Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Unexpected, and Where it Leads You

When I got back from Philadelphia two weeks ago, two unexpected things happened.

The first is that an enterprising local poet/graffiti artist had carved the mysterious phrase "8XThief" into the beautiful natural wood of my front door. The second is that, as I was finishing up rescheduling all of the appointments I had missed because my return flight was delayed, I got the news that the Small Business Development Center where I work was asking me to delay those appointments by another five weeks. I, and all of the other business advisors, were being asked to take an unexpected vacation from June 15th through July 20th because the Center's funding had been cut and they simply didn't have the money to pay us.

In both cases, after a moment's exasperation, I went into glass half-full problem-solving mode.

For the door, I tried sanding the phrase out, with the idea that I could simply re-stain the wood. But the gouges proved too deep, so I tried to fill them in with wood putty. Unfortunately, this has only had the effect of making the phrase stand out in stark relief, an effect that will only be exaggerated if I re-stain the door. Ugh. I'm going to have to paint it, and cover up the wood.

Then, I start laughing. When I first bought the house, I wanted a red door. But it seemed sad to cover the pretty natural wood of the door. Now, I could paint the door red! I'll have to sand and tape and prime and paint - it'll be a heck of a lot of work, but I'll get my red door.

Now, for that other surprise. I re-scheduled my appointments and made sure that the clients who would need help while I was out were taken care of. I only work part time at the Small Business Development Center, advising other creative entrepreneurs, so it wasn't a huge financial blow. But I do spend a lot of time at it, answering e-mails, scheduling, researching for clients, meeting with clients, and doing data entry. It takes a lot of time and energy, and frankly, my own business has been suffering. I had mixed feelings - happy because I'd get to work on my own business and sad because, well, sad because the external motivation is gone. No clients clamoring for my help or thanking me.

But the last week and a half, I've had lots of time in the studio. I've gotten back in the rhythm of artmaking almost every day, back into working on my book . . . heck, I'm even working on some new tutorials for the blog. And I'm loving it.

And I almost have to laugh out loud. I'm getting to paint, to make art all day, to think about what it means to be creative, to come up with new class ideas. I'm getting to do what I've always wanted to do - I'm getting to be a full time artist. It's a lot of work, it's a huge risk, and it's totally terrifying. When the chance for the job came along, I took it because it looked interesting, challenging, a good learning experience, and yes, it was a safety net of sorts.

Just like the front door.

And now I'm wondering if I want to go back.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

DEMO! Plastic Bag Prints

DEMO! Plastic Bag Prints

June is home to Earth Day, and this month is all about crafting with recycled plastic. I've been making art with plastic bottle caps and now it's time for art with the ubiquitous urban tumbleweed, the plastic bag. Find one in a nearby tree? Have a few sitting at home? Don't want to risk the fumes from the fusing process? Why not use them to make prints - the textures make for great backgrounds for journaling, or you can recreate effects like fabric or wood . . .

or they can make great backgrounds for collages . . . like this one that I did using pieces from my various heat moldable foam stamp experiments and touch ups with red acrylic paint.

So, here's how to do it!

1. Start with a basic plastic bag - I like the ones made of thin plastic.
Fold it flat and smooth it out.

2. Now, trim the bottom off so that you have a plastic tube.

3. Cut down one side of the plastic bag, and snip the handles so that
it will lay flat.

4. You want to end up with a large, flat piece of plastic.

5. Now, get a piece of scrap cardboard that is smaller than the piece of plastic.
You're going to want to be able to wrinkle it up over the surface, and
still be able to wrap the plastic around the edges. Now cover the cardboard with glue - I like
Beacon's 3-in-1 glue - it's water based, but it dries water proof. It's a little stinky, but not
too bad, and it adheres to both plastic and cardboard. You're going to want to get a pretty thick coat - the goal is to get lots of textures from the plastic, and the more glue,
the more textures you can get.

6. Use an old credit card or piece of cardboard to spread the glue around
so that you have a more even, but still thick, coat that covers the whole surface.

7. Now, center the plastic over the cardboard and begin
gluing it to the surface.

8. Move the plastic around with your fingers to create textures.
You can make sworls, or imitate wood, or just random wrinkles.

9. Let it dry. The glue is thick and this can take a very long time. Make dinner.
Watch a movie. Go to sleep. Then, wait another day.
It might be dry by now. So, trim the plastic leaving several inches
all the way around. Now, wrap the plastic around the edges and tape them down.

10. Here's what the back looks like.

11. And here's what the front looks like. Ok, it's what the back and the front
of one I did a few weeks ago look like. The process doesn't actually change what
the bag looks like - and I was impatient to do some photos and some prints.

12. Now it's time to print! Get a non-porous surface, a soft rubber brayer,
and some water based printing ink. Squeeze some ink onto the rolling
surface, roll it out with the brayer, and . . .

12. Roll the ink onto the plastic!

13. Lay some paper over the inked plastic, and press evenly.

14. You've got a really cool print! You can clean the printing plate off with a damp
sponge and use it over and over again, combining it with prints from other plates, and building up lots of texture and color.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Found: Installation Art in Philadelphia

Ah . . . Back from a lovely trip to Philadelphia, and was delighted by the art I discovered . . . in some unlikely places.

The first was the downtown Anthropologie store . . .

This window display is both inside and outside the windows . . . and wraps around the building.

It's a crazy juxtaposition between the architecture of the old building and the wacky, modern flow of the orange sticks . . .

I love how it pours up and out of the windows and down around the entrance to the store, especially since it's not a traditional consumer building.

I also wandered into the Magic Gardens, a raw mosaic folk art wonderland created by artist Isaiah Zagar. He's done mosaic mural projects all over Philadelphia . . . while he was at it, he also did mosaic over every surface in his studio and transformed the vqcqnt lot next door into a mosaic maze of quotes, drawings on ceramic, and well, junk, cemented together. Like most outsider art, photos don't really do it justice: you've got to be there.

And if you're keen on seeing a huge variety of mosaic art locally, I understand that this years Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts is having an exhibit called Cutting Edges - the largest fine art mosaic exhibit in the U.S. (at least according to their press release).

Friday, June 5, 2009

A New Pinnacle of Bottle Cap Madness

The past month has been busy. There's been a lot of busy-ness, and not a whole lot on the creative front that's felt really productive. Except for this.

I have continued to collect plastic bottle caps, wash them, drill them, and connect them with wire. I suspended the wire tendrils from two layers of scrap plywood and on a whim, added strands of Christmas lights. I did the installation at SCRAP's new Re:Vision gallery, as part of the Leave No Plastic Behind show that opens tonight at 6 pm. It's out in the lobby of the office part of the building, and I really like the way it looks! Kind of like a Chihuly-inspired jellyfish made out of plastic junk.

I took these photos with my iPhone, and I don't have access right now to the "in process" photos I took on my regular camera (I'm taking advantage of a flight delay at Midway Airport in Chicago to post this). So, the quality of the images isn't the greatest, but I think you can get an idea - right now, the piece pretty much fills the gap between floor and ceiling, and I'm really liking the density of it.

Now, of course, I'm wanting to do something larger. So, if you've been saving bottle caps for me, and I haven't gotten to you yet, hang on to them. I still want them - e-mail me directly at sparky at eyesaflame dot com, and we'll figure out a way to connect! And big thanks to Dave and Su Lute, Darren Lute, Joh and Thane Thornton, Jo-El Hibian and Hubby, Leslie Peterson and Jim Sapp, Gretchin Lair and Sven Bonnichsen over at Scarlet Star Studios, Alea Bone and Family, and any one else who's given me bottle caps that I have forgotten!