Rust and burn...the way the earth consumes its essential elements and then renews itself, slowly, eon by eon, while we hardly notice.
In Asheville this weekend, under Holly Fouts' exuberant tutelage, ten of us made rust and burn work for us on papers of all sorts, leading us into visions we hadn't yet imagined.
|Holly Fouts, books and papers|
desert or ocean
caves at guadirikiri
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Basically, in those two full, energetic days, we learned how to make rust, print rust, rust rustable metal, char, burn, singe, and crater, with a bit of dye, natural and unnatural, on the side. We turned blank pages into resplendent papers that became a book, or paintings to be framed, or, particularly in my case, caches of papers to be used as cards or weavings or hangings or whatever shaped its destiny on any day. We learned chemistry and sorcery, we argued over techniques and tricks, we shared materials and skills, damp rags and caustic trays. We dipped, dyed, folded, crumpled, smoothed, hung, rusted, rehung, burned and shaped our enthusiasms, and now, having been turned blissfully toward new light, we have come away with a fall of leaves that will become and become and become.
It couldn't have come at a better time for me, caught up in the web of family needs and desires, and house projects, and also a bit panicked at the calendar ahead of which lies our Holiday with Friends show in November. Working hard and well-focused at Elements of the Earth opened for me a huge well in which I could dip greedily. Especially one which uses, as I do, so many small, forgotten, decomposing but renewable fragments of natural life on this planet.
Workshops that really work depend so much on who teaches them. I remember a calligraphy workshop a few years ago that I'd been looking forward to for weeks, whose instructor, though a regional prizewinner, brought with her such a wealth of material (dazzling, really) but a dearth of teaching skill. So, one taught oneself, stimulated by the colors and textures of the piles of paper, tissue, ribbon, paint, ephemera around us. Meanwhile our leader dashed from person to person, trying to take our brushes in her own hand to reform our pieces to look more like hers. (We quickly learned defensive moves.) But those materials...I remember them still with fondness. One of my favorite pieces, Abiquiu, issued forth from them.
Holly Fouts not only shared those keys with us (both virtual and nice, rusted, real ones that made great impressions) but also encouraged the same sharing among us, all of whom were already artists skilled in other areas, in a panoply of media with experience in lots more than just one form. Each of us had signed on to this weekend to bring a new perspective to what we were about. So there was more than one deep well, in fact, to draw from.
Learning like that is fun, but it's work, all right. The brain reeling, the feet trucking miles back and forth among stations on the studio floor, the shoulders bumping into others as we, tunnel-visioned, meld what we know, what we learn, what we believe we can do with this new medium. And, then, just outside the tunnel, we are struck with what that new medium can give to the others we practice. The expansiveness this newness affords.
|rust book, cover|
|rust book, flyleaf and first page|
My niece, Jessica, at dinner the other night, was rhapsodizing about her four children's teachers this year: "We're so lucky! They're all wonderful!" Inventive, kind, perceptive, understanding, knowing, enthusiastic, she meant (and said so). We are all so grateful when we find them--or they find us--along the way.
Talk about essential elements of the earth.