The underlying foundation of community is developing a network where everyone is recognized for their own talent. I am fortunate enough to go to a school where everyone feels comfortable to express themselves in the fields they thrive. For my interpretation of community, I developed an idea involving a multitude of materials and skills that required me to reach out to various members in my community. While on vacation in Lopez Island, I couldn’t help but notice hundreds of jellyfish floating in the shallow water. The transparency and movement of the jellyfish inspired me to create a sculpture. Once I developed the concept, I began preliminary sketches and started thinking about materials I could utilize. After troubleshooting, I came up with the idea to build an armature that would be draped in silk and have a lantern inside. For the tentacles, I wanted to create long beaded strands with even longer strips of ruffled and died silk. I wanted the project to be large scale and emphasis the creative process.
The most time intensive part of my process was beading the outer tentacles. I had the idea of stringing 8 separate 6 ½ ft. strands, which meant a total of 52 ft. I bought various tiny glass beads, and developed intricate patterns within each strand. Consequently, each tentacle took hours. After 2 strands broke and my hard work scattered on the floor, I needed to reach out to someone with more experience. Lucky for me my mom happens to be a well-versed jeweler. She helped me make each strand stronger. Often I forget the wisdom and experience I can find right at home.
The next step was welding the armature. Having never welded before, it was pertinent that I reached out to members in my community who knew how to do so. As it turns out, Tom Moore, who hangs up art at our school, happened to have welded all throughout college. He quickly became very invested in my idea and started coming up with creative ideas on how I could make it happen. He took me through the process, step by step, and helped me weld a stainless steel armature in our own shop at school. Fearful the silk would concave when placed over the armature, he came up with the idea to put a weather balloon inside the armature and then harden the silk with a fixative that would allow it to hold that shape. While this idea didn’t end up panning out, it was really fun to experiment with all the different possibilities.
The final step was dying and sewing the silk. My passion for this project really came out in the dying of the silk. Having previously experimented with silk dye, I took pride in dying the long strips of silk in various shades and values of pink and orange. For the body, I tried Shibori for my first time. The Shibori technique gave the silk a tie-dye like appearance with beautiful creases all throughout. The color and texture produced the transparency and illusion of movement that I was looking for. I then sewed and gathered the long tentacles to create voluptuous ruffles. With the help of my art teacher, April Ferry, I created and sewed a pattern to cover the armature and drape into the lantern.
The piece hangs in the middle of the stairwell in the center of the Arts building at my school. Everyday I watch people admiring the fixture, or someone comes up to me with a compliment. In fact, this year the fixture will be featured in a brochure for incoming students. It couldn’t be more appropriate that it hangs in the middle of our school’s community. No words can express the satisfaction of making my ideas come to life. I couldn’t have done it without reaching out to different members of my community and trying something new.