I started drawing abstract industrial landscapes when I was teaching sixth grade, way back in the 20th century. I loved discovering this doodly, strange, abstract business. It was because of my students–I started sitting in their art classes with them. Long story–great result: I had much fun, and I got to be an artist. I even collaboratively created a piece with a student that year–we used blue and black ink with just a tiny bit of red. We passed the paper back and forth for a couple of months exploring design and ideas. He made me a ball of masking tape that I still have on my desk at home–a giant ball of all masking tape. It was a triumph for me to work with that student and receive the twin gifts of creating art together and being given the tape ball.
And from then on, I took photos and sketched designs wherever I traveled to take home for inspiration. I took pictures of walls, sidewalks, corners, air vents in walls, in the sidewalk, the base of a light post, a shot of a bench from the bottom up or from the side. Any shape that caught my eye, I took a shot. What happened was that I came home from a trip to Savannah, GA with 50 photos all of strange things at unusual angles–nothing recognizable to anyone and no photos of me. But I don’t mind–those pictures are a catalog of my design learning in places as out of the way as Horseshoe Bend, ID, or in places like London and Florence–cities that are out of the way but which offer substantially more design inspiration–in some ways.
Everywhere I go, I take a few photos, even though I haven’t created much art lately. My time is pretty limited to work and basic survival at this point, but I have one project I want to get started on, a bigger piece, 8′ x 4′ using Montgomery and the Alabama River as my inspiration. I’m going to need a lot of pens and a lot more time than I have right now. But it’s good to have dreams.
In the meantime, I had to start thinking about framing the pieces that exist now. I have spent years trying to figure out how to best frame this abstract art. In fact, I just left most of it sit packed away in portfolios, until last fall when I had three pieces accepted into a show at a local gallery, a marvelous, multicultural, multimedia, multieverything gallery. I went to several framers–all lovely people who suggested various framing options that seem mildly interesting, but nothing really grabbed me.
I was getting panicked as my deadline approached (and a lot of other deadlines all around me–writing, work, events, teaching–lots of deadlines–including working with editors of Writing Spaces, Volume 2). I even had to ask the curator for an extra week. And then I gave up and decided to let serendipity move me.
And serendipity came through. One day while I was very sleepy after work and had decided to rest my eyes for a few minutes, it came to me: industrial framing for an industrial art. I was immediately wide awake, sketched what I wanted, got the measuring tape out, wrote down dimensions, made a list of materials and off to the home improvement store I went. I would use construction materials for the frames.
Fun. I ended up with steel washers, nuts and bolts, stoppers, neoprene washers, plexiglass, and yacht chain. I had a real drill, so I just needed to learn to drill plexiglass–no problem. I watched Youtube tutorials by construction folks and artists. I turned my dining room table into a work space. At the top right, you’ll see how I elevated the plexiglass off the table with 1″ x 1″ board. I inserted a cutting board between the plexiglass and the table so I didn’t drill through the table. I stabilized everything with several C-clamps–small ones that worked perfect.
I drilled through each sheet individually measuring twice, drilling once. One hole out of 24 was just a bit off. I could live with that. Washers, both steel and neoprene, cover a lot of sins. I thought about signing the frames, but at the end, I was so exhausted by stressing over being past my deadline, worried about ruining my table, drilling trough my hand, or otherwise causing some damage, there was no way I was going to be able to scratch my signature into the frames so it would look flashy.
Each bolt had a custom drilled rubber stopper screwed onto the back to hold the frame away from the wall by at least an inch so air and light could easily get behind. By custom drilling, I mean I drilled the stoppers. Never got tired of the drilling–what a high. You can barely see the chain hanging from the top bolts. You can also see how in places some paper was placed behind the art (the one on the right), but I also included a tiny bit of silver origami paper in each frame just poking out from behind the piece. I liked the idea of linking the silver of the steel to something silver by the art. This is not the greatest picture ever, but it’s the gist of the thing.
What a lot of fun it was to find a way to frame the art I so enjoyed creating. I liked floating frames a lot, but I didn’t want to use glass. Plexiglass. Problem solved. Home improvement store nuts and bolts aisle. Problem solved. I wiped out two stores of one size of neoprene washers. I felt very macho about the whole thing: drills, steel, washers, nuts and bolts, drill bits, and all.
It was partly serendipity that came to my rescue, but I know that it was partly that I wanted something unusual, and allowed myself to be open to that, and partly that I wanted to frame the works myself, rather than having someone do it for me.
I’m inspired to do the huge work now, when I can make the time and the space, and I know how I want to frame that, too. I’ll need more pens to create it, for sure, but I’ll need a bigger drill, too. Oh, more power tools. I can’t wait.
I’ve seen my future, and it includes a big, big drill. So cool.