Off the Wall: American Art to Wear

I went to a couple of great  exhibits this year before the coronavirus shut the museums.  One of them,  Off the Wall: American Art to Wear, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, was especially enjoyable.

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While I’ve never been a fashionista, I’ve always loved colorful, striking clothing.  I grew up in the 70’s with a mother who thought that Leslie Fay was a fashion icon.  Oh, dear.  This made for some interesting discussions best left to memory.  But a lot of people felt like my Mother.

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There has always been art clothing, but usually not for the hoi polloi like me and my Mother who were expected to wear sensible “uniforms” and not stand out.  That seemed to change in the late 60’s and early 70’s when brighter colors became acceptable, tie dye was all the rage, and the hand-made movement took off.   I think that the American art clothing movement was a product of this, and it has definitely left a mark on what we wear today.

Some of my favorite pieces from the exhibit:

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Embroidered Top and Skirt, Mary Ann Schildknecht

There is a saying somewhere  that an article of clothing does not qualify as couture unless a dozen nuns went blind making it.    So I was amused  to learn that nuns taught Mary Ann Schildknecht how to embroider while she was serving a two-year prison sentence in Italy for hashish trafficking.  The result is this astounding top and skirt, above.

I first saw this cape and hat by Susanna Lewis in an issue of Ornament Magazine years ago.  Ornament is the best magazine if you are interested in art clothing.

Double click on the pictures to get  a look at the full sized versions of this headdress and cape by Debra Rappaport.  They are made entirely of found objects.

Knitwear

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Joan Steiner, Manhattan Collar
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Katherine Westphal

 

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One of the entries from the Levis Art Denim contest of 1974. Levis Jeans sponsored a contest inviting its customers to decorate their denim and send them pictures.

This is just a sampling of the wonderful articles of clothing displayed in the exhibit.   The Philadelphia Museum of Art has put together an exhibition book which you can order here.  There’s also a real interesting out-of-print book on the Art to Wear movement,  Art to Wear by Julie Schafler Dale.  You can order a used copy here.  Julie Shafler Dale ran a gallery in Manhattan for a number of years that was known for showcasing innovative crafts and new craft mediums (including polymer) before they made their way into the mainstream.  The Julie Artisans Gallery  is closed now, but you can read about it here.  You can read about the Levis Art Denim Contest  and see the winning entries  here.   If you would like more information on Off the Wall: American Art to Wear, click  here and here and here.

 

An Antidote to Fear

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Some years ago, I decided to interview any elderly relative who would share family stories with me.  I planned to tape and transcribe the conversations for the rest of the family.

Those who agreed to talk to me told me stories of  wars, epidemics, natural disasters, and the early  deaths of their children.   (And no, they weren’t used to that in the old days any more than we are now.) They told me their stories and recounted stories they heard from their  parents, and from their grandparents. They talked for hours, and I wrote everything down.

I was surprised by what I took away.  I discovered that I had taken so much for granted about the lives of other people.

For the first time,  I got a real sense of  the anguish that historical events could cause when they played out in the lives of real people.   I got a sense of the despair an Uncle felt as he  recounted stories of growing up as a teenager during the Depression,   I had never thought about the mantle of uncertainty he lived under-how he felt his life was on hold because he had no prospects- and how nobody around him knew when or even if  the Depression would  end,  because nothing like it had ever happened before.

And in my extended conversations  with my Mother  about her family’s daily life during the Second World War,  I got a kind of understanding of the fear and anxiety she lived with every day because no one knew how things would play out.

None one bit of this had occurred to me when I studied these things in school.  There was no suspense; we already knew how the Depression and World War 2 would end.  But it was different living through it.  Which brings me to the present.  Because this is where we are now.

Every day, I see draconian pandemic  headlines in the newspaper and online that are  geared to alarm people and gain readers, not to inform.   We don’t need toxic nonsense like this in our lives.  It’s  useless. As  Neils Bohr  said, “prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”     But we humans have a deep-seated need to fill in the blanks.  We have a hard time with uncertainty.   Where does that leave us?

When the world seems enigmatic, it helps to be  pragmatic.  And creative.  Theodore Roosevelt said   “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” 

If ever there was a time for creative thinking, it is now.   And people are creating.    Dyson is making ventilators.  Hospitals are developing ways to reuse N95 masks. There are many more examples.  Like this one.

The innovators, the makers and the creative thinkers will help us to get through this.  Creativity, coupled with effective leadership, and a rejection of ego-driven solutions are the best hope we have.  Of course no one knows how this is going to play out.  Don’t listen to those who claim to know and don’t forget to embrace your creative side.

Some more practical stuff:

Life coach and fellow creative Phyllis Mufson, @phyllismufson, recommends this article on health insurance for the newly-unemployed.

Here is another pattern for a face mask that has just four seams and no bias tape. Easy Sew Face Mask

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creativity in the Time of Coronavirus

Most of us are stuck at home and the more fortunate of us are merely apprehensive or bored. Not knowing what’s going to happen is a scary, but think about it-when did we ever know what the future held?  And if we did, who among us is smart enough to know what to do with it?  With brings me to today’s question:

Should we wear face masks to protect ourselves from the coronavirus?  Here’s one point of view.  Here’s the other.   This link goes to an article that says that DIY face masks can offer protection from coronavirus.  I am not prepared to debate this with anyone because I simply don’t know the answer.  I have resolved this question for myself with an “off label” application of Pascal’s wager.   I  know that wearing a face mask does not offer immunity or an excuse to dispense with hand washing, etc.  But if you are already taking all the precautions you can, how can it hurt?  That leaves the question of where to get face masks.  They have become a precious commodity.

I already have some N 95 respirators that I use for enameling and metalwork.  But you can’t wash them and they say to throw them away after one use.  Who knows how long the pandemic will last?  I need a better face mask option.   For me, the option is to make some face masks.  Will they offer any protection?   As you can see from the chart below,   certain materials offer more protection than others.

mask-materials-effectiveness-1-micron-en

I don’t have many vacuum cleaner bags, but I have many dish towels (a more accurate description would be old fashioned tea towels-a closely woven cotton fabric made for drying dishes and glass ware).  Here is a link to the kind of tea towels you would use to make face masks.  I would not use terrycloth or micro fiber.  You have to breathe while you wear the mask.

There are many sites with directions for sewing face masks.  Most of them use two or three layers of material.  The tea towel fabric is tightly woven, however, so you will have to adapt any pattern you use to make it work for you.  A single layer with a thin cotton fabric as a liner might be best.  I plan to experiment.

Here are some links if you are interested in making face masks.

CraftPassion

Medical Mask for cancer or COPD patient (including child’s masks)

 

Hand-sewn mask

And here is some helpful advice from Ana Belchi

 

Since I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, the CDC has changed its no face mask position.  The CDC now advises that wearing non-medical grade face masks might help to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  For instructions on how to make a no-sew face mask, press here.

 

What Inspires You? Cat Pottery

I’m back from Clayathon with too much to do today so this week’s post will be short. What inspires you?  I am not ashamed to say that my cat Boris (and animals in general) is a big source of inspiration for my pottery.

Boris I’ve started throwing again after a hiatus because of thumb problems.  And I like to draw on the pottery which is white earthenware clay.  Here are some small bowls that came out of the kiln this week.

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We have sponge eating monsters  in our pottery studio, so I marked my cleanup sponge accordingly:

 

Screenshot_2020-02-26 Martha Aleo on Instagram “Theft prevention in the pottery studio #humor #donttakemysponge #potteryand[...]
Remember this is a joke.  Just don’t walk off with my cleanup sponge!

Ugly Cane School Part Two

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Did someone say ugly canes?  How is working with this waste clay supposed to get me out of my creative slump?  I won’t say these are the ugliest canes in the world (at least they have some contrast.  Well,  of them anyway), but they do not thrill me.

I decided to slice and bake this time with the idea that I could turn out components that would look good in earrings.    I must say that I was partly inspired by these cutters I bought at Clayathon from Linda Prais of Linda’s Art Spot .
NUCLAS.

But cool cutters will not turn ugly canes into pretty ones:

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Here’s an attempt to turn some of those less than perfect canes into earring components.  Not too successful, but I am learning.  “It’s like dating,” I tell myself. “You learn what you like by learning what you don’t like.”   Well, I am sure learning what I don’t like.

 

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Aaugh!  Oodles and oodles of ugly components.  Most of them will go into the trash can.  But I am learning and I am even starting to be inspired.  More next week.

 

Making a Box

Continue reading “Making a Box”

Where Do You Get Your Inspiration?

 

I was  going to write a post a few months ago about a wonderful visit I made in July 2019 to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. But one thing led to another as it usually does. The Penn Museum post went into the drafts folder and I went on to other things. I recently returned from Southern Spain(Seville and Granada)where I was overloaded with Spanish Baroque interiors. They are beautiful, but after awhile, you feel like you’ve eaten too much birthday cake. (At least I did).

 

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Catedral de Granada, Santa Iglesia Catedral Metropolitana de la Encarnación de Granada

“Where do you get your inspiration?” is a question I sometimes hear. And while I will not be making a Spanish Baroque wedding cake any time soon, I find inspiration pretty much everywhere.  Which brings me back to the Penn Museum.  There is certainly enough to inspire anyone who spends an afternoon (or better, the whole day) there.

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Koi Pond

The Mesopotamian jewelry collection is outstanding.  Here are some pictures, but it’s better to see the collection in person.  Royal Tombs of UrUr Headdress

The Near Eastern pottery collection is also very interesting.  These pots are from Iran.

I was so taken with the pot shaped like an Erlenmeyer flask  that I decided to make my own version using the tar paper technique,   Here’s where memory and inspiration clash: I remembered the shape upside down.

3d6efd914115433b5fe2ff5655a7a570There’s a picture of the finished version in this post.  The pot was auctioned off at Clayathon  and went home with a (I hope) happy person.

But I think I love the Mexico and Central American collection best because it contains some striking Mayan artifacts as well as jewelry and pottery.

I love that turtle (I think) vessel and could see myself trying a colorful terra cotta version.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Peyote Triangle Patterns for Dummies

I start off with a confession. I am horrible at following patterns. I am not making this up. OK, I can follow sewing patterns because they are all flat on the table and you have a basic idea of what you are supposed to come out with. But I could never pull off a paint-by-number picture when I was a kid and my first attempts at origami went into the trash can.  I can, for the most part,  follow simple beading patterns.  (In fact, one of my first published articles was a beading project.)  But unless I can count beads easily, I am lost.  This means I am mostly ok with loom graphs, Cellini Spirals, bead crochet and  flat peyote graphs.  So I learned how to make a peyote triangle with little trouble.

When I began to salivate over  beaded kaleidocycles, (you can read all about them and download a free pdf  from the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork website here) and wanted to try making one,  I hopped over to YouTube to learn how to make peyote triangles. ( VPBiser has an excellent video tutorial here.)  But for the life of me I could not figure out how to make anything more interesting than a two-color basic  triangle and I wanted some more exciting variations for my kaleidocycles.

After making a few peyote triangles, I began to notice some patterns emerging.   I figured out how to make a three-color pyramid! (See chart below.  I am assuming you already know how to make a standard peyote triangle).

tricolortrianglediagram

 

You can use the same reasoning to make a two-color pyramid.  If you simply alternate colors for each row, you can make a striped pattern.(See kaleidocycle picture in the bottom row.

 

 

 

You can see that for some triangles, I merely beaded rows in different colors much like you would crochet granny squares.    For the  triangles in the  bottom left-hand corner,  I started the triangle with white Delicas for the first two rows and began adding red Delicas in the third row.  From then on,  I added a red Delica whenever I could see that it would be totally surrounded by white Delicas.  This gave me a lovely chicken pox pattern.   If you double click on an image, you can view it full size.

I realize this might not be clear to some people, but the real aim of this post is to encourage you to find new ways to solve problems even if you think they’re over your head.  That’s the only way we learn.  Now that these peyote triangles make more sense to me, I think I’m ready to start tackling some more complex designs.

The Atlas of Tomorrow

The Atlas of Tomorrow is an interactive art installation located on South Street between Broad and Thirteenth Streets in Philadelphia.   I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

This is how it works:

Instructions
The Instructions
Wheel
The Dial
StreetView
Numbered Stories Posted on the Wall

 

TheWish
The Story the Pointer Selected for Me After I Spun It.

Mural

Credits

 

 

Consider Contemplate

 

To learn more about The Atlas of Tomorrow, press here.  To learn more about Candy Chang, press here.  To learn more about the Philadelphia Mural Art Program, press here.

October is Mural Arts Month

 

What Happens When You Fool Around

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I don’t know if you expected a post on teenage pregnancy but that’s not what I mean by fooling around.  I mean playing.  I’ve always liked to play and to try new things.   My wild imagination has confused and alarmed most of the adults that I’ve met since the age of 12.   Those who can roll with it and play along usually become friends.

Creativity is currently a sexy topic Internet topic, (maybe not as popular as pictures of cats) and people are exhorted to play with color, try strange and exotic spices and  have experiences rather than collect consumer durables.

A website called,  Creative Something.Net says

“Play is more than just important for creativity, it’s often necessary.  Without a play-like attitude, creative insights hide from us behind fear and uncertainty. When we don’t embark on activities that involve play, being creative becomes a challenge.”

Remember, creativity brings something valuable to most things in life (OK, so maybe not accounting.)

I ‘ve been playing in my workshop lately.  I haven’t come up with anything new yet, but I’m having fun and trying new things.   Here are some pictures.

Fooling around with bronze wire which I squared in the rolling mill.  How would it look if I soldered the rings together and bent them into a cuff bracelet?

Fooling around with shapes to see what would make an interesting cuff bracelet

What can I do with a fork?

What can I do with rings I never finished and jump rings?  The medallions on the right are Hadar’s white bronze clay which is not a favorite of mine because it is fragile.  Still, I like the medallions.  They remind me of old miraculous medals.

Here is some more white bronze clay I fooled around with.  I think the dangles look a little like sea urchins.  I wrapped the ones on the left as if they were briolettes.  I think I like that better than the ones on the right with the jump rings.  I like the way the clay turned color and  I  decided to leave them like tha.

I am trying the rings and medals as embellishments for polymer bangle bracelets.  I also used some pre-made gear charms.

I am also fooling around with bronze metal clay.  The picture on the right shows torch-fired Prometheus Clay on the left and kiln-fired BRONZclay on the right.

Next: I’m going to try to make my own gear embellishments using Five Star metal bronze clay Something good is bound to emerge.  I hope.   That’s usually what happens when I fool around long enough.