Studio Visit: Sharron Parker

The general consensus is that feltmaking originated close to 5,000 years ago. What’s amazing about this process in particular is that it is common to cultures across the globe. Yet no matter who you focus on, felted garments and vessels were amongst the first art objects ever made by our ancestors. Felting played a major role as the predominant process by which ancient peoples crafted utilitarian and ceremonial wares. Of course part of this stems from the availability of wool, but it’s reasonable to argue that feltmakers enjoy the endless possibilities and applications of the material. One can make virtually anything through felting; whether it’s a pair of slippers or a yurt. There are even many unexpected applications for the material used to this day – the most obvious of which is the collection of 2,500+ felt components used in making a single piano.

Clouds

“Reverie Opal” handfelted artwork by Sharron Parker – her studio is all about texture

Naturally, I learned all of this after conducting a studio visit with felt artist Sharron Parker, whose idiosyncratic approach to feltmaking allows her to channel and refine these practices. As she explains in her artist statement: “I use the ancient technique of feltmaking not to capture what I’ve seen directly, but to create something new.” For Parker, this entails an interesting fluctuation between abstract and surprisingly representational artworks that stem from natural textures, organic patterns, and memory.

Work-Table

Studio space and work table

Slab

Inspiration slab

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City Guide: Raleigh, NC

Over the course of my week spent in Raleigh, NC I was continually impressed by the cultural assets that virtually brimmed over in such a small city. It was only after returning home that I learned Raleigh was recently named the fastest growing city in America by Forbes. I have to say from the sidewalk, it’s hard to refute. Between the cranes looming over downtown and the number of small businesses setting up shop, it seems like a veritable renaissance has taken hold of the area. Not to mention, it’s the friendliest place on earth. The natives there basically cram happiness down your throat. As a visitor, you get all this… and it’s all without traffic! Are you kidding me?!

Almost by happenstance, I teamed up with Rebekah Zabarsky (lifelong Raleigh native and founder of creative production company Bex Productions), to come up with a city guide. We pooled our best experiences together with the idea that locals and out-of-towners like myself could find something special during their time in Raleigh. Suffice it to say we didn’t have to look hard.

TASTE

Poole’s Diner is a downtown favorite for contemporary American cuisine. Given that much of their produce and game comes from local family farms, their menu changes with the seasons. Poole’s offers a modest, albeit diverse selection of charcuteries, appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Their drink menu on the other hand is extensive, making it a lively social spot later in the evening. The ambiance lies just on the casual side of swanky – like a pseudo lounge that makes for a clean and comfortable experience no matter what the occasion. 426 S McDowell St, 27601 – 919 832-4477

Interior, food, and principal photos of Bida Manda Laotian Restaurant and Bar in Raleigh NC. Owner Vansana Nolintha

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The Ironically Organic Installations of Tara Donovan

Untitled [Plastic Cups] (image courtesy of Ace Gallery)

Untitled [Plastic Cups] (image courtesy of Ace Gallery)

Tara Donovan is a contemporary artist who is best known for her large scale, site-specific installations. Despite relying almost exclusively on mass-produced materials such as plastic cups or wooden pencils, her work is surprisingly biological in appearance. After all, the forms in Donovan’s installations are directly influenced by patterns of growth found in nature.

(image courtesy of Ace Gallery)

(image courtesy of Ace Gallery)

Colony Detail (image courtesy of Ace Gallery)

Colony Detail (image courtesy of Ace Gallery)

Iteration is an important aspect of her work. Aside from miscellaneous structural components (i.e. glue and whatnot), Donovan creates each installation using a single material that is modified or repeated countless times to determine the final form. The process is a sensitive one wherein the monotony of the materials reveals a surprising spectrum of hues, volume, and presence that would otherwise go unnoticed. Imagining Donovan construct her installations brings to mind a slow, methodical process wherein one can’t help but fall into a rhythm of counting physical motions and their object counterparts. The mass and repetition of Donovan’s works also brings a focus to the importance of numbers, which arguably connects back to patterns found in nature like the Fibonacci sequence.

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Introducing “Hanji Unfurled” – The First English-Language Book on Korean Papermaking

The art of papermaking is virtually omnipresent throughout both Eastern and Western cultures, yet many of these traditions remain relatively unknown. So in an effort to combat the steady decline of these time-honored crafts, artist Aimee Lee has devoted herself to understanding and sharing the traditional paper arts of Korea. Recently, this research culminated in a 208 page hardback book that chronicles the importance and processes behind these persevering Korean crafts. Entitled Hanji Unfurled: One Journey into Korean Papermaking, the book is strewn with intimate interviews with Korean paper artists, explanations of their given art forms, and Lee’s personal anecdotes from these interactions abroad.

Sample book of dyed hanji

It’s important to note that the book is not just about papermaking. Rather it catalogues the variety of paper arts throughout Korea – including paper weaving, paper felting, natural dyeing, calligraphy, &c. Drawing on her experiences throughout her yearlong Fulbright Fellowship, Lee grants the reader direct access to the different creative values, personalities, and spaces of Korean paper artists from bustling city-centers to remote island outposts.

Mr. Shin forming a sheet of hanji in his studio

Though Hanji Unfurled is by nature a reference book, it is an extremely engaging, hands-on experience. As an artist, Lee partakes in each different paper craft, which makes for both evocative and insightful descriptions. For that reason in particular, this book is suited to those who are curious, creative, or both.

Be sure to check out the video trailer for the book above, as well as some book images in the gallery below. Similarly, if you are interested in getting (or giving) a copy of Hanji Unfurled, you can do so by clicking here. You can also find out more about Aimee Lee by visiting her artist website. There you can see works from her portfolio and learn more about her efforts to promote Korean papermaking in the United States (including her role in opening the first North American hanji center at the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland Ohio).

Jeff Talman – The Art of Sound

Whereas most artists seek out visual stimulation, Jeff Talman looks rather to a completely difference sense altogether. His work hinges on the beauty of sound – specifically the esoteric frequencies that we encounter everyday but are nonetheless are apt to tune out.

Recording the sound of snow

For lack of a better term, his pieces fall into a new-ish category of “sound installation.” Here, the artist fills a given space with noise rather than materials. Specifically concerning Talman’s work, these installations have no bounds in terms of where they occur or what they contain. In fact, he has exhibited his work everywhere from the dense forests to the sidewalks of Köln. Of course depending on the piece, the juxtaposition between the captured sounds and the exhibition space can prompt a phenomenal sensory experience.

Talman installing equipment to capture the echoes of almost             indistinct wave sounds from a nearby shore

The most profound aspect of his work however is the diversity of sounds he collects and reproduces. Talman uses super sensitive sound equipment to record the subtle wisps of breeze between trees, the crash of distant waves as they reverberate through a grand modern hall, or even the sound of silence in European cathedrals. He is perhaps best known for a recent installation in the Bavarian forest wherein Talman collaborated with astrophysicist Daniel Huber to reproduce the sound of burning stars. But regardless which installation one considers, Talman inevitably confronts his audience with an aural world often left unnoticed or unexplored.

Partly because his installations are impermanent by nature, it would be extremely rewarding to experience these transient and transformative exhibitions. Until then, you can learn more about both his process by visiting his website. You can also see a vast array of his two-dimensional work – all of which of course center around varying ideas of sound.

And I’m Off To Get An iPad

Great news for the art world! Rice Gallery (the only university art museum in the United States that caters exclusively to installation work) just released an app for the iPad that catalogues each site-specific exhibition commissioned by the school since 1995. In other words, it’s an all access key to the works of world-renowned artists like El Anatsui, Tara Donovan, and many others.

Archives Screen Shot (image courtesy of Rice Gallery)

The app is a great resource for viewers around the world who don’t otherwise have access to the space in Houston, TX. It allows one to scroll through high-resolution photo galleries and videos covering the installation process, artist interviews, and intimate details of the final exhibition. The content is organized either chronologically or by artist, so it is easy to hone in on your favorites.

Photo Gallery Screen Shot (image courtesy of Rice Gallery)

You can find out more information about this app by visiting the Rice Gallery website or by checking it out on iTunes. The kicker is that it is free, so there’s really no excuse to pass it up!

CMYK: Fluorescence

A contrast of biodynamic, bioluminescent, and anthropogenic fluorescence.

A Gratuitously Existential Approach to Beautiful Art – Noriko Ambe’s “Linear Action Projects”

Though she works in a variety of different media, visual artist Noriko Ambe is particularly known for her series of topographical paper cuttings. These pieces – which range from books to sculptures – are made by incising and layering individual sheets of paper one at a time. Each work seems to grow organically, but the underlying process is a grueling exercise in both patience and dedication.

Piece of A Flat Globe – 2008 (Image courtesy of the artist)

Flat Globe Installation (Image courtesy of the artist)

All of Ambe’s Linear Action Projects are cut by hand, leaving subtle imperfections throughout each piece. These idiosyncrasies are important in that they represent the “nuances of human emotion, habit, or biorhythm” that the artist investigates through her work.

Lands of Emptiness [Detail] 2003 (Image courtesy of the artist)

Yet the aspect I enjoy most about this series is the shared realization that her creative process is equally as important as the final product. In essence, each piece embodies elements of what Ambe calls “physical and emotional geography”. By cutting out layers of paper, the artist removes an object’s mass, but simultaneously defines its shape. This relationship between addition and subtraction reveals a deeper meaning in her work: the negative space in each piece is Ambe and vice versa. Evoking Jung’s concept of the empty-self, the artist posits that the surgeon and the incision are manifestations of a single, paradoxical existence.

All philosophy/art theory aside, Ambe can certainly produce some beautiful work. Be sure to scroll through the images below for a tailored look at her Linear Action Projects. You can see more of this series (as well as other works) by visiting her website. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts, comments, or existential crises.

City Guide – Paris, France

Having recently returned from my first visit to Paris, I thought it appropriate to sift through the experiences I had during my stay and translate them into a brief city-guide. However, I wanted to do something a bit different. Most guides I’ve read highlight the obligations (i.e. “must-sees” and “must-eats”), but then follow with a phonebook-sized list of almost everything else available in the city. While it’s wonderful to have so many options to choose from, I thought a curated guide would give a more intimate glimpse into the side of Paris I enjoyed. My hope is to shed light on rewarding experiences that one might not seek out on their own. After all, there is so much to see that it’s easy to overlook what’s in our periphery.

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Just because it is the biggest, oldest, or most famous attraction does not guarantee that it is the most impressive. Below are my top two visits that many may overlook. But before deciding where to go, it’s good to know how to get there…

The Paris Pass

The first thing you should do after booking flights and accommodations is look into the Paris Pass. There are different options available, but the basic principle is to streamline your visit as much as possible through unimpeded use of mass transit (buses, RER, & metro), free entry into almost all museums/monuments, and the ability to save time by skipping lines. You pay a given fee upfront for your pass before it is mailed to you, but the price is more than reasonable given how much money and time you will save during your stay. You can find more information here.

When planning your visit, it’s worth noting that many shops/boutiques around the city are closed on Mondays. Similarly, a majority of museums are closed on Tuesdays. There are exceptions though, so it’s worth the research. Many museums also have late night admission 1-2 times during the week. If that’s the case, see everything else during the day and enjoy the given museum at night when the crowds have dispersed and you have the collection to yourself.

Sainte Chapelle

Sainte Chapelle (wiki-rendering)

Although Sainte Chapelle barely escapes the shadows cast by Notre Dame, visitors often skip this relatively small chapel when visiting Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris. Originally built to house King Louix IX’s expansive collection of relics, the chapel is now known for its incredible stained-glass windows that encompass the entire building. While it’s important to see as many sights as possible, I was actually far more impressed by Sainte Chapelle than I was with Notre Dame. In a pinch, I would choose to visit the former.

A taste of the stained glass (post restoration)

The chapel is currently in the final stretch of a 3-4 year restoration project, so a small portion of the glass is obscured at the moment. However, now is a great time to visit as you can’t find cleaner glass anywhere else! Check the website for a calendar of events that often features classical music recitals. I’ve heard the chapel has wonderful (albeit ethereal) acoustics.

4 Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris, France
Tel: (33) 01 44 54 19 33
1 Mar – 31 Oct: open everyday from 9:30A to 6:00P
1 Nov – 28 Feb: open everyday from 9:00A to 5:00P
Closed: 1 January, 1 May, & 25 December

Palais de Tokyo

The Palais de Tokyo is a modern space with a heavy emphasis on contemporary installation art. That said, it is also harbor to a constant flux of video, 2D work, design, and musical performances.

The work there tends to be cutting-edge and thought provoking, so it promises to be a memorable visit for any fan of the arts. The complex is also known for its incredible bookstore.

13, Avenue du Président Wilson, 
75116 Paris, France
Tel: 01 47 23 54 01
Wednesday through Monday from 12:00P-12:00A

***Closes early at 6:00P on 24 & 31 December
Closed: Tuesdays; 1 January, 1 May, & 25 December

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When looking for dining options in Paris, virtually anybody can find great restaurants like Café des Musees or Robert et Louise. Not that these cafes are a dime a dozen, but I enjoyed stepping out of the “Parisian” culinary experience in seeking out something a bit different…

Soya – Cantine Bio

Although Paris is known for its epicurean standards, it is not regarded as vegetarian-friendly. However, the casual yet elevated vegetarian fusion at Soya is a notable exception and is worth seeking out even if you are an omnivore.

The restaurant is tucked away on a not-so-busy street in Le Marais, which is a great area in and of itself. The atmosphere is open and laid back, yet they remain very calculated in what they serve. Their menu is comprised of changing seasonal dishes, all of which are all made using local and organic ingredients. They even have many naturally gluten-free dinner options for those with dietary restrictions.

20, Rue de la Pierre Levée, 75011 Paris, France
Tel : 01 48 06 33 02
Mon-Fri: 12:00 P – 3:30P; 7:00P – 11:00P
Sat-Sun: 11:30A – 4:00P

Helmut Newcake

It might seem somewhat counter-intuitive, but the best pastries I had while in France were from Helmut Newcake – a gluten-free café/patisserie located in the 10th arrondissement. While my diet is the last thing one could call gluten-free, I was nonetheless floored by the textures and flavors in their crusts. Nowhere else in Paris could I find a better lemon tart (believe me, I tried), but everything they served was exquisite – including their daily lunch selections which featured various quiche and rice dishes among other offerings.

Unfortunately, they don’t have a website but you can find them via Facebook or by visiting:

36 Rue Bichat, 75010 Paris, France
Tel: 09 82 59 00 39
Wed-Sat: 12:00P – 8:00P
Sun: 10:00A – 6:00P

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Personally, shopping is always an important aspect of any trip. I find however that it pays to be a curator rather than a consumer. Here’s a good way to go about it:

Repetto Stock Store

For decades, Repetto has been a staple of Parisian style. Although the label began by solely making ballet slippers, they quickly branched out into the fashion world by introducing their hand-made, everyday shoes to the everyday market. If you searching for a pair, be sure to visit their ‘hidden’ stock store in the 9th Arrondissement for a good deal. Although it’s apparently a well-kept Paris secret, my girlfriend and I noticed a couple eager shoppers collecting outside the unmarked entrance just before opening time. They had a solid collection of last season’s shoes, interesting colors, and assorted handbags, so there is sure to be something there for everyone. Remember though, you didn’t hear about it from Procured Design.

24 Rue de Châteaudun, 75009 Paris, France
Tel: 33 01 53 32 84 84
Tues-Sat: 10:30A-7:00P

Calligrane

Some familiar work from Issac Reina

The area surrounding Rue du Pont Louis Philippe just north of the Seine is packed full of interesting shops and cafes. However, the best visit I had was Calligrane – a store devoted to stationery, specialty paper goods, book arts, and leatherwork. Originally founded in Cannes, the boutique has been in operation since 1979. Their phenomenal stock of rare papers and unique handmade goods is the product of years spent traveling the world, conversing with artisans in Nepal, India, Japan, Brasil, Bhutan, and Europe.

Paper Sculpture by Miki Nakamura

The shop showcases a diverse stable of different paper, book, and leather artists who work towards vastly different realizations of their given craft. It is an incredibly rich experience to poke around the shop and talk to the owners, who just recently took the reins of their family’s business. It’s also a great opportunity to pick up some well-curated handmade goods – or even order custom stationery, notebooks, and business cards.

6 Rue du Pont Louis Philippe, 75004 Paris, France
Tel: 01 48 04 09 00
Tues-Sat: 12:00P-7:00P

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While there is so much more to see and do in the city, it’s best to leave the rest to you to discover. Each trip will have different highlights for different people. That said, feel free to share your favorite places and experiences in Paris – or anywhere for that matter. It’s always nice to know where to go!

The Paper Jewelry of Janna Syvänoja

On the off chance there is a word to sum up the jewelry by Finnish artist Janna Syvänoja, it would be ‘organic.’ The major component in her work is paper – namely clippings from discarded phonebooks and newspapers. In meticulously curving each piece of paper around a steel wire, Syvänoja evokes a delicate and elegant fluidity through her forms – as if they are arrested in mid-motion.

 

Texture plays a major role in her paper jewelry, both in a visual and a tactile sense. Printed words and letters are rendered illegible, reducing their meaning to tiny moments of color and tone. They instead create a unique quill-like pattern throughout each piece.

 

The process behind each work is an open one. In adding each layer one by one, the artist allows for each piece to grow in its own direction. The patterning on the surface of her works is not predetermined. Rather it is created by a combination of happenstance and the will of her materials.

 Click on the thumbnails in the gallery below for more images of her work. Syvänoja doesn’t seem to have her own website, but you can find more information about her and her process online.

Judging A Book By Its Cover

Small confession: I unabashedly judge books by their covers. So far as I’m concerned, a story can be a beautiful thing and there is no shame in adorning it with a beautiful image. It is in that spirit that I decided to gather a small gallery of book covers which deserve to be appreciated in their own right. To keep things objective, I only selected books that I haven’t read (save for one) to prevent the content from influencing their aesthetic qualities. In any case, check out some really phenomenal visual work in the gallery below. If you’ve read any of them, it would be interesting to hear your takes on the given covers!

Cai Guo-Qiang – Explosions

One of the most evocative works of 2011. Granted the only thing better than viewing his pieces is watching him create them. It’s definitely worth a trip to the MFAH to see one of his largest gunpowder paintings in the world.

Descending Wolves 2011

Painting

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