Category Archives: LBUSD

Dare I ask? Just what IS the role of an artist in society today?

I think I just heard a strange sound…..must have been the sound of a can of worms being opened.

I pose this question in the wake of being accused by a local “arts advocate” of not participating, of sitting on the sidelines and criticizing instead of “rolling up my sleeves and making change by participating”. And all along I thought I was participating! So I started wondering, just what exactly is it that is expected or desired of a artist in our society/community today?

Let me begin by saying that I am as confused by this question as anyone. I could come up with some eloquently waxed statements on the matter. It of course leads to other questions-such as, “What is the role of ART in society today?”. And the omnipresent question “What is ART?”.

Let me start small. Sometimes nibbling around the edges lets me figure things out as I go so I’ll just start by saying that making things with my hands seems to be embedded deeply in my DNA. Also, that I’m not really convinced that I am an artist. See I told you I was confused. If I ever had to go out and get what my parents termed “a real job” it wouldn’t quell the deep need I have to create things. Perhaps a 12 step program or a religious conversion would do the trick, but I doubt it. It’s just there.
So I have gone along with it since I was a child and worked it out so it could pay the bills.

Here are some other questions that come up:
Does everyone need art in their life?
-probably not, of course there are many cases one could site on this one.
Are we happier as a society with art and artists in our midst?
-I think so……
But why?
-here is where it gets more difficult. More subjective.

Does the artist’s role change in relationship to the changing needs of society? If you read this book, What is Art For? by Ellen Dissanayake you might be led to believe that making and responding to art is simply part of our human nature. Or that
we as humans have a need for beauty be it in the context of nature, our surroundings, or by creating it ourselves.

Furthermore, by definition, the term artist can be construed to mean many things. Many artists I have met (and from here out I will use this term inclusively and without judgment ) create because they cannot NOT create. Are you an artist because you created something? 5 things? 10,000 things? Is there a point at which your productivity becomes so great that you are no longer considered an artist? First you are an artist, then you are an artist with bills to pay. You become a production artist. Overhead increases. Now you are a Manufacturer. Well, you can see it starts to get a little messy here. I have been in all of these situations.

Back to the question. The artist’s role in society. Do artist’s have a responsibility in society? Should they create beauty for others to enjoy? Should they lead by example? Should they share their vision and their creativity with the public by teaching? Should they communicate with other artists from around the world? Should they all participate by dictate and attend meetings hosted by tireless arts advocates?

What would you do?
Here are some things I see other artists doing-
This is an easy one- Phil working with Pan Afrika featuring Master African Drummer Dramane Kone of Burkina Faso at a local preschool last week. Dramane is a Griot from the famous Kone family of Burkina Faso and Mali. a Griot is a West African poet, praise singer, and wandering musician, considered a repository of oral tradition.:

How about Jane and her work over the past two years at Mundo Lindo (Beautiful World) which is now coming to a close.

And if you know me you may be familiar with Elementary Art .

Please feel free to post links to any you know here in the comment section (this could get pretty lengthy!).
Of course we are only scratching the surface here but the bigger question really is would the community rather see the likes of us at bored meetings or out doing stuff? It’s somewhat disingenuous to say you want our ideas and opinions yet when we give them and you don’t like them tell us we aren’t part of the solution because we aren’t playing by your rules. Artists and musician types often make great sacrifices in lifestyles in order to choose these paths as a career. It’s not 9-5. There are no paid vacations. You often work 80 hours a week. You almost never get paid what you think you should. Forget about health insurance of any real substance. Bottom line, if I’m not gonna get paid for my volunteer work, would I rather be in a bored meeting or in a roomful of children? I think you can guess my answer.

If you want my ideas, feel free to email me. No meetings required. Until further notice, only paid gigs are being considered though.

Countdown to Chicago continues…..dyeing and processing the last of the silk for the show. Just booked a series of workshops in Claremont over the next 5 months. More details will be posted shortly on the classes and shows page….gotta go and get busy now!

feeling a bit prickly

Maybe because I was working on this:
-and asking myself “what is the point?”. Having so much that needs to get done before Chicago and the study trip to Japan while at the same time being called out online for “standing on the sidelines criticizing instead of rolling up my sleeves and doing something”. This I get for publicly stating my opinion on recent discussions ( LBPost )about the future of art in our fine city of Long Beach. I admit I said the E word (education) and as you know, it is something I am passionate about when it comes to public education. But to be called out both on a youtube video as well as in a public forum by (get this) the same person who “borrowed” one of my ElementaryArt pics from my blog and then used it to promote himself without permission, attribution or anything just left me feeling a little prickly.
So, in retaliation, I headed to the studio to work where I had several rewarding days with dye and silk.
Releasing the threads that bound the pent up fabric and removing the sharp and now unnecessary barbs the silk rewarded me with small volcanic-like mountains complete with lava flow and molten ash. Very Icelandic- thank you Gudrun for your book of paintings based on natural surfaces in Iceland-just marvelous! You can see her work hanging in the airport in Reykjavik when you arrive (and by the way she is my sister in law). So much inspiration in your work- I see all sorts of “scapes” for shibori work there.
Then, another sign of renewal-
momma dove sitting on her nest in the plum tree.

some more large wraps for birthday gift’s one
Plus I get to iron silk while a band rehearses in the next room.
the sound was sweet!
( oh and I’m gonna ignore the threat of a defamation lawsuit you posted and just assume you had temporarily lost your mind- wishes for a speedy recovery)

not about shibori

Prompted by a visit to the LA County Fair which ended this weekend I offer the following post. It was originally written for my other blog and is posted there as well. I think you might find it interesting and since I don’t have a new post here at the moment…….

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about art and kids. Really. Several times a day if you have to know the truth.

I don’t even have kids in school any longer. Both my boys are now in college pursuing their interests in
music, performance, and recording arts and sciences. I have always advocated for them to do what they love. Obviously not for the money- that will come in time- but for the enjoyment and love of life itself. Working a job you hate just for the money is no way to go about living life. But I digress.

The current state of affairs in the fourth grade classroom this year is that they simply are not interested.
Not interested in having two people who are passionate about art and kids come into a classroom once a week and give an hour long lesson for free. Supplies included for the most part. Generally we spend a minimum of 10 hours a week between the two of us in discussions, preparation, online research, and gathering of materials. This is public school. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

We have decided we are not going to pursue it any longer. We’ve sent emails, had our phone # given to the teacher and had no response whatsoever. We are looking for a new classroom. One that wants us there. We will be taking applications this time. We have requirements. If you think you know someone who is interested in applying, let us know. This is not about the individual teacher-she has said she wanted us to return. But I think that we have a system in our public schools that just really ties the hands of the teachers and forces them to do so much testing and crazy nonsense that they are really not free to teach anymore. Yes, I know we could probably go to a private school but I really believe in educating everyone equally and public school is it. At least for now. Even after school programs don’t interest me as much.
Or perhaps we will find somewhere else to spend this energy that benefits kids. We will reconvene after I return from the Houston show. We are thinking about what we are doing wrong. And right.

I also just returned from a visit to the LA County Fair which just ended this past weekend. I always like going there and seeing the student art displays. This year was no exception. It gives me hope. That there still are some public schools out there teaching art. I saw some marvelous student work.

I visited the Millard Sheets Gallery and saw some fabulous work in the current exhibition “Footprints” directed by Tony Sheets, Millard’s son. Many of Millard Sheets paintings and works are displayed courtesy of the Sheets family. Millard Sheets believed and acted on his commitment to “Bring Art to the People” by designing and overseeing the building of the arts building at the Los Angeles County Fair site in Pomona and filling it each year with a show of paintings and art. Never before had art of this caliber been available at a county fair.

the following is from Millard Sheets obit in the NYT from 1989:

“Millard Sheets, a prolific painter, a designer of more than 100 buildings and for 26 years an art professor at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., died at his home in Gualala, Calif., on Saturday. He was 81 years old.
Mr. Sheets was born in Pomona, Calif., and graduated in 1929 from the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. In 1943 and 1944 he served as war artist for Life magazine, stationed in India and Burma. During the early 1960’s he founded Millard Sheets Design Inc., an architectural firm in Claremont that designed banks, schools, malls and private homes mostly in California and Texas. He served as the chairman of the art department at Scripps, the art director at Claremont Graduate School for 16 years, and as director of the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles from 1950 to 1956. ”

I was introduced to Millard Sheets and his work by my friend “Woody” (AKA Melvin Wood) many years ago (say 30) as Woody used to work in Millard’s studio during the Home Savings and Loan days when Millard designed, built and installed the many fabulous public art pieces that were commissioned by the bank and are still there today. We used to go on jaunts with Woody around the southland on weekends and in between visiting our favorite cactus or orchid nurseries we would drive by many of these sites and admire the craftsmanship and design. Woody was famous for his stories about working with Millard and the many artists from Claremont and Pomona Colleges that abounded in that era. His relationship with Millard Sheets brought him into contact with the many great artists of that time including Sam Maloof (furniture maker), Harrison McIntosh (ceramist), & Rupert Deese to name a few. He put us in touch with the concrete men who did much of the casting for these sculptures and these guys came out of retirement and cast our piece for USC back in the late 70’s. Another interesting fact about Woody was that he was one of the original artists on the “Gumby” television show, doing the claymation work that allowed the figures to move. Pre- Nickolodean! Many good stories about those times as well. Woody was a great artist in his own right and I have a number of his pieces that I hold dear. Millard and Woody shared a common interest in teaching at the college level and Woody retired from teaching art at Cerritos College before moving to his moutaintop in Mendicino where he passed away more than a decade ago now. I often think of all of them and imagine their combined creative energies whenever I encounter their work in my world.

If you are interested in seeing a great exhibit of Millard Sheets’ work, you can visit the exhibit Damngorgeous: Millard Sheets and his California Legacy
September 13 – Jan 4
at the Oceanside Museum Of Art

oh so tired…..

will update on the cherry blossom festival in a day or so. 800 silk shibori squares in 2 days……
must go to bed so i can get up and teach shibori in the 4th grade classroom in the morning-
april is textile month-Yay!
if you’ve never visited my other blog…. go here

studio time

this week:
base dye black, mustard, teal, pink, red
iron and roll 200 yards of ribbon
pole wrap 200 yards of ribbon
discharge, overdye, steam set and dry said ribbon
unwrap, skein, invoice and ship.

made the indigo vat using synthetic indigo from prochem. i carefully followed the instructions on the website but i’m having problems (i think) with the stock solution reducing and i’m working on a solution.

i am also working on indigo dyeing silk / wool yarns shibori style for knitters- interested in creating ikat/kasuri-esque shibori knitting yarns and discovering the patterns that can be created when knit into sculptural/ textural patterns
gotta get the indigo vat working properly first.
in the meantime, think i’ll ask Sandra if she has any ideas….

Shibori year in review-long,long post…

I know it has been almost a month since I have posted here. I have received a number of emails and even a few calls wondering if all is well. Yes, all is well. Thanks for checking in! This is a very busy time of the year for anyone who calls making their full time gig. Not to mention the gift making for family, friends and family and friends OF friends. Aside from that, I just haven’t been in the mood for blogging. It’s a bit like being under the microscope and sometimes I just don’t feel like it. Besides it gives me a little more time to read all YOUR blogs!

This is also a time of year that I like to take and reflect on where I am, where I’m going and all that. Brian and I use to religiously close down the factory from around the 20th thru the 1st for our own sanity and those of our employees (they needed a break from us too!) We’d take a trip to somewhere and do a little year in review. It was always a very good process for us.

In order to recharge my own internal creative batteries, I need to have some serious quiet time in my own head for reflection (hence no blogging). So many things go through my head during these times. What is it to be an artist/craftsperson these days? It’s not about just making things to give, sell, or exhibit. I wonder what role we as artists/makers have in our communities? What roles are we being asked to have by those around us? What role do we ourselves want to fulfill?

This year, I’ve done my reflection a couple of weeks earlier and after looking over the events and progression this past year I’ve come up with some thoughts, ideas, and even some cold hard facts that will mold and encompass my direction in the coming year.

Surprisingly, it looks like I will be doing more teaching in this coming year than I anticipated. In fact, when I started out on all this, aside from teaching in the 4th grade classroom, I didn’t anticipate teaching at all! Now it seems that teaching will take up at least 20% of my time. I have enjoyed teaching the ribbonwork classes on and have been invited to teach at the next Houston Quilt Festival for the Silk Experience. I am entertaining other offers as well and will do some workshops to promote the shibori ribbon. Looking back, I realize I have been a teacher all along! Not only to my kids (of course) but during 30 years of porcelain studio work I taught every day. I taught my employees to duplicate my designs in a production setting. I created artisans of people who had never touched clay or had any previous art training. It was part of my job. I just never thought of myself that way until now. Go figure! One main difference I notice between teaching the public and teaching employees is that the public will say “I can’t” and an employee won’t. Of course the public isn’t going to loose their job if they can’t! I always approached teaching an employee a process with the understanding that if I could do it- there wasn’t any reason they couldn’t do it as well. Nothing special or different about me. Everyone found their way to learn and became a specialist of one thing or another around the studio. Many became better than myself at certain things by virtue of the fact that they were doing it more (as in practice!). Anyway, I digress. The teaching is in for 2008.

I have also come around to the realization that what I like about shibori is the texture. Take away the texture and suddenly I’m not as interested. I also appreciate a piece of shibori if I can’t figure out how it was done. But add some dimension to it and suddenly it comes to life! I never quite understand why someone would create pleating using the arashi method and then remove it to appreciate the dyeing pattern only. I love itajime but am always tempted to add texture over it and usually do. I’ve spend countless hours photographing the pleating and shaping of my shibori, some of which has been posted to Flickr. I’ve enjoyed and been inspired by so many of you sharing your work through your blogs, Flickr, and beyond. speaking of Flickr- I started a new pool over there for dimensional textiles. This group includes textured shibori but is wide open to any form of textile manipulation that results in a sculptural form. We’ll just see where that leads! So far we have 8 members and only myself and Danny Mansmith have been posting to the pool. It may turn out to be the sound of one hand clapping but hopefully others will be inspired to create new work and share their work which fits the genre.

I was able to take a trip to Eastern WA to visit family over the holiday and was treated to a wonderful change of scenery! A brilliant view of white snow capped mountains of the Cascades and the Columbia River every morning. Also diving into a photo project which had me spending hours at the scanner scanning old family photos for the family’s blog and Flickr site. We were truly a Brady Bunch family– 2 families married together combining kids age 6-16. My dad was a photography buff and when we lived in Japan we had the luxury of our own darkroom which we were allowed to use. He used slide film almost exclusively and we are one of those families that have 1000’s of slides in carousels which now need to be transferred. Additionally, many of the slides are annotated and all are numbered! There are some stunning photos of remarkable places in Japan taken from 1965-1972. (not to mention hilarious photos of us kids in the late 60’s-and we thought we were so cool!) Imagine moving to Japan in 1965 with 6 kids ages 6-16! We were very lucky children. This will be an ongoing project for 2008.
My mom will turn 80 next year and we are already planning the celebration. My dad is struggling with a bit of memory loss so time is of the essence.

OK. I know this is getting rather lengthy. My immediate concern is to finish my preparations for the upcoming Pasadena Bead and Design Show at the Pasadena Hilton Jan 17-20th. Check out the workshop list! Lots of interesting artists and teachers presenting. I was invited to teach a ribbonwork class and I’m feeling a little intimidated by the experienced faculty. There is a french ribbonwork class I’d love to take but won’t be able to as it is all day long and I will be working my booth (International Room #107!) My class will be held on Saturday 1-3 PM. Cost is $75 and includes all materials. Email or call (530) 274-1123 to sign up.
A new Joggles class starts February 14th. More designs for shibori flowers and ribbonwork will be presented. This is a 3 week class.
Then there is the Los Angeles Cherry Blossom Festival. I’ve been invited again to present my work and teach at the Historical pavillion.
I’m also set to do the upcoming West Coast Quilt Festival in July in Long Beach. Exciting to see that Quilts Inc. has chosen Long Beach to hold this first West Coast Festival. Get out your sleeping bags girls-sleepover party at shiborigirl’s! There will be a line for the shower.
And another blog to keep up to date! (how does Jude do it????)

There you go….enough already! On to ACTION!

P is for Pay it Forward exchange

Jude over at Spirit Cloth was inspired by Heather who was inspired by…………and so on, to send a little something handmade in the spirit of “making” , something which many of us share.

I’m going to participate but in a slightly different way………

There are so many other things to make note of here I’m not sure where to begin. I’ll try to stay focused but you may need to indulge me in a bit of rambling.


Did I mention that Mondays in the 4th grade room have begun? We’re practicing drawing for the month of October which really means we are learning to see. It seems that we always have to spend more time than I would like overcoming the widespread misconception that some of them are “good” at art and some of them are not. We talk a lot about how we all see things differently and therefore we all re-create that image differently in our work. So many kids will come up to you in a class like this and ask “is this good?”. I am getting better at answering this question and it usually involves asking them back a question such as “what do you like about it”, or making a statement like ” I see you figured out how to ……… in this piece”.
Last Monday I brought in 3 white objects, a white rectangular box, a full roll of white paper towels, and a tall cone made of white construction paper. We hung black paper behind it and arranged the 3 objects in a still life on a table draped with black fabric. I brought in a clamp on light to add some dramatic directional light, pulled the shades and turned off the lights.

Each student was given 2 large sheets of manila drawing paper (the school was “out” of white drawing paper!) and a thick black crayon. A large sheet of paper hung off to the side with 3 words written on it: perspective, contour, shading. We talked about these 3 words, their meaning and how we were going to apply them to our work. Penny & myself roamed the room working with students and helping them see as they practiced transferring the image they saw on the table to their paper in front of them. Among other things, we asked them to look for:
-the point closest to them
-the point most distant
-the darkest area
-the lightest area
-the largest object
-the smallest object
-the spaces between objects
-the directions which lines moved

About halfway through, we had them trade places with someone else to “discover” a new perspective and create a new drawing. During this melee, the light was knocked over and the light bulb broke which led to turning on the lights and an opportunity to draw the objects with just the overhead lights on.

One of the most interesting things they discovered was that even though no one in the room could actually see both ends of the roll of paper towels, most all of the students started out their drawings as if they could. We talked about how our brain can sometimes trick our visual system into “seeing” things based on past experiences with an object. We all KNOW the paper towel roll has a hole on both ends so we are relying on that knowledge instead of what we are actually observing .

So here is my invitation:

“I will send a little handmade gift to everyone who goes out and teaches some kind of art or craft to children (other than your own). You can take up to 6 months to complete this task. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return (in addition to paying it forward by teaching a child) is to leave me a comment on this blog about your experience or a link to a post on your blog about the experience.” For some, this may seem daunting, but it’s really not. It doesn’t have to be a class of 32 for an hour on a Monday. That’s just the way I do it. You figure out what works for you in your environment.

Trust me, you won’t be sorry. You may even find it hard to quit!

Won’t go into detail now but the final stages of show preparation are in full swing. Packing the car next Wed., leaving for Houston on Friday. Started an Etsy shop for shibori images (it’s working but needs tweaking and the rest of the images need to be uploaded-not sure when that will happen!) An online class at Joggles starts Nov. 14th when I get back from Houston.
I’ll be missing two upcoming Mondays as well as the homecoming game………part of the business of craft.

Houston Quilt Festival




I’ve been getting things ready for the show in Houston and snapped a couple of photos of some of the buttons before they got wrapped and packed up. It’s good to look at them again and I find that I still like them- I’m just done with the making of them! They are priced to sell quickly so if you get to Houston and want a few, stop by booth 751 & 753 where there will be a bit of a frenzy over them. I always get a kick out of watching people pick out their buttons- they have such a good time doing it! I’ve had a little helper a couple days a week recently in preparation and she’s made preparing and sorting the buttons a breeze. Rides her bike over after school for a couple of hours and I ride back home with her when we’re done. Next week I’ll let her do a little dyeing when we’re closer to being done with show preparation.

Monday was our first day in the 4th grade classroom for the year and we worked with pencil, black crayon, and charcoal on newsprint just practicing what can be done with a line and three simple materials. Thin, thick, straight, curved, shaded…..
Charcoal was by far the favorite- kids love messy and they get far too few opportunities to make a mess and get dirty. I just want to let them explore art even if it’s only 50 minutes once a week…….
Snapped this pic at the end during clean-up- 30+ kids and charcoal doesn’t leave much time for photography!

a question..

I came across this as a result of a google alert.
Which led me to this

I wondered if anyone went to this lecture who would share what you heard? I emailed and asked if the audio file was available online or through iTunes as a podcast and I’m waiting to hear.

Working, working, working. Try the makiage challenge hosted by Karren at Entwinements! First day in the 4th grade class is next Monday- starting with drawing. I have lots of photos and no time to post them at the moment.