Wednesday, September 26, 2012

At Long Last

Sorry again for my even longer than usual absence.  I was going to post about Create NJ within a week or two of the event but there was a lot going on.  In the intervening 2 months, there's been a lot of scrambling to tie up loose ends at my old job, adjusting to a very different new job, battling severe depression, trying to focus on art, losing focus on art, trying to keep ties to friends, juggling new schedules, and general mayhem.  Even in times when I had the time to sit and blog, I just didn't want to do it when I was in a bad mood, which I generally was if I wasn't keeping myself busy (and sometimes even when I was).  But now I'm feeling okay and I have time and I really want to catch up on all kinds of blogging I haven't done.  And since I like to do things in order, here we go, the saga of the second-best and third-best days of my life. 

So, when Mom and I headed to New Jersey for Create East 2012, I had been feeling pretty low.  But I was psyched, because I was FINALLY going to bow at the altar of take classes with Michelle Ward!  I had my little totebag all organized and full of paints, scraps, brushes, glue, all kinds of stuff, and I was psyched.  Nothing could have prepared me for the rockstar experience, though.

The first day-long workshop was the Debris Journal.  This is where Michelle takes corrugated cardboard, uses tyvek and contact cement to make a journal out of it, and then goes wild with paint and all kinds of scraps and leftovers from other projects.  Let me just mention that contact cement puts off some serious fumes and it will indeed eat through plastic.  But that's okay, we were having a blast getting all sticky and painty and stuff.  I don't think I can really fully describe the environment or the progress of the workshop, but I can tell you that Michelle is every bit as awesome in person as she is on her blog.  She creates such an enriching environment, and really encourages everybody to take the techniques she's teaching and do your own thing with them.  That is something that I feel is lacking from most of the crafting classes I've taken.  Generally, while there is some room for improvisation, in most classes everybody takes home something that looks pretty much the sameish.  In this class, everybody's journal looked completely different, except for them all being the same size and all made of cardboard.  We all used different color palettes, different types of ephemera, and had different composition styles.  Mine looked something like this:

Well, that's how it looked when we broke for lunch, anyway.  Here's a little tour of what I did with it...

First page.  Had fun with cutting out arrows from the top layer of the cardboard to expose the corrugations.  There's a little bit of German text that says "I want to go back."

This spread freaked Michelle out.  Apparently she can't stand blue.  It just drains her.  But I really like blue, and it looks pretty cool with grey, so...

I added a paste-paper tag I had done a couple years ago, and some bookcloth left over from a book I made while interning at the Smithsonian.  And a piece of anaglypta wallpaper that Michelle gave us, which I had also used as a stamp (that's a Michelle trick).

The transparency with the architectural detail and the quatrefoil trim were also freebies for us from Michelle.  The trim doubled as a stencil as well as a decorative element!  Hence the paint on it.  It was black when it started out.  Michelle would not have given us something blue.

MUSHROOMS!  I used Michelle's new gothic stencils with my hand-carved mushroom stamps here.  But it was very bottom-heavy so I asked Michelle for advice, and she gave me some old book paper to tear and sort of "hang" in strips from the top.

And the book paper she gave me was in German, and clearly pre-WWII, which means it was in blackletter which just made it fit in even better with the theme, and then it also makes this...

...a Deutschroom!  (Yes, I know I'm a dork.)

Now, we were supposed to get something down on every page, just to "commit" to it.  I did not, because I got so wrapped up in the pages I was working on, and it got me in trouble with teacher.  So that night, after the Artists' Faire shopping expo (HOLY CRAP the shopping! Carrie has some Michelle stencils now :)) I sat in our hotel room and made sure I got something on every page, even if it was just "There's a thingie here" in pencil.  That got a chuckle from her the next day :)

The second day of awesomeness was the Frond Chronicles workshop.  This was all about stencil cutting and painting techniques.  We cut fantasy and realistic plant shapes out of tyvek (folded down the middle to cut symmetrical shapes) and acetate (for irregular shapes cut with a stencil burner).  Mine were all sort of woodlandy.  And then we used them on backgrounds we had painted on watercolor paper, which is now a preferred substrate of mine.  Don't know why I never really thought about using it for this mixed media typey stuff before.  Anyway, Michelle showed us brush techniques and some of her stencilling methods and tricks, and then let us play with it all.  So here is the Pocket Size Magical Forest of Frondy Wonders...

I forgot to take a picture of this background before I went at it with the stencils.  But it was pretty nice, as backgrounds go.  I was glad I had chosen the colors I did for this project, because they were really different from what anybody else was working with and they were pretty new for me too.

Another background.  You'll see this spread again.

You can just barely see my acetate stencil in this one.  It's up there in the upper right corner, where you can still see the sharpie marks on some of the edges where I drew it.  By the time I was done, this page was covered with ivy.  I haven't taken a picture of the finished page yet.  Sorry, I'm slacking with the pics.  But if it's not too vain of me to say, I'd like to note that someone else in the class actually asked if she could copy this stencil.

I really liked this predominantly red background.  Don't know why I didn't take a picture of the finished page.  This one got the willow treatment pretty heavily, with the willow stencils that dominate the top of the page at the beginning of this tour.

I was going for a lichen look here.  Ok honestly I was just dripping paint on the page and then I smushed the book shut and when I peeled it open again it looked lichen-y.  But I haven't done anything with this spread yet because I don't want to cover up the background too much.

This is what it looks like closed.  It pretty much still looks like this, because I haven't done the covers yet.  They'll come last.

I did this at home afterwards, on that page I said to keep in mind that was all tan and green.  Now it's not just tan and green anymore, is it?

I had so much fun getting all painty and playing with naturey shapes and seeing what other people were doing.  I made some new artist friends, like Nathalie who came all the way from Hamburg, Germany!  Her work is great, check her out.  Overall, like I said earlier in this post, these were the runners-up to best day of my life - the #1 best day being Mr. Pocket's and my wedding day.  I know that sounds dramatic, but it's really true.  While I was in these workshops, I was learning new things, I was being creative, I was experimenting, I was focused, I was engaged, and I was happy.  I hadn't felt like that for a while before the workshops and I haven't felt like that much since.  If "the Pocket" is a metaphor for where I fit, this was the Pocket.  I've been looking for that kind of experience again, thinking that art alone will bring it, but it was just a special environment, surrounded by fellow artists, immersed in new techniques, and accepting Michelle's gracious invitation to creativity.  I'm not sure it can be repeated, but I'm sure as hell going to keep chasing that feeling.

Coming soon... some new and different features for the blog.  One in particular that I'm rather psyched about.  See you sooner than usual!


Maryanne said...

I loved our time at Create, even though we took different classes. But, it was the environment, being with like minded people and sharing ideas, materials and the joy of learning new things. Btw, I love your title for the tan and green page!

michelle ward said...

Carrie, I agree with your mom, great vibe at Create. Loved getting to meet both of you, finally! You were both exactly as I imagined.

Thanks for sharing your recap of the workshops. So fun to see your work again and to revisit the event through your eyes. I love hearing your enthusiasm for being creative and how it makes you feel good. Perfect Rx for the blues....which I'm sorry to learn has crept up. See? Blue is bad.....I've been telling you that! *wink*

Sending hugs.

Diana Taylor said...

Wow - it sounds like you had an amazing time - I would so love to do something like that, Michelle is fantastic isn't she. I love the effects you achieved in her classes, especially the fronds pages and the lichen - what a fab background.
I really love your blue pages too - beautiful work.