Family Photo Collage

ArthurSimpsonDahilas

Happiness is creativity! I have been working on and off on a very pleasant little project that's been in the works since last year.

Last year my family and I had an amazing time looking through family photos. I took some back to Nashville and scanned some of them in for future projects. I've fiddled around with these images for months but was never totally sure what would happen to them.

I felt very passionately about the images themselves and had a little idea of the overall feeling of the piece I wanted to create, but struggled with the exceution and how to bring it all together. With subject matter that is so personal and so special to me I really wanted to make sure that I got it right. 

Detail from the weaving/college I created for Hand's of Hope's Winter Gala.

Detail from the weaving/college I created for Hand's of Hope's Winter Gala.

WIP-Collage

After creating a woven, collaged, and embroidery piece for a charity auction at Hands of Hope in Southern Illinois, I got incredibly inspired to continue with this combination of mediums! I got out my print outs of my family photos and started to play around with weaving them together.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well it worked out! In the past I've cut photos into small pieces and collaged them together to create a layered effect, but this weaving technique is much more organic and effective. 

After securing the back of the woven paper with masking tape, I decided to use the technique I experimented with for the Hands of Hope Project and sew the weaving together! 

My favorite thing I own in the background -- my beloved Mystery Twins painting titled by Ryan Heshka!

My favorite thing I own in the background -- my beloved Mystery Twins painting titled by Ryan Heshka!

Unfortunately, the thread that I was using was vintage and had lost a lot of its strength so the thread was breaking and skipping stitches. I was pretty disappointed at first, but then realized that this gave me the opportunity to go over the empty hole with the thread and stitching of my choosing! This is what really opened the door for some exciting opportunities and I'm thrilled with how fun it was to make!

I'm still finishing up this piece because I keep changing my mind about the thread, but I can't wait to share the finished piece -- and start on the next one!

The theme of family and creativity -- empowerment -- will continue. 

xoxo

Anna

Embroidery Revisited

I'm not sure how old I was when my grandmother first taught me to sew, but it was not really my favorite thing. It was hard for me to understand how pieces fit together (I prefer jigsaw puzzles to legos) and my stitches were bunched up and uneven. That may be because I was about seven-years-old, but it soured sewing for me until she taught me something that I thought was a lot more fun -- embroidery! It was like drawing but with thread, which made so so much sense to me!

Redwork piece made by my Great-Aunt Sandy! She used a running stitch for this piece.

Redwork piece made by my Great-Aunt Sandy! She used a running stitch for this piece.

The first stitch I learned was the blanket stitch which was so fun to learn because it's big! This made it really easy to understand how it worked and I would used it to appliqué shapes to other pieces of fabric. After learning that stitch she showed me the stem stitch (back stitch) and the lazy daisy stitch which would tide me over into adulthood. I never really found the need to add more stitches because I was only familiar with one type of embroidery style -- Redwork.

My grandmother and her sisters all did Redwork which was a style of embroidery that focused on outlines. While it's traditionally red, you can also use other colors for the embroidery. Reflecting on this I have realized that being taught this at a young age and enjoying it so much shows itself in my artwork. I'm a big fan of outlining things and it's pretty tough for me to see things three-dimensionally. Layering with large blocks of color and text are some tools I use to try to combat this. 

I've always enjoyed embroidery but it never occurred to me that it could be incorporated into my artwork until pretty recently. In college I just always felt that it needed to be kept separate from the rest of my studies, possibly because of the structure of the projects assigned? I'm really not sure. Thinking about this makes me really sad, and honestly, pretty disappointed in myself and in my professors. My freshman year I made an altered book and incorporated embroidery into it and then was pleasantly surprised (and very happy) to have been awarded a best in show award for it during our student exhibition. It was something that I was truly proud of.

That project was assigned by James Pierce and it was all about creating a mixed-media piece that incorporated a digital element. I really responded to that project and was so so excited about creating it!  I had found an old book without it's cover in the "free" bin at McKay's (I love McKay's!) and the front page was the dedication that you can see in the image above. I wanted to create a piece about childhood so I printed some photos I had taken of my sweet friend's daughter onto the empty pages found in the book. I was so happy with the results but was never sure of how to carry my excitement from this piece on to new ones. I just felt lost and then jealous of other students who seemed to have a natural knack for creating things that just seemed to flow out of them. I'm slowly, but surely, making things that I like to make. I'm not sure why it's so tough, but I'm getting there. It's still hard for me to get the courage to create, maybe because I'm too hard on myself? Or because I'm afraid of rejection? It's a little frustrating how slowly I seem to figure these things out... I have to remind myself that it just takes time.

But last fall I created a belt for my dear friend, Natalie's, wedding! It really got me excited about stitching again and in it I used techniques I had never used before including satin/fill stitches and beading! I loved making it so much that I've started stitching more and more! I'm getting really excited about these little pieces of art and am looking forward to sharing them with the world.

Until next time...
xoxo

Anna

New Adventures!

After carful consideration and lots of support from the people that I love I have decided to leave my position as the Director of Community Education at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film. This job has tested me in so many ways and I am incredibly proud of my growth, but ultimately I realized that continuing on with this career path was not the best choice for my future. I am an artist and need time to think creatively and focus on my personal work. I need a job that I can leave behind when I am done for the day, not one that follows me home. 

There are things that I will miss about my job as Director of Community Education. I will miss working with other artists and creating opportunities for the Nashville Community to try new things. Making art accessible to all people is something that I am very passionate about and I will continue to make that part of my life's mission, just not necessarily as an arts administrator. It helps to know that I'm leaving the department in good hands! I can't wait to see what my friends and fellow creatives make with this department and I'm thrilled with how well things are turning out for Watkins Community Education.

So now the questions is... what's next? 

Well, after taking a lot of time to think it over I have decided to try something totally different! I have accepted a position as a full time baker at Bongo Bakery at Fido in Hillsboro Village! I'll be baking all sorts of things with a team of awesome people who are also artists, designers, and of course bakers! It's a bit scary to take the jump, but I am so glad that I did.

It was a very tough decision and I am incredibly thankful to my husband for being so supportive through all of this. I can't wait to see where my next adventure takes me!

xoxo
Anna

Shawnee Dream

The summer was hot and long and stressful and colder days are on their way; though it may be hard to believe. I'm drained from the amount of work I have done over the past few months and am ready for something new -- some good news. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be the season for it. 

I find myself missing my creative practice more and more and I've been looking for meaning in old photographs, stories, and memories. I went to my grandmother's house and we looked through old photographs of her family and I took some back to Nashville with me that I'll be using in upcoming projects. She lent me some incredible photographs of her father's Dahlias. His name was Arthur Simpson and he owned a nursery in Southern Illinois where he sold trees and flowers and created his own Dahlia varieties. He entered his best creations in local and national competitions where he won many awards. His love for his home was so present in his creations, many of which were titled "Shawnee" after Shawnee National forest. The Dahlia picture above is titled "Shawnee Dream" and was the winner of The Derrill W. Hart medal in 1973. I'm inspired by these dedications and look forward to honoring his and my love for our home in my work.

While I've been drawn to my home, I've also had the intense desire to go someplace totally new. I need some time to rest and create. I am in desperate need of it. I'm looking forward to this October when I'll be able to spend more time with my husband and with friends and of course some time creating.

xoxo
Anna

Exciting New Things!

I've been silent on my blog since mid-March, but am ready to give a small update on what I've been up to! I have a lot of super exciting things going on and I am extremely proud of what I have accomplished! I've never worked harder or more than I have the past few months, but I can't be more proud of myself. 

 In February, my boss left my department and I was once again the Interim Director here at Watkins Community Education at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film. I loved the new responsibility, but was becoming increasingly more and more overwhelmed with my duties because I was alone in the office. On top of doing the jobs of two people at work, I was also getting opportunities to show my work! This was an incredibly exciting thing for me because it had never really happened before. I had my first booth at a craft fair at the Craft & Drafts festival sponsored by the Nashville Scene at the Nashville Farmer's Market, and I was asked to have my work at Bongo Java East again. I was also asked to be a part of a group show by a local artist I admire, Jeff Bertrand, who is curating a show at called Terrible 2's at 40au gallery in the Arcade in Nashville on June 4th! 

All of this good has had me burning the candle at both ends, and I hit my breaking point the day that Watkins offered me the Director of Community Education position. I was beyond happy, but also incredibly tired. It took everything for me not to burst into tears from a combination of excitement, relief, and pain-- the type of pain that a child feels when they don't want to get out of bed to go to school. NO I don't want to! You can't make me! I had been planning summer programs including adult classes and workshops, a month of youth camps, and a three-week long Pre-College Program, organizing and closing out grants, finalizing budgets, and communicating with program participants and teaching artists all by myself for 12 weeks. I was doing things that I had never done before which was amazing! I was doing things that I love about my old job and it was amazing! But being alone was getting to me, and so was being an artist and having a demanding 9-5 job. I was staying up until 4am to finish pieces and then trying to get to work on time. I never could. I didn't want to have to admit that I couldn't give both things my full attention. But ultimately, excitement and relief won out over my childish subconscious and I accepted! I was, and still am excited, happy, and incredibly grateful to be the new director of this amazing program.

It wasn't until I slowed down and took a vacation (which my husband and I had planned in December, long before my life was so busy) that I realized how tired I was. My husband, Troy, had a conference in Las Vegas and we decided that I would tag along and we'd go a few days in advance. I accepted the director's position just two days before we left, so the whole thing felt like a big celebration! Once we arrived in Las Vegas we had a full first day. And then I slept. And slept. And slept. It was incredible! My husband and I were able to spend four lovely days together where we didn't think about anything except for what adventures we might go on that day. Everything was spontaneous and silly and romantic and it was really some of the most fun we've ever had together. After a few days I went back to reality while he stayed on in Vegas for his conference. When I arrived home from a full day of traveling it was 10pm, but that didn't stop me from obsessing over the dozens and dozens of emails I had received during my time out of the office. I spent that night and the entirety of the next day responding to emails and phone calls and organizing and finalizing plans for the summer. And after only one day back I was so tired I was ready for another vacation. It's only been a week since then when I felt like I hit the "reset" button, but it already seems like there's less time for art, which is hard for me. I think that once I get a Coordinator for the program, things will calm down a bit and I'll have more time for my personal work. Because doing what I am now is not sustainable. 

I'm excited for all of these amazing opportunities I've had and I am working hard to learn how to balance work, my studio practice, and my personal life. If someone were to ask, "how do manage it?" my answer is, "I just do." There is no special secret to managing all that life throws at you that works for everyone, you just make it work. You drive yourself crazy and you secretly love it. You prioritize what is most important, and when there are two (or five) things that tie for first, then you just have to figure out how to get it done. It might mean re-evaluating what you value most. It might mean going out less or maybe going out more. It might mean staying late at work or deciding instead to leave a little early so that you can meet your husband for drinks and dinner out. And I make mistakes (so many!), I am constantly underestimating how long some things take, and mixing up dates even if I'm looking at a calendar, and overcommitting myself. I just try to correct myself the best that I can and keep moving because there is nothing that can stop my program's youth camps from beginning June 6th or the drop-off date for my group gallery show from being June 2nd. There is nothing that can stop time, so you just have to figure out how to fit it all in the best that you can... and all of this is said by a woman who doesn't have it all together... but do you know anyone who does? 

xoxo
Anna

Monday Muse: Vintage Cookbooks

Today's Monday Muse is short and sweet and doesn't feature an artist, but something that inspires my work-- Vintage Recipe Books.

My work lately has been created from recipe book pages, and they are chock full of super fun little tips and images. I mean, just check out this adorable Snow White cookbook! 

And these super cute books that show you how to make the most trendy desserts! 

I'm sure I'll find more cookbook imagery to share in the future!

xoxo
Anna

Put On A Happy Face!

While it might be sad and gloomy outside, it doesn't mean I have to be! I woke up feeling a bit grumpy and tired, but made a decision to shake off my bad mood and try my best to get happy! Now I'm feeling very accomplished on this Friday afternoon, and am looking forward to many bright, wonderful, happy things in my future.

Enjoy this very silly clip of Put On A Happy Face from 1963's Bye Bye Birdie starring Dick Van Dyke and Janet Leigh. I'll save Ann Margaret's red hair and wiggly dancing for another post!

Happy Friday!

xoxo
Anna

Work in Progress

After a super productive day at work, I got home and suddenly felt like I hadn't done anything at all all day. I'm not sure why I had felt this way, though it apparently has something to do with being a lady and having low self-esteem. Anyway, sometimes you just need some pizza, some Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, some art making, and a little bit of wine.

I've been working on the double dutch quilt square I mentioned last week and now I'm in the final painting stages! I go over each square with a mixture of colored pencil and matte medium to create depth and also vibrance! 

Not having enough time in the day can feel tough, and I can't expect to finish every task I have on my long-term list in one day. Continuing to work on my organizational skills will help, as well as having some damn confidence in myself! 

Remember, YOU CAN DO IT!

xoxo
Anna

Monday Muse: Lesley Patterson-Marx

Today's Monday Muse is an artist that I really admire who lives right here in Nashville, TN! Lesley Patterson-Marx is a visual artists who uses elements of printmaking, collage, textiles, and found objects to create her work.

The first time I saw her work, it was during my first month working for Watkins College of Art, Design & Film while installing our annual Handmade & Bound Nashville exhibition. The pieces I saw were tiny, little antique photographs with botanical elements painted on top, and they were mounted and framed in a shadowbox created from an old book. I was absolutely smitten!

 

Lesley's work feels nostalgic, intimate, and special not only because of the subject matter of her work, which often includes old photographs and book pages, but because of the size of her work. Most of her pieces you can hold in your hands, and that tactile nature of her work is very appealing to me. 

LesleyPattersonMarx.jpg

She has described being drawn to miniature objects in a short documentary of her work by Brian McHugh, "...to look at something like a miniature artwork or object is like entering a magic world or portal. I feel transformed creating something miniature."

On top of being an amazing artist, Lesley is also a really wonderful person! If you live in Nashville and have the chance to see her work or take a workshop with her I highly recommend it! 

Thank you for all of your inspiring work, Lesley!

xoxo
Anna

PS- I find Lesley's work so inspiring that I actually accidentally kind of copied her work! In preparation for this blog post, I was looking through her website and Instagram and came across this photo that I liked of hers from 14 weeks ago... I'm so sorry Lesley! Please forgive me! <3


Perigee Press

After a long week that just wouldn't quit, I'm happy to greet the weekend with open arms! Although I do have to work tomorrow too, but for now I'm focusing on being thankful for Fridays.

How was your week? I hope that it was absolutely fantastic! Two ladies I know who are having a fabulous week are art school friends Erin Alise Borzak and Sydney Baldwin! They launched their Kickstarter for their print shop Perigee Press this week and they have exceeded their original goal in just a few days! Help make their week/their lives even more awesome by donating to make their printmaking dreams come true!

Happy Friday!

xoxo
Anna

 

Work & Artwork

I am SO excited to have started my (second) first week as Interim Director at work and I feel that I am handling all of the responsibilities pretty well! I'm alone in the office and we're planning the summer catalog, but I'm thankful for the transparency and hard work of the previous director who completed as much as she could before she left. Thankfully the schedule was completed while she was still in the office so now I just have to complete the catalog with our designer, which is actually a lot of fun! But there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. I decided to bring the catalog home tonight, and my current in-progress collage seemed to be staring right at me, so I had to move off of my desk so that I could focus. After completing my "home-work" I was happy to finally resume working on my artwork! 

I found a new pattern that I'm experimenting called "Double Dutch" which consists of half-triangle squares which make up a large star. This pattern requires lots and lots of tiny triangles. I cut enough of them to complete one block and I look forward to begin gluing down the pieces! Side note: Do pink cutting mats exist? Oh my goodness, they do... I really feel like I need one.

It's hard to balance work and personal projects, and I hope that I don't make bringing this much work home a habit, especially since I have so many exciting projects on the horizon! 

xoxo
Anna

Monday Muse: Ryan Heshka

Today's Monday Muse features my most current, but also strongest artist crush of recent memory: Ryan Heshka. His mysterious, long-legged ladies, dangerous dapper men, and bizarre alien monsters are all at once nostalgic, inventive, grotesque, and beautiful! 

I wish I could remember exactly where I first saw his work. I think it might have been shared by a gallery I follow on Instagram or maybe from another artist? I really wish that I could remember, but I feel such an attachment to his work that it seems like I've always known it. 

 

Ryan Heshka's works are painted on found vintage paper, which adds depth and texture to his pieces, and his subject matter is influenced by vintage comic books and B-Movies, as well as "pulp magazines, natural history, graphic design and music, movies and animation."  

His work has a sense of humor which I appreciate, and his use of color, text, and subject matter give a perfect blend of sweet and sinister. He isn't afraid to use bold color or work with the texture in the paper that he paints on. Doodles, text, and images from the past become part of each painting, which makes the piece itself seem new but somehow familiar.

As an early birthday present my husband purchased one of his works for me (the above piece on the left titled "Our Latest Thrill")! I'm so excited that I can hardly stand it, and I'm still looking for the perfect place to display it! It's so petite and detailed and absolutely lovely. I might have a party just so that everyone can come look at it.

One of my favorite pieces of his, which I have talked about in a previous post, is his Mean Girls Club series, a pink and black zine about some super sinister ladies and their 113th meeting of their secret club. If you still haven't snagged a copy of this weird and wonderful little booklet, I highly recommend you do!

So, I'd like to thank you Ryan Heshka for all of the badass ladies you paint! I hear your work might be coming to Nashville soon? I sure hope so!
 

xoxo
nna 

 

Solid Potato Salad

So, Nashville's hockey team, The Nashville Predators, are getting a new player named Anthony Bitetto. My husband is very excited about this mostly because the reddit page he frequents gets to continue making "potato-Bitetto" jokes. 

In his excitement he sends me this little number of the not-so-famous Ross Sisters, a contortionist act from the 40s. They were most notably featured in a film called Broadway Rhythm where they sing "Solid Potato Salad". I had seen this footage before, but this is the best quality I had ever seen it in, so I just HAD to share it.

Tip: Don't watch this before bed.
Another Tip: Don't read their Wikipedia page. Tragic, totally weird, and just generally messed up... Okay just read it

Enjoy, and happy Friday!

xoxo
Anna

Collaged Paper Quilt

On Monday night I finished the collaged paper quilt that I have been working on for a few weeks now! The entire process was pretty meticulous and took longer than I expected, but I am very happy with the results!

After finding some amazing loose pages from a vintage cookbook at Turnip Green Creative Reuse, I decided that I wanted to make a larger version of the small quilt squares that I had been making. I painted the pages and cut hundreds of tiny squares and triangles for this piece. I made a grid of my pattern and went to town gluing these little squares down!  

After completing the gluing process, I still felt that something was missing from the piece. I decided to add the illusion of quilting stitches with a colored pencil. After that was done I still felt that the piece lacked depth. I crushed some of the pigment from the colored pencil and mixed it in with matt medium. I went over each square with this mixture and was pleased to see that it not only added depth, but luminosity!

It is such an amazing feeling to look at a piece and feel that it is complete, but I had no idea what to title it! Everything I was coming up with was too clinical and only described how the piece was made, but not what it was about. I wanted this piece to feel warm and familiar and I could not figure out how to capture that in a title. I texted my sister to ask her advice and she responded back with, "Well, are you going for an actual people name or what?" 

I was immediately struck with inspiration! What if it were given a name, not a title. 

I decided to name the piece "Josephine" after my great-grandmother. I was never able to meet her, but her spirit is passed on through the love of my grandmother and my own mother. I might have never known her, but her recipes have been passed down to me and they remind me of home.

I thought it was fitting to name the piece after her, so I went back to my other quilt pieces and have renamed them after other female family members of mine to honor the care, dedication, and sacrifice they give to the ones that they love. 

I can't wait to make more pieces in honor of all the lovely, strong, amazing women in my family.

xoxo

Anna

Monday Muse: Judy Garland

This week's Monday Muse features one of my all time favorite icons: Judy Garland. I feel that her star power is best captured in movement, so I am featuring all of my favorite Judy Gifs today!

You might remember me mentioning my childhood obsession with "The Wizard of Oz" in a previous Monday Muse, so it should come as no surprise to you that there eventually would be one featuring Judy!

Who me?

Who me?

My mother has always loved Miss Judy, so naturally I have been a fan since birth. I have some distinct childhood memories of singing along to Judy: Live at Carnegie Hall and attempting to imitate her iconic voice and acting style. 

I'm still working on perfecting this move.

I'm still working on perfecting this move.

My favorite Judy film is Meet Me In St. Louis! When I was 8 years-old I played the little girl Tootie in a production of it at SIU's McLeod Theater, but I was incredibly disappointed that I didn't get the part of Esther. I didn't realize that I was nowhere near old enough to play her and I dreamed of bursting out onto the stage during The Trolly Song and stealing the show!

The Trolly Song is my jam!

The Trolly Song is my jam!

In high school I performed "You Made Me Love You" and attempted an impersonation of her. I haven't been doing any Judy style singing in public lately (and I don't think I ever will again), but you can still catch me trying to imitate her sometimes while I'm driving in the car. For our first Christmas as a married couple, my husband gave me a copy of Judy: Live at Carnegie Hall on vinyl! He knows me very well.

Troy, you're the best! Judy agrees!

Troy, you're the best! Judy agrees!

And here's maybe my favorite Judy Gif in this weird little number "I Don't Care" from the film "In The Good Old Summertime" which pretty well sums up how I've been feeling lately.

Sing the song of my soul, Judy!

Sing the song of my soul, Judy!

So now you know about my little Judy obsession. She'll forever be my favorite star!

Iconic!

Iconic!

Do you have a favorite Hollywood icon? Do you also sing "The Trolly Song" when you're alone in the car? How about "Get Happy"? Tell me in the comments!

xoxo

Anna

PS- If you don't own Judy: Live at Carnegie Hall, do yourself a favor and buy yourself a copy! You won't regret it!