Copper Hopewell Double-headed Salamander Batik. JIG 1995? 36 x 24 inches (ish)
I began college on scholarship in studio art (ceramics). A year or so into my artiste identity exploration, I fell held over heels for Anthropology and switched majors. The transition between art and a hard science degree was a struggle at times. I found myself making “art” soley to quiet my mind. It was an amazing way to vent off academic stress.
I made my first batik when I was 19; the rental house I was sharing with four guys needed curtains. I had a bunch of old muslin drop cloth, dye, wax, and the old electric skillet and so, I began making batiks. My boss at the Zephyr saw them and forced me into an art show there. I say forced because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, how to really batik, etc. Most of my designs are based loosely upon the alphabet, swirling designs I’d been doodling for years, mathematical components, and found nature objects (I’m big on leaves. Yes, real leaves). Once fully absorbed in anthropology, my designs definitely began to reflect (or in some cases, copy) the tribal art I was exposed to in cultural courses. (Paul and Kristie’s Wedding batik. 3 x 3.5 feet-ish).
Paul (a favorite Anthro professor and then good friend) received several of my batiks. Today, he sent me photographs of the pieces he has–I can’t more thrilled to see them again! I am shocked to see the beauty of the designs jump out at me again. And I am touched that after all these years, these pieces still hold a place in his home and office.
When I left Kent for Philadelphia in the summer of 1997, I had made over 200 batiks for Zephyr shows and through a large customer basis. Of these 200, I may have 10 or so photographs, taken half-heartedly because when I made them I thought (1) I will know the recipient forever and will have endless opportunities to look at it over and over again and (2) Whatever. I can make another one from memory; I’ll never forget this design (haha).
Even after I’d moved to California, I received calls or emails from folks in Ohio requesting a commission for a wedding present, holiday, anniversary, or birthday gift. After my first year here, my life became highly erratic and nomadic, as I worked on construction projects around the state. As such, I continued my artistic endeavors in another medim (photography). Two years ago, I had my first art show in CA at a small cafe. I sold primarily my photographs, but I did have three batiks for sale. I sold one of them and kept the other two for myself (which now hang here at Wildlands).
I look at the batiks posted here and think WOW. I made that? The first batik I ever made (one of the large curtains) hangs in my living room. Its tattered edges are now stretched over a large frame, the years of abuse somewhat hidden. It is terribly faded (I made it with rit dye long before I discovered Dharma Trading Company’s dye line) but beautiful still. The border is an intricate-looking design is in fact the intials (WC) of the friend who encouraged me to batik, Bill Cummings. The border itself took days to wax. The inside that took about an hour. In wax, I sketched a series of symbols, all mashed together of everyday objects that were significant to me. Perhaps in another blog, I will show pics and describe those as I’m in such a sappy sentimental Kent mood these days (yeah, i too wonder how long this phase is going to last).
My batiks are nothing more than pretty objects, a reflection of my fascination with decorative objects. However, what lays between the designs, in the dye and wax layers, there is a story. Like the plains’ indian leather bags. Codes and symbols that are unique and understandable only to the tribal members. My batiks are like that… only understandable to myself and those who watch me make them, or who find their initials turned into designs, squewed but popping out at them…
(Aztec Sundial interpretation. 5 x 5 feet. JIG 1998)
The Aztec sundial is one of the last batiks I made in Kent. I was home for a few months before moving to CA and had one last Zephyr show. It is the second largest batik I ever made. Looking back, I know why I stopped batiking (nomadic life aside). I lost all of my batik templates (cut from all sorts of material–whatever was handy at the time) when I moved to CA. I originally moved out here with a friend and my patterns (in a huge envelope) were under the front seat of her car. When we split ways, I forgot to retreive the envelope. Ever since, I’ve felt naked. I’ve felt as though I’d lost a huge part of me. Those designs were my history. When I think about all the batiks I’ve made, I remember the time, place, and who was with me. The built-up wax layers and drops reminded me of the last time I’d dropped them into the envelope, too tired (or lazy) to clean them first.
My batiks are old friends and much like a person, it is good to see them again. I have the supplies (I couldn’t seem to leave my batik supplies in Ohio when I moved out, though all of it could have been replaced, i suppose). They are in a box in the garage. And I am re-inspired to go back to batiking as my primary medium of release. I have the space to make them. I’m sure I’ll be blogging more on this in the near future…