As an artist/designer/craftsperson, I rarely felt alienated from my work during Pandemic 1.0, although the work and focus have certainly changed. Fortunately, inspiration abounds and I continue to make, if only for myself(!). We can all probably attest to the the foundation not feeling as steady as it did before – not quite back to “normal”…and sometimes, we may feel we (collectively) are regressing…. but we press on. And so it goes in my world. Here’s what’s been happening (at least some of it) and what’s on the horizon.

Upcoming Workshop

The third piece in my natural dye series revolves around printing/mark-making (specifically on cloth) with thickened natural dyes. 9/18-19/21, SEFAA Center, Atlanta, Georgia. Learn more.

Current Work

Much of my decorative and fine art work is created with naturally dyed cloth, including emerging 3-dimensional work and hand-stitched, applique layered modules. This work continues. See more about 3-D and Stitched Modules.

Petal-Una Collection

My “artisan apparel” line, Petal-Una Collection continues, for now. This container for my wearable work is now entering its 10th year! From this point forward, I’ll be celebrating its unfolding as I continue to create a limited number of RTW and custom hand-dyed/painted/printed wearable pieces. Look for changes in the coming year as this part of my practice enters its next phase. Visit the Petal Website to see more.

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This year, I was invited to submit work to The Hambidge Center auction (www.hambidgeauction.org).  If you don’t know about it, Hambidge is a non-profit arts center in the North Georgia mountains offering short-term residencies, as well as other programs and events.  I have not yet experienced a residency, but my work has – in years past, I have had pieces in the Weave Shed Gallery at the mountain campus; I’ve also had work in past auctions.  I have always felt honored to be included with the amazing and diverse group of artists featured at each auction.

While an historically live event, things are a bit different this year. Much of the process will take place virtually.  As an adjunct to that, I thought I would tell you a bit about the pieces I have in the auction.  Bidding started on 10/9/20 and will continue until 9:00 pm on October 24.   Typically there are two components to the auction – one, a fixed-price gallery with 2-D works and then the auction itself. 

My offering for the fixed-price segment is entitled “Network One” – Monoprint on paper, enriched with ink, pastel and gold leaf. It is a stand-alone artwork part of a larger and continuing series of pieces with the same character and foundation.   I was trained in a discipline (Landscape Architecture) which, at the time, relied on hand-rendering/2-D graphic skills for project design, process mapping, and previsualization. (I went to school during that window when working in CAD was an elective pursuit!)  Fast-forward, as a textile and fiber artist I continue to spend a certain amount of time working on paper.  Much of my 2-D work now is still rendered by hand and is primarily process sketching. Occasionally though, the results become part of a different sort of thought process.  The idea of “networks” is not a new one in art, and especially not in fiber art.  This is my contribution to that conversation. This work is on-going. Check out more from the series here.

“Network One” with detail

My main piece is Sheltering in Place: A Meditation Series – Weld Appliqué Diptych This project was launched at the beginning of “lockdown” (March, 2020) as part of an on-going exploration of natural dyes.  As time passed, the repetitive rhythm of hand stitching became a source of daily calm during the anxious early days of the pandemic.  As a diptych, they are metaphorically “hinged” by process and intention.  As part of a series, they are a witness to the moment and reservoir of hope for the future. 

Sheltering In Place: A Meditation Series – Weld Appliqué Diptych

I continue to work with natural dyes and create these modules.  While I have several other pieces along these lines, the fresh, Spring-like, warmth of the Weld color feels the essence of hope as we continue to slog our way through this current version of normal.   I hope you will visit the auction and support the Center (www.hambidge.org).  Here is a video short I put together about the Sheltering piece and process.

Fall approaches and, as expected, we are all still riding the pandemic wave, hopefully able to adapt to this new meta-reality, one which is not likely to change for some time. I will soon follow this post with a studio update, but I had a few ideas to share in connection with a book I recently read (actually listened to, since I spend a lot of time working in my studio) – The Death of the Artist: How Creators are Struggling to Survive in the Age of Billionaires and Big Tech, by William Deresiewicz. It was published in July of this year but was written pre-pandemic. The book is dense and there is plenty of commentary and criticism to explore elsewhere online. However, the book definitely stimulated my thinking about what it means to be an artist in the early 21st century. I don’t agree fully with its conclusions or some of its recommended solutions, but much of the book rings true. If you refer to yourself as an Artist, you will want to read the book and draw your own conclusions. Here are just a few of my own (surprisingly motivational) observations – maybe they will resonate for you too.


The posts on this platform address my experiences as an artist / designer / craftsperson* – these have not fundamentally changed during the current pandemic. As noted and evident throughout Deresiewicz’s book, navigating The World and its economic terrain as a creative professional** is fraught with chills and spills, to which I and every artist/designer/craftsperson I know can attest. I love what I do, but challenges exist. Wherever we are on the continuum, we have to attend to the needs of body (as well as mind and spirit). Choices must always be made and for most of us that means, in part, doing something to pay the bills. I have worked “in the world” to meet many of those needs. I am currently able to work full-time as an artist / designer / craftsperson and a lot of that work still takes place “in the world,” except that it is nearly always provisional (a fact on which I prefer not to dwell). Committing to a life as a creative professional without a financial safety net requires a certain amount of blind trust, incredible motivation, and a deranged desire to manifest a personal vision. It can be pretty daunting (if not impossible) to sustain this level of energy and commitment day-in-day-out, especially as one ages. Throw in a pandemic and attendant economic downturn and it might be downright suffocating – exposing and nearly extinguishing the fire at the heart of what has always been a fragile and uncertain proposition. And, as Deresiewicz notes, these insecurities have an impact on the nature of the Art one makes.

However…..In the face of the current and continuing challenge to the arts and artists on all fronts, I find numerous bright spots. First, I think this pandemic era, as horrifying and dislocating as it has been, has given us an opportunity to see and appreciate with greater depth our humanity and our frailty. This feels crucial: artists must be able to take this perspective if we are to speak to the concerns of our time with authenticity. Second, importantly, we have the opportunity to look at our historical past as a point of reference for understanding our current lives and predicaments. Where art/artists, etc. are concerned, the body of historical evidence demonstrates that the means and media of transmission, the financing of the work, and the nature of one’s audience are neither stable from one era to the next, nor generally within our control. This we know with certainty. For example, step back a spell and rather than “Billionaires” and “Big Tech” (to use Deresiewicz’s behemoths), you find the Church. For centuries, the Holy Roman Empire garnered the power to profoundly influence the type of art being made, the manner in which it was made, and the lives and exertions of those who made it. On this point, Deresiewicz reminds his readers that the makers of art during the “Middle Ages” (much of it architectural and commissioned by the Church), comprised countless anonymous artisans and craftspeople. The concepts of Art as a stand-alone discipline and Artist as individual/inspired genius did not come until later.

That leads me to some closing thoughts (and thank you for persevering). We are likely living through another great transformation. Historians will be able to put it into clear perspective later, but it is apparent that ideas, information, and other cultural and social underpinnings (not to mention our physical world) are in serious flux. That can feel pretty destabilizing, and it is actually. But is also full of possibility, and that is an energizing prospect. Adopting a broader historical perspective, whenever possible, can help to dissipate some of the anxiety we feel as individuals, whether as creative professionals/practitioners in contemporary culture, as members of a civic body, or as friends, spouses, parents, children, sisters and brothers. Further, if we define Art as the product of “individual creative (wealthy/well-appointed) geniuses”, then it has historically only been easy for and accessible to the lucky few (notwithstanding the seemingly arbitrary nature of the criteria for their selection). That mean that the rest of us still have to get up every morning, face our limitations and do the Work anyway, because we have been “called” to do so. Thinking about ourselves as creative beings traveling along a historically rich and varied continuum feels more inviting, inclusive and open-ended.

Embracing my life as a creative expeditioner has given me “permission” to renew my commitment, to mark the spot and get busy making (and living), each day hoping that the mastery of balance between needs of the body/mind and the needs of spirit will be forthcoming!

Notes:

The scope of my practice layers the sensibilities embodied by all legs of the primary triad of creative disciplines: Art, Craft and Design.

**I know the word creative is off-putting to some but I am using this is a broad sense to include the full spectrum of the arts, “fine” art, literary arts, the “applied” arts (design, craft), as well as the performance arts. Deresiewicz looks at the broad categories gathering anecdotal evidence from practitioners to support his arguments.

My personal response to this unusual time in history has been varied, moving from a fear-based emotional roller-coaster ride to an increasingly calm, pragmatic, and emotionally sustainable progression, punctuated by moments of true equanimity.  It is the uncertainty that gnaws the most, but more reason to come to accept and befriend it.  In addition to staying as connected as I can, my solution is to continue my work with as clear an intention as possible, staying the course.  So, although shows and other events have canceled, the work continues.  Here are some of the highlights so far this year:

The Sampler Quilt

I continue to print, paint and otherwise employ natural dyes in a variety of ways and use the by-products of that work to various ends.  When I work with any dye class, I tend to have a lot of bits available for piecing.  I am now deliberately creating pieces of cloth specifically for a sampler quilt, which I hope to have completed in the Fall of 2020.  This may be ambitious but I am weekly working toward the goal.  So far, I have 2 sets of modules either completed or being stitched (and appliquéd), one in Cochineal & Logwood; one in Cochineal, Logwood and Madder.  Next up: Weld, Myrobalan and Pomegranate (alone and with Indigo). I am posting these results regularly on IG (@kathycoltartisan) and FB, and will certainly show the quilt as it grows.

Petal-Una Collection 

My artisan apparel project progresses.  I am determined to keep all lines of inquiry open in the studio and wearable work continues to offer opportunities for exploration and cross-fertilization. I’m also currently working on my web shop and exploring other means of sharing this work in the absence of my regular seasonal studio sales. If you’re interested in learning more about this work, follow this link.

New Art

I developed a curious aversion to “nuno” felting during my cancer experience.  Perhaps the end of that line of work was looming anyway. In any case, now that I am in thrive mode (getting busy livin’), I am finally liberated from that particular prison of the mind, and have begun to reengage – not with felting per se – but with the ideas I was exploring through felting.  This hiatus (and who knows how long it will last) has allowed me to incorporate new materials, forms, ideas and motivations, as well as explore the intersection between my chosen media and other non-fiber media.  There is much more to come here.  My eyes are wide open.

Workshops 

Before the “stuff” hit the fan, I was able to facilitate a workshop and also record further reflections on Indigo.  Late last year, I had scheduled a workshop on direct application (painting/printing) with natural dyes.  That was supposed to take place in late-June.  It was, of course, canceled.  Unfortunately, I have not yet found a way to convey this work on a digital platform without taking an inordinate amount of time from my studio activities, so that will have to steep some more.  Perhaps all will be revealed in the coming months.  Meanwhile, there is much to do elsewhere and I will still look forward to the time when we are able to gather again in a live workshop setting.  (I trust this day will come again one day.)

Finally, It is an odd set of circumstances that leads us all to where we are at this moment.  Life is short.  There is much to do but still time to rest and receive.  I am therefore grateful to my yoga teacher Uma Devi and her Guru, Swami Jaya Devi, at Kashi Atlanta, as well as Dunya McPherson and her work, DanceMeditation.  Thanks to live-stream and the ubiquitous Zoom meeting, I have been able to reincorporate these vital movement pathways into my life.  This has been a great gift in these times.  Keep working on cultivating/activating those blissful moments in the studio, in your work, on the mat… and carry them into your lives as fully and as often as you can!

Things have been quite busy in the studio and I realize I have not posted since November of 2018!  (Again, best laid plans – I am beginning to see pattern here (wince)!)  However, after this little update, I have some natural dye reflections I initiated back in March and never got around to publishing, among other things.  As “archaic” as this format sometimes seems, it still has relevance across the spectrum. For me, it serves a real purpose, which I had lost track of for a spell but now reclaim: writing as process-witness.

My practice continues to evolve.  Two full years after a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, I never thought I would find myself in a hopeful place around my studio work…but I do again.  I finally found my way back to the heart of the work, to my true flow, and that feels pretty fabulous.  The work begins to look and feel different to me although clearly on the continuum of a process begun so many years ago.  And while I have never been one to rest too long on one technique – I am sure that is my Aries nature – I am still working with cloth and fiber because there is still so much there to explore!     

So, before I resume essay-esque pursuits, I thought I might just provide an update for the record – a brief flashback to the first several months of 2019 as a way of clearing the way for whatever is to come. 

January: Lots of natural dye experimentation – mostly direct application and immersion variations with indigo, madder, tannins and ferrous after-baths.  Began working on my new wearable collection for the April open studio.   I also began experimenting with alternate hand-stitch processes which have now been incorporated into some of my wearable work.  In the midst of the studio experimentation, I was immersed in preparations for a presentation on Sustainable Making at the Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance.

February:  I continued working with natural dyes, mostly direct application with gum thickeners, exploring layering of color and assistants in various floating (unregistered) patterns on a wide range of cloth surfaces.  The process of working with natural dyes is much more labor- and time-intensive than working with their synthetic alternatives and because of this, the work feels almost contemplative.  I want to explore this entire complex topic in future posts.  But for now, suffice it to say that natural dye print processes are now a solid part of my studio practice.  Also ever-present now is my organic indigo vat, and I did get around to making some new pieces for a local craft pop-up and the first installment of the 2019 wearables.

March 2019:   My time in March was largely spent preparing for the April open studio, although I did take some time to facilitate an indigo-dyeing mini-workshop at the studio one fortuitously-gorgeous Spring morning.  I also received my copy of The Art and Science of Natural Dyes (yay!) and reflected on my early exposure to natural dyes with Catharine Ellis which work has so thoroughly enriched my current studio practice.

In April – I hosted an open studio and continued to develop more work, including a new collection of totes, as well as naturally dyed cloth, and stitched appliqué detailing.   All of my wearable work is presented under the label Petal-una Collection.  This line has been an active focus of my creative energy since 2012.   If you want to learn more about it and see more looks follow this link.

All of which brings me to the present moment.  I will save that for next time!  Meanwhile for fairly regular and consistent check-ins, I am on Instagram and FB – the links are scattered throughout this website.   If you would prefer to keep up via this blog, that is awesome too!

Thank you for following along.