Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Fabulous Sandi Schrader

Sandi was already a capable and prolific art quilter when she tried a new method of making art quilt portraits.  Now it's been a few months, maybe a year, and holy cow, she's already made almost twenty.

Look at that work, and look at Sandi!  If that were my work, I'd be smiling too.

Sandi, who is a member of one of my quilting groups, Women Against the Grain, showed us what she does.  She started with a book and a computer program called Sew Art, both by a woman named Tammi Bowser.  

The other day, at the November meeting of Women Against the Grain, Sandi mounted a show of the portraits that she's created since she discovered the Sew-Art.  Then she demonstrated her technique to members of the group.  I can tell you it involves a skazillion pieces of fabric.

Here's a group member admiring her work.

 The Sew-Art computer program starts with a photo portrait image and reduces it, dividing it by color value, to something like this:

Sandi chooses to work in seven values of fabric, darkest to lightest.  It's funny how, even though she may be working in colors like purple or green, the photos still "read" as if they were black and white.

 Like the two young women in the top center row, below.

I'm especially fascinated by the image below.  Up close, it's kind of disorganized,

...but from a distance it makes much more sense.

Also, check out the bottom left portrait.  You can see the man's glasses clearly from this distance, but up close you can't see them.  It's a trick of the optics of this technique.

I had to share this with the blogosphere because I'm so taken with Sandi's work and this technique in geeral.  Besides, the guy on the lower left in the photo above looks exactly like my father.

I also have to tell you that Sandi works full-time.

Pretty impressive, huh?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Today in Art: Nostalgia and Grief

Today, I'm working on an interpretation of a photograph of my grandparents, and its creation fills me with nostalgia and grief. My father took this photo over sixty years ago in the back room of my grandparents' third-floor apartment at 104 Concord Street in Hamden, Connecticut.  We called that back room the Little Room.

I'm feeling nostalgic about this photo because the Little Room was a home away from home for me after my mother, Ruth, started working in a school cafeteria when I was about four.  My grandmother, whom we called Honey but whose real name was Lillian Tanguay Cadrain, started taking care of me in the daytime until my mother got home from her cafeteria job.  My family and I, my parents and my three sisters, lived on the ground floor of the same house.  For the trip upstairs to my granparents' third floor under the eaves, my mother dressed me in a little blue corduroy jacket and a babushka, which I called my gacket and booka.

In the Little Room, Honey kept a cardboard box of my toys behind the studio couch, and I could look out the window to the houses on the street behind ours.  In that room, Honey rocked me to sleep for my naps.  She had been named Lillian after Lillian Russell--Diamond Lill--a vaudeville star in 1887 at the time Honey was born, in New Hartford, Connecticut. Like my grandfather, who was born in St. Raphael, Quebec, Canada, Honey grew up speaking French.

In this image, Honey is sitting in a Morris chair, which offers insight on my love of  the sturdy straightforward Craftsman style. Out of the comfort associated with this memory, I own a Morris chair myself.  The Morris chair takes its name from the firm of the quintessential  Craftsman-era designer, William Morris, and was the precursor to the recliner.

This image also explains my lifelong love of dogs.  This is Mitzi, our beloved brindle boxer, who made her way freely between my family's home on the first floor of our house and my grandparents' under the eaves on the third.

My grandfather, whom we called Puppa (PUP-puh), was William Cadrain, born in 1885, the seventh generation descended from the first Cadrain--then Cadrin--to leave France for the New World.  That was Nicolas Cadrin, who was born in 1700 in St. Pierre de Cordiere, diocese of Beauvais, Picardie, France.  The ship's roster listed him as a chirurgien, or surgeon.  I imagine that, rather than being the medical school graduate we associate with that word today, Nicolas Cadrin was more likely the old-fashioned barbershop kind who would count bloodletting among his skills.

Today I'm grieving because not only are Honey and Puppa gone, but so are my parents, and all three of my sisters.  There's nobody in my immediate family left and nobody who remembers Honey and Puppa and knew them the way we did.

I would like my memory of them to serve as a sort of immortality.

Many thanks to the Cadrain cousin who performed and generously shared the genealogy search, without which I would have known very little about the family history.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Open Studio Hartford: the Aftermath.

Two weeks later, and finally the last of the detritus--I mean, art--has been put away.

But for a while, starting a few weeks before Open Studio Hartford, which occurred this year on November 13 and 14, everything was everywhere.

The dining room became a temporary staging area.

Mount Laundry continued to grow.

My work table was a mess.

The kitchen table had a small area reserved for eating; otherwise it was another work space.

I made a lot of felted beads.  They turned out to be the big seller.  I'm so new at making beads that I came up with a response to an emergency customer scenario:  If the beads broke and fell all over the floor as the customer tried them on, I would offer a discount.  Such a deal!

Blessing in disguise:  the making of felted beads offered some satisfaction in the days after the election.  Numb with shock but mostly fear, I found relief in being able to stab the beads with a sharp barbed needle.

On the day appointed for setup of my corner of Open Studio Hartford, at the Connecticut Historical Society, 1 Elizabeth St., on the leafy western edge of the city (

I was unable to set it up because, at the same time, I was teaching felting at the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, CT.

Can you believe the Museum made me Artist in Residence for the month of November for their Studio @ 4 youth classes?

So there I was teaching...

...while Joe was setting up my booth at the Historical Society.  What a guy!  He was as good at putting together my panels as he was at setting up a Square device for payment.  I love him for all he does for me.

My table turned out to be strategically located directly across from a rather impressive array of refreshments.

On one end of the table, I invited visitors to try the feel of felting.
Can you see my sign?  It says to try felting because you get to stick something with a sharp barbed needle.

In fact, so many people were interested in the process of felting that 17 of them signed a list stating that they would be interested if I were ever to teach The Felted Landscape again at West Hartford Art League.  I've since spoken with folks at the Art League, and that class will be offered as a one-day workshop on Sunday, February 5, from 10 am to 4 pm.  Check it out!

Here's my latest felted piece, which will give you an idea of the size of the pieces that students in that class will make:

Back at Open Studio:  At 5 pm on Sunday, November 14, it was time to take it all down.

I sold some art, I sold some beads, I attracted interest in teaching another class at the West Hartford Art League, and I made some contacts that may turn out to be valuable.

Not too shabby, I suppose.

Friday, November 4, 2016

It Ain't Art if You Don't Bleed

It's true, felting needles are really sharp.  And it's also true that, while using one, you're going to prick yourself and draw blood sooner or later.  

"It ain't art if you don't bleed,"says my friend Kenny, who is one of the folks to whom I teach needle felting at Hartford's Chrysalis Center.

When I said that to my class of kids at the New Britain Museum of American Art, where I'm teaching felting this month, they took up the mantra.  One of them made this sign yesterday as our first class together drew to a close.

For our first class, I decided to start the kids with an image of a nebula because the spiral shape is so obvious and so easy to replicate.  Besides, there's no end of embellishment you can add to an image like this:

So I printed out a number of heavenly images and gave each child a piece of black felt.  They could chalk a pattern on the felt if they wanted to, or they could lay down the image free-hand.  For color, they would use the softest of materials:  wool roving.  And they would apply the roving with very sharp needles.
And so they did.

The colors showed up stunningly against the black felt.  For this delicate look, it was important that they learn to get their pieces of roving as thin and wispy as they could.

They got it.

I think they had fun. 

And some of them bled, so it must have been art.