Sunday, March 27, 2011

In Memory

Last week marked the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City.  146 people died in one of the worst industrial accidents in U.S. history. 

Workers, mainly women, were locked into the factory during their shifts, preventing escape.  The single unlocked door was blocked by fire.   At least 50 people burned to death on the factory floor, 53 jumped or fell from the windows of the building, 19 fell down the elevator shaft, and over 20 tumbled to their deaths from a broken fire escape. All but 23 were women, mostly young immigrant women, and nearly half of them were teenagers.  New Yorkers watched in horror. In the aftermath, laws were changed and unions strengthened to protect the workers.

This memorial installation, done pop-up book style and made from foam board and paper, was created by the first year class at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, coordinated by assistant professor Anne Kong. 

Victims' names and ages written on the sidewalk in chalk.

“Like the phoenix that radiantly regenerates, we remember those who ignited a new era of reform.  They shall live forever clothed in light.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

So much to say

Thank you thank you thank you to our AMAZING host Elena for a wonderful time in Key Largo.  I don't know how she did it but she managed to give each of us five days that felt like summer camp without the bugs. I went home 5 lbs. heavier from all the incredible food and desserts, but it was totally worth it. I was off the grid the entire time, giggling at night and in the morning with my bunkmates Eileen and Tracy and using more glue than I ever thought possible all day long with my pals.  Hey soul sisters - I'm really gonna miss ya!  For a complete play-by-play of the events, visit Eileen's blog. She's great at recaps.

These are birthday tags for Lillian and Sarah, both of whom celebrated their special day while we were at the art retreat.  I  stained the tags using hot coffee and cinnamon (so they smell yummy), covering them first with metal clips and chains to resist the dye.  After the dye set, and they dried, I stitched the edges and added stamps, worry dolls and buttons.  Worry dolls are easy to make with a bit of wire or a toothpick underneath and wrapped with thread. Guatemalan children traditionally tell their problems to worry dolls so they can free up their minds.  Try it sometime!!

I took a wax collage class at the Ink Pad last weekend with Claudine Hellmuth. You'll notice my friend Eileen (from the retreat, above) was also there and no, we aren't attached at the hip. These two things just happened to be a week apart from each other and -- what can I tell you?  Great minds think alike.

This is one in a series of altered postcards I've been working on.  So many restaurants in NYC give out postcards, and it seems a shame to waste them but I really have no use for them so I decided it would be a fun challenge to alter them.  This particular one is from Vinyl restaurant and is for my friend Melly, inspired by a photo of her in her winter jacket. She was wearing a pink hat in the photo, so that's why she has one on here. (Just sayin') Her cat's name is arrow, and he's very, very cute.

Speaking of Melly, last month one of her friends and an artist I have come to know by email but not having met in person, Carla Sonheim, was visiting New York to demo some lessons at Etsy in Brooklyn.  Our Journal Study Group made plans to do what we seem to have become famous for doing:  welcoming visitors to our little group for a day of art fun.  It turns out that Melly couldn't join us, but Benedicte, Pat, Shirley, Carla and I spent a fun day at the Guggenheim museum after lunch at Table d'Hote.  We love Carla and she is now an honorary member with keys to the, er -- a key to our hearts!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The strange story of a doll

There is a thrift store near me where I often go to donate my clothes when I clean out my closets. It's a danger zone, because the moment I drop off clothes, I find myself browsing. Such valuable finds.
Yesterday I found a pitiful doll that I decided to take home for surgery and reconstruction. Just one look at her clothing and body and I knew I could improve this girl's life.

Really...these teeth need more than zoom whitening. And those eyes are somewhat frightening. (cat hairs complimentary)

Have you ever seen boobs crying out for a lift more than these?

I like her better with her bandana bra, but things are getting interesting now. Hand sewn garments. And not a typically constructed doll at all.  She is stuffed with straw. Clearly there are many details included on this doll, so she wasn't rushed, but the person who sewed her had rudimentary skills in creating dolls. 

Then I turned her over and found this.  Aha!  This is no ordinary doll. She was created as some kind of homage to St. Anthony, a patron Saint.

St. Anthony is a major patron saint in many religions. He is prayed to for many things, most especially when something is lost.

Here is a view, looking downward, of the way the arm was added, using wire, and also some of the straw stuffing inside the body.

And that's a better view of her body and the way her legs are added on to the outside of the body frame.  I didn't remove her petticoat, because at this point I had made a decision about this girl.  As much as I might have been able to give her outside a facelift, to the person who created her with love and prayer, she was very beautiful and didn't need any improvement at all.  I don't think there is anything I can to do this girl that will do anything but ruin her.  So back together she went -- with the same pins I'd taken out to take off her clothes. 

As you can see, she is Roan approved.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tea Bag Wallet

I'm going to spend some time with a group of friends from around the country this week.  We'll be in Key Largo, where I'm sure we'll be doing many things to remember the beautiful location of our visit.   I also wanted to bring a little something special for each of them that would remind them of where I come from too, New York City. 

You already know how much I love my new sewing I went searching and found the perfect fabric at City Quilter on West 25th St.  One had a black background with a NYC subway map, and another was full of busy yellow taxis.  The subway fabric can only be purchased at City Quilter.  Bespoke.   

Of course, I had to find a way to use it.

And these were the result.  Tea Bag wallets.

Inside (coffee bags too)

The poem inside says:

When being on the go
Leaves you feeling fed up,
Take a moment to pause 
For your favorite cup.

And when you do
Please think of me
In a crowded subway car
Or a yellow taxi!!

Now, I had so much fun making this that I thought you might want a pattern for it. So...I made one!  I drew pictures and I made a PDF of it.   And my husband helped me, not only with making the pdf but also with fixing up my poem, which was pretty terrible until he fixed it.  Where would I be without him? (I don't know.)  Anyway, if you click on this link, you will get to my tea bag wallet tutorial pdf.  (When you get there, just click the little green word "download" on the bottom right.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Playing with Watercolor

Friends.  They pick you up when you're down, inspire you with their creativity, listen when you need an ear, try to say the right thing when you need to hear a voice, and always give you more than you can possibly give them back, no matter how hard you try.

I've been embarking on a new challenge - learning to use watercolors.  Such a finite medium:  you get it down right-- or you get mud.   On the other hand, if you practice a little, learn some fun techniques and use them, watercolor is actually a lot easier and more transportable than acrylics or even colored pencils--which is what I had been using for the most part.  So I'm finding it's worth my time learning. And I'm lucky to have a friend who is helping me on the journey.

I hounded Shirley to give me watercolor lessons, and a few other members of our Journal Study Group are joining in.  Here are some of my results from our first two lessons.

In this photo, we were testing opacity by painting over a Sharpie black line
In this one, we were smooching our primary colors around to see what secondary colors would  "volunteer."

Here we are in Lesson 2.  Mainly we focused on making a secondary color out of two primary colors, and today the color is Green.  Shirley had a pile of Green on her table and we sketched, then painted. Sometimes we sketched with pencil, or pen, or colored pencil, always ending with watercolors, yellow+blue.


  And finally, this is called a watercolor resist.  you paint around the subject with the water so that the color resists going into the dry area.  Doing that with successive layers allows you to create a very interesting composition.  (I will probably add another layer to this in the future.)

The watercolors I'm using are Windsor Newton Cotman Watercolor Painting Plus Half Pans, like this:

And that is my watercolor adventure so far, but stay tuned for more fun kids!