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.