Thursday, July 19, 2012

The wasp and the panty- it's all about grad school

This summer has lived up to its promise as a very productive summer. Although I feel like my head is spinning with so many studio projects, I am hoping to continue a sharp focus with each project. There are currently four major projects happening right now. Here's one of them - paper wasps nest.

These insects chew wood pulp into paper and create their nests. You've seen them in the trees. Their nests are abandoned in the winter and I have been collecting them. I have been compelled all winter to collect them. The shapes of the nest are quite elegant, and inside the graduation of comb is mathematically and visually perfect. (Should you find any of these AFTER the first frost - let me know and I will take it down.)

So, here is one of my nests. Complete with the dead wasps inside. Scary, uh?  I posted on Facebook yesterday that wore my sneakers just in case these insects were not totally dead or decided to pull a Freddy Krueger on me. Everything in my entire body- right to the molecular level- told me not to put in my hand in there. But, I did. I peeled away the layers of the paper to reveal the comb. Each time, the intensity of fear decreased just a bit. I am a beekeeper - so going into a hive is not so bad. But wasps don't die after they sting. In fact, they can sting continuously. Honey bees die after they sting. Honey bees seem more reluctant to sting - but not wasps. They just come after you with a vengeance. 

 I made flat paper sheets with the wasps paper. For now, I left the comb intact. Since it was nearly 90 degrees in the studio and that cool ocean breeze was no where to be found, mixing all that water for paper making was the closest thing to swimming that I could get in the studio. I was extremely apprehensive about sticking my hand in the water with the wasps' paper in there. The water was dark and I had pulverized the dead wasps. Now I was thinking that the wasps were going to be like zombie wasps and bite the crap out my hand. Don't worry - they didn't. 

I tried several sheets of paper. I even mixed the pulp with bleach to lighten the colors of the paper. In one case, I just soaked the wasps paper and placed it in the deckel. In another example, I used cotton fibers and did an inlay with the wasps paper.  Here are the results.
pulverized with bleach 

just pulverized

cotton fibers with the inlay

just compressed

The high humidity prevented the paper from drying so the darkness is the wet. I have no feelings or ideas on what I have created. For this, I wish I had other artists near my studio or was back in graduate school. I miss conversations about the work. Please feel free to comment. No need to make it polite - I survived an MFA program. I just can't decide what to do or where to go with the paper. However, my training at Moore gave me the skills to decide how to proceed. First, time will be provide the space necessary to reflect on this. Second, I know how to evaluate my work because of the lessons learned at grad school. I am extremely confident that I have the skills to make this project work because of my professors.

Speaking of graduate school, I am so proud of my colleague Sarah Francis Gersbach. We meet at Moore College of Art & Design MFA program. She is seeing some real enthusiasm around her "Choose My Underwear" project. Her project made the Metro paper. The article was written  by Alexandra Wigglesworth on July 16.  For the full story, here's the link - Sarah's article.  I know many of you would like to send this artist your selections. So here's what to do. Buy underwear and/or bras. They don't even have to be for ladies - she has pics of herself in tightie whities. You pick the size, color and style you want. I have sent her crotchless and an old school slip. Send the items, with the tags on, to
Choose My Underwear, PO Box 120, Leesport PA 19555. 

Not sure what to select - check out what people have sent her already on her Facebook page - Choose My Underwear. 


  1. so cool...what about a lamp shade..but use out door materials to create it..ya know like twine, acorns pine cones...drabs of honey ..LOL .....

  2. Thanks for the post Laura! You paper is amazing...a cool and slightly dangerous process. Looking forward to seeing it first hand after this summer is over!

  3. Love the colors on the paper. How does the inlay one look, now that it dried?

    Your back story really make this blog post happen for me!

  4. @ Lucretia McGuff-Silverman - the inlay piece fell apart completely. the paper pulp and wasp paper didn't hold together. but i am not giving up!