I have done so much art over the years, it is hard to keep track of. But I have recently come to understand there are certain art and craft processes that naturally lead one to the concept of design. I think the beading and printmaking work I did as a child naturally led me to the concept of and necessity for design.
I have been doing ceramic work for much of my life. From 5 minute pinch pots to thrown vases, I have tried it all. Hand building using layers of slip or brightly colored low fire glazes have always been the most fun. From 1990 to 1999, I took ceramics at Studio One art center and participated in many of their student art shows. The mud like quality of clay work has always been very satisfying. The kneading and shaping of clay is really just an excuse for a really relaxing hand massage.
Glass Fusing and Slumping
I have dabbled in stain glass in various summer camps growing up. The most engaging glass work, however, was again at Studio One art center. I took glass fusing, slumping, blowing and lampwork bead making classes from 1990 to 1999. I very much gravitated towards the fusing and slumping as a long term effort. I would disappear into that right brain flow zone, and emerge 3 hours later, when it was time to clean up, with a quantity of pieces or a complicated design. That particular process of flow, reminded me of “charetting”, a french term for the final push, which often involves staying up all night, to finish an architecture studio assignment. I did this quite frequently in college to finish inking my final vellum designs. A bit like highway hypnosis, where you end of down the road without remembering the whole drive, you start working, and emerge from this altered art state, a few hours later, without remembering the details, but with a full set of masterfully inked drawings.
Holiday Card Series
I have always preferred to figure out how to make things myself; I have been a natural maker and do-it-yourselfer, since childhood. So naturally, the yearly ritual of sending out holiday cards was never destined to be buying cards at a store and addressing envelopes. From 1985 to 2011 I designed and printed a holiday image or game, and sent it out, typically postcard style, to 250 friends and family. I would often hand out 75 or so more. Over the years, as the numbers of recipients grew, and the amount of free time grew short, I moved from hand printing to copy center printing, and from hand drawn to computer design, but it was always something created specifically for the purpose of reaching out with something personal and fun.
Homemade Bath & Beauty
In London, years ago, I bought a “natural” hand cream, which turned out to have the same chemicals and preservatives as regular hand cream. Subsequently, when I read that the average woman puts 398 chemicals on her body every day, I set out on a decade long odyssey to create all natural bath and beauty products. For years, I created and gave pedicure, manicure, facial and stress reduction kits to friends and family under the name “The Bethie Bath”. It turns out the only product that is super difficult, but not impossible to make at home is mascara.
I first started beading years ago. I have many friends who are expert beaders and true artists at the craft, so I have always considered myself an amateur. In middle school, I created liquid silver and turquoise bracelets and necklaces, and sold them at our yearly church crafts fair and at a local art business in North Berkeley. I have always enjoyed beading, and most recently, have started going to bead shows with a group of friends. Bead shows always lead to buying beads, and buying beads always leads to beading, so I have done a lot more beading in the last 3 years just for fun. It is a perfect activity to do when relaxing in front of a movie. Through beading and creating jewelry to sell when I was a kid, I discovered and began to understand the importance of design.
I went to a lot of art based summer camps and art classes growing up, and printmaking was often a part of them. I have always loved printmaking. I think because it involves both well thought-out design (for layering as an example) and often a complicated execution, even if you are just vegetable printing some wrapping paper. It somehow feeds my desire to part of a long-winded complete artistic process. Just a coloring book was never fun for me, but a complex doodle that I had drawn, had colored in, had added paint splotches and splatters, had added some collage or 3-D pieces and then had made into a card of framed gift made me the happiest. Raw materials all the way to a final product has always been my natural artistic process. I have done some form of print making every year of my life since I was 5. It is just so satisfying. I took an amazing etching class in 9th grade, where we used plastic, a carving stylus and ink to create some beautiful pieces. In college I took an engaging woodcut class with John Ross at Columbia. He really encouraged us to push ourselves and the limits of using woodcut as a medium for printmaking. My most recent prints have used a “gelli” plate, which is so much fun, I stayed up until 3 am one night, because I was on such a roll. I definitely see more printmaking in the near future.
I cannot remember when I started leather work. Again, it must have been at a summer camp. But for a period of time I was making belts, bracelets, chokers, hair/stick holders, key chains, wallets, moccasins, etc. I spent my entire allowance, baby-sitting money and jewelry sales money for about a year buying patterns and supplies from the Tandy leather company. There was a leather store on University Avenue in Berkeley that had bins of scrap leather one could buy and take home; I stopped there once a week for a number of years. Leather work provided that raw material start to finish process that I really enjoy. Once I had used a few store bought patterns, I started to design my own unique take on the art. The project often has to be designed ahead of time. The leather needs to be cut and stained. The tooling has to be pre-planned, unless you don’t want that. Leather work was just another one of my ongoing craft projects I had happening in my art studio at home.