Retroactive clock-out and some thoughts on art museums

Yay, the biopsy results are back and our kitty Tisha doesn’t have cancer! It seems that one of his salivary glands is to blame, though, so we have to take him in on Monday for yet another surgery. This time, the gland will come out, and I hope that’ll be the end of all this. Tisha has taken all this remarkably well and I’d like for him to have a nice long break from the vet!!!

Yesterday morning: crafting and art-ing

Got in some decent work, which is excellent since I only had a few hours. I haven’t really been adhering perfectly to this week’s experiment in solid, no-distraction 9-to-5 working, but somehow even just thinking of my day as “for work only” really helps. I’ve been getting a lot more done all week long.

I finished the brooch I showed you on Wednesday. (Sorry, I know the photo is fuzzy — it’s been ridiculously overcast here, after a couple of days of unseasonable sunshine!) I decided that all it needed was some French knots around the bead ring, to mirror the beads themselves. It’s a rather large brooch and Erik said the stitching makes it look like a baseball, which I guess it kind of does.

I’ve said before that my favorite part of making these brooches is that I never quite know when I start them what they’ll become at the end. But I’m thinking now that I might need to think ahead a little more. For all my brooches so far, I’ve blanket-stitched the front and back together before doing the embroidery, and then I end up with an unattractively thread-ridden back piece. No one but the wearer ever sees it, so it’s a purely cosmetic issue, but I’d like to make my pieces look cleaner than that. Maybe next time I’ll embroider first, and then do the backing afterward. It’ll be another step but it will make them so much prettier.

For my next embroidered piece, I’d like to experiment with some little metal frames I bought at the bead shop last month with Jinny… you’ll soon see what I have in mind, if it works out!

In keeping with my resolution to devote more time to art-making, nonwhite womenI finally did some drawing practice. I keep a file of magazine clippings — easy enough to do while I’m collecting decoupage scraps! — with interesting photos I want to draw from. Most of them are pictures of people, though I do have animals and buildings and such, too. This time I tackled some nonwhite women, and some men, both of which I have trouble with. men sketches (Naturally nonwhite men are an issue too.) I have trouble getting my people to look like their ethnicity, and I just have a tough time drawing men in general, so this was good practice for me. I don’t think I was especially successful, but practice is enough at this point. I’m definitely getting better.

Speaking of drawings, I received my annual New Year card from my grad school advisor, and I just have to share it here. Valerie is an amazing scratchboard artist, and every year her theme is the animal for that year. Naturally I was excited to see what she would draw for the tiger. This is just the inside of the card; there’s always something on the front and back too, usually whimsical and food-related with more animal images!

tigercardYear of the Tiger card by Dr
Valerie Matsumoto

New product brainstorm: wrist rests for computer use

I think I will make up a wrist rest soon and test it out at my own computer. If I can figure out the right mixture to fill it with, I’ll make some for Craft Happy. I bought some buckwheat hulls a while back so I’ll definitely be experimenting with those. I was thinking of making the rests similar to my eye pillows, but smaller and with more embellishments around the edges. And possibly no scent. I’d like to do scent because I think it’s a nice touch that appeals to a lot of us, but I’d prefer to use dried herbs or flowers — definitely not artificial perfume oils. The only dried flowers I can think of are rose, lavender, and chamomile, and those don’t seem particularly productivity-inducing. Peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, and lemon verbena are invigorating scents, but I wouldn’t want to be constantly smelling culinary herbs while at my desk, and I don’t know if dried eucalyptus leaves carry the scent as well. Essential oils are expensive, but I’ll look into those. I don’t know how to add them to a pillow; I’ve heard it’s a good idea to use a fixative to keep the scent in, but I feel like those are kind of unnatural even if they’re made from organic materials. More research!

Yesterday evening: why I can’t get excited about art museums

matcha girlsIn the late afternoon, we headed out to San Francisco with Bright and Caroline to attend one of the Asian Art Museum’s “Matcha” events. For $10 we got museum admission (including the special Shanghai exhibition), a half-hour demonstration by Shaolin kungfu masters, and an opportunity to dress up and feel like cool young things. 😉 We enjoyed ourselves and would go again, but neither the event nor the exhibition were quite what I expected. For one thing, there wasn’t much mingling. I’d been hoping to meet other art-minded people, but it seemed like the attendees mostly came in pairs or groups, and preferred to do their own thing. My general feeling was, “Dangit, people, I didn’t dress up just to go home without meeting anyone new!” On the other hand, I didn’t feel like going up to people and introducing myself either. I guess I just sort of pictured sitting down at a table with strangers and getting to know them, but it wasn’t that kind of setting.

As for the exhibit, I always forget, when going to a new museum, just how indifferent I really am to art exhibits (generally speaking). I love museum spaces, I love museum gift shops, and in SF and LA I love museum cafes too. But I’m not a really avid art-museum-goer, not for the art, anyway. I was thinking this out in today’s morning pages, and I realize it’s an issue of context. Caroline pointed out last night that she tends to like history museums better than art ones, because they tell more of a story in their exhibitions; I agree. I can admire and enjoy individual works, but seeing painting after painting, from disparate eras and countries, I’m just unable to connect with them on the level that I’d like to. And my distaste for crowds hinders my absorption of whatever context art museums do provide, because I’m not willing to push through lots of people to read tiny placards.

I’d been very eager to check out the Shanghai exhibit, because my family comes from there and it just seems like a cool city. But the exhibition felt kind of random to me; I didn’t leave it with a sense that I’d really learned anything about Shanghai. What I saw, I felt like I’d already been exposed to; what I wanted to see, I didn’t. Why do a Shanghai exhibit at all? What’s notable about the city, besides its long cosmopolitan history? What makes Shanghainese art and culture Chinese, in spite of its Western influences? The curators had divided the pieces into three galleries and four time periods, but I didn’t feel like I got a great sense of what set Shanghai apart, especially in the later periods. For example, there was a good selection of revolutionary propaganda posters from my parents’ era, but why put these in a Shanghai show? Of course, I’m being very rude for asking any of these questions when I admit freely I didn’t read all the descriptions. But I feel strongly — even though I don’t know how realistic this is — that I shouldn’t have to read every single placard to get some kind of understanding of why this art matters and what it can tell us. The structure and supporting materials of the exhibition should already give me these ideas. Sigh… you know what my problem really is? I don’t want an art exhibition, I want a time machine. I want to walk through the streets of 1930s Shanghai, I want to see the girls in their qipao and bobbed hair, I want to hear the jazz and the honking horns and the different dialects and languages spoken in the streets. Beautifully lit pictures on a wall just don’t do it for me.

Well, I’ll be revisiting the exhibition at some point with my parents and relatives, so that should give me some more perspective (and, I hope, another chance to read the placards).

Another art-yoga connection

At least I came home with a few books (Thai and Vietnamese cookbooks, and a history of the Bund). bart sketchesAnd I got to draw on BART, which was fun. Isn’t that guy on the right amazing? He looks just like Mark Twain!! (Except he was Latino.) I realized while making these sketches that it really helped that I’d warmed up earlier in the day with my other drawings. When I was taking Linda’s yoga class in LA, she would often remark that the first downward dog of the day always feels like your first ever; I think this is a slight exaggeration, but otherwise I agree. Even when I’m practicing every day, the first Down Dog always does feel as creaky and awkward as ever, and it’s the same with my drawings. I always look at my first sketch of the day and think, “God, why am I doing this? I really can’t draw!” It’s like I’m starting from, if not square one, square three, or something. But as with yoga, when I’ve got a regular practice going, it only takes a quick warm-up period for me to get right back into the groove.

That’s it for now. My throat’s feeling kind of sore today… I hope I’m not getting sick!