The Solution

Sometimes creating art is easy.  It flows smoothly and emerges beautifully and before you know it, there it is, finished and lovely.  And sometimes creating  grinds away at your soul, abrasive like sandpaper, wearing down the edges until you’re left with a little pile of shavings and dust and you wonder if it was all worth it.  When I have days like this, I set it aside until I have the strength of spirit to revisit my monster and sand it down some more.  Or sometimes I persevere, doggedly determined to win the fight.

Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose, but either way you gave it your all.  And funny thing, whether you loved the end result or not,  I find that there is usually someone out there who loves the monster you hated.  And often as not, there is someone who hates the darling you love.  Art is so subjective.  As much as I would like it if other people loved my darlings and hated my monsters right along with me, years ago I gave up on controlling my audience.  Once it leaves my hands, it’s out of my hands.

The Winged Chair project is still unfolding, but with my cement failure grinding away at me, I had to find another way to win.  So I turned to the tool that has come to my rescue on countless craft projects.

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Thank you Arrow products!

Ah, the lowly glue gun.  How I turned mine eyes from thy trigger and hot sticky messiness!  You rescued my project from the depths of failure and have redeemed yourself as the maker of high art.  As I turned towards my trusty side-kick, the project took off again.  Speed is of the utmost when using hot glue and I had to develop some new skills rather fast when it came to smoothing out the feathers of fabric.  The glue oozes out in thick wads and cools so fast, the only way to flatten was to run the brayer over the fabric in short bits… often gumming up the roller, necessitating the scraping of glue bits off before moving on to the next part.  I figured it out though and was able to concentrate on my work as the cement fumes were no longer an issue.

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Art, like building, is sometimes  an exercise in problem solving.  When I figured out that building a house was just a series of problems to solve any intimidation I had thinking that a woman couldn’t do the same thing melted away.  Women are excellent builders.  The only thing stopping us is us.  Ok, some good upper body strength comes in handy, but there are ways around that too if you think and… problem solve!

So, next problem on the table was the brocade. Such a picky fabric.  First it didn’t take to the cement.  Then it unravelled mercilessly.  I stopped that nonsense with a judicial application of Gorilla Tape to the back, a good deep press with the brayer and voila!  Clipped those wings right out.

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The backside of brocade sheathed in Gorilla Tape. Good stuff!

The hot glue didn’t bind the edges of the fabric as well as the cement, but I remembered a little crafting secret and used a match to sizzle off loose threads.  Ok, there are too many threads.  Hmmm… what do I have that could melt the fabric edges?

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Caution: tool gets HOT.

Why my wood burner soldering tool should do the trick.  Not only that, it began to crisp up the edges and remelt any scraps of glue.  Aha!!  I liked that effect so I began to draw on some of the fabric with the burner.

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Just starting to darken (by melting) the tips of these feathers.

A flurry of feather shading began at this point.  I used the burner and permanent markers to define some of the edges.  I added some embellishments… maybe more to follow, I’ll have to stand back and ponder that for a bit.  I want to get both wings together before the final touches.

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Getting there!

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Scout takes a snooze through most of this. It’s been raining like crazy so she’d rather nap.

Next post will probably be the finished product, so it may be a few days.  This project has really gotten into my skin… hopefully not with any toxic chemicals!  Still, I find myself thinking about it and wondering what the next one will look like.  This morning I even had a few moments where I wondered how I’d feel sitting in a chair like that.  Would I hear better?  The wings will probably bounce some sound around.  Would I feel like an Angel?  A Queen?  A Fool?  A Genius?

I like that last part.  I’m going with that.

Winged Chairs

My son is going to a very nice college north of here and as I was visiting campus a couple of weeks back, he took me into his art classroom.  He has never been very arts and craftsy…  his creative talents run towards music, writing and performance.  All endeavors I am most fond of, but taking an actual art class (for fun) has swollen this mother’s heart a bit!  He showed me his portfolio, current works in progress and we began to bounce ideas back and forth regarding his upcoming final project. In the center of the room, inside a ring of drawing benches, was a solitary chair.

I was explaining the concept of  “from the ridiculous to the sublime”  in reference to a juxtapositioning of everyday objects to achieve an alternate purpose and theme when I gestured to the chair.   “What about chairs with wings?”  This idea literally popped into my head and out my mouth before I was even aware of it.

He laughed, “What would a chair need wings for?”

And that’s when it hit me… that was exactly the big question.  Why would a chair need wings?  So many reasons… everyone can think about and ponder that for themselves.  It doesn’t even matter what your answer is… it’s subjective and important to you.  It’s really the question that’s brilliant!  Just think about that for a minute.  Why would a chair need wings?

He decided to table that project and go in a different direction, but I couldn’t shake the idea.  I rolled it over and decided I had to build one of these winged chairs.  I really got jazzed up when we visited a local Goodwill store and I scored an old style school chair for $7.  Just the thing that needed wings. When I got home, I sketched out some ideas.

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Ideas emerge.

Then I did a little image Googling.  Did someone else think of this before me?  Am I jumping on some old bandwagon that I knew nothing about… was there a line of winged chairs somewhere that my subconscious dredged up and presented to me as if I had come up with this cool and unknowingly unoriginal idea?  And surprisingly enough… the answer is that there is not much of a bandwagon at all.  I found an art installation in Europe that featured a wall mounted winged chair and another diaphanous Swedish example.  Neither of which I would have seen without a Google search.  And then there were the Shabby Chic-ers whose lacey old time decorating concepts sometimes attach dime store kiddy wings to dressing room chairs.  (gak!)  I didn’t see any Egyptian chairs in my image search, but it did occur to me that somewhere along the history of man, some ancient race may have winged-up a chair.  Those ancients, weren’t they just always putting wings on things?  Shoes, sandals, cats?

So I looked again… and it seems I was right about those Egyptian revivalist chair makers!

 

So while my chair may not be the first, this idea is not currently saturating the consciousness of mankind.  Good enough for me! It actually never occurred to me to do anything less than build these puppies… I really could have just started a painting series, but that’s the direction the idea took.  And it took off.  I just tried to stay out of the way.  I knew I had to build the base out of wood and use heavy fabrics for the feathers.  I swear, I never saw the ironic connection between furniture and feathers made out of upholstery fabric.  It was later, as I was contemplating making a cushion for the chair out of left overs that the connection was made.  Wish I could claim I did it on purpose!  This is what I mean when I say I just get out of the way of these ideas.  They have a life of their own.

 

I bought some thin plywood to make a frame, then drove to a local fabric store.  Econo Sales is a cornucopia of upholstery fabrics and then some.  Need cushions for your boat?   A new awning for your porch?  That’s the place to go.  I probably touched hundreds of bolts of cloth, piling them up on the large table trying to build a palette of colors.  I had no idea which way my hue grouping was going… it just happened and I let it.

Oh so many pretty fabrics!

Oh so many pretty fabrics! You can find them on Facebook under Econo Sales

  Some of the fabrics I bought by the yard, some by the inch.  When it came to the bottom line dollar sign, I did exercise some control over that muse!  I was not about to spend a ton of cash on this project when I didn’t even quite know what I was in for.  I did spring for a very expensive ($25) can of contact cement thinking that permanence in an art project was a good idea and Elmers wasn’t going to cut it.  The cement is a horrific toxic blend of chemicals that will absolutely kill experimental rats just by walking near the can.  It should provide all the hold I need, right?  And kill a few brain cells while it does it’s job. Home with my treasure trove of supplies, I snip off bits of fabric and build a model.
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So lovely… hard to figure out where to start!

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Model wing tests out fabric placement as well as providing me with a taste of fumes to come.

This is when I first notice two things about the cement.  Unless the fabric is coated on one side, it disappears into the material as if it was the answer to a 1000 year drought.  Sucked up and gone.  You are supposed to coat both surfaces where they attach together, let dry for 10 minutes, no more nor less.  The timing here is tricky.  And then there’s the noxious fumes.  Did I mention the dead rats?  I had to work with an open door, open windows with the ceiling fan going and I still couldn’t stay in there more than 15 minutes.  It was going to take me forever.  And kill my muse with meticulous timing.  If the miasma didn’t get to her first.

I am not yet deterred however!  Hope springs eternal!  What’s a few brain cells when it comes to ART??!!  Pish posh, causes cancer, banned in California?  I turn my sights to more important matters.  Getting my jigsaw on the plywood.  Draw one wing, cut it out.

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Sketch is ready for the saw!

Now I am ready to head into the studio where the cement awaits my sacrifice.

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Wings are taking a trial flight on the chair.

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Silver paint to bind the edges. Tidies up any rough bits I missed when sanding.

After the silver edging,  I apply the first layer of fabric which happens to be oilcloth.

Cement goes on both surfaces, I let it dry a bit, then ease the fabric on and use a brayer to roll it all out smoothly.  All goes well.  The oil cloth likes the cement.

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Note brayer in pic.

 

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Once applied, I turn over the wing to cut off excess fabric.

It takes me days to get to this point because of the fumes… I can’t work on gluing for more than 15 minutes at a time.  I do lots of cutting and trimming and save all the glueing for the end but the process is painstakingly slow.  I begin to curse the muse who got me into this mess to begin with.  And still I press on… literally.  Until the cement does the unthinkable. When I get to my next layers of fabric we experience an epic fail.   The cement begins to ruin the work.  It discolors some of the fabrics and creates adhesion problems with others.  Feathers peel off like a bad sunburn.

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Note the discolored brocade! Damn glue!

Sigh.  I close up shop and ride my horse.  No better stress release and she doesn’t care about art one bit.

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Cricket and our view! A life saver.

 

Next post:  The Solution presents itself.

The Oregon Studio

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My studio sign

Hi Everyone!  Welcome to my newly minted blog, The Oregon Studio.  My name is Sky Evans and I am an artist living in, you guessed it, Oregon.  This is my studio and my studio dog, Scout.

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Scout is ready to go in!

The studio lies between the two most important buildings to me, my home and my barn.  All three I have had a hand in designing and building.  Yes, actual hammer swinging, power tool wielding, building.  But I didn’t create this blog to talk about my crazy horse love, or how laying a bamboo floor ain’t that tough… instead, I’ve started this blog to share my art, my ideas, my process.  I figured the studio was a good place to start, even though I do create art in other places.  It’s my studio work I want to really dig into.  So let’s start there:

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Remnants of the last painting.

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The newest project is on the table.

If I had to pick my medium of choice, that would be easy.  I love to paint.  Oils preferably, but I have been known to dabble in everything from house paint to watercolors.  Gouache is probably the only paint I haven’t tried unless you count that horrible school powdered paints which are basically cheap gouaches.  I used to teach art K-12 so I have been exposed to many many cheap art products over the years.  I’ve probably invented a few! Anyway, here in the studio is evidence of two projects… one painted, one mixed medium.  I finished the painting a few weeks back, it’s hanging up to dry… as are the remnants of its palette.  If you guessed from my other “important building” reference, horses are a big deal to me, but NO, this particular painting is not of a horse!  I have LOTS of those and will get around to posting those too, but for now, I am focusing on what is happening NOW. Here is the most recent painting… it comes with a story:

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I came across a photo of an African Kingfisher caught mid air with a fish in its beak and thought it was spectacular.  I couldn’t shake the image, so I cut it out and dropped it off in the studio.  Later that month, I went out to work on a painting of my horse but couldn’t take my eyes off the bird.  So I put my unfinished horse aside and grabbing a fresh canvas, I sketched out the bird.   I often start at the top and work my way down, roughing in the background swirls of color before getting to the bird itself.  Hours “flew” by before I stepped back and decided something was off.  I never use a palette knife except to mix colors but I had just purchased a new one.  It was rubber, like a mini spatula. So, feeling that there was too much paint on the canvas, I used it to scrape off color.

Like getting all the batter out of the bowl, I twisted and turned and pulled off all the black paint from the right.  Wow… I was on to something!  Scraped off the background on the left, leaving swirls, incredible textures and curvy shapes.  Satisfied, I cleaned up and went to bed. The next day, a friend came for a visit and as we were talking about the importance of following your creative muse and how  inspiration should not be ignored, she turned to admire my little bottlecap sculptures.

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Ok yes, I drank some of those.

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Wire, copper and bottle caps.

Cute, right?  I sell these to help pay for my horsey activities.  She asked how I came up with the idea… well, it’s no secret artists “borrow” from  each other.  I showed her the ostrich bottle cap statue I bought at World Market.  They make these things in Africa and I took the concept in another direction.  As I picked up the ostrich, I noticed a cap I had never seen before.  It was a kingfisher! That seemed like a sign…  everything we had just been saying was punctuated by that bottle cap.  It was an “if you build it, they will come” kind of moment (Field of Dreams reference here).  I’m all for listening to signs like that.

The look on my face must have been something, cause she asked what was wrong.  “Come with me”, I said and took her out to the studio.  She was floored by the painting.  Ah, the power of turpentine fumes!!  Well, besides the fumes, she loved it and I do like a little gushing so I took it all in.

I finished the painting later that week so when the next bolt of inspiration struck, I listened up! I’m on to something wild again, and also something bird-like.   Next post:  Winged chairs.