Reframing What Goes On In The Studio

In general, I don’t think there’s enough discussion by artists about the nuts and bolts of what we do that doesn’t involve creating art. Alyson Stanfield of Art Biz Coach has and continues to make tremendous headway in helping us understand and gain ground on the non-making side of our careers, but I do wish more artists would draw back the curtain on their individual approaches to the business end of their practices. Not only would sharing those details give viewers and collectors a better understanding that making “a go” of things isn’t only about materializing ideas and inspiration into a finished work, but fellow artists would also profit greatly from a wider discussion of the different systems that occur within our workspaces.

It Isn't That Simple

It Isn’t That Simple   ©2016 Elizabeth Fram  12×12″  Stitched-resist dye and embroidery on silk

This week I’ve been largely caught up in administrative tasks. Practice-wise, I was only able to accomplish my daily sketches and the beginning stages of two new textile pieces. For the most part it’s been a week of support work: framing the cup and saucer pieces and tending to various computer chores — including, but not exclusive to, preparing submissions for two exhibitions, crafting specific artist statements, photography, research, email, and of course writing this post.

Morning Musing

Morning Musing   ©2017 Elizabeth Fram,  12×12″   Stitched-resist dye and embroidery on silk

During weeks when I have my fingers in a lot of different pies and find myself jumping from task to task, (when I’d really rather be stitching for hours at a time), I’ve found two things to rely upon for a sense of balance. First, I do my best to make at least one daily drawing. A half hour minimum is doable most days and not only lends a sense of grounding in its regularity, (no different from any other type of exercise), but each page filled in a sketchbook gives me a concrete sense of productivity in a way computer work can’t. That in itself makes the day seem more successful, even if the drawing is less than stellar.

Respite

Respite     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram   11×14″   Stitched-resist dye and embroidery on silk

I’ve also found it’s helpful to have a good, long book in the works that I can retreat to in the evening because it offers a feeling of continuity that carries from one day to the next — a quality that is often missing from the rest of a week that is all about checking off a string of to-do’s.

Quiet Moment

Quiet Moment   ©2017 Elizabeth Fram   11×14″   Stitched-resist dye and embroidery on silk

Now that they are in place, I am very happy with these maple floating frames. I particularly like that they complete the cup and saucer pieces by providing subtle visual support without grabbing too much attention. For the fun of it, and a completely opposite approach, check out the work of Holly Lane whose fabulously carved frames merge with her paintings in a 2-D/3-D amalgam that suggests, as she says in her statement, “contingency, time, potentiality, future, past, or cause and effect.”

Pick-Me-Up

Pick-Me-Up    ©2017 Elizabeth Fram   12×16″   Stitched-resist dye and embroidery on silk

And if you’re looking for something meaty to think about while making your way through your own list of office chores, consider the editorial “Why You Should Read Books You Hate” that appeared in the NY Times last Sunday. I guarantee it will get your wheels turning.

Be Careful How Much You Say

“Design is a way out of confusion”
– Platon, photographer

This past week I finished the NETFLIX series Abstract: The Art of Design which delves into the minds and careers of eight top designers who practice within different branches of the field. Covering a myriad of ideas, each program highlights and demystifies a leader who has reached the pinnacle of her/his discipline, one step at a time. Listening as these artists/designers discuss in their own words the generation and evolution of their ideas makes the series especially inspiring. In fact, even the episodes that center on a discipline I wouldn’t ordinarily care much about (such as car design), had me hanging on every world.

Pick-Me-Up

Pick-Me-Up     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram      Stitched-Resist Dyeing with Stitching on Silk, 12×16 in.

In mulling over some of the takeaway lessons afterward, I was particularly moved by the sentiments of the photographer Platon. His portraits, of both the powerful and powerless alike, lean on simplicity, boldness, and clarity to convey the story and essence of each subject, rather than extraneous details or elaborate backdrops.

Growing up with extreme dyslexia, Platon found the world unmanageably complicated and had trouble coping with what, to him, was a cacophony of stimulation. Design became a means of making sense of that complexity. By capturing the core of a subject and condensing information to only what is necessary, he found a key to interpreting his surroundings. That inclination toward self-editing has, in turn, become the foundation of his artistic success while modeling an important lesson for any of us.

Two Cups

Two Cups     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

With practice, I am beginning to better understand the wisdom that what you omit via editing is just as important as what you let remain. It’s understandable that we tend to be protective of favorite passages as we work, but we have to fight that instinct. Being of a mind to vigilantly cull out the unnecessary, in deference to clarity and conciseness, is much more valuable for longterm growth and development. Admittedly, such self-control is much more challenging to accomplish in the moment while drawing with ink, than over numerous drafts while typing on the computer. But regardless of medium, the importance of editing is inarguably one of the best tools available.

It’s not so much what you say, it’s what you leave out that makes a piece soar.

This short post by Clint Watson on Fine Art Views, makes the crucial point that judicious editing is another level of communication, showing your viewer not just what you are making, but more importantly, why you are going to the effort.

And on a lighter note: are you familiar with the band Darlingside? If not, check out this video, or you can find their music on Spotify. While chatting up the audience at a recent concert they mentioned that they get a lot of questions about their name. Explaining that they had a teacher who counseled the adage that you have to “kill your darlings” for successful writing, a name was born. Choosing to steer clear of the intonation of death inferred in “Darlingcide”, they opted for Darlingside as a more acceptable name. Either way, another nod to the multilayered benefits of editing.

A Mixed Bag of Reasons to Love Chicago

First of all, were you aware that the name “Chicago” is derived from a French interpretation of the Native American (Miami-Illinois language) word shikaakwa, a plant known to botanists as Allium ticoccum? More commonly referred to as ramps by Vermonters, Allium ticoccum is a species of wild onion with garlicky overtones that is a spring specialty here, soon to be foraged and served on home and restaurant tables all over our state.

Sunrise Lake Michigan

Sunrise over Lake Michigan

The genesis of the city’s name as we know it today appears to be French explorer Robert de LaSalle’s September 1687 journal, in which he noted,  “…we arrived at the said place called Chicagou which, according to what we were able to learn of it, has taken this name because of the quantity of garlic which grows in the forests in this region.”  Now that’s my kind of place!

A decade ago our daughter moved to Chicago for school and never left, so at this point we’ve visited enough times that it has become comfortably familiar while still maintaining plenty of novel opportunities and sites to explore. Just back from a long spring weekend where the forsythia is already starting to bloom (but no ramp sightings), I’ve been thinking this week how great it is to have a place to visit just frequently/infrequently enough to maintain a list of favorites to see time and again, which still somehow always seem fresh.

Gehry's Pritzker Pavillion

Millennium Park is a special place and easy to get to as it’s right next to the Art Institute. Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate may be the main attraction for most but, to me, Frank Gehry’s Pritzker Pavillion is the jewel in the park’s crown.

Marc Chagall’s large stained glass America Windows at the Art Institute of Chicago always take my breath away and are well-worth the hike to the farthest corner of the museum to see. Secular in theme, they bring together symbols of American history, the Chicago skyline, and a representation of the arts. Please save ten minutes to watch this wonderful video from the Art Institute about the history, creation, conservation and reinstallation of this treasure.

Chagall 1

Marc Chagall, America Windows 1975-77;     Left panel representing Music and Painting

Marc Chagall 2

Marc Chagall, America Windows 1975-77;  Middle panel representing Literature and Architecture

Marc Chagall 3

Marc Chagall, America Windows, 1975-77;     Right panel representing Theater and Dance

Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 * (Whistler’s Mother) by James McNeill Whistler has returned to Chicago for the first time in 60 years. As I found was also true of the Mona Lisa, its subject appears warmer and lovelier in person. Contrary to the Mona Lisa, which was much smaller than I’d expected, it was a surprise that Whistler’s Mother is almost life-size.  All that said, I was much more attracted to this relatively small painting of Whistler’s brother, appreciating it for its painterly brushstrokes and unconventional placement of the figure. The added bonus was I had it all to myself while everyone else crowded around Mrs. Whistler.

William Whistler

Portrait of Dr. William McNeill Whistler, 1871/73, Oil on panel, 43.7 x 34.8 cm (17 3/16 x 13 11/16 in.)

It’s hard to resist a visit to Dick Blick even if just to wander the aisles, but I usually keep any purchases to a minimum because of the hefty Chicago 10.25% sales tax. I’ve been on the lookout for a larger format, soft-cover sketchbook that would open flat for a double spread, yet be thin and light enough to easily tuck into a carry-on. I found two possibilities. The staplebound Fabriano EcoQua is really meant for writing, but the paper is pretty similar to a Moleskine and takes the ink from a Micron pen without bleeding.

Chairs and Shadows

Hotel Chairs and Shadows,     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                    Fabriano EcoQua 12″x8″

The other selection I brought home is the 8.5″x11″ RendR Lay Flat sketchbook made by Crescent. It boasts ‘no show thru’ paper, which was a major attraction, and I also liked the idea that it is supposed to accept all media. Despite promising a lot, now that I’ve had a chance to try it I don’t think it was worth the cost. Perhaps acrylics work better than watercolors as a wet media, but I found the paper tends to buckle and it’s hard to move wet pigment around on the page. The paper is a nice weight, has a smooth surface for pen or pencil, and doesn’t bleed. But overall, I don’t think I would buy one again.

Rendr Sketchbook

There wasn’t much time to sketch over the weekend – too many other fun things to see and do. But once back on the plane to fly home, I could bring out my trusty OPUS sketchbook, purchased on another trip in another city, and get back in the saddle.

Flight 4717

Flight #4717      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

* Worth a read: 14 Things You Might Not Know About Whistler’s Mother

An Unexpected Cold Remedy

But first — happy news this past week! I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and chat with painter Tessa Greene O’Brien, who generously took an afternoon off from her residency at the Vermont Studio Center for a studio visit here with me. Tessa is organizing an exhibition at Able Baker Contemporary in Portland, ME this June/July, which will be based on the work of a number of artists who take a formal and painterly approach to their work while incorporating textiles in some form. I am very honored and excited to have been invited to participate! Stay tuned for further details as they unfold.

Plant

©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Meanwhile, it’s that time of the year again. The seasons are changing and my “number came up”, meaning it was my turn to contend with a head cold. Enough time has passed since my last one that I have no right to complain, but it’s hard to be stoic when it feels like your head is filled with socks and that you’re dragging the equivalent of Jacob Marley’s chains from room to room. I know you know the feeling.

I’m fortunate it didn’t last long, and I am grateful that the combo of a sketchbook and a pen make for a great diversion. You can’t spend too much time concentrating on how miserable you feel when your brain is busy comparing the space between shapes and getting a curve “just so”.

Quinn 1

Quinn #1     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I continue to be challenged by the relatively wide line of my Lamy Safari fountain pen. Crosshatching and creating a sense of form with a much finer .01 Micron nib is comparatively effortless, producing lines that seem to be naturally more energetic. The thicker stroke of the Safari feels decidedly more awkward and necessitates thinking more in terms of variety of mark and pattern in order to achieve values and textural interest.

Drawing with this pen is a whole different ball game and one that doesn’t come particularly easily to me. But I’m determined to stick with it for two reasons: 1) it’s the only pen I have that glides smoothly (without wearing down), over the relatively rough paper of my Classic Cachet sketchbook… & I still have 1-1/2 sketchbooks of this paper yet to fill! And 2) I’m committed to making it work and hope that by putting in the hours I’ll achieve some level of proficiency. After three months of pretty much daily practice, I’m beginning to see some faint glimmers of progress, but I still have a long way to go.

Quinn 2

Quinn #2     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I am reminded of my past post The Reward of Getting it Wrong, in which I wrote about Kathleen Speranza acknowledging that you have to make many, many pieces in order to glean a handful of successes. She estimates she achieves about a 50% success rate; I am way behind that.

But being cozied up on the sofa with the dog, a cup of tea, and a box of kleenex nearby is not only as good a time as any to log in some practice, but also my best suggestion for getting ahead of a pesky cold.

San Francisco, Part 2

Who doesn’t love a “twofer”?
Not only was I incredibly lucky to have caught Matisse and Diebenkorn together in the same exhibition at the SF MOMA earlier this month, but our visit to the Museum of Craft and Design included the unexpected windfall of two fascinating and quite different exhibitions for the cost of one admission.

I first learned about Wendy Maruyama’s work at SOFA Chicago in 2014. At that initial viewing I felt quite small gazing up at just one of her expertly crafted life-sized elephant heads, made from flat wooden panels held together with twine and hanging at the height of a living beast. To be in the presence of six of these creations is utterly awe-inspiring. Maruyama’s traveling wildLIFE Project, an exhibition which is now at the MCD through May 2017, was created as an advocacy project to bring awareness to the issues surrounding the poaching of wildlife.

wildLIFE Project

Wendy Maruyama’s  The wildLIFE Project                                                                                           L-R: Ghost ©2014, Orkanyawoi ©2014, Sonje ©2014; Front: Sarcophagus ©2015

Equally imposing, Maruyama includes a cache of blown glass “tusks”, also life-size. Enclosed within a wood and glass reliquary made by Maruyama, the casket of tusks symbolizes the preciousness of both the elephant and its ivory.

Ghost

Wendy Maruyama     Ghost ©2014     Wood, String, Paint

To round out her quiet yet emotionally stirring treatise, a series of Maruyama-built shrines elegantly and straightforwardly honor the elephant species and its growing loss. You can read more about the Bell Shrine on her blog. Stunningly beautiful, they reference the aesthetic qualities of Maruyama’s Japanese heritage. All the objects in this show are a nod to the fact that often the strongest statements are deceptively simple, holding tremendous weight due specifically to their lack of extraneous information. This is one of the truths behind The wildLIFE Project as a whole: the effect of Maruyama’s potent message, which addresses the devastating impact poaching has on wildlife, owes much to the simplicity of its delivery. Viewing the exhibition is a poignant and humbling experience.

Satao

Wendy Maruyama      Satao ©2014 (detail)     Wood, Burlap, Paint, String

Deeply moved as I left the gallery, I couldn’t help but think of the gravity and urgency of this exhibition and the message it carries — another instance of the power of art as a  go-between and translator. Which begs the question: How could our government possibly question the viability and necessity of the arts and the NEA? It is a viewpoint that is truly beyond me…but that’s a subject for another post.

Arnold Tent

Janice Arnold      Felted Drape

Leaving Maruyama’s emotionally charged work behind, the neighboring gallery offered a comforting contrast. Cushioned in the story and products of felted wool, one can’t help but become aware of the stark dichotomy between the sustainability of harvested wool and the devastation and endangerment of species created via poaching. FELT DECODED, Wool: Nature’s Technology encompasses a comprehensive collection of art by Janice Arnold, who has passionately spent her career learning about and exploring the expansive world of wool felt. Free-standing sculptures, framed textural wall pieces, massive draped hangings, and tent-like enclosures all give voice to Arnold’s complete immersion in felt as an art form and her dedication to investigating the full scope of its history and its possibilities.

Felted Panel

Janice Arnold      Felted Panel

Aside from Arnold’s felted art, this exhibition also explores the timeline of felted wool, offering a myriad of examples that underline its fluidity and versatility throughout time. Having made it her life’s work to trace the material’s expansive background and use, Arnold aims to share her copious knowledge through various projects and in exhibitions like FELT DECODED. Her research spans from the nomadic tribes of Central Asia and Mongolia to the high-tech world of industrial felt, emphasizing the beauty and utility of this sustainable fiber. Her artist statement speaks to felt’s unexpected ability to bridge the divide between our past and our future:

“The current high tech world with its synthetic surroundings has taken us far from the natural world and our historic traditions of making things by hand. We are starved for natural textures, fibers and irregular forms. I believe wool Felt connects us with our natural history in a way no other fabric can.”

So there you have it: two completely different, yet equally captivating exhibitions under one common roof. Seen in parallel, the implication of each is bolstered by the other… I would say a “twofer” at its very best!

Click here for Maruyama’s flicr page of photos surrounding the creation of The wildLIFE Project.

And, as promised, a couple of quick sketches from our week away. There was time to draw each day, but it was mostly done on the fly.

SF Cup & Saucer

Cup and Saucer; Lori’s Cafe     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Baghdad by the Bay, Part 1

San Francisco is a jewel.

Moon over Coit Tower

Moon rising over Coit Tower from Lombard St.

This city will always be special in my eyes, despite my preference for rural environments. I love the way it straddles the divide between urban and sylvan so easily, and relish its approachability as a web of neighborhoods of distinct personality, rather than a forbidding fortress of concrete and steel. A long time ago we lived on the Presidio for three wonderful years; I gave birth to our daughter with a view of the Golden Gate bridge from my hospital room and, ironically, our son’s current office is within one of the refurbished officer’s homes that abut the property of the now demolished hospital where his sister was born. So happily, the connection persists.

Curiot Mural

A mural of a mythical beast by Curiot (Favio Martinez) who blends human and animal forms while alluding to Mexican traditions. At Bush St. and Grant Ave.

Cupid's Span

“Cupid’s Span”, 2002, by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Brugge, near the Ferry Building

Language of Birds and Jazz Mural

“Language of the Birds”, Brian Goggin & Dorka Keehn’s 2008 solar-powered light sculpture before the backdrop of Bill Weber’s 1987 “Jazz Mural”. Both are only a stone’s throw from SF’s iconic City Lights booksellers. Words and phrases embedded in the sidewalk below, give the impression they have fallen out of the books. The words are in English, Italian, and Chinese, reflecting the neighborhood’s rich literary history.

Our visit this month was just what I needed to shake out my end-of-winter malaise and to recharge the old batteries. ‘Baghdad by the Bay’, eminently walkable, with its golden light, fresh and varied foods, and rich array of cultural choices, proved to be just the balm needed at this time of year.

“Woodline”, 2011 by Andy Goldsworthy, in the Presidio

Spire

“Spire”, 2008 by Andy Goldsworthy, in the Presidio

Among its many attributes, San Francisco is a city swathed in art – both professionally polished and creatively homegrown – offering visual delights in just about every corner. This post is a nod to a few of the many discoveries that caught my eye.

Balmy Lane

Balmy Lane, Mission District       We took a “Detour” walking tour – a phone app audio guide – through the mural-rich Mission. Balmy Lane is a one block alley lined with beautiful and vibrant murals.

Balmy Lane

Balmy Lane

The icing on the artistic cake was getting tickets to see the Matisse / Diebenkorn exhibit that had just opened at the SF MOMA. It is a wonderful show; two of my greatest heroes together, brilliantly curated to underline the strong influence that Mattisse had on Diebenkorn. There were no photos allowed, which in hindsight was an advantage since it meant there was nothing between viewer and art, requiring full engagement with the work. This is the best link I could find with some of the images. There is a full room of drawings that are spectacular! My only regret in regard to no photos is that I wasn’t able to have a record of the identifying cards next to the works – they were filled with info that I would like to reread.

Klee Puppet

We also visited “Paul Klee at Play” at SF MOMA. These hand puppets were made by Klee for his son, Felix

Klee puppet

Another Klee puppet using papier-mâché, found materials, and scraps of cloth

Battle of the Sexes

“Battle of the Sexes”, 1982 by Tom Otterness. A frieze that surrounds a door opening, with female figures climbing on the left, males on the right. Both carry cylindrical drums and spheres representing abstract ideas. At the top they meet and a struggle erupts without a winner.

Czara z Babelkami

“Czara z Babelkami”, 2006 by Ursula von Rydingsvard, a towering cedar sculpture in the SF MOMA sculpture garden

I’m saving my thoughts on Wendy Maruyama’s WildLIFE Project & Janice Arnold’s FELT DECODED at the Museum of Craft and Design for next week. I’ll also have a few of the sketches I was able to squeeze in around the edges. I hope you will check back.

And to follow-up on the ‘White Screen of Death’ that occurred right after we left town…it ended up being an easy fix once I got home and could devote a few minutes to figuring out the problem from my laptop. I can never say enough good things about my server, Bluehost. I found a tutorial on their site that allowed me to dig myself out of trouble in about 15 minutes. I have since learned that the WSoD is unfortunately not all that uncommon for WordPress users. May you never experience it. But just in case you do, below are a couple of links that lifted me beyond my initial panic so that I could relax and enjoy our vacation, knowing it was very likely a solvable problem.

  • Amy Lynn Andrews’ post “How to Deal with Errors and Warnings”…a must-read, applicable to any computer issue.
  • WP Sync one-time fix $39. I can’t give this a personal recommendation because I didn’t need to use it and there are likely many other groups that offer similar deals. But, it was definitely peace of mind to know that, if needed, I could get an expert on the case at a very reasonable price, and without having to commit to an on-going service.

The Wider World

I’ve been using Instagram for about four months now and I guess the self-imposed trial period is over. The results? …I’m glad I took the plunge. It’s become a quick daily dose of fresh images from artists all over the world that not only emphasizes the immensity of creativity out there, but also the tenacity and commitment that people devote to their individual practices. From that perspective alone, it’s very inspirational.

Inma Serrano Trumpeta 2

Inma Serrano     Trumpeta 2

Community, even a virtual one, is key when one spends large chunks of each day working in solitude, relying mostly on a pooch, books on tape, podcasts, and NPR for company. No question, Instagram is not a substitute for my in-person critique group and my art friends who live both near and far; it doesn’t come close to the reciprocity those personal relationships afford. But I am learning to appreciate it as a passport to the global creative community, a platform that demands very little while offering a lot if it is approached mindfully.

Lisa Smirnova Joseph Brodsky

Lisa Smirnova           Joseph Brodsky/Embroidery

On the whole, I have been fearful of social media because of the perceived time drain (I sit pretty firmly in Cal Newport’s camp). And while I’m sure you could spend hours on Instagram if you wanted, my concern that it would become an overwhelming time commitment hasn’t materialized. Instead, it’s a very compact opportunity to find a sense of connection by seeing what’s going on in all sorts of studios and galleries, while offering a taste of process, materials and inspiration.

Veronica Cay Out on a Limb

Veronica Cay      Out on a Limb

And, as I become more familiar with the work of the people I follow, it’s been fun to watch as individual works progress toward completion, to vicariously celebrate openings of people I will likely never meet, and to be able to appreciate the beauty in our world as others see it.  It’s a pretty cool thing to be able to tap into the wide world of folks out there who also find meaning and fulfillment in getting into their studio each day, trying again and again, because it’s just what we do.

Tangled Bank 2.10, 2017 Miguel Rodriguez

Miguel Rodriguez      “Big Shield” / Tangled Bank 2.10, 2017 Acrylic, collage on paper, 22×35 in

The above images are a tiny handful of my favorite artists to follow. Explore their work further on Instagram and on their websites.
Inma Serrano of Spain: Instagram,  Website
Lisa Smirnova of Russia: Instagram, Website
Veronica Cay of Australia: Instagram, Website
Miguel Rodriguez of Washington, DC: Instagram, Website

The Dramatic Ordinary

One of my goals this year is to read more artist memoirs / biographies. (Suggestions please!) While it’s interesting to get the detailed and distanced perspective an art historian can provide, there is nothing quite as enlightening as an individual describing their thoughts and journey in their own words.

One Glove

Alone     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I just finished Sally Mann’s 2015 memoir Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs. On many levels it reads like a novel; Mann goes into great depth about her family history, and those folks were anything but boring! More importantly, she does a wonderful job of relating how all the varied people and parts of her life fit together and have influenced the direction of her work.

But on a more personal level, one quote resonated particularly strongly in relation to subject matter. She says, “Part of the artist’s job is to make the commonplace singular, to project a different interpretation onto the conventional”.

Two Gloves

Empty Pair     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

In creating the pieces I do, I spend a lot of time thinking about how ordinary events and circumstances are really more, in that they add depth and meaning to our day-to-day, making routine experiences worthy of notice and appreciation. My drawings and stitched work speak to those often unsung moments, acknowledging that their influence is greater than we would ever guess.

I think David Byrne said it best:

“Most of our lives aren’t that exciting, but the drama is still going on in the small details.”

Step by Step

This week, in lieu of all the usual writing, I am giving us both a break. Instead, I am posting photos of this latest piece as it has evolved. Your questions are welcome.

Mokume

The first step is creating the Shibori pattern on raw silk. This particular pattern is called “Mokume”, which means wood grain. It is not an exact science – just rows and rows of closely spaced running stitches. Still, I’m sure you can appreciate the resemblance to its namesake. Look closely to see the dots of white along the right edges of the pattern. They mark the placement of the knots of the threads that were used to gather the fabric before it was dyed.

Photocopy Map

I use photocopies of my original sketches as a map of sorts, to help me translate the image into stitch.

Stitch Variety

Using a variety of stitch patterns, weights, and colors gives a sense of form, and also adds an abstracted quality that I quite enjoy.

Gold Thread

Once I added the gold thread to that inside right section of the cup, it began to come alive. Sometimes a very small change can make a huge difference.

Keep Going

When I got to this point I began to see the minimal stitching on the saucer as an interesting composition in itself and I gave serious consideration as to whether I should just stop, leaving the saucer mostly blank. Of course I decided to keep going, but seeds have been planted to investigate this idea further in a future piece.

Saucer

Not only have I made the choice to keep going by filling in the saucer, I’ve begun to work on the background as well.

Getting the saucer right

Getting the saucer right was a bit of a challenge. You don’t see it in these photos, but it took several tries to get each section so that it rang true. Such is the beauty of working with thread; it is so easily removed and restitched.

Shadow

The background is now a major consideration – and I have removed most of the stitching to the right that had appeared before. Deepening and outlining the shadow below the cup strengthens its definition.

Background evolves

The background continues to evolve.  At this point I realized I needed to figure out how to tone down the lighter section to the left of the cup so that it didn’t stand out quite so starkly.

Quiet Moment     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                                                Finished! Now to decide on framing…

Quiet Moment, detail

Quiet Moment, detail     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Quick note: most of these photos were taken at the end of the day, in sketchy &/or artificial light, which explains the color differentials.

On a Different Note…                                                                                                                           

This week marks the opening of “Fiber Expressions, a group show of the Vermont members of the Surface Design Association.  I have 4 pieces exhibiting. I hope you can check it out if you’re in the area. Here’s the scoop:

Fiber Expressions
February 20 – March 31, 2017
Living/Learning Gallery, University of Vermont
633 Main St., Commons 205, Burlington, VT 05405
802.656.4299   http://www.uvm.edu/llcenter/gallery/
Exhibit Hours: Mon – Fri: 1:00-8:30pm    Sat: 12:30-4:30pm
Gallery Closed for Spring Recess March 11-19; Open by appointment only

Taking Action Creatively

“Art never affects the world in a vacuum. It exists as a part of culture. Political art standing against repressive forces in society is part of the culture of change. Political art affects the real world as part of the force that keeps the human spirit alive. it keeps the flame of justice burning. It keeps memory alive. It moves with the struggles and moves the struggles forward.”        Paul Boden, The Huffington Post

I'm With Her

Women’s March, Montpelier, VT January 21, 2017

Although hardly a novel form of expression, I am more aware of the pervasive nature of political art now than at any other time in my life. Voices are surfacing from far and wide, including, and perhaps most notably, from quarters that haven’t previously felt compelled to speak out in protest. The sense of urgency is palpable. For me, the key take-away is the power art has given, and continues to give, to voicing distress / anger / concern / fear, not just in our current political climate, but throughout history.

Yes We Can!

Women’s March, Montpelier, VT January 21, 2017

That voice doesn’t have to be loud, but just as drops of water will carve through stone, change is effected through persistence. This week I want to highlight two local artists I am privileged to know, whose practices center around putting forth powerful statements about the issues that concern them.

Knotweed Not Safe

Knotweed Not Safe     ©Eve Jacobs-Carnahan            Photo credit: Paul Rogers Photography

Eve Jacobs-Carnahan is a mixed media artist whose knitted sculptures seek change by raising awareness and offering perspective, particularly on environmental issues. The thousands of pink “pussy” hats of the Women’s March on January 21 prompted Eve to wonder how one advances an important message such that people will listen and consider it, rather than turning a cold shoulder. In her pursuit of understanding how individuals can be globally motivated toward action, she realized the pussy hats exhibited an unparalleled and viral example of such solidarity.

Chemical Lawn Natural Lawn

Chemical Lawn Natural Lawn   ©Eve Jacobs-Carnahan   Photo credit: Paul Rogers Photography

She brought this idea to the public last week in her talk “Art As Action: Knitters Speaking Out”. Offering an examination of 7 art knitters* who convey ideas about social and political issues through their work, the presentation provided examples of the way these artists powerfully express their objectives via inspirationally accessible means. I think everyone left the hall considering how they too might communicate their views at a time when, for many, remaining quiet seems an untenable option.

India Tresselt

© India Tresselt

As a daily practice, Temari artist India Tresselt is working to bring awareness to her concerns via her aim to make one artwork of resistance for each of the first 100 days of the Trump administration. At the end of January India began posting those pieces of protest to her Instagram profile. She told her followers:

I am disheartened and angry and scared. It is very difficult to lead a normal life and engage in my normal activities when everything in me is screaming that This. Is. Not. Normal.  …I will continue to make pretty things because putting beauty out into the world has to make a difference, but I will also make things that aren’t pretty, because things are very definitely not pretty these days, and I will show all of this work here because I cannot stay silent.”

India Tresselt

©India Tresselt

I find comfort in the fact that beyond the daily dose of news in the papers, on television and on the radio, grassroots artists are taking productive action, speaking up against issues they see as wrong. Countering loneliness and fear, their voices work toward eliminating isolation while fostering solidarity. In deference to the adage “an image is worth a thousand words”, a visual message can be so much richer than traditional media, striking directly at the heart of an issue while connecting with an audience in a much more visceral way than pages of text or unending interviews with talking heads.

I celebrate all those who raise their voices creatively — as well as the fact that we have the freedom to do so.

*The list of 7 artists discussed in Eve’s talk:
Sabrina Gschwandtner
Katharine Cobey
Adrienne Sloan
Lisa Anne Auerbach
Cat Mazza
Liz Collins
Lindsay Obermeyer

We Won't Go Back

Women’s March, Montpelier, VT, January 21, 2017

One last thought: In his uplifting SNL monologue on January 21, Aziz Ansari jokingly observed, “Crazy couple of days, man. Yesterday Trump was inaugurated, today an entire gender protested against him”. I can’t let that go without referring to William Congreve’s often misappropriated quote from The Mourning Bride, closing line of Act III: “Heav’n has no rage, like love to hatred turn’d / Nor hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d”.