Monday, November 24, 2008

A Little "What If" break

I needed a little stitching break, so I did another one of the "What If's" on my list.  This time I made new marked graffiti fabrics in shades of brown instead of the black and whites I was using earlier.  I wanted to see how the sheers worked on a background fabric with less contrast, although I didn't use the sheers much on this piece.    Besides changing the background, I asked, What If I use silks, velvets and chiffons for embellishments, but attach them all with heavy cotton crochet thread.  I like the texture of the thread and will use it again.  I especially like the french knots it made.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mexican Inspiration, part 2

Just a few more bits before I leave Mexico behind.

We visited the Textile Museum in Oaxaca and saw wonderfully intricate embroideries and weavings from around the area.  The museum had a small, but enticing, library of books on world textiles that would make for a great week of browsing.

I was particularly drawn to the fanciful animal embroideries, mainly black and white with little splashes of red:

All around town were giant paper mache figures.  I'm always attracted to heads, faces and masks and often use them in my artwork, so these guys were right up my alley:

These heads were part of costumes used in a Day of the Dead pageant:

And this beauty was featured in the largest altar in town, covering maybe 100 ft. of church yard steps:
I've been fascinated by paper mache figures for a long time and keep thinking they would be fun to make.  When I teach children's art classes, paper mache is always one of the favorite subjects.  I keep meaning to join in the fun, but somehow after dealing with a roomful of soggy, sticky newspaper, my enthusiasm for the medium wanes.  It dawned on me that I might be able to make some nice little heads out of paper clay.  I've never used that before, but I think it might give the effect I want and still be lightweight, without all the mess.  Something to play with after the holidays.

If you'd like to see more of Day of the Dead, Belinda Schneider has wonderful photos on her blog.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mexican Inspiration

I'm in the crazy stage of preparing for my art group's Dec. show, so my days are filled with labels, frames, and inventory sheets, with little time to work on new art.  Still, Mexico left a few impressions that are floating around in my head waiting to be developed in the future.  I want to get them recorded before they escape me.

After I did the fiber piece inspired by posters on a telephone pole, I knew I wanted to come back to that idea and work with walls as a subject, thinking of layers of color and texture.  I went to Mexico with the intention of photographing good walls to use in the future, and I was not disappointed:

One day a wonderful tour guide, Pablo, took us out to the village of weavers, Teotitlan del Valle.  We got to watch an entire family take wool from raw form to beautiful woven rugs.  My favorite part was learning about the natural dying process and seeing the gorgeous colors produced.    I haven't ventured into dying my own fabrics yet, but I keep toying with the idea, especially if I can get colors like this:

I could have spent all day in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.  One thing that jumped out at me was a book of Mayan writing.  It was full of fabulous symbols just waiting to be used in something:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Day of the Dead indulgence

I'm indulging myself with a few cemetary shots before I move back to art.  I had heard about the celebrations in the cemetaries for Day of the Dead, but I had no idea how extensive they were.   We visited three cemetaries at different stages of festivities, each with its own personality.  These shots are all from the day after the big fiesta at Xoxocatlan in Oaxaca.   My night shots aren't worth posting, but night adds a new magic to the place with candles, music, big pots of communal food and families packed in everywhere.

I loved the range of gravestones, from elaborate sculptural pieces to a wooden cross stuck in the ground propped up by a few rocks.  Each one decorated in its own way.

Coxcomb and marigolds are the traditional flowers for Day of the Dead, so red-violet, yellow and orange are everywhere.  This is one of the tapetes (tapestries) made of flowers:

And papale picado, the cut paper banners:

These sort were my favorites, lovingly made of whatever could be scavenged.  Some (in background) were caged in cyclone fence, not sure what they were caging in or out:

Halloween is creeping into some of the decorations:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Enchanted by Mexico

It's taken me a while to get back to earth and to my blog after my wonderful trip to Mexico.  I have loved Mexican folk art, Mexican colors, and especially Mexican food for as long as I can remember, so it was high time I traveled there.  It was beyond anything I hoped for.   The colors were stunning!  I was especially captivated by the combination of beauty and the shabbiness of decay.   I have intended to keep this blog focused on artwork, but I have to slip in a few irresistible  images along the way.

I think I filled up one memory disk with walls, windows and doors.  The beauty of them was everywhere:

I have to admit I didn't get nearly as much sketching in as I had hoped.  I was in absorption mode and just had to pause and take everything in.  But here are a few finished pages.  We stayed in a beautiful hotel, Hotel Sotano.  Like so much of Oaxaca, little could be seen from the walled entrance on the street, but once inside the doors, there were delightful bits for the eye everywhere.  We all agreed that we could have spent a week sketching the vignettes in the courtyard, balcony and rooms.   I loved that I was given the Santa Lucia room.  She is the patron saint for needleworkers and guards their eyesight as they age.  Coincidence?

It's hard for me to know what Oaxaca is like in normal times since it was fully decked out for Day of the Dead.   There were surprises around every corner from a street dance of monsters in full costume, to tapetes (large tapestries) made of sand filling the streets, to parades, to giant skeleton puppets, and of course altars everywhere:

Before I left on my trip, Leigh  gave me a grid for small sketches.  (thanks Leigh!)  That ended up being one of my favorite ways to sketch on the trip.  There was so much going on that I seldom had time to sit for long.  Using the grid, I could quickly capture snippets along the way.  I think small grids will now be a regular part of my sketchbooks:

And for sheer visual overload, we made several trips to the markets.  They are probably incredible throughout the year, but during Day of the Dead they are loaded with sugar skulls and coffins and crosses,  special festival foods and decorations.  These beauties were made out of flour paste and are used to decorate the tops of pan de muerte, the special Day of the Dead breads:

I'll be posting more about Mexico and some of the inspiration I found soon.   Paula, one of my traveling buddies, has wonderful posts about the trip on her blog.