Several weeks ago, I took a book binding class through an awesome website called Verlocal.  I took it as a sort of dry-run for seeing how the site works and to find out if teaching classes in my home would be a thing that I would like to do.  The short answer is YES, and I’m planning on opening my home for my first classes in December.  You can find out more about that when I make the announcement, or by signing up for my newsletter-type thing here.

Anyways, I took a couple of friends out to the home studio of our instructor, Katie Netti, of Urban Oil Ceramics, for her amazing Book Binding 101 class.  It was a well laid out group class, we were three of seven students, with about twenty minutes of hands on instruction and more than two and a half hours of structured creative work time during which Katie was on hand to field questions and insert helpful suggestions.  I came home with what is probably the most beautiful thing I have ever made in my life.  Needless to say, I wanted to make more – pronto.

I have several friends who participate in National Novel Writing Month, so Kyle suggested that perhaps I do my own thing and instead of work every day on a novel, I make a book every day for a month.  Today I begin.  I built a tiny buffer last week – three books, which gives me three cheat days for the month in case I’m working a twelve hour shift and just can’t do it.  Otherwise, here goes a grand experiment.  I will be documenting all of the books on Facebook, as well as on my Tumblr – Day to Day art.  Wish me luck!!

Studio of Challenge

11751764_10153363701778796_5720848883677044392_n I’ve been challenged by my collaborative partner, Kyle, to do and post one blog worthy thing a week for the month of August.  I haven’t been posting lately, because frankly, I haven’t been in the studio at all.  Sometimes I feel like I build myself this karmic debt to the studio when I haven’t put in my time.  Eventually, that imaginary karma promissory note balloons in my mind and I develop an actual block about doing ANYTHING in the studio.  This is not good for me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that art is something that helps put me on a more level playing field in my life.

What I have been doing lately, is gardening.  We have a huge, lush plot in the community garden.  It is immensely satisfying for me to just be present in that space and see the myriad crops we have planted and how well they are doing.  Last week, we harvested some swiss chard that had big beautiful rainbow colors in it, as well as tons of tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini, peppers, carrots, etc.  Our harvest is going to be bountiful, and we didn’t even really have the best luck putting the garden in this year!  I’ve been taking a ton of photographs because the colors are saturated and beautiful and the subject matter makes me so happy.11752537_10153384809648796_2873287599582521774_n

What I have been doing lately, is gardening.  We have a huge, lush plot in the community garden.  It is immensely satisfying for me to just be present in that space and see the myriad crops we have planted and how well they are doing.  Last week, we harvested some swiss chard that had big beautiful rainbow colors in it, as well as tons of tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini, peppers, carrots, etc.  Our harvest is going to be bountiful, and we didn’t even really have the best luck putting the garden in this year!  I’ve been taking a ton of photographs because the colors are saturated and beautiful and the subject matter makes me so happy.


Also, this last week, I received a handmade card from a friend of mine attending a workshop at the Penland School of Crafts, and in my book, such a card deserves an equal card as it’s due, so today I sat down and dashed off a card in response using inks, brushes and my new B point Speedball nib.  It was a little nothing thing to do, but it got me in the studio and got me creating a thing without the looming payment on my studio-karma bank account.  I think it broke me out of my studio avoidance holding pattern.

The silly thing is that creating things makes me unaccountably happy.  Especially when I know that what I create is a part of me that someone else will enjoy.  I’m going to pop over to post it this afternoon and send a little piece of me off into the universe.11825162_10153405236853796_1984074503907426171_n

A Long Awaited Announcement!

I will be at this year’s Chicago Northside Mini Maker Faire!  For free tickets, visit their website here.

Maker Fair Poster_2015

I will be hosting the Interactive Art Booth including a retrospective of my interactive work, and we’ll be making sculptural origami lit with LED’s.  Make sure to stop by and visit!

Art as a Catalyst for Social Change

Today, I was browsing Art News and stumbled across a TED Talk by an artist names Theaster Gates who is working out of the City to be a harbinger of change on the South Side of Chicago by addressing the twin problems of urban blight and the effect of cultural black holes in a depressed neighborhood.  It brought to mind other groups who have done amazing work for the good of community, such as Object Orange in Detroit in 2006.  It also made me wonder If I could do anything on that scale for my own community.


I have always been interested in the idea of art as a catalyst for social change.  Kyle and I flirted with this in our first collaborative show, Passive-Agressive, where we sought to educate people about the information that they share so unthinkingly in their day-t0-day lives.  That whole show was built around trust, as in do you trust us enough to swipe your personal cards through the readers in our show?  Do you actually want to know what information you are sharing with the world every time you swipe your credit card somewhere?

What Information Do You Share?

It was amazing to talk to people about this topic from both an educational standpoint, and to see them actually think about what was going on with their information on a daily basis.  Watching people experience their information in ways they had never done before was also an incredible thing.  It was almost performance art to see them interact with the pieces.


Afterwards, the thing that you hope so hard for when you create art happened.  People began to have a conversation about the work and what it meant to them in their lives.  Information works like a virus, it spreads because it wants to be free, and I was more than happy to help it be free to those who were open to it.  Being informed makes you more aware of how what you are doing affects both yourself and those people around you.


Presently, I am rehabbing two of the pieces from this show in order to put them on display for another purpose.  I hope that the purpose I am using them for sparks just as much conversation as their initial intent did.  Interested to know what I’m using them for?  I’m announcing it next week.

I am a Magpie

So last month I was listening to the CBC Radio show, Q, on my way home from work.  Q is an interview talk show that features artists, writers and musicians.  I listen to it because it is on when I get done with the night shift at work.  I never catch a whole episode – just the twenty or thirty minutes of it between work and home.  On this particular night, they had Canadian artist Kim Dorland on talking about his work and influences.  It is a great interview, and I highly suggest listening to it.How-To Sketch, I am a Magpie - china marker on black paper

When I did, I had a moment of blinding inspiration.  At 3:39 in the interview, Dorland states very clearly that he is a magpie who steals beautiful things from the people he respects and admires.  I could not possibly give you a more apt description of what it is to be an artist in this day and age.  It was such a stunning statement that I had to turn the radio off and recite, “I am a magpie.” to myself over and over again.  I got home, parked the car and RAN to the studio where I wrote down these words.Sketch of a Sketch of a Magpie - china marker on black paper

What flooded into my head was a lush green background with beautiful magpies.  Have you ever seen one? I’ve been obsessing over them for a whole month now.  They have put everything else in my life on pause, because all I want to do is draw magpies.  Basically what’s been going on in the studio for a month is a deepening of my love affair with the beauty and intelligence of corvids.

Rough Magpie - ink on glassine

I’ve done a lot of china marker on black paper for this, and only recently have I graduated to the ink on glassine stage, but I am crazy assembling elements for a small mixed media series on magpies.  It’s been a crazy time in my life lately, but art has really helped to keep me going.

Feathers and ribbon and satins and trim - these are a few of my favorite things.

Making My First Mobile

So, I’ve been toying with some new things lately, and Kyle and I have been invited to propose a kinetic sculpture for permanent display in a very specific space.  I love kinetic art – LOVE it, but the thing is, I’ve turned out to be a mostly 2d kind of girl.  My most sculptural work to date has been the dimensional wall hangings from the Friendly Neighborhood Robot Factory show.  Those consisted of robots projected off of a fabric background with some of them having several levels.  This photo of Roboscout illustrates that.  They’re sculptural, to a point.  Some of them were even kinetic in the widest sense – Boombot with his light-up equalizer bars, the Wrasselator with his moving arms, ect. roboscout The thing is, this proposal is going to have to be something that is more dimensional, more kinetic, and frankly more collaborative between Kyle and I than any other piece we’ve worked on together.  And let me tell you, I know jack about building a true kinetic work.  So what did I do?  I went to the library, that’s what I did.  It takes a while to get what you’re searching for, but once you find it there is a gold mine out there of helpful books.  My personal favorite was Creative Kinetics:  Making Mechanical Marvels in Wood by Rodney Frost.  It goes to the trouble to discuss all different kinds of moving works, terminology, and it discusses the way different pieces will move, which is especially helpful for someone like me.  I decided to start off slow by making a mobile in order to test out the motion and construction of a piece.  Due to the space we are making our proposal for, a mobile is not practical, but who says you can’t get your toes wet first before you get down to business?


I had a nice rummage through my art hoard and came up with a pile of hard drive components that would look attractive in an arrangement.  I started by making a lever, a branch with one weighting item at each end, and finding it’s balance point.  Then I made the first vane.  A vane, think weather vane, is a kinetic piece that is designed to be weighted on one side.  Since I wanted to start with a simple but still elegant mobile design, I laid out my mobile to have one lever and four veins.  Each vein is counterbalanced by the weight of the rest of the mobile and/or the lever underneath.


Let me tell you – the balance on these bad boys is hell of tricky.  Apologies for the awful photos!

Studio Space – Starting From Square One

So, recently I took a couple of months away from art in order to pick up and move to a different state.  Part of that involved moving my studio into a different, much smaller space.  Those of you who know me know that I am the kind of an artist who hoards a fair amount of stuff, so you can appreciate the challenge I faced.  I mean honestly, where am I going to put my five sewing machines?  What will I do with the fabric?  And that says nothing about the jewelry supplies, paints, pots of glue, bottles of ink, boxes of interesting tidbits, etc., etc.


I have found that having studio space helps me to make time for art in my life.  That said, I have never before had an entire room devoted to being a studio.  It always seems like I’m cordoning off a corner of the living room in order to make something.  In the last iteration of a studio I had, I had a corner of my very large living space in my three-room apartment devoted to art, a large highboy dresser, storage in the furnace room, and a large closet as well.  Whenever I was working on a larger body of work, I would modify the rest of my space in order to make it work, so the dining table became a layout space, the corner by the fridge was where I propped up pieces to finish the edges and so on.  (If you are interested, here is a photo set of my work space changing over the years)


Well, suddenly, I have a three bedroom house.  This means a studio.  This also means a purge, since I’m no longer using my entire home as work-space.  The never ending artist dilemma of what to purge!  I wound up cutting through a fair amount of my fabrics, a few projects, and some out-dated patterns that I will probably never use.  These were posted up online and sent out to some lucky Facebook fans.

Then came the packing.  Endless, endless packing.  Followed by endless unpacking.  I told Kyle my plan was to make it half studio/half office in there so that he could work while I was designing jewelery or working on a piece of art, and his disbelief that we would both fit in that one room was palpable.  Looking back on the photos, I understand.


Previously, I had a highboy dresser containing most of my fabric along with some supplies such as specialty papers, yarns, etc.  Unfortunately, that didn’t really work in the space I had.  Just about every piece of furniture needed to have a surface I could work on, considering that the dining room table was going to be on a different floor of the house.  And then Ikea to the rescue!  I’m still organizing drawers, and the closet is a bit more full than I’d like. (only three totes I don’t want in there, which is not so big of a challenge in the grand scheme of things, right?)


Honestly, I think the takeaway is USE WHAT YOU HAVE BEFORE BUYING MORE FABRIC/PAINT/WHATEVER.  Which is what I have been working on with projects like curtain making for the house.  Also, super fab bonus is basement storage for things like spraypaint, large pieces of wood and the like.


I have already been in there working, and I have to say it is IMMENSELY satisfying!


My Day at the Chicago Northside Mini Maker Faire


Saturday was the third annual Chicago Northside Mini Maker Faire at Carl Schurz High School in Chicago.  It was my first year in attendance, and my first time at a Maker Faire.  I did not have my own booth, rather I helped Kyle from Trossen Robotics man his booth.  I did bring a piece of art we collaborated on together for the Friendly Neighborhood Robot Factory show at Lala Gallery two years ago, though.  It has been about a year and a half since the last time I vended at an all-day event, much more than that since the last time I was vending at an outdoor event.  I am both better and worse at it than I recall being.  Word to the wise – you can never have too many bungee cords when vending outdoors.  Also, make sure to coordinate with your fellow vendees about signage and storage.


Surprisingly, to me, BoomBot became the star of the show for a little while when there was a group of people more interested in the less technical/advanced part of robotics.  I got to show off my fascinator from the Robot Show and talk soft circuitry with folks thanks to BoomBot’s sexy lights.


I spent a lot of my time demoing the Voodoo Arm Controller that Trossen sells for one of it’s robotic arms, and letting kids, students and parents alike walk the “pet” robot – a hexapod with a leash clipped to a joystick on it’s back.  I love being out and about with the hexapod, because there are only two reactions people have to it; 1.  OMG THAT IS THE COOLEST THINGS I HAVE EVER SEEN!!! or 2.  OMG A SPIDER KILL IT, KILL IT!  Both reactions are pretty great.


The location, Carl Schurz HS, and so there were a lot of great students helping out and attending.  It is also a gorgeous school, the pinnacle work of architect Dwight Perkins, done in the Prairie Style.  I spent some time photographing the building, and I made a set on Flickr of my shots.


Overall, this outing was kind of a test run for potentially having my own booth at the Maker Faire next year.  I still need to do some homework, but I’m thinking I might jump in!  Since this blog seems to run towards insight into the work an artist does, I will say it is always, ALWAYS, a good idea to have attended the events you are going to participate in.  It only takes one time vending at a church holiday market show stuck between rows of Tupperware and Scentsy booths with no interest and no sales to learn that lesson.


P.S.  Super sweet bonus since this post is so late in coming.  FYI – the Apple Store in Lincoln Park is both dog AND robot friendly.


One-off Work

As a working artist, I always strive to innovate and keep my work fresh.  In order to do this, I experiment a lot.  Sometimes the payoff is immediate, and sometimes it takes longer to show up in my work.  The less successful experiments I do tend to kick around my gallery for a long time.

I am currently working on the final stages of a major life change for me.  I moved to a different state earlier this month, and I am currently finishing up one of the hardest parts of that – setting up house.  As part of this move, I have been taking stock of the work I have that is kicking around my home.  Prototypes and experiments that have never seen the light of day before now.  It isn’t bad work, any of it, but it was a series of stepping stones more than a destination for me.

A lot of artists don’t want anyone to ever see any piece of their work that isn’t absolutely technically perfect.  In theory, I disagree with that because this construct can prevent artists from putting good work out.  If you want to be an artist it is okay to make work only for yourself, but if your goal is to become a working artist and no one knows you make art, doesn’t that kind of defeat the point?  However, in action I have many many pieces that are these stepping stones.  There is feeling and intention underneath of them, they just aren’t the destination I was heading for.

I often tell people that all art is important, and so with an eye towards that, and towards making room in my new studio, I have started listing some of these one-offs in my Etsy shop.  I started yesterday with a simple piece.  It is wool felt stitched in layers on top of a hand-dyed ocean of cotton.  It is a topographic depiction of an atoll that I did with an eye towards experimenting with adding dimension to a flat surface, creating texture on fabric with ink, and constructing things with solid felt.  Overall, I am very happy with it.  It led to some texture work I did in the background of a small series of mixed media pieces, and it improved my construction techniques for my felt art-jewelry.



So tell me, do you have any experiments that are hiding in a back closet just because they were the stepping stone and not the destination?  Why don’t you take them out and show them to the world?!

Showing a Show

I recently attended the opening of my tenth gallery show.  I’ve spoken before about how much hard work goes into art, but that work isn’t over just because you have all the pieces done.  The display of your work is almost as important as the time and labor that went into making it.

There are a few things you have to think about while you are making work for a show that can save you a lot of headache.  The first one is how much work you need to produce in order to fill the space you are allotted.  The second is the size of your pieces in relation to the specific needs of the space.  I’m not saying that there is only one correct way to hang any specific body of work, but to show it off to the best advantage, it is a good idea to take the space into consideration.  For instance, are there two five-foot walls on either side of a door?  Perhaps you should make pieces of the same size to go on either side to make a pleasing visual harmony.

In my case, I also had to consider cord management since most of my pieces are powered by electricity.  Above is an image of one main wall of the gallery my work is currently hanging in.  You can see that the cords are wrapped neatly around the hanging system.  This was a workaround we came up with after seeing what the cords looked like when allowed to just do what they wanted.  Below is an image of a piece without the cord wrapped.  Visually, it is much more distracting.


Another really important thing to consider is lighting.  Most of my pieces are iluminated, and I didn’t want the gallery lighting to fight with that.  Because of this, the show was scheduled early in the year – to minimize the amount of light from the large windows in the gallery that would wash out the effect of my work.  We also pointed the track lighting in the gallery at the floor in front of the work.  This provided enough light to see the craftsmanship of each piece without inhibiting the effect of the lights on the overall visual integrity of each piece.  However, I did do four small art-jewelry pieces that required lighting.  We worked hard to attain a soft light that wouldn’t contrast harshly with the rest of the lighting in the room.


There is a lot more than that which goes into the install of a show, but I hope this gives you a taste of what kind of considerations need to be made when hanging a body of work.


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