Work, work, work.

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1000 Feet

I’ve begun testing out some materials to see  which will provide the most “bang for my buck” if you will.  Not necessarily in relation to literally cost but in how the material begins and then translates into a crocheted object.  For example, last week I purchased 3 yards of fabric (1 yd = 3 ft … so 9 ft in length).  The fabric itself is around 1 yard in width as well, you’d think that is a pretty good amount of material and should translate into a decently large crochet piece.  After spending a couple hours cutting the fabric into 1-1.5 inch strips and sort of slip knotting them together to create a yarn like structure and crocheting it together, I discovered the exact opposite.  The piece essentially came out to be approximately 24 inches in width and maybe 6-8 inches in height/length.  I recall having similar sizing breakdowns last spring.  A 6ft by 10ft silk image, once crocheted, became approximately 33x 22 inches.  The shrinkage of material just really isn’t worth all the work and effort that goes into it.

Remembering that I had a 1000 ft. spool of rope, I decided to see how that would translate as well as to see what the crochet stitches would begin to look like and how it could function as an object specifically with the weight and body of this material.  It took me just about 2 hours to crochet this piece and although there is still quite a bit of shrinking happening within the substrate (it’s not a 1000ft or even close to 1000 ft finished piece) there seems to be more room for development with this material.  Some things I found interesting about the rope as a material are it’s heavy weight once crocheted into a larger object, the looseness and free flowing nature of it even as a crocheted object, its potential for manipulation through wire and layering, as well as its potential for different texture and size via the diameter of the rope.  Below are some images of the rope piece and ways I have begun to think about it’s potential for manipulation and created context through layering via hanging methods.

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Fast Forward

My final crit was last Wednesday, which also happened to be my 26th birthday.  All in all it was a beneficial and fruitful critique and a decent day.  The work I presented involved the display of the patch images I posted previously (see The Importance of a Patch), and I briefly discussed with my classmates the conceptual thoughts and questions I am considering as a maker.

The remaining work I presented consisted of pieces created through collaging imagery on a fabric surface that was reminiscent of my dad’s fire gear.  Using super sauce I transferred older family photographs along with some of the letters my dad has written me onto the fabric.  In efforts to create a sense of absence I also replicated the patch shapes in black fabric and placed them on the quilted collages.  All of the items were attached using appliqué techniques seeing as these were more test pieces than anything, which allowed me to remove and move things around easily.  I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the work presented.  The black patches felt like a representation of death or mourning more than absence.  I think often a large sense of black can do that.  In addition, some of the materials added to the piece just started to make it feel like there was too much going on.  (photos to come soon)

Some of the key points that really stuck with me in regards to the critique were related to 1. Making sure I am making work that I love and enjoy- despite the content, what do I want to do and what do I love to do?  2.  How can the passage of time be represented in the work, either through material or representational within the content?  (Time related to my dad being away working — time spent with and without my family).

Thinking about these things I came to two conclusions; crocheting, which I did last semester, is what I love to do and perhaps should be the direction that I should go in and secondly, perhaps time can be represented in the amount of time I dedicate to a piece, it’s length, or its stitch count, etc.  My dad worked for 72 hours a week, generally, as a fire fighter. Would it be possible to crochet for this amount of time each week from now until my thesis?  What would the object begin to look like?  More importantly, what materials will or can I use that are going to relate to or emphasize the content of the work?

As I began to think of these ideas I also have been thinking about what role imagery can play within the work or if it is even necessary to have an image within the work.  Some of the older family photographs I have acquired, in a way, have begun to shut me out of making.  I find myself drawn to certain pictures and then begin to wonder why I am drawn to that specific photograph as well as what can I do with the photograph to create a new composition that will be relatable to an audience and to expressing my relationship with my dad. Daunting to say the least… and often leaves me feeling frustrated and a little lost.

For now, I am going to explore crochet as a medium as well as the materials that can be potentially used within it.  How can I metaphorically use the material to create an object that represents a narrative between my father and I? What role does the crochet play?  I look forward to researching artists for inspiration as well as researching and learning a bit more of the history of craft.

Diving into an entire new medium in a completely new context than before is nerve-wracking, especially when I have spent the last 7+ years developing my skills and knowledge as a photographer, but it’s grad school, so go big or go home right?

Making soup with Malcolm

On Thursday I had a studio visit with Malcolm Cochran. I had never met Malcolm before but we had a wonderful conversation and I appreciated his interest in getting to know me beyond my artwork. He wanted to know where I grew up, asked me about my family – how did I decide to make art my life. And then we got into the nitty gritty of it all. I’m a talker- and usually during studio visits I feel the time crunch and feel like I have to get things out as quickly as possible- often overwhelming myself and probably the visitor.  Malcolm’s visit however felt relaxed, calm, and as if time was infinite. Just another element I really appreciated during our meeting.

As we spoke about my work (both past undergraduate pieces and current works) I began to feel less and less sure of my graduate work. Not in a sense that it’s poor work but rather what it is I have been trying to understand within the work. Malcolm emphasized the importance of exploring ideas and questions and finding answers within the work rather than starting with an answer and then trying to make work about it- which is the place I seem to have found myself in.

Drawn to my photographs from last semester he encouraged me to use them as sketches and re-look at them for more understanding and to try to find perhaps a commonality or what makes them interesting.

As for my most current video work he made a point to remind me that sometimes “confidence can be blinding.”  A point that redirected us to his advice on exploration and question asking. There is a pressure within graduate school to make sure you know what your work is about- which myself and my classmates can attest to. Malcolm and I discussed this, and obviously it’s important to know what you’re making and why-but as he reminded me, explore IDEAS, see what kind of QUESTIONS you’re asking yourself and within that you will figure out what your work is about.

I seem to have set an agenda for myself and have worked backwards. “I am making work about Womens issues and oppression within domesticity.” But am I really? I would like to- but what if the work is exploring something else in a different way-not in the way I intended?

One of Malcolm’s final pieces of advice was to think of art making as a way of making soup. Say you make a really good tomato bisque, with fresh tomatoes, basil, chunks of mozzarella cheese, some salt and pepper. It’s delicious but the next time you make it you use that original recipe as a jumping off point to alter it and make it even better- experiment with some more flavors. The fresh tomatoes were a great addition so you decide to put more fresh ingredients in rather than artificial spices. This brands a new type of tomato bisque but nonetheless had the same initial concept behind it.

What he was saying was that each artwork made should be inspiration for the next. Should serve as a jumping off point- take the best parts of the previous work and make a new recipe with them.
I appreciated this analogy in many ways. Since the visit I have felt a bit overwhelmed and lost within my work and have no idea where I’m going. Nevertheless, I am going to go back to my photographs from last semester and really look at them, I’m going to ask myself questions about what I am thinking about or trying to explore, I am going to examine my video works and do the same hoping that after all that I may have some pretty good ingredients to make a strong and hearty soup.

Women’s work: Blue collar

“A blue collar is a working-class person historically defined by hourly rates of pay and manual labor. A blue collar worker refers to the fact that most manual laborers at the turn of the century wore blue shirts, which could hold a little dirt around the collar without standing out.”

 

Not only do I find an interesting metaphor in silk with its transparency and the transparency or invisibility of women’s work- but also I find a very interesting parallel between women’s work and blue collar work.  So often blue collar work is overlooked and undervalued, similar in the way housework and women’s work is overlooked and undervalued.  Both receive very little praise or appreciation for the work that they complete.

 

I am anxious to see how I can make this metaphor part of my work as well…the ideas are brewing.