Category Archives: Personal Stories

Free Cut and Fold Book – Do You Hear What I Hear?

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One of my favorite memories of Christmas is singing carols with my mother. She has an amazing singing voice and me, not so much. But somehow singing carols with my mother always elevated my voice and made us feel even closer. This cut and fold book is a version for you to color and make into a book. It is made with coloring images from the internet combined with the words of the carol. You should only use this for personal or educational use. No selling it.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to fold and cut the book.

Looking for more? Christmas Giggles Cut and Fold Book

Later in the week I’ll post two more blog posts, one with a free pop-up tutorial and another with more artists you might want to support this holiday season.

Enjoy!

~Ginger

http://www.gingerburrell.com

 

 

 

 

Cat-A-Log: A Joint Project With Karen Koshgarian

Since Sunday was National Day of the Cat it seems appropriate that we bookend the day with two cat related blog posts. Last week, Meet the Cats, this week Cat-A-Log.

Several years ago I began a project titled Picturing Dialogue which was a weekly call and response exchange between me and several other photographers, one-on-one. During that project one of the participants, Karen Koshgarian, and I discovered that we enjoyed our weekly email chats and one another’s perspective on the world and we’ve continued with annual weekly photo exchange projects ever since.

This year we’re doing two projects, “Signs of the Times” and “Watch Your Step.” Having a weekly exchange and an art partner is a great way to keep art-making constant and fresh. If you haven’t tried this kind of art exchange, I highly recommend it. If you’re looking for ideas, you might check out The Photographer’s Playbook: 307 Assignments and Ideas. Although we don’t get our ideas from that book, I do have it in my studio and think it’s a great resource to get you started!

In 2015 one of our projects was titled “Cat-A-Log.” We took turns sending photos of our cats back and forth. Karen’s cat Little Rickey is black with white markings, our kitty, Ellis is white with black markings. It was a fun way to share our love of cats and a much needed break from the more serious political work that I usually do. This is one of the artists books I’m working on in the studio. It will, of course, have one white and one black cover.

Here is a sneak peek of the beginning of the exchange. All photos are copyrighted by the photographers and may not be copied or reproduced without explicit written permission.

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Cat-A-Log Week 1 by Ginger Burrell

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Cat-A-Log Week 2 by Karen Koshgarian

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Cat-A-Log Week 3 by Ginger Burrell

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Cat-A-Log Week 4 by Karen Koshgarian

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Cat-A-Log Week 5 by Ginger Burrell

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Cat-A-Log Week 6 by Karen Koshgarian

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Cat-A-Log Week 7 by Ginger Burrell

Have you done a project about your animals? Have you done a project with another artist? Feel free to link to your project in the comments section.

~Ginger

http://www.gingerburrell.com

 

The Art of Art Feedback

Hi everybody, my name is Greg and I’ll be your guest-blogger this evening.  Yes, I’m the husband Greg that Ginger mentions from time to time.  And yes, despite a recent knock on the noggin Ginger is okay and doing well.  She’s busy in the studio and will return to blogging soon enough.  In the meantime, Ging has asked me to write a few words this week.   So I shall follow the advice of my sixth-grade English teacher (shout out to Ms. Fawcett!) and write what I know.  And what I know is how to be married to An Artist.  So buckle up, here we go…

The 2017 Codex is just around the corner and Ginger is hard at work on new books.  Some of them are just in the idea stage while others have advanced to prototypes.  So I frequently hear Ginger ask, “Hey, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me some feedback on this new book..?”   And here is my reaction:

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“Deer In The Headlights” by James-The-Nose on deviantart.com

Ah yes, the art of giving art feedback. Those of us who know an artist or perhaps even live with one have been asked to critique new work.  It is a veritable minefield that I occasionally successfully navigate (the unsuccessful navigations could be their own column not to mention material for marital counseling).  Here are some guidelines that I have learned along the way.

  • If you’re the significant other of an artist then your first thought might be, “Why me?  I’m not an artist!  I’m not qualified to say nothing!”  Ah, but you do know how to have an opinion and that’s the first step.  The next step is to not be intimidated.  Treat the art piece as you would a movie, a ball game, or a business plan.   Objectively evaluate each aspect of the piece.  Say what you think works and what doesn’t.
  • Get yourself in the right frame of mind.  Turn off the TV and put down the phone.  Go to a room away from the kids or pets so they don’t distract.   Be aware of your own feelings, are you tired, hungry, stressed, or cranky?  Sometimes I simply have to tell Ginger “I’m really tired right now, let’s wait until I can give it my full attention.”
  • The artist values your opinion and thinks you have helpful insights.  Being asked to give a critique is an honor.  In fact, I like seeing new work because it’s like seeing a new side of Ginger.  I think it’s very cool that even though I’m not an artist Ginger still thinks I have useful things to say about her work.  In return, I have a responsibility to give an honest assessment.   Don’t just dismiss the work with a “hey, great!” or “yeah, its nice”.  Sure, everybody likes to hear praise but the artist probably wants something more helpful.   Which leads me to…
  • You aren’t doing the artist any favors by watering down your feedback.  My mother used to tell me “if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all”. (A phrase which Ginger often reminds me in social situations, to little avail.)  It’s a nice sentiment but I don’t believe it’s true.  Sure, honesty can be dangerous.  There are times when I have strong opinions and maybe Ginger isn’t in the right frame of mind to hear them.   I might make an observation or suggestion and Ginger might disagree and push back.  We’re not arguing, we’re having a dialogue.  And that dialogue can help Ginger clarify her thinking about the piece.  She might storm away in anger but, at the end of the day, Ginger realizes I was just being honest and she appreciates my candor.
  • BE SPECIFIC! Saying, “I don’t like it” is vague.  “This font is hard to read” is more specific.  “It’s confusing” is vague.  “I don’t understand the jump from this page to the next” is better.  Specific is helpful because the artist can then re-examine her choice and decide whether to keep or emend it.  (Though sometimes I think that Ginger’s silence means she’s re-examining her choice in a husband).   Specific feedback is actionable.  “I don’t get it” is vague, what’s Ginger supposed to do with that?  Be specific even in your positive feedback, what elements work and why?  What aspects (materials, colors, flow) work well and why?  What stands out to you?   Despite the fact that it might kill me I realize this is a case where more talking and more words are better.
  • Gently play the devil’s advocate and question each element of the work.  Why is this here?  Why did you choose this? Does this element add to a piece or is it just distracting?  Did you do this just because you can or because the work needs it?  Sometimes I sound like a two-year old asking “why?” over and over but I think it’s a question that needs to be asked.
  • Don’t let the artist give a long introduction or explanation before presenting the piece.  I feel the work should speak for itself.  Too much explanation can color my impressions of a new work.  If there’s a lot to be said then say it in the piece.   Don’t try to sell me on the idea.  Let me look and form my own first impressions.
  • Don’t just focus on technical details, how does the work make you feel?  Sure, comments on book structure, material choices, and other technical aspects are good.  But the point of any art work is to communicate with the viewer’s intellect, heart, and soul.  Does the work touch you?  What emotions does it evoke?  Again, be specific.  Some of the best feedback I can give is to tell Ginger how her pieces make me feel (sad, angry, bored, in awe, curious).
  • Don’t take it personally if the artist doesn’t agree with or act on your ideas.  They are just suggestions from one person.  It’s the artist’s work and the artist has the final say.   Don’t be a baby and get exasperated.  Don’t throw up your hands and exclaim, “They why did you ask for my opinion then?!”   Art feedback is no place for sarcasm, belittlement, or condescension.

I hope you found this useful.  If you’re an artist then maybe forward it to the people who get to see your works in progress.  And I hope this gives you some insight into how us non-artists feel, go easy on us.   -Greg

Cleaning the Studio Between Trips

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As I mentioned last week, we were off to Tucson for funeral. We went to show our respect and mark the passing of a man important to Greg and our family. Mike Enis was somehow related to Greg and his dad, although we couldn’t really tell you how. More importantly, Mike Enis was kind and welcoming and had terrific stories. He was also a wonderful father, grandfather and great-grandfather, a political activist, and a cultural historian and language teacher for the Tohono O’odham people. Mike also helped create a contemporary type of music particular to the southern Arizona desert, Chicken Scratch. It was an honor to have known Mike Enis.

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While in Tucson, we visited family, including our niece, Diana, who just started college at the University of Arizona. We were glad to get to see her sooner than expected, even if it did involve getting up at 4 a.m.!

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We also enjoyed some Indian Fry Bread (some of the best we’ve ever had), at “Indian Fry Bread Manna From Heaven” on St. Mary’s Road in Tucson.

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A trip to the Desert Museum in Tucson was inspiring both in terms of its beauty

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and also for this tree, which gave me some new artist book structure ideas. Can’t you just see this as a central binding structure with leaves/pages/books?

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And two more pieces of inspiration, the first, a statement by a young artist on the Tohono O’odham reservation about why he uses graffiti art. “Graffiti Art is not bad it is art. Graffiti Art is not tagging. Tagging is not art. Graffiti Art is a way for the next generation of our kids to carry on what makes us a tribe, what makes us “us.””

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And the second, a mosaic, in the Tucson airport. Dora, this made me think of you!

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And we’re off to the airport again for a trip to Virginia, this time for a wedding.

In the meantime, I decided that habits are useless without a usable work space. I’m terribly embarrassed to admit it, but this is what my studio looked like as of last Sunday.

Studio Before with MessStudio Before with Mess-2Studio Before with Mess-3Studio Before with Mess-4

It is an archaeological dig/representation of the projects, classes, and ideas of the last year. In between caring for Marisol and keeping our day-to-day lives running, I met deadlines and got projects done, got organized for classes, and more on a just-in-time basis.

I am a packrat, I love keeping things “just in case,” and I have never met a scrap of paper I don’t love and need to keep. But enough is enough. I’ve filled bags full of things to donate and I’m being rather harsh about what has to go. I can’t create good working habits if I don’t have room to work. So this week is step 1. Clean out.

I’m still reading the organizing/habits book. It will go with me on the next airplane ride. And next week, I’ll show you the “after” photos of the studio and share about our trip to Virginia.

Hey look. Three blog posts in a row. This is starting to look a bit like a habit!

Are you a packrat? What determines whether or not something is valuable enough to take up space in your studio? Comments are welcome!

~Ginger

http://www.gingerburrell.com

 

 

On Being a “Real” Artist

Ginger Burrell Pyramid Box with Lotus Book SFSM

Well, here it is Tuesday again. And look, a blog post! I had to laugh when I realized I’ve been so busy since last Tuesday that I haven’t read any more of the book about getting organized and making routines. I’ll have to tell you about that another time.

When I was studying art in college,  I remember a discussion where a student pointed out that a “real artist” would let everything else in life go in order to make art. Art would come before family, income, chores, even eating.

Piffle.

This real artist made art this week, finished writing class descriptions, designed two new book structures, got her niece settled into college and just now booked travel for a funeral. This real artist is still terribly behind on a long list of things, but making progress.

Real artists have real lives. And if we’re lucky, busy, messy lives full of lot of people we love and who love us. And those people need us, need our time, and get in our way. Don’t even get me started on our pets.

To begin with, the college send off. I only cried a little bit. We were so focused on getting to the dorm room first so she could have the single bed in a triple room (success!), and getting her mountain of clothes, shoes and other supplies organized under said bed, I didn’t even have time to cry. And by the time the seven of us, who went to “help” her, had driven her crazy, she was so ready for us to leave, none of us cried. Of course when Greg and I got home we weren’t sure what to do with ourselves. And my first morning thought every day is still about what she needs, where she is, and whether she’s okay.

As far creating art, inventing book structures and writing class descriptions, I was working on a version of my pyramid box with magnetic closures, see the photo above. This version, designed for San Diego Book Arts needed to have a book inside. I experimented with stacked books and was underwhelmed. I really wanted something that made you go “wow” when it was revealed. I played with a variety of ideas and finally ended up with this, a set of four small triangular books with magnetic covers. When attached to each other with the magnets they create this intriguing and complex shape that I’m calling a Lotus Book. I’m pretty tickled with it.

I also designed a star book with magnetic covers that sits inside this hexagon box. I’ll be teaching both books and boxes in San Diego next April in 2017.

Ginger Burrell Hexagonal Box with Star Book SFSM

Today, after I finish my blog post, I’m cleaning. My studio is in such disarray that I have to move things to find things and move things to make space to work. I’ve got a bunch of boxes mostly made that are overdue to Vamp and Tramp. That’s my next big project… After I clean enough to find my table.

As far as the book on organizing one’s life? I’ll take that in my bag when we fly to Tucson for a funeral. I’ll tell you more about the book, and Tucson, next week.

Wishing you a lovely week full of messy, loving people who need you and get in the way.

~Ginger

http://www.gingerburrell.com

 

Creating (And Re-Creating) Habits

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I think one of the hardest, and most important, things we can do as artists is create habits and routines to support our art-making. I’ve been creating, trying and ultimately re-creating, trying and often failing, to create habits and routines as an artist for nearly ten years.

Ten years. Wow. It doesn’t feel that long ago that I was truly terrified of calling myself an artist, let alone leaving the office work world to work in a studio and classroom. Along the way I’ve discovered that I am a master of distraction, procrastination and, perhaps worst of all, perfectionism. If you’ve seen the movie, Up, you know what I mean when I say, “Squirrel?!”

I love squirrels. We feed several of them at our bird feeders each day. In fact, I created a squirrel feeder by re-purposing a rabbit… See, there I go. I’ve been meaning to write blog posts for months. I’ve written dozens in my head. But since they’re never as well written as I’d like, and I don’t have exactly the right photo to post, or Ellis wants to play, or the dishes need done or there is an artists’ book I’m avoiding in the studio, no blog posts.

To be fair, and as my dear friend Karen would tell me, to be kind to myself, I have had a bit of a distraction for the last year. Our niece, Marisol, has been living with us and it’s been our responsibility to help her successfully make the transition from junior in high school to college freshman. With any luck we’ve taught Mari some things and she’s definitely taught us. And, next Saturday, our year of homework, worry, taxi service, cajoling, reminding and loving is coming to an end. She’s moving to college. Okay, well the loving and the worrying, that definitely isn’t coming to an end. As we’ve told her we will always do those things!

So I have the opportunity to re-work my schedule and the responsibility to improve it. I need to put into practice all the things I’ve been teaching Marisol. Make and keep a schedule. Keep a calendar. Fulfill responsibilities first. Stay focused. Squirrel?

Step one. I’ve put on my calendar as a recurring event, “Blog Post” on Tuesdays. Oh, I’d love to write them twice a week. Even three times. And I’d like each to be beautifully illustrated and inspire you deeply as an artist. But as my perfectionist self knows, if I try to meet those standards up front, I’ll never post. Instead of one blog a week, I’ll post one blog a month. Or every six months. Or year.

So, one post a week. Here it is. Next week I’ll tell you about the book I’m reading and the other habits I’m trying this time. And how I did my best not to cry when I left Marisol in her dorm room.

~Ginger

www.gingerburrell.com

 

 

 

Paper Dolls at Marin MOCA – 6th Annual Altered/Artist Book Show

I’m very tickled to share with you that Paper Dolls was awarded 3rd Place in this year’s (2015) judging by Donna Seager!…

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I participate in the Marin MOCA show each year with the idea that altered books can and should have the same standard of quality, content and detail as any artist book.

I entered the first year thinking that making an altered book was so different from how I usually worked that it would be a good stretch for me as an artist. To my surprise, over time, my experience in making books for Marin MOCA has influenced my regular art practice resulting in such titles as Reliquary, Dear IRS and Breathe for Those Cannot.

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This year’s altered/artist book entry, Paper Dolls, began as a feminist manifesto about the role of women in society past and the ever-present attempts to return women to that role. In the entire book, The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1943), there was only one photograph of a man sewing and he was listed as THE expert.

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Over time, however, Paper Dolls became a sentimental journey through my childhood. As I wrote the poetry, I realized that so much of how I make art now was influenced by the time I spent then with my mother imagining, designing, and creating clothing. Every trip to the fabric store was a lesson in color theory, textures, and attention to detail. Sensory memories of whispery pattern paper, the whirring sewing machine and being pricked with pins, still in the garment, began to rearrange my ideas.

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The finished book is multi-layered with poetry printed on cotton patterned fabric, pages made of layered pattern paper, and pages of the original book. The altered/artist book is sewn both by hand, with Coptic binding, and also by machine, through the cotton and paper pages.

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I am fascinated with technology and enjoy incorporating the digital with the traditional book form in a way that serves the book’s content. In the one copy for Marin MOCA,  Paper Dolls features a digital frame which plays a fashion show of pattern packets with women’s clothing from 1900 to the 1970s. This theme is further expressed with inclusion of cut-out paper dolls presented in the “sewing” box with the finished book.

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~Ginger

PS. Mom, I love you!

http://www.gingerburrell.com