I have a confession to make. This is hard for me to admit, but I suffer from Blank Canvas Disorder, a common yet debilitating disorder that makes one’s brain cells completely shut down when faced with a blank canvas, paper, or anything requiring the brain to invent content for that blank canvas.
So that’s exactly why I agreed to participate again in this year’s “Blank Canvas Benefit: For Art’s Sake” at the Visual Art Center of New Jersey in Summit. Participants are given a blank canvas, and have to create something on it, and donate it for a pricey fundraiser/auction which will happen in mid December. Those of us who donate get a lovely reception where we get to preview the work, but alas, we don’t get to attend the auction so we have no idea how much our pieces sell for, and they won’t tell us.
I have to deliver the finished piece by Friday. Do you think I’ve procrastinated long enough?
Knowing I have this Blank Canvas Disorder, I try to compensate by not actually trying to think of what I’m going to do with the canvas. This is a perfect place for not thinking. I can over think myself right into a paralyzing lather, and instead, I need to just enjoy the medium, play, and see where life takes me. In my cleaning up of my studio, in the aftermath of the photo shoot and the guild sale, I came across the now minuscule baggie of scraps left from my Sandstone jacket and tote bag I created earlier this year. I really had no idea what I wanted to do with this canvas, and I wasn’t even sure what medium I wanted for it.
Almost all of the other participants are painters, collage artists, photographers, etc, those who are accustom to working in two dimensional media. I’m the lone fiber person. Last year I mounted a version of Big Sister onto the canvas, it was an actual real canvas, the one we were given this year was a 2″ deep cradled “Claybord”. I read the label on the board or “bord” as the label explains, and the surface will take paint, ink, gouache, egg tempera, acrylics, airbrush, encaustics, collage, photo transfers, pencil, casein, and it can be used for mounting papers, prints and fabrics… 🙂
That last word got me to thinking, and the little bag of Sandstone scraps started me to rooting around in my stash. I came up with a few things that I liked including a scrap of ikat cotton from a bag of scraps I bought many years ago from Mekong River Textiles at a conference. I also found a scrap of silk where I had tested some stencils with fabric paint.
So, without any idea of where I wanted to go with this, I just played. 🙂
I played with the fabrics, and liked what happened when I took the long ikat scrap and put it together creating a “schism” between, and then taking the long selvedge of the Sandstone fabric, I began to play with the idea of binding the schism back together. There is a lot of political content here, and I liked where the piece was headed, and loved the play of the fabrics. I played around with yarn, making it look like brain waves, and then found my little “happy” basket of Habu yarns, I’m talking a small basket here, and found a course green cotton novelty yarn that I just started wrapping around the bundle. I liked the effect and the purpose the binding yarn gave to the piece.
So now my next step was to actually construct the piece. I thought about just gluing the whole thing together, even using gel medium to paint and stick everything into place, but I decided to actually sew it all together, maintaining the tactile quality of the actual fiber. Sort of like a bound package…
To give the piece some support, I cut out two layers of a thermal fleece, the kind I use in clothing, and I also decided, as pretty as the sides of the “Claybord” were, I wanted the fabric to come all the way around the sides as well, so I could ultimately just tied the binding cords around the entire box.
Then I found an 8×10 mat I had laying around, and used it to check on the actual design that would appear on the front of the board. I had no idea what I was doing here, just feeling my way along and having way too good of a time…
I used the sewing machine to baste the layers of fabric together, and then quilted the ikat fabric to the padding, using a metallic variegated thread in a pattern that played off the ikat. I hand sewed the Sandstone strips in place, and then basically upholstered the box. After making the four box corners, I covered the messy back with a piece of the stenciled silk. I listened to the end of my Elizabeth Berg book on tape while I hand sewed the silk onto the back.
Finally, I wrapped the Habu yarn around the box, and I’ll hand sew it in place in key spots so it doesn’t shift tomorrow.
I can’t tell you how much fun I had doing this piece. Is it good? Will it sell at the auction? Does it really matter? I had one of the quietest and best days I’ve had in a long time, no stress, and I just played. Like a kid in a sandbox. It was good for my soul and my spirit, and I am happy with what I have sitting in front of me on my desk. I called the piece “Ties that Bind”. I think a trip to the art supply store for more of these “Claybords” is in order…
I can’t tell all of you how much all of your comments have meant to me in yesterday’s post about selling your work. I’ve been emailed some comments privately, and I’m waiting until more come in, and then I’ll jot down my thoughts. All of you have such valid perspective, and there is clearly no right or wrong answer here. And I was sort of glad to hear this isn’t just an issue in the United States, there was a comment from New Zealand, and the discussion is pretty much the same, half way round the world.
One final note, I received the 6 1/8″ Texsolv heddles for the Structo loom I talked about last week. The one my husband magically fixed, finding all the right parts in his vast stash of hardware. I paid my son to put the 400 heddles on the shafts, and I really think they will work fine. They aren’t real tight on the heddle bars, so they should slide OK, and I’ll have to eventually cut the bridge cords between each of the heddles, they come all attached, because I think the hooks that raise and lower the shafts will get caught on the bridge cords. I just have to make a trip to the hardware store for some apron rods, and I have another Structo loom in working condition. 🙂
Wow, very cool piece and process. I love the “total package” idea!