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

trying to do good

I have been thinking a lot about what I can do as an environmentally and socially conscious artist and human. It is not enough for me to be using materials which, when not properly recycled, are destined to be trash that pollutes our waterways and makes its way to the Pacific Trash Vortex.


While I am still trying to figure out exactly what I could be doing, I can be helping already. And so can you. I am making a pledge to donate 25% from the proceeds of the sale of the artwork above to Riverkeeper, New York's clean water advocate.


It seems appropriate to me that the first artwork I will be selling to support clean water efforts is TZB Span. It depicts the old Tappan Zee bridge, which spans the Hudson River from Westchester county to Rockland county. It'll soon be gone as the new bridge is being built right next to it.

Let's help Riverkeeper keep the Hudson clean for us all. Every little bit helps. Thank you. Follow the links to see and purchase the art on my website or just click here! This piece is $650, so $162.50 will go to Riverkeeper. There is a $10 shipping fee. It's not much, but it's a start! Together we can make a difference!
TZB Span, 8"x8" © Natalya Aikens 2017

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....

teasing apart thread nests

Yup, that's the title of this post. I'm sure any long time reader of this blog must have suspected that I collect thread snips from various projects. I pile them up into little cubbies until I figure out a way to use them. I try to keep them in color families, but sometimes I fail and then I don't stress about it.

Recently I thought they (the thread snips) would make a great texture representing a brick wall and heat rising. So I used them in this piece - Iron Spine: Hot in the City.
fire escape detail

another fire escape, more to follow, but please note the threads in the back ground



Iron Spine:Hot in the City ©Natalya Aikens 2017
As you might suspect, I have a few more thread nests to unravel. Here's some that I am using for the sky in a piece about water towers. Still working on this one.
teasing out the thread nest over repurposed plastic

sketching out the water towers

building up the rungs
Stay tuned! Hopefully this piece will be finished before the end of the month..

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!

approaching

I love when deadlines are approaching. Sometimes deadlines are looming... that feels daunting and dreaded. But when they are approaching it's a bit more light hearted and exciting. Yes still lots of work ahead, but it feels happy. My favorite kind of deadline.

That's how things are now in the studio. I am getting ready for CraftMorristown in Morristown, NJ on March 17th, 18th and 19th. I finished my Street Signs pieces and stretching them on canvas now. And yesterday I finished the Brooklyn Bridge! Yes I now have a bridge to sell you. Well right after I stretch it on canvas and frame it.

Here are a few pictures of the bridge in progress...
choosing colors

putting in the starting stitches through my mock up (photo by Vivien Zepf)

filling in the details

the back view is fun to see and will never be seen again!

lot's more details to go here

approaching the image in my head

almost there

just a few more
Hopefully in the next blog post I will share the finished piece in a lovely frame. The picture I snapped of it with my iPhone is not up to par.

Meanwhile as part of my preparation for the show, I've set up my booth in my living room. It barely fit, there was no room for anyone else, but I needed to see how it looked. I will have to do it again and try it out with my art in it. Oh boy.... the dog did not appreciate it at all!
eek! It's bigger in person!

artsy shot of envelopes with invitations
If you're in the Northern New Jersey area and would like to come see the show, email me for your personalized invitation! I have just a few left.

Ok now back to framing and other details. Hmmm.... can I stitch one more in two weeks??!!

one way or another

Done with costumes, and back to art! Last year, at the very end, I posted the last piece I made before the year was over. Today I want to tell you about the two pieces I am making that could be considered companion pieces to that one. All three could actually be companion pieces to these that I made a couple of years back. As you can see street signs still intrigue me...

Looks like these pieces are all about circles! Not really, but I am using layers and layers of cut up Target shopping bags, which I free-motion machine stitched in a circular pattern. Then I painted them with acrylic paint and now I am in the process of hand stitching the signs.
this one is in the embroidery hoop right now. I think I'll call it "one way or another"

a close up in progress

going for tons of texture here

this one is waiting to be hand stitched. I might call it "no turns"

can you see the turns?

all three - in progress, waiting and finished

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!

slow art

Happy New Year! Wishing you all lots of love, peace and creativity this year!

I wanted to share the progress of my current XL artwork. I started it sometime in November, and if you follow me on Instagram and Facebook, you may have seen a few posts about it. It's truly slow art... it's quite large (for me) and is all hand-stitched so far. Thus the time factor. I am working on it in bits and pieces and sometime spurts of time. I take breaks to work on other art, some faster more immediately gratifying art. But I am really enjoying the pace of it.

This piece is a continuation of the experiment that I started last year with this piece. It's coming back soon from a photoshoot with Quilt National, and I cannot wait to see how it works with this new piece.

So here's how it's been coming along...
I cut out a very large paper stencil of a fire escape and traced in thread

audio books are great to listen to when I do this type of work, podcasts are great also

it started to look like this

the base is a very old linen bed sheet from my family, it might have even been used a drop cloth once as there are white paint splotches on it. I spent some quality time mending all the worn spots.

this is what it looked like when the stencil outline was done

then I started pinning bits and pieces of vintage lace to it


I intend to cut away some of the lace after it's stitched down

this is what it looked like at the beginning of the process. The idea behind all the lace layers is that I want it to resemble/represent a wall behind the fire escape

just lace didn't work, so the fabric scraps came out to play

this started looking better!

and better!

somehow it took on a spring like feeling... I don't think it'll stay...

this is when I got done layering my scraps and lace. Now I have to stitch it all down and cut away the excess so that the fire escape can be seen again

it's off the wall and on my dining room table, and I'm auditioning threads. Not only will they need to keep it all together for me, but they'll need to add color and texture
Stay tuned! I am trying to stick to working on it for at least an hour a day. I have lots of other projects that I have to be working on, but I don't want this to stagnate. Or keep taking up my dining room table....

crossing to the other side

It's very close. The end of the year. I'm ready to cross that line.

Usually at this time of the year I do an overview of all the artwork I have created throughout the year. But since I did an overview of the art created this summer not too long ago, I was in the mood for something different now.

This is the time of the year to finish up projects and artworks, put everything in order and generally clean up. I am doing that. But I also went and started a brand new piece and then got the bee in my bonnet to finish it before the year was over. Luckily it's a small piece and I was able to do exactly that.

You could probably have a great time psychoanalyzing the image and the name of the piece. But I'm choosing to look at it as moving on and crossing the street to new and bigger and better things. Come with me!



Other Side © Natalya Aikens 2016
Repurposed Target plastic shopping bags, layered (many layers!); free motion machine stitched; painted; hand stitched in many layered stitches and wrapped around a stretched canvas. 10"x10". Waiting for a frame.

By the way... I am trying to explore the online art selling universe a bit further, so I opened up a trial Shopify store. If you would be so kind as to take a peek and maybe even share, I would be very grateful. Thank you!

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!

jump with me!

I'm excited to announce that I'll be participating once again as an artist in Creative JumpStart (CJS) 2017, run for the 6th time by Nathalie Kalbach. If you're not familiar with CJS, it's a one-of-a-kind online event to kick your creativity into high gear in January 2017. 

Learn techniques, discover new materials, and connect with other artists and crafters. 

Throughout January participants get access to 27 downloadable videos from 27 featured artists. I'm proud to be one of those artists, called “JumpStarters.” 

Head on over to Nathalie's site to sign up and for more details.

You get 27 videos for just $40 (USD) if you sign up before November 30th, 11:59 pm (EST), 2016. Afterwards it will be $45 until December 31st, 2016 before it goes to its normal sale price of $50. 

So what are you waiting for? Sign up here! 
PS Here's tiny teaser of my project...shhhh....

city love affair again

This one took a while.... too many distractions.. too many new experiments... but I still loved it, so I finally finished it.

Presenting City Love Affair 4. My grandmothers vintage linen towel, a lot of vintage lace from oh so many sources, a TAP transfer, machine stitching and hand stitching. A portrait of a beautiful building belonging to a school I never went to, but might have if I had stayed in Russia.

sky and roof

not so little round window

lampwork

details details
City Love Affair 4 © Natalya Aikens 2016
So different from the rest of the work I am doing right now, but yet such a part of me still.

gratitude

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the US. I have many people to be grateful for this year... but here I thank all the readers of this blog! Thank you for clicking, scrolling, reading and commenting! I appreciate that you take the time out of your busy day to stop by... I appreciate the thoughtful and kind comments and suggestions that you leave here!

Thank you!! and happy Thanksgiving to all!