Thursday, July 10, 2014

Pure fun


Before designing clothes, jewelry and handbags, there was collage and assemblage. I'm unsure when my love affair with paper began but I know that by the age of 10 I felt it necessary to save certain things.  Inside a box in my upstairs closet sits the November 22, 1963 Fresno Bee from the day of President Kennedy's assassination. Beneath it lies the Beatles captioned photo book I received for my 10th birthday.  Tucked even deeper is the worn, faded spelling book cover made from a brown bag and covered with the signatures and doodles of my fourth grade classmates. I've always saved letters. My favorite ephemerae are true finds- an old paper Sno-Cone cup hidden beneath a vintage photo album from a garage sale. A graphic design textbook full of interesting paper samples and fonts, water stained at the spine but a steal at $2.00. These collections were my first foray into "art" although I declined to call it that.  Later in life, as my interest in collage grew, I was walking down the street in LA, and saw pieces of paper falling from the sky. I looked up to see a man on a billboard tearing off the existing ad while the highly pixelated remnants fell down like big colorful snowflakes. I scrambled to pick up as many as I could.  I used them judiciously in my work,  as a jeweler works with 18K gold.

This love of paper evolved into a line of handmade greeting cards with collaged images stitched to heavy kraft paper.  It became a business. Greeting cards transitioned to cigar box handbags with Bakelite bead handles. Which transitioned to experimenting with image transfer on other surfaces. Which transitioned to Bakelite button jewelry. Which transitioned to collaged vintage tea towel designs. Which transitioned to dresses and tops.  The list continued. My creativity evolved from one thing to another but the consistent theme was an eclectic mix- a collage of one kind or another.  And it was always about business.

Assemblage continues to be the only medium that I do purely for myself- for the simple joy of creating.  Perhaps that's why I enjoy it so.  There's freedom in doing something that is not commerce-driven. Something that doesn't need to reach an end consumer. It starts and stops with me.  It feels pure and fun. When I first started working in assemblage someone mentioned Joseph Cornell. I had no idea who he was.  So I did whatever we did in the late 1990s before Google (Ask Jeeves?) and was overjoyed with what I saw. Simplicity and mystery within the confines of a box.  He had succeeded in doing what I was reaching for.  In a box! My first major project was a set of boxes each one referencing one of the five senses. Vintage sewing machine drawers held ephemera related to sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.  I designed this collection in 1997- to this day, they are my favorite pieces. Perhaps because they are my own?  Without a price point and the scrutiny of others?

The Five Senses 1997

Detail "To Smell"
Detail "To Touch"

Detail "To Taste"
Detail "To Hear"

I recently began to feel the pull toward assemblage.  I pulled out my boxes of "stuff" divided into metal, wood, stone and paper (much lighter after the major cleanse and purge of 2013) and began to assemble.

Each little segmented box ... a life of its own
 
My little Bakelite man now has a home

Vintage wooden bobbins an homage to stitchery

A separate, closed box to house the monkey mind





































































Untitled 2014



Feelings of freedom and joy immediately returned.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Four days in Portlandia


Carl and I had a few free days earlier this month so we decided to take a little trip.  Over a glass of wine, we talked about where we might go and it was Carl's idea to go to Portland.  We've talked about going for several years and so many people have suggested that we'd love it.  So we booked our flights and hotel and we were off!


The first thing we loved about Portland was the rail system. We hopped on the train right outside of baggage claim. Now that's the way a light rail system is supposed to work!


Immediately I noticed the bridges. I hadn't realized that Portland was famous for its bridges.  Carl and I were in the perfect place. We both love bridges.


 


We checked into our hotel and were ready for food. The young man at the front desk suggested we check out a little spot called Veritable Quandary. Turns out we loved the place and enjoyed a couple of great meals there.  It was also the perfect spot for a nightcap at the end of a long day. We had a quick lunch then hit the trail. (This photo is not our lunch.)


Our second stop was the Pearl District, about a mile from the restaurant. It was a beautiful day for a walk. Several friends had suggested a store called Cargo, so that was where we headed first.


Wow. My friends were right.  Very cool import store stocked to the brim with cool stuff from all over the world.  The owner also carries the work of local artists. Carl and I goofed around in the mask department.   ( I ) could have spent hours there. When I noticed that Carl had made his way to a bench outside, I made a couple of purchases and met him outside.



Strolling around town was a lot of fun. Plenty of interesting architectural detail to see and the Portland "weirdness" that we had heard about was everywhere. But in a good way.

 

 


We happened upon the Museum of Contemporary Craft and decided to go in and check out the Fashioning Cascadia exhibit. Lots of cool textile art and a special exhibit by Portland's Project Runway winner, Michelle Lesniak.  We exited through the truly fabulous gift store where I purchased a couple of pieces from local artists.


 


Later in the afternoon we stopped at a cool little bar called The Teardrop. Their specialty is handcrafted  cocktails, so that's what we ordered. The spiced nuts were the best I've ever tasted.

 

Next stop was the famous Powell's bookstore where we continued the theme and purchased "Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails- 100 Rediscovered Cocktails and the Stories Behind Them."  Which reminds me that I've already forgotten about the forgotten cocktails and need to get the book out this weekend.


The following morning the weather turned a little gray and it started drizzling. No problem. We bought two umbrellas at Rite Aid and continued exploring. We decided it was the perfect time to visit the Portland Art Museum.





Dinner was at Departure- the top of The Nines. Again, wonderful cocktails and an amazing array of tapas...our favorite way to dine.  (This photo is from the internet. I wasn't able to find the photographer's name to give credit.)


Day three we woke to the news that Portland was undergoing a serious water issue and that no one should drink, bathe or in any other way use the city water in a personal way. Okay...we just went with the flow (or lack of it) and decided we'd just have to consume alcohol all day. The city's beautiful "bubblers" were turned off. 



We had reserved a walking tour of the city's food carts and headed downtown to meet our guide, Adam, and were thrilled to find out we were the only ones who had signed up for the  tour.  Portland has over 600 food carts and, unlike the food trucks of LA,  they're tethered to the same spot in various empty lots around town. It was great fun and we were treated to tasty samples from nine carts. They included sausage, soup, both Chinese and Georgian (Russian) dumplings, pastrami sandwich, empanada, Korean barbeque taco, and a sugary crispy waffle. Although we didn't sample the Grilled Cheese Grill, they won the prize for the best catch phrase.


 

Saturday's plan was to take the train to Washington Park and visit the Japanese Gardens- another suggestion from many friends. We rode the train to the park but because of logistical issues, opted for the zoo.  We had a great time among all of the families and the three-year olds' meltdowns. Memories...   :)  Here's my favorite photo of the day. He's as tall as and smarter than the average bear.



 
 

Our next adventure was a visit to Multnomah Village. I had connected with a friend on Facebook who owns a boutique and was looking forward to meeting her and seeing her store. We couldn't figure out how to use public transportation to get there, so we hailed a cab. Anne Bocci met us at the door with local, handcrafted vodka shots (nice!) and we got a private tour of her store where she introduced us to the work of many local designers. Carl even got into the shopping mode and shared his opinion on a couple of dresses I tried on. (This may have been the first time ever that Carl has been with me when I shopped for clothes. I think the vodka did the trick.)  I bought two dresses- very different from each other and both beautiful. I can't wait to wear them.  We strolled around the little downtown area, then Anne was sweet to drive us back to our hotel.



The next morning, we met my friend, Peggy, for brunch at our favorite spot.  Can you believe that of all the places we chose to meet, she had worked there as a waitress a long time ago! I love synchronicity. I had an amazing plate of chilaquiles and a Bloody Mary made with beet infused vodka. Wow...it was amaaaazing, as Huell Howser would have said.

  


We decided to walk down the waterfront to the Saturday Market and see the sights. The Portland Rose Festival was in full swing, as well, so there was plenty of eye candy.  Art, craft, flowers, food, amusement rides... it was all happening!




Carl and I purchased a really cool little piece of sandbox art from Olander Earthworks. He designs these cool little concrete balls that leave interesting impressions when you roll them around in very fine sand.  A fun, kinesthetic tabletop piece.



All in all, an amazing four days and we definitely want to return. There's so much more we'd like to do and see. It was a very happy experience.