Saturday, January 19, 2019

Inspiring Mentors and Faithful Friends

Lois with one of her scarves, made in
her late eighties.
I am such a lucky woman. Throughout my life as an artist, I have been surrounded by amazing friends, several of whom are or were my mentors. Lois Carroll was one of those people, both a best friend, partner in crime, and mentor. She died this past week, right after her 91st birthday. 

I moved back to Ohio in 1988 after living in Europe and then on the east coast for several years. My husband and I and our two little children decided to move back "home" with plans of raising our kids surrounded by grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. 

An angora scarf, my birthday present from
Lois that year.
Having been part of the quilting community in Philadelphia, I knew that connecting with other fiber artists in my new home would be a great place to make friends. I jumped right in. 
Detail of her hand-knit scarf as well as the
art jacket she is wearing. With the hands of
an accomplished seamstress and artist,
Lois still almost always had her nails painted.

Lois was the first artist I met. She had been hired to present a program at a local quilting guild. Vibrant and funny, she was easy to approach after the meeting to talk to about her presentation. We hit it off right away, and it wasn't long before she became my best friend. 

She introduced me to all the other fiber artists in the area, and to the many groups she was active in. In my personal life, she was there through thick and thin. When times were turbulent, she was a steady friend with good advice, and she was never judgmental. In good times, we team-taught classes and workshops in venues all over the region. When a new gallery opened or the art museum installed a new show, one of us would call the other, and off we would go. She was there at every important family event from birthday parties to graduations. 
Lois with her giant cat tote.

When we had to move to Florida for a few years, I remember the sad phone calls back and forth, me walking the beach, and she surrounded by a Cleveland snowstorm. In the last years of her life, when she was in trouble, I did everything I could to support her. I was sad when she had to move out of the area. And now she is gone. I will never forget her, and will treasure the impact her friendship had on my life. Rest in peace, dear friend.

At our last visit

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Bluebell: First Prize

Bluebell: First Prize; collage by Gayle Pritchard
I grew up in a small town in the Midwest during the 1960s. Like most kids who grew up then, I had the freedom to roam. The post-World War II neighborhoods were designed for kids and stay-at-home moms, and featured large picture windows in both the front and the back of the house. So, even though my mom worked full time, there were other moms in houses up and down the street watching through wide windows as the pack of neighborhood kids roamed from one unfenced yard to another all day long and well into the long summer nights.

There were a ton of kids to play with. I had many siblings, walked to the local school, received a great education, had a fantastic and progressive art teacher, and a high school guidance counselor who saved my life.

Detail of Pink House, an assemblage by Gayle Pritchard
The imagery from that time period still figures prominently in my artwork. Because my work arises from personal musings, that's no surprise. You can see and read more about that on my website.

I think part of the pull for me is also my interest in family history. My parents died when I and they were relatively young. Feeling orphaned, even in my thirties, diving into genealogy research helped me to feel connected to the greater history of my family. I felt part of something larger. It was comforting. It still is. Decades ago, I wrote this poem, Voices From the Past about that feeling:

                                              Voices from the past call out to me;

They are my roots and my beginning,
but they are gone.

I see them in misty vapors,
in clouds which I cannot touch;
deep inside, I feel them.

Their voices echo in the woods,
Calling out from distant places,
yet they are near, within.

Faded smiles in aged photographs whisper;
Glinting eyes, which hold secrets not revealed,
will not be silent.

Our voices join in the chorus of remembrance,
together harmonizing in the deep unknown
before stillness falls.

Pink House, assemblage by Gayle Pritchard

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Loose Ends, New Beginnings

From the book, I Hope You Dance, by
Mark Sanders and Tia Sillers.
It's that funny time between Christmas and the New Year. Today, against all odds in northern Ohio, the sun is brilliant in the sky; even though I slept in, it's the kind of sunshine that makes you want to jump out of bed on a winters' day and greet the world. It makes you want to dance.

I haven't put the Christmas tree ornaments away yet. In fact, I just finished clearing off the dining room table yesterday, finally removing the soiled tablecloth and taking it outside for a good shake before putting it in the laundry pile. I haven't done much in the way of "necessary" work this week: laundry, grocery shopping and the like. I'm on vacation.

Thanksgiving builds its' crescendo to Christmas Eve dinner, the big day at our house, I rise to the occasion, making plans, decorating, preparing pies and special dishes, shopping in local boutiques, trying to find just the right gift at the right price. After the family dinner on Christmas Eve, everyone opens their sleigh gift, and the night dissolves into family stories over dessert, talks, conversations in the corner, and mellow holiday punch. After that, my vacation begins.

I used the time this past week to tie up loose ends. This gets me ready for the new year. I like to start out with a clean slate, or at least a good start on one. I worked on my genealogy piles, scanning pictures and documents, following up on correspondences that have winked at me for weeks when I was too busy to form a reply. I got a good start on thank you notes, returned phone calls, organized my recipe books, returning the loose pages pulled out for the holidays. I gathered stacks of cardboard boxes for the next recycling truck, made a bag of donations, scanned my pile of new books into Goodreads to add to my "want to read" list. I even started reading one of my new books, Michelle Obama's "Becoming."

May Queen, a collage in progress by
Gayle Pritchard
There are plenty of loose ends in my studio, as well. Because my attic access is through the closet in that room, it gets piled up with Christmas boxes, wrapping paper, gift bags and the like. When I'm not working, the table gets covered with piles of collage papers I haven't put away yet, mending projects, and large pieces of artwork that have been moved to make room for a visiting guest or two. I didn't get the table cleared off completely, but I did pull out a few things to finish up.

This collage, I call it May Queen, was started back in July in a play-day with my art group. I made several pieces that day, but I really liked this one. I pulled it out this week and finished gluing the three dimensional elements in place. I plan to darken the blue botanical drawing in the bottom right corner, and maybe add a line of nice blue oil pastel, melted to a lip-sticky consistency, along the curve of the woman's back on the left. I think that will do it. The collage was created on stretched canvas, so I will either frame it with found wood pieces, or find a box or frame to pop it into.

As the new year approaches, I wish you peace and happiness. And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance. I plan to. Happy New Year.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

About Thankfulness

Bye, Bye Daddy: putting together the pieces of an idea
It was Black Friday, 1992, though I don't think we called the day after Thanksgiving "Black Friday" back then, or, if we did, it wasn't such a crazy big deal as it is now. In any case, my family celebrated Thanksgiving day with my in-laws when they were still hosting the family feast. We had done this since we were first married. It was the one holiday in my husband's family where everyone, no matter where they were and what they were doing, made a huge effort to travel to Ohio to join the Thanksgiving day feast. Our family stories for years were measured in yearly Thanksgiving day beats.
As was also usual, I called my Dad on Friday to see how his holiday went, to touch base, to chat, to hear his voice. It was evening time, and when he picked up the phone, his voice sounded funny. We had a short and sweet conversation, and when I said goodbye, he replied with an uncharacteristic "bye, bye." I hadn't told him I loved him. By the next morning he was dead; Saturday, November 28, 1992. I am thankful we had spoken the night before.

Fast-forward twenty-six years, another Thanksgiving weekend, and here I sit, like I do every post-Thanksgiving weekend, remembering and still loving and missing my Dad. That part never goes away. I had lost my mom the year before Daddy died, in 1991. Her death was sudden, too, and shocked me to the core, because I had never experienced a loss like that before. Dad's sudden death numbed me somewhere deep inside, where a part of me would move forward permanently broken.
Part of my dad's shirt holds together the other bits
and pieces pulled together to tell the story.
Luckily for me, I am an artist. I have a place to put those feelings, to let them birth out of me into the world where I (and other viewers) can contemplate the expression. It wasn't long after Dad died that I started this piece using bits of his clothing, a photo-transfer I made of an old Army picture, rubbings made in Mexico, hand dyed fabrics, and Depression-era ration tickets for food and gas transferred onto fabric. I got to tell my story and begin to heal my soul.
I have made several artworks about my Dad over the decades since he died, each time reprocessing my thoughts and feelings onto another surface, something I can hold up and examine. I call this group of artwork  my Hero Series. I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to show the pieces in numerous venues, and thankful for the chance to touch and connect with a new audience each time.
I became obsessed with genealogy research after my Dad died. On a shelf in his bedroom closet, there was a stack of photographs that I had never seen. Dad's sister Carole, the genealogist on that side of the family, had sent them. He hadn't shown them to me or my siblings. That was a the beginning of a new way to heal for me. Instead of feeling like an orphan, I could literally connect myself to a larger family.
Hero 4: Bye Bye, Daddy by Gayle Pritchard. An ancient Tibetan prayer box anchors the top,
and my story is written in on the fabric as well as hung onto embellishments that hang down
or are stitched onto the surface. Over dad's Army picture, juxtaposed in strips with the
statue of David, there is a sheer veil, my representation of death.
With a chance to do some lazy-day, Thanksgiving holiday digging around on my computer, a moment of serendipity occurred. I was adding photos and scanned documents to my Ancestry family tree, when I ran across a 1949 clipping my sister had found online during a newspaper search. It had the simple heading: Airport News.
Neil Vickery, my dad, landed at this airport.
At that time, 1949, he was a barnstormer,
doing air shows around the area. 
"Hmmm, interesting", I thought. I have vivid memories of barnstormers who flew into my small hometown. We would stand in our backyard and watch in amazement as they performed tricks in the sky. I could now put my dad's face on those brave flyers.
Then I ran across a picture of dad from 1949. It is actually a photocopy of a picture of dad, and I wish I knew who has the original. In the photograph, he is standing next to his biplane. He's wearing a flight suit and, instead of his flashy Army aviation sunglasses, he has flight goggles pushed up onto his leather flying cap.
For a moment in time, I am connected to my dad in the year 1949, eight years before I was born. Two moments in time, a newspaper clipping and a photograph taken of the young flyer, fell into my lap as a gift. Both had been sitting in my computer, but I had never put them together before. Now, a little piece of my dad had been returned to me. I am so thankful.

My dad, the flyer, the barnstormer, in a picture dated 1949.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Art in Cleveland = Article Gallery

Hope you can join us at the opening or the closing!
Once again, my art group pals and I are having an exhibition. Curator Mary Urbas and Article Gallery director Louis Ross invited us to exhibit there during Women's History Month. So exciting!

I have so enjoyed creating a great deal of new work for this show: fiber art mixed media quilts and hangings, stitched mixed media collages, and 3-D work. I'll show you more over the coming weeks. Here are a few detail glimpses:

Embellishments being added to Travel Ban.

Adding stitching, both hand and machine, to my collage, Lost Angels.
Jill Milenski, Gail Crum and I will also be giving a gallery talk at the closing in April. We hope to see you!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Skeletons, Skeletons, Everywhere I Go

A fun night at the Skeleton Show with dear friends.
Honestly, I simply cannot remember a time when I have been more busy! I haven't even had time to write in my journal, let alone update my blog. So, let me begin with an attempt at a blow by blow of an amazing few weeks.

Ghoulish putt-putt anyone?
First up: The Skeleton Show at LCCC gallery, and curated by the inimitable Mary Urbas.

Artist friends Sean and Gail Crum were both in the invitational biennial exhibition, Sean with a cool new print, and Gail with her amazing collage Fear and her assemblage, Skeleton Putt Putt.

Sold! Some lucky patron is taking home Gail's Fear.
Adding to the fun of the evening was a huge crowd, many of whom were dressed in elaborate costumes.They were several booth vendors, as well, selling fun items like sugar skulls, which I bought for my grandkids.

Not sure what the costume is, but it's festive!
Mary Urbas in full regalia!
It's always fascinating to see the fleshed out ideas of other artists. Creativity is such a gift to the world: smile, cry, think, observe, react. It's an experience. I encourage you to try it!

An amazing fiber sculpture by Janet Frazee Wade.
I soooo love this necklace!

One of my favorite local artists, Mark Yasenschack
made some ceramic skeleton heads for the show.
Dozens of them were sold by nights' end!

We topped off the evening with dinner at a fabulous chef-run Mexican restaurant in Lakewood, El Carnicero. The atmosphere is urban and fun, and the food and drinks are to die for. 

So, there you have it, details on one lovely night of art, friends and food. Wait until I tell you about Friday, the very next day. Watch this space!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Evidence of Work and Patting Ourselves on the Back

"Evidence", an example from one of my creativity
workshops.  ©gaylepritchard
Boy, do the days, weeks and months fly by. I have always loved John Lennon's lyric, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." His line resonates throughout my being. Overcoming the hindrances of life is how I have learned to go with the flow while still remaining focused.

It's not that I am required to do x, y and z on any given day. Flexibility to the workday is one of the many benefits of being self-employed. What is required of me, rather, is what I set out through personal choice and motivation to accomplish, and I am quite disciplined in that regard. I keep my eyes on the prize.

Over the past two months, life has certainly happened, and derailed me on and off for a time. My darling nephew died suddenly, five days after returning from his honeymoon. That happened at the same time that my brother was told he needed emergency bypass surgery, and then the cardiologist proceeded to throw roadblock after roadblock in his path, preventing the surgery from happening for nearly three months. One time, the surgery had been scheduled to take place the night before my nephew's funeral, six hours away, so the family fretted over plans as we tried to figure out how to be present with our brother for his surgery, then drive six hours and arrive in time to be with our sister the morning of her son's funeral. It was actually a relief when they cancelled the surgery when the doctor supposedly "found" signs of kidney cancer in his blood-work. Mind you, none of this had shown up in the previous three pre-op blood-work tests, and, of course, he did not have cancer of any sort. It was the closest I have ever come to having a panic attack.

Another time the surgery was scheduled, but didn't happen, my husband and I had driven the three hours to the location, rented a hotel room, and were prepared to camp out until he was up and around. Prepped and shaved and ready to receive anesthesia, the surgery was cancelled one last time due to a miscommunication between the cardiologist and the surgeon. It was an emotional roller coaster for all of us all summer long, I can tell you.

My 2017 Vision Board, made each year in January 
in a workshop with my daughter. It requires taking 
time to consider and focus on what it is you want in
your life in the coming year. The results are always
I write about this only because I suspect that your life has these periods, as well. It is so easy to have plans derailed, and sometimes it is really important for us to turn our attention elsewhere and put aside whatever it was that seemed so important before the disastrous event occurred. It's okay. Yes, deadlines may loom, and freelance opportunities are waiting for your return, but it's very difficult, at least for me, to be creative on demand, and crisis-mode tends to inhibit that creativity temporarily. More importantly, there is never a time when the needs of my loved ones would take second place. There are simply moments when you need to be present for others.

I do admit, though, the delitght and joy that fills me when I can return to my work. Down the rabbit hole and immersed in my creative mojo is the place where my soul lives. Since life has settled down, I've made up for lost time. I have entered three writing call to entries, as well as Cleveland's Keep Talking storytelling call for entries on the theme of "medical." I have written drafts of two new stories, and worked on editing others. I am pulling together two new creativity workshops in hopes of presenting them at Hippocamp 2018. I have entered a regional juried art exhibition, and two national ones have deadlines looming. I'm ready with several new pieces.

This coming Friday curators and docents from the Cleveland Museum of Art will attend the exhibition I am so honored to be a part of, In the Details. Over the next few days, I need to finish preparing a seven minute presentation about my artwork. I'm on it. I know what I want to accomplish, and I keep working toward those goals. It makes me happy. It feeds my soul.

So, take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back if you have been able to keep working toward the things you want to accomplish. If not, give yourself a break. Tomorrow is a new day.