Sunday, October 28, 2007

5 Hours Later . . .

"When I was very tiny, I was afraid that my mother and father would die. I didn't want to be without them. I asked my mom, "If a person goes to sleep in a coffin, would they be dead?" Her spoken answer didn't remain with me, but her actions did . . ."

This short message was written for an art piece when I was still in school. The assignment was to create a 3-dimensional work honoring someone in our life; I chose my mom.

My work consisted of reclaimed board fashioned in to a "coffin" and lined with velvet. Behind glass were a Polaroid picture of my mother, the hand written note, and a small painting of a young child asleep in a coffin with his dead parents on either side.

In the Polaroid, I had taken a funny shot of my mom as she was goofing around. The clock on the wall behind her read 10:17. At that moment we were happy, we were laughing, and we were alive.

5 Hours Later, Her Father Would Die, the title read.

I have yet to experience a death even remotely close to this. My tears at funerals have only been for the loss of others as I sympathize with them. I've always been a bit nervous not knowing how I would handle death.

Through her actions, my mom has shown me that she can face death. She is OK to be without those who have passed. My mom is loving, spiritual, vibrant. She is a hospice volunteer. She shows me her strength, and shows me that I can have it as well.

In remembering this piece the other day, I was a bit embarrassed to admit that I had dismantled it. My mom did not want to display it and I felt uncomfortable holding on to it. A huge part of art for me is the tangible representation of my thoughts that the piece possesses. Thinking back, I was somewhat unsettled that the record of this thought was now missing. But I just needed a simple dialogue to help center my thoughts again.

Someone dear to my life said to me, "Maybe it served it's purpose."

Yes it did; and I can live with that.

I remember the final words of the handwritten note:

"She's not sleeping with her father . . . I won't either."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

GI Tin Fairy House

I was lucky enought to be a guest at a Tin Fairy House class held at Zinnia in South Pasadena. The class was taught by my good friend, Tyn, who will also instruct you in techniques for collage, image transfer, and the very unique "mini quilt." You can see some of her tin creations on her blog.

Tin houses begin with a small Altoids container. The goal is to create a 3-D effect by layering the imagery inside the box. I used an old GI photo, moss, cut out teeth, and an image transfered on to vinyl. Later, basic tin boxes are cut to create a "frame" for the box. Decorative brads can hold the layers of tin together creating a substantial look that is very satisfying. My lighting was completely shabby when I shot the piece. Looks like you'll have to attend a Happening to see its finer points.

Old Photos

I buy old photos and slides at estate sales. Are you looking for specific subject matter? Ask me, and I will probably give it to you. I have hundreds and hundreds.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

It Happened in Class - 1

This post begins a new feature at Open 2 Anything. I'll be sharing gems from inside the fourth grade classroom. Trust me, there are millions a year, and I've already had my first one. While the story is true, the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

** Brady names have been substituted in for the originals. **

We were having a discussion of fiction vs non-fiction. On the white board, words were listed under the heading "Fiction." Generated by the students, we had: fake, false, untrue, made-up, and a few others.

Greg raised his hand eagerly to share his story of a UFO invasion. "Exactly!" I chimed in. "That would be a fiction story because it didn't really happen." Greg was quick to point out that it COULD happen because he had seen a History Channel story, indicating that there was life in the universe.

I pointed out that "life" may exist and probably does, but it might be in a form that is very less intelligent than our own.

He pointed out "Area 51"

I pointed out Men in Black does not equal truth.

Realizing the discussion was to promote an understanding of the fiction classification, I asked him to tell us more about his story.

"Well, the aliens landed at City Hall"
"Wait, who remembers reading that in the newspaper? Who saw it on TV? Oh, no? That's how we know it fake."
"But the aliens were . . ."
"But . . ."
"B . . ."

Now, I know Greg can handle this from me because he's smiling and laughing. He's the type of GATE kid who can hold his own with adults.

Buuuuuut, Cindy sure isn't! And this is what the story is really about. Cindy raises her hand to speak. Instead of freezing like she did on that damn quiz show where she is just staring into the red light on top of the camera, she actually has something to say.

A lot to say!! And she goes on and on and on . . .

Just about the time where I'm gonna shut this down, Cousin Oliver calls in a drawn out monotone,


And the room erupts with tiny laughter. (Maybe not so tiny, though.)

So, the waterworks start almost instantly, but there was that frozen moment where Cindy and I look at each other. Me saying with my eyes, "It's just a scrape, you're fine, right?" Wrong! I dip into Teaching 101 and use the old, "Take Cindy to the bathroom. Cindy, splash some water on your face. You'll be OK" (That water is magic, I tell ya!)

Don't worry, we made this a class discussion and sorted it all out. We talked about how what I said to Greg was very similar. We talked about taking responsibility, no matter what your intentions are. Let's just hope there isn't a phone message waiting for me from Mike Brady, when I get back to class.

The Blog, She is a Changin'

So, I'm beginning to realize that I want to write more. I had thought this blog would just be about Open 2 Anything and the Happenings we put on. That, it will continue to be.

However, I want to open up the creative process and share other things in my life that I find interesting. Of course, it will continue to have a heavy art/creative slant. But you'll also be able to find amusing anecdotes peppering the site from now on.

Friday, August 17, 2007

It Happened 2

We had another nice turn out in honor of our second Happening. This one was for Planter Boxes to go along with Square Foot Gardening. The treat department took a slight hit as Mike changed the rules a bit. However, big thanks go out to Tyn for bringing a nice drink/snack combo. She rocks!

At least one person was not too pleased with the chocloate cookies provided!

The host laid down the law, not letting any drinks leave the Happening. However, Joe discovered a loophole . . . If you open your soda while on the premises, you can't be stopped. The last thing I heard was 3 tops being popped, but I can't be sure.

First things first - we went over some safety tips for using the chop saw. Be sure to hold that wood securely. We don't want bits and pieces flying all over gOD knows where!

We set some in the group on the task of mixing up the various soil. Mel's Mix calls for equal portions of vermiculite, peat moss, and compost. We had compost from several different sources. (ie: mushroom compost, tree compost.) Mel says it's best to mix these together to ensure a wide variety of nutrients. The day dragged on a tad longer than we had thought and some of the younger members were bored silly.

At least two guests were wide awake!

Participants helped each other, as always. Even Gussy got into the helpful act, keeping an eye on Coco as she slept alone in the car. Some friends didn't find this the least bit amusing!

All in all, the finished products looked great. Don't worry, Tyn. I won't mention your "square" box.

Roll Call for the second Happening: Ian, Kari, Tyn, Coco, Megan, Joe, Andy, AmeriCorps Annie, her boyfriend(I'm an ass and forgot his name!), Jackson, Cynthia, and Pat (at the front steps)

Thanks again for making it another success! Mike Conger

Friday, August 3, 2007

We’re Making Planter Box Gardens!

Mel Bartholomew has perfected planter box gardening with his Square Foot Gardening technique. Instead of traditional rows, a square foot grid is utilized. Mel asks, “How would you like a garden filled with beautiful flowers, fresh herbs and luscious vegetables, but no weeds and no hard work? No more heavy digging or all-at-once harvest. Less watering, weeding, and thinning. What's left is a picture perfect garden you will be so proud of.”

We have a friend who swears by Mel’s process and has had good luck with his plantings. He says all of Mel’s claims are true!

I’ve wanted to start a garden for some time now, but haven’t wanted to deal with all the unknowns. That’s the beauty of Open 2 Anything, though. We help you along the way, answer questions you might have, and challenge you to do most of the work.

Redwood, Cedar, treated vs untreated wood? Forget that madness, we’ll have all the supplies purchased beforehand and ready to go when you arrive. We’ll even send you home with your own bag of soil (Mel’s Mix.)

If you’re afraid to use power tools, someone will assist you. If you’re game, you’ll learn to use a chop saw, table saw, and power drill. It’s really not that difficult!

2ft X 2ft planter box will run you $10.00 (including soil mix)
2ft X 3ft planter box will run you $15.00 (including soil mix)
Need a box bottom for the patio? That will be another $2.00
The boxes themselves are damn cheap to make ($3.00 - $4.00)
It’s the soil mix that is rather expensive. If you want to skip the soil mix, we’ll figure out a fair price for your box. No worries!

So, we’re really going to need to know who’s coming to this Happening. I need to purchase the correct amount of lumber and mix. Please email me with the number of boxes you wish to make, the size of the box, and if you want our soil. (I recommend you use Mel’s Mix.)

We’ll be providing drinks again, but if you’d like munchies, it would be great if you brought something to share.

Again, I’ll email you directions later. Our Happening is in Montecito Heights on Saturday, August 11th from 10:00 – 4:00. You won’t need to spend too much time here, so feel free to stop by when you’d like.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Soft Sculpture

A few years back, I created a soft scuplture for a modular design assignment. I wanted to try and perfect the figures, and this is just the beginning. These are filled with rice, but I suppose stuffing might be a better idea. I'm just a bit too lazy to sit there and stuff them. The eyelets were another time saving device as I hate to hand sew ANYTHING! The technique I use to sew these leaves the tiniest opening (about half an inch.)

The uniqueness of this design might not be so apparent at first. These are donut shaped figures - which can't be sewn in the traditional right-facing fabric manner. I sew them in the same manner in which I sew scrunchies. (a bit hard to explain here) Won't someone please bring that fashion back?!?!? I love sewing those things!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What do you do with handmade paper?

A short post to show you what I did with my handmade paper. I'm taking two classses at the Armory in Pasadena. One is a class in collage and the other is printmaking. You might have a look to see what classes are offered for Session Two, August 6 - September 1

Tonight we printed with an intaglio (silent g) process after scratching into a plexiglass plate utilizing dry point. With intaglio, the mark created on the plate leaves a slightly raised bur that accepts ink. As well, ink is worked into the groove that is left. Most of the other ink is wiped away with a thick tarlatan cloth. Paper to be printed on is first soaked in water for about 30 minutes. This helps the ink to be pushed into the paper fibers instead of simply laying on top.

It Happened!

Amazing turnout the other night for our first Open 2 Anything Happening. We had old friends, new friends, families, and neighbors at the fences. All who attended showed up with a wonderful attitude. Thanks for being flexible with our first event and giving us a chance to work out the bugs. True to form with Open 2 Anything, participants shared their knowledge with others so there wasn’t simply one leader. I’m glad to see JC jump on the blender so readily (even if the thing was smoking when I walked by.)

When participants arrived, (after last minute directions from their loving brother even!) they found ugly greyish pulp already blended in a large vat. The grey pulp was simply made from reused ditto paper from Mike’s classroom that was blended with water. From here, they chose their preferred color from a stack of construction paper. This color was blended and then added together with water and the grey pulp to a new tub. Each participant had her own screen to dip into the tub and lift out to reveal a square piece of newly made paper.

Some in the group brought string or yarn to add as an embellishment piece to their handmade paper. Others chose bits of old maps, graph paper, dried flowers, etc. to sandwich between two layers of pulp. Chunky pieces of contrasting color worked well with the liquefied colorful pulp.

Our youngest participant, Emily, (8 years old?) showed up with her family and got right to work creating many different types of handmade paper. She really set a standard that was difficult for others to match. All in all, people enjoyed themselves as they worked at their own pace taking breaks to eat drink and socialize with others. As they left for home with several of their creations in tow, it was easy to see their satisfaction.

Thanks to all who made our first Happening a huge success: Sarah, Tyn, Irene, John, Bobbie, Emily, Claire, Erin, Anchal, Ric, JC, Joe, Pat, Cynthia, and Jackson!

(Be sure to send in photos of your handmade paper so I can add it to our slideshow!)

Mike Conger

Monday, July 23, 2007

Back in Town (with some Examples)

I've been back from my Whitney trip for a few days, but it has really taken some time to recover. Thanks to Joe for sending out the email while I was away. (I know the message date confused some of you who knew I wasn't supposed to be around.) Let's take a look at what we'll be producing for the first Happening:

This example shows 2 different colors of paper pulp layered on top of each other, rolled flat, and then dried. Before layering, string was placed on one of the sheets. You might like the embossed look it has when it's all dry.

A similar example to the first one except this piece has bits of vellum mixed in to the white pulp. Vellum has a wax-like quality to it and doesn't completely pulverize in the blender.

Our final example shows a single-layer piece of handmade paper with bits of dried onion skin embedded within.

• Items you MUST bring:
Nothing (I'll have plenty of my own materials to share.)

• Items you MIGHT bring:
Old bath or hand towel (We'll use them in the papermaking process)
String or yarn in different colors
Postages stamps, old photos, dried flower petals, wire, flat odds and ends for embedding

That's about it. Hope to see you there! Don't worry if you'll be late or even if you can't make it. Address and directions are in the email.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

First Happening!

Papermaking Tuesday July 24 from 6-9pm. We will be posting examples, please check back.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Open 2 Anything emerged from our desire to collaborate and learn from others. Mike, Joe and Megan were sitting around discussing a way to make art and creativity a more prolific element in their lives. Having their friends come together to share their passions and expertise with others seemed like the best solution. It's not an original idea, but it's one that works for us.

The Blog is here to document various aspects:
• Calendar of Happenings
• Bring the events to those who were unable to attend
• A forum to ask questions or to share what's going on in your own life
• Highlight our work and the work of others that inspires us
• Document our interaction with creative people and events

Our Mission at Open 2 Anything: To bring people together to learn from one another.