Mile Markers in an Altered Terrain

Shopping at nearby thrift shops is a treat for me. I discovered this joy around my 21st birthday. As I unloaded the fruits of a recent 20-minute foray onto the dining table, I photographed the items. Beyond the good buys, low cost, and promise of fun message, the group suggested a direction for my art practice. What could a jointed teddy bear, a stack of seasonal napkins, and two square white frames offer that a 6-month sabbatical, a summer of journaling, and a pile of art books had failed to provide? They stood like signposts to give direction to artistic endeavors.

The frames marked the miles of ongoing values. My art practice is based on respectful use of all resources. I purchase carefully, use the bits and leftovers, and reuse or recycle what others would trash. I like this relationship with the materials in the studio. The frames as mile markers were comforting reminders of what I do well.

Seasonal cloth napkins were among my first purchases at thrift shops decades ago. Seasonal napkins remind me of the the arts and crafts movement and William Morris prints in wallpaper and textiles. This little stack of napkins remind me that I want to return to making linens and art for my own home. As I age, home is increasingly becoming the place I want to be. Napkins of my own making make for happy lips and fingers and eyes; they punctuate my gratitude for good food and company. The mile marker of napkins says now is the time to pay attention to my home.

If you could pick up the bear, you would know immediately why the bear came home with me. Yes, this soft, jointed friend wants clever little clothes to suggest its character. I dressed my childhood dolls more than played with them. They set me up for the years I did alterations and dressmaking. Dressing all the stuffed animals was a Christmas tradition for my children, each new animal getting a Christmas garment before joining the menagerie under the tree. But the bear is not saying return at this mile. The bear says go explore with what you have learned.

Three dimensional work has called over the years. I dug holes in the earth. I pinned and stitched flat fabric to drape bodies. I chopped food in a variety of shapes for salads and soups. I observe shape. And shadow. My art practice has avoided the dark forest of three dimensional work, or simply played at the edge of the trees for too many years. The bear tells me the terrain is not a forest, but a cozy orchard, ready for exploration. The bear whispers, “Make me a smock and let’s go play. We have arrived. This is the place. This is the time.”

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