Friday, July 23, 2010

In the News!

Here's a lovely little preview of the upcoming performance next week by DK Row of the Oregonian:

Monday, May 31, 2010

Reception Photos

Here they are... words on the floors and windows, along with the lovely crocheters.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Portland Stock!

The reception last night was lovely. About 15 of us sat around the Mother Tree crocheting and coming up with words and stories about our mothers and motherhood. Felt like sitting around a campfire with the glowing sculpture and dimming natural light. Pictures coming soon!

Here's the next related event:

Join me at Portland Stock! June 6th, 6pm at Disjecta: 8371 N Interstate, PDX, 97217

Stock is a monthly public dinner event and presentation series, which funds small to medium-sized artist projects. Diners pay a modest $10 for a dinner of homemade soup and other local delicacies and the chance to take part in deciding which artist proposal will receive the evening's proceeds. In other words, the dinner's profits immediately become an artists grant, which is awarded according to the choice of the diners. Winning artists will present their completed work at the following Stock dinner.

If selected, I will use the funds to hire dance artist Tracy Broyles to perform with Mother Tree. Please come out and support this project!

In order to attend the dinner, you must RSVP to:
They often reach maximum capacity by the Monday or Tuesday before the event, so RSVP ASAP! People sending us RSVPs after this time might not make the list for dinner seating and will be instead invited to sit in the $5 peanut gallery (meaning they can vote but don't get dinner).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

'about space' Reception

I just finished installing Mother Tree at 'about space'. She looks lovely, if I do say so myself. You can view her 24/7 starting tomorrow evening at 6pm. She'll be illuminated from 10am-10pm daily.

Participatory Opening Reception (come crochet with me)
May 27th, 6-8pm
'about space'
3660 SW River Parkway | Portland, OR 97239
corner of SW River Parkway & SW Gaines

Hope to see you there!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mother Tree at a New Location

The Mother Tree will soon be growing roots again. MOTHER TREE continues her journey this May through July at ‘about space’ in Portland’s South Waterfront. ‘about space’ is a window gallery viewable from the outside, except during receptions and events.

Participatory Opening Reception | Thurs, May 27, 6 - 8pm
Closing + Performance by dance artist Tracy Broyles | Fri, July 30, time 6-8pm

I'm looking for a few crocheters to help me out... just in case you didn't get enough in during your visit/s or help with prep for The Mother Tree's debut at The Portland Building!

Here's what I need:

May 27, 6-8pm
I would like to have 5-10 crocheters "attached" the the milk strands, crocheting at the opening. Ideally, crocheters would also be willing to invite and show interested attendees how to crochet. I suspect that I will be busy talking to people about the piece.

July 30, 6-8pm
I am working with a dancer who will perform with Mother Tree. During the performance, I want to have people crocheting as well, just sitting or standing (even laying down) amidst the crocheted strands. The dancer will be the focus of attention, but she might interact with you in some way.

Will you join me? I'd be honored! Please let me know which date/s, and I"ll put you on a list and send a bit more info soon.
And if you don't feel comfortable volunteering to do this, please come to the events anyways!

And finally, if you have any natural fibers laying around that you'd like to contribute to the evolution of this project, please let me know :). I'm happy to pick them up (in Portland).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Interior's New Clothes

I have a few pieces at a show that just opened tonight at ANKA Gallery here in Portland. It is a unique concept: wearable art paired with fine furniture: hats instead of plates on the dining room table; earrings hanging from chandeliers; clothing mounted like artwork on the wall. I enjoyed the opening tonight and am happy to have The Mother Tree and some flatter dresses from my Line Dried series included.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mini Mamas

I recently created this piece for my childrens' school auction. Now I'm thinking that I could make a whole series of these. Do you need a Mother's Day gift? This one is called Root Dress.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Results In!

Just in case anyone is following this, I didn't win last night, but it was a GREAT experience. I had some really good conversations, saw old friends and made new ones. ArtSpark is a lively event! I did end up being one of three finalists and got to talk for three minutes about my project in front of about 100 people. I'd say that was good exposure :). It would have been better to have prepared a speech, because I was quite nervous and bumbled a bit. Oh well! The winner is The Portland Paper City Project – more paper! They will make Portland out of 3-dimensional pop-up paper models, and it will be participatory.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Ideas

I'm going to propose a new version of The Mother Tree at an event at Disjecta here in Portland tonight. I think it will be good to get the word out about it, regardless of whether I get the gig. And I'm happy to have a new proposal written to shop around elsewhere!

Here is the basic idea:

Stage 1 – The Dress – Installed: The seven-foot tall Mother Tree sculpture will be installed at Disjecta with thirty chain stitched strands of thread, representing mother’s milk, cascading from the bosom to the floor.

Stage 2 – Roots Emerge – A Happening: I will be on-site crocheting for the first 2-3 days of the exhibition with a group of 5-30 crocheters from the community. We will sit beneath the Mother Tree, each one of us crocheting onto the end of one of the chain stitched strands. As we crochet, we will fan out into the space and improvise: crossing paths, switching strands, etc. At the end of this Stage 2, the roots will range from one hundred to two hundred feet in length.

Stage 3 – The Larger Community: I will attach additional strands, which were donated for the debut of the Mother Tree at the Portland Building (an accumulated 4000 feet crocheted by 300+ community members) to the strands and arrange them in a pattern on the floor that spreads throughout the space. At this stage, I will write the words and poetry in the fiber cords.

Stage 4 – Performance: I am currently in conversation with dancers and choreographers about developing a modern dance performance which will be presented one or more times during the exhibition. Dancers will move and interact with the Mother Tree and its roots, performing the transformation from dress to tree and root to soil, and symbolizing the mother as a provider and nurturer throughout human development.

I am really excited about the visual of crocheters in the space, working and moving as part of the piece in a way that is different from the installation at The Portland Building. I envision them dressed similarly and as quiet beings in the space. I have several ideas for the performance, too. I can see dancers rolling the threads into balls and bringing them home to The Mother Tree and I can envision a May Pole dance of sorts. I'm looking forward to discussing this with a few choreographers in town.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Aftermath

I think it took about 20 people hours to deconstruct The Mother Tree. The unwinding or untangling wasn't too bad after all. I've got all of these beautiful balls of crocheted fiber ready to roll out for the next showing...

Speaking of that, a visitor last week told me about an interesting "competition" that will take place this Thursday night at ArtSpark here in Portland. Anyone who wants to can make a proposal for an exhibition; everyone who attends the event will vote; and one person will "win" a show at Disjecta, which happens to be in my neighborhood. I'm going to propose a variation of The Mother Tree and will share that with you in a few days. Anyone who would like to attend ArtSpark could potentially vote for TMT!

Joleen, who came to crochet last week, sent me these lovely images.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Closing Day

Yesterday was so busy at the end of the crochet session that I forgot to write a word... somebody noticed, because when I came in this morning, I was greeted with this message :). It is a repeat of a word I'd written before, but hey, it is the thought that counts and it does capture a main theme of this project.

Well, we did it! Thanks to everyone who contributed to The Mother Tree Project! Special thanks to the Regional Arts & Culture Council for granting me the space to show this piece; to my interns, Claire and Ayesha, for their help in getting the Mother Tree ready to exhibit; to Sarah, who crocheted the most strands; to Julie, Andrea, Patricia and Loni, who organized crochet groups and sent me boxes of roots; to Peter, who faithfully showed up to crochet each day; and to the volunteers who stayed late this evening and helped rewind the crocheted balls.

I had the piece professionally photographed today, and I'll share the photos soon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Day 18

Okay, we're winding down. Literally and figuratively. Tomorrow evening after the closing celebration (from 4-6pm) a few of us will start untangling the mass of threads! This should be interesting, to say the least. You have to be over five years old for this job – so sorry little Orion!

I received another package yesterday from someone who wrote "please accept these two strands in honor and remembrance of my mother, who passed away on March 1, while I was working on them." This tree is a tribute to so many. I will have a book with some of the stories in it at the closing reception – this is a work in progress. If anyone has anything to contribute, please send it along: poems, stories, inspirations.

I still have a few hours work left to do this evening. Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Day 17

I went in early today to tie on some roots before the activity began and to connect with the day care teacher at CityKids, the day care for city employees which is located in The Portland Building. Everything ran like clockwork. The kids were going out for recess when I arrived and their teacher said five of them could come finger crochet with me at 11:30am. Steph Stricklen from KGW showed up at about 11:35 with her cameraman to film us finger crocheting and then Steph asked me a few questions. We were done by noon, when I'd told everyone else to come. Oh well.

I got my husband there today, finger crocheting away. The TV show aired tonight at 7pm, but like me, it seems that not many people watch TV anymore... I haven't heard from anyone who has seen it. I should get a link for viewing it online tomorrow.

Today, another touching note in the mail. "Dear Helen, Please accept these two strands in honor and remembrance of my mother, who passed away on March 1, while I was working on them."

You, dear readers, and everyone who has contributed to this project, have made it a success! The reporter asked me about the community participation aspect today, and I said that it MADE the project worthwhile.

My friend, Margaret Davis, has a lovely blog and she posted something about the project today:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Day 16

Look how much fun our little community has! Today when I got there two people were waiting for me, and the last person left with me. There wasn't even room for me to tie on many crocheted roots!

I forgot to write about a touching note I received yesterday from a young woman in Australia. There was a facebook post right around the time I installed The Mother Tree called "If Breast Feeding Offends You Put a Blanket Over Your Head". I sent info to them about my project and the young woman wrote and asked if she could still contribute some crocheted roots. Here is the sweet note which accompanied her package: " These roots were crocheted whilst watching TV, waiting for the computer to load, eating and breast feeding. I send these to you with love and appreciation for The Mother Tree. It is a beautiful sculpture and I am proud to be a part of it. My roots are made of bamboo, soy and cotton, and the purple ones are dyed using grapes from my backyard." Yours, Heather S., 21 year old single mom

I am humbled by the wonderful threads this sculpture is weaving. The two women waiting for me when I arrived drove all the way from Eugene and Corvallis to participate today. There is another story but I will save that for another entry.

The final excitement of this day was contacting a TV reporter by e-mail and having her respond right away. She loves the project and is going to try and get a crew there to film tomorrow for a highlight in the 7pm news hour. We must have sent 10 e-mails back and forth. As she said in her last e-mail, fingers crossed!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Day 15

Four days to go. The closing celebration is coming up this Friday, March 12th, from 4-6pm. I never cease to be amazed at the turnout! Today, five people showed up right at 11:30. Two had seen my postcard announcement at Happy Knits on Hawthorne, one sent roots in and came with a friend. Almost everyone who came brought their own yarns today, which is unusual, and they all donated their leftovers to the project.

There was some discussion about what will happen to The Mother Tree after this installation. I don't have anything lined up right away, but there was some interesting talk about burning her as well as having a ritual or performance around the tree. The performance piece inspired me, and if you come to the closing celebration, you'll see why...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Day 14

Another busy day filled with interesting discussions. Keith, the Public Art Collections Manager for the city (which funded this project) came and crocheted for an hour and we talked about the ins and outs of public art. I was telling him that my first job out of college was working for the Percent for Art Program in NYC way back when. It was a short stint - my college (The University of the South) provided me with a grant to do something in public affairs, and one of my art professors knew someone who worked at the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. Needless to say, it has taken a LONG time to make this big circle back into the public art realm.

The connections I am making are wonderful, as are the ways people are finding out about the project. Today, besides Keith, a friend and her 2-year old stop by; someone who receives my newsletter told a friend of his and she came with a friend of hers; my regular traffic engineer Peter was there; Julie Johnson who spearheaded a crochet group this past summer stopped in with someone who was at her event; a woman stopped to say that she will crochet a root and bring it back; Nan Narboe, an acquaintance who came to a lecture I gave at Reed College 1-1/2 years ago came to chat; and finally, a women's history instructor from Clark College dropped by who had picked up an announcement at Happy Knits yesterday.

The closing celebration is next Friday from 4-6pm. I'm hoping for a good turn-out!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Day 13

I was in the building at some odd hours (for me) today, and it was nice to hear the comments from those who have see The Mother Tree growing but haven't seen me. The pile of roots is really growing. Here, a volunteer crocheter ties on her root.

I am really itching to show this in a larger space. There are so many buried roots that you cannot see anymore. And that is fine - we don't usually even see at tree's roots at all, but it would be lovely to stretch them all out and see them. There is such a variety in each strand, from color, to fiber, to the size of the chain loops. My friend Julie brought in this artichoke dyed cotton (on the right) today.

This afternoon I had a visit from 20+ 3rd graders from Cedarwood Waldorf School. They learn how to crochet in 3rd grade and they were all so adept. One girl told me we were not crocheting, we were just making chains. They definitely know more than I do about crocheting!

They brought their own crochet needles and we all crocheted for about half an hour. As students finished their roots, we tied them all together and made a big ball.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Day 12

Today was a good day! I enjoyed a lively conversation with my friend Alex (she learned to finger crochet, and look what she accomplished) and Manya, who read about the project in the Regional Arts & Culture Council notes, which came out yesterday.

A mother and her two children stopped by, read the statement, and spent about 5 minutes looking at the piece. The boy, who was about 12, was really intrigued, and perhaps even inspired. He told me "This is AMAZING". I was touched. When I was preparing for the project, I went over to my friend Julie Johnson's who works with natural dyes and we dyed cotton yarns with kakishibu (persimmon) and ceder bark. I wound these yarns into balls today and crocheted them.

Just as was getting ready to leave, a very enthusiastic woman came over and exclaimed how she wanted to participate. She has crochet needles and yarn and just needed a refresher on how to crochet. She was ready to go home and crochet a strand (her lunch hour starts at 1pm and I leave at 1:30), but I think she'll come crochet with me tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Day 11


It was quiet at The Portland Building today, but that was okay because I spent the morning visiting the first period art class at Jefferson High school, which was not quiet. 25+ kids all finger crocheted, and most of them were doing it for the first time. It was fun to see how much we could produce with 25 people in 45 minutes. Of course, the output varied and so did the look of the strands, from tightly gathered to loose chains. I tied each and every one of them onto The Mother Tree.

My two regulars joined me today. Peter sat and crocheted for a few minutes, and Betsy, who comes every Tuesday returned for the third time. I crocheted this green pineapple fiber, pulling a double strand from the center and the outside of the ball. I thought this "skeleton" was beautiful as I neared completion..

I like this quote that Turquoize sent me... she says she'll be coming to crochet with me soon.

"Look at the Earth with crowded growth, new & bursting from their strong roots hidden in the silent, live ground, each seed according to its own kind...Each one knowing what to do, each one demanding its own rights on earth. So artist, you too from the deeps of your soul...let your roots creep forth...gaining strength." (Emily Carr)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Day 10

After sitting at the installation on Friday, I went by several knitting shops to drop off postcards about the show. It was great to talk to enthusiastic shop owners and employees about the project. One even told me that people had come in specifically to purchase yarn for the Mother Tree project. At one shop, Knit Purl, I found some lovely and unusual yarns which are distributed by Habu in NYC. The one pictured here is bamboo tape, which I crocheted today.

I had a couple of parents stop by who had visited the installation with their children. It was fun to hear their stories - one had read about the project at The Naked Sheep, my local knit shop, and her daughter crocheted a strand and dropped it off at my house (it was fun to discover several balls in my mailbox leading up to the Feb 1 deadline). This is one of the largest crochet balls I received... it must be at least 100 feet in length.

Sometimes I wonder whether people even look at my postcards amidst the other printed matter at various venues. I was happy to learn from a woman who came by today that she had picked up a card at my local library.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Day 9

It just keeps getting better! I walked in this morning to the following message from a visitor I was wondering if that would happen, and I'm pleased that the message was polite. I wonder if the guard said anything to the person... or maybe the guard did it!

People stopped by who came to crochet nights in the fall; I had a returning crocheter who brought another friend along; someone who works for the Regional Arts & Culture Council (the partial funder of the project) sat down to crochet a few links... News is spreading: I sent an e-mail to the Portland La Leche League with info about the show, and it got distributed to their list! A naturpath on the list read it, and today she came to crochet. And she brought a friend, too.

And finally, a young couple walked in to look at the piece with their sleeping 5-month old baby. I couldn't resist asking whether they would lie her down nestled in the roots. They did, and we all took pictures. That completes my visual for this paragraph that I wrote in the project proposal: The threads in “Mother Tree” symbolize the lifeline which connects all women to their past (to their mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and so on) as well as to their future (to their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on). Each mother is alone and unique as a tree in a forest, but also in community sharing the same stages of life with other mothers. Creating the piece in a sewing circle with a group of women symbolizes that we are all one. Our presence, as well as the presence of this sculpture, will create a quiet sturdiness in the space.

And there are still 2 weeks left!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Day 8

Today I had a lovely group of crocheters: Mary, who came to my open studio last fall and has recently moved to Portland; Eleanor, who took a class with me and then interned with me –  I thought she was in NYC but she has returned to Portland; and Susan, who lives in Los Altos, CA and visits Portland frequently to see her daughters – today she and her husband were looking at public art. Each one of them needed crochet lessons, and they all caught on fast.

People seemed interested in the paper today: What is that material? How did I make it? Did I stitch the designs in the paper? The paper is a double layer of abaca (my favorite translucent fiber from a banana plant). I embedded string patterns in between the layers and air dried the sheets to give it some texture. These were then glued together into eight panels, which were hand stitched to form the dress. (Since someone asked, I'll tell you) the arm holes are reinforced with a thin bamboo reed.

I forgot to mention some of the characters from yesterday. Among them were a 911 operator and a woman who was able to quit smoking by crocheting!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Day 7

When I walked into the space today, a class of preschoolers and their teachers were looking at The Mother Tree. I'd spoken to the preschool office about having the kids join me for some finger crocheting. The teacher polled the class and most of them were interested, so we'll be doing that in a few days. One of the kids told me that the sculpture looked like a rocket ship. Peter (my steadfast crochet buddy) was there and immediately made the connection – that the roots on the floor were like the fire of the rocket. I love what children see! When I was about 16, I babysat a 2-year old named Megan. I brought her to my house a few times, and she always mentioned the puppy in the abstract painting that hung in our family room. I never did see that puppy!

The yellow strand is hand dyed with turmeric. Reminds me of the luscious colors I saw years ago in the Turkish spice markets!

The word last night was touch. When I came in this morning, there was a note in the guest book that said "love being able to touch it". I thought the note referred to the paper sample that I have tucked in the guest book, but once again, Peter had an interesting insight. He thought that the reader had read this as permission to touch The Mother Tree!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Day 6

There seemed to be a theme today: several people asked me why I made The Mother Tree. One guy walked up admiringly and after I told him the history (read on) he said he liked the piece even more.

The inspiration for the project comes from this experience: Nine years ago, a father walked by me as I was nursing my newborn son at the Portland Japanese Garden and pointed me out to his children, stating: “That is one of the most beautiful things in the world.” As a first-time mother, it meant a lot to me—that he could see beauty in something I took for granted and even hesitated doing in public. The Mother Tree seeks to visually portray my subsequent reflections about that chance encounter. It serves as a symbol of the vulnerability, strength and sense of community I feel as a mother.

When I was a new mother, I was also new to Portland with no family around, which was quite an isolating experience. It has been so rewarding to sit with the sculpture for the past six days and see it as a living network. I am connecting with people daily - old friends and new. People are coming to visit from near and far. They are spreading the word to others. We had seven crocheters at a time today and several other visitors. I can't wait to go back tomorrow and see what will happen next.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Day 5

By coincidence, someone came and crocheted with me who I spent a weekend with 10 years ago, when the seeds of this project were planted. We took our 3-1/2 month old son, Willam to Opal Creek for the weekend, and it snowed and snowed, so much that we couldn't get our car out after we'd walked 3-1/2 miles to get to it the last evening. Luckily, there were other people leaving the parking lot and I hitched a ride home with the baby. Ted and the others slogged back to the cabin, stayed overnight and were able to dig the car out the next morning. Now that there are more roots on the sculpture, people are beginning to see it in a different light and ask about the meaning (not so many wedding dress comments).

The Mother Tree serves as a symbol of the vulnerability, strength and sense of community I feel as a mother: vulnerable as a mother learning how to do something with great responsibility for the first time; strong in the knowledge that we mothers can provide our children with everything they need; and in community knowing that mothers before me have nurtured their children and mothers after me will continue to do so.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mother Tree Project - Day 4

Today I had the most crocheters at one time so far... four! I'll need more chairs if more people show up. It was fun! I had a guest all the way from North Carolina - she'd contacted me last week about renting my studio when she is in town (her daughter and family live here and she visits frequently) so I told her to come on down and she did.

Someone messed with the word last night - it looked like it had been stepped on.

I tied two unusual roots on today: human hair (pictured) and daffodil cordage.