So I have decided to start featuring another artist from time to time. The artist today is Melissa of Tangible Daydreams. She is a multi-talented fiber artist. I don't think there is much she hasn't tried in the fiber arts department. This is a picture of her wearing a shawl she wove and dyed. The curtains in the background are also woven by her.
Hi! I'm Melissa. I guess I'm a textile artist, primarily. You'll find me spinning and weaving most of the time, with dips into felt making, gourd decorating, silk scarf painting, and threading together seed beads into sparkling creations. I find all of these activities oddly related--taking small, unassuming ingredients and combining them into something extraordinary. And the techniques often cross over from one media to another. I find the creative process playful and invigorating, the work itself meditative and soothing (and I like to pet the fiber!), and the results? My creations are so, well, themselves that I sometimes have a hard time remembering that they are actually the work of my own hands.
2)How did you pick your shop name and what does it mean to you?
My shop name is the same as my business name, "Tangible Daydreams". I'm enchanted by the idea of dreaming something up, and then through my craft having it emerge into reality. To take the image in my head, and make it into a form that someone else can hold in their hands? Pure magic! I did an internet search, and nobody else seemed to have that name. So I snagged it, and registered it with the state of Arizona when I needed to be all official and pay my taxes and stuff.
My studio was a spare room downstairs in our home. For years, it was a guest room. After I picked up my first floor loom, I actually had the loom out in the family room. But then we rescued a pair of kittens. Do you know that kittens can run upside-down across the back beam of a loom when it is warped up? And little kitten claws can snip through warp threads in nothing flat? Yes. Well. I needed a room with a door I could close. So I retiled and repainted, added shelf space everywhere, wove some curtains, and moved in to the guest room. I swear, it used to be bigger! Several years of stash accumulation will sure shrink a room.
I wrote this a year and a half ago:
The Dragon's Lair -By Melissa McCollum
I sit in a room filled with the ingredients of creation... strings and beads and fabric and wire, all the raw materials I need stashed in jumbled bins, hedged in by looms and wheels, shuttles and spindles, and all manner of specialized tools. And books. Research books everywhere, piled on desks, leaning over drunkenly, ready to leap from the crowded edges of crammed shelves, all vying for my attention. The cutting table, the ironing board, and the weaving benches creep toward the center floor until there is barely enough room to turn around and every surface holds projects waiting for my hand... half sewn costumes, partially strung warps, mounds of raw fleece.
I lounge, surrounded by a dragon's trove of artist's riches... But I have no room to work!
4)Can you tell me a little about some other activities that you enjoy doing?
I'm part of a historical recreation group, called the Society for Creative Anachronism. We stu the Middle Ages and Renaissance, by doing it. (http://sca.org/) Basically, if someone in the Middle Ages did it, someone in this group is studying and trying to recreate it--and would love to talk your ear off about it! So a couple of weekends a month, I dress up in 12th century clothing and become Mistress Gwendolen Wold. I can shoot archery in the morning, watch my champion win a tourney for me in the afternoon, cook an authentic feast for 75 over an open fire, and then dance the evening away in high Renaissance style. Great fun! http://s15.photobucket.com/albums/a366/lissamc/Estrella%2025/?action=view¤t=CIMG3602.jpg
5)How and when did you begin all your diverse talents?
Well, when I was in high school I was convinced I couldn't do art. I went to college, and got a degree in social work. After college, marriage happened, and career burn out happened, and children happened, and I found myself happily being a stay at home mother of two. I turned to crafty projects to keep myself occupied and somewhat sane. Then my family joined the SCA, as I mentioned earlier. This gave me a focus and an outlet for my crafty dabblings, as well as lots of positive support. Between taking classes, doing my own research for Arts and Science competitions, and picking the brains of anyone who stood still for a moment or so, I absorbed all sorts of neat information. I learned to spin and weave and sew, to make baskets and glass beads, to fletch my own arrows and knit chain mail, to make felt from raw wool...all sorts of varied and wonderful things! And as soon as I learned something, I turned around and taught it to the next person. Eventually, I was honored with the group's highest award for arts, the Order of the Laurel. That was a bit of a shock. I still had the self image of someone who wasn't good at that artsy stuff. So, since the kids were old enough by then, I started back to school at the local community college, to take more formal art classes. I started branching out beyond the limits of what had been done centuries ago, exploring more modern techniques and medias. Occasionally along the way, someone would buy a piece of my work. It gradually occurred to me that I really really enjoy this creative stuff. And with enough practice and sheer stubbornness, I found I wasn't too bad at it after all.
6)Do you have a "real life" job, and if so what is it?
I work part time at that local community college, and at local museum, as a life drawing model. Basically, I take off all my clothes and sit very very still while students try to make a vaguely human shaped drawing of me. Think of it as my mid-life crisis, in artistic form. :) See, I had taken the life drawing class a couple of times as part of my art curriculum, and saw the trouble they had getting female models. I figured this would be a good way to kind of 'pay it forward'. The hours are flexible, and I still have time to be here for the kids, and to work in my own studio. Tell you what though, it is very odd to go to a museum or an art show, and look up to see yourself on the wall!
7)From where does your inspiration come?
Often, I just play in my stash of ingredients, or leaf through my books looking for a technique I haven't tried yet. I also carry a digital camera in my pocket every day, and snap pictures when a detail, or a color combination, or an angle of the light catches my eye. Well, for instance: I was sitting on the beach in Mexico a few years back, watching the waves roll in and thinking about the hand woven curtains in my hotel room. That led to admiring the color combinations of the water and the sea foam. I watched how the waves curved in to the land, which led to thinking about undulating twill weave. So I snapped a picture, and jotted down some notes. Then later I was at a fiber retreat, and one of the merchants had some merino/tencel blend roving in just the colors of the Mexican ocean that day. That led to a couple of years of spinning on and off, then taking a workshop to learn how to draft my own weaving patterns, and finally weaving a undulating twill table runner in turquoise and white. It is on my dresser now, with my antique walking wheel (and several happy cats) on top of it.
8)Gives us one fun fact about yourself that we can enjoy.
I also collect--and use!--antique textile equipment. My collections of weaving shuttles hangs on my studio walls, where I can pull one off as needed. The mid-1800's great wheel is in my bed room on top of the dresser when not in use. I have an old clock reel, or spinner's weasel, that I use to measure yarn with every time I spin up a batch. I still haven't quite got the nerve up to use the spindle whorls that are actual Medieval artifacts...but I will! You can almost hear the happy sigh when a piece of equipment gets put back to doing the work it was designed for.
I do hope you all have enjoyed this interview and have been inspired as much as I have!
I am a new mother and a part time truck driver. Reconciling these two aspects of my life sure can be something. I also am starting an online store of hand sewn accessories. Please visit it at thefiddlintrucker.etsy.com