Warning: if you are not a crafty type, this will be a very boring post. I’ll forgive you if you go look at pictures of Grumpy Cat instead.
Twice a year, I have the honor of making the seventeen award ribbons for the Tempe Festival of the Arts, a major regional art fair in the southwestern US.
We’ve fallen into a more-or-less efficient pattern. The nonprofit foundation running the festival picks a featured artist whose work is used for that show’s promotional poster – as well as becoming part of the Festival Gallery collection in downtown Tempe, Arizona. Then I come up with a thematic riff on that artwork, for the fiber art ribbons that will go to the category winners as well as the Best of Show artist.
Then follows a mad scramble of designs shunted back and forth, as we narrow down what we like, and what best reflects the featured artwork that season. (You can see past efforts on my Artist Book pages along the left side of this blog, going back to 2010.)
The Fall 2014 featured artist is Shawn Harris, whose surreal photography uses real-world locations, human models, animal masks, and some wonderfully devious photo-manipulation tricks to make haunting, multilayered art. His ‘Nemaeus the Vicious’ is a great example of his Hadaptation Series.
I won’t go into the artspeak reasons why ‘Nemaeus’ is a gutsy, provocative choice as featured art for the Tempe Festival. There are viewers who will agree with me, and viewers who will object. For the latter, Arizona already has lots of Dancing-Kokopelli and Howling Coyote art, plus all the other southwestern tropes.
The challenge here was keeping the rich, dark, almost-Christmas color scheme, as well as referencing the motifs of pine, lion, goose, and snow.
Once we had a sketch or three that worked, I gathered materials: tan-gray linen, dark green printed cotton, red silk velvet, brown and blue brocade, dark blue and silver-painted broadcloth, tan and neutral gray accent fabrics with interesting patterns, and dark red and green grosgrain ribbon (Thank you, SAS Fabrics By The Pound!)
Thanks to pack-rat instincts, I already had glass accent beads for more sparkle.
I printed the main motifs on specially-treated cotton and linen. Those motifs include the new Festival logo and category listings, and a lion face mimicking the mask Harris used in the photo. While the lion was lightly printed, most of its detail came from hand-inking later with colorfast acrylic ink pens.
Once those were dry, I made the goose appliques, the lion faces, and cut out dozens of accent fabrics and ribbons. I lightly glued those into place and started up the trusty old Elna sewing machine. Here are the ribbons at that stage.
Once the fabric and ribbon strips were sewn, I trimmed the selvages, zigzagged the edges to prevent fraying, and began hand-sewing the red, green, and clear glass accent beads into place. On all seventeen ribbons. That’s a lot of beads.
I backed the ribbons with a beautiful, moody rose-print cotton in shades of dark green and gray-blue. To make a border, I folded the edges around to the front, ironed and glued them into place, and sewed down the strips. I stitched a hanging ribbon at the top, and added a sew-on pin to the upper back. That way, each lucky artist has at least two display options. I signed each ribbon in silver ink, and documented them via scanner.
Then I fell over and slept for about twelve hours.
I think these came out pretty cool, in sort of a Goth Narnia vibe.
Now I’m wondering what the festival organizers going to hit me with, for the Spring show. (Note: by the time I posted, I had seen the Spring 2015 featured artwork. Wow.)
For anyone in central Arizona during the first weekend in December: wander over to Tempe and see our festival. (Follow the links above, for more info.)