Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Urchin, Smirchin.

Sometimes an artist begins a design with one thing in mind and ends up with something completely different. This was the case in my latest pattern, "Sea Urchin" in which some of my core elements belonged to a flower pattern I was working on that I have yet to finish.

When I was little and used to spend a lot of time swimming in tidal pools, one of the things I really had to watch out for was what we call, "Wana" or Hawaiian Spiny Sea Urchin (pronounced "Vana" with a "V"), Oweeeee should you step on one! Luckily I never did because locals claim that the remedy should be urinating on the area affected. Or is it rub meat tenderizer?...or is that for treating a sting from a Portuguese Man-o-war? I forget...which is what happens when I don't return to Hawaii often enough. But forgetting is probably a good thing because neither are medically appropriate!

Wana, in its natural environment, can sometimes be hard to see when you are in the water. After all, they are dark with dozens of long, sharp black spines and sometimes are practically invisible against the black volcanic rock in which they live on. Resembling a porcupine but can be as large as a hedgehog, they are not only situated in holes, but on the surface of the reef just where you think it is safe to put your bare foot! In some places, no matter where you want to put step, there is Wana. It was always troublesome from me because with my near sightedness, they were hard to see. I could swim far out to a reef, but if I had my contacts in, I coudn't open my eyes under water to figure out where it is safe, and if I didn't have my contacts in, well, I still couldn't see and I always had the heebie jeebies when I had no choice but to blindly put my foot down. They can look very intimidating, especially knowing the pain they can inflict when the spines become embedded into your soft flesh.

When alive, their symmetry is not obvious, however when dried, their hardened shells can bleach out naturally and become a dull color of olive, brown, purple, red, white or light gray, and their endoskeletons display eccentric rings and circle patterns. They become transformed into objects of beauty.

My latest of the Hawaiian Quilt Series is simply called "Sea Urchin." Rather than just one, each fleurette is actually four sea urchins with the center representing the underside of the urchin where the mouth is located. There are many different kinds of urchins, and very much like my Hawaiian Ginger pattern, I'm pretty sure this won't be the only sea urchin design I will be creating.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Swedish is Sweetest!

My Grandpa Carlson was Swedish, but by looking at me, you would never guess. My mom would say that he was a "Dark Swede" with his dark hair, but still, I resemble my dad's side of the family more than my mom's. Grandpa was the king of creativity in my book. Not did I follow his footsteps and go to Art School, but I love the smell of fresh sawdust because of him. I am happy to finally introduce some products to Space Moderne that incorporate wood, and so far, my little wooden egg cups have been well received.

If you are at all familiar with Swedish culture, you may have noticed the tiny red Dala Horse appliqued onto the hat of the egg cup in the forefront. Traditionally, they are carved from wood and painted different colors which represent the town or region of which they originate, but today the Dala Horse is recognized as an unofficial symbol of Sweden throughout Swedish-America.

The first time I had actually learned about the Dala Horse was just two weeks ago when my Uncle pointed out the little red horse hanging on my mom's wall and explained to my husband what it was. I have seen the Dala Horse for years, but never knew its symbolism!

Then, last week, when searching for a third design for an egg cup hat, I realized that using the little Dala Horse was a perfect choice. I was also really happy to be able to use my embroidered stitching, which I carry throughout many of my different felt products. A lot of my "Mod Dot" designs use a vertical line, known as a "Satin Stitch" and you see it in my Wine Pockets, Ipod Cases, Botella Vases, and Luggage Tags. I am using it in the "Danish Flower" and the "Hearts" hat here as well.

I have a fourth Egg Cup in the making and I will see if I can incorporate a simple, yet cute pineapple into the hat! I will be sure to post a photo of the fourth little egg cup when it's done. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Aloha Space Moderne!

Aesthetically, I've always incorporated my design sense into Space Moderne, but the last month I have been using my skills as a print designer to create a series of illustrated drawings done in Illustrator. Earlier this summer, I came across a few plastic stencils in my mom's things that she had saved. They were silhouettes of simple Hawaiian quilt patterns. My mom, a visiting tourist from Michigan, met my dad on the beach at Waimea Bay back in the 60's and the rest is history. She lived in Hawaii for over 17 years, but ultimately found her self living in Miami, Florida. Although she no longer lived in Hawaii, her heart never left the Islands. As I cleared out her home after she passed, I found a life-time of things collected and many of them were from the days when we all lived on Oahu and Maui.

I have always loved the bold graphic patterns of the traditional Hawaiian quilt. When I looked at her stencils, I figured out that she had plans of painting some patterns on her kitchen tiles. I decided that I would take a crack of drawing some patterns myself, first using pineapple, a symbol both important (I discovered) here in Maryland and in Hawaii. For Hawaii, the representation was obvious to me, but for Maryland, I learned that the pineapple symbol dates backs to colonial America and stands for hospitality.

What a wonderful representation, I thought, and I began to work on a design that incorporated a pineapple. The outcome was delightful and I posted it on Facebook for friends to see. Next to follow was the Breadfruit and Ginger plant, both tropical plants found in Hawaii. I made a couple of different versions of the Ginger plant and ultimately stuck with one type knowing full well that there will always be the opportunity to draw other species. Also in the mix, was a complex Hibiscus flower pattern which I will continue to work on until it is just right. In the meantime, I've drawn a nice single stem to use for now.

I am really looking forward to using the illustrations and incorporating them into different hand crafted items in the studio. I figure the possibilities are endless and I can't wait to see what will be done with them. I also look forward to adding to the collection by drawing more quilt patterns.

Space Moderne Enters the Blog-o-Sphere

Welcome to Space Moderne's Blogsite! For a creative person, I rank a zero out of five for self promotion so I thought I would light a little fire under derriere by starting a blog while putting my studio back in order after taking a three season hiatus.

As it some times happens, serious and unfortunate events can take over one's personal and creative life and thus was the case for me this year. Then things slowly returned to normal and I began to debate whether I could salvage the creative year and get my studio up and running in time for the Holiday Season. 

Last year at this time, I was working fast and furious building enough stock to supply a slew of Holiday sales I was to participate in. After January 1st, my studio took a big breath and began to relax as it was much deserved! But my stock was completely obliterated with practically nothing sitting on my shelves. This is quite normal and I often use the time between seasons to come up with new designs and products. 

However, this year, cancer struck two of immediate family members. In Feb, my beloved Charlie, my Boston Terrier and longtime constant companion in my studio passed away after a long battle with liver cancer. Then, shortly thereafter, my little mom, my studio helper and the woman who jump started my creativity at a young age and taught me to sew, was diagnosed with Metastatic Cancer. Everything in my personal life was put on hold and my family spent the rest of the summer caring for her until she passed away. These losses were devastating to all of us and when I returned home after the long summer, I also returned to a totally empty studio. 

Upon returning, I sat and looked at the piles of things sitting around on all my studio floor and work surfaces. Most of them were not related to the studio, mostly camping supplies, tools, and stuff that found its way to my workspace that had no other home, etc. Space Moderne had become a dumping ground! Slowly, I began to sort and put the studio back together. After a couple of days, I began to tinker around. Dismayed that underneath all the piles was practically nothing–a reminder that I had been nearly cleaned out of stock last Holiday season and if I were to start up Space Moderne again, I would be starting from scratch.

What to do...what to do??? Creatively, I was absolutely rusty and quite simply drained. My enthusiasm for making beautiful things was at its lowest point. It felt like just yesterday that mom and I were happily sewing side by side working on making all the little scrumptious things that Space Moderne studio makes. I looked at Charlie's chair in the corner a few feet from my where my sewing machine sits. It was empty too. My once hustling and bustling happy studio felt dark and lonely.

I looked at my fabrics on my shelves. Not the wool felt, but rather my cottons with their bold graphic patterns. My oh my, have I got a lot beautiful fabrics I don't use! I really need to do something about that, I thought, and decided I would make something for myself as a kick starter. Not finding anything in my stock that fit what I was looking for, I decided to take a trip up to JoAnns. I came across a lovely screen printed linen and purchased enough to make two pillows and a tote-bag. Oh, and I also made a remote control holder that hung off the arm of my new sofa. Laugh if you must (I did) but let me tell you, it is darn handy! But most of all, I loved the fabric and immediately several people put in requests for me to make them a couple of custom things. It was a slow start, but a start none-the-less! It was exactly what I needed. And the heart of my studio began to beat once again.

So, the big question lately has been, should I participate in the Holiday Season this year? Unfortunately, handling my mom's estate did not end when she passed away and I have missed most deadlines for most shows. Last Friday, I cranked out a few ideas that I've had bouncing around in my mind and applied to Holiday Heap. We'll see if I get in. I am holding my breath but still reminding myself that originally I had planned on closing the studio for the year so anything I get into, I should be grateful. I had four days to work out new ideas for the application. My machine was in the shop getting fixed but thankfully, I have my mom's Bernina to use, the same sewing machine I learned how to sew on when I was 9 or 10. I think it is about 45 years old and it sews like a dream. I, myself, have a Viking Husqvarna, a very expensive electronic machine, but yet it doesn't sew as nice as my mom's Bernina. 

This fall, it came to me that I need to get back to my roots. I grew up under the influence of both sides of my family. I was born on a tiny Island in the middle of the Pacific and grew up around Polynesian arts and crafts as well art and culture found around the Pacific Rim.  I also spent a good amount of time living with my grandparents who were of Scandinavian and European decent. I have always been fascinated by prints and patterns of all of these cultures, but only recently have I made the decision to meld the two. I was not entirely sure if I could do it but I started studying traditional Hawaiian quilt patterns and began to design my own patterns. After not creatively working for nearly 3/4 of a year, working out the designs was absolutely invigorating! It was not easy at first to get all my shapes to work with one another so that they were not only aesthetically pleasing, but also remained true to my own design style. This was a great exercise in working with positive and negative space and although the concept is elementary, it was very challenging at the same time.

I was thrilled with the outcome of my first finished designs. But now what? The big questions was what to do with them? Well, that is still left to be seen! I placed a few of them on felt and made pot holders  with the intentions to burn some screens and print on the felt. Does anyone buy pot holders these days (I laugh when ever I say "pot holder" because it makes me feel like I'm back in the 70's and I'm not sure why!)? That is always the thought of a professional crafter...."Yes, it LOOKS cool, but will people still BUY it?" How many pot holders does one need? I finally figured out I was over thinking things. It may be pot holders this afternoon, but many other products will follow so I shouldn't worry about it.

Besides, last year, I began screen printing on fabric such as linen and cotton and I really wanted to work the screen printing onto the felt. I've screened on wool felt before to experiment and it has a beautiful effect with the inks sitting nicely on the surface while retaining its opacity. I would describe it as a "yummy effect" but that is just me and you'll just have to see it in person and make your own judgement!

I love to write, as you can see, and within a few minutes, I am able to bang out a number of paragraphs which is more than I intended. I really wanted to post photos of my work more than post chatter. This is my first blog, so I will try to keep things related to all things Space Moderne! Hurray for Space Moderne!