Junk mail Christmas tree!

Junk mail Christmas tree

Day 347: Junk mail Christmas tree with how-to

18 days left! Today’s artwork is this junk mail Christmas tree with a full how-to on Instructables. A few days ago, I realized:

1. I had a huge pile of junk mail taking up valuable real estate in my art studio, and
2. I wanted a Christmas tree.

I also don’t have a lot of spare cash for a tree, am morally conflicted with supporting an industry of tree-killing, and am constantly on the lookout for daily projects. Et voila! Junk mail Christmas tree was born.

Using a pile of junk mail and some pages from a copy of the Iliad, I made a half & half tree so I can go with the colorful side or frilly white book page side depending on my mood. 🙂

I’ve seen a lot of arguments over the years about craft versus art. I consider craft and art to be equal in expression, creativity and viewer enjoyment. Crap is still crap, whether it’s defined as art or craft, and you know it when you see it. In my opinion, all good artists should consider their work a craft anyway requiring skill and quality. So I hope with that explained, y’all don’t mind my use of this piece as today’s daily artwork.

Plus there’s something so satisfying about upcycling projects, where you can take something that would normally be useless and magically transform it into something pretty, useful or both. Believe it or not, writing a comprehensive how-to for something like this actually takes a lot longer than you’d expect. But people have posted photos of their completed efforts from other Instructables I’ve published before, and nothing makes my day like seeing concrete evidence that I’ve inspired someone. So here’s hoping you can use this info to make your own lovely little free tree! Happy holidays, darlings!

Something soapy this way comes

"Little White Lie" soap carving

Day 318: “Little White Lies”, Soap Carving

Awhile ago when I was working on these illuminated quilted plaster sculpture things and these gesso texture paintings/ illuminated imprint combos (as you can tell, I’m getting really good at categorization), I had a few more sculpture ideas that have been waiting in the wings. I’m still hammering away at this great commission project (don’t worry, I’ll show you when I’m done) and it involves a lot of standing and staring and deciding and fretting. So after a few hours on that, I decided to dig up some of the supplies I’d purchased a long time ago to start on one of those lingering sculpture ideers.

Warning- this is not white chocolate. Then again, even if it were it'd be safe from me. It's not even CHOCOLATE! It's flipping cocoa butter and sugar. CALL IT WHAT IT IS.

The concept is a series of small carvings entitled “Little White Lies” made from soap. My idea is to project a light at them in front of a large wall so that they make big, ominous shadows. Today’s piece was a “proof of concept” attempt. I wanted to make the carving organic in shape and kind of gnarled so it would feel like a wisp of smoke or a gnarled mummy finger or something, which I think I accomplished.

If there are any shadow puppet specialists out there, I could use some advice.

But the projecting of the shadow- something I had assumed would be pretty simple seeing as how I learned about shadow puppets at the ripe old age of 5- turned out to be trickier than I’d thought and will require more finagling. I think the effect will also be better with a cluster of carvings. In my mind, I see all these sculptural, white illuminated pieces displayed together in some undetermined gallery as a little solo show. Then again, I’ve never had a solo show. So if anyone’s got any ideas on how to make that happen, feel free to share. 😉

Ugly bags of mostly water

Day 257: Forms continued

If you’ve been following the blog, you may recall my illuminated-figurative-quilted-plaster piece from Day 237, “They’re forming”, (OMG I totally used another Star Trek reference for today’s post title without even realizing it. NERD!!!). This is the other piece- and in fact the first piece I thought of doing- but it took a little longer to finish.

I learned that I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) a couple of years ago. More recently, I read that this condition contributes to obesity because of the hormonal imbalance. I’ve struggled with my weight since I “became a woman”, but I’m not saying PCOS is to blame. I’m sure that never taking an interest in exercise and having a long term love affair with carbohydrates has something to do with it, but at any rate, I have to say I’ve thought of my health more since seeing the “string of pearls around the ovary” on the ultrasound those years ago.

I wanted to make a sculpture that depicted PCOS in kind of a pretty way while referencing my issues with body image. I know that might sound kind of weird, but I had an epiphany last night while I was falling asleep about my artmaking. I realized that I really enjoy taking things that might go unnoticed or that most people wouldn’t find beautiful on first glance and transforming/arranging them into something more interesting or aesthetically exciting. So there you go.

Like the other one, this was made from rigid wrap casts of my body that my lovely husband helped me with. That shell was placed around a wire armature attached to a wood base. I bent aluminum screen into the top to support the fabric.

Internal view before adding fabric

I sewed together two layers of white curtain sheers with grey thread stitched into a cellular pattern resembling the polycystic ovary; the wavy oval pieces are the ‘cells’, the larger circles are the ‘cysts’. Take my word for it when I tell you that this representation is much prettier than the actual cross-sections I researched in Google images. (Can you tell I’m not a fan of surgery shows? Blech!)

Now I've got "Baby Got Back" stuck in my head. GREAT. Oh, you too? MWA-HA-HAAA!!

Bright white LEDs placed on the ovary section of the armature glow through the sheer material in bright points while also casting larger white circles into the cystic area of the fabric (which I didn’t expect, but which is a cool effect!) when the piece is lit only by LEDs.

A 15-watt chandelier bulb adds more glow and better illuminates the cellular stitching, but is low enough to allow the LEDs to still be visible. It’s hard to see in the photos, but they also give off different light (blue-white LEDs/yellow-white bulb).

When I began this piece, I was mortified. Seeing my most-loathed body-section right in front of me almost made me cry. But I was determined to see it through and turn it into something that didn’t make me want to run out of the room when I saw it. I never would have thought I’d accomplish that, but I have to say I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. Yay!

I really want to make a joke involving the word "cheeky" BUTT I'm going to refrain. HAHA! I CRACK myself up. Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Fabric detail with both LEDs and internal bulb lit

Did you just say “elfin dingleberry”?!

Day 255: Squash, an illuminated sculpture

I have this inner brat who constantly finds things to be irritated about. Like when my husband picks the same three songs to listen to every day for a week but flips out when I do the same thing. Brat starts off with a mental tirade… “SERIOUSLY HOW MANY TIMES CAN YOU LISTEN TO BAKER STREET?!?!”…but then ends up enjoying the song about 30 seconds in anyway despite herself.

(FYI- Rob’s other picks lately are “Don’t fear the reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult, “Wolf like me” by TV on the Radio and “Gamma Ray” by Beck. I’ve been partial to “Tamacun” by Rodrigo y Gabriela, “Party with Children” by Ratatat and “Life in a Glass House” by Radiohead recently. In case you were wondering. Which I’m sure you were. /tangent)

"Squash" sculpture, unlit on its side

Also, today is my friend Jennan’s birthday. She is now living in Hawaii, so my new birthday joke to her and her whole family from now on is going to be “hey, I know! Why don’t you go on a trip to Hawaii for your birthday? Oh wait…” 😉 Happy 30th Jen!

On to the art! I had this idea for an installation made up of illuminated quilt sculpture orb/cocoon things last week, so today I decided to try out the technique for constructing them that I had jotted down in one of my (many) notebooks. This involved creating a basic form from copper wire, covering that with mesh (partially plastic embroidery mesh and partially aluminum screen), quilting panels from scrap white fabric & batting, covering the form with the fabric and lighting it.

As I had originally envisioned these in hanging groups, and seeing just the one feels like seeing a single grape on a stem, I’m not super jazzed about it yet. But as a “proof of concept” kind of exercise, I’m pleased. I plan to try some different shapes; hanging there, it kind of looks like a punching-bag-shaped-pillow. Or an elfin dingleberry. Lying on the ground on its side, it feels more like a magical gourd. Welcome to my mind, folks. 😉

"Squash", illuminated quilt form sculpture, about 12"x6"x6".

Go west, young bird

Day 244: West

Today’s piece is a paper sculpture. Using the other half of the embroidery hoop I used for the base in Day 241’s “Autumnal” lantern, some yarn, and a map guide of the bay area (also some Shakespeare for an extra touch of romance), I cut out tons of little birds from a pattern I drew freehand, and glued them on to each other in a floating formation.

I want them to be doves or something, but odds are they are seagulls, seeing as how seagulls are so abundant near the bay where I grew up. They’re permanently imprinted on my brain as default bird shape. Even though here we are beset by roof-roosting pigeons. Who panic in a flurry of feathers every time we leave the house. Someone should tell them we sold that BB gun we initially purchased as cheap exterminating gear at the garage sale. I mean, we’ve let them raise a couple of broods up there now, so they can relax already. Sheesh.

"West", an upcycled paper sculpture measuring about 8" long by 5" wide.

Say what?

"Whatcha doin'?"

Day 242: Inquisitive Bird, upcycled sculpture

This sculpture thing is kind of fun- I have to admit it. Today I looked at my pile of scraps and asked myself if I could turn them into a bird. First, I wrapped a bit of batting up into a roll, tied it and snipped it to create a loose body shape. Then I soaked the batting with matte medium and covered it in vintage sewing patterns. Next came hymnal feathers and beak, yarn cowl (perhaps it’s a hipster bird who knits on the subway), lace wingtips, wire feet and straight pin eyes.

Inquisitive Bird is about 6 inches long and a few inches tall.

As I placed him on his legs, he seemed to be tilting his head to the side, (possibly asking me why he was wearing a cowl and lace as a boy bird) and it was a sweet little moment. Voila! Inquisitive bird was born!

Is it Autumn yet?

"Autumnal" illuminated sculpture, about 1' tall

Day 241: Autumnal, an upcycled illuminated sculpture 

This morning, I took a walk through the park and along the levy near our house. As I went, I picked up a few interesting leaves. Sacramento is the “city of trees” after all- or at least, so says the paint on the side of the big water tank/alien spaceship thing along highway 5. If you visit this blog regularly, you’ll know I’ve been working in mostly white lately. That’s because I’ve been exploring sculpture techniques, and I feel like I can’t handle both color and three dimensions at the same time. Then again, having that extra dimension is so vastly different than working on a flat surface. I don’t need the color the way I do on a canvas.

I spent a good hour or two trying to do this other falling leaves thing with some scrap drafting film, wood and these book pages, but it was rapidly becoming a hot (glue gun) mess, so I put that aside and began anew.

Today’s piece, “Autumnal” is an upcycled sculpture using an inner embroidery hoop, book pages (from 2 vintage dictionaries, a Nancy Drew book, and my old college literature reader), some copper wire salvaged from another failed sculpture attempt (hee hee), and part of an IKEA shelf I never used but kept hanging around for a couple of years, which became the base for this piece. I may not use my supplies immediately, but I sure as hell use them eventually!

View from above

What’s cool is that it’s very lightweight, so it can be a tabletop sculpture, but with a couple of brackets, would also make a neat sconce. Also, when you move it, the wire springs around and makes the leaf shapes scrape against each other and it totally sounds like actual leaves. 🙂

Most of the leaf pieces were traced from leaves I picked up this morning. Some visible words are “autumnal”, “nympha” (as in mythological nature beings, not sex addicts) and some lines from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. I think it’s nice both lit and unlit. You can see the different colors and thickness of the paper when it’s illuminated, and it makes some pretty cool shadows on the wall too.

…they’re forming!

Day 237: Forms

So I know all you’ve had to look at for days have been those typographical mini paintings, and it’s been really dictionary/painting heavy for a bit. So I’m happy to say “and now for something completely different!”

Behold the as-yet-unnamed sculpture piece I’ve been yammering on about for the past week or so. After many trips to Home Depot/Radio Shack, Utrecht and some much appreciated assistance from my husband after my first failed tata self-wrap attempt, I finally finished this thing. What is it, you ask? It’s a, um.. illuminated formed quilt and plaster figure form? That doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue now, does it? Oh, did I say illuminated?

I’m going to have to look up sculpture vernacular or something and decide what to name it, but I’m pretty happy with it. It’s the first of a series of pieces I had a flurry of ideas for all at once that are largely sculptural. In my mind, I picture a full-on installation with all of them together. Right now, that installation space is probably going to be my garage. Except it’s triple digits out here, and I don’t expect anyone to stand around looking at sculpture sweating their faces off.

I mentioned the other day that I wanted to push myself, and this piece is one of the first in that vein. Sculpture is new for me, as is dealing with personal self-esteem issues in my artwork. I like myself- I think I’m friendly, talented and occasionally witty ;)- but I’ve always had issues with my body image. Like many women, I’ve struggled with weight issues most of my adult life.

This sculpture was made from plaster wraps of my torso, which forced me to face my actual size “in the flesh” right there in front of me. Inside is quilted, shiny white fabric I stitched with a pattern resembling fat cells. It’s an interesting piece for me, because it is a fairly literal reference to the self-deprecating feeling of being a pile of fat wrapped in skin, which taps into years of negative thinking. But at the same time, I tried to execute it in a way that was pretty and light, and I do feel that it has some kind of aesthetic value, even though the body shape represented isn’t one most people would typically associate with beauty.

Captain! The hull! It cannae hold much longer!

The massive density of this sculpture commands your attention through the laws of physics.

Day 202: Imploding Quilt

After years of collecting stitchable odds and ends, every corner of the spare room was full of supplies. Boxes filled with fabric covered the futon. Spools of thread and bags of buttons littered the floor. Stacks of books obscured the carpet. One day, Marianne opened the door and tossed in a roll of batting, and something odd happened. Items began to shrink away from her, pulling inexplicably towards the center of the room. A piercing, bright light ripped through the air. A sound, quiet at first, grew louder until it was like a giant Hoover sucking up the Niagara Falls.

“It’s finally collapsed in on itself! I told you that room was nearing maximum density! You’ve broken the laws of physics with your crafting!” Rob yelled as he ran into the hallway and shut the door in front of a stunned Marianne.

Then the noise suddenly stopped. Marianne looked at Rob for the all clear and he nodded. She opened the door. The room was empty, save a rotating ball of paper, thread and other sewing sundries hovering in the center.

“Good thing you installed that gravitational shielding in here,” she said as she examined the ball more closely. “Think this thing counts as my daily art?”

“Wow. Just wow.” Rob said, shaking his head as he walked away to get the camera.

Apparently photo'ing sculptures takes a lot more angle shots than paintings.

🙂 This is my first sculpture piece, boys and girls! Whaddaya think? I had a great time last night at Sacramento Social Media Club’s “The Art of Social Media” event at the Urban Hive. It’s a cool space, the audience was great, our moderator Julie is amazing, Hot Italian provided some bitchin’ slobber-worthy pizza and Two Rivers Cider showed up with some kick-ass Pomegranate, Blood Orange and Huckleberry libations. A fantastic time was had by all! Thanks to SMCSac for having me!