In one episode of the podcast Hidden Brain, host Shankar Vedantam describes a theory called the edge effect, which is the point where two ecosystems adjoin. It's at this location that the most new life forms are created.
Shankar then asks the question: "What could happen when strangers meet?" He explains that interesting things can happen when people from different cultures, backgrounds, and points of view, work together. Just like the edge effect between ecosystems, innovation is more likely to occur when diverse ideas come together. Diversity and creativity go hand in hand.
Photos of "The Edge Effect" in progress.
I've found that I can use the concept of the edge effect on an individual level to spark creativity in my art practice and my life. Simply by doing something different, trying something new, listening to another point of view, or putting uncertainty into my day, can cause a spark of creativity. Trusting that spark and seeing where it takes me is a challenging, but satisfying thing to try. In the past year, I've used these concepts to break things and start anew.
It is scary and uncomfortable to step into the unknown. But it's also exciting. And it's amazingly gratifying to come out the other side and see how you've grown!
Everyone has a desire to be comfortable and safe, but the most interesting things can happen when you allow yourself to be uncomfortable. Open your mind to possibility. Be curious.
Opening Reception for the Exhibition 'Orient, Disorient, Repeat'
Images of My Work at the Exhibition
Photography by Rik Sfarra
Thank you to everyone for coming to the opening reception! If you missed it, you can see the exhibition through July 27, 2019.
Yesterday I wrote down a sentence I heard Joshua Johnson say on the radio: "How you see the world depends on where you look." It's a timely quote for me.
Personally, I think we probably need them all. Who is to choose which ones we don't need? Everyone has a different viewpoint. Everyone has a different opinion.
I hope to see you there! I'll be more than interested in hearing your viewpoint.
Well, the year is coming to a close and I'm so proud that my resulting textile artworks will be on display for 9 weeks at Textile Center's Joan Mondale Gallery starting on May 23rd.
I do hope you'll join me for the opening day!
Janet Dixon uses memory and imagination as a basis for the autobiographical abstract maps she creates using breakdown screen-printing and low immersion dyeing.
In her Queer Encrypted Weavings, Heather MacKenzie is creating an ongoing series of queer heirlooms using contributed text coded into textile structures.
Pastel Painting Challenges
I've completed views 1 & 2, but have gotten a few weeks behind on the paintings. Photos of views 3 & 4 are still waiting to be started! I will continue taking my weekly photos and I hope to eventually get to all 10 views. The 10 paintings will portray the transition from the beginning to the end of Spring.
Textile Art - Jerome Project Grant
The exhibition, entitled ORIENT, DISORIENT, REPEAT, opens May 23. My work, along with two other grantees, will be on display at Textile Center's Mondale Gallery through the end of July. Find more event information here.
Mary Pow actively investigates the creative process through her methodical cut-and-sewn color block work where she explores the multitude of viewpoints contained within the world of humanity.
Mary Pow Handbags + Accessories
Pastel Paintings - Recently Completed
It didn't seem like something I'd do. But it felt right.
Since late summer I've been experimenting. Drawing and painting, trying new things, and reveling in the freedom of it all. I've felt this amazing ability to let go of the guilt one usually gets when not doing what one is "supposed to be doing".
I’ve felt taken over by creativity, and I’ve allowed myself to let it happen. It's been a gift.
But, I've got responsibilities, timelines, goals, and a Fiber Art Project Grant. The free-wheeling can’t continue indefinitely. Which, I'm not going to lie, has been a tough fact to face.
Fitting the Broken Pieces Together – in a New Way
I reminded myself that it wouldn't be in my own best interest to not complete what I had set out to do. Also, did I really want to give back the $5,000 I received for the Project Grant? Did I really want to tell the wonderful people who awarded me that money that I was giving up?
Not at all.
What I needed to do was pick up all the pieces I broke and figure out a new way to put them together. A way that would work for me now, in my new place.
- Jerome Project Fiber Grant
- Textile art
- Pastels: drawing and painting
- Making money
- Taking a break from making “products”
- Feeling free to be creative
I got serious and wrote down a daily routine for myself that would allow me to fit in all the parts.
The Ah-ha! Moment
The pastel work, on the other hand, is just for me. It has an experimental feeling and there are no stakes.
I realized that I needed to take the pressure off my textile work. I didn't want to get started on it again because it felt so risky and I was having a fear of failure. So, using what I learned from my research on creativity – in fact, exactly what got me started on pastels – I decided to re-frame things in my head.
I told myself, the next textile piece I made would be a warm-up. Like when you’re learning a new card game and the first round you play is just to get the rules figured out. No pressure; just explore. Plus, you know that Picasso quote: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” I needed to get to work.
And what do you know. For two weeks now, I’ve had my new routine working. That first week, I created a piece of textile art that I don’t know how I feel about. It’s not so great – but who cares, it was only for practice. The real point of that piece was that it helped me get into the new routine.
Actually, sorting out all of this has accomplished exactly what I wanted when I originally wrote my grant proposal last May:
“My main goal in asking for this grant is that it would allow me the opportunity to step away from my product-based business and have dedicated, uninterrupted time to work on my studio art practice. The possibility of having the freedom of time to get my ideas out of my mind and onto my “canvas”, so to speak, is very exciting.”
I'm starting to settle into my new routine. It includes both textile art and pastel painting. Things are flowing easier. I’m feeling inspired by both mediums. In fact, every day I feel like pinching myself because I can hardly believe I got what I wished for: a studio art practice.
It feels good.
But yet, I had a good feeling about this grant.
I took the letter out to my backyard. After taking a seat and a deep breath, I slowly opened the letter. Yes, it was just one sheet of paper, but I quickly spotted the word "congratulations" in bold print! In fact, it said, "Congratulations! You have been selected to receive a Jerome Fiber Artist Project Grant for 2018-19."
And so for the next 10 months I am on a journey of discovery. This grant has provided me with the opportunity, the time, and the funds to explore the ideas I find most interesting. And to create art! I'm beyond honored and humbled to have received it.
The Jerome Fiber Artist Project Grant is amazing. For one, I will be supported throughout the duration of the grant period. I still feel like I'm new to the world of textile art, and I'm happy to take all the help and input I can get. But, of course, the most exciting part is that the grant process will culminate with an exhibition of my art at the Textile Center in the spring of 2019. That will be thrilling!
I hope you'll follow along on my journey. I plan to blog about what I'm up to, and I'll also be posting my in-progress work on Instagram.
Of course, I can't continue without saying thank you to the Textile Center for this amazing opportunity! And thank you to the jurors for their belief in me!
Below is the announcement of the recipients of the Jerome Fiber Artist Project Grant for 2018-19.
At the bottom is a slide show of the photos I submitted with my proposal.
Generally, I think about ideas for weeks or months before I begin a project. I used to feel odd about the fact that I don’t do a lot of sketching before I start, but I’ve come to terms with it. That’s just not the way I work. Instead, I turn ideas over in my head for a long time. I let ideas come to me when I’m on a run or when I’m lying in bed, and I only rarely sketch.
As for color selection, I take quite a bit of time to find the right color combinations for a project. My fabrics are to me like paints are to a painter; my color palette. I really enjoy coordinating each project’s color scheme.
After I chose the blues I wanted for this project, I cut the fabrics into strips. I decided to create two slightly different patterns with the same colors so I could explore my interest in contradictions with this work.
For one of the patterns I cut narrow blue strips and placed them between wider gray strips. For the other pattern I did the opposite: wide blue strips and narrow gray. I sewed all the strips together and ironed them flat.
At that point, I had to set the project to the side. It wasn’t until February that I was able to take it up again.
I do a lot of ruminating on philosophical ideas. I like to consider things like: what makes us human, how society works, and the intricacies of human relationships. I also love to learn about the latest science on the human brain.
With my rotary cutter and straight edge, I began to slice the striped patterns into strips of varying sizes. I arranged and rearranged these strips into a new pattern. As usual, I ran out of table space and had to use my studio floor.
I worked to create two interwoven, slightly contradictory, and alternating patterns to represent two views of the world being held simultaneously. As the arrangement came together, I took my seam ripper and broke up the strips into smaller pieces. I added more details, including a touch of contrast with the color yellow.
Once I was pleased with the arrangement, I started to sew everything together. I like to be very precise in my work and this took a fair amount of time.
I carefully lined up each strip of fabric with the next one and pinned them together. Then I sewed, and ironed, and continued on to the next strip with pinning, and sewing, and so on.
When all the strips were sewn together, I added a wide fabric border. The final step was to stretch it over a canvas wrapped wooden frame. Then the piece was finished!
I think this artwork would look wonderful framed in a modern white float frame. Its complex, yet soothing pattern, simple straight lines, and beautiful blues will bring a sense of calm and interest to any space.
You can see this piece in person at the upcoming American Craft Council Show in St. Paul, April 20 - 22, 2018. I'll be in booth 510.
Now, don't get me wrong, being busy is good news. But having down time is also important. I can get crabby when my mind and body haven't had a chance to recover from a big event or an intensive period of work.
This past weekend I was finally able to take some restful time off. Spending time outdoors in the sunshine, and also reconnecting with my family, has rejuvenated me a bit. I actually got antsy at the end of the weekend; inspiration for another piece of art has been nagging me. It is a challenge to put off a creative urge until there is time to devote to it!
So, here I am, two weeks late, taking a moment to write..
A Quick Recap of the Show
And if the thoughtful reception by the public wasn't enough, I was thoroughly astounded on Friday afternoon when the American Craft Council presented me with the Award of Excellence in Booth Design.
Here I am being presented with the award by ACC director of education Michael Radyk (left) and ACC executive director Chris Amundsen (right).
From the American Craft Council:
"A tradition established at the start of the American Craft Shows, the Awards of Excellence recognize and celebrate show artists ... From a pool of more than 200 incredibly talented makers, five were chosen to be honored with awards at our 2017 American Craft Show in St. Paul.
Taking home the award for booth design, which honors both quality of work and booth presentation, was textile artist Mary Pow, whose display highlights the clean lines of her striking, color-block work."
After floating through the rest of Friday with stars in my eyes, I didn't think the show could get any better. But Saturday proved me wrong.
We were anticipating a slow day due to the beautiful weather outside. And while Saturday may have been quieter; for me, it is a day I will never forget! I made my first-ever sale of wall art.
Of course, after I sold a piece of wall art, I had to scramble to figure out how to wrap it. I was not prepared for a sale! Luckily, my very kind booth neighbor, artist Amber Harrison, helped me out by bringing me cling wrap and felt. (She is the same person who, after I received the award for booth design said to me, "And you were so worried about your booth!" True. I was.)
Here I am standing next to my four-panel piece, The Interplay of Opposites, right after it sold.
I think maybe the best part of the show is meeting the artists. Since artists tend to work in solitude, gathering for a craft show is a rare opportunity. It forces us to get out of our studios and interact with each other. I think, although we enjoy spending time alone, we also like to find out how other artists work. I know one of my favorite things is to hear about the process behind the craft.
Thank you to the American Craft Council for honoring me with such a prestigious award. Thank you to my husband for his encouragement and assistance. Thank you to the show-goers and patrons who support fine craft. And thank you to the artists who inspire us all!
I didn't do anything with that one piece at the time, and it fell to the bottom of the pile on my side table. But the idea of creating wall art grew on me. Throughout the fall my mind was full of ideas. Color combinations I wanted to work with swirled around in my head.
I couldn't take action at the time; holiday shows and orders took precedent and I had to wait until the new year to start exploring my ideas. But once my time freed up, I went all in -- and for the past few months, I've been wholeheartedly enjoying the process of assembling textiles into arrangements of pattern and color.
Creating larger works, without the constraints of turning them into handbags, has allowed me to explore so many ideas.
I've been able to think about how to create the look of movement with arrangements of fabric.
I've been enthralled with exploring the idea of opposites, especially at a time of such polarization in our country.
There is a lot more that I want to do. In fact, it seems that I have an over-abundance of ideas for color combinations and patterns that I want to work with. I especially want to think more about how opposites can work together. And I don't want to stop making more.
I hope to see you there!
I am an artist and designer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My specialties are textiles and pastels.
I also enjoy reflecting on the human condition.
In my blog, I write about my musings and my art.
Find my bio here.