Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Visual journals and bird flight....

Melanie Testa has a fantasy that is as bold and beautiful as her fabric art and just as inspiring -- she wants to be a bird. I can relate, having always wanted to simply fly up into the sky whenever and wherever I pleased.

Yet, while she's earthbound, she devotes her art to the study of her human form, nature and of course, what else, birds! Her exploration will inspire -- it certainly has given me a different perspective. And that (as Martha Stewart likes to say) 'is a good thing.'

Here's Melanie, graciously agreeing to share her Self and her art with us 'Subversive Stitchers.' -- Dawn

Hello All. This is my first Guest Blog Appearance, ever. You might imagine how pleased I am to be asked by Dawn to write content for a blog named: Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles! I feel Rad just be have been asked to participate! Thank you Dawn and hello to all your readers!

My name is Melanie Testa, I go by Melly and MellyMells across the web and in real life too. I am a first time author of the newly published Inspired to Quilt by Interweave Press.

Writing a book has been a long time goal for me, so this is a very exciting time. The focus of the book is technique oriented, I guide you though the processes used to create and make marks on cloth, then I show you how to take those ideas and create whole cloth quilts in two layers, cotton broadcloth and silk organza. The sheer nature of the organza and its top most placement in the 'quilt sandwich' allows for collage elements to be wedged between the layers and also lends a painterly effect to the overall quilt.

My approach to art and art making is varied. I love to journal visually. It started years ago while in college at the Fashion Institute of Technology for Textile/Surface Design. My teachers strongly suggested we keep journals where we would paint, tape in rip sheets, anything we thought worth remembering would go between the pages of our journals. The basic premise being that visual ideas are fleeting and need to be committed to paper as soon as they are developed.

Being a person who learns by total immersion in an idea or technique, I began collecting other people's published journals, Sabrina Ward-Harrison, Danny Gregory, John Copeland, Frida Kahlo, all have a special place on my night stand.

I view my journals as a place of personal connection to Self (and I do mean Self, with a capital S). Painting and drawing in my journals, clarifies my mind, acts as a form meditation and allows me to connect with my surroundings in a more intimate and personal manner. When you look at something in order to see, evaluate, and draw it as precisely as possible, it is almost as if, even momentarily, you have become one with it. It feels spiritual to me.

Until I wrote Inspired to Quilt, which relies on my journals as a place to draw inspiration from, I felt as though my journals were private. I had known that many people journal, that this activity was not specific to me or my approach, but still these books, page after page, felt like a private conversation. And although they remain that, I am excited to say that it feels as though there is a very supportive and active visual journaling community. To find my place in that community has been a joy! Having recently written an article for Cloth Paper Scissors (and gotten the cover photo!) I was amazed to find so many positive email responses to my article! It was a real eye opener.

The journal page (at the beginning of this blog post) depicts the view out a coffee shop window; telephone pole, newspaper box and bike. The bike was taken away before I could complete the image. Which in the end lent a bit of visual magic to the piece; the viewer gets to complete the piece for themselves. Much of my work, both journal images and fabric art, also play with the idea of decorative art. Shimmering elements that decorate and enhance for no apparent reason other than the joy of inclusion. I think this is related to my background in textile design.

Birds play a major part in my life and art. I have wanted to be a bird from a very early age but I have been placed on this earth in human form, so I make do by drawing and incorporating them into my art. My preference in working with birds as an aspect of series in my art form is to work with birds found on this continent or in places I have visited. This too is a means to connect with my surrounding on a deeper level. When I hike, explore or hang out at a local park, I am constantly on the lookout for birds. Friends comment on my ability to see birds wherever I am. And they find their way into almost every piece I can possibly manage it!

Chairs are a subject matter that has a round about story.

I enjoy making artwork centered around the human form. Preferably nude. Revealing and exploring our connection to nature through making art that places bare, exposed human form in a setting with natural elements is a concept that I have not seen to its completion as yet. It is rare that we, as human animals, get to go outdoors in the nude. There is a disconnect, a barrier between us and the earthly. This is both a point of protection and need. But it is my thought that we cannot forget that we are animals and part of an ecosystem and larger context. We are part of this earth, not separate. Our minds as well as our bodies reside on this planet, with the plants, animals and minerals that are both a part of and support to our very existence.

It is easy to forget that this computer screen, the book I read while eating lunch, the friend I look forward to speaking to on a regular basis are not the end or the means to life on this planet. As a good friend of mine likes to remind me when I get caught up in something, "There is a snowflake falling somewhere on this planet."

So why work in series as it relates to chairs? Because you cannot really have a chair without at least the implication of the human form. How many rooms have you entered that have not a single chair? When you see a chair flipped upside down, does it not make you think to right it again? After a long days work, does your favorite chair relieve and relax you? of course! There is a grace and beauty in chairs.

I really hope you enjoyed these thoughts into my approach and ideas. If you have read and liked my addition to this great blog, perhaps you will come and check out my blog and web site and say hello!


Gayle Pritchard said...

Congratulations on your first blog posting, and on this great site! Congrats, also, on your new book, Mells. Love your birds, and your chair series. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about both.

Michele/TextileTraveler said...

Always a treat to see Melanie's work. I have this book and love it! I'm still trying to get the techniques down--working on painting dye onto organza and overlaying organza onto cotton, but it's a lot of fun!

TexasRed said...

Some great ideas about journaling and different quilting techniques. Great to "meet" you through this post!

Jen said...

A thoughtful and well written first blog post. Your book is a delight. Jen

Kim Hambric said...

Great post. I really enjoyed reading the thought processes from journal to finished work. This work is all beautiful and unique. I've been eyeing that book. I guess it will soon be placed on my wish list -- my birthday is coming up soon.

Melly Testa said...

Aw shucks! So glad folks are coming to read!!

colorific said...

I am the same way when I am learning. Glad to find a kindred spirit. I like Sabrina's and Danny's books as well. I will have to look up John Copeland. Frida Kahlo's husband Diego Rivera is one of my all time favorite artists. I did not know that she had a published journal. Looking that up, too.

Lisa Chin said...

Good job Melly! I always enjoy reading about your process.

jojo said...

Great guest blog post Melly Mells! Love your work!


Jeannie said...

Wonderful post! I love reading about other's process and learn so much! Thanks for sharing your work, you know I am a huge fan!!! Cheers.