Author Archives: tj@studiomailbox.com

The View From Here

TJ Goerlitz artist book

TJ Goerlitz flag book

The View from Here:  Selected Works from the Artist Cooperative at the MCBA are on exhibit now in Galleries 2 & 3 at The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wisconsin.  I have two pieces in the show which runs through Sunday October 26.  Go have a gander if you’re in the vicinity or use this as a perfect excuse to plan a road trip before the snow flies.

I was flattered to see they used an image of my flag book in the Sept/Oct edition of Marquee, their bi-monthly publication.  Page 13, Boom!  How cool is that?

Writing It Out

Slowly I have been shaking off the worst year of my life.  Although I alluded to it a few times, I have not really talked about it online. In the beginning I was much too sick.  As I started to feel better I was way too behind with life to blog about it.

Even now I hesitate. I have some hangups with writing about my health.  Geez Louise.  What’s more personal than our health?   So with all that being said, opening up like this gives me the sensation of entering dangerous waters. If I close my eyes I swear to God there are buoys with big warning signs posted inside my eyelids.  “Warning!  Riptide!” I pray that you won’t have reason to compare me to your great aunt, the one who just can’t stop telling you all about her bunions.

One year ago today on September 9 I got an immunization.  I waltzed away from the clinic without a care in the world.  I crossed the parking lot and I started my vehicle.  As I pulled out onto the road I thought about treating myself to a manicure.

Less than one mile away I found myself in serious trouble. It’s still unclear if I passed out or not.  I distinctly remember leaning over the passenger seat of my Jeep, trying to find my cell phone that was in my purse on the floor.  My hands shook so badly I could barely make the call to 911.  I knew I needed help and I was very confused.  It felt somewhat like being drunk, but more so…like drunk times 100.  Something was very very wrong.  Time got all weird.  I was in the back of an ambulance.  I knew my husband was in Chicago.  I remember calling my dad and worrying who would pick up my son from school.

That was the first day in a chain of events that have changed my life forever.  One of the hardest parts of my experience is that a vaccine was the catalyst.  Why in the hell this couldn’t have happened after something a little less controversial like an ingrown toenail or a few stitches I’ll never know.

Regardless of what anybody thinks about vaccines, it is a fact that every single year there are people who die after getting them.  It is also a fact that vaccines are injected into countless people every day without any problems whatsoever.  So what happened to me lies somewhere in that gap.  My story is in the gap.

As the weeks progressed and I was shuttled from one doctor to the next, I would come home from my appointments and type out notes.  I wrote like a woman possessed.  My intent was that when I eventually got to the right doctors I would be prepared with all the information.  What really happened was that I was emotionally debriefing after every appointment. Months later when I went to look back through my writing, I realized that I had written a story.

This story won’t leave me alone.  So I’ve been working hard to put it together.  And when I say “working hard” I mean wild bursts of writing in between long periods of trying to convince myself that I’m not actually a writer. I wish there was time to lay around on a chaise lounge and talk to you about it – but alas, that ain’t going to get it done.  So instead I’ll just have to keep plugging away.

One of the gifts that’s come out of my situation is that for the first time in my life I don’t really care how it rolls out.  As a person who has created things for years, I’m pretty hung up on quality.  I don’t make crappy stuff.  But the best part about your life getting shook up like mine did is that I’ve realized that the story itself is way more important than whether or not I’m a decent writer.  One way or another I’m going to figure out how to share it.

I’m going to share it for everybody who’s ever been affected by a vaccine injury.  I’m going to share it for every woman who’s been dismissed by male doctors. I’m going to share it for every doctor who hasn’t known what to make of a patient.  I’m going to share it for every patient who’s been treated like they’ve made up their problem. I’m going to share it for the anti-vaxxers and I’m going to share it for the hard-core immunizers.  And most of all I’m going to share it for everybody else who’s in between, living in the gap with me.

 

Postcard Swap Wrap Up

TJ Goerlitz Mail ArtI love iHanna’s postcard swap.  This year I banged out a bunch of spray painted cereal boxes and sent them across the world.  I really like up-cycling cardboard and transforming the well known images into something new.  I think my love of packaging started when I moved to Europe and would notice the subtle differences among the same brands in different markets.  I also love anything that references culture. This part of me loves to send Cheerios or Kellog’s postcards to places like Sweden or Spain.  I wonder what the recipients make of them.

Both variations of my cards started out with cutting a stencil.  I cut my stencils using a wood burning tool fit with a pointed tip.  This is done by sketching the design on a piece of paper and placing it underneath a thick piece of glass.  Then you lay your stencil substrate over the glass and slowly trace the lines of your design that are protected from the heat under the glass.

TJ Goerlitz Cutting a stencil

TJ Goerlitz StencilThe weather has been SO awful this spring.  My cards were going to be late if I didn’t start spraying.  I was forced to do it inside (for obvious health and drying reasons it’s better to spray paint outdoors in a well ventilated and sunny area).  So please forgive the crazy drop cloth in my pictures but I had to protect the furniture!

 

TJ Goerlitz Mail Art

The best part about signing up for a postcard swap is all the beautiful handmade art you get back!  Thank you to everybody who sent a little piece of their work to us in Minnesota!  If you’d like to see more postcards from the participants, have a peek here!

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Cairns, Totems and Hundertwasser

Journal page, Cairn, rock tower, stack of rocksThose of you who know me know that I’m crazy about totems. And back when I lived in Germany I wrote about seeing Hundertwasser’s work. Those amazing columns!  I’ve mentioned before how much I love cairns and what a freak I am if I stumble across a tower of rocks.  I’ve contemplated for a long time what makes me so attracted to tall or stacked work.  Why do I love stuff that’s balanced and piled up on itself?

My dear friend Dr. Anita left the most beautiful comment to a recent post:

This idea of the totem is profound in so many ways. The totem suggests that what’s top and bottom matters in a hierarchical way. But what’s interesting about the totem is that the bottom holds up the top. This is what makes your work democratic. The idea that all can contribute and that the top is nothing without the support structure.

Well that nails it.

Here are some images from a collaborative journal project where I altered other people’s pages with the same stencil.  I like seeing them all laid out together.  It’s crazy to me how the exact same stencil can look so completely different.

journal page, cairn, stacked rocks, rock towerjournal page, cairn, stacked rocks, rock towerjournal page, cairn, stacked rocks, rock towerjournal page, cairn, stacked rocks, rock towerjournal page, cairn, stacked rocks, rock towerjournal page, cairn, stacked rocks, rock towerjournal page, cairn, stacked rocks, rock tower, sampler

I guess a sampler isn’t a sampler without a rock tower.

And here’s a parting behind-the-scenes shot of my stencil in action.  I was going to crop out the hose and watering can in the background but then decided not to.  It looks like I had enough of yard work for the day, threw down my tools and started to work on the journal.  That very well may have been what happened.  So why lie?

CairnStencil

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Graduating the Book Arts Program

Book Arts, MEME

Since becoming a member of the artist’s cooperative at the MCBA I have been working towards earning my Certificate in Book Arts.  For the last two years I’ve taken classes to fulfill the 140 hours required across three categories.  By earning the Core Certificate you achieve a basic competency in printing, binding and paper making.

Last weekend I completed Intermediate Papermaking: Imagery In, On and Of Paper taught by Bridget O’Malley.  We explored watermarks, pulp painting, resists and more.  I was exhausted after three Saturdays of back breaking work but it was so satisfying to get my instructor’s signature on my tracking form knowing I had completed all the requirements for my certificate.

Paper CastCasting my Head in Paper Pulp

Then and there I shared my idea of how I had been contemplating creating a wearable mortar board out of paper pulp.  Suddenly it occurred to me that there was plenty of fiber beaten at my disposal along with classmates who could help me cast my head!  I made a spontaneous decision and ransacked the kitchen drawer (note to self: replace the Saran Wrap at the center).  I wound my hair up in plastic so I could eventually get the finished piece off.  I grabbed an extra plastic apron to wear around my neck, and told my classmates to “go for it.”

Bridget fearlessly laid a slopping deckle full of wet pulp over my shrink-wrapped skull.  I can forgive her for neglecting to get some of the water off it because it was her suggestion to make my mortar board into a book that opens!  Peter pulled sheets out of the vat, Fred was kincouching paperd enough to squeeze them out before sculpting my head, and Laura was on the periphery with my phone capturing the photographic evidence.  The rest of the classmates seemed generally amused, one got real quiet and kept her distance but who could blame her?

I worked the rest of the day with the cast drying on my cranium, stopping now and then to wick off the water collecting at my temples, forehead and neck.  By the end of the day I was sweating bullets – I swear the plastic wrap was melting my brain.  It looked like I was wearing a hybrid motorcycle/German war helmet. Here’s more proof of me carrying on as if it’s normal to work like this in the paper studios – nothing stops me from couching paper!!

Good thing I had a glass mannequin head to transfer the cast to when I got home so that I wasn’t forced to wear it for days while it dried to shape…

TJ Goerlitz, Sketchbook

Sketch of Mortar Board Art Book Project

Every wacky idea starts with a spark of imagination.  Some ideas should not be followed up on.  I’m not sure if this is one of them.  Only time will tell.

Inner Hero & ATC Winners

TJ Goerlitz Sewn ATCsThanks everybody for the lovely comments that came in.  It was impossible to ‘choose’ so I ended up doing an old fashioned drawing where I wrote down the names and pulled them out randomly.

The winner of the book is Annie Peters!

Annie Hamby and Gill take second and third prizes.

I’ve sent the winners emails asking for their postal addresses so please be sure and reply so I can get your prizes off in the mail soon.

Inner Hero Giveway

Inner Hero Contributor.  TJ GoerlitzIt’s really fun contributing to books.  There’s this process of submitting artwork, filling out some papers and then…BOOM!  Months later you get something in your email showing you how your work was included.  Then the publisher or the author sends you a contributor copy (and then the thing to do is take a selfie right away).

Inner Hero Creative Art Journal is by Quinn McDonald.  This is a book about squashing that inner critic that rears it’s head when we’re working.  Quinn has written a book guiding us on how to replace that inner critic with our own inner heroes.

When I submitted my artwork I thought about my own inner hero and immediately visualized a totem that included a hawk.  I went back to my notes that I wrote when I made it:

HeroCardWhen I tap into my inner hero, it takes the form of a totem.  My hero stands tall and proud, looking over my artwork from a higher perspective than the critics I often struggle with.  I can actually feel it in my spine! I know that if I can just sit up and look objectively at what I’ve created that any critical reactions will start fading away.  My hero has learned to pull away from my own emotional connection to the artwork and instead take it in with a bird’s eye view.

My artwork was compact.  I made a pop out card for Quinn so that if she wanted to she could drag it around when she teaches and travels.  The front had intersecting words, the inside had the hawk and the back had the handwritten text in journal form.

I started the card with watercolor and then once it was dry I worked over it with spray inks, stencils and markers.  The hawk was made with hand marbled paper and free form machine stitching.  I loved how the marbling really looks like bird feathers!!

HeroHawkEyes

 

TJ Goerlitz, Hero TotemI’m really into totems and cairns lately.  I have been journaling with “stacks of stuff” for over a year now.  If I come across a stack of rocks or a totem somewhere, I’m a spaz.

TJ Goerlitz Hero Artwork

Sometimes journaling is like an entry for a diary and sometimes it’s more of a stream of consciousness.  Maybe it’s a gateway to poetry slamming!  I’ve got to say when I saw my writing typed out in plain text in the book I gasped and thought, “Oh wow. That sounds nuts!”  And then I picked up a meat tenderizer and whacked my inner critic over the head.  It sounds however it sounds and that’s that.  Yet there is a difference to whether something is typed out the way we normally read or if it’s words that are all scrawled out and manipulated to fit over an art journal page!

HeroATCsI kept the portion of the paper I cut off from the original artwork and made some scrap ATCs from it.  Quinn has generously offered a signed copy of her book that’s up for grabs so this means it’s time for a little giveaway!

Leave a comment below sharing something about your inner critic or heroes.  I will read through and pick a grand prize winner of the book, an ATC and marbled paper.

Second and third place winners will receive ATCs and marbled paper.  Let’s take comments through Monday, March 3 when the winners are chosen.

Thanks to Quinn and North Light Books for including my artwork… now let’s all work the exercises to exorcise those inner critics..!

Summer Sewing Score

TJ Goerlitz shares her vintage pincushionAs promised I wanted to pop in and share some of the great things I’ve scored over the summer while setting up my new work space.

Gang, let me tell you… my cousin showed me Craigslist when I first moved home.  I totally did not get it.  There was no such thing in Germany.  I don’t know who Craig is or what is up with him but man is that some fun stuff to dig through.  There is no doubt a bunch of crazy mixed in with all the honest to goodness transactions but that’s what makes it all the more entertaining and fun.

Studio Mailbox vintage sewing table.

First up is my new sewing table!  Thirty hard earned dollars scored me a vintage butter-colored dressing table.  It has four deep drawers and eight sweet little casters on the bottom in case you want to waltz around the room with it.  DrawerHandleThe handles have these little strips of tortoise-shell plastic floating over the metal grips.  I’m not sure how great it will be to sew at because it’s not very deep.  Yet having lived all over I know that half of the battle is just having the machine out and available for use.  Everything else can be worked around.  Plus this has got to beat the old drop leaf table I used to use.  Believe me, that thing was an accident waiting to happen.  (Think heavy machine, drop leaf…what could possibly go wrong?)

TJ Goerlitz shares Studio Mailbox's summer fabric score, a T'ung Shan PrintMy next cool find was a bunch of fabric from a rummage sale.  Among the stack was a very special one.  I have no idea what it is but it’s labeled as a T’ung Shan Print.  I tried to google the name and was only able to find some other expensive fabric for sale on ebay.  So if anybody knows this designer or what I have had the good fortune to score, please let me in on it!  It looks like linen but it feels like silk.  I washed it in cold with Woolite and let it dry outside to air out.  I am giddy with the thought of making something with this beautiful botanical print.

TJ Goerlitz shares Studio Mailbox's summer fabric score, a T'ung Shan Print

 

My last little treasure came from a local thrift shop, Sideshow Vintage.  This place was crazy cool!  I swear Evil Knievel’s helmet is there floating above the clientele on a chopper motorcycle.

PincushionWhen I saw this flapper-style lady pin cushion I was done for.  Once you see something like this you can hardly un-see it.  Now she’s mine, all mine!

There’s more picked treasures to come.  Until then, tell me what your best finds have been lately!

Thoughts on Book Arts

TJ Goerlitz at the Board ShearsThere is a difference between not having a plan and having a plan that you know needs to be loose enough to power through the initial frustrating stages of a project.

Create Mixed Media is running a series of three posts on the book arts where I’ve written about this and more.  Click here to read the first one about my experience at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts where I have spent the majority of my creative time over the last year and a half.

For those lucky enough to be in the area, check out the book center’s Adult Workshops schedule and let me know if you’ll be around.  Not only do I love the book arts, I love to connect with “online” friends in real life!

And that photo above?  Whoa Nellie!  That is one of the smaller pairs of board shears at the center.  I was so scared of those babies in the beginning but now I can cut with them like they’re normal scissors.

Mail Art Handout

TJ Goerlitz ATC InfoTonight I’m going to talk about Mail Art with the Visual Journaling Group at the MN Center for Book.  Then we’ll be making our own ATCs.  I’ll be rolling in with my collection of mail art I’ve gathered over the years to share!

The Journaling Collective is run by Roz Stendahl and Susanne Hughes.  The group meets monthly and is free and open to anybody who either already journals or would like to learn more about it.  They organize different themes, projects and presenters for each meeting.  You can keep tabs on what’s happening at the MCBA by following their adult workshop schedule.

I made a mail art handout for tonight.  I’m posting it here so if you can’t make it you can still enjoy the handout.  If you can make it, you’ll be getting a printed copy.

Feel free to download your own copy of my Mail Art .pdf here.

I’ll talk about the time I got a bottle of art in the mail and when I made a slew of ATCs to send off with pairs of socks for the Japanese after the tsunami.

Until recently I forgot all about the video I made about the mother’s day mail art exhibition that was installed in a German pharmacy.  It was fun to watch again and reminded me of how mail art connected me with so many arty friends around the world.

Hope you can join us!!  If not, here are some other fun mail art related things to check out:

Mail Art Links
Mail Me Some Art
Swap-bot
Good Mail Day (Tumblr)
Post Secret

Cool ATC or Mail Art Books
Good Mail Day (the Book)
Mail Me Art
Artist Trading Cards
1000 Artist Trading Cards