Posts Tagged ‘Art’

The Yurt

Friday, June 7th, 2013

The Yurt began it’s life as a concept, and as a Tipi.TOSHIBA Exif JPEG

The concept was the circle.  The sacred circle, the circle of life, the ritual circle.  Rae’s Tipi was at the end of its useful life, but the goddess figures from its interior were mostly still OK.  The Tipi was a home and a sacred space.  Living and worshiping in the round fascinated Rae, and she was drawn to the yurt concept even when she was working on the Tipi. She collected pictures and articles,  looked for details of construction, etc.  Rae bought a book in 2003: Tipis & Yurts: Authentic designs for Circular Shelters.

She considered buying a Yurt, or a Yurt kit, but the expense was considerable, and we had most of the skills.  Rae wrote to a yurt company for info, and they sent her a sample of their construction of the khans, the latticework that comprises the frame of the yurt.  It was made of clear pine 1 X 2, riveted with large aluminum rivets.  Most of the do-it-yourself instructions had either traditional string/twine, or 1/4″ bolts (which leave a lot of ends, can work their way loose, and added up to a LOT of bolts.
So we found a place that sold rivets wholesale, took our sample, found a match and bought 1000 plus an industrial rivet tool.  1 x 2 lumber is very seldom clear, but you can find 2X6 that is fairly knot-free, so we figured out the ideal width for the rivets (about 5/8″), and ripped a mess of them from 2X6 Douglas fir, set up a jig to drill the holes in exactly the same place in each piece, and riveted them together.  For ease of storage, we divided the khans into 2 parts, connected with bolts.  The calculations for where the holes went, were complicated, had to take into account the height we wanted (finished size with the roof had to fit into a standard room with 8′ ceiling), the circumference (she chose a 13′ circle, of course) minus the door, etc.

Black canvas was found for the walls, and sewed into 6′ by 37′ panels, one for the inside, one for the outside.  A waterproof top was found, and made into a form-fitting dome by cutting a wedge to the center, and having that heat-sealed by a local boat-cover maker (Marine Tops Unlimited, thanks Steve!).TOSHIBA Exif JPEG

We devised a method for rafter attachment at the center, non-traditional since no smoke hole was needed, added a track lighting setup, and attached a couple of hundred eye-hooks to the underside of the rafters, to hang  small plexiglass mirrors, cut into random shapes to represent broken stained glass, representing the “stained glass ceiling” limiting women’s roles in mainstream religion (picture below).  The door frame and door were designed and decorated, the 5 individual goddess figurines attached to the canvas, and it was ready to go!
yurt_open yurtgoddessmirror  glassceiling


The goddesses all had upraised arms, forming crescents around a circular mirror in place of a face.  each piece is special, and has a story.  Earth,  Spider, Fire, Water, and Buffalo.  They include stuffed-work, embroidery, bead-work, shells, and felting.

The interior floor is also canvas, with a painted pentagram, and religious symbols from multiple traditions stenciled around the edges.

This was Rae’s largest piece.  We are considering taking the 5 goddess figures and mounting them separately on frames, and offering them for sale.


Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Available! $1000

Central Core: Roots of Faith
wood, textiles, beads, silk flowers.

Rae did not quite finish this piece, and it was never in a show.  So the name is from a list she had for a recent show, one that did not fit anything else that was in that show, and I am assuming it referred to this piece, which was several years in the making.

The main structure is a section of a tree trunk, maple, with a large cavity, surrounded by the distinctive almond-shaped scar (hence the “Central Core”, look it up) where the tree continued to grow and try to heal over the opening.  The top of it, indeed the whole shape, is suggestive of a torso, and so Rae saw it, and planned the piece to take advantage of that.  The bottom was not large enough to balance and support the rest, so a separate tree stump was used, attached and carved to fit.  The joint is obvious but subtle.

Rae removed all the bark from the outside, but left the callus, the healed section around the opening, and removed a lot of soft, punchy wood from inside.  The outside was then smoothed and dyed with red and black, covered with clear varnish, and I leave it to you, as she did, to determine what it evokes in you.

Inspired by the wayside shrines of Europe, the kapliczki, and the art and craft around the Lady/Mother/Goddess represented by the Guadalupe shrines, she embroidered and beaded her own Lady to fit inside the piece.  She finished all but a few square inches of the sequin/bead fill at the top of the image, which was completed by friends visiting the house in the days after her death, so the piece could be fished for her “Birthday Party” May 16th 2009.

Mounted in the opening, surrounded by silk flowers, the piece was done and looks incredible!


Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

From the Age of Consideration

In the Collection of Dawn Roberts

Rocking Chair, Ash and Pecan.
Rae took several classes in woodworking at the UW, as well as having access to quite a few tools at home, since I (Math) had worked at the Amana Furniture Shop.  She wanted a rocking chair, one that she could fit in, as a large woman, and feel comfortable with, so she made one to fit her dimensions, and sturdy enough to be an heirloom.
She made several pieces of furniture out of Ash, including a queen-sized bed with matching nightstands, an easy chair and ottoman, and several stools.  But the rocker was given a title, signed on the bottom of the seat (making it one of the few pieces she actually put her name on), and given a place in Women, Domesticity, and Objects of Power.
And Rae did like to rock.  When we were younger she would dance, and even when in a motorized chair, she would spin and wheel around the floor.

When the Patriarchy Sweeps

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Curly Maple, ting-ting, barbed wire, basswood, felt.

Wow!  It has been over 8 weeks since my last post!  Apologies for those who might be waiting for them.

This is the last broom in the collection.  Only parts of it remain now, some were recycled by Rae for other pieces, and the whole was too many pieces and too difficult to box to maintain as a piece.

The piece was done as part of an anti-Gulf War show.  I don’t remember when the show was, nor who organized it.  Since it was during Desert Storm, it would have been 1990.  From the photograph, I’d say it was the 7th Floor Gallery at the Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus.  Rae did leave behind her Artist’s Statement concerning it, which I reproduce below.

The broomstick is a thick, somewhat subtle phallic shape, (for Rae it was subtle!) made of a solid block of curly Maple.  It was carefully rounded and shaped, and brought to a high polish.  If you looked closely at the top, there was even a slight ridge.   The skirt is strands of barbed wire, and a variety of floral shop selections, some with sparkles, some curling, so that the impression is that of the trails behind a missile lifting off.

Below the broom are a set of carved pieces of Basswood, cut into the shapes of the countries of the middle-east, though not to scale.  These were placed on a thick, irregular foam base, wrapped with black felt.

The other pieces she mentions below were never completed.

When the patriarchy sweeps

As an artist, I have the opportunity and the means to express my: hopes, fears, concerns, anger, love, political beliefs and spirituality in a visual way. My process can become a catharsis, a discharge and an exploration into my emotions, passions and thoughts. And as an artist, I am even egotistical enough to believe that the work/piece that comes out of this process — may make a difference: by supporting and validating the perceptions of some and by giving others and insights into a different perspective. Or by just being manifested into the world.

In magical societies the process of “making”, begins the process of transformation and change. When I heard the words “War is sweeping across the Middle-East today” and “As Desert Storm sweeps across the Middle-East” — my years of anti— war activism felt like a waste. I became glued to the TV like the rest of the US. But with each stroke of that camera — I became stronger in my resolve to make the art explored my concerns and despair. To begin the process of making/transforming/changing this reaction to all war, at least within myself.

War is wrong, there has to be another way to resolve conflict. The devastation of cultures is wrong. And when war, when the Patriarchy sweeps over an area, that area is torn apart. Its culture is devastated. Both the victims and the aggressors are injured. And the victims of war are not limited to soldiers or resistance fighters. Is what they called civilians/collateral damage.  That “damage” is women, children, the disabled and elderly.

When the Patriarchy Sweeps, is the first in a series of broom sculptures called SWEPT OVER. This is a war broom and speaks of the tearing apart of her region. It decries the devastation of cultures. He reveals the patriarchal assumption of its rights to have power over. It mourns victims of war — the women, children and others of all sides. When there is an “enforced peace”, who cleans up the devastation…  I hope it expresses the need for true Peace.


Honeysuckle Dreams

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

(honeysuckle, honeysuckle roots)

Sweeping Changes

I am doing another entry right away, since it was a long break, and I’d like to get all the work done.
This might be my favorite broom.  It is wild and sweet, and reminds me of her.  When I look at it, I see her dancing.  She used to love to dance, and even when she was in her chair, she would twirl and glide with music sometimes.  I still get at least a tear in my eye when I hear the Avett Brothers song, Swept Away:

Well you send my life a whirling
Darling when you’re twirling
On the floor
Who cares about tomorrow?
What more is tomorrow?
Than another day.

I am also going to use Rae’s own words for this one, again from Master Sweepings:

Southern women, tough strong, stubborn.  Mothers, grandmothers, not genteel, but wild, bodacious – dancing thru life – not ramrod straight, but laughing, courageous women who know how to bend.  Spinning, rocking, vining, rooting.

Each of the brooms could almost be considered a love letter to women, but this one is specifically to my grandmothers, who are the ones that taught me to love being a woman.  My grandmothers danced through many dramatic, sad or normal times, and each of them has given me an alternative picture of what older women are.  Wise, strong and outrageous in their own right, they worked hard, laughed, and argued with each other.  They taught me resilience.  The honeysuckle is resilient: cut it back or dig it up, and it comes back.  The honeysuckle is considered a flower by some, an invader by others, little better than a weed.  Like the honeysuckle, my grandmothers cared little for outsiders’ opinions, but grew in their own manner with their own belief system intact.
Poor women, with little education, they were anything but invisible or worthless.  Many old women live alone, cut off from affection, sexuality and life, but not these women.   Each of my grandmothers carried her own name  proudly.  They were short little women who were majestic in their stature, righteous in their anger, humorous and stubborn.  Never would these women sit meekly by and allow someone to dictate their lives, nor did they encourage their granddaughters to.  This broom is a message of reclaiming in that I want each of us to dance into our own power and catch/make our own dream.  This is the clearest message, maybe the only clear message, other than the importance of tenacity, that my grandmothers gave me.    The broom was also an acknowledgement of the skills and love of making that I got from them.  Each of my foremothers is an artist in her own right.  My great great grandma MacDowell was a weaver and a quilter, who lived to be 99, and held my oldest son in her arms.  Great grandma Nancy made quilts, hooked rugs and dolls, and raised literally millions of birds in her house and barn to sell to pet shops and bird houses.  She lived with a man for almost 30 years, and laughed about their great sex until he died when she was 74.  Grandma Dora was a seamstress and baker and the quietest of the lot, but she married her second husband at 72.  All of their art would have been considered craft  they define it as such themselves  but it is not just domestic objects that they made, used, gave away, traded and sold  it was something from the heart, made with attention and intention.  This was their gift to me.
The broomstick is made of the heavy branch of honeysuckle, cut in half and fitted back into itself so that the shape emulated an elegant classical “S” curve so often associated with women and their posture.  Grace and posture is a presumption all rural southern border state women must deal with.  My grandmothers did often tell me to stand up straight  but there was such grace, comfort and strength in their own easy posture it was easier to emulate.   I used honeysuckle because it has a relationship to the south.  I think it is the word itself that I respond to.  “Honeysuckle” rolls off the tongue, and has a sensuous sound.  We had Honeysuckle Queens and honeysuckle parades and festivals that had nothing to do with the plant.   The flying skirt of the broom is made of roots to give credence to my belief in the importance of roots as a nurturer of the strength to build the self.

Ghost Broom

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

From Sweeping Changes

Available!  $200

Driftwood, willow, silk
The Ghost Broom was Rae’s tribute to the craft of making brooms.  When she did the research for her MS in Related Art, it was clear that many of the old broommakers were worried their craft was disappearing.  While looking for what Rae said about this broom, I opened up her Thesis, Master Sweepings, and found this section on the Ghost Broom:

Something lost and drifting away.  Lost symbology.  Fading away, broom  ghost of what it used to be…

As a small child each of us may have played with, danced with, or imitated a parent cleaning with a broom.  How many of us learned from a broom about the relationships of space, extensions from our body, and moving in unison with something else? What happens now with electric brooms, vacuums, and carpeting? The broom has been replaced now by a baseball bat kept beside your bed on scary nights.  Who leans on their broom on the back porch, watching the sunset and relishing another day gone and the work accomplished?  When will we walk into another hardware store and see a flower bed of brooms sprouting up from a wooden rack, and watch the magic of a woman picking out her new broom?  What is our relationship to broom, to this artifact of culture being lost and replaced by technology and plastic? Why is everything domestic devalued?
One of the most moving experiences that really solidified my ideas about Ghost Broom happened in Chicago at Blindskills Distributors, a suppliers warehouse.  The neighborhood was rough and deteriorating and the owners were as well.  They welcomed me in, gave me ice water and stayed right there, but worked through the entire conversation, lifting and toting in oppressive heat and dust.  They supplied brooms to Shriners and Moose clubs and other organizations for fundraising projects.  The brooms they supplied to these organizations were from collectives/factories usually run by or for the blind.  They lamented that plastic brooms, brooms from overseas and even the loss of community organizations that ran these kinds of “down to earth fundraising projects” were seriously affecting these collectives.  (It didn’t affect their business  they were really suppliers of industrial carpeting).
Several of the broom factories I visited also had an impact on my concept of loss.  Mark Quinn of Quinn Broomworks, Greenup, Illinois, showed me his broom factory in progress with many people working, each making as many as 25 to 40 brooms a day.  He was animated and excited.  At each station, he showed me different aspects of broommaking  washing wrapping, sorting, dyeing, etc.  Much of the equipment he had was older, worn, and even rusty, but he had great pride in it nevertheless.  We then went to a different section of the factory, where it was very quiet, no thrumming of vises and clamps or busy voices.  There was a large machine (sitting idle) which, with two people to run it, would make 37 brooms in an hour.  According to Quinn, the greater capacity was needed because plastic brooms fall apart in maybe a quarter of the time that a “good corn broom” did.  When he spoke about the machine and how he needed it because so many folks wanted those plastic brooms, he lost that schoolboy enthusiasm.  The tactile quality of making a broom was gone: another tradition being lost.
I found a piece of honeysuckle driftwood, grey and white, bleached by the water and sun.  It carried in it a sense of loss, decay, and mournfulness.  I went into the piece with rasps and sandpaper to accentuate that sense, to cut away rot and expose hidden faces and craggy places.  I then found about 20 thin pieces of corkscrew willow to use as exposed bones of the broom skirt.  I stripped the bark, bleached them using the sun, vinegar, and bleach, and they began to take on that same weathered aged look of the broom handle.  I then drilled holes to precisely fit each stick to the broom handle in places that would encourage the illusion of the broom being one piece, such as little dimples in the wood, holes, and bumps where small branches had been.
I wrapped the piece with unspun silk, stretched sparingly about the broom to give it the look of cobwebs, disuse, deterioration, something abandoned in the corner of an old house.  I mounted the broom on a narrow rod that caused the broom to quiver whenever anyone walked by.  Many of the viewers of this broom seemed to respond to this sense of abandonment, because it was one of the brooms that people stood in front of, holding their hands out as if to touch it, to hold it, to make it better.

The broom itself has aged and transformed, is more of a ghost than it started as:

Fire Cauldron

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Age of Fire: Transformation
Bronze cauldron/pot
collection of Helen Klebesadel, Madison, WI

In the collection of Helen Klebesadel

I’m sure if Rae had continued access to a foundry, she would have made more cast metal pieces.  She loved designing, forming, adding the spurs and vents, and then watching the finished piece appear out of the hot plaster, with the help of a hose and small hammers.

The Fire cauldron, sister to the Earth and Water pots, stands out as the only one to actually be used in a ritual setting.  It has 5 candle holders, of varying heights, in the bottom of the interior, and when lit, their light shine outward.  

It was made like the others, by layering wax on a beach ball. Like the Earth cauldron, it had pieces added to it.  These were three faces of women, cast using Jeltrate like the hands in the Bronze Broom.  These were carefully incorporated into the cauldron so that they were part of it, not added on.  The eyes of two the three women, and the mouth of the third were open, and cut out, so that light could pass through them.  (No, their eyes were not open when the Jeltrate was applied, that would be asking too much of even those valiant ladies)

The feet, like those of the Celtic Mirror, were snake heads.  The title for the Women, Domesticity and Objects of Power show came from the legends of the cauldron of rebirth, and the recurring theme in myth, art and literature of the cauldron as a transformative tool.

The patina for the Fire cauldron was, if I remember correctly, fire.  A smoky fire of twigs and leaves, the soot darkening the bronze.

Jumping Knot Broom

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

Black Cherry, broomcorn

Rae completed this broom in time for a show in Appleton titled Exploring Domestic Myths in 2000.  The show stands out in my memory mostly for the trip up to pick up her pieces, because we were hauling a rented trailer, hit a patch of ice, and though I was able to keep the truck on the road, the trailer tipped over and was wrecked.  Very glad we did not have it full of her art!

At that show, the title was Age of Union: Passion Play; Sweeping Romance/Commitment.  But ever since, she called it the Jumping Knot Broom, (or rarely the Celtic Knot broom).

Rae loved to shop for her raw materials, especially since scouring the woods was out of the question with her arthritis worsening.  She found the cherry at BVC Hardwoods, and knew immediately what she wanted to do with it.  Rae had found a book she gave me on carving wooden spoons, and the history and traditions surrounding that.  Turns out Welsh “Love Spoons”  had quite a history, and inspired her to do a carved broom.

One time-honored wedding traditions, which Rae and I had participated in, is “Jumping the Broom” as art of a marriage ceremony.  Usually just a simple broom, often a hand-made one for Pagan handfastings, and occasionally very fancy, she designed one that combined the love spoon with the broom (though I would challenge anyone to hold this one horizontally for the jump).

The repeating part of the design was transferred onto a sheet of paper, then using carbon paper put on one side of the cherry “beam”  (2.25″ X 6″ , 6′ long)  The finial design at the top and bottom detail were hand drawn, holes drilled through, and the spiral drawn on the narrow sides, then it was a matter of removing all the excess wood.  Rasps, drawknives, spokeshaves, small saws, Foredem flexible shaft, then sandpaper.

The base was made by gluing and cutting more pieces, leaving a bell-like hollow underneath, and rounding with spokeshaves and sanding.  The top fits in with a tapered mortise/tenon joint, and the broomcorn attached to two dowels, making a pair of besom-like brooms for the skirt.

The natural cherry color will get darker red with age.  I personally think this would make a nice altar piece someday.


Sunday, March 28th, 2010

From Sweeping Changes

willow, witchesbroom, soapstone, hair, grasses, fiber

PreGeneration was one of Rae’s pieces that was up for the Sweeping Changes show, and because of its configuration and size, and the lack of space to store things, was dismantled and now gone.  All that is left is the woven “spider web” from the branching on the top of the piece.

Rae wanted to use a piece of “witches-broom”, a condition appearing on a woody plant, often a tree, where the natural growth pattern is interrupted, and instead of a single branch, many are formed at a node.  The result looks like a broom or bird’s nest.  You can often see these in stands of willow growing near a stream, and that is where we found the stick for this one.  But instead of turning the branches down, and using them as the skirt, she kept it upright, and added a skirt that is more of a grass skirt, or roots, coming off the stick very low, and flowing out over the pedestal.

Within this skirt were small soapstone carvings of animals.  This piece represented an origin story, the generation of life.  It hearkens to the old explanation of “spontaneous generation” that was offered long ago as where certain creatures came from.  Like fire that will appear without a match or spark if fuel-soaked rags are left in an enclosed space, it was believed that trash and detritus would generate bugs and mice.

I have searched, but not found any of the small carvings that were in this piece, perhaps Rae gave them away as gifts, or left them as a physical libation in nature somewhere.

Sweep of the Milky Way

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

from Sweeping Changes

Cosmos Sequence, Wild Wood, dyed broomcorn.

Collection of Bankston-Thomas, Milwaukee

From Sweeping changes, and also appearing in Women, Domesticity, and Objects of Power, The sweep of the Milky Way is a subtle, beautiful interpretation of the night sky as a broom.  Rae had the stick, a found sapling with characteristic spiral caused by growing with a vine entwined around the trunk.  This wood cried out to be made into a broomstick, as so many similar sticks find their way into craft brooms at Art fairs and festivals.

She stripped the bark, smoothed the wood, and painted it flat black.  Then airbrushed and daubed pearlescent white paint for stars spiraling around the stem.  To make it glow, a clear coat of lacquer was applied.  The result looks like it could be floating in space, slowly turning with the eons and circuits around the galaxy.

The base is dark brown dyed broomcorn, tied with black cord in 5 bundles, making a star pattern.  The broom sits on a square of chamfered wood also painted black.  This is very much a Witches Broom.  Powerful and magical in appearance and energy.