Open Air Art Gallery at Inspiration Arbor

The LAWN Art with Neighbors project came at an opportune time. I had been thinking about the old arbor in our side yard ever since the COVID-19 Stay At Home orders came down — how nice it would be turn it into an open air art gallery. So this is the story of how the exhibition of Springfield artists in Windows, Wind Chimes, & Whimsy was created.

LAWN Art with Neighbors is a community public art project May 1-10, 2020. Anyone could apply to participate if they followed stay-at-home order, social distancing rules, and used materials that they already had to create art on their lawn.

The reason I thought that our arbor would be perfect, it’s already perceived by our neighborhood as a community site. I often see walkers in the Rountree/Meadowmere Place area stopping to go inside. Or families with small children exploring the little hideaway.

The History of the Arbor

The arbor doorway faces the street and there is no barrier between the street and the entrance. The reason it’s sited so unusually, is it was built in 1908 by William Howard Johnson. He lived in the house across the street, before there was a street. So actually it faces his house.

William Howard Johnson built the arbor in 1908

Then Weller street was paved, and the arbor ended up on the other side of the street, in our yard. Johnson also built many other houses in the neighborhood and planted all the trees that are now over a hundred years old. He made enough money doing that, and then he went down south and built the small city of Hollister. You can see the same signature rock work there in the Old English Inn in downtown Hollister.

The arbor in 1908 before Weller Street was there

So he probably didn’t mind losing the arbor. I’m glad we got it. It’s sort of a magical little place. Feels like a secret room with windows open to nature. When you are inside it, you feel safe, protected, and peaceful.

Over the years, the vines had become shaggy, the paint peeled, concrete cracked, and rafters rotted. I’d been wanting to fix it for years, but it seemed like an overwhelming project.

Then L.A.W.N. Art with Neighbors came up fast, and there is nothing like a deadline to get motivated!

Ralph Lanning Outsider Art in the Arbor

I got some help replacing the rafters, so the wood was the only thing we bought. Getting them up there was a little tricky, but with Russ’s jacks and some ingenuity, lifted the vines, slid the new boards in sideways, and flipped the boards.

Next we pruned the vines and pulled weeds, uncovering Ralph Lanning sculptures that we had placed there years ago – a little concrete church and carved stone bear.

Here’s a blog post I wrote in 2011 about the auction of Ralph Lanning’s sculptures, most of which were bought by Missouri State University and how we got some of them. Also about his naked man sculpture controversy.

Concrete and stone sculptures by self-taught folk artist Ralph Lanning

Then we invited artist friends from Paint Club and ideaXfactory to bring art to exhibit. I encouraged them to only bring or make art that was weather-resistant. Paintings on board were fine, but I told them to remember that once installed, both sides might show.

The Artists featured in Windows, Wind Chimes, & Whimsy

Dana Neuenschwander made a wonderful two-sided painting that spins in the wind. One side is a landscape, the other a snail. She calls it Riparian, and says it was inspired by a short stretch of water near Delaware Town:

“When I was a young girl, I lived near a river and was fascinated by the thousands of fossilized shells in the limestone rock that covered my front yard. The intricate patterns that hundreds of shells made in one slab of rock were beautiful….The snail is the perfect example of how a creature can always be moving but be right at home. Like the mollusks, we may be receding into our homes to protect ourselves during this pandemic, but we adapt to find ways to navigate many obstacles.”

Jo Van Arkel brought a beautiful painting with floating dreamy images of a chair, table, and windows which she titled Stay At Home.

Christie Snelson has been experimenting with painting on glass inside old window frames — perfect! We named the exhibition “Windows, Wind Chimes, & Whimsy”, because of course, Inspiration Arbor is the place, not the exhibit. We may have other exhibits with other names in the future….

Christie’s window inspired me. Windows I thought are so important right now, how we see out of our stay at home shelters.

I had photos our local historian Richard Crabtree had sent of the arbor with Johnson and his children and a drawing of the arbor before it was built.

We printed those large and framed them in old windows that I had been using for several years as make-shift cold frames to protect my plants in winter. Windows through time.

Meganne Rosen has been painting on acetate for several years as she completed her MFA and current gallery shows, so that was a perfect fit.

Russ RuBert’s sculpture Twist is installed right next to the arbor, and gleams at night with two-colored led night lights.

Keith Ekstam brought several wonderful clay landscape sculpture that look like they were made for the pedestals in the arbor.

Keith Ekstam’s sculpture Carrot, Amy Wright Vollmar’s poem Coloring

Cherri Jones helped me make the embroidery hoop mobile using vintage doilies I had been collecting for years. And the wind chimes came of an ideaXfactory workshop called Whimsical Wind Chimes that we created for the Southwest Kids in Action, an organization that organizes social activities for kids 8-18 who are blind or visually impaired.

Paula Rosen made a needle-felted garland that shows the phases of the moon, so appropriate for a structure that is a great spot for viewing the moon at night.

Paula Rosen’s Phases of the Moon

That led to the night-lighting. A bit tricky to balance the lighting that makes you able to see the art and read Amy Wright Vollmar poems (from her new book Follow: Poems published by Cornerpost Press 2020), but not be too disruptive of the night-time nature environment.

Jo Van Arkel’s painting Stay at Home, historical photo by Richard Crabtree

LAWN Art with Neighbors ends today, but we will keep our Windows, Wind Chimes, & Whimsy exhibition up through May. It’s already weathered some pretty windy rainstorms, and the neighbors approve. I’ve even had one neighbor tell me it’s almost like date night to go there after dark!

LAWN Art with Neighbors ends today, but we will keep our Windows, Wind Chimes, & Whimsy exhibition up through May. It’s already weathered some pretty windy rainstorms, and the neighbors approve. I’ve even had one neighbor tell me it’s almost like date night to go there after dark!

How to Find Inspiration Arbor

Inspiration Arbor located at the corner of Weller and Meadowmere, Springfield, MO, at 1507 E. Meadowmere. Please practice good social distancing when viewing this exhibition.

Kitchen Stitching Quilt

I’ve often though about doing more abstract work or big simple shapes because I love to stitch with loopy patterns. It’s not that big, but here’s a simple shapes quilt that I delivered to a friend this week using this stitch in the background.

The simple shapes came from quick pen drawings that I later refined to use in the invitation to this show, then I enlarged them to make a food-inspired quilt. To make the background stitching show up, I used a course variegated blue thread, and then doodled around the kitchen objects. This is a lot of fun, so I hope to do some more of these.

The other day, I happened to run across an article about creating special touches for packaging your handmade items -it said there were a lot of Flickr photos tagged “handmade packaging.” So inspired, before I delivered the quilt to the collector, I hand-wrote a card thanking them for the purchase and wrapped it up with a fabric bow.

This is how a usually wrap my quilts for transport. I used to use white cloth to wrap them, but batiks with colors are just so much more fun.

Why do they call Mad Scientists Mad?

Maybe they’re not mad, maybe they’re just having fun.

I’d forgotten how fun this is — dyeing!

All summer long I’ve been fighting the heat, coming up with different strategies for working in my non-air-conditioned studio very very early in the morning and developing satellite work locations and making smaller projects on the go.

Then I finally remembered that turning up the heat is good thing for dyes. I had a lot of old supplies – dye powders, soda ash, etc. in the back of my studio from some previous dye adventures. It was merely a matter of cleaning up the shelves, re-organizing, and I also started finding lots of little stashes of un-dyed fabric, or fabric that totally needed a color makeover. And those little stashes added up to to a lot of yardage. Yay, I didn’t even need to order any supplies, and since I’m in the recycle as much as possible mode right now, last weekend’s project fit right into that philosophy.

Mixing up the dyes reminded me a little of being a kid and making blue animal pancakes with my brothers, or the times when I was just playing Humbug Witch in the kitchen and not trying to come up with anything edible, merely something explosive. So this train of thought led me to realize that Mad Scientists are not really Mad in the bad temper sort of way, but in a crazy off-the wall way. Kind of like the blue guy in Megamind – what a great animated movie.

What’s different about now as opposed to a couple of years ago, I realized that I needed more darks, lights, and odd ones. I have a great stash of brights, but most of my recent work has been done by using patterned fabrics that from a distance, create complex colors. Currently I’m working a series of non-figurative pieces and need more depth in my solid color options.

Following Ann Johnston’s Color by Accident book in my first batch, the darks weren’t dark enough. So the next day, I re-read Lisa Call’s methods, threw in a little salt, left the fabric in the sun out on the back parking lot for a few hours (not the cart though, because salvage bandits will take anything metal in a heartbeat), and then didn’t wash out the dyes until later the next day. The second day batches were much better, and although it was hard to wait, it was worth it.

International TECHstyle Art Biennial (ITAB)

I’m pleased that two of my quilts will be shown soon at the International TECHstyle Art Biennial (ITAB) at the San Jose Quilts & Textiles Museum. Skating on Thin Ice will be there, and also my newest work, Tokyo – Wish You Were Hair.

layered cotton fabrics stitched with thread, 65"x50" by Pam RuBert

ITAB is a juried exhibition of work by artists exploring the intersection of fiber art with new information and communication technologies, to be held in conjunction with San Jose’s biennial ZERO1 Festival, the 2010 01 SJ Biennial, which runs from September 16-19, 2010. The exhibition includes 41 works by 28 artists from six countries—including Canada, China, Germany, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. For more information and some images from the upcoming show, check out the museum website article.

San Jose Quilts & Textiles Museum, San Jose, CA
August 17 – October 31, 2010
Opening reception is Sunday, August 22, 2-4pm

Fabric Portfolios Finished!

Well, here it is after weeks of labor in the PaMdora sweatshop (I sweating have I been, over a hot iron without aircon in the studio). And golly, that stack must be at least 3.5 inches high! Actually it would have been more like 4.5, but I’ve already mailed two off. The rest I’m going to take to Cincinnati with me, because next week the International Sculpture Conference will be there and you just never know who you might see!

In case you haven’t been following the entire process through my blog, I’ve been making little fabric-covered printed portfolios of my work. If the sculpture truck doesn’t leave any minute, I’ll try to post photos of the contents.

Fabric Portfolios 3

Here’s the front of my new book. I’m glad so many of you told me to leave off the bindings, because that’s the direction I was already working. Actually, I’m not opposed to bindings, you’ll notice that I put funky stripey bindings on most of my big quilts. But you’re right, for such a small project the bindings were taking too much space and time. It’s a lot easier to leave them off, and leaves as much space as possible for the design.

Here’s the back. I thought about doing some kind of fancy embroidery technique for the thread, and then thought naw… Maybe you can already tell that there’s a little less angst and a little more humor in this design. Oh, and look….

Here’s me on a diet, ha ha!

Actually, when I made my first hands covers, I forgot to flip the arm for the backside. I redid that, then laid them out on the table and realized that the arms weren’t symmetrical. So I remade them again because I thought it was funnier. What I won’t do for a joke? Now I have three arms too many. Everyone should have this problem.

Now I hesitate to show you this, because there was such a good response to the extreme cropping in my last design. But I’m also working on trying to make PaMdora smaller for another project, and this seemed like a good way to experiment.

Now if I can only figure out how to make her arm wrap logically (in a cartoon sense of the word) around the book. What do you think? It could be fun, and maybe I could have the best of both ideas.

Here’s a photo of this ghostly image inside the front cover. What a surprise! Of course I could have just stopped with an earlier design for the portfolios and laid out a little assembly line to mass produce something, but I’m having too much fun experimenting right now. And I wouldn’t have found out interesting things like this. Omega sent me this link for Alice Kettle who she says works backwards. Hmmm, me thinks this bears some more investigation.

I like that these are small projects that take only a few hours as opposed to a hundred, and I still end up with something that I can use rather than throw on the scrap pile.

Fabric Portfolios 2

You guys are great! I knew when I got stuck, that I would get lots of suggestions if I posted my work-in-progress. And you all really came through. Thanks for all the great ideas. This weekend I changed my approach completely – dropping the binding and doing a pillow-case finish on the covers.

It helped speed things up, because I’m really not that great at bindings. Actually I don’t consider myself very good at precision sewing, so I have to design around that. For these two books, I played around with some extreme cropping to keep PaMdora’s face the size I normally make it.

Designing these books is a completely different way of thinking – it’s not just how it looks from the front, but the whole experience as you turn the pages, right to the very end. I love the way the backside of the cover looks after quilting her face. Sometimes I think the backsides of my quilts are more interesting than the front, and here’s a chance to take advantage of that.

On each side, I’m using different fabrics and threads, for a little surprise and to make the viewer want to turn it over and examine every surface. Without the bindings, the books (which by the way, are 7″ x 9″) have a very nice feel to them. The covers are simple and soft. I’m using scrylic felt as the middle layer, because it has the same appearance as batting, but it’s a little bit stiffer.

The funny thing was, after I finished these two books, I showed all of them to Russ and he said, well I still like the one with the bird on the cover (photo in the previous post). He said, it reminds me of one of those things you set pans on. I told being called a potholder is not considered a compliment in the art quilt world. He said he thought that didn’t matter, that they were appealing that way.

So what do you think? Go back to putting bindings around all the edges? Today I started three more books with different designs, but none of them have bindings either – except for the spine. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get them done.

Fabric Portfolios

I’ve been making little books for two weeks. The covers are fabric but the insides are paper. I got started doing this because I was asked by a curator to send information about my quilts, and I’m worried about sending photographs to someone who’s never seen the real thing. I don’t think the photos tell the whole story.

So I’m trying to design a printed portfolio that has a quilted cover. Just to give someone a real clue what the work is all about — what the fabrics are like, what the construction is like, what the colors are really like.

It took quite a while to design the fourteen interior pages with photos of my quilts, details of quilts, a brief resume, artist’s statement, and bio, and some photos of people reacting to the work at exhibitions. In my experiments, I only tried sewing 12 pages, but the final version got to be fourteen (didn’t want to stop at 13). I was a little worried about sewing 14 pages, two covers, and binding, but it seemed to work okay.

I’m having trouble with the cover design though. The covers are stitched with varigated King Tut thread, so maybe I should just leave them plain. But I keep trying to put add things on the cover. I thought about doing my name, but that seemed too obvious and boring to cut out. Then I thought about being more cryptic and just having objects on the cover. I think the problem here is I used the same fabric for the blue bird as the border — boring! And maybe there’s too many musical notes.

Then I thought of using my initials, PR, ha ha. Probably only I would think it’s funny that a monogramed portfolio would have the intials PR. So then I thought of just P. P for Pam, P for PaMdora. But here it looks like something a cheerleader would wear.