“Two-Byes” — scrap-and-shard sculpture

There is such joy in making something out of shards and discards, especially if they have a history. Remember my post about provenance? I wrote, If you look up “provenance” as it relates to collecting art, you’ll find that it refers to the trail of ownership of an art object, or the history that got it from there to here. But every object has a history and a story based on where it is found. As an artist, you can incorporate those stories to give richness to your work.”

So I call these new assemblages “Two-Byes” because they are made from small scraps of two-by-four lumber found at the edge of the junk pile of a construction site across the street. The house that’s being built there is on the site of a lovely old brick home that was torn down to make way for this giant new structure. Sigh.

At any rate, these Two-Bye assemblages are full of stories about where the parts come from, and the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts.

The Two-Byes start with stamped random words from an antique stamp set that was a gift from my friend Jean.

Picking out words to stamp give me a creative kick start – it doesn’t mean that the piece will be about seven white horses or Japanese combs, but pictures start forming in my mind about how these words suggest stories, materials, and choices. I love this stamp set!

The heads are fired earthenware (Texas Longhorn White) and I have used the same base face with variations for these guys.

This structure lends itself to all kinds of media. Here is a Two-Bye called “Love Letter” with surfaces of encaustic collage.

Here is one called “Indigo Girl” – she is covered with hand-dyed indigo cotton and has rusted metal elements. Rust and indigo are such natural partners.

Here is “The Artist’s Cat” – it also has rust elements and a “heart box” covered with a mica sheet that reveals a murky portrait of a cat inside.

One of the things I really like about assemblages like these Two-Byes is that they are a playground for experimentation. They come from humble origins but tell glorious stories in all kinds of media languages.

If you’re interested in learning more about assemblage, I have an online course called NEO SANTOS: New Interpretations of Folk Art Saints and Angels that can give you more ideas. I now some of you have taken it and I see what you’ve done with it – good for you!

But you really don’t need a workshop to put together a scrap-and-shard story – just collect some scraps of wood and fiber and metal and write some random words to guide you. See what happens!

 

 

Getting a head for the new year . . .

December has been a blur of events small and large, good and challenging, planned and surprising. I try to deal with them when they pop up and feel as if I don’t have enough time to give them the thoughtfulness that they deserve. It’s been hard to keep my head on straight. So here’s a lesson I just re-learned about paying attention and trusting the process.

Yesterday, I was rushing past a little sculptural assemblage sitting on the worktable that was almost ready for the Art League Members Gallery show when it looked at me and stopped me in my tracks. It had been trying to get my attention for a month. It just wasn’t right.

“Yo,” it said. “My head does not belong here. It’s too big, too cramped, too complicated. – look around.” So I did, and right beside it, waiting patiently, was this rather imperfect head.

“Seriously?” I said. “Yep,” they both said. So I got out the strong snips and proceeded to do the deed. Gulp. Yikes.

The new head slipped into easily place. I could hear its sigh of relief. It’s just right – rustic, poignant, plain, endearing.

The other head has not found its place yet, but it’s not worried. It will. It’s happily trying out new bodies.

These small studio stories always cheer me up and remind me how deeply we are connected with the art we make. We do indeed trust the process, but our artwork also trusts us to pay attention to it and do what’s right.

I am so looking forward to 2023 – lots of new things happening, and with any luck, I can keep my head on straight and appreciate it all! See you in the new year!

Join Michelle Belto and me in Ireland next July

It sounds rather unbelievable, even to us, but Michelle Belto and I are teaching a Celtic-inspired workshop on the West Coast of Ireland from July 22 – 29, 2023 at the beautiful Essence of Muranny Art School and hope you can join us!

We’ll be offering a new, collaborative encaustic and mixed-media workshop called Offerings to Aine (pronouced ‘aw-ne’). Aine is the Irish Fairy Queen and a legendary inspiration for artists and poets.

Each of us will be lead teacher on two of the four days of the workshop.

For my two teaching days, we will learn various creative fusions with wax, paper, fiber, and clay, constructing an enigmatic goddess figure that is inspired by Aine and wrapped with handcrafted grace and spirit. Using the Legend of Aine as a guide, our figures will be infused with Celtic myth and lore. During the two days of construction and experimentation with wax and mixed-media, participants will find inspiration that will enhance their own studio practice and mixed-media horizons. And the goddess figure of Aine will be your traveling companion on your journey home!

For Michelle’s two days, participants will be guided in a partial plein air approach to the landscape of the area on a cradled panel during the first day. This “sense of place” will honor the elements of Aine’s land and become the basis for a small altar to celebrate her magic. The process will continue as participants create a shrine-like opening in the panel. Found objects from the surrounding land can be attached as honored “relics” representing the places she protected.

As you can tell by the timeline, we will have extra days to explore the countryside with our host, Lora Murphy, award-winning encaustic painter and owner of the school.

Our time in Mulranny will be spent with 4 days in the classroom setting, plus additional time sightseeing with a well informed tour guide, evening entertainment with talented musicians, storytellers or surprise events. Beautiful coastal walks or Great Western Greenway bicycle rides are there for free time excursions. Accommodation is provided in rental cottages and houses nearby the school. Meals are enjoyed in local restaurants, guest houses and private accommodations.

YOU CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS MAGICAL ART RETREAT HERE.

It may sound like an impossible dream at this point, but put it on your calendar. If you are worried about the cost, we have you covered – here is an Irish spell that will help you find money for those travel funds:

A charm to always have money

Take the feather of a black rooster, go to the crossing points of three fairy-paths, and while holding the feather and a gold colored coin, call the name of the Goddess Áine three times, to bring you everlasting prosperity.

And feel free to email me privately if you have specific questions – I really hope that you can come!

The Goats of Mulranny

 

 

Fifty years – a fiber art review of historic and personal milestones

This Sunday, 50 Years of Fiber Art, an exhibiting celebrating the golden anniversary of the Fiber Artist of San Antonio, opens at the University of the Incarnate Word University’s Semmes Gallery. Fiber Artists from across the region and the U.S. present work inspired by culturally significant milestones of each decade since the 1970’s – fashion or design, pop culture, music, architecture, notable people, places or events, or even a more personal story about the artist’s experiences.

Juror Paula Owen selected 37 pieces from the 220 submitted. I had the fun of helping unpack some of those entries yesterday with the FASA team at UIW.

Each artist chose a decade to interpret, and interestingly, about half of them chose the 70’s. I love Terry Gay Puckett’s take on that decade (we were requested to give a statement about the work) – and apparently, so did the Juror!

My own piece reveals a bit more frustration about my chosen decade – the 90’s. That was when Technology discovered me and dragged me, kicking and screaming, out of my secure art studio. This mixed-media/fiber work, which is also in the exhibit, is called Digital Divide: The Last Kimono.

Until the mid-90’s I had been happily going along making art – particularly large-scale folded and framed paper kimonos – and then I was chosen to do a technology internship by the school district where I was teaching at the time. No more kimonos for me. The possibilities that digital tools offered were dazzling and frightening, and it turned my whole notion of art-making upside down. I eventually joined the Computer Science Department at Trinity University in 2004 – now that was a trip!

I have so many terrifying moments of that  decade – crying because I didn’t know how to use a Windows computer since all I had used was Mac, calling the Ed Tech department at my school district because there were fish swimming on my computer monitor and I didn’t know how to get rid of them (It’s a screen-saver, Lyn – just move your mouse and they will go away.”), and mostly pretending that I knew what I was doing – wrong.

Artists generally think more globally than technology likes – digital proficiency is so hard because it relies on a completely different skill set than traditional art does. Many skilled artists realize that they’re beginners again when they switch to a digital art platform and have to relearn the basics. Look at this face – this is not a happy woman:

In my statement about this piece, I wrote: “It took another ten years before I found my way back to clay, paper, beeswax, and fiber, my instinctive, beloved media. This work is constructed of canvas from my old studio, torn, and imprinted with computer code. The 90’s decade of immersion in technology and the digital binary world continues to serve and influence me like a gift of fire – brilliant, indispensable and risky.” Ultimately, I am so grateful for the chance to learn the kinds of skills that let me bridge the digital world with the hands-on studio work.

All of us could tell stories about a particular decade that changed us profoundly. What’s yours? If you are in San Antonio and you’d like to see some answers interpreted through fiber art, come to the opening of 50 Years of Fiber Art this Sunday.

PS – if you look carefully at the poster for the show (above), you will see that the “button” that makes up the zero in the “50” graphic came from a photo I took of a detail of my submitted work when I designed the poster for UIW – that’s how digital art can combine with the real thing. Groovy!

Elemental Spirit Dolls call for entry – for an Earthly cause!

My friend Ann Leach is a visionary who is passionate about doing good through art. Her first project raised money for Ukraine by inviting artists to make and sell dolls based on the traditional Ukrainian Montaka model.

Ann has expanded her reach with a world-wide call for Elemental Spirit Dolls. She invited me to help, and we are joined in this project by photographer and graphic designer Waldinei Lafaiete, who will produce an amazing catalog of the accepted art dolls.

You are invited to enter this call and to share your vision of Healing the Planet through the creation of a spirit doll, Wanderer, Neo-Santo – whatever creative figurative form you choose.

Helen Layfield, British fiber artist and scholar, will act as Juror. Besides the photographs of the dolls, which will be for sale to benefit Friends of the Earth, there will be essays by Barb Kobe, Joanna Powell Colbert, and other artists whose studio practices are grounded in nature and conservation.

For all details and answers to questions about this unique initiative, click on the image below:

 

 

 

 

Follow-up on Secrets of Spirit Boxes – wow!

One of my life’s great joys is getting feedback and photos from artists who find a workshop useful and then adapt it to their own style and aesthetics. That’s exactly the purpose of teaching classes like the new Secrets of the Spirit Box.

Here’s a magnificent example from Patricia Mosca, friend and fabulous artist. She emailed me this morning, saying “I have attached a picture of a Secret Message Bearer that I did…(my style of course).”  Look!

And here is how she describes her creation on her Facebook page:

…secret message bearer…
we all have them…those deep secrets that we don’t share…the secret message bearer allows you to put your thoughts and words onto paper and hide them…each comes with a small box attached to the back where you can place your secret soul whispers so only you and the bearer can witness them…we all need a safe place for blessings and gratitude…

 

Just as she transforms the idea of Secrets of the Spirit Box, she also transforms my Earthshard faces by painting them in a realistic way that brings a different kind of life to them.

Brava, Patricia, for raising the bar on taking the basics and flying with them to new heights!

Another wonderful artist friend, Ann Leach, is also interpreting the Spirit Boxes and their secrets in her own style. Look at this assortment of her “Sea Sisters SEAcret Spirit Boxes.”

Ann is also the driving force behind the Call for Elemental Spirit Dolls. I’ll be talking more about this in detail, but for now, please follow this link to see more:

https://www.annleach.com/elemental-spirit-dolls

And, yep, that’s my Spirit Doll on the poster. Won’t you join in?

 

 

 

Secrets of the Spirit Box – a new workshop

This brand-new workshop follows closely on the heels of The Wanderers, one of my most popular workshops ever.

One of the reasons I like small-scale workshops like Secrets of the Spirit Box is that both experienced artists and beginners can use them as little “meditations” when there is a bit of time and space in the studio between big projects. These assemblages provide a stress-free exercise in design and decision-making using materials that we usually have on hand.

I’m really excited about the Secrets of the Spirit Box. With three hours of videos, this engaging class shows you how to transform simple materials into a magic box assemblage with lots of places to hide secrets. Like The Wanderers, you can customize and adapt the ideas endlessly.

Also like The Wanderers, the workshop tuition is just $39 and the videos are downloadable and available forever – at least as long as I am around! You can go to the class link and view the Introduction for free.

The Secrets of the Spirit Box

Here are some more photos that I took while I was working on this project.

There are several parts to making a workshop like this in case you are ever interested in doing your own.

First, of course, comes the idea. I like to think of things that are almost fail-proof and always educational and enjoyable. Then you need to make some prototypes or samples to make sure your ideas are realistic and match your original concept in clarity and simplicity of process.

Next come the filming – break it down into manageable segments. I did one segment in this new workshop in which I made a Spirit Box from start to finish in one hour, no breaks. That was hard because I kept seeing new possibilities as I worked, but stuck to the plan anyway! (Some workshop designers film with their iPhone, but I use a Sony video camera on a boom stand.)

Then comes the editing. I use three different kinds of software depending on the project: Adobe Premiere Elements, Windows Movie Maker, and Vimeo Create. You can get a free 30-day trial of Adobe Premiere Elements to see if you like it. And, yep, you gotta just sit there and learn it. But learning is good.

And finally, you share your workshop online. I like Teachable a lot. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good option for me right now. If you want to do a practice workshop, try uploading your video to YouTube and see what response you get. It’s an interesting entry sharing platform.

Sharing what you know with other creative people is important and keeps you connected to the community of makers and artists.

So here’s MY latest share:

Secrets of the Spirit Box

I”d love to have you join me! Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Clay sent, joy returned

In the wonderful way of things, I just received a photo of a Spirit Doll from Ireland that brings me great joy.

I “met” the maker through my Etsy shop. Her name is Linda Newman, and she’s from Westport, Co. Mayo, Ireland. Also, in the wonderful way of things, she has visited the studios in Mulranny where Lora Murphy hosts Painting with Fire.

Linda ordered some little clay faces from my Earthshards shop – when they arrived she wrote, “Your beautiful spirit doll faces arrived today. Across two countries and an ocean in perfect condition. They are all talking at once and I have tears to hear them!”

She told me a bit more about herself – it sounds like heaven.

“I’ve a little farm with loads animals n bee hives n gardens. Just time to LIVE now n get off the wheel.”

And then just two days ago, I received this photograph – look! And then read about the animals that make this creation so special, below.

 

Linda writes, “Her hair is Lambchop wool (Lambchop is her sheep), and a lock of mane from my dear pony Bobby, guinea feathers from Ethel, my intention is on a heart under the chamois dress. She is nesting in the child pepper wreath in my kitchen so I can see her every day.”

“She has a sharing of animals that were very dear to me. Lifting Bobby’s mane and burying my nose in his beautiful scent underneath was my treasure.  Mind you Ethel got a fright from a fox recently and has absconded to the neighbour’s woods. I had to retrieve her when I get back. Her husband Fred doesn’t seem to care she is living a field away. A modern relationship. I’d gathered those feathers after I cried n thought the fox got her. But she was too clever!”

I feel as if I know Bobby and Ethel and Fred and Lambchop. What a book that would make! Perhaps when Michelle Belto and I go to Ireland to teach next year at Mulranny, I can actually meet these rascals – and Linda, too!

Linda just asked, “I have a bag of washed n carded wool from my sheep Lambchop, which is a natural creamy colour but has little seeds and bits of dried plants still in it. Would you like some? I can send you some. Will make very interesting hair.”

Wow, yes!! Hair from Lambchop?? Lucky me – I can’t wait to see what that magical Irish wool will inspire. Thank you, Linda!

Life’s connections invite us to respond to them with a thrill of wonder – keep reaching out, keep connecting. You’ll receive joy in return.

 

Put your away your toys

File this post under “Studio Tips” – I just found an amazing storage solution for my mixed-media toys!

It was totally accidental. I was at IKEA after we got back from our trip looking for a folding chair. You can’t get to that department without going through the children’s furniture section, which I normally just rush right through. All of a sudden, I spotted this:

Even better, when I looked beside the pile of bins, there were some frames for toy storage that the bins fit in!

“Dang,” said I. “This looks like the kind of storage system we had when I taught high school art – bins for supplies.” IKEA had both white frames and natural pine ones. I picked up the natural pine one and six white bins. I took them back to my studio, and the frame was amazingly easy to put together – 24 pegs, six screws, twenty minutes tops. And look!

But wait, it gets better. The next day (yesterday) I went back and got two more sets of bins and frames and stacked them on top of each other on the other side of the work table – check this out:

This is a game changer! I have trouble with conventional storage systems because I work in clay, fiber, paper and wax and little bitty pieces and shards which defy categorization. These bins are perfect! They keep things separated but accessible, and I can pull them out when I need them. Plastic bins of my stuff! Hooray!

And may I add, this is an incredibly affordable system? Each unit costs about $74 for the frame and six plastic trays. So I got all of this for a little over $200. The white frames are even cheaper – $39. You can also get colored plastic trays and metal mesh trays.

Here is the link to the IKEA page that has these toy storage system:

https://www.ikea.com/us/en/cat/toy-storage-20474/

They even has one that looks like a Japanese Tansu Chest (well, sorta). This is the white frame with larger colored bins, but you can mix and match:

So I know not everyone has an IKEA close to them, so I checked to see if these can be shipped, and they can. Delivery costs may vary, but it’s still a deal.

So bye for now – I’m off to play with my toys – and I promise to put them away when I am finished with them.

 

Afterwords: Shards and Sand

After I posted “Shards and Sand” several days ago about our trip to the beaches of Normandy, so many of you responded with thoughts and memories about war and peace and humanity. Thank you.

In that post, I wrote, “Part of our duty as artists is to pass on tradition and preserve our cultural history in various formats, to express human emotion and help us all to feel hope and peace of mind.” My artist friend Pamela Ferguson, a wonderful poet and painter, sent this note with a poem she wrote which will speak to all of us.

“I was moved by your post/blog on Normandy, Lyn. I’ve been to France but not there. I can imagine the voices who whispered to you. I look forward to the art that comes from your experience. This poem wrote itself after I read your blog. I wanted to share it with you.”
Here is the poem, brilliantly composed by Pam from the point of view of a young soldier watching the incoming invasion. I superimposed the words on the photograph of a bunker at Pointe du Hoc in which he might well have been waiting.

Isn’t the power of artists inspiring each other amazing? I am so grateful to Pam for sharing this poem which I know will stay with each of you as is has with me, opening our minds and hearts.