As a small girl, I loved to wrap my arms around the trunks of birch trees and look way up, way up their slender trunk, through the canopy of their green leaves to the blue sky above.
What is it about birds? I love watching birds…. birds at the feeder, birds flying by, especially flocks of birds. On occasion, I try to paint the birds I see in a realistic way, but more often I create colourful birds of the imagination, birds from faraway tropics, birds with hairdos, eye rings…improbable birds. As far back I can remember, I have painted, drawn, sculpted, collaged and colored these fanciful birds.
Our spring has been unfolding slowly, with many false starts and sunny days that tease. Outside these past two weeks, we have had many gray and overcast days. Inside, I have been immersed in a world of colourful and wild birds in tangled gardens. It is as if another spring is blooming inside me! When I make a rice paper birds and arrange them between sheets of plexiglass or when I paint birds, It feels as if these birds reside inside in me, too many to count, and as they are created, they fly free in paint and ink, in collage papers. Why I love to paint fanciful birds, I do not know. They are a happy mystery to me. I feel as though I could create birds forever! Look below for my recent spring pieces followed by an assortment of other birds in flight from years gone by.
An order for something, especially a work of art, to be produced specially:
Mozart at last received a commission to write an opera
A mission which is shared by 2 or more people, with one being the co-creator or maker and the others having creative imput. Sue at last received a commission to create a rice paper panel in consultation with those who commissioned it.
To create a beautiful rice paper plexiglass panel for a bathroom window that would serve as a kind of “curtain” or blind so that people outdoors could not see in to the bathroom.
How we worked together:
We knew two things at the beginning – the size of the window (which suggested the size of the plexiglass panel) and that we wanted colourful rice paper birds to be a part of it. Because the window looks out to trees (bare branches in winter), we decided to create branches for the birds. The branches would be bare in winter while in spring they would be enlivened with the green foliage that could be seen through the clear parts of the plexiglass.
Time to Consult:
I taped the branch and some birds to the plexiglass and brought a whole handful of extra rice paper birds. The couple I was working wanted more birds, especially at the bottom, and especially more birds with red on them to pick up the colour of the bathroom walls. We also hit a problem: you could see through the panel into the bathroom. We hoped that more birds clustered at the bottom would help solve this problem.
The next part is the finnicky part. The branches and the birds need to be affixed to the plexiglass. I do this using “zots” – tiny glue spots. The design of the branches that overlaps with the bird is cut out so that the overall design is not too intricate and each birds colour shows well. A few birds, such as the red one, on the bottom left, are left with the branches criss crossing their colour. It takes a couple of hours and a lot of patience for this stage.
Then the 2 panels of plexiglass are screwed together, fishing line is attached to the top screws so that the piece can be hung and it is ready for delivery. Because plexiglass panels shift in different lights and through different seasons, they need be lived with for a while to be truly appreciated.
Some of the challenges in creating rice paper collages in plexi glass are:
- Can the two pieces of plexi glass be sealed so that there is no condensation in a bathroom? Someone has suggested using acetone and I am going to try this.
- A plexi panel is like a see through shirt- not everything is hidden. I have used rice paper backgrounds but then you lose the beauty of seeing what is really beyond the window.We did cluster birds at the bottom, but this did not work as well as we had hoped.
- Plexiglass is great stuff but it picks up dust and tiny bits of whatever – how to reduce its static qualities?
Each new art piece is an adventure for me. I welcome any knowledge or insights. To see more panels, check out http://poachedeggwoman.ca/galleries/rice-paper-glass-collages/
Having just spent two days playing with paper with others, one day being a collage PLAYshop at the Qu’Appelle Valley Centre for the Arts, and the second day taking place here at the farm (Scrap basket free for all), I can honestly say, I would love to spend a whole week like this. Except I might not still be married! My patient husband had to borrow a chair to sit down to eat lunch, his current reading material was hidden under a scrap basket and his usual paths had detours but he managed with good humour. It is all cleaned up now and I am still married.
Following are photos from the PLAYshop and scrap basket adventure. A few highlights first:
- I liked that we had people from age 9 to over 70, grandmothers and granddaughters, mothers and daughters, aunties and nieces, good friends, people who had come before and people who gave it their first try.
- Joanne brought a beautiful paper wasps nest, and this paper was used for many creations. See if you can spot them.
- We visited but sometimes were so absorbed and other than music in the background all you could hear were so many pairs of scissors as they cut through paper.
- It was November 7th and 8th and “the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all our senses .” (thanks Joni Mitchell). Who could believe this weather in November? The sun was so bright I was uanble to get a picture of Sunday morning’s scrap basket crew.
- On Saturday, we got to pop in at the pop up market!!
At a collage PLAYshop, paper is everywhere. Large sheets are displayed on laundry racks, rolls on window sills, trays of coordinated colours – old wrapping paper, candy wrappers, envelope linings, you name it. Some of the paper is textured, some translucent, some brilliant and many hued, some flecked with gold, some shiny, some thin as tissue. The people who come to a PLAYshop already love paper. I ask them to begin by picking the paper that calls their name, the paper that brings their hand to their heart, the paper that won’t leave them alone…Sometimes people come with a plan but a piece of paper takes them in another direction. Occasionally, two pieces of paper lying in a particular suggest idea. Magical scrap baskets which contains yesterday’s rejected bits of paper are somebody else’s inspiration.
Tania started with transluscent paper but found she could not stay away from bold and brilliant colours. As she created whimsical jars of preserves to keep her spirit strong over winter, she asked us all “What would you preserve?” A prairie fall day, the hope of a rainbow, saskatoon berries, the buzzing of bees on sunshine… sometimes just a brilliant colour (the new green of spring) or a piece of paper that simply could not be resisted.
I have enjoyed thinking about what we preserve and what we let go. Just today, I dug carrots – some will go in the cold room and we will enjoy this delicious root vegetable in another season. Maybe I will think of the smell of rotting apples and freshly turned over soil which I enjoyed as I dug them. Some of the carrots, I ate raw today, with a little dirt clinging to them, the freshness of their taste mouthwatering, their crunch loud!!
Preserves are meant to be tasted and enjoyed at some point. They are not meant to stay in their jars forever. Jellies and relishes, jams and salsas…. their colours, tastes, smells take us back to the warmth and abundance of late August.
Much of the paper collage art I create will not endure – the paper will fade, disintegrate, get torn. What matters most to me is the completely absorbed and happy world I inhabit while creating. Added benefit: Maybe for a few days or a few years, the piece will give someone pleasure.
Sometimes the art we hang becomes so familiar that we no longer really see it. The rice paper pieces are often in flux – they catch our attention as the light changes during the day, as the colours outside our windows change from green to oranges and yellows, browns and finally dazzling whites and purples and blues. The translucence of the rice paper sends shadows to our walls as the sun moves across the sky. They look completely different at night, especially from the outside of your home. The art itself is ephemeral, a glimmer, a sheen, always shifting.
In a sense each of us who created something at the PLAYshop were “putting up preserves” for a winter day. For Janet, the vision of dragonflies on a summer day.
For Liz and Karen, a flower garden that can offer light and colour on winter’s coldest day.
For Darlene, the elegance of a tiny perfect golden flower and birds in flight.
For Jocelyn, a fanciful hummingbird.
For Tania, the abundance of her own amazing imagination – taking form in jars of preserves., some of the jars unable to contain all their contents, bursting with possibility, and sometimes even with flight…
As I accept invitations to create art with different groups of people, I notice that I am really exploring. I am trying to figure out the ways that I want to move art out and into the world, and to learn which ways don’t work so well for me.
Take the recent Cathedral Village Arts Festival. I had a sense that I wanted to be a part of it somehow and an even stronger sense that I did not want to be a vendor and have a booth. So, I invited myself to two different places.
The first was Westminster United Church, located on 13th Avenue and a vital part of the Saturday street fair, hosting the first ever Saskatchewan on line art auction, 5 musical concerts and a pancake breakfast. Minister Darrell Reine offered me the “multi purpose room” and I liked the feel of it and decided to show some art and have a space for people to play with paper, called “PaPer Play”. The second place I invited myself was the Paper Umbrella, that beautiful and inspiring shop on 13th Avenue. Some of my rice paper bird panels hang in the windows there, so owners Theresa and Brad, said I could come between 2 and 4 to create paper birds with anyone who wished to stop by.
a panda, a bat and a bird
All in all, about 100 people came, only a fraction of the mobs out on the street. Some of them were indeed able to take their time looking at the art. A few surprised themselves by creating paper creatures. A man with a headache came in to rest while his teenage children created birds. Another person came in and said… “Phewf, an art haven.” People came to rest while an energetic spouse checked out the Art Auction. Our small corner did have a haven like feel about it.
Early in the afternoon, I made my way down to the Paper Umbrella with my basket of paper scraps, scissors and glue.I could barely make my way through the crowd!! It was a beautiful day and it was wonderful to see so much colour, collective joy, occasional exhaustion, so much life on the street. Brad set me up at a table with – yes, an umbrella, but not a paper one – at the Paper Umbrella. A few stools, a very comfortable office chair with wheels that had me rolling backwards. This kept things exciting!! I began to do what I love to do – make paper birds. The river of people flowed by. Would anyone stop, I wondered? Maybe not….That’s okay, I told myself. You can be zen, and in this street of constant motion and stimulus, that could be a good thing. Then, a couple of families stopped by. They were totally keen to create paper birds, and so they did, happily, standing up, sitting on high stools, sharing glue and scissors. It briefly rained. The sun shone again. The wind blew some scraps down the street. More families stopped. To my great delight, my friend Cindy and her daughter Anieka’s found us. They had wheeled through the throngs all the way from Westminster Church where Cindy had expected to find me. It got really hot. The glue in the glue sticks melted. So after one hour in the limelight, with glue that was no longer serviceable, I made my way back to the calm and quiet art haven at Westminster Church. Grateful for the quiet. Happy to be far from the crowd. Happy also about the crowd and high spirits.
The day wasn’t totally successful – at least not according to my expressed hopes. I did not get as much exposure as I hoped. It was a learning day, with much to reveal about how I am most comfortable moving my art into the world. For a number of people of all ages, the room in the church was a place for focused and quiet play, a place to sit and rest, a contemplative space, a bit of an escape. I wondered if that was exactly right, and if next year, providing a quiet space in all the hubbub might be my best contribution?
The small write up in the packed Cathedral Village Arts Festival booklet might read something like this: Sue’s Art Haven: Step off the beaten track and away from the crowd for a few moments. Enjoy soft music in a room filled with art to nurture the soul. Come simply to sit and relax or come and create a paper creature from Sue’s extensive collection of wonderful papers- washi, tissue, candy wrappers, cigarette foils, wrapping paper. For all ages. Free. At Westminster Church, go south on Cameron Street and take the first door in. Up the stairs and you are there.
First, I bought the paper. Last piece in the store. A vivid luminous green just like the spring we know is coming….someday. Couldn’t leave that paper alone….I saw a tree in that paper, a tree with the roots showing. I took out the scissors and followed the patterns on the paper, and slowly, cut out a tree. Next came birds in the tree. First try, the branches obscured the birds too much and as my favourite art critic, Jessie, said, “Mum, that really sucks.” She was right!! But the birds persisted…. that tree was calling for BIRDS!! With some birds, I recreated the branches with a lighter green rice paper so the branches would not be so overwhelming. With others, I took the branch right out of the tree showing the bird’s colours boldly. Time after time, I turn the tree over and hold it up to the light….the tree is different on each side.Sometimes I am surprised!
A few weeks previous, I had Glacier Glass cut a variety of sizes of plexiglass. When I picked them up, I was amazed as one piece was huge (30″ x 42″) – certainly the biggest piece I have worked with so far. “What was I thinking?” I wondered. “Where will I store it?” I hid it under the couch. Turns out that this piece is exactly the right size for this tree!!
Next step is to put the tree on plexi glass with tape and add more birds and branches before I can apply the special glue used with plexiglass.
“Tree”is complete. large and unwieldy as it is, I take it out to photograph it!! It blows off everything. So, finally, I lay it in the grass.
Then I lean it against the barn door and get some photos, inside and out!!
Next stop – the Paper Umbrella in Regina!
It is a big step moving from flying birds to a flying dragon. I am grateful for LeeAnn’s encouragement and Eric Carle’s amazing art. Hmmm…polka dot belly – NOT the effect I was looking for. Looks more like a nursery room dragon that the mischievous, slightly vampish dragon I was hoping to create for LeeAnn.
Back at it… a few months Later (April 11, 2014)
I wasn’t sure about the polka dots or how I would do the red scales, so the dragon had a break. In the meantime, the unfinished dragon and LeeAnn met each other.