News & Notes from Cameron

Fiber Dance - June 2012

The fiber dance continued this month as I worked with yarn retailers during the week, taught at the Loom and Shuttle Guild in San Francisco, and prepared the opening lecture for Looming Elections: Woven Works at the Craft in America Study Center in Los Angeles.

Below:  sign outside the center, setting up  for the lecture

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One piece in Looming Elections, Angels and Men/Quartet, was featured in a full page article in the June issue of American Craft Magazine, along with an interview on their website. I'm dancing as fast as I can, and enjoying every minute of it!

Below: with son Peter in front of Elephant in the Room, opening crowd, Angels and Men/Quartet

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A Special Gift - May 2012

May marks the beginning of my seasonal visits with yarn retailers. Intense and all consuming, there is little time for art making or teaching. But I managed to squeeze in two wonderful Sunday workshops, reminding me once again that art making with groups is a joyful experience.


In early May, I spent a day at Congregation B'nai Israel in Tustin, California, guiding families in the making of siddur (prayer book) covers. This project was months in development, as it was important to everyone that the art making be within the larger context of Jewish religious traditions. The workshop was funded by a generous couple who established an arts foundation as a memorial to their son. What a special gift to honor his memory.

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Later in the month I hosted a createIt@ARTSgarage seminar, Animal Vegetable Mineral - What IS Fiber Anyway? that examined fibers and their properties. Differential shrinkage was whimsically embodied by wool and cotton stitched onto nylon mesh,then hand-felted with soap and hot water. These small pieces were such a success we'll be using the technique again for an installation in the yard at ARTSgarage!

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Art Escapes the Gallery - April 2012


April2012-1Chagaritto, Folk Art Everywhere, Mastodon Mesa, Shoebox LA and Yarn Bombing Los Angeles are run by passionate people who take art and art-making far beyond the traditional gallery into communities throughout Los Angeles. A panel discussion in a small back room at the Craft and Folk Art Museum made for a fun and fascinating afternoon on April 29th.


Changaritto, conceived by artist Maximo Gonzalez, is a modern riff on the Latin American tradition of street vending - individual artists present work on a "makeshift ambulant contemporary art vending cart." Fifteen Los Angeles artists participated in Changaritto in conjunction with Gonzalez' recent exhibit at the Craft and Folk Art Museum. Read more here.

Folk Art Everywhere, a project of the Craft and Folk Art Museum, "promotes the unique cultural and artistic landscape of Los Angeles by bringing art into unexpected spaces and celebrating all folk." Grab a map explore the diversity of our city "through the lens of art." Read more here.

Mastodon Mesa is a "nomadic art gallery, currently operating out of the Melrose Trading Post, which was born out of curiosity, friendliness, and an accident of fate caused by roaming around Los Angeles at random." Read more here.

 

Shoebox LA , created by artists Paul and Sophia, "gives Los Angeles artists an opportunity to do one-day, site-specific exhibitions... locations change for each show." The gallery space is an 18" by 24" white box, and the exhibit lasts for 3 hours. Their next exhibit, LA Pinball by Joshua Levine, is Saturday, May 12, 2012 from 4-7pm at the Studio for Southern California History in Chinatown. Read more here.

 

Yarn Bombing Los Angeles is "a group of guerrilla knitters who... stage public installations and performances to help expand the definitions of public art to include street art, and street art and graffiti to include yarn bombing." Read more here. The image shown is a portion of "Forest for the Trees" (with a reflection of an actual tree) in the front window of the Craft and Folk Art Museum.


I knew about Yarn Bombing and Folk Art Everywhere before this event, and was excited to learn about what others are up to. There is no reason ever to ask "What is there to do?" living in Los Angeles!

Spin Me a Yarn - March 2012

We spun two kinds of yarns - fibers and stories  - and experienced how both are interwoven into cultures around the world at Spin Me A Yarn, the first createIt@ARTSgarage sesson for 2012.

 

Anna Zinsmeister introduced us to spinning fibers - demonstrating thigh, stick, and drop spindle techniques. She explained that whether by the human hand or by machine, all spinning pulls the fibers and adds twist. Anna showed us yarns she had spun, as well as twined and woven items she’d made with her beautiful handspun yarns. We thumbed through Respect the Spindle, a book by Abby Franquemont, who first learned to spin while living in Peru and has several spinning videos on YouTube, including one on basic spinning techniques.

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Then storytellers Rahab Mitchell and Audrey Kopp spun another kind of yarn - sharing fiber-themed stories with us!

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Rahab Mitchell, in character as “Grandma Sally” shooed aside her chickens and spun stories of growing up in the sawmill quarters during boom period of timber cutting - in Sweet Homes, Arkansas. As Rahab describes Sally, “Because she is a folk teller, she mixed real life events with those taken from the Bible in hopes of inspiring families to reflect on the role fiber plays in everyday life. Sails for tall ships held by wooden masts, the perils of timber men, the tale of how lil'David whipped the bully giant with a sling made from fiber and a hard rock! The up side and down side to women with looms, crafty minds and influence -- from Eve to the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 and of course the sad end Samson faced when his hair, woven by Delilah, was used to bind him momentarily, but later he lost his strength when he told her where his true power came from…spinning tales as you say.”

 

 


Spin_4Audrey Kopp put her own spin on three classic fiber tales. From ancient Greece comes the story of Arachne, a skilled weaver who bragged that her work rivaled the weaving of the goddess Athena. It doesn’t end well when you challenge a goddess… In a subsequent contest Arache’s skills were indeed superb, but Athena was furious that the images in Arachne’s weavings ridiculed the Gods. Athena turned her into a spider and her descendants are weavers to this day. (Arachnids, anyone?) In The Crane Wife, a Japanese folktale, a man nurses a crane back to health and releases it. Later a woman appears, they fall in love and marry. She weaves beautiful silk fabric for him to sell, but makes him promise never to watch her weave. The man breaks his promise and discovers his wife is really the crane – she has been plucking her own feathers and weaving with them. The crane leaves, never to return… Anait is an Armenian story about a young peasant woman who is an accomplished weaver. A prince falls in love with her, but she won’t marry him until he learns a trade, as “a prince can always become a pauper.” Smitten, he learns to weave, and so Anait agrees to marry him. Later in the story he is captured and held prisoner, but is able to send her a secret message woven into a rug, and so is rescued!

 

We finished up spinning wool with sticks and experienced how fiber becomes yarn. Anna had made it appear effortless, but we quickly discovered the skill involved when we tried it ourselves. We were reminded that in many cultures very young children are taught to spin - and become quite proficient. With practice, so would we. I envision a class of Los Angeles pre-schoolers learning fiber stories from around the globe and confidently walking around their playground spinning yarn on their own drop spindles!

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createIt@ARTSgarage offers "educators of all stripes" an opportunity to nurture our own creativity through collaborative work. We use the fiber arts as our vehicle of expression, working with simple processes and materials on hand in my mid-Wilshire Los Angeles studio. These quarterly peer-to-peer sessions are free of charge and are offered in a spirit of celebratory sharing.

Textile Artisans in Kutch, India - February 2012

A total immersion textile experience in the Kutch region of Gujarat, India - what an adventure! I tagged along with friend, fellow weaver and collector Jean Degenfelder Appleby, visiting artisans in Bhuj and surrounding villages. It was such a treat to meet these artisans in their homes and studios, and to observe such a wide variety of exquisite hand-made textiles - block printing, bandhani (tie-dye), weaving, patchwork and embroidery.

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We visited Kala Raksha and Khamir, educational organizations that help these traditional crafts thrive. Many of the artisans we visited were graduates of Kala Raksha. My favorite day was a visit to a Kala Raksha class in basic design concepts. These young men, all artisans from local villages, were so enthusiastic and eager, the language barrier melted away as they shared their ideas with us.

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Hindu and Muslim, they were united by their passion for design, and later, their passion for cricket, which they played that evening after class.