Steal Like an Artist

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I stole that title from here. I think I can sum up the talk in a couple of phrases (but you should watch it anyway; good talk): nothing is original; not imitation, but transformation is flattery. I think I get much of my inspiration from nature, but I also love looking at all kinds of work from other artists. Not just felt artists, but all mediums. This past Thursday for Art Play Days, I was on my own, so I thought I’d try out an idea for adding surface texture to felt. I can’t remember where I saw this, and it is a simple technique. It just involves adding lightly felted balls cut in half to a layer just below the surface layer. Again, not having much time I added this to another little tea light bowl/holder. I wasn’t particularly found of how it turned out, but it’s a technique worth considering for future work. Experimenting without worrying about the final product is something I should do more of !

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A few links for inspiration :

Teapot

Wall art

Felt

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Finally, a bowl for my workshop done in under two hours !

$100 socks

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I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent, but bear with me, it all comes around to art in the end (doesn’t everything?). I remember my mom teaching me to knit when I was younger. I also remember not sticking with it for too long. But, about eight or nine years ago I gave it another try. Mostly to make small toys for my children; the oldest of whom was about four and the next in line one. A few years passed, and I wanted to branch into something more practical. However, I still didn’t have much time, especially as we now had 3 children! Socks seemed like a good idea. Knitting was kind of passé when my mom was raising us, but it has made a comeback and you can find all kinds of trendy knitting stores now with lots of designer yarns. There are some pretty cool possibilities for socks. I was hooked. Not that I’m knitting at all hours, but in the winter when the evenings are long and dark, and the gardens are all frozen, it makes for a relaxing, meditative kind of time. I like that I don’t have to think too much about what I’m doing; no creative angst.

Right, you’re still wondering what this has to do with art. Well, first off, a funky pair of hand knit socks are like a little work of art to me. They certainly make me smile when I’m wearing them, as much as passing in front of one of my favourite paintings. Of course they’re a bit more ephemeral than an oil painting, but maybe that is a bit of their charm. The point that I really want to make though, is about how we assign value to things, and art in particular. The material cost for making a pair of socks is about $10. That alone already makes them pretty expensive socks. I like to knit with sock yarn, which is quite thin and produces a nice form fitting sock that I can actually fit into to my boots, and even some of my shoes. It’s hours of knitting; easily six, probably closer to eight. If I was paying myself even only minimum wage, then these socks end up close to $100. Who pays a hundred dollars for socks ? I wouldn’t. So why spend my time ? To start with, I can end up with something of value, made in minutes stolen here or there, or late evenings on the couch with my husband. But most of the value really is in the intangible qualities; the effort in the production, the quiet joy in the process, the gratitude of family and friends for a meaningful gift. These things are all of value to me, but how would they be conveyed to a stranger if I were selling these socks ? What value beyond the physical would they ascribe to a pair of socks ? Not much I think. Especially when you can pick something up from the nearest chain store for a few dollars.

All of which brings me (finally) to the question: How do we put a value on art ? I’ve seen formulas that take your material costs, add so much for hours of work,  and then multiply by some factor so as to include things like marketing and insurance. That gets you a price, but does it tell you anything about what it ‘s value to someone else is ? As mentioned before, I feel art’s appeal lies mostly in the intangible, or to corrupt a common phrase, the value is in the eye of the beholder. As an artist, I have to figure out how to communicate the value (if it has any) of my work to the rest of the world.   Of course, the world might communicate back, that like my $100 dollar socks, it’s just not worth what I think it is. I still haven’t made peace with the idea of selling art (although I happily buy it when I can afford to do so), and this has derailed previous forays into  making art a more “serious” part of my life. Maybe I’ll figure it out this time. Maybe I’ll just keep knitting socks.

PS

For all kinds of parallel thoughts along these lines I’d recommend the much more polished writing available here:

Ben Hewitt: Who Can Say, Free and Easy, Whole Lotta Good Livin

or the inspiring performance here: Amanda Palmer The Art of Asking

And this says something to me about man vs machine: Glas

A Third Space

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I’ve been enjoying this blog for the past few weeks: Ben Hewitt. Ben is a writer and he and his family are homesteaders and homeschoolers. I’m having chicken envy !

In one of Ben’s recent posts he talks about how his kids passions are totally self motivated and how he and his wife believe in “presence not praise. He’s an eloquent writer; it’s well worth the read.

I’d like to throw in another possibility in addition to presence : collaboration. When we  are making connections with our children ( or anyone ) by finding and sharing areas of common interest then our presence can become even more meaningful. There is no need for one person to direct or be the authority. Everyone’s presence is truly valued. Sometimes it can be easy to fall into the habit where we’re all inhabiting our own little circles. Find something where you and your child’s passions can overlap – then you’ve created a third space !

Workshop Take 2

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Yesterday was Art Play Day, and Andrea agreed to be my guinea pig for timing my workshop project. She only ended up having about 1 1/2 hours for felting, which left her bowl unfinished. I have 2 1/2 hours for the workshop, so I think I should be able to get the participants through making a plain bowl. I really wanted to do something a little more interesting, but my second idea that I worked on while Andrea was here took me about 3 hours to complete. I really like the look, but all the holes require extra attention to felt the edges properly. Oh for a longer day of felting …

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My favourite green.

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Works for Halloween too !

Picture Perfect

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My 14 year old has been doing all my photos for the art work on the blog so far. Big thanks ! He’s also been off taking lots of pictures of his own. Some of my favourites …

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Love the colours in these two,

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and the captured motion of the water in these.

Workshop Work-up

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I’m presenting a felting workshop for WomynSpirit Festival soon, so I thought I should probably do a sample and time it. This idea will have to be simplified as the handles took up too much time. I have to remember that it always takes longer to do a piece in a class setting. Tomorrow for Art Play Days, I’ll experiment on Andrea and see if she can finish in the required time. I love the creative energy of working in groups !

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10174490093_ed65a5777d_bFelt vessel with drift wood and copper wire accents.

All in Good Time

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Trying to grow more time for my art is one of the motivations for this blog. That might seem counter intuitive at first; I’m wasting time writing this instead of doing art! But, I’ve always worked better when there is a bit of pressure, not too much mind you, but a bit of external commitment can get me going.

Where are all the great collaborative art projects then ? They are percolating through my brain, but around here everything takes time and must compete for its spot in the lineup. Three homeschooled children are usually priority number one, and then there is the garden; the fall compost heap that is supposed to be hot and cooking, is just sitting there mocking me. Remedial action will have to be taken this weekend. Then there is food, and endless dishes to do, and an attempt at keeping a handle on the mess. Excuses, excuses !! However, we strive for balance, and while I’m trying to give art more weight, I don’t want to throw other things off. Hopefully, I’ll have something to share soon.

I’ll end with this this poem by a favourite author. While it appeals to my romantic idea of an artist, I’m not sure it’s the path to quiet splendor that I’m looking for.

Advice to Myself by Louise Erdrich

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.