Artspiration 2017

This year’s Artspiration Community Festival at  Fleisher Art Memorial was a blast.  I worked at the Color Wheels table helping kids and adults make seed bombs with clay and wildflower seeds and helped out at the Open Studio pottery table.  There were plenty of free activities for kids including face painting, mural painting, spin art pictures.  Philly Typewriters was there with two tables of portable machines  and the younger attendees were lining up to try them.  

Here are some pictures

10.Share05.Fleisher01.Dancers

We enjoyed music and dancing throughout the day.

02.ChalkGames06.Mural07.OpenStudioGang04.FiveYearColorVan

The Color Wheels van wore a big party hat to celebrate its 5th birthday.

09.SeedBomb

A decorated seed bomb

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11.Yarn

03.Colorwheels

Texturing the clay for the seed bombs

Color Wheels

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I volunteered to help in the ColorWheels mobile community art program  run by the Fleisher Art Memorial and participated in my first program on Saturday outside the Donatucci branch of the Philadelphia Free Library. After helping to set up the ColorWheels tent, I and other volunteers helped  the neighborhood kids make Gelli prints using leaves we found on the sidewalk and supplies from the ColorWheels art van.  It was a lot of fun and the kids jumped right in picking out paint and leaves, and turning out prints that twe hung up to dry for them.

We ended up closing a little early because it started raining.  Still, it was a great way to spend a Saturday.

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Tunnel Vision and Tunnel Visionaries

Tunnel vision.  The very term makes me think about the recent UK decision to leave the European Union, the Trump supporters who want to build a wall and the old folks in Russia who want to return to the glory days of the Soviet Union when your neighbor could turn you in as a traitor but at least you had a steady job.   This week was one of those rare occasions where art and politics collided to make a pun for me and that pun involved tunnels.

Tunnel vision is a  genuine physical malady where  peripheral vision is lost.  Tunnel vision is also an idiomatic term used to describe when a person is looking at things from a very narrow point of view.   There is no dearth of people  suffering from tunnel vision these days.  Good peripheral vision is essential when killing cockroaches or keeping an eye on small children. Tunnel vision is dangerous.  It makes it difficult to pass a slower car safely. You trip over things.  And it makes birds more likely to poop on you because you never saw them coming.    

And so, to anyone with tunnel vision who is reading this, you have been warned.

And now for the good tunnel stuff.  The Queen Street Tunnel is a plain, soulless expanse that stretches between Front and Swanson Streets and under I-95. Artists Pat Aulisio, Marie Elcin, and Miriam Singer decided that it needed some art to liven it up.  So they helped their students at the Fleisher Art Memorial make large drawings and screen prints and then invited volunteers to help wheat paste the art  onto the walls of the tunnel.   

It sounded like a good excuse to get messy so how cold I resist?   The improvement is remarkable. Does that make those who developed the project tunnel visionaries?  I think so.  

Here are some pictures.

 

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The Bernie  bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retreat to Morrisburg

Tray with tiles attendees made. Auctioned and proceeds donated to http://plancanada.ca/because-i-am-a-girl

My friend Patty and I, ever the intrepid travelers,  decided to take the recommendation of our friend Sherman and drive  to the little town of Morrisburg, Ontario and join a group of polymer artists who meet once a year at the McIntosh Inn for a retreat.

We crossed the border into Canada,  pulled up to the Canadian border inspection station, and handed our passports to the border screening agent in the booth.

“Polymer clay retreat? What’s that?” the  agent wanted to know after Patty told him the purpose of our trip.  

“It’s not like a religious retreat,” Patty explained, “it’s  a bunch of artists who get together and work on their polymer clay projects.”

“Polymer clay?” the agent wasn’t buying it.

I leaned over so the agent could hear me.  “It’s like what men do when they get together with their model trains.”

“Oh!” the agent, replied, “you’re gonna throw clay at one another?”  

I had never heard of that, so I laughed as if I got the joke.  The agent handed our passports back and waved us on our way.

We had a great time, renewed old acquaintances and made new friends.  We drank Tim Horton coffee, ate Butter Tarts, wrestled with the metric system and warned our Canadian colleagues that after the U.S. election in November, we might be back to stay.  

Here are some pictures

To see more pictures, go to my Flickr site, here.

 

 

Meetup in Olde City: Kathleen Dustin, Artistic Development, and the Clowns of Murano

The first Friday of each month is prime gallery trolling time in Philadelphia. I joined some Greater Philadelphia Polymer Art Meetup friends last Friday for a trip to the opening of Kathleen Dustin’s show at the Snyderman-Works Gallery in Philadelphia. I took some pictures of our gathering with Kathleen’s gracious permission, but the SD card on my cell phone went South on me so I have nothing to share. If you click on the link, you can see some of the outstanding pieces currently on display.

I don’t know which was more fun-having Kathleen pull pieces out of the case and explaining how she constructed them or listening to her and Beading Yoda discuss their design philosophies. By the way, checkout Kathleen’s newly-designed web site here.

A few years ago, Kathleen gave a wonderful presentation to the Philadelphia Guild  on the evolution of her work.   Which got me to thinking about why it is always a sheer delight to see her work.  Not only is it technically brilliant but there is always a new aspect to it that pushes her body of work to a different level.  Read this Polymer Clay Daily post on the changing focus of her work from representational to abstract.  Then check out these links  from the Polymer Art ArchiveEvolution of Polymer ArtArticles by Kathleen Dustin on the Polymer Art Archive, and Turning Blue into Gold.

Later at a restaurant debriefing session over Italian food and wine at nearby BYOB  La Locanda Del Ghiottone and a bottle of wine from  Pinot Boutique, several Meetup members reminisced about traveling to Venice and to Murano. We all agreed that while Italian glass was beautiful, some of the objects tourists bring back from Murano deserve a place in the permanent glass collection of the Museum of Ugly. I mean seriously.

Don’t forget  Bead Fest Philadelphia this weekend!  Click here for more information.

Still Claying After All These Years

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Clayathon time is here again. I will pack up my stuff and head to beautiful Galloway Township NJ and the Stockton Seaview Hotel where I will meet new and old friends and have a chance to play with my clay for as long as I want.    Clayathon is a friendly gathering of creative people who enjoy playing and claying together.  Clayathon  can be a time to set goals and try new things, or  a time to make birds.  Lisa Clarke has attended most of the Clayathons and written about them.    Robin Milne designed a great logo for this years’ event.    And Arlene Groch and her team of volunteers have made Clayathon one of the best clay events of the year.  

 

Want more?  Here  are some past Clayathon posts from this blog.

Metal, Mixed Media, and Imagination

That’s the name of the class I am teaching at the Main Line Bead Society ‘s 2014  retreat.   I plan to teach the students some methods for using metal, fabric, paint, wire and found objects ( to name a few) to make jewelry  or anything else we can dream up.  I want the class will be a guided play session for grownups,  and the students feel comfortable enough to create with wild abandonment.  I plan on bringing a ton of tools and materials and  inspiration pieces. (see pictures below).  And I hope to learn as much from the students as they learn from me.  Wish me luck!  I’ve never done this before.

Wall Street Journal Flames Burning Man

I read an interesting column in the Wall Street Journal last week. In “The Dead-End Cult of the ‘Burning Man’  Real creativity has nothing to do with antics in the desert, ”  Holly Finn  dismisses Burning Man as  a waste of time and opines that groups are fine for barn raising but that events like Burning Man only serve to infantilize the creative process. Even though I have never attended Burning Man, I wondered what  it was  about the event that caused  Finn to view it with such disdain.

todd's art carBrushingBurning Man 2006

For the uninitiated, Burning Man is a weeklong festival held every year in the Nevada desert. Attendees cast off the routine of their daily lives, wear zany costumes, party, meet other people and explore alternate means of self-expression. They are encouraged to volunteer on artistic and technical projects with other attendees, using whatever creative skills they might have. Burning Man also endeavors to create a safe space so participants are willing to try doing things they have not attempted before.  They might help to  build a giant wooden puzzle, collaborate on a mural or  construct a stage for drummers and dancers. They might even try drumming or dancing themselves.

Finn quotes noted  innovator and inventor Saul Griffith as complaining that his friends who attend Burning Man borrow equipment from him, don’t return it and don’t say thank you. I wouldn’t like that either.  But Finn claims that Griffith’s real problem with “Burners” is that most of them are creative for only a few weeks of the year, not 52. Does this burning problem keep him up at night?   I don’t know.  But his  friends seem to have some  creative ways of acquiring free stuff.   Maybe they don’t even go to the festival.  But I digress.

Finn asserts that innovative ideas come from individuals, not groups.  It’s hard to disagree. (Although Bell Labs might be an exception.)  But should we dismiss Burning Man simply because the 50,000 people expected to attend this year are not going to discover a cure for cancer, produce another Pietà, or find an economical way to save the Space Program by the  end of the festival?

Why are 50,000 people planning to attend Burning Man this year anyway? The answer is complex, but I speculate that some of them would like to expand their personal and creative horizons and are hoping Burning Man might help. Should they ridiculed?  Maybe.  It’s hard to get past some of those costumes.   But pitied and dismissed? Not so fast.

Most people I know are not able to create fearlessly. They have a voice in the back of their head telling them they have no business trying to make an innovative work of art or the next iPad.  Even if they manage to push through this fear,  they  still have to get their ideas out into the world.  If they can do that, then they have to deal with criticism, constructive and otherwise, and the ever-present  potential for failure.  All of this can make one feel extremely vulnerable, which not many people can handle.  Add to that  a corresponding lack of control over the outcome.  Talent and hard work might not be enough to carry the day.  Van Gogh proved that cutting off your ear is no a guarantee of success, at least in your lifetime. Let’s face it, in our society, being an innovative artist, inventor or entrepreneur is risky and not everyone has the stomach for it even if they have the desire.  You can be a mediocre plumber, teacher, lawyer or mechanic and still scrape a living together.  It’s easier to hide in one of these roles than making peace with vulnerability.

At the same time creative souls can’t help but be drawn to like minded people, hence the group art events and community art groups. For some people,  the stimulation and feedback they get from participating improves their work and sets them on a new path. Not everyone has the chance to explore or test his or her creative passions when they are first sparked.    Community art groups and events can provide a launching pad for these people. For others,   participation in art groups will always be a social event  with learning and creativity put on the back burner.  I  concur with Finn’s observation that community art groups and events can lead to participants losing their individuality and  moving in lock step with the group instead of  searching for their own voice.  But for some, events like Burning Man  can be a place to dip their toes in the water and open themselves to new creative possibilities

Finn maintains that infantilization in groups causes people to shirk responsibility for their actions, and argues that  this infantilization at its worst  is destructive, giving  the London riots as an example.  We have seen this sort of thing religious happen with cults and fundamentalist groups, but if I could pinpoint what caused the London riots, I would be a highly sought after consultant.  Alas, I am only a middle aged woman with too much time on her hands.  Even so,  I don’t think we’re likely to see  fired up members of the Burning Man cult destroying cities anytime soon.  For one thing, the nearest city is a long way from the festival.  Besides, most of the people  who go have day jobs. Do you know how much it costs to attend Burning Man?  I’d wager that some of them even take showers.

And while I agree that groups are rarely on the cutting edge of innovation, it’s also true that new ideas do not spring fully formed from the mind of the inventor or artist (Ok, ok  Mozart, make a liar out of me). A seed has to get planted and gestate. I don’t pretend to know how this happens.  (If I did, I  would  I would be that highly paid consultant I mentioned earlier.)  Do I need to remind you that manure makes a good fertilizer?

One of Burning Man’s strengths might cause its biggest problem: it strives to be accessible and inclusive. That means it is going to attract a lot of Yahoos who think they are at a rave and behave badly.  As for the criticism that the  festival goers don’t  produce any significant work during the festival, isn’t that like shooting fish in a barrel?  The festival only lasts a week and the works created there  are not meant to become icons in the annals of art history; they are supposed to be temporary.  One of the festival principals is to leave no trace of the festival on the landscape after it is over.  And with 50,000 people in attendance you can’t expect everything produced to be quality.

But that is not the reason events like Burning Man can make a contribution although, like so may other things we do to “improve” ourselves, the results don’t show right away.  The goal of Burning Man  as I understand it is to help participants find the means for self expression and to help each individual connect to his or her  creative powers.  This is a solitary exercise even though the festival is so big.  Some people will use Burning Man as an  excuse to party in the desert for a week (although I would prefer to party in an air conditioned venue without sand in my crotch).   But others will choose to go on this solitary journey.  A  few will continue on the journey long after the festival ends.   What’s wrong with that?

Clayathon Wrap Up with Pictures

 

Clayathon is a place to relax, mix with great people, see the work other people’s work in progress and watch demos of  polymer and non-polymer techniques.  I saw demos on caning, faux dichroic glass,  soldering solver bezels, metal fold forming, and I gave a demo on drilling glass and making ring clasps with copper washers.  Lisa Clarke of Polka Dot Creations was there with the latest books and videos and Wilma Yost was there with the latest products from Polymer Clay Express  including their Shape Frames  that Wilma showed everyone how to use.  We had a cane swap and worked on a group cane too.  To sum it up, we had a blast.

Here are some pictures. 

Clayathon 2011

Clayathon is organized by the wonderful and talented Arlene Groch and her talented team of South Jersey Poly Addicts, (which is not the same thing as having a dual diagnosis, although Arlene does confess to having an “out of control” polymer clay addiction.) There is something so poetically just about a woman who gave up her law practice for polymer clay and invited friends to come and use her conference room, not for depositions and settlement conferences, but as a polymer clay studio.

If my Meniere’s disease, which has been acting up this week, does not have me Jackson Pollocking the carpet, I will be there along with the rest of my friends. Actually, Clayathon is a great stress reliever so I’ll have my doctor write a prescription.

Here are some pictures from past Clayathons.