Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Backstory Next Chapter

I had hoped to complete all of my backstory during the course of the summer, but if I plan on keeping that promise to myself I have a lot of catching up to do!
When I last wrote I spoke of changes afoot.  I decided that I wanted to pick up a few classes at a local university, some things that would help me take my design ability up a notch or 2. So I enrolled as a "non-traditional" student and signed up for 2 classes, Color Theory and principles of Design.  I figured I could apply both of these to my quilt design. The year was 1990 and my son was just 19 mos old and my daughter was in elementary school. I would drop her off, head up to school ( an hour away) and be back in time to pick her up. 
 As it turned out, these were the best 2 starter classes I could have chosen, I LOVED them!  At the end of the semester, my professor approached me and said" I would like to see you apply to go out for the Fine Art program, I think you have what it takes to be really successful.  "Who Me? Are you talking to me? Really????  It would entail getting a portfolio ( Oh yes, say it's true!) together of my work and submitting it for review along with the application.   Happily I was accepted.
The thing that separated the Art degree from a Fine Art degree was the degree of work involved! Each semester I had to do an independent study that i received no credit for but which was required.  My Area director as he was called, told me he would like to see me advance my design ability by either making non traditional quilts or make traditional quilts in a non traditional way.  What??? He suggested I sew quilts out of paper or something like that.  Uhh, I don't think so, not for me. But I pondered the suggestion over the summer and came up with an idea of my own. I would make quilts out of my own handmade paper. 

Transforming from traditonal to non traditional
In those days not much was available concerning handmade paper and the books that i had to search and learn from were very old and very few.   Step by step i experimented with different materials,  tweaking and refining my methods until I found what worked.  My first piece looked like a sheet of dryer lint!  Once I hit on the process I was off and running. The designs and ideas were just flowing through me and i couldn't realize them fast enough.

At the end of my second year in school, my area director told me he felt I deserved a show of my own and arranged for me to meet with the gallery curator who agreed. I was set to have a show of my own at the start of the new school year in the university gallery.

Please forgive the quality of these pix as they are scans of the originals taken at that time.

It was my so called 15 minutes of fame. The local TV stations came and interviewed me, articles were written in the local papers. I was entering shows and winning ribbons, it was all very exciting. And very exhausting. I was being torn between following my ambitions and keeping my attentions on my young family.

I wasn't willing to compromise on anything.  I was trying to juggle being the perfect mother, wife, housewife and artist.  It was only a matter of time before I hit the proverbial breaking point.  I was set to start my 6th semester when I came to the decision to stop going to school. It was 1993, My son was about to turn 4 and would only have one year before he was in school full time and I felt I was going to regret not being home with him more.  It wasn't the amount of time I was attending school, it was the demands to do all the extra work. I was distracted half the time with projects and reports and homework so that even when i was here i really wasn't all here with them.  It was one of the hardest decisions i have ever made in my life and to this day a part of me regrets the decision i made. Not because i chose my family over my own ambitions, but because when i was there I felt i was in my element, I belonged there. I belonged to be doing what i was doing. I was good at it. I left school with a 4.0 GPA.

I continued to learn and create on my own. I was a member of the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria and was juried into many shows, winning ribbons and a place in what was known as the Bin Gallery there.  Every month a friend of mine from school and i would go out there, work the jurying process for our membership and come back home the same day.  I did handmade paper, silkscreen prints, Polaroid image transfers, art quilts, Ukrainian eggs, & porcelain dolls. I went into the schools and taught what i knew, handmade paper and Ukrainian eggs to classes from second grade to high school. I always taught my children any new skill I had acquired.  Both of them won acclaim with their image transfers and photography.

It wouldn't be long before the winds of change would blow through my life again.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Laura! How fascinating...I just love reading your "back story" and learning more about you, and how you came to where you are today. What an accomplishment...your art background and being featured in your own show...and then The Torpedo Factory! Of course I know of it...and always wondered who those amazing artists were/ I "know" one!! Looking forward to reading more....


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