For this week’s blog Jennie O’Connor, of JennieOConnorArtist.com interviewed Consu Tolosa. Consu paints ‘Personitas’; sweet little children, sometimes playful and sometimes solemn but always spellbinding.
How long have you been a part of Artistic Portland, and what appealed to you about joining the
I am one of the newest members; I joined AP this past October! What appealed to me most was having a permanent home for my work in the world. I have an online presence and store, but it is really different to be able to talk to customers in person. I also loved the idea of my work being surrounded by the work of other local artists … and nothing else!
What’s your background?
I am a maker of things and have loved engaging my imagination since I was very young. I took some art classes throughout my life, but eventually ended up training as an art therapist and focusing on having a clinical practice. My art making was very limited and private for almost 20 years. In 2012 I attended an art retreat hoping to open myself and my art back into the world. I have been making and selling my paintings ever since.
Why do you do what you do?
I make things to feel grounded and connected to myself. The most amazing byproduct of having a consistent art practice is that I have learned ways to access both clarity and joy through creative expression. I also love the way others connect to my work. It seems to resonate for some folks in the very ways it feels to me while I am in the process of creating it.
Describe yourself in one word. Why that word?
Curious. Learning and understanding are vital to my well-being. I love to think of life as an unfolding story … if things get stagnant I don’t feel well.
Where do you create?
Everywhere… but I do have a little studio space at home.
What motivates/inspires your work?
Color, shapes, moods, desires, feelings and humor.
What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
It’s all about showing up in the studio and picking up a brush. Every.
Day. No Matter What!!
What’s your favorite piece you’ve ever created?
That changes weekly! And it’s how I’d love to keep it. Since I don’t have children, I see the characters I paint (my Personitas) as my kids… and as a good momma, I’d never have a favorite!
If you could wake up tomorrow with a new artistic skill, what would it be?
This is such a great question!! I would be a sculptor.
What do you like to do when you're not creating?
I love to dance by myself, read, and dream of swimming in the ocean.
This week's blog post was written by fiber arts artist, Ammi Brooks of Ammi's Art!
When I moved back to Portland from the Monterey area to be close to my grandchildren, my daughter (who knew I needed a project) suggested felting! Huh? You mean that flat square stuff you see in the craft stores? No, it seems in the last decade the ancient way of pressing sheep fibers into fabric has become very popular.
Most felting starts with wool fibers! What about wool fibers makes it possible to press the fibers and make it into felt you might ask? I found this awesome article in a 1988 issue of National Geographic. Here is an explanation of how it works. It “lies in the structure of the fibers, which absorb moisture, insulate against heat and cold, resist flame, and maintain their resilience. Unlike cotton, linen, silk, or polyester, wool fibers are covered with tiny scales, making them look like tiny scales. When one fiber’s scales rub against those of others, they pull the fibers together in irreversible tangles. When compacted under heat and moisture, the wool shrinks into felt”.
There are many ways to get these fibers to bond. Check out this short video Mongolian Felt Making - YouTube to see how the wet felting method works on a large scale.
In the last 25 years women all over the world have managed to use the fibers from the fleece of sheep to make the most wonderful creations! I am so grateful for those women who give classes and make videos on Youtube!
My first attempt was a far cry from wet felting (which is described above). “Make Kindle holders” my daughter Ellie said. E-book readers were becoming popular and might be a good seller.
An easy way to make felt is to shrink wool sweaters. This is actually called fulling (the final stage in felting). This makes a great fabric to sew upon. The edges don’t ravel. I cut out the pattern then needle-felted a design. The needle is very sharp and barbed. It punches the raw wool fibers and the wool yarn into the piece of shrunken fabric. The photo below also shows a tool with four needles.
I had fun making the cozies below. I made them in various sizes and sold them on Etsy. I did this for a year adding hats to the mix. Ellie showed me a cute felted hat she got from a local fair.
I bought Angora sweaters to shrink. Finding patterns I liked proved to be to hard. I left the hat-making business. But not before making a pirate hat for my grandson Max...circa 2010
For a brief period I made booties.
I took a class in hat-making by the fabulous Tash Wesp. This was using the wet felting method.
I also made flower pins and starfish head dresses.
Finally I fell in love with wet felting when I took a class in felting a rug at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in Canby, Oregon by Carin Elgin. It was the only rug I ever made, but it did show me the joys of the time-consuming art of wet felting.
Where am I Now? Artistic Portland making scarves!
If you are at all interested in felting there are many YouTube videos and classes online and in your area. Just google “Felting”!
It sounds romantic and inspiring, but moving around the world as a working artist can be a struggle as you need to deal with cultural differences and varying circumstances, all while creating your art.
Moving to China was not easy…the language, the people, the food! But if you learn to appreciate the smallest things and see what is around you, you get to enjoy it. One of my first barriers living in a big Chinese city (Guangzhou) was not knowing what was going on around me, not understanding the signs in the streets, etc., because all the newspapers and signs were in Chinese.
I had to study Chinese not just to survive, but to ask for food and give directions to the taxi driver, which required learning 100 Chinese characters (out of 3000), just to get me through daily life. Characters for words like small, big, up, down, clean, dirty, take away, go, slow, fast, were words that helped me get though the day.
This brings me to this amazing Ceramic Studio in the middle of the city in the park. For me it was an oasis. I found other artists like me, and a way to make ceramics; however, for many foreigners this was the worse place. By that I mean no regular toilets, they invite you to have tea for one hour every time you arrive before doing anything (even if you are in a hurry to do your work) but, I survived. I enjoyed the culture, the food, people playing Mahjong or walking their bird in a cage in the park, practicing Fan dancing, exercising, fishing, doing tai chi, and couples dancing.
Xiamen, China, People waiting in the street, 2015
My painting from Guangzhou, 2006
On the cover of the magazine Gazette, directed towards the expat community
Painting from the exhibition in Guangzhou
Guangzhou Museum of Art, 2006
When I moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I was in shock with so many different cultures, that I couldn't focus on painting. Instead, I was drawn to clay and ceramics. I was able to keep working on my art and I set up my own studio, complete with a kiln and wheel.
India was different from China in that communication challenges weren't as difficult since almost everyone speaks English there, but arriving to Chennai with an electric kiln was problematic. It took months to figure out how to plug in the kiln correctly. The electrician and I were a team: he suggested ideas and I analyzed the cost, the problems inside the house, etc.,
My art Studio at Sanskriti,
Delhi, India, during my art residence in 2015.
One of the main issues in India is that the power goes out at least once a day for a couple of hours, and one entire day once a month. To make it even more fun, the hours change every time!
The first test firing was memorable. Everybody was there including the security guards, maids, driver, gardener, electrician, and my two kids (don't ask me why, but nobody wanted to miss the action). At the end of the firing, when it was getting dark outside and the security guard put on the light on the house, Bump! “fire! fire!” they shouted. One of the fuses in the fuse box caught fire so we had to cancel the test firing.
Besides this you have to learn to deal with other things, like appreciation of the culture. For example, 100 rupees will be at the end, 500. 1 hour is at least 3 hours and 1 week is a month. "Soon madam, soon" means never. Regardless of the challenges, it was fun and I was inspired to take professional photos there because I wanted to portray the beautiful faces of the people in my work. I love India, and loved all the places and opportunities that I have had on my journey.
My travels provided me with the opportunity to teach kids from many nationalities and learn from their different perspectives; helping to make me an open-minded artist/teacher.
This week's blog post was written by fiber artist Sherry Bingaman of Nueva Vida.
I have always loved color! I began sewing at age 9 and can vividly remember the excitement of roaming through the fabric department in the big department store in my hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin. The colors! The textures! So exciting! My mother was very stylish and could carry off the most dramatic colors. I was always fascinated with the unusual color combinations she put together.
As a textiles major and college freshman at Iowa State University in 1970, I still recall the excitement of my first weaving class. The thrill of creating fabrics from my own yarn and color choices is still a vivid memory. My obsession with textiles, color, and texture began with that one class and has continued to this day, 40 years later.
My hand-dyed yarns and fibers are a signature of my textile business, and I never tire of playing with my dyes to create new colors. I prefer procion dyes that mix like paints and use the same basic color theory. Endless color possibilities!
The history of textile dyeing is fascinating. Imagine a world without color! The ancient world was much more colorful than we might imagine. Fabric dyeing was first recorded as far back as 2600 BC. Dyes were originally made with natural pigments mixed with water and oil used to decorate skin, jewelry, and clothing. These are the same dyes used for painting prehistoric caves in places like El Castillo, Spain, some 40,000 years ago.
The history of the color purple is my favorite. When Alexander the Great conquered Persia in 331 BC, he first laid eyes on robes dyes with purple. Because of its rarity and intensive dye process, purple was only available for the robes of kings and princes then and continues to represent royalty even to this day.
It’s easy to take our seemingly unlimited access to colorful clothing today for granted. Open your closet and just imagine how boring it would be without all those fabulous colors! Enjoy!