Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Grant Writing!

I've been thinking for a while now that I need to do a posting on grant writing. I just received an email from an artist friend with questions regarding one grant in particular and it made me realize I am not the only one struggling to build up a new skill set in such writing and thinking.

Grant writing is important to the development of one's art if you want to engage in projects involving research and communities, if you want to collaborate with other artists and basically just necessary if you want to bring your ideas to life AND get funding for it!

The Foundation Center is a great resouce and the whole month of October was Funding for the Arts month so they had a whole series of free workshops. These workshops are not only great for the information delivered by the presenters, but also wonderful for meeting other artists. I met one very understated artist who had insightful feedback on my first tortured draft of a grant application. It was obvious to me that he was very knowledgeable and generous with his information. I looked up his website when I got home and was so glad that I did. His projects are brilliant and his writing style elegant. His name is Todd Gilens. I really enjoyed his playing cards project for the Delaware Art Museum. .

Narrative Hook
In one of the workshops I attended we were told that there needs to be a narrative hook in the writing, some fragment of imagery from which the rest of the writing hangs. I struggled to understand what this meant until I read Todd Gilens' bio. It got me to thinking about what was the root of inspiration for all my art? What in my childhood was like his experience of sitting on a giant concrete ground sloth? (OK, if that doesn't get your interested in clicking on his bio link above, I don't know what will!)

I realized that although I, too, lived in L.A. and visited La Brea Tar Pits, I had many homes growing up...about 12 addresses in all. I began to think about how that shaped me. Reading Todd Gilens' bio helped me frame an application for an individual artist grant (Silicon Valley Arts Council Artist Fellowship) with a personal narrative at the beginning:

As a small child I was frequently tucked into the car and wrapped in a patched quilt of kimonos, rice bags and faded Hawaiian aloha prints. On long cross country drives to a new home on one side of the country or the other, I carefully studied the fabrics rolling in small hills across my knees. They whispered of rustling sugar cane fields, of great aunts cooling off in rice bag slips, and of kimono doll dresses made of apple wrappers. The fabrics were warm reminders of family life and blended cultures on islands far away. They are the inspiration for my mixed media art today.

At the end, I had this to bracket the whole Artist Statement:
My art is rooted in the knowledge that textiles anchor us to cultural memories and help shape new identities. I will always be that child gazing in wonder at the diverse fabrics patched into the rolling landscapes of my life.

My point here is to read other artist's bios. It can light a spark of memory in your own life and help with formulating your voice.

Sharing Resources and Info
Another great thing about meeting other artists and joining arts organizations is the resources and information they share if they are generous. Not all artist are generous. I have come to really appreciate the ones who are.

After sharing some of my textile experimentation with Mr. Gilens he sent me this link on intricate Islamic tile work. It is a fascinating article.

John Kuzich is another very generous artist. After only meeting him a few times, he showed up and helped me pack up the evening before my de install at the de Young. His residency at the de Young was this past summer and his show and reception were fantastic.

I have a network of friends who are artists, arts educators and teachers and it is great to be able to pool our information. A few months ago I applied for the Rambus-KCI Innovation Award. I happened to hear about it from a friend and would not have known about it otherwise. Last week I was notified that I was the final runner up for the award. It will be wonderful to meet the other arts educators honored at the ceremony.

Hire a Grant Writer/ Reviewer
I have also been working on a Creative Work Fund letter of intent with a museum. Until a few months ago I didn't know what a letter of intent was. Now I know it is a letter explaining your grant concept with preliminary budget and timeline. If the funder likes it, you get invited to formally apply for the grant.

I consulted with a great grant writer/artist, Nancy Hom, who read draft after draft of my concept. She posed many insightful questions which helped me to tighten up my ideas.
Nancy teaches a 2-part workshop on grantwriting from time to time (next one starts on Nov 16, 2-4 PM at the International Hotel Manilatown Center), plus gives private consultation.
For more information, contact Nancy at

I highly recommend getting the help of a grant writer when attempting a grant for the first time. I felt like I took an intensive online workshop with Nancy Hom and I learned a ton from her. Even if the museum and I do not get invited to apply, I have greater knowedge of the process and feel it was a very worthwhile experience.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Silicon Valley Textile

I am experimenting with cultural artifacts (Chinese food wrappers, sushi grass, rice bags), and computer chip elements to reflect on Silicon Valley and its rich cultural mix. This is just a test. I'd love to incorporate elements from Indian saris, Mexican textiles, and other prominent cultures here in Silicon Valley. I have also included a hint at San Jose's agricultural past in the strawberry leaves. Rough and ragged test done in three hours. I need to work on coherent color schemes more.

I was inspired by this artist, Angie Bacskocky who created the textile surface design for fashion designer Alexander McQueen. I have also begun to research Basso and Brooke an interesting fashion design duo....a Brazilian graphic designer teamed up with a European fashion designer. Amazing digital textile designs in their collections. Here are some more images of their work: I especially like the surface design on their Spring RTW 2009 collection as it incorporated Japanese textile motifs.

Digital Textile Printers:
I have been researching digital textile printers specializing in silks and fine fabrics for apparel. I found these two:

Below: I am no fashion designer, but I sketched this to show the scale that the textile might be used at.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fruit Leaf Studies for Fabric

I just discovered that one can create a pattern that has transparency in Photoshop. This is great because you can apply one pattern over another. Here are studies of apricot and strawberry leaves bases on a color scheme from a kimono I have. If you look closely you can see I made a mistake in the tiling on the apricot leaves (the red ones). I will need to review online tiling tips to learn how to eliminate these misalignment of register.

These preliminary studies below were draw in Illustrator using photos as templates. My neighbor was kind enough to give me an old Wacom Tablet to use. It has certainly saved my hands in drawing on the computer! I used to demo for this company years ago at trade shows such as MacWorld, but no longer had a tablet. It was great to get one for free. Perfect timing for me.

Below: Free form pattern test using Chinese and Mexican food wrappers, Japanese sashiko stitch pattern and cherry blossoms. It would be fun to echo the yellow sashiko stitching pattern by hand stitching yellow thread over the textiles.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

More Fun with Digital Textie Design

Here are more experimenting with digital tiling for textiles. I sent this out to Spoonflower in two different color schemes for fabric swatches in different types of cottons. I also ordered a color chart on different fabrics. You can order the color chart here I am still trying to figure out how to download their color chart into my swatches palette in Photoshop.

Below is my pencil sketch of a Chinese peony motif. I designed it to look a bit like flames as I am researching the last of San Jose's six Chinatowns, Heinlenville. It was brick. It was walled and it was locked. It was a unique enclave build by a German immigrant for the Chinese community in response to the arson burnings of other San Jose Chinatowns in the late 1800's. So the hint of flame, for me, alludes to a special community that emerged from the ashes of arson attacks.

I redrew the flower in Illustration incorporating strawberry motifs alluding to the agricultural economy which brought many early immigrants to San Jose. Into the flower, I inserted an image of an actual Chinese coin from Heinlenville that was lent to me by the historian, Connie Young Yu. Her grandparents had a store in this Chinatown. This coin was front her grandma's till box.

A common Japanese sashiko stitch motif was re created in Illustrator and applied in Photoshop to the initial tile image above. Japantown San Jose formed around Heinlenville. Below, De La Rosa peanut candy wrappers were added to the pattern. I spoke with San Jose Latina artist Lydia Sanchez and she told me that this particular candy represented a tangible (and tasty!) tie to her heritage growing up. I visit Mexican markets in San Jose for these yummy treats. Mexicans, Japanese, and Chinese all labored in the strawberry fields of Santa Clara. The final print tile (below and at top) is a blending of three cultures important to the shaping of San Jose's early cultural mix.

I'm working on a grant application relating to this. Here are some thoughts on it:
Textiles anchor us to cultural memories and help shape new identities. This project is rooted in the knowledge that Santa Clara county is the most ethnically diverse county in Northern California. Cultural exchanges and creative cultural blending occurs on a daily basis on many different levels. This project is an opportunity to reflect on the past while shaping a context in which to understand the present and envision the future. Digitally blending cultures and histories into innovative technologically created fabrics invites us to reflect in fresh ways on who we are as a community. These textiles honor the experiences of ethnic groups who shaped the Valley's agricultural past while also celebrate the blending of ethnic groups today and the digital economy driving it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pattern Tiling

About ten years ago when I was still a digital graphic designer I dabbled a little in digital image tiling. Now I am excited to explore it through digitally printed textiles. Here is my first experiment as I refresh my memory on tiling. There are very good instruction on tiling with Photoshop at this site:

Above: Original image.
Below: Tile of image using a filter (other: offset) in Photoshop. Inner seams of image are adjusted with the clone tool.

Below: The tiled applied to a larger area.

Below: The larger area of the tiled image is then overlayed with other graphic images (coins).

This then becomes one large tile. This image below is of the tile with the offset filter applied so that it will tile seamlessly. Yep, this does look Halloween in flavor!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Reflecting on Hawaiian Textile History

I am starting to distill ideas for a grant application letter of intent. The collaboration I hope to fund would examine Hawaiian Aloha textiles and garments designed by a Alfred Shaheen. It would explore the divergence and threads of commonality between the exported image of Hawaii and the actual Hawaii lived by Japanese Hawaiians.

Here is a digital sketch of one component of the project. This hanging curtain of pattern pieces would be composed of sample work in progress pattern shapes. The pattern pieces will be digitally printed with images of my textile designs. The installation would also include pattern pieces in the shape of objects from Hawaii plantation era and perhaps silhouettes echoing the diverse cultures of Silicon Valley today. Already some of the pattern shapes remind me of Hawaiian objects...such as poi pounders.

The above is just a rough concept. I really need to iron out the whole project and make it tightly fit. I visualize working with Colleen Quen, an amazing San Francisco fashion designer. The partnering nonprofit would be The San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.

I am really excited about the possibility of creating my own textile prints that reflect a fading visual vocabulary of the Japanese Hawaiian experiences. This grant would enable me to explore that direction and to bridge my digital skills with my fine art mixed media skills.

Here is a company that will print digital textiles. I have read great things about it and look forward to testing them out: Spoonflower.

This production service in Scotland looks amazing. Centre For Advanced Textiles at The Glasglow School of Art.