"Before paperbacks and pocket books, before blogs, there were broadsides.
Ten years ago, Elizabeth Bradfield -- writer, naturalist, published poet, fellow MFA companion (back in the day) and good friend (to this day) -- told me she was starting a special online project: Broadsided Press.
A bit like a literary magazine -- but collaborative and reliant on community effort for distribution and printing -- Broadsided Press would take submissions from poets, ask a group of artists to "dibs" on new poetry each month and create artwork that arose from the poems that spoke to them directly. These Broadsides would be printed and hung by "vectors" all over the world, and it was a new format for an old idea, and it was super exciting, and it would include interviews and translations and opportunities for special response features to world events, plus years "in haiku," and did I want to be a part of this?
I did. But what I was really focused on around that time was wading through an icky-pukey first trimester, so I was distracted and didn't really understand how large this project could potentially become. My son's name is "Pelle," in part because of the time Liz patted my belly and asked, "How's Pelagic Meissner?" I might have barfed right after that, but "Pelle" stuck. When he was born, "Carl" was absolutely the wrong name. Ahhh, good friends.
The Butterfly Farm is the latest Broadside I've had the pleasure of being a part of. The poem was written by New York writer, Nicole Callihan and spoke to me as a mother, woman and observer; I knew I had the perfect piece of artwork to accompany Nicole's writing.
Broadsided Press is going strong after a decade of successful collaboration. I've moved in and out as an artist, once even getting an email (okay, maybe twice getting this email) that said "Nudge, nudge your artwork is due," and I looked at my kids and said, "You guys need to entertain yourselves while I help my friend Liz."
Sometimes the artwork already existed:
But most of the time the poetry has spoken to me as an illustrator, warranting something brand new.
The first glimmers of my current direction with textiles happened within these Broadsides -- small opportunities to diversify and explore new materials. Initially, I'd wanted to incorporate textile use into children's book art, but this hasn't come about yet. My work is dark, and somehow the textiles tapped into an even darker place. I know there are dark children's books, I'm drawn to them, but I've been told a number of times by art directors that my particular darkness is a little too ... scary.
Clicking on any of these images will take you to Broadsided Press, where you can print out and distribute these Broadsides in your own haunts -- coffee shops, street corners, buses, bars -- you, too, could be a vector. For those of us who don't get out much, they also look pretty good on design walls.
I'm grateful for the opportunity Broadsided has given me to crack knuckles and stretch arms a bit. It's in this diversification -- format, materials, collaborative effort -- where I've discovered new ways to extend my voice and apply it to current work. If you have the chance to diversify within your art form, it will serve you well. I recommend it.
I also recommend the following:
Elizabeth Bradfield is an award-winning poet, writer, naturalist and publisher. Check out her blog, The Haul Out, which considers seals and other items ashore, mostly on Cape Cod. If I could give her an award for being an awesome person, I'd do that too. Also, I wish she could accompany our family on all our Alaskan boat outings because she can identify everything flora and fauna, and she's not a picky eater.
"Bradfield's poems guide us alertly into this treacherous territory pocked with political pitfalls and theoretical quagmires. One hardly notices the perils that abound because Bradfield is such a deft naturalist, with a keen eye."
—Jon Christensen, reviewing Interpretive Work in The San Francisco Chronicle
* * *
For even more diversification, a year ago I published this. A bit beachy, a bit writerly, a bit of insight as to how all things have a way of fitting together to make a life whole.
This fall I spent a lot of time sitting at my computer submitting work to shows, applying for grants and answering questions. And while it's not necessary to have a creative writing background for these things, it does take the edge off, kind of like when your husband hands you a gin and tonic over top of the bickering children and the smoking pot on the stove. (That's a terrible simile, implying that while one doesn't need a drinking background to parent and cook dinner, a person may find it helpful).
One of the more creative computer-bound opportunities I did have was for Mabel Magazine, who asked if I would write about creating art in Alaska for their "Living..." segment. This is the first time my writing and textile art have appeared together in print, and I was beyond thrilled when my copy appeared in the mail this week.
Mabel was founded two years ago by Liz Kalloch and Stefanie Renee, two creative San Francisco Bay Area women committed to print and creating a magazine that offers "real stories about real issues that people face with their creative endeavors, with their businesses and in their lives."
The current issue's theme is "What's Next," and these well-written essays explore all the ways creative women have come to terms with what is next for them, whether it's rebounding from a work layoff, losing a loved one, staying open to the unknown or committing to staying right where they are.
I'm honored to be in such good company.
Mabel isn't available to read electronically (on purpose), but you can certainly order your real copy online. I showed it to a friend of mine yesterday and she said the same thing my husband said when it arrived, "Oh! This is such a nice magazine!" It really is. The writing is thoughtful, the photographs are gorgeous, the paper is lovely, the layout is beautiful.
I'm really thrilled to be a part of something so well conceived and executed.
I hope you'll check it out, lots of inspiration here:
"No object is mysterious. The mystery is your eye."
A woman I have never met, who I know appreciates fine cloth and good gin and is an extraordinary book binder, has sent a box from England to the darkness of Alaska, knowing that the contents will be appreciated.
How can this trust exist? Perhaps this is the biggest mystery of all.
I contacted Kate Bowles over a year ago -- I'm not even sure why, maybe just to say, "I love your work" -- and we've kindled a small relationship based on common interests and a kindred spirit of appreciation for the old linens, mending and handwork. I participated in a blog hop last year and she was one of the artists I passed the hop onto. In response to an online request I recently made, she contributed items that she doesn't need or want, has tidied up her cupboards, and inserted some excitement into a cold, dark northern afternoon.
Many of these doilies are likely Scottish in origin. I'd like a magnifying glass for some of the work because it's so fine, the gauge much smaller than the pieces that have come from my own family.
Kate said doilies make excellent kindling. She said this twice, but I'm going to assume she doesn't know about this first hand. We did find some fantastic things to do with these doilies right away and still managed to warm up the house without setting anything on fire.
Kate's work* was recently featured in Claire Wellesley-Smith's book Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art. This book highlights work by a number of textile artists I greatly admire, and if you haven't picked up a copy for yourself, you probably should (or at least have a frank conversation with Santa).
If the eye holds mystery and objects do not (as Elizabeth Bowen claims in the quote above), then my eyes hold and look for mystery everywhere. I want to know about other makers, current and past, and see evidence of their lives in the items they've created. Much of the current generation doesn't hold these items in high esteem. They are seen as garish, frilly or vestiges of a time when women's heads were bowed and their thoughts silenced, buried and stabbed into these time-consuming symbols of domesticity and uselessness; but look past this and know the great beauty is in the intent. As a contemporary maker, my own intent is to gather this energy and channel these voices into new work. To this end, I'm gathering the unwanted, the discarded and obsolete and giving them all a voice, honoring as much history as I can, even if their history is labeled "unknown."
If you are curious about this work, or have toyed with the idea of setting fire to your own mass of burdensome domestic linens, you can contact me and I'll send more information on what I'm seeking and how to cathartically contribute.
If you think this is insane and you'd rather sit back and watch all this unfold, that's super, too. Just know that while we light plenty of fires around here, none of these boxes of mystery will find themselves in the box of kindling.
This is the final group of boogie-woogiers. If you missed group 1 and group 2, I think it's worth following the links back to see how other artists are getting out "what's in them."
Many thanks to all who participated in this inspiring journey of stories and images -- both to those who shared and to the rest of who followed in a long, snaking boogie-woogie line. The call out is officially over, the curtain has closed on this series. There may be an encore in the future of this blog, however, so check back if you think you hear some heels clicking on the stage.
One night I was layin' down,
And yes, here's the last of what came out:
The flight of fancy.
"... the use of Sheers here make it a fragile and one time thing. I am not sure I could ever sell in in fear it will start to deconstruct. It is also a bit of a journey of a typical quilter starting with the "maze" of straight line quilting, from which we need to free ourselves. Then learn some prideful fancy free motion quilting. Then decide to cover all that with some stretched out renditions of flying geese. There is a second color on the underneath that does not even show unless there is a bit of a breeze. Somehow all of these stages just HAD to be done."
The heavy journey.
" ... I have always in the past been able to use sewing as a distraction, but it had not been going that way lately. I know by getting this chaos out of the way, that I can move forward, but this will certainly be a progressive piece until the end is reached [...] my boogie-woogie is a journey that will be long, but will also be a time for healing."
"... When I finished my first naturally dyed square, a door opened through which I glimpsed tablesetting as ceremonial placemaking. The tablecloth itself was the first one that took on its own life as I made it, moving from a simple design based on my backyard clematis to a textile echoing with barely ascertainable associations ... like sinking Venetian palazzos or Sleeping Beauty's castle. Unseen elements like those that made our dinner parties so varied and engaging became apparent in the cloth and I realized that those elements, like roots, permeate everything. The weather, the season, the occasion, the ancestors, the taboos, the craft traditions, the aesthetic judgements, the interpersonal connections, the life and the love ... all weaving together to underscore and enhance ordinary daily existence, including dinner. My boogie woogie is making table settings that elicit life when we gather to share food, seeking nurturance on many levels..."
The love affair.
" ... The first (collage landscape was) inspired by my missing my granchildren who lived in California and I lived in Tennessee at the time. Looking out the window on my plane ride back home, I thought of distance, miles, and a cloth slowly formed in my mind, a landcape of the heart. It took me a long time to stitch and an ever longer time to get over my angst at the back side of my cloth that looks like a thread road map that is falling off the cliff but this first big, dyed and stitched cloth of note has sparked a continuing love affair with dye, cloth, needle and thread."
The final powerful beat.
"... when I first heard Roderick singing 'A Life of Crime' with his band Sourpuss back in 1976 I wanted to illustrate it. 35 years later I got 'round to it [...] we will launch the limited edition of 100 hand coloured copies in September of 2016 at Artsite Gallery here in Sydney with an exhibition of the original drawings, accoutrements & a gathering of musicians from the past 40 years, it will be a party!"
Oh all you Boogie-woogiers, you rock. Thank you for taking the time to contact me and share your work. I'm inspired and blessed by your creativity and words. Someday we'll go shake up that rickety stage again.
The original post is here: Boogie-woogie. Get down.
This is the second installment of the boogie-woogie artist call out -- many thanks to all the artists who contacted me with their meaningful work. If you missed group 1 of the boogie-woogiers, I highly recommend you check out those pieces, too. I've included portions of accompanying stories here, but know that most of these inspiring journeys have been long and multi-faceted.
They are therefore revered in this space.
One night I was layin' down,
And here's what came out:
"I made a prayer shawl for a dear friend. It took a year. It turned on my artistic inspiration brain [...] We both lost our sons and met through grief. In deciding to make something for her to wrap in when she needs a hug, she became my muse. I had no idea I could stitch love [...] it turned out to be a gift to me."
"I saw magpies nesting in a tree bursting with flowers. I had to do it right down to the poem and the 3-d nest and eggs! I had never done anything like it before and haven't since either ... this quilt demanded to get done and it opened the door to further art quilts. One of those, a reverse applique of my daughter's dog - actually went to Groton New York and hung in the Main Street Art Gallery there among oil paintings and watercolors in a juried show!"
"On our first day in the ceramics workshop we all moulded apples, about the nearest thing to a plain ball of clay you can think of, just to get the feel of it. At the end of the session I was the only one to ask for my attempt to be fired. The following week I held in my hand, still warm from the kiln, the wonkiest apple with the chunkiest leaves ever seen, with a huge grin on my face."
The magical and storied.
"Last year I had a Grand Incubation of LARGE white grubs in my compost. I was both repelled and fascinated believing that there was some very important reason why their beetle mothers had chosen this small acre. The combination of some tacky eyelet ... and the almost rotted through walnut dyed linen is uncomfortable, but perfectly portrayed this mystery of the Earth Realm."
One final group of boogie-woogiers will follow soon.
The original post (with a brazen 1970's leotard-and-neck-kercheif-boogie-woogie moment of my very own) is here: Boogie-woogie.
Artist in Anchorage, Alaska, sometimes blogging about the collision of history, family & art, with the understanding that none exists without the other.