Sunday, May 1, 2011

Stories come in all shapes, textures and materials

I have a tendency to think and live in compartments. I haven't written a thing about teaching on this blog even though I do it every week. This is an art blog, I should only write about art stuff... right? However, I'm going to try and break out of the habit of viewing the different parts of my day as entirely different occupations.
Writing about teaching this week is slightly ironic since last week I was focussing on Louise Nevelson with my kids and her large scale compartment like sculptures. Perhaps that's what got me thinking. All too often I come up against a wall feeling like I don't have much to share on this blog if I haven't been active in the studio. The truth is if I haven't been working in the studio it's because other work is taking precedence at the moment. Studio or not, it's my work.
Louise Nevelson "Rain Garden II ", painted wood..31-1/2"x 47" x 4-1/2" (1977)
So here's what I'm teaching this week, fabric weaving inspired by famous Bauhaus weaver Anni Albers. Weaving is something I've come to greatly enjoy over the last few years. The repetition  of the hand movements is soothing and seeing the work grow quickly line after line is invigorating. I especially like weaving with fabric since it creates a "heftier" piece at the end and since fabric scraps of all different textures and patterns come with stories of prior lives and projects.
When I was working primarily with teachers I developed a project called "story-weaving." Weaving has long been a vehicle for folklore and storytelling but it usually goes in the direction of a person wanting to make a weaving and so they use patterns, colors and imagery from their traditions, that happen to have stories and meanings attached to them and they are re-arranged to create endless new pieces. I approached story-weaving from a slightly different angle. You start off wanting to tell a story and then you need to find the right materials, patterns, imagery and textures to help bring that story to life. Often I encouraged teachers to think of a special event,  a favorite moment or even a plot from a storybook to retell with abstract designs.
Here is one of my examples.
I found all these different fabrics and they reminded me of my dad and the different attire he has worn over the years. There's corduroy in there from old pairs of pants, cotton dress shirt material, a silk reminding me of a tie, wool for dress pants and a variety of "work shirt" neutrals. These fabrics represented a timeline to me, creating a sketch of my dad.
With my kids this week we won't be touching on the story aspect so much but we will be using shoe-box looms and fabric strips to create a pleasing design of their choice. Perhaps this week as I teach a favorite activity of my own I'll find that the different walls of my compartments will lower, at least a little to make the different parts of my day seem more like a weaving in progress and less like my dis-organized cupboard of art supplies.

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