Blogging about my work is weird for me. You can see this by my personal art blog (which has an inch of dust on it), and my community garden blog (which I frequently post to because it’s not about my work). These processes are internal and when they are written and broadcast, they become real in a way that is scary for me. The same is true of the “in process” photo and the studio visit. I jealously guard my studio time and place. It is a place where I can fail with reckless abandon, make mistakes and decide for myself whether or not I have even made a mistake. I can leave my work on the floor, trip over it and break it without anyone acting as though I’ve dropped a Fabergé egg. As soon as another person comes in, that un-precious decision making process is interrupted. The visitor registers their opinion. That opinion floats around the room for days or weeks and I am unable to catch it and set it free outside of the studio door. It affects everything I do with that piece from then on. A comment as simple as “the arms look long” stings for weeks because I hadn’t decided if that was a mistake or not before the opinion was registered.
This rant is not directed at the GLEAN visitors! I have had this feeling since Grad school and I feel like voicing it releases my tension a bit. I used to be so gracious about studio visits and it may seem to visitors that I still am. I am, at heart, a people pleaser and I am not being disingenuous to my visitors. But when the studio is mine alone, I don’t have to please anyone but myself. When the visitors come, work has to stop, footpaths have to be cleared and I have to make some sense of something that is still insensible. I have waited all my professional life to feel like I don’t want input. It’s uncomfortable to admit that, but it feels like a milestone for me. I think the impetus for wanting to talk about this is more related to having an assistant in my studio. I’ve brought in an assistant for a few weeks to help with some of the more tedious tasks. I’ve had assistants before and it has been uncomfortable for me. When I was a studio assistant I never gave my opinion unless asked, but since my assistants are usually students, and they feel inclined to share as if we are in class and my work is up for critique. This time, however, I made the law of my studio clear and I feel liberated. It’s going quite well.
The thing that is even stranger than my reclusive feelings is that I always take a ton of process photos. For who, right? Well, I guess for you:
First there were two clay models. I recycle my clay so this was a zero waste process. Then there were the molds. I did some tests with gleaned supplies but was unable to glean the entire mold material. This is a mold I can use for years to come and it will not be in the show. There is a flexible silicone interior mold (some of the silicone is gleaned silicone caulk and I did learn a new technique which allows the use of different types of silicone together) and a cement exterior mold or mother mold. The cement was gleaned but there is a good reason mother molds are not usually made of cement. When there is a piece inside the mold, it’s too heavy for me to lift by myself. The cement is also very brittle and often times the shell will crack when I am removing a piece but that is probably just user error.
Below is mosaic tiles and grout backed with spray foam sealant and a steel rod armature If the spray foam were more reliable, I’d like to try making a cast figure out of just the foam squiggles. There seems to be good reasons that I am finding so much discarded spray foam. 2 out of 6 cans have worked. It is, however, possible to use that stuff more than once. Most people discard it once the tip becomes clogged with set foam. Just pulling the clog out with a thin piece of wire (or a bicycle spoke) will often get it flowing again.
Then there are the hand built pieces: chicken wire and aluminum rod armatures, carved Styrofoam, canceled check papier mache, multilingual textbook papier mache, and the pattern drafting process to create flat patterns for sewing and building with planar materials like cardboard, felt, Velour and plastic. These pieces are flowing a little more smoothly because I am more at ease with the materials. It may even come across in their personalities.
I feel at this point, that I could continue working on this project for years to come, with gleaned material and in the same spirit of reuse. There could be a hundred of these figures.