Fear of Fiber

I just had the best weekend teaching at the UTSA Southwest Art Studios – twelve students and I explored materials and invented processes during the two-day Scroll and Surface fiber art workshop.

One of my favorite student comments聽 came from Susan, who said as we were reviewing our work, “I’ve lost my fear of fiber!!

Sometimes we think that an unfamiliar medium can’t be used to express our unique message. If you work in watercolor, you can’t imagine yourself telling the same story or celebrating the same subject in clay or fiber. But this weekend’s workshop concentrated on fusing all kinds of media media into individual narratives – paper, fiber, photography, paint, even clay. Here was our working description:

This mixed-media fiber art workshop includes components such as re-purposed studio drop cloth (torn), hydrosoluable fiber, walnut ink, paper twine, surface design, found objects, fiber, wire, image transfers and paper clay to explore how surface design can symbolize the precious belongings that we carry with us on our life鈥檚 journey.

The students came from diverse background and places in Texas – a military veteran who worked as a language translator, an elementary school STEM teacher, a naturalist, a minister, several professional artists, a college student just starting his art journey. Our personalities came together like a beautifully composed collage!

One of the strengths in creative diversity is that every message matters. A successful art workshop results in many right answers to the same question – what story can you tell that makes us all nod our heads in understanding, recognition, and empathy?

My students were just brilliant in expressing their narratives. Here is a video that tells all of the stories that were written in fiber this weekend.

I’m in the middle of filming lessons for this workshop so it can be available as an online class, and it should be ready in a week or two. I’ll share some of the mixed-media secrets we discovered this weekend – toilet bowl cleaner was a big hit as was sticky cheesecloth. 馃檪

Thanks for reading SHARDS! And don’t be afraid of fiber – it is your friend!!

Lyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So many thanks!

I am so grateful to you for re-subscribing to SHARDS. You are the reason I teach workshops, share ideas, and learn so much about our arts community. Thank you for being a part of my creative life! I look forward to staying in touch, thanks to you.

As promised, I did a random number pick of those kind people who subscribed yesterday to win a free workshop, and the winner is number 217, who happens to be my friend, Joanna Powell Colbert! Joanna is primarily responsible for my journey into Spirit Dolls and the Tarot. I hope you have a chance to look at her work.

Joanna, when you read this, send me a quick email and pick out a gifted workshop on my Teachable Studio space!

Don’t forget, there are also free workshop for everyone on that site.

In the meantime, thanks again, and please stay tuned for some SHARDS posts in the near future! If you have questions or suggestions, please feel free to send those along!

鈾yn

 

 

 

Patched up . . .

I started this blog in its current form back in 2010 and it has become my invaluable journal of where the creative path has taken me. Recently, however, my SHARDS blog site completely crashed and I thought 15 years of entries and over 1000 posts were lost forever. Thanks to George Howard, a smart techie and highly-recommended good guy, we are patched up and running again. Sending you a shout-out, George!

I’m back just in time to share something lovely that Jude Hill wrote this morning

“So what if I concentrate on story building with loose patches for a while? Language Patches is what I have come to call them.聽 They are simple and small and maybe you can play along?”

This is so much like what I’m doing with my new workshop, Scrolls and Surface, that I wanted to expand on the idea. The scrolls that I’m assembling as prototypes for the class are nothing more than a collection small “patches” of narrative. They go together in various ways, much like chapters in a book, and because they are small, they can be rearranged.

Here are a few examples – some of these are image transfers on fabric, some are what I call “fusion patches,” and some are handmade or found objects.

The images that I choose incorporate on these “patches” reflect my personal themes: neo-santos, shards, paradoxical connections, lost children, myth and mystery. Your images will be different just as your story is different.

Once you start working this way, creating small components that will ultimately go together as a larger picture, you’ll discover all kids of possibilities and combinations. It’s great composition practice, but more than that, it’s a lesson in how one element affects another.

Assorted combinations of fusion patches and transfers to fabric – are there stories here? Can they be rearranged to tell a different narrative?

It really is so much fun to lose yourself in this task. And it’s equally as much fun to actually create the patches using all kinds of experimental methods. Even when something doesn’t work, it’s a good lesson. Jane Dunnewold makes Citrasolv transfer look so easy – when I first tried it, I got blobs. But at least they were mysterious blobs.

A Mysterious Blob

I’m filming a lot of these experiences for a new online workshop called The Pilgrim’s Scroll: Stories in Paper and Cloth which should be ready in a couple of weeks.聽 In the meantime, it sure is great to have my blob – er, I mean, BLOG, back!

Thanks, Jude and George and all the people that help us stay connected and inspired!

 

Playing with AI

AI, AI, oh!

There’s a new exhibit opening at the San Antonio Art League & Museum next week called Lone Star Horizons: Texas Landscapes Past, Present Future. I have two pieces in it – one that was juried in, and one that I created for a special section about artists who use Artificial Intelligence tools in various ways in their work. There are nine other artists in this section – stay tuned and I’ll show them to you once the show opens.

Images generated with AI tools fascinate me, not because it want to find an easy way to make a picture, but because the tool itself has so many possibilities — and limits. For example, I created a series of coordinated collage mages in my Sisters workshop that are designed to teach combinations and composition without making students worry about copyright images from commercial sources. To me, that’s a help

It’s also fun to test the way that AI applications like DALL-E monitor themselves regarding content. As an experiment, I asked DALL-E, which is an image generator that make pictures from scratch, to create this:

Oops – it seems that “in the style of Georgia O’Keeffe” is not allowed. This makes me feel good because it shows level of protection for that artist. You’ll notice that DALL-E changed its “mind” before could generate the image.

Look what happens when I change the prompt and leave out the painter’s name:

Now it produces an image, one that is completely new and not copyright. Interesting!

But when I tried another prompt and asked simply for the “style of southwestern painters” it would not generate it.

When I removed the “style” part, look what happened:

It’s good to know that there are some limits. So how does this help with the creative process?

AI is a visualization tool for me. Let’s say I am starting on a new series of Spirit Dolls. I can use AI to generate a concept or design that gives me ideas on directions to follow even before I get out the fiber and clay. Here’s an example:

Obviously, none of these generated images goes with my signature styles, but I can try out the idea with Photoshop, using one of my Earthshard faces.

It’s a nice graphic, and while I like some of it, I can eliminate most of it as a possibility (like too much silver) without having to actually build it than take it apart again.

By the way, here is the AI-aided piece that will be in the Texas Landscape show. It is an encaustic collage with parts generated by the AI tool called MidJourney, and some parts from other sources, including some real pressed and dried flowers. It’s covered with layers of encaustic medium. And no Georgia O’Keeffe paintings were swiped in the production of this piece! 馃檪

To me, a piece like this represents a fusion of old and new tools – an experiment that plays with new frontiers that we can chose to use or not. We follow out hearts and can go back and forth between comfort and experimentation.

No matter what the situation, remind yourself, 鈥淚 Have A Choice.鈥 -Deepak Chopra

Thanks for reading!

PS If you wold like copies of any of the images that were generated in the examples, just let me know and I will make them available for download. They are not copyrighted and you can use them in any way you wish as long as you don’t say that you painted them! LOL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landscapes and homecomings and a gift for you

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on the back-end of the upcoming Lone Star Horizons show, an exhibit of Texas landscapes in every media imaginable that opens at the San Antonio Art League & Museum on January 6th. Our Juror, Harold Joiner of Houston, had a tough job choosing 50 pieces from the 200 submitted.

Setting up a Call for Entry like this one is kind of complicated, but once it’s up and running, as the admin you get to see all of the entries come in via digital photos before the Juror sees them and makes his selections. So I’ve been viewing landscapes in all forms and media for the last two weeks and thinking about how we create them as artists.

Landscapes, as I have said before, are the most popular subject for paintings because they suggest a sense of homeland, a place just over the hill or down the road where we truly belong and will be happy at last.

All of those thoughts reminded me of one of my early online workshops called SMALL WORLDS: Creating Fantasy Landscapes with Altered Paper.聽This course was first presented over ten years ago as part of the summer program at Artful Gathering and quickly became one of the most popular in-person workshops at my Studio.You can still see many of these collaged landscapes in galleries around town with torn CitraSolv paper and other altered collage materials.

Tying this all these landscape thoughts together with this season of homecoming and sheltering seemed natural (I’m writing this on the night of the Winter Solstice) I figured聽 that this oldie-but-goodie workshop might be just the perfect thing to offer you as a holiday gift for a limited time. There are a zillion techniques for altered papers in this workshop and lots of composition tips. You’ll have fun with it.

You’ll need to go to my Teachable Studio page first, then find the Small Worlds workshop – here’s the link.

Go ahead and register for the course (it normally costs $29) and when you check out, use the coupon code FREEDEC31. That means the course is free for you until December 31st. Go ahead a check out and you will see from the screen shots below that you will be charged zero dollars! Free is good.

When you submit you payment, you will see that your total becomes $0.00.

Giving credit where credit is due, my friend Eva Macie was one of the first artists to discover the possibilities of CitraSolv on magazine pages. She’s even on the CitraSolv website!聽Thanks, Eva!

So enjoy creating landscapes, and thinking about homecomings and the promise of good things to come down the road and over the hill into the New Year. Thanks, as always, for reading SHARDS.

Lyn

 

Decisions on Bearing Arms

As artists, no matter what medium we employ, our job is to make the right decision.

Does yellow look best as a highlight on that purple grape? Will adding gold leaf to this acrylic medium enhance it or make a mess? How will this nylon thread react to the encaustic medium?

There is always more than one right answer, but there is usually just one answer that gives you theeureka shivers that it’s the best one. And to get to that, you have to try some different solutions.

Take arms, for example. I am constructing some of my beloved Wanderer figures for an exhibition at Jane Bishop’s Mockingbird Handprints in December. Here’s one in progress – I already love the layered fiber wrapping:

So I have the head ready – but does it need arms? (Decision=Yes) If so, what kind?

First idea – how about plaster wings??

This might work if I sprayed it with terra cotta walnut ink – or rust paste, and added another one on the left side…but the shape and weight just aren’t quite right.

How about something really different?? Shannon Weber gave me these great old vintage faucet taps–

They are cool, but they almost need their own sculpture to be a part of, one that shows them off more. These “arms” compete with the layered and wrapped body.

How about sticks?? Like the ones on the head?

Close, but no cigar – too matchy-matchy.

How about just one curvy stick??

Up? Down?

Not quite there – too spindly in relation to the body. But I got an idea from this experiment – since the body is wrapped in fiber, why not wrap some stick arms in the same way?

This is the result, and it gave me the “eureka shivers“. Just right!

Sorry to say that you won’t see the finished Wanderer yet – I sewed her arms on last night (they look great) and I’m still adding her special touches, but you will see her soon.

Here’s the take-away – when you see聽 finished artwork that resonates with you, whether it’s a painting or a sculpture or a piece of jewelry, remember that what you see is a process of informed and personal decision making that is hard work and takes a lot of time, love, and experience. The artist thought and experimented and perhaps failed and tried again to get the piece just right for you to see and appreciate.

Try to imagine the back story – put yourself in the artist’s place and see where complex decisions were made to find the “eureka shivers” moment in every step.

Thanks for reading!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scents, Spirit, and Connections

I’m taking a bit of a shortcut in this post and stealing it from our Inside the Enso blog. It’s a new offering from the online residency program called The Enso Circle that Michelle Belto and I began building together at least ten years ago and is now opening its ninth term in January. You can subscribe to the blog without being a member of The Enso Circle. It’s designed to give you an idea of some of our discussions with the Artists-in-Residents – like this one on Sacred Scents!

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SCENTS FOR CREATIVE PRACTICE AND SACRED SPACES

Scents and aromas have been part of sacred spaces for over 5000 years. Originally, perfumes were used in sacred shrines in conjunction with burnt offerings. People burned precious scents such as frankincense and myrrh on their altars. Soon, people began using these rare perfumes on their own bodies and associating scent with spiritual experiences.

Creating a sacred space with the assistance of essential oils, incense, and natural scents is a personal and customizable practice. The scents you choose, the rituals you incorporate, and the intentions you set all contribute to the unique and sacred atmosphere you want to create.

Here are some cross-cultural versions of sacred scents that have endured:

Copal Incense: Copal incense is a resin incense that has been used in Mesoamerican rituals for centuries. It is known for its strong, earthy, and slightly citrusy scent. Copal incense is typically burned on the altar to purify the space, create a welcoming atmosphere for the spirits, and to help lift the prayers and messages to the spirit world. The aromatic smoke is believed to be a bridge between the two realms, helping the spirits find their way.

Below is a very short video about how to burn Copal resin incense from Quetzalcoatl Music Guillermo Martinez.
Source for Copal

Lavender Essential Oil: Lavender’s name traces back to the Latin verb “lavare,” which means “to wash.” This essential oil provides spiritual protection by metaphorically cleansing your spirit. Lavender essential oil has the potential to dispel feelings of depression and aids in regulating our emotional well-being. It is the go-to choice for meditation due to its calming and soothing properties. Lavender essential oil is a valuable tool for enhancing your meditative focus and achieving a deeper state of inner tranquility. Sprinkle one or two drops on your altar cloth or use a mist of 20 drops of lavender oil to 2 ounces of water as a purifying mist.Source for Lavender Essential Oil

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Hand-gathered Smudging Bundles for Purification of Spaces

Smudging with sage or cedar is a centuries-old ritual deeply rooted in Native American and Indigenous cultures. It involves burning bundles of dried sage or cedar leaves and using the fragrant smoke to cleanse and purify a space, object, or person. Sage is often associated with purification, clarity, and wisdom, while cedar is believed to offer protection and grounding energy. The ritual is typically performed by lighting the bundle and waving it gently, allowing the smoke to waft through the area while setting intentions for cleansing negative energy and promoting positive vibes. Smudging is not only a practical act but a spiritual one, fostering a sense of balance and reverence for the natural world.

You can make this even more meaningful by gathering your own plants for smudging bundles. You become part of the sacred process from beginning to end.聽 Here are directions that we wrote for you about how to make your own Smudge Bundles. They take about two weeks to dry, so practice mindfulness and patience.

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More subtle than music, ephemeral in nature, scents enhance, inspire, cleanse and renew on the deepest level of human consciousness. We’d love to read your comments and observations about how you use scents as a creative enhancement in your own聽 work.
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One last note: If you think you might be interested in applying for a 12-week Enso Circle residency, please take this link and we will get right back to you – applications for the new term open on December 1.

Brown Paper Packages

I’ve never been to Moab, Utah, but Moab came to me in a brown paper package a couple of days ago! My long-time online friend Wilma Sliger who lives there sent me a big assortment of sticks and stones and sand and beads and cheesecloth and petrified wood – a Moab sampler! Who doesn’t love getting an unexpected package in the mail??

Even better, there were handwritten, funny notes attached to the objects.

There is a small container of red sand include in the stash – just the thought of that red sand and the monumental land that it comes from gives me shivers. Maybe some prehistoric artist used that sand as a colorant on some of Moab’s magnificent petroglyphs.

I learned that when the iron molecules in the sand come into contact with the oxygen in the air, they oxidize – basically, they rust – turning into iron oxide, which has a reddish color. And you could mix them in acrylic medium or beeswax for a faux rust finish, I’ll bet.

Obviously, Wilma feels the magic of the land in her own work – I did a post on her cat shamans a couple of years ago. This one has an glass evil-eye protection charm and looks pretty scary-clever to me.

Two things to take away from this – one, wherever you live and create, that area has its own resonance, quiet or dramatic, powerful or gentle. If you are ever in need of inspiration, go outside and look around you at the big things and the small ones.

And secondly, put some special treasures in a brown paper package and send it to a friend in another part of the country or world – it will make their day!!

PS . Here’s a little checklist of ways to connect with the land no mater where you live. Some you may be doing, some may be obvious, some may not work for you, but all are good practices:

Seeking inspiration and magic from nature in one’s local environment can be a deeply rewarding and sustainable source of creativity for artists. Here are five ways artists can connect with nature for inspiration:

  1. Daily Observations: Take time to regularly observe the natural world around you. Pay attention to the changing seasons, the behavior of wildlife, and the nuances of the landscape. Bring a notebook or sketchbook to jot down ideas, sketch, or make notes about what you observe. These small, daily observations can lead to significant creative insights.
  2. Nature Walks and Hikes: Explore your local parks, forests, trails, and green spaces. Spend time immersed in nature, and take long walks or hikes to connect with the environment. The sights, sounds, and smells of the natural world can trigger new ideas and emotions that can be channeled into your art.
  3. Natural Materials: Use natural materials as part of your creative process. This can include using leaves, flowers, twigs, stones, or other found objects in your artwork. Consider making natural dyes or pigments from plants for painting or using natural textures in your sculptures or installations.
  4. Photography and Sketching: Bring a camera or sketchbook with you on your outdoor adventures. Capture the beauty of nature through photography or create on-the-spot sketches. These visual records can serve as references for your artwork and help you better understand the details and patterns in the environment.
  5. Community Involvement: Join local environmental organizations, conservation groups, or community gardening projects. Volunteering or actively participating in these activities can provide a sense of purpose and connection with the environment. It can also expose you to like-minded individuals who share your passion for nature and creativity.

Remember that inspiration from nature can come from the smallest details, so stay open to the subtleties of your surroundings. The magic and inspiration are often found in the intricacies of the natural world, and by immersing yourself in your local environment, you can develop a deep and personal connection to your surroundings that will infuse your art with a unique sense of place and meaning.

Studio as Media Fusion Lab

My artwork typically deals with combining, curating, collecting, and composing different elements for collage and assemblage. To make all of that work together requires a bit of engineering trial and error .

I’ve been posting a few photographs of experimental transfer processes that I’m trying with various combinations of beeswax, solvent, paper, and fiber just to see what works, what sticks, what is worth further experimentation to get the look I am striving for. The idea is not to make pieces of finished art just yet. It’s to put in some time and thought on combinations that might eventually suggest a way to express a meaningful concept in a different way.

For the first series of experiments, I’ve used a toner print on plain paper with four different substrates as image transfer receivers. I used the same image on all of them – here she is!

The first step is to transform the image to black and white and print it on a laser (toner) printer – mine is a very old Brother L2320D B&W laser printer, cheap, about $100.

Here are the initial transfer results on four different surfaces – muslin, canvas, rice paper, and mulberry paper. Notice how the toner ink works differently on each surface.

I liked the one on the upper right – it’s smooth cotton muslin. Here it is, below, next to another version on rough canvas drop cloth that used to live on my studio floor.

Both have a coat of beeswax added, then the beeswax is fused into the fabric with a heat gun.

The beeswax acts as a bonding agent between the muslin and the rice paper backing that it’s fused to. The transfer solvent doesn’t seem to affect the beeswax. That was one of my questions and concerns, but it all seems to work together the way I had hoped.

After everything was fused, I wanted to see how it would stitch with waxed linen. This is another way of ensuring the layers are completely bonded together. It worked great.

The picture below looks strange, but it is actually the backside of the layered paper and muslin piece. It’s interesting to see how the image has come through the back because the beeswax has made it translucent. So much to discover!

So far, this effect below is what I have been working toward – an image transfer on fabric that is compatible with beeswax and remains supple without cracking. Most importantly, I wanted a mysterious translucency. The fine white wax spatters add another layer of illusion.

We shall see where all of this goes! Hands-on research is always fun.

What have you been doing in YOUR studio lab lately?? Do it safely!

Fiber Art Reconsidered

At least half a dozen friends have sent me the eye-opening article from the New York Times called “ A Tangled Web鈥 and its premise that Fiber Art is finally, again, being reconsidered as a true art form.Julia Halperin, the author, writes, “. . . . in an age when we spend much of our time touching the flat surfaces of screens, this tactile art form feels newly seductive to makers and viewers alike as both a contrast with and a culmination of modern sensory experience.鈥

I hope you will read the article and discover the same reverence that I did for artists like Sheila Hicks and Lenore Tawney, innovators in fiber art.

For a look a an eclectic survey of contemporary fiber art closer to home (for San Antonians), visit TEXtiles: A Celebration of Texas Fiber Art, the annual juried Fiber Artists of San Antonio Art Exhibition will be held September 10 through October 20, 2023, at the Kelso Art Center, University of Incarnate Word, San Antonio, TX.

Kim Paxon, Name Your Fear, 1st Place, FASA TEXtiles exhibit

 

The theme of the exhibition showcases the innovation and diversity of Texas artists who create and communicate with fiber. Through art quilts, framed fiber art, sculptural pieces, vessels/basketry, paper art forms, art-to-wear garments or accessories, art dolls, woven textiles, mixed media work, jewelry and adornment, and conceptual work that defies categorization, Texas fiber artists are bringing textiles and fibers of every definition into new contexts and exploring social and conceptual implications of their usage.

My piece called Ghost Factory, won the Third Place award, which surprised me because I don’t consider myself in same category of fiber excellence as many of the others in the show, but I worked the fiber like a collage, which is my natural approach to almost any medium. This piece is based on photos taken by Lewis Hine in the 1920’s of child laborers in the textile industry.

You can see a video of the works in the exhibit by visiting the FASA Website.

If you have not used fiber and fabric as a collage medium, it may surprise you! Just collect fabric and ribbon scraps and tear, cur, and arrange them as you might with paper. If you use a glue stick, you can iron over your finished piece to fuse the whole thing together (put some parchment paper over the top first). then add stitching!!

My new workshop called The Composed Collage: Sisters shows and example of that technique, but you don’t need to get the workshop to give it a try.

Have fun with it – fiber is good for you!