Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Darkest Depths of Mordor (AKA Second Grade)

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This probably says more about me and my lack of perseverance to become perfectly adept at things than anything else, but I have to say I always thought that artists who intentially weave or build imperfections into their work so as not to seem to be attempting to imitate God are … well, kinda arrogant.

If I ever turn out a piece of work that to me embodies total perfection, I might think, “YEAH, I nailed that,” but I’m not going to go on to believe I’m God or even godlike. I might feel like a rock star for about fifteen minutes. Or until I see someone who rocked the same type of work even harder.

So … yeah. I probably strive for perfection less than I should.

There’s this story I have about my first day of second grade. The teacher, who had a name that would serve some fantasy writer brilliantly as the name of some species vaguely stolen from the Nazgul, handed out little squares of cardboard for us to cut out templates for construction paper leaves. I somehow missed the information that the leaf had already been drawn on the cardboard and we were supposed to cut along the lines. The outline was on the reverse side of the square I got, so I just (as I so often do) dived right in and started cutting freehand.

When Mrs. Ringwraith got the drift of what I was doing, she held up my purportedly crappy leaf template and announced to the class that mine was different from anyone else’s and wrong wrong WRONG, and I’d just have to wait until some other kid got done with his or her template and I could use it to make some acceptable construction paper leaves.

(Way to just half-ass your first-day bulletin boards there, lady. Palm it off on the kids. Don’t think I don’t see what you did there.)

So acceptable art is what’s like what everyone else is doing, and all leaves happen to be maple leaves. All righty then!

Y’know, as a kid I should have been a teacher’s dream. I’m smart, I like reading and thinking, and I want to be liked by teachers, workshop leaders, etc. But Mrs. R continued to be impossible to please, and she loved to call me out in front of the whole class when I did something that wasn’t up to her specifications. Including the only F I ever got. (Which was for the time I had circled the right answers as instructed and then got so…freakin…bored waiting for everyone else to finish that I underlined all the wrong answers for something to do.

But there was one thing this woman didn’t factor in, and that’s the fact that I’m stubborn as hell and have been pretty much since I was born. So Mrs. Ringwraith, wherever you are in the afterlife, rest assured that I still freehand shit, for good or ill.

There’s art that I love that is marvelously intricate or luminous or beautifully drafted — something that makes me feel in awe of the work that went into it, and makes me wish I could do something like that. But I also love art by self-taught artists, works by outsider artists and people with a wild and strange vision that they have to impart. Not that these works can’t be incredibly intricate and beautifully crafted — witness the baseball-card sized scenes embroidered from sock thread by Ray Materson while he was in prison:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ray-Matersons-Artwork-Fine-Embroidery-Images/207733692591347

I love the energy and passion of these self-taught artists. I have some of the same tastes in music — my progression through a genre of music usually starts with what’s current and then tracks back through influences until I get to what’s a little rawer.

You won’t, however, be reading the phrase “spirituality of imperfection” anywhere but in this here post. Back when I was in publishing, I wrote flap copy for a book on this topic. All I had to work with was a ten page introduction but no actual work or outline (which did not even exist at the time), and I did the best I could. Some time later the editor showed me the authors’ response to my work, and it was one of the two snottiest author notes I ever saw. So that phrase never achieved the ring of sincerity for me.

So there you have it, a little manifesto. This probably isn’t the place to be looking for perfection, but I hope to provide some entertaining and passionate pieces, and I do promise at some point that I’ll share some of my crappier creations. They are good for a laugh, I guarantee.

FELTBOMBS AWAY!!! for AMOK Project #4

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FELTBOMBS AWAY!!! for AMOK Project #4

So March 4th is the day Misha Collins decreed for “a melee of kindness” worldwide (“march forth” — I see what you did there, Misha.) And since we all do his biddings like dittoheads defend Rush, I plotted my outing. I decided why the hell not blend it with the crafts project, but I wasn’t sure what form that would take. And then I saw a link somewhere (wish I could remember where) to Operation Beautiful, which involves posting little messages, usually on bathroom mirrors in public places, but elsewhere as well, to give a lift to those who see them.

So it all came together in an idea to make feltbombs of kindness. I love the whole yarnbombing phenomenon, where knitters fix “graffiti” made of yarn in public areas. I don’t knit (yet) but I have plenty of sweaters, a number of which resist felting, so what do you do with those? I wanted something that would be a pop of color on a gray winter day in the downtown area, so I dug up a pink sweater that had refused to felt, so I cut off the sleeves and needle felted messages on them.

Disarming messages

Most of the messages were felted onto the uncut tube of a sleeve section, with the cuts at the right and left sides, so I could drape them over a small tree branch. One I felted so that the cuts were at the top and bottom to put over a fencepost at the arts center that has meant so much to me. One last one I cut open and made a sort of baby-bib hanger so I could get the whole message on one side.

State Street feltbomb.

I was already going to Madison today to go to a reading by my friend Renee D’Aoust from Idaho, and so I met up for lunch with another friend from Idaho who now lives in Madison. As I told her about AMOK and Dangerous Crafts for Girls, I showed her m little felties, and suddenly I had a confederate! Woo hoo!

We hung one outside of A Room of One’s Own, the bookstore where the reading was, and it was a perfect spot — there are no trees out in front of it, but ugly new parking meters provided a perfect “neck” for the baby bib. And the message was a nice fit, too.

A random act of awesome.

And here are ones we hung on trees:

This one I hung across the street from a fire station.

On State Street, in view of the Capitol.

Renee’s reading from her book of essays, Body of a Dancer, was terrific — she performs as much as reads, and there were a lot of knowing laughs from people who came who were or are in the dance world, especially in response to her voices of people she studied with. And there was a raffle! And I won it! I got a $20 gift certificate to the bookstore, so while Renee met up with people she’d arranged to spend a few hours with, J and I wandered the bookstore and I found three books, which meant I spent a chunk of money beyond the certificate — which I consider a random act of kindness for an indie bookseller on top of the RAOK of the gift cert.

My last feltbombing was for the arts center. It was the last bit of twilight as I drove up the street and skulked onto the grounds to deliver my little prezzie.

I added a feltie to the already arty painted fence.

All in all an excellent day of kindness and reconnecting with friends and craftiness.

So do you think I should send the remainder of this sweater to Rick Santorum?

No way sweater vests are coming back.

Aside

Getting into a political pissing match on Twitter.

This is what happens when famous political commentator retweets you and then all the people who have to tell you why you are wrong come out in force. (And they all have such a tone.)

Argh. Was going to post my project a day early, but now I’m all grrrr and have no wise things to say about the creative process.

Things that are not good for the creative mindset #371: