Wednesday, September 29, 2010

DESTROY and create

Recently in two of my groups we worked on watercolors for a few weeks. A lot of the clients are used to working on an art piece for one group and never returning to it so trying to get people to continue working on one project week to week is taking some adjusting. Most people "finished" their painting in the first session and didn't want to return to it in the second session. My suggestion was cutting up the original painting, gluing it to a new sheet of paper, and then working from there.

One client did actually cut his painting up and we talked about what it was like to destroy our artwork. He said it made him sad to do it. It's interesting because he did it without question, and I didn't even demand it! I said, why don't you cut it up and turn it into something else? or you can start something new with watercolors? But he really developed his painting a lot more after cutting it up. It was also a little surprising to me because I had the impression that he hadn't invested much effort into his original painting (a large splatter-painting). However, he said he liked what came out of this process and he seemed really focused while he was working on it.

I don't have a picture of my original painting (which I realized after I cut it up), but here is where I am right now:

It's interesting the kinds of things that happened when I did this with mine. I first only glued one strip of the original painting down. Then, after starting this new painting, I glued two more pieces down to kind of line up with the new marks I'd made. I wanted to blend these new strips into the painting a little, but not too much.

I just glued the new pieces down using elmer's glue, which means they aren't totally sealed to the paper. I'm also pretty impatient so I started painting while the glue was still wet. I like how it looks like the paint is flowing underneath some of the new pieces.

I'm finding this piece much more interesting to work with now that I'm adding bits of my own work back into it (postmortem?). It's not finished yet so I'll continue to work on it during the open art studio groups I have at the end of the day. I think it's good for me to continue projects in that group that I've started in previous groups because it models the type of attitude towards art making I'm trying to encourage in others: our art is important; we should care about it and actually invest time in making it.

Plus, with all the holidays this month I haven't really had an opportunity to make art at home, so I've been looking forward to this time in the open art studio. :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Featured Blogs: Honey Rock Dawn

I'm going to start a new series where I highlight some of the blogs that I'm currently following. It's a LOT of blogs, just so you are forewarned, and at least 30 of them are either art, craft, or design related.

Today's blog is

You might better know her from her more famous Daily Coyote blog, where she posts pictures and stories of her life with Charlie, a coyote she rescued from certain death as a pup. But I actually like her Honey Rock Dawn blog more.

On her blog she posts pictures and stories of her life in Wyoming, her love for her cattle and other animals, and her amazement at nature. She sometimes gives photography tips for taking pictures of things like insects and landscapes. Mostly she just muses about life and beauty. I look forward to her posts (she posts often but not every day since she is very busy). When I was going through a rough time at school last semester, I imagined being on her ranch with her big lovable bull, Sir Baby, and the bossy goose Ricardo.

As to how this is art, craft, or design related - well, just look at the blog and you'll understand. She is an excellent photographer who really captures the essence of her subject, even if he weighs a ton and chews his cud.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Doll with a goiter

  1. This is my first attempt at making a stuffed object that's supposed to look like something specific.
  2. The placement of the flower on the neck is unfortunate (someone thought it was a growth).
  3. The dress is made from hand-dyed fabric - by me!
  4. I came up with the way to sew on the yarn as hair after remembering an episode of America's Next Top Model in which several girls get hair weaves.

Soooo clearly I need some more practice with the sewing machine. Usually I do my stuffed objects by hand but this time I used a machine due to time constraints. I'm not an expert in any sense of the word. The pattern I made looked very different than this. Sigh.

My neice ("Squeaky" or "MeeMoo") liked it for about 5 seconds. It's okay, I didn't take it personally, she seems particularly attached to a little owl and also she isn't even two years old yet. Maybe, if it survives long enough, it will one day be the object of a hilarious conversation between two twelve-year-old girls, in which one of them (MeeMoo) says "I don't know, some weird doll my aunt made for me."


It was fun, though!

Back from Boston, back to a busy three days and another three-day-chag. These marathon holidays are wearing me out!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Meet Mable

This is Mable, our new Japanese Maple tree.

I was calling it "planty" just like I call all of my plants but I realized that Mable might (hopefully) be with us for a long time, so she deserved an actual name. Mable the Maple. She's a present from my parents as a housewarming gift and also to hopefully be planted in the ground one day when we find a permanent place to live!

So I says to Mable I says...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mix CD: putitonrepeat

Today I have my work-study in the ceramics studio so I made a mix CD to listen to while I'm cleaning. The stereo in the studio plays CDs and tapes - how quaint! (haha)

Before I Knew - Basia Bulat
Bizarre Love Triangle - Frente!
Cecilia - Simon & Garfunkle
Cold Beverage - G. Love & The Special Sauce
Dancing on Our Graves - The Cave Singers
Letting the Cables Sleep - Bush
Mighty Storm - The Duhks
Mouthful of Cavities - Blind Melon
The Ninjas - Barenaked Ladies
Oppression - Ben Harper
Sabertooth Tiger - Breathe Owl Breathe
Strawberry Fields Forever - The Beatles
Sugarite - Abra Moore
Talk Show Host - Radiohead
Talula (The Tornado Mix) - Tori Amos
Time is All Around - Regina Spektor
To Let Myself Go - Ane Brun
Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song) - Fiona Apple
Veins - Charlotte Martin
Violet Stars Happy Hunting! - Janelle Monae
Way Over Yonder - Carol King

Regular audio CDs are so limited in size... this playlist was much longer, but what can you do.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sukkah City 2010

Today (and tomorrow) sukkot are taking over Union Square Park in Manhattan! The event is called "Sukkah City," an international competition to re-imagine the sukkah. From the website:

'Sukkah City' is an international design competition to re-imagine this ancient phenomenon, develop new methods of material practice and parametric design, and propose radical possibilities for traditional design constraints in a contemporary urban site. Twelve finalists were selected by a panel of celebrated architects, designers, and critics to be constructed in a visionary village in Union Square Park from September 19-20, 2010.

Viewers get to vote for their favorite sukkah, and the winning one will stay up for the holiday week. There will be articles with professional pictures of Sukkah City so please forgive my terrible photos where I attempt to get images of the whole sukkah at angles without people. Needless to say, it was completely packed, so I didn't end up staying very long!

So, on to the sukkot.

I was really excited about this event and spent a while looking at the website ( to see the proposed designs. Here are the highlights from the day!

This sukkah is called "Repetition Meets Difference" by Matthias Karch. I love the way it looks in the sunset:

It looks like a wooden sea urchin to me, or a real-life spirograph drawing (remember spirograph?!). Matthias explains that the design is based off of a "Wachsmann knot," constructed out of wood from Israeli olive trees and American walnet and maple trees. You can really see how the different colors of wood are impacted by the light and angles.

This one, called "Blo Puff" (by Bittertang) has a really great proposal image but I'm not sure it looks like it's supposed to look on the outside.

However, the interior was interesting:

It kind of looks like a cave or a womb. I imagine it would be interesting to be in there at night when the weather has cooled off. The information sheet says that this blo puff glows in the dark, and the proposal image shows it at night. Maybe it's unfair to judge it in bright sunlight. The inside is draped with eucalyptus leaves to give it a pleasant smell... so I really wish I had been able to go inside! I also wonder if the cushions were hand made and, if so, is the shape meant to evoke something? Maybe large, soft leaves?

This interior (and maybe my favorite shot of the day) comes from "Shim Sukkah" by tinder, tinker. The outside seemed to be made of lots of wooden slats that people felt free to spin (although I'm not sure they were meant to spin). I like that the designers went the extra mile to put a matching picnic table and bench inside so you can really imagine sitting in there. Some of the others simply put tree stumps inside to act as a table and chairs. A "shim," for those of us who aren't builders, is used "to fill gaps in construction and to level uneven surfaces... the shim's typical function is to hide imperfections." Hooray for elevating ordinary materials!

Some images from the outside:

This one actually looks exactly like the proposed image, "Fractured Bubble" by Henry Grosman and Babak Bryan. I say "actually" because I am really surprised because the proposed image is pretty amazing. It looks like a large, beautiful tumbleweed.

I wish I could have gotten an interior shot because it's also interesting on the inside. Unfortunately, you see there are lots of people peeking inside, and I didn't feel like standing around in the crowd to get an opportunity for a good shot. The funny thing about that one is that it is so interesting you want to approach it, but the spines make that a pretty hazardous thing to do. I love that the schach (the roof material) is made from an invasive species of grass that grows in Queens (according to the information sheet). It's great to take material that would otherwise be thrown out and repurpose it for art!

This next was extremely different from the others and really challenges my perspective of what a sukkah is. It's called "Log" by Kyle May and Scott Abrahams and it looks exactly like it sounds.

Though it is interesting and different, I'm not sure I see myself enjoying a meal in there on Sukkot. When I think of Sukkot, I think of being in very natural environments, and glass just doesn't fit into that framework for me. Sukkot is one of my favorite holidays because it's feels like urban camping. I like their concept, though, from the sheet it says they want to invert the typical impression of a light structure on top of a solid foundation. Maybe it's just too modern for me...

The next one, "Single Thread" by Matter Practice was one of my favorites but I didn't get a good picture of the whole piece. I can really appreciate the number of man-hours (or woman-hours) that went into this work!

The curling of the thread is just beautiful. I also liked their interpretation of schach, which reminds me of Spanish Moss (maybe it was Spanish Moss, I don't know). It was very graceful and natural, even though most of the piece was made out of metal!

I like what they wrote about their piece in the information sheet:

[The process of construction] can be reversed and repeated: the wire is unthreaded and raveled back onto the spool, and transported to the next site. Each unraveling and re-threading produces new kinks and bends that will become part of the texture of each sukkah.

I think I like this concept because it means the sukkah continues to evolve over time, and they considered the implications of re-constructing the sukkah every year.

Finally, I don't have a great picture of "Gathering," by Dale Suttle, So Sugita, and Ginna Nguyen, which is a shame because I felt this piece was very well done. Though it was made of straight pieces of wood, the overall shape is very organic. I compared it to a dead seed pod that may have just floated down and landed lightly in the park - like those helicopter pods without the helicopter part.

There were many more sukkot! These were the best pictures from the adventure. If you're in New York and want to check it out, it still will be open tomorrow (9/20)!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day of Atonement

Toby Cohen recreates the 1878 Maurycy Gottlieb painting, “The Day of Atonement."

Gmar chatima tova and have a safe and easy fast!

Thanks to Omanoot for the link and info about Toby Cohen's work!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Views of the studio

I went to the studio today with the goal of throwing away everything I made. I was just going to make stuff and play with the clay and then throw it away.

There were things I made that turned out really well and I was so tempted to keep them, but I made myself throw them away. This is only my second day in the clay this semester, no need to keep anything yet.

Something about smushing pieces you thought you loved together can be very liberating.

I just remembered how when I sat in on the kids class none of the kids seemed to particularly care about their pieces. They just had a good time and if it didn't turn out well they would focus on the more fun parts of the class (like mud gloves).

Once I started throwing away things I liked, I didn't have as hard of a time pushing the clay further. I would stop and say, I like it how it is, but I'm not keeping it anyway so I might as well see how tall or wide I can make it.

And then when I felt I'd pushed the clay as far as it was going to go, I'd cut my piece in half and look inside to see how I did. You learn a lot by dissecting your own work! You can quickly see where you are timid and where you are fearless with the clay.

And then it's time to go, and all you have to show for your time is a bucket of slurry and a pile of mud.

So much fun :)

The Scribble Strikes Again

When I'm not sure what to do in my groups sometimes I will go back to the materials. Last week, we explored chalk pastels. The only thing I don't like about chalk pastels is that you can't just stop working on a piece and be done with it. The chalk will get everywhere - forever and ever - if you don't fix it somehow, either with hairspray or a spray fixative. It's very frustrating. This extra step, which seems so simple, almost never gets done, and so every time I touch it I alter the image. Especially when you have a big group, this can get very messy very quickly!

However, I love how chalk pastels can really seem to come alive. The colors glow and shimmer as they are layered and blended.

Also, lately I've been working almost exclusively on black paper in these art groups. I like using the black paper because the brightly colored pastels (oil or chalk) really pop from the page. It also helps a little with the anxiety of a big blank sheet of paper, since it somehow doesn't seem to have the same expectation and intimidation of a white page.

When we were talking about our pieces, people said mine looks like someone reaching out to give a hug. An open circle. I like these ideas... I should actually explore some of my scribbles through poems and more artwork but lately I haven't really wanted to revisit my thesis!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Same to you, buddy! :(

I was still kind of on this high today after having such a good day in the clay studio yesterday. I'm at work, walking around, la dee da, and a client passes me in the hallway as I'm off to lunch and says "Do you mind?"

"Mind what?" I asked.

"Mind if I ask you a question?"

"What question?" (sometimes the questions are too personal to answer)

"Well, why don't you dress more respectably? If you just brushed your hair and wore a nice shirt you'd look respectable."

I was pretty much floored. I lamely said, "I like my clothes..." and walked away, off to lunch, alone :(

I was pretty hurt and angry. I went to the cafeteria and wrote in my journal first thing, because I had to get this feeling out somewhere and I didn't have anyone to talk to right then. Cascading sadness :( :(

Wow he made me feel really terrible. It really brought me back to comments I've heard throughout my life about not dressing well enough. There was a time when I was a teenager and I wore pajamas all day every day...

But anyway! What! I felt so defensive and sad. It took writing all of that out in my journal to be able to take a step back and really think about the situation. If he hadn't been a client, I could have said something really nasty right back. That made me remember who he is and look beyond his comment. I know him, I know how vulnerable he is. And I wondered, did someone just say this to him recently? Did it hurt when he heard it like it hurt when he said it to me? Because saying "You would look more respectable" doesn't even sound like something he would ever say!

Where I work it is important to talk to clients about hygiene and dress, but I guess this is just a reminder about how it's also important to be sensitive about it. Just because someone isn't taking care of herself doesn't mean she doesn't think about it. I had a lot of reasons for dressing like a shlub in high school, and none of them were that I didn't care how I looked.

My reaction was wanting to say it to someone else, pass on the poison, but instead I'm taking it in, processing it, and putting it out here and in my journal. I guess that's part of being a therapist. If I were in a one-on-one with someone who thought I reminded them of an abusive parent, I'd have to hold a lot of poison like that, so this was basically nothing in comparison. I wish I had been able to do it faster, though, and been able to say something in the hallway. I guess I just wasn't prepared! Talk about a surprise attack!!

I mean, let's not make any pretenses of maturity here. Of course I immediately went to the bathroom to check my outfit/hair in the mirror. Don't worry, I looked cute. (HA!)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back in the studio

I started a new semester in a new ceramics studio, so you know what that means! ...Boring pictures of in-progress clay pieces!!! YAAAAAY!

Because I have extremely limited shelf space in this studio, I'm not really keeping anything I make until I'm satisfied with it. So no more misshapen bowls and stuff in the apartment, just the things I want to keep. The upside of this is that I can cut everything in half to see my technique and where I need improvement.

Today I made the tallest thing I've ever made (it's about 7 inches tall right now):

This teacher is explaining how to use our thumbs, which is nice because until now my thumbs kind of stayed out of the way. It's helping me make things taller, although after I made this I wasn't really successful for the rest of the day. SO whatever. I had a good run (haha).

Then I started my workstudy portion of the afternoon. I work from 3-6pm in exchange for class and studio time. First, I mopped the floors and wiped down the counters. Then I did the crossword.

Then at 4:30 the children's class started. It was chaos but SO MUCH FUN. The kids were ages 7-12, so I positioned myself between two 7 year olds at the wheel and basically gave them lots of attention in order to make sure they didn't fly out the window or something. One of the kids was so hilarious, I would say "I think you need more water," and he'd say "I agree!" or "I was just thinking that!" Ah yes. I'm sure you were.

It's also pretty amazing working with "normal" kids, aka, kids who have not suffered extreme abuse or trauma (this is my most recent experience working with kids). It feels so much different. I say to them, clean your tools, take your bucket to the sink, and come back to wipe down your station. And they do it! Okay, water gets everywhere, whatever, it's pretty much done how I asked them to do it.

And the behavior is enough under control that we can do funny things, like when we were looking at our hands and the girl said ,"it looks like I'm wearing mud gloves!" and I said, "I know, me too, look at my hands." She said, "no you have some spots without clay." "Well, I think you need to help me with that, then!" And then she wiped clay all over my hands so I had mud gloves, too.

That isn't to say I don't like working with kids who have a more difficult history, but it is very different. Working with these kids today makes me appreciate that work more, somehow.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shana Tova!

Shana tova! I made apple cobbler this year instead of honey cake - not that I've made honey cake, but we're going to eat it instead of honey cake. I'm not a huge fan of honey cake, it's usually too dry to be eaten without lots and lots of ice cream. Not that I'm complaining about having to eat ice cream. I bought non-dairy ice cream to go with the apple cobbler, but it's not the center of attention, so it's okay that it's non-dairy :) (It has to be non-dairy because we are eating almost exclusively meat meals this weekend)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New business cards!

I got new business cards from! I think they are so awesome. I got to choose up to 99 pictures to put on the back but I only used 13 because I couldn't really decide. Carrying them around is like carrying a mini portfolio with me. I also got a little holder that's on a keychain so I can keep them with me JUST IN CASE.

I'm also going to be changing my spiffywafer dot com logo to the exploding head artichoke thing that you see on the front side of the business card. I currently use a fun print I did of a vegetable still life, which is still one of my favorite prints but I don't know if it makes sense anymore. In class last semester everyone was making jokes like, "what is spiffywafer? a produce company?" The exploding head kind of looks like a self-portrait, so I think it's a good choice.

However, I'm not changing my domain name - I briefly thought about it but realized that my namesake domain name was taken already, and "" was also taken, and I thought to myself, do I want to be a ridiculous domain like or, or should I just stick with spiffywafer? So I'm sticking with it, and when people ask I will just say I've had it for 9 years and I kind of love it. I've put this name on the backs of cards, signed it on collaborative works, and it's on my etsy page. I think it's interesting and unique, maybe not "professional" but what is professional for an art therapist, anyway?
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