Between Abacuses and Teddy Bears

installation view; <i>Studies</i>, 15 x 11  ft, mixed media, 2009

installation view; Studies; 15 x 11 ft; mixed media; 2009

Posted by RUTH

Ed. Note: These images are from Commune Cohort, Ruth’s, graduate exhibition as she completed her Master’s degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Art!  Congrats, Ruthie!  You made it!  Now go make beautiful things!

– Head Commune-ist

I was first drawn to metalsmithing as a means of making functional objects. It seemed that such things, given their routine use, were most likely to mean something in a person’s everyday life. I saw a tea party in a teapot, an engagement in a ring, and myself in a spoon. Each thing was more than an object—it was a symbol and representation of a group of people, an attachment between people, or an extension of myself. When I made these things, it was not what I created that made them valuable to me, but the people who would become invested in them.

detail; <i>Studies</i>; 11 x 10.5 x 6 in.; tracing paper, sterling silver; 2009

detail; Studies; 11 x 10.5 x 6 in.; tracing paper, sterling silver; 2009

Since then I have focused on a more general use of objects—how people use the abstract significance of a thing as a tool, toy, and model to understand and change their relationships and their environments. I draw from two types of objects: transitional objects, such as teddy bears, and controlled systems, such as abacuses.

detail; <i>Studies</i>; sterling silver, lead, stick graphite; 2009

detail; Studies; sterling silver, lead, stick graphite; 2009

Everyone knows what a teddy bear signifies. The conception is different for everyone, since everyone has a personal experience with a teddy bear, yet the form and image of a teddy bear is universally understood. As transitional objects, teddy bears offer a person a way to test the larger, uncontrollable environment or society. An abacus uses an abstracted language and exists in a nebulous context. The variables must be defined for every new calculation, but the system is small and easily manipulated. This work exists between abacuses and teddy bears.

detail; <i>Studies</i>; eyeglass lenses, jewelry boxes; 2009

detail; Studies; eyeglass lenses, jewelry boxes; 2009

Published in: on June 13, 2009 at 7:57 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Writers as Professional Maker-Uppers of Shit

Posted by TERESA

At the end of 2007, after years of attempting to balance a day job with pursuit of careers in acting, writing, and producing, I decided that writing – the thing that never went away despite my dalliances with other art forms – deserved my undivided attention, and it’s gotten it ever since. You can read about my decision here.

Lately, I’ve been focusing my attention even more tightly. While I’m still writing for Pink Raygun, and am always seeking out outlets for my non-fiction ramblings, I’ve been devoting more time to my fiction, and it’s been making me very happy. In fact, I’ve just finished a rough draft of a short story I’ve been obsessed with writing for the past two weeks.


When I first decided to focus on my writing, I had a couple of stories I was working on, but they weren’t particularly fun to write. It was the sort of stuff I thought I should be working on as a Serious Writer. You know, stuff about Dysfunctional Families or What It’s Like To Be Twentysomething In The City. It was difficult to keep going, because I couldn’t get myself to care about what I was writing about, which was strange. Now that I’d come back to writing, it didn’t feel the way it did when I was younger; back before it was a “career choice”; back when it was just this thing I did. 

Recently, I’ve become re-infatuated with the work of Neil Gaiman. I’d read Sandman as well as several of his short stories years before, and I thought “He’s good!”  Left it at that.  Didn’t really think about him much after reading Sandman in 2004.  A mysterious force made me stumble across his website several months ago, and I started reading the blog, the stories, the essays, and it was a case of a writer coming into your life exactly when you need them.

Gaiman’s work is reminding me of what fun and power there is in  just making shit up.  Whereas the essays of George Orwell (another one of my favorites) taught me how powerful writing could be, and how it can be a weapon that’s used to change the world, Gaiman’s work reminds me that, Well, yeah – Orwell wrote that stuff, sure.  But he also wrote a story with talking pigs in it.  Also, 1984 was really science-fictiony, when you think about it… He reminds me that caring about things like craft and language, trying to make a point, and having an awesome time aren’t mutually exclusive.  In fact, the best things happen when you manage to have all three of those things at once. 

I stumbled back onto his work at a time when I really needed to see someone living, working, and writing the way he does, and I’m extremely grateful for whatever it was that led me to his website that one time.  My friends have noticed my current Gaimanobsession, and have totally chuckled about it.  They haven’t seen anything like this from me since The Great Jonathan Safran Foer Obsession of 2002.  But just like JSF came to me at a time when I needed to be excited about reading contemporary fiction again, Gaiman has come to me at a time when I needed to be reminded of why I fell in love with writing in the first place; when I needed to be reminded of the little girl I used to be – the girl in the schoolyard scribbling in a notebook who had other kids come up to her asking to read the newest pages from her latest story, or her latest “scripts” for Alien Nation or Star Trek: TNG.  The girl who used to get detentions in school, not for misbehaving, but because she couldn’t stop writing long enough to pay attention in class.  The girl for whom writing was FUN. 

And this reintroduction to what made writing fun in the first place opened the floodgates in my head, and it’s almost as if I’m finally giving myself permission to write stuff I like, which is strange.  You’d think that wouldn’t be necessary. 

So, the short story I’ve just finished is a love story involving an alien (but it’s really about self-acceptance), and I’m revising my short comedy script about werewolves (which is really about racism).  Heh.  THIS is the good stuff.  It is for me, anyway.

Published in: on May 5, 2009 at 1:04 AM  Comments (2)  
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