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.
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.
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.
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.
Winding down a crazy year with a final studio update. I thank you for following and look forward to the possibility of seeing you in the new year! K.C.
I’ve been busy with several strands of work since the year began. Each have, in their own way, been integral to my overall practice. Some of them will continue to be so. Here are the highlights:
Natural Dyes. In keeping with my work earlier this year as well as in previous years, I continue my deepening understanding of natural dyes and their applications. In recent months, I have worked in a more focused way with yellow and brown tannins (Cutch and Pomegrante primarily). By blending these tannins with Indigo, and shifting them with iron, a surprisingly wide range of surface design possibilities exist. You can see some of my recent results with Pomegranate rind in my Instagram/FB feed.
Stitching. The work I have been doing with stitching has proved to be incredibly beneficial as a centering practice, as calming as it is creatively stimulating.I recently posted on a diptych I created for the 2020 Hambidge Auction. These stitched works began as modules for a natural dye sampler quilt. As I began to stitch more frequently, I realized that their creation offered space and time for intentional grounding. To that extent, the modules have become elements of a personal time capsule – part of the narrative work that will mark my pandemic experience. As both singularities and parts of a larger composite, they tell me a story of an effort to find some sort of stability in a very unstable, uncertain time. Hand stitching, especially the running stitch, can be deeply spiritual in its repetitive, focused, quiet rhythms. I have found in “stitch space” a calm refuge – necessary more than ever right now.
Artwork: 3-D. I have also begun building 3-dimensional “containers” or “vessels” which I am collectively calling “Receptive”. They are slow-going and emerge when the time is right. 2-D – My work with Black Walnut Hull and other inks continues, as does my work with enhanced monoprints. I will have more to say about these streams of work in the future.
And finally…Petal-Una Collection. Petal continues to be a destination for much of the naturally dyed/painted/printed cloth I produce in the studio. While it has been a slow year, I still managed to pull together a diverse collection. The images below include Cutch, iron-modified Cutch, and Indigo-dyed pieces. I am already brimming with enthusiasm and possibility for the 2021 collection! Visit Petal-Una Collection.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!