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 Dyes were originally made with natural pigments mixed with water and oil used to decorate skin, jewelry, and clothing.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!
This week's blog post was written by Fiber Artist Sherry Bingaman of Nueva Vida.
My parents were both artists, and all four of their children went into various art fields. My three brothers and I had very interesting childhoods with a lot of craziness, drama, and the usual dysfunction, but most important lots and lots of laughs. In my 30+ years of doing art fairs and teaching art to kids and adults I noticed one thing the most creative people have in common—a full appreciation of funny stuff. Why is it that so many creative people have great senses of humor? In her book InGenius, Stanford Professor Tina Seelig writes "Creative people have apparently mastered the art of turning off parts of the frontal lobes of their brains to let their ideas flow more smoothly, unleashing their imagination.” When you are feeling creative, you tend feel less inhibited and more playful.
I have always tried to find the humor in everything. Life is just more fun that way! I taught art and gifted kids for 19 years, and I tried to inject humor as much as possible daily. As a result, I became pretty accomplished at unleashing the creative talents in my students.
I love art history, but this can be boring to teach. I found the artist series “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists,” by Mike Venezia, to be a terrific way to teach kids and adults about famous artists. If you have not read any of his books, I highly recommend them all. They are full of great information along with his comic illustrations relating to each artist.
So when you are working on a project and feel stuck, stop and try to find the humor. It is there somewhere, waiting for you to discover it and enjoy the laugh!
This week's blog post is written by fiber artist Sherry Bingaman of Nueva Vida.
I have been selling my artwork since I was nine years old when I began hawking my handmade cross stitched aprons door to door to my neighbors. Selling my art was a thrill then, and it is still a thrill now.
I started doing art fairs around 1975 when I lived in my home town of Kenosha, Wisconsin. I began with small local shows and expanded to fairs in Chicago and Milwaukee—Kenosha was smack dab between these two large cities. In 1980, my husband, Jim, and I moved to rural Missouri with our daughter, Kate, where we made our living doing art fairs all over the country for the next 15 years, and it was a fun and crazy time. Another daughter, Kory, was born in 1984, and after ten more years of full-time art fair life, I went into teaching art and gifted, while Jim pursued his passion for computer technology. I still did summer art fairs because I just had to!
Today my passion is selling my fiber art at the Portland Saturday Market and at Artistic Portland. I love meeting the people who buy my work and talking to people who love and appreciate fine art and craft. It has never been a chore to me but rather tons of fun….most of the time. I will say that while the vast majority of comments from the public are wonderful to hear, there are always those few comments that make you cringe—“I am going to ask my aunt to make something like this for me” or “Why does this cost so much? I could make that for a lot less.” You have to have a sense of humor when you hear comments like these because smiling and saying nothing is better for you in the long run than giving in to the temptation to punch their faces.
Over the years, I have learned some tips to consider when selling your art to the public:
Keep a smile on your face: People want to buy something that makes them happier than they are now. They don’t just want your art, they want your happiness. Spread that sunshine!
Don’t think it because they can hear it: They can hear your thoughts, because you are sending out your vibes even when you don’t realize it. Any negative thought you have about yourself or your customer gets communicated to them without saying a word. Give them your peace and make customers feel happy and comfortable around you.
Be prepared with healthy food and snacks: Steady energy and stamina are important to staying positive. It’s hard to be present and positive when you are tired or have low blood sugar. Bring high protein snacks (hard boiled eggs, cheese, nuts) and fruit for some sweets. Don’t forget water! I also must have a small amount of chocolate to keep my mental health at peak performance!
Why YES you love what you make, and “No, it’s not on sale:" You have a passion for your work and no one else is quite like you. Your skills are valuable. Your art is special. This all should not come cheap. If you don’t value your work, how can you expect others to? It is not uncommon for someone to ask for a discount, but you can politely decline with a smile. Don’t get angry or insulted, and let the customer save face. Many artists play the discount game, so you can’t blame them for asking. You don’t have to play this game unless you want to. Just be polite about it.
I have always felt lucky to have a passion for making things. It is my reason for getting up in the morning. Selling my work is a bonus and allows me to make more stuff, so I work at being successful at it. It’s my circle of life!
How long have you been a part of Artistic Portland, and what appealed to you about joining the Co-op?
I had my felting in Artistic Portland the first day it opened. I met Marianne and several of the women planning the co-op when I did shows during the summer and Christmas.
One of the great things about the co-op is that I have a home for my art. I love getting to know different artists and working with them to make our store fabulous. I also get to keep my prices lower than a regular store.
Where are you from?
I was born in Seattle and raised in Portland. I went to Lincoln High and the University of Oregon. The next 35 years Monterey, CA was my home base. I happily moved back to Portland when my daughter and her husband chose Portland as the place to raise my grandchildren.
What is your background?
I’m kind of a free spirit. I have had many jobs and many adventures. I cleaned houses, worked as: a nanny for an astrologer/therapist, a health care provider, an espresso pusher, and a receptionist. One of my favorite jobs was as a personal assistant to a woman who was a channel for ET’s or anyone else who she wanted to hear from in the great beyond. She had a radio show in Monterey. I helped a 95 year old retired executive write a book about his life. In 1981, I spent 6 months in Cabo San Lucas helping set up a rehabilitation center for the poor. That area was just developing and had only one big hotel.
I have always had some craft going on. In Carmel I worked at Sandcastles toy store where I was the Wish Fairy and made wish bags. During this time I made my egg shell Christmas ornaments.
Why felting? And how has your practice changed over time?
Six years ago, my daughter had suggested needle felting to make Kindle covers as they were becoming popular. I went out and bought lots of wool sweaters at the thrift stores and shrunk them in the washing machine. When the sweaters are shrunk they are perfect for needle felting. They are thick and don’t ravel when you cut it out for the pattern. The felting needle is very sharp and barbed. It pokes the raw wool into the sweater and makes great designs. I did that for a year until I discovered wet felting*! I took a class at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in Canby, OR. It happens every year in September. If you love fiber, in any form - knitting, weaving, or felting - you would love this event.
Since then I have given up needle felting sweaters (I have a bin full I am not using). I make Kindle covers, iPad covers, and iPhone covers using the wet felting method. I love to make nuno felted scarves,** felted soaps (yep, wool covering soap, It lasts longer and I love making little designs on the wool). Also, I am covering lattice cat balls with wool.
I have added dying silk to my artistic endeavors and eventually want to learn to use natural dyes. Learning all the ways of working with animal fibers is a life long endeavor. I am amazed at the breadth and depth of felting and suggest it to anyone who loves to work with their hands, loves color, and the magic of turning fluff into soooo many cool things!
How would you describe your artistic style in three words?
Colorful, unique, practical.
What inspires you?
Colors! When I moved to Portland it was Fall and the colors amazed me. I couldn’t stop collecting leaves.
Where do you create?
All I need is a table for my scarves. I make my soaps and cat toys on my lap if I have to.
What do you like to do when you're not creating?
I’m reading, watching shows on my computer, talking to my bird, listening to podcasts.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
I love the paranormal. ET’s, conspiracies, time travel. I love my podcasts and listening to KBOO and OPB. I love psychology and what makes us tick.
Stop by Artistic Portland any day of the week 10 am - 6 pm (noon-5 pm on Sundays) to see and purchase Ammi's work in person!
*Felting as a process started thousands of years ago. It is said a Nomad put a piece of raw wool in his boot and after many miles of walking he discovered that with pressure and moisture the piece of wool matted together and became one solid mass. In Mongolia the sheep herders lay out huge amounts of wool fibers, wet it down, beat on it with sticks until it is matted down then lay down a layer of Yak skin on top. It is then rolled around a pole, hitched behind a horse and dragged bouncing for hours until the wool fibers are tightly compacted. (google Mongolian Yurt makers). That is basically the way felting is made today only on a smaller scale.
**Most of my scarves are Nuno felted (nuno meaning cloth in Japanese). The silk fabric laid out on plastic bubble wrap and fine merino wool roving laid out on top. I put a layer of thin nylon on top, spray it with soapy water and rub it down gently. In the next stage I can either roll it up with a pool noodle (like the pole used by the Mongolians), cover with a towel, tie it up and roll it back and forth up to 800 times or more. This can also be done rolled up with a layer of plastic and a wet rolled up towel and put in a dryer on no hear...thump thump thump...the action works like the rolling. When the fibers travel through the cloth it is time to shrink or full the scarf. This is done by tossing it on the table until it shrinks 1/2 to 1/3 it’s original size. There are so many ways to do this process. Everyone does it a little differently. Some just rub by hand, some use a sander! I learned by watching Youtube videos, taking classes and reading books.
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 meet Co-op member and textile artist Sherry Bingaman, the creative mind behind Nueva Vida.
My love of making and selling my textile work goes back to my childhood. When I was nine years old, my mother received eight free sewing lessons with the purchase of her new sewing machine. Since she was already an expert seamstress, Mom let me have the lessons instead. Aprons were the first things I learned to make. A little nine year old going around our neighborhood selling her cross stitched gingham aprons must have been hard to resist, because I sold as many as I could make! I trace my passion for making and selling textiles to these first sales.
My parents were artists, and I grew up surrounded by the materials and inspirations involved in their paintings and commercial art. I was especially fascinated with the paper doll books they made, and I designed and sewed dresses for my own dolls.
My love of fabrics continued to grow, and in 1967 I entered Iowa State University as a textile major. After my very first weaving class I changed my major to applied art with an emphasis in weaving and have ever since been obsessed with everything textiles.
I met my husband, Jim, while we were both students at ISU. After graduation and Jim’s 3 year stint in the Navy, we returned to my home town of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Here is where I started participating in art fairs in the communities between Milwaukee and Chicago. This area was rich with shows, and I had some inspiring initial success participating in various shows including The Old Town Show in Chicago and Lakefront Festival of the Arts in Milwaukee. Jim encouraged me and soon quit his job to work with me. We continued to make our living as designer/weavers for 15 years, having two artistic daughters along the way -- Kate Bingaman-Burt and Kory Bingaman Francka.
In 1980 we moved to rural Missouri to be centrally located and more accessible to shows all over the country and to experience “country living” on a bluff overlooking the beautiful Gasconade River near the small rural town of Vienna, Missouri. Jim and I were the featured fiber artists in the very first Best of Missouri Hands publication in 1986. During those 15 years we sold our hand-woven designs in shows throughout the country and in shops and galleries in Japan and Canada. .
By 1994, I had earned my art education certification and began teaching art K-12 at the local school (college costs were lurking in the near future) and also continued with our weaving business. Jim worked shows on his own for several more years while his interest in computers developed into a passion and new career. I taught for 13 years while continuing with shows on my own in the summer. My passion for weaving expanded into the world of dyeing, both my yarns and now fabrics. My one-of-a-kind colors are my signature. Silk is my favorite material—both silk yarns and fibers and silk fabric for my scarves. Dyeing silk yields wonderful subtle color blending very reminiscent of a watercolor painting. I love the unpredictability of my dye process—no two pieces are ever the same.
My main sources of inspiration are ethnic textiles, especially those from Mexico and Central America. I have traveled to Mexico many times and treasure the rugs and embroidered textiles I collected there. The colors and textures from these cultures continue to excite and inspire me.
I was an elementary principal for six years and retired June 2013. I continue doing art fairs and selling my work through shows and my Etsy shop that I opened in 2006.
In 2014 we moved to Fairview, Oregon to be closer to our Portland-based daughters and to get involved in the exciting life in the Portland area! I joined Portland Saturday Market and show my work there most weekends. I heard about Artistic Portland through another artist, and am so pleased to now be a member of this cool group. Being a part of Artistic Portland gives my work a special home among a group of other local artists who are all working together to create the best venue for local handmade. Very exciting!!
Creative people simply MUST create. A favorite quote of mine is “I make stuff, because I get sad if I don’t.” So true!! -Sherry
Stop by Artistic Portland any day of the week 10 am - 6 pm (noon-5 pm on Sundays) to see and purchase Sherry's work in person.
Meet Beth Adams, local watercolor artist and the creative brains behind OliveMeArtsie.
You recently joined Artistic Portland (and we’re happy to have you!). What appealed to you about the Co-op?
I wanted to be a part of a community that not only encouraged my love for art but also to learn from other great artists.
Where are you from?
Born and raised in the Portland metro area.
What jobs have you had other than being an artist?
I worked mostly in long term care - providing support for the elderly and disabled. I supervised 50 plus caregivers and provided support to people with special needs.
Have you always loved creating? Tell us a bit about your development as an artist.
I have always loved arts and crafts. I had a natural talent that people would express to me, and I just didn't see it. It wasn't until I was given a watercolor postcard gift from my mother-in-law that I tried watercolors. It was in that set that I truly fell in love with watercolors and the way the water and paint moves on the paper.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by lots of different artists and forms of art. I love abstract art because it allows your imagination to fill in the blanks and see what you want to.
What do you enjoy about creating with watercolor?
I love the movement of water on the page with the paint. It always amazes me how each painting is different based on the level of moisture and paint added to the page.
What frustrates you about watercolor?
It is frustrating sometimes to have to wait between layers for things to dry and not be able to move fast. But it also forces me to slow down and enjoy there process.
You do a lot more than just paint. What other way do you like to create?
I love to create and usually it doesn't matter what I do as long as it's something to express myself and learn. I love sewing and creating personalized mugs.
You have a watercolor class coming up in a couple weeks at Artistic Portland. What should students expect?
Even a beginner can paint fluidly in watercolor! Used traditionally, watercolor paintings have a fluidity and transparency unrivaled by any other painting media. Often described as the "hardest medium" in which to paint, watercolor doesn't have to be intimidating. In this self-paced watercolor class, I will walk students through basic techniques and supplies in watercolor, creating special effects in watercolor, and composing paintings in a loose, informal style. Students will make three different cards and envelopes to showcase just a few of the techniques they learned.
What do you like to do when you're not creating?
Being with my husband and friends. I'm a part of a close community of friends that are very close and we try to do as much of life together as possible.
If you could wake up tomorrow with a new artistic skill what would it be?
I'd love to be able to make pottery. I love how it looks and feels as well as its functionality.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others?
No matter what you think about your own creations, there is always someone out there who will love your work. Art is not just one way or thing.
What's the weirdest request you’ve had on a commission piece?
The most unusual and touching commission project I have done was turning an old Scandinavian cardigan into tea pot warmers and cup warmers. This sweater belonged to a mother whose daughters gave it to the mother's friend when she died. This friend commissioned me to create for each child a set of these cozies. I thought that was very touching.
What inspires you?
I am usually inspired and guided by the yarn itself. Depending on how much of yarn I have, how well I can combine it with another color I have in my stash, and the season or function it should have.
If you could wake up tomorrow with a new artistic skill, what would it be?
I have always wanted to learn how to bobbin lace. Again, as a child I was fascinated watching a friend of my mother's toss those bobbins around different pins and in the process create this beautiful delicate lace. I need more time!
Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
I love to ballroom dance!
Make sure to come see Helene's yarn bombing (and other great products handmade by local artists) in person at 318 SW Taylor Street in Downtown Portland!