Monday, June 20, 2011

Night Shifts

My late mother-in-law sometimes used to say she was tired because she had "worked the night shift." On her restless nights she put in long hours of dreamtime serving food, pouring drinks and cleaning up after a full house.

Night Shift by Donna Kallner
This piece incorporates a picture of her behind the counter back in the days when her night shifts were worked awake instead of dreaming. Night Shift is part of the Night Vision collection showing through June 29 at the Ed Gray Gallery in Calumet, Michigan.

Night Shift detail by Donna Kallner
I work the dreamy kind of night shift sometimes, too. My fingers may feel stiff from holding an imaginary needle, but I usually have a clearer image of how to stitch the story I've been working over in my unconscious mind.

That seems to be what happened Saturday morning. After a week in Minneapolis at the Surface Design conference, I was surprised to wake up rested and raring to go at 4:30 a.m. I think my mind had finally finished tidying up a few loose ends.

My post-conference workshop with Lanny Bergner gave me a lot to think about. Going into the workshop, my intention was to learn to integrate wire mesh with the fabrics I use already, thinking the wire would provide greater support for larger mixed media constructed vessels and possibly also to support freeform looping.

On the first day of the three-day workshop, I made the piece below from the brass mesh pictured above.

Despite differences in "seaming" wire mesh versus layers of fabric, the construction concepts were comfortably familiar.

On Day 2 I made two more small vessels.

This one is stainless steel mesh patterned with a propane torch.

This one is brass mesh with a contrasting insert of anodized aluminum mesh.

At the end of Day 2, I asked Lanny for some advice on where to go next. Left to my own devices, I might have veered off to testing seaming alternatives or surface textures I could very well play with on my own. He suggested that on Day 3 I work on a larger vessel. That was a good plan. I also wanted to keep playing with ways to curve the seam lines. That's where I ran into trouble.

I made one choice after another that kept drawing the form in more and more. Creating curved lines in the metal mesh is a great challenge, but doing so shifted my focus away from the form itself.

After I get back from teaching in Michigan, I want to model more of these vessels, working more simply and larger and with my focus on producing pieces that work from 360 degrees. I need to resist the seduction of the mesh's transparency until I've done that. I suspect I'll find more clarity in the making. I usually do.

This class was just what I needed when I needed it. Lanny was great to work with, as was everyone in the room. I have tons of ideas to mull.

It's almost bedtime again, and before I lay my head on the pillow I have just one more thing to clarify for myself: Unless I follow through on the work that began in the the workshop, it was just three pleasant days where I played with different materials. It's up to me, now, to work out if or how these ideas fit into my own work. And while some of that gets worked out on the night shift, most of it gets worked out in the studio.


  1. Wow! I took your Mojo Vessels workshop in Columbia MO and didn't think about using the hardware cloth. I had even made a little shopping cart for a Barbie piece at one time using buttons as the wheels for the cart. This gives me ideas as to what to do with all the leftover hardware cloth I have in my shed. Thanks for sharing!
    Amy Schomaker

  2. Have fun playing with all those ideas, Amy!


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