Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New Art Quilt/Open Book: Hand Gun

If you had asked me to make something about guns a couple of months ago I would have shaken my head. Not my thing. I don't feel comfortable using them as imagery in my work. I began writing tiny stories for one of my favorite little magazines, Blink-Ink; but even though the theme was "Outlaws," my submissions had no guns. (My story, "Right of Way," was published; it has cows in it, instead.) Another call for entries got me thinking. How could I work with this subject matter? After taking an experimental fiction class in grad school, I found that I can learn a lot when I pursue subjects that make me feel uncomfortable. How could I pursue this one? Gradually, I remembered stories people told me about personal experiences with guns. I thought about good and bad and how you might begin a conversation. I began this art quilt: Hand Gun. The repeating visuals, like theme and variations, reference Wallace Berman's 1960s Verifax Collages, particularly those that contain a hand holding a transistor radio. Some of those collages contain guns, too.

The imagery was created using hand-dyed solar prints from a photograph of my hand, three fingers curled. The text was embroidered freehand and is the quilting technique. I letterpress printed wood type with the words: I GOT THIS / GOT YOU / IS IT / NEWS / GAME / REAL.

What really launches a project for me? I must remember, it isn't hard: the stories.


Hand Gun

she told me she got scared at a bad sound and shot through the window glass. the police told her this was dangerous.

during westerns they pointed toy guns at the tv and shot at the bad guys.

he told me his bad sister shot their good mother.


A larger image may be found here.
I've started a new page on my website to collect all the Art Quilts/Open Books.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Rethinking Submission Fees

Artists' books have undergone a change in the thirty years I've been involved in the community. They used to be inexpensive; book artists could afford each other's books. Once they moved to the gallery setting and became more visual and less literary, the prices went up to gallery prices, affordable only to the wealthy. We priced our best and most enthusiastic audience out of the market. Understandably, this was the only way galleries who sold artists books could stay in business. And it keeps the book arts field alive. The unintentional response to that, related or not, has been the proliferation of zines and inexpensive publications, which turns the focus back to reading, and is affordable to everyone. I've found that my artwork falls somewhere in between categories.

As an artist and writer, I want a conduit for my work. I can't stop making it, and I need room to make more. That means I need an outlet, which traditionally was a gallery, exhibition, or publication. Now it can be selling online. Or giving it away. The writing wants readers, otherwise whom is it for? But more and more calls for entry are asking for submission fees. Some are minimal, to weed out those who are not serious. Others are quite high, perhaps for the same reason. For whatever reason, I've been finding fewer and fewer opportunities that do not charge a fee.

I always felt that when artists and writers submit work to exhibitions and publications that they should not have to pay an entry or submission fee. (I touched on this in a previous 2014 post, "Thinking about Submission Fees.") Contests usually require a fee, which pays for the awards. But if you are not accepted, you are paying for something for which you get nothing. It seemed to me it was the responsibility of the magazine or organization to secure funding before embarking on the product. Artists make so little money as it is, I felt asking for fees when there was no guarantee of acceptance wasn't right. (I still won't do it for the magazine I produce.)

A step above paying entry fees is the requirement that if you are accepted you will have to pay (shipping, or catalogue, or print magazine copies). That makes a little more sense since your fee directly supports you. The ideal situation, one that supports an artist's dignity and self-worth, is: no fee, publications free of charge, and getting paid for your work. But in our society, this is rare, except for those who are already successful.

I'm rethinking the concept of submission fees again. Recently, I joined SAQA, an organization that is an empire of opportunities. It takes money to keep it running. The calls for entry are limited to members, but in addition, the members have to pay an entry fee to submit. The venues are good, and the judges are notable. So, I'm coming around to a new opinion. I'm thinking about entry fees now as supporting communities and organizations, which in turn support artists and writers. If I can afford the fees, why not contribute?

Within book arts, we've now established that we can be paid from outside of the community, which is an accomplishment; it fits my initial desire for organizations to secure funding from outside its members. But it limits what will be shown to what can be sold, which in turn influences taste and the field in general. While art is good for the soul of society, art is also a commodity.

But art has no limits. What happens to good art and writing that can be appreciated, that can touch people, but is not salable?

This is where the magazines and organizations come in. No one who starts a literary magazine expects to make money doing so. No one who starts a member organization does so to get rich. They do so because they love the medium, the interactions, the exchange of knowledge, the sharing of work, and the people involved. Organizations want members, and this by nature can also make them more inclusive. 

I enjoy the arts. I thrive on different kinds of opportunities. I've decided to pay entry fees this year and see how it goes. I know how subjective the judging can be, and that just trying one or two times won't be a good indicator of success. I'll go all in this year. But instead of being irritated or upset if my work is declined, I will accept that my fees are supporting a community, opportunities, and the promotion of the arts. And the soul.

View of San Francisco at Sunset 9.14.17: screen capture from the sfbayospreys,org web camera

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Star 82 Review 5.3 is LIVE!

The newest issue of Star 82 Review, the online and print art and literary magazine I produce and edit, has been released. An intriguing mix of art and writing that relates to intersections and crossroads and choices not yet made as well as the comforts we seek from images. I try to choose work that sparks a new thought or confirms a feeling, transforms a situation, and gives us a new view in bite-sized forms. This issue contains an image of an urban art quilt by Jette Clover, and paintings by Carole Jeung,  among other wonderful works. Thanks, as usual, to all the contributors; there is no magazine without you!

Online: http://star82review.com/5.3/contents.html
Print: https://www.createspace.com/7465291
Keep up with the news on Facebook.
Submission guidelines: http://star82review.com/submissions.html

Contributors to 5.3
Stephen Barber
Rebecca Brill
Natasha Burge
Simona Carini
Jette Clover
William C. Crawford
Lanny Durbin
Jennifer Fliss
Dorian Fox
Phil Gallos
Ann Marie Gamble
Joe Hess
Colette Love Hilliard
Carole Jeung
Richard Jones
Rebecca Landau
Claire S. Lee
Erin Leigh
Erica Lemley
Ray Malone
Nate Maxson
Mary McBeth
Pamela Miller
Claudine Nash
M. Rather, Jr.
Ricky Ray
Hannah Silvers
Tanya Singh
Rodd Whelpley

Roy White

Sunday, August 27, 2017

New Art Quilt/Open Book: Seraph

In January, 2017, I had been thinking I might do a book, a kind of typographer's pun, called Sans Seraph: without angel. The project turned out to be an art quilt, which I like better: you could wrap yourself in it like wings or a prayer shawl. 

My journal notes: "a seraph is an angel with three wings—no, three PAIRS of wings. What would you do with six wings?" Apparently, in addition to the wings on their backs, the other two pairs of seraphs' wings cover their faces and their feet. Seraphs appear in the Bible, and they voice an important part of a Jewish prayer that begins, "Holy, holy, holy." I began drawing my own versions of seraphs, based on a variety of butterflies, and made them into photopolymer plates.

I put the idea on hold until March, when I did a little writing for a linoleum block, a contribution to someone else's project.

I printed the seraphim (plural of seraph) on cotton cloth, and printed words in wood type. I pieced the quilt in June, then I let it rest until mid-August, when I solidified the longer text and began quilting. The design of the quilting, which seems to flow randomly, is based on the word holy in Hebrew handwritten text: Kadosh (circled in this photo in pink).

My thought was that holiness doesn't have to tie to a deity or religion. A cousin of mindfulness, holiness can be the spiritual in daily tasks. This paying attention, this reminder that nature is greater than ourselves, can ground us, humble us, perhaps slow us down and grant us a generosity toward others, so lacking these days.

I finished the binding on August 26. Sometimes a project needs a lot of breathing room. More deep breaths.

You can find larger images now on a new Art Quilts:Open Books page on my website.

I'm amassing a pile of textiles on the couch in my office. What to do? After a little online research I joined SAQA: Studio Art Quilt Associates. I was particularly drawn to the work of Jette Clover and will feature her quilts in Star 82 Review this year. SAQA has many calls for entries through the organization. I already have several ideas. Perhaps there is another outlet for what I'm doing, after all.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Instructions: Divided Insert Tray for a Box

It was a classic example of needing organization. I'd been using a variety of colors of embroidery thread to quilt my next project and the skeins were all over the floor. In the studio, I'd just assembled one of my box models completely. Look right, look left, look right again. I could make a box for my threads. But I had a box. It needed compartments. I built a little divided insert that could slide out. It is slightly lower than the box; a small pair of scissors fits on top of it when the box is closed. I could have built two shallow trays that would stack. Here is the basic idea. You can build a box first, or build a tray to fit a box you already have.

We have a case of Fogust here, as summers in the Bay Area tend to go, so we didn't even have shadows while other people were screaming at the eclipse. I watched a little on TV (but how is that different from other TV?), then finished up this model for you.

Materials: a box, book board, book cloth and/or covering paper
Tools: pencil; bone folder; knife and cutting mat and/or scissors; PVA, brush for gluing, old magazines or waxed paper for waste paper

Measure and cut a board to fit inside the smaller tray or bottom of the box.
It will be approximately the same size as the bottom minus 3-4 board thicknesses.

Cut side boards all the same depth, lower than the sides of your box.
Cut two boards the same length as the base of the tray.
Cut two boards the same width as the tray minus two board thicknesses.
Cut your dividers the same size as the latter boards.

Showing two board thicknesses.
You will need room to glue the side boards to each other.

Glue the side boards on top of the base board.
Note how the shorter board is sandwiched between the two longer boards.
Let dry.

Tear a strip of scrap paper and use it to measure from a little under the tray, up the outer wall, and 

down inside the tray, overlapping a little on the bottom.
Trim the scrap paper to this height.
That's how high the book cloth or covering paper will be.

There's the scrap paper on the right.
The length of the book cloth or covering paper is a little past the tray, then roll the tray along the cloth until you have enough to cover all the sides.

Apply glue to the back of the covering paper or cloth, start a little bit from the edge, and begin rolling up.

Make sure you glue down that little flap at the end, wrapping it around the corner.

Trim the very end so it is exactly at the corner of the tray and does not overlap,

making an almost invisible seam.

Underneath the tray, cut triangles at all four corners: snip to the corner, then snip again.

Apply glue to the flaps and wrap over the bottom edges.

Like covering boards for a book. The corners a somewhat mitred.

Measure and cut another piece of covering paper or cloth for the outside base of the tray. It will be almost the size of the base with about a 1/8" margin.
Apply glue and center in place to cover the turn ins.

Lay the tray on its side. On the inside of the tray, and on the shorter sides that will not have the dividers attached to them, draw lines from just inside the corners to the edges of the covering paper or cloth.

Cut along these lines. Don't worry about that extra piece at the overlapped corner.

Create the dividers by cutting pieces of the covering paper or cloth so that they are double the depth plus about a 1/4" margin all the way around. Glue down the boards.

Apply glue to the remaining covering paper, fold over the board, and press into place.

At the top fold, snip from the edges in to the board.

Trim diagonals at the bottom corners leaving about 1-2 board thicknesses between the corner of the board and the cloth you cut off. Make as many dividers as you like. For this, I've made two. Bend open all the flaps.

Measure and mark, top and bottom on the top edges of the tray, where the inserts will align.

Apply glue to the flaps and press the inserts into place, making sure all the flaps are touching the walls and base. Repeat for other divider(s).

Make tiny cuts at the top corners to alleviate stress when you turn them in.

Without gluing yet, fold down the side flaps and crease the covering paper. Pull it back out and make little angled cuts and trims so it will lie flat once it is glued down. Start with that little overlap strip and glue it down in the inside corner. Then continue.

Apply glue to these two flaps and smooth into place by first making sure the top edge is smooth, then bring it down the walls. You may need to bend the flaps as you bring them into the tray so they do not get glue on the other walls.

Draw lines, then make cuts across from the dividers to make extra flaps.

Apply glue and press into place.

Cut covering paper or cloth to fit almost exactly in the compartments. Using the same color for all of these sections gives it a tidy and uniform look and tends to cover anything that might look like a mistake such as an extra cut or fold.

When dry, slip it into the pre-made box.

Originally, this clamshell box wouldn't close. The pieces did not have enough of a gap between them. I cut them apart and re-glued them, this time with three board thickness between the boards and used the red cloth to connect them, like you might make a portfolio or half cloth book (see Making Handmade Books). If you measure just right and have everything centered, the top and bottom edges of the cloth will be parallel and align with each other.

And now it is afternoon, and of course the sun is finally out.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Story: Kumi's Light Published in Every Day Fiction

I started this blog in November 2010, as I was in my second year of a three-year graduate program in creative writing, fiction, at San Francisco State University. I think three years for a grad program is perfect, particularly at a state school. I wrote about the program hereThe first year you are learning new ways of seeing and trying out new ways of making. The second year you commit to a project and may end up changing your focus. The third year you are totally committed to the last idea on your plate and work hard to finish. The last semester of the third year you are writing and revising. And then you submit your thesis.

My first thesis was going to be about performance art. Since I hadn't experienced any of the performances firsthand, I researched them and tried to make them the center of some short stories. After writing about ten stories, I realized they didn't have much emotional interest for me. They were intellectually fun to write, but they weren't from the heart. At the time, I was also knitting little brightly colored rectangles to try a new way of felting. Staring at this pile of textiles I wondered, if these had been sweaters who would have worn them? Each one seemed to have a personality. That was the catalyst for a series of short stories set in a fictional town called Snake, located near Lake Havasu in the California desert. It would end up to be 297 typed pages. I graduated.

When I was finished with the Snake stories, I put them away. Five years later, I'm taking them out again, seeing what heart is in them, if they need revision or should be sent out in the world as they are. One of them, "Kumi's Light" is about a young couple, how they met, and what each must accept about the other. It is being published today in the online magazine, Every Day Fiction. I don't usually ask, but if you like it, please give it some stars! You can find it here.

After I had completed the knitting project, I built a little bureau for the sweater fragments. It stands 12.5" x 8.5" x 9.5" tall. I forgot I had also made sachets with cloves, embroidered with words or initials related to the stories. I think O.K. stands for Octavio and Kumi.

Read "Kumi's Light" here.
You can comment on it there as well.