Journal entry number 3 - October 2020
I’m trying to see past the smoke - not just of the fires here in California but also the smoke that obscures my vision of the future - from the clouds of social and political upheaval, the COVID and lockdown ... it’s hard. I’ve had to work at keeping my little ship of good hope in order by constant patching and propping... and paddling. Sometimes the future is obscured by this figurative smog bank... but we must keep steering - steady on - not just gravely - but full steam ahead! As my good friend Robert says, WORK AHEAD IN HOPE.
I believe that the times when you feel the most lost are the best of times to find yourself.
And when you are most open to inspiration….
It was 1990 and although I was actively drawing in sketchbooks again after a decade of procrastination, I was feeling depressed - bogged down creatively and not sure how to go forward. Fine art was always my first love and drawing had always been my forte, but the drawings were just piling up in the attic.
Then a wonderful thing happened - two parts of my brain came together to to invent the Theatre of Dreams!
I found a way of combining my love of art and antiques.
I had been stockpiling antique materials for years and they were piled up in my drawing studio everywhere - by 1990 I had shelves full of old wallpapers, crumbling newspapers, old Dennison crepe paper, labels and stickers, boxes of Victorian die cuts, tarnished tinsel and old jars of glass glitter. I just wanted to live and breathe the past.
I also collected antique catalogs of giftware and what were called “novelties”, and also anything theatrical.
It was a moment of magical collusion when my love for art and my passion for antiques came together and I sat in my studio and created a three dimensional star covered with vintage glass glitter. It looked like it had dropped right out of a Christmas pageant from 1880. I knew that the way ahead would be full of making things that looked like objects out of an imaginary past. Not reproducing antiques, but creating new designs from the same imaginative source.
I am still driven by my love of antiques. My house and studio are filled with them and I can never get enough. I am the opposite of a minimalist - I find that my surroundings collectively feed my dreams, and out of the chaos of the piles of stuff everywhere, come one idea after another. I collect too many things to mention, but a quick tour of my digs will show cabinets full of celluloid animals, antique Christmas, how-to books from 1870’s, piles of textiles, lace and trims folded away, antique gas lights with wheel cut and frosted shades hanging everywhere, Victorian lustreware, old tools and stacks of 1860’s newspapers. Open any drawer and find a collection of old pencils, paper flowers, or office supplies from 1920…I love using antique hand driven tools and machinery - I sew on an 1890’s treadle singer sewing machine and use a hundred year hand driven letterpress. In a power outage, I can sew and print by the light of the oil lamps!!!
Every antique object speaks to me with a whisper in voices from the past…..each piece of lace that was woven by hand, then sewn on a dress, then unstitched years later, washed, ironed, wound around a woman’s hand and neatly put away… then treasured for generations till it landed in my hands…. Each piece survived because it was loved, and each has a story without words that you can almost feel by holding in your hands.
Everything in my shop, everything that made in my studio, comes out of the collective input of all of these voices from the past.
Now that we are moving into Fall, I am looking forward to my favorite time of year - Christmas!
My imagination wants to re-create in my shop some kind of dream like place that I can see with my minds eye - just full of glistening beauty. Transparencies and shadows….pantomimes in paper….chandeliers and charades…. A Christmas Pageant from 1880!