...or tries to...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The joy of just doing

I've been a surface designer for a while now, long enough to have started my business back when every blanket and comforter I designed had to be painted by hand, full size, in gouche I mixed up in yogurt cups. I would sit for hours trying to get my paint swatches to match the imperious PMS color matching system, squeezing out more yellow, more blue, waving a hair drier around and begging the splotches to dry, please dry, please please dry. And then the colors always ran out in the middle of the project, or dripped in the wrong places, or cracked when the paper was rolled. It seemed endless.

Then came the Mac. And colors came as easily as a click, red could be changed to blue in a finger twitch. "Paint" was virtual and in endless supply. It didn't spill, it wasn't precious, I could change my mind, vanish mistakes, I could do anything, it seemed, instantly. Designing didn't get easier, but the actual doing of it did.

So what do I love most now, fifteen years in harmony with my computer? I still design in the day job this way, sitting, like most of us do, in front of a screen. But in my personal work, I fell back in love with making things, holding things, dropping things, sewing things up with needles and thread. I'm planted in front of a wooden table covered with beads and pom poms, paper scraps, scissors, yarn. I've accepted painful fingertips and broken fingernails, paint stains on the inside of my palms. The whole process gets started in the computer, in digital cameras and printers, and are indispensible now, part of how I make things up. But the joy comes from the hunching over the tabletop, the stiff neck and the eye strain. It comes with picking out impossibly tight knots and snapped thread. It's the mistakes that take hours to repair and re-do. It's the mistakes that lead to the ideas and the breakthroughs. I wouldn't have thought so years ago, but that's the wonderful surprise of it all.

Friday, April 9, 2010


I had a seventies-red bedroom when I was a kid, all quilted bedspread and flocked wallpaper and curtains with crimson pom-pom trimming, and I chose red as my favorite color at six. I don't think I had much of a choice then, but I keep it still, with all it's symbolism and charge.

This weekend I'll look for red, in a dress, in the leaves that die here in the spring, in rusting things and dropped petals, in joy and warning.

Have a really interesting weekend, everyone.

Monday, April 5, 2010


What's on your bedside table? We're all the most vulnerable at night in our beds, and undefended until we wake, are we most ourselves then? Does what we chose to see last each night, and first each morning, mean much more than the rest of our things? You know, I'm not completely sure. But I know I chose them carefully.

The wax child's head came from a church in Brazil, a milagro offering asking for a cure. I love how she ended up with me, like an unformed wish waiting to become real. The Frozen Charlottes were a gift from my very dear friend Joyce, she knew how much I always loved them and sent them to me one day. Charlotte went off to a winter dance and wouldn't wear her coat, it would have covered up her beautiful dress. She froze solid in the carriage, her vanity turning her white as ice. The shells are both bought and found, I love how they look like skeleton fragments from some strange unclassified animals. The crystal was on my father's desk-it was the only thing I wanted just after he died. The journal is from my Mom, but right now it's too beautiful to fill with cross-outs and complaints and reality.

Do you keep books, diaries, found things? Flowers, photographs, watches, rings, water, water rings?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The real life studio

When I say that the mini-me doll house artist has more space than I do, it's absolutely true. I never dreamed of a big house, I don't even like the open concept idea-give me a giant brick walled loft and I swear I'll be sleeping in the cardboard refrigerator box. I like warrens of rooms, each one different than the other, little courtyards, secret doors. But the studio-that's where the dreams went big. Walls of windows, bookshelves up to the ceilings, ladders on tracks, sections for painting, for sewing, for reading, for display.

So I have the second bedroom in my little condo. It's the kind of space where anything carried in that's taller than five feet does that Three Stooges Laurel and Hardy ladder routine, knocking things off shelves, cracking windows, scraping the popcorn off the ceiling. It has to hold everything-books and files, boxes of beads and paper, cds, brushes, glue, thread, yarn, pictures and postcards. Every wall has something on it or against it. There are days when it looks like that secret closet detectives always find in police dramas, the space the crazy stalker fills with hundreds of pictures and stolen objects from their victims.

But I love it-I'm also grateful I have it. It's part of my home and I can go in there any time I need to, it's my work office and it holds most of my history. But I also wonder, what kind of art would I make in that giant imaginary studio? I work small, and loved small long before this room, but all my studio spaces have been tiny, from art school onward. How much has this determined the kind of art I make? Has my lack of elbow room made my work more particular to me than if I had a studio I could roller blade across? Who would I be if I had stretched out in a warehouse?

Have you ever thought about how your work is effected by the space around you?