The semester’s final project was to make three pieces that expanded or built on what we’d learned so far. My idea was approved right away, which surprised me but was pretty awesome.
My project’s premise was to invent a warrior tribe and create three pieces that would have been left over from their civilization: first, a mandala on a slice of a tree representing their beliefs, much like Tibetan Buddhist mandalas; second, a cartooned line drawing in the vein of Metalocalypse characters of myself as a tribe member, scratched into a metal sheet. This idea didn’t pan out so well, so I ended up with a medicine man necklace instead; third would be an animal skin or fur cloak that would also function as a flag or banner for the tribe in war or settlements.
The mandala was the first part I tackled, and it was fun. My parents live in rural Vermont, so getting a slice of tree was easy enough, but from there it lacks a bit in craft and care. I wasn’t careful when I sketched my original design onto the wood, so it’s less detailed, and imperfect. I couldn’t erase, and I didn’t want to sand the wood down. I wanted as rough and natural a feel as I could get without it all just looking shitty. Trust me, that was hard. I’m not even sure I succeeded entirely in that part of the project. I used acrylic paint on the wood when it was still partly wet, so the center white circle is very faded and when it dried, it cracked.
“From us, which is everything, comes everything. But everything separates, and we must make choices concerning how we fit into it.”
Ironically, the crack in the wood didn’t ruin my piece, it actually fit very well into the theory behind the colors. Basically, the center is the tribe, where all colors – and all life philosophies and emotions – exist, contained within a white circle. Spreading out from the tribe are the four main paths of life and philosophy:
- on the bottom right we have green (it’s really dark in real life too), which signifies growth and a nurturing spirit, encouragement and a sort of mothering of everything in life. At first it is informed by both blue and black philosophies, but eventually becomes its own whole philosophy.
- next, on the left we have blue, signifying a fluid, strong but adaptable life philosophy, always sure of itself but – maybe because of this – always able to shift and bend to adapt to situations around it. Again, at first it is informed by its similar and countering philosophies but eventually becomes its own philosophy.
- Next is red, which I assumed until corrected by my teacher was almost always used for fiery, bloody, or evil connotations. Here it means the fiery, angry, aggressive lifestyle, one of a warrior tribe gone rogue and out of control, burning and pillaging and conquering for greed. At first it is informed by blue and black philosophies but eventually burns into its own coal of pure anger and aggression and hate.
- Last, we have black. Black in this case signifies more evil than red, but less energy. It’s a thoroughly evil-intentioned, remorseless and immoral way of life. One of an emotionless killing machine. At first it is informed by its similar and opposing philosophies, and eventually distills into a pure ebony of evil and death.
Those philosophies spread from the core of the tribe, as they do in our lives, and within the larger white circle is the acceptable life philosophies of the tribe. Anyone too concentrated in any one area would be too closed to things different from them and need revision and change by that person and the tribe’s elders or counselors.
Second, I found that scratching into metal was hard and unforgiving, perfect for the Metalocalypse reference, not so much for making art. So I scrapped that idea and decided on making a medicine man necklace instead that would be worn with the cloak I would make next. Since it was a second-choice, and not a planned one, it could certainly have been done better. I used hemp twine and 2×4 pieces cut into shapes (cutting those shapes took almost 3 hours) and markers for the colors.
Last, I was looking for real animal skins but found them too small or way too expensive, so I found a fabric store in Chinatown and found 5′x6′ of fake fur for about 16 bucks. It was perfect. Wolf-looking and warm and soft, it was just the size I wanted, and I even used the scrap for tassels at the bottom of the cloak for decorative effect. I used a red/black acrylic mixture for the symbol on the back, meant to represent a strong core within the circle of life, representing the continuous, cyclical nature of all things, within a sun-inspired circle, reminding the tribe members to be open and warm and inviting to all things lest they stray too far into any of the paths acknowledged by their people.
All in all, this was a challenging project. I set out to use a new material in each piece I made, and I 2/3-accomplished that. The first and second pieces used wood, which I’d used before in a woodworking/building sense, but not in a painted-tree sense. I’ve done very little work with fabric so far, so that was simple but new. And I’ll definitely continue. The process of the project is probably the most useful thing of all, because now I’ll know how active I should be about a project as ambitious as this, and how much I believe should go into it to really make it what I’m imagining.