ACrafty Interview with Arlee Barr – Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of this fascinating ACrafty Interview with Arlee Barr, textile and quilt artist. Arlee’s responses are so engaging that the interview was split into two parts! Here’s a link to Part 1, if you missed it or would like to refresh your memory.

acrafty interview - arlee barr ecoprint triptychs

I took a look at some of your first Flickr uploads from 2005. How would you say that your work has changed over the last eight years? AB: There was a long period where i lost myself, literally and figuratively, in the explosion of “mixed media” where every colour was used, every texture, every technique, every found and bought object with every commercial product imagined. The only thing that held it all together for me, however weakly, was the fabric that was the base i worked from, and the fact that suddenly i was making something that was not wearable, that didn’t have to fit anyone, but that was possibly art. When i discovered natural dyeing and other organic cloth marking methods, my whole approach changed. Initially even with these elemental fabrics, i used a fair bit of machine work, then slowly moved into just hand embroidery, finding that the look while more delicate appearing, was quite strong and unifying. As i continue to “find the image” in the unique marks inherent in the process of staining or dyeing, they are becoming works with an amalgam now of machine and hand. I use a lot of free motion embroidery as it can be very gestural, using those areas as either accent or a base to build on with hand embroidery. When i was first doing hand embroidery in my 20’s, i knew only of satin stitch and french knots, but now i prefer cleaner lines and the effects from simple stitches with a few fancies thrown in along the way for texture. I let the fabric move as it will (i loathe embroidery hoops) and with those basic stitches used experimentally, can control the depth of manipulation and the resulting texture.

I’ve pared down my colour use, and refuse to use “technique driven” response as art. It’s not important to show the kitchen sink in everything you create. As i get older, and ironically, my eyesight poorer, i focus literally and figuratively more on the details.

acrafty interview - arlee barr the difference between a plum

 

acrafty interview - arlee barr wild rose series

Has an art project ever challenged you in an unexpected way? AB: I’m currently working on a large project (“Anno Suturae”, 48×72”) that i initially thought would take a year. As it turns out, it’s evolving into 2 years at least, and will have to be pluralized! All hand worked, it’s incorporating things i’ve learned or are still testing with hand stitch. Because hand work takes a lot of time, trying to divide my attention for work that will be seen and work that is intensely personal, has been hard.

How has art affected your character? AB: I’ve evolved into more of an intuitive maker than a deliberate product artist. I’ve learned patience, perseverance and a more critical eye to what i am expressing and how i utilize needle and thread to externalize that. Patience first and foremost is what you have to have as an artist: patience for the process, the technique and most of all your own satisfaction and soul. Patience is trust, learning to find your own voice and knowing your instincts are right.

Can you share a story about how your art has affected others? AB: When i created “Mother’s Heart”, i received a lot of messages about how heart issues of all sorts had affected people’s lives. From poignant memories of of loved ones and their subsequent death, to a painful revelation from a former nurse, to feelings of revulsion and anger, i had no idea of how it would be perceived by others: i had intended only to show Mother Nature as i saw her, with the use of naturally dyed and ecoprinted fabrics and hand stitch. She’s a force, and one that directs all doings and it was an homage to her, rather than a representation of the body or health issues. A fascinating lesson in interpretation!acrafty interview - arlee barr mother's heart

What do you have coming up in the future? Why is it appealing to you? AB: The future is now! I’m striving to create a body of work as it gives continuity and purpose to my life, and am hoping to finalize a solo show in the next year. A few years ago i was ready to throw in the towel and never make anything ever again–my dear Greyman was explicit in his words “if you quit being an artist, you will go crazy–and so will i!” It made me realize that having been creative all my life, that there was no stopping at any point for any reason. I can’t imagine not making or planning *something*. Even with the immensely destructive June 2013 flooding in Calgary Alberta that affected me personally in my home based studio and emotionally speaking, causing a bit of a “drought” in my creative process, i have found new hope, new work emerging and a stronger appreciation for Mother Nature and the inspiration i find in her.

Much of my imagery and subtexts relate to what is internal to me; i can only hope that someone else can feel what i am saying. Having dealt with mental health issues all my life, i can only say that it is healing, calming and necessary to express myself as i do in this medium. Cloth is soothing to everyone, from birth to death and all the days in between. I do believe that today’s world with all it’s supposed cosmopolitan and sophisticated attitude yearns for a more personal, grounded approach to art, one without heavy concept, overly political statement or existing for sheer prettiness’s sake.

You just don’t quit on yourself!

acrafty interview - arlee barr work in progress

 

Once again, many thanks to Arlee for her participation in this ACrafty Interview series! As she commented on Part 1 of the interview, Arlee was glad for “the opportunity to ‘explain’ [herself].” I think we are all the beneficiaries of her generous insights into her work.

Also once again, thanks to fellow ACrafty Interview subject Betty Busby (original interview and followup) for suggesting that I approach Arlee for the series.

You can follow Arlee’s adventures on her blog, her FacebookFlickr, and her shop

Please note that Arlee does not want any of the images that she provided above copied, Pinned, or used in any way without her permission. An excerpt from her Flickr profile: “Please do not add my photos to your Pinterest without asking me–this violates the copyright clause that say *I* have exclusive right to decide where my work is distributed–my photos are ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.”

Would you like to be a part of the ACrafty interview series? Just contact me! You might also be interested in reading some more ACrafty Interviews with multi-crafter Diane from CraftyPodneedlepointer Haruhi Okubo of Cresus-Parpitatter and chainmailler Jeff Hamiltonpotter Nancy Germondbasketweaver Tina Puckettquilter and pursemaker Linda Martin, and cross stitcher Meredith Cait.

ACrafty Interview with Nancy Germond

Welcome to today’s ACrafty Interview with Nancy Germond, potter for Germond Designs.

freedomWhen did you start crafting? NG: I started crafting when I was really little – my favorite baby sitter used to spend hours drawing with me and my mom taught me to sew back in elementary school. I’ve been crafting since I’ve been walking!

 

 

acrafty interview with nancy germond '70s red birdWhat crafts have you tried and what is your current favorite? NG: I have tried everything from painting to macrame to knitting to decoupage to metal stamping. Clay is my current favorite medium because it is SO versatile and it has allowed me to incorporate many different crafts such as silk screening and painting.

 

Nest with Green EggsWhat is the silliest question you’ve ever received about your craft? NG: I once completed a tile backsplash for a client and she asked if the design would wipe off if she used water… practical question from her perspective but what kind of backsplash would that have been?!

 

 

Nancy Jean & Lima BeanWhat craft project are you most proud of? NG: I am super proud of my most recent sculpture – the inspiration was a 7000 mile road trip towing a 1975 trailer. The sculpture is a self portrait of me, with the wind in my hair, popping out of the top of the trailer’s ceiling (see picture). It’s titled “Nancy Jean and Lima Bean.”

 

 

 

What is your most popular (or bestselling) project? NG: My doodle bowls are very popular and I have many customers who keep growing their collection. Each bowl has a unique design and the size is perfect.
Doodle Bowl Grouping #2

 

Gold Aqua BowlHas a craft or craft project ever challenged you in an unexpected way? NG: Getting organized enough to travel with my art booth was quite challenging – thank goodness I have the Lima Bean! On my first out of state show, my car was packed with my pottery and my tent and shelves were packed into the camper. After my 12 hour first leg of the journey, I pulled into a KOA campground, crawled over the supplies and slept on my little twin bed. The golden rule is NO pottery packed into the trailer – it would end up in many, many pieces after the first bump in the road.

BlackBirdLIteBlueDotsHow has crafting affected your character? NG: Devoting 100% of my time to making art was a huge leap of faith but one I had to take! It can be challenging to make art that you hope someone will like enough to purchase but I’ve learned to trust myself and ‘go’ with it. I constantly quell the thoughts of self doubt and replace them with gratitude, thankfulness and joy at being able to do art full-time. I never have to ‘make’ myself do art – it’s something I always enjoy and ‘must do’ to be happy – like breathing and exercise. This summer, I made the decision to apply to art shows in Colorado so I could escape the crazy Texas heat – I call that ‘creating my own universe’ as well as creating my own art!

Bird and RosesCan you share a story about how your crafting has affected others? NG: After an art show at my house, a good friend of mine decided she could also follow her passion – baking. It’s a great story – Amanda and her mom, Kit started the venture called Tiny Pies. Since starting the company in 2010, they have been written up in Oprah Magazine and recently appeared with Katie Couric. While their success is due to a fantastic product and lots of hard work, I like to think that my decision to follow my passion inspired them.

Navajo Wisdom BowlWhat is the one question you’ve never been asked about your craft that you’ve always wanted to answer? NG: Hmmm – that would have to be “Would you be interested in having your product for sale in Anthropologie?!” followed by “Sorry, we won’t be able to pay you in dollars – would you accept bartering your pottery for our fabulous clothes?”

 

Grasshopper Butter dishWhat crafty goodness do you have coming up in the future? Why is it appealing to you? NG: [Some new pieces made their premier at a show in Salida, Colorado on August 10-11.] I love the interaction with people at art shows – it’s always interesting to see which pieces sell and to whom. I was super excited to sell a grasshopper butter dish to a woman whose husband worked for Grasshopper Mower- how perfect is that?! I am a total extrovert so while I love creating my pottery in my studio, I live for customer interactions at art shows! I am also excited to be back in the studio later in the month; I want to make some little wall plaques to sell at my next show in Durango late September.

Thanks so much to Nancy for participating in this ACrafty interview series! I saw her lovely booth at an art show a few weeks ago and was drawn in immediately. Nancy really struck me with her open and positive attitude and I hope you will be able to meet her and see her lovely works in person!

You can follow Nancy’s adventures on her websiteFacebook, and she’s aiming to really fire up her Etsy shop in September.

Would you like to be a part of the ACrafty interview series? Just contact me! You might also be interested in reading some more ACrafty Interviews with multi-crafter Diane from CraftyPodembroiderer Sasha of What. No Mints?embroiderer Ellen of Schindermania!, the multi-talented David Tedinneedlepointer Haruhi Okubo of Cresus-Parpi, and tatter and chainmailler Jeff Hamilton.