Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hasard de Montréal

I admit - I used an online translator for the title.

Random Montreal...

Some ceramic Portuguese chorizo cookers in a very interesting, Portuguese food and item store. I especially liked the big ole "Sale" stickers on their heads. They also had a cup and saucer with the most bizarre painting of a sheep on it that made the sheep look like a Jesuit. Also on sale - only $5. Darn, I may have to go back for that!

Ummm...no. You can not call a tanning salon, Zen Tan. Finnian tried to argue this point with me but he lost.

After watching the Quebec episode of "No Reservations", we were determined to really give Montreal bagels a try this time. Back in September we were served supposed Montreal bagels at breakfast but, when we saw the cranky breakfast cook reaching into the deep freeze to fetch more, we knew it was a load of baliverne (that's what the online translator gave me for bullshit). Also, how French were these people if they measured out butter in quarter inch squares and looked quite put out when we dared to ask for more. No, we went in search of the real deal - Fairmount Bagels. Even Finnian, who is strong in his passions and not easy to sway, had to admit - they give New York bagels a run for their money. I hate to even say it, but I think I liked it better than (most) New York bagels. But I might be a bit of a general pro-Canadian partisan. I have been known to do crazy things like cheer for the Toronto Blue Jays and burst into O Canada just for the thrill of it.

Needless to say, we tried a different B&B this time around. Not quite so stingy with the butter - they recklessly leave an entire stick out on the table! Can you believe it? Just loose, like anyone could take any amount of it. The cost must be phenomenal.

Ok, I'm better now.

A pretty little stained glass window in our room. So sweet, calling out for spring!

Our street - a little gris, but we are enjoying it immensely.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Crafting Community

In this shortest of short breathers between events, I am doing the most inefficient job ever of packing for our trip to Montreal. I am finding it hard to stay focused - the lure of doing nothing is strong. But I must not give in to it. We are headed to Montreal early tomorrow morning so that I can give a talk at Concordia University. The talk is titled "Participatory Art: Crafting Community" and I think it will mostly be about recent projects. My plan is to spend some of the ten hours on Amtrak up to Montreal working out those details. Once that is all settled, my next biggest question must be answered: is it possible to pack enough knitting for 20 hours of train time?

Here are the particulars about the talk in case you are in Montreal on Wednesday with an hour and a half to kill:

Participatory Art: Crafting Community
Engineering-Visual Arts Building 6.720
Concordia University
1515 St. Catherine West, at Guy
Wednesday, March 31st 2010.
4:00 -5:30
General public is welcome, admission is free.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Unconditional Yes: The Opening

As I sit down to try to sum up the experiences of the last week, I find that I don't really have words to describe what it has been like. First, there was the great unknown of the installation - would it work? would the curtains be the correct size? would anyone contribute? would F&L make it through the long day? Then there was the experience of sitting in the living room each day, talking with people and finishing up various pieces. And there was the two-hour commute each way, each day from Rhode Island to Boston and back.

I have all sorts of thoughts and ideas but they are still swimming around in my head, somewhat incoherently. So, here are some random thoughts and images. There will be more as things fall more into place, I hope.

It was an art marathon. An endurance test of the best kind. A mind-blowing, heart-opening, kick ass experience. All of it.

At the top of the list of amazing things were the students, or as they say, the Simmons women. I love them. It wasn't in the cards that I would ever be a Simmons woman, but I felt like an honorary one for a few days, at least.

Here are some images from the opening.

Cake made by Sarah. Someone more daring than I actually cut into it and it was devoured in the most unconditional of unconditional yeses.

This is John and Terry. John is a friend from my high school days who I have reconnected with via facebook. This was the first time in about 25 years that we had spoken to each other in person. It was such a pleasure to reconnect with him and to meet his partner. Thanks, guys, for the restaurant recommendation - it was perfect.

And, highlights of highlights - the Simmons Concert Choir. Somebody pinch me! But I think it all really happened.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Unconditional Yes

Today is the opening reception for Unconditional Yes. The college president is coming (she contributed to the exhibition), the choir will sing traditional Simmons songs, students are making "unconditional yes" cupcakes, and the art critic from The Boston Globe is coming by to review the show.

Let's just say, there's some buzz happening.

In the meantime, the Massachusetts Cultural Council has featured the exhibition on their excellent blog. Check it out.

I will try, try, try to remember to take some pictures!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Living Room - Day Two

I am back in my lair today. Yesteday went well - a few visitors, some last minute finishing touches and it was, frankly, the most relaxing time I have had in months.

There is so much to share but I want to wait until after the opening. But I can tell you the vibe is good. Very, very good.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Won't You Step Into My Parlour?

I have a very shaky internet connection, so please wander over to the Unconditional Yes blog for some photographs and video of the installation. Those crazy kids - always documenting with their iphones and such. Note the most fabulous knitted trail that the students, under the guidance of Rachel Heller, knit and installed up the four-story staircase to lead visitors up to the Trustman Gallery. They were so amazing, especially Rachel and the super fabulous Jessica Pratas. I know they will go far in life.

When you get back from the blog, why not wander over to the gallery itself. I will be there in the temporary living room, waiting just for you to come and sit for a spell with me. Bring your knitting (or whatever).

I will be there: Monday - Thursday from 12 to 4 p.m. Opening reception, Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. The Simmons Choir will perform traditional Simmons' songs beginning at 6 p.m. And I don't know how anyone could ever wish to miss that!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Last Chance

Today is my last day to work on objects for Unconditional Yes before we head out on early Friday morning and begin the installation at the Trustman Gallery. The packing up and list making has begun in ernest.

I have collected many afghans in hopes of making a pathway of them leading to the temporary living room space but that proposal was nixed due to the possibility of tripping people up. Instead they will be used as part of the living room installation.

I have been working with items from the archives, including some yearbook entries and other photographs.

I am not really a list person but the details are adding up.

I waver between feeling like I have plenty of work and it will be fantastic and feeling totally panicked. Sounds like I am right where I should be about now.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Needle

My job this weekend was to annoy people. It was an especially difficult task given that I spent 10 hours on Saturday at a zazenkai (day-long sit). That's a lot of annoying to squeeze into not much time so I really had to work at it.

First I got us all tickets to see The Magic Flute performed by students at Queens College. A friend is a professor in their opera department and he recommended it highly. Since I have nearly failed to offer any kind of musical education to my children, I jumped at the chance. Mozart, college students and cheap ticket prices: a combination that was music to my ears!

I took this image from here.

Finnian was not happy. To his mind, I had pushed the limits and gone beyond. Never has a mother been so cruel, so unfair, so evil as to force a child to attend an opera. Yet, he survived and later, when we were talking about it at dinner (the performance was totally delightful and the students were amazing, at least to my completely uninformed ears), I noticed Finnian was laughing and adding his thoughts about which characters were funny, etc.. Sometimes it pays to be the object of loathing, if even for a little while.

But my irritating abilities did not stop at forcing children to attend operas! No, I did what I had told myself I would never, ever do again, which is to engage in an emotional argument on an email list. The details are unimportant. As that awful feeling came to the pit of my stomach as more and more emotional emails poured into my inbox, I realized that I really don't like being the annoying one. Some people are good at it, thrive in it, but not me. Apologize and step back. Apologize, step back and learn the lesson!

What's that they say? At the end of each day in the zendo? Oh yes...

One of the filet crochet pieces to be presented as part of Unconditional Yes.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On A Bender

Warning! This post contains some hardcore yarn and fibre porn - may not be suitable for viewing at work or around other knitters and spinners.

I have an acquaintance who talks about going for some "shopping therapy". In my head, I usually scoff a little at how pathetically American it is to believe that one can be happier through consumption. Poor, deluded thing, I think as I move about in my much more superior way.

Ahem. I have had my own little "episode" recently.

This fleece is from Moonlightbaker. I had it in my favourites on etsy for some time and one evening, well, I just started clicking.

This one is from TaosSunflowertoo, who is having a massive destash sale. Martie has become an online friend through the wonders of etsy, this blog and her blog. Martie used to own a yarn store in Taos and now we all benefit from her destashing. She also is one of several reasons why a trip to New Mexico is quietly simmering on the back burner. She is a good friend of Shawn from islandsweet.

Oh! Speaking of whom...

Shawn had a sale on her yarns last week. (Sorry, it's over now. You snooze, you lose!) She is heading to the One of A Kind Spring show in Toronto very soon and was inviting people to purchase any of the yarns they might have had their eyes on before the good people of Ontario get their greedy little paws on them. I can't resist a good sale.

Oh! Speaking of which...

Lori over at Capistrano Fiber Arts was having a sale on some handpainted BFL. I am a huge fan of her work and, well...um...this is almost starting to sound a little desperate and tawdry. All lined up like this, it is starting to feel like I might have gone a little...

But, did you see what I received from the Louet order I put in?

This is a 50% soysilk/50% wool blend that comes handpainted. It seems a bit stiff right now but I think it will spin up in a luscious way.

This is carbonized bamboo fibre. I mean, who can resist carbonized bamboo fibre? Are you crazy?

And ok, here is a sneak peek at some fibre...dare I say it? Cashmere and silk blend. Hope you were sitting down for that one! The plan is for it to be spun lace weight for my dharma friend and knitting designer, Zabeth aka Tenfu.

So, la la la! That's what April looks like for me. You?

Monday, March 08, 2010

Links, Many Links

A scattershot of links of things l like:

Great photos and a lovely description of House Study/Handmade on the Wave Hill site.

A though-provoking piece by curator and artist, Judith Leeman, about verbs, naming and citation in the art process.

A great article in The Simmons Voice about Unconditonal Yes, written by a student named Lee Hersey.

And finally, this. I love this.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

In the Mood

One significant aspect of the Unconditional Yes installation will be a temporary living room space that I create in the middle of the gallery. The college has gathered some comfortable furniture that I will cover with comfortable afghans and pillows to invite people to sit awhile and have a conversation with me. The room itself will be marked off with translucent curtains and a knit and crocheted path will lead the visitor from the gallery main entrance to the room. For the week between the installation and the opening, I will be in the gallery each day, talking with visitors (and, no doubt, finishing up last details of work).

Yesterday I went to Mood Fabrics on W 37th Street to purchase the curtain fabric. If you can't find it at Mood, it doesn't exist.

This is but one of many, many aisles of fabric. It is hard not to feel inspired just walking around in there. I ended up with colours a little quieter than I anticipated buying but they are very beautiful and, I hope, will convey the mixture of welcome and comfort that I am after.

This was just so pretty that I had to take a picture. Velvet ribbon! I want it all.

Then it was homeward where I had to face facts. I had seven rows left to finish on my piece and I ran out of hand-dyed wool. I am pretty sure that "Uu Not Squander Your Life" will not convey the message I am seeking.

I took a chance at dyeing another lot of yarn the same colour. This is where my wholly unscientific dyeing policy comes back to bite me in the ass. I was cursing my total lack of dyeing notes, colour samples, weight measuring and careful observation. My free wheeling, devil-may-care, toss it in the pot and be happy attitude was suddenly a major liability.

And yet...

I think I did pretty well. Everything's gonna be alright.

And on to the next one.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Everything Old is New Again

In yesterday's New York Times, David Brooks tries to build an argument that the Tea Party of today is much like the New Left of the 1960s.

All I could think of was a scene in the movie, Bob Roberts, a satire in which Tim Robbins plays a conservative running for office in Pennsylvania. It is a touching moment when he is on his campaign bus with a young woman who obviously is in thrall to him, both playing guitars and singing "We are marching for self interest..." as a kind of psuedo-folk song.

I think Brooks' argument is mostly ridiculous but it is fascinating to think that Tea Partiers might actually consider themselves akin to the movement that was pivotal to protesting the Vietnam war, civil rights and feminism only, you know, in a self-interested kind of way.

What's so crazy 'bout guns, greed and xenophobia?

I couldn't find a video clip of that particular scene, unfortunately, but here is another one in a similar vein.

Friday, March 05, 2010

If You're Gonna Play...

After a brief respite, I am starting to get into head-down-deadline mode. For a couple of weeks, it seemed as if there were all sorts of low pressure loose ends that I could tie up at my leisure: finishing up hats for House Study/Handmade, finalizing plans for the week when I will be in Boston (first installing Unconditional Yes, then performing in it), deciding whether or not to participate in the spring Ango and organizing a short trip up to Montreal where I will be giving a talk at Concordia University's fibre art department. Things needed to be done but nothing was imminent.

Then, a couple of days ago, it hit me: I have a solo exhibition coming up in two weeks.

I have been working steadily, if not exclusively, on it but it is definitely time, some would say it is past time, to focus.

Here is the porcelain mug I made to commemorate Unconditional Yes. I have a bowl and plate in the works too. My plan is to have a small section of the exhibition be a fake archive of items related to the exhibition, as if it were a Simmons tradition. I deliberately made the mug look very handmade, in case you were wondering.

My goal of eight crochet pieces has been reduced but I made that decision based on the size of the pieces, the size of the gallery walls and the hope (oh please, let it be true!) that there will be lots of Simmons community responses to fill up the wall space. My feeling is that there is a lot of interest but interest doesn't always translate in to actual objects. We'll see.

It is my firm belief that every art project should be taken on only if you are ready to fail completely and spectacularly. I am not saying that is the goal or that, if it fails, that is fun or good necessarily. I am saying that I think that it is foolish to approach art with anything less than total conviction. It might turn out to be a wrong-headed conviction, but give it 100%. Have you seen art that looks like someone is just dipping their big toe into it? Art with one foot out the door? Was it really very good? Do you carry that image in your head, years later? Did it shake you to your core? Change how you see the world? Uh-huh, that's what I thought.

If you're gonna play: play!

Ok, after that little pep talk, I'm psyched up and ready to get to work!

PS. Here is a photo of Dan in his new shirt (a christmas present from moi) custom made by the blogless Janine. She is starting a small business of it. If anyone is interested in getting some price quotes or other information, please let me know and I will put you in touch with her. Dan has declared it "the nicest shirt he has ever worn."

Monday, March 01, 2010

What to Eat?

If you haven't seen this 18 minute video yet, please do take a look:

It is Jamie Oliver, a famous chef, talking about teaching children about food. It is amusing, because Jamie Oliver is amusing, but it is also very disturbing. Did I hear him right, people who are three generations away from homecooking? Three generations? The amount of lost knowledge is astounding. And the scene where the children can not identify one vegetable haunts me every day, although I saw this about a week ago.

While it is great that Michelle Obama has taken up childhood obesity and teaching good nutrition as a cause, information and teaching must happen at home or as close to home as possible. This isn't just a problem among poor people in rural West Virginia, it is everywhere. I see it among Lucy's chess friends in Harlem and among our neighbors in Gillams and Sunnyside.

Of course it isn't just about lost knowledge about how to feed ourselves so that we may be healthy and functional, it is about sharing with our children how growing, preparing and eating food together is love.

Go out and share the love!