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magic carpet

"Our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future." -- Charles F. Kettering

This year for an outreach art program I teach, I am taking the children on an adventure along the Silk Road.  The inspiration for my lesson plans derived from a summer camp I co-taught with an incredibly talented and imaginative team of teachers.  Our programming was tied into Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project which is based in Chicago for the year.  The project's mission is to foster creativity while celebrating local cultures and global connections. In a xenophobic world, I can't think of a more important mission. 

So far the children have made dragon puppets, geometric tiles, paper lanterns, fans, and tanagram prints.  This afternoon they begin painting carpets - carpets where they can curl up with a good book and let their imaginations soar.   They are so excited.  "You mean like the carpet in Aladdin?!"  A Disney movie reference is not ideal, yet it does give me a common starting point for introducing the children to the rich tradition of carpet making and its importance in trade on the Silk Road, while also introducing them to Persian mythology. 

The above image is of a painting by Viktor Vasnetsov. The Flying Carpet (1880). Oil, canvas. 165x297 cm. On exhibit at the Nizhny Novgorod Art Museum.  It is included in the public domain of both Russia and the United States and was copied from Wikimedia Commons.

kilbourn park


"In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous." -- Aristotle

For the past few months one of my goals has been to reduce my time spent each day in commuting to work.  For one, it wastes gas and is therefore expensive, but more to the point, it is an incredible waste of life.  I had some amazing teaching positions throughout the Chicago region, but when I weekly racked up 500 miles of driving and a minimum of 10 hours in the car, I knew I had some decisions to make.  So with a bit of trepidation, I let go of most positions and have been concentrating my energies in the studio.  But what do you do when a dream teaching position is handed to you on a plate or should I say garden spade?

I spent this afternoon going over schedules with Kirsten, the greenhouse coordinator for Kilbourn Park, which is a nifty 5 block walk from my house.  Next year I will begin teaching a series of garden art / art garden workshops in (IN!) the greenhouse.  I am so excited.  Imagine being able to share my passions for art and gardening at the same time!  If only I could find a way to throw cooking into the mix, then I would be set.  Classes will be offered once a month initially with two a month next fall.  There will be adult programming and workshops for families.  To register for upcoming classes this January and February, take a look at Kilbourn Park's website.

And to see more beautiful botanical stamps....

yellow pencil


"The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch of eraser -  in case you thought optimism was dead." --  Robert Brault

The ubiquitous yellow pencil is a fall thing.  It always reminds me of September and school.  But to French businessman Jean-Pierre Alibert, it was to be a Chinese memento.

Monsieur Alibert was looking for gold in the eastern region of Siberia when instead he happened across shiny pebbles of graphite.  He traced the source of these pebbles to Botogol Peak, the richest stream of blacklead.  The peak is just a few kilometers from the Chinese border.

To 19th century American marketers, these few kilometers were inconsequential.  Everyone wanted a "Chinese" pencil.  By 1890, all mass-produced pencils in America were painted yellow.  Yellow wasn't the color of fall leaves or school buses, it was the color of Manchu imperial robes, the very symbol of the romanticized Orient.  I wonder what the color was of the original mass-produced pencil in China.

To learn more about the origin of colors across the globe, read Victoria Finlay's book Color: A Natural History of the Palette.  It makes me crave mixing my own paints from scratch.   Maybe I will start with gouache.

Thank you to Ms. Finlay for inspiring today's entry and to stock.xchng.hu for the photo.

touch of fun


"Let each man exercise the art he knows." -- Aristophanes

I know the piece for Interlochen may need the visual connector, but fun has ruled the day.   I view the making of these mittens as sketches, each one a study in color and texture.  The small format allows me to quickly try a range of combinations, especially those I normally would not try.  I always teach my students to think of the piece from beginning to end prior to making, but sometimes one needs to jump right into the work to see what will happen.  Serendipity at its finest.

I posted a video in my "widget box" which is just a tad bit scary if you are a knitter (though I would add crocheter to the category).  Watch it and tell me what you think.   

finding the way


"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."  -- Jack London

Some days the art flows easily from brain to fingertips and other days it gets lost on the Underground.   

These last few days I have been busy knitting mittens.  I need approximately 20 for a performance I will be doing in January at the Interlochen Center for the Arts .   Students at the high school will be assisting me both in the making of the work and the performance itself. Remember how your mother clipped your mittens to your coat so they would not get lost in the daily shuffle of elementary school?   The students are making the mitten connectors.  The idea is to not lose their friendships as life separates them from school into college and then onto work and family.  How do you keep those connections made when only 16?

My concern is the visual aspect of the performance.  Do I continue to create unique pairs of mittens, each one a different color and texture, or do I create them the same so they act as the visual unifier?  My instinct tells me I need them to each be the same, as the students' "connectors" will be bright and bold, full of texture.  And yet, I enjoy the process of making them for the sake of making them.  Should artists follow their joy or their intellect?   As these thoughts reverberate, I find myself slowing down, looking for directions.  Should this next pair be the same or should I go ahead and grab that blue merino?   I don't know.

patty cake


"In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary."  --  Aaron Rose

I am feeling rather smug today.  Despite being rundown with a cold, I managed to figure out how to add video to my blog.  Check it out.  It's not perfect, but a start.  I have been wanting to do this for several years, first on my website, but now on my blog.  The possibilities for recording and posting snippets of my work in performance seem endless.  So stay tuned!  Don't change that dial!

As to the image posted today, fall has to be my favorite season.  Late afternoon sunlight kisses all in its path.  The red columns are topiaries of chrysanthemums.  A PVC pipe is drilled with holes and filled with soil.  Plants are plugged into the various holes and as they grow they cover the pipe.   I want to try it this spring with pansies.  A great tall splash of color to declare the end of winter.

Polvo Opening

"Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern."  --  Alfred North Whitehead

Last night's opening was immensely gratifying.  I wanted to do a jig while shouting "I did it!  I did it!"  I used this exhibition as an excuse to force myself past some aesthetic walls to finally link my beadwork with my knitting.   Response from all who came was positive, truly positive. 

I am giving myself this weekend to rest (I sound like Lauren Bacall which isn't a bad way to go if you have laryngitis.), but can't wait to start Monday with further developing this series.

Note to self -  I need to learn more about photography.  The above shot isn't as spectacular as I would like it to be. 



Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature.  --  Cicero

My exhibtion "Odds" opens this evening at Polvo, an alternative gallery located in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.   A photo of the above piece was printed in this week's Chicago Reader!

If you've looked at my website, then you know I work in a series format, each series with a particular theme.    The underlying theme to all my work may summed up in one word - healing.  "Odds" bridges two series "Woman's Work" and "Chirugi".   

As is my custom, I find my way through the study of linguistics.  The English verb "to knit" is rooted in both German and Middle English.  The German word "strikke" is the origin for the meaning "to make a fabric with knitting needles or knitting machine," but the definitions "to draw together" as in one's eyebrows and "to mend" as in the fusing of bones derive from the Middle English verb "knytt". 

A knitted fabric is one in which each loop is dependent on all the others.  If a stitch is dropped or snagged, the fabric develops a run.  When controlled, this run may be used for decorative purposes, but otherwise it will undermine the fabric's structure.  My new "skins" or garments reflect the impact of mental and physical dis / ease on the body.  They investigate the point at which the decorative element crosses over to the grotesque and uncanny, when a beauty mark becomes a tumor or a tucked wrinkle becomes a distortion.

If you don't make it to the exhibtion, you will need to wait a few weeks to see images from this new series.  I worked on the exhibition until the last possible moment, so the pieces were photographed just two days ago.  If you would like a copy of the brochure, send me an email with your address and I will send it to you.  Catalogs from my recent exhibition at Carthage College are also available. 

I want to thank Jesus, Miguel, and Elvia of Polvo for making this opportunity possible for me.  A special thanks also to my former studio assistant Sam Bennett who helped me stay on task throughout the summer. 

This exhibition is partially supported by a Community Arts Assistance Program grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Illinois Arts Council Access Program.   

* Photo by Sanders Visual Images.