Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Pictures from ICONIC Exhibition, part 1

Last Sunday we had the opening reception for my show of tapestries entitled ICONIC.  I was so happy that so many friends and colleagues braved the rain and came out to Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance (SEFAA). 

Photo courtesy Marilyn Kleinhans

Photo courtesy Marilyn Kleinhans

I gave a short artist's talk and was really gratified to hear such thoughtful questions.  Here I'm discussing Mary's Cloak, part of the My Real Name is Mary series.

Photo courtesy Sam Elkind
Mary's Cloak is the one non-tapestry work in the show.  It's inspired by something I read during my preparatory research:  "Mary's azure cloak has been a heavy one for women to bear."  The outside of the cloak is blue velvet, trimmed in gold, typical of Mary's clothing in paintings throughout the centuries (if not historically accurate).  The inside of the cloak is a red rose-printed cotton.  It is collaged with tissue garment patterns.  The pattern tissues are overlaid with images of Mary from paintings throughout history.  These images have been scanned, printed on fabric, and "framed" with ribbons or lace.  In my handwriting the words "ecce ancilla Domini" ("behold the handmaid of the Lord") are repeated over the surface.  At the bottom a scalloped border of beads and fishing weights adds the weight to the cloak.  The label encourages viewers to take it down and try it on.

Mary's Cloak (c) Molly Elkind 2018
71" x 61"
Photo courtesy Sam Elkind
Mary's Cloak (c) Molly Elkind 2018
Photo courtesy Marilyn Kleinhans

Left to right:  Mary (the anxiety of influence), Mater Dolorosa, Mary's Cloak, Mary (Yes)
all (c) Molly Elkind 2017, 2018
Photo courtesy Sam Elkind
Mary (the anxiety of influence) (c) 2017 Molly Elkind
45" x 37"
Photo courtesy Sam Elkind
Mater Dolorosa (c) Molly Elkind
27.5" x 19"
Photo courtesy Sam Elkind
Mary (Yes) (c) Molly Elkind 2017
28" x 19.5"
Photo courtesy Sam Elkind
Here are the earlier pieces in the Mary series:

Mary (a sword shall pierce) (c) Molly Elkind 2013
11.5" x 17.5"
Photo courtesy Sam Elkind
Mary (gilded) (c) Molly Elkind 2014
21.5" x 20"
Photo courtesy Sam Elkind

Mary (greater is what she bore in her mind) (c) Molly Elkind 2015
19" x 15"
Photo courtesy Sam Elkind

Mother/Mary (c) Molly Elkind 2015
15.5" x 15.5"
Photo courtesy Sam Elkind
If you want to know more about the ideas behind this series, click HERE.  Or ask a question in the comments below!

Next time I'll share the other series in the show, Book of Hours, inspired by illuminated manuscripts.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Document Document Document

When I was in grad school my fiber professor's mantra was Sample Sample Sample.  My mantra today is Document Document Document.  In a post two weeks ago I described some of the non-studio work involved in pulling together a body of work for a show:  making labels for each piece, compiling a checklist of the details about each work, maintaining a personal inventory of the work, yada yada yada.  It can seem--and is, sometimes--overwhelming.  And boring!  We'd all rather be in the studio.

If you're not in the business of entering shows or putting on exhibits, you may think none of this applies to you.  But . . . not so fast.  I think it's a useful practice for all of us in the making biz, whether we think of ourselves as professional artists or not.

You've heard of Swedish death cleaning, right?  The idea that by organizing your things in advance of your own passing, you are doing a giant favor to those who come after you, your heirs. (Or even yourself, the next time you have to move house.  Just sayin'.)  It's good if you, or they, don't have to guess, Who made this?  When?  What IS this?  Having that info on a label on the piece, and/or an inventory sheet, can simplify matters.  It's also good to have those records in case, God forbid, your work is damaged in a fire or flood and your insurance company wants documentation of what was lost.

Label for Red Letter Day tapestry
I suspect many of us drag our feet on this kind of thing because deep down, we don't think our work is worth this kind of care and time.  For us, it's all about enjoying the process of making, and we shy away from treating our work as if it's anything special.  I would argue, if it was worth spending the time to make it, it's worth spending an extra fifteen minutes making a label, a photo, and a written record somewhere.

Portion of Inventory Record for Red Letter Day tapestry

If you are serious about getting your work out there, then this kind of documentation is absolutely essential.  You want to have files of images and the relevant factual details at your fingertips, all in one file on your computer desktop, ready to respond to calls for entry and other opportunities.

Now . . . go make something!  And write it down. 

And now I'm getting off this particular hobbyhorse!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Top 10 Reasons to do a Solo Show

If I've done my job right (smile, wink), many of you are already aware that a solo show of my tapestries just opened at Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance (SEFAA) just outside Atlanta.  I admit, I've been pretty much consumed by the weaving and other preparations for this show for months years.  Today, now that the show is up,  I want to share why I think every artist/maker/craftsperson should aim for a solo show of their work at some point.  

10.  Let's get this one out of the way right off:  it is a nice ego boost to see your name, maybe not in lights, but on the wall.  We toil along in solitude in our studios, mostly, and it just feels great to get yourself and your work out in the light of day.  

title wall of exhibi

9.  It's great to share your work online, through websites and emails and social media--and I love all that--but nothing beats getting it in front of actual humans.  Yesterday I got to talk with people IRL about their responses to the work, hear their questions and their responses, and that was so good.  

8.  You will make or deepen your contacts and connections with the folks at your gallery or venue, and also with other artists, potential viewers and collectors.  In the art biz as in every other biz, networking is really important.  I am incredibly grateful for the support of the folks at SEFAA and that of my artist friends in pulling this together.  Specifically, Linda DeMars' and Marilyn Kleinhans' suggestions way improved my initial plan when we hung the show together.  Thank you!

hanging with Marilyn Kleinhans (left)
hanging with Linda DeMars

7.  Other people--family, friends, fellow artists, potential buyers--will see your commitment to your own work and respect you for it.  You demonstrate to them (and yourself) that you are a serious artist.  (For more on the difficult path toward calling yourself an artist, see Kathleen Loomis' excellent recent post.) 

6.  Once you commit, a year or two out, to having the show, then you actually buckle down and make the work!  Nothing is so motivating as a deadline and a commitment to someone else.  And when you're done, you have a coherent body of work that you created with intention.  For the record, I have eight pieces in the Mary series and six in the illuminated manuscript series.  This body of work is now available for juried show entries, other exhibits, and potential sales (who knows?). 

5.  Your artistic growth accelerates.  Again, once you've set the goal, you get busy solving artistic problems, improving your technique, figuring out what it is exactly you are after in your work.  While I know I still have much to learn, my understanding of how different yarns behave, for example, improved a great deal between the first Mary piece. . .   

detail, Mary (a sword shall pierce), (c) 2013, Molly Elkind

and the last one:
detail, Mary (Yes), (c) 2018 Molly Elkind
Or between the earliest illuminated manuscript piece:
Huh? (c) 2016, Molly Elkind
 and the lateest one. . .
Red Letter Night, (c) 2018, Molly Elkind

4.  You will get serious also about writing and updating your artistic resume, your inventory (see previous post for more on this) and mailing lists (email and snail mail).  It can be tempting to let this stuff slide sometimes. . . but when you have all your paperwork ducks in a row you are ready when opportunities knock.  And they will, because with a solo show in the works, you are a Serious Artist.

3. You will learn to speak and write with confidence about your work.  You will get your elevator speech down cold.  This has been one of the most challenging parts for me.  I've stumbled and hemmed and hawed trying to explain why I'm fascinated with such arcane subjects as the Virgin Mary, illuminated manuscripts, and tapestry itself.  

It's SO important though, because people want to understand, and they need you to give them some clues and a starting point.  I'm going to give an artist talk at the reception for the show, but for those who miss that, I've installed a mockup of my design wall, with some of the quotes, sketches, images, yarn cards and samples that I used in developing the work in the exhibit.  I hope it helps clarify not only my subject matter but the tapestry process a bit as well.  

design wall at Iconic:  Tapestries by Molly Elkind
2.  You will hone your time management skills.  You will start to plan your days, if you don't already, around the studio time you require to get the work made, rather than trying to find creative time after you've done everything else (and you're tired, to boot).  Your priorities shift.  

1.  And for the Number One reason why you should do a solo show. . . Well, you tell me!  If you feel like it, please share in the comments below. 

Now, what are you waiting for? 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

the dark side: documentation

Cutting a tapestry off the loom is a great moment.  Weeks or months of labor are rewarded by the satisfying snip snip of cutting the warps.  Once this happens, there's no going back. Sometimes we celebrate with champagne, cutting-off parties, and, ahem, videos on social media.

But then there is . . . the dark side.  If like me, you don't weave in your weft tails as you go, you have to deal with the hairy back and the warp ends of the tapestry somehow.  You have to clip, tie, and/or tack down those tails so they're as unobtrusive as possible.  You have to figure out hems and hanging solutions.  Actually, I don't really mind this part, as the hand work allows me to spend quality time looking closely at the piece and thinking about it.  What worked, what would I do differently next time, and what's next? 
Molly Elkind, Red Letter Night, detail (reverse side), (c) 2018

I've been doing a lot of this finishing work lately, getting ready for a solo show that I hang--yikes--one week from today.  It's been nine years since I last had a solo show, and I've forgotten how much non-studio work is involved.  There's a whole 'nother "dark side" of the tapestry biz:  Paperwork!  Documentation!  It's no fun, but you gotta do it.  Here's the spreadsheet I made just to keep track of all the tasks.

Today I made labels to sew on the back of the work.  You might think you'll never forget the details of each piece you've made, but trust me, you might.  I weave my initials into my tapestries, but I also sew on a cotton label with the title, my signature, the year it was completed, and the materials used (useful if the piece needs to be cleaned or conserved in the future).  I tack this label to the back of the piece (thank you, Rebecca Mezoff, for this model).  If you enter your work in shows, this is essential documentation so that handlers always know whose piece it is. 

For my exhibit, I'm putting much the same basic information on wall labels: title of the work, materials and, if applicable, price.  Since I am the only artist in this show, I'm omitting my name from the wall labels this time.

Cutting wall labels printed on cardstock
And then there's the checklist, a full and detailed list of every piece in the exhibit.  The same basic information as on the labels goes here, plus the size of each piece, a phrase describing the work ("handwoven tapestry"), and the sales price (including gallery commission) or the value if not for sale.  This checklist goes to the gallery's insurance company as well.  This list takes a surprisingly long time to compile!

I also put together a binder with information about me.  This binder will be out on a table near the guestbook at the gallery.  In mine, I'm including my updated resume, my artist statement, and the checklist.

binder with checklist and information for potential buyers 
Finally, and I hope to get to this soon, I will update my own personal artwork inventory.  This is for my records only.  You can buy software for this, but I just made a table in Word.  This document has a thumbnail photo of each piece, the title, size, the date completed, a description and notes about whether it's framed or mounted, the price, information about who it has been sold or given to, and where it has been shown.  I refer to this inventory all the time, if I want to enter a show or recall what has been shown where.

Mary tapestries inventory (not current)
So much paperwork, right?  I'd love to hear how you all deal with documenting your work.  There are probably as many ways as there are artists.

Why bother with documentation at all?  That's the topic for my next post.