Friday, January 31, 2014

Artist Crush: Michele Fandel Bonner

Over the last few months, I've been incredibly lucky to get to know artist Michele Fandel Bonner. Earlier this week, she welcomed me into her home and her studio to speak about her work.

When you first meet Michele, she is kind, funny, and completely unassuming. I knew her as a very skilled knitter, but it was months before I found out about her artwork. "I'm still learning to call myself an artist," she tells me sheepishly. Michele lives on a quiet street in Marblehead, MA. As I pull up to her house, I immediately recognize it - her mailbox is the only one covered in decorations. Her home is very much a reflection of herself. Michele is a sculptor and fiber artist, and her pieces can be found in every room of the house.


Michele works with the common and mundane, taking things out of their usual context. She explores consumerism and waste, with found and recycled objects being a constant theme in her art. She spends years collecting the right materials; she has a collection of sweaters obtained at thrift shops, which she painstakingly takes apart. The yarn is then re-used in a new project.


This is the piece that started it all. For a year after her dog passed away, she collected newspaper bags. The knitted dog sculpture, which sits in her living room, now houses his ashes.


These hand-sewn pillows, covered in clothing labels, are a precursor to her current work. Michele explains has only recently become comfortable with the idea of creating non-functional art.


Upstairs in her studio, I get to see the current collection she is working on. She's currently preparing for an exhibit at the Marblehead Arts Association in April.


Her patience amazes me. Many of her projects have taken several years to complete; this jacket has been an ongoing project for over three decades.


One of her current fixations is clothing labels. She recalls her childhood and feeling pressured to care about brand names. "The clothing has no value without the label, but if you remove the label, the label is worthless by itself too," she explains. She carefully removes hundreds of labels from discarded clothing and re-assembles them into something new. The work is a rejection of brand names and consumerism.


Michele humored me for hours, telling me the stories behind her projects, her inspirations, and some of the recurring themes in her work. "I'm obsessed with hands." She came from a background where handiwork was not appreciated, and has since surrounded herself with images of hands in defiance. One of the projects in her future involves thousands of gloves.


At the end of our visit, she showed me her journals. "In a fire, these are what I would save." She describes them as "my Pinterest before Pinterest." The pages are filled with beautiful photos and clippings, and quick sketches and notes.


There is so much more to tell you about Michele, it was so hard to edit down this post! Since I can't tell you everything, I suggest you come see her next exhibit and pick her brain in person! Her show at the Marblehead Arts Association runs from April 26th to June 8th. The Opening Reception will be on Sunday, April 27th from 2-4 pm.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Visiting the Finches


New year means new colors, and I've been working on some new colorways! Hyacinth and Charybdis are pictured above, and you can check out Nessie in my shop.


Being self-employed means it's very easy to turn into a hermit, and I've been making an effort to get out and be more involved in art - whether it be making art, or enjoying art. I am signed up for Gift of the Heart and just received my reed bundles in the mail. This will be my first try at basket weaving. I can't wait to see how this goes...


I also managed to sneak out to see the finch exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum. I really love living close to such a great place! Sadly we weren't allowed to take pictures, but the finches are super cute. It was interesting to see them accidentally creating sounds while landing on the guitars, but I honestly was expecting the "music" to be more frequent. The space is quite large so the finches land on the instruments infrequently. From my understanding, they started with 40 finches and are now up to 70. I think a few more would probably be better.

Have you seen the finches? What did you think?

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Fiber Front


The dyepots are up and running again! I had naively thought January would be a semi-vacation, but I've been unexpectedly busy. Most of these skeins will soon be making their way to California to their new home at Yarn del Sol. I wish I could deliver this yarn in person!


I'm also busily prepping for a rather full schedule! I already have lots of events and classes planned through June. My first class of the year is toe-up socks, which started last week. My students are a wonderful group of ladies, I'm having so much fun! And it gives me an excuse to knit myself a new pair of socks, yay!

Pattern: Indi Girl Sock Pattern Generator by Amy Swenson
Yarn: Toil & Trouble Merino/Nylon Sock in Persephone


I always try to have a "fun" project in addition to my "work knitting" - even though this week's work knitting is sort of cheating since I get to keep the socks. I'd been eyeing this cardigan pattern since I first saw a sample knitted up over a year ago. I bought the pattern last June, and waited for the right yarn. Now I can't wait to finish it and wear it! I always get surprised comments and questions from people when they notice I buy yarn from other dyers, and I wonder how many dyers only knit with their own yarn. Personally, I very much enjoy the work of others, and I believe in supporting other small businesses.

Pattern: Dark and Stormy by Thea Colman
Yarn: Madeline Tosh Vintage in William Morris

If you have your own creative business, do you ever buy the work of other artists/artisans in your field/media? I'm curious!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book Review: The Last Runaway

My first book of 2014! I had never heard of this book before I came across it at an airport book store, but I'm really glad I picked it up.


Title: The Last Runaway
Author: Tracey Chevalier

The story of an English Quaker who emigrates to Ohio in 1850, and her struggles to find her place. She becomes involved in the Underground Railroad, finding herself pursued by a slave hunter.

I loved this book on so many levels. The book deals with some very difficult social and political issues, covering slavery, people's decisions to take part, or not, in the Underground Railroad, and discussions such as abolition and Colonization. But it manages to do from a very personal perspective, as the reader becomes involved in the lives of the characters. Honor, the main character, goes through many discoveries as an immigrant herself, while navigating the political landscape of the time. As an immigrant myself, I found familiarity in her experiences acclimating to the United States, even in a wildly different time period.

I absolutely recommend this book. What books are you starting the year with?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy new year, dear friends! Since I'm not one for resolutions, I find the first post of the year challenging. But rather than keep agonizing over it, I will just wish all of you a wonderful 2014. 2013 was full of obstacles and plot twists, and I am truly hoping for a less bumpy ride this year.


Our holidays were filled with a lot of food, sleep, happiness, and time away from routine and the internet. We snuck off on a secret trip to Europe to meet up with lots of family, and had a wonderful time.


I consider myself very blessed to have a family full of wonderfully talented creative folks. One of my aunts has been hand-painting ceramics for years, and I had no idea! I found out when we unwrapped this beautiful gift. It was great to spend time with family and get to bring home this handmade treasure, which I'm absolutely in love with.



Now it's back to the routine, and I'm diving back into fiber full force! The dye pots are back up and running, and I have some knitting projects to share soon. Here's to a 2014 full of surprise and opportunity!