art retreats, Blather, depression/anxiety

Art retreat and class mania

I must remember to talk to my therapist this week about how crazy it makes me to see all the art retreat workshops scheduled for the following year that I cannot attend! Seriously, this is what I opened our first session with. I think I know what she will say but I need to hear it, repeatedly.

There are three that are definitely on my schedule: the Leslie Marsh/Kim Beller book workshop “Ancient Wisdom” that Susanne and I switched to March after Hurricane Florence caused so much damage and ongoing pollution from the flooding coming downstream on Topsail Island, and Focus on Book Arts in Forest Grove, Oregon, which happens every two years and I will manage to attend it one way or another even if I have to have a car wash and a bake sale on the street every weekend. (That won’t happen, HA! I barely cook for us, and any sweets coming out of my kitchen will get gobbled up before ever making it out the door. And, have you seen my car? Not good advertising.) We also plan to have a retreat for Tapestry Weavers South in Elkin, North Carolina, next September but that is well within driving distance and shouldn’t cost too much.

I suppose that there will not be time or money for any other art retreats. Sandy doesn’t care to come to these (although I think he would enjoy taking a class) and we need to do a trip together or it is not fair to him. Plus, I really enjoy our trips together. We travel together well and it is great for our marriage and will give us memories to talk about when we are in the nursing home.

Here’s another development. I get approached occasionally to teach a workshop or class and I nearly always turn it down. I am not confident enough to teach and my people skills are raggedly for sure. My past experience in teaching made me miserable. I couldn’t figure out how to balance the needs of those who wanted to move faster and those who needed almost constant confirmation of what they were doing and re-explanations. I did these for free to lower my anxiety and make sure these folks were getting their money’s worth in the sense that I was using them for guinea pigs in trying to decide what the timing should be and what worked and didn’t work.

Each time I never offered the class again, and I swore to myself I would not teach again. Then, because I craved the same kind of group experience at home that I travel to art retreats for, I tried hosting a tapestry “play group” in which I emphasized that I would not be teaching but I could offer guidance. What happened was that some people showed up with incredible ideas and work and self-initiative and others showed up with unfeasible ideas that would not work for a beginning weaver, or looms that they wanted to use that I was not familiar with and were not good choices for the kind of tapestry they wanted to do. It was not their fault – they were trying to do it on their own as I asked but it made me very anxious. One guy showed up with an advanced design that I would be challenged by myself, no loom, and followed me around with his cell phone talking about it while I tried to help others. I didn’t get to play with tapestry myself, which was the WHOLE PURPOSE of the group. So I ditched that idea.

My friend Amanda, who owns our local downtown yarn and fiber supply shop, Gate City Yarns, is putting together more classes for the coming months/year with a group of fiber teachers and asked me to participate. Because I really like this group of folks, who tend to be on the funky/edgy spectrum, I went to the meeting last Sunday afternoon, even in the throes of intense anxiety, and was part of the discussion. What I may do, if I can get my shit together and test this idea out BEFORE I do it, is do a two-part workshop where we weave a small tapestry to use as/on a book cover and make a planner for the coming year. If I do it, it will probably be the weekend after Christmas, since I have the whole week off beforehand to make myself crazy worrying about it. But the difference is that Amanda would support me – I would not be on my own – and she is very sympathetic to my situation. I’d be more inclined at this point to do something with books or fabric, but it needs to tie in with what Amanda has to sell, understandably.

Gosh, I think that I might adore Amanda.

I’m thinking that I will provide signatures printed with a light dot-grid pattern and have them punched and ready to stitch, and then the students do a simple long-stitch binding with old book covers or bookboard in class. Then we could attach the tapestry to the book covers and embellish or weave on the spine binding. People could get started on the tapestry in the first class and we could bind the book. Then they could finish weaving the tapestry at home, and we could cut it off at the next class, finish the edgings, and attach it to the book cover(s), then play with a closure and weaving on the spine, if there was time.

It’s crucial that I figure out the timing of this and leave it open enough that if someone can’t finish in class they know enough to finish it at home. Also, I’d probably need to provide some of the supplies such as frame or foamcore board looms and awls and needles and waxed linen for the book part.

You might ask, “Laurie, why do you continually return to an idea that you obviously do not enjoy?”

And I would say, “Retirement, my friend. I am staring at the possibility of retirement in the next ten years and it would be good to have developed some kind of way that I could make a little cash for groceries and supplies and travel and enjoy it. If I practice and learn instead of giving up, maybe I WILL enjoy it. Who can say until I try? I have a studio art degree. I’ve taken more workshops and classes than I can count at this point. If I push through this, my choices might open up into a world of delight. If not, then I haven’t really lost anything.”

Plus, I have a very good job that exhausts me mentally. This is not the fault of my department. It is the fault of being employed by a large organization that is ultimately controlled by politicians who think that education should be run like a business, with people in the higher levels making decisions without understanding or caring about the consequences at the lower levels. At one time, I swore that I would not work for a large org again. However, there is a security issue that can’t be denied, especially for someone with my anxiety problems. I daydream about early retirement constantly but it is unlikely that I’ll be able to do it. Our hope continues to depend on the lottery!

Amanda has a stitch and bitch style gathering that meets on Friday nights but I am usually so wrung out by Friday evening (or half-drunk from beers with faculty after a late afternoon department meeting) that I come home and crash for the night. I think that I will make an effort to put these nights as a definite recurring requirement for my schedule from now on and try not to make excuses not to attend. Often the anxiety build-up at the end of the weekday gives me a headache and I use it as an excuse to crash and burn at night. This is why I only get stuff done on the weekends, for the most part.

Tomorrow afternoon I am going to a Triangle Book Arts gathering in Raleigh. I am going. I am going to this group event. I know that it will be fun. It is an open studio, and I am going to work on a prototype for the book part of this class for Gate City Yarns. Also, I’ve been reading about dot journaling and I want one for myself.

I get this way EVERY YEAR when art retreat announcements begin coming out. CRAZEEEEEEEE. Oh well. Time for another cup of coffee and I’m going to work on printing out these dot grid papers.

art, art retreats, Art-is-You, book arts

Talk Story – Eat Cake Create – Art Is You Movement – Stamford, CT

There are so many different names for this collection of superb art retreats organized by Sallianne McClelland. I tend to still call all of them Art Is You because I’m a stubborn old gal, but this particular one was called Talk Story in Stamford, Connecticut. When I saw that Sharon Payne Bolton was teaching and her class was scheduled over our two day fall break at the university where I work, I busted out my tired old credit card and headed north. Here’s a link to the blog post about my previous class with Sharon.

I did not take many photos of the class or the event itself, and that for me is a good sign, because my brain is totally in the present moment and focused on what makes me happy. And God knows we women needed a lot of that last week. Another great feature of Sallianne’s retreats is that she feeds us well. The Sheraton hotel food was excellent. Most importantly, though, is that these retreats are welcoming communities. Many of the attendees have taken classes with the Art Is You family (and they do seem like a family) for years and have developed lasting friendships across the states. This was my first AIY retreat on the East Coast, and Sallianne had pronounced it the last one in this location. There was such sadness and outcry over this that she decided to schedule another one in Stamford in 2020. In the meantime, she has other West Coast and midwest locations in play, and I hear that she might do one in the south.

This art retreat addiction, especially for Art is You and Focus on Book Arts, is the only thing that makes me regret not being rich.

Anyway, the class that I took from Sharon Payne Bolton was called HERTEL, based on a box structure that she designed. One of the boxes had a piece of book cover with the word HERTEL on it and she has a story about someone buying it from her for a good friend of his with the last name Hertel. It was a two day class and she had not taught it before so she was nervous. She is SO dedicated to providing everything you needed, right down to tools and aprons, so that you can come to her class and not bring anything at all if you wish, which is super great when you are flying. I was able to fly with only carry-on luggage. Plus, instead of having us cut all those little pieces of bookboard and paper text blocks for little books, she did it.

I told her that if I could swing it financially, I would be her groupie and follow her around like a stray puppy.

We built the box on the first day, and spent the second day further embellishing it and building little books to go inside. She had Apoxie Sculpt (which I immediately ordered online after the class was over) and encaustic medium and moldmaking materials for us to use. There was a plethora of gorgeous papers, leather scraps, ephemera, and baubles to attach. She taught us coptic stitch for single sheets on the second day, which I have done before but I needed a refresher.

Work space:

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In progress. The “Inspire” pin is a gift from Maria. It might go in another book.

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My book, outside and inside:

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Reva and Kathy’s books:

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A better shot of Reva’s book:

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David’s book:

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Maria’s book:

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I think that this is Eileen’s book:

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Four people had to leave before we took photos. I wish I had taken photos of everybody’s books because they were all so different, especially some of the ones that left early.

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Circle of Power

I will add more photos later. My box is at my office this weekend, but I want to show you more of the little book with the key embedded in the cover.

Once again, I came away with not only tons of inspiration, but many new friends that I hope to keep up with at future art retreats and on social media. And five “new” cigar boxes for the studio!

art, art retreats, dyeing, fiber art, Georgia, Lake Waccamaw, National Parks and Monuments, tapestry, weaving

Tapestry Weavers South Retreat

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I’m taking a personal day to recharge after a particularly sweet and inspiring art retreat weekend with members of Tapestry Weavers South at Epworth-by-the-Sea on St. Simons Island.

It is a lovely venue and the price was very reasonable for three nights and all meals. We were lucky that even though most of the Southeast US was getting pummeled by thunderstorms and flooding, we only had a few light showers and the temperature was perfect. On the last night we enjoyed the veranda next to the river and it was lovely – not muggy at all and I didn’t notice any bugs. The sunsets were nice too:

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^^^Just outside my window

The greatest value of this retreat was the talent and encouragement of my fellow tapestry weavers. I’m not kidding – if you are a tapestry weaver in the southern U.S., I recommend that you join this group.

I left for the retreat with just a vague idea of what I might do, and a fairly neurotic state of mind about my weaving break. I was also worried about sitting for the long drive and the workshop in general, but I met April Price near Charlotte and she drove the rest of the way, so I was able to adjust a rolled-up towel under my legs, hips, and back frequently. That helped so much, and I am grateful for her willingness to drive! April organized the retreat and did a wonderful job.

I left the retreat with a warm feeling of making new friends, and the beginning of a small tapestry on the loom that I am excited about. Some of my artist crushes were there and we got to know each other. I was encouraged to continue my tapestry diary that I dropped at the end of March and was given a few suggestions on how I might proceed from here.

You are likely to see more from me on the subject of Tapestry Weavers South, because I suspect that I’m going to break my vow of getting involved in group leadership and help out with this one. Just in a minor role that I’m comfortable with, though.

Jennifer Sargent was our featured artist and she shared a slideshow of her work and critiqued the pieces that other weavers brought. She gave me very positive feedback on my own work.

We honored Tommye Scanlin with a lifetime membership and an emotional celebration on the last night. She was my first teacher that was an actual tapestry artist. We figured it out that was in 1991! She is loved by so many people.

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Holly Wilkes and MJ Lord allowed me to photograph their hands in action.

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I decided to work with the abstraction of a favorite photograph of rain on Lake Waccamaw, using my naturally dyed silk/cotton threads from India’s online class. It’s interesting that I return so often to this family place at Lake Waccamaw for art inspiration. Even the threads are wound on driftwood sticks that I picked up on this shore.

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April was kind enough to go with me to Fort Frederica National Monument so that I could get a stamp for my National Park Passport book. The deerflies were pretty bad and we were short on time so we decided not to walk to the actual fort, but it was a lovely park. The 42d Regiment of Foot battled with Spanish forces there in 1742 so I was especially interested in visiting. That was our regiment when we were 18th century re-enactors. We drove around St. Simons Island, then we stopped in Savannah and ate Crabcakes Benedict at Bar-Food, which I highly recommend. Just as we were driving into Charlotte, the bottom fell out and I have rarely seen such a hard rain. I thought that I might have to spend the night at April’s house but we looked at the radar and I made a good decision to drive home. I wonder how many inches fell in that half-hour?

art, art retreats, book arts, Focus on Book Arts

Focus on Book Arts 2017

Lily's Book - FOBA

Susanne Baker and I attended our third Focus on Book Arts at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon last week. It was recommended to us by my friend Judy Strom, who I met at Journalfest in Port Townsend, Washington in 2009 and we have met up at FOBA ever since. We love this retreat/conference for many reasons:

  • The selection of workshops is perfect. There are 1-4 day workshops over the course of five days. You can take all five days or just one day. There are always classes for advanced, serious bookbinders, and classes for beginners, and lots of levels in between. There are structural classes, historical conservation classes, and playful, creative classes.
  • They keep the class sizes small.
  • The instructors are excellent and often known nationwide for their work.
  • It is completely run by volunteers, who are passionate about this event.
  • Forest Grove, Oregon, is a lovely town and Pacific University, the first university founded west of the Mississippi, is a historic campus of great beauty, with manicured lawns, towering redwoods, and flower gardens. Honestly, I have checked out the real estate ads and the job listings for this place quite a few times.
  • It’s about 30 minutes west from Portland and another hour going west will get you to Cannon Beach.
  • I ALWAYS meet the friendliest, most interesting people there!
FOBA 2017

This year, Susanne, Judy, and I took a class in beginning embossing from Janice Fisher on the first day. I couldn’t get any good photos – embossing is hard to photograph, and when I’m into what I’m doing, I don’t remember my camera. I did better later. My main takeaway from the class was that embossing paper is so much simpler and easier than I ever guessed, and you can do it on almost any kind of paper with as little as a stencil cut out of an old manila file folder and a popsicle stick. Janice was very into recycling and repurposing ordinary objects for embossing.

Chinese Thread Book - FOBA

Chinese Thread Book - FOBA

On the second day, we all separated to go to different classes. Judy went to a different class every day. Susanne chose a four-day long class in twined binding taught by Roberta Lavadour, and she was in heaven the whole time. I chose a two-day class by Jennie Hinchcliff called “Collecting & Keeping: Chinese Thread Books.” I was hesitant about choosing this one since it involved some origami, but I LOVED IT. LOVED IT. LOVED IT. It’s too hard to show you how much fun this book is without taking a video, and I’ll put one up in a few days when I have some help.

Chinese Thread Book - FOBA

Chinese Thread Book - FOBA

We built two small learning books on the first day, and on the second day the third book encompassed what we learned. It was turning very hot and we were in an older building with no air conditioning, so the glue dried very quickly. I ended up hurrying a bit too much at the end and glued down my insides facing the wrong way, but it still works just fine. (I was very lucky to go to a room the next day with AC when the temps rose to 97 and 99. Judy ended up in the room I was in and she’s pretty tough, but even she had to leave the room to finish her class project.) I would like to take another class from Jennie.

Chinese Thread Book cover

Chinese Thread Book, opened

Opening one of the twelve hidden containers in the book

The third class was the one I was most excited about – Leighanna Light’s “Lily’s Book.” I had taken a class from Leighanna in 2010 called the Vintage Metal Deck that fascinated me, and I’ve wanted to take another class with her since. I love her textures and her palette and her expertise with attaching things to each other.

For this one we brought a large piece of heavy gessoed canvas, then used gesso to stencil and stamp all over it for texture. After brushing on a base layer of paint or ink wash, we tore the canvas into pages for the book and played with Leighanna’s assortment of acrylic mediums and Venetian plaster. We glued down cloth and paper and other stuff, laid the pages out in the hot sun to dry, and kept on layering and painting the pages until we ran out of time (see top photo). Then we did a simple longstitch binding (thank God for my Japanese screw punch – those pages were thick). The next step for me will be attaching more stuff to the cover and spine. I brought some of my metal deck cards from the 2010 class and one of them just happened to be perfect for the cover. I’m eager to work in this book some more but have had some challenges getting back to it yet. Click on any of my photos and you can see more photos from this trip.

Lily's Book - FOBA

Lily's Book - FOBA

Lily's Book - FOBA

Lily's Book - FOBA

If you’d like to read about my previous trips to FOBA, you can find those posts here:
FOBA 2011
FOBA 2015

Next post: Photos from Forest Grove

art, Art Makers Denver, art retreats, collage, Colorado

Art Makers Denver

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^^^McNicols Building

I’ve just returned from a new-to-me art retreat, Art Makers Denver, where I took a paper painting collage class from Elizabeth St. Hilaire. I’ve been following her work online for a while and since I like to visit my family near Denver in September I jumped at the chance to combine that trip with this retreat this year.

The retreat was smaller than most of the ones that I’ve attended elsewhere, which made for smaller classes and more attention (if you like more attention). I had a big table all to myself, which was great since I tend to push into other people’s spaces. The venue was the recently renovated McNicols Building in Civic Center Park, a spacious and light-filled place. Delicious lunches were provided on two days and on the third day we were each given a $10 voucher to use at the food truck festival in the park outside. We got lots of extra goodies such as locally made sodas and juice drinks, healthy snacks, a copy of Uppercase magazine, and various arty thingies.

I was really looking forward to taking one of Leighanna Light‘s book classes because she is, well, AWESOME, and because I learned so much about connecting found objects and working with metal in the class I took from her a few years ago, but her classes were canceled. I looked for Helen Hiebert, who is huge in the papermaking world and I simply wanted to meet her, but her classes didn’t make either. So hopefully this retreat will become more popular as it matures and more people learn about it.

One other note before I get on to the other photos…this was the first time that I took the bus round trip from Westminster, a suburb of Denver, to downtown. It was an easy, clean, flawless experience. I heard good things about Denver’s new light rail system too. Although the train trip to the airport is a bit pricey, it still beats the price of a taxi or renting a car, and costs less than paying for parking downtown.

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^^^Since Leighanna’s class was canceled on Sunday, I spent an extra day painting and printing papers in Elizabeth’s class. I didn’t mind, because I love doing this. I went as fast as I could without overthinking. The only things I kept in mind were the colors I might need for the collage and layers. Lots of layers. I used old book pages, dictionary pages, sheet music, map pages from a book about Colorado mining towns, washed and dried coffee filters, handmade papers, and the backs of some of the papers I painted and printed in Albie Smith’s class at An Artful Journey in 2011.

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^^^Some of Elizabeth’s demonstration papers using alcohol droppers and spritzing with liquid dish soap on top of wet paint.

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^^^Beautiful art installation to which the attendees were asked to decorate a tag and hang.

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^^^Because the nearly full moon was huge over the weekend and I could still see it hanging over the mountains each morning, I hoped to do this painting as a collage after my apple. But time ran out. I’ll do it here in North Carolina.

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^^^Everyone in class painted an apple before class in acrylic on a firm surface such as a canvas covered mat board or wooden panel. Elizabeth wanted us to work with a simple shape where we would learn about light and shadow. I’ll work a little more on my background, but my apple is done. Even though two people told me they thought it was a pumpkin. o_O

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^^^More Denver scenes.