Look! . . . A treasure chest! . . . Should we open it? Hmmm . . . Just an old idea inside . . .

One of the best things about our trip to San Francisco
was a little gift that Ms. Fate dropped in my lap with an elegant flourish.
As soon as we arrived in the city, I began to see banners advertising this:

If you've been a Small Works reader for any length of time, you are probably aware that I am a Maira Kalman groupie of the nerdiest kind.  I couldn't believe my good fortune -- I had no idea that the exhibit was going to be in San Francisco!

"Please can we go?  Please can we go?  Please can we go?"  

I begged (in my best Bart Simpson imitation.)

Russ was more than happy to go, but we had very limited time and we were cabbing it around the city, having parked our truck for the week.  So my attendance was going to be dependent upon where the exhibit was held.  We would have to be able to get there quickly and easily (not to mention cheaply!)

After asking a cab driver if he knew where the Contemporary Jewish Museum was located (he didn't) I put on my glasses to see if I could make out the fine print address at the bottom of the banner.  We were able to figure out that it was somewhere near our hotel . . . probably within walking distance . . . WAIT!

It was directly beneath our hotel room -- our view looked out on the roof of the museum.

No. way.

It was too exciting to believe.  When I purchased the catalog of the exhibit, I did so firmly believing that there was not a chance in the world I would ever see it.  And all I had to do was walk next door!

So of course we went, and stayed a dorky amount of time while I visited and re-visited my favorites and generally basked in Kalman's "many tables of many things".

One of the things I was particularly delighted to note was how simple her work was -- quite ordinary, in a way, and yet extraordinary at the same time.  Many of the drawings actually listed "correction fluid" in the materials, which made me feel so much better about my own work.  She submitted work to editors and museums with correction fluid on it!  Sometimes A LOT of correction fluid! (There's hope, friends.)

Of course I had to visit my favorite, "Misery Day Parade", several times.  

Russ was such a good sport, and so patient!  
He just sat quietly reading a stack of her picture books while I walked 
around and around and around again.

But the other thing that most delighted me 
was that I had an opportunity to see
her embroideries up close and personal.  

And they were marvelous. 

These were much bigger than I expected them to be 
and are a series of 4 panels embroidered after her mother's death.  
They were unframed,  mounted on stretched linen.


 I LOVED this dress --
there were words embroidered all around the hem, although they don't show in this picture.

Simple like her drawings, but moving in their simplicity and so nicely informed by her choice of materials.  Each of the embroideries was done on a found piece of cloth which also bore the stitches of its original maker, a testament to its previous life.  Just perfect, since so much of Kalman's work resonates with her own history.

I looked for a long time.

I know that stitching on found cloth is sort of a "thing" right now -- Joetta Maue immediately springs to mind, and there are others.  My own Hannah uses old quilt pieces for her embroidered pieces.

 One of Hannah's old-quilt embroideries, 
a delightful expression of her fascination with all things Frida.

The domestic needlework tradition has had such a tremendous influence on my own artistic journey.  And I'd been toying with the idea of stitching some of my line drawings on damaged bits from my vintage collection, but the idea hadn't yet begun to scream at me.

As I looked at Maira Kalman's embroideries, 
the screaming began.

So now I'm going to try something a little different.  I may have to learn some actual embroidery stitches.  And I'm not sure how to mark the designs.  And I don't know if I can stand to use a hoop, but I'm worried about them looking like a mess.  And it may be a dumb idea.  And it's already been done, and done again. Even by people in my own house.

Oh well.  I don't take the time to try many new things at this point -- sort of like my 20 year journey of discovery landed me here and then stopped.  Abruptly.  It stopped in a good place, I think, but it seems I can just make out a few steps beckoning me down the path if I squint hard.

A few Small Works not in Wool,  perhaps. 

I'll keep you posted . . .



Leenie said...

If you do it...it will be new. Because YOU did it. And with all that inspiration it has loads of potential. Looking forward to seeing what happens.

susan m hinckley said...

Thanks, Leenie! So am I. Actually it will be nice to try something that I have absolutely no agenda for -- no shows, no orders . . . If it's a dismal failure, so what?

luanne said...

It can't be a dismal failure if you enjoy and learn from the process of exploring your ideas. Think of a pleasing result as a happy bonus!

Allie said...

Wow - she does lovely work. And I think you should go for it - never ever stop learning.

Sloane's Creations said...

Ooo how exciting indeed! I was up in DC a few years ago and happened upon a Jim Henson exhibit. I couldn't believe my good fortune. Walking in and seeing Kermit actually made me tear up. Seeing all on Jim's sketches and doodles was so personal, I felt honored to have seen it all! I am glad you got to see something special on your trip!

susan m hinckley said...

I, too, had a chance to see a Jim Henson exhibit once and felt the same way.

Creativity is such a strange and miraculous thing -- The other day I heard Shakespeare described as having "created phrases that stick in the mind and make it seem as if they have always existed there."

I think the most amazing acts of creativity result in just that -- things that seem like they've been there all along. I can't imagine a world without Kermit. I'm just glad Jim introduced him to us!

Amelia and Justin said...

There is absolutely no harm in trying something new. Even for me, someone who is mildly (read: utterly and completely) afraid of failure, I find that trying something new, just for the sake of getting the idea out of my head is very rewarding. Even if it doesn't turn out at all in the way I was expecting, it usually lends itself to something better.

susan m hinckley said...

You and I must be related -- so is the fear of failure thing genetic? And if so, who does it come from? I don't think your parents are that way, and I don't think Grandma is either but maybe my Dad might be the culprit . . . Anyway, it's a dumb way to be.

Today you should try something new and DELIVER THAT BABY! :)

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