Monday, February 24, 2014

How to honor our experiences with art

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As I mentioned before, I save a lot of things that I think could potentially be used for art and I often remember where my art supplies come from - I remember that certain skeins of yarn were donated to me when I was facilitating knitting workshops at a cancer center. I know that other odds and ends of yarn were donated to me when I taught a knitting workshop as a meditative practice to high school kids. I have yarn that used to be a favorite sweater. I have a collection of bits and pieces of fabric, paper, and thread from participants in my Stitch Therapy workshop this past summer/fall. I have fabric from clothes that my kids wore when they were babies; old pillowcases and sheets from my husbands grandmother; hand-dyed fabric from college classes; leftover art supplies from student teaching... I keep all of these supplies because they hold meaning and because I want to honor the memories that I have of those people, places, and experiences in my life.

I honor those memories by incorporating bits and pieces of the yarn and fabric and paper into my artwork. I can look at the art I've created and remember how it felt to stitch the fabrics together and embroider texture and lines; I remember the comfort that I felt during that process and want others to feel that comfort when they see the work. So, not only am I honoring the experience I am also practicing self-care.

I am beginning to learn how important self-care is and how productive it can be. Without taking time for ourselves we become drained and tired making it more difficult to care for others. Self care is also different for everyone. My husband and I met at a rock climbing gym - his relaxation is climbing and as a family we take the kids climbing and spent quality time doing something we all love together. Personally, my art is my self care. Knitting and stitching are meditative, relaxing, and soothing. Just looking at my art or picking up some fiber makes me feel better. Walking through a gallery or museum is time well spent. There is a huge painting by Franz Kline at the DIA that I always stand in front of for a few minutes and feel completely happy no matter what else is going on.

I've also learned that the comfort I get from making my art is also experienced by people who own my work. This image shows my nephew showing off the new pieces in their home - yes, my brother and sister-in-law own these two pieces, so they might be a little bias with their statement, but they have told me how the art creates a calming atmosphere in the room.

"These two pieces are the perfect addition to our home.
The photos posted only begin to convey how unique and magnificent they are in person.
There is something about the texture of Kelly's work that draws the mind and heart in at the same time.
The ways that the fabric is stretched and draped and the fibers thread through inspire contemplation.  Visually these pieces continue to bring comfort and peace to our home each day.
We absolutely love Kelly's work. She is an amazing artist with an equally amazing heart."

Some of my work holds memories of people I no longer see or who have passed-away. My piece, Thinking of Mary, was something I created in memory of a friend of mine who died of cancer. She was an amazing artist and huge inspiration. We did not spend a lot of time together but I always respected her opinion and cherished her feedback. Creating Thinking of Mary was the best way for me to process the experience of having her a part of my life. The piece is now hanging in my brothers home and brings his family a sense of comfort, which I am grateful for. There are plenty of things that we can be sad about and worry about and be angry about but I prefer to find a way to be comforted by the positive experiences in my life and turn the negative experiences into something beautiful. That is my goal - for myself and for everyone who owns my work. I want my work to provide a sense comfort and peace in your home. Not everyone will agree or believe that our feelings and intentions can become a part of the work we create, but I believe it is possible. Like the feeling you get when you walk into a room where someone was angry and feel the tension - you could "cut the tension with a knife". Or when you walk into a room full of people laughing, you can't help but smile.

If you would like me to create a piece of fiber art to honor your experience, then let's work together to design a piece that uses some of your yarn or fabric or paper in a way that brings you joy. I want you to look at the artwork and smile and feel a sense of comfort and peace and be reminded of the great things in life. Follow this link to my website for the choices available.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Warning: Visual Overload! (my inspiration)

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I am often asked where I get inspiration for my work and it always seems that in the moment I'm not able to think about one person, place, or thing to refer to as my inspiration. However, thanks to social media tools like Pinterest, I can share images of things that inspire me everyday. Some things inspire me because of the colors, texture, and lines. Other things inspire me because of the way I feel when I look at it. Still, other artists inspire me with their stories of why they create. There is no single element the inspires my work, but a lifetime of looking and making.

Montana Living of Montana Møbler
Like I mentioned before, I like saving things - especially multiples of the same thing - and this desk looks like an amazing collection of drawers all painted pink, which would be perfect for my future art studio. The desk also looks like it is the same on the other side - like a mirror image - so that the storage space is double. Maybe I would finally be able to organize my art supply stash!

Cornelius by Julia Haft-Candell
And in my new house / studio I would definitely love to have this sculpture, Cornelious, by Julia Haft-Candell. The list of materials alone is intriguing:
Porcelain, terra cotta, glaze, epoxy resin, cotton, polyester, thread, ink, paper, pins, metal, screws
And I love the texture and lines - the open lace like quality - and the soft muted colors. I'm also very intrigued by this piece because it is porcelain and I have never been a huge fan of ceramics or sculpture in general. I also wonder how delicate this piece is because I'm sure I would want to examine it up close - touching all the tree branch looking parts and figuring out where the pieces are connected. I know, you're not supposed to touch the art, but if I buy it I could - right?

cross section of pine
I'm often inspired by the patterns created in nature. I came across some microscopic images of the cross-sections of plants and trees and found that they look suspiciously like knitting. I used this inspiration to create a body of work for a solo show I exhibited in December of 2012. For example, an image like this image of a cross section of a pine branch inspired a series of 8 fiber art pieces including the one pictured here. I created knit circular patterns and combined that with embroidery and paint.

Stem by Kelly Darke

I am inspired by the work of so many artists: painters, illustrators, crafters, print-makers, weavers... I am inspired by work that is similar to mine and work that is completely different than anything I would do. So often it is the feeling I get when looking at a particular piece of art that in the inspiration. I want to feel that again, I want remember how it felt. I want to create work that resonates with others in the same way.

Any and all work by Cy Twombly - the combination of color, texture, and line in his paintings is difficult to describe. It's difficult to know why it inspires me - it just does.
Hero and Leandro by Cy Twombly

Notes from Salalah (Notes II) by Cy Twombly

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   I love the look of this fiber and mixed media mobile, but since I posted it on Pinterest over a year ago, the link only takes me to an Etsy page that says it's not available :( I don't know who made it, but maybe you do? I'll have to search a some more - I like the combination of colors and materials - natural and manmade objects.

This installation, Falling Garden, by Gerda Steiner and Jörg Lenzlinger is amazing! I can only imagine how it would feel to be surrounded by this...
Falling Garden

Fiber art - Weaving - Knitting - Texture - Embroidery - Stitching

Memory Threads by Emma Parker
Emma Parker, aka Stitch Therapy, creates personal stories in fiber or printing or animation - whatever medium she uses it is always intriguing, whimsical, fun, and always authentic.

Abigail Doan is an environmental fiber artist and writer creating art and installations - working in New York and Europe.
Abigail Doan

Sheila Hicks

Extreme Knitting

embroidery by Cayce Zavaglia

What inspires you?

Monday, February 10, 2014

7 reasons saving things is not hoarding

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fiber necklace from that recycled sweater yarn
I have met many artists who collect materials for their work and end up with an overwhelming stash that borders on hoarding. I may or may not have such a stash of supplies, but I do know that there is a big difference between keeping things that may prove useful to your art and keeping things that have no use or value (hoarding).

I never thought that I was sentimental, but I have discovered that I save things because I want to make use of them. I save gifts that I may never use or wear because I feel the givers intentions of kindness are still held within the object and to throw it away would somehow feel hurtful. So, I keep it with the intention of reusing the materials. [reason #1] I do feel that all the objects I save can be given a new life.

I saved the first sweaters I ever bought for myself with money I earned form my first job at Stewart Photography while I was a senior in high school. I wore those sweaters out, but I couldn't bear to throw them away, so I decided to unravel (or is it ravel?) the yarn to reuse in something new. Just the process of pulling the sweater apart and rolling all that yarn into a ball was cathartic and relaxing. [reason #2] Honestly, knitting and other fiber arts are very therapeutic.

In high school I claimed my dads tattered old cashmere overcoat that he had when he was in high school. It was ripped up the back and frayed at every edge. My dad told me how he remembered the day he tried it on and his dad purchased it for him. I can't remember the rest of the story, but [reason #3] I remember feeling a connection and that it felt important to honor the memory in the coat. I cut the coat shorter because so much of the fabric was worn out. I repaired the rips in the lining and then added a deep red velvet (recycled from an old dress) to the cuffs and the collar. I was so proud of that coat and wore it all the time - in fact I still have it hanging in my closet. And every time I wear the coat I feel a connection to my dad and grandfather.
My daughter posing with the altered coat - it's difficult to see the burgundy velvet...

The more I collect materials to work with, the more I realize that reusing and recycling fabrics from previously used and loved items is an important part of my work. [reason #4] They add more meaning to my work. Even the current abstract embroidery work I'm doing has fibers and fabrics recycled from old bed covers, pillowcases, and threads from my own projects.

Community by Kelly Darke - embroidery on cotton

The more I think about the direction of my work and wonder where it all started I realize I've always been saving and collecting. When I was a kid I collected all kinds of fabric, yarn, and things. I didn't know how to sew very well, but I would make my own clothes. [reason #5] The freedom to experiment with materials was a great way for me to build my creative problem-solving skills.  One of my favorite pieces that I made was a patchwork wrap skirt that I made with pieces recycled from a worn out favorite plaid shirt, part of a t-shirt from a friend, and other various pieces that I had saved from other projects. I used to wear the skirt in the summer over a pair of shorts or leggings - I loved it.

the original cards I made
a very small portion of my stash
I also had bags of string, yarn, and cones of string for weaving (still do). I didn't know how to knit or weave at the time. I barely knew how to crochet. My older cousin had given me a spool of string and showed me how to make a crochet chain using my fingers. So, I made a lot of really long chains. At some point, my mom gave me a craft magazine with an article about card weaving, which was so inspiring! [reason #6] The support from my mom also gave me confidence to continue working on projects even when they didn't always turn out. I took some old card stock and cut into into squares, punched four holes in each, and started weaving.
ring made with woven gold wire

The first thing I made with that was a small pocket size bag with a strap that I painted with swirls and smiley faces. In college, I purchased the book, Card Weaving, by Candace Crockett and wove with metal wire.

I've since learned how to knit, weave, crochet, sew, paint, print, …. I am an artist - a maker - I am constantly making things and thinking of new things to make. I still use recycled fabric and yarn in my art today and it is often from personal source and contains a lot of meaning or emotion. As an art therapist, I continue to study the relationship of fiber art and emotions - our connection to the texture and memory of our fiber objects from clothing to soft toys. [reason #7] I also share my knowledge and techniques with other artists and therapists in online workshops. My early obsession with fiber has grown up a bit and is even more curious.

What do you do with your favorite old sweater? or that tattered old baby blanket? Tell me your ideas.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

6 Degrees of Creativity 2014 - Giveaway!

If this is the first time you are hearing about 6 Degrees of Creativity you will be so glad you stopped by! Gretchen Miller has developed an amazing collection of 6 online workshops for you to dive into at your own pace. In her words, "6 Degrees of Creativity unites concepts of social networking, connecting, collaboration, art-making, and creativity into an engaged global community of artists exploring transformation and using art for good". I can attest to the connection and collaboration this leads to - I was lucky enough to have been instructor for 6 Degrees of Creativity in 2012 - I am grateful to have met so many great artists and art therapists from around the world and happy to be able to continue networking and collaborating online.

The workshops will be open from March 2014 to December 2014 and costs only $49 (US) for the whole thing - the workshops will be filled with techniques and inspiration for collage, collaborations and challenges, self-care and more! 

Gretchen Miller is a registered and board certified art therapist working in Cleveland Ohio. She is also the founder of the Art Therapy Alliance and has an active blog, Creativity in Motion. You should also follow her on Instagram for inspiring posts of her daily art projects and beautiful pictures of sunshine peeking through everywhere. I first met Gretchen in 2010 when she organized a speaker presentation through the Buckeye Art Therapy Association. A few of us art therapists from the Michigan Association of Art Therapy carpooled to Cleveland for the event. Gretchen was friendly and welcoming and the event was well worth the drive. Gretchen does a wonderful job of building community and I am really looking forward to this years 6 Degrees of Creativity workshops!

So, the giveaway part... leave a comment on this post telling me why you would like to win the free spot in 6 Degrees of Creativity 2014. I will randomly choose a winner on Friday February 14th.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

struggling to create a routine and move forward

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Sometimes I have so many great projects and ideas I want to start that I get to a near panic mode and can't start anything. Or I start everything but can't decide which one to finish. I tend to work in bursts of focused energy on one project, then forget about it. I have a feeling this is poor planning. So, I actually bought a 2014 planner this year so that I would write down lists of things to do, mark some deadlines for personal projects and art show entries, become more organized with the work I want to do… but most of the pages in my planner currently look like this:

I can no longer say that I don't have time to work on my art. I have time. I am busy, like everyone else, with work and family and [fill in the blank] - but when I have time that isn't scheduled for something or someone else, I end up wasting half that time trying to figure out what to work on - not very effective… So, I am working on a strategy - trying to incorporate ideas that I've been learning about during the past year and figuring out work works for me. I really like having a routine and need to establish one again, even though my daily schedule is unpredictable at times.

I will start with my Daily Visual Journal - today - I'm going to create a new routine around this and it will be different than what I have done in the past. I need to make it work for me in the sense that I want to use it to help me focus on slowing down, appreciating what I already have, and moving forward.

I have managed to create a few things in a burst of focused energy...
Still working on my new website - so these earrings are not yet posted for sale but they will be soon!
(a few are on Etsy and my current website)

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