Saturday, December 31, 2011

On Marcia Derse, Chicken Legs & Magical Roosters; and the Misuse of Muffin Tins

"I'm so excited you're here! I'm so excited I got to meet you, it was so sweet of you to come!" Over the course of the evening, I hear similar sentiments expressed repeatedly to persons other than myself. Clearly, Marcia Derse is a dour, unpleasant individual.* And who can blame her for a little bit of bitterness? She spends her days pouring over bolts of raw muslin, dyeing them, adding textures -- endlessly assessing them -- before sending them off to Japan, where a staff paints (not photographs, paints) a copy of her finished fabric design, so that they can mass produce it. Her fabrics have unevocative names like "aloe chicken scratch," "spotted graffiti," "bee hive basket," "onion skin argyle" and "indigo water lillies."

It gets worse: on the night of the studio open house, her husband, a nutritionist by trade, is manning the stove top, turning out diminutive sandwiches that riff on Korean barbeque and Cuban cuisine, among numerous other creations; people hover nearby to sample the newest tidbits, mmm'ing and ooo'ing and furrowing their brows in attempts to ferret out elusive spices and ingredients. In the pantry hangs a reproduction of "Portrait of a Man in a Turban" by Jan Van Eyck (1433), painted by their daughter Emily Derse Pellichero, after she studied in Florence for two years. Marcia's sister, greeting people at the door, is also a fabric artist, based in Chicago. And on this evening, a handful of other artists have invaded Marcia's home, carelessly mixing their own work with the art and collections found in every room. When will they leave? Artists are hard to get rid of, once they find a foothold. It's all too much. I know what you're thinking: "There but for the grace of God, go I..."

As if sensing the house's negative force field, my camera refused to take more pictures after the first six or so. Luckily, my right-hand man Stephen uses his iPhone camera at the drop of a hat and he kindly promised to email me photos from the event. Warning: if you don't like colorful, you're certainly not going to like these images. Avert your gaze!...Hard to do, while reading a blog post...

[*Blanket disclaimer for the overly literal: I'm kidding, I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Marcia's clearly warm, wonderfully talented and fantastic. And this December night in Sylvania, OH was close to magical.]
Studio, with fabric cabinets

Game board, painting in the style of Matisse

Far studio wall

Fabric panels showing differing techniques over the decades

The artist next to her panel
Original design on left, reproduced fabric from Japan on right

wonderful textured quilt, above milk glass collection

"What about this one?" I asked Stephen.
 "Yes, it makes me happy. It makes me think of chicken legs." 
Stephen often makes great remarks like this.
Bovine happiness. Folk artists Paige & Larry Koosed.
I wanted to carry the goat around with me.

Within the built-in bookcases, hundreds of picture books -- the Derses used to own a children's bookstore. *Sigh.* On the table, tiles from Mary Ellen Taylor.
And the rooster. I was actually holding him, but it was necessary to crop myself out, as I looked mildly unhinged.

Vases by Jan Thomas
Ornaments by Jan Thomas
Yup, Jan Thomas again. perfume bottles.
More clay from Mary Ellen Taylor.
The Taylor tile that went home with me.
In situ. Kind of looks like I have a sister shrine going on. Photo from her college years.

the figures at top are all presidents

from wall of family photos

someone wasn't told not to draw on the walls. Mmph, mmph, mmph!
This was really only the tip of the iceberg. Several artists present were not represented in this post (apologies!). As it is, I'm all blogged out! Not a bad way to end the year, writing about talented, multifaceted folk! And yesterday was a banner day with Compatriot -- we started out with Indian buffet, made one last visit to the DIA in 2011 and ended with cocktails at Zola. Several of my favorite activities, all in one afternoon/evening! 

Tonight there will be fondue. Best wishes to Everyone for a fun evening -- and, more importantly, for an exciting, healthful and joyous 2012!

Monday, December 26, 2011

At 7 O'Clock the Cookies Came Alive. And Man, Were They Sticky.

Enjoying a nice bonus day before work starts up again. I got myself out for a middling run around lunchtime -- one of the last times to see the inflatable NASCAR Santa (reindeer buddy swaying in with checkered flag), Harley Santa and 6' motorized snow globe before they are deflated for the season. Strange what a difference one street makes -- only staid light strings over here. But who knows, maybe there's a burning desire for things large and inflatable on my very block -- maybe come Fall there will be vinyl turkeys and puffy shed-sized football helmets for me to gaze at from across the street. I'm clearly tempting fate. Maybe *I'll* get kidnapped, have my personality altered and *I* will be the one doing this, complaining about money spent on my lawn decorations, but finishing with, "It's all in good fun, it's all worth it! Why not have fun when you can, that's what I always say~~" Clearly 2012 is a wild card.  

Otherwise, I mainly puttered/mooned about until it was time for K, Threeorfour and Five to come over for the gingerbread house decorating gig. They arrived in a bustling flurry, in surprisingly nice velvet dresses, given the massive amounts of gooey frosting on stand-by. K sighed, explained there was a suddenly necessary family portrait appointment and said she wasn't worrying about the clothes. We got down to it. Meant to take snaps, but was having fun just watching.

As you can tell, the concept of icing as a thin fixative layer lacked popularity. Free-form was valued over patterning and more-is-better prevailed throughout the afternoon, down to Five alternately burying a "girl cookie" (the most favored cookie shape, also referred to as a "sweetie" by both girls) under an inch of royal icing and sucking on the icing gun tip herself, as she slowly depressed more into her mouth. K valiantly tried to keep such things from happening. But really, ugly sugar crashes were penned in from the get-go.

Even after the candy roof tiles had been affixed, the sugar storm did not relent. It's a wonder no roofs caved in.

Midway in, Five announced with some urgency that we had better put these cookies in the oven before they came alive and ran away.

"Mmm, these aren't raw -- they have already been baked, I don't think they're going to come alive."

"But there was a gingerbread man and he came alive because they didn't bake him fast enough~~"

"I have made these before and they have never come alive, I think we're good~~"

"But they could, it could happen~"

" away" intoned Threeorfour.

I changed tactics: "Well, there are four of us, I bet we could stop him."

She cocked her head. "There weren't FOUR...but no one could catch him. Except the fox! The fox could!~"

"Foxes are good at that, they're fast," I agreed. Attention shifted. More sweeties, a couple trees, reindeer and an elephant* were likewise slathered and festooned. Between the slathering and licking and spooning, the icing was rapidly diminishing. The adults suggested that if there were less on the current cookies, more cookies could also be decorated. This was largely dismissed. "You'll need to go to the STORE to get MORE," Threeorfour decided. I issued a counter-dismissal.
Sweetie GHoST cookie! Scaring all the other cookies on the plate! Wooooooooooooooo!
*my favorite cookie cutter. Don't little elephants always make it better?

We all petered out roughly at the same time. Well not really true: the kids were pogo-ing with frenetic energy. But they accepted the end of the gingerbread time with grace, or ready distraction. They wandered about my living room, asking to see things. Wind up ice bat became the next star. They raced him across the coffee table (though not against anything else), shouting frantically at him: "Go, Sweetie! Go Daddy, you CAN DO IT! oh-no-he's-going-to-go-off-a-cliff!!! Go honey!!!!"

"Come to our house and play with us. You never well you sometimes but not a lot, when will you come over?" Threeorfour peers into my face.

"And bring him," says Five, pointing to ice bat. "Remember to bring him."
He took up residence shortly after they left.  

...And on a More Artful and Infinitely Tastier Note
 Heartfelt thanks to Cookie Santa! 
What a lovely, lovely package to receive.
Impressive in their dainty beauty and variety!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Interlude Between Holiday Meals...

Merry Christmas Eve, Everyone!

Went to a splendid holiday open house earlier today, where I got to chat with another woman who aspires to publish a children's book, her's with monster paintings, paired with poetry. A groovy project that I'll want to follow! The party itself was held in a beautiful, art filled home, with live music, a luscious spread and interesting, engaging people. Now, am enjoying the new Florence and the Machine, appetizers are chilling for tomorrow's festivities, I have polished off the caramel corn remains and my more industrious side is nattering at its loungier counterpart about the need to go for a run. And here I sit, solidly in the middle.

The art show at the University of Michigan hospital (main building/second floor/by the cafeteria) has already been exciting and rewarding. It has spurred a couple etsy orders and some touching comments from patients and hospital staff. If you ever get the opportunity to exhibit at a similar program through a local hospital, I'd say go for it -- really lovely to hear that your art made someone's day better. Especially when they have serious matters to deal with.

On a related note, one doctor pointed out that I didn't have one of my Cakeasaurus prints listed on etsy. Complete oversight on my part! 
Atmospheric blurry cam! See also: why do my hands shake so?
Steady On.
While this is nowhere near the first Cakeasaurus print I have made, chronologically this would be the opener. The calm before the confectionary mayhem.

Once upon a time
in suburbs not so far away
Cakeasaurus roamed
Under cover of night.

Here's an initial sketch of the monster himself, before I added the housing cluster:

...and the carved block. Not so much to carve out, with all that inky blackness.

It's been awhile since I have carved anything. Can't wait to get back to it in the New Year!

Time to reconnect with more family and loved ones! Warmest wishes to you & yours.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Metal: Industrial Heritage, Plasma Cutters and the Joy of Salvage...

Sure, Metal looks promising from the outside. You've got a graphically strong, rusted sign adorning the upper edge of an industrial brick building, a glass block window adding gloss, but not giving much away; and a single, strikingly realistic stalk of corn, surprisingly graceful given its medium. I had visited their web site* before popping in for a visit, but I was still a little unclear...Well, about a lot of things. 

On the most basic level, this was my first encounter with a metal design and fabrication studio. Services provided span a broad spectrum, from automobile restoration, architectural and sculptural design, to exploring the idea of an energy generating merry-go-round**, to physically realizing an individual's concept of a piece of furniture. The tools they use range from the same kind of blacksmith's tools that have been used for centuries to a state-of-the-art CNC Plasma cutter, which has a blue shield around it, so no one is blinded.***
On top of that, Metal, co-owned by Claudette Jocelyn Stern and John Daniel Walters, sports loftier (though not unrealistic) goals of becoming a hub, a coming together of inspiration, intellect and expertise...To that end, they envision holding workshops, concerts and other events in the combined studio and gallery space. Text from the about page of their website announces, 
"We are a team of finders and makers who reclaim and repurpose metal objects, utilizing traditional and digital processes to fashion new lives for them. We are a hub of educators, inquisitive minds and problem solvers; 
a community of environmentally conscious inventors, artists, and metal enthusiasts."
* Gorgeous design, tons of photos. Prepare to drool, ohhhh, my graphic design buddies...

** They functioned in a consulting capacity for an institution; they did not develop said merry-go-round.

*** I think that's the reason. I may have made that up. And yes, that dubious snippet is about all that I absorbed about the plasma cutter, even though John was nice enough to offer me an explanation. In one ear...

So, no wonder that once I opened the door, I was blown away by all the visual stimulation crammed into the gallery space. I couldn't stop taking photos. Vintage signs, old school lockers (...bleh), timeworn tools, sculptures of undergarments and tin men, jars of evil looking hooks, gas nozzles, tool boxes and cast metal sculptures of tool boxes...

Beyond the gallery space, the studio space opens up beautifully: light filled, exposed rafter beams. Wish I was able to get a good shot of that! Resident canine and goodwill ambassador, Rosie, trotted between the two spaces, reminding visitors that she was ready to be friends and that really, the best possible course of action would be to please throw her ball. 

Has YOUR trashcan been inspected by UL? Didn't think so.

Love him!
Interior of "Blue Truck," by Andrew John Cecil

"Support System" by Susan Byrnes

I liked this more before I learned it was a nasal speculum.

"Tetanus" jewelry line by Terri Sarris. Heh. I love the collective impact: I'd fancy it as a wall hanging.
This ball's not going to throw itself, people.
For more photos, check out the flickr set here. Or, you know, look at actual professional photos on their web site.

Arbor web delves into Metal here, as does Concentrate Media

Both owners bring rich backgrounds to their business. Claudette Jocelyn Stern plays in numerous media, including iron casting, painting, collage, film, writing and fiber arts. Works that held special appeal for me: Baker's Dozen and The Hub. I also love this rusted caged bottle set with heart lock. I *believe* this sculpture from the Metal site is hers, though it is not labeled as such. [Nope! John Walters did it]. Pandora's soda? Last extant six pack of Mead of the Gods?

In a huge renovation project, she also transformed her home into the Nautilus House, which was only the second house in Michigan to be awarded a Platinum Rating by the LEED green building system in 2009. 

The University of Michigan's Explore Magazine featured John Daniel Walters when he was pursuing his MFA there. His artistic globetrotting includes stints in Chile, Ecuador, the Easter Islands and Cuba. Of Walters, Endi Poskovic, associate professor of art and design, said: 

"I have never met a person who has had, on one hand, extremely acute knowledge of contemporary art and critical theory… but at the same time have this passion for machines and objects that he has actually built. It’s remarkable. I can’t change a tire. Are there people like him out there? I’m sure there are, but I have never encountered any.”
A couple shots from his MFA thesis installation here and here.

Phew! Well, that's about all for now. It will be interesting to see how Metal will grow itself and the community. And hey, 2012 could be the year YOU take up metalworking...