Sunday, August 31, 2008

weekend time out


I took a deep breath and realized how long it had been since my last one. Yesterday, for a quick change of pace, I escaped our full house for a drive through typical traffic congestion out into the quieter countryside in my little red convertible. Just driving along on narrower roads less congested by the hurry of urban life, the wind streaming through my hair, the sun warm and comfortable on my skin proved a great tonic. Lots of trees, green rolling valleys, a steel bridge or two to cross, nowhere in particular to go, happy to be enjoying the view. Remember the post-war American dream, when new highways and cars combined to allow us to just go for the sake of it?

Did you know that the first coast-to-coast car race was in 1903? Cars were still an individually-handmade novelty then, and despite our westward-ho folklore, most Americans had still never ventured further from home than a horse could comfortably travel in one day (twelve miles). A young Boston doctor, Dr Horatio Nelson Jackson (what a name!), vacationing in the "young wild city" of San Francisco a couple years before the 1906 earthquake, became so enamored of a custom-built Winton roadster that he impulsively made a $50 wager that he could drive it cross-country to NYC in 3 months.

Nobody believed him. He set out anyway. As publicity for this stunt grew with his incredible trials and successes, two grand custom car companies decided to join in, each sponsoring a competitive car and team, and make it a race. All 3 cars dealt with a phenomenal lack of roads, often just dirt tracks and old trails, in most of the country outside city limits. They had to plan much of their routes to coordinate with Pony Express and train depots, especially relying on trains to bring them the replacement car parts they regularly needed and often using the railroad beds as roads. But in true American underdog fashion, the doctor, his bulldog Bud, and his bicyclist-turned-mechanic co-driver arrived in NYC first, greeted by a ticker tape parade. Happy with his marvelous adventure, Jackson declined to collect on his bet. But his little-known story turned into a recent Ken Burns documentary well worth seeing, especially if you still love the freedom of a drive out of the city into what's left of the magnificent American landscape.

Right after the Labor Day weekend, I'm off again, flying to Phoenix for Creative Escape 2008. A big part of the fun will be visiting with my friend Carol, who will return to CE Friday night as part of the alumnae reunion class. Downtown Phoenix has just had one of its monsoon storms, thundering through at abut 85+ mph Thursday night, destroying the ASU Devil Dome, toppling trees and a downtown statue and, most importantly, apparently doing some roof damage to Melrose Vintage, one of the stores I'm hoping to visit before classes start and where another friend Debby is teaching next weekend. Hope the sunny weather prediction (with temperatures in the low 100's) helps everyone get restored to normal.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

art in ashland projects


Well, it seems all those great photos I snapped (credit for trying, please) around Ashland and in the Ashland Springs Hotel where I stayed, in Anahata's Papaya warehouse and studio where I ogled and purchased, and in 3 full days of classes where I created alongside very creative and generous souls are not retrievable from my camera. Three sweet and lovely ladies -- Pam Garrison, Amy Hanna, and host Anahata Katkin -- shared their special skills in handmade journals, recycled jewels, and mixed-media collages. In spite of my sons' expert help, the photos are ghosts. Likewise, the first evening's apron-decorating dessert gathering and the fourth evening's champagne and cupcake soiree in the gloriously pastel Prize boutique are will-o'-the-wisps somewhere.

So you'll have to visit my very creative classmates to see their incredible artwork (see Anahata, Pam, Amy, Kathleen, Kari, Liesel, Christine, Michelle, Romy, Natalie), or check out the Art in Ashland Flickr page.

However, after much head-shaking, I've finally given in and taken a couple post-event photos of my projects. At Art in Ashland, we shared three glorious hard-working eight-hour days in three different media, learning from the facile skills of these three fabulously talented women who, on their non-teaching days, created right along with us. Almost as amazing as the artwork were the riotous stashes of supplies unfurled for each class. By the third day, I had moved to the back of the room with my pitifully meager assortment of red and white paints, black pens, and a slim folder of reproductions. Flying across country with my one suitcase did not auger well for my having caches of velvet ribbons and sparkling jewels and aged wallpaper and vibrant paints and trunks of interesting vintage papers (a tiny supply of which I fortunately bought on opening night). But how wonderful it was to see everyone else's treasures piled and tumbling across the tables! And how wonderful that just learning and absorbing from all the talent present in the room made for an exhilarating creative climate! Of course, everyone is already talking about the next Art in Ashland. Certainly, having wet my toes in these new and inviting waters, I'll be busily crafting more of the same!

I bought this old ledger on opening night from Pam Garrison, then spent a good part of the next morning in her class cutting out the upper interior of the hard cover, before decorating it inside and out, painting a few pages, and sewing in the new signatures:

With lots of extra help from my accomplished table mate Liesel, I found the right tools, plus silver wire for wrapping, at a nearby bead store and assembled my first recycled necklace in Amy's class -- ta da!

The following photo of my collage for Anahata's class is borrowed from Amy Hanna's blog. I tore the strip with the eyes from Anahata's class presentation page. Then I added other little figures peeking out from the collage (click on photos to enlarge). Years ago at MoMA I saw Pavel Tchelitchew's "Hide and Seek," a huge painting with intriguing foreground/background reversal, an always enjoyable challenge, although here on a much more modest scale. :)


Friday, August 08, 2008

inside wendy addison's studio

It's good to be home again after an exhilarating sequence of visits! First I spent the better part of a day flying from Virginia to reconnect with good friends in the San Francisco area last week, a flight that included a stopover in Las Vegas and a sampling of 110-degree heat. Then I indulged in a much-anticipated detour to Port Costa, before driving further north through hours of rugged CA and Oregon scenery to attend Art in Ashland for several intense days of classes. Of course, I am now both energized and exhausted :).

What about that detour? The fabulous Wendy Addison is self-publishing a limited-edition art book full of her imaginative drawings and printed segments and inventive paper manipulations. As an old-school painter/calligrapher myself, you know I had to see this wonderful object!

On Friday afternoon I was privileged to slowly and caringly thumb my way through her almost-finished working prototype, to read her poem that runs like a dreamy story thread through the still-stiff pages, and to learn about the old magic master who was her surprising childhood friend. As she described her book to me, the development of her fascination with glittery shapes and words, vintage chandeliers, fantastical collections and still-life compositions, hidden gears and madcap inventions, and her well-known Theatre of Dreams all came together as a fateful journey. Now she wants to create and publish this most important art piece to honor the beginning of her journey with the skills honed along the way.

Wendy lives in Port Costa, a sleepy ghost-town of just over 200 residents, vintage buildings resting dustily along the main street, a quiet bit of deep shoreline slipping by with no docking access, and beautiful tree-filled hillsides surrounding and further isolating it. She found it 11 years ago on one of her many weekend drives out of the city into the CA countryside. Next door to her workshop is the Warehouse Cafe, which she says is well-known, at least among the locals. While I was there, patrons arrived in various vehicles, including a shiny yellow old roadster.

But inside her Theatre of Dreams is a magical place of her own creation. Glittery chandeliers, chains of glittery balls, glittery words that she's created for Midwest of Cannon Falls sparkle warmly among the old glass display cases and layered collections of fanciful things she's incorporated from her many flea-market forays into the countryside.

You can see more of Wendy's magical and theatrical creations here and here and here (I've tried not to duplicate any of those great photos). You can also see Wendy's studio in Jo Packham's book Where Women Create. And you can read more of her story in the November 2008 issue of Somerset Studio.

There were so many delights to focus on, but on this visit, the star attraction was next door in Wendy's workshop. There Rob was steadily printing off more of the many lines of the book's poem, each word carefully arranged using different fonts from the huge collection of antique lead and wood alphabets Wendy has amassed letter by letter. This custom printing takes place on her antique letterpress, standing firmly in its corner spot while the sun's rays slant into the room.

And then there it sat, the book itself, open on the long work shelf to one of the pages still needing words from the poem. There's something compelling about a work in progress. The weight of the pages, the strength and texture of the paper, the three-dimensional effect of collaged words and inclusions, and the lines and words penned directly from the artist's hand all conspire to draw you into the book. Wendy even generously granted me some time alone with her creation, allowing me to simply enjoy it without the need for comments.

Although I hope you've enjoyed these small glimpses into Wendy's magically creative world, I promised not to show all her wonderful drawings before they are actually ready. However, you can visit Wendy's new blog for previews of some pages, as well as info on ordering your own coveted copy of this special limited work.

Come visit me again soon and I'll share the results of my hugely-enjoyable classes at Art in Ashland.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

wendy's world


Yesterday afternoon I was happily soaking up inspiration behind these intriguing doors in Port Costa, CA, catching previews of Wendy's latest and most important project and glimpses of a life lived for her art. I'll post more when I return home next week.