Tuesday, October 30, 2012

inspiration: susanna bauer

we all find inspiration in the world around us. sometimes, i spend hours contemplating the sources of my inspiration. wondering about who and what inspires others. i thought it might be interesting to you, gentle readers, to see, from time to time, where my inspiration draws from.

susanna bauer is a bavarian modelmaker in england who, in her spare time, does the most amazing things with leaves, rocks, and bits of wood. some of her concepts mirror those many of us explore and experiment with in cloth and fiber. especially in what she creates from leaves and thread! it seems most of her personal art is created from natural elements found during her walks. her sense of balance between the natural element and the man-made is provocative...

to see more of her work, journey across the web to here.

i hope susanna's work inspires you as well!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

urban guerilla boro

it is always inspirational when we meet someone finding new ways to connect their art to the community in which they live. michael swaine is one such artist. i did not run into him on any of my forays into san francisco, but hope to some day. i would love to spend some time chatting with him and hearing more about his "performance art" project.

here is a man who is a potter/sculptor by trade (teaches at the san francisco art institute) who reached out into another medium and found a way to express it in a new and elevating way. he designed and built his own mobile sewing station after finding an old treadle machine in the trash. has spent the past couple of years wandering around one of the roughest neighborhoods of san francisco known as the tenderloin, and mends local residents' clothing. but he doesn't stop there. he connects with the residents in meaningful ways. talking with them about life. about mending. or sometimes just about the weather. whatever they need to talk about while he treadles boro patches and mends seams and rifts in their clothes...and, quite possibly, in their lives through his outreach and warmth.

between his mobile forays of urban guerilla boro, michael is currently building the free mending library in the tenderloin area at 509 ellis. it is a place to borrow thread and sewing machines and talk about life.

i wonder what other ways we can connect with our community through our art besides the more traditional gallery?


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

forgetting as an option

"wouldn't it be nice
to just live for today
and let the past
just slip away."
-robert boughter

as many of you know, i work four nights a week at a local green house cottage for the elderly with alzheimer's. most people who hear about what i do immediately think "how awful! those poor people who are forgetting everything. how can you stand it?"  i even had someone suggest that this must be doubly terrible since our guests are at the end of their lives so they are "just going to die on you, so how can you invest so much in them? especially since they won't even remember all that you are doing for them!" my answer to these, and many other similar questions, is always the same: how can i not?

while it is true that i have attended more funerals in the past four years that i have worked in the cottages than most people will attend in a dozen lifetimes, our guests have provided me with more joy and fulfillment than i could ever have hoped for in life. i am so fortunate to be able to share in their daily wonder and delight. to be be a part of their lives and families. to be humbled by their trust and unconditional love. not to mention the plethora of lessons and wisdom i have had bestowed upon me by their very act of living.

one of these lessons is how forgetting can bring contentment. true, our guests have little choice in what they have forgotten. or when they forget. but they do get to choose how they will respond to their forgetting, and most of them choose to respond with joy. the joy of living in the moment. from the guest who is only just entering into the early stages of the disease who fills in the blank spots in her memory with happy alternatives, right on down to the gentle lady who introduces herself to me every time she sees me whether it was yesterday, or less than five minutes ago, and does so with a smile in her eyes and joy in her heart at meeting someone new that she can welcome into her home!

these amazing and beautiful people live in the now. find joy and peace in each moment, in spite of their physical and mental maladies. how can i not try to honor them by seeking to do the same? it isn't always easy. i struggle with depression and loneliness. but i have so many shining examples around me who are struggling with so much more.

one arena that i am focusing on in this moment, is to bring this forgetting into my art as an option. by this i mean that i want to try and forget to judge everything i do. to move forward with each peace in joy and be content with its outcome. to forget what other people my think and say about my art based upon their own biases and opinions, and to create for the simple sake of creating something beautiful and wonderful to my own eye. just as our guests in the cottages live each moment in each day. forgetting the pain and the slights life, and often family, have offered them, in favor of finding joy in a cupcake...or the warmth of a caring touch.

i once had a guest who was blind, in the advanced stages of alzheimer's, and suffered from crippling arthritis, who always knew it was me before i even reached  her room and greeted me with a big smile no matter how much pain she was in. i asked her how she always knew it was me and could always remember my name but no one else's. she told me it was because whenever she heard the jingle of keys on my belt heading down the hall, she knew that "joe, who has kind hands" was coming to see her and it always made her happy. of how she always looked forward to "seeing" the highly textural cloths that i made with her in mind. of how she enjoyed spending time, telling me about the things she "saw" in my art cloth through her fingers.

she has been gone for two years now, but i can't think of her without a smile touching my lips and a tear washing my cheek. it is for her, and those like her, that i mean to strive to create art with forgetting as an option...


Saturday, October 20, 2012

a little splash of color

just a little splash of color to bring some life to this little calavera! there's still much to do before he will be finished, but he seems to be off to a good start. i'm really enjoying the somewhat sketchy nature of the underlying machine stitched free-motion work. it plays nicely with the hand stitches. adds movement and interest. i may have to explore this a little more.


Friday, October 19, 2012

memento mori

i have struggled with time again this week. perhaps i am simply unused to actually having so much time on my hands and am lulled into complacency? perhaps it has been the dull, drizzly weather that has moved in, heralding the immanent arrival of winter?  whatever the reason, i decided today that i was definitely in need of minding my time better, so i picked up some cloth and thread and set myself to work.

dia de los muertos is quickly approaching so i thought i might start with a calavera. i wanted something with a bit of chaos and thought some free-motion machine embroidery might serve admirably as my foundation. i started with a nice variegated thread of black, ox-blood, and tan. then added a couple of black and white flowers for eyes that i plucked from a salvaged cotton skirt. this all laid down nicely on a salvaged linen background.

this calavera is far from finished. it's time now to start adding color and hand-stitching (i've been thinking a lot lately about combining machine and hand stitches). but first, i must delve deeply into my stash and find some other fabrics to compliment and layer with...and rummage through my thread baskets and drawers...

meanwhile, i was inspired by these cookies today. i may just have to try my hand at some of these!


Monday, October 15, 2012

choose to use your wings

no one can
do it for you...
choose to use
your wings

i saw this quote on a greeting card somewhere. it has played hide and seek in my memories for years. today it landed on my shoulder and whispered demands to be noted. there is still more to be done before this small cloth can be considered completed. but it is a good start...

my eyes were delighted by this today.


Friday, October 12, 2012

"sometimes, when i first wake up,
i feel like i'm walking around in a fog.
that's when i usually go and
unplug the fog machine.
geez, who turned that thing on?"
-jarod kintz

it seems like that fog machine has been on all week. obscuring my days. hazing my thoughts. slowing my creativity. this morning was the only one that actually found the countryside blanketed by fog. the rest of the fog twisted and hovered in my brain. so i have slept. a lot.

between sleeping moments, i would rummage about through my stash. and my wardrobe. looking for dark cloth to salvage for box of darkness. i was surprised to find how lacking my stash of blacks is. i may have to scavenge through other people's wardrobes and duck into a thrift shop or two to round out my palette. perhaps broaden my scope of cloth acceptability to include deep hunter greens, heavy burgundies, rich midnight blues, and dark coffee browns.

meanwhile, i've tossed some scraps aside for a pair of wings. perhaps the fog will lift this week's end and i will find myself stitching...

i enjoyed this today. it reminded me there are many kinds of darknesses.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

an early snow

this morning greeted us with another flurry of wet snow clinging to branches. melting slowly into a slurry of mud and frigid nastiness. another good day to stay by the fire and play with cloth. but i am too tuckered today and think i am more apt to find myself snuggling into my favorite over-stuffed chair with my feet toasting by the fire while drowsing the day away.

it seems dreary days bring out the sloth in me...


Friday, October 5, 2012

wintry break of day

the rising sun attempted to penetrate my frosted windows early this morning. peeking through my slitted lids to gently coax me awake. softly calling me to witness its autumnal splendor. sadly for the sun, my warm and comforting quilts won out. this glimpse was all i was to see as i rolled over and snuggled closer to the sleeping saint.

after a time, when sleep and the laziness of a morning off left me, i bundled myself into some warm clothes and went for a morning walk to allow the splendor of this fall morning to seep into my bones. yesterday's snows had melted, leaving behind puddles dotted with this morning's random rain drops. i left the saint at home, much to her disappointment. but the memory of her twitching with doggy dreams, nestled amongst warm quilts was much more inviting that the thought of her attempting to reclaim that comfortable spot covered in mud and leaves.

today will be a great day to sit by the fire and stitch...


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

deeper roots

"storms make trees
take deeper roots."
-dolly parton

it is difficult to fathom this early morning tantrum in the sky as yesterday it was warm and toasty in the 80's. now it is a chilling 32 degrees and the big sky above has filled with ominous clouds and tempestuous winds. some are saying we may even get a couple inches of snow by nightfall...

for myself, i am going to climb into my warm and inviting bed. curl up with the saint and snuggle into the side of the cat and court a dream or two. who knows what i will awaken to? it won't really matter. i will have taken deeper roots of my own in sleep and rise well-rested and ready to listen to whatever whispers there may be in the dark.

good night...


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

on painted wing

i needed to drink in some color before diving into the growing pile of darkly hued salvage for the new story cloth, box of darkness. to quench that thirst, i pulled out this little creature that began to emerge back here out of some lovely gifted cloth hand-dyed by deb. i had originally inked in a few wispy lines to suggest a wing on the left side. she whispered. i listened and painted in a set of "proper" wings. then stitched and knotted. satisfied whispers ensued. there is much to unfold and manifest before the whispers will soften and begin revealing their stories...but we are both content with this new development for the moment.