a plastic tree grows in Armonk

Last September, at the Armonk Outdoor Art Show in Armonk, NY, a community art project was started. The organizers of the show wanted a Hands On Art project for the attendees, I wanted to conduct a community art project that used repurposed materials and both wanted to emphasize the need to reduce the use of single use plastic. The stars aligned!

I chose the symbol of the Armonk Outdoor Art Show as our image and a local framing shop prepared our plastic canvas.

I sketched the tree outline on the canvas; cut out leaves from green plastic bags and squares and rectangles from orange, red and yellow plastic bags.

For the two days of the show visitors happily participated by gluing and stitching pieces of plastic on to our canvas.

I took the canvas back to my studio at the end of the show and added more plastic leaves and background pieces.

Several stitching sessions were arranged at the local library where the show attendees and volunteers were invited to come and stitch the details on the tree.

I returned the canvas to my studio again for the finishing touches.

And finally this weekend, in conjunction with Earth Day, the Armonk tree was revealed! It will be installed in the lobby of the North Castle Public library for all to enjoy. This is the library whose programs are funded by the Armonk Outdoor Art Show.

Please enjoy the photos of the progression of the tree:

The tree is being worked on by the show attendees.

The tree is being worked on by the show attendees.

Progress1a.jpg
Progress2.jpg
Progress2a.jpg
Now it’s starting to take shape!

Now it’s starting to take shape!

More progress..

More progress..

At the end of day two.

At the end of day two.

One of the library stitching sessions.

One of the library stitching sessions.

A detail of the final product.

A detail of the final product.

Another detail.

Another detail.

A bit of the background detail.

A bit of the background detail.

Tah dah! The Armonk Tree!

Tah dah! The Armonk Tree!

Adams Farm Road

It is officially complete and in the hands of the owners, who came by my studio to personally pick up their home portrait. They are delighted with the result and I am pleased as well.

And now for your viewing pleasure, I present Adams Farm Road home portrait!

Adams Farm Road home portrait ©Natalya Khorover Aikens 2019

Personal ephemera used: sheet music for wedding song and lullaby (printed on silk organza by me), baby announcement, moms hospital bracelet, baby's hospital tag, fabric from the hospital baby hat, and fabric from a onesie.

My materials: silk organza, various cotton, silk and rayon threads, interfacing, stretched canvas and acrylic paint.

Techniques: fabric collage and hand embroidery and a bazillion French knots of various, but mostly tiny sizes....

I get so much pleasure from creating these one of a kind treasures, and I love when the owners allow me to share the process. Will you let me do one for you? Email me! (natalya at artbynatalya dot com)

I see it!

I see the finish line.... let me lead you to it with this update.

Here's what happened to the Adams Farm Road home portrait this week, my fingers have been very busy!

the grass started "growing" on the front lawn

it grew quite well on that precious fabric of the newborn's hospital cap

then the trees started filling in (yes the roof is sagging at the moment, but not for long!)

filling in nicely with teeny tiny french knots

I really need a macro lens for these... (Santa?)

The stitching is done! This is my highly advanced weight system to help the piece smoothly adhere to the canvas.
In about 24 hours I'll release the portrait from its weight prison, trim the edges and paint the sides of the canvas. Then it'll have its very own photo session and will be presented to the owners. And then I can share the final product with all of you!

Now is the time to check out the commission page on my website and email me (natalya at artbynatalya dot com) to book your very own portrait.

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!

Iron Spine Aloft

Iron Spine Aloft billowing on the front lawn of the Rye Arts Center
A few blog posts back, I spoke about seeing plastic trash flapping in the trees along the roads in my travels. I have reinterpreted that imagery by creating a public art installation, made from plastic, that is gracing the front lawn of the Rye Arts Center, strung between two trees. Iron Spine Aloft can be seen as you drive by the arts center until the end of April. Feel free to stop in and enjoy it up close. Make time to go inside and see Fiber Now: Textile Artists on the Cutting Edge, in which five of my pieces are presented alongside the works of eleven other talented fiber artists. Do email me, if you're in the neighborhood. Perhaps I'll be able to meet you there and we can talk art, stitching, texture, recycling and the circle of life. You can also join me for two BYOB workshops that I'll be teaching on March 21st and 28th.

I am hoping to continue creating large-scale public art installations created from repurposed plastic. I am working on a series of proposals to further this endeavor. Raising public awareness about the excess of single use plastic in our society and the problems of litter in our environment are at the forefront of my art practice. If you know of an institution to which you think I can submit such a proposal, please let me know. I welcome your input.

I have posted a few videos of the installation on Instagram and Facebook for your viewing pleasure. I'll be posting more in the near future, as well as a more substantial video detailing the creation of Iron Spine Aloft from start to finish, which I will post on my YouTube channel when completed.

Iron Spine Aloft detail


Iron Spine Aloft detail


moving right along

The home portrait I've been working on is moving along nicely. I have finished putting in all the outlines, and now I am considering how to stitch the details.

Outlines in place

considering how to add the hospital tag to the driveway

trees are just bare outlines for now
 I am still considering these trees. Do I want to add finer details with hand stitching or scrap the idea and thread sketch them with the sewing machine?

I wonder if baby toes will make good bushes??
And then I also got an idea about bushes and baby toes. I think I'll give it a try! More pix next week!

deep in art in the depths of winter

Work in progress - Home Portrait © Natalya Khorover Aikens 2019
Home portrait work in progress
February has been a busy month so far and promises to continue to be so. I am simultaneously working on two projects in the studio. They could not be more different from each other.

One project is a home portrait for a sweet family with a brand new daughter. I am loving incorporating her hospital hat, onesie and sheet music of special songs into an image of their home. I am taking time to thoughtfully hand stitch all the pieces in place, making sure all the right details are included.


I am furiously stitching on my Bernina sewing machine for my other project: the installation for the Rye Arts Center exhibit in March. I have pieces of plastic bags and various sheeting all stitched together; I am about half way through stitching the outlines of the fire escape on them. After that, I will piece all the sections together. I'll likely spend a few days cutting out the negative spaces between the outlines. I am still figuring out the logistics of hanging the piece in it's outdoor space, between two trees.


Making sure to keep my inspiration tank full, I was recently on a photo safari in NYC. And while I was quite busy trying to get good shots of buildings, rusty bridge undercarriages, and sidewalk cracks, I could not help but notice plastic litter in leafless trees. I abhor litter of any kind, but it's especially plastic litter that makes me want to weep. For goodness sakes, if you can't recycle it, is it so hard to put it into a garbage container? To carry it just a few more feet to the trashcan on the corner? Ok, rant over.


Here's the interesting thought... as much as I despise seeing plastic trash flapping in the wind on trees, I am also inspired by it. Is that crazy? I don't think so. I think that the installation that I am working on right now is partly inspired by the plastic bags I have seen caught in tree branches along highways. In my case, the plastic that will be waving amongst trees is obviously not trash. It is quite intentional. I can't wait until you see it!
Snowmelt, blue skies, bare trees through the clear plastic lens of Urban Edge/Iron Spine Installation detail © Natalya Khorover Aikens 2019
Snowmelt, blue skies, bare trees through the clear plastic lens of Urban Edge/Iron Spine installation detail

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!

going big, bigger and BIG!

portion of Iron Spine/Urban Edge installation is being weather tested!

The first month of the new year is only half way done, but my calendar is already filled with plans for the start of 2019.

First on my agenda is ArtShow:Bedford starting January 25th. It's a wonderful, small show in the picturesque town of Bedford NY, now in its 46th year. All proceeds from the show go to local charities supporting a wide range of services. 

In March I am delighted to be participating in Fiber Now: Artists on the Cutting Edge presented by the Rye Arts Center in Rye, NY. In conjunction with the exhibit I will be teaching a Stitching+Embroidery workshop on March 21st and 28th. As part of the exhibit I've also been invited to create a large installation −more than 15 feet across− on the front lawn of the center. The installation will help raise public awareness of plastic pollution crisis we’re facing, while enabling me to repurpose plastic into my art. I believe this installation for the Rye Arts Center is a perfect fit for my art practice. 

At the moment I am rifling through my stash and pulling out the biggest, sturdiest pieces of plastic that I have to start assembling the substrate. I’m conducting weathering tests for the plastic and my stitching. I took a portion of the Iron Spine/Urban Edge installation and hung it on my deck to see how it holds up to the wind and weather for the next month or two. This experiment will inform some of the design and construction choices I’ll have to make going forward.

pattern for the installation to be is laid out on the floor taking up all the space!

another shot of the weather test from Iron Spine/Urban Edge

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

a tree grows in Armonk

Wow! Sometimes that's the only word that can be uttered. My reason for the word in this case, is that I am amazed and grateful that so many people loved to participate in a hands on community art project!

I was delighted to organize a collaborative art piece created with reclaimed and repurposed materials at the Armonk Outdoor Art Show. Thank you to the Friends of the Library, who collected materials and provided the space, thank you to the volunteers to helped visitors to the Armonk Outdoor Art Show participate in the project AND thank you to those visitors who took the time to stitch on or glue on a piece of plastic and help our tree grow!

We're hoping to schedule a stitching day at the North Castle Public Library in Armonk in the near future, so that interested collaborators can come help me put finishing touches on this artwork.

Meanwhile please enjoy the photos from the project and stay tuned for further developments!
This is how our tree looked on Saturday morning at the beginning of its journey.
By Sunday morning it was well into its transformation!
And here it is by the end of the day Sunday! Wow!
The following are pictures taken by our talented photographer Ilene Africk, of all the hands which made the art!










THANK YOU!!

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


detail of a City Sketch ©Natalya Khorover Aikens 2018

Hello friends!

At the end of this month, I would be delighted to greet you in booth V-08/09 at the Armonk Outdoor Art Show in Armonk, NY. September 29th and 30th, 10AM to 5PM, rain or shine.
 
The exhibit was just ranked as the #2 Fine Art and Design Show in the entire United States by Sunshine Artist Magazine, August 2018. The #2 Rank, based on sales reported by exhibitors to Sunshine Artist, is a spectacular jump from the previous #46 position! This is THE show for sophisticated art lovers expecting to find top quality work available to purchase!

I will be bringing brand new series of stitched collages that I am calling City Sketches. And, of course, a collection of your favorite urban subjects - fire escapes, bridges, and graffiti - will also be on hand.

In addition to presenting my artwork, I will be directing a collaborative art piece created with reclaimed and repurposed materials, a portion of which will be brought in by community members. Visitors will apply layers of plastic to the outline of the Armonk Outdoor Art Show tree logo. After the show, I will finish the artwork with my signature stitching and it will be installed at the North Castle Public Library in Armonk.

chromorama-bahamamama?

collages pre-stitching
After a very busy July, I took a stab at organizing the havoc in my studio. Instead, I discovered a stash of vintage 1980's Chromorama papers. They are still as luscious as ever! And despite several online searches, it seems that they don't exist anymore.... insert sad face here.

collages post-stitching
I took out my plastic scraps and worked up a bunch of collages with smaller paper segments. I experimented with some simple stitching and was thoroughly pleased with the results. I'm hoping the recipients of my August subscriber birthday cards will be pleased as well.

Now I have the larger sized papers laid out on my work table among the plastic scraps. I am looking forward to how these collages will turn out and the much more intricate stitching that will go on them. I am planning to debut these at The Armonk Outdoor Art Show at the end of September.
fresh batch of vintage paper to stitch on!
In other news, I'd like to extend an invitation to join me at the opening reception for the Creative Climate Awards on Monday, September 17th at 6PM. My piece called Sunrise has been accepted into the exhibit.

I'll be sharing photos of all happenings on Instagram and Facebook. Hope to see you at one event or another! 

thoughtfully repurposed

If my solo exhibit had a title, it would be Thoughtfully Repurposed.

But it doesn't have an official title, and as it's coming down on Friday, I thought it was time to share a few photos. Those of you who were able to see it, I sincerely appreciate that you came, your kind words mean so much to me! Those of you who are too far to come, I appreciate all your well wishes also. Thank you.

art and seed pods at the entrance

Iron Spine 6XL makes it's debut surrounded by older relatives

Rhetoric with Iron Vessels: Reclaim Love and Iron Vessel: Enough

The top portion of Iron Spine/Urban Edge installation

another view of Iron Spine/Urban Edge installation

a small portion of the bottom of Iron Spine/Urban Edge installation

Full view: Iron Spine/Urban Edge

a visitor from the insect kingdom

food matching art/art matching food

viewer matching art

artist with art (Iron Spine/Urban Edge)
What a whirlwind summer!

stuffing it

Expanding on an idea. Or rather expanding my explanation of an idea.

In the last post I mentioned that I was stuffing undesirable bits and pieces of plastic and styrofoam into containers and making building out of them. I thought that this needed clarification. For the latest set of buildings that I made, I spent the time photographing the items that I stuffed them with.

Here is the collage of my documentation:
stuff that got stuffed
Then, while I was all set up for photography, I continued.. Here are my containers, patterns sketched out on scraps of upholstery fabric. Then layered with scraps cut off from other art, stitched for texture till my hearts content, and glued onto the containers. Then the edges were all hand stitched with a nice, satisfyingly thick thread.
the how to
 And now the results:
Urban Tower 5 © Natalya Aikens 2018 (3"x3"x9")

Urban Tower 7xs © Natalya Aikens 2018 (3"x3"x5")
This one's insides were not photographed because I realized that I still had scraps left, but was already out of time to photograph the stuffing ephemera. But it's basically the same bunch of stuff.
Urban Tower 8xs © Natalya Aikens 2018 (2"x2"x5")
 And here are all three together. Don't they look swell?
Urban Tower family? ☺︎
I enjoyed the photo documenting process so much, that I created a tiny little book of it. Just photos, no words.
I decided that if someone buys all three of these little Urban Towers, they'll get the little book as a bonus. That way they know exactly how it happened. And knowing feels good.

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".

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