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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pointillism In Glass

I unintentionally confused some folk on Facebook when I called it this... to me it made sense because it's producing an image in dots. And those dots are little tiny size 11 glass beads.  But when you throw a thought out there it conjures up *many* different ideas and interpretations.  I'd love to see the physical form of some of those ideas. :-)

Now going way back  to junior high and high school in Ketchikan Alaska - this is when and where I first became acquainted with applique beading on felt and woolen cloth.  The ones I learned from were marvelous... Doug Hudson in junior high and then the legendary Esther Shea.  I learned so much, especially Tlingit flat design translated to beads and cloth.

But kids being what kids are, I learned, but did not continue.  It wasn't until just a few years ago that I picked it up again... and I surprised myself at how much I'd remembered!  It's kind of like riding a bike, when you do pick it up again you slide right back into it.

The method I learned was pick up 4, and go back through 2. This is all well and fine, til I began doing tiny crazy detail work.  Detail, that's something I just can't stray far from.  A couple of years ago I was working on some of this beading at the Puyallup Fair while exhibiting at the Fred Oldfield Western Heritage and Art Center, and a very kind Yakima Indian lady came by, who was quite skilled at beading. "Oh no!" She admonished. "That will be too loose for you. Pick up two beads and go back through one!" That small bit of advice kindly given made a very big difference!  It's the only way I'll do applique beading now.

When I picked up the beading again it was by way of being overwhelmingly inspired by a form of beautiful Alaskan regalia known as an Octopus Bag.  This intriguing bag began with the Metis in Canada, and its popularity grew with those who came in contact with it.  The bag was adopted from tribe to tribe, all the way to the east and west coasts. Mid-continent knew it as the Fire Bag, and because of its two set of four legs, amongst the Tlingit it was called Octopus Bag and amongst the Iroquois it was a Spider Bag.  With the Tlingit it was traditionally worn only by a Chief or prestigious speaker, but now it's worn by dancers, men and women.

Alaskan Wildflowers bag. My very first, and the only one fully completed so far.

The thing about them though, is it's very hard to find anyone who makes them.  Also, you just don't see them outside Alaska. I learned how to make them by examining museum photos online, and also guesstimating their size by those worn by dancers in other photos.  Since I began showing them at Native shows, I have since learned my interpretation is pretty darned close to those worn and used by tribal members back in Alaska.
Raven-Steals-The-Sun bag. The bright colors and contrast were great fun.

The first one I made was given to a dear Native friend upon her retirement.  I have since built two others in a contemporary Native style, both still need their shoulder straps.  The fourth one recently completed (also still needing its shoulder strap) was a PNW/Celtic blend... the bag design is unmistakenly PNW, but the beaded decoration is very Scots-Celtic.  I really need to get better at knotwork, but I'm happy with the way the large and detailed thistle came out.
Hummingbird bag. You can see I'm getting more detailed!

Since playing with Octopus Bags, and also doing bead work on a hand-sewn Button Blanket (also traditional PNW Native regalia), I've ventured off into other hand-sewn items.  But I'll go further into that in a later post. ;-)

Celtic bag in progress. I ended up using nearly a whole hank of dark green beads for this thistle.
Working in the knots.  Beads really do have a mind of their own!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Saying good bye to 2010 with an eye on 2011

Fusions Gallery, Ocean Shores WA
Last Saturday found me painting demos at Fusions Gallery during the final Art Walk of the year for Ocean Shores.  I love coming to this gallery, especially to do demos - the owner is wonderful and so is the staff.  The gallery displays are always cheery and forever rearranging, inviting the visitor to have a wander and see what's new.  I'm already making plans for the next visit. 

Fusions is now home to my two 'murals', 16x20 canvas paintings in acrylics of Northwestern Scotland; 'Eilean Donan Castle' and 'the Auld Man and his Flock' (Old man of Storr with Hebridean sheep). Yes, 16x20 is a mural for me! Each took me months to do.  The feathers are not forgotten, though - in January I will be bringing in new feather paintings that are currently underway.  One of those is an experimental project, fusing two feathers together for an extra wide canvas.  Working with such a thing is proving to be much trickier than I anticipated! It's such fun to work with galleries that enthusiastically try on new things from their artists.

Eilean Donan Castle, 16x20 acrylics on canvas, (c) Julie Thompson 2010
With the canvases comes the added benefit of prints.  I've only had one photographed for prints so far, and that's Eilean Donan.  The Auld man and His Flock will come soon.  I'm offering Eilean Donan as a signed open-run print, single-matted for an 11x14 frame at $25 each.  There will be plans for canvas prints in the future.

There will be another new addition for 2011, workshops in feather-painting.  I'm looking at two venues so far, and one already has me scheduled for classes.  Patrons who would ask me to consider teaching have most often expressed interest in wolves, so that is the subject we will begin with at Lucas Art Gallery in Graham WA on March 12.  I will supply the feathers, of course. Class size for this one is limited to just ten students.  On May 13 at the same venue we will be painting songbirds.  Folks who are interested may contact the gallery after the first of the year and sign up.  From the interest so far, I expect these classes may fill quickly.  As classes for the second venue come together, I will let you know dates, location, and subject. 

2011 is shaping up to be a busy year!

Monday, December 13, 2010

That One-Word Theme for the Year

If you've followed my blog for while, you know I've become a big fan of the One-Word Theme - thanks in large part to Christine Kane.  Let's face it - 'traditional' style New Year's resolutions rarely survive past the first week.  It's easy to see why - a traditional New Year's resolution is little more than a wish.  Wishes are too vague to prompt any kind of action.  A wish that has been honed with specificity is no longer a wish, it's now a goal.  Goals beg for action.

The One-Word theme helps you paint a picture of what you want your coming year to look like.  You look around you and decide what needs to be changed. What are your goals for the coming year? Can they be brought together with a single word?

For 2009 I set my theme with 'Commit'. It was a strong action word that helped me realize a set of goals that felt impossible at the time.  What, fly to Scotland for a 3-week solo adventure, travel around the country just me and my backpack, and make it happen with my painted feathers? And pull that together in 7 months' time??  Something like that required commitment.  Purchasing my plane ticket early in the year was definitely a commitment to that goal.

2010 was a bit of a wash. My goals lacked the specificity and time deadlines that 2009 had.  My word was weak and fuzzy too. 'Grow'.  Not good enough to really make things develop.  If there's anything I've learned about this one-word theming of a year, it requires planning and dedication.  The more committed you are (there's that word again), the more effective it will be for you.

After a bit of study, heavy thinking and contemplation, running about the internet making parallels and comparisons on some of my thoughts and ideas, I've finally settled on a word... but because of the level of effort I put into it this time, it feels more like the word chose me:

I won't go further into that now, but promise to explain it a bit further - a bit later when I've pulled the information together.  This one is using a little more than a set of goals and a one-word theme, and has had a lot of thought put into it.

Do you have a theme for your 2011?

"Raven Steals The Sun" painted rawhide drum.  (C) Julie Thompson

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A slow recovery

It's been a tragic long time since I've updated here, and artwork has suffered too.  Since the Puyallup Fair in September I have been very ill, which has devastated so many plans that I had hoped to accomplish by now.  Three solid months of sickness will take a lot out of you!  Once I've got my strength and vitality back, I won't be taking good health for granted again!

Health is coming back quickly though, so watch for new things from me in the near future.  I've other art projects underway, a new print available, and will be teaching some feather-painting workshops in the Spring.

Onward and upward, and more soon!

Portion of a new canvas painting underway - 
Title - 'Long Ago When Raven Was White'