Trouble is a 25 cent purchase

I was going to begin with my earliest books, but I am currently obsessing over book 61 so that’s where I will begin. About a month ago I went to Construction Junction, a Pittsburgh building materials recycler, to get a piece of rusting iron (more about it at another time). There was a time when you could find such a thing on the street. No more; now only plastic. I found what I wanted for fifty cents and then wandered around; they always have interesting things. I found a bin full of what might have been round seat or pillow covers, all in blue with the “Monopoly” logo, like the game. Also in the bin were were olive green fabrics with the beautifully embroidered name, Cleopatra’s Garden.

img_2589I bought two pieces for an additional fifty cents and started on a book. One of my favorite places here in Pittsburgh is Phipps Conservatory. It’s a nice walk from my apartment and I occasionally take pictures. Over the years I’ve accumulated lots of flower pictures with no particular idea in mind. Using Photoshop I removed backgrounds frommum the flowers and made them look somewhat like watercolors, then printed them out and put them in an accordion fold structure.

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Full of confidence I stitched and glued the butterflies to the embroidery after adding iron-on stiffening to the back, and tried to glue the whole thing to a board. My idea was to put the accordion between two covers and be done with it. This was supposed to be a kind of quick knock-off.

Problem #1. The fabric won’t glue. It must have something on it like a flame retardant or spot retardant. I managed to glue the butterflies but I also stitched them and hadn’t tried to pull them up. (They pull up easily).

Problem #2. I couldn’t wrap the fabric around the board. It was too thick or maybe the board was too thin.

Problem #3. There wasn’t enough fabric in one solid piece to cover the back board.

Problem #4. I was able to glue the accordion to the board but the paper tore when I lifted it. There was not enough support to keep the accordion properly aligned.

These problems didn’t show up as neatly as I wrote them down. Before realizing this wasn’t going to work I went to the local crafts store and spent $7 on ribbons to cover the back pieces and tape to make the accordion. The tape was the only thing I finally used.

After I tore the attached accordion I decided to put the whole thing in a box, which I made from illustration board. I gave up on using the pieced fabric for the box and went back to the crafts shop for some paper; $3.50 on sale. Then I stitched the embroidery to a window in the paper and glued the whole thing to the box. What you can’t see in the photo above is that I turned the embroidery the wrong way. Also made a couple of mistakes when I put the accordion together. In Thailand they make a deliberate mistake in their creations because only God can make a perfect object. I tried to convince myself but three mistakes are too many.

So I have created another accordion and another box. Now I’m trying to figure out how to handle the whole thing. Problem#5, which is really the biggest problem, is the size of the embroidery. It’s actually too large for what I want to do. Still thinking about it.

January 25

Finally finished.

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New box

Made a new box. Bought seam binding and stitched it around the embroidery, then glued and stitched to the paper. I was able to move the butterflies img_2626-1and restitch and glue them in place. They hide a number of stitching sins. The box opens correctly and there is almost enough room for the entire accordion. The last page has a problem, unfortunately. That’s my homage to the Thai gods.

This box is 8.5 x 5.5 x 1.25. If I were to do it again using the 8 x 10 sheets, I would make the box 8.5 x 6 x 1.5 and the cover 9 x 6.125 allowing an overhang on three sides. I hinged the cover using Tyvek inside. I would like to figure out a better hinge so I could open the cover more than 90 degrees.

Art and an Osher class

I am from a crowded place where siren songs
blast holes in the steady drone of traffic.
I see tall buildings and blue water and
smell bread and flowers as I walk
and sometimes unpleasant perfume
on fashionable women who walk past me.
I would like to taste the lilacs and touch
the passing dogs and cats
But never come close to the lovely ladies.
I am rather pleased with this first attempt at poetry. It was inspired by a wonderful Osher class I took last month at Carnegie Mellon. It was called “Artists as Activists Choose Pittsburgh” and facilitated by Leslie Golomb, who presented ideas about activist art and in three subsequent weeks brought in other artists who created activist work. In the final class Amanda Gross, a fiber artist, asked us to tell her something about ourselves using the following:
I am from… sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch

This is only a small part of what I enjoyed in the class. To explain, I have to make a small digression. Some weeks ago I went to the Carnegie Museum of Art to a space they called “The Sandbox” filled with “photo books” that are actually for sale. I looked at all of the books and understood very little of what I was seeing. The curator/salesperson kept asking me if I had questions. I think slowly of late, and couldn’t even begin to frame my questions. The books contained photos that may or may not have been taken by their author/editor/curator and meant nothing to me. She showed me a book she had compiled, telling me the photos were “vernacular.” That meant they were taken from a collection, made by someone else, over a period of 25 years. She got permission from the owner to put them in “her book,” which was bound professionally. I told her I made books and she gave me a look that said ‘aren’t you a sweet, little old lady.’ So, I am an old lady, not necessarily sweet, and I was confused. All of this was absolutely meaningless to me.

Back to the class: four weeks of food for thought about meaningful art, often beautiful, certainly significant. My artist friends are not here in Pittsburgh and I don’t often have a chance to participate in this kind of stimulating conversation. In the first class, Leslie, who is a print maker, talked about artists as acivists and also about her own work, which has dealt with feminism and slavery amongst other themes and ideas.

In the second class, Ben Sota, the founder of the Zany Umbrella Circus, talked about his passion for circus and how his presentations in other countries have generated thoughts about freedom in his audience.

Bec Young, a printmaker and fiber artist, talked to us in the third class. In addition to doing volunteer work in her community her prints deal with activist themes. Quoting from her artist statement: “…seek to give voice to stories that remain unheard with work that is beautiful and powerful.”

Amanda Gross, who inspired my poetry, showed us her beautiful work and talked to us about her huge community organizing project called knit the bridge, which brought people together from all over Pittsburgh. This last class tied together all of the ideas about making meaningful, beautiful art and banished the despair I felt in the Sandbox.

Pictures

It’s snowing. What I really want to do is hibernate in my bed, in a cave made of quilts and blankets, and remain there until the outdoor temperature is near fifty degrees and the sun is shining. I’ve been back here for one week and I’ve got cabin fever already.
So, here are the pictures from Israel; maybe they’ll make me feel better.
MeYona1

 

Yona and me, on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, just after sunset. The picture was taken by Haim Lev, Yona’s friend, who comes to this spot every evening, to photograph the sunset.

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Ceaserea, now a national park. When I was there in 1966 some of this was there, but much has been excavated since. You could just walk along the beach and pick up pottery shards or bits of stone.

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Tel Aviv: There was only one tall building the last time I was in Israel. Amazing how much has changed in thirty years. Highways, now much better than ours, were all two-lane and people who passed on curves obviously had a strong belief in God.

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Jerusalem. I spent most of the four days visiting friends so I didn’t see much of the city. I know that much has changed in the 30 years since I was there before.

Emek Hefer, the most fertile valley in Israel.

Emek Hefer, the most fertile valley in Israel.

Sunset from the bus returning from Haifa

Sunset from the bus returning from Haifa

 

Tel Aviv: another adventure

Yona is grandma on Wednesday. She put me on the train to TA and went to her brood. I went, first to Museum Haaretz, museum of the land, where I saw two excellent exhibits. Israelis are amazing in their support of the arts and there is a thriving contemporary art scene here, especially considering the country is the size of New Jersey with about the same population. The first exhibit was unusual things made of paper: creased, folded, rolled, cut, shaped, made into books and made out of books. Very inventive.

The second exhibit was fiber art, again unusual creations all made by Israeli artists. The variety almost equaled Fiber Arts International in Pittsburgh, which draws entries from all over the world.

I had lunch in the museum cafe, tuna Nicoise, a nice change from all the hummus and other salads. From there I went to the Tel Aviv Art Museum, which was not as interesting to me but I was getting very tired. There is some contemporary photo and video shows, lots of 18th and 19th C. painting, and a display of miniature rooms. I have to find out more about them as a 19th C. interest. The knee finally got me. It bothers me less, but is still stiff and painful at times.

I got back on the train then took a taxi to Yona’s son’s home and got to see all three kids along with the brown and white dog who shed all over my black jacket. We then had a light supper in a Japanese restaurant.

My last day here is perhaps the most interesting. I’ll write when I get home. I leave at midnight tonight.

New York, Again

Took the train to New York last Friday so I could attend a conference about keratoconus, my eye problem, on Saturday. The conference was good although schlepping out to New Jersey on public transit in a snowstorm was not wonderful. Since Saturday I’ve been to a concert and looked at an exhibit of Chagall paintings, a retrospective about Art Spiegelman, creator of Maus, a show about the famous 1913 Armory show and several exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum. Unfortunately the weather has been bad enough to really slow me down. Fortunately, I didn’t have a big agenda to it hasn’t mattered. I’ll take the train home on Thursday. 

What else have I been doing? Auditing my yearly Japanese art history class, taking several other Osher classes and two online courses: Chinese History and Chinese Architecture. The history class is wonderful; the architecture lectures are in Chinese with an English translation that needs help. Makes it confusing. 

I am also continuing my bookmaking; most recently a picture book about dead fish. I still have two Japanese garden books in the works and ideas for two others. So I’ve been busy.

My encounter with police

Pittsburgh's latest entertainment: rubber ducky

Pittsburgh’s latest entertainment: rubber ducky

I’m back in Pittsburgh and back to normal after a good, one-day drive and an unusual experience. Because I want to see many people when I go to Chicago I find, more than usual, I am driving at night and using the GPS on my phone. On the day I left I had to first go to a far out suburb to my nephews house. He gave me the address and I entered it into the GPS. The destination map looked like this.

Ron's house

I don’t entirely trust the GPS but this looked ok. His address was on N. Fairfield and he said he had 20-some acres. He didn’t mention a lake, but who knew. I followed instructions and found myself in a kind of park surrounded by houses with numbers that were nothing like his. The road I drove on was decorated with lines of stone and some stone benches. A narrow road seemed to go around the lake, so, after finding nothing like his house number, I took it only to encounter two women walking on it. I found out later it was really a walking or cycling path. I stopped and asked for directions, but they couldn’t help. I got off the path, since the house wasn’t there and stopped a man walking a dog, who also couldn’t help me.

It finally occurred to me to call my nephew, who started to give me directions when the two women walked up and asked to speak to him. I gave one of them the phone and she walked away from me as the other talked to me. I was a little flustered or I never would have agreed to it. I finally seemed to get it all straightened out, got my directions and drove off. When I got to Ron’s house, only a few hundred yards away, but not where the GPS said, he told me the women thought I was disoriented and called the police. Sure enough, a few minutes later an officer arrived, alone, with gun secured in holster, proving they didn’t think I was likely to be violent. I passed the identity check and, after telling me he didn’t know how I got on the path, he let me go. The occurrence bothered me until this weekend when a story appeared about a flaw in the technology that was sending drivers across the runway of an Alaskan airport. I guess a walking path isn’t so bad.

Something to think about

On Friday, when I returned home about 4:30 pm, my neighbor’s newspaper was still in front of her door. My neighbor is in her early eighties, she has balance problems and trouble walking. Worried, I called her and got her voicemail. I called down to the garage and was told her car was in place. Now I was really worried and didn’t know what to do. I called the president of the condo board. His wife said they would go into the apartment when he returns home in about 45 minutes. More than an hour later we finally went into the apartment and, happily, found no one there, dispelling my nightmare vision of finding B on the floor. The newspapers are piling up; B has not returned. The last time she went away she told me beforehand and I took care of the papers. I will do so tonight and leave a note for her. That’s not the problem.

We have a large number of elders in our building reflecting the population of Pittsburgh. There should be some sort of protocol for watching out for each other and not waiting for the condo president. I don’t have the answer; maybe there isn’t a good one, but I keep thinking about it. I don’t want to be the one on the floor waiting to be found.