Convoluted combinations and creative decision-making

Have you ever gotten part-way with a piece, loved it so far, but were afraid to continue for fear of messing it up? Every artist has probably been there. I sure was this week when I worked on this earthenware “shard woman.”

Here she is before being fired – “leather-hard” clay:

After I fired her, I decided that a patina finish would look good, particularly since she has a fish design that seemed rather ancient Asian-y. I added coral and trade beads and sinew.

So far, so good. I loved the coral beads and the way the finish look both like earthenware and old metal. Then I got stuck. The proportions seemed off. Should she go on a piece of wood? Get sewn to a canvas? I tried those and they weren’t right. Argh!!

So I went to a file of photos that I keep on my desktop called “Do This Now.” It’s not a real to-do list, but rather a collection of art I like that help to un-stick me because of the way the artist solved problems in painting, construction, whatever. Here’s what part of that file looks like – no rhyme or reason to the names or selections.

I got a new idea from two of the images, one of an anonymous talisman and one by Shannon Weber:

Shannon Weber: Burnt Offerings (one of my favorite art pieces ever)

They somehow worked together to help me figure out what to do with my own earthenware piece. When this kind of process happens, you don’t copy ideas, you sort of synthesize them into your own solution.

So this is how the piece turned out. It’s finished now (I think!), and it has some nice inspiration found in both the anonymous talisman piece and Shannon’s assemblage. Can you see the influence?  But it’s still my very own creation.

Lyn Belisle
Woman Shard: Patina
2018

In his book, Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon writes, “Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.”

I would agree, and would encourage anyone to start a random collection of photos of work that is NOT categorized (because labels just limit you). Save a photo because you like it, and because you never know when you might need someone else’s nudge to help you get unstuck.

The amazing Shannon Weber: an authentic life in art

Shannon Weber

When I met Shannon Weber in Santa Fe last fall, I gushed shamelessly,proclaiming that I was her biggest fan and that images of her work had been on my computer desktop for a decade. I said that her three-dimensional assemblages resonated so deeply within my artistic soul that it was almost scary. Poor Shannon, she probably thought I was slightly nuts.

After spending five days with her, I am even more in awe of her work and her process. Shannon was invited by the Fiber Artists of San Antonio to come to San Antonio for a workshop and a presentation. And she stayed with me for the five-day visit! We had a really good time taking about art and creativity. Here’s a wonderful quote about her relationship with her materials:

“Intellectually, humans own this genetic history, “we are makers”, and are known to use what we have.  My choice in materials would be Pacific sea kelps, and coastal debris of which I have a long lasting affair and bring their own mythologies of place. The benefits of working with raw organic materials, is that they provide a rich dialog to every design.”

Shannon Weber

For our two-day workshop, Shannon shipped three huge boxes of found materials and dried sea kelp to San Antonio for us to experience in our pieces. She is a tireless teacher, and we all worked without downtime for two days.

I was so frustrated at first because I could not random-weave a long piece of reed into a structure that would hold together. Shannon patiently went over the process again and again until I finally got it.

This was one of my structures – actually, both of the main ones I completed looked remarkably like teapots!

Please watch the workshop video, below – it is an amazing thing to see the variety of structures that emerged from essentially the same materials over a two-day period. Shannon encouraged us to go our own way.

SHANNON WEBER Workshop for the Fiber Artists of San Antonio from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Shannon lives in an isolated region near the coast of Oregon without television or technology. She and her husband ran a fishing lodge for many years when she was first beginning to make things for found materials. Her stories are priceless. She is astonishingly down-to-earth for an artist whose works are found in museums and galleries from California to New York and beyond.

The last afternoon that she stayed with me, she went for a walk in the woods near my house and came back with a gift – three beautifully arranged found objects – twine and rusty bits, just what I love – I now have my very own Shannon Weber work!

Found object altar – Shannon Weber

Shannon says, “It’s all the in magic and mystery of talking to rocks, rusty bits, and piles of gathered sticks that keeps me inspired.” And the magic and mystery in her work keeps us ALL inspired.

New critters on the block . .

Oh, boy – the First Friday Art Walk in Marble Falls is this week (February 2nd, 5-8 pm), and as part of it Marta Stafford’s gallery is having a bee-youtiful celebration featuring jazz, honey wine, valentine-inspired jewelry, and my beeswax photocollages and B Beautiful dishes.

I wanted to do something extra and different for this show, something that uses beeswax in a new way for me, and I came up with these five fun wall sculptures using earthenware, gauze, sticks, wire and beeswax and Secret Sauce (aka walnut ink).

Here’s the first one, called “Sacred Sentry”.

I’m calling this series “Earthen Wax & Wings,” and I have a feeling that I’ll be doing more of these. This one’s called “Cloudhopper” – a very happy creature.

Each piece has a tag with its name – and each one has a story that you can read in the faces if you use your imagination. Here’s “Icebound Angel” – so what’s HER story? You might not want to mess with her.

And here’s the “Messenger” – kind of androgynous? I guess they all are. Wings are non-gender specific!

Finally, here’s my fave – “Peacemaker.” Simple and serene – I may keep this one.

It’s funny how things work – I made the little earthenware “blanket” faces weeks ago  without knowing exactly what I was going to do with them. Then I got an idea from Linda Rael that turned out to be the perfect extension for the earthenware.

And when Marta announced her “bee and honey” theme, I tried beeswax and walnut ink on the exterior and it all works together beautifully. Trust the process!

PS – the cataract surgery went very very well! Thanks for the good wishes – I practically have X-ray vision now!

 

 

One-of-a kind personal cat shaman

I just finished one of my favorite projects ever – a custom Cat Shaman for a delightful person in Spicewood, Texas. She had seen the piece, above, at Marta Stafford’s Gallery. It was already sold, so she asked if I could make one for her with her own mementos. Of course! What fun!

She mailed me a box of little treasures along with handwritten notes about what each one meant to her. There were scraps of linen and suede, pins and teeth, elephants and medals.

Putting all of these precious things together in a meaningful way was a bit overwhelming, so I started at the beginning by choosing the proper earthenware cat head.

This guy looked pretty wise. I figured he could give me advice as I went along. “Trust the Process,” he said.

It was kind of amazing how things started fitting together inside the little “heart box.”

When you work with other people’s sacred objects, it can be a bit intimidating, but it’s also a privilege – I enjoyed the stories about each piece as I progressed with the assemblage. There are a lot of memories and symbols packed inside this little box!

I kept adding and subtracting and rearranging, and through trial and error, the Cat Shaman guided me through.

He’s going into his packing box today for his drive to Marta’s Marble Falls gallery – Diana, I hope you love him as much as I loved creating him! Thank you – what an honor!

Cat Shaman for Diana, Lyn Belisle 2017