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.

1OffTheWall

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

JoanSteinerManhattanCollar
Joan Steiner, Manhattan Collar
KatherineWestphal
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.

 

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.

Dish1

 

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!

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).

 

GranadaCathedral60 2_Fotor
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.

Looking for Inspiration? Try a Flea Market

Spring is when the outdoor flea markets spring up in Philadelphia.  My favorite Saturday activity is to take long walks through the neighborhoods and hit house sales, sidewalk sales, and flea markets on my way.  I usually look for household items I might need at sidewalk sales.  Estate sales are especially interesting because they are usually held in affluent neighborhoods and you get to see some pretty impressive homes from the inside as well as antiques and art.  You also learn that money does not always equal taste, but we knew that already, didn’t we?

Flea markets are fun because the sellers are generally pretty friendly in my experience and some are eager to talk about their wares even if you don’t buy.  They’re a place to learn, meet people, and relax.

WalkLikeAnEgyptian

John S. Whitney, Jr. has a clever way of attracting buyers to his table filled with antique art and jewelry.  He also sells from his store, the Nue Gallery, in Lansdown, PA.

While I don’t collect antiques or vintage items, and rarely buy jewelry,  I find plenty of inspiration at flea markets.  You will find plenty of shapes and color at flea markets, in the form of old pottery vintage clothing, brightly colored cloth, old appliances, or just plain rusty stuff.  I have found some great old tools at flea markets, but I also look for things I can incorporate into my art, like old jewelry, metal objects I can cut up and repurpose, ephemera,  or anything that I can fit into a bezel.

Here are some pictures from my last flea market foray

 

And here’s what I bought: two cheap copper cuff bracelets and two cheap brass ones.  Total, $5.00.  I plan to reuse the metal to make something new.  I also found a vendor selling cabochons and treated myself to some lovely striped jasper for another $10.00.

My Haul

I Finished The Coin Pendant!

I started the story of my attempts to make a coin pendant  with a post a couple of weeks ago.   I am happy to say that I have finally made a respectable pendant which I intend to give to a friend whose story is much more interesting my story:  Friend got married and started a family soon after high school.  She got divorced and worked at several kinds of jobs before remarrying.  When she was down sized from a job, her current husband reminded her that she had always wanted to go to college and thought that if they looked hard enough, they could find some scholarship money.   She did, they did, they did and she enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania.   And emerged with a Ph.D in Anthropology in 2015.   Since her dissertation was in the field of Irish Studies,  I came up with the idea of setting an older (pre-Euro) Republic of Ireland coin into a pendant  for a graduation present, and I begged some coins from her obliging husband who is a little fanatical about Irish culture himself.   I am only 2 1/2 years late.  But after I got my brilliant idea, I had to learn how to execute it.  I could not find any new instructions (not that they would have helped.)  I finally got inspiration from two YouTube videos by Online Jewelry Academy on how to make a gallery prong setting.  You can watch the videos here and here.   And I got the basic instructions on how to make the bail from a Soham Harrison video you can watch here.

 

02.2

I milled some 14 gauge square sterling silver wire, measured and cut it and soldered it and formed it into a circle.  I wanted it to be the exact diameter as the coin so you didn’t see it from the front, and for there to be a frame on the back of the coin that did not obscure any coin markings.  I decided to have three prongs hold the coin in place and to make the prongs from 14 gauge half-round wire.  The picture above shows a notch I filed for one of the prongs.

03.3

Checking the fit of the wire.

 

04.4SolderSetup

Here is the assembly laid on the soft brick before soldering.  The ring is already soldered. The prong bottoms are pushed into the brick to steady them.  I had a few soldering failures until I made some changes that I think helped.  First, I laid out everything and then made holes for the prongs so I could get them right into the notches and up against the circle.  Secondly, I put a pallion of solder between the prong and the circle right in the notch.  Third, I bent the prongs inward slightly to be sure they were really hugging the circle. I also soldered the ring, quenched and pickled and then tackled the prongs with a softer solder.  I didn’t try to solder all four elements at once like I had done before.  It worked! I had total soldering success! 

05.4a before trimming

Here’s the assembly before I cut the bottom of the prongs flush with the bottom of the circle. 

 

06.5ProngsTrimmed

The cleaned assembly with the prongs trimmed.  They still have to be filed and sanded so they look good and don’t catch on clothing.  

09.7Markingareatobefiled

The coin sits on the circle and the prongs are folded over, trimmed, filed and sanded.  But the inside of the prongs have to be filed to allow the coin to sit perfectly flat on the circle.  So I had to mark the thickness of the coin on the inside of the prongs and then file-very carefully-so the coin fits in without a gap. It’s fiddly work; if you file too much you’ll weaken the prongs.  Too little and the coin will sit askew.   But it’s not really difficult.  

07.6AdjustingFit

Still need to file a bit more.

08.7BendingProngs

A perfect fit!  I start to bend the prongs over gradually.

10.8SolderingBail

The bail has a prong soldered on the inside front which feeds through a hole in the back.  I altered the bail a bit so it wouldn’t open.

11.9Front

 

01.10 Back

 

And here’s the finished pendant!  Still learning, but I like the way it came out.  Finally!