creativity looming

Have you heard? There’s a new fiber group in town! The Isabella Fiber Arts Guild, which meets the second Thursday of the month in Mount Pleasant. We’ve been meeting for a few months and the group is growing – if you haven’t been but want to join, you’d be very welcome! The members of this group have a wide variety of talents: knit, crochet, weaving, and more I’m forgetting at the moment, I’m sure.

Isabella Fiber Arts Guild January meeting - table looms

Each month we focus on a particular skill or technique or topic, and this month the demonstration was on table looms. Several members brought their table looms to show how they work and let everyone have a chance at trying them out.

Isabella Fiber Arts Guild January meeting - table looms

This is a rigid heddle loom. Isn’t it cute? I love that it’s so portable and can be used on a stand like this or just set on a table or even used on your lap if you have something to balance it on.

Isabella Fiber Arts Guild January meeting - table looms

These are assorted other types of table looms. I remember making a table loom (though I used it leaned up against the wall most of the time) when I took a weaving class in undergrad. (My major was English and Secondary Education, but weaving counted as some kind of general requirement. If I were going to school now, I’d be all about the art/making classes!) We also got to use the big floor looms in that class – I was sad to hear from someone at the IFAG meeting that CMU has apparently gotten rid of all of their floor looms. Those things were so cool! I feel lucky that I got to use one in that class. The table loom I made was basically a square frame formed by four pieces of wood, with a ton of tiny nails along the top and bottom on which I strung the warp. I remember that we had our choice of yarns to use from the cupboard in class – it was a huge cupboard with giant cones of all sorts and colors of fiber. It felt like a treasure chest!

At our next meeting we are going to be cold dyeing! I’ve never done this before and I’m quite excited to try it!

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Hamilton Home

When we were house-hunting, I became aware that there are quite a few kit homes in town, especially in the Old North End – one of the older neighborhoods (the one in which I bought my first house, and where we ended up buying this time). It occurred to me that this house might be a kit home, so I did some searching and happened to see an image that looked remarkably similar.

Hamilton

I’d say it’s a match! (Alas, there is a large maple tree blocking access to the exact angle shown in the catalog picture.) This home was sold in catalogs by Aladdin, a company based in Bay City which was a very popular manufacturer of kit homes. The Clarke Historical Library at CMU has a ton of information about Aladdin – I haven’t had time to get there during their open hours yet, but apparently I should be able to look up the receipts from our very home!

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Heroes

The CMU Art Gallery had a show earlier this winter called Heroes, which featured artwork that addressed that concept in some way. It was terrific!

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Linda Stein is a multimedia artist who creates for what she terms gender justice. All the works on display as part of this show had feminist themes and focused, as per the show theme, on superheroes.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

I really enjoy the way she mixes media in unexpected ways to extend the themes of her artwork. Hers is the kind of art I could look at for hours and keep noticing new things.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Mark Newport‘s knitted superhero costumes are life-size or larger and are really impressive to see up close and in person.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

I enjoy the ways that Newport plays with texture, color, and knitting techniques in these supersuits.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Brett Sauve is a sculptor whose work I’ve seen around town before. I really dig his style and it was neat to see some of his 2D art as well.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Delita S. Martin‘s displayed works use a variety of techniques to create layered, detailed, powerful works. Her combination of hand-stitching, printing, and collage is really striking.

I wish I could tell you to go check out this exhibit, but sadly we visited it on the last day and it’s now gone! Hopefully it’ll come back again at some point, as it is well worth checking out and I’d gladly go back to spend more time with these pieces.

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Hallowed Grounds

Last weekend we went to see the current exhibit at the Baber Room: Hallowed Grounds, the work of Michelle Wilson.

Hallowed Grounds - exhibit of Michelle Wilson's art

“Through this collection of fiberart, the artist explores historical and ecological links, examining how social and environmental justice often go in unison.”

 

Infrasound II, 2013

Infrasound II, 2013

Wilson makes her own paper from invasive plants that she clears to create room for native plants. How awesome is that? She uses a variety of techniques to create her art, including collage, drawing, printing, shaping, and hand-stitching.

 

Chacaltaya, 2011

Chacaltaya, 2011

This paper cutting was done by hand!

 

Listening, 2013

Listening, 2013

I love the multi-layered look of this piece. It reminds me of a book cover from when I was a kid, though I can’t place the book. The outline figure and silhouette of the cat especially stand out to me.

 

Kasha Katuwe, 2011

Kasha Katuwe, 2011

This piece is one of a five-edition set, each one hand-stitched. The stitching is precise and yet retains a natural feeling.

 

Solastalgia II, 2013

Solastalgia II, 2013

Though the artist doesn’t live in this area of the country, this piece reminded me of here.

 

Accord, 2012

Accord, 2012

I like the effect the three panels have in this piece: two figures walking toward one another but with a large – even more significant due to the separation of the panels – distance between them. The cool blue colors really work to set the tone, and I find the contrast between the dark figures and the lighter background very effective.

This is yet another exhibit of art at the Baber Room that I quite enjoyed. I feel so lucky that we have a number of art spaces with rotating collections here in Mount Pleasant.

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S-A-TUR-DAY Afternoon!

Yesterday was just the kind of day I love. We woke up and had some delicious scram with spinach and ham (courtesy of awesome K) and had a leisurely morning doing laundry and catching up on reading and social media. Then we headed out to see some exhibits! We saw the current exhibit at the Baber Room, which I’ll post about separately later this week. We then hit the new exhibit at the Clarke Historical, which is entitled Photography: Process, People & Preservation.

Photography: Process, People & Preservation exhibit at the Clarke Historical Library

This exhibit is really nicely curated. The graphics and displays are eye-catching and convey a lot of information without overwhelming you.

Photography: Process, People & Preservation exhibit at the Clarke Historical Library

Check out this print of the Marching Chips before they were the Marching Chips. Quite a far cry from the 250+ people I marched with when I was a student.

Photography: Process, People & Preservation exhibit at the Clarke Historical Library

The exhibit has a lot of information about a variety of photographic techniques and formats, with examples of many types of prints and negatives.

Photography: Process, People & Preservation exhibit at the Clarke Historical Library

They even included some nostalgic examples like these flash cubes, which I remember just a little from when I was a young kid.

Photography: Process, People & Preservation exhibit at the Clarke Historical Library

Also included are some neat vintage and antique cameras and, like in this case, advertisements and information about them. I love the image of this person being amazed by the photo they’re taking while they’re taking it.

Things have been so busy lately that it was really nice to just have a day to do exactly what we wanted to and not have other obligations or deadlines looming. I recently did a professional thing that I worked really hard on and which came with a lot of nervousness and anxiety, and I am so glad that I did it (and that it’s over). I accomplished a thing that I was pretty sure I wouldn’t even get the chance to do, and it feels good to have done it. I’ve also had a variety of other things going on that were weighing on me (huzzah for mammograms! But even more for follow-up mammograms that turn out to be nothing!) and it feels so good to just be. Anyway.

After the photography exhibit, we attempted to see the current faculty exhibit at the art museum, but apparently whoever was supposed to work there today didn’t show up, as the doors were locked and no one appeared to be around. Too bad, as it was CMU and You day and campus was packed with people who could have enjoyed seeing the art. We’ll try again another day.

Then we did a little retail exploration, including picking up some seasonal brews at a local liquor store (verdict: their selection of craft beers and ciders was okay, but nothing to write home about. We’ll try another shop next time – locals, any recommendations?) and some sausages at the local meat market (verdict: YUM. The market is attached to the meat processing facility, so these were made on site and you can really tell that they’re superior quality). Then on to the fabric store to pick up some crafty bits and fabric as I work on putting together my Halloween package for the Blythe Swap Group. After lunch, I sewed and crafted some of the goodies for that swap package and I’m so pleased at how everything is coming together. It’s not even halfway through the month and I’m almost finished! I’m truly not sure how that happened.

Followed up by an evening of chilling and enjoying some good TV (new Doctor Who!) and the company of each other and Coraline the Wonder Snuggler, it was a really nice day.

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CMU: New Acquisitions art show

My goodness! So much has been going on lately that I have a bunch of stuff to post that has just been waiting for me to make time to sit down long enough.

We found out (through a careful reading of our new lease documents, NOT through the direct questions we asked the office staff, mind you) that the new owners of our apartment complex decided to raise the rent AND give us the bill for a number of things that were previously covered in the rent (water, trash, etc.), which has effectively priced us out of living here. In addition, our current non-smoking community will no longer be such, and that is a big issue for me (remember when we had to move to a new building here, only a month after moving in the first time, because our neighbors inside the first building were smoking a lot and it was invading/permeating our unit? I am NOT doing that again). So, we’re going to have to move AGAIN before our next, hopefully final for the foreseeable future, move when we buy our next home. We are, as you can imagine, not thrilled about this, but we are trying to see the bright side (even after paying movers, we will still likely save money in the long run due to paying a much lower monthly rent at the new place) (*fingers crossed* that we get the place we’re looking at). We also have to go through all the hassles of moving, having our mail forwarded, and so on – it’s just a huge time- and energy-suck that we were not anticipating.

ANYWAY! On the bright side, I recently went to see an exhibit of new art on CMU’s campus, in the beautiful Baber Room at Park Library.

CMU New Acquisitions art exhibition

Paint by Number (ceramic) by Amy Dziesenski (2014)

I love the juxtaposition of something ephemeral, generally considered to be “low art” with a fine art like ceramics. This piece is really fun (note: all my photos from this show are TERRIBLE and should not be considered to be accurate representations of the artworks).

CMU New Acquisitions art exhibition

The Spirit: Graham, Dickenson, O’Keefe (multi-media quilt) by Ann Kowaleski

I was really excited to see that CMU acquired one of Ann Kowaleski‘s art quilts from her show earlier this year. I am a fan and admirer of her work.

 

CMU New Acquisitions art exhibition

Batman (ceramic) by Brett Sauve (2013)

This piece was an unexpected delight. It’s Batman, of course, but it’s also a lot more than just that. I really like the artist’s interpretation of the character. I feel like this piece highlights the humanity of the character (rather than focusing on the brutality or sex appeal, as the movies so often do). For me, the eyes especially convey the haunted, lonely life that led Bruce Wayne to take on the Batman mantle. The ears are almost dog-esque (this may just be me – given my love for bat-eared dogs) and their waver-iness gives a feeling of vulnerability. The way his cape is tied reminds me of how a child would tie on a cape, which also leads to that feeling. At any rate, this piece is also just really cool.

This show will be up through July 18 and I highly recommend checking it out.

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Piecing a Life: Quilts by Ann Kowaleski

It is a quilt-tastic time in Mount Pleasant! In addition to the Lenore Crawford exhibit at Art Reach, we also have the amazing Ann Kowaleski story quilt exhibit currently on display in the Baber Room at CMU’s Park Library. Kowaleski is a well-known quilt artist whose work is influenced by folk art and the cultural traditions of Mexico and Guatemala, as well as everyday life – the way she translates the commonplace into these beautiful handcrafted art pieces is truly inspiring to me.

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

The Spirit: Graham, Dickinson and O’Keeffe (98×45″)

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

This large quilt is a tribute to three well-known inspirational artists from various fields: Martha Graham, Emily Dickinson, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Kowaleski has given each woman a distinct section of the quilt, but uses organic shapes to ease the transitions between the three so there is a feeling of flow. The color palette of each section is fitting for its subject, and, also fittingly, the quilt has a rhythm that evokes the emotions inspired by dance, poetry, and painting.

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

The Emily Dickinson section includes representations of her poetry as though they are sheets of paper floating in the air around her. Kowaleski uses embroidery to include excerpts from some of Dickinson’s famous poems. I love this technique.

 

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

Life in Ordinary Times (45×60″)

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

This piece features Crewel embroidery in combination with traditional quilting and the use of some mixed media such as buttons and ribbon. It also incorporates a variety of fabrics: you can see in the photo above that she used a netting over top of a more traditional material to make part of the woman’s dress, in addition to several other fabrics, some of which are also nontraditional for a quilt.

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

So many things about this piece really captured me: the fact that the woman’s hair is at once somewhat wild, coming off her head in great swoops, but also beautiful and with great texture detail; the way the Crewelwork creates her expression both in the actual embroidery and in the way it affects the fabric it has been applied to; the way the woman’s hands clasp one another (a position that I admit looks quite familiar); and the use of a multitude of colors and patterns in the embroidery and fabrics that make up the woman’s dress to indicate the barely contained mayhem that so often makes up our daily life.

 

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

Midlife Musings (60×44″)

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

One of the things I really appreciate about Kowaleski’s quilts is that she captures the beauty of people, especially women, in a way that is not glamorous but instead evokes a more emotional response. These women are each unique in their appearance, though clearly all of a particular cohort. The women here are all supporting one another, and each appears to be wearing a mask. The use of the traditional (as a quilt subject) tulips around the edge of the quilt is a satisfying foil to the scene she’s created at the center of the piece. Likewise, the inclusion of the bread tray doily and the two small works of art on either side evoke thoughts of “women’s work” and the domestic expectations that women have faced (and still do).

 

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

Meet Me in the Bathtub (45×69″)

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

This quilt is another that uses a variety of materials to create an emotional response. I especially love the use of photographs printed on fabric as well as the use of ribbon and other embellishments.

 

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

Two Women (45×46″)

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

I especially like this quilt. It features two women who are, again, supporting one another. They are similar in shape and dress and yet you can see that they are two distinct individuals with distinct personalities when you look at their faces. The way Kowaleski has put together the fabric of their dresses is so pleasing to the eye: the diagonals of each dress bodice point inward, toward the heart, but also create a very flattering effect; the use of ribbon, buttons, and chain; and the color palette which is at once feminine and strong.

These story quilts are such an inspiration. I’m just getting into quilting myself, having only been doing it for a couple of years so far, but seeing artwork like this gives me so many ideas for possible projects and ways to take my quilts to be something beyond just useful or warm. I highly recommend checking out this exhibit, and I hope to see more from Kowaleski in the future.

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