in one direction or the other. Resistance somewhere, or an omen if you like. Although I don’t believe they are actually pointing out the right direction, I use these “signs” as an easy way to make the decision. After all, what really matters is that I start moving.

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This collection of unexpected teaching opportunities, I’m going to accept that as a sign to put effort in that direction. My first experience and their beautiful, unique creations brought me a well of joy.

It can be hard to learn art because it is all about making something different, and this is counter to our urge to fit in. I hope to help people get comfortable taking creative risks and identifying their own core inspirations.

The Procession

 

Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_5The Procession

Cotton muslin, gouache, textile medium, acrylic gel, packing tape. 5″ x 5″ x 12″ (nested).
© Allison Green 2013.

These functional nesting dolls are shaped after an inverted stomach. Monsters of mourning, they describe different facets of that state.

Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_7The Planted Body:
Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_4The Marching Millipede:
Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_3The Chained Eye:
Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_2The Veiled Fish:
Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_1The Broken Bird:
Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison GreenMonster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_6

Steely growth.

A couple of weeks back I completed a set of thin, elegant quilts. They were an experiment in a number of different techniques, mainly the idea of letting the stitches do the talking. I started out by dyeing my silk with a mottled silvery colour. Using two pictures of a transformer tower taken in uptown Fredericton, I traced the image on with disappearing ink.
Electric Trees Quilts Inspiration - Allison Green_1I then stitched over the lines, mostly with shades of purple. The plan was to use dense zigzag stitches as a sort of satin stitch for the really heavy lines. After I had started I just didn’t think it would look right on the whole piece. Perhaps in the future when some kind soul gifts me an embroidery machine (hint hint).
Electric Trees Quilts - Allison Green 9Instead I did some experiments in painting after it was quilted. I knew I didn’t want to put anything on there that would run with water or humidity, because that would make the piece a pain to care for. I discovered that black ink with a little textile medium could be gingerly painted on and then be washed without incident. Eureka!
Electric Trees Quilts - Allison Green_3(Look familiar? I used a similar photo for Astral Ink)

One problem I ran into was that the disappearing ink did not want to disappear when dabbed with water. I think the difference is that I usually immerse my silk paintings and soap them up good. I didn’t want to dunk the entire quilt so I just wet it out with a cloth until the blue finally stayed away. Anyone have experience with the kind of marker that goes away with air and time alone?
Electric Trees Quilts Inspiration - Allison Green_4Some minor tribulations, but I learned a lot and I really like the outcome here. I am especially fond of how the ink looks when painted in stripes one on top of the other (see bottom right). I find it reminiscent of metal.
Electric Trees Quilts - Allison Green_1For simplicity’s sake I tried binding the quilts by rolling the backing over the edge and stitching in place. I actually found it much more difficult than using bias binding from a separate cloth. Because of the way the cloth draws in when quilted, it effectively gathered my backing fabric in certain areas. The effect is nice but it was not the timesaver I was hoping for.
Electric Trees Quilt Back - Allison GreenMy favourite is the full length Electric Tree on the left because it required almost no ink to get the point across.
Electric Trees Quilt - Allison GreenReally they are a pair and meant to be consumed as such. I think the up-the-skirt view on the right gains a lot by being partnered. Its content is more obvious by association.

These guys are each 12″ x 24″, and are up for sale through M&T Deli.

Nesting monsters.

I am smack dab in the middle of a few different projects right now so I’ve decided to look backwards for this week. Last semester I had an excellent teacher/class combo: Myth, Magic, and the Human Form with Denise Richard. This course was set up to encourage independant historical research on a project-specific basis.

There were four projects: a mask, a talisman, an apron, and an effigy. For the latter the expectation was to create a self-portrait effigy with some nod to an existing doll-type. I have always been enamoured of Russian nesting dolls. After much research (especially this lovely article) I set out on that path.

I tried using gum paper, but it became apparent that it didn’t work well with my fingers, small objects, or time constraints. I moved on to a technique this same teacher had shown me a couple years ago for making this custom dress form:
You wrap yourself in plastic wrap and have someone lay down several rolls of packing tape over your body. It is a very dizzying project for at least one of you, but at the end you are cut free and what’s left is a you-shaped plastic torso.Monster Nesting Dolls Process - Allison GreenTo use this method on my nesting dolls, I first made a tiny newsprint form, only a couple inches long. I squished it around until it look like a stomach, an organ which has a lot of meaning for me. Then I wrapped it in red cotton (which took the place of the plastic wrap), and strapped on the packing tape. This gave me my smallest doll shell. I put more newsprint over the top of that, then cotton, and so forth for a total of five more layers.Monster Nesting Dolls Process - Allison Green_1It was a dense and satisfying little package by the time I was done.
I chopped up the back with scissors and pulled off the shells one at a time. After taping the back split up again (and filling the smallest one with stones) I was left with five functional and durable red nesting dolls.Monster Nesting Dolls Process - Allison Green_2But the red was just for the guts and I wanted to be able to paint the surface. I covered each piece in cotton muslin, découpage-style. Around this time I started getting really nervous about painting them. Something I really liked about the quality of the surface, they were fun to squeeze and manhandle. I didn’t want to ruin it.
Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_7I pressed forward and painted the surface with gouache very slowly, just putting lines where they fell. Meaning came out of them as I suspected it might. While they do have a curious monster quality, to me they are mourning dolls, and each represents a different facet of mourning as I’ve experienced it.Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_5I won’t get into any sensitive elaborations, you can read into each one as you will. I suspect in the future I will make more lighthearted versions of these guys. As it stands I do not anymore find these upsetting as I had expected. I got all that out in the making and now they seem to symbolize release. They are called The Procession, both for the funeral rite, and for the act of moving onward.
Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_4 Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_3 Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_2 Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_1 Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison GreenMonster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_6

Circuit breaker.

Progress, from idea to action. I’ve traced and traced again, first to make the pattern, next to lay it, and finally 4 Fleurs dans une 038 (1650x1238)to resist.
I trace the lines and circles onto the silk with ink that disappears with water (what a brilliant invention). The pattern reminds me of rice terraces.4 Fleurs dans une 032 (1650x1238)

I tie up my silk onto its frame, being sure to shore up the lines. This is important at every step, silk is so shifty. This is my first silk painting, I am nervous and proceed slowly and with deliberation.
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I colour my gutta (resist) with Procion dyes to match the greens, yellows, and reds of my image. I had considered screenprinting with the gutta, but in tests this proved only somewhat effective, and I am pressed for time. I will put this thought on the back burner to experiment with on a future piece. This time around I squeeze it from a little bottle using the ruler as guide. I was expecting much more difficulty.
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Proceeding despite expected difficulties is often an enlightening experience. I like to pick a hard project off the bat, test the limits of the medium. This project tests the gutta and its possibilities. It allows a surprising amount of control.
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For the background painting, I have chosen a more simple path. I have mixed a very dark Procion indigo, diluted it with alcohol to help keep smooth transitions in my background. There is a lot of nickel gray in the mix, which splits into pinks and grays (and other more shocking colours) as it dries. I am after that dash of luck.
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Simply touching the ink brush to the silk spreads little pools of colour right up to the resist line. This is much more efficient than my past forays into painted cotton. Successfully  wooed, I can see that silk painting and I will be spending a lot of time together.
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I will let it rest and steam it out when it has dried, then on to the quilting. I can’t wait to see the resist disappear along with the blue marker. Slow processes are chock full of meditation, but also much anticipation.
4 Fleurs dans une 079 (1650x1238)

Extra, extra.

Just a couple little updates. To be honest, a couple little updates and one BIG update.

“The Crossing”, my train bridge quilt, is now up for auction at Isaac’s Way. You can see how it’s doing here, but have to stop in to the restaurant to bid. It will remain up until mid-September. A lot could happen between now and then, especially in the busy tourist season!

My quilted map shown in the previous post, “Here be monsters.”, is now up for sale for sale at the M&T Deli. For patient individuals, I am also available for custom map commissions. Feel free to contact me for more information.

In the next couple weeks I will be starting a commission from the maintenance gentleman at my work for a painted fish. He showed up at work the other day with this big piece of driftwood for me to use, I was delighted.

My woven lighting sculpture has found it’s home at Jeremiah’s Place, a brand new restaurant in Hartland, NB. I am going to visit sometime soon to take pictures and try out the menu.

And for my BIG NEWS, I was offered an internship for the Sculpture Saint John Symposium! With five other interns I will be learning from six international stone sculptors for a month and a half (I talked more about it here). I must say, I am all a-flutter! It is my hope that I will have time to thoroughly chronicle this experience here on my blog. Off I go to Saint John on August the 2nd!

Here be monsters.

There have been many a thing on my plate as of late. To begin with I’d like to talk a little about my time at the M&T Deli. There I spent the last couple weeks sitting pretty in the window, picking away at a painted art quilt. It was a wonderful experience, and I even got fed delicious soups and sandwiches. Wish it were my day-job :)
I thought I would feel tension at being watched while at work, but on the contrary it relieved pressure. I was not tempted to become distracted, to have a nap, to stare blankly at the piece, waiting for inspiration to come.  I just kept plugging away with a smile on my face until the whole thing came together. There was plenty of people-watching to occupy that part of my brain which likes to blabber in my ear, and I met a lot of interesting and interested people. Someday I will find my very own downtown window studio.

I would have to say this is the largest piece I have every accomplished, 48 x 36″. I decided spur of the moment to create a giant map. I’ve always wanted a giant map, and I love pouring over old ones. I ran down to the Owl’s Nest book store, a trip which never disappoints, and picked up some books.

After some deliberation I chose an area in Cape Breton. I have a lot of roots there, but truly I chose the particular spot only because of the composition and the little islands to the right. I blew up the map with the photocopier, and believe me when I say this was the hardest part of the project. I can’t get on the computers at school again until next year, so I had to blow it up in a number of steps to get it as large as needed.

Once I had printed it off I followed essentially the same steps as my train bridge quilt. I transferred the photocopy onto cotton muslin:

Mixed my colours (inspired by another map in a very beautiful french map book, seen here ripped out mercilessly onto the floor):

Mixed with textile medium and painted onto the cloth:

Stuck with spray-baste to some extra-loft quilt batting (which I will forever use henceforth, despite the moderate price increase), and quilted with a variety of threads:

This is where the main differences lie with this project. While the train bridge piece was from a photo, and therefore required much less decision-making, the details of this piece are mostly from my head. It took me a little time to decide on a quilting scheme. It is also entirely curvilinear and thus I had to use the free-motion presser foot. This form of quilting was best described to me in a how-to video; it is just like drawing but you have to learn to move the paper, not the pencil. This was a bit daunting at first but I quickly came around and will never shy from curves again.

First I sewed a line around all of the landmasses. Then I began on the waves, only because I had an easier time deciding what to do with them. I made repetitive wave forms in a variety of directions, sizes, and colours, mostly trying not to overlap. I am most happy with how they turned out. This dense quilting had the effect of tamping down the batting where the water is so that the landmasses rise above it. And so very undulate-y.

I used quite a bit of metallic thread to make the water sparkle. I found out very quickly that a special needle is necessary. Not sure exactly what it was that I used but it had a groove all the way up and a decent hole. This put an end to all the breakage.

I decided to split up the land along intuitive lines that vaguely followed the splotches of colour. This protected the raised quality of the land but added some interest.

At this point I had finished the quilting and flipped the piece over to take some extra stuffing.  I put little slits in some of the land segments and squished in some fiberfill. A sort of barbaric trapunto.

This makes for little mountains of land when the whole thing is stapled onto MDF. If I had it to do over though I would rub glue over the entire back of the quilt so that the water would stay totally flat. Very pleased with the outcome at any rate.

I thought I would be finished here but looking at the piece I felt it lacked a narrative element. The boy had recommended giant squid and I now thought more seriously about the idea. I love the old maps with their pictorial warnings.

I made little sepia ink drawings on muslin and sewed them on here and there. The piece may have benefited from additional little drawings but I thought it looked crowded when I tested them out. I didn’t want them to be the entire focus. I was originally going to apply them as a folded-edge appliqué but time was running thin and they were looking a little too prominent. So I cut them right to the edge and whipstitched them on with transparent nylon thread (my best friend).

I love the fray around the edge, and how they lie completely flat. The boy commented that it seemed like the map had been made first and then as monsters were discovered they were tacked on in the appropriate places. I like the idea of a map as a work in progress.

In my first day of art history we made a map of our initial understanding of the subject. One could as easily make a map of their internal environment, or their life experiences. You could tack on little drawings as events occurred, or sew on whole new continents as time passed. I think I might start one today.

Burning of the HMS Iapetus.

This acrylic painting is currently hanging at the Isaac’s Way art auction. It was made by the boy that I like to call mine. I am quite fond of it and wish we didn’t have to send it away. Ah well, there will be more. In fact his father told us the other day that there is an un-built model ship with his name on it, from when he was a kid. Can’t wait to see that. Hope he doesn’t set it on fire…

For your interest, Iapetus is the Titan of Mortal Life. He is father to Epimetheus (meaning hindsight), Prometheus (meaning foresight), and Menoetius (who died in a flash of lightning).

You are the grand HMS Iapetus and your main sail is aflame.
You think about the hundreds of men you carry in your belly and the scores of cannon you hold on your flanks.
You ponder your terrible might as a proud ship of the line and all you can think is what it would be like to be a whale. For even just one minute.
To slip beneath the infinite ocean.

-Warren Steeves