finish line in sight

It's full steam ahead here in the home portrait studio. It is such a pleasure to switch gears from the high speed sewing machine work on the Iron Spine Aloft installation to the intimacy of this hand stitched small treasure.

One of the things I love so much about my studio practice is the ability to switch back and forth from large, expansive, and speed driven work to a meditative slow practice. Sometimes the two even meld in one piece as well.

Here's the illustrated update on the progress of the latest home portrait:
cobble stones going into the driveway

a different type of roof went on to the house from the original plan, but it feels right

the stone entry wanted to be french knotted (that's only the beginning of all the knots in this piece!)

windows wanted to be filled with glass (or shiny thread)

there's a dark blue trim around the door that looks black in this photo

the start of front yard bushes and walkway

I contemplated leaving the round bushes as negative space

but the french knots wanted to take up residence there in the end
I am thoroughly enjoying the French knotting that decided it needed to be in the home portrait. It's telling me that it will be throughout the piece in varying sizes and threads.

More updates soon!

a beginning

I am delighted to be working on another home portrait. And happy that the owners are allowing me share the process.

This sweet family has sent me their baby announcement, first hat, a onesie, and music sheets as part of the ephemera to create the portrait from. As you can see from the pictures below, I am quite enamored of the music sheets. I have printed them on silk organza and so far think that they will be a perfect representation of the siding on their home.

I have drawn on tracing paper the favorite angle of the home and am now placing all the ephemera in various spots to see what will work best where. This can take a few days as I like to fully take in all the materials and sometimes let them rest in a few places before I finalize my decisions.

the house sketch over the music sheets

will I put the hospital tag with the music?

there is a hospital bracelet to consider as well...

and where will I add this sweet face?

maybe I'll combine the words on the onesie with the sheet music?
In a day or two I shall start in with the scissors and there will be stitching! Stay tuned!

studio update

Here's a review of what's been happening in my studio this week. Lot's and lot's of stitching!

I've been stitching the small pieces that will make up my extra large installation.

I made a quick visit to NYC for some inspiration.

I tried out one of the stitched plastic pieces on the window to see how translucent it is.

And another as well

And then the Polar Vortex came and I watched art make art in the snow...


Now I'll focus on a commissioned home portrait, so next week I post warmer looking photos to help everyone thaw out from this frigid cold...



a week in pictures (and videos)

Some weeks are crazy busy in the studio, and I have lots to share. Others seem that way, but because I am working on the same project day in and day out, I feel as though I have nothing to share.

But even when I feel that way.... I realize that I do have plenty to share. Sometimes not in words, but always definitely in pictures. Here are a few pictures and videos of what I have been working on this past week.
Layers of plastic waiting to be stitched for one of the portions of my installation in progress

a thread nest encased in a plastic air pocket

plastic thread nests being stitched

rain on a portion of Irons Spine/Urban Edge installation hanging on my deck

A little video of a portion of Iron Spine/Urban Edge installation moving in the rain.


Lucky that the pup needed to go out on a frigid morning during sunrise as I got to take this video of the plastic crackling as it moved in the wind.

Hope you have enjoyed these peeks into my studio happenings, stay tuned for more soon!

Happy New Year!

Reflections 1 © 2019 Natalya Khorover Aikens


Happy 2019!

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art - write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you will surprise yourself."


Thank you for being a part of my artistic journey!
~Natalya

is it opera or art season?

detail of City Sketch 10
It's back to school and back to routine time around these parts. How fast the summer always flies by! Did you know that's it is also the start of the Metropolitan Opera season?

Why am I telling you that it's opera season? Because I have just the right piece of art for the New York City opera lover. It's a depiction of Lincoln Center in the heart of Manhattan. It's called City Sketch 10, part of a new series of city scenes. It's available on Saatchi Art, where you can buy the original or a print. So get your tickets for Samson et Delila, or whichever opera makes your heart flutter and buy my art to get your season started on the right note!

If you're in the New York metro area at the end of this month, come see me at the Armonk Outdoor Art Show on September 29th and 30th in Armonk, NY. I'll be exhibiting the other collages that are part of the City Sketch series and leading a community art project too. Booth V-08,09.
City Sketch 10 © Natalya Khorover Aikens 2018

documenting the process

Why? Why do I use the materials that I use for my art?

I have always thought the answer is obvious. But lately I have been giving it a lot of thought, talking about it with other artists, and I have discovered that it's maybe not so obvious... and I am not sure if I can always speak about it clearly.

The basic answer is that I like my materials. I like the way they behave, I like the way that they feel, I love what I am able to achieve with them. I also love that I am creating something beautiful out of trash. I love that I am keeping even a tiny amount of plastic out of the sieve that is the local recycling process. And maybe somewhere out in the ocean, one less little or large aquatic creature will have one less bag to strangle itself in...

I have decided to start documenting my process. And in writing about it, maybe I'll make clear to my collectors and even to myself what it is exactly that goes into loving my materials and why I feel it's important.

In the last few weeks I have spent quite a bit of time communing with these materials of mine. I need to prepare quite a bit of them for future artworks and that meant a lot of time with scissors in hand. The plastic supermarket shopping bag seems so pedestrian. Yet so graphic. I am cutting apart all the graphics, the lettering. Only to put in back together again in completely different ways. This, below, is my pile of large-ish letters.

I have also been sewing plastic netting to vintage linen. I am in the process of trimming away the excesses now to reveal the lines and I just could not throw away the trimmings. For now I am gathering them in a container, one day they will tell me what to do with them.


On my walk with the pup one day a couple of weeks ago, I spotted these plastic bags. Trapped in a tree and gently swaying in the breeze, there was something beautiful about them. Yes they are trash, yes they are polluting the area... and yet... 

Unfortunately I could not reach them to take them off. But they inspired me, as did that scene in American Beauty of the plastic bag dancing with the wind. 

And I love this quote from the script : "Ricky Fitts: It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing and there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. And this bag was, like, dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes." 

So yes, I'm going to dance with some plastic bags....soon.



Back to the graphics of those plastic bags - I am also cutting out all the verbiage. It talks about how to recycle this bag, or where the store is located. I am interested in only the graphic nature of those lines. And I have amassed piles and piles of long and short, skinny and fat ribbons of plastic lettering. They will be my brush strokes...


And then there are pieces of plastic that have no graphic value to me. Or color value, or they are just in a awful shape and would not hold up to torture by stitching. Or I don't like the feel of them and don't want to use them in my art.

Those bags, and bits and pieces, and small hard plastic parts that get thrown in the trash and then quite likely wind up in the Pacific Garbage Patch; all those things, I am stuffing them into rinsed and thoroughly dried containers.

Those containers eventually become 3D buildings. Sculpture if you will, stitched sculpture. On their own they are very light, stuffed full of plastic they are still light, but have a bit of sturdiness to them. Enough to keep them upright and not blow away in the breeze.


I hate styrofoam. Yes hate is a strong word as I always tell my daughters. But I hate styrofoam and avoid purchasing anything in it. But sometimes it's inevitable. Especially if someone well meaning gives me something in styrofoam. I have discovered that if it's clean and dry, I can break it apart and stuff into my containers. That puts it to good use.


Most of the plastic bags come from my own household. I have been saving them for years, before I knew what it was that I wanted to do with them. Since I have started using them for my art, several friends have sent me their own collections. At the moment I have more than I can use for a long time. I now do grocery shopping with reusable bags and very rarely bring plastic bags into my home, and yet still have so many to make art from...

Since I have started filling the empty containers with rejected plastic and bits and pieces, I have become aware of how many of them there are! How many I have thrown into the trash, not even the recycling over the years... and I think of how many have found their way into the ocean. That thought saddens me.

Besides An Inconvenient Truth and the Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, see The Plastic Ocean and see what we're up against...


Here's how I used those strips of verbiage in a recent piece, Iron Spine 8, 12"x12".

texture addict

So a texture addict walks into a gallery...... and has to keep her hands in her pockets so that she doesn't fondle the million dollar artworks.....

Guess who is the texture addict! Yup. Yours truly.

The gallery? Gagosian. The exhibit? Anselm Kiefer.

Gigantic, monumental artworks. Canvases with trees, terra cotta, and rebar. Oh, and molten lead. Poured onto the canvas and peeled back. Yes. Oh and water colors and artist books. Many, many gigantic artist books. Go see for yourself until September 1st.



The other gallery is Tibor de Nagy. An exhibit of works by Medrie MacPhee. Very different kind of texture, much quieter. I think I was still under the influence of Anselm when I saw these works. I didn't think much of them. But thinking about them and looking at my photos, I like them more and more. Perhaps they also appeal to me because she uses garment parts as design elements in her paintings. Very simple on the canvas, yet complex and map like.


And just to let you know that I was paying attention as I walked the streets and not just gabbing with Nathalie, here's the best graffiti of the day. Somewhere on the Lower East Side.

And my new favorite and most refreshing drink on a sweltering NYC summer day - beet and lemon shrub from Russ and Daughters! YUM! Gotta make some!

fire escape love story

I love fire escapes. There. I've said it. Wait. I may have said it before. Well it's true. I do love them. Let me count the ways. I love their graphic lines, their rusty or sleek texture, their negative space, the layers upon layers of straight lines, the angles.
research...

research...
 I love interpreting them in stitch. Large, small and medium.
detail of Iron Spine 4 (snow dyed pine thread on plastic)

detail of Iron Spine: Hot in the City ( embroidery thread on plastic and thread snips)

Iron Spine xs2 (variegated thread on plastic)

details of Urban Towers (embroidery thread on plastic and fabric over repurposed containers)

detail of Green News ( thread over newspaper and plastic)
And extra large of course.
in progress Iron Spine 6XL

in progress Iron Spine 6XL

Quilt National visit redux

It's nearly a month since I have returned from a whirlwind trip to Athens, Ohio for the opening weekend of Quilt National 2017. What a fun weekend it was! My friend Gail was my copilot as we let Waze guide us along the roads of NJ, PA, MD, WV and OH. The routes were all very scenic, but we had no time to stop for pictures, we had a destination to get to!

I have to say that as much as it was a thrill to see my art hanging in this prestigious exhibit, it was even more of a thrill to commune with all the artists who were there!

There's nothing better than hanging out with fellow creative souls. Sharing ideas, techniques, trials and tribulations and just basking in each others company. I was delighted to meet all the artists that I could, and wished every single one could have attended!

Here's the gallery view with my piece, Iron Spine 5XL hanging between work by Paula Kovarik and Kit Vincent, and then followed by Amy Meissner and Kerri Green

Here's moi talking about my work.... apparently I talk with my hands....
The powers that be took videos of the two minute talks that each artist gave about their work and when those videos become available I will gladly share where they can be seen. I always find public speaking rather nerve-wracking, but I was told that I spoke well and made sense. What more could I ask for?

Upon my return home, there was a lovely surprise in the mail - SDA magazine wrote a bit about the exhibit and used my art to illustrate it! So cool!
I'm still reliving bits and pieces of conversations that took place. So much to consider and enjoy remembering!

Rauschenberg and I

Grand Black Tie Sperm Glut by Robert Rauschenberg

If you're in NYC or visiting soon, don't miss Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends exhibit at the MoMA. It's up till mid September thankfully!

As I wandered through this exhibition with my friend Nathalie, I felt more and more empowered. So odd. Usually I feel inspired by an exhibit. But this time I felt empowered! What the heck?

After some pondering I realized that it's because of the materials! Yes materials. Rauschenberg's and mine. I loved peering into each of his pieces on display and figuring out what he used where. I found cardboard and fabric of course. But also plastic! Plastic bags and balloons. And I must say that they still looked good after all these years, one was from 1961! I have heard that his work is a conservators nightmare, so I am being much more careful with mine. All my materials are archival, except for the plastic. But the plastic is indestructible as we all know....

And now that you see Rauschenberg's street signs above, I can make another connection. Perhaps an obnoxious one on my part.... but I've made some street sign art myself. Mine are a bit more delicate though... and a lot smaller! Stitched on plastic of course. And made completely by my hands.
Bump © Natalya Aikens
Other Side © Natalya Aikens

Crosswalk © Natalya Aikens

Dip © Natalya Aikens

No Turning Back © Natalya Aikens

One Way Or Another © Natalya Aikens
I've updated my website with new work including three of the pieces above. The other three were already there. There is still more new art to add, so check back every few days as I'll be adding a few on a regular schedule. And for everyones convenience, I'm adding PayPal buttons as I go.
Thank you!!

shadow play take 2.. or 3 or 4..

I love the shadows. Especially shadows that artwork makes. In the last few weeks I have been able to experience such shadows in abundance. MoMA, The Dairy Barn, Kennedy Museum of Art. How lucky am I? Here are a few of my favorites:
edge of a wall hanging by Cecilia Joe at KMA

edge of an art quilt by Danette Pratt at The Dairy Barn

bronze shadow makers by Dorothy Dehner at MoMA

bit of a wall hanging by Lenore Tawney at MoMA

wired orb shadows by Ruth Asawa at MoMA

corner of an art quilt by Sara Impey at The Dairy Barn

corner of a wall hanging by Sheila Hicks at MoMA

edge of an art quilt by Shulamit Liss at The Dairy Barn

floor shadow of an art quilt by Sue Benner at The Dairy Barn
Hope you have enjoyed these shadows as much as I did. I think I might make some art that makes shadows also soon....

shadow play

Sometimes, and only sometimes, I get frustrated with the pace of my art making. Just like anyone else I occasionally like the joy of instant gratification. And I can't have it with my techniques. Which is what I love about them.

What is really helpful in times like these is an infusion of inspiration. And I just happened upon such an infusion this Saturday. Thank goodness I managed to carve out time out of a busy day! I came back invigorated and ready to work!

If you are in NY tristate area and can carve out some time this week - go see what I saw! Browngrotta Arts is having their 30th (!) anniversary exhibition for 10 days only, which means it's closing April 30th.

I loved all the art that I saw, but I was truly fascinated by the shadows some of the art made. So I share with you a few photos of art closeups and a few of the shadows they made.
Southern Crossing Six by Kiyomi Iwata

Fuhkyoh by Tsuruko Tanikawa

Folded Form I by Jin Sook So

Lucent by Jennifer Falck Linssen

Relief by Jane Balsgaard

Fog Break by Mary Giles

Cactus by Tamiko Kawata

Retournement en cours I by Stephanie Jacques

Tube Waves by Marianne Kemp

Tunnel of Remembrance by Lilla Kulka
Run! Don't walk to see this exhibition! (yes I bought the catalogue!)

a conversation

As I prepare to share some of my art with you, please enjoy this interview recently recorded with Nathalie Kalbach. It's really more of a conversation than an interview, Nat is lovely to talk to! And you'll love her new book Artful Adventures in Mixed Media! So grab your favorite beverage and settle in...

click for the interview!

more costume extravaganza

There has been a request for close up photos of the costumes. Those are hard to come by... But here are some attempts and more photos anyway! If you click on the photos you can see them larger.
Spring and a few cold birds

Spring and birds dancing

Snow Maiden

Mardi Gras

the doomed love triangle

the poor fiddler is shy

the wise Tzar

a few ladies of the court

annual costume extravaganza

Yup it happened. The annual Russian school play. I didn't blog about the costume-making this year since it sort of happened on the fly and I didn't have time to take photos of the process. I also didn't make as many costumes this year as I usually do, my job was a bit more organizational.

None the less I wanted to share the costumes with you. No animal or fish heads this year, but still plenty of fanciful characters.

The play was Snegurochka/Snow Maiden. It's an old story that takes place in pre-christian Russia. It's been made into a movie, a cartoon, an opera and a ballet. Snegurochka is the daughter of Ded Moroz/Grandpa Frost and Vesna/Spring. She wants to live with the people and feel love. It all turns into an unfortunate love story with her melting in the end after she feels love....
Spring dancing with the swans

Grandpa Frost arrives with his snow minions

Snow Maiden with her father

Snow Maiden with her mother

Maslenitza or MardiGras 

Snow Maiden falls in love

The Tzar and his advisor

the village people

Spring dances with the flowers

gathering inspiration

Getting ready to dive into art making full force here. I don't mean that I have stopped... I just mean that I want to start on a new batch of work that I want to have ready by a certain time, so that I'll be all set for any of the shows that I'll be participating in. I'm gathering my tools, materials and inspiration around me.

I gather inspiration by going on a photo safari of NYC or digging into my photo archives. These are few of the photos that are inspiring the upcoming works.






I think I can pretty much guarantee that there will be water towers represented. There will also be fire escapes, bridges, street signs and maybe even buildings, and perhaps scaffolding!

stitched paint strokes

Usually I stitch with a plan in mind. Meaning that I have seen in my minds eye what I want to achieve and I am stitching towards that vision. But sometimes.... just for the fun of it I want to stitch with no plan. Just meandering and enjoying the process, the colors and the texture that is being created.

For inspiration I'll pull out a picture and use my stitches to interpret that picture. I don't mean exactly, just the feeling of it. Like a moody autumnal landscape for example. I'll concentrate on the color, the direction of the vegetation.... This exercise is lots of fun to do with painting by famous artists. I'll open up a big heavy art book or print an image from the internet and try to capture the feeling of it with my stitches.

So where am I leading with all this? Well... I am trying to entice you to take a vacation with me. Yes. a vacation. In Ticino, that's in Switzerland. In August. I know it seems so far way, August and Switzerland. But August will be here in a blink of an eye and Switzerland is just a hop, skip and a jump away!
a detail of a Klimt
my stitchy interpretation
Picasso is fun to play with
fun to choose the fabrics and the stitches
Rothko's serenity is interpreted well in silk
simple is best
that's the hotel!

and that's the scenery!
So? Come stitch some paint strokes with me and enjoy the end of summer in Ticino!

inspiration infusion

After many months of postponing, I finally carved out time to go see the Manus x Machina exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art yesterday. It closes September 5th, so run, don't walk and see it! It's beautifully put together of course.

Pictures of all the splendor are all over the internet. Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat are overflowing. So just a few closeups of my favorite textures here and some lovely shadows for your enjoyment. I feel rejuvenated and inspired by all this creativity and can't wait to get back to my stitching!
Iris van Herpen is the star of this exhibit! What an inventive designer! This is black cotton twill hand painted with grey and purple polyurethane resin and iron filings, and then hand sculpted with magnets!
These dresses by Nicolas Ghesquiere are made from celluloid sequins cut into strips by lasers and glued onto tulle, and then hand spray painted after shaping the fabric.
I love the shadows this dress made (costume really). It a dress by Gareth Pugh and it is made from plastic straws, each hand cut and attached individually.
Here's the full creation, see why I think of it more as a costume? It's like some strange bird!
This is the clear straw version of the dress. I love the chevron like pattern that the cuts of the straws create.
This is a close up of a dress by Karl Lagerfeld for the House of Chanel. It is black duck feathers mixed with cellophane.
This is a Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton dress. The flowers are laser cut plastic sewn onto white polyester organdy embroidered with machine made broderie anglaise flowers.
I love the shadow of that skirt combined with the dress form shadow.
This is a close up of the duck dress by Hussein Chalayan. It's pale pink polyester tulle hand gathered and sculpted into tufts. Hussein was inspired by the way in which mountains are formed by erosion and tectonic forces.
I adored the shadows formed by this jacket made from hand cut and hand pieced white leather by John Galliano for the House of Dior. 
This was a truly inspired design by the genius of Issey Miyake. It's custom software-rendered pattern, heat pressed on black recycled polyester, heat stamped with gold metallic foil. This is the start.
Then it unfolds like this.
And is worn like this!
a close up of the gold foil 
And lastly, the only photo I shared on Instagram in my complete overwhelm... It is a close up of another Iris van Herpen dress, this one is hand embroidered with clear thermoformed laser cut acrylic and hand joined with clear silicone connectors.
Here's an article worth reading from the New York Times about the exhibit. I hope the exhibit travels to be seen in other cities!

bridges

Stitching, stitching, stitching. That's what I've been doing every spare minute. And that allows me to say that I have just completed three little bridges. Well, aside from trimming and finishing, which I'll do probably next week on all the little pieces in one fell swoop, assembly line style.

Here are my three bridges, which will finish at 8"x8", in the order of their completion. I enjoyed taking pictures of the backs as they developed, so you get to see two each. I wonder if anyone will figure out which NY bridges they are? Seems obvious to me, but I may have been staring too long....
back of bridge 1 in progress
back of bridge 1 completed
front of bridge 1
back of bridge 2 in progress
back of bridge 2 almost completed
front of bridge 2
back of bridge 3 starting
back of bridge 3 almost completed
front of bridge 3
Now I going to start stitching two slightly bigger bridges. Stay tuned!