From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Archive for the ‘process’ Category


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redsMore dyeing today for Identity Tapestry.

I love working with dyes- in some ways it feels like oil painting- layers of color changing each other, relating each color to the others.  Over-dyeing (dyeing one color on top of another) gives you so much depth and variation in each color.  Love it.

Now I have to balance everything out, fill in the spectrum.  For this one I’m going a little heavy on the greens and blues (I always do a bit because we see more shades of green than any other color and because blues are the most common favorite color.  In this case I feel like it will fit the setting of Vermont.  I also want to be sure not to neglect browns for this one in particular.

After this I spend IMG_3035a lot of time attaching the yarn to the rocks and then (with some help) winding the yarn around each rock.  Time consuming, but important to the piece.

Written by Mary Corey March

August 21, 2013 at 10:33 am

Let it go

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let it goThe latest two in the “Write me for Art” project.  It’s coming along in stolen moments, but it is coming.

The writing is from responses to questions I asked sent in to me by hand or mail in each person’s own writing.  If you want to participate, follow the link.

The other half of this project is computer-mediated.

Written by Mary Corey March

August 20, 2013 at 10:35 am

kitty in process

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kittyToday’s dyeing for the next Identity Tapestry.  50-some blues and greens so far today.

Because kitties LOVE to “help”.

For the cat-allergic: I shooed her away pretty quickly and she only sat on the two skeins, but I just had to get the picture.

Written by Mary Corey March

August 17, 2013 at 2:15 am

Write me for art: first letters…

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IMG_2993A few days ago I got my first mailed-in responses to the Write-Me-for-Art project.  I am nearly done hand-embroidering  the envelope of responses from the hospital, so I’m glad!  I also got an installment from a friend who brought me an envelope full of responses from a party.

I’m enjoying the variety of ways and kinds of responses I’m getting so far.  I’ve passed on the envelopes and instructions to friends and family in Chicago, Vermont, Maine, and Iowa.  I’ve passed the out personally in SF, New York and New Hampshire.

I try to do a large variety of people- age, occupation, location, style, culture…  I sought out a cousin who is more on the right-wing NRA type side of things because I do want a VARIETY of voices and if I’m left to the people I’m likely to see of talk with in the places that I would normally go that just won’t happen.  I’ve been stopped waiters, check-out counter folks, taxi drivers, riders on the bus, people in the park… so many different kinds.

If you want to be included in the project follow the instructions here. Please note the “handwritten” and “less than twelve words” parts!

There will be a tech component to this piece as well… coming.

The “Access” piece is still turning in my mind, but I’m putting it on the back burner until I finish this iteration of Identity Tapestry.  The “Write Me for Art” project is absolutely intended to be done in the between moments.

Written by Mary Corey March

August 16, 2013 at 12:31 am

Iteration #8- skeins

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IMG_2995This is what the first stage of dyeing for the participatory installation Identity Tapestry looks like.  Yesterday I spent the entire day taking store-bought skeins of yarn (like the ones on the bottom) and winding them into new skeins of the correct length (varied, but related to the size of the piece).  So if the one I bought was 150 yards, it might become 7-10 little skeins.

I did 144 yesterday.  I have 100-160ish to go.  I have to space out these things by a day or two so that RSI (Repeated Stress Injury) doesn’t take my hands and shoulders.  Yarn geeks- yes I use a Swift- 2 if I can, but still…

Today:  Sculpting the basket-form.

Because I’m dying over many existing colors the result is a great variety and depth of colors in the yarn.  Since I want each skein to be recognizably different, this helps (as do the different thickness and textures of the yarn).

I usually dye in two waves so that I can look at the complete spectrum and fill in the holes in the second round.

This Iteration of Identity Tapestry will be a permanent installation at Southern Vermont College, opening for participation on September 15th.

Written by Mary Corey March

August 16, 2013 at 12:07 am

listening to the materials

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Continuing updates on this project which involves hand-embroidering responses to personal questions I (mostly) receive in the mail.

This is about the actual size.  It’s funny, but it takes such a short time to start to feel acquainted with a person’s writing when you are paying this close attention to it.  You’re on your third “e” and you think, yes, that’s how their “e” goes.  It’s such an intimate exercise, but with people I may never have seen.  In this case I was told the story by my nurse friend who left an envelope for responses at the hospital, because the writer told her.  What came before this response was a series of losses and tragedy and this was the first healing moment following them.

As painstaking and time-consuming as this project is and will be, I’m already loving it.  It’s funny, it will be viewed as “obsessive” work, but in the balance for me it isn’t.  It’s meditation.  More, such work has a practical place for me.  I travel.  When I am traveling, this fits into a tiny bag.  I can work and not waste the time.  I also have a fairly serious back injury that puts me out of commission periodically.  When I can’t stand (I’m never supposed to sit), I can do work like this.  Mind you, when the back isn’t bad I can dance (including performance seasons) and climb, etc., just not sit.  Still, it’s important to plan work that I can do lying down so that I’m never wasting time I could be doing work.  My other projects tend towards a larger scale.

As I’m embroidering these responses I’m letting other parts of the piece unfold in my mind.  I wanted the computer-text versus hand text, but I needed to know why my subconscious needed it to be embroidery too.  Today the reason the contrast text must be machine embroidery in a commercial font became clearer.   It’s that illusion of intimacy, careful attention, personal touch, etc. that the machine embroidery is offering, and failing at.  Next to the real thing I suspect it will be so obviously a completely different thing as to be alien. If it were just printed text on paper or text on a screen it would lack that offered illusion.

I’m getting glimmers of arrangement ideas but I’m going to wait until I have a lot more of them and have them alongside the machine ones.  I’m done with this idea that conceptual artists (or ANY contemporary artist) must have fully conceived and practically written a paper on the artwork before they even touch the material.  Bullshit.  Visual artists work with visuals and materials.  In the process of working with a medium it talks back to you.  It’s a conversation… or it should be.  I’m listening as well as talking. 

Written by Mary Corey March

August 2, 2013 at 8:52 am

First Responses

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responsesContinuing on the Write me for Art (working title) project…

I’ve completed two responses so far out of the hundreds I expect. I’ve already discovered how huge a range there is in how easy one type of handwriting is to embroider than another.  Curves take more stitches, and getting details correct is involving multiple tries at times.

These are from the responses my nurse friend got at the hospital in San Francisco.  There are a lot of sad ones in this batch, but they are really beautiful too.

It will be interesting to get more in the mail because besides the postmarks I will have no clue which groups of people (if there was a group) they were from.  I passed out a few to people around NYC who looked interesting to me in some way or who I talked with- on the street, in the bus, the subway, etc..  I passed some out to a few people in the line for the Rain Room piece at MoMA (partially on the basis that these people might be seriously dedicated to art, but also as a way of participating in an art project, since some of them might not make it in).  I incidentally heard about the piece when it was in London and planed my trip to the East Coast this summer around going when no one had heard of it.  Then it became a Thing and there was just no way.  I went in the short line to see it in action, but didn’t wait the 7 hours to interact (not with a 4 year old!).

One insight from watching that was that I never want to do that to people with my art.  So many of these things have limited access.  I want to make more work that everyone can experience and be part of.

Written by Mary Corey March

July 27, 2013 at 9:47 am


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The first responses are coming in for Write me for Art.  This is so exciting!  A nurse friend of mine took an envelope and some copies of the call to the hospital and came back with some wonderful ones.  From her description people seemed to have a similar reaction to Identity Tapestry on a smaller scale- moments of introspection and being very happy to be part of something.  I’m very glad to hear it.  I’ll be checking my studio mailbox at the end of the day in case there are any more that got mailed in.

I’ve also been thinking.  This is as much a participatory project as Identity Tapestry or any of the others, just in a more private space for the participant, on their own terms.

Tomorrow I leave for New York and now I have a little pile of responses to take with me and work on.  Embroidery was absolutely made for journeys.

Written by Mary Corey March

July 20, 2013 at 10:36 pm

many little envelopes

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envelopesI’ve been working on my new project, working title “Write me for art” which will probably  not be the name of the actual piece, but it is what I’m asking people to do.  If you want to be part of it, see the instructions here.

I’ve been hunting responses from strangers.  So far I’ve posted a call here, but more importantly I’ve wandered around a little- I’ve passed out the instructions with a stamped and addressed envelope to a person on the street, a group of elderly friends on the bus, a cab driver, a parent at a kid’s birthday, a nurse, a wine-tasting bartender in Napa, a couple at an art opening (not in the gallery, but on their way out).  All different ages, different walks of life.  And I asked each of them them to try and find a person or two to do it and add to their envelope before they sent it to me- the more different from each other the better.  I intend to bring a big stack to my upcoming NYC/Boston/ New Hampshire trip to distribute at will.

I’m curious what will happen.  How many will I get and what will they be like?  I’m expecting at least a hundred, possibly hundreds over the next few months.  It’s the sort of thing that will spread over time.  I’m giving myself until the end of the calender year to collect responses and hand embroider them- then I’ll see where I want to take the piece from that point.  There’s other components to the complete piece, but I’ll leave you there for now.  Some of it I’m waiting to decide until I see how the process unfolds and the ideas it gives me.  And  yes I do realize the time commitment.  Yes, I’m that kind of crazy,  This is not news for my practice.  I love challenges.

In the meantime I’m working on what looks like a commissioned permanent Installation (details still in negotiation process) and continuing work on the Access piece (which also involves talking to strangers).

I love working this way.  I meet so many different kinds of people.

Written by Mary Corey March

July 17, 2013 at 9:18 am

unlocking ideas

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Sometimes just talking about what I’m doing and getting my fingers into things unlocks ideas that are lurking in the back corners of my mind.

testToday I went in to Techshop to get myself familiar with the CNC embroidery machine and its related software in preparation for using it to do Art.

I gave myself the easy little project of decorating the new backpack I’m making myself with some found (out of copyright) art-deco designs.  The idea was to get used to how it worked and to try converting a simple file into the proper format and the sort of stitching I wanted.  When I had done a simple one I learned the extra digital work to get multiple colors (though I ran out of time before I could actually embroider that one).

I think I’ve got the hang of it, including discovering how the machine will kill itself and doing a neat and simple hack (a carefully placed piece of paper) to prevent it from doing so.  There is always something, and it’s best to find out what those somethings are before you do anything too important.

For me it also helps to play with a medium a bit before I have to use it in a piece.   I thought there might be something I could do in contrasting digital embroidery and hand-embroidery, running in the theme of contrasting the human and the digitally mediated human.

I was writing all of this out when I discovered a good part of what that next project will be.  Not revealing it yet, but it involves text.  This one isn’t an interactive piece, but it is something I can do every day, a little at a time.

on pack

this is the part that is actually on my bag

Written by Mary Corey March

June 29, 2013 at 9:35 am