an experiment in leather

I have increasingly become inspired by usable art.  I have a lot of leather scrap at my studio and I’ve made bags, jewelry and clothes, but I’ve never experimented with housewares.  This was basically a sketch of what I would like to create.

A word of caution: if you are going to “bake or cure” your leather you want to do so when no one is around and the windows can be open.  It smelled pretty funky, however by baking it in the oven when it was damp it did somewhat achieve what I hoped it would do.  The piece held the shape I intended.  This leather was too floppy though.  I have to work with leather that has more structure.  I will be doing more of this in the near future. I’m always in favor of some experimentation.

“Learn to fail or fail to learn.” —Tal Ben-Shahar.

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Yesterday I painted a mural.

It’s been a long Christmas, New Year’s break and lots of togetherness with my brood—but enough is enough.  I haven’t been in my studio.  I haven’t made anything and I was going absolutely bonkers.  So, yesterday I looked at our back entryway (also stairwell to the basement) and I went to work on an idea I’ve had for a while. This project took me all day long and into the evening.

It’s a wall we look at more than any others in our home…coming and going all day long.  First of all, painting a mural and projects of a similar ilk need to happen when my lovely husband, Jeff is out of town.  No judgement honey, just the way projects like this have gone down for 25 years.  He was gone. I went to work.

I used all of the paint samples I had in the house and I tried Valspar Antique Glaze from Lowes.  (No paid endorsement here, but I will tag them in my post). The technique is very similar to my paintings on wood. My art always looks unfinished to me until I distress and give it an antique glaze. I distress everything, my jackets, shoes, boots and so on.  If I haven’t distressed it myself by years of use, I’ll happily take my power sander to it….speeding the process along.

I think it needs a hint of red orange someplace and that will show up this week.  For now, every time anyone walks into my home they be reminded of LOVE or as my son, Ellis said with a shrug as he saw the early stages of the mural, “whatever keeps your menopause at bay, Mom”. Indeed.

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The Artist—Maddy Brookes

Maddy Brookes’ idea to fund a trip to Europe next summer by selling her paintings to study art and culture and lend even more depth to her work is absolutely brilliant.  Maddy is a junior at The Rhode Island School of Design. She’s a remarkably prolific painter and also happens to be the lovely girlfriend of my son, Ellis Govoni a student at Landmark College in Vermont.

Think about the art market right now.  It’s nuts.  A small investment in a young painter could be very valuable one day.  Jeff and I made a small investment in the early 1990s in the artist—Ethan Murrow.  It was a really good investment, even if it was a stretch for us at the time.

Here’s the link and a chance to acquire a Maddy Brookes original painting:  https://www.gofundme.com/vz5sr2rd

Cake Maddy Brookes

Maddy Brookes acrylic still life two

See more work of Maddy’s at: https://maddybrookesart.squarespace.com/

I’m very inspired by the boldness of Maddy doing this and I have to tell you why.

As an artist myself, the idea that I have “a product” is very challenging…the work is personal and makes you vulnerable to criticism.  If I sold furniture, cars, sweaters, lawn mowers or cut your hair no one would think twice about me promoting myself and being very upfront about the price of that item. I’m going to challenge myself to put a few pieces up with the price tags and see what happens.  Thank you, Maddy.

Even when perspective buyers visit my studio I treat them like they’re visiting a museum.  That’s crazy.  I have a product.  Actually a very large inventory of products and I basically don’t ever let anyone even know that they’re for sale.

However, with art there seems to be a different relationship. Stay with me a moment.  If a 20-year-old college student told you that they were working to save money for a trip or to buy a car or further their education everyone would praise that effort.  However, with art there’s a perceived arrogance and it isn’t remotely fair.

Maddy has an AMAZING PRODUCT and she’s selling them to fund her desire to travel and further her education as an artist.  I hope you’ll check out Maddy’s work and even if you’re unable to purchase a painting, please send a note of encouragement or forward the link.  You have no idea what an e-mail saying, “I like your work” can mean to an artist.

Maddy Brookes acrylic still life one  Maddy Brookes self portrait

If I was invited to my own studio…

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I would think it’s a co-op of about five different artists and I wouldn’t even know what to pay attention to.  No wonder when I get there I’m not always sure what I’m going to work on—I want to do it all and sometimes, unfortunately, that’s immobilizing.


I think at this stage of my life I am seeking a more direction.

I don’t want to get static or rigid, but good grief, I think there’s a space in between.


I’ve decided to take a few minutes, get quiet and see what I want to work on BEFORE I take off for my studio.  I’m hoping that simple act will get me more focused and deliberate.  I’ll let you know if it works…but I might forget and you may need to e-mail and ask me about how it turned out. It seems like this just might be a natural state of our world…but I want to fight it.  There are so many things to pay attention to that it’s overwhelming.  OK, off to the studio, but first, I want to check out that song, book, technique, read my e-mail, the news, oh there’s a video I bookmarked…aaaarrgggghhhh.

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Maggie with red purse lillibridge dakota 1966 print sift magazine

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an artist’s lament.

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I will forever be seeking to understand the creative brain better. I have to, it’s a matter of survival. With creativity often comes a fair amount of SADNESS. It’s taken me many moons (I’m almost 49) to come to a truce with my own brain, creative process and THE BLUES.

Sadness in creatives is well documented and studied, however, I’ve decided instead of completely accepting this as an undisputed fact that I will seek a REFRAME.

THE BLUES are a part of me that greatly affects how I see the world and make connections in all facets of my life. THE BLUES are not a human flaw or always a part of a bigger mental health problem. They can truly be a gift.


Of course, when these feelings are systemic and debilitating—they need more attention.


Too often in American culture everything is about HAPPINESS, MINDFULNESS and INSTAGRAMMING a life of JOY. Really, all the time? That’s a lot of pressure.

I thought this quote was quite insightful.

“For creatives, this depression is what amplifies motivation to do their work better. It’s not enough to keep doing what you’ve been doing as a creative, you have to do more, and do it well. That’s empowering, if you can make it through the initial dip in energy.” —Tanner Christensen (The link between depression and creativity, and how it can be good for you.) The link is below.

The key is in understanding that energy dip when you are feeling THE BLUES and ruminating—trying to make sense of something. Today is a good example after another, all too common, senseless shooting in America. How can we not ruminate?

http://creativesomething.net/post/55508909341/the-link-between-depression-and-creativity-and

My REFRAME about my own version of THE BLUES is two fold:

—I’m not going to knock THE BLUES back when it comes to my creative work.
I’m going to welcome them with open arms, a cup of tea and a nap if needed.
I’m going to thank THE BLUES for helping me make sense of this complex world
and for giving my work and thoughts more depth.

—I’m CHOOSING to celebrate the fact that I have a lot of creative ideas for projects and try to not get THE BLUES that I can’t possibly manifest them all. After all there’s only 24 hours in the day…damn it!


That is my reframe of THE BLUES and it’s working for me right now.  Perhaps next time you’re feeling THE BLUES creeping in you can give them a hug and ask them what you’re suppose to be paying attention to right now. The answer might surprise you.

part 2. TEXTILES—The work of Elizabeth Bunsen.

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“I have been dyeing wool and silk with eucalyptus for a few years – the scent that results is enough to keep me going especially during our long winters. I have quite the stash of beautiful samples and experiments… some I stitch (I love using the stitch as a design element) and some have resulted in teaching aprons, hats, pants and even sweaters. For me – a sleeve or a portion of a garment can become an art object all by itself.” —Elizabeth Bunsen

http://thetextileblog.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-inspirational-magazine-from-textile.html

When Elizabeth refers to these pieces she uses “rusted” as a verb not an adjective.  I love that.  She was showing me different textiles and then let me know how they were “rusted”.

We really connected about making art that is usable and environmentally friendly.  Her technique is easy on the earth and she uses fabric she already has or was given.  That’s how I prefer to work too.

Her work has such a unique quality that at one point when she was showing me a sweater from her mother (top photo) I felt like I should be in a back room at The Shelburne Museum with white gloves on.  I really adore the archeological quality of her work and process…again an ancient pull.

http://shelburnemuseum.org/

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The devil is in the details.

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Frida Kahlo inspired handbag. My steps included.

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I spent an inordinate amount of time on this bag.  I’m thrilled that it turned out looking like a museum piece. It’s has structural integrity, but it looks like it should be handled with white gloves.  I think Frida Kahlo might’ve actually carried this.  I’m not sure which of my models for STRUT will be carrying this bag because it works with all four looks. I could do this type of design for days and neither need rest or nourishment.  I love when I’m in “flow” in my studio.  It’s a rare and unbelievably fulfilling time as an artist.

Yesterday’s studio work for the fashion show.

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My designs are coming together for STRUT—Saturday evening, September 12th at 6:30 an 8:30. If you’re in the Burlington, Vermont area you need to get your tickets soon. These shows sell out pretty quickly.  Here’s the link: http://seaba.com/art-hop/strut/

It was great to be in my studio today…

and I didn’t even turn NPR or music on all day.  I was so happy to be alone with my thoughts, a giant iced tea (thanks to my son) and all of my leathers, fabrics, trims, sewing machines and tools.  I wanted to start working on my accessories for the fashion show (STRUT) on September 12th, in Burlington, Vermont. I’m afraid this bag may be a little dark for the runway.  However, with the right styling it might just work.

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