Tonight is the premiere of Season 13 of Project Runway, and while I won’t be launching another “Project Runway Studio 109A” Challenge, I will be watching.
Last season, designer Justin LeBlanc became a fan favorite with his streamlined, architectural designs. As a finalist showing his work at New York’s Fashion Week, he wowed the judges with his accessories, many of which were printed at the North Carolina State School of Design using a 3D printer.
While 3D printers have been used in the manufacturing industry, the technology is crossing over into other industries, including fashion. Although the technology is expensive, some companies are working to make this technology accessible to all of us. Home Depot just signed an agreement with MakerBot to sell its line of replicator machines. Shapeways is making it easier than ever for users, including jewelry designers, to customize and print their designs affordably.
As computer technology continues to cross over into every field, the need for Computer Scientists will only increase. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: “Employment of computer and information research scientists is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. As demand for new and better technology grows, demand for computer scientists will grow as well.” [http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-and-information-research-scientists.htm#tab-6]
Both my children attend STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) magnet schools, so I have seen first hand how educators are working hard to make sure students not only computer savvy but career ready.
Even Google is jumping on the STEM bandwagon with its Made with Code initiative designed to “help ensure that more girls become the creators, and not just the consumers, of our collective digital future.”
“For students today, coding is becoming an essential skill, just like reading, writing, and math. If you have a daughter, niece, or other girl that you know, encouraging her to learn to code can open up countless opportunities for her future. Whether she’s an athlete or an artist, loves animals, or wants to explore medicine, coding can help her pursue her interests now and create greater career options and job security for her future.” [https://www.madewithcode.com/bigdeal]
Google’s Made with Code website features a variety of free online projects to encourage girls to start “writing their own stories” using code. One of the projects is a coded bracelet in which girls can experiment with Blocky software to create a customized 3D bracelet. [https://www.madewithcode.com/project/bracelet#]
A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I tried our hand at coding a 3D bracelet. Just yesterday, our creation came in the mail courtesy of Google and Shapeways.
Technology not only presents artists like me with a new set of tools, but also a new set of challenges. While technology may be changing the way we think of art, I hope the relationship between artist and audience, creator and consumer, will go unchanged. “It’s what experience can I deliver to you that is provocative, that can change how you think. How can I, the art piece, change your relationship — not to me, but to something else or to the world? That question has nothing to do with technology at all.” [John Maeda, President, Rhode Island School of Design on How Technology is Changing Art]
This Thursday night, I will participate in my first exhibition in almost four years.
The Bohemian Bash Art Show benefits the Cary Creative Center, a non-profit providing artistic materials and educational programs to promote reuse of discarded materials.
My first jewelry collection, The Ephemera Collection, celebrated everyday things often taken for granted like postcards, postage stamps, and labels. While working on The Ephemera Collection, I started incorporating found objects in my work. For Through the Looking Glass, the last exhibition I participated in with Emily Cash and Susan Parrish, both Susan and I used found objects to bring dimension to Emily’s fantastic Wonderland drawings. For an inside look at Through the Looking Glass, click here.
Two of my favorite pieces from the Through the Looking Glass exhibition, including the Altered Book and Alice in Wonderland Talisman will be on display Thursday night at The Bohemian Bash Art Show at Cypress Manor in Cary. For more information or for tickets, visit The Bohemian Bash website.
“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.” from J.M. Barrie]
In October 2007, I premièred a series of pieces inspired by J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan for a solo exhibition at Artspace entitled Beyond Neverland. Included in the exhibition was a necklace I called the Peter Pan Heart. Stamped into the fabricated silver heart pendant, in J.M. Barrie’s handwriting, is the following: “When the first baby laughed for the very first time, the laugh broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.”
A few months later, I took the piece to New York for the Holiday Crafts Park Avenue show at the Lexington Avenue Armory. There, I met a woman named Lisa who bought the Peter Pan Heart. I have always said that I never know who I make a piece for, but when that person puts the piece on for the first time, I know. The Peter Pan Heart was made for Lisa.
I duplicated the heart pendant a few times, but always wondered what happened to the first exhibition piece.
Two weeks ago, Lisa called me in a panic. Her Peter Pan Heart, one of her favorite pieces of jewelry, had been damaged during what she called a “closet explosion”. She asked if she could send the piece back to me for repair and talked about the joy it had given her over the past seven years.
Last week, I received the broken necklace. As I emptied the contents of the inconspicuous manila envelope onto my studio table, it was like being reunited with an old friend.
Transferred to each bead is a piece of Barrie’s handwritten manuscript. There are fourteen of my image transfer beads on this piece, and as I re-strung the necklace, every bead unlocked a memory, reminding me not only of who I am at heart, an artist, but why as artists, we do what we do. Thank you, Lisa for the reminder. Your piece is on its way home.
All of the pieces created for the Beyond Neverland exhibition, including the Peter Pan Heart, were made with permission from The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London. In 1929, J.M. Barrie left all the rights to Peter Pan to the hospital. His gift is a vital source of income for the hospital. In 2007, the hospital granted me permission to use Barrie’s images in my work for a period of five years.
“In the art world, there are no labels and the artists within these walls, have been non-judgmental and accepting. The real world, unfortunately, is not so kind, especially to those who color outside the lines, march to the beat of their own drum, or are truly exceptional in their own right. Of course, I will always be an artist. But I am first and foremost a mom and now, an advocate.” June 2013 (onlylauren.wordpress.com blog post)
A year ago this month I moved out of my beloved Studio 109a at Artspace. At that time, the future seemed uncertain. My daughter had been diagnosed with autism just a few months before my last post, and my husband and I were about to wage war on the second largest school system in the state of North Carolina.
“All I know is the new found grace… All I know since yesterday is everything has changed” [Taylor Swift]
Everything has changed. Today, my daughter is a happy, thriving, rising seventh grader. Last year, I couldn’t get her to go to school. This year, I couldn’t get her to leave. She joined four different school clubs, including Student Council and the Science Olympiad team. More importantly, she has learned to navigate what she could only write about last year as “My Life with Autism” and has found her smile (a smile I wasn’t sure a year ago I would ever see again) and more importantly her own voice. Slowly but surely she is learning to be her own advocate. The highlight of her year came on her last birthday when she got to spend a few quiet minutes alone with Taylor Swift (who she affectionately called her BFF Tay Tay).
Every Child, One Voice
The week of my daughter’s birthday, my present came in the form of a letter from our School Board. We won. This small victory was an opportunity to once again find my voice… one voice for one child or every child, one voice? I joined the largest parent advocacy association in the nation, the PTA, and became our middle school’s PTA President. In this new role, I found the skills I developed as an artist to be my most valuable assets.
“The World Would Be a Better Place If….”
The PTA’s Reflections Program is America’s oldest and largest arts education program of its kind. This year, I was able to bring this program back to our school. Shana Dumont Garr, Director of Programs and Exhibitions at Artspace agreed to judge the students’ visual art submissions and Project Runway Alum Justin LeBlanc graciously agreed to attend our school’s Reflection Celebration and Awards Ceremony. Who knew when I launched my Project Runway Studio 109a Challenge, that three years later I would be standing next to a Project Runway fan favorite in support of arts education? This year’s Reflections theme is “The World Would Be a Better Place If…”, and I am anxious to be inspired once again by our students’ work.
As a “starving artist-y” (as my kids used to call me), I wrote and received my first grant in 2008. As a United Arts Regional Artist Grant Recipient, I used the monies I received to participate in the Coconut Grove Arts Festival Visiting Artist Program. Coincidentally, that year I was assigned a middle school in South Florida (perhaps a sign from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come). This year, I used those grant writing skills to not only secure three grants for our school (a physical education equipment grant, a field trip grant, and family engagement grant), but I also helped teach a group of eighth graders how to write their own grant to fund a safe space and peer counseling center for all students on our campus.
The gray has gone away. I am living in bright Technicolor. [Rosie O’Donnell]
Last week, a customer from New York called me and asked when I was coming back to New York to show my work. She talked about her Peter Pan Heart Necklace and how much she has enjoyed it over the past six years. She is one of the many wonderful custodians of my work who have reached out to me over the past year. It is for them that I write this post.
Just like my life, my art can only be described as a work in progress. I set up a home studio and have continued to experiment with fiber and most recently crochet. Ultimately I envision developing a line of accessories. I am not doing art shows and have no upcoming exhibitions scheduled. I am just enjoying the process of rediscovering myself and my art.
Thank you for your continued support and encouragement. I will continue to keep you posted. If you need to reach me, please e-mail me at email@example.com or visit my website onlylauren.com.
Last month marked my eighth year at Artspace. At the end of this month, I will move out of a building that has come to mean so much to me personally and professionally.
In 2005, Fiber Artist Sharron Parker and Linda Ruth Dickinson welcomed me into Studio 217 with open arms. Madonna Phillips encouraged me to take my “funky” art on the road and apply for regional and nationally known juried shows. Max Halpern gave me a crash course in art appreciation and history. Judy Crane encouraged me to develop my leadership skills, welcomed me to The Executive Board of Artspace, and exposed me to the business side of Artspace.
Catherine Thornton encouraged me to visualize outside the box. When I moved downstairs from Studio 217 to Studio 109A, Ann Harwell, Pat Scull, Susan Soper, Susan Parrish, and Marriott Little transformed a building into a community and a workplace into a home away from home.
One of my fondest memories and truly one of my finest hours professionally was the collaborative Through The Looking Glass exhibition with Susan Parrish and Emily Cash Wilmoth.
And not a First Friday has gone by in over a year when somebody hasn’t talked to me about the Studio 109A Project Runway Challenge, a project which marked my transition from jewelry designer to fiber artist.
I truly could not have taken this journey without my family’s love and support. When I moved into Artspace, my son was six and my daughter was two. My son is now entering high school and my daughter is ten. As I mentioned in my last blog post, my daughter was diagnosed with autism last February. The last few months have been challenging. The love, support, and friendship from my Artspace family and some new friends have made these last few months bearable.
In the art world, there are no labels and the artists within these walls, have been non-judgmental and accepting. The real world, unfortunately, is not so kind, especially to those who color outside the lines, march to the beat of their own drum, or are truly exceptional in their own right. A friend of mine says I have found my voice. I suppose that is true. Of course, I will always be an artist. But I am first and foremost a mom and now, an advocate.
So, with that, auf wiedersehen from Studio 109A. See you soon!
So most of the “Road Less Traveled” posts on this blog have to do with places I have traveled that have inspired me. Since February, though, I have been on a more emotional journey, one that has been compared to a trip to Holland and has made for some unexpected bedfellows.
Two months ago, my ten year old daughter was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Soon after, many of my friends, as well as The Autism Society of North Carolina, shared with me Emily Perl Kingsley’s 1987 essay “Welcome to Holland”. While the Welcome to Holland essay’s sentiment is one I hope to embrace someday, I would liken these last two months since my daughter’s diagnosis to a different kind of tour. The catalyst for this “tour” analogy came after a therapist asked me if I was comfortable with my daughter’s diagnosis.
“I am riding a donkey down the Grand Canyon, slowly, poking my way down one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Some days something sets me off and steers me off course and my donkey goes plunging off the edge with me still on top. Some days your well meaning questions and comments compel me to grip the reigns tighter and dig my heels in deeper. So, am I comfortable the diagnosis? No. I am holding on for dear life so I don’t fall of the edge.” [From my own journal post, March 2013]
April is Autism Awareness Month and coincidentally enough, it is now that I finally feel that I, along with my family, have turned a corner.
At a friend’s suggestion, my daughter decided to turn her fear, anxiety, and sadness over her diagnosis into a project. She put together a team to walk for the Inaugural Triangle Walk Now for Autism Speaks next week. She also coordinated a spirit night/fundraiser to support Autism Speaks at Tijuana Flats, for which I ended up on the evening news to promote the event. Watching myself on NBC 17 that night made me realize how far we had come. Back in February, I couldn’t utter the word “autism” without crying. Last week, I was on the evening news promoting Autism Awareness Month.
I also have seen many of my friends, as well as some unlikely allies, step forward to show their support. Last week, Miss Raleigh USA 2014, Marcie Trivette, joined my daughter and I at Tijuana Flats to show her support and solidarity. Marcie’s passion/platform is raising autism awareness in honor of her 15 year old brother. Check out Marcie’s Blog Post on meeting my daughter and Miss Raleigh Teen USA, Lexie Qualle at Tijuana Flats.
Last Friday night, I was able to pay it forward, finally being on the giving end of “it’s better to give than to receive” spectrum. Studio 109A hosted an old fashioned bake sale to raise funds to send two deserving kids to Camp Royall, a camp for autistic children run by The Autism Society.
This summer, I will move out of my beloved Artspace and Studio 109A to spend more time at home with my family. Of course, I will always be an artist and perhaps someday I will return to Artspace. For now though, this Road Less Traveled is taking me in a different direction.
“So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It’s just a different place… But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say ‘Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.’
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.” [From Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley’s, 1987]
This week I returned to Studio 109A after about a three month leave. The Artspace I returned to is a very different place than the one I left. First of all, so many of my friends have left the building (literally). There will be no more group lunches, birthdays in the hallway, or cakes made of tin making the rounds from artist to artist.
The studios downstairs are now filled with new faces, emerging and established artists, who bring their own perspectives to Artspace. When I first moved into the building seven years ago, I was the only jeweler in the building. Although there had been jewelers working at Artspace before me, the sounds and smells radiating from my studio were somewhat unfamiliar, and I would venture to say, disturbing to the artists around me. Today, there are four other jewelers in the building, all of whom have studios down the hall from Studio 109A. Sandra McEwan and Sara West moved in this summer. Megan Clark, who has been at Artspace over a year, moved from her shared studio upstairs to her own studio space downstairs.
Textile Artist Mary Kircher is the current Regional Emerging Artist downstairs. She is joined by two other Regional Emerging Artists (Nancy VanNoppen and Scott Welsh). Andre Leon Gray and Emily Howard also moved into the building as The Community Artists in Residence. The Summer Artist in Residence is Jonathan Brilliant, working in Gallery One.
Of course, there are still remnants of my friends, great artists who I have come to respect and know, lingering in the hallway, the lobby, and The Upfront Gallery. If you happen to make it downtown in the next couple of days, don’t miss Catherine Thornton’s solo exhibition, Talking Heads, a humorous commentary in clay on today’s election cycle. Also, be sure to catch Marriott Little’s Four Decades of Art exhibition, a retrospective highlighting her forty year career. And you can still find Ann Harwell’s work displayed outside her old studio, as well as Addison Paige’s art quilt hanging outside of Studio 109A.
I must say, the day I returned to Artspace, all of the changes were a bit unsettling. As the week has passed though, I have seen some of the old, familiar faces and have reacquainted myself with Studio 109A. It is true that the only constant is change. I believe how we react to the change reflects our character. It would be easy for me to be fearful, angry or even paralyzed by all of the changes around me. However, in the last couple of days, I made a conscious decision to embrace change and live by the immortal words of Alan Watts: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
When my grandfather moved to this country, he became a tailor. He created beautiful garments. My guess is he was taught to sew by his mother, Reina (who I have a picture of somewhere sewing). He started three sportswear lines named after his three children, Renee Sportswear, Estelle Sportswear, and Mark Sportswear. I suppose he dreamed of passing those skills (and businesses) down from one generation to the next. Unfortunately, like most children, my mother, aunt, and uncle had other plans and all pursued other professions. None of them ever learned to sew. So, last year, when I took up sewing, I inherited my grandfather’s scissors. When I am at my sewing machine, I often imagine him sitting next to me and smiling, whispering under his breath in his beautiful, native Spanish tongue, “hija mia” (my daughter).
Last month, my beautiful daughter, embarked on a project, which truthfully a year ago, I could never have imagined. She and her friend, two Junior Girl Scouts, both nine years old, started working towards their Bronze Award, the highest Girl Scout award a girl at this level can receive. They conceived of a project to help children at UNC Children’s Hospital (one of the girls comes from a long line of Tar Heels). But because of their young age, they were limited as to what they could do. They could host a collection drive, which would meet some of the Bronze Award requirements, but they wanted to do more.
Enter Diane Moore, Founder, President, and Executive Director of Striving For More. In June of 2008 Diane’s family’s life was tragically turned upside down when her daughter Colleen died of Osteosarcoma (a form of bone cancer). During Colleen’s 9 month battle with this disease, the family had Colleen cared for at three different hospitals and saw distinctly different levels of care in the area of emotional and spiritual support for children and their families. After Colleen died, Diane created Striving for More and has dedicated her life to providing emotional and spiritual support for critically and terminally ill children and their families. Colleen was nine when she died, the same age as my daughter and her friend.
One of the programs Diane’s organization funds at both UNC and Duke is Beads of Courage. Beads of Courage are designed to let children with cancer commemorate their personal cancer journey. Every time a child has a procedure—whether a chemotherapy infusion, radiation therapy, bone marrow aspirate, blood transfusion or other procedures—they receive a special bead from a member of the medical team to add to their “courage bead necklace.” During the course of treatment, many kids will receive as many as 1000 beads.
Diane met with my daughter and her friend to talk about the Beads of Courage program. She explained to them that one thing they could do to help was to make a special bead bag for some of the 500 children undergoing treatment at UNC. Bead bags give children a special place to store the beads that they cherish when they are not able to wear them. They also give them a special way to easily carry them back and forth from the hospital or a special keepsake location to store them while they are off enduring difficult tests or procedures.
It seemed that within days of making contact with Diane, my daughter and her friend had chosen enough fabric to create 100 bead bags (in honor of the 100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts). The only obstacle standing in both girls’ way was their lack of sewing skills.
On a Sunday afternoon, both girls sat in my dining room for their first sewing lesson. Almost two weeks and fifty-one bags later, I think it is safe to say, that they have graduated and are well on their way to becoming skilled sewers. I have faith that my grandfather, along with Diane’s beautiful daughter, Colleen, are smiling down on them, encouraging them, and empowering them with every stitch.
My daughter has been asking me to teach her how to sew for months. I always felt she was too young, but realize now that I was just being too lazy. We need to empower our children, especially our girls, which is the true meaning of the Girl Scout program in the first place.
It has to be fate that my daughter and her friend stumbled upon a project that represents a marriage between the sewing skills of my grandfather and my own love of beads.
There are 1000 children being treated at UNC Children’s Hospital and Duke Children’s Hospital combined. So far, only about 300 have bead bags. If you or your organization would like more information, or to download free instructions on how to make the bead bags, visit www.striving4more.org.
“In desperation [Janis Jopilin] dumps her bag onto the floor of the limo. Its contents are truly awesome. Janis has a baglady’s compulsion to carry her whole life with her. There are: two movie stubs, a pack of cigarettes, an antique cigarette holder, several motel and hotel room keys, a box of Kleenex, a compact and various make up cases (in addition to a bunch of eyebrow pencils held together with a rubber band), an address book, dozens of bits of paper, business cards, match box covers with phone numbers written in near-legible barroom scrawls, guitar picks, a bottle of Southern Comfort (empty), a hip flask, an opened package of complementary macadamia nuts from American Airlines, cassettes of Johnny Cash and Otis Redding, gum, sunglasses, credit cards, aspirin, assorted pens and writing pad, a corkscrew, an alarm clock, a copy of Time, and two hefty books-Nancy Milford’s biography of Zelda Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel.” David Dalton, Piece of My Heart
Next May, I have a solo exhibition of purses at Artspace entitled Arm Candy. The purpose of the exhibition is to explore the contents of women’s handbags throughout history. When doing the research for my exhibition proposal, I came across this description of Janis Joplin’s purse, which got me to thinking… how have handbags (and their contents) changed throughout the years.
Writing up the exhibition proposal is easy. Coming up with a collection is hard. So, last week, I created a story board to help guide me through the design process. For me, a story board consists of pictures that inspire me. It gives me direction and helps me focus on creating a cohesive body of work. Normally, I would create my story board in a sketch book, but thanks to Pinterest, I can research historical handbags on the internet and “pin” inspirational pictures to my virtual bulletin board.
I have to be honest, when I was introduced to Pinterest a few months ago, I didn’t understand it. According to the Pinterest website, “Our goal is to connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting. We think that a favorite book, toy, or recipe can reveal a common link between two people. With millions of new pins added every week, Pinterest is connecting people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests.”
So, here is the link to my virtual bulletin board. Now, it is off to the studio to create. Until next week…
An artist is like an athlete… An athlete does not dive into a sport without some sort of warm up. I am the same way. When I haven’t been working in the studio for a while, I do a warm up project before diving into new work.
So, after taking time off during the holidays to be with my family, I returned to Studio 109A earlier this month, dusted off my tools, and started working on my warm up project, a carpet bag.
When I think of carpet bags, I think of Mary Poppins pulling her umbrella, a lamp, and even a hat rack out of her magical, red bag of tricks. I always wanted a bag like that, so I decided to make one.
When I visited Mary Jo’s Cloth Store last fall, I purchased a cordurroy fabric with that Mary Poppins image in mind. I used some of the fabric on the Sew 70’s Project Runway Studio 109A purse but saved the rest. The end result is my version of the carpet bag, which like Mary Poppins’ bag did for Jane and Michael, opened up my imagination to all sorts of possiblities.
With Project Runway Studio 109A behind me, it is now time to look to the future and design my first collection, Arm Candy, which will be on exhibition at Artspace in May. I will continue blogging weekly as I did during Project Runway Studio 109A to document my progress and look forward to sharing my new work with you.