Saturday, August 15, 2015
Home Is Where The HeART Is: Thoughts On Art And Home
Our home is a place where artistic expression flourishes. As parents, and as individuals, James and I strive for a supportive home environment that encourages active learning, quiet contemplation, and a healthy imagination. For it is these activities, carried out in the refuge of home, that help to develop our creativity and are what connects our family's hearts and minds to each other and to the outside world.
All that being said, our home is a constant flurry of daily activity (school, work, shopping, errands, and the never ending 'to-do' list), with the added confusion of various creative 'works in progress' occupying the dining room table, the living room floor, and don't even ask about the garage! Guests may notice that our house is small and cluttered, that it is a bit disorganized and the floors probably need sweeping. But frankly, we are too busy to be thoroughly organized and dust free. After all, there are magazines that need to be cut up for collage projects, guitars that need to be hot rodded, and paint that needs to be splattered. Not to mention a garden that needs tending, teenagers (and birds!) to feed, and well, fifteen mile bike rides or paddles up the millrace in the canoe for the requisite exercise.
In spite of never having enough time, each of the four members of our family has found ways to enjoy following our passions: developing our skills, actively experimenting in our chosen mediums and forms of expression, and becoming comfortable working within our own unique styles.
For example our young adult daughter Audrey enjoys working in mixed mediums, incorporating paints, paper and fine-point drawing pens in her art. Besides being a self taught artist, she also loves to knit, is an avid reader of literature and still finds time to go traveling, camping, and hiking. Audrey is on her own now, and although she is quite outgoing and social, I can see that she still values time well spent at home in creative endeavors.
Our teenage son Takeō is also a self taught artist. In his younger years, Takeō drew mostly in pencil, but these days he draws using a stylus on a Wacom tablet:
Like many teens, he spends the majority of his time while at home in his bedroom creating his art and thumping on his electric bass or strumming his ukulele, and yes, playing video games! Like his sister before him, 'alone-time' in your room at this season of life is all about exploring, learning, and practicing.
James is what I call a Renaissance man. When I met him, James was already an accomplished musician, sound engineer and producer. He also wrote songs, played in several bands, and in his spare time enjoyed customizing his guitars and amplifiers. I was impressed that he was a math whiz, read widely about a lot of subjects, and could repair anything - cars, computers, plumbing, appliances, and turned his basic bicycle maintenance into a full fledged bike rebuilding operation.
Besides taking on the role of running our household and all that entails, you'll still find him rummaging through boxes of guitar parts, pulling the back off some speaker cabinet he just found at a yard sale, or hunkered over his soldering iron intently rewiring a circuit. He also enjoys what he calls "amateur low-fidelity photography".
This next photo shows a sampling of some of James' custom work:
In his own words: "Playing a jazz standard or a cover of an old rock song can be a lot of fun, but what's really satisfying is performing an original composition. In much the same way, there's a lot of satisfaction to be had picking up an instrument you've put together from various parts, and playing that through a home-brew amp. In the picture above is a "Parts-O-Caster" or "Franken-Caster" guitar created with random components both new and vintage; an ampifier head made by removing the electronic parts from an old tube-style paging amplifier, and rewiring the empty chassis according to a circuit schematic I drew up beforehand; and an early '60s Hammond organ speaker cabinet that was converted for electric guitar use. Between the guitar and the amplifier is a hand-built distortion booster pedal made by my friend David, a luthier and electronics genius."
You can find James on his blog Origami Night Lamp, where he's posted detailed descriptions of the processes involved in some of the creative activities he loves.
Finding time to explore and make art is one of my biggest struggles. Between work, my kids, an elderly mom, and the general business of home and family, I have a very limited amount of time left to pursue my interests.I find myself seeking out those fringe hours where I can spend some time doing what I'm passionate about. As my kids get older and need me less, a window of time has opened up, and I've been able to follow my dream of living a creative life. Having a home studio is a big contributing factor toward making that happen. It's only a small space, half of what used to be the garage (remember that mess I was telling you about?), and yet it is the place where I can gather my ideas and materials and get to work; I also do a lot of my work at the kitchen table, next to the large patio doors, when I want a lot of natural light.
As you can see, like Audrey, I enjoy working in collage. These interests of ours developed independently over the last several years, although I guess you can say that we have always been somewhat of the same mind.
Another interest I have is collecting vintage 1950s and '60s furniture and household goods and displaying them in my home. I have been a crazy collector of these items for some years.
Many of the books I like to collect are also from that era. They provide great insight into how the vintage items I have were used in the home back when they were made. I also like books about art, art history, design, and gardening, and use these books for inspiration, often supplementing them with regular trips to the public library.
You could say that the expression, through art, of what home means to me began with photography and memory keeping. Ever since I can remember, I have always loved taking photographs and documenting family and life events. When I found scrapbooking, it provided a context for all of the photos and memories I had been gathering over the years. One of my favorite bedtime rituals as of late has been taking the time to journal. A personal, private journal, where I tell the stories of our family, became a part of my scrapbook journaling, and now is a part of our family's history - a history about life, family, and yes, home.
For no matter where we go, we inevitably carry what we've learned at home with us. Home is where the roots of our beginnings lie, where our first memories are made, and where our story begins.
Thanks for reading!
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