Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Father's Stuff

     For seven years now,  I've referred to this as the "the week".  The week that starts with my father's birthday and ends with the anniversary of his passing.  You see, his birthday is November 10th.  In 2002, on my birthday, November 15th, I got the call to "come home". And on November 18th, with my mom and siblings gathered around his hospital bed, my dad lost his short battle with mesothelioma, a type of environmentally-caused lung cancer (and yes, I realize it's actually eight days, but it's still a week when you're living it.)
     In the Bible, seven is a rather pivotal number.  God created the world and on the seventh day, He rested. When the Israelites marched around the city of Jericho seven times, the city walls came down.  Seven is used throughout Revelation, the final book of the Bible.   When asked how many times we should forgive another, "Seven times, Lord?"  Jesus replied, "Seventy times seven!"  And in Deuteronomy, every seventh year is considered a Sabbath year.  Slaves were set free, debts were cancelled, it was a year of release.  It would seem that seven in the Bible reflects a sense of completion, a work finished, a type of perfection accomplished, a resulting freedom.  
     Last year was the seventh anniversary of my dad's passing.  So this year, the eighth year, I decided I would look at "the week" a little differently.  On November 10th, I intentionally began a new fiber piece that would honor my dad. The fiber base, allowed to be free and flowing in shape, was made by wet-felting Tunis wool, both lamb (the lower portion) and adult (the top portion).  Tunis was the kind of sheep my dad raised.  The squares were cut from fabric dyed using scrap metal and a mortar tub found among my dad's treasures in his barn.  On the morning of the 13th, likely right about the time my dad's body was beginning to develop complications from his lung cancer, I hung the piece and created the hall exhibit outside my apartment for an Open Studios event taking place that day.  On the 15th, as I left my apartment to head out to enjoy and celebrate my birthday, I was able to step right into the exhibit and in that moment, lovingly remember my dad and what a special and generous man he was.  And today, on November 18th, the anniversary of my dad's passing, I am completing "the week" by sharing this post on my blog.  
     Below is the exhibit that honors my dad and the statement I wrote to go with it.  So ends "the week", born again into a new perspective.
     Dad, this one's for you.  I love you.

                               My Father's Stuff:

             Lamb and adult Tunis wool, muslin, flannel.
                                               Wet-felted, embossed, 
                                     rust-transfer dyed, cut, sewn.

                                                      November, 2010

What I really wanted to do was cast an old beehive of my dad’s in glass.  But the overwhelming weight of my constant struggle with limited, and often non-existent resources, pushed me in another direction.

I was in the barn and as I turned from examining the old beehive being stored there, I spied a box on the floor of rusty odds and ends.  Bolts, nails, things I didn’t have a name for.  I was inexplicably drawn to them. No idea of why or for what or how come, but they were part of my father’s stuff and so I was curious. I squatted down and picked through the box, selecting some of the most rusty.  I had heard about rust-transfer dyeing and so maybe I could do something with these.  I looked over my shoulder at the old beehive as I started down the stairs to head out.  A glance back to take another look at something exciting to create in the future.  And in my hand, old and discarded bits of what was now, passed.  Maybe.

An interesting challenge for this piece came when I had to push myself to tear apart what turned out to be intriguing and actually, quite lovely, pieces of rust-transfer dyed fabrics.  They seemed so whole and finished all on their own.  Though I knew they weren’t, still I clung to the first three samples for several months before moving on to create a larger amount of rusted yardage.

Those nondescript and random pieces of rusty metal are all that were used to color the fabric. In tearing them apart, I was able to see a new whole, all the while not losing sight of the original. That process of constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing brought me a sense of peace, hope and healing. What might have been considered the end instead was the beginning.  What might have been discarded was instead reborn. 

My father passed away on November 18, 2002. Suffice it to say, in my own personal process of deconstructing and reconstructing, this piece has been a long time coming. It is just one of what I expect will become a body of work. But just as with my father’s stuff, those original pieces of rusted metal have not been lost for the end result, and what was born original in me hasn’t been either. My father is gone and yet he remains. The original will always be rooted throughout my journey, always present in the always evolving, ever-new whole.

And that cast glass beehive is still out in front of me, encouraging the journey.

Pam Lacey
November, 2010

Dedicated to my father.

E. Eugene Lacey
November 10, 1931 – November 18, 2002

Beloved husband, father, brother, uncle, grandfather and friend. Entrepreneur, animal lover, avid gardener, Tunis sheep farmer.  Caring, generous soul.



                                                                                                                My Father's Stuff:  Testimony
                                                                                                                     Muslin, rust-transfer dyed

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Past Is Present

     It was an interesting comment actually.  "So this is what you're doing now?"   I wasn't really sure what she meant.  "Now" as in "not what you were doing before", "now" as in "wow, I love where your work is going" or "now" as in "you're not doing jewelry anymore?"  A hint of disapproval, I'm not sure.  More likely a misunderstanding that an artist doesn't work in a particular medium now, an artist works in that particular medium always.  It's the message that's being shared that determines how an artist shares it.  But the medium, the skills, the talent, the respect for the process, is always there inside, at the ready, for whenever the artist chooses to bring it forward.
     At least that's my perspective, and I probably enjoy that point of view because I work in several media, sometimes individually, sometimes collectively, but always based on what I'm trying to say.  My sketch book is filled with message after message after message, each conveyed according to how I want, or perhaps need, to express it.  And sometimes, it's with materials I have no idea how to work with or of a scale I can't even fathom how to bring to life.  But they're all there, page after page, waiting to be created and developed into final form.
     Her comment did make me take pause though, and inventory.  My jewelry came out of a time when I had nothing more than a small table to work on, dictated by the amount of space available to work in.  A time when I yearned to work larger and with more color, and I knew my heart was pulling me in that direction, but I couldn't go there yet, for a variety of reasons.  And so jewelry and I became great friends as I created one-of-a-kind pieces, with an urban rustic feel, organic and precise all at the same time.  And not a minute of it was wasted, nor has any of it been left in the past.  The problem-solving, the exploration of components, textures and patinas, the level of precision I chose for my work,  the transformation that occurred from metal clay to finished piece - it's all still "now".  Still within me and ready at an inspired moment's notice to come forward and be part of any given piece of work, should the message dictate.  
     It was wonderful to intentionally review all the photographs and remember what was going on in my life at the time and how it influenced the final result.   Quite like reading a journal in my own language.  So, in keeping with the intent of this blog, I thought I'd share some of my favorite pieces.   They are after all, part of my journey, treasures and communicators in their own right.  

[Group shot.  Larger images follow.]


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What Other Artists Say - Thomas Mann

     "Sometimes," he says, "when I'm working at night, which is often the case, I'll stop whatever one-of-a-kind-piece I am working on and just start on something for a friend or family member or just for myself.  Then it's hobby time.  My hobby is making things and my job, my career, is making things!  Sometimes I'll put a model airplane together or an electronic kit.  To me, building a model plane is the same as making jewelry or designing a sculpture.  Cooking is the same as making jewelry, especially sushi.  Working on my sailboat is like making jewelry.  I love what I do.  I love making things.  It's what I'm here for."

  Thomas Mann

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Exploring Shelter - Stone Wall Under Hedge Cuff

      Stone Wall Under Hedge Cuff

                               By my choice to adorn I draw you in, 
                                                         and keep you out.

                               Merino wool roving, immersion dyed, 
                                       wet-felted, resist formed, over dyed.          
                                       Photograph by Douglas Foulke

     When I started exploring the concept of shelter, I knew part of the journey would take me to my jewelry roots.  How could it not?  Every day that we make a choice of what to wear and what accessories to include, we are essentially choosing our shelter for the day, our dressing and statement for the world we expect to encounter.  Sometimes this shelter is intended to speak to us as much as it is to those that will see us, say, when we wear our powerful bold prints on a day when our footing might be less than confident.  Or when we select our "just browsing" outfit for an afternoon of shopping that's really a need to escape and not be intruded upon.    And of course, when we're at home and no one else is around, we might seek to put on our comfort clothes, while enjoying comfort food in the comfort of our own space.
     I've often wondered if one really wants a barometer of what's happening in the economy, the best place to look might be at what clothes and accessories are selling best.   Not based on what people can afford, but based on what they need to convey.  What we convey in the shelter of our clothing surely trumps what we can afford and if we can't afford a particular item, we look for something we can that will convey the same message.  I've wondered this in the same way I've wondered...with all the gorgeous, amazing incredible colors we could wear, what is being "said" when the most popular color is black (or the new blacks of brown, gray, dark blue, etc.)?  Sure, I get it's easy and it goes with everything, but it also says something.  
     So what are you wearing today?  Are you wearing "leave me alone" or "come close"?  "I'm on top of the world" or "stuck in the valley"?  "I'm powerful, confident and talented" or "I'm ordinary with not much to offer"?  The shelter of our clothing - and our jewelry - does indeed send a message.  What's yours?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Exploring Shelter - Boxed In

                                        Boxed In

                                                   Beliefs can seem so safe, 
                               until they limit us right into nowhere.

                           Merino wool roving, Corridale wool roving, 
          wet felted, immersion dyed, needle felted, blocked.
                                          Photograph by Douglas Foulke

     It's amazing how powerful beliefs can be.  We come into the world without a single belief and from our very first day on this side of the womb, we begin to organize our own personal structure of beliefs.  One by one we gather them up, stacking, sorting and assimilating them into what becomes a sort of shelter by which we assess how to move in the world.  Our beliefs become the walls which we live within, guided by what we think (or need) to be true.
     Of course, some beliefs are born out of necessity.  Beliefs tied to physical well-being for example.  But it's not long before we move beyond building those basic survival beliefs and shift into collecting beliefs that might not be in our own best interest.  Beliefs based on another's opinion of us, opinions that seep into our being and become our own without our even realizing it.  Beliefs about what we choose to do or pursue. Beliefs about how far we can reach and what success could be ours.  Beliefs that reinforce the perspective that you are okay right where you are and there's no need to try and become anything more.  And while these beliefs seem to fit right in between our necessary beliefs, as if mortar between bricks, there comes a point where those beliefs no longer fit and in fact, have limited us into shortening our reach, being less and feeling comfortable with staying put.  
     Probably one of the scariest points to come to in one's life is to realize the very shelter we've created to survive and navigate the world is also the very thing that inhibits our growth and blocks our path.  The understanding that we've created a shelter that's so easy to retreat to day after day and yet, nearly impossible to get out of, or so it would seem.  The realization that some tearing down and rebuilding is the only way we'll truly be able to see ourselves again, for the light to shine on the truth of who we are, and get us to where we were meant to be right along.  For some this might mean taking a sledgehammer, knocking apart every brick of limiting beliefs and standing a bit raw and naked in the world for a while until we find our way. For others it might mean taking out one limiting belief at a time and replacing it with a healthier, more balanced perspective.  And for others, doing something that falls somewhere in between.
          Perhaps how we get out of that shelter isn't important, but what is more important, is that we do.   Some will choose never to look up and out of their shelter of limiting beliefs, never dare to seek the truth and instead will choose to remain boxed in right where they are.  But the same source that gave us "Seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you" also provided "the truth shall set you free."  So perhaps the starting point to changing those beliefs that limit us into nowhere, that prevent freedom from our self-imposed shelter, is simply a willingness to first look up, out and beyond them, and embrace the truth of what we find.  

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Visual Artists in Connecticut - Check this out!!!

I went to the first of three "Taking Care of Business: Career Strategies for Visual Artists" workshops presented by the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism in early March and it was FABULOUS!!!  There's another one tomorrow and if not for a schedule conflict, I'd definitely be there. The third and final workshop "Taking Care of Business: Marketing & Promotion" is coming up on May 1st and it looks just as fantastic as the others!  Registration is open NOW and space is limited, so if you're interested, I recommend registering early.  More details and info about registering can be found here.


p.s.  If you've never visited the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism site before, be sure to check out the Art In Public Spaces Program, CCT Visual Artist Image Bank  and Artist Fellowships.  All are great opportunities for Connecticut visual artists!  You can also find CCT on Facebook.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Exploring Shelter - Escape


                                   I seek the shelter of my escape 
                                  and by faith, I will find my way.

                          Merino wool roving, wet felted, resist 
                              formed,  immersion dyed, blocked.
                                     Photograph by Douglas Foulke

     What is your escape?   Where do you seek shelter when you feel a bit disconnected, lost or out of synch with life or your journey?  For me, one place is definitely my art.  As a person of faith, there are times when I'm creating and feel so connected to my source of inspiration, to God, the creative process becomes a form of worship and prayer for me.   There's something about the flow of how a piece starts to come together, how it evolves and unfolds and almost takes over for me, that sometimes the greatest effort is to not break that ebb and to just let it be and go with it.  To trust the process, and listen, and do, and watch.  The irony of it all is really quite wonderful.  While I might begin in a state of mind that's uncertain, questioning, perhaps pondering some life crisis or simply trying to figure out a direction and whether I should take it, the very act of being lost and seeking shelter in my art and then getting lost in that, is inevitably how I find my way.  
     I can always tell when I'm not in that frame of mind, when that connection isn't there. Instead of working on my art, it feels more like just "making stuff".  Not that this is a negative aspect of creating, for imagination comes in all forms and simply exploring and making and seeing what happens can be the perfect vehicle to bring me to that place of connection, to that higher level of creating.  And while the results can be great, inside is where I feel the difference.  Whether the difference is only within me and my perspective of the finished piece, or is within the piece itself, I'm not sure.  But I can say, the response I see in others to those pieces I feel more connected to, more involved with, is markedly different than those pieces I've just "made".  Perhaps the connection actually transcends the piece and the message is more clearly discerned because of that connection, beyond what would I would have created with only my own interpretation to direct me.  
     I've heard artists, musicians and other people who actively create express similar experiences with their art and the idea that the process and connection was guiding them and not the other way around.  And how when the connection released, they knew the piece was complete.  Finished.  Nothing more to add or take away.  It was done and they were grateful and fulfilled. 
     In the Christian faith, the word Amen is a declaration of affirmation, an "it is so" or "so be it". When I made Escape, where this piece ended up isn't even close to what I had planned when I started ("I" being the operative word.)  One thing after another seemed to go wrong, the process turned in odd directions, and it would have been easy to throw up my hands in frustration, quit the piece and walk away.  Intuitively though, I knew it was going somewhere and I just needed to calmly go with it.  Then,  almost suddenly, all the odd turns and mishaps seemed to come together into something unexpectedly whole.  I had found my way.  I felt deeply grateful and fulfilled and I knew it was done.   And I  looked at the piece and simply said "Amen."   

Monday, March 8, 2010

Exploring Shelter - Guarded Vesssel


                                                 Guarded Vessel

                    Guard the heart of your world too tightly,
                       and you may fail to discover what's true.

                  Hand-dyed merino wool, landrace batt wool,
                                wet felted, resist-formed, blocked.
                                       Photograph by Douglas Foulke

     Ah, the heart.  The shelter for all we feel and desire.  The guardian of what we love and hold precious. Our most trusted vessel, the one that guides, directs, and pushes forward can so easily become the vessel that tells us not to trust.  The guardian becomes guarded and what was once the vessel to hold others dear becomes the force to keep them out. 
     How deep is that line within? The one we know not to cross, the etched mark born out of experience.  The line that has come from every life lesson ever taught at our expense and now shouts instructions to pull away, hold back, close up shop and to not get involved.  What was once an inviting shelter, our chest of treasures, that place to seek and find, has somehow evolved, ever so slowly, into a lonely hollow cavern, echoing back memories of who we used to be, when we were free.
     There’s something admirable about those who can travel life’s journeys and never feel a cut too deeply, never create a barrier that stops one in his or her tracks.  Instead, they collect and gather abundantly and their heart is so full, it must be bound up simply to keep all it contains from spilling out. 
     Therein lies the nub.  As with any physical shelter we might come across, it’s impossible to know what’s really inside, until we venture in and see.  And from the outside looking in, there’s really no telling who is open and who is not, until we share ourselves enough try and find out. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Call To Felting Artists!!

     In case you haven't heard, Lark Books is seeking submissions for their next 500 book - 500 Felt Objects!  Submissions have to be postmarked by tomorrow, so there is still time if you have images ready to go.

Lark Books seeks images from artists/designers across the globe for publication in a juried collection showcasing felt objects. Categories in the book will include Garments, Jewelry, Furniture, Bags, Art Pieces, Headwear, Functional Items/Home D├ęcor, Floor and Wall Coverings, and more. Felt must be the focus of all work, but other materials are allowed. While Lark usually features hand-made work, for this book, innovative designs in industrial felt are acceptable.

     Download the submission guidelines and entry form here .   The link is at the bottom of the page.  Good luck!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Exploring Shelter - Facade


        The true self will always seek to be realized, no 
matter how neat, tidy - and comfortable - the facade.

             Merino wool, hand-dyed, resist and wet-felted
                                     Photograph by Douglas Foulke

     I recently began exploring the concept of shelter.  Not so much a direct representation of the physical structure of shelter, but more the psychological structure of shelter and how that might then be represented as a physical form.  The ways in which we seek shelter psychologically can be at times beneficial and other times not, and still other times, it can be both at once.
     This piece is the first in my exploration. Equally biographical as it is observational, its aim is to convey the struggle created between the facades we choose to wear and who we genuinely are.  Facades we wear for work, facades we wear for friends, facades we wear for family.  And yes, even the facades we wear for ourselves.
     But what is the risk when we choose to wear a facade for ourselves?  My belief is that the true self will always yearn to be realized, no matter how hard we try to hide it.  Eventually that struggle will come to the surface, perhaps even with a bit of emotional pain.
     Sure, we all have to play different roles daily and often the shelter of a facade is born out of necessity to exist within the framework of those specific roles and environments.  But when we wear a facade for ourselves, dare I say, in front of our own person, who are we hiding from, and more importantly, why?  What is it that we are unable to face square on, who is it that we deny and why is it so much easier to don that precious facade in the first place than embrace our true self?  In particular, to our own person.