Recently, I found a set of four pen and marker drawings in an old portfolio. Seeing my old apartment in Providence brought the 1976-77 RISD school year back into focus. I remember that we were given an assignment in class to go home and draw all four walls of our rooms.
During my years at RISD, the illustration dept. did not have studio spaces for students, so we turned our bedrooms into our studios. This is the first year I lived outside of a dorm, in an apartment with decent sized rooms. Over the year, I filled up my room with materials and work areas. This was a transitional period in my art, where I was moving away from drawing and painting to 3-dimentional pieces. I was making a lot of dolls, including these Can Can dancers that I can see in the drawing, on the floor. I taught myself how to make dolls with wire armatures, so that they could be posed for photographs. I must have seen some dolls made with stuffed nylon stockings and tried making some myself. At the time, there were no instruction books or classes on this kind of soft sculpture. The school’s textile dept. was more oriented toward weaving and fabric design, which I was not interested in. I wanted to tell a story through my artwork, so I continued taking illustration classes, teaching myself something new with each assignment.
I experimented on my own with materials and techniques, always adapting and changing my approach. Looking back, I can see that working on illustration assignments with a clear deadline, forced me to concentrate on the narrative part of my artwork and kept me from becoming too focused on the process of creating. My goal was to effectively communicate an idea, not just show how well I could sew something. Ironically, the 3-dimentional work was much more time consuming, but it didn’t seem to matter, since I was inspired and having much more fun! I no longer have the Can Can Dancers, but found this photograph.
I brought my trusty Singer Feather-weight sewing machine to school and set up a sewing table. I used this machine for years until I got a Bernina that could do fancy stitches. Today, I rarely get out a machine, but do all stitching by hand.
The table was an old thing of my grandmother’s that I painted orange. It’s still very much in use in my studio today. I got my old sewing machine out of storage to take its picture. It runs forward and back and is good for stitching small things.
A few years earlier, while in high school, I sewed the quilt pictured on the bed on the Singer Feather-weight. It was the first of just a few usable quilts that I’ve made.
I plan on redoing this quilt, taking out the thread ties, putting on a new back and hand quilting the whole thing. The fabrics were all pieces we had in the house, mostly from clothes that my mother, sister and I made.
I can identify many things in this drawing, the stereo speakers, my red hat, flood lights, rolls of paper, and the rug hanging on the wall. My mother gave me this beautifully woven wool rug and it seemed too nice to put on the floor.
I still have the rug, which I now keep on the floor in my studio.