Western society considers the norm for a wedding gown to be a white ballgown, and anything else is considered unusual or daring. However, things haven’t always been so strict. In fact, most brides just married in a very nice dress- one that could be used again and would be part of her daily life. From a Reader’s Digest discussion of the white gown phenomenon, we learn that “In early Celtic cultures, red was the bridal colour of choice, worn to invoke fertility; early Christians preferred blue, which was symbolic of truth and purity and used in depictions of the Virgin Mary, either for the whole dress or as a band around the hem. Right up until the late 19th century, most ordinary women were married in their ‘Sunday best’, which, adapted if necessary, could be worn again. Grey was much favoured as both modest and useful, and brown was not uncommon; white was usually just too impractical.”
In 1840, British Queen Victoria wore a white gown to her wedding, which started the white craze with well-off women all over the world. White was a clear indicator of wealth, as lower-class women could not afford to have an article of clothing that would so easily become soiled. Later, the consumerist tradition of purchasing a lavishly expensive gown to wear only once emerged.
As Western society moves back into an environmentally-conscious, reuse-minded lifestyle, choosing a wedding dress with color- or better yet, a dress that can be used for other fancy occasions- will hopefully re-enter our expectation of a bride’s pre-marriage journey. As the wedding industry moves toward this end, we as a society can only help by avoiding the stigma of the white wedding dress and changing our views about colorful gowns. Our dollars speak!
My gowns have been upcycled and are colorful! Check them out at my etsy store.
This is another awesome interview with an artist friend! Enjoy! Please feel free to ask Jen any questions by leaving a comment below.
Jen of Jen’s Jewels: I’m a metalsmith, but I have a specialty in stone-set jewelry.
M: Tell me about the current body of work you’re doing.
J: I’m experimenting with mixing metals and different stone combinations. It’s mostly jewelry. I have another line that I’m going to be working on that’s twig and leaves with a stone set in it. It was actually inspired by [television series] The Tudors. I’m creating more wearable art, so abstracted pieces- the majority of which are stone [pieces] and create a landscape on the body.
[This body landscape series] comes from my obsession with stones and what the earth provides in its natural beauty- creating something that makes a person feel as beautiful naturally as the earth does. I want it to be a piece that you buy and everything else revolves around it. It’s like when you look at nature; when you see certain aspects of nature, it’s not symmetrical or perfect. I try and incorporate that in my work, so there are purposeful flaws that make the piece more interesting and handmade. I’m also playing a lot with the vine and leaf motif. With the vine and leaf motif, that’s more a play on wisteria vines, because [they have] something that’s really enticing. They have such a beautiful smell and color, yet there’s a part of them that’s poisonous.
M: Is there a part of your work that you would consider poisonous?
J: The addiction to it. For me as well as for the buyer. For some reason, I don’t know if it’s the energy that I put into it, but some people become addicted to my work and must have more. It’s poisonous for your pocketbook!
It’s poisonous in the fact that I work at home; my studio is at home and I have no escape from [my work] when I’m at home. I’m really still working on that. It’s bringing me to the point of burnout, but at the same time, it’s forcing me to be more creative with my work.
M: Name someone who is not a visual artist who has strongly influenced the trajectory of your work.
J: Anthony Hopkins. When I was an actor, he was one of my teachers. He taught me of the universe and that whatever you put out there will come back around to you. The positive energy that I have reinforced in myself over and over has helped me to grow as an artist, expand my mind, and never give up. He’s amazing. I don’t think he realized how much just a couple classes [with him] really influenced me. He didn’t teach us about the skill of acting; he taught us about life and how to read people and how to open up, in a way, and hear what is really being said to you. In a way, that has really helped me with sales and figuring out what people like and what they’re interested in.
M: What’s the artistic process like for you? How does something travel from these ideas about nature to these finished pieces?
J: Step 1, when I’m designing jewelry, I pull a lot of stones out. I lay them all over my work table and I stare at them. And then from there, I pick them up and I hold them and put them down next to each other, mixing and matching and creating a theme with the color, specifically with my body landscaping pieces. It’s odd, but all stones have a certain energy, and I try to find some that have energy that flows together, so that when it’s on it feels right.
From there, I go to the functional side of designing for wear. And then I start building. Another thing that will happen with some of my more nature-inspired pieces is I’ll actually sketch them out. I’ll be watching something, a movie, and something just clicks, and I have to draw it down. I have to go back to the sketchbook where I’ve created those pieces.
M: Do you keep a sketchbook with you all the time?
J: I always forget to bring it. I used to, but a lot of times when I have an idea it will stick with me so that when I have the chance I can sketch it out.
M: What is the ultimate compliment someone could say to you about your work?
J: Here’s an example. One of my best friends’ mothers, who never wears jewelry, was told that when she comes down to see me, “Don’t buy anything unless it speaks to you.” She is known to be extremely talkative, to the point where you wonder if she will ever take a breath. When she came in to see me, she found a piece that spoke to her, and she put it on. The look of instant peace that came over her, and tranquility, due to the energy of the stones, was the greatest thing to watch. It brought her to a peace and a comfort.
M: So for you it’s not a verbal compliment, it’s the feeling and the action?
J: It’s the feeling of my work, because I do put my energy into my work, and for something that has my energy to have that strong of an effect, combined with nature’s energy, is really wonderful.
Find Jen’s work at any of the following locations:
South Coast Botanical Gardens
26300 Crenshaw Blvd. Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA
19932 Ventura Blvd. Woodland Hills, CA 91364
310 Vista Del Mar Suite C Redondo Beach, CA 90277
CRAFTED at the Port of LA
112 E. 22nd St. San Pedro, CA
(Come here to meet Jen! Open Friday through Sunday every week.)
Lately, Morgan Culture blog posts are all the rage. Well, I’ve been published a few times recently, anyway.
Some of these you may have seen before, and some may be new to you; give them a look-see! And at the bottom, find some links to places my stuff is now carried at!
Not one but TWO Morgan Culture hand-painted wedding gowns (ok, actually my gowns and my wedding, full of DIY goodness) featured on one of my favorite sites, Offbeat Bride,
A post I wrote about the homebuying process and what we can learn from disappointment, on Offbeat Home,
LAYGS hand-painted leggings in a new iteration (actually painted with a brush) on Specks and Keepings,
And, find Morgan Culture and LAYGS products at the following venues!
–Clear Gardens Yoga Studio, Inglewood, CA
–Hawaiian Total Fitness MMA, San Pedro, CA
–Nutshell Clothing Co., Twin Falls, ID
–Specks and Keepings, Los Angeles, CA
–Inked and Sexy, Warwick, RI
–The Road Less Traveled Store, Santa Ana, CA (coming soon!)
This is the first in a series of artist interviews for the blog!
Morgan Culture: What do you call your craft?
Shirlee of Enchanted Chic: It’s fused glass, but I’ve always considered it fun and functional art glass. Fun and functional fused art glass.
M: Tell me about the current body of work you’re exploring.
S: Right now I’m learning glass casting while I’m doing it. Casting of objects, bodies… what I’m doing right now is casting to make more art and fine art-style pieces and using those skills towards my tables and other functional items. I’m combining the fine art/high art with the functional. It’s absolutely fabulous, because you can cast anything. It’s very ambitious to start out casting faces and bodies.
M: I took bronze casting in college- is it a similar process with the moldmaking?
S: It’s similar to bronze casting, where you have to be careful of undercuts and shapes- but glass so sensitive to temperature overmelt/undermelt in addition to shape concerns.
M: Do you have a professional studio, a home studio, a shared space with other artists?
S: Home studio, but I also work at Pacific Art Glass for larger kiln stuff. For example, I have a 14-inch round table that I’m working on right now, and my kiln is only a 13-inch octagon.
When I work at Pacific, I see what everyone else is working on and get inspired by it. I’ve really gone from being a crafter to being an artist at this location. I’ve stopped spending so much time worrying about the technical part and now I get to focus more on why I’m making what I’m making.
S: I get a lot of my inspiration, honestly, from being outside. You see what nature created, and you just can’t beat that. I just kinda look around and go, hm, I wonder if I can do that? Like I wanted to see if I could create waves. And I’ve been influenced by Disney, and comic books, cartoons, retro fabric, and even horror makeup artists.
M: So you have these inspirations. Many people find the whole artmaking process to be a mystery. Can you give me the Reader’s Digest version of what happens in your studio from inspiration to final output?
S: Once the crazy Idea has flipped in my head, I’ll start, since I have no drawing ability, I’ll take layers of glass- sometimes it’s sheet glass, and sometimes it’s frit, little chunks of glass- and I’ll start layering. There are [also] these little tiny pulled pieces of glass called stringers, basically uncooked glass spaghetti. I’ll take my cutter and maybe cut out a shape, see if that fits, and I start the layering process. I can put stuff on and take stuff off until I’m ready to fuse.
I hated what was out there, so I also started making my own glass clay that I use for my designs. It made me crazy; the stuff that was out there was sub-par, and [I] couldn’t do with it what I wanted to do with it. So I figured out what they did and I made it myself.
Once I get the shape I’m looking for, I need to adhere it. You don’t build anything on a kiln. You have to move it from where you built it into the kiln. What works the best [to hold pieces in their places] is cheap hairspray. I’ll have a pile, usually 2-3 layers, and I don’t want my design to move, so I just take cheap hairspray and spray it over the top. Then, sometimes I’ll put a piece of clear glass over the top of it, depending on if I want texture on it or not.
For every piece, you have a firing schedule. The schedule tells the kiln to go to certain heats for certain lengths of time. It’s a digital thing you program into your kiln so it knows what to do. How high you go depends on how much texture you want. For my people [sculptures], I keep it low because I want the texture. But for things like coasters, I need it to be smoother, so I do a full fuse.
If I know what I’m making, I can do the whole process in a day. The kiln alone takes 9 hours. If it’s a hot day, I generally don’t run the kiln until the sun goes down so I don’t heat up the whole house.
I love making my [coffee and end] tables because they are something I haven’t done before, but I needed to make smaller ones first in order to know what they were going to look like bigger.
When it comes to artistic ability, the drawing part- I’ve got nothing. My process is more stacking the glass and seeing what it will do.
M: That’s kind of like draping on the fly, where a fashion designer, rather than doing a drawing, creating a pattern, and placing it on a dress form, uses larger pieces of fabric draped on the form and changes the look based on what’s showing up and how it’s looking.
S: …except that once I do that [to glass], it’s permanent. I’ve got this big “bucket of fugly” [glass mistakes], and when I get a certain amount of messed up pieces, I can put it all in my kiln and layer it. You get it up to 1800 degrees and stir it, several times. The first time I did it, I burnt off all my arm hair and I’m lucky I have my eyebrows. When it all cools, I slice it sideways and I get some beautiful and weird colors that I use in my jewelry. I don’t ever throw glass away. If my glass ever gets mixed up [with different incompatible glass types] and I can’t use it, I just donate it to a mosaic artist organization.
M: I’m jealous… when you make a terrible drawing, you can’t just mix it up with a bunch of other drawings and have something beautiful come out. I guess you could do a collage, but it’s not quite the same.
So what is the ultimate compliment someone could say to you about your work?
S: “How do you do that?” To me, that means I’m to that point to where you can’t find it on the internet, that not everybody’s doing it. When I first went to Pacific Glass, I met a very sweet person who looked at me and said, “So you wanna fuse glass. Do you want to make quality stuff, or do you want to make stuff any monkey can make? If you’re serious, I’ll get you where you need to go. If you want to be a monkey fusing glass, I can get you there too. And you don’t look like the monkey type.” Now I get to say that to people.
And you have to keep learning.
Shirlee teaches all levels of glass classes- check her facebook or website for the class schedule. Also, the last Sunday of the month, she teaches a glass class at Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles. You can see her work at her website, on her facebook, or in person at Crafted!
Today, Morgan Culture had to separate from a sometimes-business-partner.
Last night, I turned down friends who wanted to go out. I went to bed around 11 because I had to get up early this morning. I got up, tore down my EZ-up tent that is my studio outside, removed all my studio lights, packed up my merchandise, skipped breakfast, and headed to Relay for Life in Ontario, CA: 50 miles and over an hour from home. I was sharing a booth with another vendor, letting her borrow my tent and table, and hopefully selling items in two locations simultaneously today (Crafted and Relay for Life).
I arrived at 8:30AM, the appointed time, and drove around looking for her car. When I didn’t see it after 10 minutes, I called her. She said she was two minutes away, so I reserved a parking spot for her and unloaded my car. 25 minutes later, she was still nowhere to be found, so I started packing up. She then called and said she’d been in an accident but was here. I explained that a simple text or quick call to that effect would have allowed me to get breakfast or do something else in the down time, instead of waiting around for 30 minutes. Then I continued packing up and left.
The thing is, this isn’t the first time this has happened. This vendor was removed from my store at Crafted when she skipped a day she was supposed to work in the store, didn’t communicate it to me so I could find her a sub, and didn’t even let me know afterward. I actually found out from the Crafted office when I was charged an additional $50 on my rent for being closed that day. To go back even further, when she was installing her handmade work at Crafted, I arrived early and stayed late for her, but she was consistently not on time. She also refused display and merchandising suggestions from other vendors, and left a somewhat negative impression with further vendors.
For me, communication and timeliness are key for a partnership. I can’t trust my business or my hand-painted merchandise with someone who isn’t dependable in regard to communicating problems, setbacks, and details. So I can’t work with this person anymore.
I’m struggling to find the lesson here. Could I somehow have known this person wasn’t dependable from the start? Should I not have tried to take this opportunity to work together after breaking the ties at Crafted? Part of me wants to chalk this experience up to “LA time”, a phenomenon that involves almost everyone being significantly late almost all of the time, but the bottom line is that “LA time” just doesn’t work for me or my company.
When we hosted an international student, I remember mentioning to him that he was always early waiting for a ride somewhere or coming home if we had an activity planned. I admired him when he told me, “At home [in Spain], my parents taught me that if dinner is at 5, I must be there at 5. Not 5:05, and not 5:01. If dinner is at 5, I’m there at 4:45.” I’ve also heard people say this about the modeling and acting industries; if an audition is at 3, showing up at 2:45 is on time and showing up at 3 makes one late. However, most of the models and performers I have used also show up significantly late (we’re talking hours). I don’t know what to make of this.
I’ve decided to make a stand and hold my art and fashion business to a higher standard of timeliness and communication; these are the ingredients to make customer service excellent. Therefore, all the people I work with and who will be selling Morgan Culture and LAYGS items need to represent my values.
I don’t like how it feels to end this working relationship, but I do like being able to say that anywhere you see LAYGS sold will be a place you know you can find a trustworthy person. I’d say that’s brand identity!
Many people find out I’m an artist and immediately request a guided tour of a museum. They assume that since I’ve gone to art school, I can explain almost everything inside an art museum. While it may be true that my art history and art theory classes have prepared me well to talk about most genres of art and many specific pieces on display at these establishments, part of what I often hear includes, “I just don’t get [modern/contemporary] art. Some of that stuff I could totally do; what’s the big deal about it?”
Let’s start with a quick distinction: Modern art is NOT the same thing as contemporary art (crazy/stupid, I know). Modern art is actually already over; the term refers to a specific period in art that lasted roughly from the end of Impressionism until somewhere in the 1970s. Definitions of Contemporary art differ, but many people consider art from the 1970s to today as Contemporary (and, confusingly, Postmodern art is often included in definitions of Contemporary art). Therefore, when you speak of art being made now, you’re speaking of Contemporary art, not Modern art. In most other disciplines (medicine, technology), Modern means current, but not so much in art.
That being distinguished, people often complain to me about both modern and contemporary work that “anyone could do it”. Sorry, but that’s not true.
Let’s talk about a specific piece; one that’s often difficult to appreciate. It’s a black square. On a white canvas. That’s it.
But how is that ART? How is that hung in important art museums? Couldn’t I have done it?
Here’s the deal. This painter, Kazimir Malevich, was educated in the formal art tradition of the time. He went to a fancy art school that taught him about the past masters; he’d grown up in a Catholic family that valued these church-funded, usually religiously-themed works. The works were full of people and scenes- they tried to recreate the world of three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface. These traditional works were still the dominant themes of the time, though Cubism had started developing simultaneously with Kazimir’s work. And, if we really think about it, most art laypersons feel that “good” art is still that which can accurately depict a piece of reality.
Kazimir thought differently. He thought the thinking of trying to put three dimensions into two was a wasted effort. He felt that true raw emotion was the real purpose of art, and that all the people, religious iconography, and landscapes he saw only distracted from pure emotion. He deduced that only pure forms and shapes could generate pure emotion. He wanted art to separate not only from religious institutions, but also from representation and object altogether. So, he started painting simple geometric forms, mostly squares and circles.
This guy, Kazimir Malevich, painter of a black square on a white background, created an entirely new way of thinking about art and representation. He made these pieces in a time and place where nothing like them or even remotely along the same lines had ever been done before. Nobody had ever painted just a black square before, and definitely nobody had written a manifesto discussing these types of sentiments before. He singlehandedly and by himself started an entire art MOVEMENT: Suprematism, which is recognized and discussed as significant in 20th century art history classes worldwide.
So back to the question: couldn’t anybody do that? No.
Could you do that? Not with a black square… but just maybe, with something else, you could.
Oh, and for the record- It wasn’t a cop-out; Kazimir could render the heck out of naturalistic work like portraits too.
My one and only workshop this year at Craftcation indie biz and DIY conference, as you may have seen in the previous Craftcation post, is Block Printing. So… what is that? And why would it be good to know?
Let’s back up a little and talk about printmaking as a whole. Printmaking is basically anything you do that creates something with a repeated image (a textbook definition would be much longer and include all kinds of other cool things, like the word “matrix”, but I’m boiling it down here).
So block printing is using a “block” of something (more on that later) to create a relief print. That means you as the printer would carve pieces out of the block and what’s left (after you carve) will hold color and print onto a surface. The best surfaces to print on are fabric and paper, since they are both porous enough to hold ink well and regular enough that the ink prints uniformly.
Blocks can be made of anything from wood (difficult to carve, requiring special tools- these prints are known as wood-block prints) to linoleum (a specific kind of linoleum, also requiring special tools- these prints are known as lino-cut prints) to rubber (yes, rubber stamps are block prints!) to… potatoes. Yes, I have used potatoes in classes for printing! Potatoes are much less expensive than lino blocks or wood blocks, therefore allowing more experimentation and discards as people learn the process. Potatoes are obviously the most eco-friendly block printing solution, as they can be composted and do not need to be processed. I’d only recommend them for very basic shapes, though, as their consistency can make it difficult to carve intricate details. At Craftcation, we’ll have several printing options, none of which require a fancy press, and all of which can be easily done at home or at a small studio.
Why can block printing be useful for you? Well, most people still use paper business cards. What if each of your cards was hand-printed with a cool design or your logo? If you print your own business cards or letterheads at home, you could add the block print before or after adding your information. If you order your cards, you could add this design to the back or an empty area of your cards. Do you work in fabric or wrap your finished items in fabric? A beautiful touch would be to have unique hand-printed fabric that you know won’t be duplicated anywhere. Most items are delivered to customers in paper bags or even shipping envelopes- you could customize those as well. Basically any piece of paper or fabric that your customer sees can help further your brand and message, so you have opportunities to add a personalized touch to all of them with this skill.
And of course block printing has personal uses. What about wallpaper for your home? You can purchase some cheap, plain wallpaper and add your own pattern to it. And then there’s your clothing…. That old jacket could be updated and ever-so-chic with a new pattern added to it.
(photos above from Craftcation 2012)