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Rainbow Nametag from Junior High Camp, circa 1980.

Rainbow Language

Portable Rainbow by Margaret Almon.
Portable Rainbow by Margaret Almon. Glass on slate, 4×8 inches, ©2015.

I have a compelling desire to create rainbows.  I have made many of them in mosaic.  Once a woman came into my craft show booth and was smitten with one of my rainbow panels, but said she couldn’t buy it because her husband would be affronted by the gay implications, and gave an awkward shrug.  This made me both sad and angry.

With the Supreme Court ruling about marriage and gay folk in June, 2015, there is an abundance of rainbows appearing on my Facebook stream, and it’s outburst of talking my rainbow language, and to me this ruling good news, just as God’s love is good news.

 

Rainbow Nametag from Junior High Camp, circa 1980.
Rainbow Nametag from Junior High Church Camp, circa 1982.

My love of rainbows began at Moravian Church Camp Van Es at Cooking Lake in Alberta.  The theme in 1982 was The Rainbow Connection.  We each had a  slice a log, and a volunteer had applied rainbows and written our names.  We watched The Muppet Movie with the theme song The Rainbow Connection, and learned the to sing it.  We painted a large rainbow backdrop, in an open area in the woods.

We memorized Bible verses about the rainbow as a symbol of God’s promise to never again cover the earth in a great flood, a sign of God’s love.  What gave it power was the idea that this love extended to me, though I felt flawed through my core, cracked with no method of repair.  True grace is a very difficult thing to accept, because the bruised soul assumes it applies to everyone else except her.

The Rainbow Connection
The Rainbow Connection

I took the idea of hope and love to heart.  I bought a pewter pendant cast in the form of a rainbow and embedded with an Ichthys fish(a visual pun, an acronym of the Greek letters spelling out Jesus Son of God, which also meant fish).  I wore it often, as a way to remain hopeful.

Now, some 30 years later, I look at it and wonder at the grayness of this rainbow, and no wonder I feel compelled to create them in full color.  For a girl of 14, coming out of a year of depression, the colors were intense.  There is power in symbols, but also the power of color itself, the incarnation of beauty.

 

Collage Meets Glass: Les Gemmaux de France

Pont de Grenelle (Grenelle Bridge) Les Gemmaux de France
Pont de Grenelle (Grenelle Bridge)(1959). Design by Louis Gilis; technique invented by artist Jean Crotti (1870-1958); panel assembled by “gemmists” in the Paris studio of Roger Malherbe-Navarre called Les Gemmaux de France. Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

This piece caught my eye at the Corning Museum of Glass.  It was mounted in front of a lightbox and the colors of glass emerged in glowing layers.  Before I started making mosaics, I made collages with magazine paper and the Gemmail technique is like having those scraps of paper turn to glass.  Artist Jean Crotti wanted to incorporate light into his paintings in a new way and began working with thin glass glued and then fused, and called it Gemmail from combining the French words for gem and enamel(Gemmaux in the plural).

Crotti sought advice on the logistics of his technique with his neighbors, the Malherbe-Navarre family, physicists studying light and fluorescence.  Eventually Roger Malherbe-Navarre became the primary maker of Gemmail, and artists like Braque and Picasso were enchanted, and wanted to translate their paintings into glass and light.

A reviewer of a set of Gemmail windows, Winefride Wilson from a 1964 issue of Tablet, was ambivalent, torn between the wonder of the effect and concern that it reminded her of childhood kaleidoscopes, and hard to take seriously.  I have no such reservations ~ I am on the side of wonder.

 

Jean Crotti and Georges Braque, ca. 1956 / Guy Suignard, photographer. Jean Crotti papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

 

Pablo Picasso: Le Gemmail

A Brief History of Gemmaux, Corning Museum of Glass

Jean Crotti Papers, Archives of American Art

 

 

 

Listening by Nutmeg Designs. Glass on slate, 6x15 inches.

Listening: Gift for a Spiritual Director

Listening by Nutmeg Designs. Glass on slate, 6x15 inches.
Listening by Nutmeg Designs. Glass on slate, 6×15 inches.

Listening was my natural state as a child.  Listening to the adults tell stories to me, or talk to each other above me.  I became a writer with my storehouse of listening.

Stratoz and I had a Christmas commission to create a sign with the word Listening for a spiritual director.  Listening had become a gift of her vocation, when her natural state was talking.

I was introduced to spiritual direction at the University of Scranton in the early 1990s, where I had my first librarian job.  The University had a contemplative spirituality program, and I started seeing an Ignatian nun(as she called herself) once a week.  She asked me about my experiences that week, and asked me where I found God in this.  Then she would listen.  It was as if she was handling a treasure, gently holding it in her hands.

Winding my way around the letters of listening many years later, I am grateful for the listeners in my life who encouraged me, recognized me, loved me, and my desire is to stay true to my listening nature, and in turn encourage, recognize, and love.

Margaret Almon with Beverly Pepper's Vertical Ventaglio

Independence Day: 4th Anniversary of Self Employment

Margaret Almon with Beverly Pepper's Vertical Ventaglio
Margaret Almon with Beverly Pepper’s Vertical Ventaglio , June 2014. Photo by Wayne Stratz. Vertical Ventaglio by Beverly Pepper in the Memorial Art Gallery Sculpture Garden in Rochester, NY. Vertical Ventaglio, 1967-1968 American Sculpture Stainless and carbon steel with automotive paint 104 5/8 in. x 43 1/2 in. x 86 in. (265.75 cm x 110.49 cm x 218.44 cm)

July 2014 is the 4th Anniversary of my Independence.  My employer closed the library in which I worked and let me go.  I am thinking about that phrase, “Let me go.” They let me go, and I went.  I was scared, anxious and sad.  I worried about money.  I felt unnecessary, obsolete and hurt.  They let me go, and I decided to let them go, and work for myself as an artist.

Now, I can’t imagine working for someone else.  It is both scary and exhilarating to choose my own path, knowing that each month I start again with the balance sheet.

Stratoz and I were on vacation in 2010 when the list of those who were laid off was announced(and which thankfully I did not know until I got back).   This photo is from our 2014 vacation trip to Rochester, NY, with the sculpture at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery by Beverly Pepper.  I read a story about the artist which I admire:

Turning from painting to sculpture in 1960, Pepper first carved in wood, a plentiful and inexpensive material. Instead of hand chisels, she preferred power tools as appropriate to the modern Machine Age. In 1962 the organizer of the music and art festival at Spoleto, Italy, invited ten sculptors to use local steel factories as their studios for a month. Of the three Americans, two were well-established masters of abstract metal constructions: Alexander Calder and David Smith. The third was Pepper, who did not yet even know how to weld. So she apprenticed herself to an ironmonger and shortly thereafter made her first steel sculpture, nearly eighteen feet tall. Thereafter, Pepper sculpted only in metal on a monumental scale, preferably for installation outdoors in urban spaces. 

Beverly Pepper | Landmarks.

I admire Pepper’s confidence.  She didn’t know how to weld, but she wanted to weld, and onward she went.  Another independent spirit!

What is independence for you?

My visit to another Beverly Pepper work, this time at the Grounds for Sculpture

One Pebble at a Time

One Pebble at a Time
One Pebble at a Time: Making Mosaic Stepping Stones in 2005

When I started making mosaics, I felt an intrusive guilt that I wasn’t making collages anymore.  Collage was my first step into art, my first furtive kindness to myself in allowing myself to make art.  When I started making collages, I felt anxiety because I believed I should be writing poems instead.  I had been a poet since I was 12.  I was good at writing poems.  I won awards; I had poems in magazines; I was a Poet and had no room for any other self.

There is a fierceness in kindness, protecting the unfurling heart.

The stepping stones were practical.  Stratoz and I had bought a rowhouse with a long narrow backyard, and I decided to make pebble mosaic stepping stones for our garden.  A stepping stone allows a firm footing for walking  through mud, and can define a space, guide a path.

As a child, stepping stones were magical, jumping from one to the next, each a self-contained world.  Stepping stones are human scale.  I had an anxious mind demanding superhuman scale, a speedway, a leap through time, tessering.  When I took a small step, there were large repercussions in my fearfulness: what if I am choosing the wrong thing?  What if I am meant to write poetry and I displease God, and vanish from the earth?  What if I am moving too slowly?  Or too fast?

I had given myself a year to explore different mediums of artmaking, and it took all my grit to continue exploring.  When mosaics spoke to my heart, I felt both joy and fear, because to enjoy making mosaics stirred up the the thoughts of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, and the fear of never ridding myself of the fear.  That I continued on, one pebble at a time, is grace.

There is a fierceness in kindness, protecting the unfurling heart.

 

What kindness will you give yourself?

Swayed by Goats

Orange Graphic Oval Goat Tile by Hadley Clay
Orange Graphic Oval Goat Tile by Hadley Clay

I made it through the 2014 A to Z blogging challenge and this is a good time to take care of my blog.  There exists in me a desire to do things on my own, by myself, but also the desire to make art, and the art wins out.  I went searching for someone to maintain my margaretalmon.com blog as well as the nutmegdesignsart.com site.  Wordpress has made it possible for me to create the Nutmeg Designs site, but the nuances of keeping it in good technical shape is an art in itself.  I admit I was swayed by a goat.  When I finally formulated the phrase, “WordPress Maintenance Services,” GoatCloud came up and I had to check it out.  Cliff Rohde, Chief Executive Goat, donates a portion of his net profits to those who provide goats to those in need of, as he puts it, these remarkably sturdy animals.  GoatCloud is moving my sites about and consolidating them with hopefully minimal downtime.  Goats have an unfettered sense of play and exploration, and I am swayed into my studio.