Susie Monday

Artist, maker, teacher, author, head cook and bottlewasher.

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The art I make is the result of a life-long love of pattern, texture and color. How I teach is a skill honed by experience (I started teaching creative arts to younger kids when I was 12). After earning a B.A. in Studio Arts from Trinity University, I helped lead an internationally recognized educational foundation, designed curriculum exhibits for schools and other institutions, wrote and edited for a major daily newspaper, opened the San Antonio Children's Museum and then, a dozen years ago, took the scary but essential (for me) leap to become a fulltime artist and art teacher.

About This Blog

This weblog is about the maker's life. The teacher's path. The stitching and dyeing and printing of the craft of art cloth and art quilt. The stumbling around and the soaring, the way the words and the pictures come together. Poetry on the page and in the piecing of bright scraps together. The inner work and the outer journeys to and from. Practicalities and flights of fancy and fearful grandeur, trivial pursuits and tactile amusements. Expect new postings two or three times a week, unless you hear otherwise. 

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    Fearless Sketching

    If you've been waiting for the right moment to take a "pain-free, no-critic-zone" drawing class, this might be the workshop for you. I've had a cancelation due to one participant's planned move (she was coming in from afar!) so there is space available for one fearless sketcher on April 12-14 (Friday night potluck optional).

    We'll do big and little sketches, drawing from life, some invisible drawings, lots of fun exercises that get your hand and pen in action. Some participants will bring iPads and use those, but it's not necessary, just an option.

    There is a catch -- the only bed available is either a cot sized (though comfortable) bed in the studio (includes private bathroom) or a spot on the sleeping porch. The fee includes all meals and most supplies -- you'll need to bring a large sized sketch pad or loose paper and your favorite drawing implements -- and food to share at one pot-luck meal. Generally folk arrive here on Friday about 4, the "formal" workshop runs from Saturday at 9 to Sunday at 3, with lots of fun, conversation, time in the hottub and pool, walking in the hills and stargazing in between. 

    If you are interested, send me an email -- contact list on the sidebar -- or leave a comment so I can get back to you. These are pictures from the last Fearless Sketching workshop, and some of the results. My friend artist Sarah Jones will co-lead this one with me. 

    The workshop fee is $185 -- views into the Hill Country, infinite and free!

    Sketching on the sleeping porch.

    Hand studies, two exercises

    The sleeping porch.



    Are You Antifragile?

    From the Guardian's recent review:

    The core idea behind this book is simple and quite enticing. Nassim Nicholas Taleb divides the world and all that's in it (people, things, institutions, ways of life) into three categories: the fragile, the robust and the antifragile. You are fragile if you avoid disorder and disruption for fear of the mess they might make of your life: you think you are keeping safe, but really you are making yourself vulnerable to the shock that will tear everything apart. You are robust if you can stand up to shocks without flinching and without changing who you are. But you are antifragile if shocks and disruptions make you stronger and more creative, better able to adapt to each new challenge you face. Taleb thinks we should all try to be antifragile.

    Here's the video from RSA. it's dense. Really dense. I reccommend you just watch the short talk and not the economic panel after, unless of course, you are interested in economic systems. I've just ordered this book, and will give you a review later, but for now, I'll share a few ideas from the review that caught my eye. While the author is speaking as a philosopher, and looking at this idea as it applies to things like the bank and financial meltdown, there is plenty to think about on a personal/interpersonal level, too. Playing it safe if a really seductive idea, and a part of being an artist that keeps us locked in and locked up, imprisoned sometimes by our own success. It's a difficult tightrope -- keeping things fresh and, yet, staying intune with our "market," our hard-won and long-to-discover style of work.



    From the NYTimes review: In Mr. Taleb’s view, “We have been fragilizing the economy, our health, political life, education, almost everything” by “suppressing randomness and volatility,” much the way that “systematically preventing forest fires from taking place ‘to be safe’ makes the big one much worse.” In fact, he says, top-down efforts to eliminate volatility (whether in the form of “neurotically overprotective parents” or the former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan’s trying to smooth out economic fluctuations by injecting cheap money into the system) end up making things more fragile, not less. Overtreatment of illness or physical problems, he suggests, can lead to medical error, much the way that American support of dictatorial regimes “for the sake of stability” abroad can lead to “chaos after a revolution.”

    PS the Time's reviewer did not think much of the book, so for that view, see the review at this link.


    Mission Accomplished

    Pay attention, open new eyes. Spring is really here.Huisache and Mesquite have put on their golden fluffy finery; Mountain laurels are finishing their Koolaid burst of color and scent. Even in the midst of drought, green grasses are making an effort and a few bluebonnets show up in patches here and there along highways.

    The San Antonio missions (San Antonio Missions National Historical Park) are some of my favorite places to visit and take photos. I love that the missions, while protected and under restoration and programming as federal parks, are also active parishes, with masses said each Sunday in Spanish and English. Mission Espada has an attached convent where brown-robed Franciscan brothers and priests live, surrounded by bird feeders and a jungle of geraniums and other blooming plants.

    With family here this Spring Break, we took a wander down to south San Antonio. Here are a few of the images that inspired me -- wondrful space scapes of stone and sky, faint drawings that have been found during the last round of restorations, some artist's rendition of grand Spanish flare, no doubt an Indian hand at work, copying from a manuscript brought by one of the Franciscan priests. 

    Did you see something wonderful this week? Close at hand or far from home... it's important to keep our artist eyes tuned in and turned on. 


    Soy Batik Improvisation

    Detail of Stop Fear. You can see the entire quilt at the International Quilt Festivals this year!

    I've just been notified that my art quilt, Stop Fear (Homage to Sister Corita Kent) has made it into the juried SAQA exhibit, Text Messages. Yippee! This piece was principally designed using a large one-color soy wax batik that I made a few years ago -- and i've had such a good time working with it, that I'm itching to get back into the studio next week for a few day-long soy wax sessions. I am also sending out soy batik lessons this week on Joggles, part of my MORE TEXT ON TEXTILES online workshop. 

    Sister Corita Kent has long been an inspiration to my work, and I can’t think of using text in art without thinking of her. This batik and, even more importantly, its message, speak of her influence on my life and in my work. I was first introduced to a version of traditional batik using beeswax and parafin mixture and inkodyes when I was in my 20s -- it must have been the first surface design technique I learned and the teachers were visiting Sister Corita students who worked with us in our creative arts for kids programs one summer -- maybe 1967 or '68?

    Inkodyes are still around -- and they are VERY light and water fast -- but I had heard that their toxicity is higher than MX dyes, so I've left them alone in the past several decades -- the colors, too are hard to mix, since  -- kind of like ceramic glazes -- the color that goes onto the fabric is very different than the color that develops in sunlight as the dyes develop. However, this site with its app for making registered three color photo prints just might change my mind! This is what the site says about toxicity:

    Our dyes and resist have been certified as having no chronic toxicity by an independent toxicologist. Our products conform to the Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act (Conforms with ASTM D-4236). We are committed to the health and safety of everyone who enjoys Inkodye, which is why we recommend using normal precaution to prevent unnecessary spilling, skin contact and ingestion. Children love to watch the magical color development, but should not use Inkodye unsupervised. Our dyes are water-based and only require household soap and water cleanup - we recommend that you wash your hands thoroughly after use and / or use gloves to prevent prolonged skin contact and staining! We recommend using the sun to develop your prints, but if you choose to iron wet Inkodye articles indoors please work in an environment with adequate ventilation! 

    At any rate, if you do use inkodyes with soy batik, you can wash out the wax after the dyes develop without using an iron -- bound to be better for the lungs and environment. 

    Basically, soy wax can be used as with traditional batik, but you can't immerse fabric without running the risk of it dissolving too much of your wax resist -- so the technique requires that you paint on your intense low-water type dye mix (including soda ash and urea to retard drying) and then batch under plastic, removing plastic to dry the fabric, then adding another layer of wax -- or you can wash out the soy wax between colors. -- hot water and detergent turns it into soy oil that washes down the drain. Alternatively use Inkodyes, according to directions.

    (PS Thanks Nina-Marie for the invitation to add this link to your off-the-wall Friday posting!

    Here are a few photos of the process:

    You can also use an electric skillet. Be very careful with temperatures and keep a lid handy in case things get out of hand. Do not heat the wax so hot that it smokes. Fortunately soy wax fumes are not toxic or allergenic (as is the case with paraffin and bees wax fumes).

    Another way to use soy wax is to use it with a thin paint, as I am doing here. Be sure the wax is hot enough that it makes the fabric a bit transparent looking-- the wax need to go all the way through the fabric.

    You can take some of the wax out by ironing first -- if you use paint, you must iron it before you put it in the washer in order to set the paint, then put your fabric in hot soapy washer in the machine. Sometimes, with heavy wax applications, it may take two trips through the washer. 

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