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:

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Shards and Sand

Pointe du Hoc cliffs

We’ve just returned from a two week trip to the Normandy Beaches where the most significant victory of the Western Allies in the Second World War took place on June 6, 1944. The DDay military invasion that helped to end World War II was one the most ambitious and consequential military campaigns in human history.

Both of our fathers fought in the Second World War and this trip felt as much like a pilgrimage as a history lesson.

I’m still processing the profound personal effects from this trip, but the experience taught me that it is impossible for the human race to be unaffected by war. It also reinforced the idea of the universal hero archetype who starts with a humble birth, then overcomes evil and death.

The story of Pointe du Hoc defines heroism. Pointe du Hoc was the location of a series of German bunkers and machine gun posts. On D-Day, the United States Army Provisional Ranger Group attacked and captured Pointe du Hoc after scaling the cliffs while being fired on by German soldiers from the clifftops.

When we visited the location, the bomb craters and bunkers were still there at the top of the high cliffs. Wildflowers bloomed around the ruined machine gun bunkers.

I collected a few wildflowers from this place as well as rose petals, small sticks, sand and shells from Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. These Shards of remembrance will ground me in the feeling collectiveness and gratitude I felt while walking the sands of the Normandy beaches.

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. I’m not sure how this profound journey I took will manifest itself in future artwork, but I know that it will. These little Shards will be a starting point.

A French family at the American Cemetery in Normandy

The church at Sainte-Mere-Eglise, the first town in Normandy liberated by American paratroopers

 

 

 

 

 

Look what wandered in early . . . .

I had planned to wait until Monday morning to publish this post, but Monday morning is kind of a busy time for a lot of people. So, surprise!

I worked this weekend finishing the new online workshop called Wanderers. It’s done! I love it! It was such fun. I really put myself on the spot, not knowing how the final pieces would turn out, but they look just like themselves!

Here are the two new Wanderers, demos from the workshop, who now inhabit this planet – one is free standing and one is wall-hung. You’ll watch them getting built from start to finish in the video lessons.

Those of you who are SHARDS readers know that if you enroll in the course right now, you have a Coupon Code. Coupons are new to me, but it’s a great way to thank you for subscribing to the blog and for being interested in new workshops.

The Workshop has eight videos and is over three hours long (in manageable bites). You have lifetime access. Tuition is $39 (cheap!) but for the next three days, you can use a coupon for $10 off (cheaper!). The code to put in when you check out is WANDER10. It will work until 6:00 PM on Wednesday, July 27th.

Oh, yes – here is the link to the course:

WANDERERS: Enigmatic Figures Wrapped with Grace and Spirit

I cannot thank you enough for the encouragement and the good feedback.

If you find any glitches in the new workshop, please send me an email – and have fun Wandering!

There’s something about a kimono . . .

 

Luna, Lyn Belisle, Mixed Media on folded paper, 30×40″

TAH DAH! New mixed-media class in my online Studio Classroom,  starting today! THE ENDURING KIMONO: FORM AND PATTERN

My old, old, OLD friends remember when my signature pieces were large-scale origami kimonos done with mixed media techniques before any of us knew what mixed media was. I loved these pieces and still go back to folding origami as a meditative practice.

This course was developed during the Pandemic as one of my first online teaching classes. It’s an all level exploration of paper folding and surface treatment which results in really enchanting paper kimono forms that translate into all sizes and formats.

I haven’t posted a new class to my online Teachable Studio in quite a while – part of the purpose of getting this course ready was to remember how to use Teachable! But it all worked, and the course is up with five instructional videos. The introduction is a free preview, so please take a look.

Boro Kimono, Lyn Belisle, 11×14″

But wait!! There’s more – for SHARDS peeps, there is a Coupon Code! I wanted to learn how to create coupons, as well, so I actually made one for a $10 discount code. The regular price of the class is $29 (cheap) but with the discount, it is only $19 (cheaper). The code is KIM19 and it is good until next Friday. Just go to the link below, check out the preview, and if you want to join the class, use the code for your discount in the check-out coupon box. I tried it myself and it seems to work – whew.

THE ENDURING KIMONO: FORM AND PATTERN

Meanwhile, I’m having my first group in-person workshop at my San Antonio studio this weekend – wish you were here! Stay safe, stay cool.

 

 

Wax on the Water (California Dreamin’)

Morro Bay, CA

It really does seem like a dream. I was somehow at Morro Bay on the coast of California with my heroes, friends, and mentors.We were at an in-person gathering, talking about the art of encaustic and learning so mych from each other. People I had known only from Zoom were giving me real hugs. Even Lora Murphy, founder of Painting with Fire, was there from Ireland.

Me with Lora Murphy – what a brilliant artist she is –

But wait! It was real! My first trip out of Texas in almost three years really was to California to the Wax on the Water Convergence, hosted by the International Encaustic Artists.

Juror Pamela Smith Hudson discusses the work in the IEA Convergence Exhibition of encaustic art.

My dear friend Michelle Belto went with me and gave a wonderful opening program on creating authentic art. It set the tone for the amazing conference.

I brought home lots of great memories – a wonderful workshop with Jay and Ann Bonestell, the swanky dinner at Windows on the Water honoring Trish Seggebruch and Lora Murphy, meeting fellow Enso Circle residents in person –

One of my favorite stories is meeting Barbara Sitar, the former Morro Bay Art Center Gallery Director. Barbara has exhibited and been a featured artist in galleries and other installations in Europe and the USA. During her thirty years as an art professional, she has been a curator, mentor and artist in her native Slovakia in Prague, Vienna, Germany and America.

Talking with Barbara, whose work was in the IEA Exhibition, I found out that she was a native Czech speaker. I introduced her to my husband Bill, who also speaks Czech, and they carried on a happy conversation about Prague and families and all kinds of Czech-related topics. It was fun to watch (even though I didn’t understand a word of it).

The nicest coincidence, though, was that in the IEA Members’ Art Exchange, I won Barbara’s work! It’s an encaustic piece depicting a beautiful Morro Bay white heron. It has a new home in Texas 🙂

Barbara Sitar, 2022

If you would like to see an overview of this wonderful gathering, please view the video – Sean, our videographer, did a stellar job capturing the joy of ConVergence in just five minutes of film.

Master.mp4 from Seannie Cameras on Vimeo.

There was also a good article from San Luis Obispo New Times about the Conference. Many thanks to my fellow IEA Board members whose hard work made this an unforgettable experience. Here’s to next year!!

Compass: Shannon Weber

Shannon Weber’s art has resonated powerfully and personally with me since the first time I saw it at least fifteen years ago. I felt an immediate, eerie sense of connection and a feeling that her work could guide me to a new place on my own creative path.

In 2018, I got to work with Shannon for five days as part of a Fiber Artists of San Antonio intensive workshop at the Southwest School of Art. I wrote about it in this SHARDS post.

Recently, I asked Shannon if she would make a work for me, a commission piece of one of her boats that are so magically symbolic. During the time she worked on it, we talked back and forth about life and art and uncertainties. I knew that the piece she was making would be a guide for me and an inspiration.

Yesterday, the piece arrived from Oregon, packed meticulously in its own huge box, cradled with layers and layers of protective wrapping. The title of the piece is Compass. It could not be more perfect. And I could not be more grateful for this protective, symbolic vessel. 

Shannon Weber, Compass, 2022

In a handwritten note, Shannon described the provenance of the pieces in the assemblage – “small beads, stones, and fossil from my magic beads gathered last year, bone harvested off side of road on forest drive, rusted washers found on construction site, nails from junk shop, vintage burn papers, reed, handmade papers, waxed linen, shell beads, feather.” And then she wrote, “I think it will fit in your nest.”

Shannon Weber, Compass (detail), 2022

How is it that a piece of art can affect us so completely? Shannon says that the title, Compass, is for her all about direction. For me it recalls the saying about adjusting one’s sails when you can’t change the wind.

Shannon Weber, Compass (detail) 2022

That red thread that sparkles in a few places is pure Shannon symbolism – throughout history and across philosophies, red thread has been worn for protection, faith, good luck, strength, and connection. It’s a symbol of being loved, supported and, feeling safe and secure. It’s a prompt to stay positive while facing any adversity.

Every element in Shannon’s work is meaningful, partly because she allows the collected material to direct how the work is going to evolve. Every element collected has a history or a mythology of location, age, or place that is allowed to shapeshift as the materials and techniques are mixed together to the form the structure of the designs.

Her work has attracted the attention of curators of Fiber and Fine Craft who have included her work in their lectures for her skill and methods in design, both nationally and internationally. She has been asked to speak on her methods and use of materials, and she has been featured in numerous publications worldwide. 

I still need to look at Compass a lot more to discover more layers of meaning, but to be able to hold one of Shannon’s works in my hands and feel the connection is pretty awesome. When I get stuck, or get discouraged, or wonder why we make art, I’m going to have this wonderful vessel to guide me out of the rough spots.

The power of Shannon’s work comes, I think, in part from her ethical authenticity. Here is how she describes her process (from an article in Hand Eye Magazine):

By applying ancient techniques and transitioning to contemporary designs, I can achieve my desired effects by using a mixture of repetitive layers, weaving, stitching, and cold connections along with painting and encaustic. These multiple applications make it very easy to blend metal, wire, rubber, and organic materials of all kinds. Each layer of material mixed with different techniques begins to build structure that gives the objects and vessels their form and opens doors for detailed surface design embellishments of all kinds. While the form is taking shape, I consider it an amulet or talisman to be displayed in a personal space.

Thank you, Shannon, for this talisman – and for the lessons you have taught me about working with what I have and to be open to experimenting with almost any material to see what becomes of it. We all need a Compass, and you’ve provided one for me!

 

 

 

It’s here . . .PAINTING WITH FIRE 2022-2023

You probably know by now that Lora Murphy has created an artworld sensation with her year-long exploratory encaustic painting program, Painting with Fire. Last year, I got to be a small part of it, one of 26 teachers they called “The World’s Best” (talk about Imposter Syndrome).

But, wow! PWF is back and even better than ever. I was just looking at some of the new classes – and some new teachers, too. Roxanne Evans Stout has always been one of my favorites, and she’s here, as well as dear friend Michelle Belto, and Bridget Benton, who just did a guest stint for us in The Enso Circle.

I thought and thought about what to teach for my main Painting with Fire class this year, and finally decided on a project called The Shaman Spirit in Paper and Wax: Exploring Simple Mixed Media and Encaustic Figure Construction.

workshop promo

The White Shaman murals were painted on rock in the lower Pecos River Valley of Texas 4000 years ago. These murals are the inspirational source of The Shaman Spirit in Paper and Wax. Using simple materials – sticks, wax, pigment, sinew – we will create assembled figures that reflect the mystery and collective consciousness revealed through shamanic symbols and marks. Some of the explorations include:

  • Wax on paper, both monoprint and direct painting
  • Collage techniques
  • Waxed paper beads and adornments
  • Simple primitive figure construction
  • Face-making
  • Mark-making
  • Figure presentation

What do you think? Will it be fun? You bet 🙂 I hope you’ll sign up for Painting with Fire 2022-2023 through my link, below:

I want to be a fire painter, too!

Every week you’ll get a new class, and you can watch them any time from now until forever. Every teacher in this group is so excited to get to do this another year with you. If you click the link and go to the Painting with Fire site, you will see a list of all the teachers and their themes and processes. Like I said, I’m getting major Imposter Syndrome to be in this group.

Special thank to Lora Murphy, of course, and to all the creative people who joined us for the previous year of Painting with Fire. All the dates and information are here.

Yay for wax and fire and shamans and art and magic and creative beloved friends!!