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.

Emigrating to Norway

Glyphs is on a journey. Maybe lost, maybe stored in a warehouse in Florida, maybe in a customs house in Norway. Maybe hanging in someone's home between here and there. I shipped it on December 10, 2017 along with a few little scraps of raw materials for my friend Kerri.

And now it's lost.

The USPS doesn't really have an answer for me about where it might be. Their tracking is limited to this: The package arrived safely in Miami on December 11 -- not quite what I expected from a tracking process. Our local post office is no help.

I have shipped many pieces to many places. I've never had a piece disappear so thoroughly before. It's a little like watching a child go off to college. Though I am reassured by many folks telling me it may yet turn up this is a real test of letting go for me.

It seems ironic that the news is filled with the idea of immigrating Norwegians when my piece is emigrating to Norway. I hope it learns a new language soon.

ends and beginnings

I emptied my thread ends box today. It held the threads that didn't get used on a piece this year. These threads were active players without a field to play in. They came into existence at the end of thoughts rather than the beginnings. They got snipped off and thrown to the side after trying hard to be part of the team. There are a lot of them.

I've grown used to not being satisfied with each and every work that I create. Like these thread ends some work just doesn't work. The process of creating has become more important to me than the finishing up. For each work that gets finished I estimate that there are two or three pieces that get thrown under the table. Thus, I have fallen in love with my rotary cutter, it facilitates my cut-up-and-rework frame of mind. I am beginning to see a signature style in all of the work. I am drawn to black. I like surprises and there is an undertow of anxiety in all of them.

Cut-up-and-rework pieces

I named the work I finished: Aquifer, Beast, Chaos Ensues, Focus on Something Else, Glyphs, I Need a Third Eye, Ladder to Elsewhere, Looking for the Pattern that Connects, Signals, Thugs, Unglued, and Unmapped.

Some finished pieces

And now I am working on a piece called Ship of Fools.

Ship of Fools work in progress

2018 will be filled with new challenges: a one man show at a local art museum, a proposal to a local venue for a juried show in Memphis, several teaching positions and days and days of continuing my work. It's those last items that I look forward to the most. They provide a silence and thoughtfulness that fills me up.

Happy New Year everyone. Hope to meet some of you this year in workshops. Check out the listings at the right for dates and locations.

May your studio be filled with inspiration and your days full of mystery and wonder.

rushing toward stimuli

Preparing chicken soup today I was chopping onions with the inevitable result of teary eyes. I mentioned this to my grandsons and they both rushed over, one with the scientific explanation of why that was happening and the other eager to chop onions so that he could cry too. We all ended up with wet cheeks and sniffling noses.

cloud_tree_PaulaKovarik.jpg

Rushing toward stimuli.

It's a trait that is tempered with age. Caution sets in. Doubt and preconceived ideas define our comfort map. We stop, look and listen. We teach our kids about the incautious moments of our lives so that they won't have to sustain the shock, hurt or disappointments that we did. We put up fences, set up passwords and require more IDs. We box in the acceptable and fence out the challenging.

I'm glad that kids often dismiss what adults say, preferring to experience the thrill of discovery themselves. I once read that to stay young you must remain curious. You must let the onions make you cry.

I will learn from these boys. Oh yes, I will. Pass me some tissue.

It's process not product.

Repeat after me. It's process not product. It's process not product. It's process not product. Each day that mantra challenges me to let go and dive in without expectations, without end goals, without success or failure.

So this past week has been all about play. I have been slicing, dicing, scribbling and tossing things around without much success but with a whole mountain of possibilities.

It started with the rotary cutter.

Pieces of past projects.

After sorting through all of my finished and unfinished work last month in preparation for a couple of exhibitions in 2018 I realized that not only do I hoard work but I also experiment a lot. Which means I would have to make another trip to the local Depot store for yet another plastic bin to stack up under the (already overloaded) table. Which brought me to the realization that I do not really need new materials. I already have a excess of fabric and stitches to start new pieces. So, I have a new law: nothing is sacred. Well maybe I should qualify that: some things are sacred, but not all, no matter how many hours I had put into it.

It's process not product, it's process not product...

So I cut things up. Sometimes it was random (2" squares) and other times it was fussy cutting (I really like that little spiral of thread on that piece so maybe I can combine it with another little spiral I have over here.)

I combined a lot of the pieces into a scrap explosion.

Blech! I hate this. I really hate this. Where is my rotary cutter?

More cutting

After cutting up the cut up pieces I started with new fabric to create a composition that would included the textured pieces.

Maybe sideways is better?

Then I got this wonderful piece of striped fabric from a second hand store and couldn't resist taking the composition one step farther. Same color palette, new texture...what could go wrong?  Ok, maybe 2 or 20 steps further. I am removing fabric pieces in the original composition  to let the stripes bleed through.

Ship of fools, work in progress

It's been a full week of deconstructing and reconstructing. I had a few little AHA! moments, but mostly it was about play and process and risk. A satisfying journey that gave me these little pieces:

Scraps that talk

It's process not product. It's process not product. It's process not product....