October 28th

An informational flyer I took to the Ann Arbor Senior Center. I left a stack of them next to a sign up sheet by the front desk and one of the employees said she would tell people about it. I'll go back next week to see if anyone has listed themselves as being interested.

IP Hours for the Week of 10/18 to 10/24

Total Hours: 5 hours

Working on personal paper cut
Contacting places
Experimenting with color
Researching paper types

I'll be honest. Right now I'm finding it incredibly difficult to balance working on stuff for my other classes which all require things to be done right now with working on my IP project whose deadline seems so far away. I know, bad attitude and wrong perspective, but I'm going to try and fix it this week. I promise.

I contacted the Ann Arbor Senior center today and I think it is going to be the perfect place to connect with volunteers. I'm going there tomorrow to put up flyers and talk with people about the project. Glacier Hills, an assisted living center, I contacted last week hasn't responded to me yet, but that's okay. The Ann Arbor Senior Center is just a place for people to come socialize, take classes, play games, and so on - presumably the people there will most likely be more interested in the project and more open to talking anyways.

October 16th

It's 1:30 am and I need to be up at 5:00 am to catch a plane to Texas, but as usual I got caught up in looking at blogs and designers and illustrators and other beautiful things. This gorgeous silhouette-style music video was directed by Alasdair Brotherson and Jock Mooney of Trunk Animation.

October 14th

This has been an excellent week in terms of getting feedback from multiple sources; other IP students, my roommates, former A&D students. I have figured out several things that were previously hazy.

The first being a breakthrough in my methodology for finding and interviewing people. My initial plan had been to write some sort of "Would you like to .. ?" form letter asking for volunteers to contact me if they were interested in participating. However, the issue of trust was brought up to me yesterday. Will people actually be willing to tell a stranger their memories if it seems like I'm just using them for my project? Not really. Beyond that, actually connecting with people is an important piece of this experience to me.

The Solution:
I'm going to call the activities coordinator/volunteer organizer at several places and introduce myself and my project. Let them know that I am interested in coming in multiple times on a regular basis over the next few months and would like to volunteer my time to just sit and talk with people, keep them company. If they want to be part of the project, that is great. If they aren't interested, that is okay too.

Additionally, it was brought up to me that listening to people re-tell their stories multiple times will help me pick out what the key elements really are and that beyond having a tape recorder, I should even start sketching while I'm listening to them. If the stories are being repeated over numerous visits, I might even ask to video tape one retelling in order to capture expressions and gestures.

I've had several people with grandparents living in the area tell me that their grandmothers or grandfathers would love the company and the opportunity just to share their stories, so I already am having some doors opened to getting in contact with potential volunteers.

I also have gotten in contact with Margaret Chen, who worked with paper in her IP project last year, and she has already been a huge help. Seeing her final project, which uses paper beautifully, has been motivating in thinking about how my own project will eventually come together.

It's exciting when bits and pieces start falling into place.
Now I just need to work that personal papercut ...

October 13th

My thoughts are scattered today. This is the first time since IP started that I really feel like I'm struggling; which is probably a good thing. If everything we did was easy, what would be the value in completing the tasks?

Last week, we watched The Five Obstructions and were then assigned to create an element of our project with an obstruction we created for ourselves. I initially understood the concept of obstructions; it's a way to unlock potential creativity and new avenues that an artist would not recognize without impeding normal behaviors. At the same time, I don't entirely feel the filmmaker's so-called "evasion" of the obstructions was a failure. Despite being given seemingly very difficult impediments, he stayed true to who he was and his own style as an artist and creator. Is that failure?

My Obstructions:
- Illustrate a personal memory. (Since my project is about other people's memories and truth be told, I don't really like creating work that is very personal.)

- Be messier and less in control. Accept wrinkles and tears in the paper. Don't draft every detail out beforehand. (I am not necessarily a perfectionist, but I like order and precision and clean lines.)

I had a really hard time coming up with a personal memory, which was obviously to be expected. While I was brainstorming, I starting thinking about my grandparents. My maternal grandmother died when I was 4 and my maternal grandfather died when I was in middle school. My father's parents died when I was a junior in high school. Due to varying circumstances I was never really close to any of them and while I sat there thinking, I realized I didn't really have a huge number of memories about them. Those I did have were at times fragmented and simple; going to the Shriner Circus, feeding ducks at the nearby pond, a plastic canvas mailbox ornament, visiting fields that once held the best tasting sweet corn in the world (or so I'm told). It was both strange and interesting to confront this lack of memory and my emotions towards it.

I tried to create a "messier" layered papercut about these thoughts, however I see now that my wrinkles and tears were created just for the sake of wrinkles and tears; they were not aligned with the content and concept of the piece. Additionally, I was still very neat and separate with my layers. So I, like the filmmaker in the movie, avoided my own obstructions. Although I think there are different ranges of messy and while I wasn't at the end of the spectrum, I was outside of my normal comfort zone.

I think that I got a lot out of thinking about the way my own memories work when there are large holes and gaps in the stories and how I feel about that. I also realized in my failure with using the layers the way they can be used; I haven't really been doing papercuts in the way they appear in my head. At this point I can't explain why I haven't executed what I really want to, but I can commit to doing it in my next piece. I'm going to re-attempt doing a personal memory and actually focus on a singular, particular moment.

One of the reasons I struggle with personal pieces is because so often it is the dark and difficult moments that artists use in their work. Obviously, I do have bad memories, struggles, and fears, just like everyone else. But I have been incredibly blessed throughout my life in never facing what I would consider true adversity; my parents are still married, I have good relationships with everyone in my life, no one close to me has ever died, I've never had any heath issues, all my physical needs have been met and then some, I've had great opportunities and education .. the list goes on. I'm not an overly optimistic person who has blocked out and negated memories of difficult times; I just don't have anything that I feel is valid - that isn't trite. I hate to come across as whining about my banal problems when other people have truly faced suffering and hardships. It took me an hour to come up with a list of 5 specific memories that I would consider being difficult and complicated enough for layers and I still am unsure if any of them can be translated to an interesting papercut.

It is true that "darker" memories, mysteries, and secrets all tie in very well with the medium of layered and cut paper; but I am also questioning how this fits in with the heart of my project, which is as follows:

I want to use my own art to help and inspire, both the volunteers and viewers, to preserve and communicate these important pieces of their lives with those around them.

Part of my end product is sets of prints to give back to the "memory-givers" to keep and share with their families. While it is equally important to foster sharing more difficult things with those around you, who wants a fine art keepsake of their darkest hours? I'm trying to get people to share their stories in general - whether it's the most significant thing that happened to them or a recollection of a run-of-the-mill moment that for some reason is worth preserving.

This was long. I'm not sure if I resolved anything by writing this, but at least the scattered pieces of my mind are a little more in order.

October 6th

One of the books I got from the library was a children's book called Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox.

It is a sweet story about a little boy who lives next to an "old-people's home" and has befriended a woman named Miss Nancy. He overhears his parents saying she has lost her memory, prompting him to ask those around him, "What's a memory?" After receiving a variety of answers, he gathers up objects that fit the various explainations and brings them to Miss Nancy. Each one brings back memories of her childhood and helps her "find" her memory.

I think this story is a good representation of how we all define memories in different ways and even more so - the way a feeling or smell or object can trigger in us a memory that had been forgotten. I think some of the most interesting memories don't necessarily have an exciting "plot line," but those that have a rich atmosphere - colors, smells, emotions, sounds, and so on. In my posters, I think I really want to explore these aspects of memory through the use of layering, transparency, and the types of cuts I'm making.

October 1st

Lotte Reiniger, a German silhouette animator and film director, was recently mentioned to me as someone I should look up and I'm really happy that I did. She was extremely talented and her work is very charming. I'm really inspired by the details of her characters and the way she sets up backgrounds for scenes. Here are the links some of her animations of Grimm Fairy tales: I especially love the forest in "Hansel & Gretel."

Like I said before I'm not really doing silhouettes in the traditional sense, but I still get a lot out of looking at these other styles. These videos are especially helpful in considering the borders and backgrounds of my posters and also thinking about ways to include detail without compromising the structural integrity of the posters.

Also in researching a little bit more about Lotte, I found out about Jan Pienkowski, an children's book illustrator who has used a similar silhouette style for several books. Yet another person to add to my current IP reading list. Here are some of his illustrations: