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.
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.
I’m on a bit of a new journey professionally. In the last year or so I have become more connected with the quilt guild world. They are an organized bunch and set aside time and money for speakers and teachers. Now I’m doing a bit of travel in Northern California mostly, to share my talents and hopefully inspire others to try new things in fabric and surface design. I have two lecture/trunk shows that I do; one is a surface design for fabric artists overview and the other is a deeper dive into designing your own fabric using photos taken with a smart phone. I’ll be sharing these techniques in Fort Bragg with the Ocean Wave Quilters and I felt like I needed another example for them to touch and see. To that end I started wandering around The grounds of The Bishop’s Ranch looking for inspiration (if you have been here you know that’s not hard to find). The lushness of the saucer-sized nasturtium leaves grabbed my attention first and and snapped a few close up photos. Then the bright and happy calendula flower beckoned next. The green and yellow orange spoke to me of bursting new life and an idea began to form. How about a mandala of spring life? The butterfly that had been fluttering around the edges confirmed my suspicion that I was on the right track and asked to be included in my design. I took my photos home played with them a bit in a few of my favorite photo manipulation apps then printed my designs right on my home printer within minutes I had my own fabric to begin designing my backyard mandala. Thankfully my son has a math brain and with a bit of calculating he easily helped me figure out the angle I needed to create an octagon. A lot of machine stitching later and some sore fingers from embroidery stitching through lots of layers I finished my ode to spring.
Take a moment today to acknowledge the wonder of nature around you, Find some way to let it influence your day and allow creation to sing it’s sweet song in your ear.
I have creative mixed media classes coming to spark your artistic fire and fuel new ways to make and create go to my website to see more.
A couple of weeks ago I showed you the first in my “Time Stamp” series. These are small meditations on a moment. I’m trying to capture the feeling of a particular place and time not a literal image. So here is my second in this endeavor. A morning hike through Gina’s Orchard here at The Bishop’s Ranch revealed a clutch of wild iris, a little patch of purple in a sea of green. Here is my fabric collage marking of that moment.