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.

View

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:

2Schildknecht
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

 

1
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.

 

What’s on my Table

The days are flying by. We are now into week five of social distancing and I could use some nice warm weather and some sunshine. I have been working on the family genealogy and sharing what I find with family members on a Facebook page we set up for that purpose. I read David Copperfield and my new life goal is to be as wise as Betsey Trotwood. I ordered some Fairy Lights to brighten up my basement workshop. The Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild had its first online meeting and it went so well we are going to continue. I am baking bread having had the foresight to order 40 pounds of winter wheat berries (and two pounds of baker’s yeast by mistake; I could start a black market business) which arrived before the pandemic.

Here’s what’s on my work table right now:

I thought it would be fun to combine galvanized steel wire with vintage Swarovski crystals. I love making funky asymmetrical chains and I have a bunch of gorgeous crystals from old necklaces I snatched up at house sales. This is what I have so far:

I like the look, but I have to get motivated to to more. Here are some polymer beads. I am waiting for them to talk to me and tell me what they want to be (and if they want to be back filled first.)

polymer

I have been experimenting with different methods of cutting jump rings.  I prefer sawing to cutting because I always have to spend time cleaning up the ones I’ve cut, even though I use good flush cutters.  Too fussy I guess.  But sawing has its own problems.    For a long time I was using a jump ring jig I made myself.

jrholder

The problem is how to hold the coils in place as you saw them.  The jig I made was small enough that I could hold the coils with my thumb as I sawed.

Here’s one great solution-using a wedge of wood rather than your fingers to hold the coils in place as you saw.

But there are other ways of sawing perfect jump rings and I continue to search them out.  I will share my favorites here.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Remember: We’re Resilient

This is the second week that I have been “sheltering in place” with Boris and my spouse (who has been doing the grocery shopping and duly sanitizing household surfaces.)  We are probably getting some things wrong, but doing our best.

oneway

The stay home order in Philadelphia does allow residents to go outside for, among other things,  exercise so long as we observe social distancing rules.

yophilly

We’ve been having some beautiful weather here, so I’ve been trying to get out when the weather is nice.  The streets are nearly deserted.  Most of the people we encounter are cheerful and careful to keep the prescribed distance.  Perfect for an introvert who just wants to take a walk.

lombardSt
Lombard Street near dusk
Moshulu
Moshulu Penn’s Landing
turtle
Turtle, who lives in Bob’s koi pond, catching a few rays on a sunny afternoon
Boris
Boris relaxing on his cat tree with his stuffed cat, Sweetie.
Martha
I got a new hair cut courtesy of my husband, and made some masks in case friends or neighbors need them later on.

And now for some useful stuff.  Press here for information on sites offering longer free trial video streaming.  I’ve cut my cable, but I might actually try some of these.   I already have tried the live streaming from the Metropolitan Opera.  If you think you hate opera, try streaming one of the Met’s operas complete with subtitles.  For more information, press here. Or explore some  art museums online here.

And finally, a recommendation by my friend Olivia.   Even if you are a non-believer, this is sure to lift up your spirits.  We are nothing but resilient and need a reminder from time to  time.

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.

 

Fleisher Student Show 2020

SS59Fleisher Art Memorial cancelledl the closing ceremony for  its  122nd annual Student Exhibition because of the Coronavirus.  That didn’t stop me from taking pictures of some of my favorite entries.

Pottery and Ceramics

Painting

Works on Paper and Prints

Fiber Art and Mixed Media and Mosaics

SS67Sandrine Sheon won the Student Advisory Council award for her ceramic piece, Credit None, Trash Walk, 2019

This is my contribution,  Eleanor Rigby’s Secret Jar.SS63, SS60

The World According to Rina Banerjee

Colonialism. The policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically

Make Me a Summary of the World  was a 2019  PAFA  exhibition of  Rina Banerjee’s  work.  Banerjee’s paintings, mixed media sculpture and installations serve as her commentary on what she calls “the splintered experience of identity, tradition, and culture within diasporic communities.”   Banerjee’s  powerful  work seemed all the more compelling to me because it was juxtaposed  with  the more traditional Western works of art  gracing the hallowed halls of the Academy.

 

Banerjee’s  recurring themes are environmental awareness, colonialism, the perils of globalism and the “splintered experiences of identity, tradition, and culture, prevalent in diasporic communities.”

1aworldlost

 

2aworkdlost

 

3aworldlost
A World Lost

A World Lost is Banerjee’s representation of how an imaginary island changed after pollution set in,the water evaporated,  the population migrated, and the wildlife became extinct.

Banerje’s sculpture is replete with found objects:  eggshells, discarded plastic,  light bulbs, shells, ornaments, doll parts, rocks, feathers, stones and anything else needed to carry the message.

wintersflowerwintersflower2

Daughter
One of my favorites inspired by Banerjee’s daughter.  The background is a schematic rendering of the air duct and electrical system of the Columbia office of the CDC that the artist found in a dumpster near her studio.
IMG_20190323_161521012_HDR
Detail

Other recurring themes include feminism, mythology and the impact of colonialism.  There was a lot to see in this exhibit and even more to think about.

For more information on Rina Banerjee and her work press here and here.

New Earrings (Ugly Cane School Part 3)

I have pretty much exhausted my supply of ugly canes, but I think I have put them to good use.

Earringsnew1

These earrings are what can happen when you chop up ugly canes in a mini chopper.  (I found one like this  at a thrift shop for $6.00) and add a few lumps of contrasting clay for interest.

Earringsnew1detail

Earringsnew2

Another example

Earringsnew2detail

So I have all these components that I plan to take  with me to Clayathon to play around with and try new combinations for earrings.    I have also been experimenting with making my own clay cutters with this kit I got on Amazon.  I will post a tutorial and a review in the future.

I’ll have a  lot to keep me busy!  Clayathon starts February 12 and goes until February 20.  A week of polymer bliss with Kathleen Dustin as this year’s guest artist.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

 

Ugly Cane School Part Two

NUC1

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:

NUC6

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.

 

NUC3

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.

 

Ugly Cane School and Some Inspiration

I must confess that I have been singularly uninspired these past few weeks.  This hardly ever happens to me.  I’m back in the pottery studio and even threw a few pots last week which is great considering that I had CMC joint reconstruction surgery in October.

I have amassed a collection of canes over the years that I haven’t used and that have become crumbly with age.  A few years ago, I played with a bunch of them to see what I could come up with.   Today,  I dug up a few of the components I made and they’re not bad.  I think I’ll take a few to Clayathon and see if I can combine them with wire work to make some necklaces.    In the meantime,  I am going to dig through my old canes to see if I can do anything with them.  More on that next week.

Anyway, here are some results from my first ugly cane experiment.  I made veneers by passing sliced canes through the pasta machine and laminating them on sheets of clay.  I kept rolling and laminating until I came up with something interesting.  I set some of the pieces in metal, mostly heavy-gauge copper wire which I squared in my rolling mill.   I limited my color palate, something I did not do with the ugly cane experiments you will see next week. Let’s see where these ugly canes take me.

component
Lentil-shaped component
unfinished
Unfinished piece.  I was still trying things out.

I made some pendants using jump rings to attach the lentil-shaped front component to a back component. While most lentil beads are attached at the edges, the parts of these swing freely.

 

pendant3
I also tried different ways of setting the polymer bezels in the metal.  This one is suspended by a jump ring drilled into the big ring which is soldered onto the long bail

I attached the polymer piece to this pendant by drilling holes in the polymer and threading 30 gauge wire to wrap around the metal frame.

 

pendant1
I attached the polymer here with tabs I soldered onto the frame and bent around the polymer.  Read this post for more information on tab setting.

 

Earrings
Simple earrings with grommets and silver wire.   They are very light.

More examples of  uses for ugly canes next week.

A Cane Slicer on the Cheap!

I am gearing up for Clayathon 2020. I haven’t touched polymer in a while but started working with it again recently because I figured it would be good therapy for my hand and thumb.

I used to make a lot of canes and even wrote a little article on making geometric canes which you can read here.   There is so much better information on Youtube nowadays. But once you make the canes, you have to slice them. Below are two videos showing how to make inexpensive cane cutters. I made the first video (which I totally forgot about until someone saw it on YouTube this week and left a comment) to send to a friend to see if it was feasible to manufacture and sell an inexpensive cane cutter. Maybe it would have been, but the project never came to be. None of my ideas for the cane cutter, however,  are particularly brilliant. If you find anything that inspires you, please feel free to copy, share, or whatever.  I

 

The second video by Unruly Housewife, shows how to make a cane cutter that works on the same basic principles as mine (which were not original with me), but that is much easier to make.  Her instructions are clearer and her video is definitely better shot than mine.

A third low-cost option for a cane slicer is this one developed by Sherman Oberson and sold through Penn State Industries. Not very high tech, but it holds all shapes of canes steady for slicing and its small size makes it handy to throw into your toolbox.

 

mcm-csj

 

Happy cane slicing!