Thinking Of:

Thinking of: ways to incorporate musical notation, dotted auras, and stitching to my art - and the energetic look and sound of the word syzygy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Silence in the Noise: Mail Art.



Beneath a vintage dryer bonnet, this lady - in search of pretty looks - appears to be in a zone of quietude. The moment I found this in my mail, I knew it was one of my favorites!  E, the mailer, was unaware of the memories her mail art would evoke.  Memories of:
  • hours of my own beneath these humming bonnets - reading and awaiting transformation
  • the look of my mother and grandmother and many other women beneath the bonnet
  • my grandmother in this exact type of house/salon dress
  • that exact relaxed look - beatific - on the face of anyone beneath these humming, warm-air-blowing bonnets 
As loud as they were - and maybe still are - a bit of heaven can be found beneath these dryer bonnets, in the same way that the come and go of waves can lull you to sleep at the beach.

Around the pasted image of this lady sitting primly beneath her bonnet, E used rubber stamps to create a scalloped pattern on the brown paper envelope. And around her head, E affixed "thoughts" and images.  E added color to the black and white image... I especially love the thick 60s eyelashes and the delicate colors she chose! But I wanted to free this lady from her thoughts and give her the peace so many women have found beneath the bonnet.  

It took a bit of work, as E's mail art was of course a real envelope.  Opening it in a hurry to get to the written contents, I tore the edge unevenly.  To fix this, I separated the front and back of the envelope - using parts of the paper to repair the torn edge.  E's stamps are always the greatest, vintage and/or interesting graphics, so I saved those.  Then - to create an atmosphere of tranquility around the seated lady, it was necessary to paint over the thoughts E had given her.  E's stamped scallops reminded me of clouds, so I painted white all around the lady under the bonnet. 

And finally, to firmly attach the added layers of paper, I machine-stitched a few lines.  And now, the mail art - mailed from E to me - is ready for a place on the wall of my studio... to remind me to take a moment to relax from time to time.  Thank You E.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Ikebana Bird

arrangement and photo Toile La La
Paper bird on dried stem "tree" among white gladiola, purple buddleia (butterfly bush), spherical rattlesnake master, black eyed susan, and bachelor buttons.  More at the Toile La La blog.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mail Art Mailbox

toile la la mail art to E
Mailbox lid - mail art

Mailbox full of mail art and correspondence
mail art from E to toile la la



mail art from E
Within even the construction of our mail art lately there is a conversation or new kind of creative language... a back and forth of imagery.  E sends a letter to me, I alter it... and sometimes vice versa.  One letter made two round trips and then I mailed it to my daughter - who likes to observe our progression of evolving mail art and correspondence.

Initially, my handwriting was not as refined as I wished.  I serendipitously happened upon a wonderful antique typewriter and began typing my correspondence for a small number of recipients.  As another artform, I began stitching on paper to alter images - or in envelope assembly and to add texture or a border.  

E began typing and stitching to me too.  She has acquired quite a collection of vintage typewriters - and her sewing machine has a more extensive range of stitches.  

Having familiarized myself with her collection of rubber stamps, embossing seals, sewing machine stitch patterns, typing ink and envelopes - I recently requested from E a particular combination:  red thread, a French stamp inked with brown-black ink, red typing ink, and a seal on her natural envelopes - which remind me of unbleached linen.  I was delighted to promptly receive them and have been using them for correspondence with E, so she's been able to enjoy her own handiwork via mail art!  Stamps she shared with me from her own collection add great color and visual interest.  I was inspired by the writing on the stamp and decided to add a speech bubble with characters.

mail art, toile la la (on an envelope from E)

E's stamp collection and embellished envelope

two letters from E
E shares my affinity for antique imagery and vintage fonts.  As she knows how I adore the history of art and fashion, she often surprises me with vintage magazine or pattern ephemera.  

I love how the typing here is visible from the reverse side - and how E added gold touches to Renoir's blue nude:

For one of my letters to E, I altered a vintage photo of a man holding a baby. With scissors, I snipped around the baby to make him appear to be perched in a tree.  A few weeks later, the tree-baby returned to me on the outside of E's envelope!
Recently, E sent me several vintage postcards - to which I added collage elements, or handpainting.  For a few days, I contemplated the transformation of this souvenir restaurant postcard - and then decided to add George Washington, the lighthouse, and the painted clouds and seaside:
toile la la mail art:  collage and handpainted altered postcard






Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Collage: Landscapes and Atmosphere.

Dusk collage image - Toile La La
Dusk collage - image detail


Dusk collage by Toile La La - detail
Splash collage by Toile La La, 6.9.15
This past winter, I began to explore landscapes through collage. Previously, most of my artwork celebrated fashion - but more and more I revel in the splendour of landscape, architecture, and especially atmospheric conditions. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Letter from the Editor: ALT, gingham

Vogue is not the same without ALT and his "Life With Andre"... I miss Andre Leon Talley!  On the upside, Hurray for my own little stash-of-fashion museum!  Tucked into boxes and shelves are a paper and fabric paradise for the lover of fashion history, where yesterday I revisited ALT on pages 222-224 of Vogue October 2011 in "Life With Andre".  His Thoroughly Modern Millicent made me remember why I miss Andre: he's a reader, observer, and detailed describer.  Andre inspires my fashion imagination sharing his October 2011 reads - biographies of Millicent Rogers and Catherine the Great.  Via Andre, I imagine Millicent in her grand finale Apache-style Schiaparelli dress, with a silver concho belt and a chief's blanket for extra flair.  When Andre describes Catherine the Great's understated and elegant masked ball ensemble - which sounds very Marie Antoinette at Petit Trianon - it appears in my mind's eye:
"Catherine wore a bodice and skirt of rough white cloth (instead of the expected stately brocades and ornately embroidered bodices), a white gauze ruff, an apron, and cuffs with an easy ponytail tied with a white ribbon, a rose tucked in."
This choice of what-I-imagine-to-be handwoven nubby cotton or linen - paired with the gauze, and accented with a rose sounds absolutely perfect - I love it!  Sometimes our eyes get tired of too much.  Too much can be overstimulating. 

Here I must mention gingham.  Several months ago, my snail mail friend E sent me pages from a 1962 McCall's booklet featuring cross stitch on gingham... noting she finds it cheerful, nostalgic, and representative of simpler, easier times.  Coincidentally, a little fashion syzygy occurred.  My search for ALT writing synchronized with the memory of Oscar de la Renta's S/S 2015 gingham and with the memory of E's cross stitch-on-gingham booklet.  Imagine the cross-stitch treatment applied to Oscar de la Renta's supersized gingham!
cross stitch on gingham image, McCall's 1962
Now to close, I'll leave you with a little link where you'll find something I find absolutely charming - combining the idea of Catherine the Great's apron, with of-the-moment gingham, and the cross-stitch-on-gingham idea. Katie at treasurefrommytrunk at Etsy has several vintage aprons featuring this cross stitch-on-gingham. My favorite is a pink gingham apron with red-crowned black roosters parading around its hem!  

Friday, April 10, 2015

Mail Art...Bunches.

Mail, mail art, and extremely interesting envelopes, letters, and ephemera ...that's what I have after 2 years of steady sending and receiving of correspondence - a shoebox full. 

I suppose my interest in mail art was inspired by books - all the Nick Bantock books, and the Good Mail Day book by Jennie Hinchcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler.  

But I've always liked mail... corresponding with my cousin as a child, and with pen pals in France and Great Britain as a teen.  My Great Aunt - a math whiz - (with whom I really shared very few common interests) began sending me letters in college... and I can still picture them today - very very small, orderly handwriting - closely spaced lines utilizing conservatively every fraction of paper.  And, during the same time, my mother once mailed me a whisker the cat had shed.  The cat seemed as close to me then as any family member, so to discover that memento was a charming surprise.

Here - some of the latest correspondence, much of it decorated with vintage ephemera, paper bits and stamps from my friend E:
toile la la mail and mail art

toile la la mail art collage
two letters to E - at top - and one, from - at lower left
Notice above the two tiger stamps - one roaring... I love those big cats!
toile la la mail art - altered vintage cancelled stamp
Not long ago, E sent me a little packet of stamps from her collection she has been saving since her pre-teen years (and we aren't babies anymore, so she's preserved this collection for quite some time).  Sometimes, I add them to the letters I send her - to surprise her with her own shared treasures.  She gets to revisit her old stamps.  E didn't like the position of the arms on the Caroline Neuber stamp - so I gave Caroline a new pose.
package from E  - toile la la image

I love to look through my shoebox full of correspondence because there is so much variety and many times I discover something I may have missed upon first receiving an item... such as this photo.  E decorated the outside of a mailer with this vintage photo - and I did notice the rollercoaster originally.  But sorting through the box of mail yesterday, I noticed this lady, holding something which looks so much like a big fashion magazine.  It reminds me of myself... not because of how this lady looks - but because to think that she might be standing there at an amusement park holding a fashion magazine seems both humorous and familiar.  I am one of those people too who would choose a fashion magazine over a rollercoaster ride most days! 

toile la la stitched mail art image

And here is some of my mail art to E.  For some time now I've been enjoying using my sewing machine to embellish paper - and one of my favorite stitching patterns is something like a zigzag, but more like ocean waves.  You'll see me use the same stitching pattern on other creations here and at the Toile La La blog.  An earlier post (which also features my Number One Good Luck Employee Cat) shows a large shoebox full of vintage ephemera E sent me... which was a really exciting thing to dig through.  This old handwritten letter, written on hotel stationery, is an item I pulled from E's shoebox.  The illustrated buildings already stood in front of drawn puffy clouds - which I wanted to emphasize.  Because the paper is old - from the mid 20th century - the stitching carved a few holey spaces, but I like the look of these perforations and lacy holes - which are particularly lovely when you hold them to the light.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Heard: Sound Search - Fresh Frequency

"80s sounds - Casey Kasem, American Top 40...sometimes made it to my ears. It could be quite difficult to identify songs heard on the radio...requiring a real hunt to attain them. Those Billboard hits though - I realized, were surprisingly not the edgy, intriguing sounds drawing me in like sirens' song. Those seemed from another planet altogether. Devo - Whip It, M - Pop Muzik, Gary Numan - Cars, Stevie Wonder - Higher Ground, Marvin Gaye - Got to Give It Up...to find these things required a knowledge of genre - I had no idea...but if it made my feet and shoulders move - I liked the sound.
Rockabilly, I knew - was a nod to times past...I liked Stray Cat Strut. Then there was something untamed - an almost animal snarl - out of someone like Billy Idol. Having been surrounded by country and bluegrass music, and practicing classical and hymns on the piano - something like The Clash... Rock the Casbah, Should I Stay or Should I Go - was undefinable...out of this world. I loved it! It was like pounding the keys with fully-random abandon, full-blast - with all 10 fingers - while pressing the amplification pedal full-throttle...all systems go.
The first time I saw MTV - in a hotel, on a high-school class excursion, I stayed up all night and still remember seeing Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Want to Have Fun - and being blown away by the choreography in Michael Jackson's Beat It...so supple, tough, and super-magnetic.
Pink Floyd - was, for me, aurally sedative, producing a feeling of calm concentration.
Songs I liked even more than I thought possible...the videos enhancing the mood:  The Cure's Lullaby - and Siouxsie and the Banshee's Peek-A-Boo. Robert Smith's hush-hush voice and rimmed eyes...spiders, regimental spectral musicians - all proceeding at a slow, heavy-heartbeat pace. Peek-A-Boo's accordion, with fringed flapper Siouxsie flirting, darkly Betty Boop - in a song so cacophonous - raising such a hullabaloo. The effect of the music and fashion, drama and dance combined - there's nothing like it, but my excitement must be the same sort experienced by viewers who witnessed the transition from silent cinema to talkies, or those first observers of Busby Berkeley's singing, dancing beauties.
Although I loved the modern sounds of synthesized and electronic music, the smooth, bright call of brass instruments - saxophone, trumpet - really captivated me too...Herb Alpert - also, old jazz - Duke Ellington's The Mooche.
After the harpsichord and organ of classical music, I often listened to The Doors - also a lot of organ...finding it interesting to hear an instrument spanning centuries - think of Ian Anderson's very elaborate flute-tootings...straight out of the Renaissance/Baroque eras.
The voice too, is an instrument...think of Bobby McFerrin - or Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant.
My ears were famished...starved for the fresh sounds of new or international artists, but my spot of the earth received only radio and television static - no MTV.
There was instant attraction to the music blasting out of a boombox belonging to a boy at school. During class breaks, he break-danced - he and a friend spinning on their hands and heads - then freezing motion...motorized robots. Cruising from class to class - on his shoulder he carried the boombox - big as a shoebox for boots...its staccato sound charging the atmosphere. George Clinton's Atomic Dog woofed, tweeted, barked, and bow-wowed its way out of those blasting beatbox speakers.
The Go-Go's and Blondie I loved, singing along to all the Go-Go's songs - and feeling intense admiration for Blondie's cool, syncopated Rapture.
Thomas Dolby's Europa and the Pirate Twins: Seeing it today, I think how ahead of things he was - with his time travel retro-science device and his Victorian/Edwardian appearance. I loved Dolby's Europa in the 80s, but wasn't sure how to choreograph it - becoming almost short-circuited with enthusiasm...when playing it, I did experimental hula hoop - because to me, the song felt circular.
Pop Muzik - by M, produced a bizarre effect as well - to Pop Muzik I did handstands, headstands, cartwheels, backbends, and roundoffs. Music energized me."
Excerpt from 80s Fashion Design, Book 1: Drawn - a collection of scrapbook and sketchbook entries, trend and pop culture observations and mementos - written and illustrated by Toile La La.