Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Wednesday Art Update

Working on the birch bark hats has reawakened my love of beading. Obsessive, microscopic, colorful, careful and beautiful beads. I've done it on and off since I was a kid, in different forms. The beadwork I'm doing on the hats is pretty simple compared to what can be done with beads. Check out David Chatt! What an artist! My very favorite is "Flab Bag," which I saw in a book and had to research the creator of such an object. Fabulous stuff. What a patient man.
Now---must get away from the hats for a few hours (at least) and do something else with my life. Errands, cleaning, thinking of something other than bark..... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Birch Bark Hats continued...

In my studio, working on the hats. I have grand visions of a perfectly organized and tidy studio, but since this would entail building perfectly organized and tidy shelves, I haven't managed it yet. I LOVE this room. I'm lucky to be able to spend about 4-6 hours a day in here this month.
I listen to books on tape while I work. Right now, I'm listening to "To the Power of Three," by Laura Lippman. Pretty good so far, and a good narrator. (A bad reader can totally ruin the best book...) These days I am spending all of my time working on art and working on the house. Not a bad life....

This is a close up of 'Hat #2.' I've made the initial body of the hat out of one single piece of bark. I've left the orange-cork side out and I'm sewing-beading panels of lighter bark on the outside. The lighter color is from peeling away layers of the bark to reach the inner, smooth surface. I really like the way the directional growth lines in the bark are intersecting!

Here is a shot of both hats, half finished. The one on the left is a very complex design, using many more pieces=much more sewing. The bottom edges are warping quite a bit, so I'm going to add on a stabilizing form near the end to ensure they keep the even, round shape. I still want to make sure that these hats are functional, however. I want to make sure that if worn in the rain or sun, they don't leak. They are functional objects, after all, not merely craft sculpture. Perhaps decorative functional....

When I did a broad web search for 'rice paddy hat,' this is one of the first I came upon from the Discovery Channel. Brilliant, eh? Apparently, you can use this solar hat to charge your cell phone. They also describe a solar purse to do the same! I would use the hat out hiking to charge my GPS or something.... Posted by Picasa

Birch Bark Art

I've been working on a new art project to enter in the "Earth, Fire, Fibre" exhibit at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art next month. I've been collecting and working with birch bark to make birch bark rice paddy hats. (Also known as 'coolie' hats, but I don't know the real name for them.)
I first made a sketch for a bark hat two years ago when I took a Native Arts class from Alvin Amason at UAF. Bernice Custer was a guest teacher and showed us her method for making birch bark baskets from carefully cut and sewn layers of bark.
I peeled this bark from a tree I found on the North fork of the Chena River. The tree was felled by a beaver and the crown had fallen into the water. Given this moisture, the bark was fairly easy to peel away from the tree. I felt much better about harvesting from a dead fall than from a live tree. Bernice told us that it doesn't hurt the tree at all to peel a certain amount of bark from it, but for some reason, I just can't quite believe this.

This is the basket I made in class. Students either truly loved or truly hated this project. I, of course, was in the former camp.
Sewing bark is hard work---like sewing dense cardboard. Each step of these baskets is very time consuming and a wrong step means hours of re-construction. This basket is make with birch bark, willow, spruce roots and artificial sinew. No glues! My main artforms to date are photography, painting and drawing, but honestly---I love making things with my hands....anything and everything. Birch bark was a new and fabulous material to experiment with.

I'm modeling the template for the first bark hat. I needed some kind of stiff paper or cardboard to make this mock-up, and realized I had several failed watercolor paintings laying around. A bit of cutting and measuring and voila! I actually like the hat version of this painting more than I liked the painting. I plan to finish this hat with a chin strap of some kind so I can use it in the garden.

Here is a full view of the template hat. So clever. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 24, 2006

Yellow critter...

Frommage and I found this critter on an overgrown gravel
driveway leading to an abandoned cabin out near Harding Lake.
We've both grown up in this area and have NEVER seen
a caterpillar like this! 2" long, bright yellow, dark dorsal stripe,
black dots along each side....
As soon as we got home, we looked online to identify him.

It's Cimbex americana, an elm sawfly larvae. There are no
elms native to this region, but they do feed on birch, willow
and aspen. I found this image courtesy of Forestry Images.
What a beautiful creature. Posted by Picasa


Self portrait...
Frommage and I went canoeing all day yesterday on Harding Lake.

I love to be in the it my control-freak nature?
I was taught canoe maneuvers in the stern....I feel like it's
where I belong...Plus, I have a wicked-ass paddle arm. I
can power paddle like nobody's business. The only person
I have ever been equally paired with in a canoe that can
match my paddling strength is my sister! Frommage, always
an encouraging soul, says I should develop this odd and specialized
talent and become a world-class kayaker. I agree! Someone give
me a kayak!

We beached for a bit to check out what looked like a small cabin hidden
away in the woods on the edge of the lake...

(A good shot for Abandoned Building Monday image.)
This long walkway/dock led to the cabin, still in use, as we found out.
This must have been built 15-20 years ago as the water level was 50 feet
out further than the dock...
We agreed that we like canoeing rivers more than lakes...the changing
scenery is better! Harding Lake has been enormously built up with
big, ostentatious houses crowding the shoreline. There were jet skis and
boats everywhere. We did see a couple of kayaks, but the only canoes we
spotted were high and dry on the grasssy lawns of the houses.
Next weekend is a river canoe trip... Posted by Picasa