Sunday, September 28, 2008

Revisiting the Rag Rug

I love rag rugs. They remind me of being in 1st grade, when we were each instructed to bring one in for "nap time." The only thing is, if any of us actually fell asleep, we were sent to the nurse's office, and then promptly sent home. I guess they figured that 1st graders are only truly "healthy" when they're awake and being boisterous.

Honestly, the rag rug didn't offer enough cushion for me to get that comfortable, so sleep was always out of the question. However, we were required to be quiet during this time, so I would keep my mind occupied by studying the rug's pattern, counting the number of rows, and memorizing the order that the colors were laid down. Every time I see a rag rug now, I think of 1st grade.

Rag Rug Basket, Rags and Cane

I have a rag rug. Actually, I have two. One of them is brand new (only about $2.50 at Target!). The other is at least 20 years old, and has been washed so many times that it won't lay flat any more, and some of the "rows" were beginning to migrate out and away from the others. Clearly, it is due for retirement, so I gave the straying rows a gentle tug, and they easily slipped out. Then I followed suit with the rest, and continued until I had a pile of "rags." They're so pretty, and I'm way to sentimental to just toss them. So, I turned them into a basket. In fact, I probably have enough left over to make a second basket. And now, I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for old rag rugs. Perhaps a trip to the second hand store is in order!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Chaotic Lives of Bramble Pickers

Employment (and unemployment) is a subject that's often discussed here at home. We also talk about the pros and cons of various types of jobs, the best places to work, and reasonable vs. unreasonable commute times and distances.

Recently, while re-watching one of my favorite Britcoms, we all got a hearty laugh about a skit that takes place in an employment office. The "job seekers" had just learned that, of all the jobs that existed in that area, they were only qualified to be either babysitters or bramble pickers. Imagine that.

The Chaotic Lives of Bramble Pickers, Cut Twigs and Yarn

Well, as someone who teaches 1st through 6th graders two days a week, I often feel like a babysitter. So, in my search for a second part-time job, I need to consider other options. Which got me to thinking: what do you suppose goes on in the lives of bramble pickers? What is a typical day like? I'm guessing it's rather chaotic. Kind of like this woven sculpture.

The Chaotic Lives of Bramble Pickers, Cut Twigs and Yarn (detail)

While working on this piece, I thought about chaos and job seekers, and about the hardships of certain jobs (like being a bramble picker--whatever that might entail!).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Miss Frida, The Portrait (Part II)

After posting the first image of Frida's portrait, I attached the (somewhat flimsy) page to a heavier paper, in order to give the entire thing more strength. Then, I applied oil pastels to the work, to define the color better (make it look more like her). Afterward, I used turpentine to blend the colors.

The result makes me smile :)

Miss Frida, The Portrait

For the past couple of weeks I've been working on a mosaic of Miss Frida. It started with a photo of her, enlarged to letter size, and printed out in grayscale. Then, I went through a stack of magazines, searching for the right colors. Once I found them, I cut the preferred colors into tiny squares. With my big pile of colored mosaic squares, I was able to finally begin work on Frida's mosaic portrait.

For reference, I printed out a second photo (same size) to use while working on the mosaic. This was necessary because, once the mosaic squares begin to cover the page, I needed a photo to refer to--to see where shadows fell, the pattern of her spots, etc.

The result was this very "rough" portrait of Frida. Now that I have this much done, I'll apply some oil pastels to soften the image a bit. It'll be interesting to see what she looks like when I'm finally done!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cradles of Hope: Motherland

The Cradle Project book is available online. Many of the photos inside (including the following one) were taken by Addison Doty of Santa Fe, NM.

During the past year, something monumental and wonderful happened. Artists from around the world donated cradles for The Cradle Project; an event that raised money for orphans in Africa--children whose lives have been devastated by AIDS. More than 500 artists participated, and I'm honored to have been one of them.

My cradle, Motherland, is pictured above. I wanted to use local materials, but also wanted to capture the essence of Africa. To that end, I used cholla cactus skeletons, gathered from our land in northern New Mexico (local materials). Attached to the cholla skeletons is a "found" (recycled from the roadside) basket. And finally, the elements were pulled together with whisper grass; evocative of the materials used for costumes in the masquerade ceremonies that are so common in Sub-Saharan Africa. The dynamic arrangement of the cactus skeletons, dressed up with the whisper grass, gives a sense of movement--perhaps dance. And yet, the multiple wrapping and coiling of grasses at the top, along with the securely attached basket in the middle, implies strength and safety.

To see more cradles, and to purchase a copy of the books (for a mere $25!), please visit: