ABOUT BEING “OFF” THIS WEEK
Nov. 28, 2020
By Emily Stehle
All week I’ve been thinking about writing Blog #4 and just realized that this week we were “off.” Well, I have been “off” ever since March 15.
I don’t have my sense of time back and, despite my noting days of scheduled Zoom open mic ukulele meetings in my calendar, still miss them. Specifically, the ones scheduled for a different time zone. UK and the Pacific Northwest groups schedule jams in the late afternoon/early evening or 8pm prime time, their time. For me, it’s right after dinner or right after lunch. Have to get used to the time difference.
I won’t take off this week from blogging. So much has happened that I need to document and write it down to better absorb and react. So, consider this my 3 .5 blog. I’m rereading notes taken while watching a Textile Talk sponsored by SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Association) and the National Basketry Organization a few weeks ago. Most importantly, I “met” my artist mentor Gabriel Ramos (gbramos.com) on Google Meet. More about that talk and Gabriel later!
BLOGGING AND BEING OBJECTIVE
Learning to Express Oneself
Trained as a journalist to be always an “objective” viewer, I was taught to relate what I heard and saw and possibly offer an explanation through the eyes of others. There was no room for personal opinions or musings about what might have happened. No emotion…no passion. And what you wrote had nothing to do with you personally.
I interned as a journalist while in college and worked professionally for four years as a reporter/staff writer for the St. Petersburg Times. Then I worked in marketing and public relations for almost 30 years, writing emotionally and persuasively about my company, employees, services but never about myself.
Writing this blog IS foreign to me. When journaling was the rage, and it still is, I couldn’t keep it up. Too much personal stuff! So, I credit this Emerging Artist (EA) experience as one that is forcing me to think and act differently and express myself freely.
TWO DIFFERENT WAYS OF MAKING “BASKETS”
The two fiber artists interviewed on the recent online Textile Talks, Ramekon O’Arwisters and Nathalie Miebach, did not make traditional baskets. In fact, I don’t see their works as “true” baskets but sculptures. Up until recently, most of my pieces were baskets. At least, they contained air!
Ramekon O’Arwisters (www.ramekon.com) works in mixed media – crocheting fabric scraps around broken china (tea cups, plates) pieces – to express his feelings of “being broken.” It (bone china) was a metaphor to stand in for our bodies.
He questioned, “Why can’t fabric and ceramics be part of fine art…be a concept of fine art?”
Ramekon followed the “Three R’s” of repurposing, reused, recycling. Ten years ago, he started “crochet jams” as a community project inviting folks to learn how to crochet and apply that skill to creating art.
“Most of us focus on following a pattern,” he said. In his case, work was random. “The material becomes your teacher.”
Nathalie Miebach (www.nathaliemiebach.com) also works in mixed media. She readily admits the pieces in her 20-year practice are “not fitting in the traditional way of a basket.”
I saw Nathalie’s work last December at the Ruth Funk Center of Textile Art (closed permanently in July) at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. She conveys storytelling through carefully structured and constructed work translating research, climate data, weather charts into art. The incorporation of math, research and music in her work intrigued me.
I saw a ship in the middle of the “impossible storm” and snippets of music notation and lots of other “stuff” twisted within. I wanted to hear that music! Nathalie goes beyond the three dimensions. Turns out some of her art openings featured orchestras playing the “music” in her sculptures!
My takeaway: Both artists have worked decades in specific medias in established practices and their works are distinctive with a particular look and feel.
I use basketmaking techniques to create baskets or sculptures. My emphasis has been making objects out or recyclables…to show beauty from trash. One to two steps.
MY EMERGING ARTIST (EA) PROJECT
41 Weeks of Covid-19: Staying at Home
Last week I thought about my part of the May EA exhibit at Creative Pinellas and visualized a wall of sorts with 41 hanging baskets…and visitors to an actual opening.
Its Title: 41 Weeks of Covid-19: Comfort (food), Music and What We Needed to Get By
You know those hanging folders in your file cabinet? I easily bent the metal rods into a circle for a basket rim, built a reed frame around the rims and randomly wove a basket.
I weave them from trash and I’ve already woven 10. Some will be embellished with recycled or new purchased items.
My weavers: Strips of cardboard paper boxes and wrappings of consumer products such as soap, crackers, granola bars, cereals, cookies, potato chips, toothpaste, beer, foil seals from yogurt cups, the plastic bags holding fruit, the green plastic bags from the newspapers tossed on my lawn.
What happens at the opening? Audience or viewer participation: Each basket has a number with an explanation of what it represents (like Aim toothpaste, Gluten Free Crackers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups). I’d invite visitors to write their names on strips of paper to insert in the “basket” that provided them comfort and solace during their 41 weeks.
It’s pretty much an extension of my making baskets out of trash but adding a “call to action,” a form of engagement by the visitor.
INTRODUCING GABRIEL RAMOS
Gabriel is like new, clean sheet of (recycled) paper for me. Or, you might say, a change in scenery. He is a 2019 Creative Pinellas Professional Artist and my artist mentor!
His website bio: Gabriel Ramos was born in 1987 in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico and currently lives and works in Tampa Bay, FL. He obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from the University of South Florida in 2011 and his Master of Fine Arts from Cornell University in 2018.
Some of his recent noted achievements include being a recipient of the 2019 Creative Pinellas Professional Artist Grant, the Cornell Council for the Arts Grant and a nomination for The Dedalus Foundation Master of Fine Arts Fellowship in Painting and Sculpture.
His work has been featured in many local and international publications and has been shown nationally and internationally in locations such as the National Gallery of the Bahamas, The National Gallery of Jamaica, The Fotofest Biennial and The Gasparilla International Film Festival. His current artwork is mainly sculpture and installation, but it also includes video and photography.
Please go to Gabriel’s website, gbramos.com to see photos of his installations and amazing work in wire, paper, photography, video.
We talked about social citizen science projects. I was inspired by a nest I made in April for a pair of cardinals. They adopted the nest, raised to fledglings and within two weeks, abandoned that nest.
I imagined a project where I would teach folks to weave a bird nest basket. They would install them outside, keep a record and report results if the nests were used by birds. Before adopting this plan, I would research the value and feasibility of this project with the Florida Audubon Society.
Gabriel persuaded me to think about the time to research and then to be aware how people would react.
“It kind of has to make sense to them,” he said. “Would there be an opportunity to hold a public event to make the nests? What happens if someone wants to add plastics? Will folks follow through and put their baskets in a good place…would they report activity?”
I’m putting this idea on hold. And the 41 baskets? They offer a journal of baskets that shows how one household coped during the 41 weeks.
41 BASKETS: SHOWING CONSUMER BUYING BEHAVIOR
Keep it simple. Make it obvious. Looking at this from the viewers’ points of view, this concept could work. I want to engage an audience, specifically if they can relate to my Covid-19 comfort items.
Since music was a big part of my comfort zone, I might consider another component. I had earlier mentioned that 100 Days of Ukulele Songs helped Mike (Stehle) and me through those early days of Covid-19. Perhaps a basket and a link to 10 songs on YouTube to represent those 100 Days will add an aural/visual experience…viewers can watch at their own risk!
THINK OUTSIDE THE BASKET!
Gabriel said his goal is getting me on a “trajectory.” The baskets are what I’ve been doing…what can I do NEXT? What can I do to soar?
Why not go to a flatter form? Think outside the basket! Get away from the basket.
He’s challenged me to look at my craft, to focus on the time spent in weaving and be deliberate to show evidence of the work itself. Not to see “it” as a product.
But, how do I explain it? Convey an emotion? Show disarray, chaos, anger and elements of calm, serenity and peace in a woven work. This, now, is totally unexpected!
So, my artist statement says I’m “exploring a basketry craft heritage that is atypical and unlike what is expected.”
Do you think I can do this? Do I think I can do this?
I am still thinking.