Saturday, December 18, 2010

Scarves R Us

Earth & Sky Scarf • 10" x 72" • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay
It's all about scarves here at the studio these days. Scarves R Us, you might say. I started making them back at the beginning of November and haven't really stopped. Fortunately I've had some help. My friend Dee came by one Saturday and offered her services. I started calling her my elf. We joked about how we were working for Santa. She made a couple scarves to give as gifts, but mostly she helped, and we had pizza. It was a great day. Here she is at the press.

Dee at the Press • November 2010
By the First Thursday opening at the Fayetteville Underground I had forty scarves made. Dee was there to help, she sold a lot of scarves, including the one she was wearing. I think I rested on Friday—it's a bit of a blur, but I was back in the studio on Saturday replenishing the stock. 

Grey is the New Black Scarf • 10" x 72" • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay
I must admit I love the process of dyeing the scarves. I like to choose the colors and think up new ways to create texures and designs. When I am finished painting them they are stiff with dye and thickener. Over and over I think, ugh, these won't be very nice, I must have made a mistake. I take them home, put them in the wash and wait, discouraged, until the bell rings. Why I do this every time I will never know because each time I open the washer door, there they are, colorful, soft, shimmery fabric confections. 

Peach Snakeskin Scarf • 10" x 72" • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay
I photograph them, sign them and try to put them out for sale. My friend and fellow studio mate, William Mayes Flanagan, says that to him, his paintings are like kittens, he just loves every one of them. I feel that way about my scarves. Except, if they really were kittens, I might be known as the crazy cat lady. I'm not going to tell you how many I have in my drawer.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Simple Gifts

It Simply Stays Within the Heart • 20"x 20" • Dye on Cloth • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay

My mother is very good at the art of gift giving, (she's also skilled in the art of letter writing, but that's another story). When my brother and sister and I were young, birthdays and Christmases were filled with what we really, really wanted: bicycles, record players, dolls, choo choo trains or the longed for latest Nancy Drew mystery. We never got socks or pj's or any of those practical but disappointing gifts of everyday life. My parents knew that presents should be extraordinary, not ordinary, and part of their success was to not over do it—no distractions of excess—you were grateful and content, but never overwhelmed.

I forget the exact time when my family stopped giving multiple gifts to each other, but my mother has continued to show off her gift-giving skills even when she only has one chance to choose the perfect thing. Since I am an artist, the gifts she gives me are often made by other artists: a set of three Shaker boxes to hold my jewelry, a book of woodcuts, signed by the artist, a ceramic bowl she found on a trip to Door County. Each one has meaning and a story, each one is precious.

Six or seven years ago for my birthday she gave me a membership to the National Museum of Women in the Arts. At the time I was working as a product designer and traveling a lot so I wasn't able to make much art. I loved reading the articles and looking at the artwork in the museum's quarterly publication. I would dream of a future time when I could have a studio and make my own work and be a "real" artist like the women in the magazine. Once again my mother had given me the perfect gift.

Fast forward a few years to a couple of months ago and imagine my surprise when Denise Garner, a woman I had just recently been introduced to, approached me and asked if I was familiar with the National Museum of Women in the Arts? "Oh yes," I said, "I am a member!"

Last week the Arkansas State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts held their annual conference in Bentonville. On Sunday evening we were led on a delightful evening walk through Compton Gardens to the observation deck of the Crystal Bridges Museum building site by Sandy Edwards, Crystal Bridges’ Associate Director. Then we experienced the mind-blowing skyspace sculpture, The Way of Color, by James Turell. That was followed by a dinner of delicious food, wine and delightful conversations about art. It was, in other words, a wonderful night.

 NMWA Artist Reception • October 2010 • photo ©2010 Rob Andes

Sharon Guthrie and I helped coordinate an artist's reception for the conference attendees, so the next day while the Committee held their annual meeting, eleven artists set up their work in a reception room. It was an exciting group of talented women and I was honored to be included. After their meeting, the committee members took the time to speak to each artist, inquire about their work and were generally excited to see such amazing art set up just for them. The artist's were especially pleased to have the chance to talk to Ilene Gutman, development director for the National Museum of Women in the Arts who was visiting from Washington D.C.

As the reception came to a close I realized how blessed I was to be in that room filled with art, meeting great people and making new friends. I couldn't wait to tell my mother about my experience…and just when I thought it couldn't get any better I heard a voice say, "I really like your work, is it for sale?" "Oh yes," I said, "it is!"

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Small Accomplishments

Felicity.01 • Dye on Fabric • 5"x 5" • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for The Arts Center of the Ozarks. Readers of this blog will remember back in July I was awarded the Postcard Prize for the Artist's of Northwest Arkansas Regional Art Exhibition by their Visual Arts Director, Leslie Callison, Ph.D. When she asked me to participate in their annual fundraiser, the 8th Annual 5"x 5" Auction, of course I said yes. Artists from all over the area are given 5' x 5' canvas and asked to create a piece of art to donate to the ACO. On the first Thursday of November they have a big party featuring jazz music and delicious food while they hold the silent auction. I have heard that people line up early to get in and bid on their favorites!

I used the opportunity to experiment a bit. I am, as are many textile artists I know, conflicted about putting fabric under glass in the framing, or finishing, process. Behind glass textile art can (but not always) loose the depth and texture that I love most about fabric. Ironically, my recent work, which is traditionally matted and framed, is selling very well…so like I said: conflicted.

Felicity.02 • Dye on Fabric • 5"x5" • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay
Since I knew that the 5"x5" couldn't be framed I had to work differently and I was given permission to work differently. This is what I love about challenges, they force me to solve the problems I have been avoiding out of fear or laziness.

I love to stitch, but I haven't incorporated it into my work for awhile—I am especially adverse to putting stitching under glass, although I have done it (yep, still conflicted). Since these pieces would not be framed I decided to get out the needle and thread and enjoy the process. After I dyed and stitched the fabric, uncertainty set in. Should I glue my fabric to the canvas already stapled to the 5"x 5"? Would the glue seep through? Should I back my fabric? With what? In the end I decided to remove the canvas and stretch my fabric around the frame, stapling it in the back. I am very pleased with the results. This little project has sparked ideas, pathways and connections for a new body of work that includes stitching and finishing in the same manner. My debt of gratitude to Dr. Callison continues to grow!

In Other News
If you are in the Seattle (are you in Seattle?) area during the month of October, check out the Shift Collaborative Studio show, Thirteen Underground, that is part of an artist member exchange and features work by members of the Fayetteville Underground, including yours truly.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Move Over

This is a view from where I used to live.
Estero Americano • photo ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay

I live somewhere else now.
The New 'hood • photo ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay

Last week trucks arrived with the car, furniture and boxes. Even though I have been through this many times before, I felt anxious and unhappy. I got the distinct impression that no one was listening to me. People came and went. They made promises, saying things like, "We'll give you 24 hours notice.", "We're almost finished.", and "Don't worry, everything will be okay." I'm sure they meant well at the time, but later, when the promises proved inconvenient, they made excuses instead.

For awhile I thought I could maintain my usual schedule in the studio and in life but at about 10:00 am on Wednesday I gave up, or shut down, depending on how you look at it. Fortunately my sister, who has moved half way around the world and back, rescued me with laughter and sound advice: "Go slow, breathe, do the best you can."

I am grateful to all of you who come here to read this blog and I apologize for not being able to keep up these days. I promise to write more in the near future…

…or if I don't I'll be sure to have a great excuse.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Calendar Girl

Over Time • Dye on Paper • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay

Last year at this time I was sitting in my favorite chair in the living room of our new home in Northwest Arkansas. The laundry was washed, folded and put away, the dishes were clean, the pantry stocked, the meals planned, and I'd recently written or called all my friends and family. I remember wondering if all that was really the reason I was put here on earth.

A few weeks ago I sat in the same chair wondering how I was ever going to get the laundry done, the dishes washed, the pantry stocked, the meals planned, and whether or not my friends and family are still speaking to me.

I've known for awhile that the situation was reaching a crisis point, but I hadn't taken the time to slow down long enough to analyze the reasons why. For me, one of the best ways to get focused is to take a class, so I signed up for the Get Organized class offered by Art Biz Coach, Alyson Stanfield. When, on Day Ten: Maintain Your Calendar, Alyson strongly urged us to try using an electronic calendar, I balked, I complained, I resisted. I have been using my trusty Sun Graphix calendar with the blue leather cover engraved with my initials for twelve years. I love it, it fits in my purse, it isn't heavy and it works—well I thought it worked, but lately I have been writing things in it, but not looking at it, or worse, not writing down appointments at all. Also, when I did look at each weekly spread, it looked pretty manageable to me. I was saying yes to things and then feeling overwhelmed and not knowing why. Reluctantly, but because I had committed the time and money to the class, I decided to take Alyson's advice and try the iCal application that came with my Mac and syncs to my iPhone. I entered all the appointments from my paper calendar. Enthralled by the ability to automatically fill in the repeats, I filled up the year with monthly meetings and weekly appointments. It was actually a bit fun. I printed August and carried it around for a while to see how it felt. The new calendar was pretty and neatly organized but the laundry still wasn't getting done. In frustration, I read the Day Ten notes again—and there it was, the sentence that changed my life: "If tasks take up a significant amount of time (say, more than an hour) add them to your calendar. This will keep you from over-committing yourself." Talk about Aha! moments. That meant that writing the blog went on the calendar, studio time, marketing, finances, householder duties…when I was finished I had a pretty and neatly organized graphic representation of why I feel overwhelmed.

Now comes the hard part because a few activities will have to go—not because they aren't fun, fulfilling or important but because if I really want to be who I say I do, then I can do a lot, but I can't do it all. I suspect September will be about setting priorities and saying no. If anyone has any advice on the subject, I could sure use it. Thank you for reading this blog and for your comments, I really appreciate your time.

Friday, August 13, 2010


July 17 • Dye on Cloth • 10" x 8" • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay

I come from a family that begins most conversations and all correspondence with a weather report.

Dear Mom,
It has been very hot here in Fayetteville. The temperatures have exceeded 90 degrees everyday for more than a month. Yesterday, when I went to get my hair done and buy a birthday present for Alistair, the thermometer in the car said it was 106.

Like that. For a long time I thought it was a silly waste of time, who cares about the weather in a place you aren't?

My grandfather died just last year. He was 104. For the last 15 or so years of his life, after my grandmother died, we wrote each other letters. Mostly about the weather. I have come to love reading the record of the most basic truth of our days. It's soothing and safe. No opinion is necessary and until recently the weather wasn't controversial or divisive. It just was.

I admit that back in the first part of July I complained vigorously about the weather being SO hot. For awhile I couldn't think of anything else. Every. Single. Day. It. Was. Hot. I didn't know how to cope and I was miserable. Being from Northern California, I'm just not used to it. In San Francisco, if the temperature reaches 80 degrees, people take off four of their five layers and have a party in the streets.

July 18 • Dye on Cloth • 10" x 8" • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay

But making art can transform misery into, at the very least, acceptance, and so these two pieces, July 17 and July 18, were made from the heat of those days. Now I find there is beauty in the heat, and also power, something I had not realized before. It requires strength to be outside for any period of time and a commitment to taking care of oneself. Drink lots of water, wear sun screen. There's no fooling around.

I am feeling better now and complaining less. But really, I think the man who invented air conditioning should be given a sainthood.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Only Path to Serenity

Cake • Dye on Paper • 15" x 15" • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay

Years ago, at the height of the self-actualization movement, there were a lot of people yelling, "Don't try, DO!" at hapless workshop participants who just wanted…well, looking back, I'm not sure want we wanted, but the sentiment became so ubiquitous it turned into one of the most famous advertising slogans of all time, Nike's "Just Do It". Now, every time I even think to myself, I'll try that, I can hear the refrain, don't try…

Being a first born, recovering perfectionist, I don't have so much of a problem with the doing of things. If I feel reasonably competent at something and know how things work or if I've done it before, I'm not afraid to step up and do. My problem is trying things. Trying something for the first time, something new, something I don't know if I am good at, or worse, something I know I won't be good at—that is difficult. No thank you, I'll sit this one out.

My mantra should be, "Stop doing and try!"

Many have written about perfectionism as a creative block. We all know that working on something until it is "perfect" can destroy the passion and flow of a project. My problem is a dark cousin to that, I don't want to begin working for fear things won't turn out. This can cause procrastination, a reluctance to try new things and a predilection to work safe.

Happily, one benefit all those self actualization workshops is that I know these things about myself.

July Colors • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay

With that in mind I TRIED a few things last week. I mixed some new colors, modified and experimented with them. Then I modified some more. I made a mess, lost track of the formulas and just kept going. I added layers of dye to "perfectly good" pieces—some got better, some, alas, did not. But that's okay because some great things happened. I gained more knowledge of my materials, which is essential for improvement and I am pleased with the results, even the "mistakes" were research. It was a week well spent and that is a victory.

from the Tao Te Ching:

Fill your bowl to the brim
And it will spill.

Keep sharpening your knife
And it will go blunt.

Chase after money and security
And your heart will never unclench.

Care about people's approval
And you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back
The only path to serenity.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Prizes Will Be Awarded

Secret Chord at the Art Center of the Ozarks • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay

It has been difficult getting my head to fit through the studio door this week. Fortunately the swelling has gone down some since Saturday. That was when Secret Chord, the piece I entered in the 16th Annual Artists of Northwest Arkansas Regional Art Exhibition, won two prizes! First was the postcard award which meant that the image of Secret Chord was used for all the publicity for the show. It was on the postcards that were mailed out to announce the show, the poster, the program, and in the Arts Center of the Ozarks newsletter. Definitely cause for swelling of the head, but that wasn't all. I was awarded the Gwen and Harold Long Memorial Award which came with a lovely certificate and a white envelope with prize money inside. Can you believe it?! I am so pleased, happy, over the moon, floating and, considering the last thing I won was a bowling trophy, I think this is pretty spectacular.

I wanted to write this post earlier in the week but whenever I get excited like this I have a hard time ordering my thoughts and forming complete sentences. It's as if the party happening in my head is distracting to the logical, thinking parts and they can't concentrate. Or maybe they are at the party and have their cell phones turned off, I don't know. What I do know is that I am grateful to so many people for making this all possible. I am grateful to the Fayetteville Underground Artist Committee for liking my art and giving me a studio to work in; to my husband for supporting my dreams; to everyone who encouraged me when I was doing the work—no matter how much I argued, whined and complained; to all the people who come to the Underground and tell me they like my work; to those who leave lovely comments here at this blog and on Facebook (I tell you what, it is such a thrill to get comments—who knew such a seemingly small thing could be so fun?) and especially to the people who purchase my work, your conviction makes this all possible.

It was my wild dream that Secret Chord and her sister pieces, Evensong, Take Me There and Standing in Awe would all be purchased by one collector. I remember thinking it was crazy to even think about it, how could that happen? And then it did. Three of the pieces are already in their new home in Houston, Texas and Secret Chord will follow just as soon as she is done showing off.

There is much in this world to be sad about, but for a few moments today, won't you join my party? Do something special for your self. Make some art. Buy some art. If you do, I'd love to hear about it, just leave a comment below. And thank you all for reading this blog!

Friday, July 2, 2010

On Vacation

Jennifer on Vacation • ink on paper • © 2010 (the amazing) Jan Gosnell

Having fun. Wish you were here!
xxxooo Jennifer

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Big Hjem

Hjem Restaurant Roman Shade • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay • photo ©2010 Hank Turner

Regular readers of this blog will remember that a few months ago I was commissioned by Chef Matthew Holland to make make fabric panels and yardage for a roman blind to decorate his new restaurant, Hjem. I wrote about the process in previous blog posts, Think Big and Working Big.

Matthew started with dusty old offices and a vision of what he wanted. Since my studio is downstairs from the restaurant I have seen the progress first hand. Some days it seemed nothing was happening and then other days there would be a flurry of activity as men and equipment passed by my studio door or made loud and mysterious banging noises upstairs. Until last week the dining area didn't look like much more than a storage area. There was furniture piled up and boxes of dinnerware in the corners. There was really no evidence of what was coming.

And then one day it was all set up. My fabric panels were hung, the Swarovski crystal chandeliers sparkled with light. Matthew, his wife Camilla, and Morton, an investment partner, came down to the Underground one evening and chose some artwork to hang on the walls. The silverware was wrapped in napkins, candles were lit—

Hjem Restaurant Fabric Panel and Roman Shade • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay • photo ©2010 Hank Turner

When I first saw the final results, I felt one of those Wow moments when, even though you know it's your work hanging up there, the combined beauty of it all makes it not yours—it is now part of the restaurant Hjem…Home.

Hjem Restaurant Fabric Panels • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay • photo ©2010 Hank Turner

I have not forgotten the most important part…Chef Matthew has devoted his considerable talents to the menu as well. Every ingredient has been chosen with care. The result is a seasonal menu of fantastic food which I plan to eat my way through many times over.

Hjem Restaurant Fabric Panel • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay • photo ©2010 Hank Turner

I am so grateful that Matthew asked me to participate in the realization of his dream for Hjem Restaurant. I enjoyed the process from beginning to end. The best part is that Matthew and Camilla are pleased with the results—for me that makes the crystal chandeliers sparkle even brighter.

Thank you, Chef—I'll be up later for lunch.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Brief Interlude

Did you know that a gallon of water weighs 8.35 pounds?

I did not.

Even though I had help carrying the 6 gallons (50 lbs.) of water from the kitchen area to my studio, it seems I have sprained my wrist and rest is required.

Maybe it would be a good time for us all to pause and say thank you to our bodies for their marvelous service. (Feel free to apologize to certain overused parts if you need to.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Secret Chord

Secret Chord • dye on fabric • 13" x 13" • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay

Dear photoboy,

Remember in March when you and Flanagan and I had our solo shows at the Underground? For a whole month it was all about us—we were on the radio, in the newspaper and magazines, there was a party every week—and remember when we invited all my fans on facebook to lunch at my studio and no one came? So the three of us ate the delicious cheese and bread and olives and drank the wine while we discussed important philosophical questions like, What are the ethical and artistic differences between taking a photograph of someone who is aware they are being photographed,

Luca • ©2009 Don House

and someone who is not?

Barcelona Street • ©2009 Jennifer Libby Fay

Good times, man, good times.

The best part was we believed our work mattered, and we knew if we just got ourselves out there more—maybe to a different audience or a new gallery, all would be well. Our discussions were encouraging and motivating and I seem to recall we agreed to meet every month to review our sales and marketing strategies with the hope that we could maintain our momentum…

By the way, we should, um, schedule that meeting, yes?

So you know that weird feeling you get when you receive a letter addressed to yourself by yourself? There's those couple of surreal heartbeats when it doesn't make sense before you think, oh yeah, whew, self-address stamped envelope. Well, I got one of those the other day which reminded me of another agreement we'd made back in March. We were each going to enter our work in something—a show, a magazine, whatever. Seems I entered the Artists of Northwest Arkansas Sixteenth Annual Regional Art Exhibition—and then completely forgot all about it. (I've been a little busy)

Guess what? I got in! My piece, Secret Chord, was accepted! And, can I tell you a secret about Secret Chord? You won't believe this, but it started with an episode of the Oprah show. I know, I know, but it was last winter and we were having a bad snow storm so I decided not to go into the studio. I stayed home and did some hand stitching on a few new pieces.

I had the TV on to keep me company—okay, who am I kidding? I love Oprah, I think she's smart and beautiful and amazing. I have learned many things from her shows and her magazine, so I can't really pretend like this was all an accident. I usually tape her show, but this day, I was home, she was on TV, and Celine Dion was the guest. So here I have to tell the truth again—while I am aware of the extraordinary talent that is Celine Dion, I don't actually own any of her records, nor do I listen to radio stations that would play her music—but she undeniably has one of the most purely beautiful voices on the planet, and whenever I see her interviewed, I just like her.

So there I am stitching away, half paying attention and they get to this:

I realize I could damage my rocker girl reputation by admitting this, but I love this song, and I love this version of this song: the surprise factor, the powerful beauty of her voice combined with the voices of the tenors, the fact that they step it up a notch when she shows up, and then the finish. I love it. Okay, here's my redemption—the song, Hallelujah, was written by Leonard Cohen and you can't get much cooler than that. Right?

The next day I went to the studio with a fantastical goal in mind: to make art as moving as the song Hallelujah. It is a good goal to have. I think I can spend my life pursuing it.

So if you are around on Saturday, July 10th from 1-3pm will you come by the Arts Center of the Ozarks for the reception? It would be lovely to see you.

Warm regards,

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Standing in Awe

Standing in Awe • Hand dyed fabric • 13" x 13" • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay

When I first moved to San Francisco, I roomed with my friend Noël who had also just arrived in the big city. The apartment had two bedrooms and two baths, one each on either side of a large living room area. The best thing about the place was the picture window. It had a view of the City, the Bay, the Bay Bridge, Alameda, Oakland, Berkeley, Alcatraz—and if you stood close to the window and looked to the left, the Golden Gate Bridge. I don't remember looking to the right very often but I am sure it was beautiful too.

In my mind the place seems huge but that might have been because we didn't have much in it. Just
a stereo and two armless, skirted, green velvet chairs that swiveled. Ashtrays, drinks, food, books all went on the floor. I don't think we even had a lamp. We sat in those chairs night after night and looked out that window. It was like having our own personal movie theater. The fog came in, the fog went out. Lights sparkled. The traffic made ribbons of color on the bridges. It was mesmerizing. Every once in a while there were fireworks. Noël and I would marvel that people in this magical place could have fireworks when it wasn't even the fourth of July. We vowed that someday be rich enough to throw parties with fireworks anytime we pleased.

One night we were treated to a fantastic thunderstorm. It rained hard, and when the lightning bolts flashed in the sky over Oakland the whole tableaux lit up for a few seconds, the Transamerica Pyramid gleaming white in the distance. Wow, we thought, it's great—just like home.

The next morning, as usual,
Noël went to get the newspaper but she came back with a funny look on her face. She couldn't even speak—there on the front page, above the fold, was a big photograph of a lightning bolt from the night before.

Lightening? News? We laughed and laughed. This San Francisco really is a crazy place after all.

Many years have gone by since then but I have only seen lightening in the Bay Area on one other occasion—it didn't make the paper though, I checked.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Re-igniting the Creative Spark

Repair • Hand dyed fabric • 10" x 8" • ©2009 Jennifer Libby Fay

A few years ago, hmm, maybe more than a few, it's difficult to keep track, I decided I wanted to do some more handweaving. I took a break from weaving for about 5 years when my work as a product designer gave me lots of chances for travel and adventure. Things were settling down though, so I thought I would get back into it. A workshop at the Mendocino Art Center was just the ticket, I thought, and wouldn't it be fun if I enlisted my friends in this endeavor? I asked fellow textile artists and good friends Dotti and Joanne if they had any interest. Sure enough there was a fabric dyeing class scheduled for the same week as the weaving class. We signed up, booked the bed and breakfast, got the supplies together, and a couple of weeks before we were scheduled to leave—the weaving class was cancelled. Since I had marked out the time and paid for the room I decided, what the heck?, I'll just take the same class as Dotti and Joanne. I'll never use it, I said to myself. I hate dyeing. All those heavy pots of boiling water. No siree, not for me.

From left to right: Me, Dotti and Joanne in Dotti's studio

Well this type of fabric dyeing wasn't like any other I had tried and after a couple of days I knew something BIG was happening. The technique of dyeing on synthetic fabrics with disperse dyes was, for me, a perfect combination of my love of fabric and my training in graphics and fine art. It involved painting, composition, marbling, and drawing. I could sew or not sew. AND the dyes must be set with heat, but you use a heat press—no boiling water!…I loved it. Dotti and Joanne and I went in together on a heat press and dyes. Dotti graciously offered to keep the press in her studio and let me use it. She ended up sharing her studio with me and I know that that act of kindness is as important to my journey an artist as all the workshops in the world. Having a place to work and an encouraging and knowledgeable person to talk to is priceless to an emerging artist. I am forever grateful to her.

Dotti Day's studio • San Rafael, California

So the years went by and life brought me to Northwest Arkansas where I have my own studio at the Fayetteville Underground. My room looks very similar to the one I shared with Dotti and I often wish she was at the other end of the table to talk to…this week I am in California and I get to visit Dotti in her studio tomorrow. I am very excited to see what she has been working on—and I'm pretty sure we will make some art together.

My teachers, Jason Pollen and Lisa Grey are giving a workshop this summer on marbling on synthetic fabrics with disperse dyes. If you are interested the info is here (scroll down to Re-igniting the Creative Spark) and Lisa has written about it on her blog here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Working Big

2-13' x 2' fabric panels drying

Remember the old mind teaser, Which is heavier, a ton of feathers or a ton of bricks? Well, I can tell you, a ton of wet fabric is the heaviest.

Phase two of my commission to create 11-13' x 2' fabric panels for the restaurant, Hjem (pronounced yem), that is opening in early June upstairs from the Fayetteville Underground is complete. A person can learn a few things from working big, so I offer you these observations on the process.

When I first got my studio at the Underground, I thought it was huge. After all, it is twice as big as the one I shared in California. For this project space was a consideration because I only have room for three panels to dry at a time. That meant after three panels were marbled or painted I had to wait. Waiting for fabric to dry ranks right up there with watching grass grow. Do something else while you wait, you say? I looked around the studio and every available surface, including parts of the floor and all of the chairs, were covered with fabric, supplies and tools. After pacing around the table a few times it occurred to me that glaring expectantly at the fabric wouldn't make it dry any faster so I went and had a cup of coffee. The next time had to wait I called a friend and we had coffee together. Bonus.

Proportion must be considered…and considered again.
Of course proportion must always be considered but when working big the distance from which something will be viewed enters the equation. Small details can't be seen when far away and may even muddy the design. Exaggeration is often necessary because what looks huge two feet away can look great 13' feet away. Michelangelo's David is one of the most famous examples of this. I am sure there are more detailed explanations but this one came from Wikipedia:

"The proportions are not quite true to the human form; the head and upper body are somewhat larger than the proportions of the lower body. The hands are also larger than would be in regular proportions. While some have suggested that this is of the mannerist style, another explanation is that the statue was originally intended to be placed on a church façade or high pedestal, and that the proportions would appear correct when the statue was viewed from some distance below."

However, I must say that when you are standing there looking at him the last thing you notice is that his hands are too big…but that's a story for another day.

Working big is physically challenging—yards of fabric to hold in one hand, gallons of water to carry, standing for hours days at a time, it adds up. Of course the work is lovely to do, exciting and challenging and fun. It is wonderful to be engaged in the process and thinking about the each step as it comes—but in the evening it means sore muscles and sometimes anxious sleep. Will it all work? Will I make the deadline? Thank goodness I had help along the way. In addition to Camilla who helped with the marbling, many of my studio-mates and a few building maintenance people were called upon to hold this or that.

Sore muscles aside, there is a freedom that comes with working big that I really enjoyed. Movement comes from the shoulders instead of the wrist. You can step into the action; your whole body gets involved. It feels good. It makes me think I would like to work on a series of large pieces. I am impatient to explore all of these new considerations. If any of you have experiences or thoughts on the subject of working big I would enjoy hearing them. Please feel welcome to leave a comment.

As soon as the Hjem fabric panels are up and the restaurant ready to open, I will post photos so you can see the results. Maybe you'll even come for dinner sometime!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Think Big

Fayetteville Underground • Studio 11 • 5/6/10

This was my studio on Thursday night. I was prepared for the 800 to 1000 people who attend First Thursday Fayetteville. Every month new work goes up in each of the Fayetteville Underground’s four art galleries and a craftperson is featured in the craft gallery. We host a reception and have open studios. It is an exciting evening—lots of talking and smiling.

(Readers of this blog will be pleased to know that Megan sold three paintings on Thursday night and she was not alone, other artists, including yours truly, sold some too!)

Fayetteville Underground • Studio 11 • 5/7/10

This is what the studio looked like early Friday morning. The usually casual atmosphere has been interrupted by a flurry of activity. I received a commission from the new restaurant that is going in upstairs. Hjem (pronounced yem) means home in Norwegian and will feature Scandinavian influenced food and a casual yet elegant style. We can talk about the food scene in Fayetteville, Arkansas another time, but just know that this will be a welcome addition…

The restaurant walls are brick, the floors wood and there are lots of windows. That’s where I come in. I have been asked to make fabric panels to frame the windows and some yardage that will be made into a roman blind. The panels are about 13 feet by 2 feet and there are lots of them.

11-13' x 2' Fabric Panels
The studio is overflowing with fabric and tools and activity.

7' x 2' marbling frame

I built a frame to hold the marbling fluid. When I say I, I mean Michael, the building manager who happened to walk by as I was taping the two by fours together (don’t laugh, it would have worked) and offered to hammer in some nails for me. His payment, a six-pack, has been delivered.

To marble the panels I need help as well, so Camilla, beautiful wife of above mentioned restaurant owner, agreed to assist. We can do three panels at a time—there are 11 in all—because that is how much hanging space I have.

Setting the dye with a heat press

After the panels dry the dye is set with the heat press.
Only part of each panel is marbled, I’ll show you what happens next when we meet again.

Until then, think BIG.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Every Day We Paint is a Victory

Where Stranger's Dreams Cling • 30" x24" • ©2010 Megan Chapman
Click on image to see more paintings in this series

My friend Megan says I need a new blog post. She is ready to move on from Blue Oyster Cult. I listen to Megan. She knows things.

She knows about Fayetteville, Facebook and blogging. She knows about painting and photography and music. Music is her muse. It seems to enter her ears, travel down her spine and release through her hands onto the canvas. Since her studio is just down the hall from mine at the Fayetteville Underground, sometimes I get to witness this extraordinary process. It is inspiring. Inspiring because, even though I just made it sound like magic, it isn’t. Megan shows up and she paints. Day after day after day, she goes in her studio and makes art. Sometimes it flows, sometimes, well, it doesn’t, but she shows up anyway. I believe this is central to her success. I used her motto as the title of this post: Every day we paint is a victory. I love that—so much so I made up my own modified version: Every day we make art is a victory. It’s a victory over fear, over lethargy, over indifference.

What I did this summer from Megan Chapman on Vimeo.

Last month Megan had an experience that has already become legend at the Underground. She got a call
from the gallery on a Saturday evening, “There’s a woman here who loves your work but she says these are too small, do you have anything bigger?” Megan went to the Underground, opened up her studio, spent time with the customer, a first time art buyer…and the woman bought nine paintings. Nine. It makes me smile just telling you about it. Nine. I recommend reading the story in Megan’s own words.

So that brings me to her blog, Megan Chapman’s Studio Blog: Ideas about making, marketing, selling and talking about art. If you are interested at all in the business and process of art this is a must read. You will find invaluable information, insights and tips. Start here, at the beginning.

Megan told me that historically April hasn’t been a very good month for her, but she set an intention that this one would be good. I don’t think she had any idea what “good” could mean when she imagined it, but isn’t that the best way?—set the intention then give up expectations and remain open to what may come.

So here we are in May…what will happen next?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Is there an age limit on this?

I often listen to the University of Arkansas student run radio station on my drive from the studio to home. The other night I heard this exchange between two DJs:

DJ 1: Hey, the band Blue Oyster Cult is playing at the Arkansas Music Pavilion on May 22nd—we should check it out.

DJ 2: Blue Oyster Cult? Are they still around? Man, they must be older than dirt…

Hmmm. I own their first album. So what does that make me?

I looked it up—almost as old as dirt. Sigh.

So this got me to wondering about age and creativity. I will admit that on bad days I worry that it is too late for me and I will never achieve the goals I have set for myself as an artist. There’s too much to learn, too much practice time to make up. And in our youth obsessed culture, who cares about an artist that’s older than dirt?

On good days I realize that every layout and logo and billboard and nightlight and kitchen tool and piece of dinnerware I have designed, as well as all the classes I have taken, clients I've dealt with, threads I have woven, stitches I’ve sewn—not to mention all the art I have seen in museums and galleries—informs the work I do today. All that experience makes me the artist I am—and that is unique and good.

Hopefully the good days outnumber the bad...

For inspiration I give you the story of artist Carmen Herrera, who sold her first painting at the age of 84 and now at 89 is collected internationally. When I read this story in the NY Times I clipped it out, saved it. Somehow I knew I would need it someday.

Older than dirt, take that.

So I leave you with a recent video of the Blue Oyster Cult. By the way, you have to play these songs very loud. So loud in fact, that your mother comes storming into your room demanding you turn it down because the mirrors in the downstairs bathroom are rattling and she just can’t take anymore…

Monday, April 19, 2010

Green with Envy

I Love a Surprise • Hand Dyed Fabric • 28" x 15" • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay

Blog Triage Class: Lesson 5 Curing Blog Envy. Assignment: Find a blog you are envious of, analyze it, use what you learn to make your blog better.

The Year in Pictures is a “record of photography (and a few other things) that have captured the attention” of gallery owner, James Danziger. First, you have go there right now and watch the Weekend Video. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Wasn’t that fantastic? Weekend Video is just one of the aspects of this blog that keeps me enthralled. Mostly, I love the surprising nature of its content. Yes, Danziger often manages to surprise me and I’ve been trying to figure out why. Maybe it’s because he features photographers like this, or this. Or it could be the fascinating people he knows, the places he goes, or maybe his historical commentary. In the end, it sort of doesn’t matter. If it has captured his attention—I want to know.

So here’s the envy list—
• he writes elegantly and engagingly about subjects that interest me
• I always learn something
• sometimes he makes me laugh
• I have even cried
• his personal posts are as interesting as his photography posts
• the images are outstanding
• the blog design is simple
• he writes consistently

But I think there’s something else, that je ne sais quoi factor—I can’t quite figure it out. After you spend some time over there, I would love to know your thoughts...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Call Me From Heaven

Call Me From Heaven
7" x 5", Mixed Media

There are about six blogs that I read religiously. I put them in my bookmarks toolbar and check them out when I have time. As I mentioned, I am taking a class in blogging. For our assignment to answer the question, “who is my ideal reader”, I went to each blog and asked myself, why do I read it, who else reads it and what makes me return to read again and again?

One of my favorites blogs is written by Danny Gregory. I first found his book, The Creative License, at my local bookstore on the “staff picks” table. The recommendation went something like: I wish everyone would read this book. If you ever wanted to draw, it will change your life. That was good enough for me. I read the book, cover to cover. Then I went back to the beginning and did exactly what Danny told me to do, step by step. If you want to start drawing or make your art more often, trust me, the bookstore guy was right, it changed my life.

Oh, but there was more. His blog is FILLED with information on drawing! There are links to cool sites, videos… Then he wrote new book, The Illustrated Life, a collection of sketchbook pages from artists all over the world—with podcasts! I devoured every word, spent hours exploring. Meanwhile, I learned personal things about Danny and his wife Patti and son Jack. I knew that Danny’s life had been touched by tragedy. He explains in his earlier book Everyday Matters, how he started drawing again after his wife was paralyzed in a subway accident. Every. Day. Matters. he says, and you believe him. There were posts about what Patti was doing and I remember the posts when his son, Jack, was deciding whether or not to go to a high school for the arts. I watched vacation videos. In other words, I felt like a friend in that weird blogosphere sort of way.

So the other day I went to check in on Danny and was devastated to find this.

Tragedy, again.

I was heartbroken, knocked sideways, lost.

Then, do you see? towards the end of the post, he says,
“In the days following Patti’s death, I lost my appetite, my ability to sleep, my concentration, my will. I hesitated to pick up a pen. Nothing seemed to matter, let alone the everyday. But then, after some time spent staring into space, I began again to draw. And I must and will continue. Drawing brings me meaning. To abandon it would betray Patti’s memory and myself. I hope that if you are hesitating to draw, beating yourself up because you’re not good enough, telling yourself you have no time to spare, feeling distracted and down, remember that, though life can be plucked from us at any moment, it is full of wonder and beauty. Keeping an illustrated journal is the perfect way to capture and treasure the gems that lie all around us. A few minutes a day make it all worth while.”

Always generous, kind, loving, smart, talented, and wise…that’s why I, along with thousands of others, read Danny’s blog. I know that nothing can take away the pain of losing Patti, but maybe there is some small comfort in the many messages Danny has received from his readers. They are the best kind of readers of all.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

People? Reading my blog?

My Studio at the Fayetteville Underground

I finally pushed the button that lets everyone read my blog. So far, I am pretty sure no one has, but if you had been in my studio yesterday, I think you would have found it amusing. A studiomate came by and asked me what I was doing. I told him I have a blog that only I can read and I am working on it. “You mean it’s an invisiblog?” he said. I started laughing—at myself, at the process—and all the angst (well, most of it) went away.

Today I find myself hoping you’ll find this space and read it! What a difference. I feel excited by the possibilities. How did I do it? I signed up for the Blog Triage Class lead by Alyson Stanfield and Cynthia Morris. Having the structure, lessons and support of a class really made it all possible…thank you!

So now that I have pushed the button, I am wondering who “everyone” is?

Friday, April 9, 2010


Years ago during a career counseling workshop, I took the Myers Briggs Type Indicator personality test. After the class was over, the counselor came over to me and said, “In all the years I have been administering this test I have never seen anyone score so high in the Introvert range…almost at the very end of the scale.” she paused and took a deep breath, “If you really want to achieve any of the career goals you have mapped out for yourself, you are going to have to address this issue.” I think I mumbled something brilliant like, “Okay.” “Well, good luck,” she said, and walked away. I wish I could remember her name because I’d like to thank her. I think she’d be gobsmacked to learn I have a blog. Frankly, I am myself.

I know I am a shy person. But it’s not that shy people don’t have anything to say…we just worry about whether you want to hear it or not.

So what will we talk about? Art, textiles, surface design. I can tell you about my work and maybe some other things that capture my attention. We’ll see how it goes. I am glad you are here. Shy people secretly love company, at least this one does.