8/03/2010

something a little different


I made this at a class last year. The class, described as "Mother Winter" came accompanied with a photo of a wooden artists manikin and a glass dome attached underneath with a brief description stating something about making 'Mother Winter' - I was intrigued. The class was created by Ulla Milbrath, who instructed us one Saturday afternoon at Castle in the Air in Berkeley, CA. Quite possibly the first store I've ever regarded as a miracle.

Here you can find my figure and a few of the other students interpretations


We spent all day in the second floor workshop of Castle in the Air, all women, contriving our interpretation of the phrase "Mother Winter", crafting with bits and pieces from Ulla's vast closet of paper, clippings, fabrics. We learned new techniques with fabric stiffener, starching and paper molding. Ulla provided sculpted faces that she pressed from a mold she made in preparation of this class. We each painted our own, and applied them to our figures. Each student's Mother Winter figure was distinct; we each had our own projection of this layered archetype.

At the time I made this, I was thinking a lot about an idea I kept sketching, botanicals used as adornment on a face or head, but also to describe a feeling:

The idea is certainly nothing new, many artists have used the theme of objects in the hair, morphing gracefully into something else. In fact, the idea goes back quite far. Check out the book Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa:
Beautiful, inspiring, primal. Decoration, adornment, survival, expression, self...



There is something about crafting with women. Why do I find this activity so calming? Maybe it is a distant memory whispering in my ear about our hunter gatherer days, days when we made baskets and pottery or sewed clothing by hand for our families and ourselves, when our 'crafts' meant a means to survival and we did it together. But that seems too distant. More likely, crafting reminds me of something much more intimate: drawing on the floor whilst my mother endlessly sewed, knitted, paper mache'd, painted, molded, quilled, folded, embroidered, quilted creations for holidays, sheer whimsy, and quite possibly her sanity while we moved about the country in a lonely existence, as all military families do. And to think my mother did this growing up and then into marriage and motherhood. Crafting has a purpose. Looking at the cross stitch embroidered pillows and dolls my mother made as a child in the military, I can see this activity has a purpose far beyond frivolous decoration.
How else do we deal with the roller coaster of life, but create? And when we create together we enjoy some sort of primal connection. We have something to make, to talk about, to play with, to have fun with that has nothing to do with anything but exploration of our own creativity. We all enter with our minds engrossed in our daily lives and by the end of the day escape into the art of 'make', giving birth to something new and whole, something tangible that draws from bits and pieces of imagery and textures that our senses regard as important, creating a symphony of Who We Are.
It is the grand culmination of sharing, exploring, thinking, and expression. Although this habit of crafting is is not directly or obviously related to painting, my job, sketching, or the like, making frivolous, decorative things, sometimes it just feels good. It just does.

2 comments:

Jamie Baker said...

It connects us with Childhood play and exploration. As a professional artist the act of drawing and painting is now overlaid with pragmatic realities and while it is still fun it is almost too familiar to be truly freeing.

Crafting is free of the taint of economic and corporate issues...

But you are right that it seems crafting appeals more to women.. I was thinking as much walking around the RENEGADE CRAFT FAIR last weekend.

But if the net is thrown wider, to include MAKING THINGS in general, men are just as interested in tinkering, building, carpentry and so forth. The gender balance was even at the MAKER FAIRE.

I am not sure why crafting in particular appeals to women... (or carpentry to men)

But whatever the specific interest, I think that MAKING things reconnects people (who live in a pre-fabricated society) back to reality. We are subliminally aware that we are detached from our manufactured world. Making, cooking crafting cooking all put us back in touch with it.

Ulla said...

Lovely post Julia! Wonderful to see where your inspiration comes from and the fruits it grows!
I seem to recall the class being very quiet in the midst of creativity - which often happens. There is something to this (crafting with women) that is intriging... We need the presence of others, yet we craft in our own little worlds... I am always amazed at the end results!
Looking forward to our playdate!
Ulla