Thursday, 6 February 2014

Working on instinct


Like most artists, I often get asked to do pieces for a good cause and I almost always say "no." But every once in awhile, I'll say "yes" because it's for a charity that I would otherwise support financially, or it's a project that intrigues me: either way, I look at it as a challenge to do something that stretches my creativity.


I've written in the past about the hats I've created to support This Is My City, and at a Christmas party in December, I found myself a conversation with Ken Cameron about his play How iRan, part of the High Performance Rodeo in January. It's an interesting concept that involves a series of small art installations used as the visuals to accompany an iPod with the audio story of one of the three characters, and I was offered the chance to create one of the scenes: I couldn't resist the opportunity.

So from the evening of Thursday, January 16 until the scheduled drop-off on Saturday, January 18, I had 48 hours select the scene I wanted to illustrate (I had a choice, and got to listen to it once) and deliver it up, so I built the piece shown in the photos accompanying this blog. Ken provided the shadow box (billed as 8" x 10", although that's not actually the dimensions, as I discovered cutting the first piece of sky), and from a small collection of found items, I chose a bag of variously coloured mosses and the little warbler.

Nest drying

Ken also had a small nest that I could have used, but I decided to build my own from some of the handmade papers I created several years ago: the square in the photo at the top of this piece is the size of pieces I used -- that's a 1-cm grid. The scene is between a father and son in a park filled with chirping birds, where the father was trying to persuade his Muslim son, who was a writer, not to go to Israel for a conference.

The build, part 2

I had just unpacked and set up my paper studio here at my house-sit, and had access to my fibre stash, so it was easy to pull together what I needed. The shrubbery was created using a piece of amazing paper handmade by my friend Melissa Jay Craig, given to me years ago as inspiration -- it obviously did its job!

Warbler Not sure where I got the idea to blindfold the bird, but the cultivated silk I spun last summer was just the ticket, and it gave me the opportunity to use my 1 mm carbon fibre needles: to give an idea of the scale, the large wooden stick above the needle in the photograph below with the knitting is an ordinary round toothpick.


Because the son is a journalist and blogger, I felt I couldn't have a paper nest without also having a small book, made from the same paper as the nest, as part of the piece. In such a limited space offered by this shadow box, it's interesting to tell such a complex story without making it too crowded.


Although I didn't consciously realize it at the time, I also slipped in a subtle reference to the iPods used to tell the story (red, white, and green: also the colours in the Iranian flag) in the moss, the blindfold, and the shrubs: when I did realize it, was a little startled to discover that instinct had taken over the process. That I'm starting to do more of that in my creative life is, well, pretty exciting, to me at any rate: in the last almost-three years, it's been exceedingly rare.

More about that, and the other changes I've recognized recently, coming soon.

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