Archetypes and Artist Identity

Above: Photo of Suzanne Wright Crain's altar in progress.

Deep work and deep play took all of us into wonderful work this past weekend. Here are some photos of artists at work -- some made altered books, some altars. Everyone, including me, found some insights pertinant to our particular time, space and needs.



Robin Early and Suzanne Wright Crain and Martha Grant work on their Archetype projects.

As we looked at various approaches to exploring our "inner teams," I had found some work by creativity coach and author Eric Maisel that shed light on the ways identity as an artist (or should I say identities) can both help and complicate our work, identity and paths. Am I artist the beautifier, artist the visionary, artist the businesswomen, artist the  producer, artist the activist...??

Recently an infographic came across my path that also informed this pondering:

Certainly teaching a workshop such as this Archetype workshop calls on my skills as teacher and mentor, while I also try to do my own work ast least part of the time as a way of modeling and demonstrating the processes and products involved.

Then, as the weekend came to a close, a friend called and told me one of my large textile pieces was included in a "home" section report in the San Antonio Express News. I called the collector and thanked him (and his wife Suzi) for giving the reporter my name (read the story for more info!). Ah, another artist identity -- published and out there. 

The dining room in the home of Suzi and Dennis Strauch, near Pipe Creek, has a quilted piece of fabric art on one wall. Photo: BOB OWEN, San Antonio Express-News / © 2012 San Antonio Express-News

The dining room in the home of Suzi and Dennis Strauch, near Pipe Creek, has a quilted piece of fabric art on one wall.

Photo: BOB OWEN, San Antonio Express-News / © 2012 San Antonio Express-News

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ON-LINE LIVE at last

The planning wall has finally come to life!

Well, almost. At any rate I am to the point of taking registrations of my test pilot group.
Here are the details (if you expressed interest before, you should have gotten an email today).

The test pilot group will be open to the first 25 participants who respond. I don't think I can handle more participants than that and still do a good job of facilitation with the level of participation I hope we have.

Dear Colleague:

You have expressed interest in being one of my "test pilots" for a new on-line teaching format and for an online workshop that I will facilitate. After a busy winter season teaching and learning I am ready to launch the workshop, with the start date for the first week of classes set for Thursday, April 1. The online workshop will last for 7 weeks (the last week is optional since it involves more expensive materials and equipment), but I would like this free trial to have participating artists who can commit to at least the next 6 weeks to work through the exercises, or, at the least give me feedback as to the format and content.

Here are the specifics of what I am offering with this course (it is a workshop-in-progress, with tweaking no doubt along the way!)


Week One -- Getting Started with Text on Textiles -- Ideas, inspirations, examples and collections to get going. Finding the right words for your personal stories, research and word-weaving. Fast forms to get your hands in motion and to start the ideas flowing. Supplies to gather, materials to look out for, prep to get you going, playtime in the studio and on the journal page. Writing exercises to continue throughout the course. (For specifics see my post two back in the archive)

Week Two -- Cut and Paste, Word Collages.
Week Three -- From Text to Textile.
Week Four -- Stamping out a Message
Week Five -- Write with the Sun -
Week Six -- Putting it all together.
Week Seven -- OPTIONAL -- Waxing Poetically

The online workshop will be offered on a private, password protected website with another password protected website that will be used for comments and discussion hosted on There will also be pdf downloads of lessons, supplies, etc. (It may take me a few weeks to get them formated for download). The workshop will be conducted through these two online web-based platforms. If you do not have highspeed internet service I suspect the process will be too tedious for you to use. In the future, perhaps I will also offer the workshop as a CD or DVD.

You will need to know (or be willing to learn) how to post comments on a website, send email to posterous, shoot and download photos into your computer of your work to share, attach photos to an email, search the web, set up bookmarks on your web browser. You will need a computer and printer/scanner if at all possible, and I reccommend that you have an all-in-one copier/printer though this is not essential. If you are accessing the workshop on a public computer, you must have the ability to log-in to password protected sites.

I am not, for this first trial, providing any supplies or material kits other than an option for you to order thermofax screens from me. Supply services may be added in the future.

As this is the FREE pilot launch for this course, those of you who commit to participating will help me improve as I learn more about how to make this powerful format work for all of us. In that light, I ask that you commit to the following:

PLEASE respect my ownership and copyright for these materials and use them for personal use only, not for distribution. Do not share your confidential password and log-in information with others. The password will be changed every three months, so if you wish to participate in comments or review the materials, be sure to do so within that time period.

Fully participate in group discussions, including posting examples of your work (photos), ideas, things you discover about the techniques and exercises, etc. Your comments and posts will be submitted via a separate but linked website on This means you simply will email photos, comments, etc to a dedicated, private website, accessible only to the members of this pilot course. Each lesson has a live link to the posterous site. I would like the option of using your submitted examples on future course websites and to illustrate exercises, and will credit your work with you name, if you wish. See the first assignment.

Stay the distance, at least through the next 6 weeks of lessons. I will post one lesson per week. Each lesson includes several assignments-- some design exercises as well as some technical “how-tos.” You can, of course, complete the assignments (or not) at your own pace and in your own good time, but discussions will track the course timeline and weekly lessons. I will also make all the written lessons available as pdf formated downloadable documents, so that you can keep them handy as you work and for future projects. At the end of each assignment, you’ll find a checklist that you can use to monitor your progress.

Participate in an evaluation at the end of the workshop so that I can improve and make the materials better and more useful.

VERY IMPORTANT!! Share your experience with others, so that when I offer the tuition-based version of the workshop, I have you as an ambassador to help me market the workshop online and to the groups that you participate in.

If this still sound like fun, please send me a prompt email return and I will mail you the registration information, password and links to the sites. Thanks for sharing the adventure!

Teaching with Web 2.0

As I research options for my on-line course -- probably  "Text on the Surface" after feedback from a number of readers on and off the site -- this video by Dr. Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist, came across my path. Synchronicity was working overtime -- Linda wanted me to see if because of the implications for her Mass Communications teaching and research, and it opens ups a whole host of possibilities for teaching with the aid of electronic, digital interfaces. He presents an overview of the educational issues of teaching and learning in a web 2.0 world, and says that no one, no matter his or her age, is starting from scratch with this media --"There are no natives here," he says, explaining that most of what is happening of relevance to educators today had been launched within the past 3 years, and that daily hundreds of other interfaces are being created, tested, marketed, and used or discarded. So, no excuses, you aren't too old. Even today's 18 year old is faced with the same challenges of learning these new tools. Most of them, Wesch says, are still working just superficially, with no experience either at actually using the creative potential of these new tools.

It's a fairly long piece -- and specifically directed to university professors teaching young people -- but if you are interested in the landscape of kids, media, information and teaching, it's well worth the time. Although my ambitions for using technology aren't that ambitious, I do think that as a teacher the meta-message about the learning environment is one that must inform my work, in and out of the studio. Obviously, my "learners" are already looking for something meaningful; most of you who might take a course are already self-selected -- no course credit here. You might just try the first 30 minutes, that covers most of the big ideas-- though the remainder is a fascinating look at how his students recreated world history and cultures through a simulation based on "rules" of anthropology and using web-based tools.

One of the key ideas in this longer piece is well presented in a shorter, visual piece, "Information R/evolution." That how we have traditionally thought about information, as a thing, that can be catagorized -- filed -- in one kind of linear way, is no longer the case. Now information can exist simultaneously in more than one category, can be user-defined (rather than "expert" defined) and is no longer defined to a material form. "There is no shelf."

Wesch also produced "The Machine is Using Us," an great piece produced in 2007 that became one of the most-watched videos in the blogosphere ever. If you haven't seen it, the link is here.

If you are interested in creating web-based learning portals for yourself, fear not. Here are a few places I have found to play around. The first two are wiki-like aggregators that you can customize, keep private or publish to the world. Flock is a social network friendly browser that puts Flickr, My Space, etc all on your home page, Ning is a social network site that lets you build pages and whole sites around interests and then lets people subscribe to them. Stumble is a nonlinear "earch" engine that lets you find web pages you didn't know to look for!

Please remember: YOU CAN NOT BREAK ANYTHING DOING THIS. You probably can't even screw up your computer unless you have no virus protection and use a PC and that's only if you start downloading a lot of strange applications. Check the site, make sure it's real and exists with actual content, not just links do other webpages,

No one is going to grade you or make you feel stupid except yourself. Yes, you are entering a public arena sometimes, but you control that. Most of the sites that I am exploring have a "private" function where only you have access to the material, links, tags that you upload or make use of. However, I would also challenge you to release some of your fears about going public on the web. I don't believe that I have opened myself up to harm, to stalking, to any physical danger by having a blog or by participaing in wikis (used authored sites). I have made many interesting connections with people whose ideas and input have stimulated my learning and my life. It is a new frontier, and we all can grow with it. 

I'd love any meta-sites that you like to use. New ones appear everyday. Some last, some don't -- we are in the equivalent of the wild wild west frontier days here -- nearly lawless, but there are fortunes to be made.