This week's blog post is written by Sherry Bingaman of Nueva Vida.
I have been thinking about a topic many creative people discuss over and over but on which they seldom agree—“What is ART, and what is CRAFT?”
I have been a textile artist for most of my life, exploring various techniques and media to help me express my visions. I weave, felt, fuse, sew, crochet, knit, collage, papier mache, paint, whatever form I need to use to create the ideas in my head. Is it ART or is it CRAFT? I really don’t know, and I really don’t care. I love what I do, and it brings me great joy. My work is something I am compelled to do or I am sad. I feel lucky to be obsessed like this!
So much of what I have read about ART vs. CRAFT is about how different they are from each other, like comparing philosophy to engineering or something. So often you will read that ART is the communication of an idea or emotion, while CRAFT is the physical manipulation of material. One object could be viewed two ways: if you look at the way it was made and the materials used, you are looking at it as CRAFT. If you think about its emotions and ideas, you are seeing it as ART.
Artists all work with some type of materials whether it’s paint and canvas or yarns and dyes. So much satisfaction comes from the process of using these various materials, no matter what they are. I spent 13 years teaching kids in grades K-12 and so enjoyed seeing their pleasure while creating, no matter the quality of the end result. Their circle of joy became complete when they were also proud and inspired by the results of their work. Did they make ART or CRAFT? Does it matter?
The ambiguity inherent in the question “Is it ART or is it CRAFT” is part of the mystery of creating. Many people are very rigid in their definitions and feel ART expresses emotion while CRAFT represents function. I believe that the best work is a combination of both.
Creating is a personal experience with different rewards for each of us.
In my work, I aim to express an idea using whatever materials I choose and create it in the most excellent manner I can. I like to think my best piece is my next one and hope to continually improve and evolve. My heart speaks when I make something from ordinary materials in such a way as they become extraordinary.
This week's blog post is written by June Martin of Moth & Twig.
Micro mosaic is a special type of mosaic work that uses small mosaic pieces (tesserae) of varying materials. Micro mosaics actually date back to the 3rd century BC, though the height of their popularity was during mid 19th century to the mid 20th century. Micro mosaic jewelry became popular between the 17th and 19th century. The art often depicted famous Italian landmarks. Around 1860, artisans of Murano developed their own style of micro mosaic jewelry using tiny bits of colored glass and glass rods. Alessio Mattioli, 18th century Roman glass kiln owner, experimented on colored glass paste and developed what are called, “small filati.” This technique made it possible for artisans to create small fashion pieces. With the dawn of the Industrial age and expensive hand labor, larger tesserae came into vogue.
The mosaic jewelry I create (Moth & Twig Mosaic Art Jewelry) incorporates techniques and materials found in micro mosaic work. Though I do not consider my jewelry to be true micro mosaic art as I use larger tesserae than what is used in classic micro mosaic, I do consider my work to be miniature mosaic. I love working on such a small scale and have found that my passion lies in miniature mosaics.
I use a number of different materials for my work, including hand glazed earthenware tiles, various types of glass, filati, millefiori, beads, metals, gemstones, and found objects, to name a few. I’m constantly experimenting with new materials so my list of materials continues to expand. I’ve recently begun to work with a material called mosaic gold. The material consists of 24kt gold leaf that is mounted on glass and covered by a very thin hand-blown piece of crystal, and then fused into one solid, durable piece of glass. The result is spectacular as the gold appears on the surface of the tesserae, reflecting the purity of the gold when the light hits it just so. The material is expensive and difficult to work with so I use it sparingly, incorporating it into ceramic and glass pieces. Mosaic gold is offered in an array of colors; my favorite at the moment is acid green.
If you are intrigued by the art of mosaic jewelry, I am thrilled to announce that I will be teaching a mosaic jewelry class at Artistic Portland this April! The theme for the class is “I Heart Mom,” just in time for Mother’s Day, or perhaps you would like to create a beautiful mosaic piece for yourself! In this four-hour workshop, you will learn how to create beautiful mosaic art jewelry using basic mosaic techniques, methods and applications. Students can choose to make a mosaic heart pendant or choose from a variety of other pendant shapes and/or drop earrings. You will leave the class with one or two finished pieces, depending on the types and sizes of bases chosen. Students will also receive a comprehensive handout and resource list. See the Artistic Portland class page for more details.
This week's blog post is written by Laura K. Maxwell.
Before I began actively creating and selling my own art, I was an elementary art teacher. I taught students how to draw, paint, and sculpt at an elementary school in Dallas, Texas before moving to Portland. I believe a big part of teaching is learning with your students. A classroom - especially an art classroom - should be a place where everyone involved, including the teacher, are discovering new things and learning from each other. This turned out to be especially true in my situation. My students taught me how to be an artist.
Before teaching, I had earned a Bachelor’s degree in Art History. Looking back, I think it was because I was more comfortable reading and talking about art, rather than making it myself. For sure, Art History is super interesting - learning how visual culture has changed throughout time and history - but by the end, it felt hollow. I wanted to pursue something more meaningful. So I endeavored to teach little ones how to engage with and appreciate art themselves. I got a Master’s in Art Education and began teaching K-6 art. As I said, I wasn’t really creating much art myself at the time, and so a part of me didn’t feel quite qualified to be teaching others. Either way, I dove in and determined to learn as I went.
A big part of teaching is giving pep talks. Creating is a scary process, and when a piece turns out differently than you plan, it can be really frustrating - for kids and adults alike. It was not uncommon to have a student in tears, so upset that their artwork wasn’t turning out the way they hoped. I tried to combat this from the very beginning of the school year, by reading books like Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg -- which is about how any “mistake” can be turned into something beautiful. Also the books The Dot and Ish by Peter Reynolds, which both encourage embracing the unique way you create, even when it’s not exactly what you were expecting.
It’s hard to give a pep talk without some of it seeping into yourself. As I encouraged my students and watched them create without fear, I began to hunger to do the same. When I had extra time in the evenings and weekends, I pulled out a sketchbook and some pens and started to draw. At first it was just to prepare for specific lessons, but then I increasingly began to do art for its own sake. I especially tried to challenge myself to draw in pen, so that I could really embrace the “beautiful oops” philosophy and be forced to turn my mistakes into something beautiful, rather than erase. This really drove me crazy at times. It is also freeing - to let go of fixed outcomes and see where the process leads one step at a time.
I don’t teach full time anymore, but I still value the lessons learned from teaching and continually am inspired by the uninhibited creativity I see in young artists. I agree with Pablo Picasso who said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
I believe the drive to create is part of the human condition. Don’t suppress that- - don’t be afraid of making mistakes or comparing your creative path to another's. Get out there and make something.
This week's blog post is written by local artist Colleen Patricia Williams.
Coloring books are no longer reserved for children. They are a great way for adults to relax and ease away the stress of the day. Research shows that coloring can be beneficial to the health of the colorer, that it can be as beneficial as meditation, as well as being a way to engage in the creative process.
Coloring books come in many different choices; there are small pocket-sized coloring books, there are large coloring books and there are coloring books that tell a story as the book goes on. These books can be colored with pencils, crayon, watercolor and markers.
The designs also range from animals and flowers to mandalas, the Tibetan designs that assist in meditation. There is an interesting side note regarding the mandalas; there is a certain religious belief amongst fringe Christians that coloring mandalas will call up demons. The mandala is a beautiful repeating circular design that most of us love and that has a long tradition in Tibetan Buddhism.
In Tibet, mandalas are often drawn with colored sands, in painstaking details. But the beauty is ephemeral; when the mandala is done, the monks then sweep it away, to demonstrate the fleeting nature of life and beauty. To watch one of these being created is a joy; the monks use their hands to dribble out the colored sands to create these intricate works of art. The colored sands on the bare floor of the temples seem to glow before they are brushed away.
While we can’t recreate that special glow, we can use the coloring book to create our own mandalas, but lasting images that can be framed or left in the book to look at later. The act of creating that mandala is the fun part!
The other designs that these coloring books come in are abstract designs, as well as designs that include flowers, birds and other animals. Coloring books make great gifts for kids, teens and adults that are hard to buy for. Include a set of watercolor pencils and the gift has the best of both dry and wet media! Watercolor pencils allow the coloring of fine details and then later, a brush with a damp paint brush to create watercolor blending and other watercolor effects.
Here at Artistic Portland, we have coloring books as well as individual coloring sheets that come with a marker for that ride home on the Max. We have different designs with more to come!