Recycled Art Education

Vertical angle of Rain Rug

As you can see, there is progress on the Rain Rug. In the last two weeks, my luck has held out and the various thrift stores have had a variety of sheets in good colors to add to my paintbox. Greens, purple, pink. Maybe we can have a sheet tearing party one of these days in the backyard!

Another, very important event, that will raise money for Art Education outreach in Ypsi, Ann Arbor, and Westland, is a “Studio Workshop” series on creative re-use at FLY Art Center in downtown Ypsi (see the map below!) on July 6 and July 13 at 2:00 pm.  There are other classes and open studio opportunities as well.  It’s a fun thing to do on a summer Saturday, so come on down!

Latest up cycled t-shirt back Tetrahedron floppy rag bag prototype.

The first workshop will feature instructions about how to re-mix a tee-shirt from baggy dad-shirt into fashionable fitted cuteness. It will give students (adults are welcome too!) an opportunity to learn the basics of crochet, and then to work up to the second workshop which will show how to make a small rag-rug project, most likely a coaster or a placemat, but advanced students might try a bag or basket.

I’ve been volunteering with FLY for a little while now, (only 2 events, but who’s counting!) and really enjoy their mission. They go into schools mostly armed with every-day objects and help kids harness their creativity by letting them loose with a theme or problem to solve at the “art buffet” with their cafeteria trays to select their supplies. The students are free to follow the direction or make something new, and always with the support of FLY staff and volunteers.

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065:365 The “A”

065:365 The "A"

Today a drawing based (roughly) on a photograph of something that has long made me feel like I’m arriving home. Before I could read, I knew that my name began with A and that it looked like this sign. On the way home from long trips, we often drove by this sign because it is very close to where I grew up. We’d exit US-23 by the “A,” and arrive home in about 5 minutes.


Of course those weren’t the only times we drove past there. Going to the old Kroger’s on Washteanaw, and other places, I’d plead with my mother to take me the way that passed the “A.”

It inspired this Flickr photo set a few years ago, when I made my first attempt at a 365. If you had not been to Ann Arbor since the 1980’s you wouldn’t recognize Arborland anymore, instead of a real mall, it is now an ugly strip-mall. The old tile mosaic of Jack and the Beanstalk from the entrance has been transplanted into Kerrytown.

There were other signs, either recently or soon-to-be dismantled or modified due to a zoning ordinance that limits the size, distance, and composition of signs along major thoroughfares. The Arby’s sign will probably have to be taken down since it is too big and flashy, and the sign for Big Ten Party Store (now Morgan and York) lost its neon when the owners changed the name. Big George’s used to have neon too, I think, but since they moved a few doors down and expanded, it has been taken down.

On the one hand, I understand that Ann Arbor wants to be a high class town, and too much neon might make us look like Las Vegas, but the Arborland sign is emblematic, visible from nearly a mile up and down US-23, and about the same distance up and down Washtenaw. It lets us know we are home, in the home of the “A.”

062:365 Icy Dream of Spring

062:365 Icy Dream of Spring

Today, as long shadows get shorter and days get longer, I am worn out and ready for the ice to melt, but simultaneously grateful for the demarcation of the seasons on my life.

Living in Los Angeles, I had no sense of time and things seemed surreal. I appreciate, after spending just over a year there, that there was a change of seasons, but living through it just one time, it felt like there was no change. Maybe the milder changes of Madrid and the Bay Area were a little more to my liking than this harsh beautiful midwestern winter, but still, the snow and ice are beautiful in their way.

This is a study of how simple shapes can create an atmosphere. By changing the width of the dark stripes, a sense of space is created, delineated both vertically and horizontally by the performance of color. The peachy color in the middle evokes the reflection of sun on an icy lake and the dark stripes shadows cast by waves.

It isn’t realistic, but it gives some sense of space and atmosphere.

The first time I saw a Rothko in person, big blobs of not quite geometric color on an unprimed canvas, I wasn’t impressed. But the grad-student who taught our Art History Seminar at SAIC made us sit in front of one at the Art Institute of Chicago for a good 20 minutes. She made us look first and then told us things about the way the colors interacted with each other, how they faded out onto the canvas and created the illusion of space by their contrast or similarity, by the diffusion of color into ground. She was so enthralled, it was hard not to look at the picture plane in a different way.

This drawing didn’t start out with anything in mind about Rothko or mid-twentieth-century abstraction. I made it thinking about a scarf I’m knitting in two colors, with broadening stripes so one color resolves out from the other. When I photographed it, I realized that if I flipped the drawing upside down, for some reason it created a sense of receding space, but the way I drew it just looked like stripes. So, here you have it, upside-down from how I drew it, but nonetheless properly oriented for what it signifies.

Funny how a change in perspective can be the key to an epiphany.

047:365 Fever

047:365 Fever

My head is stuffed up, and though I don’t have a fever, it seemed an appropriate title for mindset at the moment.  Weird dreams and restless sleep lead to nebulous thought patterns, and this cool color family blend with a few bright accents here and there.

The sunset today was strange.  I was driving or I would have taken a photo.  To the west, the sun was a huge whitish yellow blob in a field of snowy mist, and behind us, to the east, the clouds were purple, pink, and yellow with bright blue sky.  It was impressive, and though I’m a native Ann Arborite, I have never seen anything quite like it, with such clear boundaries between good and bad weather accentuated by sunset.

029:365 Amidst the Mists

029:365 Amidst the Mists

The fog today was inspiring. I used to love East Asian watercolors and Japanese Ukiyo-E prints that showed distance with faded colors.  This morning’s weather looked a lot like that.  Trees appeared as dark tears in the world while buildings emerged suddenly, foreboding behemoths.

The anger and discomfort of the last few days is fading, and quotidian things take over.  Chop wood and carry water, a ghost once told me.  He was right.  Though the abyss still looms large now and again, observing changes in the world around me and doing things like cooking dinner bring me moments of joy and love to leap across it.

I started the second more square rag rug, though the first isn’t finished, because there are things afoot here, and our forays into flooring have led to more intensive plans than plopping down some pad and vinyl.  If we end up with a loud floor, I guess my beautiful sun rug will be go up for sale, and it already represents more time than most people would like to pay for.