contents of a dead woman's wallet

Over the past 15 years or so, my interests as an artist have returned time and again (even when encouraged to move away from intensely personal imagery and subject matter) to the place where displacement, loss, memory, and commodity meet. In my most recent effort, which I've collectively titled Who is Amanda Fisher?, I have applied a daily (or so) goal over the past year to make “art from ephemera” to a deeper investigation of the contents of my dead mother’s wallet, which functions as a sort of time capsule 28 years after she died. After I started the project, I was pointed to Jack Finney’s 1956 short story Contents of the Dead Man’s Pockets, which has served as inspiration for continuing the project beyond the date of her December 28th death (the last dated material in her wallet was from December 24, 1988). I’m interested in confronting the relative value of these scraps of paper as they take on added meaning and significance through the distance in time and space from those original experiences. Furthermore, might it be possible to recreate a narrative, however fictional in nature due to the unreliability of memory's function over time, by replicating my mother’s actions as evidenced by, largely, receipts during her final weeks? What do these scraps of paper say, if anything, about my mother or her relationship to me, 11 at the time? What might this project reveal about my own choices and priorities 28 years later, not unlike Finney’s character, as I juggle the demands of my day job, a family, and my own creative needs and drives?

Those are questions I hope to explore, possibly in a more interactive way as well, as the project evolves in the first half of 2017. Stay tuned!


100% FTE, or "I got a day job!" Part 4

Back in September, I wrote about how excited I was to work less, make art, reducing my day job schedule to 80% FTE (which in my case translated to 30 hours split over four days, with Fridays off). That schedule was short-lived for a number of reasons, largely the fact that I feared, after 5 to 6 weeks, I'd taken a 20% pay-cut to do the same amount of work, spending several hours most Fridays "off", and increased time during evenings and weekends, checking in and catching up remotely. And I'm not exactly the "lean in" type, but reducing my schedule, while still legally considered full-time, meant I was no longer eligible for merit raises (of a whopping 1-2% annually, but still), just one example of how not working full-time penalizes those who choose to spend their time elsewhere (and I'm certain this all or nothing approach is not necessary). Kind of irksome, wouldn't you agree? So in November I resumed my 100% FTE schedule, part 4(ish), if we're counting, of this whole "I got a day job!" adventure that started exactly two years ago today.

And in an exercise of opposites, during this same stretch of time, my backyard studio shed was completed! Isn't it a thing of beauty, those 120 square feet of pristine, serene, kid-free space in which to think, design, create, paint, etc.? If only I had more TIME to spend in it. Alas, despite my quest to avoid picking just two but rather claim a wee bit of all three ingredients to a creative life-work "balance" - time, space, money - seems I'm back to two: space and money (and, blasted!, not even that much money).

That said, I did manage to crank out some crafty projects for the holiday period and thought I'd highlight a few here, beginning with our annual holiday card, something I've designed myself every year so far that we've been a party of 2+:

Inspired by the adult coloring book craze.
Sent with a couple of crayons (that likely got crushed in transit).
I've had these styrofoam balls for a couple of years that I combined (well one, anyway) this year with my pom pom stash and my love of the glue gun to make a cupcake ornament for my mother-in-law.

I used the ornament "hardware" from the little ball ornaments I picked up at Target (I intended to make more styrofoam ornaments but never got around to it) so I repurposed the balls themselves in this wreath:

I think I may have added a ribbon at some point; it's foggy now, a month later. Likewise, we were well into December by the time I transformed a Ferrero Rocher tray I snagged at work into a boozy chocolate advent calendar:

I wanted to make a little something for each of my kids and finally got around to using the set of snowman buttons I ordered from The Clay Bean Co. on Etsy three years ago!

I made a simple, felt snowman with the buttons and a similarly designed reindeer with regular buttons. I wasn't exactly going for a literal "deer in the headlights" look but I think it gives this particular reindeer a little extra character.

In the food department, I modified Paper & Stitch's circus animal cookie fudge recipe using Mother's Cookies limited holiday edition and they came out equally tasty (I'll make the classic pink version again closer to Valentine's Day). We also made chocolate gingerbread cookies but my attempt to dip them in peppermint white chocolate failed. They became sandwich cookies instead.

Finally, in the junior department, check out this crazy ribbon tree - with functioning lights! - that Elias made in his after school program. The art teacher in the program facilitated this over a couple of weeks and then sent each kid who participated home with a personalized goody bag full of art supplies! Art teachers seriously rock.

That's it for 2016. My 2017 new year's resolution is to devote these little bits of time (all I have at the moment) to working in the studio. Because when you look back at the end of the holiday period, that's not too shabby for a full-time working parent of two. If I do say so myself.