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decor8talk: Meet Gina Adams

We’re visiting with Gina Adams, a talented artist from York, Maine. Before you read the interview below, please read her artist’s statement since it ties in nicely to our discussion below.

decor8: Gina, can you please tell decor8 readers about yourself?

gina: I have always been interested in art, and the process of creating something with my mind and my hands. When I was a child, my parents were always buying me craft kits, drawing and painting tools, and teaching me how to sew and make functional things. I remember having my most creative moments when I was bored, and I would go into the boxes of crafts, and suddenly, hours would have gone by, and I would have all this cool stuff to show for the time. As I grew older, I left the craft kits behind and started to explore using what was at hand. I found ?treasures? in the most unlikely places ie: my great grandmothers pantry or my fathers basement office. Most of what I do today is based upon those early childhood experiences.

I started my own clothing design business at age 18, designing my own patterns, and then sewing them myself. I did this for almost 5 years. I found that I was not being as creative as I could be, and that I was at the point of just trying to pay the rent. This was also the time of starting a family. I turned my focus into raising two very creative, bright young boys.

Most my youth was spent in the outdoors, camping, hiking, biking and kayaking. I spent many hours in nature, observing, witnessing new events, and even pretending. We have a family cabin that is located in the central Maine woods, on a lake and very isolated. Here, I would draw, write and gather objects from nature to put in collages.

My father owned a retail store in Kittery Maine called the Kittery Trading Post until 2001, a year before he died of cancer. I had grown up with the family business, and when the boys were about 2 and 5 my father asked me to join him there. I stayed for about ten years, and thought that I had a life time ahead of me. When my father?s cancer went into remission, he turned to me one day and asked if there was anything else that I had wanted to do with my life. My response was ?to Paint, to go back to Art School?. I had been painting all along, and not realizing it, had built up a strong portfolio. He said ?what are you waiting for, go for it?. I applied to the Maine College of Art in December of 1997, and started that January.

I now do whatever it takes to put myself and my studio practice first. I do whatever I need to do in order to do so. I am also very interested in my Ojibwe Culture, and learning everything I can about it. I am going to Turtle Creek Reservation this June for a language immersion residency.


decor8: Give me 5 words that describe your work…

gina: Conceptual, insightful, contemplative, memory, playful.

decor8: Where are you based and what do you really enjoy about it there?

gina: I live in York, Maine in a house that was built by my grandfather. I have been fortunate to live in a place where I have support from my family to do so. My studio is about 15 minutes away, and only 3 minutes from Bewick Academy, where my son goes to school. My husband Mark and I really enjoying kayaking off the coast of Maine as well as hiking and exploring in the Maine woods.

decor8: When was it that you decided to do this for a living?

gina: Well, I graduated from the Maine College of Art in 2002. My first thought was that I had to get a ?real job?, in order to pay the bills. I worked for the Gap for 6 months as an assistant manager. I had been hired with the promise of a four day work week so that I could get two days in at my studio. I never worked less than a six day week. The job was not only stressful, but the people were false. Art school had changed me. Now I saw the world where one person could make a difference. Folding the perfect shirt and making sure the Gap made more money did not seem like a priority. After six months, I quit with a new resolve. I would from that day forward do whatever I needed to do so that I could work in my studio a minimum of four days a week, while at the same time spending quality time with my husband, Mark and the boys.

decor8: Do you participate in shows? Are you represented by a gallery?

gina: Yes. Art Consultant, Emily Leach of Salmon Falls Village Gallery, Rollinsford, NH, Pierogi in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, Nahcotta in Portsmouth, NH, Mary Harding at the George Marshall Gallery in York, Maine.

decor8: Can you please describe the design process…

gina: Let’s see… my work develops from everything in my life. I am responding every minute to both spiritual, sensory, and visual details from my day. Being a conceptual artist, each painting I make actually starts months before, in a Research and Development stage. This is where I do much research in both reading important books on Ojibwe or other Native American ideas; Native American oral history teachings; Art movements such as the quilts of Gees bend or the clay pots of the Anastazi; visiting important collections at museums and galleries; learning my native language; learning how beadwork is made, and what the stitches look like; going to flea markets, both at home and while traveling, to find Native Beadwork, lacework and tatting, quilting pieces and anything related to my interests. I am continually gathering all the research and the items I find and then making written notes about them. How I see them, what I have learned from them, how they make me feel, and how my meditation and dreams are affected by them, and the new knowledge. I start a painting with a basic idea of what the palette will be. I have no idea what the visual surface will be until I am well into the process of painting. I am always, however, responding formally to the work, which is based upon teachings from both art school foundation and an intuitive sense in the progress of the piece. I continue to place paint and mark, constantly editing and really looking at what I am creating.


decor8: Tell us about your various collections and what are your patterns inspired by?

gina: I collect random bits of folk art, things that are handmade. I have collected fiesta ware for 20+ years as well as funky art from my artist friends. I especially love drawings done by children. I inspired by the quilts of gee?s bend and by Denyse Schmitt. I am always inspired by interior designers like Sheila Bridges and Sarah Richardson. I love seeing the order that designers will bring into a room, I like seeing the story laid out in a visual way. I also love several different children?s book illustrators from the 1940s and ?50?s. Mostly for the details and patterning that is around the subject of the book. It is not just about the collecting of objects, but in the search that for short amounts of time can place me outside of myself. This is how I get different points of view that then go back into my studio practice.


decor8: Do you have a particular theme that you work with?

gina: My heritage, my memories, my dreams, my childhood, memories of my boys childhood.

decor8: How does your work reflect your personality?

gina: It makes me a much more spiritual, introspective and insightful human being.

?The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.? – Albert Einstein.

My work develops like a stream of consciousness; every painted stroke is like a thought that leads to another. The only constructs I allow myself are that the marks are inspired by my childhood memories; the color which is very relative to those memories; and the size of the panel or paper that I am painting on. I am not precious; I let whatever needs to happen, happen. I am however, trained to know which sensibilities are working together and which are not. I make conscious decisions about what works. I want the experience to have both beauty and truth.

My work is a reflection of myself. Everything that I am goes into my process. It is definitely a mirror image of what is going on unconsciously. Whether it is in pattern making or in color I strive to put my words into symbolic image. This symbolic image does not have to be recognizable as a specific object, it just has to have a common language. The language I am speaking is one of Artist, Woman, Mother, Native American. I want the surfaces to be breathtakingly beautiful. I want them to have the sense of something familiar, and this sensibility speaks to the truth. The truth in the work and the process is in myself.

decor8: What are the main characteristics of your work and your work method?

gina: I work differently with the mediums. I work in watercolor, but have developed a method of painting that first involves a very detailed lace/bead drawing, which is then masked out with a rubber cement solution. I then place a wash on the paper ground, which when dry, reveals a patterning of the piece that then instructs what color beadwork should be. I do encaustics, which is a process of painting with beeswax that has pigment infused into it. I am painting on a heated surface of 220 f., with layers of paint that are both additive and subtractive. I brush, scrape, draw, and place images from my printmaking into their layers.

decor8: Tell us about some obstacles that you’ve had to overcome? How did you overcome them?

gina: Being an artist can be challenging as you have to have a strong spirit and a will to persevere despite any obstacles. You must continually send out proposals, and get most of them back as rejections. I hold several different jobs: studio artist, wife, mother, teacher, and usually a minimum of two part time jobs.

decor8: You’ve already touched upon this, but where do you find inspiration?

gina: Childhood and children, nature, collecting of objects from the flea market, discoveries about my heritage, learning the language of my heritage, kayaking, b bird watching, playing games, drawing the unconscious and visiting museums and galleries.

decor8: What other artists’ inspire you?

gina: Michael Mazur, Squeak Carnwath, Judy Pfaff… Just to name a few of the many.

decor8: If money were no object, and you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

gina: Right now I would have to say New Zealand, as the place and the people where beautiful. I found a blissful peace there with the landscape. I just got back from a trip to New Zealand and Australia where I did research into the Maori and the Aboriginals. I met a professor from Massey University who is a Maori from Rotorura, and we discussed the similarities between the Maori culture and Native American Indians. There are many similarities, but the difference is that the Maori never lost their land, their culture or their spiritual identities. I went to many museums and galleries in search of ancient and contemporary art and craft. I also spent a day in the village in Gisborne, NZ. where the Whale Rider was filmed and learned a great deal from the chief. I went in search of didgeridoo?s and found a man who represents many aboriginal artists, who taught my husband and myself a bit about playing the instrument. It was quite magical.

decor8: What are some things that you can’t live without?

gina: Laughter, the glint in a childs eye, carelessly splashing in the water, searching for sea glass, standing in the sunshine, playing marbles with my friends children, still wanting to fly, dreams where I am flying.


Thank you Gina for sharing your world with all of us. I’m sure many will be inspired by your interview. If anyone is interested in viewing Gina’s artwork or purchasing from her, please visit her website. Also, if you’re in the New England Area, Gina will be one of 75 artists displaying works at the Spring Open Studios event at Salmon Falls Mills on May 6, 2006 from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. in Rollinsford, New Hampshire. Please attend if you can!

(images from Gina Adams)

Posted in Arts + Crafts, interviews on April 04, 2006
decor8 great.ly shop

Step Inside Magpie

Christine Liu, decor8 contributor, is back with a review of Magpie. This post contains so many great links, you won’t want to miss it. Drum roll please…here’s Christine!

As Holly has already confessed her love for their paper goods, I went on task to do a thorough look-see of Davis Square gem Magpie, shiny things for your nest. I’ve visited this haven of hip crafts, local art, and vintage collectibles’ only once before, but one visit is clearly not enough. Not only would it be impossible to absorb all the featured items at once, but also the in-stock items constantly change as the roster of artists evolve and as one-of-a-kind originals are sold and replenished. Part quirky boutique and part curated gallery, Magpie is a charming art spot that exudes with creative style and handcrafted energy.

The store, located at 378A Highland Ave in Somerville (just over the Charles from Boston), is a quick walk from the T subway station, and welcomes you from the sidewalk with a flock of friendly (what else?) handdrawn magpies. They encouragingly beckon.

Look for it carefully, as the space is carefully tucked away in a nondescript stretch of neighborhood. However, the moment you enter you find yourself enveloped in a warmly inviting room with all things cute, cozy, and colorful. Everything from retrofitted wall-hangings to painted bread plates happily coexist in this handmade heaven.

One of the five owners of Magpie, Dave McMahon, was running the place on Sunday afternoon and couldn’t have been more passionate about featuring the works of independent artists and fostering a strong local community. He and his wife Leah Kramer (the founder of Craftster) and fellow Magpies Simone Alpen, Emily Arkin and Dave Sakowski are also the core that run the Bazaar Bizarre, a modern craft fair that began in 2001 in the Boston-area but has since spread out to include LA, Cleveland, and San Francisco (next event April 22 + 23′ 06). Dave eagerly showed me around (the room is small but holds a lot!) and pointed me towards some interesting works.


First stop: paper goods! Handmade cards are conveniently located right in the front of the store and are coo-worthy spectacular. Dave mentions that the store gets new paper goods almost on a continuous basis, and I find the designs as perfect and delectable as cupcakes. Just a handful of the featured stationery include designs by 1201AM, sugarlily, poppycock, sewing stars, boygirlparty, scraps of paper, and the paper princess. There’s everything from colorful illustration to quirky gocco prints to cards packaged with pages from real vintage recipe books. (My personal favorites are from Susie Ghahremani at boygirlparty, and the pudgy bunnies of sewing stars.) If you’re looking for unique, well-made, and head-turning stationery, Magpie is the place to be.


I’m already tickled pink at the paper goods, though there’s plenty more to see. Moving toward the rear of the store, I espy some cleverly designed dinnerware and ceramics.

I’m completely smitten with these dining accessories by neutrino designs. (If you’re not proximate to Magpie, you can also purchase them online at Art Star.) The clean white lines and simple silhouettes of the pieces are adorned with sporadic geometric details, bold and delicate in fine-tipped orange. At once mod, scientific, and abstract, the design of the series wins on so many levels. I love how the butter dish is constructed so that at first it appears to be a normal white holder. Only until you consume enough butter do you uncover the bright orange designs. A gradual and satisfying reward that makes eating that much more fun.


I still remember these hand-etched glasses from my first visit. Each set hosts an amusingly complementary pair of messages, such as Beauty/Brains, Wild Turkey/Cold Duck, and RBG/CMYK (my pick). They’re beautifully minimalist, with the clear frosted glass and bold, sans serif lettering. Designed by Cambridge-based artist Sandra Salamone, I could definitely see them as a fancy vintage cocktail vessel, or for housing a colorful votive candle. I wouldn’t be surprised if the artist took requests for custom messages… now who’s the creative one? :)


Here’s Dave, looking super happy and modeling one of the hand-painted sushi-themed ceramics by Suzaluna. (How delish to eat sushi atop of sushi!) By the way, he was a great sport and let me take all these pictures for decor8!


When encouraged to pick a personal favorite, Dave was excited to feature the hand painted birdhouses by Ryan O’Rourke. The birdhouses are constructed by Ryan’s grandfather, and then painstakingly designed and decorated by Ryan. Dave adds, “I’m a painter, so I really admire his work. The details…the colors…” The designs are intricate and layered, filled with small illustrative narratives all over the tiny wooden structure. “I love these for so many reasons, but there’s something about the fact that he paints these things that are made by his grandfather. The familial connection, and the handmade process. They’re great!” The birdhouses are fantastically designed, and other than sprucing up your pad in style, they may also become a super-luxe bird loft for your favorite feathered friend if you choose for it to be. Here’s one, smiling back at you.


Perhaps coincidentally, though cheerfully appropriate, there are plenty of bird-themed goods within Magpie. I found the metal rooster sculpture striking in its modern interpretation and recycled materiality. It comes from the hands of Anna Johansson of Anna Built, also active with an indie rock band, the Pee Wee Fist. Anna also creates beautiful jewelry recycled from bits of beer can metals and stunning stained glass. It’s impressive to witness her strength of inspiration from everyday objects.

If you’re in Boston, be sure to drop into Magpie! As I told Dave, one of the best reasons of mine to support local and independent artists is that I feel it’s better to acquire a small number of objects that are meaningfully precious than a large number of generics that are facelessly mass-manufactured. You can definitely sense that philosophy in Magpie, where every object can be traced back to a creative human being. And in a modern world, that’s a beautiful thing.

:::note from holly:::
If you see anything in the photos that you’d like to inquire about, please contact Magpie directly. They are happy to accept orders over the phone with a major credit card.

Magpie also sells my favorite soap dishes in the world by Ambrosia Porcelain. Read what decor8 had to say about them here.

A special thanks to Dave at Magpie!

(photos + text from Christine Liu. Great job, Miss Liu!)

****

Posted in Arts + Crafts, guest bloggers, Shop Tours, shopping, travel on March 30, 2006

coffee + cre8tive [mar 27 06]

I enjoy this ‘electric’ painting by Minnesota artist Jennifer Davis. I thought it was a nice way to begin the week because it evokes feelings of wild abandon, joy, even relaxation, something we all need on a Monday morning yet rarely feel.

It also makes me think about how much I love to dance, to be caught up in the feeling, to experience total freedom on the dance floor. When you look at this painting, what thoughts come to mind?

Creative freedom perhaps? Energy?

(photo: Jennifer Davis)

Posted in Arts + Crafts on March 27, 2006

MIT Visual Arts Center: America Starts Here

By Christine M. Liu, Contributor, decor8

As a student of the media lab at MIT, I literally spend each day sitting on a goldmine. And that, dear friends, is the List Visual Arts Center, a gallery for contemporary art lovingly curated by Bill Arning, directed by Jane Farver, and coordinated by Hiroko Kikuchi. The List is located on campus, in the Weisner building E-15; if you’re in the vicinity you should stop by for the current exhibition America Starts Here, works by Kate Ericson and Mel Zeigler.

MIT Media Lab, Wiesner Building, Cambridge, MA

No one can describe their work better than Bill; however, I can introduce Zeigler and Ericson as a duo who focus on public works, giving new interpretations of everyday life, public space, history and memory, home and family, and the human experience. The works mostly approach the idea of american identity through domestic media like paint, glass, and construction materials. the house as home focus establishes the psychological space of safety, comfort, and ritual.

A favorite piece of mine incorporates a full set of china dinnerware that is elegantly decorated with gold flourishes and script letters. Only when you look closely do you realise that it’s not your typical fancy plating; the gilt words on the Dutch china spell out the names of industrial compounds from the central chemical factory in the origin town. It’s an amusing cognitive tingle, to imagine resting your dessert fork on the tetrachloronickelate lettered rim…

Camouflagued History, 1999

The strikingly painted house (the cover work for the exhibit) was produced in response to reinterpreting the colors defined by the neighborhood council to be acceptable for residences. The artists, in conjunction with the owner of the house, painted the exterior of the house with a camouflage pattern (a real design commissioned from the U.S. Army) composed from all the permissible colourings. The official names of the shades were printed as well, their descriptive names shedding a subtle dimension of the neighborhood and the intrinsic history embodied within.

The partnership of these two artists as lovers and as producers permeates the pieces with emotion and strength. An additional dimension to the exhibition is the fact that sadly, Ericson suffered from a brain tumor and passed away in 2005 (with Ziegler still alive today), giving a sense of her spirit finding new life in the exhibition of their work. More works from the exhibition:

Hollow Oak Our Palace Is, 1989

America Starts Here, 1988

I had a bit of a challenge finding some of their works documented online, though here is an feature that I found on one of their objects, Sift Before Measuring. Inside a dry sink, they placed numerous jars, each filled with flour and etched with the names of traditional american cake recipes.

And don’t forget the small room adjacent to the main gallery, which features an extensive slide presentation of more of their public works and performances. There’s even a picture of them dining on the Dutch dinnerware! :)

[photos above from LVAC]

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