Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Things My Father Told Me, part 2

Superchicken and his sidekick, Fred  c.1968

"You knew the job was dangerous when you took it."
Superchicken to his sidekick, Fred.

I heard variations on this from my father a lot.  When I almost failed took calculus in college, I called home for some words of wisdom.  I was doing all of the work but wasn't doing well on tests, the professor wasn't very sympathetic (he told me that I couldn't always get A's and B's), and I was completely stressed out at the prospect of a 4-credit D on my transcript.  My father was many things, but a math whiz wasn't one of them.  He listened to my tearful story and then said, "Calculus, hmmm...well, Jacqueline, it's calculus.  You should have known the job was dangerous when you took it."  

Not what I wanted to hear.  But I worked really hard and got a C as a Christmas present from my professor.  I was thrilled because it wasn't a D.

So, as much as I want to whine about how hard it is to get these illustrations done, I can hear my father's voice telling me that I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.  Not what I want to hear.  But then I get back to work.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Introducing Ruby

Years ago, I asked my maternal grandmother how she celebrated Juneteenth when she was growing up.  Juneteenth is celebrated nationwide now, but it started as a Texas holiday commemorating the day in 1865 when the slaves in Texas learned they had been freed.

Gran laughed her lovely, light laugh and told me about going to visit her paternal grandparents in a little town called Littig.  Littig is one of the oldest black communities in Texas.

My great-great grandparents on their farm in Littig
She talked about going to church and having a picnic, and wearing her favorite red overalls.  My Gran was one of the most elegant women I have ever seen, and the image of her as a little girl in red overalls has stuck with me.

That image has inspired me to write a children's book, tentatively titled Ruby in Red.  I plan to have a doll to go with the book.  I have written (and rewritten, and re-rewritten) the text.  That really wasn't so hard.  I have a template for the doll.  That wasn't so hard, either.

Preliminary sketch of Ruby
Pictures, however, that's been a real journey.  I started out wanting to illustrate the book myself with small art quilts, since art quilts is what I do.

It was hard.  I couldn't even start.

I switched to paper collage.  Hard.

Drawing.  Hard.

Asked my husband (also an artist) if he could do it. Hard.

Back to quilts.  Hey, not so hard after all!

Since mid-January I have done 6.  Number 7 is being laid out now.  Onward!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Broad Changes: Women of Social Justice

Fiber Artists for Hope is delighted to announce preparations for our next show, to be called Broad Changes: Women of Social Justice.  The organizing committee explains it this way:  the word "broad" is a feisty reference to women and, combined with "changes," it makes a nice double meaning since broad changes can also simply mean big changes.  Each artist will choose a woman or group of women working for social justice about whom to make a piece.

Cirumcision of Isaac
The circumcision of Isaac
Altar of Verdun, 12th century
I am so excited about this topic; the enthusiasm coming from my sister artists is exhilarating!  I plan to blog occasionally about the making of my piece.  It will be about my daughter who, at age 11, isn't exactly a woman, but is awakening to issues of social justice.  Here is the story:

One night my daughter was working on her religion homework, which focused on the Abraham and Isaac story.  She looked up and asked, "Mom, what's circumcision?" I cleared my throat a few times before giving her a very succinct, straightforward answer.  Subject closed?  Ha! You've never met my daughter.

A few minutes later she asked, "They don't do anything like that to girls, do they?"  Deep breaths.  My choices were to either lie and distract her with ice cream, or have a very uncomfortable conversation.  I went with the uncomfortable conversation and presented the information as clinically as possible, with very little editorializing.  She was horrified.  Horrified and kind of freaked out.

Masai girls
She immediately wanted to know what we could do to end this practice.  We talked about building community support and about cultural sensitivity.  We emailed her teacher, who said she had never had a student ask about that.  She was glad though, that we had had a frank discussion, and offered to talk to my daughter about ways she could help; it turns out her teacher used to work with women fleeing this practice.

We sometimes think that children are only interested in themselves, but I think that sells them short.  This issue meant something to her because girls her age and younger are having this done to them.  Now that she is aware of this, she is deeply concerned about the welfare of girls she will probably never meet.

I am so proud of her.  I hope she likes the piece.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Pain, the Pain!

I usually have my work flat on the table.  Even though I'm not the tallest person in the world (and soon I will be the shortest person in my house), this has created quite a bit of strain on my neck and shoulders while I am leaning forward over a work.

I thought an easel might do the trick, and went to my favorite art supply store to check out their selection.  Unfortunately, they do not have a section called "Small, inexpensive, tabletop easels that can be oriented upright, horizontally, or somewhere in-between for Jackie."  The young man who helped me was great, as always, and was quite sympathetic about the shoulder pain.  He showed me a couple of stretches that might help.

In the meantime, however, what to do?  Then I remembered the bed trays we got as wedding presents.

I got one down and it fit perfectly on my worktable. It even inclines.

Ta-da!  Less strain means more work.