Saturday, August 08, 2009

I Know, I know

Dear Blog-

You thought I died, didn't you? Well... let me tell you a story.

A week after I last posted, I went to the Old Pueblo Knitters guild meeting. We had a fabulous presentation on using color by Claire Parks, who is the head of the Fiber Arts department at our local college. The rest, as they say, is history.

You already know that here in the Sorenson household the last two years have been very, very difficult financially. Last December or January I started na... I mean, strongly urging my husband to go back to school. On the surface he was perfectly willing, but to actually go down to the college and deal with all the paper work, and worrying about how to pay for it all--he just doesn't do paper work. In our house, he vacuums, takes out the trash, deals with car stuff and runs errands. I deal with the paperwork.

So after this truly inspiring class on color at the guild meeting, I thought to myself, "If there is a way that I can get myself into her color class at the college, I am so there." I went out to the car, called DH, and said, "I'll be there in ten minutes, be ready. We're going to go register for school."

This was Thursday at noon, mind you, and classes for spring semester were to start on the following Tuesday. We talked to the absolutely amazing Financial Aid ladies--Chanda, Brenda and the head guru, Janie. They were able to pull impossible rabbits out of various hats to get us full financial aid. In a matter of mere days. Saturday morning we took our placement tests, and by Saturday afternoon when Student Services closed at one, we were registered. DH for various computer classes, me for the Color and Composition class I had so lusted after. And the Mixed-Media Fibers class. And Italian 101.

Because here's my secret--I've dropped out of college three times in my much younger days. Once from a woman's college in the south that was just a bad fit. Once from a local college back east after the guy who ran the program I was enrolled in told us on the first day that out of all of us sitting there in the class, only half would finish the program, and of those, only one would get a job in the field. "Fine," I thought. So at the end of the semester I left and got a job in the field. And the third time at the same college we are going to now, 27 years ago, as a Fine Arts major in photography. I had an astounding photography professor whose work was internationally known, and he is still spoken of in revered tones all these many years later. I could write a whole blog entry about those years--many blog entries--but the short version is that I realized that every artist actually has to have a 'real' job, very few are fortunate enough to make a living from their art. So I quit again and went and got a real job, one that I worked at very successfully for 20 years until I developed asthma and had to stop working in that profession.

All my life, in the back of my mind in all of these ensuing years, I've regretted not finishing my degree. Then after being washed up on shore with asthma and finding myself losing our business that we had worked so hard to build, and my career that I had worked so hard to build, I needed to find something to do with my life. I've worked and taught in various knitting shops and loved it. But it's not a career. Or at least, it's not enough for me. And when I sat in that class at the guild meeting, I heard this great big WHOOSH! as the next door in my life opened with a vengeance.

I told my husband the other night that I remember very clearly that the summer before I started at junior high, I was completely convinced that the big kids in school that year were going to whip my butt. I don't remember why I thought that they would, or even what put that thought into my mind, I was just convinced. I think I spent the whole summer in terror.

But let me tell you I LOVE this new phase of my life. It took me 50 years, but I have found my thing. At first I went into it with the attitude of, "I don't know where this is taking me, but I'm willing to go along for the ride."

In the Mixed Media Fiber class we started with coiling. Playing with various techniques and cores and just goofing off. I have to say, that class was filled with some of the funniest people I have met. All toddlers, for the most part. Who looked at me like I was the ancient, out-moded crone. But I can still give as good as I get.

Anyway, we started by experimenting with coiling...

When I wandered into the library one day I found a great book on Faberge. And I got really inspired by their pieces that showed nature, using elegant materials to make something that looked as natural as possible. Roses carved from crystal, lily-of-the-valley made of pearls and diamonds with stems of gold, and enameled leaves. Inspired by that, I made my Bird of Paradise.

The basket itself is made with silk, wool and bamboo yarns. I used wool thrums at the bottom to 'feather' the nest. My process and choices were based on the thought, "What kind of nest would a bird make if it was let loose in my studio?"

She perches on double-pointed needles that were sanded and then stained green.

The bird's body was made of a needle-felted wool base, and then painstakingly coiled with Noro sock yarn. The feathers for the wings and tail were coiled in as I went. I added a neck band of copper yarn afterwards. The eyes are made with seed beads and Swarovski pailletes sewn on. The beak is coiled copper wire with a twist of silk yarn in it, as she works on building her nest.

As I coiled the basket and built it up, I added recycled glass beads, and using copper wire, wrapped some shapes that I hammered flat and then coiled into the basket as I worked.

I find it difficult to take photos that give an accurate account of the colors. Inside, the flash makes everything too dark. Outside, the sun washes it all out, but is a bit more accurate. The colors are more saturated and richer than this shows.

At our teacher's urging, I entered it in the Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition, held at the gallery that was built and dedicated to my photography teacher.

I was juried in. My first project, and I was juried in. That feels so big.

Next we worked with knotting. Like everyone growing up in the early 70s, I learned how to macrame around anything that would stay still long enough when I was 14. So when it came time to do a project for that section, I played with various textures and degrees of light-reflection. This is my interpretation of a river.

I used several bits that were left-over from the basket. And added various ribbons, including some wonderful metal mesh ribbon, thanks to my friend Monica. Wool and silk yarns stand as the river banks. Silk, organza ribbon and metal mesh ribbon as the water. Recycled glass beads as river rocks.

I wanted it to look like a rush of water moving fast.

Then we started plaiting. With anything that would stand still long enough. One woman in class made a huge piece as her project, using dried bamboo stalks, small trees, rusted wire and rusted bed springs that she and her kids found in the desert. It was incredible. And about 6 ft tall.

I played with paper, cork and dried palm fronds.

There was a picture of a third one here, but I seem to have lost it in Blogger in the process. I also made boxes with paper, cork, palm fronds, bark, copper wire, ribbon and recycled glass beads.

We're not talking about my crochet project.

Ok, it was meant to be a Green Man mask and ended up looking like Grace Jones with bile issues. I'm doing you a favor by not showing it here.

In the Color and Composition class we spent months doing color exercizes. Which are not nearly as much fun as they might sound. Albeit admittedly useful and instructive. We finally got to play, doing a collage design made by cutting up our beloved Color-Aid cards. Mine was based on one of my black and white photos of a koi in a reflecting pool with lily-pads.

Our final project for color had three parts: first, make a collage from magazine paper. Here you see a version of the view from our balcony, on a rainy late winter morning.

We then had to reproduce the colors exactly using paint. Not as easy as it sounds.

And finally, still using paint, to change it completely. Here it is evening after the storm, and you can see lights coming on in the buildings of the city to the south.

Obviously God didn't intend to make a painter out of me, but I had a wonderful time and learned a phenomenal amount. And met many incredible people who inspired me along the way.

I'll tell you about my summer break surprise and summer school next time...

It feels good to be back!
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