Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lovely for me

A strand of Dispersant, casting night shadows on the studio wall

In preparation for installing Dispersant in the Outeredge Project window in just a couple of weeks I am attaching my 400 crocheted, dyed and starched globules to fishing lines. I keep coming up short whenever I run out of the strips of old sheet and duvet cover that I use to carefully wrap each strand so they don't tangle in their boxes (five big boxes full so far).  So sometimes a strand of globules is left hanging in my studio for a day or two.  At night my bedside lamp is well positioned to cast lovely shadows through the globs. It is incredibly beautiful and I'm afraid I am the only person who will ever see them looking like this.

I feel sorry for (most) people who only get to see my finished art works in galleries because there are so very many moments of loveliness in the making and you will never know them as I do. I try and share as many work in progress (wip) photos here as I can, and often I continue to use wip photos after the piece is complete, because they remain my favourite images. But if I stopped and took a picture every time I noticed the transient loveliness under my hands I fear I would be even slower than the outrageously slow artist that I am anyway.  So most of my delight unfolds hour after hour in exclusive solitude.

Much of the loveliness can't be captured in photos, and I'm sorry, not matter how I try, my words are inadequate. How can I share with you the feeling of pulling floss through plump felted layers of blanket? The shushing of cotton and wool fibres stroking past each other until I sense just the right tension has been reached, the stitch is complete and the smooth point of the needle probes into the dense softness to begin the next stitch.  Over and over and over again, in a rhythm governed by the ever shortening length of thread, which begins as long as my arm can stretch from my lap and ends as short as the needle.  The trance is broken, I stitch the knot, snip the ends, pull another three strands of DMC off the card and thread the needle.

That's the pause when I am most likely to look beyond the row I am stitching to see the whole of what I've made so far.  Sometimes, especially in the long middle of a big project it's not lovely at all.  There's an awkward adolescence in which the charms of beginning are exhausted and the satisfaction of maturity seems a long way off. But I love the first stages of all my pieces as fiercely as a mother loves her newborn baby.  And coming to the end, seeing my vision made manifest the pieces look as intensely gorgeous to me as they ever will. More than the finished piece will, because once its finished I am stuck with all the little flaws and disappointments I have settled for.  No more potential, and to me, potential where the real beauty lies.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Blizzard Wins an Award

Blizzard (2011)
I won an award!  One of the four 2012 National Contemporary Fibre Arts Awards, the one sponsored by the Nelson City Council for 'the work which best embraces the theme of 'Water and/or Light'  The winning work is Blizzard, part of my Antarctica series.

The judges "felt that there was a lovely subtlety in the work, and that we loved the feeling of disappearing into the blizzard which the depth of the work gave.We also liked the contemporary interpretation of the quote, and the choice of fabric."

I am deeply moved by this Award.  I got a bit hysterical when I first found out, laughing uncontrollably as I conquered my surprise to let the news sink in. Then I started to cry a little. And then, because I had a busy day planned I had to just get on with what I had to do.  But every time I remember this exciting news I roll through another emotional response.   Here are three reasons why it is affecting me so deeply.

I've been a selected finalist in national art awards four times in the past four years but this is my first win.  It feels like an overwhelming acknowledgement of the persistent hard work I put into my art practice, and my commitment to pursuing new directions.  I'm very glad Blizzard is getting this recognition because it is a little different from the work I'm best known for, so I feel the Award is encouraging me to keep experimenting technically as I dig deeper conceptually.

Blizzard (detail)
I almost didn't enter Blizzard because I didn't know how I was going to pay for the courier fee.  Nelson is on  another island, and Blizzard is a big work, not heavy but a large awkward parcel that was expensive to send.   Unexpected dental costs a few months ago used up all my savings and put me on a back foot money-wise.  I sent up a prayer to the universe to sort my finances out before the credit card bill came due and sent the work to Nelson anyway.  The Award is a cash prize of $1500 which will cover all my current bills and make a huge difference over the next few months.  Thank you universe!

Last but not least, is the timing of this award for Blizzard. A century ago this month Captain Laurence 'Titus' Oates died in an Antarctic blizzard. His final words 'I'm just going outside and may be some time' is one of the most famous Antarctic quotes and I made it into Blizzard.  It sends shivers down my spine to have my own honour coincide with this anniversary. There are many celebrations and memorials taking place for Scott's Polar Party this year, and I feel that this Award gives me another connection with Oates and his companions.

The Awards show is called Changing Threads and is on at The Refinery Artspace in Nelson, New Zealand until 21 April.  Unfortunately I won't get a chance to go down and see it, but if you do, please write and tell me all about it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

400 Globules

One strand

This morning I finished crocheting the 400th globule for the Dispersant installation.  I think I started the first globule back in September when I was still thinking of them as spheres
Looking up
  for clouds.  It's been a long journey and its not quite finished yet.

Each of the crocheted globules is dyed in tea, then starched in home made wheat starch with a wool stuffing so they hold their sphere-ish shape as they dry. Then the wool stuffing is picked out and finally the globules are tied to fishing lines, ready to hang in the Outeredge Project window next month.Whew!

All together it works out to about 50 minute per globule from start to finish which that adds up to about 333 hours in total of making for this project.  Not quite as long as making My Antarctica, and definitely easier because of the modular aspect of it, but on a similar scale.

I had my first real crack at attaching the globules to their fishing lines this week.  I really like how they look, and can't wait to see them en masse, against the dark blue background.

I'm pleased to have finished the crocheting, especially because at one stage I'd fallen behind my production schedule and was worried I wouldn't get them all made in time. But as usual for me, its a bitter sweet sense of satisfaction because I always enjoy the process of making so much and now that fun part is over.

I'm not sure what I can do next as a portable project to occupy my hands when I'm on the bus, or visiting friends.  Without a little project in my bag I am prone to anxiety and impatience.

Shall I indulge in something purely personal as a break from my gallery oriented projects?  Helen Lehndorf's cute knitted necklace reminded me that I was keen to make a crocheted necklace last year but got caught up in making my globules instead.  
It has to be a very quick project because I am just *this* far away from deciding what my next modular making gallery project will be. Well actually I pretty much know, I just haven't decided yet how urgent it is. So I better hurry out to my storage unit and have a sort through my little stash of wool yarns.
A batch of starch ready to be rubbed into the globules

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Writing Bridges

Click on image to see more of the show
Sculpture & Object at Sanderson Gallery had a wonderful opening on Tuesday.  It's a gorgeous, coherent exhibition across a really diverse range of three dimensional art in many media. Ceramics, textiles, metal, paper and other materials all shared a sense of the makers touch and care in more-often-than-not quirky (and even humorous) pieces.

This is the second of five exhibitions I'm in over the next four months (the list is in the right column of the blog), the consequence of writing many proposals over the past six months.  I worked out the statistics this morning: I'm preparing and sending out an average of 1.6 proposals/applications/entries/submissions a month, with about a 50% success rate so far.

Momentum is building as I get more practised and confident at this side of the art business. The first proposal of this blitz took about a year of anguished procrastination, several weeks of drafting, interminable hours of assembling all the attachments and a firm push from a supportive friend.  The one I sent yesterday took me a few days of thinking, writing and sketching followed by an hour or so to put everything together.  It helps that my CV is up to date, the 'recent work' photos are assembled and suitably sized and my statements are honed.

I'm learning so much from this process as I cycle through it month after month.  I've noticed that my successful proposals are for situations which are a very good fit to the work I am doing right now.  So far most of the unsuccessfuls involved some stretching and bending for me or my work to meet the criteria.  I'm ambivalent enough about those to shrug off rejection with hardly a twinge of disappointment and a genuine interest in learning how to improve my chances as I pursue more passionately-desired goals in the future.

Each application involves reaching towards a situation which I aspire to and so I've started thinking of my proposals as bridges, my preparations as bridge building. The wider the gap between where I am now and the situation I'm applying for, the more carefully I need to build a sturdy, well-designed and sound structure to carry me towards my destination.

On Wairere Falls Track

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Icebergs in Auckland and Upper Hutt

I have Antarctica-themed work appearing in two group shows opening in March, one in Auckland and one in Upper Hutt (Wellington Region).  I'm really pleased because I so want Imagining Antarctica to have a wider audience beyond Hamilton. One of the nice consequences of my burst of productivity in 2011 is now I have an existing body of work to offer for group shows while I work towards upcoming solo shows and installations.

My Antarctica (Ross Island) Collection of Waikato Museum

Opening tonight at Expressions in Upper Hutt is a show called 'Common Threads' featuring contemporary artists who use woollen blankets in their practice.  The gallery has arranged to loan My Antarctica (Ross Island) from Waikato Museum's collection and I have sent down a couple of small icebergs.  This is a show I really wish I could see as I'm interested in so many of the artists. There's a floor talk on Sunday 29 April which would be fascinating. And the opening tonight features Words in Motion with poetry, story telling and music. I wonder if poet Apirana Taylor will recognise my name and remember knowing me as a little girl when he was a young poet published by my father?

Sanderson Gallery's Sculpture and Object group show 'brings together contemporary three-dimensional works from a selection of artists. Works include sculpture, installations, objects and ceramics.'  Other artists include Matt Moriarty and John Oxborough so I'm honoured to be in this company (and even more honoured that my Arch Berg is featured on the exhibition's front webpage).

Big Berg

I've sent up the  Big Berg and a number of smaller bergs from my Imagining Antarctica series. I'm going up to Auckland to attend the opening on Tuesday night, and I hope some of my Auckland friends will be there. (Opening starts at 5.30, please do come!).  I'm looking forward not only to the opening, but also to spending a weekday in central Auckland visiting galleries I haven't been to for a while.

I'll also be having a closer look at the Outeredge project window at Sanderson Gallery, where I will  install Dispersant next month.  So far I have stitched 358 globules, tea dyed 300 and starched 275. So I have a busy month to get all 400 finished and ready to hang by Easter's end.  You can be sure that I have a crochet hook and ball of cotton handy everywhere I go. If you see me in Auckland, ask and I'll show you my workbag!

Some starched globules waiting to have the wool stuffing picked out of them