Hudson Residency // Experiments in Blue

08/25/15

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Friends, I am finishing up my residency here at Drop Forge and Tool this weekend, and culminating it with a small one-night-only exhibition. If you are the area, I hope you will stop by. All works will be for sale. Below is some of the work I have made while I have been here (and you can view much more here on Instagram).

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Have a great Tuesday and hope to see you this weekend at the open studio.

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Hudson Residency // On Getting What I Didn’t Expect

08/24/15

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Imagine this: you are a busy illustrator or mom or lawyer or landscaper or photographer or fill in the ___. Or maybe you already are one, so you don’t have to imagine. Someone tells you that you get to go away by yourself from your busy life and work for three weeks and do the thing you love most. You are so excited and not at all scared. You count the days till you leave. This is going to be the best thing ever. You can picture yourself so relaxed and doing that thing you love in your own private house. You will make your own schedule, eat what and when you want, listen to your music, sleep in, get some rest, have easy days doing this thing you love more than anything. It will be the opposite of your regular regimented busy life. It will be blissful.

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The day arrives and you get to that place. At first, it’s so exciting. Your heart is filled with feelings about the anticipation of all this time to do the thing you love. But then each day you are there doing the thing you love most, alone in your thoughts, you start to feel anxious. All the stuff you are able to distract yourself from thinking about in your regular busy life begins running laps in your brain. The nice relaxed experience of being alone and doing the thing you love is still nice, for sure, and mostly you are having a good time, but it’s harder to relax and enjoy it than you expected, mostly because of the thoughts running laps. In fact, you didn’t think it was going to be hard at all, so all of this comes as a surprise.

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At first you just try to avoid the thoughts running laps in your brain — for example, all the things about your life you dread every day but typically make no effort to change, that person whose feelings you may have hurt two months ago, those super embarrassing things you said at that social gathering back in May, that workload you need to return to at the end of the three weeks. The avoiding actually makes the anxiety worse, and so after two weeks of denial you finally stop avoiding. You write the nagging thoughts down. You ask them, “WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME?” And you listen to what they have to say. And you commit to not ignoring them as much in the future. Maybe you will even make some changes today or when you get back to your regular life based on what they have told you.

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And then you feel a little better, and then, oddly, you realize that the anxiety you have felt here is more of a gift than any bliss you imagined you would feel. Because listening to it is making you realize all kinds of important things — things you need to change, things you need to let go of, things that you thought mattered but really don’t, things you thought didn’t matter but really do.

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This, my friends, is pretty much the story of my residency here in Hudson. Sure, I have made a lot of art (a bunch of which is pictured here), and I feel grateful to have had that channel. I have made lots of work that is different than what I have made before, and perhaps some of that process has actually been aided by the internal dissonance I’ve been experiencing here. One thing I’ve realized is that I need to make personal work like I need to breathe (and not just in my sketchbook) — my sense of creative agency and motivation as an artist depends on it. But I’ve also realized a lot of other things that I’ve been in denial about. And I’ve committed not to be in denial about them. And that means making some hard choices & changes when I get back home in a week. But I do think that giving up some things will serve other good things, including my sense of presence and equanimity (which I spoke of recently in this first blog post from Hudson last week), and also my relationships to the people in my life who I love. Ultimately we all have to choose what makes us happiest, even at the expense of a client list, money and recognition.

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I’ve written before about befriending & relaxing into fear and embracing emptiness. The feelings I’m experiencing are not new to me. I work hard at being present in my everyday life, and yet I’m still so not present. It took me two weeks of fighting to finally listen to my fear and anxiety while I was here. Maybe I was just so hell bent on feeling blissful and relaxed that I just didn’t expect to feel any fear or emptiness at all. This experience was going to be different.

But it wasn’t. You can’t escape it, not even on an artist residency. Especially on an artist residency.

On that note, I’m off to be alone with my thoughts.

Have a great Monday, friends!

 

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New Wallpaper with Chasing Paper

08/21/15

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Friends, I am so excited today to be released three new wallpaper patterns with Chasing Paper. Chasing Paper is different than traditional wallpaper: it’s well-designed removable wallpaper that will stick to nearly any surface! Genius! I hope you will be inspired by the patterns I’ve created and I am sure some of you will think of some very creative ways to use these! Oh, and I’ve also got a discount code for you today too (scroll to the bottom of the post for that).

First up: Little Village. Drawing old architecture in a stylized playful way has always been a beloved part of my repertoire, so creating this pattern was so much fun for me. For the pattern Little Village, I drew a montage of old medieval styled buildings stacked on and behind each other with clean lines and modern, stark colorways. I love the interplay between old and new & traditional and modern in this pattern!

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{Little Village in black}

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{Little Village in black and gold}

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{Little Village in grey}

Next up: Poppy! love drawing all-over floral motifs! This pattern is a hand drawn pattern of my favorite flower: the poppy. I grew up in California, so the poppy holds a special place in my heart. There are so many varieties of poppies, and the pattern includes poppies from all over the world. My favorite colorway is the vermillion red, which is the most ubiquitous poppy color.

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{Poppy in vermillion}

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{Poppy in black}

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{Poppy in grey}

Finally there is Folk, the boldest pattern of the bunch. For the past ten years I have been really interested in traditional folk pattern and folk art, and much of the imagery in my work reflects that passion. About a year ago, I began drawing patterns in my sketchbook that included traditional folk symbols, like the heart, the hand and fruit shapes. To create this wallpaper pattern, I used many traditional folk motifs and then added some of my own favorite imagery to the mix, like scissors, teacups, trees and a few animals to create this pattern. I love taking traditional imagery and making them modern. I think Folk is a great example of the perfect mix of traditional and modern. Best of all? It comes in four colorways!

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{Folk in blue}

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{Folk in black}

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{Folk in green}

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{Folk in grey}

 

For this weekend ONLY, Chasing Paper is offering a discount code just for you. Enter LOVELISA at checkout for 15% off your order. You can learn more about the wallpaper here in the FAQ and watch a how-to video here.

Have a great weekend, friends!

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Write Here Write Now // Nicole LaRue & Naomi Davis Lee

08/20/15

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Sometime in the last couple of years, I got a Facebook friend request from fellow illustrator Nicole LaRue. I knew of Nicole’s amazing work and also learned she was living with her partner Naomi in Japan. Since then, we’ve became friends, and I’ve learned we have lots in common — including our love for making art, hand lettering and creating books. Recently Nicole and Naomi published their first ever book, Write Here Write Now, which came out just this week through Chronicle Books. It’s a fantastic book for young writers designed to get their creative juices flowing — a place to write down all of their passions, dreams and ideas. A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Nicole and Naomi about their book, the process of making it, and their creative collaboration.

Without further ado, I present to you Nicole LaRue and Naomi Davis Lee, this week’s Interviews with People I Admire!

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Lisa: Tell us about Write Here Write Now. What’s the idea behind it and who’s it for?

N&N: Write Here Write Now, published by Chronicle Books, is a guided activity journal for older kids and trendy teens that encourages young writers to ponder, wonder, challenge, quiz themselves and their friends and, above all, to create. The journal is 144 pages packed with witty and unique prompts to inspire creative genius. The young reader becomes the author, the artist, the collector, the maker, the musician, and the explorer.

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With this book, they create short stories, poems, and rhymes. They doodle, color, and draw. They decorate postcards, explore their handwriting, and collect found objects for show and tell. They ask deep questions, wonder about their younger selves, and write letters to their future selves. They play games, help friends, explore their superhero powers, and become outright daydreamers. It is the best book they’ve ever written!

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Lisa: How long did it take you to create the book? How did you collaborate with each other?

N&N: Write Here Write Now was our first big collaboration. For months, we brainstormed activities for the journal on long walks together. We had kitchen-table meetings to talk about the structure and style. We’d sit on the couch to explore crazy word combinations for activity titles until our efforts turned into a laugh fest or dissolved into tears. Naomi was consigned to writing duty, and Nicole was entrusted with the illustration and design.

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Lisa: What do you hope kids and teens who use this book take away from it or gain from it?

N&N: Our hope is that young writers will get lost in creating their own adventure. We keep our fingers crossed that they’ll gain confidence in their own creative process and will be thrilled with the outcome.

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Lisa: Nicole, you are an illustrator. What else are you working on right now? What is your favorite kind of work, product or thing to create and why?

Nicole: My favorite projects are gigantic in scope. They give me the chance to be involved in all the little details and aspects—anything from books and journals, full product lines, to stationery programs. I have heaps of projects in the works all the time. I’m currently working on a travel program called Away We Go, an adult coloring book filled with quotes, and a graphic novel about mental illness called Food Fight.

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Lisa: Interesting fact: You are both American, but you’ve lived in Japan for a few years. How did that happen and what’s it like?

N&N: We’re grand adventurers at heart. About four years ago, we decided we wanted a change of scenery, so we pulled out a map and put a finger down. We packed our bags and headed east! Naomi took a teaching job at a university in South Korea, and Nicole uprooted her laptop and drawing pens and went along. A year later, another opportunity led us to western Japan, and we’ve been here for three years. So much in the cultural landscape has inspired us—even minutia that we never expected. At first, a profound language barrier had us wandering around in grocery stores for untold hours examining unfamiliar products. We were forced to slow down and see things from a new perspective, to digest the world in another way.

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But life here is not all about aimlessly wandering up and down aisles for hours. Efficiency is an integral part of city life, and it’s interesting to contemplate on crowded station platforms. Overworked people rush here and there, run for trains, crowd into packed train cars, vie for the next open seat if they’re lucky enough to spot one. Exhausted bodies press against one another. Sleepy heads bob about and come dangerously close to resting on your shoulder. Yet, the manners folks maintain are impeccable. No one seems to notice the chaos of this so-called normal life. Oh, but the stories we have to tell! In a country as densely populated as Japan, the rawness of humanity makes a scene that we can’t ignore.

Lisa: Where can people find Write Here Write Now?

N&N: Write Here Write Now has been released internationally. It’s being sold on the Chronicle Books website and is widely available online and from booksellers large and small.

Lisa: Just search for Write Here Write Now in your browser! And thank you Nicole and Naomi for taking the time to share your book and your experience with us!

Have a great Thursday, everyone!

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Words for the Day // No. 69

08/19/15

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Have a great Wednesday, friends!

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Fortune Favors the Brave Book Release Day!

08/18/15

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Friends, I am so happy to announce that my latest book, Fortune Favors the Brave: 100 Courageous Quotations Hand Lettered by Lisa Congdon, is officially released for sale! You can get your copy at your local bookstore, here on Amazon, get a signed copy in my Etsy Shop, or purchase wherever books are sold. Fortune Favors the Brave is the sequel to my first book of hand-lettered quotes, Whatever You Are, Be a Good One (which, at last count, is nearing almost 100,000 copies sold!). Out today also are an ancillary notebook set and notecard set, also published by Chronicle Books.

If you are interested in attending one of my book tour & book signing stops for Fortune Favors the Brave in Hudson NY, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland or Seattle, you can get more information here.

I’m also so excited to share my latest podcast, this one my second with Tiffany Han, all about passion projects (of which I’ve done a few!). Fortune Favors the Brave is the direct result of a daily project I started in 2012, and I talk more about that project and all my daily/yearly projects in the podcast. You can listen to this latest podcast with Tiffany here.

To celebrate the release of my book, I’m sharing here the introductory essay for the book, which describes how it came to be, starting with my own personal journey to become a more courageous person 16 years ago.

This book is dedicated to every young girl in the world: may you be brave.

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“Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you!

Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching

for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.”

—Oscar Wilde

When I was thirty-one years old I got two words tattooed on my right arm. Those two words—truth and courage—lettered inside of banners blowing from the beaks of two barn swallows represented a conscious shift to live my life more authentically. Until that time, throughout my teens and twenties, I spent a lot of time attempting to fit into the mold of who I thought I should be and what I thought I should do with my life. By the time I was thirty I was bored, uninspired, clinically depressed, and quite truly stuck. And so, in an attempt to be happier, in the few years that followed and until this day (I turned forty-seven this year), it has been my life’s work to live every day in ways that feel true and good for me. At the core of this work is the assumption that I cannot be happy or achieve any level of satisfaction in life unless I am living in ways that are aligned with my core values, passions, and temperament—in other words, what I believe in, what makes me feel inspired, and what feels good to me.

Sounds easy enough, right? But it isn’t. It takes enormous bravery and determination to be totally yourself, to pursue life dreams that others might not understand, to risk judgment, or to break out of unhealthy relationships, addictions, and habits. It also takes courage to forgive yourself when you falter along the way and to move on after you do or say things you later regret. Let’s face it—none of us has a “perfect” path. In fact, accepting, even embracing, our missteps and imperfections (including the big ones) is part of the journey. And understanding that we all falter, that we are all beautifully imperfect, and that we are all in some way trying to live authentically connects us as humans.

Over the years, as I have attempted to live a happier, more authentic life, I have relied heavily on the words of other people—writers, thinkers, artists, philosophers, and yes, even regular people—to guide and support my path. Indeed, sometimes reading an inspiring quote in a moment of self-doubt can change my entire outlook and remind me that despite my weaknesses or shortcomings, despite what others might think of me, I can do this.

Because I have grown not only to love but also to rely on the wise words of smart people, I have been hand lettering inspirational quotes for several years. I have also found that many people love to read inspiring quotes too, and so I began sharing them on my blog and then in my first book of hand-lettered quotes, Whatever You Are, Be a Good One. It felt like the most logical and important step to focus my next book of quotes (the one you are holding in your hands) on bravery—the bravery required to live authentically, to be our best selves, to accept our mistakes and shortcomings, and to live, really live, a good and happy life.

It is no coincidence that the year I got the words truth and courage tattooed on my arm was also the same year I started drawing and painting. Living an authentic life meant finding a way to express my deepest fears and my most intense longings. I experi­mented with all kinds of things during that time—cooking, sewing, writing, new athletic endeavors—all of which I still enjoy today, but making art made me feel thoroughly happy in a way I had never felt before. Many years later, making art has become my entire world, including my livelihood. I am so grateful for every person, every book I have read, and every word that gave me the strength to take risks and fight each wave of self-doubt I encountered.

I hope the brilliant words in this book provide encouragement and motivation for you as you tread the path of your own magnificent journey. May you live bravely and fully.

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Hudson Residency // On the Passage of Time

08/17/15

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“It is by no means an irrational fancy that, in a future existence, we shall look upon what we think our present existence, as a dream.” Edgar Allen Poe

I can hardly believe it. It’s already day six already here at my residency at Drop, Forge and Tool in Hudson, NY. If you are like, “What? Why is Lisa in Hudson NY?” — you can read more about why I’m here in this previous post.

I have spent most of the last several days making stuff, experimenting mostly, mark making, lots of cutting and reconstructing, messing things up and then putting them back together again. I’ve spent some really lovely social time with Katharine and Michael and their friends, which is great (I am an introvert who loves small gatherings of interesting people). One day I walked all around historic Hudson by myself and found lovely antique and artsy shops. Here are some of the treasures I picked up:

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There is a luxury in this time. I get to do what I want, when I want, and for as long as I want. I get to listen to music and audiobooks for hours on end while I cut, paste and draw. I get to go for walks through town (or not, depending on how I feel). I get to stop and read or watch a documentary. I get to stay up till 1 a.m. or sleep in without an alarm. I don’t have to worry about finishing or not finishing. And it has been really, truly amazing.

This is precisely what I have been dreaming about for months now. I have been fantasizing about this time with little or no pressure to deliver or do client work or keep a specific schedule. But now that I am here and in this time, I am experiencing a certain anxiety.

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I mentioned to my wife Clay yesterday that I woke up feeling anxious. “Why did you feel anxious?” she asked. “I think when I wake up, I feel a bit overwhelmed by the possibilities,” I said. “The world is my oyster here. And sometimes I don’t even know where to begin each day.” I am used to having very specific assignments or deadlines. “But then,” I said, “eventually I sit down and just start using my hands and it begins to flow. By the afternoon I am rapt in whatever I am doing and cannot seem to pull myself away.”

I also think that a bit of the anxiety comes from knowing that while I have three weeks here, the time is finite, so I’ve been slightly preoccupied with the passage of time. It’s like I want to hold it and never let it go. I’ve caught myself looking at the time at around mid-afternoon each day and exclaiming to myself, “Oh no! the day is ending!” as a tiny wave of panic ripples through my chest.

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Subsequently, since I have so much of it, I have been thinking a lot about time in general while I am here — how I spend it normally, my general preoccupation with properly “managing” it, this idea of time being “precious” or not, this idea of never feeling like I have enough of it (even while I am here on this luxurious residency).

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It is not lost on me that being a person now who enjoys the passage of time, who wants more time, who wants longer days, is actually a good thing. I spent many years in my 20’s and 30’s as a very depressed person — someone who could not wait for the day to end and who had no motivation to do anything with the time I did have. When I remember those years, I become instantly grateful for who I have become and for my life and passions.

On that note, I am off to enjoy (and attempt to be present with) my big, unstructured, beautiful day.

Hope you have a great Monday, friends!

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SXSW // Vote for Us!

08/14/15

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Friends: My editor Bridget Watson Payne and I are pitching a panel on artist/publisher collaboration to SXSW 2016, and we need your votes to make it happen! If you attend SXSW and/or this is the kind of panel you would be interested in seeing, you can learn more about our discussion topics and vote to add our panel to the roster for SXSW 2016 here.

Thank you for your time and have a great weekend!

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August Hudson Residency

08/13/15

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{Most of the work I make while I am here will include some blue // testing out blues yesterday}

Every once and awhile an opportunity comes my way that makes me really, really excited and happens at exactly the right time. Last year, I was asked by Katharine and Michael who run Drop Forge and Tool to come to Hudson, New York to do an artist residency in their space. I jumped at the opportunity, and after months and months of anticipation, I am finally here!

While I am here, I will be leave behind my client work, my book projects and my business. While I am here, I will be creating a new body of work — mostly abstract drawings and paintings, and some collage and print making. I’m not exactly sure yet because I am going to just take my time and experiment!

In the world of art and illustration, we call this kind of artwork “personal work” — which really means making art for art’s sake, work driven by personal inspiration & interests (and not work commissioned and art directed by a client).

In 2010, my illustration career began to take off. Since then, I’ve spent most of my time working for illustration clients and writing and illustrating books for publishers. I love that work a lot (and feel lucky to do it), but after five years of nonstop work and deadlines, I am experiencing really intense burn out.

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{Sunflowers in a giant flower garden I visited yesterday in Hudson}

I am so excited to relax, experiment in the studio there and sleep in a little bit too. Three weeks isn’t a long period of time, but this residency feels like a gift.  I’ll be documenting what I make and my adventures in Hudson on Instagram and every few days here on my blog if you would like to follow along.

Oh, and for those of you within driving distance of Hudson, at the end of August, I will have an open studio exhibit with everything I’ve created this month (RSVP on Facebook here). I’ll also be doing a book event in Hudson, which you can learn more about here.

Have a great Thursday, friends!

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#YESALLWOMEN

08/10/15

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Friends, I am writing today to let you know about the #YESALLWOMEN fundraiser. Proceeds benefit the East Los Angeles Women’s Center, which aides survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse. The event includes both a ticketed event (see poster above) plus an opportunity to donate online.

For the online fundraiser, I have donated a package that includes a framed 11×14 inch original piece of art from The Reconstructionists series pictured below (of Frida Kahlo!) along with a signed copy each of my books Whatever You Are, Be a Good One and my latest book of quotes, Fortune Favors the Brave. Here’s how it works: if you donate $450 to the fundraiser, you get this original piece of art plus the two books!

If you are able to donate any amount to make this venture possible, organizers would be so grateful!

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If you live in the greater Los Angeles area and are interested in purchasing tickets to the #YesAllWomen fundraiser (check out that list of artists!), you can get them here.

Have a great Monday, friends!

CATEGORIES: Exhibitions | For Sale
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Chroma Show // Lisa Solomon & Christine Buckton Tillman

08/07/15

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{the CHROMA installation in Baltimore}

Almost 10 years ago I met artist Lisa Solomon online. The online world was much smaller then, and I met most of my internet friends at that time on the photo sharing site Flickr. When Lisa and I met on Flickr, we quickly discovered that we both lived in the Bay Area in California, so we went rapidly from being internet friends to real life friends. Over the years we’ve collaborated on projects (even having a show together on the East Coast in 2008), traveled together, and remained close friends and confidants. Lisa is one of the artists I interviewed in Art Inc, and I admire her work greatly.

Around that time I also met Christine Buckton Tillman on Flickr and admire her work greatly as well. Lisa and Christine (who Lisa also met on Flickr 10 years ago!) have gone on to be friends and collaborators as well. Recently they collaborated on an installation called CHROMA at Gallery CA in Baltimore, Maryland that literally knocked my socks off. CHROMA “explores color theory through objects from everyday life, expressed through crowd sourced installation, drawings, and sculpture…  The installation will be a culmination of sorting, arranging and compiling the materials into an orderly, chromatically compelling piece, with the intent of elevating the viewer’s relationship with the mundane debris that we interact with on a daily basis.” I decided I had to interview Lisa and Christine about their CHROMA collaboration. It was a huge, time intensive endeavor, and the end result is really phenomenal (as the photos here show) . Without further ado, I present to you Lisa Solomon and Christine Buckton Tillman in my Interviews with People I Admire Series!

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Lisa C: Tell us about yourselves! Who are you and how did you meet?

Lisa S:  Hi, I’m Lisa. I live in Oakland, CA. I’m a mixed media artist who gravitates toward concepts of hybridity, domesticity, and issues/materials surrounding art and craft. I also am an educator, teaching at various colleges in the Bay Area, and sometimes a craft book writer/illustrator/graphic designer. Christine and I met online – I think Flickr was where we first crossed paths almost 10 years ago. We had both recently finished grad school, and we were eager to find like art minds. Back then Flickr was a great community. We would post a lot of work and get feedback. I gravitated to Christine’s work immediately. It was just so my aesthetic, the colors, the subject matter, the handmade quality of it. We joked that we should have a show together back then. We’ve always kept in touch via the various social media of the moment, and so more recently it’s been Instagram.  We are also both working mom artists [which I often don’t want to admit is its own clan, but I think in many ways it is.]

 

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{Lisa’s work on display in the gallery}

Christine: I’m Christine! I have Midwest roots but I’ve lived in Baltimore, Maryland for the past 13 years. I’m a very flat sculptor who makes mostly drawings. I also teach at The Park School of Baltimore. When I met Lisa on Flickr, I was a couple of years out of grad school  (Iowa 2002!) and missed the accountability that a large community of artists. Lisa was one of the first like minded artists I met on there. I think she was embroidering robots. I loved that the community shared not just finished work but the process too. I have really vivid memories of her early felt tanks and seeing her map drawings in her studio before the installation.  At the time I was doing a lot of work with felt too and a few years later made similar maps for these huge outdoor sculptures made to be photographed using copy paper and golf tees.

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{Christine’s work on display in the gallery}

We met in person back in 2011. I was tagging along on a trip for my husband’s project and he ended up speaking to Lisa‘s Professional Practice class at SF State. While it was short, it was great to meet in person. I was pregnant at the time, and we turned the trip into a California “babymoon.” Lisa‘s daughter is a few years older than mine, and watching her parent, teach and be an artist has helped me every step of the way. Most of my mom friends in town are not in the arts. It’s a much needed clan.

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{cross section of final CHROMA installation}

Lisa C: First, describe the concept for the CHROMA show. How did the idea for the show come to be? Tell us from the beginning how it was sparked and how it evolved.

Lisa S: I think we honestly have ALWAYS wanted to show together. Our work just seems to fit together. But Christine finally pushed us to propose a show to Gallery CA in Baltimore when they put out a call for exhibitions in 2014. It turns out I know quite a few lovely people in Baltimore so it seemed like a great idea to me. Show/Visit/Hang out: YAY!

In thinking thematically about where our work intersected it seemed that color was really an obvious starting point. We are both drawn to and utilize color in pretty specific ways in our work. I think as moms we became even more acutely aware of how toys are colored. How much plastic and general colored STUFF is in our lives. For example why are there bread ties in white, turquoise, red and blue? I’ve also been doing social practice pieces lately – asking the public for help in various ways; it’s been really rewarding and adds a different dimension to the work. So we thought HEY, why don’t we ask people to send us stuff?  Any kind of stuff – things that mostly read as one color,  junk from your drawers, discarded kids toys, etc. etc. In part I think we wanted people [and ourselves] to take notice of what surrounds us: how do we interact with color in our daily lives? And, in part, we both believe that things arranged in color can be stunningly beautiful, even bits and bobs and doodads.

In addition to the installation, we concluded that we’d both show individual pieces, but we also thought it would be SUPER fun to collaborate. Christine sent me a pile of “reject” drawings [none of which I thought were rejects], and I sent her a pile of drawings and we had at it. It was really fun to get to play with her work. I just ended up doing something really simple. I added felt and embroidery. She ended up doing some really amazing collaging and cutting up of my work. When I saw them I kept thinking, now why didn’t I think of that?!

 

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{Some of Lisa and Christine’s collaborative work}

Christine: When I first finished graduate school I taught a Color Theory class at a local community college. I asked students to make a “color collection” — collecting 100 things of different colors. I always felt that idea had more potential than what my students ended up doing. Probably because Lisa and I didn’t just simply collect, we also ordered everything, and ordering the stuff was a big deal. It took the both of us nearly two days of arranging during installation of the show. That part is super formal and complicated. Size, shape and texture all play  a role with the color. We had to think about lines, edges and small compositions within the larger composition. It’s hard stuff. We were so afraid that it would just be straight up rainbow but there’s so many transitions- pinky- oranges! dull purple-blues! A yellow and green paper corn and husk! That’s the stuff that makes it different than a new box of 8 Crayola crayons. That and the fact that it’s massive and full of thousands of things.

I was happy to have the rest of our work together too. I love how Lisa‘s doily piece and my woven piece work together. They both feature obsessive handcraft and grid structure and it’s nice to see them hang out together.

The best part of collaborating is when you do something you would never have done solo. I think for both of us it was nice to let go and work entirely with found objects. I’ve done large scale installations with found objects and overhead projectors but this is different. I can’t forget the drawings! I hadn’t see what Lisa did with my rejects till we opened them in the gallery and HOLY CATS!  There’s this great one where she cut out these Mattise-like leaf shapes that were in the back of my drawing in the colors from the shape in the foreground. I think I’ll have to keep sending Lisa my rejects!

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{Lisa installing the CHROMA show}

Lisa C: You put a call out for people to send you their colored stuff for the show. What was the experience like for you of asking and receiving people’s unwanted stuff? Did you use everything that you received? Did you get about what you needed/expected or more or less?

Lisa S: The experience was really positive. I think we both thought, OK hopefully we’ll get a couple 100 objects and we’ll manage to make it work. In the end we ended up with thousands of items. Way more than we expected. Most of the stuff came to me and I would arrange it and photograph it and give a shout out to the donor on our blog & Instagram. I was shocked at what people sent. Some beautiful vintage items. Some really personal items. Some handmade things. We got a lot more than we expected. This is the beauty of just asking. It’s amazing how people want to participate. The small installations for documentation ended up being really crucial to understanding how the larger install was going to work.

We did not end up using EVERY item we received. Mostly because we ran out of room. In some instances we just couldn’t fathom using 50 buttons of the same color [although there really are a lot of buttons up there]. And also a few things were just really tricky to figure out how to adhere to the wall; we used hot glue for most things, some pins, and poster putty – a few items like really heavy bouncy balls just would NOT stay up no matter what we did.

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Christine: We definitely ran out of room for blues and whites and a few things didn’t make it on the wall. But it was like less than 1% of the total submissions!

The bulk of my objects came from my work. I work in a K-12 school and while people sent me things by mail too the bulk of my collected objects came from the Park School community. I spoke about the show in assemblies to the Lower, Middle, and Upper School showing them pictures of Lisa‘s work and mine. You could always see the knitters (students and faculty) in the audience gasp when they saw Lisa‘s 1000 doilies! I showed them a picture of some found objects and told them I need the same kinds of stuff. I left boxes around campus and they filled up over the course of a month or so. The Lower School kids filled the box three times and while the Upper School students filled it about one and a half times I had a student give me a whole box from her house and the cast of the spring play carry up a box of hundreds of popped balloons that they had used as fireworks sounds.

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{Installation process!}

Lisa C: What was the installation like? What was the process? How long did it take? How did you decide on composition? Where there any items that were difficult of impossible to hang on the wall?

Lisa S: The installation was crazy, but good. I had organized all the stuff sent to me by color, each in it’s own garbage bag. The first day in the gallery we dumped all the colors out and started arranging them. We realized that we had enough stuff to pretty much cover the main wall in the gallery. That was exciting and daunting! The composition was sort of dictated by what we had, and how we wanted to transition from color to color. We also knew that we didn’t want to start with red. While we love rainbow order we didn’t want to strictly adhere to it. So we started with red on the right. We were SO lucky to have so many amazing helpers and scaffolding [I love scaffolding] so the process went faster and smoother than we anticipated.

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We basically decided that the best way to go about it was for Christine and I to arrange the bulk of the installation right in front of the wall on the floor. We tacked each color. We realized that we both felt that the transitions between each large area of color were incredibly important. There were certain objects that helped those transitions happen, and there were certain multi colored objects that we had to decide where they belonged. We also noticed that there were certain color combos that  kept coming up: red and green, royal blue and red. Trying to incorporate those became tricky, but also rewarding. As we worked on the floor we photographed each section and then people had a map to use as they glued to the wall. We knew that it wouldn’t be exact, but the map would help to insure that things ended up close to how we wanted.

We also wanted the composition to be organic, not a rigid square or rectangle. What we liked about all the smaller compositions [photographed as they came in] was that they had interesting borders, so we wanted to reproduce that on a grander scale.

Overall the install took 4 days – with a couple of long nights in there.

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Christine: We had tons of volunteers too! Gallery CA is in in the ground floor of the City Arts Building in the Station North Arts District in Baltimore. The top floors contain live/work spaces for artists and creatives and affordable housing for people in the neighborhood. We had lots of residents volunteering to help as well students and former students of mine, and of course friends from Instagram!

In total I think we had over 20 different people helping us so having the maps that we photographed on the floor was crucial. We learned pretty quickly due to the red section having a thermostat in the middle of it that sticking to the map made everything go much smoother. Especially when you have 8-10 volunteers sharing glue guns and working on different colored sections, some up on a high scaffold. Having a guide and being able to just get someone started as soon as they walk in was crucial.

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Lisa C: What was the most satisfying aspect of collecting and installing the show? What was the most frustrating aspect?

Lisa S: I think it was mostly really fun to collect everything. It was like Christmas every time I went to my PO box. It was also just wonderful to see how involved people got. All the notes of encouragement, the excitement for the project. It was infectious. Also hanging a show like this always feels like camp or theater, you know? You have a finite time with these people. You have to trust them. There’s a lot of time to talk and get to know someone while you are performing a repetitive task. It feels very communal and exciting – everyone working towards a singular goal. Overall there wasn’t much frustration. A couple of times during the layout process I realized a needed a break and couldn’t see straight anymore. A few times we had to re-adjust things on the wall, but otherwise I’d say it was a pretty seamless experience.

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Christine: Not much frustration at all. We should have had knee pads for that first day crawling on the floor but otherwise I thought the install went great! I loved seeing all the things come together at once. That first day was the first time we had seen everything together and it was great to see each others reaction whether it was my awe at some pink scissors or a glittery blue car or Lisa‘s amazement that we had three of these weird toy compasses.Lisa C: What was the reaction of the people at the opening of the show? What are some of the things you heard people say?

Lisa S: I would say in general the reaction was surprise and wonder [always a good reaction]. Kids LOVED it [including mine – she insisted on telling me what one special item she would treasure from each color]. There was some good gasping.  And good giggling. A lot of “I would not think to do this,” and “how much time did it take?”

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{Observers at the show’s opening}

Christine: I heard a lot of “this is so awesome!” A team of videographers making a short about the neighborhood said they got some great shots, and my friend’s 3 year old wants everyone to know that he “likes the blue car.” When you see a bunch of things all together like that it’s hard not to try to pick out your favorites. It’s overwhelming in the best possible farm auction kind of way. While it wasn’t at the opening I was pretty thrilled to see that the Mayor of Baltimore took pictures of it and Instagramed it!

Lisa C: That’s amazing! I wish I could see it in person myself. Now, I have to ask: What will you do with everything once the show comes down?

Lisa S: We are saving everything! We are doing CHROMA #2 in San Francisco next summer at Rare Device. It will be interesting to reconfigure it to fit their space. I’m already thinking about how to deal with the doorway! And the fact that we can’t lay everything out on the floor for days on end since the space has to function as a store too.

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{Christine and Lisa after the completed installation!}

Christine: It comes down on August 20th. I’m already assembling another team of volunteers ready to climb the scaffold and get everything off the wall. It all fits into about seven boxes that will live in my basement until it’s time to ship them across the country again. I love thinking about the jet set and glamorous life these objects are having.

Lisa C: Thank you so much for telling us about this amazing collaboration and for sharing all the gorgeous images of the show! I know my readers will enjoy it! If you live in Baltimore or nearby, the show is up through August 19.
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Kindred in Mollie Makes!

08/05/15

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I am thrilled that my work is featured again in Mollie Makes Magazine! This time they have featured a blurb about my new Kindred fabric collection with Cloud9, which you can read more about and see images of here.

More about Mollie Makes from their editors: “Mollie Makes is a British lifestyle magazine for those who live creatively. We bring you the latest crafting trends in easy-to-follow how-tos, encouraging you to adapt and share your own crafty spin on things. We celebrate creative industries and give up-and-coming designers their first platform. We discuss hot topics in the design world with lots of insider tips. And above all, we aim to inspire you to live your best, artful life.

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Creative endeavours are more than a day job for the Mollie Makes team. From choosing gorgeous indie cushions and prints for our interiors pages to learning how to take beautiful photos for our website and Instagram feeds; customising our clothes to making gifts for friends, we’re crafting along with you. We love trying new things and being inspired by what you’re creating, wearing and blogging about too.”

The Mollie Makes community is supportive and lively. They would love for you to join the community.

Readers can subscribe here, download the iPad version of the magazine here, and view a preview of the latest issue here. Keep up-to-date with the blog and subscribe to their newsletter here.

Have a great Wednesday, friends!

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New Online Course // Tell Us Your Experience

07/31/15

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Hello friends!

I am in the process of designing a three-day intensive online course that will launch this January, 2016. The course will focus on overcoming the things that hold us back as we work toward finding our voice, building confidence and growing our creative careers. The course will offer practical tools and advice for taking your art practice and/or career to the next level and offer an in-depth, interactive exploration of some of the material I cover in Art Inc, along with some exciting new material. The course will include video, live video chats (with me) each day, reading material, exercises and a community forum for discussions and questions. This will be a business & “mindset-shifting” course, and NOT an art class. Though we will do creative exercises, I will not be teaching art technique in this class (just a note to avoid any confusion).

I am in the process of gathering information from potential participants about how you identify as an artist and where you find yourselves the most “stuck” as you work toward launching or building your art practice or career. If you are an artist or an aspiring artist who thinks you might be interested in taking my course, I would be so grateful if you could take this very short five question survey. If you are not a candidate for the course (you are not an artist or an aspiring artist, never take online courses, or would never take one from me), no need to take the survey. I am particularly interested in hearing from potential participants about their experience and struggles so that I can design the best possible, most relevant curriculum.

If you take the survey, you can also sign up to be on the mailing list to get up to date information on the course and course registration (including early bird discounts).

Thank you again for your input, and I look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Lisa

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Kathryn Clark // Foreclosure Quilts

07/28/15

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{Kathryn’s incredible Washington D.C. Foreclosure Quilt, now part of the Smithsonian Collection}

A few years ago, I became acquainted with artist Kathryn Clark. We have many friends in common, and it was inevitable that we would meet. Since I’ve known Kathryn, I’ve always admired her work. Earlier this year we were both at a gathering at our mutual friend Sonya’s house. There were about eight of us, and we were all sitting around chatting. Kathryn pulled out part of a quilt she was working on. She explained that it was a quilt she was madly trying to finish because it had been acquired by the Smithsonian. We all gasped in delight (the SMITHSONIAN!!!), and naturally we all had many questions. She proceeded to tell us about the series of “foreclosure” quilts she’d been making and how that led to the Smithsonian acquisition. Her story is so fascinating and her foreclosure quilts are such stunning (and interesting) works of art that I decided I had to interview Kathryn here about the quilts and the story behind the acquisition.

Without further ado, I present to you the amazing Kathryn Clark in my Interviews with People I Admire series!

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{Portrait of Kathryn by Leslie Sophia Lindell}

Lisa: Kathryn, congratulations! You just had a quilt acquired by the Smithsonian! We’ll get to that in a moment, but I’d love first for you to tell us about your background & trajectory as an artist. How did you get where you are? What kind of work do you make?

Kathryn: Thanks, Lisa! I’m still in a state of shock about the acquisition. When the Smithsonian’s Renwick first contacted me via email, I thought it was a hoax! I’ve been pretty lucky with my background that led me to where I am now. I’ve been an artist ever since I can remember (both my mom and dad were artists so it was natural to follow a similar path). I’m a fourth generation artist on my mom’s side. I also had a love of maps and architecture from my dad’s side of the family. But, I wanted to have a degree in something where I could find a job but didn’t have the financial resources to pursue architecture, so I chose to study interior architecture at San Jose State. My first job out of college was working for my college professor who had a three person architecture firm in San Francisco. We had the chance to do some urban design and our bible was Peter Calthorpe’s book, “The Next American Metropolis.”  I realized when working on the urban design project that Peter’s firm, Calthorpe Associates was in Berkeley, just over the bridge. I loved the big picture, sketchy nature of urban design over architecture so I called up the firm and asked if I could stop by. With no prior design experience, Peter loved my rendering skills and called me that night to offer me a job. I was blown away! I worked my way up to project manager in three years and loved every second of it. I left after three years to work in San Francisco in the hopes that I would be closer to home to start a family. But a few less than exciting jobs in other firms sent my stress level over the edge so I escaped to work full time as an artist.

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{Detail of D.C. foreclosure quilt}

I slowly evolved as a fiber artist, actually resisting the urge to work with fabric for several years because of the stigma of it being a craft and not an art. I used to be an abstract painter but started to dabble with sewing and knitting when I had my daughter in 2004. I didn’t understand what drew me to love the medium, it just felt so comfortable when I was sewing. One day, when I was doing a little weaving project on Mother’s Day and doubting that what I was doing was ‘art,’ I was listening to a Storycore Mother’s Day special. It suddenly dawned on me that my mom had been a fiber artist and that’s why I was so drawn to it. My mom battled leukemia for a large part of my childhood, and she died when I was seventeen so I vaguely remembered the early years of her sewing and weaving on her giant loom. No wonder working with fabric felt so comfortable for me. I’ve never doubted my choice of medium after that day.

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{Chicago Foreclosure Quilt}

Lisa: That is so interesting! My mom was a weaver when I was a kid and is also a fiber artist! Okay, now tell us about your series of “foreclosure” quilts. How did that series begin? What sparked it for you? How did it develop over time?

Kathryn: It was a slow process as I knew I wanted to merge my love of urban planning with my art. The first foreclosures began around the time I was still an urban designer. There was a lot of rapid urban development and a lot of encouragement to buy into these new neighborhoods with crazy incentives. Las Vegas is a great example. No one seemed to care how much making people live beyond their means with predatory lending was hurting the people and the economy. It certainly wasn’t obvious in the news (except for Gretchen Morgensen’s articles in the NY Times). You would hear the stories about the foreclosures and you would hear a statistic but you couldn’t actually see the effect it was having at the neighborhood level. That is, unless you paid to access the foreclosure data and only then could you see it on a map. Of course I paid because I was obsessed with it. That was when it hit me. I had to show the crisis in map form to reveal what an affected neighborhood really looked like. It took me a few months to figure out how to show the maps as an art form. I had been dabbling in fabric for some time and my paintings had started looking like quilts (lots of gridded blocks). I had one of those ‘ah ha!’ moments when I could translate a neighborhood ‘block’ into quilt ‘block’. I had another big moment after I had made my first quilt (Las Vegas) and thought it looked too perfect and too clean. This was a messy situation and it needed to look that way.

So I started to sew my quilt blocks together in reverse with the seams showing. As the quilt is made, the edges fray and become tangled and ugly. And this is literally what has happened to our neighborhoods: decaying and abandoned houses, vacant lots covered over with weeds. Another thing I learned that I wasn’t able to show in my work was that the foreclosure data is collected differently in every city. It was being addressed as a local crisis. There really wasn’t an investigation at the federal level or any kind of intervention early on. I think they just hoped the cities would cope somehow on their own. And some cities did better than others.

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{D.C. Foreclosure Quilt detail}

Lisa: The quilt you made for the Smithsonian. Tell us about that Washington, D.C. foreclosure quilt specifically. Was it commissioned? What is it made out of? What was the process like for you? Is it your largest foreclosure quilt to date?

Kathryn: The D.C. Foreclosure quilt wasn’t officially commissioned as the Renwick gallery doesn’t do commissions. The gallery curators contacted me last year to purchase one of the existing quilts. I mentioned I would be happy to make a quilt of any area of their choice and they asked about making a quilt of a neighborhood in D.C. Finding the foreclosure data varies from city to city but the foreclosure data compilations on D.C. are practically nonexistent which completely shocked me. The data just wasn’t there! I did manage to find some compiled data on a few neighborhoods but they didn’t scream D.C. when you looked at them on a map. So the curators kept encouraging me to dig deep and do something monumental like, for example, the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

So I agreed and started researching and researching and researching. I was really freaked out that I’d come up empty handed but found if I went lot by lot (!) and compared the data through zillow.com, dcblockshopper.com, and DC Atlas Plus, I could go back ten years and see all of the sales history on every lot. It took weeks to coordinate the data and mark up a map! And those lots are narrow so you can fit quite a few on a block. My friends thought I was crazy to be so detailed. But you never know when someone who lives on a block will walk up and recognize their lot. Once I found the data and I knew I could make an impressive quilt of the Capitol Hill neighborhood (that was half the work!), we discussed fabrics and agreed on just the right shade of linen (of course I started to run low at the end and was panicking, lesson learned, always buy way more than you think you need). It is the biggest quilt I’ve made to date at 57 1/2 “ x 84”  and the hardest to piece because the ‘street’ angles needed to line up perfectly with the overall ‘street’ grid. Let’s just say fractions and geometry were never strong subjects for me in school, but I had to be exact with my measurements and plan for all of the seam allowances. I pulled my hair out more than a few times. By halfway through though, I had a system for piecing and it all just flowed from there. It’s all hand sewn as well I might add, just to add to my friends telling me that I was crazy.

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{Modesto Foreclosure Quilt}

Lisa: That is an amazing story!! You were very determined. What impact do you hope these foreclosure quilts have on the people who see them?

Kathryn: I made these quilts for people today and tomorrow. For the people who were directly affected, there is a feeling of shame and I feel that’s wrong. Most of the people who lived through the crisis were targeted with predatory lending. They had real hopes of living the ‘American Dream’. A little diversion here about that: I’m sure there were people who took advantage of the system but I really believe that the majority just didn’t know what they were getting into. You bought a house recently (congratulations!) and did you read your Truth and Lending statement they handed you before signing the papers? My husband did when we bought our house in 1998 and I can tell you he was fuming when we went in for the signing. We almost walked away. The paper they had handed to us didn’t match the Statement we had agreed to. They had changed the paperwork to their advantage. I’m guessing millions of other homeowners didn’t delicately read their documents when signing their papers or just didn’t understand the lending jargon. I also made the quilts for the people who are naysayers, the NIMBY’s who told everyone that there was no crisis in their neighborhood. Oftentimes, a foreclosure isn’t obvious from the street. It hit everywhere and spared no group of people.

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{Detroit Foreclosure Quilt}

I also made these quilts for future generations. After all of my research (Alyssa Katz’s “Our Lot” is a fantastic place to start), I learned this was not the first foreclosure crisis we’ve had; we have forgotten the past. There was a huge foreclosure crisis in the 1930’s that coincided with the stock market crash but that history is dying along with the people who lived through it. The stories become buried in newspapers that are thrown aside or hidden away on microfiche. I wanted something that would be laid on a bed or hanging up on a wall in the future to tell a story about the past. Honestly, who could ask for a more appropriate place for these quilts to hang than in the Smithsonian?!

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{Cleveland Foreclosure Quilt}

Lisa: The Renwick at the Smithsonian is currently closed for renovations, yes? Tell us about when and where people can see your quilt once the gallery reopens.

Kathryn: The Renwick has a grand reopening planned for this November called “Wonder”. Afterwards, the new permanent collection will be on view starting in the summer 2016, exact date TBD. My quilt should be a part of that exhibition. I certainly will be at the opening!

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{Detail of Cleveland Foreclosure Quilt}

Lisa: What are you working on now? Will the foreclosure project continue? Any goals for that project or new projects?

Kathryn: Well, it seems that the foreclosure crisis has mostly subsided somewhat (never say never though as I’m seeing a bubble happen all over again right now), so I’m focusing my attention on other projects. I’ve created a new website called www.blocklabstudio.com where I design quilt block patterns that reflect what’s relevant in the world today. The block patterns will tell stories, just as traditional quilt patterns did years ago, but these are our contemporary stories: drought, racism, equality, revolution etc. I’m in the idea generating stage at the moment. One of these ideas will likely turn into another investigative project like the foreclosure quilts. It will depend on how the media handles the issue. If I feel like they’re not addressing the story well or misinterpreting the facts, I will feel the need to create a body of work around it.

Lisa: Thank you so much for tell your story, Kathryn! I am so inspired by everything you make and do.

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New Podcast: The Jealous Curator

07/27/15

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Hello, friends & happy Monday! I am excited to let you know that I have recorded a podcast with none other than Danielle Krysa of The Jealous Curator for her new podcast series Art For Your Ear! Danielle and I have been friends now since the early days of her blog, and she’s written about my work and my books several times and I am part of both of her books (Creative Block and Collage).

Since I record a lot of podcasts, Danielle wanted to ask me some questions that no one had ever asked me before and get me to talk about stuff I’d never talked about — and I think she was pretty successful. The episode is called “Push Through the Messiness.” If you are interested in hearing our conversation, give it a listen! Danielle also posted on her blog some images for reference for some of the things we discuss in the podcast here.

Have a great week, friends!

CATEGORIES: Podcasts
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