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.

Playing in goo.

Thought I would share a few of the more interesting textured ground samples from a couple weeks ago. They were made in preparation for my nursery rhyme series. I am really very taken with these techniques. Have lots of plans. Warren is wanting to try it out and I am so excited to see what he will come up with.

The basic method is that you rub a bunch of goo on sheet of heavy paper, and then you muck around in it. After it dries you mercilessly rub on layer after layer of acrylic paint. You just keep messing with it until it looks interesting. The trick is to have very little intention. Just go with the flow and the result is impressive. And make sure you’re covered in colours by the end.

The piece above is just gesso and the pointy end of a pick-comb.

This next one is acrylic gel with plastic mesh like you would use for filling a hole someone punched in your wall. There’s collaged photo in there too. When the paint dried I peeled up some of the mesh to leave white lines.

For this next kind you need a printing press. You dip a piece of watercolour paper in water, pat off the excess, then head over to your press. You put down a piece of matboard, then a few flat-ish items (in this case metal sheep), then your wet paper, then another piece of matboard. You wheel the whole sandwich under the press, and voila! Perfect imprints.

This one is just several layers of newsprint and gel with water. You crumple up your paper to give it texture and then collage it onto the layer below. As many layers as you want. Very thick tends to have a leathery texture. You can tear your paper into strips for a different look.

Then we have a glove stuck in gel. I rubbed paint over it and the peeled up the glove after it had dried. Reminds me of gardening.

These next two are made with a comb, this one with gel….

…and this one with gesso. It reminds me of stucco ceilings, or frescoes. Also the beach. Someday I will do this to an entire wall.

I learned this next method at a “Mixed Media with Maps” workshop at the CSEA conference this year. You put a bunch of string down, then soak some thin paper towel in gel and water, and press it down over the string. Put on a bunch more gel for good measure.  Rub over it with your fingers to get out all the air bubbles and accentuate the string.

There’s a whole slew more where those came from, but you get the idea. Fun with goo is addictive, be prepared to shirk your other responsibilities.

Yay or nay?

Quick question:

Here are the contenders:

#1 : Blimps, Balloons, and Rigid Airships
Gouache on watercolour paper. Quite large, say, 22×36.

Contemporary Nursery Rhymes
Various materials on watercolour paper. Four pieces, would be matted neatly. See previous post for detailed images. Each 10″ x 10″

# 3:
Dream Within a Dream
Pillow with digital prints and trapunto. About 13″ x 20″

Reverse side has this print:

Dino Bags
Set of 4 canvas bags with various dinosaur screen prints. Here are two of them.

Okay, there are the choices. Please lend me a hand as I resent decision-making! Vote at the top of this post!

Your house is on fire.

During Monday morning’s history class I made up this pretty warp for my scrappy indigo neck cuffs. Wasn’t sure about the colour combo to begin with but I like how they jive.

I’ve also finished tea dyeing the cloth strips for the weft.

Also on Monday I finished up and presented my mixed media nursery rhyme collection. The next step is to develop a repeat pattern and a few co-ordinates from my favourite. I’m going to go with Hickory Dickory Dock.

Interesting factoid: “hickory, dickory, dock” probably originated as “hevera, devera, dick” which meant “eight, nine, ten”.

This was made using a textured gesso ground with acrylic paint rubbed in. The little mouse hand is copper foiled.

This one follows the rhyme: “Ladybug, Ladybug, fly away home. Your house is on fire and your children are gone.” Very cheerful. It was made with textured gesso and acrylic with collaged red silk.

This next one is from Sing a Song of Sixpence. “Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.” I’m not quite as pleased with this one as it doesn’t really go with the rest. That wasn’t a requirement but it would have been nice. The background is uneven-dyed silk, and the pie is simple cardboard. Many of the blackbirds are cut from old children’s books I bought at the Owl’s Nest used book store. If you are ever in Fredericton check it out, it’s a labyrinth of stacks and owl paraphernalia.

This last one is from the very best nursery rhyme, Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater. It was Warren’s favourite of the bunch. He had the idea to paint little rivets on the vellum windows, like it was sealed from the outside. This has a whole host of collaged elements, from tinfoil to string to cloth to buttons. It looks extra cool with light shining through the translucent window areas.

These were very fun and gestural pieces. I would recommend that everyone try playful ventures like these. Before this stage we made about 40 8″x10″ samples to try different textures. It’s been a freeing exercise, and I now have all these greats bits and pieces I can re-purpose later.

Also this week a few of my screen printed scarves were up in the hall at school. The print on the left was made from a photo of some laptop circuitry, and was printed on silk with fibre reactive dyes. The one piece on the right was discharge printed. The image was derived from a charcoal drawing of my grandfather’s headphones which I made when I worked as a demonstrator at the open house in November.

The center piece in mauve is velvet with burn out printing (also called devore). You print with this fancy chemical which when ironed removes cellulose fibres. Since the pile on the velvet is rayon, it gets eaten away, leaving only the protein-based silk underneath. It gives a very lacy feel to cloth and is quite simple to achieve. The only tough part is knowing when to stop ironing.

We have a soft book assignment coming up in my Digital Tools class which is a thousand times less restrictive than more of the projects in that class. I’m thinking of a circular science-themed book. The hard part is figuring out which sciences to include.

Hard to think of anything much until I get the lighting commission taken care of. It’s due in about a week and a half and so the anxiety it rises. It’s coming along, and I’ve hired the boyfriend to help speed up the process. Wish me luck! No time for mistakes, knock on wood.

To start in the middle is no start at all. But where else?

Yesterday was a good day. Had some help with the making of random weave spheres for the big feature lighting commission. Deadline approaches fast! Never fear, it’s coming along nicely. Soon so soon my work will be a permanent fixture of Jeremiah’s Restaurant in Hartland, NB. I think I’ll keep the concept a surprise until the piece is finished. I’ll give you a hint, it’s super neat.

Glad my kitchen is no longer filled to the brim with dye baths. Reed is a frustration! But we are becoming fast friends. I was unconvinced for a little while but the colours came out so beautifully in the end. I had to really increase the salt with the ProMX dyes to get the right depth of shade.  Ah, the power of sampling never ceases to amaze me.

Now it’s just a matter of executing the many hours of hypnotic weaving. A fine way to spend a thousand evenings.

In other news I’ve been working away on a paper quilt. One of the very most fun projects I’ve worked on in a while. It was for my Evolution of Textiles course at the NB College of Craft and Design. Very interesting project inspired by the Adinkra cloth of Ghana. My piece discusses the three revolutions of written communication. Will delve into the symbolism a little deeper when I have the finished piece returned and photographed. To whet your appetite, here is the quilt in progress.


Also, this pretty little dollar store crystal tree has inspired me. I’m thinking cityscapes and brains. Oh the humanity!

À demain!

-Allison Green