Saturday, March 31, 2012

Close-ups & an Announcement

                     Susannah Fiberchick put in a request for some close-ups 
         and I now have “ Oranges from My Garden” in front of me, so I can oblige.
          Often, the interesting things appear in the details, if one pays attention. 
                                I used acrylics lightly on the background.
All fabric is recycled clothing.
Bits of fabric sewn down and thread painting create the illusion of depth.
                 Of course, here I nearly smack you in the nose with the details.

In addition, I would like to announce my presentation, which is open to the public, at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Title:        "You're Not Modern If Your Women Aren't Modern: 
              From Colonial Feminism to Nationalist Feminism in Tunisia" 

When: April 16 from 4-5pm 
Where: Hodges Library, Room 213. 

I talk about the changing representations of women as seen through women's magazines and how debates about modernity affect women. Here's the publicity picture:
This Tunisian women's magazine cover from 1937 shows an extravagantly dressed servant carrying a woman on a platter, which suggests an Orientalist perspective on the European artist's part. The monkey and the lush foliage contribute to this idea. The rather odd position of the woman on a platter (ready to eat?) also suggests ambivalence toward emancipated women. And I would argue that women still battle that ambivalence today.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Early Birthday Presents

For some reason the National Tunisian Artisans’ Fair occurred at an earlier date this year, so I went to pick out my presents well ahead of my official birthday. This time I went with a friend who has more stamina for shopping than my husband. If you didn’t catch a view of last year’s presents, here they are today:
With such a wet winter I’m surprised the cactus and succulents haven’t keeled over, but they seem to be flourishing.
I planned to seek out similar pots from the same artisan, but was disappointed to find he had nearly doubled his prices and the quality of the designs had gone downhill. Nothing appealed to me. Drat! I should have bought him out last year! He did display several very large pots with lovely designs priced at $300. In my mind, such an object becomes a responsibility and I wouldn’t dare put it in the garden.
          However, numerous talented artists and artisans showed tantalizing wares, beautifully crafted objects in olive wood, tin, copper, silver, mosaic, wrought iron, and textiles. Once again, I looked for the perfect gift in an effort to avoid adding to the multiplying “stuff” at home. Like last year, my birthday present awaited me in the last booth that I visited. And once again a plant container caught my attention.
                           There were several styles of Tunisian vests. 
      This container stands 11”/28 cm high and the back is decorated as well.
Once I set it on a table in the living room, I forgot about planting it. The sculptural aspect is pronounced and appealing. At a cost of $18, I didn’t even bother to bargain.
               Then there was a series of shoe and feet planters on another shelf.
           My apologies if you should find this a bit ghoulish. I found it delightful!
                           The ankle bracelet is a traditional piece of jewelry.
            And this foot even has the designs that are usually done with henna. 
                          It goes well with the shoe-shaped rocks on the table.
                         Do you think my plant will walk away now?

And this brings me to another birthday present: a plane ticket to the States. This is the last year that I leave my garden in springtime, however, I’m looking forward to seeing family and friends, including blogging friends. Here’s my tentative itinerary:

End of March-April 17th, Knoxville, Tennessee, where I hope to visit the Smoky Mountain Quilt Guild. Maybe I’ll wear my bathrobe!
April 18th-22, Lexington, Kentucky.
April 23rd-to beginning of May, Portland and Salem, OR.
Possibly, I’ll swing by Seattle and/or the San Francisco Area. Still not sure.

So, if any fellow bloggers/artists/quilters/crafters in those areas would like to get together for a cup of coffee, send me an email at and we’ll see what can be arranged.

Of course, I’ll keep posting. And next year, I'll take my camera to the Artisans' Fair to write about it properly.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Perhaps a Purse: True Confessions

I confess. After much hesitation, I took an on-line class. Hesitation because of the possibility that another artist’s hand might appear in my own work. Certain artists promote taking classes while others say forget it because you need to develop your own voice. The voice, I’ve got down, but can it be corrupted?

I wanted to:
     1. Experience an on-line class to see how it worked from a pedagogical point of view (methods, materials, handouts, videos, etc.) in case I should want to go back to teaching and use the new technologies.
     2. Learn something new and a class would be good to push me outside my comfort zone. I wanted to do more sketching, but have it linked to textiles
     3.  Participate in a forum, meet some like-minded artists/artisans through the internet.

1. The methods were interesting, the teacher was informative, the materials were satisfactory.
     2. It was more of a review, pulling up things I had forgotten, yet the class did push me gently outside my comfort zone. When faced with the empty page of an assignment, I found resistance and was reminded of why I didn’t do an art major in college. Ideas fled with an empty canvas glaring at me--I never have this problem when working with fabric and stitch. I sketch more often now in order to overcome the problem of the paralyzing blank page.
     3. The forum did not develop: I was the only person participating. Nobody is to blame. It appears to be a risk of the on-line class format. Students may not be motivated to actively participate because they must squeeze it in with the occurences of daily life. To attend a class in person requires more of a commitment.
     4. I finished a small project that began as my sketch, which I transferred to a piece of fabric. I used outline stitch as filler, plus running stitch and a few French knots.
Here's the rub: this looks like another artist’s work. And this brings me to another Mrs. H(e)art story.
Mrs. H(e)art, my first art teacher when I was eight, made only one mistake, but it was memorable. I was working diligently, but with some frustration, on a floral still life when she came to my easel. She must have been in a hurry as others needed her help as well. She took my brush, dipped it in black paint and with two deft strokes added an elegant outline that suggested the form of flowers.
When I took my watercolor home, my mother raved, I mean, she gushed, she went wild. She had it matted and framed professionally (it seemed huge) and hung it in the living room in a prominent position so that every visitor saw it and heard my mother gush further. I felt like a fraud because Mrs. H(e)art had made that painting work. I felt shame. And I never admitted the awful truth, until today, that the painting wasn’t mine.
The moral of this story is that one should never touch someone else’s work. It also helps clarify my feelings about the on-line class project--I feel like it isn’t mine because another artist’s hand has touched it (figuratively). I feel dissatisfaction because I didn’t come up with the methods, the style, and the colors. Will I take another class? Only in something that I cannot acquire by myself, something life-threatening such as glass blowing or welding.
       And yet, my class piece pleases me and I made a second one:

Since I can't show these embroideries as my own art, 
perhaps I’ll make a purse with them...

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Despite gray skies, wind and rain, everyone's smilin' as new additions appear in the patio garden of the tranquil Province of MulticoloredPieces.
The variegated green tiles come from a box of left over tiles used in our kitchen decor over thirty years ago. I felt that the box had sat forgotten in a corner of the garden long enough.
If this should seem to be a repetitive use of green, I'd like to express my theory on plant containers. They exist to enhance plants, yet, the plants should enhance the pot as well. Plant and container should work together. And if possible, the container should be made of recycled materials. I've seen some marvelously colored pots, however, they didn't quite work with the plants. Eventually, I'll work in some soft blues and yellows, depending on the tiles I find. 
                  The steps going up to the roof could not remain unadorned.
And as there are enough tiles for a few more pots, 
I may make it to the top of the stairs.
                                               Another new arrival:
The lovely green tiles that have such depth of color came from the trash pile of an apartment complex where someone renovated their kitchen. 
I remember when the apartments were built some thirty-five years ago. The tiles were made in Spain. Such treasures!
And the bidet planter begins to look less like a bathroom fixture and more like an elegant patio accessory.