2015 National Mature Media Award WINNER

2015 National Mature Media Award WINNER
The Creative Landscape of Aging Wins a NMMA Award!

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Monday, December 31, 2012

Embracing Gratitude and Creating Happiness

Want to be healthier? Learn how to be happy.

Want to be happy? Learn how to be grateful.

Happiness is free and possible for everyone to lure it, capture it, treasure it, and revel in it. Sought after by rich and poor, young and old, healthy and infirm, happiness is an intoxicating experience because it allows us to see the world around us through a positive lens. It is a combat tool for depression and coping with every day struggles in life. We feel more in control and will likely assume more responsibility when our mood is elevated. “Instead of narrowing our actions down to fight or flight as negative emotions do, positive ones broaden the amount of possibilities we process” says Shawn Anchor in his book The Happiness Advantage “making us more thoughtful, creative and open to new ideas.”

Gratitude is a sure fire path to happiness. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, says that gratitude is “many things to many people” and is “a kind of meta-strategy for achieving happiness.” It is an acknowledgement, an affirmation of our self in relation to other people and situations. Even Oprah talks about the ways she manages to sustain gratitude in her life. She understands its importance is beyond material things: “You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you're aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots.” Inspired by Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book Simple Abundance, Oprah kept a daily gratitude journal where she wrote 5 things she was grateful for each day. Sarah calls them “heart reflections” and encourages attention to the small details in your life. It could be as simple as recognizing the beauty of a leaf, a stranger holding the door for you, the taste of a delicious dessert, having a good night sleep. It transforms your psyche and builds a positive inner mode of expression.  Sometimes gratitude is also a response to a negative event that has not fully impacted you. For example if you tripped and fell, you can be grateful that you did not break any bones, if you passed a test you can be grateful that you did not fail it, if you chose a lackluster recipe to make for entertaining friends, you can be grateful that you planned other tasteful dishes for the gathering.
Many people who have faced crisis turn to gratitude to change their lives in a new direction. Dana Jennings writes about his recovery from prostate cancer: “Living in the shadow of cancer has granted me a kind of high-definition gratitude. I’ve found that when you’re grateful, the world turns from funereal gray to incandescent Technicolor.” In fact gratitude is important in alleviating stress and depression because it builds emotional and physical wellness.
Dr. Robert Emmons author of the book "Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier” and one of the founders of Positive Psychology,  has been studying gratitude for more than a decade. He conducted the first major scientific study on gratitude to show how it can significantly change people’s lives. He demonstrated that people who consistently practice grateful thinking experience the rewards emotionally, physically and interpersonally. It impacts our psyche.  In the Journal of Gerontology, researchers studying memory in elderly individuals found that those who read a cheerful newspaper article about aging and memory did much better than the subjects who read a pessimistic article.

So the results are clear. Spending your energy practicing gratitude will lead to a rise in happiness that will generate a cascade of benefits; quite simply a better life. 

As Alice Herz Sommer, the 109-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor, says “I know about the bad but I look at the good.”

 

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
John F. Kennedy

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others. Cicero

 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

An Interview with MITCH LYONS: Artist, Founder of Clay Printing

                                                photograph by Carson Zullinger


Mitch is a very talented artist and also a pioneer.  He developed a unique technique of creating two dimensional art using clay called Clay Printing  As the inventor and a clay aficionado, he has mastered the elements of this process while, at 74 years old, he continues to explore more and more of its potential.


When did you first start working in clay? Where was it? What type of art were you making prior to working with clay?

My artistic career started while I was a student at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia [previously called Philadelphia College of Art]. While I was a printmaking major. sometime in my Junior year, I wandered down to the basement where I witnessed magic. For the first time in my life I saw someone throwing on the potters’ wheel, and as they say "it was love at first sight". I knew then and there that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.


Can you describe the clay printing technique/process?

Printing with colored clay is a printing process that uses a slab of wet clay as the matrix, and china clay slip with organic pigments as the "ink". The slip is applied to the wet slab using a variety of techniques, i.e., slip trailing, stenciling, stamping, etc. to develop the design. A wooden rolling pin "the press" is rolled over a dampen paper that pulls a thin layer of colored clay from the matrix. Many mono prints can be pulled from the same slab without re-charging the slab.
 

How did you transition from classic 3D ceramics to 2D clay printing?

For me, and this has been true my whole artistic career, making clayprints and clay pots are the same. I never felt that I transitioned from 2D to 3D. All the techniques that I have developed over the last 45 years are the same for either. If push came to shove I will say that I am a potter making prints.


What was the evolution of your clay printing techniques over the years?

When I first started making clay prints in 1968, I was more structured in my thinking. First I thought that I needed an absorbent surface like paper to apply to the wet clay slab. For 12 years I experimented with paper [1968 to 1980] with some success. My images where also very structured and more conservative, less abstract. Around 1979 I found myself in a fabric store and noticed a roll of Pellon hanging from the ceiling. I inquired about it and was told that it was non- absorbent and figured it would not work for me. But I purchased a yard of it and went home and immediately stuck it in my print drawer and forgot about it. Probably about 6 months later I pulled it out and tried it. It worked, and worked much better then I imagined. What was going on here? This experience was a pivotal change in my direction to develop clay printing. While researching this change I discovered that Pellon, used for the clothing industry, has a slight static charge built into the fabric. This charge helps "pull" clay from the slab because clay also has a charge. One has a negative charge and one has a positive. All of this change slowly permeated my way of thinking more about the process than the product. This helped me get out of my comfort zone and try working "without a net". Many new ideas and changes occurred during this time, i.e., using pastels, transfers slips from paper, mark making using tools and textures.


You use special paper for printing. Can you describe the properties that make it important?

After I discovered the benefits of Pellon then I went to the internet to find out more about the static charge. This led me to the Non-Woven industry, which is not used for clothing, but for filtering,i.e., air conditioning, water, vacuum bags, coffee fitter, and in 1985 Swiffer. The materials that I have been using is called Reemay. It is primarily used for air conditioning and water filtering.


You teach this techniques in workshops all over the country and abroad. What is the response to your workshops?

For about 30 years I have been teaching ClayPrinting all over the world. I have taught approximately 300 workshops since 1983 and probably over 2000 students. In addition I have sold about 2000 of my DVD's: The Art of ClayPrinting with Mitch Lyons. On the internet, the search for Clay Monoprints, finds about 2 dozen sites that show past student's work. Although there are not many clayprinters out there, I always get positive results from students who take my workshop. Clayprinting is still new to the art community. The word is spreading but very slowly. I think the response is great, but would like it to be    far greater.


As an artist, do you have an upcoming exhibition; are you in collections?

Currently I have an exhibition in The Old Jewish Art Center in Philadelphia which ends this November. Another exhibition is in Brad Smith's studio right after Thanksgiving, and for the first two weekends in December I will have my annual OPEN STUDIO, which will celebrate our 27th year.

My work can be found in many personal collections as well as some major museums. Brooklyn Museum of Art, Delaware Art Museum, Noyse Museum and also in university collections: University of Delaware, Bradley University, American University, and others.


What new techniques are you working with and what is your vision for clayprinting going forward?

Recently I have been experimenting with the computer to add digital images to my clay prints. I have also begun to print on various grades of sandpaper and play with the idea of using decals to the clay print. After over 40 years of printing with clay I am still very excited about the technique. I must say that I am blessed that I not only found a wonderful way of working but it also perfectly fits my personality. Not sure where this will take me but I am getting out of the way so it will.
 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

BASIC CRAFT TECHNIQUES: FROM ORDINARY TO EXTRAORDINARY


It started in a simple way. We were small and eager to learn how to make things. Basic craft skills that we were taught: gluing, knotting and wrapping produced amazing results to our young eyes and so easy to do. Yet as older adults, those once amazing techniques now may seem more banal, dull and elementary.

However for those with physical or cognitive issues, these basic craft techniques remain powerful ways to explore creativity. Although these people are often guided in projects that have minimal challenge yielding results that are also minimally interesting; this can be changed in ways that do not add complexity but does enhance results.

The first example of gluing which, by itself, is taken for granted because it is used so frequently. And then there is the magic of decoupage. Its origin is from Siberia with a 12th century migration to China, and has been used in a wide variety of products. Starting with papers that could be found in the home (magazine pages, wrapping paper, and pictures) and Mod Podge glue, this is an inexpensive and easy craft that thrives on imagination.  Papers are placed single layer or multi layered on a porous surface (eg. wood, cardboard, canvas) to attractively decorate anything from a greeting card to a chest of drawers. With encouragement, curiosity and a flexible eye, these papers can produce unique patterns and color combinations that are hard to visualize in advance and so much more exciting to watch as it develops.

Knotting is a primitive technique and can be traced to 10,000 years ago.  Now we know the art of knotting as macramé and it also can be interpreted in the forms of knitting and crocheting.  There are opportunities to use basic knots to create simple projects that are exciting to develop.  For older adults with issues, a thicker element that is soft to the touch (eg. nylon) may be easier to work with than some fine hemp. One can also add beads and make a belt, bag or holder for a plant hanging.  In our everyday lives, we know that a men’s tie must be knotted to be worn and a hammock is a knotted fabrication for outdoor “seating”.  Artists have also used knotting in creative ways  for home items:  an artful chair designed by MarcelWanders is covered in epoxy resin for strength. Merrill Morrison works in a different way. She is an extraordinary fiber artist who works with small knots and says  "There is nothing like the tactile feel of the threads, as well as the rhythm of making knot after knot, until my shape takes form. I often incorporate beading to add luster and texture, which allows me a multitude of possibilities in surface embellishment."

And finally, wrapping is a wonderful way to combine elements and/or cover surfaces. If an element is wrapped in a linear way, it produces a effect called coiling and the coiling can be translated to an artful product to create anything from fashion accessories to sculpture. The late fiber artist Judith Scott was deaf, mute and had Downs Syndrome yet made amazing sculptures by wrapping diverse elements together. These sculptures are collectibles and now sell for many thousands of dollars. Another fiber artist, Sheila Hicks used coiling to create huge installations of art. She was the first fiber artist to take this very basic technique and elevate it in her art.

These basic craft techniques (and many others) require a short learning curve but the possibilities are endless.

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for. - Georgia O'Keeffe

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Guiding Creativity Workshops Using Crafts for Older Adults


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Creativity Matters blog is licensed under a Creative Commons AAttribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at agingandcreativity.blogspot.com


I am providing a session titled: The Creative Experience- Profiles of Courage and Passion on Tuesday, October 2nd  at the 2012 Regional Conference on Aging hosted by the Philadelphia Corporation of Aging in Philadelphia. . The following information focuses on Creativity Workshops using Crafts and is an excerpt from that presentation.

In general, I recommend that the leader assess projects for these attributes to provide a successful workshop.

        Interesting: Materials should trigger curiosity and encourage  willingness to engage

        Engaging: Materials/project keeps participants involved

        Clear Objectives: Explanation of tools, techniques and goal; Guidance NOT Duplication of examples shown

        Success Driven: Encourage satisfaction and completion

        Socially Supportive Community: Community and  individual respect

        Project Appropriate for Participants with respect to:
        Gender
        Physical ability
        Cognitive issues
        Psychological concerns
To encourage safe crafting, it is important to develop projects with attention to these guidelines:
        No Sharp Tools
        No Precision
        No Tiny Pieces
        No Lengthy Projects
        No Complex Directions
       No Difficult Learning Curve
Examples of techniques that may be considered in a project include:
        Wrapping
       Weaving
        Knotting
        Threading
        Gluing
        Cutting (with assistance/supervision if appropriate)
        Stamping
        Rubbing
       Tearing
The participants are likely to realize positive results because the workshop experience:
 
        Builds knowledge of
        Materials
        Techniques
        Increases
        Self Esteem
        Socialization
        Fosters
        Independence
        Problem Solving
        Expands
        Creative Capability
        Confidence
For additional information or speaker and/or workshop requests, please contact Judith Zausner at Judith@caringcrafts.com
"Arts  and aging is neither about arts, nor just about aging. Rather, it is about creativity and positive engagement—that is, creativity as both a goal and a process for shaping the self and society.“
-Steven T. Dahlberg
International Centre for Creativity & Imagination
 

Friday, August 31, 2012

For Veterans: Art Making and Transformation

There are many hurdles in life and, for veterans, many of these hurdles seem insurmountable. The war zone has scorched traumatic memories in their psyche that may sit buried and unreachable. Fortunately now there are innovative support groups that provide a cathartic relief through creativity.

Combat Paper, a New Jersey non profit, is an extraordinary program that travels around the country to help veterans’ relieve their stress from the effects of war. It fully embraces a creative process in three stages. Starting with “Deconstructing”, the veterans bring in their worn combat fatigues for shredding to begin the paper making process, then the shredded small fabric pieces are pulverized to produce paper pulp which begins the “Reclamation” process. They get to reclaim their uniforms as paper. The third stage is “Communication” because when the paper is dry, they can write poetry or draw images on it to communicate their feelings and/or stories.

As they are go through this transformation process of their uniforms and internally themselves, each person is encouraged to talk and share their war experience with facilitators who also have military backgrounds. For most of these veterans, it is the first time they have spoken about traumatic events from the combat zone. Since the workshops are closed sessions for veterans only, they feel safe to open up and process emotions and memories that have previously been untouched. This is a community of veterans helping other veterans to heal with psychologically, emotionally and physically through a creative journey of inner exploration.

Drew Cameron, an Iraq war veteran and talented artist, co-founded Combat Paper in 2007 with his idea to “liberate the rag”. He says "The story of the fiber, the blood, sweat and tears, the months of hardship and brutal violence are held within those old uniforms. The uniforms often become inhabitants of closets or boxes in the attic. Reshaping that association of subordination, of warfare and service, into something collective and beautiful is our inspiration."

With the success of Combat Paper, other organizations have formed to support veterans’ healing through art. Warrior Writers Project is a Philadelphia based non-profit that is a “community of military veterans, service members, artists, allies, civilians, and healers dedicated to creativity and wellness”. There is emphasis on writing although they also encourage other mediums such as painting, photography. To expand their reach, Warrior Writers also offers trainings, retreats, exhibitions, performances and alternative healing practices that include massage and yoga. They have recently published their third anthology After Action Review, which showcases more than 100 veteran poems, creative writing and art.

Inspired by Combat Paper and Warrior Writers, in March 2011, Veterans in The Arts, a Minneapolis based organization, began offering classes. Their direction includes literary, visual as well as musical initiatives. Although new to this approach of creative healing, they have already received the support of ten art partners to build on their mission.

Being deployed overseas will generate feelings of loss of family and friends but it is very difficult to predict what experiences the soldiers come back with. These organizations strive to heal those wounds through sharing, art making and heart felt support.


Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.
Helen Keller

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Optimizing the Patient Doctor Relationship

Relationships matter. Good relationships have a mutual investment in time, energy and compassion. It’s the way we express our involvement and when, over time, the scale tips out of balance, the relationship falters. It may be intentional but it’s always a shift that benefits from communication.

So even though we maintain many different relationships, what we expect from our dry cleaner is not what we would expect from our best friend. Yet all relationships are invisibly tethered by an agreement of respect and a willingness to interact.

Our patient-doctor relationship holds these same principles. In addition to respect, there is deep seated trust because we are seeking his/her professional expertise in our personal health care. This is an important relationship yet why do some people fail to take responsibility for it? Why respond passively, inaccurately or impatiently when you can actively engage with your physician and participate in your own care?

Dr. Don Friedman recommends that patients do away with their sense of powerlessness and advocate on their own behalf. “There is a therapeutic sense of control”, says Dr. Friedman, “when a patient participates in his health care”.

He suggests 4 approaches to maximize your doctor visits:

1. Prior to your office visit, make a list of all the questions you need to ask and all the information you need to share.
2. Be sure to express your concerns about your medical issues. If your doctor doesn’t know about them, your doctor can’t help.
3. Clarify your understanding of all aspects of your illness: lab results, symptoms, life style changes, etc. Ask if you need more information.
4. Understand the instructions you are given and the responsibilities you have for managing your treatment. Repeat the instructions back to your doctor to ensure you’ve interpreted them correctly.

This is common sense yet sometimes our inner self makes it difficult while our outer capacity for organizing can also be an issue. So create tricks for yourself to get in the game of having a proactive relationship with your health. Keeping a journal helps with both the inner and outer turmoil. Decorate it, flag it; stream your thoughts, doodle. Personalize it in a way that makes it important to you and provides positive feelings each time you make an entry. Make sure that it is in a place that is easily accessible. It will be helpful to create a separate section for health notes and remember to always bring it on visits to your doctor.

Learn to be an advocate for yourself; you deserve the good results.

As Albert Schweitzer, the Nobel Prize winning physician said:
The witch doctor succeeds for the same reason all the rest of us doctors succeed. Each patient carries his own doctor inside him. They come to us not knowing this truth. We are at our best when we give the doctor who resides within each patient a chance to go to work.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

REUSE, REPURPOSE, RECREATE

There are second lives. Not for us but for tangible items in our lives.

Many of us fill our homes with beautiful things that we love. But that love can expire; things get old, worn out, broken, boring and then tossed out and replaced by new beloved items. It’s a cycle that is both cathartic and potentially wasteful.

So it is exciting and inspiring to witness the movement that interprets things to transform it from its original state. Some processes are simple to approach. In my world teaching creativity workshops, we use empty toilet paper rolls to make napkin rings, paper clips to make necklaces, cut fruit for stamping designs and assorted old magazines for collage,decoupage, and paper beads. While others may require more skill and tools, they all encapsulate a vision that flexes to see things differently.

In Paraguay where a violin is worth more than a house, the Landfillharmonica was created to use recycled materials to make them in to functional musical instruments to play beautiful music. This is extraordinary and inspiring.

In general, there are basically two groups: one group uses things to repurpose them in to functional pieces while another group creates nonfunctional items in art.

Examples in the functional realm:

• Don’t throw out that old bicycle until you have thought about transforming its parts into a chair, table or bookshelves.:
• A coffee shop made of shipping crates and, yes, it's a Starbucks.is a great architectural feat • Using just the bottoms of old plastic water bottles, a beautiful chandelier is born http://inhabitat.com/recycled-water-bottle-cascade-chandelier/
• Harvesting mushrooms in recycled coffee grinds was made into a big business by two young college graduates, Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, who turned down lucrative job offers to pursue entrepreneurship.
Stuart Haygarth creates exceptional chandeliers that are made of found objects from plastic bottles to beach debris to eyeglass frames.
• Old tube tires are used as a fabulous source for fashion accessories produced by Hope for Women which sells handcrafted fair trade products made by economically disadvantaged women worldwide.
A bicycle made from cardboard was created by an Israeli inventor who was inspired by seeing a canoe made of paper.
Plastic waste from fishermans' excursions are transformed to create furniture.
Jorge Penades uses leather waste from shoe and automobile industries, for example, and shreds them, adds glue and its set in iron moulds and then glued.
Micaella Pedros, a recent Design graduate, makes furniture joints using discarded plastic bottles by heat shrinking them..

Examples in the art world:
Louise Nevelson- created mammoth “assemblages” made from discarded wood, cans and other materials and uniformly painted them in one color to unify the objects in the sculpture.
Joseph Cornell sought a variety of discarded elements to frame them in boxes that evoke memories, thoughts, curiosity.
John Chamberlain innovatively used crushed and twisted automobile parts to create sculpture that was both colorful and dynamic.
Brian Jungen uses ordinary objects to create extraordinary art. Whether its sports jerseys, sneakers or even golf bags, Brian is masterful at creating new objects that are artful and amazing.
• So much litter is washed ashore from our oceans and now some of it is being reclaimed and transformed into very special art.
An Israeli student of fashion design is using live bacteria to create spectacular prints that are being used in accessories and clothing.
Donna Mc Cullough creatively recycles using artful welding

The movement that reuses, repurposes and recreates ordinary objects enlightens our lives and provides lessons in creativity. These are made by people who look at the world around them with greater flexibility and a unique vision. We benefit from these transformations just as much as our environment benefits from a reduced landfill.

Recycle Reuse Repurpose Recreate RETHINK

The purpose - where I start - is the idea of use. It is not recycling, it's reuse. ---Issey Miyake

One of the best ways to get people to look at artwork is to create it out of materials that they recognize. -Jungen.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Apfel at Age 90: More is More and Less is Simply Less

Forget the old saying “Less is More”. Minimalists thrived on that belief because it validated their art but the contemporary fashion niche embraced by Iris Apfel makes a different statement. Turn your head 180 degrees and open your eyes wide and your mind even wider. There she is; a fashion maverick, an irreverent renegade, a defiant creative spirit and a marvel of exquisite opulence of wearables.

“I’m a geriatric starlet, my dear, don’t you know,” she said “All of a sudden, I’m hot; I’m cool; I have a ‘fan base’.”*

With a rising cult of diverse people spilling around her amazing presence, Apfel is taking her show on the road. The HSN road, that is. Middle America is fascinated and wants this design eccentricity to be a brand in their lives. Naturally much will be in translation. For example, her classic owl shape eyeglasses will be featured in a scarf print and tribal type necklaces are modified with respect to design and price.
Iris was always a fashion maven. “My mother worshipped at the alter of accessories and I got the bug. She always said, if you have a good, little, simple black dress and you have different accessories, you can have 27 different outfits.” So she learned early. “The fun of getting dressed is that it is a creative experience and I never know what it’s going to be.” She assiduously edits her ensembles often wearing a basic architectural type of garment that can be accessorized dramatically. In 2005, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City presented an exhibition about Apfel called Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel. It was so successful that they created a traveling version that could be viewed by other audiences.
“Composing the elements of interior and composing an ensemble are part and parcel of the same thought process” says Apfel. So she was a natural watching her father in his business working with high end mirrors that focused on interiors. This passion for interiors catapulted the careers of Iris and her husband, Carl. Serendipitously they started working with Old World Weavers in search of a certain cloth and then began to travel worldwide looking for both exotic fabrics and historically based designs that could be replicated by these foreign specialty mills. It was through this work that she was asked to consult for the White House interior for Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton.
Married 64 years, she and her almost 100 year old husband wear the same perfume called Yatagan by Caron which is hard to find so they store it in big containers in the refrigerator. They also wear similar round spectacles. An amazing couple, they have been very successful in their fabric business and, despite retirement from Old World Weavers in the 1990s, it’s clear that Iris’s fame is soaring. This radical fashion icon will be featured in an upcoming documentary by Albert Maysles while she continues to design products for various companies and has the magnanimous vision to donate more than 900 pieces from her wardrobe to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.

Iris Apfel is an iconic legend with the bravado and mastery of greatness.

“You only have one trip (one life) so you might as well enjoy it”
Iris Apfel

Monday, April 30, 2012

Origami & Creative Possibilities

Origami is the exquisite trilogy of paper, math and art. It’s recreational play for children and serious play for adults; everyone extracting his/her own purpose and pleasure by engineering forms using old Japanese techniques. Using only paper and without scissors or glue, extraordinary forms from bugs to moose to the more traditional flowers can be created with the understanding of folds. Experts cannot agree about the origins of origami. Some say that it began in the first or second century in China when paper was very rare and the art was therefore reserved for the wealthy. But others trace its roots to the 1600s in Japan. Today, there are online clubs, more formal worldwide associations and about every five years a unique conference is held in a country where people are invested in exploring the art, science and technology of origami at an advanced level that focuses on tessellation algorithms, tree theory and other mathematical approaches. Considered the father of origami because of his important innovations to the craft, Akira Yoshizawa created a bridge from old classic origami to the new contemporary art. He designed the notational system which is a pictorial diagrammatic guide with dots and arrows that documents a piece of origami as a pattern and therefore allows it to be understand and replicated. The technique of wet folding was also developed by Akira and was used for manipulating thick paper. Passionate and prolific, he created more than 50,000 models before his death at age 94. Robert Lang (http://www.langorigami.com) is a great Western master of origami who practices his craft using skills as an artist and an engineer. His large range of work includes both very tiny and very large pieces and among his most inspiring is a 1000 scale snake. By creating a computer program to generate crease patterns, his work truly takes on the infinite possibilities of mastering the crease for art as well as technology. In his TED presentation (http://www.ted.com/talks/robert_lang_folds_way_new_origami.html) , he talks origami based products that have been used successfully in our everyday lives. The concept for all of these is simple: it has to fold small with the ability to expand on release. One example is a heart stent that holds open a blocked artery that was designed by Zhong You and Kaoru Kuribayashi and manufactured in stainless steel. Another product that is used more frequently is the air bag that resides in our car and pops out quickly to expand and protect us when there is a sudden impact. This air pillow has been compressed using folding techniques to minimize its volume on rest. For a visual story, the independent movie Between the Folds beautifully delivers a comprehensive look at origami by showing its complexity, its beauty and the people who make it an art form. Vanessa Gould, the Director, says “At its heart, Between the Folds is a film about potential. The potential of an uncut paper square. The potential of a wild scientific idea. The potential to see things differently”. The transformation of two dimensions to three dimensions can be a transformation of what you believe is possible. Yet, origami is all about creative possibilities. “Origami may someday even save a life.”-Robert Lang

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Reinventing Embroidery: Experimental and Extraordinary Art

New work has emerged that has revolutionized the concept of embroidery as a traditional handcraft. Gone are those little blue “x”s printed on cloth for following an embroidery pattern. These new artists have transformed the basic concept of this craft and have elevated it to an exceptional art form.

Shizuko Kimura is 75 years old. Born in Japan, she studied painting and then received a degree in textiles from the Royal College of Art in London. She uses thread like a pencil to explore the human form and create portraits that are both exquisite in detail and mysterious for missing detail. There’s excitement to her work created by the movements of her threads to capture images that are so extraordinarily graceful that they appear drawn like an old master with pencils and charcoal. Fabric backgrounds are quietly small and solid or elegantly thin transparencies as long banners of organza.

A Yale University and Brooklyn College graduate, and now about 70 years old, Elaine Reichek’s work is in the 2012 Whitney Bienniale. She studied painting when it was a predominantly male centric circle, and then began to explore changing her media to express her art and, as she says “translate information from one form to another”. Using the computer for printing, for Photoshop, for pixilation as well as the computerized embroidery machine, much of her art is technology driven and Elaine explains “The idea of using the computer isn’t incidental to my work, it’s not just a technical shortcut; it’s part of the work’s hybrid character.”

Abstraction that expertly plays with color, form and stitchery thrives in Bette Uscott-Woolsey’s art “With a painters eye I approach textile materials (using mostly heavy silks) incorporating historic textile techniques as well as contemporary painting” says Bette who holds degrees from the University of Wisconsin and New York University. Never hesitating to incorporate different techniques and media, Bette, now in her 60’s, professes that she “loves to work with silk and thread”. This is evident in the splendor and range of her work which has been shown in numerous galleries and featured in many fiber art books.

Another approach to redefining embroidery is the art by Daniel Kornrumpf. He’s a young artist with a MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, and has honed his visual and technical skills to create modest sized and extraordinary embroidered portraits. Using natural linen fabric stretched across a classic painter type frame, he expertly commands a full palette of colored fibers (believed to be the classic embroidery floss) to depict faces that are so densely stitched and complex in tone that one has to look closely to see that it is created with thread and not paint. The subtleties and nuances of both texture and color elevate his art to extraordinary.

These artists are also renegades in their approach to integrate embroidery to the world.

Clyde Olliver “started stitching and making objects in paper and cardboard at around age 6” but it was not until he was in his 40s that he enrolled in art classes and then stone carving and life drawing. Now in his 60s, Clyde says “Much of my work lies between the disciplines of sculpture and embroidery, since typically it consists of stitched slate or other suitable stone.

Laura Splan created a series of “traditional” doilies using computer machine embroidery to depict biomedical complexities.

Christa Maiwald whose embroidered portraits are socio-political commentaries.

Trained in art, many as painters, these fiber artists have utilized the traditional craft of embroidery as a new language in their art. As fiber artists, they have explored, created and launched new approaches using age old embroidery techniques.

Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.
Oscar Wilde

I don't paint things. I only paint the difference between things.
Henri Matisse

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Culinary Greats-Legendary Chefs at age 60+

Food is trendy. It is no longer about TV dinners and microwave popcorn. The following chefs began their journeys many years ago to transform good eating to a fine art, a nutritious experience and big business.

Cecelia Chiang-(91)-Chinese- Raised in a very wealthy family in Shanghai, she was not allowed in the kitchen. As a young woman, Cecelia escaped occupied China and years later traveled to San Francisco to visit her sister. Serendipitously she met a friend there who planned to open a restaurant and then reneged but Cecelia went forward with the lease since she had already written a large nonrefundable check to the landlord on behalf of her friend. And so her restaurant Mandarin began and remained active for over 40 years. Chiang has taught Julia Child, James Beard, Alice Waters, and Danny Kaye.

Madhur Jaaffrey-(79) Indian- Born in Dehli, India, she did not cook at home when she was young and traveled abroad to study in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After marrying she moved to New York City and in 1973, she published her first cookbook, An Invitation to Indian Cooking.She has written numerous cookbooks of Indian, Asian, and world vegetarian cuisines, and has won James Beard Foundation awards for some of her books. As a result of the success, Madhur also developed a unique line of mass-marketed cooking sauces.

Diana Kennedy-(88)-Mexican- Born in the United Kingdom, she arrived in Mexico with her husband who was a New York Times correspondent. She traveled throughout Mexico researching cooking techniques as well as the history of Mexican cuisine. Craig Claiborne urged her to give Mexican cooking lessons in New York City and then in 1972 Diana published her first book The Cuisines of Mexico and 8 more books would follow.

Jiro Ono-(86)-Japanese- Born in Japan, he is considered the world’s greatest sushi chef. After his father left the young 9 year old Jiro left home and never returned. He has been mastering sushi for the past 76 years and now is the subject of a documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Jiro’s tiny restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, is in Tokyo where he holds the Guiness Book of Records title for being the oldest 3 star Michelin chef. Reservations are not easy; you are encouraged to book up to a year in advance with a cash deposit of about $368.00.

Jacques Pepin-(76)- Born in France to restaurateurs, he learned to appreciate food at an early age. In the 1950s he was the personal chef to Charles DeGalle and then moved to the United States in 1959. He has appeared on numerous television shows and received a Daytime Emmy award in 2001 for his show Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home with Julia Child. Today he serves as Dean of Special Programs at the French Culinary Institute, teaches an online class for Boston University and writes a quarterly column for Food & Wine magazine.


Georges Perrier-(69)-French- Born in France and although not from a poor family, he began working at 14 and then moved to the United States when he was 21 years old. In 1970 he opened Le Bec Fin (French colloquial translation: fine palate) in Philadelphia which gained a 5 star reputation and was known as the leader of the "Philadelphia restaurant revolution". In January 2009, the French government awarded Perrier the Legion d'Honneur. In February 2012, Georges announced his retirement from Le Bec Fin by selling it to a former Le Bec manager. George still maintains ownership/interest in other restaurant venues.

Wolfgang Puck-(63)- Born in Austria and trained in France, he learned much of his cooking skills from his mother who had sometimes worked as a pastry chef. At 25, he moved to Los Angeles where, 15 years later he opened the award winning Spago restaurant. Now he has a gastronomic empire under his name which includes over 20 fine restaurants, catering services and more than 80 Wolfgang Puck Express operations, and kitchen and food merchandise, including cookbooks and convenience foods. He is the official caterer for the Academy Awards and his favorite food is macaroons.

Alice Waters-67)– Born in New Jersey, she moved to California to attend college. It was during her study abroad time in France that she began purchasing fresh foods directly and it was this experience that resonated with her and led to the development of her food fresh sustainable beliefs. In 1971 she opened the Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California which quickly became famous for its organic, locally-grown ingredients and is ranked among the World's 50 Best Restaurants. Waters created the Chez Panisse Foundation with a mission to transform public education by using food to teach, nurture, and empower young people. In 1992, Waters was the first woman to be awarded the Best Chef in America by the James Beard Foundation and has received numerous other awards, written about a dozen cookbooks and is a Board member of relevant institutions. Alice is an internationally acclaimed food activist who has inspired the organic food revolution.

The greatest delight the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me and I to them. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Great food is like great sex. The more you have the more you want. -Gael Greene