Tag Archives: art

5/3 May-be

beautiful oops bookAt the first gathering of students in my after school fabric arts class, I read the book, Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg.  I told the kids that “oops” was going to happen in our class and one of my rules is that we wouldn’t be throwing projects out and beginning again.  I don’t think they really understood what I was telling them at the time.

Our first project involved weaving fabric into cardboard and then mixing our own paint colors to paint the cardboard. We will be adding some painting with1-IMG_0104 gadgets next week but that project just involved some work to figure out weaving and some thinking to mix colors.

The next project was school glue batik.  And the oopses really began to happen. One girl was making scallop-like lines across her fabric and then the lines became less regular and she turned to me and said, “I want to start over.”  I just put my hands up in an “oh well” type of message and said, “Remember I told you we wouldn’t be throwing things out to start over.  Figure out how to make your oops beautiful.” (And she did, here is the final result.)erika

Another younger student was painting blue stripes carefully over the batik lines and then dipped the sponge brush into water to clean off some of the paint.  He didn’t realize how much water those brushes hold and when he put it down on the fabric, his blue went everywhere.  I could tell he was dismayed as he went and got a load of paper towels to stop the flow.  Shy by nature he wasn’t sure how to express his disappointment or ask for advice.  1-IMG_0110

“You just encountered an oops,” I said to him.  “I think you’re really going to like how it turns out.”

At the following session I put their dried batiks on the wall and asked who experienced a beautiful oops. Almost everyone could point to something as an oops and tell what they had done or not done about it.  And as they moved on into another hour involving painting on fabric, I heard several say, “oops!”  And one of them added, “but I will make it beautiful!”

Today was the day

Today was the day I dreaded when I came to Grunewald. I wasn’t sure when it would happen; I thought it might happen earlier in the week but no, it was today, Thursday.

What was this dread all about? I anticipated a point in these workshops when fear would rear its ugly head and I would be paralyzed in m process and not know how to keep going. I have to say the teachers of this class have done a wonderful job of easing us all into the learning and experimenting, teaching us different techniques in a sequence that put the most accessible ones first while letting us see possibilities as they demonstrated.

But today was hump day. We had been shown several techniques and had all begun to move on to our 2nd and even 3rd boards so it was time to assert our own creative instincts and have at it. Which almost everyone did. But I froze.

Finally I decided to experiment using a poem I’d recently written and add some color and texture to it but it took me half an hour of wondering around campus because being in the studio just had me panicking. Finally I paid attention to the last words of the instructors: do what you already do and then apply what you’ve learned about encaustic. Three hours later I put that board on my shelf and prepared the next pieces I have to figure out what to do something with.

I have my last big board to work on, 2 board books to play with and an accordion book of plaster gauze to think about.

I worked morning and afternoon in the studio and then cooled off soaking my feet in the inflatable pool they have set up in the shade by the garden. It hit 99 degrees today and I don’t think we’re done with the peak of the day. It was really hot last night. Thank goodness for fans and very quiet sleepers in the little dorm I’m in.


Most of the work shown in the pictures is stuff being done by my fellow classmates or the instructors.  But you can see my 3 little pieces on the shelf there.

Tomorrow is another day and I think I’m going to venture a dip in the river.


a week of journeying

I am re-reading Luci Shaw’s book, Breath for the Bones, because I was invited to take part in a church youth group experience exploring the work of an artist.  I wanted to help the young people think about how art and faith connect.  Shaw poses two questions in the forward of her book, “How does faith inform art?” and “How can art animate faith?”  I love these questions and have been pondering them now for a month.

In her chapter on metaphor, Shaw writes: “Truth is a touchy topic, a daunting word….Because of its disconcerting abstraction, its largeness and inscrutability, we must choose symbols to make it seem more manageable, more concrete, more complete, more than simply propositional.” p. 40

Here are a few vignettes about a week punctuated by metaphor helping me think about truth:

The Sunday before last I finished a delightful book titled The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating: A memoir, written by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, who became bed-ridden for a time by a strange viral illness.  The unwelcome gift of a land snail became a surprising metaphor for the author as she educated herself about this small guest during her convalescence.  June rains have brought these amber colored creatures with their “Cinnabon” shells to my own sidewalks and now that I know more about them, I find myself stooping in puddles to contemplate what they might teach me.

On Wednesday I decided at the last minute to attend our mid-week church service.  I hopped on my bike and journeyed safely over side walks through the 5 o’clock traffic to arrive a bit breathless but  just in time.  As I sidled into a pew and took a breath to calm myself I noticed the communion table was lined with ceramic mugs of every shape, size and color – and a few were broken.  Songs and liturgy about clay and potters and vessels themed the evening.  After the service I sat for awhile on the stair with a friend’s daughter. She is a special needs girl adopted from Guatemala.  I asked her which ceramic piece she had chosen to identify with that night. She pointed to a broken cup and although she is difficult to understand, I listened carefully as she explained why.  Metaphor speaks to even the youngest among us. I rode my bike slowly home thinking over our conversation.

Sunday came around again along with the parable of the sower and the mustard seed.  In his desire to challenge us to listen with new insight to this well known story, our pastor shared that the idea of planting a mustard seed was actually akin to us planting Scotch Broom in our back yards – a weed recently deemed noxious by our state.  He carried the metaphor further by asking us to compare ourselves to “dumb weeds” – those that grow tall and showy but with shallow roots or to “smart weeds” – those that grow close to the ground with deep and permeating roots. A group of us gathered afterwards to share our response to the service;  the power of the various metaphors supported these people with disparate backgrounds to communicate ideas and feelings with each other.

Later, I finally attended the youth meeting I mention above. Together we watched a video of the Scottish Eco-artist, Andy Goldsworthy, work his magic on a landscape.  While only a few of these students considered themselves artists, they were each involved in some hobby or activity and were able to relate to Goldsworthy’s expertise and enterprise.  Shooting hoops, playing the cello, acting in plays all demand a kind of skill which they could equate to creating art. These thoughtful students shared their perceptions on his work and pondered the questions I presented from  Luci Shaw’s book.  Once again, metaphor opened windows to wonder and understanding.

I’m almost done with the fabric art piece I started a few months ago.  It is a metaphorical piece but it is still working on me – so I will wait to write and share about  it.