May 9, 2017

Prompts & Potential

The first time I saw a display of bell jars at Ikea, I wanted to take home a dozen. I pictured them lined up on a shelf in a gallery, housing a collection of "specimens." The specimens would be vaguely medical, vaguely sinister, discomforting. What they would look like or how I would make them, absolutely no idea. But having a dozen bell jars on hand would be just the thing to remind me of the potential project and prompt me to work on it. Right?

Wrong. First of all, I do not have space to safely house a dozen fragile glass domes. Second, I have a bad habit of conceiving of a project, getting really excited about it, sourcing and purchasing materials, and then... stalling out. The materials sit and sit. They become a reprimand rather than a creative prompt. With both these things in mind, I managed to reign myself in and purchased only a single ball jar.

That single jar has been abandoned on a shelf in the kitchen for, umm, well, long enough to collect a thick layer of dust. Weeks? Most likely months. As you can see, it remains empty. (Thank goodness there isn't an entire rank of twelve of them passing judgement on my sloth.)

But here's the thing. The potential of making a specimen or a creature for that one bell jar has been percolating in the back of my mind for weeks (ehrm) months. I've now got two trains of thought as to what it should house: a specimen as described above or a totem of some kind.

The totem would be related to celebrating the yoni as female creative power, either a goddess figure of some sort or a distant relative whose family resemblance is tenuous. I considered papier mâché, but it's not the right texture, the right presence. I'm thinking textile in nature, but have limited experience in soft sculpture (i.e. doll making). However, the fabulous Ann Wood shared a couple tutorials on improvisational doll making (#1 and #2) this past week that may be just the ticket. So, totem it is. 

Which is not to say that I'm abandoning the specimen idea. It's one that first surfaced for me in the early 90s and continues to pop up now and again. A recent visit to the Mütter Museum -  an historical collection of medical specimens, instruments, and teaching models - reinforced my fascination with the macabre and misinformed medical practices concerning women and reproductive health. Plus, there was a fantastic special exhibit by two Philadelphia artists, Caitlin McCormack and Sabrina Small. I was charmed and inspired by McCormack's work in particular - delicate and intricate crocheted skeletons. And I've just learned that the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia is open to the public! I've been compiling a hefty list from their collection of 19th century books and manuals on women's health to peruse there in the near future. Yes, specimens seem unavoidable but definitely need more time to percolate.

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