Friday, September 30, 2011

September HITS

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Welcome back to the monthly post where I recap what went on over the last 30 days in my life as an artist. This month I dragged my feet in writing September’s H.I.T.S., because it takes so much time and energy to evaluate the past month and come up with a game plan for the following 31 days. I’m finding it more and more difficult to do things I find just mildly stimulating, like being on the computer. And yet, without a plan, how can I get to where I want to be or even know where I want to go? One blessings from giving myself a monthly deadline, is that it helps me to finish projects, since how it sounds better that I completed an art project, instead of saying it’s pending.

The biggest shift this month happened mentally. I’ve finally given myself permission to adjust my time so that I’m mostly doing the things that I LOVE, not just enjoy doing. That means instead of talking about how much I love to work out with friends, I actually do this every day. I’m volunteering at the Athletic Playground, where I took an aerial class and learned how simple it is to climb a 20 foot tall rope!

One good habit leads to the next, exercising feeds my interest in learning how to prepare meals that are more efficient, in terms of high nutritional content, time and money. One cookbook that I’m referencing called 3 Bowls, shares that cooking and eating is not only a meditative practice but also very spiritual. I prefer to share meals with friends, so this gives me an outlet to share what I’m learning in the kitchen. Everything is linked together, like in martial arts. Traditionally it wasn’t just working out, but it also incorporated cooking, medicine, body work, spiritual guidance…

I’ve set the timer for writing this post or else I’ll continue to expand it, eating up everyone’s time. Here we go!


Creative Experiences that have Fueled my Right Brain:

  • Thanks to Netflixs and to my eco-art class, I’ve watched many documentaries, which were mostly on environmental issues, biographies of artists and where food comes from.

I saw Mary and Max (which is the only film here that I don’t recommend), rivers and tides, the convenient truth, the inconvenient truth, food inc., The story of stuff, Gas Land, Home, A pixar story, PBS documentary on Warhol, and the Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I typically watch maybe one movie a month and now, I’m actually eager to watch more. I LOVE learning!

  • I went to a disparate showing of live music and performance. One night I saw a punk band perform at a house (or was that the venue?) that was charmingly “punk” in its design and it was so much fun!!! I also heard brass bands and acoustic performers at the Bay Vibes Fest. I also saw an aerial dance troupe, Bandaloop, repel down a 8 story building and dance on the side of the building. With the live music and lighting design it was pretty cool.
  • Not sure how this related artistically, but as a side not I got to use my motorcycle helmet and gloves for the first time. When I get a bike, all I’m going to do is ride. It was nice knowing you. ;-)
  • I heard about an annual show in Portland, OR called the Time Based Art (TBA) exhibit. The audience gets to interact with the art and manipulate it. Next year I’d love to either create a playground for people to explore or to just go and check it out.


What Goes in Must Come Out:

  • It’s silly but I LOVE organizing spaces, objects and data, making them user friendly and aesthetic. I get so much joy in stream-lining tasks, making them so simple that people want to use the system. I got to use these organizational skills for my friend who runs his own patent firm and for tracking the library’s inventory for my eco-arts class.
  • Speaking of the environmental arts class that I’m taking at the local community college, I learned an important lesson in respecting boundaries. I chose to make a zafu (a mediation pillow) for one of my projects. I bought materials that were meaningful to me: fabric made from bamboo and buckwheat husks for filling. I was all excited about making the project and getting to have a meditation pillow when I was done. Well- I didn’t get that far.

In the past, I’ve questioned why I bother using a sewing machine, since how hand sewing is so much faster for me. Random, odd ball things break when I use a sewing machine. It makes me super frustrated and the process is unenjoyably.

For some reason I decided to try it again and this time even more things went wrong then normal. After six hours of trying five sewing machines, none would work for me. I decided this wasn’t the way I want to create. I don’t enjoy sewing. I have fond memories as a kid sewing with the ladies in my family: both great grandmothers, my grandma and my mother, but I can’t seem to get a rhythm now that I’m an adult. I decided that six hours of work on a simple pillow and not even have reached the actually sewing part, wasn’t worth continuing. Miss A student didn’t turn in a project and that was ok with me. I got what I needed out of the assignment.

  • Several years ago I taught myself to read Braille and last week I got to put these skills to use. I noticed that a classmate’s glasses had Braille on them, so I asked him what it said. He had no clue, so I offered to decode it. I’m so rusty, that I had to reference the Braille alphabet, but I figured out that it said “cold.” Not sure why his Clockwork Orange glasses have the word “cold” on them, but it was so cool that I could give him a clue to the mystery.
  • I requested a tour of a gallery in Alemeda, CA that showcases artists who use recycled materials. I got to see the gallery, the store and the studio spaces for rent. I got my questions answered about the art residency program at the East Bay Transfer station (aka dump). Networking and seeing what opportunities that are available to me helped to formulate what I want to work towards.
  • I’m revisiting the vinyl record light switch covers that I had for sale once-upon-a-time on my etsy store. I’m making one for my sensei that has the RCA dog on it. It’s pretty cute.
  • The most encouraging thing that happened this month was talking with a seamstress about ideas on where to buy black cord. I need the cord to knit the matrix for the LED Cactus Lights. Carolyn had some wonderful insight and I think the end is in sight. Soon I will have this cord (which I learned is actually called binding)!

Symington_cord sample

  • Another ongoing project is the bouncy ball curtain. It had some structural issues, that required a restring. It’s a curtain made out of 900 bouncy balls and crazy straws, and from people walking though it, the materials are sagging. It was expected that alterations would be necessary since how I haven’t made an interactive installation like this before or had any prior experience working with these materials.

I’d put off restringing it because I wanted the Chinese manufactures that I emailed about buying crazy straws in bulk, to get back to me. A month went by and nothing happened. I had decided for the collector, Andrew, on his budget for the restring, instead of giving him a full status update on ordering supplies. I finally decided to take my mother’s advice from when I was a kid and to let the other person decide for themselves. It is his art, that’s in his home. Now the ball is in his court, and I’ll proceed as he wishes.

  • My other creative outlet is in the kitchen. Over on my food blog, Surprisingly Thankful, I pick a monthly theme and prepare or eat out four times, so to introduce myself to new experiences. September was “Monk food month” drawing inspiration from my stay with the monks.

Thanks for your support. Go out there and create!

Table of Contents for Happenings in the Studio

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Monday, September 26, 2011

more vs. better

Check out this interesting article that doing things better is more important then completing more.

Do Less List

This image from Jim's blog is so fitting for my motto for the year of to, "Do Less."

How do you Focus?

There is a fine line between constantly moving and staying still. I catch myself justifying my busy periods by saying that it's part of my focus, so it's important to accomplish. I'm happiest when doing the things that I love, but mostly, when I'm not doing everything that I love.

Life is so rich in experiences that I have to limit my exposure, so to really enjoy the present experience more deeply. My motto for this year, "Do Less," is based off this thinking. I must admit I have to remind myself to do less quiet often.

One way that I've encouraged myself to be more present is to not multitask. It pulls my attention into many different directions, making it easier to forget to do things. Plus statistically people are less productive when they multitask. I challenge myself to do just one thing at a time, which is actually really hard. I just made myself eat an orange and not turn on the kettle and type up this post.

Instead of multitasking, I try to completely focus on one task at a time. It makes for a more enjoyable experience, even if that's just surfing the web with just one tab open. I'm not worrying about needing to do other things.

Multitasking is often confused with being efficient. I like to batch like tasks together, like internet chores or reading assignments and if applicable, assembly line the tasks. But I avoid trying to cook while emailing or doing homework and checking Facebook. Focus is my mantra and one of these days I will get it.

How do you focus? How do you choose what are the most important and meaningful things to-do?

(Unfortunately the 'Do Less tshirt" is no longer for sale from Oneless Act.)

benefits of having a focus

The following are artist whom I admire for their focus, albeit one material or one concept, or both:

Lucy Matzger

Lucia Matzger uses coffee filters as a medium to create kimonos.

By staying in one medium, you can see what the material is capable of doing. It becomes a playful "what if" game. Experimenting is key. Introducing subtle elements, like gold leaf. Trying out different ways of attaching disparate materials together.

I also admire Lucia's art because she works primarily with nontoxic coffee filters that are given a higher calling over the compost bin.

Ani Kasten

Ani Kasten works with clay to make textured vessels, both pots and sculptures, often using a high key color palette (pastels and whites).

What I love about her art is the deliberate act of making them imperfect and off balance. This makes them more interesting to look at. It's like what my mom said to me when I was little. I wanted so badly to fit in, but she told me that people like me because of my differences. I already know what perfection looks like. Give me something different. A perfect pot is the same all the way around. I like to visually explore what a weathered pot looks like; covered in texture with subtle color variations.

Ani's ceramics are deceptively simple. There is so much going on there. I'd love to hold one and really experience her art in person.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I found this on Facebook. Not sure who to credit. It made me smile.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Andy Goldsworthy

After watching Rivers and Tides, a documentary on the British Land Artist, Andy Goldsworthy, I sought out more images of his work. I found a site that documents his art made from 1976-86, during that time he made 2,700 sculptures. That means he finished and photographed 1.3 sculptures a day.

I wanted to look at his less well-known art, like the above photo of Snow and Stone Arch. I think it is stunning. It instantly reminded me of the Byzantine arches that were alternating black and white stripes.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Gently Waking Up

For years I used a jarring alarm clock to get me out of bed. By setting the alarm for 7 am every day, I trained myself to get up a minute before the awful sound would go off. Then as cell phones evolved, I selected a peaceful song to wake me up, which I actually look forward to hearing.

There are other gentle alarm clocks, like the sunrise alarm clock that gradually turns on a light. Sunrise clocks can have tons of other features like an iPod dock, white noise feature, emits aromatherapy, or a star globe.

Or you can feel like you are waking up in a Zen temple, by using a Zen Alarm Clock. This bamboo clock is designed to strike a brass Meditation bowl, gradually speeding up. Since how there is a volume control, I am curious if the timer function could be set to specific intervals so it could be used in a martial arts school, instead of using the traditional beeping time machines.

I also found this really cool digital alarm clock that runs on water. I don't know what the alarm sounds like, but I love the idea of not having to recharge batteries.

Friday, September 2, 2011

August Happenings in the Studio

henna HITS header

Welcome back to the monthly post on what I experienced as a visual artist over the last 31 days.

Sitting down and reviewing all that went on, shows me why I feel frazzled. Being involved and around so much art is excited, but also tiring. August was so productive, that it feels like it was months long, which reminds me that I prefer to be involved in fewer activities. We’ll see how I pace myself for September.

It is also apparent in reviewing August’s accomplishments, that it wouldn’t of been possible without asking for help. My life is so blessed with wonderful friends. I love my community of friends and look forward to meeting more creative, health centered, kind hearted folks.

Visited The Oakland Museum of California

oak mus

Even though I’ve visited most of the San Francisco museums multiple times, just this month I went to my first East Bay museum. At the Oakland Museum of California I was welcomed by the above art installation of chaos and order of hanging chairs on the blackboard wall. I even ran into one of my fencing teammates from college and thoroughly enjoyed the museum. It is such a treasure! Keep in mind the first Sundays are free!!!

oak mus 3

Just a Matter of Time

Paul Kos, 1990

Of the history, art and John Muir exhibits, this mixed media installation kept me still the longest. I heard the cuckoo clocks before seeing the installation. It reminded me of my childhood in bringing back a cuckoo clock from Germany. After reading the label I learned that it is about the inevitable fall of communist Russia, hence the sickles hanging from the chains.

Constructed and Painted a Pyramid Burning Man

pyramid 01tarp

The theme for Burning Man this year is “Rites of Passage,” which is why my friend Paul wanted his tent to be a pyramid. When I was little I’d write in hieroglyphics, so when I heard Paul was making a 20 foot tall pyramid I volunteered!

pyramid 02 tarp

Several of us distressed the tarp using white and silver paint, cut it to size, then painted hieroglyphics using glow-in-the-dark paint.


We painted one entire side with glow-in-the-dark paint, then painted the above design of Anubis using white paint. That way the design would be black at night, with a glowing background, making it a reverse hieroglyphic.

pyramid hieros

I had an absolute blast working on this project. I look forward to seeing photos of the tent set up at Burning Man.

Watched a movie at a 70 year old Theater

paramount theatre

Two Sacramento friends drove out here to see Dr. Strangelove with me at the art deco style Paramount Theater. Before the movie there was live organ music, a news clip from the time the movie came out, a cartoon and a raffle involved a giant spinning wheel. The theater was stunning, the company as always was great and the movie wasn’t disturbing like the other Kubrick film that I’d seen - A Clockwork Orange.

Checked out an Open Studio


I went to an art opening at a warehouse in Emeryville that showcased lots of artist, including makers of bamboo bicycles (they are so pretty!!). I was there to check out a group show that Erin Johnson put together. She had a hotel room that she wasn’t using, so she invited local artists to each make something in the room over a period of 24 hours. Check out the Unimpressionable Project to see the videos, dances, photos…that were created in the plain Jane hotel room.

Earth sticker

earth bike

As of last month I’ve taken over filling the orders for the earth art stickers and tshirts for the artist/creator Philip Krohn. I keep seeing more and more of the sticker, which is so cool. A recent customer told us that this commonality in the sticker brought together a couple who were e-dating.

Going on four years I am blessed to be Philip’s key studio assistant. If you look at the tent image that is above the yellow bike, in the background you’ll see the Oracle, which I helped construct out of 500+ oil jugs.

Plan of Attack for Restringing the Bouncy Ball Curtain

ball fishing lien

Over the last year the 7’ x 5’ bouncy ball curtain has been walked through numerous times, making it sag. It needs a face lift! The curtain is made up of 900 bouncy balls and crazy straws that are strung onto fishing line. The original design had the fishing line double back at the end of the string. What happened after several months, was that the line started coming undone. I thought that was because of the weight that was resting on the bottom bouncy ball.

ball washer

So I added a jewelry crimp to hold the line in place and strung on a washer to prevent the bouncy ball from splitting from the tension caused by the fishing line. What ended up happening is that the washer didn’t stay in place, some of the crimps came undone and space was magically appearing between the straws like before. It was then that I accepted that even though I used 50 pound fishing line, the space between the straws was not caused by the line becoming undone at the bottom, but from the fishing line stretching.

ball grommets profileball grommets bottom
The latest plan of attack, thanks to two engineering friends, is to use a nonstretching 50 pound fishing line, and to use grommets to prevent the ball from splitting from the line. And since how everything needs to be restrung, I can then run extra line through the ball so it goes through it twice, holding the grommet in place.

Another problem with the curtain was that the regular straws were splitting from the fishing line. I’m going to fix this by using the stems of the crazy straws, since how they are a rigid plastic. I have the grommets, the fishing line and about 200 more crazy straws. I am hunting down about 400 more straws, then it will be time to have a restringing party! I also learned about alibaba, which is a direct connection to manufactures worldwide, making it easier to buy materials in bulk.

Making interactive art that involved different materials takes lots of tests. I am confident that this latest design will solve the challenges that the curtain has been experiencing. I’m excited to have this figured out, so I can confidently make and sell more of them.

My Portfolio Website is Finally Editable Again


Thanks to a super smart and generous friend, Jon, I can upload images to my portfolio website, It’s been almost two years since being able to add new photos to my online portfolio. Jon fixed the captions so that they would always be on, and he redirected the common misspelt version of name to my site. And, he forwarded my business email address, so I can now check my personal and work accounts in the same place.

I feel very spoiled and lucky to have such a beautiful site and for friends like Jon to help me when I get stuck with the technology. Since how I now have access to my site, I also updated my resume and recut my demo reel. It is such a relief having a complete online portfolio of my art installations, ceramics and hanging lights.

As you can see I still have more to share, but for the sake of everyone’s time, here’s the synopsis of the other exciting art adventures:

  • Local artist, Ricardo Pelaez, contacted me and asked if I’d be interested assisting with future projects or even possibly collaborating together. Ricardo combines his background in architecture and etching to create beautiful site-specific art installations. His art is very well made and thoughtful. I’m grateful that I got to meet him and to see his art in person.
  • For the sake of learning more and for networking purposes I’m taking a class on nutrition and one on the history of environmental art and what it means to be an eco artist. I am so incredibly impressed with these classes and instructors, that there will be future posts about what I’m learning and applying to my life.
  • I had a ladies night where Jen and I sewed two throw pillows. Together we figured out how to put in a zipper! I hadn’t done that since both of my Great Grandmothers showed me how to sew on a machine when I was about 9 years old.
  • Because of this art blog, the director of the Eco Arts Award found me and invited me to apply. I passed the competition information onto my eco arts class and marked the upcoming deadline on my calendar.
  • Between textbooks, recommendations from friends and my own nerdiness, I have added many more books to the 2011 booklist.
  • Progress on the Cactus Light commission is coming along. I’ve learned my lesson from the bouncy ball curtain by asking professions how they’d proceed, before wasting time and money hunting for the solution on my own. I’ve networked with many glass artists and electricians, learning how to more efficiently make these 7’ tall hanging lights. In the efforts of working smart and not hard, I bought a hand crank circular knitting machine and diamond drill bits for making holes into glass.

Photos taken while biking…they made me smile!

b who u r

smiling car

Thank you for persevering and making it to the end. I try to keep my stories short, but this month there were lots of little things going on.

If your eyes aren’t tired, you can read July’s H.I.T.S. or surf around the Happenings In The Studio Table of Contents, which dates back to Jan. 2009.

Have a wonderful month! See you October 1st, 2011 for the next Happenings In The Studio!

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