Tag Archives: art

working with borrowed eyes.

Last weekend I was working on a new necklace design. I loved the colorstory of white, brown and cobalt that I’d had in my head for several days. The beads I chose were the right shades, but a collection of difficult shapes. Normally when I’m working, I just keep tweaking something until it looks right to my eyes, but this time I restrung the necklace several times until I wasn’t sure what looked right anymore. I wanted a second pair of eyes, but being home alone at a fairly late hour on the west coast, I didn’t have one. So I tweeted a picture of the necklace and asked for yea or nay votes.

The first response was a nope, not done yet, try again. The next two responses were unqualified yea votes. The fourth vote was “aaaalmost, but maybe you should try swapping the small bead under the shell and put it on top of the shell.” I made notes and went to bed.

The next morning, I had several more responses and I got interested in how we see things: what our eyes expect to see, and what, individually, pleases or offends the eye. Finishing the necklace ended up taking a back seat to collecting as much information as I could about how different people saw this one piece. I decided to tweet it again and see what else I could gather. There were several more responses, so varied that some of the suggestions were exact opposites. Curiously, everyone I asked loved the bead that bothered me the most: the large translucent cobalt on the bottom left of the arrangement. I starred all the responses and set about stringing a version of the necklace for each suggestion.

This was the final tally of comments:

  • Unqualified nay, try again: 1 vote
  • Unqualified yea: 3 votes
  • Add smaller beads on the left to balance the narrowness of the shell on the right: 2 votes
  • It needs one more color: 2 votes
  • Add one small bead on top of the shell on the right: 6 votes
  • Take out the large brown bead: 1 vote

There were too many trial versions to post all of them here, but this is a sampling of what I tried.



The process was fascinating, and I ended up having several conversations with artists in  various mediums about how we decide when something is done, and how much influence we get from other people while we’re working. I gained an affection for my original version, although it still looks a bit off to me, and have kept one of those for a project I’m doing. The final version ended up having just one tiny blue bead added on top of the shell bead; that necklace is available for sale in my urban legend shop. If you like any of the alternate versions and are interested in purchasing one, please email me and I’ll set it up for you.

workshop – barbara dill

I meant to post these pictures in December, after Thanksgiving in Virginia with my family, but forgot I had them. This is my friend Barbara’s workshop in Richmond. She was a student in my grandfather’s woodworking class years ago. They became friends, and have remained close ever since. Barbara has an immense talent for woodwork (her innovative work in multi axis woodturning is amazing). I was getting used to the new phone the weekend that I took these. They’re a little scrappy as pictures go, but they’re a record of one of my favorite places and I love them.

i got ochre on my converse.

I’ve been taking a beginner’s painting class, and having struggles. Every Monday night, Leslie and I pack up our free-with-class satchels of acrylic paints and brushes, and go eat at a diner. That’s not the hard part; I’m really good at diners. Then we spend three hours in a nice big room painting. Our instructor is a wisp-thin peanut-sized woman with a very deep voice and the flattest Plains accent I’ve ever heard. She says wonderful things like, “I could tell you a story about the 1800’s and why that happened,” or “I’m telling you for the fourth time: she lacked vision.” She gets excited about the seven different kinds of folds, or Sargent’s uncanny prowess at painting hands.

Every single thing about this class is too hard for me. I choose terrible places to set up my easel and end up with a hinky perspective. I’m paranoid about my non-existent drawing skills and spend way too long trying to get a shape right before starting to paint, and then end up with a flat texture-less picture. I have no sense of placement or composition. I can’t see colors as they actually are, I invent impossible geometry, and I have trouble with spotting highlights. It’s like every instinct I have deserts me when I get in there. In spite of all this – actually, probably because of it – I’m really enjoying it. Leslie said it best – it’s a three hour problem that’s none of my usual problems. It’s completely absorbing. There’s no time or room to think about anything except what I’m doing. So I’m having a really good time with new words, techniques and ways to think about things. While I’m not going to be any better at painting after the class is over, I’ll have learned a lot and enjoyed five weeks of time well spent outside my comfort zone.

Plus, I have paint on my gray Converse slip-ons. Total street cred.

crush month: day 11

The word crush isn’t really apt to describe how I feel about this work, but these are the rules of December blogging, and I’ll abide by them. These pieces are so powerful, so appealing and so exactly the art I want to look at all the time that they make me feel a little wobbly.

i am a failed blogger.

There. I said it. My intentions are righteous, but most of the time I can’t maintain the focus to keep this project going. Shana had a good idea a while back to get herself back in the swing of regular blogging. Not only was it fun for her and everyone else, but it worked, so I’m stealing it. Crush Month: one new thing to love every single day. Shana did August, and I hope I can do as well with December.

For my first crush of the month, I bring you a cartoon. It’s a detail of a much larger storyboarded get-well card that a group of students made for one of my colleagues. It’s hilarious and strangely poignant; I often wish I had this placard to wave around in times of crisis. Or at least a little flag version to stick on top of my inbox.