Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Daily Art Project as a Dialogue: Daily Mail

I started reading Kathleen Loomis' blog just about a year ago. I'd met Kathy for the first time at a Masters Composition Class at Nancy Crow's barn in Ohio in 2008. At that time I had been filled awe and respect about her work - after all, she was the first person ever to machine quilt one of Nancy Crow's quilts! At the barn, I got to work on the table next to Kathy, and although we were both caught up in our own work, we had enough time to look at what the other was doing, and I was really impressed with the pieces Kathy was working on, and also with the way Kathy was talking about her art.
After that, we had a few contacts by e-mail, and finally found out that we were both going to be part of Color Improvisations, soon opening at Karlsruhe, Germany.
A few weeks before the first opening of Color Improvisations in Stuttgart on July 12, 2011, I then found out about Kathy's blog via a hunt from Bonnie Bucknam and, not having had any real experience with blogs before, started reading it backwards. Slowly I made my way back to January when she had started writing it, reading a few entries every time I had a chance. About two weeks before the opening in Stuttgart I had finally found out how Kathy got started on her Art-a-Day project, which she regularly posted about, and which had had a most inspiring effect on me. Knowing that I would meet Kathy in Stuttgart a thought occurred to me which then slowly evolved over the next two weeks: what would it be like for two people to join in such a daily art project in an exchange? What kind of dialogue would it turn into?
It took me a lot of courage to tell Kathy about this idea at all because I was a little bit afraid she would think I would be trying to steal her idea. But it turned out she was very open to my initial suggestions, and within less than a complete half hour we had come up with a handwritten "contract" about our joint project which would be called "Daily Mail":

'Contract' for joint "Daily Mail Project",
signed July 10, 2011

Starting on September 15, 2011, we would commit for a period of six months, each of us sending the other one an e-mail every day, with either a picture, or a piece of text, or a little explanation. Themes were allowed to develop.
During the two months between our signing of the agreement and the actual beginning I started taking many more pictures than I ever had before, trying to stock up on pictures because I was slightly afraid that at some point I might actually run out of current pictures to send. Little did I know about the dynamics that this project would get caught up in!
I was lucky early on, too, to find two instances of a motif  that made it possible to open and end the project with a pun on Kathy's blog title "Art with a Needle", as I could name them "Art with a Noodle":

Daily Mail, September 15: Art with a Noodle

 Living in Europe means that I was six hours ahead of Kathy, and I got to start first.
Early on I sent a picture of our local cemetery - which got Kathy started on a long though intermittent row of cemeteries from all over the world:

Daily Mail September 16: Cemetery

 And that was only the beginning of it all.

See future posts for further reports on the project, and read about Kathy's side of the story here!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Daily Oak meets Inspirational pictures - tree impressions

As I have been taking my daily pictures of a tree for my Daily Oak project, I have also been taking a different kind of look at trees overall. This even increased after I amended my rules and am looking for 'guest trees' on days when I am not able to go and do my Daily Oak visit. While this posting is - hopefully - being published by blogger, because I will be in the US from April 8 through 27, I want to share a few tree impressions that have accumulated in my files.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fused or pieced?

One of the most frequently asked questions I heard when people were looking at some of the quilts in my series „Play of Lines“ was the question „Is that fused, or is it pieced?“
Here is an example:

Play of Lines IX (2009),  72 inch x 73 ½ inch
For better view, here is a detail shot of the upper left hand section:

Play of Lines, Detail
Many viewers did not want to believe that the lines which appear to be crossing over and under each other in a sort of weave can actually be sewn, not fused, and a lot of people said they would like to be able to sew curves like that. I really don’t think it’s that hard to sew curves like that, but I do admit that it took me a number of years, and several UFOs (or even NFOs), to get to this point.

I was inspired to start the series Play of Lines when my then 2 ½ year old son started his first drawings, which were, quite typical for that age and stage of development, line drawings of a rather abstract nature. Probably the kind of pictures that Picasso must have meant when he said it took him a lifetime of painting to get to the stage of ability that a child has – I don’t know which were the exact words he used and can’t give a quote on this, but it’s one of the anecdotes one remembers being told about him.

Here is Play of Lines I, an interpretation of the first of my son’s pictures which gave me the idea that I could use them as inspiration:

Play of Lines I (2008), 110 x 152 cm
It started out as a copy of his choice of colors, and follows his original design rather closely, though the free-hand cutting with a rotary cutter, and the challenge of sewing things together in a feasible way do make for some changes in the execution, or the length of a line.

For some quilts later in the series I have used paper templates instead of the intuitive free-hand motion, because I wanted to achieve the perfect illusion of lines or bands being woven into each other. That effect is rather difficult to achieve when free-hand cutting – or at least I find it basically impossible. Here is a picture of Play of Lines XIX.

Play of Lines XIX (2010), 117 x 119 cm
For this quilt I did not use one of my son’s drawing as inspiration, but I have kept all of his early childhood drawings and am planning to use some more. For Play of Lines XIX I made a preliminary study of the section of the design which I thought would be most difficult to quilt, Play of Lines XVIII:
Play of Lines XVIII, 40 x 40 cm
However, when sewing No. XIX up, it turned out that this section in the lower right hand corner  was much more difficult to assemble:

Play of Lines XIX, Detail
I ended up stitching this section by hand – an occasion when I was quite happy that I had once worked through Jinny Beyer’s book on Quiltmaking by Hand, as I have already mentioned in my post on my UFO-project that was continued for a bit while my family went on a week’s holiday in early March.

While I was stitching my UFO in March, I also came up with the solution for my difficulties getting started with my entry for this year’s competition in Alsace, the topic of which is „Tangle“. I had easily enough come up with an idea for another Play of Lines, and the design was constantly hovering in my head, but I had been wondering about the intricacies of sewing it all together. This one was going to be so much more complicated than the earlier ones, and I was hesitating before taking it to the machine. But when I realized that I would be needing a bit of work to take on my three-week-trip to the United States, and had just had that recollection that hand-stitching wasn’t so bad after all, I got going. Within three days my design had been drawn up, fabrics chosen, auditioned, rejected and decided on, and all the parts cut out.

Auditioning fabrics for
Play of Lines XX-something

Final color selection
Cutting parts
I  don’t expect to have it completely finished when I return home from the States, but at least the most difficult sections will have been assembled, and perhaps I can then finish the remaining seams by machine.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Art of Deconstruction

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had the pleasure of regularly passing a fascinating site of deconstruction when I was on my way to Daily Oak. This wonderful place has by now been completely levelled, in fact they have already started preparations to build something new on the site. The whole process of deconstruction took approximately six weeks, and it went from this stage – taken on the second day, when I realized that this might be worth documenting -

to this.

In Germany there is a law that public building by state orgnaizations has to calculate 1% of the building costs as money that will be invested in a piece of art connected with this building, and many communities have been abiding by this law, too. However, this was a private firm of deconstruction at work. Therefore it all was fleeting, a wonderful sight of one day most likely would not be there on the next day anymore, so you had to be quick, and you could not wait for better lighting or other such minor aspects.
In the first post about the wonderful things I saw I called the pieces which I presented on the blog „could have been art“. I still think that’s a wonderful title, although it doesn’t really matter what they are called. Because these pictures are part of a documentation of the art of deconstruction! Here is a small selection of some more inspiring sights over the weeks.

Dinosaurs at work?
Fragile steps leading where?

Shadows on the wall

Trying to be a pattern

Dangling pieces

Composition with circles

Under ground
I never got my courage up to actually go in and ask the guys whether I could have something of the debris. But I am thinking more seriously about that class on welding!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Street photographer recoverd from boxes - Vivian Maier

When I started writing this blog I had no idea it would be the beginning of a journey of discovery, namely the discovery of numerous (to me) new artists. Not that I would claim I know each and every single artist there is in the world, but looking for interesting topics to write about certainly has sharpened my antennae. Of these discoveries the most exciting ones that are worth sharing on the blog are certainly those where so-far unknown or long-forgotten artists get rediscovered.
The re-excavation of Marg Moll’s Dancer was such an event, and recently another discovery -for me - has happened. (Certainly I am not responsible for the actual (re)discoveries of these artists, since all I do is react to some newspaper article. But I’m glad they don’t just pass me by without me noticing! And it is nice to have a medium to share these with others.)
So here's the latest one: An article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung fascinated me: in „The Unknown“, the feuilleton wrote about the opening of an exhibition with works by Vivian Maier in Hamburg. 

French-American Vivian Maier ( 1926 - 2009 ) worked as a nanny, but really was a street photographer who must have spent virtually all her spare time photographing street scenes.
The most unbelievable – and puzzling? – part of her story is the fact that obviously she never cared to see the photos she took in a developed state. Her legacy was sold at a furniture and antiques auction, tens of thousands of negatives/film rolls in boxes. Luckily, they were bought by John Maloof, who was trying to write a book about that part of Chicago where he lives. He has been lifting the veil and secret about Vivian Maier, and is regularly posting photos from the innumerable negatives on a blog and is planning to have a book published with Vivian Maier’s photos.
And he has managed to get her work out into the public. On the blog you can find links to the media coverage that has taken place so far, and there was a show of her works in Chicago from January til early April as well as the show in Hamburg
Another significant part of Vivian Maier's works/collection have been bought by Jeff Goldstein, who has organized an exhibition of works to be opened in Chicago on April 15. Information can be found here.
And, of course, multiple pictures can be seen of you search the net.

First, I was mostly fascinated with the story – why did she never care to have her pictures developed? Even if she did not want to go public with them, but to keep taking tens of thousands of pictures without ever seeing how they turned out is amazing. But when I started doing my little research – and you can easily find a lot of stuff on her on the net now – I was even more fascinated by the pictures she took. What an eye she had for the perfect shot! How lucky that this kind of artistic legacy was acquired by someone who is making it accessible to others. It could well have happened that it all was lost! This way, at least she has left a shadow, one of the ways she kept including herself in her pictures (as can be seen here)...

Friday, April 8, 2011

...not quite - but I will be traveling in the US for almost three weeks starting today. If Blogger understood what I was trying to do recently, a few posts will appear while I am away. I will be back personally after April 28.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Going to market: Textile Market in Erding

Last Sunday I went public with my hand-dyed fabrics at a one-day textile market in Erding, north of Munich.
The day began early, leaving home just after seven o’clock. It was a one-hour trip to get there, and I wanted to be there well on time for a leisurely set-up before the doors of Erding City Hall opened at 10 a.m. Just after the start of my journey I had the pleasure of seeing some very nice fields of morning fog. If I hadn’t been going somewhere with a destination in mind, I could have taken hundreds of photos:

A friend of mine had commented a couple of weeks ago at how astonished she was that I was handling this market business in such an organized manner. To be honest, I myself was impressed with myself about that, too. I had actually pulled out the calendar early in the year, marking clearly at which point which fabric selection had to be finished – after all, the fabric club’s March collection was shipped two weeks ago, too. And, even more surprising, I had managed to stick to that plan. Who would have thought...
Part of the diligence might have been due to further travel plans, too. I am leaving for a three-week-trip to the US on Friday, and I was scheduled to take part in a computer class out of town on Thursday, for which had signed up before the trip to the US came up. (Luckily, that class was cancelled today due to lack of participants. A gift of two full days!) It used to be no problem at all, only a few years ago, to do that: plan many things in quick succession to each other and still not feel stressed about it. I realized that that’s not possible anymore. I don’t consider myself old, but I learned this time that it is more sensible to give oneself a little more leeway inbetween! It doesn’t all have to happen within one week.

But the market planning and organization went really well indeed. The fabrics had been completely dyed a few weeks ago, stored on cardboards and placed in the boxes which were the means of transport and also the medium of presentation, to shorten set-up. So putting it all together was simple indeed and could be handled by myself. I knew the premises because I had been to the market before.
This was my stall before I started to set it up:

 And less than two hours later, just before the market opened, it looked like this:

Although nobody signed up for a membership with the fabric-club right there, I’m satisfied with the results. Of course, I could have sold even more fabrics, but I figure since I was there for the first time, it also takes a little time to build something like a clientele. Many people were interested, especially the snow-dyes were in demand and received attention, and the wide colour-range of the hand-dyed unis received a lot of praise. What is left of them I will now put up for sale on the website, too.

And I will definitely give it a second shot in September, if I can get a stall again. Some of the other vendors said that the September date draws quite a few more visitors. Never give up after a first attempt!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Daily Oak, March report

Daily Oak statistics:
Number of days missed: 6
Guest tree pictures: 6
Number of days with more than one visit: 6
Number of visits with more than the two standard perspectives taken: 17
Total number of pictures taken: 103

First of all, a friend of mine who has recently begun a career as geo-cacher and has therefore acquired a mobile GPS has supplied me with the exact geographical coordinates of Daily Oak: N 48 Grad   26.28,77    E 012 Grad  20.46,06
I found that Daily Oak has a bit of a face (not sure that it is a happy one, though):

I took pictures of the tree with a waxing moon in the middle of the month, but they were not taken from the standard perspectives.

Here is the view from the backside which I promised in my last report:

And here are two particularly nice pictures, one of each of the two standard perspectives:

Perspective b, March 2, 5:08 p.m.

Perspective a, March 14, 1:49 p.m.
This month was troubled towards the end by the fact that my camera had to be sent off for repair and was gone for an entire week. I did have a different digital camera, with a different lense, and I kept going to see the tree, however, I had to alter my position when taking the pictures slightly to get a similar view on the photos. I was very happy when my camera came back yesterday and I could resume my routine as usual.
This month has also found me beginning to do a little more research on oaks, which I did not really know a whole lot about, I have to admit. I found out that oaks are the most important kind of tree in the northern hemisphere, and that they are the kind of tree which offers a habitat for the largest number of insects and other species, making every oak a little world of organisms in itself. They tend to get very old, and the oldest reported tree in Europe is indeed an oak in Bulgaria. You can even find a list of the oldest oaks in Germany on Wikipedia
I remember that I have visited the so-called thousand-year-oaks in northern Germany („tausendjährige Eichen in Ivenack“) and was very impressed. Daily Oak is definitely not quite so old, but I have decided that I will try to find out approximately how old it is.
One day I took several photos of the trunk and bark and other parts of the tree, and when you look at it from a closer perspective you can see that it has had difficult times. 

The Annual Report on the Situation and Health of German Forests (Waldschadensbericht) was recently published, and it states that about half of the oaks in Germany are not faring well. Perhaps this one belongs amongst them? The bark looks pretty well, though:

We’ll see as the year progresses.

The six guest trees will be featured in a separate post.