Friday, January 21, 2011

Back to...Mon Idee de Genie

Artist's Private Collection
Le Mariage Shibori Silk Kimono in Bronze/Orchidee Grid
Cassandra Classics Swarovski crystal bracelet
with Sterling Silver bangles

Bonjour, encore!

Well, I'm back to the "beginning" of Le Mariage Shibori Collection, and looking forward (or up, your choice) to the "back" of my Bronze/Orchidee Grid Kimono.  Ha! (And, yes...pun intended). Might I mention that I was very fond of poems, limericks and tongue twisters when I was a little girl.  These are the memories (remember?) that I love.  "There was a crooked man...As I was going to St. Ives...Jack Sprat could eat no fat...wee Willy Winkie...How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?"  You get the picture.

I mentioned before that I debuted the clothing collection in May of 2003.  I had, of course, been working on the idea and the textiles for much longer.   A couple of months before the debut, I attended a fiber art symposium in St. Louis, Minnesota.  It was a wonderful 5 days of total immersion in the art, textile and fiber community.  I met many new artists, spent time with old friends, and was graced with the acquaintance of some very real "icons" in the field.  I had the great honor and fortune to meet Marian Clayden, renowned clothing designer, Yoshiko Wada, author of "Memory on Cloth", and Carter Smith, shibori designer par excellence during the conference.  I was on Cloud Nine, let me tell you.

I met Marian Clayden at the symposium while we were waiting for the shuttle to the airport.  It was the last day, and I was surprised and pleased when Marian introduced herself.  Of course, I knew it was her, and had been holding my enthusiasm in check hoping she would open the conversation.  She talked about her career in the clothing design field as I soaked up every bit of advise. I imagine my face must have appeared stretched beyond human elasticity because my smile felt humongous.  At that moment, I probably could have rivaled the Joker for comedic drama.  I will never forget her parting words, "Move slowly in everything that you do, every decision that you make.  Think about it, and take your time.  Choose your direction wisely.  And, always, be true to your instinct...your inner voice!  I am sure you will find your own path and excel in it".  I get goosebumps remembering.  I have no idea why Marian singled me out and talked to me in such length.  I, simply, am greatly appreciative for such a singular experience and the gift of Marian's words.

On the first day at the symposium, after a grand tour of the art scene in St. Louis, we all gathered at a local gallery for the opening reception.  The temperature was high and the humidity was higher!  Hoping for a cooler spot, I decided to tour the lower floor of the gallery expecting a cooler blast from the air conditioning unit.  Alas, it was not to be, so I removed my shibori silk jacket and draped it over my arm.  Sipping on a citrus punch and trying not to perspire too much, I felt a small tug on my jacket.  Standing in a very tight space among the displays, I carefully turned to see what had caused the tug.  I glanced around at my own eye level, and seeing nothing, swiveled further around to the opposite side when the tug came again.  This time I looked down and came eye to eye with a pair of warm jet black eyes.

The bearer of this visage had been standing further to my left behind me, and so I did not see her on my initial glance.  The petite and intriguing persona, apologetically effused, "Oh, excuse me.  I'm Yoshiko Wada.  But, the cloth.  I was looking at the cloth.  I'm amazed at the pattern and color.  It's so different.  I've never seen anything like it.  It is shibori?  Is it yours"?  Stunned and elated, I beamingly answered, "Yes, and Yes!", as we both broke into laughter.

What a way to kick off the conference.  Yoshiko Wada, no doubt!  I forgot all about the heat.  I almost started to hyperventilate.  These were the icons of the textile field, and here was one of my most admired standing right in front of me complimenting me on my technique!  I know that Ms. Wada spoke to me for some time, but I can't remember much except those first words, and her final parting ones, "I don't know what you are doing, but, whatever it is, keep doing it.  You have got a new and wonderful direction".   Interestingly enough, Marian's words echoed Yoshiko's, though I didn't make the connection at the time.  I was, and still am, ever so grateful for the gift of these two women's vision and encouragement.

I'll be right "back" to the Le Mariage Bronze/Orchidee Grid, and the saga of Mon Idee de Genie depeche mode, n'est ce pas?  D'accord.

Wednesday, 1/26/2011  8:30 a.m.

And, now for Carter Smith.  What does one say about Carter?  Tie-dye artist turned Shibori Master...nee Enigma!  I think that about sums it up.  Carter Smith...enigma.  Anyone in the textile field is familiar with Carter's magnificent use of vibrant color and unparalleled pattern creation.  He is definitely the "standout master" of shibori.  His credits run around the globe and back, and Carter is certainly not shy when it comes to talking about it.  The art of tie-dyeing was learned at "his mother's knee"  from childhood.  But, there is no question that Carter Smith has taken the craft of tie-dye back to its "origin", and realized the art of Shibori as the mother lode.

I knew that Carter would be lecturing at the symposium, and was eager to attend all of his speeches.   The first was on opening night, and I arrived late scooting unnoticed, I hoped, into the back aisle seating.  Well, no such luck.  When I entered, Carter immediately looked up and hesitated for a brief moment in his speech, seeming to look right at me.  Oh, great.  Not at all what I had intended.  He glanced my way several times during the lecture which encouraged me, I must admit.  I left before the last speaker, so I did not, formally, meet Carter that night.

Our next encounter was during a luncheon on the lawn for a meet and greet.  I sat down to chat with my new friends when I realized I did not have a cool drink (remember the humidity), and returned to the buffet.  On the way up the slight hill, I noticed Carter and his son, Noah, approaching the dining area.  As he came abreast of me, his eyes were averted, so I, perkily, said, "Good day, Carter".  He gave a slight start and beamed, "Hello".  Noah nodded and smiled.  I took this as a good sign, and determined to speak with him on the next opportunity.

That opportunity came at his next lecture.  The hall was packed with artists like myself who hung on every word he spoke.  He talked about his history and his tour in Japan, where he was welcomed with open arms.  Finally he began to speak about his technique.  You could have heard a pin drop.  The "aah's, hmm's and swift intakes of air" were palpable in the room.  During questioning, Carter revealed only the fact that he has an amazing "pleating machine that he forces to do things that it was never meant to do".  At the end of the speech, he invited us to come onstage and look at a sample of the pleated white cloth up close.  I stood close to him, hoping for an opportunity to speak, as he talked with another artist explaining the workings of the pleater.  Engrossed in what he was saying and mesmerized by the pleated cloth, to my total surprise, he lifted the long drape of fabric and placed it in my hands.  Incredible!  I hadn't uttered a word.  He smiled inviting me to examine it more closely.  It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen in the world of shibori technique.  I cannot describe it.  It was beyond words.  No, wait...enigma.  Yes, the enigma and mystique of Carter Smith's vision.  Even now, when I try to recall the intricacy of the pattern, it is virtually impossible.  What I remember is that it was one of the most memorable highlights of my experience in the fiber art world.  I have Carter Smith to thank for that.

Today, Carter continues his career and discovery of shibori.  He now offers 3-day retreats at his home and studio in Nahant, Massachusetts,on a lovely island surrounded by swirls of mist.  One can go and learn at the "knee of Carter Smith", so to speak.  Workshops start around $2000.  Hey...give the man his "props".  He has certainly earned it.  To learn "at the knee" of the master is no small thing... nor, is it free.

During the symposium, Carter and I had many "chance" encounters.  Sometimes a small greeting while shopping for books.  Sometimes a simple nod in passing.  After awhile it started to feel like, "...wherever you are...there I shall be".  I'm not sure who was manifesting who.  I would turn, and there he would be catching my gaze.

At the end of the week, embracing and saying goodbye to my new friends in the cafeteria, I was told an unforgettable thing.  One of them said, "Well, Cassandra...(we're all in agreement), you know what we have been saying about you during the conference"?  Surprised, I sort of froze, but managed a smile and said, "No.  What?"  My friend continued,  "We have all been bantering about (the entire week) that you are the closest thing to [the innovation, creativity and color theory of] Carter Smith at the conference".  Incredulous!  Outstanding!  This time I did hyperventilate, mop my brow and had to take several gulps of ice water.

"Okay, Joker.   Move over!"

I floated home in a happy textile haze, and  immediately started planning the debut of Le Mariage Shibori Collection.  I guess "Mon Idee de Genie" had turned out to be just that.

All images, text and content copyrighed, 2011, all rights reserved

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In the Beginning...Mon Idee de Genie

                                                        Artist's Private Collection
                                Le Mariage Shibori Kimono in Bronze/Orchidee Grid
                                    Crepe de Chine  Handpainted and Batik Dress
                           Logo Ensemble for Le Mariage Shibori Silk Couture, 2002

Bonjour, Tous!

It's Tuesday, Tuesday, as Al Roker would say.  In my last two blogs, I have spoken my mind about getting back to Day One and my own personal creativity, as well as asking patrons for appreciative support of dedicated artists and their individual expressions.  This morning as I sat down to watch Good Morning America with a hot cup of Celestial Seasonings' Acai Mango Zinger, I mulled over a few options for the subject matter of today's blog.  I finally settled on the origin of Le Mariage Shibori Collection, formally introduced in May of 2003.  Many years in the making, I thought I would tell you how it came to be.  This is the story of my Le Mariage Shibori Collection.

I have been a painter since junior high school.  Actually, longer if you count the Smokey the Bear poster contest in elementary school when I was eight.  Loving art, naturally, I carried this love with me through high school and throughout college as a Fine Art major.  My emphasis, at university, was on drawing and painting.  I studied the typical curriculum of art history, drawing, painting and design using the accepted media of pencil, ink, oils and acrylics at that time.

Later, I studied independently, in Mendocino, California with award-winning watercolorist, Ken Michaelsen, as his apprentice using gouache (opaque watercolor) medium.  Gouache is a wondrous medium with its creamy consistency and it's invaluable property of reworking the surface as one progresses.  It was a match "made in heaven", and a saviour for an artist who likes "slow art".  A slow approach where I stay connected to the medium in a measured process.  Maybe I'll coin a new phrase, "Slow Art".  "I like it...oh, yes. I like it!"

I credit this apprenticeship with my dear friend and mentor, Ken Michaelsen, as the catapult for my entrance as a silk painter and textile artist.  After 10 years of doing wall art as a silk painter, my students cajoled, nagged, begged and quite literally pushed me into the clothing design field.  "All right. All right.  I'll do it.  Just stop with the cacophony"!  So, I studied, researched and manipulated a lot of cloth in the interim.  I locked myself in my studio for one long (and very Hot) summer...whew, three months,  and came up with the idea of combining all I had learned as a traditional painter with batik, resist silk painting and shibori techniques, in order to create a cloth with its own unique signature.  Mine.   I dubbed this cloth/technique, "Le Mariage" ... the marriage of textile and techniques.  Voila.  The birth of my Le Mariage Shibori Silk Couture Collection.  Oh, tres bon!

Okay, I had the concept.  I was discovering the cloth along the way.  Now, I needed to introduce the clothing line to the world.  So, what would be the title for the debut?  This answer was provided by my former French instructor, David Milroy (an Irishmen, no doubt).  Go figure!  When I called him and told him what I wanted, David reminded me that English does not always translate exactly into French.  I was positive that I wanted a reference to brushstrokes in the title.  I wanted something like "stroke of genius", sort of a double entendre or, "epiphany".  Ever the teacher, David explained that the translation might not sound title worthy.  We finally settled on the title of, "Mon Idee de Genie", my genius idea.  Merci, David, merci.  (I apologize to tous mon amis francais for the absence of the accent marks in the title.  They are not on my keypad.  Pardone moi.)

Will be back after a short writer's break.  C'est bon, mon amis?  D'accord.

All images, text and content copyrighted, 2011, all rights reserved

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hey, Did you Ever ... Read a Book?

                                                        Sold to Private Collector
                                        Le Mariage Shibori Silk Wrap in Woodbine

Hello again,

Really, did it ever occur to some to just "read a book"?  It is the oddest thing, not experienced only by myself, that there are thousands upon thousands of gifted and dedicated artists throughout the world that are set upon by commercial and altogether uninspired individuals, to volunteer up their very souls when it comes to their own artistic creations.  Surely, these individuals can simply, "read a book", or take a workshop on any art process that they find an  interest in.  With the advent of the worldwide web, there exist magnums of information on the Internet, for anyone who will just look it up.  It is the best "encyclopedia" in the world.  Perhaps, sadly, the joy for some is in the taking, and not in the learning and growth of their skills through their own hard work.  If this is so, then they have missed, entirely, the whole point of artistic creation.  But, then again, perhaps, that is really the point.

Recently, this same sentiment was shared with me by another extremely talented fiber artist who is exceptional in her concept and designs.  I would like to semi-quote her as saying, " is not the material, type of wool or fiber that is used by an artist [in the process], which creates the magic [of a piece], is it?  The magic [really] is in the hand (and heart) of the artist and the mind of the creator".  I will leave her anonymous, but she summed it up perfectly.  To wait upon another to create magic, and then beleaguer them into divulging every minute detail that they have discovered in the learning process, is not the "purest form of  admiration", as some would have us believe.  It is merely, theft.

                                                       Sold to Private Collector
                                     Le Mariage Shibori Silk Kimono in Off the Grid
                                    Cassandra Classics Swarovski crystal bracelet
                                                   with Sterling Silver bangles

So, I sing you Praises...all of you artists who live and love to create the "Magic".  Let your souls remain joyful and your expression remain "yours".  And, I ask of the world, "Revel in the existence of the truly creative.  Recognize and support those artists who have dedicated their lives and passion to their individual creation.  I call upon you to become patrons of the truly creative".  And, please, please, "Don't hang back with the apes.  Man has progressed in the last millennium".  "I thank father thanks mother thanks you, and every living creative soul thanks you."

All images, text and content copyrighted, 2011, all rights reserved

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hey! Hey! Let's go Back to Day One!

Sold to Private Collector
Le Mariage Shibori Kimono in Off the Grid
Cassandra Classics Swarovski crystal bracelet
with Sterling Silver bangles

Hey...hey, hey!

"Let's go back. Let's go back to Day One!!!"

There's no better time than the present. Quite, literally. It's a new year and a new opportunity to grow. "Can you feel a brand new day...can you feel a brand new day?" Take a look around you...the sun is shining! (excerpt from The Wiz, eh, Dorothy?)" Getting back to Day One is simply getting back to me. Joyous me, creative me... ever enthusiastic me. It's a way of grounding myself, and allowing the memories to surface.

As in "The Clan of the Cave Bear", I find if I sit quietly, walk in the sunshine or gaze at the cornflower blue sky speckled with multi-colored clouds, the "memories" come back to me in surprising colors, tones, shades and limitless combinations of the spectrum of light that lay just beneath the surface of my consciousness. Always there awaiting my summons, a continuous thrum, a rhythm, a muted drumbeat ("Like the rhythms that you the circles of your mind").

The "memories of the people" they called it in the book. I draw from that source, that memory, when I begin to work from concept to inception to the final art work. It is intuitive, and I discover the "masterpiece" along the way during and throughout the process. Many times my students have asked me, "When do you decide this or that? How do you know when it is finished?"  I can only answer that by quoting Michelangelo.  "When it is finished!"  When the Pope, referring to the painting of the Sistine Chapel, repeatedly and insistently queried Michelangelo, "When will you make an end?",  Michelangelo, unhesitatingly answered, "When I am done!!!Bravo, paisan...Bravo.

Hold this thought, and I will be right back. I can't say it any better than this excerpt from an African American poem: "Don't you be what you Ain't. You just be what you Is...and go your Own way!"   'Nuf said... Amen.

1/12/11 (8:30 a.m.)
Hey, I'm back, and on second thought, this blog is complete as is.  Being true to oneself is a unique and valuable thing.  Michelangelo knew this.  Da Vinci knew this.  Like stepping to the drumbeat one hears, it takes confidence and dedication.  Dedication to artistic creation.  Dedication to a life lived well.

"So, let it be, let it be said."   Suvate.

All images, text and content copyrighted, 2011, all rights reserved
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