An Unexpected Discovery In Ma’ale Gamla, Israel

Did you ever make a small discovery that brightened up your day? It doesn’t have to be a gold-filled-chest kind of a discovery. Just a little, surprising encounter that made you happy? If so, then you must know how I felt when I found a yard full of art at a most unexpected place!

On my latest trip to Israel several months ago, my family and I were staying at a Zimmer in Ma’ale Gamla in the Golan Heights (a “zimmer” is how Israelis call cabins for rent). Ma’ale Gamla is a tiny residential town overlooking the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Its population consists of about one hundred families, and the only store in existence is a little grocery. Tourists mostly use it as a base for exploring the surroundings.

Early one morning during our short stay in the town, my husband and I decided to go on a little morning walk. My husband, a veteran Pokemon hunter, already explored the place the day before. As we walked, he slowly stirred me towards a side street he thought I might find interesting.

Neat houses and greenery lined the narrow, unassuming street on both sides. It was very quiet in that early hour. Suddenly, I noticed a life-size sculpture at the entrance to a driveway.

Turned out this was a Poke Stop called “Peres in a Bathing Suit,” and that this was how my husband found the statue in the first place.

On the other side of the driveway, still along the main road, I saw yet another life-size sculpture, this one of a dancing girl:

A more careful inspection revealed a small cat-sculpture in the corner:

As we walked on, we realized that the entire front yard was packed-full of art: sculptures big and small made out of plaster, metal mesh, clay and even fabric; reliefs; paintings. We stopped to admire them.

As we were standing there, the front door opened, and a man came out to collect his morning paper.

We felt a bit embarrassed, to be caught gawking like that. But the man turned out to be very friendly. When I told him how impressed I was with all that art, he explained that  the artist was his wife. He then invited us over to see the back yard.

The back, too, was full of life-size sculptures:

It also had some small ones, like those two metal ants I found charming:

And, there was an entire collection of oven-glazed clay figurines:

Even the plant pots had faces!

We learned that this artist occasionally exhibited her works in local galleries. After we left, I realized I never asked for her name. Unfortunately, I was unable to find out more about her afterwards.

Seeing her fun work, however, really made my day. Her creativity shaped the space around her house, dotting it with cheerfulness and joy. Looking at everything she made was truly inspiring!

Next time you stay at a guest house, make sure to take a little walk around the neighborhood. You never know what you might find!

Looking Back On My Second Year of Art-Making

Another year sneaked by, busy, eventful, and quick. “The days are slow yet the years fly by,” a book I once read noted. How very true.

My first year of art-making was consumed by a sewing-frenzy and the excitement that came with tapping into my long-hibernating reserves of creativity. The second year was characterized by more experimentation, and was filled with lots and lots of learning.

My family, which two years ago found it difficult to adjust to my new passion, has since accepted my work as a part of life. My kids already forgot what it was like to look out onto a neat garden, get their laundry back in a timely manner, or dine daily on home-made dinners. They now help more, eat less, and wear mismatched outfits. They are also experts in unloading and loading boxes, pretending to be interested in ANY Texture news, and setting up fair booths.

Over the last year I completed the conquest of our guest room. I now deter those who try to venture in not only with threats, but also with ginormous piles of various treasures. Some claim I’m a hoarder. I say every pile has a purpose, and every little rescued item will be useful some day…

And useful indeed have these items been!

Learning the technical skills of bag making excited me the first year. By the second year, I was already proficient in that. This gave me the freedom to be more creative with my designs. I played with new combinations and experimented with additional types of bags.

True to my decision to pursue a zero-waste policy in my sewing room, I started to think of useful and beautiful things to make from my smaller scraps (I told you all those piles come handy!). I began making eyeglass cases, textile hearts, fabric greeting cards, bookmarks, and much more. Discovering the beauty of textile jewelry, I have been greatly enjoying making necklaces and bracelets as well.

I wanted to create more art quilts this year, but ended up making only one (though I did start another…). My Dare! quilt took a while to create, and called for researching the looks of moths and butterflies, and experimenting with sewing textile butterflies. Looking back, I am quite happy with how my three art quilts turned out, including the two I made at the end of last year:

This year I also familiarized myself with the other aspects of being an artist: selling online, venturing into social media, participating in fairs and joining professional associations.

Last year I opened an Etsy shop, but didn’t quite know what to do with it. I uploaded a few items and let them sit. This year, I spent more time reading and learning about what it actually takes to run such a shop. I began implementing some improvements, but realize I have a lot more work to do going forward.

I stated this blog on Blogger, but wasn’t quite happy with how it looked. So in March I opened my own WordPress website, and moved the blog over. I like the new look, and am also happy with my newly-opened independent e-commerce shop 🙂

When I opened a Facebook account last year, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I found it quite overwhelming at first. I’ve learned a lot since then, and grew to enjoy the platform’s discussions. My Facebook Page now features my own work and news from my studio, as well as interesting and inspiring works by other artists. I also use it to highlight the importance of up-cycling and reducing waste. The best part of being on Facebook, though, has been my discovery of fun groups of like-minded people. I met a lot of interesting artists online, as well as people passionate about sewing, bag-making and recycling. People’s creativity amazes me on a daily basis, and their passion inspires me greatly.

This year I discovered Pinterest, and have spent a lot more time than I should have surfing its great trove of treasures (hence the completion of only one quilt!). Check it out at your own risk! Finally, a couple of weeks ago, at the urge of my teenagers, I also joined Instagram, and am still trying to figure it out.

During my first year of making bags, I participated in two small crafts fairs. Since then I also tried a big street fair, a church holiday fair, and a handful of small school fairs. I learned a lot, but realize that I have yet more to learn. Some of it simply by doing, by trial and error.

Earlier this year I was honored to be accepted to the Textile and Fiber Art List, and become acquainted with some of the beautiful work created by other TAFA members. Check it out for some textile art inspiration!

Finally, a couple of days ago I received an exciting end-of-the-year gift: one of my sling bags was featured in the December issue of the British No Serial Number magazine (check p. 74). It felt great to see my work in print!

I am looking forward to 2018, and another year of creating, experimenting and learning. I am already drowning in ideas for new textile products, new quilts, and new designs.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays and a great new year!

 

Textile Lovers’ Must-See Exhibitions in New York City: Art Bingeing and the City!

If you have a couple of days in New York City, make sure to get art-drunk at some of its amazing museums!

I got to do just that this summer. In a handful of short days, I managed to visit some of the most incredible palaces of art, and immerse myself in art, textiles, culture and inspiration. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t always give each of the exhibitions the full attention it deserved. I rushed through some museums, or selectively browsed through others. But I got to see some old friends up close, as well as admire new ones. The cumulative effect was a great admiration for human creativity and imagination across the continents and throughout the ages.

Of the museums I saw, I (still) liked the architecture of the new Whitney and the Guggenheim most.

In the latter, I was excited to find a small piece by Kurt Schwitters, one of the first artists to use found objects in art. I’ve been admiring his work since I was an art student in high school!

If you’re a textile lover, I suggest the following textile tour (though I am sure there are many more textile heavens in this city!):

Start with breath-taking ancient textiles:

You will find those by visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Natural History Museum. Both have permanent exhibitions displaying artifacts from various ancient cultures. They include some incredible, intricate textiles, all hand woven, of course. This Moroccan Wedding Sash, for example, can be found at the Met:

And this Turkish rug is a part of a beautiful rug exhibit at the Natural History Museum:

Continue with early-modern textile art:

Visit the Cooper Hewitt Museum. It currently displays the Jazz Age exhibition, which includes textiles (and also furniture and other items) from the 1920’s. You can also see some textiles (such as wall decor and rugs) from the same period at Radio City Music Hall, where they can be seen as originally intended. If you visit the latter, I highly recommend taking the Art Deco tour. It will take you backstage, where you can also get a glimpse of Rockette costumes!

Finish with modern textiles:

Visit the Moma! It currently has an exhibition dedicated to Robert Rauschenberg, another found-object-using artist I’ve been admiring since high school. There, I saw some Pop Art pieces I’ve long liked, such as Monogram:

And also learned of a textile-art phase in the artist’s life that I wasn’t quite aware of. That phase, apparently, followed a visit he took to India in the mid-1970’s, and included pieces such as this:

The Moma has other interesting displays of modern textile art, such as this work by Ablerto Burri:

This piece by Magdalena Abakanowicz:

Or this piece by Mira Schendal:

I hope you enjoy my suggestions of Textile Lovers’ Must-See Exhibitions in New York City. And if you’re there already, try to watch one of the shows on Broadway as well. They have nothing to do with textiles, but are really fun nonetheless!

The Summer of Love: Still Relevant Fifty Years Later!

Fifty summers ago, in 1967, 100,000 youngsters converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. What began as a concert in Golden Gate Park developed into the Summer of Love and the resulting Hippie Movement that changed the United States, and the world, forever.

I heard about it, of course, and, like everyone else, associated it with sex, drugs and Rock & Roll. But I didn’t really know the details, and never thought any of it was relevant to my own life. The Summer of Love felt far removed, something that happened at a great distance and long ago.

Recently I visited the excellent Summer of Love exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, and realized just how wrong I was. Cruising through the exhibition, guided by the many signs and the audio guide (highly recommended!!!), I learned that what happened fifty years ago actually shaped my own life (and yours, too!)  in ways big and small.

The young hippies rebelled against what they considered to be the constraining lifestyle of their parents (think 40’s and 50’s), and against the Vietnam War. Their rebellion involved lots of drugs and free love, yes, but also a shakeup of concepts related to religion, lifestyle, art and fashion. As you might imagine, I found the later two to be the most interesting.

Graphic artists began designing new kinds of posters during the Summer of Love. At first they drew them by hand:

Then they started printing them, inventing new printing techniques on the way. Their posters drew elements from old circus posters, among others, and were meant to express the experience of being on a drug-induced trip. That involved using bright, neon colors, and juxtaposing contrasting colors with the explicit intention of irritating the eye:

Influenced by tie-dyed clothes, some artists began experimenting with tie-dyed canvases. This beautiful piece, for example, is by Marian Clayden:

Hippie art found its most creative outlet in fashion. The fashion of the 1950’s involved tailored, tight-ish outfits. The hippies were going for loose, flowing clothes, designed to make the wearer feel as if they were wearing nothing at all:

Whereas many clothes in the 50’s were made out of polyester (an exciting new material that was invented during WWII, at the beginning of the 40’s), the Flower Children wanted to go back to natural fibers such as cotton, wool, and linen (in essence, they rebelled against a material that was relatively brand-new, but seemed ancient to them since their parents used it). They turned fashion into art, and broke all the existing rules of color and texture. They incorporated textiles from all over the world into their clothes, often from several cultures in one outfit. By doing so they expressed their growing interest in foreign (mostly Eastern) spirituality and religions. The outfits in the picture below, for example, have Indian, Thai, Panaman and Chinese motifs, to name some:

Many outfits at this time were hand made, hand painted, hand appliqued, hand embroidered. This hospital scrub, for example, decorated by a “bad trip” patient, must have taken numerous hours to create:

The hippies took a staple, iconic American piece of clothing, jeans, and tweaked it. In essence, they were the inventors of denim art (not to mention bell bottoms!):

They incorporated art into each and every item of clothing, such as these boots, which were made by hand for drummers:

This applied to accessories as well. This purse by Linda Gravenites, for example, must have taken days to embroider:

The Flower Children brought crocheting into the limelight. Although this isn’t one of my favorite art media, I couldn’t but appreciate the work and creativity that went into making some of the exhibited pieces. The pictures below is of a wall-sized bed spread:

Sadly, not all was sunny and happy during the Summer of Love. The exhibition sheds light on some of its darker sides, too. As a parent, the below poster, for example, broke my heart. These are pictures of runaway teenagers that parents from all over the country sent to the SF police, in the hope that they would find their kids:

And the following announcement talks of other dark aspects, such as rapes, STDs and “Bad Trips.” The latter were drug-experimentations gone wrong, which sent many Flower Children into hospitals and months-long recovery (hence the elaborately embroidered hospital garb shown above):

*****

Have you taken a yoga class or tried meditation? Did you ever shop at Whole Foods or buy organic foods? Are you taking nutritional supplements? Are you recycling, composting or upcycling? Do you own any Anthropologie, Free People, Urban Outfitters or Sundance Catalog clothing? Do you wear a fashionable pair of jeans? If so, you are the unknowing beneficiary of the Summer of Love! Many aspects of our current lifestyle, it turns out, are a direct result of the hippie movement!

On a more personal note, I left the exhibition realizing that ANY Texture would not have been what it is had the Summer of Love not happened. Eco-friendly art? Sustainable accessories? Purely handmade items? Bright colors? Ethnic fabrics? Denim art? Turns out, to my great surprise, that ANY Texture has everything to do with what happened far away and long ago! The Summer of Love is still relevant. It’s relevant to you, to me, to all of us!

If you are curious to learn more, the exhibition runs until August 20th. Just make sure to get an audio tour! If you go, please go ahead and post your impressions in the comments 🙂

One last suggestion: If you do see the exhibition, go grab lunch (or dinner) at Haight-Ashbury. Some things haven’t change much over the last fifty years…

Experimenting with Fabric Art: “Give a Hand” Art Quilt

In the last year I’ve sewn practical items for everyday life, and greatly enjoyed seeing them put to use as well as making them. However, for a long time I’ve been eager to find time for fabric art per se. I had an image in my mind: my hand, repeated in a grid, in some of my favorite colors. This week I finally found the time to actually make it:

ANY Texture Finished Give a Hand art quilt, upholstery fabric wall hanging

There is something very primal about a hand print. It was one of the first images our ancestors created on cave walls, when humans first started making art. When young children get paint for the first time, they likewise print their hands immediately. In many cultures, a print of the hand, or a “Hamse,” protects against evil. Hands are crucial for everything we do. My work is all HANDmade, and that is what makes it unique. We all have hands, and yet each person’s hands are very much their own. Hands make us the individuals that we are, yet, in their similarity, unite us into the wider web of humanity.

I decided to make an art quilt, yet break all the rules of quilting. Instead of the fine cotton fabrics usually used for quilting, I chose to incorporate the upholstery fabrics I fell in love with over the last few months.

For a long time I collected suitable pieces in my favorite colors and textures, until I had enough. Early this week I ironed double-sided interfacing to the back of the pieces, and meticulously outlined my left hand on nine different fabrics. I chose to use my actual hand and not a mold. This way each drawing turned out slightly different, yet they are all of the same thing. I cut them each out, getting a mirror-image that looks like, but is not, my right hand. I ironed them to their background, and then chose embroidery thread to go with each:

Pieces ready for applique

Next, I appliqued each and every one by hand. There is something very soothing about the repetitive motions of hand stitching. It is a wonderful stress-reliever for me, and this week, Election Week, turned out to be the perfect time to do this kind of work:

Appliqueing pieces by hand

When I finished appliqueing all the pieces, I played around with their arrangement:

Deciding on piece orger

I then settled on a pattern I liked, and machine-sewed all the pieces together, using a zigzag stitch:

Sewing the pieces together

When the entire top was finished, I “sandwiched” the piece together: top, batting and back, and set about to quilt them. Here I encountered an unexpected difficulty: the bulk of two layers of upholstery fabrics, combined with the batting and occasional seam, could not fit under my machine foot! I hadn’t planned on hand-quilting this piece, but this is exactly what I had to do.

I hand quilted a few quilts before, but this one felt a lot different. Since each piece of fabric had a different texture, stitching through each felt very distinct. The more velvety segments were easier to sew through. Others were really resistant, and required the use of much force. It didn’t take long before I had to frantically search for my various thimbles!

Hand quilting my Give a Hand art quilt

At one point my needle broke, something that never happened to me before! I had broken many a machine needles, but never a “real” one:

Hand appliqueing my quilt

I chose to quilt this work with a color-changing thread that I thought might tie all the different hues together. Originally, I planned for an elaborate quilting pattern. After the first few stitches, however, I realized that neither the color of the thread nor the pattern mattered much: unlike with quilting cottons, the upholstery fabrics seemed to have “swallowed” the thread. It mostly disappeared within the textures, drowning into them. So I changed my plans, and quilted for practical reasons only: to attach all three layers together.

Hand quilting my Give a Hand art quilt detail

The stitching itself also had to be adjusted. Due to the heaviness of the “sandwich” I had to go for much larger, far-between stitches than I would have attempted on a traditional quilt.

The result, however, turned out to be very close to what I originally had in mind.

ANY Texture Give a Hand art quilt, upholstery fabric wall hanging

The heavy fabrics give the work a significant body, and the different, delicious textures give it lusciousness that traditional quilts lack.

Finished quilt detail

This is my “Give a Hand” art quilt. I like to think of this work as a gesture of peace: a welcoming wave of “hello” many times over. An offer of help to anyone who needs it. We desperately need such gestures at this time.

Reflecting Back on a Year of Creativity

I find it appropriate, on the week of the Jewish Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) to look back upon my own year of creativity. On Yom Kippur we are supposed to contemplate our deeds and misdeeds over the past year. We are expected to consider how to make ourselves better in the year ahead. It seems fit, therefore, to also take account of what I have achieved so far, and of what I have yet to accomplish.

A year ago this week I took a small pile of rescued upholstery samples and turned them into a messenger bag. I had never made a bag before, and didn’t really know what I was doing. I’ve been quilting on and off for about a decade. I knew well how to work with thin, fine quilting cottons. But handling thick upholstery fabrics was a different matter altogether.

That first bag took hours and hours to make. It broke at least two of my sewing machine needles. When I wanted to attach the flap to the body of the bag, I realized i had a problem. To my horror, the accumulated thickness of the fabrics couldn’t fit under my machine foot. I had to sew it on by hand. It took forever, and was quite painful (pushing a needle through a thick layer of heavy fabrics isn’t an easy thing to do!). I remember my amazement when the bag was finally born (those of you sewing bags know what I’m talking about!). I could hardly believe it actually looked like a real bag! It was a magical moment that made me proud.

Yet, at that time it never occurred to me that I will be spending the next year in a bag-sewing frenzy. It took another week or two for me to get the Bag Bug. This happened after my second daughter excitedly claimed my bag for herself, following by her sister requested one, too.

Since then, by trial and error, I learned an entire new set of technical skills. I figured out how to attach a flap in a way that my machine can handle. I’ve discovered which needles to use for upholstery fabrics, so that they won’t break every few minutes. I understood how to sew zippers in different ways, how to insert a variety of closures, how to attach diverse kinds of straps and handles, and how to hammer rivets so that they hold fast. Likewise, I experimented with different bag patterns: messenger bags totes, slings and shoulder bags of assorted kinds. In addition, I played with, and greatly enjoyed, making other fabric products, such as journal covers, i-pad covers, zip pouches, bookmarks and even a phone case.

Most of the things I made came out to my liking, others not so much. A handful ended up being total failures and got tossed. But each project taught me something new, sharpened my tastes, or allowed me to improve my skills. I had a lot of fun this year going over fabrics, choosing colors and patterns, matching different pieces together. I enjoyed designing, cutting, sewing and just plain creating beautiful things. The fact that I was mostly using rescued materials and keeping volume out of landfills was a nice, feel-good bonus. It supported my way of life and everything I believe in.

Overall, I sewed more than two hundred items, big and small. I gave many of them away as gifts to family members, friends and teachers, or as donations to good causes. Being able to give things I made rather than store-bought items was a deeply satisfying experience.

In the coming year I would like to try new products. I’d like to play with new combinations, and maybe create more art of the non-utilitarian kind. I have many ideas I’m really excited about, and just need to find the time to try them out. Also,I hope to continue improving my professional skills, and to learn new techniques that will keep this adventure as exciting as it has been so far.

ANY Texture: Some of the art I made this year

I have been making art my whole life, but never dabbled with the craft of selling it. This year, for the first time in my life, I participated in a couple of crafts fairs. I began learning how to sell my work. I also started learning about approaching stores, about the difference between wholesale and consignment.

This year also marked my first foray into social media. I opened a Facebook account, an Etsy store and started this blog. All this opened up a grand new world of which I knew nothing about, and of which I still have a lot to learn. Going forward, I will need to keep deepening my knowledge in all of the above. Making art is great fun, but seeing people use it is even more gratifying!

My sewing ardor brought about many changes that transformed not only my life but also that of my entire family. We previously used our guest room, for example, as a music room or as a quiet place to read when no guests were present. Now I transformed it into a crowded, messy workshop.

The room now displays new cabinets packed to the brink with an assortment of fabrics. Boxes of notions and a selection of webbing rolls are everywhere. Leather straps and handles are hanging on the door. Piles of already-matched fabrics, that only I know what to do with, are scattered on the floor. They are waiting for me to sew them into all kinds of pretty items. The room is currently off-limits to everyone but myself… I would like to say that keeping it neat would be a noble goal for next year, but knowing myself this will not be an achievable goal…

Lastly, I am still struggling to find the right balance between wanting to sew at all times and getting to my other tasks. My garden, which I love dearly, is quite neglected at this time. The family’s laundry service is not what it used to be, and our dinners are not always what I would like them to be. I would also like to find more time to exercise, see friends, hang out with the kids and so on. But I guess all of this is a constant work in progress, something I will just have to keep working on and adjusting as time goes!