Posts Tagged ‘taxonomy project’

So, I’ve been thinking about this group of taxonomy works for a long time (this is a project where I work on groups of 5 objects). It’s a real collection of loose parts.

There are a lot of loose parts in this project. It combines the following:

  • Pieces of a Sunday NewYorkTimes article about marriage proposals that went wrong
  • Prints made from cabbage leaves
  • Sheet music
  • Small images from a small-scale book of Audubon’s Birds of America
  • Advertising images of large jewelry
  • Boxes of various sizes
  • Fabric

Many of these items are regulars in my creations. This time around the theme is “Audubon’s Birds of America Propose”. Each creation is a little scene with a particular species of bird proposing with jewelry in hand or beak and is accompanied by text from the disaster proposal article. Here is how the idea came together.

First, I was doing some printing with cabbage leaves on vellum. Why? Because I like to print with cabbage. I was printing away, when I noticed that there was a special insert in the Sunday NYTimes that week to celebrate Cartier’s newly redesigned store on 5th Avenue. The was an entire 2 page pullout: the top was an old image of the store printed in black and white on vellum; the second page was the new store today with the red awnings printed on paper. I opened the pages out fully and added some cabbages to that too. I made it look like the trees were growing off the roof etc. Amusing. But, it got me thinking about jewelry and the trees/cabbage prints.

The next weekend, the Financial Times magazine “How to Spend it” (they don’t really mince words with that title) had some huge, glossy ads for Cartier. I cut out some of the jewelry from those ads and others. Then, for some reason I thought about the little (3×3) Audubon’s Birds of America book sitting in my pile. I think I got it for art projects, but have not really used it much. So, I got it out and started cutting up the images so that I had just the birds. I combined them with the prints and the jewelry cut outs. There were some pretty good combinations. In the “Sunday Styles” section of The New York Times there was an article called “The Proposal was Awkward (but the Answer Was Yes)” which was very funny and I thought I could pull from it to add a story element to the images. I planned to put all of this in a box of some sort, to go with the whole proposal thing and added a soft jewel tone fabric covering so that the whole thing would seem jewelry box-like.

For the box, I first pulled out some old cigar boxes I had scavenged years ago. I was working on that for a while. Then, because a couple of the cabbage prints were oriented differently on the paper, I started thinking about smaller boxes; tuns out that really works better–more contained, the birds and the trees/cabbage fill the space. The cigar boxes went back to loose parts pile for a while. I worked on the smaller format.

The first one here has the following text: On a private plane ride over the glorious Manhattan skyline . . . and that’s when he popped the question. Suddenly, a wave of motion sickness hit me like a storm and I proceeded to vomit all over myself. The name of the species (black headed gull) is under the text. It’s hard to see, but I sewed around some of the tree/cabbage print branches and sewed wide-spaced lines across the print.

Second, I added changed the box hinge so that it was cardboard and not just paper and cut off the edges so the top wasn’t so tight. Also, added green bias tape around the edges. The text for the great horned owls is: Turns out he had just proposed–and I had missed the whole thing. I asked him to do it all over again, and this time, I didn’t wear the earmuffs.

I did go back to the larger format cigar boxes after all. The first one is for the buffel-headed duck. Here is the text : He began his romantic proposal but was promptly interrupted by a goose attack. . . we ran and he finished the proposal in the car.

In addition, I tried something completely different in this one by cutting out the cabbage and adding a jewelry box as a stand. I again sewed around the text and species name. Text is: We were hiking at Zion National Park in Utah. It was a pretty intense hike, but he kept saying if I make it to the top he has a present for me. This was just making me angry.

And, here’s another different format. Fabric and paper cover opens with button handle. Species name is on clear covering over box (it was a box of cards), bird, jewels and ribbon/edge are all inside the box. The text is: I went into the bathroom, opened the shower curtain, and found a wet dog and a naked man on his knee with a ring in hand.

The pictures are not great; the things are more fun in person, although the glue is also more obvious.

Once again, the process of making a series meant that I thought about a lot of different versions and pushed my planning much farther than I would have otherwise. The first version of anything is rarely my favorite, but unless I keep at it, that’s where it ends.

I’ve already got two other taxonomy ideas that I am rolling around in my head. With winter break over, I need a snow day for a day of found time to get thinking and making.

Public domain image. This is my idea of a reasonable serving of ginger snaps.

CCO Public domain image.
This is my idea of a reasonable serving of ginger snaps.

So, I’ve been thinking about winter break. What will I read, write, see, make? Students were finished school on Friday 16th, but I was in on Monday and Tuesday for some catch up type things.

In the lead up to the break, I was scoping out the library at school, making mental lists of what books I was going to check out. It turns out I am not the only one who had her eye on a few titles, but I am the one who waited too long. No problem, my list is long. I have at least half a dozen books (some young adult, some not) in my reading pile; I signed up for 2 Coursera courses through MoMA, and have plans to work on a few in-process art/craft projects. This seems like a lot for a break that also includes a major family heavy holiday and a set of papers to grade. To date I have read 3 books–2 young adult (Bone Gap and No Laughter Here) 1 graphic novel (Creature Tech)– and finished a week or so in each Coursera course (turns out there is significant overlap in the classes, so a lot less work than 2 unique courses). I do not think I have ignored my family either; we have done family stuff together, but you would have to ask them.

My point is not to list books read, courses taken etc. I am interested in 2 things here. First, what is it about a break from work that makes me think I have 36 hours in my days that I should fill? Second, what is it about doing all these things that is rejuvenating for me?

First of all, I think it’s the temporary freedom from a scheduled work time that makes me think I am superwoman. If I had an unending number of free days ahead of me, I would not feel the same urgency to read, make, etc. And, let’s be honest, I also excel at sitting on the couch and eating cookies. I am not actually going to do all that, but I like thinking about the options. This is connected to my second question. Just the thought of planning what to read and do is exciting to me. It’s really just another form of brainstorming, WHICH I LOVE. Brainstorming combines so many things that appeal to me–collecting ideas, connecting pieces of information, making odd leaps of ideas, taking notes, more planning. I feel more energized just writing this down (note: I am on still on the couch).

I think that if a break is to enable one to return to something feeling more rested and ready, then making my clearly unrealistic lists does the job almost by itself, as long as I can eat some cookies at the same time. However, just in case I need to do more than just imagine doing all this, I’m planning some art time later today.

So, I’ve been thinking about the fun things I can do with the lasercutter in our makerspace. I had planned to spend Mondays in the Makersapce over the summer. #MakerspaceMondays was my idea. It was a good idea, but it didn’t happen that way. I’m now trying to make up for lost Mondays.

I had in mind a lot of natural shapes–trees, leaves, plants, etc. I imagined cutting these shapes in felt and then maybe leather, because I saw  some really lovely work by a crafter at a local festival. She hand cut leather into necklaces, using great patterns–everything from natural shapes to pirate ship. However, I had already spent my money by the time I got to her booth. Time to improvise. I figured I could start in felt and see in anything deserved to move up to leather.

I searched for pubic domain images in vector graphic form on Pixabay and went from there. My first attempt was a tree that was a very complex. Then, I went the other extreme and tried some very simple shapes: teacups.

Then I tried a group of trees in several colors. I also tried remixing the trees and backgrounds. This is definitely not a final product, but I’ll keep them around for something.


Then, I tried combining images into big panels. First I tried this strategy with snowflakes. My plan here was to make a large bib sort of thing. I cut both white and black felt. Not bad. There’s something to work with there.

Finally I decided I should go back to leaves, but start with the real thing. So, I stepped outside, collected a few leaves, arranged them in an arc, and then traced it in a good, dark sharpie so that I could take a picture, put it into Adobe Illustrator, and then cut. It’s a good start. Too wide, but I can adjust the shape.


I used the StichPic app to combine the images.

And in keeping with my previous projects (my taxonomy projects), I have five versions of similar work. I am definitely finding that keeping this habit of making 5 of something to be really helpful. It keeps me working on a particular idea longer, which of course means that I make more progress either in my understanding of a tool, my thinking about an idea, or my ability to combine them both.

Hooray for making.



Weaving with sticks

Posted: July 31, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

So, I’ve been thinking about my taxonomy projects. (I started these sets of works after hearing a colleague talk about her MFA program assignment in which she made 10 sets of 10 works. I am going with sets of 5 and using the term ‘works’ very loosely.)

Over the course of last school year, I did a lot of taxonomy sets with blackout poetry. I liked playing with words and felt more comfortable with that. However, I have also tried to branch out a bit.

I actually started this particular project the summer before last. As I was wondering around my neighborhood with my kids, I noticed all the dried lily and daylily stalks in people’s gardens. (I did not really wander into other people’s gardens. I stuck to plantings along the road.) The sticks pull right out, and we may have wandered around using them as light sabers or swords for awhile. However, we are collectors at heart and thought the sticks might be good for some project or other. They have nice branched bits at the ends and are a reasonable size. So, we headed back out for more collecting. At some point, I thought that about weaving, but I’m not sure when. I also realized that I had quite a bit of yarn odds-and-ends as well as some colorful wire. I have to admit I am not sure whether I got some of the yearn before or after the sticks. Anyway, I finally sat down and got to weaving. It was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. Isn’t that always the way. The stalks are not straight and do not stay still. I think this was my first attempt.


I didn’t think enough about curved or not curved sticks, so I just let some of them pop out and excluded them from weaving as I went. I probably should have started with a regular shape. So, next time I paid a little more attention to the sticks, and I tried regular shapes and added some wire and bread loaf tags at the top.

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On this one, I may have started at the top and moved down so that the weaving got easier rather than harder.

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This one is all straight lines and regular shapes, which is not usually my thing, but I think it works. I have it in my new office at school.


I had put this project away for awhile; there are only so many of these things you can have around. But, then earlier this month I picked it up again; I had some more ideas. I started with the idea that I could add other items to the weavings to add interest to regular woven shapes and tried to think about how to relate the type of yarn and other objects. The first one has a large spoon in the middle, which I have not figured out how to attach just yet. I need a way to get it to stay there without pulling at the yarn. I like the combination of the darker stalks with the natural wool and the metallic spoon. (The picture could be better.)

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Finally, this one incorporates a piano part that I also had sitting around waiting to be used for something. I was thinking about those woven chair seats and wanted a way to have really thick yarn, which I did not have or want to pay for. So, I used eight strands together. I think this one is one of my favorites.

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I made another one or two that don’t make the top 5. I might try to incorporate words into the next set or go with more piano parts, which I just may have sitting around.

So, I’ve been thinking about postcards and CLMOOC. The other day I wrote about how excited I am for the new CLMOOC to start. Then, I got to postcard making. Since I am also still working on taxonomy projects (sets of 5 works), I decided to make 5 postcards.

So, I printed some recent pictures of this and that–a few images from my family’s outing to the Creative Africa exhibits at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (I loved the fabric exhibit and Colorspace by Francis Kéré best) a magnolia flower on a tree at school, Falls Bridge in Philadelphia (a longtime favorite subject of mine), and some big leafy plant at Longwood Gardens (Longwood is showing Nightscape again later in the summer. If you are in the area, do NOT miss this.)

Then I thought about what to do with the images. I have been working a lot with text and blackout poetry this year, but that did not seem right for this. I do love vellum, so I thought about having a top layer with some sort of words in vellum. Then, the picture is underneath and a layer of craft paper is under that. I hand sewed them together with embroidery thread. Here are those two.

Then, I didn’t have any more vellum handy, so I started thinking about other options. I decided it would be interesting to hide part of the image and to suggest that the recipient rip the cover off to see more. I used brown craft paper and printed the directions to tear off the cover on top. Then, I cut holes in the paper so that there was a teaser section of the image showing and put another layer of craft paper on the back. Finally I machine sewed all the pieces together. I love the peak-a-boo aspect of the card as well as the fact that if you want to see the picture you have to rip the top. These should not be precious, in my opinion; they are not going in anyone’s keepsake box. Yet, it seems wrong to throw away what someone has made. This fixes that problem. Tear it apart, look at the picture, keep it around for a while, and then send it to the great beyond.

The more I think about it, the more intriguing it is to me that to see the entire image, to make sense of the image which you know is part of a larger whole, you have to alter the work, which in turn breaks apart a different whole image, that of the postcard. I did not think of all that in the moment, but I find it interesting now. I might need to make some more of these.

Ah, making stuff.

CLMOOC postcard from Karen

CLMOOC postcard from Karen

So, I’ve been thinking about the new summer of CLMOOC.

I signed up for the postcard swap and got my postcard in the mail the other day. I a few photos and am ready to make some postcard too. I know I’m a little late on the postcards, but I’m going to combine the postcard making with my taxonomy project (where I make sets of things). I’ve got some ideas to combine my images with some blackout poetry perhaps. Lots of ideas swirling around in my head during a week where I have a and a week-long, all-day class, so it’s weekend making for me.

Anyway, I’m excited for the rest of CLMOOC to start on July 10th. (The FAQs page gives some good background on the experience, which I find a little hard to explain.) The emphasis on making and connecting that with really abstract ideas about place and community really spoke to me. I spent hours both thinking about the ideas and making things that related. Not all of the things I made were successful in terms of projects, but spending time thinking about making something to speak to these larger ideas was a great exercise. It made my brain hurt, in a good way.

Reflecting back on it, I think that the work I did on CLMOOC put me in a different mindset when the school year began. It meant that I had been thinking, making, and writing about some big issues over the summer. It was like cross training. I came back to my usual topics in technology with renewed energy, excited, and ready to think differently.

Win, win, win!

So, I’m still thinking about my taxonomy projects and blackout poetry. (Read about the origin of my taxonomy project works in this previous post.) This has definitely been a year (school year) of art and words for me.

Lucky for me, our school library recently moved. This lead not only to me getting a very nice new office in the new Learning and Research Center, but also being able to acquire many books that were being deaccessioned from the collection. Some of these books I took for artistic purposes not necessarily literary ones.

One of the books I now own is a very large (12×18) volume about Ancient Japanese Buddhist Art. I also took a few little books with Matisse cutouts. Of course, when I saw the books next to each other I thought I should combine these ideas with some blackout poetry. Since I am doing sets of 5 works for my taxonomy pieces, I have a selection here of 5 things. The first two are actually multiple page works. I used the two essays that begin the book as the basis for two black out poems. However, instead of blacking out the words I didn’t want, I boxed them and left the others. In addition, I chose words from multiple pages and cut down to that layer. This first slide show shows the pages in the first work.

Reading as if on one page, the poem reads:

J has never given up

to study, to comprehend, to symbolize, to understand

to understand in defiance of anatomical truth

Scholars arrived for their movement.

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One of the things that I think is interesting in this is the way the one picture page has just one hole in it, and it happens to be positioned in such a way that it seems the person in the image (maybe the scholar) is holding a sign that reads for their movement. I also am intrigued by looking at the pages as they turn and seeing some words and some holes.

Here is the second multi-page work. Read as a single poem it reads:

B played

beautiful lady standing under a tree

his exile, roughly speaking of course,

tradition rich in art

After the official introduction

B is placed in

Rocks, trees, and bears

This pair is entirely different from family

(hidden on a later page and not visible from page 1: there remain only a few.)

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Again, some of the pages are more interesting individually than others. Seeing them in person you can see the depth in the cuts down several pages to get to the word, and I think that adds something. As I took words and phrases from different levels, sometimes I misjudged their location on the page and couldn’t cut the above pages. However, having there remain only a few hidden (like an Easter egg in code) is even better. And, it’s doubly better since it was accidental and yet worked with the text.

Then I did 3 other images that are single pages. I added more color to the words on this one. Because I didn’t think the yellow was enough on the page, I colored the word boxes red. To get away from the appearance of “coloring in” and to have a less rigid shape, I irregularly extended the red beyond the boxes.

Photo on 5-24-16 at 8.53 AM

Poem reads:

The eleventh public record

National Commission, National Commission,

Ministry, Ministry

National Commission, Specialized Committee,

National Commission, National Commission, National Commission,

National Commission, National Commission,

National Commission.


Then the final two works.

Left hand poem reads:

In the main hall,

a youth riding out of the palace gates

In the five-storied pagoda

mother of all

and an attendant.

Right hand poem reads:

Protecting believers

a manifestation of paradise

The teacher, founder of legends,

sent back through the air stories

hurrying to the crown in excitement.

So this is some of what I have been up to in my spare time.