Like many designers, I have been having a load of fun with the recent kaleidoscope apps available everywhere. Like a funhouse mirror, they can be amusing; refining them into a usable design and actually applying them to product can get into more skilled and rewarding work. Here are a few things I have culled from my designs at PAOM.com.
The art of cropping imagery to make it more interesting is a recent trend, a modern stance on meaning. If an image was meant to be read in one, static way (think Mona Lisa), showing it cropped to an essential detail reveals a new way of considering it, sometimes with humor, sometimes surprise, but always it provides a different perspective.
I have been providing pattern or surface-design images to a few print-on-demand online companies for a while now. All were new a couple of years ago, eager to get rolling, pulling in hundreds of artists in an attempt to have a wide range of hip designs for their fairly basic merchandise. One company, Kess InHouse, in particular caught my eye, as they were taking digital images and blowing them up to the size of a bedspread or shower curtain. I though, fun! I would love to have a shower curtain with my Leeks design on it! So I submitted a variety of designs and waited to see what would turn out.
Fun indeed! Kess does a great job of making your designs into interesting products, but the submitted design is simply stretched to fit the format. I find it interesting and amusing to see the results of this way of using an image: no matter what the product, the image is just made to fit, with sometimes no rhyme or reason: very postmodern! Here is a selection of items with my designs, to illustrate the point. All products are available at Kess InHouse under Laura Nicholson.
I have not written on either of my blogs for several months. I have been a period of fairly deep transition — no, let’s say self-examination. It’s been a few years of most of my studio work being design and craft based, while avoiding the issues and depth of the fine art-making that I associate with my woven work, and in the spring I began to feel that I was spinning off center.
|Spring Field, detail. 2014, wool with cotton & metallic, 26″ x 27″
Laura Foster Nicholson (copyright 2014)
Ever since I began weaving I felt an almost mystical connection with the process. For many years I worked almost like a demon, taking few breaks, focusing on weaving as my most important means of communication in art. I strayed off the path in the early 90’s when I bought a computerized knitting machine, and substituted knitting jacquards with deep focus. Then in the mid-90s I learned to design for and weave on the jacquard loom, and eventually segued that knowledge into founding a ribbon business, which for a number of years took up a great deal of my time.
Generally when I work through whatever it was that sparked such intense curiosity I come back to the loom full of fresh insight. After machine knitting, I rediscovered the joy of slow hand manipulated weaving with a lot of detail. After jacquard, the investigation of color re surged with great urgency.
Each time I take a break of any significance from my woven thought, I come back to it with a changed point of view, which seems to amplify the expressive powers of my chosen medium.
Now, after spending 7 years expanding my practice of textile design through ribbons and home furnishing textiles, I am finding that I need to let the artist gain precedence once again. Here is my thinking.
For me, design, while a great discipline with which I have barely come to terms, remains something which is tied to someone else’s needs. I began by working with smaller companies which, like me, valued individuality and creativity for their own sake, and the interaction with the market was a happy one, where (as it appeared to my admittedly naive eyes) the customer came because she valued what we put out there under our own terms. But now (after having read hundreds of posts and comments and opinions about the value of promotion and marketing), I feel impatient with the fickle customer, for whose favor I must fight constantly. It would seem that it is not only essential to have a broad range of styles, but one must be able to work completely in disguise as some other creature.
Maybe I am just to old and stubborn, but I see that in art, one of our primary tasks is utter honesty about what is being made, the voice that is speaking; whereas in design for the general market (I should qualify that to say “surface design”), the job seems to be to do anything to stay the most popular girl on the block.
I am aware this could seem jaded or bitter. I still very much enjoy designing ribbons and rugs, and value the support of my clients who want my work in its fullness, not a pastiche of trend. But the reinvention on a seasonal basis of style, palette, and trend are making me crave the solitude and thoughtfulness of my studio and my loom.
All this thought takes introspection, and I don’t like to write when I have nothing to say. But I’m back, and will try to stay here!
A couple of weeks ago my good friends Rita and Robin invited me up to the farm for Sunday lunch. Beautiful weather, up at the top of the hill, lunch from the vegetable garden made by both of them — heavenly day.
But what I love about them is their immensely creative life. They live in the farmhouse where Robin grew up, surrounded by cornfields. Over the years they have transformed the house into a song of elegant simplicity with painted and stenciled floors, carefully selected antique items (often quite curious), and their artwork. Robin was trained as a ceramist and Rita is a self taught folk artist. Both now make their living at selling antiques, but their lives are those of artists. I always love creeping around and examining their work and their peculiar and wonderful objects. Here are some snip of that day’s “show and tell”.
In early January I wrote about my resolution to write more, and draw more, this year, and here it is nearly April, and no posts since! Shame on me. It has been a massive case of writer’s and artist’s block, I am afraid.
Do you ever have those times when your head is aflame with ideas, but you can’t seem to get them on paper before they are gone? The last 3 months have been that for me. So many exciting things going on here! I have been working toward making our local Farmer’s Market more stable and bigger. I have been making “green” household textile items, which I am still not ready to publish but which have given me great pleasure to make. From time to time I pluck up the courage to learn a bit more about Adobe Illustrator — I make all of my designs in Photoshop right now and am sorely feeling the need to be able to do vector-based designs. But all of this learning and experimentation is too raw to show and hence I stammer about even talking about it. I will post one thing now, since I am so happy about our Farmer’s Market development (I don’t mean to take total credit for it as it has been toddling along for years, it just needs to grow).
|Local Tastes Better towel, copyright Laura Foster Nicholson 2011|
(You will need to order it on 54″ wide fabric)
Last week I posted about the big change in my financial life due to the big change in the art market. Whereas for much of 30 years I had been able to make the majority of my living as a studio artist, primarily by selling works of my fine art through galleries, in the last 3 years, since the crash, I have had to readjust how I spend my time to be sure that my daytime, studio activity is still going to keep my boat afloat. I still do not have what some folks call “a day job”, nor do I want one!
My days are now spent more at the computer, working on designs, or making small gift type items, utilizing my ribbon or not, to sell in town as well as at some museum stores around the country. I feel as if I am constantly juggling these identities: artist, designer, craftsperson. I do believe all three points of view are essential in a mature artist of any persuasion, but trying to do well at all 3 in 3 different kinds of applications (as opposed to combining them in the main work of art/design/craft at hand) sometimes feels less integrated and more split than I am accustomed to feeling!
So I am trying to imbue the design and craftmaking activities with the earnest, focused vision of my fine art, while still maintaining a clear, serene and separate studio practice of meditative artmaking which responds only to my own vision, not to the demands of any market.
One of the arguments “against” craft, in the old days, was that it lacked the intellectual power of fine art. We all know that is baloney, as is the idea that “art” appeals to the greater spiritual nature etc. etc. Craft can be an inspiring outpouring of faith, in humanity, in creativity, in spirituality. But the craft that I speak of above, in my case, refers more to making little gift items that people like, maybe love, and hopefully will buy. A different motivation! Nonetheless, I have never hesitated to call myself an artist, even a “fine” artist, and claim the status that may confer. I live an intensely creative life with vision made manifest in my best work, which I call my “fine art”. That is enough for me.
So I leave tonight with this question:
How do I begin to imbue the directed design and craft work that I do, such as my new “Eat Well” towel, with the spiritual and intellectual energy that it took to weave “Beatrice”?