Sunday, March 22, 2020

Feeding Body and Soul: Staying Healthy and Happy During Social Distancing Season


Instead of our usual giant salad for lunch, yesterday I made a delicious 
soup with leftover veggies and ramen noodles, served with homemade beet
tahini. It was delicious, and a nice change. It made lunch at home feel special.
So, I'm sure you can imagine that my art group's exhibition, Women in Conversation, came to a screeching halt here in north-eastern Ohio, where we are battling the spread of coronavirus. The artwork remains installed, while we await the day where a semblance of life as normal returns. I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, a week into Staying at Home, I am keeping busy, and hope you are, too. Because I love to cook, read, sew, sketch and write, it isn't hard. Now might the time for you to develop a hobby. I'm just sayin'...

Earlier in the week, I set up a still life after my sweet husband went out for a brief grocery run and brought me some lovely yellow roses from the store. The kaleidoscope roses in the small vase came by mail from my sister, a congratulations gift for the opening of my show way back before we knew we had to Stay at Home.

Sketch in progress, still life with yellow and kaleidoscope roses together
with my favorite vases: two artist vases with faces, and an antique
amethyst glass vase that belonged to my grandmother. Though it
looks black, when you hold it up to the light, the amethyst color glows.
To me, it's the perfect metaphor for the way we can change our perspective
and find beauty in the process.
I have never seen kaleidoscope roses. They are so unusual, I just had to include them in my drawing. Though I am often the one to say there is nothing new under the sun, both the beautiful kaleidoscope roses and the dystopian nightmare we are experience disprove me. I am trying to make the most of it.

I am working with soft pastel pencils that I have had since drawing classes in college. I don't work with them a lot, because I really prefer oil pastels. That said, there is immense pleasure in the way soft pastels mark and blend. I love how they show up on colored pastel paper, as well.

Drawing is contemplative. It is a relaxing, focused activity. It is a skill than can only improve with practice. It is a challenge with an immediate sense of reward. It also frees your mind to wander while your eyes and hands are busy learning to see. Even if you are one of those many people ruined by a childhood "art" teacher who told you that you can't draw, I am here to tell you that you can. Give it a try. Don't show anyone. Do it for yourself. Any plain old pencil and paper will work. I highly recommend Danny Gregory's Art Before Breakfast to build your confidence. Danny is the founder of Sketchbook Skool, and presents as a gentle, kind soul and wonderful and enthusiastic support for artists and would-be artists. Take an art class with him online. Learn a new skill!

After two days spent gathering extra art supplies, I dropped them off yesterday (no social contact involved) at our our local non-profit art center, BayArts. Shout out to the amazing director Nancy Heaton and her wonderful staff, Karen, Jessica and Linda. They are creating free art kits for kids that can be picked up on the porch once a week. The first week, two hundred bags disappeared within hours of being set out. It feels good to do for others. See what you can do in your community. This coming week, I will be sewing face masks for first responders.

The other thing that I accomplished this week was to finally set up our reiki table again. My husband and I became reiki masters over the past decade. Though I give reiki to friends and family members, I have used my daily practice primarily as a tool for personal growth and healing. My husband does the same, but has also spent a lot of time teaching reiki for hospice, and giving reiki to hospice patients and their families. Instead of keeping our reiki table set up downstairs, I made space and moved it upstairs to a more quiet, personal space. I still have some rearranging to do in the coming days. In these uncertain times, it will be good for us to have a dedicated space to chill out, rest, refresh, and feel loved.

Wishing you peace and love. Take this time to do something special for yourself and those you love. It's a rare opportunity that has been foisted upon us. Stay in touch!
Reiki table almost ready to go.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Women in Conversation: Celebrate the Women in Your Life


Women in Conversation Make and Take
participant created a souvenir accordian-fold mini-
journal. The event took place before the amazing
play at Stocker Center, Ain't I a Woman.
Last night's Women in Conversation artist Make and Take event took place at the Stocker Center Studio Theater before the Diane Monroe play, Ain't I a Woman featuring the amazing Core Ensemble musicians and the actress Shinnerrie Jackson (an Oberlin Conservatory graduate.)

UPCOMING: If you missed out, you can join us in the gallery this coming Friday night (March 6) from 6 - 9 p.m. Jill Milenski, Gail Crum and Gayle Pritchard, the artists of Women in Conversation, will be onsite during the Stocker Center Film Series. The movie Station Agent screens at 7:30, so come to the gallery to see the show, do our Scavenger Hunt, and create a Make and Take, all before going to the screening. After the movie, come on back up to the gallery. We'll be there to welcome you, and to continue the conversation.

The Women in Conversation opening reception on Friday, February 28th was amazing, with fabulous food, live music, and a crowd of people eager to see what the three of us have been up to.

Jill Milenski, Gail Crum and Gayle Pritchard at the opening reception for
their exhibition, Women in ConversationPhotograph courtesy of Steve Sefchik.
As you can imagine, putting together artwork for an exhibition is labor intensive. The three of us, my  art group, meet every week, virtually without exception. For more than a year, we have worked with intensity and focus in preparation for Women in Conversation. The Beth K. Stocker gallery is a huge space, and we were all afraid we wouldn't have enough work finished. Not to fear! We delivered a ton of artwork to gallery director Beth Bryan, and she in turn did a magnificent job installing the show.

Four wonderful artworks by Gail Crum from
Women in Conversation, February 28 - April 2.
To showcase our assemblage work properly, dozens of pedestals were put into service. These were placed along the walls in the center of the gallery strategically, highlighting all the work around them. This was essential for Jill's Fairy Tale series, which is comprised of small but powerful, intimate pieces. There are several more unique installation discoveries in the gallery, but I won't spoil it for you! Come see for yourself.

If you can't make it during regular gallery hours during the day or this Friday, we'll be back on Friday, March 27, 6 - 9 p.m. and, of course, for the closing on April 2, 4 - 8 p.m. We hope to see you soon.
Fairy Tale Series and Red Series by Jill Milenski from Women in
Conversation
, February 28 - April 2. 

Installation of Wounded: What You Can Do For Your Country
by Gayle Pritchard with Lady, Not Liberty and We Are
Better Than This
by Gail Crum, a great pairing at
Women in Conversation, February 28 - April 2, 2020.




Thursday, February 27, 2020

Women in Conversation Offers an Intimate Look into Women's Experience of the World

Top row: artwork by Jill Milenski; Middle row: artwork by Gayle Pritchard;
Bottom row: artwork by Gail Crum

Our show Women in Conversation opens at the Stocker Center Gallery tomorrow night. We are so excited to see the installation. Gail Crum, Jill Milenski and I (Gayle Pritchard) first met years ago in my first Spirit Boxes, Sacred Vessels and Shrines class. The artwork was so amazing, we created an exhibition of the same name. Now, some twenty-five years later, this sisterhood of artists has created a new exhibition, our third in the past four years, and we seek again to offer a strikingly powerful view into how women see and experience life.

From the passage of the 19th Amendment a hundred years ago  giving women the right to vote  to the present day #MeToo era, we three artists celebrate woman's necessary role in society and the  importance of hearing steady, strong diverse female voices expressed through art. The urge to create is itself transformative and necessary, a balm for the soul. Women communicate differently about the gendered dimensions of their place in the world.
Fairy Tale Series: The Wolf at the Door, in progress. Artwork by Jill Milenski

In this groundbreaking exhibition, we raise our voices and speak through our work, a year in the making. Viewers are invited to be collaborators in completing the circle from the birth of an idea to the magical process of turning that idea into an art object that is put on display for all to engage with.

The pieces presented are inspired by daily life, the result of the way we, as women, skillfully and passionately navigate the multi-faceted roles we play: We are sisters, wives, mothers, aunts, daughters, grandmothers, soulmates, girfriends, caregivers, teachers, advocates, activists and artists.

Women in Conversation is the natural outgrowth of long-time artist friends who share a love of process and materials. The unbroken threads of decades-long conversations about our lives,our families, politics, women's issues, art, and techniques are woven into the work we are exhibiting. The show is a unique opportunity to share a piece of what brings us together as women and artists: the vulnerability, the intimacy that arises from telling our stories in our conversations with each other and through our artwork.
Saturday Night (Record Series) by Gail Crum
Along with the shared narrative, we also often share art supplies and found materials unearthed in junk and antiques stores. We share a love of process, of making something from nothing, or trying out new tools and birthing new visions in our note- and sketch-filled journals. We love laughing at the persistent compulsions that are the never-ending subjects of the objects we create. We share processes and favorite techniques with each other, simply playing and exploring ideas while we stretch to make new work that is out of our usual comfort zone. We nurture each other through our sharing and our play-days.
A box of ephemera ready to
be added to an artwork

We love color, old books and postcards, broken objects, paper dolls, fabric, and time-worn wooden blocks. We peruse junk shops, where intuitively gathered new treasures await our artists' mojo  that magical moment when the discarded trinkets and trash of everyday life are transformed. These snippets, pieces and parts are paired with process to become objects that carry the stories of our ideas.

We invite you to join in this living conversation about women, art and community. The chance to show our work and have this conversation is nurturing and necessary. It's a supportive, feminine thing we do together. We raise our voices to speak through our work. We hope you are moved, amused and inspired. Above all, we hope to see you there.

Women in Conversation
 · Where:
Stocker Art Center1005 N. Abbe Rd., Elyria, OH 44035
· When:
Friday February 28, 4 – 7 p.m.: Opening reception, refreshments, Scavenger Hunt, live music and gallery talk at 6:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, March 4, 6 - 7 p.m.: 'Make and Take' with the artists before the play, Ain't I a Woman?
Friday March 6, 6 - 7:30 p.m.: Visit the gallery before the Winter Film Series
Friday, March 27, 6 - 7:30 p.m. | Visit the gallery before the Winter Film Series
Thursday April 2,  4 - 7 p.m. | Closing reception, refreshments, Scavenger Hunt, live music and gallery talk at 6:30 p.m.
TBA Other events celebrating Women's History Month and the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment

Detail of Travel Ban by Gayle Pritchard and
utilizing an altered Handkerchief Memory Project printed by
Clare Murray Adams








Monday, February 24, 2020

It's Here: Women in Conversation Opens This Friday


Detail, Spring Revisited by Gayle Pritchard
Such an exciting week lies ahead, culminating with the opening of our three-woman Women's History Month exhibition, Women in Conversation, on Friday night.

On Saturday, we unloaded six carloads of artwork into the gallery and carefully unwrapped all of the pieces for the gallery director. The space looks beautiful, and we cannot wait to see the show installed.

We all worked until the very end finishing work, wiring for hanging, adding titles to the artworks, sometimes the most difficult part. There is such a broad array of work from paintings and drawings to art quilts, assemblages, hybrid books and so much more. We created educational displays to illustrate our processes and highlight some of the materials we love to use. We even made a scavenger hunt game. Come to the opening at the Stocker Center Art Gallery Friday, February 28, 4 - 7 p.m. to play! Enjoy the art, live music and refreshments, as well. If you can't be there Friday, join us Saturday, February 29, 6 - 7 p.m. We'll be in the gallery then before the Mardi Gras concert with Terrance Simien begins.

One of the new pieces I created for this exhibition is called Target Family. Here are some images showing my process.

I wanted to create a diverse sense of  the
people who come to this country, so I
looked for eyes of all sorts. Detail, Target
Family by Gayle Pritchard
Here are some of the images I found. I really like how it adds
an edginess to the collage. Detail, Target Family by Gayle
Pritchard


Here is the final piece. My mixed media painting backs the
collage of an official NRA target, an old photograph
that has been altered as shown above. I mounted all on a
painted board, then added the assemblage elements.
Target Family by Gayle Pritchard. 



Saturday, February 8, 2020

Women in Conversation: Two Weeks and Counting

Postcard Invitation for Women in Conversation, which opens
February 28, 2020 and features the artwork of Gail Crum,
Jill Milenski and Gayle Pritchard
In exactly two weeks, Gail, Jill and I will be delivering our artwork to the Beth K. Stocker Gallery for installation. Perhaps you can imagine, then, the frenzy of finishing we are all doing in final preparation for this major exhibition.

Yesterday, I created a "two weeks and counting" task list in my journal. It took up three pages! When I woke up this morning, I started in: I finished two house drawings from my ongoing series, which included framing them both and wiring them both for hanging, and that involved drilling holes with a very fine drill bit to insert hanging hardware on the tiny frames. Afterwards, I finished drawing a third house, which will be mounted. That's on the list for completion tomorrow. Ditto the "wire for hanging," always tricky when working with found objects. 

House Drawing #5 by Gayle Pritchard
Oil pastel on water color painting
Stay with me here. I found two large pieces of wood on bulk trash day, and they were beauties, old cupboard doors beautifully aged and unpainted. After removing the nice brass hinges (saved for another day), I used one entire door for a single piece, which is also on the task list for final assembly. The other door was just the right size to fit two of my mixed media collages, but it needed to be cut in two. I have a little miter saw in my garage, but nothing to cut this board. It sat behind my garage for about six months, even though the art was finished. Just this week, a friend with a portable saw stopped by, took ten minutes to measure and saw the wood, and hurrah!, I am in business. One of those pieces, called Bingo: Only in America Can Your Dreams Come True, is what I worked on finishing this afternoon. 
The beginning parts and pieces for Bingo. 
Yes, these are the things that inspire me: found
photos to be altered, an old box top, a bingo
game board and a drawing that is stamped
and ready to be stitched. 
The collage is done, but it needs to be mounted onto the cut wood. I decided I wanted to paint it first, so I grabbed my trusty Jacquard Neopaque fabric paints for the job. Why fabric paints? I wanted the wood grain to show through, but for that, I could have also used a wood stain. I use my fabric paints all the time because: a) I already have them, which saves me a trip to the hardware store and, b) they seal wood differently than stain, which needs to have a finish put onto it. This way, the paper on the attached collage will be more protected. Here's how the painting came out:

Look how pretty it looks!
 It adds the color I need, allows the wood grain
to show through, 
and seals the wood. 
After it dries, but before I attach the collage, I am adding framing strips which will be painted this black on the side and red on the edge. The collage has some dimension to it, and the framing strips will help protect it. 

Guess what I will be doing tomorrow?
Come to the show if you get a chance. With nearly 100 artworks, it is going to be fantastic. See the Events page on my blog for more information.


Saturday, September 14, 2019

With Loving Regard to my Hippocampus, Part 2

Lara Lillibridge giving an author talk on her new hybrid
memoir, Mama, Mama, Only Mama last week.

My mind is still racing with inspiration since returning home from HippoCamp 2019. I began to write a second blog post about it a week and a half ago, before I realized midway  through that I still hadn't finished downloading my pictures. My lecture notes and conference handouts are still laying in piles around my office, since I haven't finished digesting them all, or the multitude of ideas that are scrawled in the margins on most of the pages along with snippets of inspired dialogue or description. In the interim, though, I had a chance to experience a little bit of HippoCamp in my hometown.

Lara with co-presenter Ruth Hanford Morhard.
As it turned out, last Thursday Lara Lillibridge happened to be doing a book talk for her new memoir Mama, Mama, Only Mama at a nearby library. I had just participated in the Hybrid Truth session at Hippocamp Lara co-presented with Rebecca Fish Ewan. It was one of the best sessions I attended. As soon as I heard about her author event, I put it on my calendar, and made a point to be there. Not only is she a funny and engaging speaker, I wanted to be there to support what she is doing. I know the hesitant feeling that comes before doing an author event, and the trepidation I have felt when my brain starts chanting, "no one is going to come."

With my home-body husband in tow, we arrived and found our seats in the attractive basement auditorium. Lara presented first, and her engaging subtitle says it all: An irreverent Guide for the Newly Single Parent--From Divorce and Dating to Cooking and Crafting, All While Raising the Kids and Maintaining Your Own Sanity (Sort Of). Amusing stories written in diary and blog-style are highlighted with clever "recipes." These form the spine of her hybrid memoir, fleshing out in memorable ways the very real struggles that led her back to school and, ultimately to finishing her MFA and becoming a writer. This is her second memoir, and, like the best of the genre, it is a raw and real look at struggle and overcoming. Even as a grandmother long past the days of child-rearing, I found inspiration in Lara's story of the surprise route to connection with her baseball-fiend son, and how that bonded them together. The story was a great segue to the second speaker that night, Ruth Hanford Morhard.

Ruth's book, Mrs. Morhard and the Boys, tells the true story of the difficult life of Josephine Morhard and her struggle to not only survive as an abused divorcee, but to find a way to provide positive activities and role models in her growing son Junior's life. Through grit and determination, she founded the first boys' baseball league in America in the midst of the Great Depression, an amazing and previously untold story of yet another unsung woman that I hope will be made into a movie.
Chris talking to Al "Junior" Morhard at the author talk.

We are so lucky in our area to have organizations supporting and providing resources to writers, like our amazing public library's Writing Center and the nonprofit Literary Cleveland. In the car on our way home afterwards, however, I was also thinking how nice it had been to connect with Lara at HippoCamp, and how Ruth, as a non-fiction writer with an amazing book, could benefit from coming to the conference. There is nothing like that supportive national community.

I was thrilled to hear that Jacki Lyden would be the keynote speaker at HippoCamp 2019. As an avid NPR listener, her voice on the radio had been one of the steady daily beats in my life for decades.  She gave a moving and inspiring keynote presentation. Looking out over the audience in closing, she told us that our stories are important, because they provide context to journalistic writing. She was mesmerizing. What a brave, full and amazing life she has led.
To add to my excitement, I had recently
added Lyden's memoir to my "want to
read" shelf on Goodreads. I bought a
copy at the book table, and can't wait
read it.

After Jacki's keynote the fun mashed potato martini bar buffet provided the perfect opportunity to talk with old friends and rub elbows with new ones. Everyone (speakers, presenters, agents, editors, publishers, podcasters; there is no pecking order here) mills around balancing plates of salad, hors d'oeuvres, glasses of water or wine and, in my case, a sweet potato concoction in a martini glass. Connecting and reconnecting. It's a big part of what the conference is about.

The debut author readings always follow the reception. A handful of writers give moving readings from their new books, and this year there was even a tear-provoking performance by Teresa Wong. I wish I could find a video of it.

These readings, and the Q&A that follows, are always a highlight for me. In fact, Lara Lillibridge first appeared on my radar at the HippoCamp 2017 conference when she gave a reading from her book girlish as one of that year's debut authors. Six new authors on the stage, each with engaging stories, and books that I eagerly devoured. Some have become among my favorites. I am so grateful for the circle of connection.

The first full day of the conference ends with the brave souls who entertain us at the annual Friday night story slam. Groans and laughter punctuate the rapt attention paid to true stories told well. After, we pile into the elevator, tired but giddy from all that has transpired. We sit up late in our beds, sipping wine and swapping descriptions of tomorrow's sessions in anticipation of new adventures to come.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

With Loving Regard to My Hippocampus, Part 1

My tiny desk shrine
I keep a little shrine in my office next to my laptop. It is a shifting assemblage of personal objects alongside visual cues, reminders of pressing matters that require my attention. The HippoCamp mementos are among the most meaningful items I keep here, because they remind me every day of the supportive community I have found through attending the wonderful creative nonfiction conference in lovely Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I have returned from this year's event enthused, reconnected and newly able to see fresh possibilities for my work.

The magic begins after check-in and upon arrival at Tellus, the cool old Irish pub and music venue that is just down the street from the conference location at the Marriott in Penn Square. HippoCamp founders and amazing couple-in-residence, Donna Talarico and Kevin Beerman, are there for the pre-conference event, greeting newcomers and repeat offenders alike.

So fun seeing old friends and meeting new ones.
Gayle with Kevin Beerman, Ali J. Shaw, Donna Talarico and Brendan O'Meara



Attending HippoCamp with my writer daughter makes the experience even more intimate and meaningful. We relish Friday night after the conference begins, when we sit and pore over the sessions for Saturday and Sunday, trying to decide from the myriad of fabulous choices which ones we want to attend. When we don't select the same one, we share notes and insights on the car ride home, as we prepare for re-entry into our real lives.

So, yes, I am back home and back at work. Regular readers of Uncommon Threads will soon see the fruits from this year's HippoCamp. Meanwhile, I have a new stack of books to read, and a million new ideas.
From the author's table at HippoCamp 2019