I recently visited a friend in the fair city of Guanajuato, GTO Mexico – I have been there before and in fact posted in this blog about that trip as well. This visit was a bit different as life-altering experiences had emerged in my recent past, as well as that of my friend. As a result, we both set out with the intention of sewing the seeds of rejuvenation. It really became a launch of the essence of “re” – a return, revisiting, renewal, reinvigoration, revitalization, restoration, revisiting and review on the way toward a new point of beginning. Signs and signals, resources and connections began and continue to be revealed to both of us as we progress through this new terrain.
My images from this trip varied but seemed to have a decidedly architectural focus, especially where roof/facade and sky meet. I was also understandably attracted to the many templos (churches and cathedrals) which populate the religious landscape of Guanajuato (Gto). The architectural residue of a bye-gone colonial era is enriched with structural and superficial decay, but these buildings endure – maybe that was a metaphor taking hold. Even in cases where the buildings have been renovated or “restored” with a nod to another era’s sensibilities, their original presence does not fade. I realize in retrospect that this was a profound symbol of solidity and grounding after a year of standing on shaky ground. In any case, these buildings are essential landmarks which give the entire State of Guanajuato its character, along with the many-colored domiciles stacked on the slopes surrounding the city’s natural structural essence – that of river valley. Indeed, when I arrived, the rainy season had just begun and the imperative of the geographic low point repeatedly asserted itself during my trip as flooding from recurring thunderstorms regularly inundated parts of the city. Of course, the rain also brought a renewal of a green, lush landscape latent during months of seasonal drought in this high desert region.
Rain notwithstanding, I was pleased that we were able to make it outside to see art and eat excellent food, including the most moist and delicious tamal I have ever tasted (thanks to, my sincere apologies to vegetarians, lard). ¡Nos veremos en el futuro, sin duda, Guanajuato! For a slightly different perspective on the trip, visit my wearable site’s journal.
I am into my 10th year as a full-time fiber and textile artist. So many individuals have supported my endeavor along the way that I have decided to dedicate space in this blog to singing their praises. One such individual, who has been in my life from nearly the beginning of this 10-year journey, is Char Z. An energetic spirit, Char leads an active, rich and diverse life. Among other things, she is a creative herself, working in a variety of media. She is an enthusiastic student of technique and has a cultivated keen appreciation of the creative works of her fellow craft-artisans. Not only has Char been there through all of my felted work but she has also nurtured the emergence of my wearable micro-line, Petal-Una Collection. She wears each unique piece with great flair. I recently sat down with Char, in honor of our 10th year together, to look at the impressive group of pieces of my work (mostly wearable) she has added to her collection over the years. I am deeply indebted to Char and honored to know her. Here is a gallery of highlights from my visit – the earliest work appears first.
I feel like the year has been progressing at a rapid pace (even though it is only January 19th!) 2016 was the “year of the wearable” for me, primarily. I am beginning to find flow in my wearable art line, petal-una collection. That work will continue this year, likely branching, as usual, in a variety of directions…but all pointing back to the center – all of my work in the studio circles back on itself, cross-referencing, cross-fertilizing. In addition to creating art-wear in 2016, I was gifted with the opportunity to expand the horizons of my fine art fiber and interior textiles work via a decorative “tile” commission. 2016 may have been a relatively light year for art and interior works but I am ready to resume that stream of work in earnest and look forward to exploring new territory as I dive deeper into 2017.
In the spirit of fresh beginnings, I forgive myself the laying aside of regular posting and other essays/investigations initiated in this journal. My best-laid plans to more deeply pursue natural dyes were “bookmarked” while I worked on my wearable line. I will return to the naturals and pick up where I left off in the coming months. As for the other perennially set-aside plan to post regularly here, I once again begin the year with hopes of improving on that front. To the extent that I do post anything at all, I greatly appreciate your reading and following in this and other platforms (links to all of them are scattered throughout the opening page of this site)!
Wake up and stay awake. Connect and stay connected. Jump into the fire occasionally then dive into the one Ocean with complete surrender.
January 2017. K.C.
P.S. The images are from my Instagram feed – the “best 9” from 2016.
February already! It’s always a month that seems to slip away before it has barely begun! Here is a recap of the past month’s activities and musings:
My readers are hopefully now familiar with my “light” artisan wearable collection,petal-una(www.petalunacollection.com). I have been working on these seasonal collections since 2012 and the upcoming Spring/Summer 2016 group builds on this foundation. My desire throughout the design/build process is always to further my understanding of cloth, form, fit and finish as well as to successfully present my completed work at market. Until now, I have generally approached the collection from the textile, rather than the garment, per se. But things are shifting. For a number of reasons, my textile/fiber artist-self is beginning to catch up with my landscape-designer-self.*
As my creative selves become more fully integrated, the petal-una collections become more integrated, conscious acts of art and design. That means I am taking into account cloth, surface and garment while also holding a variety of production variables in mind like time and cost, work-flow, utility use, marketing (including, but not limited, to social media activities), and a host of other allied considerations. All of these undertakings figure into each piece created in the studio. And, since I am still very much a solo operation for the time being (and there is only so much this body/mind can make manifest in a given calendar year), it is vital that I work as efficiently as possible from concept/design to development, production and completion, without losing sight of my mental and physical well-being. This is particularly important since I still want to make room for art-making! If you would like to see more day-to-day snapshots, please follow me on Instagram! (www.instagram.com/kathycoltartisan).
The fact that I am finding the time and energy I require to undertake all of my creative work is in no small part attributable to coach/consultant/project manager-extraordinaire, Mary Quinn Templeton(www.maryquinntempleton.com / firstname.lastname@example.org). Mary Quinn and I met as fellow fiber/textile artists. At that time, I was at a turning point in my work, not sure what I wanted or where I wanted to go. Since we started working together, the path has begun to clear and my foot-steps are more deliberate. (If this sounds like a testimonial…it is!!) Obviously we are all responsible for making our own “it” happen, but we also don’t live in a vacuum – fresh insight can be liberating – I highly recommend it!
In the process of getting my work back on track, other beautiful gifts have been bestowed:
A Rekindling of Deep Joy. Somewhere along the way, and for a variety of reasons, I started to lose touch with the sheer joy of making. I am now remembering and reconnecting with the reasons why I choose to do what I do in all of its multi-disciplinary, multi-hat-wearing complexity and glory. Bring it on!
Befriending and Embracing Fear. Letting go of judgment and anxiety about myself and my work, the future (and anything else falling into the “monkey-mind” category) is huge (and I don’t think I am alone here!). Radical acceptance of the what, where, when and how of it all, the now of it all, and just getting on with it all, has opened up new and previously unimaginable pathways. After all of these years, I can finally get busy living and doing the Work, and be at peace with that!
Restoring the mental/emotional power grid: Taking responsibility for how I react to all phenomena and circumstances in my life is an on-going process, taken one experience at a time. It’s not always easy, but cultivating equanimity makes for a clearer mind and greater capacity in one’s creative and life work. Why not make more room for that, right?
I am constantly reminded that being a working artist is not for the faint-hearted. Luckily I was blissfully ignorant of the pitfalls or I would not have taken the first step. Well into the journey now, I realize I do it because I must; however, it takes a lot of heart, soul, metaphoric blood, and a lot of sweat, persistence and constant insistence on a daily basis. The day-to-day experience moves back and forth along the continuum: sometimes the process is uneffing-believable in its rich, diverse upwellings; sometimes it is incredibly physically exhausting and/or highly anxiety-provoking to an intensity which weakens creative flow and output. Somewhere in the middle is the Balance, and in that space is the “zone”. After all of these years of designing and making, I recognize a cultivated ability to access the “zone” with greater ease, and finally feel capable of efficiently managing my time, energy and finances to manifest my creative/life vision. Next level? Yes, please!
*footnote: I also think that I have been resisting the idea of myself as a “fashion” designer. However, I am a designer and I certainly work in the fashion idiom from time to time, so maybe it’s time for me to embrace my inner-fashionista more fully!
I have been doing a lot of sewing lately – making garments for my clothing collection, petal-una. (Scroll down for images of some pieces from the new Spring collection). I started this limited edition and one-of-a-kind collection as a counterpoint to felting. I also wanted an opportunity to learn new skills and develop possible wearable formats for my felted cloth. Alas, sewing has never been one of my favorite tasks but the scale of my enterprise makes hiring someone impractical. As it turns out, it has been an eye-opener for me on a variety of levels.
As I construct these garments, it occurs to me how remote the act of clothing construction is from my mind when I slip into my clothes each day. In spite of my understanding of the skill required to design, engineer and assemble clothing, I acknowledge taking this basic facet of living wholly for granted. Anyone who spends time and energy making their own clothing will recognize the investment made in each article, whether it is mass produced or a one-off piece. Creating the petal-una collection myself raises my awareness considerably. After putting together even a modest body of work such as this, I can only say that garment worker/sewing professionals of the world are unsung heroes! This is particularly the case given the fact that many apparel manufacturing factories throughout the world reflect 19th century industrial standards and practices a 21st century post-industrial/Western worker would not tolerate.
There was a time when sewing was a common ingredient in most households (long before the mechanical-electric, let alone the electronic sewing machine). My great-grandmother made household accessories and most of the clothing she and her children wore. As far as I can tell from existing photographs, the clothing she created was stylish and sophisticated for the era. As I grew up, I observed my mother doing the same thing for economy and pleasure. With the apparent patience of Job, she plunged into twin outfits, costumes, and other miscellany for my sister and I, as well as clothing for herself. Long before sergers were available, I recall her skillfully assembling and smartly wearing slim-fitting, knit dresses inspired by Diane von Furstenberg’s high-fashion line.
When I was old enough to navigate the machine, I was given basic sewing instruction. I did manage to complete some projects. Unfortunately, though, I have little memory of anything but suffering at the machine, and my impatience resulted in many a frustrating session which usually ended in my mother bailing me out and completing the most tedious aspects of a given project. Of course, I did later figure things out on my own. I took a home-economics class in high school (do they still offer those anymore?) and made tailored clothing which actually fit and which I wore proudly. However, I was attracted to the idea of fashion but not creating it for myself – it was cheaper and easier to buy something when need arose and since I was typically wearing jeans and t-shirts when I wasn’t in my school uniform, there was little motivation to sew. As time passed and I left home, except for the occasional curtain, my sewing career ended…that is, until I started “enriching” fabric and needed a way to give it 3-dimensional life. Given my checkered history with sewing, it is a bit ironic that I assemble my own modest designs today. Nevertheless, sewing is now an integral part of my creative process and I am learning to enjoy it more an more…really!
Racerback Tee, Narrow Scarf and Market Skirt
Hand-dyed, Hand printed Racerback Tee
Tee and Cropped Jacket
Racerback Dress & Cropped Jacket
Knit Racerback Dress & Cropped Jacket, hand-dyed, hand printed