Thursday, December 06, 2012

for the love of clay

I started learning ceramics in 2007, first for a required course for my BFA, but then kept it up through undergrad (by joining Clay Club!) because it was just something I really loved to do.

I knew I would keep up my love of making things out of clay during grad school...only, I didn't.  I just never had time to fit in one more course.  And ceramics takes a lot of time, and I chose to put my time toward other things.

But there is a really amazing arts center in my city, where I started taking classes on and off beginning my first summer of grad school.  And now that I've finished my degree, I am continuously taking classes there, hopefully as long as I live here!  I absolutely love it.

Earlier this year, I took bookmaking, which was awesome and I've been getting into more on my own (post about that soon), and now I've started taking ceramics again, and I basically never want to stop enrolling in ceramics (it's mixed level so you can keep on going indefinitely).

This is a cup that came out of the glaze fire this week.  When I look at the photos I took of it, I see all of these things I want to fix about it, but when I look at it in person, I love it despite all its imperfections.  I want to make the same cup again and make it even better, and I have a lot of other ideas as well.  I wish I had more than 3 hours a week in the ceramics studio!

That's all for now.  I just wanted to profess my love of clay.  As an artist, for me it's important to learn new skills outside of my main expertise, and when I do work outside my favored medium I am always pleasantly surprised by valuable lessons in craftsmanship that seem to carry over to other areas later, and by new ideas that come to me when branching out.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

sewing goals for the new year

Once upon a time not so long ago, I thought I wanted to go into a career that would involve sewing.  If you know me well, you won't think this is so far fetched because you know that I've been an enthusiastic seamstress since high school and even way before if you count all of the things I hand-stitched as a child.

For example, upon seeing this particular episode of Clueless in which Cher starts her own business to sell her modern rendition of the muff, enlisting her friends to work for her and sew the products, I immediately hand-stitched my own version (I'm pretty sure I still have it somewhere at my parents' house).

Fast forward to high school, when I sewed my own formal dress, as well as a collection of purses that would have made Cher proud (I was pretty good at throwing together strange, bold patterns).

In college I started out as a Family & Consumer Sciences major, which later became my minor when I switched to art.  In FACS, I got to geek out on sewing courses (for college credit!), the history of fashion design, and minute details about various types of textiles.  I often receive sideways glaces from Corey for telling him the technical term for the type of sleeves on a shirt, or complaining that I can't buy a particular garment because I don't like the hand of the fabric (a fancy way of saying I hate the way it feels).

But after deciding to study fine art as a profession, the majority of my focus went to other creative tasks.  I'd sew every now and then, but never as much as I truly wanted to.  This past year, I started adding hand-sewn items into some of my photographs.  So far they have included handmade tomato pincushions, masks made of silk flowers, cloud pillows, and a tent.  I have plans for many more.  I guess you could say I've finally found my art-making groove where all of the things I'm really passionate about come together.  It's not just about one process or another, but it's more of a balance of all of the things I love to create.

I still love that sewing is a very practical activity, though.  And as much as I use sewing as a tool in my fine art work, I will always also want to use sewing to make everyday items that I can use and enjoy, well, every day.  Nothing makes me happier than having an ordinary, everyday item that is handmade by myself.

Over the past few weeks, I have been setting sewing goals for myself and getting ready to start completing them!  In 2013, I'd like to do 25 sewing projects, the majority being clothing for myself.  I have had a vision for a long time of a large chunk of my wardrobe being things I've made myself (emphasis on quality of course).  Whenever possible (not in all cases), I'd like to use secondhand fabrics and sewing patterns.  Even though it's not 2013 yet, I decided to work on my first article of clothing over my Thanksgiving break.  (It won't count toward the 25, but it was more of a sharpening-my-skills exercise to get ready for the new year!)

I chose a vintage sewing pattern for a blouse from Historically Inspired Patterns on Etsy.  I go thrifting locally 2-3 times per month, but finding vintage sewing patterns that I not only like, but that are also in my particular size, is quite the challenge, and a rarity.  While most sewing patterns now come in a variable size (you just cut on the particular line for your size), not so long ago it was necessary to buy a separate pattern for each size, so it's more difficult to come across vintage patterns you can use.  As I continue on toward my goal, I believe that one day in the near future I'll be able to make alterations to patterns that are close to, but not exactly my size.  But for now, I'll stick with the sure plan.

I chose a bright red linen from my fabric stash.  I do have excellent luck finding fabulous cuts of fabric while thrifting.  The downside is that you don't have control over how much you get (luckily I had a lot leftover in this case!) and it could take awhile to find a particular color or type of textile that you're looking for (I've wanted to find mustard fabric suitable for a skirt for months and just got some last week so that's my next project!).  But as with anything I thrift for, I believe that with patience and persistence, I'll eventually find what I am looking for.  And it will save money and resources!  When it comes to fabric (or anything, really), hold out for the good quality stuff.  This linen is top notch and cost only $4 for enough to make two shirts, since it was from a thrift store.

If I may share one last sewing tip for today, it would be this: keep some pins handy on a magnet.  It's much quicker than using a pincushion (which I have a growing collection of, and do use frequently as well) and about a million times better than using that tiny plastic container the pins come in (a recipe for disaster if you live with a curious cat!).  Magnets are where it's at.  I snagged this one off my fridge...I made a set recently from some wooden alphabet and number blocks that were once part of a children's toy (on the opposite side they say things like "W Whale" with a little whale illustration.

This is my blouse before I made the buttonholes and sewed on buttons!  It's complete now and I'll have to take a finished photo soon.

Here's to my new sewing goals!  What creative goals (not "resolutions" but you may use that term if you must) do you have for the new year?