Monday, July 10, 2017

Lucky 7 Book Art Bundles: Take Three and That's All!

Thanks everyone, for your interest in my work! The previous bundles sold out within 24 hours of announcement. Of the models, I think I'm down to what I can bear to part with now, and am posting these last ten bundles on nevermindtheart. Each is unique. Several have indicators on them that I made them, several are blank so you can use them. I hope you will use them, that's what they are for! More details at each individual listing

This is the last batch for the summer, anyway, but there are still Painted Paper Collage Packs, Creative Arts Process Cards, Star 82 Review subscriptions, a set of vintage letterpress party invitations, and other things available. (Addendum: 7/11/17 8:20AM, five still available.)

These are Deluxe Bundles and come with a bonus pack of 6 pieces of ephemera: letterpress or painted cards, notepad, book model and/or valentines (not shown, but included!).

21. Good Day Sunshine: gold and blue Japanese book cloth covered clamshell box that holds all the little books; pivoting panels with girl; flower fold with painted paper, gold embossing and gold ribbons; painted paper French link stitch with pockets; hardcover ledger style with beads and first page written as “Word Book encyclope/idea”; hardcover two-as-one with paste paper endpapers and white paper book block; painted paper fan book with post and screw binding; bonus: miniature hardcover stab binding with tabbed pages; (2) two-as-one with translucent cover SOLD

22. Drawing Room Burgundy: burgundy Japanese book cloth covered clamshell box; buttonhole with painted paper; hardcover fishbone fold with painted paper; handmade paper covers on pocket accordion with ribbon tie; hardcover multiple signature with shaped recess on cover and the word “fingerprints” handwritten inside with small square of painted paper; “admit one” flag book with tickets and reused bookcover; softcover painted paper covers with ledger style binding and white paper book block, small “key” charm SOLD

23. Expressive Notes: painted paper album style accordion; painted paper cover with exposed stitch binding and white book block; Coptic with distressed cover, yellow waxed linen thread, and “Said” debossed on front “This End Up” on back; hardcover wrapped with SF Bay Area map with small signatures sewn to accordion with white paper book block; painted paper wrapped box with attached scroll; hardcover blizzard book with music notes paper covering and white pockets, magnetic closure; painted paper two-as-one; bonus: Coptic with single corrugated cardboard boards

24. Gems: brush book with painted papers; buttonhole stitch with painted papers; hourglass binding with white paper book block; two-as-one with painted paper; purple and gold brocade covered shadow box or slipcase; handmade paper covers on accordion with pockets; painted paper circle accordion (lots of shiny pearlescence here!)

25. Tide Pool: paste paper exposed stitch with origami pockets; painted paper two-as-one; sparkly fishbone fold; hardcover stab binding with translucent pages; painted paper album accordion with window on cover and rounded corners, date stamped throughout “Jan 03 2006” (pink spot on back); portfolio with birdlike painted paper and cloth covers, red ribbon tie; paste paper covering paper over hardcover, stab binding with string hybrid with painted paper accordion inside

26. Sea Mystery: painted paper maze accordion book; painted paper woven accordion in softcover slipcase; handmade paper slot and tab; thick painted paper circle accordion; painted paper two-as-one; hardcover single signature; Coptic with painted paper and debossed, “Made In” inset painted paper and “AG 2005” on back  SOLD

27. Scenic Route: painted paper pages with French link stitch over tabs and “I Want To Speak to You in Your Own Language” in white on the cover, “2006 Golden” on the back; painted paper two-as-one; hardcover accordion with pocket pages made of glassine; small crossed structure with painted paper cover and dark painted paper book block; hardcover stab binding with map covers and “camping” written on cover, cream paper book block; hourglass binding with multicolored threads; Coptic with painted paper “X O X” debossed on the front cover, “AG 2005” on back; bonus; one small origami pocket SOLD

28. Sandy Shore: thick painted paper circle accordion; “admit one” flag book with tickets and reused bookcover; multiple signatures sewn through the hardcover, paste paper with mixed papers book block, attached found “sale price” tag; painted paper two-as-one; sparkly blue fishbone fold; hardcover split board binding with paste paper endpapers and white book block; paste paper accordion with hardcovers, backed with black paper, red ribbon tie SOLD

29. Circle’s Edge: two-as-one with translucent cover; flag book with painted paper flags and attached absurd words, title is “Wall spoon, wrapped hard covers; hardcover with painted accordion pages, gold foil stamping “At Circle’s Edge” and small hooked rug attached to the cover! also debossed “Alisa Golden”; exposed stitch with handmade paper, white paper book block with fold outs and circles cut in some of the pages; painted paper Coptic with “Gathers” debossed on cover, “AG 2005” on back, inset pieces of painted paper on cover; slipcase masquerading as a book with decorative paper covers, painted papers; hardcover portfolio with ribbon tie

30. Summer Beach Walk: painted paper circle accordion with “I want to tell you” handwritten on first page; hardcover with accordion and glass beads attached to the cover in a spiral, spirals stenciled on first page; painted paper two-as-one; painted paper two-as-one with “words and a” in small collage on cover; Coptic with red and white pages, reused book cover; hardcover multiple signature with paste paper covering boards and painted paper end sheets, cream book block; painted paper winged book with “The Big Chase” debossed on the cover, “AG 05” on back cover

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Lucky 7 Book Art Bundles: Take Two

No sooner than I announced them, the original Lucky 7 Book Art Bundles were sold out, almost. Thank you! I've been going through the studio to see what other models, seconds, boxes, and partially made projects and treasures I have squirreled away, and there seems to be a bounty. I've posted ten more bundles at nevermindtheart, in a flash, six have already sold (Addendum: 7/7/17 sold out, but there will be one more round coming next week, and I think that is all I've got! And you might want to take advantage of the new Painted Paper Collage Packs: once those are gone, they are gone). Each is listed as a separate item this time to guarantee that when you order you will get the one you desire. More details and photos at each listing. And some other new things as well!

11. Ocean: mini Coptic with two colors of thread (paired needle) and cream paper; medium painted origami pocket envelope; softcover ledger style with soft pages; hardcover with thick white and painted paper and ribbon tie; painted paper covering boards with white paper; painted softcover with bubbles/circles; painted softcover with exposed stitching

12. Street Color: frottage paste paper hardcover journal with rounded cloth spine and ribbon bookmark (boards slightly wide, could hold a writing tool here); buttonhole stitch with found papers; four mini models: Australian flat spine piano hinge, crossed structure, crown binding, album style; painted paper and half cloth with painted pages; bonus three: exposed stitch model with irregular map pages; two pamphlets: one single signature, one two-as-one SOLD

13. Spring Bright: frottage paste paper hardcover journal with white pages, painted endpapers; half cloth painted paper hardcover with painted pages; pamphlet with sewn collage and white paper; flag book with painted envelope flags and flower collage on cover with ribbon tie; circle accordion with white paper and printed with cats on the front and birds on the back with ampersand at the spine; Coptic with painted pages and wrapped hard covers; multiple signature with flexible spine and signatures sewn to accordion

14. Water’s Edge: Coptic with painted paper; Coptic with distressed cover “Doors in the Harbor”; hardcover with paper bag pages; hardcover portfolio with ribbon tie and printed with a marbled paper look; large crossed structure with bundled threads and thick Strathmore drawing paper; circle accordion with painted pages and small stencil of white fish; winged book with painted paper SOLD

15. Hearth: hardcover portfolio with ribbon tie and cloth spine; mini hardcover portfolio with frottage paste papers and cloth spine; mix and match accordion with painted paper and stencils; crown book with masks  or catlike painted pages;  painted paper sewn onto tabs; two-as-one hardcover with painted pages; bonus: hardcover pants book SOLD

16. Iridescence: postcard portfolio with ribbon tie (I use one when I travel); painted paper back-to-back accordion with stenciled cards; small Coptic; hardcover with painted paper and origami pockets; softcover exposed stitch with book cloth cover; crown binding with painted paper; hardcover accordion with signatures and pockets  SOLD

17. Living Room: flag book with hard covers and painted pages, “stirring”; winged book with hard covers, “Would You”; hardcover stab binding with striped paper and circle; hardcover multiple signature with painted cloth cover and painted paper end sheets; painted paper hardcover with origami pockets; softcover with painted paper, gesso “label” for your title, ribbon bookmark and painted pages; hardcover portfolio with cloth spine, ribbon tie; bonus: “admit one” combination flag and pants book with tickets SOLD

18. Bright Life: hardcover portfolio with ribbon tie; small stab binding; painted woven accordion with matching slipcase; hardcover with painted pages; accordion with painted cover and cats and birds; hardcover with painted paper cover and origami pockets; hardcover accordion with signatures and pockets; bonus: hardcover pants book with blue paper

19. Red and Gold: postcard portfolio (I use one when I travel); ledger with soft pages and raffia; secret Belgian binding with painted pocket pages; sketchbook with debased illustration (see detail photo at nevermindtheart); pamphlet with exposed stitch; circle accordion with painted pages; painted paper notebook with rounded corners and black cover

20. Some Birds; painted paper crossed structure; flag book with handcarved bird stamp; album accordion with painted pages; exposed stitch with colorful cord; painted paper hardcover with white paper; painted paper portfolio with cloth spine; hardcover accordion with cloth-covering boards and bead closure SOLD

Separately, I've also added two different kinds of miniatures, each under three inches:

a miniature painted cross-structure with faux gold leaf in a clear acrylic case (4 available)

and a pair of stormy mini journals or gifts in brightly colored slipcase (3 available. Slipcase colors: sun yellow, spring green, or bright sky blue)

Also new: Painted Paper Collage Packs. A unique collection of hand painted paper. Each colorful pack is bursting with scraps of painted papers I've created over the years. Plenty for a collage party! nevermindtheart

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Collage Art of Irwin Kremen

When you're a kid, there's at least one inevitable moment where you pick something up off the ground and say "Look what I found!" and the grown-up person whose care you are in says, "Put that down, it's trash." And you are disappointed and perhaps puzzled. It looked good to you! Artists have been working with found "trash" for decades, and at least a hundred years. 

The publication Kurt Schwitters mentions that in the 1920s, when Schwitters was in his thirties, he "wandered about Hanover in search of refuse which attracted his eye" and "was obsessed by the human associations of his junk." He sought to "give it a new identity" (14). This desire to provide a new identity, this transformation, is one key to why it is an intentional artwork. He introduced things that had never met, arranged them carefully in a new setting. Another very important part is the worn and handled quality of each piece of paper; each was used and discarded, had another life, was altered by rain or dirt, air or time, and each came in contact, at some point, with a human being.

If you have ever been interested in Schwitters' work, you may also like the collages of Irwin Kremen, now on view at the Berkeley Art Museum. He began making collages in the 1960s, many years after he had attended Black Mountain College with John Cage (who dedicated 4'33" to him), and he cited Italo Valenti as his inspiration. Kremen was a student of Josef Albers, most noted for his theory of color interactions, and he encouraged his students to "make art out of almost anything," something that Robert Rauschenberg, another Albers student, also took to heart with his assemblages.

Kremen's collages are intimately sized. You must go close to see the details. I read only afterward that the pieces are attached to the support and to each other with "extremely thin Japanese-paper hinges." Lawrence Rinder, in the text on the exhibition brochure, writes that this makes the collages seem more sculptural, although I am not sure that the tissue itself would have such an effect on the work. More likely, where the paper was not attached would provide a very slight shadow effect. I will have to go back and look again. The reproductions in the brochure look fairly flat. The technique is a nice one though; it eliminates the warping that can happen with wet paste or glue.

The collages are small and tightly composed, balancing cut and torn edges, placement of spot color, layering, and textures and text in a very pleasing manner. Countdown 3, on the brochure, has several threads at the top edge that even with all the colorful fragmented letters, draws your eye back up to look at them. Balanced, I think. (A source of tension, though, for viewers who like clean edges and may wish to clip them.)

I continue to wonder about what makes some of us like art composed of discarded things. When we are little, we have imagination to make a Popsicle stick into a doll. When we are young we may be scrounging for discarded materials, our paychecks not providing us with the luxury of new sketch paper. Or it may be a moral issue; we may wish to help the planet by recycling or reusing. On the formal side, interesting textures and subtle color variations are built into found materials that may be "unduplicable" as Kremen prefers. When we get older we may recognize the dents, may identify with them as our bodies have been shaped by our environment and human touch as well.

As I have been writing this, I have been conscious that I've only mentioned male artists. I wondered what women made minimalist collages like Schwitters or Kremen. Through a search, I found this article in The New Yorker about Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction, an exhibition from spring 2017 at MOMA (up through August!), which took me to Anne Ryan (1889-1954), who had a show at The Met in 2010. Ryan created intimate collages as well, particularly one shown: Number 7. Her collages were made of both paper and fabric.

The New Yorker article said something particularly interesting, that abstract art "masked personal identity" and therefore opened up the field to women. I'm having trouble with that concept. Women have always created art, we just haven't seen all of it. It also seems curious to me that in 2017 we still have categorized shows with titles that include "Women Artists," making the default that artists without further description are men. But if I had been on my toes earlier, I would have discovered that Kremen's "friend and former writing instructor at Black Mountain College, M.C. Richards, who encouraged him to try making a cloth collage" was a woman. She was a poet and a potter, and founded Black Mountain Press, wrote a book Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person, and is the subject of a documentary. The inspiring trailer for The Fire Within is here. I can see why her students were so fond of her. And I think it interesting that she is mentioned as the one who may be the initial catalyst for Kremen's collages, although in the brochure she is only given that one line.

I am also not so sure that abstract art can mask your personal identity. Your choices show. Your decisions, your preferred colors, shapes, patterns, and materials say something about you even if there is not any subject content that points to a particular race, gender, sex, age, ethnicity and so forth. 

Titles are wonderful ways to add to the magic of artwork. I always feel the artist has given up when s/he creates one "Untitled" after another. Kremen titles his collages as identifying marks or perhaps personal jokes, not as literal descriptors. What is "Quimper Pink?" We can only imagine. A search, however, says "quimper" is a commune in northwestern France. Or is it now a word transformed?

The exhibition is showing at the Berkeley Art Museum until August 27, 2017. A catalogue of Irwin Kremen's work from an earlier exhibition, Beyond Black Mountain: Irwin Kremen (1966 to 2006) is still available. You can also see several works from the Berkeley exhibition that range from 1973 to 2007 online at the BAMPFA website.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Lucky 7 Book Art Bundles

I've experimented and made hundreds of book structure models over the years, painted and blank, stenciled, stitched, and woven. You may have seen them here on the blog, or  in one of the instructional books I've written, or maybe even in a class or workshop I've given. They represent much work and play. I went through and assembled ten bundles for your perusal, offering the bundles on nevermindtheart, my Etsy shop. You can write, draw, or collage on top of the painted pages, use them for travel, special occasions, journals, or gifts, or keep them as models for your own projects. Some of the journals have plain white or black paper, and the painted boxes could benefit from your additional content.

All ten bundles are shown and described below. For easy identification (I hope) I've given them simple names as well. You can find the direct listing here.
Addendum 6.27.17: these sold out, but I will try to assemble another group in the next couple weeks!
BUT WAIT! Due to a glitch (my apologies to those who didn't get their first choice!), three are available again: {3. Romantic Purples} {8. Autumn Muse} {9. Found & Transformed}.
Addendum 7.1.17: Just these two: {3. Romantic Purples} and {9. Found & Transformed}.

1. Curious Patterns 
fishbone fold, three softcover journals with red/blue/green pages, album fold with rounded corners, Australian piano-hinge, two-as-one hardcover, multiple signature soft cover, painted box; bonus: all three softcover journals as a set

2. Earth/Sea 
buttonhole stitch, fishbone fold, woven accordion in softcover slipcase, Coptic with painted cover, painted circle accordion, painted hardcover circle accordion with fish stencil and pockets, painted box; bonus: multiple signature soft cover

3. Romantic Purples
hourglass binding, fishbone fold with shaped edges, crossed-structure, flag book with origami pockets, circle accordion with dark painted paper and eye stencils, pocket circle accordion, checked hardcover with black pages

4. Bold Brights
thick notepad in hardcover portfolio, French link stitch with origami pocket pages, painted circle accordion, woven accordion in softcover slipcase, hardcover accordion with pocket pages, codex sewn over tabs, painted box; bonus: small fishbone fold

5. Modern Inventive
pocket-sized cross-structure, fishbone fold, painted hardcover with house-shaped pages, hardcover crown binding, secret Belgian binding (criss-cross) with painted pages, painted circle accordion, checked hardcover with black pages; bonus: tiny portfolio

6. Velvet Thoughts
black velvet hardcover with black accordion pages, hourglass, fishbone fold, “Lost and Found” painted hardcover with single flag pages, painted circle accordion, painted circle accordion with black cover, checked hardcover with black pages
note: black velvet has a pretty burnout pattern, how-to at this link

7. Bright & Centered
mini woven codex with painted pages, French link stitch with envelope pocket pages and pamphlets, fishbone fold, painted hardcover Venetian blind with bead toggle, painted circle accordion, square box with painted paper covering, checked hardcover with black pages

8. Autumn Muse
hardcover book with paper bag pages, woven accordion in softcover slipcase, secret Belgian binding (criss-cross) with painted pages, crossed-structure, woven codex with flower stencil on cover, hinged triptych with photos, clamshell box with printed hands; bonus: mini fishbone fold

9. Found & Transformed
box made of found book covers, fishbone fold, crossed structure with found cover, painted circle accordion, “fortuneMATCH” accordion with tiny envelopes and paper-fastener volvelle, woven accordion in softcover slipcase, hardcover with map pages

10. Summer View
hardcover multiple signature with blue and yellow handmade papers and envelopes from Barcelona, crossed structure, hardcover two-as-one with handmade paper with embedded flowers and ribbon, woven accordion in softcover slipcase, hardcover back-to-back accordion with multicolored tie and stenciled cards, circle accordion with fish imagery, painted circle accordion; bonus: wrapped hard cover accordion with black paper

Lucky 7 Book Art Bundles and other books may be purchased here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Mind the Gap, Little Leaps, Book Art & Teju Cole's Blind Spot

When we read, we carry memories of what came before. To make sense of the book, we hold onto its information as we go. At the same time, we compare what we are reading to what we already know. If the book has both words and images, we search for a relationship between them, based on what the author gives us coupled with our own personal observations. The moment in time while we are searching is a little leap, like the gap between steppingstones. The reader doesn't give up after one stone, but keeps going, sensing a longer path ahead. This gap can occur between picture and title, or between image and text. We are primed to make connections. This is how we learn.

On one page (46) we have a paragraph about a secret mass murder; facing it we have a photo of a garage partly open with a covered object. We fill in one gap, assuming the covered object is a car. We fill in another one metaphorically by connecting the covered/masked/muted car with the words, "We are advised not to say." The cover itself becomes a shroud, representing the dead, the mass murder. On another page (36) we have a photo of a man in a wheelchair and a shadowed man, standing; on its facing page we have a musing on how we leave "echoes" everywhere. Each man is an unnoticed echo of the other. These are two examples from Teju Cole's newest book Blind Spot, where his photographs have a conversation with his writings. The tension between the words and the images is exactly what I think happens in the best artists' books.

In the foreword, Siri Hustvedt illuminates this very issue, trying to explain it to those who might want literal representations of the words in the pictures (which these pictures are not). Perhaps without realizing it, she is talking about a marvelous event that book artists understand, but is often too rare. Hustvedt writes:
Some of the mental "ties" are apparent, others are veiled or masked—there to be found if one cares to look, but if one doesn't look and doesn't read closely, if one doesn't take the time to uncover what lies in, between, and beyond the words and pictures, one will be blind to their meanings (xii).
You might notice in some book art that either the images are abstracted or the words speak abstractly. The maker is reckoning with that tension, the gap that will occur, eventually resolving it by emphasizing either the images or the words. The more specific of the two becomes the foreground, and by default, the more important. Even so, this method creates a kind of harmony: both images and words working together toward a common mood or feeling. 

Sometimes one of Cole's images appears abstract, but the subject comes into focus as you look again, read the text,  re-read the text, and look at the photograph again. What looks like lines of color is really a curtain on a track, the separation between it and the wall above. The gap between this image and the text, which contains the phrases, "Faraway wave seen from the deck of the ship" and "A presence made of absence," fills in slowly as you spend more time with the parts (71). Sometimes describing the picture out loud to yourself will provide the connection. Ask questions of what you are seeing: What is it? What is the mood? What else do you see? What is the light doing? What verbs would you use to describe its action? How do you feel about it? How does this relate to what you already know?

Teju Cole also takes the connecting process a step further, deeper, wider. Here, the photos and the texts are equals. Each can stand alone and needs no further explanation. Together, they spark and create a kind of poetry, another meaning. He asks you to step in, and sometimes he waits for the other shoe to drop, for the realization to occur, for you to see the transformation.  There is more here than what you see and what you might think. And once you read and look through the 332-page book carefully, you will understand his viewpoint, voice, and vision, what he is interested in, what he finds compelling and important and funny and heartbreaking, and how he engages with his memories and what he's read as he travels all over the world. 


It may be helpful to read Known and Strange Things: Essays first. Then bring your memory of the essays to Blind Spot to help sketch in the gaps. 

More about Teju Cole and his book Open City: A Novel from a previous post here.

Teju Cole website

Monday, June 19, 2017

Star 82 Review Issue 5.2 Is Now Live Online & Print

Star 82 Review, the art and literary magazine I founded and publish, now in its fifth year, has just seen the release of the eighteenth regular issue! This particular collection has moving work: we are looking to be transported to places inside and outside, both familiar and fresh, on the road and in the home as residents, tourists, and immigrants. The pages include a mini comic, "Clueless Tourists: Tokyo, Japan," by Angela Seon Young Lee, a concrete poem made from wood type and printed letterpress by giovanni singleton, and two heartfelt prose poems from Hugh Behm-Steinberg alongside many other wonderful works.

In Print:
Subscriptions at nevermindtheart
And follow the news on Facebook!

C.B. Auder
Hugh Behm-Steinberg
Krys Malcolm Belc
CL Bledsoe
Micki Blenkush
Thomas Gillaspy
F.I. Goldhaber
Jessica Goodfellow
Thomas Griffin
Jamie Haddox
Nancy Hathaway
Jenna Heller
Matthew Hittinger
Stanley Horowitz
Jacqueline Jules
Angela Seon Young Lee
Alex MacConochie
Jessica Mehta
Tracy Mishkin
Leah Oates
Sergio A. Ortiz
Grant Price
Ron Riekki
Bradley Samore
Penelope Scambly Schott
giovanni singleton
Radhika Subramaniam
Sarah Summerson
Diana Vazquez
Vivian Wagner

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Intensive Journals & Connective Threads

Every time we pick up a book to read, we inadvertently choose a path or take up a thread. We may be choosing consciously or we may not even realize what we are doing. From that one book we may be propelled to another. From Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, a quote by Anaïs Nin lead me to read the book, In Favor of the Sensitive Man, and Other Essays, in which Nin reviewed Ira Progoff's At a Journal Workshop: Writing to Access the Power of the Unconscious and Evoke Creative Ability, which I am reading now. In turn, that book took me back to books by Judith Tannenbaum that I had read previously.

Nin's book review of Progoff's book was written in 1975, when it was first published. (It should be noted that she had already published half a dozen of her own journals by then.) I'm sure part of what attracted her to the book was the repetition of the process of sitting still, being quiet, taking deep breaths, and letting words, events, and images flow without judgment or editing. This is the way to get into the creative zone, familiar to many of us now. In her essays, Nin writes frequently about the extraverted world, and how this inner stillness is needed. She also seems glad that Progoff "begins by eliminating the idea of the journal as a literary achievement" (98). Right there, the focus changes from something that sounds unattainable to something part of everyday life. As we proceed through Progoff's method, "every life acquires a value, a richness." With Progoff's book we move back and forth between what we consciously remember and what appears to us in that quiet stillness. Through some of the exercises, our conscious thoughts and feelings are woven with our subconscious images and feelings.

I wondered what other of his methods had already been absorbed into psychological work, into creative society, and/or what I would recognize from my own practice. Progoff suggests reading what you wrote aloud, which is standard advice in writing classes today. In addition to the quiet and stillness, he also talks about "the well" where each of us goes to find our own meaning. Progoff expands the metaphor, adding that if we go deep enough within our own wells, we can find the underground spring that we all share. We can connect to the universal via the personal. But Progoff goes deeper than that. We can do good work in society, empathize, and understand other people better if we are connected to ourselves.

If we each have a well within us, we must dive down to see what is there. This reminded me of something I had read before, but still decades after Progoff published his methods. "Diving" as a concept first came up for me in Judith Tannenbaum's 2000 book, Disguised As A Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San QuentinSpoon Jackson, an inmate, uses it as the term for accessing something deep inside and learning. It later becomes an activity they do together. "Diving" is the title of Jackson's chapter six in the 2010 book they wrote, By Heart: Poetry, Prison, and Two LivesHe writes that in these two-person diving sessions, "I discovered the importance of questions" (65). Questions can direct our attention, allow us to notice without telling us what to think. Jackson was able to make personal discoveries with the help of Tannenbaum's questions. Progoff also makes very good use of questions to get us thinking for ourselves. In Disguised as a Poem, Tannenbaum uses the idea of depth for creative work this way: "in meditation I let pictures and sounds come and go, while when writing a poem I keep my gaze on them steady and words arise and I write the words down" (143). Being still and then both diving down and letting words and images bubble up from the well is alive today into creative culture; these words echo back at me as I continue to read through Progoff's book. 

As you do the exercises you may be taken to buried territory. Progoff's questions about an image or memory may stir up new emotions as you view them with today's eyes and how they connect to today's you. Some of his questions are: "What do you recall of the feelings you had about yourself at that time?" "Did you have any particular beliefs about your personal destiny, favorable or unfavorable, fortunate or unfortunate?" (95). At first, I felt impatient and a little annoyed, partly because I am resistant to other people's assignments, but after reading a while, I began embracing the methods to see what I could learn. Just being reminded of something we may have already known or thought is useful in itself.

What makes Progoff's journal method appealing for some people is that you keep separate pages for separate kinds of thoughts and approaches, but work back and forth among them. There is a system and some limitations, which can free you from certain kinds of choices. The point is not to make an artistic or literary masterpiece at the end that is separate from you, the point is integrating yourself, finding your story and discovering what is really important to you at whatever point you are in your life. He talks about finding the "connective threads." Progoff writes, "We work day by day as much as possible to keep ourselves in an ongoing relationship with whatever is taking place within ourselves" (65). It's a process, and it is fluid. We can change where we look at and how we approach what is happening in our life story every day.

At a Journal Workshop seems long, but the length is due to quite a bit of repetition. The point I think is to try to create a way to experience the Intensive Journal practice on your own. In a workshop or classroom setting, the teacher must often repeat something new several times before the students can absorb it. The repetition in the book provides that learning situation.

Nin writes about the process, "evaluation is creative, judgment is not" (103). Judgment is useful in certain situations (don't pet the alligator), but not necessary when doing exploratory creative work. Editing and judging your thoughts and feelings before you can explore them can lead to a creative block. While it is possible to read through the book and lightly do some of the exercises, I think it is ultimately more helpful and more fulfilling to dive in and engage with them. Being open to new experiences helps. So does trusting that we can spin the assignments in whatever way works for us. Even the light work I've done with the book has already sharpened my vision and changed my approach, letting me work with the raw material that is given to me as is, without judgment.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Stories that Fly and the SF Bay Osprey Cam

As if I need one more thing to attach me to my screen, I've been watching the SF Bay Osprey cam on and off for the past few weeks. It's nice company while I am making things. A friend alerted me to this nest on the bay where eggs were going to be hatched. Although I missed the egg-to-chick transition, I've been attentively watching the chicks' growth since then. These are screenshots from the cam.

There is always much feeding.

The family scene, several hours later. Richmond is in the front. He is
a little smaller than Rosie and his chest is all white. She has a little spotted necklace.

More interesting is the daily story. There are some dedicated folks who comment in the live chat section so that when you step away from the cam you can find out what happened in the soap opera that is birds. How many fish and what kind did Richmond bring in to Rosie and the chicks, Whirley and Rivet. Are the chicks fighting? What sort of home improvements has Rosie made today? You, too, can view eating, pooping, mating, and sleeping.

Then, there is the inexplicable collecting habit of Richie. I was poised to take a picture of Richie bringing in the next fish (often a striped bass), but I caught this instead.

The chat folk were calling it "red duct tape." He has apparently brought in a variety of red objects. Eventually, Rosie sends them over the edge. Nope. Not having it.

Once, Rosie was cheeping, hungry. Richie flew in with something, I think just a portion of the tail of a fish  (the camera is infrared at sundown, so nighttime viewing is in black and white). He stood on the tail. She sidled up closer, eyeing it. "What? This is all you brought me? You certainly took quite a bit for yourself, didn't you?" He stood down. She gobbled it up. Those beaks can really tear up a fish.

Cut grass, weeds, twigs, and lichen-covered sticks are looking less like random things on the sidewalk and more like nesting material every day. I've started watching for red objects, too. They can keep the fish, though.

The birds' names reflect their location; they are on top of an abandoned whirley crane in Richmond, California, next to the SS Red Oak Victory Ship. We visited the ship, in the wind by the water, from fog to sun, wandering about for close to two hours.

You can see the edges of the nest and barely see Richmond on the rail (on the left, the dot under the camera).

The nest and ship overlook Brooks Island, acquired as a park in 1968, and reached only by special reservation. It was home for thousands of years to Ohlone Indians.

It was nice to confirm that yes, they do exist in real life. Slowing down, taking time in one place, watching for an extended period of time: these will bring in the stories like fish to the chicks, right out of the air.

The SF Bay osprey camera, run by the Golden Gate Audubon Society, is here.
The SS Red Oak Victory Ship info is here.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Piece-Quilt-Bind—Water & Power: Ripples

I've been making quilts on and off for years, more intensely in the past two. While I admire the attention to detail and the intense labor and craft and obvious love put into the making of the quilts on view in craft fairs today, my quilts are not those.

My approach to quiltmaking is probably informed by my approach to bookmaking and by my interest in and study of a variety of art forms. Some primary formal concepts are: materials and meaning; background and foreground; uses of color; and line and shape. The basic premise after formal concerns is: what do I want to say or express? Every quilt (and book) ends up being different because I am looking at it from a different angle and asking a new question each time.

I had made one quilt with old pants before (Pipeline, see this post), and I knew I wanted to make another with jeans and continue thinking about water and power. How you can only get clean water if you have some kind of power. Extending that outward to all the things we can only get and maintain if we have power.

For my recently finished quilt, Water & Power: Ripples, I wondered what can this material do that another cannot? What can I do with this material that I haven't seen before? What can I do with this material to make it look like only I could have made it? This quilt uses jeans worn by family members. I've letterpress printed on the cloth with photopolymer plates of photos I took that are water-related: watering cans, gutter drain, and amaryllis (since it takes water to grow). Jeans take quite a lot of water to make in the first place, so all the materials point toward a common theme. I made it my own by using my own photos, and by printing on the cloth myself.

After I cut up the jeans, I noticed all the variations in the cloth: the crease lines at the back of the knees, the sun faded patches, the worn areas. The process of piecing them was a soothing, mostly intuitive, experience with shape and color and texture. I was making the background, although I hadn't realized it quite yet.

When it came time to quilt it, I didn't want to just use a straight running stitch or pick stitch across, although I love the look of the plain dotted line. I thought more about the theme of water and power, I knew what I wanted to do. Sewing concentric circles echoed the action of raindrops hitting standing water. The circles emanate outward, sometimes touching and overlapping. I liked the metaphor of ripples for our actions in the world: how your one drop can affect others' lives. I chose a limited palette of thread colors: blues, black, light yellows, as if light were hitting the circles. The lines of the quilting became an important part of the content.

The backing is from a worn flannel sheet. The binding is standard commercial quilt binding. The borders are from an old tablecloth, with one additional piece of leftover black cotton from Water & Power: Pipeline, another quilt, last finished a year ago May. It measures half a twin-size comforter, and it's as heavy as a lead apron.

For this summer, I'm continuing my explorations with printing on cloth. My adjunct position in the Printmaking Program at CCA has ended after twelve years, since they hired three new tenure-track professors and told several longtime-adjuncts that because of this we were no longer needed. So, the cloth is a comfort.