I'm not 30 anymore

I have a landmark birthday this week. And it's not 30. I can't help but take stock of where I am, where I want to go and what the point of it all is. I guess I do that on a daily basis anyway but this landmark makes it a little more deep-seated. I notice things more. I wonder why I notice certain things more than others. I store up images that speak to me. And they show up in my work unsolicited.

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I thought I might post some of these stored images today just to remind myself that this world is spinning and I am a part of it. Life is shorter this week. And inspirations abound.

Disrupting the disruptors

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One month. That's what it took to do the piece I just finished. It is part of series I hope to complete in 2018. All of the pieces start with the fabric I created at the Steamroller Printing class I took last fall. It was a comfort zone challenge. Drawing an image, cutting it into wood, inking the wood and pulling a HUGE print via a steamroller.  More about that here and  here.

My practice is about the inside coming out. I deconstruct and reconstruct what is comfortable and what is not. So these faces and beasts make sense to me this month. They are a short circuit to the anxiety I feel.

If my thoughts had a soundtrack it would be played in a minor key.

I have a solo show at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens in Memphis right now. It showcases my work over the past ten years. Seeing them all hanging together made me focus on their similarities and their differences. There are a number of them that show the deep-rooted concern I feel about the environment, our government and the welfare of the people in the world. So it is with no surprise to me that this cartoon-ish print that started in fun ended up with a dark undertone. Here is the front of this piece called Disruptors:

Disruptors, front, Paula Kovarik

And, here is the darkness in the back.

Disruptors, back, Paula Kovarik

And here is the next piece I will tackle. It is actually a quilt top that I created for the print.

Under that quilt top is an inked board with the images I carved into it. After layering the quilt top with paper, felt and some particle board the steamroller passes over the sandwich to create the printed fabric.

Here are some close-ups of the fabric after it was printed. The back seems more interesting to me because of the ragged nature of the seams. I may work from that side to create the next piece in this series.

The Dark Side

I stitch all day on the front side of my quilts. The journey from idea to final is often full of surprises. I look for that in each piece like finding a needle among pins.

These blocky forms cry out for some textural details.

So when I started this piece, now called Disruptors, my focus was on the front. The images are strong geometric shapes with details that look like animals or confused beings.  My challenge is to bridge the blocky forms with line work that makes sense. 

I'm always looking for ways to bridge differences. I ask myself these questions:

  • How does one fabric, color or texture relate to the next?
  • Where are the direction lines in the composition?
  • What would texture do to make this piece stronger?
  • Where can I add an element of continuity without sacrificing the chaos that I am going for?
Bridging gives structure, action and depth.

I started here by outlining the blocky shapes with a bright orange thread. Then did some ricochet stitching in the white areas of the piece. By ricochet I mean that I travel across a space until I hit an imaginary barrier than pivot and do the same until I hit another. It's like a ping pong ball bouncing in an empty room. The texture often ends up being an assemblage of triangles. Those complement the triangles in my print. Each character in this stage has a unique personality. So I decided to use a different texture in each element. Easy right? The variety of the shapes and textures added to a sense of chaos and disruption and the orange thread pumped up the drama. I thought I had it.

The textural differences in each character adds depth to the piece.

And then I turned the piece over to clean up any loose threads.

 Disruptors, back side, Paula Kovarik

Disruptors, back side, Paula Kovarik

Oh my. Hello stranger. where have you been these past two weeks? 

Disruptors, back detail. Paula Kovarik

This is the back side of the second image in this post. I'm loving that orange/yellow line.

There are always two sides to every stitched story.  I am entranced by this one. I am even willing to sacrifice the front to continue on the back. I'm not sure what this side is telling me but I will continue to build on it before I end this journey. Perhaps the message will emerge.

Opening night jitters

I met some great folks this week. And I felt the love from friends and family at the opening night of my show at  Dixon Gallery and Gardens  here in Memphis.

 I think it was right after this shot that I started losing my grip on that wine glass.

I think it was right after this shot that I started losing my grip on that wine glass.

Though I felt a little like a ping pong ball bouncing from one interesting conversation to another I don't think I embarrassed myself in the process. I know I held the same wine glass for two hours. And I also know that I am glad I wore a black shirt because it smelled a little like Pinot Noir the next day. I don't remember drinking anything. And that's probably a good thing as I would probably would have dribbled and drooled in the excitement.

The most rewarding take away is that people were excited about the medium. Many had never seen stitched works like these.  Many were curious about how I make them. And I don't think I had one conversation about grandmother quilts all night. The audience looked at the art as art. Maybe it was the venue? Maybe it was the audience? Whatever it was I think I passed the test.

I spent the next 4 days preparing my noon luncheon presentation for the venue. I've done these presentations before but I am never really really ready. I edit and edit and edit the slides, practice in front of a mirror, print out a script and hold my breath. This time there was a wrinkle that made it even more challenging. The final draft (I think it was number 14) did not get downloaded properly and I had to use the first draft instead. Jokes on me. That draft was SIGNIFICANTLY different from the final. So, up on stage, without a script, I paced and played. I think I made sense. I'm not sure what I said. I know it wasn't on the script. But people seemed genuinely interested.

I learned something: Throw out the script.

And, now, that milestone for this exhibit is in my rear view mirror. whew.

Back to work.

work hard. play hard.

I had some incredibly hard working students at the recent North Country Studio Workshops class I taught at Bennington College. I highly recommend this biannual event.

Bennington College is in Vermont so the weather outside was cold. But the heat generated inside via creativity and the boiler system was unmatched. On the first night of introductions I met professional artists of all stripes. They are avid students with energy and a sense of camaraderie that made me feel welcome at once.

Here's a sampling of the many pieces we all worked with this past week at North Country Studio Workshops

We experimented with textural effects, line quality and trusting the thread to tell us where it wanted to go. I wish now that I had taken a photo of each and every one of these practice squares so that I could remember some of the ways my students explored the techniques. These students were serious worker bees and very talented.

Every time I teach these techniques I learn something new from my students. They energize me and inspire me.

I'm looking forward to the next opportunity at the Hudson River Valley Fiber workshops in April. Sign up now! I would love to work with you and learn from you too.