Getting Back in My Groove

It’s been a long time since I laughed while making art, but it feels good to do it again. I’ve done a lot of things over the few years past years, but not much blogging. I won’t go into it all but everything feeds into now, and I’m in the mood to write again.

I’m listening to Rolling Blackouts Costal Fever while working and it’s so good, it will definitely rank up there with the music that get me in a working mood like the Kinks, B-52’s, U2, or Talking Heads so that I listen to the same album over and over for a whole quilt.

I’ve finally got a pretty good little mini studio set up in on the first floor of our art retreat house at Tablerock Lake.  I’ve mounted design boards on the wall and found these wonderful LED track lights at Home Depot. They can be hard wired, but you can also buy an adaptor to add a plug with a 15 foot cord and on/off switch so the strip can be mounted temporarily anywhere that needed.

When I created PaMdora ten years ago, her expression was one of permanent angst. But now she seems dated. My newest character I’m working on is somewhere between high alert and total panic. Trying to think of a good name for her.


Odd Characters in the Studio

Mostly I work alone in my studio, but it often feels filled with lots of company because of the dress forms, toys and other odd characters I have hanging around. Yesterday I took this photo after wrapping up a day of quilting and had to laugh, because it looked like two headless woman and PaMdora watching over my work.

The hole above my quilting frame is my attempt this hot summer to improve the air-conditioning in my studio by cutting a hole through my photography wall and adding two fans:)

rdi-quilt-wip2Wait, I’m wrong. On closer look, one of the headless women has a very small head!



Some people on my SAQA email list are talking about staying motivated when you hit a design block, and I was thinking how I try to make my studio a fun place to be. I try to tidy up between big projects, but still have toys, collections of vintage stuff, and left-over cutouts that sometimes I just play around with for the heck of it. Not really to make anything — it’s just sort of like having a ‘recess for the mind.’

If you don’t have a window, at least make sure you can see the world

I’ve been working the last few weeks to clean up and organize my studio to make an area for framing and collage art.  Actually, the work has spilled out the door of my one-room studio and into the warehouse.

Since we don’t have any windows in the warehouse, it’s fun to look at the world map instead. And I just had a thought it would be fun on the world map to mark cities that I’m hair-ified, kind of like other people mark cities they’ve traveled to,  I could mark the cities that I’ve turned into world class hair monuments.


It’s been a while since I’ve shown any pictures of my studio, but believe me — it may not look like it, but this is clean and organized. I’ve cleared off the 15′ table to make room for patterns and framing, and there are several projects here on the design walls in progress — some for our office building and some for a series called ‘I Wish You Were Hair.”



Halloween and Spontaneous Creativity

Regardless of what most people thing, Halloween is not just about ghouls and goblins — it’s all about spontaneous creativity. It’s the one time of year that most people think it’s perfectly acceptable to dress up in costumes and become someone or something else and walk around on public streets.

Just think about it. Most of people don’t ask what you’re going to “do” on on Halloween, they ask you what you are going to “be” ?

There are no rules about what you can become, and the idea that you can totally transform yourself through mask, costumes, makeup, wigs, cardboard, foam, or spray paint is very empowering.

When we first moved here, we were completely unprepared for the amount of Trick or Treaters that come to this neighborhood.We get hundreds of kids dressed creatively as superheros, food, animals, rock stars… some people dress their dogs too.

Maybe it’s something about the old neighborhood, old stone gates, narrow streets, friendly neighborhoods — I don’t know but it seems to draw a lot of kids. That first year, I think we had to make about 5 emergency trips to the neighborhood Smillie’s grocery store for more candy.

Since then we’ve started to doing concept installations for the one night on our lawn and driveway. There has been a Haunted Sushi Bar, Domestic Nightmares, Beastro Market… like Brigadoon, these places appear for one night only, then disappear.

This year we’ve gotten a lot help from our fabulous “Candy Construction Crew!” Here’s a few photos from the candy making party yesterday. We’re making big candy for “I Dig Candy” — a big candy road construction theme, complete with a zombie crossing.

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Candy Construction Committee

We invited a few friends over the weekend to brainstorm at the studio and start making some really big candy for a Halloween installation. The idea is sort of big candy combined with road construction, with maybe a few zombies thrown in. And it may involve a back hoe if the weather’s nice.

Shopping the warehouse, as I call it, is walking around piles of old stuff that’s accumulated over the years and trying to think of something to do with it. We had some old vinyl banners that were so big they were rolled up and sort of forgotten. Laying them out on the floor inspired Stephanie, Carla, and Holly to start cutting and pruning.

They were pretty wrinkly from being stored, but Holly had experience drying leather and had me cut a hole in a box that would hold a hair dryer and focus the heat to make the vinyl wrinkles relax. The box method was also good because you don’t have to hold a hot hair dryer for a long time – actually I could sort of use my foot to move it around, leaving my hands free to take photos and text 🙂

After a little sewing, we thought we had a big Chiclet-shaped piece of candy to stuff, but it so happens, it might also work as a costume and bears a little resemblance to this old 70’s ad for “Hey Koolaide!”

Art Speed-Dating and Elevator Talks = PechaKucha Night #4

As Julie said in a previous comment on my blog post about hosting PechaKucha Night – it sounds a bit like speed-dating for artists. I love that description.

The format of 20 images with 20 seconds to talk about each one puts you in the range of 6 minutes 40 seconds to present your work. That’s a lot of time compared to the oft-promoted elevator talk  — the 30 second spiel you can introduce and explain yourself to a stranger in the time between the elevator door closing and re-opening. At the his reception at the Art Museum last week, Roger Shimomura told us he often juries NEA grants where artists are permitted 10 images with 10 seconds per image. So PKN is looking like a good first date.

PeshuKucha Night vol. 4 at our studio was great fun. We had over  a hundred people — maybe more with some people coming early, some late. Although the format of presenting sounds rigid and the presenters do have to do their share of prep, the actual event is pretty casual atmosphere. Our doors opened a half hour early, there was a half hour intermission, and we invited folks to hang around afterwards — so there was lots of informal time to network, ask questions, explore the studio or just try out the vintage submarine game.

We had the big screen for the presentations strapped to scaffolding in the middle part of the warehouse with a lot of mis-matched chairs from various sources.


Russ also added some creative ambient lighting using old slide projectors and slides of Mesopotamian and other historical art (courtesy of the MSU art department who last spring auctioned off all their Art History slides and projection equipment at a surplus auction for, uhm, $5)

He also did a special installation of neon that spelled out PechaKucha on our framing table that added atmosphere and a great place for group photos.

But getting back to talking about art. One of the most interesting things I learned was how my friend Stephanie Cramer talks about her vibrant and evocative paintings. She likes to say, “You go first, then I’ll share” which is a terrific idea that I never thought of, because then she has the opportunity to learn what people see her paintings before she gives them her ideas. Another thing she handles quite well is the issue of time. This is a often-discussed to death topic I see on artist email lists and forums. Some artists and some people who create incredibly complex hand-crafted items seem to hate being asked, “how long did it take?”

Stephanie just says, “this painting took me three years” and then moves on. Nevermind that she was also working on about 20-40 other paintings during that time. Art takes time to gestate, transform, evolve, to become what it is.

You can hear more of how artists talk about their work in these videos of Stephanie Cramer, Russ RuBert, and Kat Allie’s presentations on our studio PKN page.

The other thing that was great about the event was the opportunity to work with such a great team of creative people. Amanda Taylor organized all the volunteers and presenters, ran the projector, and still had time to take an awesome set of photos during the evening. It’s the first time that I’ve really been able to put together a good photo gallery of a studio event that included all the setup and weird stuff that seems to happen whenever we’re setting up for a big event.

At PKN-4, we got to see 9 presentations, including Brandon Dake, AIA, president of the Springfield chapter of The American Institute of Architects present on the efforts to rebuild Joplin after a devastating tornado, and raised $360 for the AIA efforts to help in re-masterplaning there. So it was a good evening of art speed-dating.

Related links:

What is PechaKucha and How do you say it?

Over the years we’ve hosted many events at our studio, but this is the first one that most people I meet have trouble pronouncing. I started saying it just like it looks and am slowly working up to Peh-Chuk-Cha.

The name PechaKucha comes from the Japanese term for the sound of “chit chat.” PechaKucha Night started in Tokyo as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public and now has similar events happening in cities around the world. Presenters are allowed to show 20 images, with 20 seconds per image. This totals 6 minutes and 40 seconds per person, which makes for an upbeat tempo and allows the audience the chance to see wide variety of creative presentations in one evening.

PechaKucha Springfield was organized in Spring 2011 by Amanda Taylor of Dake Wells Architecture, meets quarterly, and previous events have been hosted at Lindbergs, Lemondrop, and Historic Firehouse #2.

The one I attended at Lemondrop was a lot of fun and touched on topics of art, history, architecture, film-making, the irony of yearbook signing, with an occasional cow thrown in.

Friday, September 23 from 7-9 p.m. at RuBert Studios

PechaKucha #4 we are hosting is open to art and design fans, and we have several artists scheduled including Stephanie Cramer, Kat Allie, Carla Stine, Brandon Dake, and some surprise guests. Doors will open at 6:30 if you’d like to walk around the studio, or have a glass of wine at the Tiki bar. If you’d be interested in presenting, Amanda may have a couple of slots left.

The event is a fund-raiser for the AIA Springfield to help with master-planning to rebuild Joplin, MO after a terrible tornado destroyed its center city last June, so we are asking for a minimum $5 to help with Joplin’s rebuilding process.

Some Past studio events

Although our studio is not normally open to the public, usually about once or twice a year we host events for non-profits with an art or art education emphasis. One of the more intensive but fun projects was a series that I call the Monster Foam workshops for Drury University art foundation students with art professors Todd Lowery and Tom Parker, using mountains of foam collected by Russ RuBert.

Another was a series of First Thursday artist discussion forums with featured speakers. But most have been one-night receptions for the Mid-America Art Alliance or group tours for Kansas City Art Institute students or the Missouri Art Education Association. Here’s some photos from past events. It was especially fun to dig out the old Monster Foam photo album.

Shoes and Clutter

I don’t know why shoes are so fun to make out fabric. These are sort of fantastic kimono shoes with Japanese socks. I actually have a pair of these, not so high, but probably can’t fit my fat feet into them anymore. The socks are more comfortable than they look. And they snap behind the ankle.

polka-dot kimono shoe

These flip-flops on a rag rug are the ones that I wore on the way to my worst case of poison ivy ever. And these fancy ones I saw in a catalog – except that I embellished them with color, pattern, and daisy panty hose.

Paris catalog shoe

These days I’m trying to work at least a couple of hours a day in the studio. Sometime more, except for days like this when I had to move EVERYTHING not attached to the walls out so I could get the carpet cleaned. Since my studio is in a warehouse, the carpet gets pretty dirty after a while. So I’m very proud and pleased that it came this clean.

As for the rest of the space — thank goodness for clutter. It helps hide the dust!

Update: I was joking about clutter when I wrote this post late last night, but just now read a good blog post about myths of clutter by organization expert Julie Morgenstern. One line really jumped out at me: “Releasing the obsolete will get you unstuck—by opening up space for something new. It creates the energy, space to think, and time to figure out what’s next.”

clean carpet

But does it match the sofa?

I’ve never really thought about that when I’m making art. When I have a show coming up in a public space, I usually spend a lot of time photographing, measuring, and once even made a gallery dollhouse. I’ve also made pieces and even series of works for specific spaces.

But the odd thing is, I’ve never hung one of my quilts in a living space. So last fall when several of you commented on my blog that I needed to hang art in this space, I’d been meaning to get to it.

Big surprise here! This is what I consider to be one of my mid-size pieces — not really big, and not really small. But here in the studio lobby, it looks kind of over-powering. The sofa’s not small. It’s an antique red-velvet sofa I recovered with faux fur, and it’s a nice size for napping, or fainting, or whatever you want to call a mid-afternoon or middle of a late night crash.

Hmm, guess I’ll have to think about this some more…. maybe after a short faint.

Spring Clean Fever

Madly getting ready for a big ArtsFiesta! banquet/party. It’s a lot of work to clean out space for 100+ people sit down for BBQ plus all the other extemporaneous musical activities.

It’s tough to know what to do with leftover Halloween snakes, some 30 feet long.

And there’s lots of wood to move. Never know when you might need a couple of hundred spindles.

I’ve been trying to get the mannequins to dress a little better these days, but they don’t cooperate very well. Their arms and legs just don’t want to go into the clothes I pick out for them.

I must admit that getting ready for the event has forced a lot of spring/summer/fall cleaning on us — that should have been done a long time ago! And it’s interesting to find accidental sculptures that happen along the way.