Sketching a Sculpture

IMG_1268 It wasn’t until I went back to art school in 1995 that I truly fell in love with the pencil. Previously, I had spent my days finding the perfect pen to express my moods and create the most permanent of doodles. But something changed when I learned to design furniture, and for several years I would never be found without one tucked behind my ear. Now that I have my own studio, my special pencils are strategically placed on every work surface, bearing their printed reminders of places I’ve visited all around the world.

It was one of my first visits to the Metro Transfer Station when I was handed a small chest of drawers by one of the workers there. Each drawer was filled with basic office supplies: X-acto tools, felt-tipped pens, highlighters, note pads, adhesives, and a ton of pencils. Within the next month, I had my second major pencil encounter–someone had dumped a stamp and coin collection, along with other materials from someone’s office space. I came back with dozens of perfectly sharpened pencils that never got to scribe the words intended by their diligent sharpener.5_sounds_2_small

I’ve seen many artists use pencils in their work, but my favorite by far was Gord Peteran’s series of drawings titled “Five Sounds.” He did this series during his 2002 residency at the Center for Art in Wood, and they are now part of their permanent collection. Peteran’s series takes you through his varied approaches to draw a circle with pencil, paper, a lathe, and his body. The above drawing is the second in his series, when he mounted the paper onto a piece of plywood and held the pencil in his hand. I love this journal of the relationship between human and machine.

IMG_1308It was nice to be, again, reminded of Peteran’s series while I did the rough shaping of my forms with the pencils already embedded. Depending on the spacing of the pencils, it would create a circular “drawing” on my sanding disc. The graphite produced more minimalist drawings.

IMG_1280And you can even see a ghost of the sanding process on the face of each piece. I like it because it is a subtle reminder of the spontaneous drawing exercises I employed while in the design stages of this installation. Similarly, I use the disc sander with a high grit paper so I can quickly make shapes. This detail shot reveals the nuances in pencil wood grain you can sometimes spot in even this pea-sized cross-section. I also like how the yellow paint that once dominated the pencil’s appearance is subtly evident around the edges.

IMG_1240Fortuitously for this project, one of my fellow Gleaners left me a pack of colored pencils one day.

IMG_1257It’s been fun to let people discover this found object that’s in each of the 50 pieces I made for this installation. The entire form is seen first, an then there’s often an expression of surprise when they recognize this everyday object that has now become a design element.

I feel a little sad cutting apart the batch of pencils that were so carefully sharpened, but hope that somewhere out there in the universe, their previous owner knows that they didn’t end up in the landfill. Or perhaps they’ll start again with tips from pencil sharpening expert David Rees:

Imagined emotional organs…

Amanda 389A4557

Amanda Triplett. Hysteria. 2016

We’re on the last lap here for the Glean Residency and I’m so excited to share a few photos of the sculptures that I will be showing on August 11th at the Bison Building.

Amanda 389A4550

Amanda Triplett. Obsession. 2016

The dump is a repository for unwanted things and these things are charged with so much emotion.  As I watched the ever changing mountain of trash, I thought about how there was such a feeling of catharsis as people tossed their things into the trash pile. There was a sense of letting go of emotional baggage, things that don’t serve and reminders of past lives. I realized that the sculptures coming from these retired objects were embodied representations of these difficult emotions that were being released.  The sculptures became organs that functioned as containers for these difficult emotions.

Amanda 389A4544

Amanda Triplett. Tenderness 2016

I hope to see you all at our opening at the Bison Building on August 11th. It’s going to a wonderful show.

Lost in a sea of materials

I haven’t gleaned in a few weeks. It has become very clear that I needed to take a break from gleaning to actually make art with the massive amounts of materials that have accumulated in a corner of my studio. Now I am in art making mode, spreading out my materials like a messy little mouse making a nest in her house.


So, here I am currently lost in a sea of materials. I am making lots of art, but I feel a bit directionless at the moment. My instinct is to explore and play with the materials, making components for my sculptures, sewing, embroidering, stuffing polyfill into things, and sewing more. I’m feeling unfocused about where the sculptures are going and what they are going to be, which is pretty normal for me.  I’m taking it as a sign that I need to lose myself in the process. I am trusting that I am meant to let the materials guide me right now. I always think of Jackson Pollack as the ultimate example of an artist who can lose himself in his materials and process. Sewing is not as given to immediacy as is painting, but I’m trying to channel my inner Pollack in my stitches. I’m trying to stay loose. 


Here I am wearing some of my sculptures. Sometimes you have to wear your sculptures when you work in fiber even if they are not technically meant to be worn.

A monument to fleshy, intimate moments…


20160314_134803I found this bathroom shelf stand on my very first Glean. Dan took the glass and I was intrigued by the frame. The couple who dropped it off seemed nice enough. They were undergoing some kind of renovation, dropping off various construction debris and this metallic bathroom shelf, shiny and structured. The piece was in decent shape, a little wobbly, metal finish deteriorating in spots but otherwise, a usable piece of furniture that could have been rehomed.

I started thinking about this bathroom shelf and all of the intimate moments it has witnessed. The bathroom is a place of ritual where we perform our ablutions, relax in privacy, think deeply. In many ways this bathroom stand is monument to our fleshy needs, our ablutions, our private release. It stored the objects used for ritual cleaning, healing, decorating faces and bodies.

When I started this project, I was excited about finding stories embedded within things, transforming their value. The more I sift through the pile at the transfer station, the more I am convinced that the reason one reason why we waste so much is because we lose sight of an object’s story. For me, thinking about this bathroom stand as a monument to fleshy, intimate moments, has given it new found purpose and life.

I’ve now begun the process of transforming the piece. Honoring the story that I have gleaned from this object, I have sewn flesh-toned fabric and polyfill to the “bones” of the structu20160324_124645re. It is my objective to eliminate the hard lines and structured geometry of the piece, softening it with fleshy curves. I’d like to leave places where one can peak inside the piece, inviting the viewer to gaze into this intimate space.


The wonky, red crate


Let’s just talk about this sweet, little red crate I found at the transfer station on my first day of gleaning. Little beauty, right? The cherry red color caught my eye and I thought it would be a perfect base on which to build a sculpture. It’s a little damaged and crunched, which creates a lovely curve to usually straight box lines.

Since I’m collecting stories from the objects I Glean, I decided to ask my almost 4 year-old son the story of this crate. Without any hesitation, he informed me that this crate was a banana box that has been shipped in a large truck. Apparently, the truck got into an accident and a bad guy came along and turned it into gold. Then a good guy showed up and turned it back into a red crate. Finally, it has reached its destination and we will turn it into art soon.

Before it gets to be art, this crate has enjoyed a second life as a wonderful plaything for my son. Since it’s recent arrival at my house, it has been a cave, a boat, and a mountain to climb. For my children, this crate is a magnificent object with endless possibilities. If only we all saw stuff with children’s eyes, I think our waste troubles would be behind us.

Story-full objects


Yesterday, I gleaned for the very first time. There is something breathtaking about standing in front of a giant pile of unwanted items. I couldn’t help but wonder why so many of these things had been deposited at the transfer station instead of being spruced up, rehomed or freeboxed. Some of the items were clearly damaged or broken, bits of things once whole. However, a large percentage of the stuff seemed to be in decent working order. There was so many good things that with a little love or cleaning could be used for years to come.

My heart kind of breaks for these orphaned objects. I can’t help but wonder about the worlds these objects left behind, their lives before being trashed. Part of my glean project is to find the stories within these discarded objects and share them, giving them life and value. It is my hope that as I transform my trash orphans into sculpture, the stories will reveal themselves.

All the serious stuff aside, what fun it is to get to search through this great mound of interesting, story-full objects! I have already gleaned a bunch of wonderful items that I can’t wait to share.

Wet Trash, mmm

I returned back to the transfer station last week to find myself expecting an exhilarating feeling of finding lost treasures and magical mystery, but instead I was greated with a dampness that anchored any flights of fancy.  It was a typical March day in Portland Oregon.  Cool.  Misty.  And Grey!


I think the overwhelming drudgery that soaked my body, is what most people associate with the dump.  Smells bad.  Gross food scraps, and horror as mystery bags open themselves into the chaotic pile of broken and unwanted.  It was hard for me to glean anything triumphant when my mood was so dismal and gray.  Amazing how the weather really effects my perception of stuff.

Everything that was being dumped off was also damp.  Curious.  Are we oregonians feeling beaten down by the wet and gray and just want to eradicate it from our sacred space?  I wonder.


I did collect some materials.  Not as impressive as my other gleaning times.  I took back 30 lbs.  A pretty successful trip!