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  • April Gavin

Solano Stroll and Craft Dating part 3

Solano Stroll: I'm vending a the Solano Stroll on Sunday, September 8th from 10-5. If you've never been to the Solano Stroll, it's a large street festival and a lot of fun. The entire street is closed to car traffic from The Alameda all the way to San Pablo. If you do decide to come, do not drive a car! Take alternate transportation. There's a shuttle from North Berkeley BART and valet bike parking.

I'm asking for help this event. Seven hours is a long day. I'm looking for someone willing to come in the middle of the day (say around noon-ish) who can stay roughly an hour. I'd like to maybe go to the bathroom, eat lunch, stretch my legs, hang out with you. If you're interested, let me know via email. My booth is super easy to run.

Camp 510: Did I really teach four weeks of summer camp and juggle my bookkeeping clients on the weekends? It's been a month since Camp 510 ended and I still wake up in disbelief. Most years the experience is a medium road with some highs. This year was extremes - excellent highs with some miserable lows. The lows are mine to process, but here are the highs.

It's exciting to see a young person challenge themselves and learn something new. In my mixed media art class, I provide stencils for kids to cut out. One girl asked if I had a mermaid. I didn't. I had bears, dinosaurs, donkeys, peace signs, hearts, flowers, stars. She created this on her own. She did need help with the sewing, but the design is entirely hers.

I also teach a one week sewing class where students ages 10-14 direct their own projects. It sounds like a circus (and it can be), but my goal is for young people to own their creativity. I'm proudest of two girls who attempted small quilts. They even bound their own quilts and shrugged like it was no big deal. I did talk it up that grown women have been known to collapse in a pool of tears at the mere thought of binding a quilt. They liked the process and weren't impressed with the drama. I caught this picture before the binding.

I don't have a picture for the last high I want to share, but I will tell you a story. There's a part of the day at Camp 510 where teachers watch the children for something called quiet time. It's anything but quiet, but it's 15 minutes where I watch them for free time. In this one group, I had four boys and ten girls. The boys decided to build a fort. When the girls asked to join, the boys pulled out their imaginary guns and started firing. These weren't the imaginary guns of my childhood and boys saying "bang, bang". These were imaginary assault rifles with the accompanying sounds. I shut this down. When the boys asked me why "It's only play", I let the ten girls explain why. My favorite quote: "Play fighting leads to real fighting" These children were only six. Yes, there is hope in the world. It's imperfect, but hope is real.

Craft Dating part 3: If you've been taking workshops to strengthen your creativity, you may be asking yourself a few questions at this point.

1. Where's my voice? I have been in workshops where I copy everything the instructor asks me to do and I wind up with something really cool looking. Even though I made it with my hands it's not mine. There are some craft disciplines that I gave up on because I couldn't find my voice. The real answer is that it takes time to develop your voice and in visual art what is called a visual vocabulary. Artist Bobbi Baugh said this recently in her blog, "...everyone has an inner life." I interpret this as my visual vocabulary will be different from hers or yours or anyone else's. Find a discipline that nurtures your voice and nurture whatever comes up for you.

2. How to cope with failure? When I speak of failure, I'm talking about technical failure not composition or color choices. In a lot of disciplines it's not a big deal. I have knitted entire sweaters and then ripped them out because there was an issue. The yarn is 100% re-usable. There may be some disciplines where this isn't an option. If you're dating a craft and are unsure, ask the instructor you took the class with.

You also have to ask yourself you how cope with failure. I've not been one to give up easily. If something isn't working, I walk away and come back to it later - sometimes years later. Or, I try again. Or, I decide that it isn't going to work and dis-assemble the materials to go into something else. My point is all of it is useful.

3. How do I pick a discipline when I like them all? I think this is why the term mixed media was invented. I've learned some disparate craft in the last few decades. Some of it was exploration and wondering how something was made. Some of it was to advance already existing knowledge. But, all of it is useful. I am an artist and I have a story to tell. If I need to use a range of media to tell the story, then I will do so. If you find yourself in this boat, look specifically for mixed media classes. Etui in Berkeley has a regular hosting of mixed media classes.

I find it important to experiment first with the different media and see how they react to each other before I set about making the real work. It may seem like a waste of time, but sometimes the experimentation leads me somewhere really cool and turns into the "real" work.

4. Do I really have to learn to draw? See my above comment on binding a quilt. I also have previous posts on drawing. When I realized that I would have to learn to draw to express myself, I dug my heels in and said "NOOOOOOO!" Then, I enrolled in a drawing class. I'm still reticent to acknowledge my drawing as viable, but then I remember a story. Vincent Van Gogh also once found himself in that space of needing to learn to draw. He spent two solid years teaching himself to draw. The thing is he learned to draw like Vincent Van Gogh and no one else. My drawing is April Gavin's and no one else's. That all being said, I've talked to professional artists who will use copyright free clip art. Is it a way to avoid their own drawing or is the clip art appropriate to the art? That's for them to answer. For me though, my own drawing satisfies the story I want to tell.

This has been a long post but if you've made it this far - thanks. I have one more thing.

Equipment call: I'm looking for a used electric frying pan. It has to work, have variable heat control, and you never want to see it again. Yes, I could buy a new one for $50, but what's the fun in that.

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