Download this PDF to read the complete story of the Bird Women and the Goat Men. See below for the story behind the story.
“The Bird Women Have Some Adventures”, © 2023 Zia Gipson
The last several winters I have taken a sort of time out visual sabbatical to work on something or several somethings quite unlike anything else I have done. The last several years in lieu of a resolution, I have chosen words to guide me. Last year one word was play, this year play became levity.
I was given only one hint by my muse possibly in a dream, I don’t remember now, …an owl’s head on the body of a woman dressed in the clothes of the 1950’s.
Hmm, where did that come from. Fifties women must somehow be imprinted on my imagination since I was born early in that decade. And I have loved looking at fashion my whole life.
I’ve been thinking of owls a lot lately. They come and go to the woods around my house and I hear them calling to each other. I’ve found injured ones that had to be put down. I was very close to a rehabilitated, captive owl a year ago in an Arizona park.
These stories emerged one by one, with no warning. I posted each finished collage on my Facebook page and subsequently took screen shots to use in the physical book I have made. The way the stories are presented here is the way they were seen on-line, typos and spell check ‘improved’. What’s missing of course were the comments from my Facebook friends, which made the project that much more fun.
In the beginning I drew the faces of the bird women but though I enjoy drawing, I am always insecure about the final product so as January went by I started trying to do the collages electronically using Procreate on the Ipad. I knew the electronic versions, like the physical collages would be rough and show signs of impatience and be flawed because my technical abilities are limited. So, some collages were made via physical cut and paste, and others by dragging an Apple pencil around a screen.
I hope you enjoy them. I hope you smile or laugh! That’s the whole point! Levity!
See them as a downloadable PDF at the top of this blog introduction.
This is in process.....
Improv and Abstraction: Process and Play with Words and Collage Workshop (Online)
Experiment with chance and spontaneity in this fun, fast paced workshop designed to get you unstuck and reenergized. “Deliberate randomness” will be explored through a series of prompts to guide the generation of both poetry and visual collage. This workshop will focus on practice and process, utilizing easy to find supplies gathered by students in advance.
ABOUT ZIA GIPSON
For those who have taken the workshop on Zoom I offer the following recommendations for books to read: "Where the Heart Beats", by Kay Larson, "A Book of Surrealist Games", "Every Day is a Good Day, The Visual Art of John Cage". And take a look at the contemporary artist Keri Smith in "How to be an Explorer of the World" and "Wreck this Journal".
The Chance Operations I developed for this class were:
1. Outline everything on the page
2. Fill in some blank space
3. Cut a hole somewhere
4. Repeat something that’s already there
5. Turn something upside down
6. Rewrite the text closest to the center of your page in BIG letters obliterating something you’ve already pasted
7. Do a small drawing like one of your visual elements and put it on your page
8. Add a pattern by drawing…look around your room and pick a pattern
9. Fill in some space with color
10.Draw connecting lines
But you can make up your own! I'd love to see what you make with this technique...send me an email!
I also highly recommend this article by Ruthie V on the Seattle Artists League website.
I've been working through the possibilities of a piece of art made of recycled paper pulp bundles. Some of the bundles are plain just carrying the color of the paper scraps I started with. Other bundles are marked up with various markers and pens.
The material is bits and pieces of long fiber paper left over from making felted paper or joomchi pieces seen elsewhere on this website. I've made a pile of these bundles which are stiff to the touch. Though they are paper they are impossible to drill because the fibers get caught in the threads of the drill bit. I've tried wrapping them, I've tried forming the pulp around paper cord (and later cut that off), and lately I'm making holders or structures for them to inhabit. Stay tuned as I search for the final form.
- I began working with the letter X some months ago They stand in first and foremost for the Black and other lives lost to the effects of racism. So many talents and skills and gifts that have been diminished or blocked. The meaning of my Xs has branched out to include other themes and ideas The x stands for enslaved people who ‘lost’ their birth names and were never given the opportunity to learn to read and be literate, though many did, in spite of the barriers . Further , the x stands for those whose languages were suppressed or who were punished for speaking in their mother tongue. The x stands for immigrants who came to The United Stated and were given ‘better names’ or gave their names up because they would not be welcome with a foreign name. And the x is for women who finally got the vote and for all those who are working hard to give everyone a voice on Election Day.
Everyone worldwide has been processing their feelings and thoughts about the coronavirus in their own unique way. Artists are a bit lucky in being able to tap into additional languages. I'm no different. I've made perhaps 40 plus drawings or mixed media paintings since we went into isolation in early March. Most of these take a similar form...often a page full of tight drawings made on watercolor paper or canvas paper. Most using markers of various sorts, acrylic paints, inks, whatever comes to hand. Quite a number of pieces are white and black on a Venetian red gesso that Golden Paints no longer manufactures. I don't know why drawing these packed environments is comforting but it is.
Often I begin with calligraphy. I've recently completed an on-line Japanese calligraphy class following months of study of Zen Buddhism, and related topics. It's effortless to begin a drawing/painting with bold strokes of my calligraphy brush. Later, after this layer has dried I just begin filling in. All of these drawings are $450 with a percentage going to Good Cheer Food Bank on Whidbey Island where I live.
For several years I've made mostly smaller objects which are designed to be sold in a studio tour or as has been my good fortune, in a museum shop. I'm fortunate to be a regular artist at Bainbridge Island Art Museum where you can find earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and an array of other objects, each one of kind.
I love the change of scale and the challenge and surprise of finding ways to incorporate odd bits from thrift stores and garage sales. I love going to Zero Waste Seattle's annual takeaway whatever you want sale.
here are some examples of what one might find on a given day.
For the last several years I've been producing jewelry, in addition to my exhibition work. The jewelry is sold primarily at the Bainbridge Art Museum shop. I'm very fortunate to have a solid retail presence in a very good venue with lots of visibility.
I sell a lot of earrings there but also a lot of 'one off' pieces that I make just for fun. This just for fun works includes artist books, necklaces, bracelets, small fiber pieces and the like. Here are a few photos of what you might find on a given day.
Every so often I branch out and make something a bit different...different in form, or intention or media. Last year I made, perhaps only my second or third artist book, a piece called "The Genesis of Dogs". It's an apocryphal take on the beginning of things, and not meant to be anything other than that. The dogs on their stands are about 8" tall. There are 15 of them, each carrying one of the stanzas of the text.
Here's the text:
The Genesis of Dogs
by Zia Gipson
Supposedly on the 4th or 5th day, maybe it was later,
God created cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind
(this according to the Vatican),
But critically He left something out, so when he was finishing puffing himself up and patting himself on the back and was distracted making football,
She, the Goddess, stepped in
and on the 8thday she created DOGS,
of every type and size.
There was some reasoning behind this,
as God had screwed up some of the creating bits,
The Goddess figured humans would need dogs to help them cope with all the errors in creation,
And to share the woes that certainly were to come,
Because God’s big MISTAKE
was making snakes that climb trees
and talk convincingly about apples.
And so it was. ###
This book, if you're interested, is $150, plus tax if you're in WA State. It's an edition of 10 of which only two have been made thus far.
In 2018 I began a series of neck pieces called “Read This Necklace”. There are four to date: Font (based on the book “Fine Print on Type”), Blackbird (inspired by Paul McCartney’s song of the same name and using the book by Nicholas Schaffner, no image yet), and The Green Poodles (written and illustrated by Charlotte Baker). Here are pictures of two of the necklaces.
2018 was the year I ventured further into personal adornment by launching a series of neck pieces made from joomchi or hand felted paper. Each neck piece is made of paper that has been 'felted' and then treated with konnyaku aka konjak, a plant juice used in Asian papermaking to add strength and some water protection. Then hundreds of circles and attached to a central line made of black elastic. It's a painstaking process with, I think, very nice results. The end results are lightweight and can be doubled up.
Pictured are two versions of the neckpieces hung together.
Fast ART came to a beautiful old barn off of Bush Point Road on Whidbey in June when the barn hosted and art by 17 artists. It was just one day but a lovely event. I couldn't help but choose my large piece Flower Power for the show.
Late at night when I can't sleep I sometimes draw on my Ipad because I can do it from the couch in the living room where I am hanging out begging my Muse to let me nod off. She's a ruthless taskmaster, however, and sometimes only will allow rest after I've read a little, or drawn a little, or eaten a banana (perhaps sharing a morsel with my good dog MIMI). Last night it was more Pussy Hat girls.
PUSSY HAT GREETING CARDS!
Many of us are outraged by the events of the last year when not-my-president was elected. In and effort to keep on resisting and persisting I've published my first wide distribution greeting cards during 2017. The images are famous ones with a very current twist.
Mona Lisa with Pussy Hat is one of a long line of mash-ups of great artwork offered in the tradition of Duchamp, Dali, Warhol and others. Luncheon on the Grass, Manet's great, and at the time controversial painting, offers a different take...some figures naked, some not, some male, some female, all with pink hats.
These two cards are carried in several shops including those at the Bainbridge Museum of Art, Fuller Craft Museum, HubBUB (Centralia, WA), and more retailers are coming on.
I'm happy to ship to you if you are a wholesaler. Please plan to order 2 dozen minimum (I recommend one each of the two styles) at a wholesale rate of $3 each or $72 plus tax if within WA State. First time shipping is free. Subsequent shipping is $5.
(I also offer boxed sets of 8 cards at $24. You can order either design or a mixed box.)
If you want to pick up smaller orders, let me know. If you have ideas of retailers who might wish to carry the cards, I'd love to know.
Depending of how this goes, I may reopen my Etsy store or add in an e-commerce link on this site.
About "Cultural Transformation Redux" by Zia Gipson
The paper dolls in "Cultural Transformation" were born in an installation at the Schack Art Center in 2011. They are one of a number of artworks I've made that looks at loss as part of the human experience. This paper doll installation comments on the way certain types of cultural knowledge is passed on generation to generation. In making this piece I'm noting that after the Internet much of what we learn to make or do we learn from watching an on-line video rather than from another person.
When I was growing up if I needed to know how to make something I would ask my mother, a life-long elementary school teacher, with not a small amount of artist in her. She would sit by my side showing me how to hold the paper and scissors or paintbrush and demonstrate, sometimes taking my hands in hers. As when she read to me at bedtime, I had her full attention, something rare in American homes in these days.
Today, young people learn everything online from coding to crochet and often they take up teaching producing videos at a very young age. While I applaud this entrepreneurial spirit, I think something incalculable has been lost when subjects are no longer taught person to person. While I have no scientific evidence to back up my hypothesis, I believe that personally transmitted information is retained longer in our memories tied as it is to a rich sensory learning experience.
You have to have fun. Making paper dolls is part ofmy efforts to reprise an installation I started a few years back. The installation is composed of strings of paper dolls coated with encaustic medium. The work is a commentary on the fact that some of us lucky ones learned things from our mothers...things like making paper dolls and now it's more common to learn these kinds of things on YouTube.
Increasingly, I'm not interested in making art that isn't somehow connected to the issues I care about. Much of my work swirls around what we are losing...environmentally, culturally, artistically...not that we aren't gaining new memes and recirculating ideas that gain new traction with each passing day. But like many others, I feel the losses keenly. I'll miss the clear vista from my house when it fills up with other people coming to live in this beautiful place. I'll miss my mother who set me up with scissors and paper at a young age and launched my life with heb blessings of energy and love and passion for making things. I miss the animals I haven't met but I know are put down because their owners have forsaken them and because they are not lucky enough to be adopted into a first world home. You could call me an optimist with a big sigh...struggling to get up and find meaning every day and yet so grateful. I used to have a card on my office bulletin board that said, " Happiness is a form of gratitude". I'm trying to live this, some days more fruitfully than others.
I am deeply indebted to Jiyoung Chung and to Aimee Lee, exemplar Korean artists living and working in the United States. Through your teaching and friendship, you've given me joomchi and so much more. I took a short class with Jiyoung one February when she was visiting Whidbey Island and later the same year had a class at the book arts festival in Pacific Grove, OR with Aimee.
Later, I studied more extensively with Jiyoung during a class at the Pacific NW Arts School on Whidbey Island. I've stayed in touch with both of these remarkable, accomplished women and wish them continued success with the teaching, writing, and exhibition programs. I recommend them both to anyone, wanting to explore the wonderful world of handmade Korean paper.
In the last year or so I have been working with more overtly narrative pieces. In the piece on this page, I have "Extinction is Forever", currently being shown at the Schack Art Center in Everett, WA. The process of paper felting lends itself well to conveying the idea of decay or loss.
I started the piece by writing the word in an app on my IPad, then exported the file to a website where the design could be tiled so I could print it out in pieces, cut, and reassemble. Then the template was traced on mulberry paper, my material of choice.
The piece is large. The first word on the left is 50' x 40". Each of the additional words is somewhat smaller and more crumpled in appearance, again the result of carrying on the paper felting process for a longer period of time.
Sometimes people ask me, why don't you put prices on your website? The answer is that some of the artwork featured is for sale and some isn't and I'm too short on time to go into the website and hunt up each piece when there's a change of status. It's easier for me to simply say, "ask me".
Most of the felted paper pieces are priced between $750 and $1000 and do not include sales tax if you live in WA State. I can certainly ship or deliver work to you and depending on the circumstances you may pay for shipping or I will. If you live in the region I might be able to deliver and install the piece for you at no cost.
For example, the piece above, is called "Evidence of Purpose". One my favorites pieces with lots of drawing and stitchery involved. It's $850 retail. Which means that typically you would pay a gallery or museum that price and I will get half. If I sell it to you directly, the price is the same for obvious reasons.
"Evidence of Purpose" is 32" v x 19.5 h. Completed in 2015 or 2016...sometimes a piece doesn't get completed finished until a year later.
I'm a big fan of small powerful magnets. That's how I hang most of my paper pieces. The artwork comes with very small powerful magnets. All you have to do is put some kind of magnetic screw/tack or other metal device in the wall, and put the artwork against it. Then the magnet on top.
Since the felted paper pieces are light weight you can usually safely hang these with only one or two magnets.
I provide magnets and wall bracket with purchase.
Of course, these pieces look beautiful under frames but that's up to you ;-).
The eight of us in Paper Eight continue to exhibit together. This time in Kirkland, WA across Lake Washiington from Seattle. This is the most recent in a series of three collaborative exhibitions.
In order from the bottom Dona Anderson, Danielle Bodine, Mary Ashton, moi, Sande Wascher-James and Lois James. Not pictured Dorothy McGuinness and Jean-Marie Tarascio.
As long as I can remember I have been accompanied by my Muse. For the last year or so I have found her company to be more and more demanding and persuasive. Out of this experience I have started a series of letters to my muse. The first series, written on hand dyed mulberry paper, has found its way into the form of a pillow and small sheet. After all the muse keeps me up at night. While proper photographs are in process I offer this first bit of text and a snapshot of the whole letter.
I wonder what you name is and there's the question of your gender. When I think of you, I always think of you as a she, as in she [the muse] kept me up all night with her ideas and plots and plans. So you must be a female. I wonder by which honorific do you prefer to be addressed? Are you Ms, Mrs, Mme, Sra, Mme, or some other of the newer non gender forms of address? Of course, this assume you are a person. The ancients deified the muses, gave them human form and beautiful names that varied by culture. But who says a muse must be a person. She could be an animal, of course. I am surrounded by animals whom I love. These nonhuman spirits provide me lots of emotional and spiritual nourishment. Bear comes to mind. Does a poodle seem too silly? My muse could be a huge white poodle similar to my beloved Mimi.
It's also that my muse might have taken the name of one of my ancestors. Goodwin, Block, Dumas, Srygley are some family names I know. Or maybe she goes by Mary... a great name for a muse.
What do I know about you? The first thing I know for sure is that you often keep me up at night or wake me up early with your flow of possibilities unspooling, emptying into my mind, disturbing my rest, making my pillow hot.
Happy to announce that Kristi O'Meara's long awaited book, "The Pattern Base" is finally out. Published by Thames and Hudson.
"Paper Transformed" at Northwind Arts Center Port Townsend
"Paper Transformed" is an exhibition of the work of eight Western Washington artists who transform machine and handmade paper into artist books, sculpture, jewelry, baskets and other visual objects. Dona Anderson, Mary Ashton, Danielle Bodine, Zia Gipson, Lois James, Dorothy McGuinness, Jean-Marie Tarascio and Sande Wascher-James all use paper for its inherent infinitely malleable character, not just as a substrate for traditional artists’ media. To paraphrase philosopher and communication theoristMarshall McLuhan, Paper Transformed is an exhibition where "the paper is the medium and the message.”
For these artists, paper is flexible and rigid, forgiving, shape-shifting, ubiquitous, easily stacked, bound, and collated into books, permanent (nearly) and transient, thick and thin, durable, recyclable, translucent and opaque, and gossamer thin. It can be folded, stained, painted, cast, felted, cut, torn, sewn, and woven. With paper in hand, these eight artists become sculptors, papermakers, naturalists, storytellers, printmakers, acute observers/manipulators of fiber made from cotton, linen, abaca, hemp, mulberry, mitsumata, and recycled wood pulp,
The paper work of Lois James, Zia Gipson and Danielle Bodine carries the record of cultural tradition, personal memory and story telling. Dona Anderson's and MaryAshton's paper sculpture resonates with the living things which give the work its connection to nature. Jean-Marie Tarascio and Sande Wascher-James artist books celebrate paper's long history of being used to make books. Dorothy McGuinness's intricate paper baskets are made from richly colored and patterned paper cut with surgical precision then folded and woven into rhythmic shapes. The eight artists in
"Paper Transformed" show us how paper is infinitely alterable, taking the observer from the flat smooth surface we use daily to record the most mundane of life's events to the richly textured surfaces of handmade three-dimensional objects.
Paper-related workshops for adults are being offered by Danielle Bodine and Mary Ashton. Bodine will teach Paper Vessels July 11 and Ashton will offer Western Papermaking on July 18th and Asian Papermaking on July 19. See http://northwindarts.org/news/workshops/ for more information.Other special events include a reception for the artists Saturday, July 4 from 5:30-8 PM and a panel discussion featuring several of the artists on July 12 from 1-2 PM in the gallery followed by mini demonstrations and workshops for kids from 2-4 PM.
The exhibition and related programs will be held at Northwind Arts Center in the Waterman Katz Building at 701 Water Street in downtown Port Townsend. Northwind Arts Center is open and staffed by volunteers Thursday – Monday: Noon – 5 pm. Check northwindarts.org/ for more information.
Artists' websites (in alphabetical order):
Mary Ashton maryashtonstudio.com
Dona Anderson donaart.com
Danielle Bodine nationalbasketry.org/danielle-bodine/
Zia Gipson ziagipson.com
Lois James loisjamespaper.com
Dorothy McGuinness dorothymcguinnessbasket.com
Jean-Marie Tarascio none at this time
Sande Wascher-James juvelisbooks.com
Happy to be among the artists in this exhibition which continues to the end of the summer. The curator, Jiyoung Chung, will also be teaching this summer at the Pacific Northwest Arts Center in Coupeville, WA in July.
Please see my gallery 108 for close ups of some of the collages.
One Hundred and Eight Series is a suite of 108, 9 x 12 inch collages I have been making since 2011. The choice of the number 108, reflects the total number of collages in the series and the sum of the length x width of each individual piece. The number 108 is considered sacred in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism and is connected to yoga and dharma based practices. In a spiritual sense the digits, 1, 0, and 8 represent one thing, nothing and everything.
The collages draw attention to the wonder of color and patterned animals that share the earth with us. This series captures in a still frame what we mostly experience as color-in-motion when birds, moths, butterflies share our physical space. Moths and butterflies have very short lives making their contribution to our world of color all themore precious. The India ink patterning outlining the images is intended to visuallyexpress the idea of echolocation used by a variety of bats and some birds.
The collages are made from a variety of papers made from wood, mulberry, and other fibers. I have incorporated some commercial patterned paper as well as my own hand marbled or paste paper versions. Additionally I have used hand-carved stamps, drawings generated on the iPad and ink jet printed, and other mark making techniquesto build up papers.
For an exhibition next year on the East Coast, I am working on an installation of 'Joomchi Orbs' not that that will be the final name. Here are some progress shots.