Thursday, December 18, 2008

Task: Gathering

It's been a very good few days for 'Second Seating.' The letters I sent and the phone calls I made two weeks ago are reaping return calls and appointments. As CK used to say, "We've moved the meter." Hurray for that. I am assembling more packets of information about 'Second Seating' and I'll get them in the mail before I fly to Seattle. I'm hoping that most of the recipients will be having a couple of quiet days between Christmas and New Year's, meaning that they just might take a good look inside those packets and be responsive when I call for a visit.

On Tuesday I drove over to the Valero Refinery on Manchester to look at scrap metal that they sell off or leave to rust away like these old flanges. Those flanges also look like skillets or chargers so they may make it on to a table.

I think we can use the nuts and bolts for a chandelier, albeit a very heavy chandelier. All of this stuff will be fun to show to the several other artists who will play parts in creating 'Second Seating.' In fact, after the holidays, I need to write more about each of them and what they will bring 'to the table(s).'

Made a visit to Maximus Coffee to discuss a 'coffee' table constructed with hundreds of mugs and vintage coffee percolators. Response was so positive that I'll begin work on that table in January. Right after New Year's, I'll pick up dozens of coffee cans from Maximus and Irma and I will take them down to Jose Solis in the valley. We'll be talking chandeliers.' Big chandeliers'

Trish has a collection of old percolators that may become part of an elaborate stacked centerpiece on the coffee mug table. I never really looked at old percolators before I photographed Trish's last Sunday. I have the feeling that I'll be haunting Value Village, The Guild Shop and garage sales in search of many, many more.

I have to say it's tough to write about these conversations and visits with East End businesses. They are all leading to something, but conversations are part of a gradual process during which folks become excited and eventually want to play a part in the whole. Writing about anything until there is a commitment is premature. Like a wine, relationships need time and the right conditions to blossom, reach fruition. Am I mixing metaphors here?

Mixed metaphor or not, I am making a decision right now to talk about funders and partners only AFTER they've signed up. For now, this blog will focus on the 'hows' of making the art. There will be more than enough to talk about.

By the way, my clothes dryer has been non-functioning for several weeks. Service man has been here and we thought it was fixed, but it isn't so I've waited another week for a second service call on Friday. You ask, why am I mentioning my clothes dryer? Well, I think the vent and all the insides were clogged with velvet lint from all the washing and drying of those mildewed and sodden brocades and velvets I salvaged from a garage flooded by Hurricane Ike. My dryer couldn't take it and succumbed. Expensive salvage job - is that a business expense of 'Second Seating'?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Just Because

Posted this photo because what's not to love? Tomorrow I get back to work on 'Second Seating' after a week of filling a notebook with very good ideas and lists of 'stuff to do.' Tomorrow morning it's 'onward.' It's after midnight now and the two hour time change - backwards - just lost its steam.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

More Inspires

Last night I backed up several thousand digital photos on a secondary hard drive and then spent an hour today deleting many of the same images from my laptop. Oh, and I can't simply delete images in large nameless groups. It took me almost an hour to move three thousand to the trash because I pondered over each one, even knowing that they were all backed up, still accessible.

I told Mary today that when I'm an old lady with signs of early dementia, I'll be easy to amuse. Just give me a screen and lots of images to consider. There is nothing I like to do more.

Here are some images I loved today and which may end up in 'Second Seating'. They include a hand painted china tea cup and saucer (scroll back upwards) and some really nice carnations we saw at Fred Meyer.

Please take a good look at all the images in this post and tell me next year when the installation is done whether or not you recognize any of them projected on those ceiling scrims. From whence comes my inspiration today.

There was the fruit garnish on my breakfast plate this morning along with a warm bread pudding made with chard, sausage chunks and cheese.

I have really good breakfasts in Portland because both Mary and Queta see breakfast as their favorite meal so they have found, and continue to find, wonderful little places that serve terrific breakfasts - and lattes too.
The day after Thanksgiving, Dave and Queta mixed up leftover cornbread stuffing, a little cranberry sauce, mashed potatos all together with green chiles in a cast iron skillet. They baked the whole thing in the oven after they dropped four eggs on the top. It was divine.

The image below is simply a pleasant photograph of the crackers we ate with an assortment of goat cheeses and Tillamook cheese curd. The dish has been in our family for several generations and Mary took ownership of it when Mom and Dad moved from Houston to Seattle for good.

Mary and I ate Thai for lunch today. We didn't leave much on our plates, did we?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What Inspires?

Well, very simply, quite a lot inspires. Each day, every moment there seems to be a surfeit of receptors inside of me that gather colors and shapes and objects - images, images coming from all directions - and continuously juxtapose them side by side, layer after layer. It's quite a show.

Add ideas for 'Second Seating' that zing in from god knows where - I filled six notebook pages with them on my trip to Portland a day ago. And they are good ideas too, many of which I'll incorporate into the whole. Maybe I was inspired because I was upgraded to first class and was served an omelet, decent coffee, yogurt and fresh fruit on real plates and bowls? As the plane landed, I agreed with the man who sat beside me (and who looked like Kevin Bacon, maybe), that the trip was good and as he added, uneventful. But was it really NOT uneventful for me. Instead, I sat in that first class seat brimming with ideas and possibilities, covering pages and pages of my old fashioned school notebook.

Two afternoons ago, I was inspired when I looked out my dining room windows and saw my screen porch and studio awash in that golden low late afternoon autumn sunlight. What a glorious place to work, listen to urban sounds and to contemplate.

Actually, I had a wonderful week, each day moved the production of this new exhibition forward. I found a second large studio space in the East End where I can put all the tables and accoutrements for this show and be able to develop each in relationship to all the rest. What a gift. A huge thank you to the person who made this space available. Having it feels like a green light to go. Next week, I'll have another friend with a truck and trailer help me move all the stuff I've collected thus far into the space. I can hardly wait to have it all in one place - and out where I can see it all - because it will really help move the design process forward. And I'll probably have a horrible sinking spell because it may look as if it makes no sense and I'll just have to keep adding until it does make sense.

I continue to take 'food photos' that I'll project on those billowing scrims. Have no idea what order they'll all take. Mary says I should put a series on You Tube or flickr and I think we'll try to do that this Thanksgiving weekend. Here is some of the food that's made its way to a table where I've eaten.

We ate sushi in the neighborhood just after I arrived, kind of an afternoon lunch of yellow tail and albacore tuna, unagi or eel and Sunny Special #1 Salmon. I think my favorite was the eel. Am remembering the eel at the Stockholm Restaurant next to the Abbey Hotel in New York where we always stayed as we travelled to and from Aruba. The restaurant had a Swedish smorgasbord and there was hardly a fish on the table that I didn't try. I was a very adventurous child when it came to eating and look where it's taking me now.

This morning we three at a late breakfast at the The Little Red Bike Cafe. I am not remembering the name of the egg sandwiches that we enjoyed, but they were good. Loved the patterns on the lattes.

We decided to visit Portland's new Museum of Contemporary Craft which has a show titled "Manuf®actured: The Conspicuous Transformation of Everyday Objects" that is very similar to the exhibition at the new Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle in New York. Artists are using everyday packaging and recycled materials in fascinating ways. After the museum visit, we went to The Meadow on Mississippi Street for black Turkish salt. How about those blocks of quarried pink salt in their window? The afternoon light just lit them up.

Later, we landed at Flutter, recommended by Caroline, where we pondered well edited vintage satiny clothes, toys, books, feathered glass bird ornaments and chandeliers. Flutter was fairly wonderful. The owner really has a nice touch and edits well.

Earlier, we'd stopped at a tea shop where I ordered powdered green tea and was served what looked like a soup bowl of wheat grass. I have the feeling it was so loaded with goodness that I'll be alert and awake until well after Thanksgiving dinner, a full day and a half from now.

And what, you ask, has all of this activity today to do with developing 'Second Seating'? Everything. Because everything I see these days seems to relate to this emerging series of dining tables. I see 'Second Seating' everywhere. The 'seeing' inspires and when combined with this ever flowing river of ideas, the making 'Second Seating' is propelled forward. Someday other folks will 'see' what's in my head and on my mind.
Take a look at these images again. Perhaps they'll appear in some form or fashion on a strange and wonderful dinner table or as a scrap in a collage or as part of a fantasy chandelier. I even bought a LED light bulb today at Sunland, a more-than-amazing store on Mississippi Street, that changes colors from moment to moment. How would a dozen of such lights behave when paired with a bevy of tin cans encrusted with marbles?

What a week. Inspiration is good.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Second Seating Mixes Food and Art

Art and dining? Dining and art? The combination is not necessarily new, but the idea is spawning new venues and gaining devotees. I've just read The New York Times STYLE Magazine, Design & Living Winter 2008, and this mix of art and food sounds a lot like Second Seating to me.

Plans for Second Seating include receptions and parties in the space itself, catered by Irma's restaurant and hosted by a local green groups and real estate organizations.

These receptions will be about people coming together in a fantasy environment, drinking a margarita and eating a flauta or two while immersed in an art installation where almost everything is made with recycled junk or cast-off and vintage objects, including tin can chandeliers and collages made with stained coffee filters.

Second Seating will be a space in which you can ponder a transparent table base filled with East End street litter and remember Hurricane Ike when you spot a table made from trees felled by the storm. You may marvel at the number of stacked coffee mugs that support a tabletop of coffee beans and catch light from a chandelier constructed from Clorox bottles.

Food wouldn't be half as much fun to eat if we couldn't see it and I suspect that art, especially art that conjures up feasts or the lack of, will be more fun to experience with food in hand. So we are mixing art and food all the time with Second Seating.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Gift from Hurricane Ike: Reclaim and Recycle

A few wondrous things happened after Hurricane Ike. The felled trees and flooded homes have already changed our neighborhood in sad ways. But sometimes, gifts appear amidst debris and chaos.

One wondrous gift came during a walk in that part of our neighborhood where homes had flooded with several feet of water. One such house that I'd admired for years had its driveway filled with soggy and water damaged belongings waiting to be carted off.

Among the belongings were piles of sodden fabrics. Velvets, brocades, plaids, silks, needlepoint, bolts, samples and trims.

I found the owner who said she was an interior decorator and had stowed the fabrics away for a garage sale, but now, she said, 'I'm just throwing them away. I don't want them.'

I asked if I could look through them. "Be my guest," she said, "Take anything you want."

And within minutes she'd found a stool for herself and was helping me go through the stacks of wet fabrics.

'I think I'm getting an idea of what you like," she said. After an hour of throwing my selections up on her lawn, I went home for trash bags and my car.

It was well after nightfall when I'd spread this mildewed bounty out over my back garden to dry. There was so much that the fabrics wound around the corner of the house all the way to the kitchen door.

Dry they did the next day in the sunshine. But then for three nights, it rained. Perhaps the rain was good for these fabrics. Perhaps it drove the mildew into the ground and left the satins, brocades, checks and floral prints all better off than they'd been.

However, the 'mildew thing' began worry me so I put load after load of these marvelous fabrics through a cycle in the clothes washer and dryer. There were so many loads that I stopped counting and I have never cleaned out the lint catcher so many times. I could have stuffed a pillow.

When I left for New York, there were still several bolts of damp red velveteen spread out across the monkey grass A few more swathes hung from tree branches. Surely, they must be dry by now. Certainly they'll have a vintage weathered look.

What a gift these fabrics are. And you can guess where I'll use many of the silks and brocades. 'Second Seating' will have an oversize banquet table with a table cloth that fans out across the floor in all directions, perhaps endlessly. I am now looking for a work space big enough to spread all of these fabrics out in a pattern so that I can begin to piece this grand table cloth together. I am thinking appliques of silver plate flatware and random objects.

Hurricane Ike, you sure messed things up. But this is one mess that's been reclaimed for recycling. This mess will become a piece of great beauty. Is this the message here?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Anxiety Messes With Me (Just For An Evening)

It happens now and then. The fear that I'll never be able to put together another collage that looks like it ought to look. The fear drives me into klutziness. (Is there such a word?) And I'd rather be doing anything than trying to make something work when it's leaning toward 'throw-away'. When things go in this direction, I tend to add more and more layers and stuff and if it gets impossible, there is always gold spray paint. I've whipped out gold aerosol spray paint more than a time or two. It works.

Usually this fear appears when I am consumed with anxiety and quite frankly, today is actually a good day to be afraid. The global economy to going down the tubes. I am wondering if I should go find a job for 2009. The election looks as if it could well be stolen and the fires of prejudice and our worst base instincts are being stoked by Ms. Palin. If the Republicans win or steal this election, I'll feel as flattened as I did when Bush won reelection. It was then that I went to bed and took up freeform crochet.

It may seem strange to be writing about a presidential election and the worsening financial crisis on a blog dedicated to chronicling the process of creating and promoting what I know will be a terrific installation of new work. However, it's really not so strange. Because we create when we feel good energy flowing through us and around us. Today as with most of the days this week, I've accomplished something tangible, but disorganization, procrastination and side events and projects are eating time.

It is also true that very good things have happened this week. I pushed the submit button on the Houston Arts Alliance grant application yesterday - a day before the deadline. There is a second deadline for this HAA application on Monday. Over the weekend, I'll prepare a CD with images of my work and assemble copies of my resume, bio and two years of voter registration certificates (one must prove to be a resident of Harris County) to hand in before the end of the workday. I'll breath easier when I've made my delivery and will probably begin to make a ton of phone calls to 'move the meter' on preparing the budget for this project.

In the meantime, I'm finding that it's not a really good thing to be away from the studio for long. As I found out tonight, you can lose the touch. I am experimenting with stitching and the upper thread keeps breaking. The wrong tension? The wrong weight of thread? I've done this stitching before, but not lately, so it's like starting all over to learn what will and won't work.

I worked on a little sampler tonight. It wasn't so little when I began, but the bigger collage made no sense so I tore the whole thing into two pieces. Added more and more threads to the smaller of the two pieces and suddenly it looks passable if I find and add some fortune cookie text. The larger of the two isn't finished yet - it's the collage at the top of this post.

It's just a simple sampler to test out threads and very frustrating to work on. I must solve the breaking thread in the sewing machine and figure out how to do a rougher hand stitch that works.

But the thing is, I remembered some stuff tonight. It's coming back to me. I remembered that photos can be vacuum pressed onto paper or fabric. I can also buy and use spray adhesive. I can stitch next to the photo images so there are dangling threads, but no holes in the photos. I don't have to stitch through the images themselves to hold them to a base. And I remembered that I can press images on to fabric.

And at the same time, I'm remembering, I am also doing a lot of thinking about each piece. It's easy to arrange stuff, but harder to figure out how to adhere one thing to another and not have it all look just plain tacky.

So now I've gotten all this fear and anxiety out in the open. I suspect I'll be able to move on. I'll finish the rest of the application on Sunday and next week, I'll begin calling to make those appointments with folks I think will support all of this terrific effort.

When I get on a roll, it's easy to arrange groups of photos and 'things'. It's about using 'soft eyes' to see - that means without sharp focus, just looking at forms and colors as you mix and match. Where I have to work harder is on my techniques for gluing and sewing and pressing and cutting. That's where the gold spray paint comes in. It'll cover anything.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Foray Into The Studio

Foolishly, or not, I've been writing about 'Second Seating' on Rockbridge Times instead of saving all progress reports and forays into the studio for posting right here. From this day forward, I'll simply includes links between the two blogs, beginning with a link to a post I wrote a couple of days ago that contained images of a collage or two now underway.
Feels really good to begin the work, though right now it's like splashing a foot in water at the beach. Have barely begun.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Reflections on Second Seating, The Blog

What was I thinking as I wrote yesterday’s post? The words seem formal, giving information, yet holding back the names of the artists that I’ll be working with as well as the East End companies that will, with luck, support the making of fantasy table dinner tables that incorporate their brand, be it coffee, milk or cake. As I said, in time all will unfold. The first post was an attempt to give a ‘word picture’ of what is essentially, at this moment, a concept. There is so much more inside my head - images and bits of text, potential donors, promotional ideas, contact lists.

There is a whole lot outside of my head too that includes a growing cache of random dinner plates from garage sales, tables and funky chairs from resale shops, blue wine bottles, coffee mugs, a stack of twenty white tablecloths from a friend in Minnesota, candelabra, varied vases and bowls and an expanding trove of photographs that hint of things to come. I am seeing great swaths of tablecloths hung across the ceiling, reflecting projected images of dinner past. I see enormous chandeliers made from dozens of tin and aluminum cans, shells and broken pottery.

I’ve been mulling ideas for this installation for almost a year now. I am no longer sure of just how or when the original spark of an idea occurred, though my original word document on the subject is dated November 30, 2007 and is overrun with stream of consciousness verbiage that, upon rereading, now simply adds more ideas to my mental file cabinet.

Suffice it to say that on this bright morning that calls to me, “Go walk before it is too muggy and ozone-y,” that my autumn days will be well filled with preparations for ‘Second Seating.’ I consider the process to be similar to preparations for a great feast, a visual feast and with any luck, a thought provoking feast. For the last week or so I’ve focused on oyster shells and for good reason.

The McGrady’s and I gathered fresh oysters in Lilliwaup little over then days ago. And a big box of oyster shells and styrofoam popcorn is somewhere in the mail between Seattle and Houston. I couldn’t leave the shells behind. No, I see those oyster shells piled high on a heavy laden dinner table. The oysters themselves have been consumed. They are gone.

The table is beautiful, overrun with silver scallop shells, empty too and resting among the spent oyster shells. Silver candelabra no longer cast light on iced and quivering oysters or on the diners who enjoyed them. The dinner is over, for real and metaphorically. The message of the empty oyster shells? Well, the fate of our oceans. Tuna is tainted, species near lost and seas are rotting with poison run off. The table is beautiful, but at what cost?

The message of this dinner table is a long way from Lilliwaup, WA, where we shared a warm family time and the oysters were gathered by three generations. That pleasant afternoon encourages a call to action for our oceans. I’ll be visiting with the Galveston Bay Foundation and other groups so that this ‘Second Seating’ dining table will be not only beautiful, but will offer us responsible and perhaps uncomfortable answers to our dilemma with the oceans.

This is the table I am thinking about today.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What Is It All About?

‘Second Seating’ is an art installation scheduled to open in spring 2009 in a metal shop/ warehouse on the eastern edge of downtown Houston. ‘Second Seating, Houston’, the blog, will document the making of this installation. Designed as a series of elaborate fantasy dinner tables, ‘Second Seating’ will be created with cast off furniture, found and recycled objects, vintage table linens and silver flatware, assorted china, crockery, Coke bottles and oyster shells, paint and paper, all mixed with text and photo imagery.

‘Second Seating’ refers to the practice of turning tables at restaurants in order to serve more diners and thus, the title becomes a metaphor for second chances, the passage of time, fulfillment and memory. ‘Second Seating’ also references the revitalization of Houston’s East End with it ’second time around’ possibility.

With an installation, an artist often uses a particular space as an integral part of the work. Setting fantasy dinner tables in an unused warehouse and using raw and recycled materials from East End businesses and industry suggests that both the space and the resultant art work will purposely reflect its origins and indirectly deliver information about a specific community as manifested through a collaboration among several artists.

‘Second Seating’ will both celebrate the vibrancy of the East End community and highlight the vision of a group of artists who, using common materials, create uncommon beauty and a dreamlike environment that is poignant, whimsical and wise.

This blog will chart the making of ‘Second Seating.’ Please join us as we begin to gather the materials that, when assembled together, will make magic of whatever you thought about dining.

More details about individual tables and specific artist’s work will unfold - just like grandmother’s old fashioned, hard to iron linen table cloths.