This past weekend I had the pleasure of leading this wonderful group of 11 women in creating their collage spirit guides and guardian angels. To start I lead them in a short meditation to find 3 words to guide their art. From there they chose a face or animal and began a 2 day process of creating their spirit guide. I am always amazed and humbled by creative spirit that is revealed by a weekend like this and want to share that with you. This is a workshop I love to teach and look forward to watching the process of each “icon” coming into being and I learn something every time from students and am grateful for the opportunity to help them bring their ideas to life. What follows is a group photo and then a few of the 11 Spirit Guides made this weekend – Above is the demo piece I made to show the techniques.
For my long-time followers, you know birds pop up in my work often. They are most definitely my muses. I love to observe them, to witness each species characteristics and culture, their distinct forms, figure, flight pattern and personality traits. A Scrub Jay is different in personality and energy than a Blue Bird. Chickadees run together in a tight flock, and Ravens pair off with a partner for life. Each one unique and wonderous. Here I have been charmed by the most common of birds, the American Robins. I always admire their upright stature, sleek feathers and of course their red russet chest that seems to say “here I am, look at me”. They spend time both on the ground hopping and browsing and in the trees chatting and communing (here is a link to hear their song and calls).
The thing is, for me to observe their busy-ness, I have to stop and be still. To hear their call and song I have to be quiet. To create these little odes to the American Robin I have to stop and consider them carefully to be quiet with them, to spend time creating this space for them in the form of a fabric collage. So, thank you robin, wren and bluebird; thank you raven, flicker and sparrow, you remind me to be still to be in your time not my time and you animate my creative verve.
I have developed this into a mixed media retreat so you fabric artist and quilters out there please invite me to your quilt guild to lead a workshop on making your own bird box fabric collage contact me through my website at lisathorpe.com
To see more in the Bird Box series see past post about Wrens.
My time stamp exercise is continuing. I was visiting my sister in NYC in October and I wanted to mark the moment with a time stamp fabric collage or two. Having the challenge in the back of my mind during my visit made my eye more keen to the pattern, color and line of the place. With my handy phone/camera in my pocket I could snap away images to jump from once I was back in my studio. Two events stood out as inspiration for my fabric collage experiment with time and place. The first is a walk along the beautifully designed High Line. If you haven’t experienced this it is worth making happen –The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side and every visual detail in attended to. Pattern, line and texture are all there and we were lucky to visit just after the completion of the Vessel. It is an extraordinary centerpiece of Hudson Yards where the High Line ends (or begins depending on your perspective). It is an interactive artwork in the shape of a hallow beehive with a spiral staircase that leads you 16 stories above the Hudson River – there seems to be a wide variety of opinions about the Vessel but I loved it. This piece is a tribute to it and our day.
This next one I’m trying to express the color, hustle and energy of Times Square. I struggled more with this one because it’s not my typical color palette and it feel a bit busy and overdone … but come to think of it that’s how Times Square feels too so maybe I marked the moment even if I don’t like the art. I suppose that’s just what a practice is about; pushing somewhere you don’t always go and finding a solution of some sort.
I’ve posted a couple of these little exercises in the last six months and I’m here to share two more. My goal in creating these is to mark a moment; they are little meditations or, maybe more accurately, an ode to a fleeting experience. When I’m on a walk or hike I’ll stop and take a photo of something interesting, maybe take a few note in a note book about the colors, scents and sounds. I also mark a google map with a pin to find the GPS location and with the date I try to incorporate this into the small, 11×14” fabric piece. I have an aspiration to create on each week but that hasn’t been happening… perhaps I’ll get there and you’ll be the first to see it if I do. But now with no further ado…
#3: 9/11/19 8:24am GPS 38.5388525, -122.8744546 stand at 13ft above sea level. My notes remind me it was a sunny, bright dry morning. the trail is lined with remarkably tall and fanciful thistles dry and beautiful. The California Towhee we out in abundance calling out a tic of a warning to let there family know I was walking through.
#4: 10/12/19 11:36 a hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Ridge Road (somehow my map pin drop failed me and I didn’t get my GPS). Hot dry day, first walking through cool redwoods then rising out on a ridge where a fire had been some years ago. This bare tree towered over the terrain, dead but teaming with life as bird fly in and out and as the wind caressed it’s smooth branches I off to NYC this week so I hope to get some Time Stamp inspiration to share with you soon.
For those of you who have followed for a while you know that I’m am a wandering artist. Trying this technique and then that teaching what I learn along the way. Sometimes I lament that I’m not a Monet type, you know, painting my metaphorical lily pond every day. But I’m really more of a Picasso (not the boorish, misogynist part), just when my audience knows what they like about my work I change it. Lately I’ve been doing more stitch in my mixed media work, you’ve seen that in my most recent posts. When I first started art quilting, I was all about the machine stitch…. don’t slow me down just get it done. But increasingly I’ve been drawn back to hand stitch. A participant in a workshop gave me some feedback that having a hand stitch option for a workshop would be attractive to some people, so I set about making some examples to satisfy that request. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it would be also attractive to me, that in sitting down with needle and thread in a comfy chair with a podcast or music or friends that I would find a quiet beauty in the doing. Something different than the feeling of accomplishment at finishing quickly…. sometimes in my life I have measured my success by how quickly and efficiently I could complete a piece of work or art to my satisfaction. The act of slow stitching does not check off that box. I let my stitches be improvisational and move where they want to go, sometimes sparse and sometimes dense, complicated or simple; each section of the piece tells me what it needs. Adding this leisure and slowness to my work has added a richness, a texture and a fullness that was not achieved by the machine and by speed. The hand at work is evident, the art was clearly held, nurtured into existence.
I hope you can find your leisure in the doing. Perhaps its baking something special to bring to a friend’s house or maybe taking time to prune the roses in your yard of faded blooms, maybe even slowing down your power walk to hear the birds and watch the breeze sway in the trees.
Whatever it is be well, take care.
PS. I’m teaching a workshop about this Fabric Cut out technique in October – contact me if you want more information.
This life is a wheel, I think, ever turning, sometimes it seems to slow but never stops. Recently there have been friends who have died in their elder stages of life, the wheel turns. Today photos of a new baby arrived in my inbox, smiling tired parents and sleeping baby, I knew this woman when she was just a girl and now she’s a mom…the wheel turns again. We received a wedding announcement for a young couple who found each other at the camp where we work what wonder this turning wheel brings. Is it the wheel of a traveling carriage on a long journey? Or perhaps the spinning wheel, turning fibers into threads to weave into the tapestry of life. I think that might be it, threads sturdy and strong, threads thin and tenuous. All to be dyed and woven into to the cloth of their purpose. A garment, a blanket, a shelter. Worn to tatters as is the way of the turning wheel never stopping, only slowing now and again for us to notice if we happen to be paying attention.
This is a fabric collage piece I just completed inspired by this moment of noticing the wheel. Thank you to Joan and Ralph who have recently died, thank you for showing me a bit of the tapestry of your life sharing your shelter, wisdom and comfort. Thank you baby Solomon and his parents Calen and Myron for reminding me that the wheel that turns to death also turns to life, and thank you Colby and Noelle for inviting us to witness the turning of the wheel once more, the twining of your lives from two threads to one that will be long, beautiful and sturdy.