Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Last Page

"The Dolls Adventures in England"

 I decided to change the ending in my first children's book "The Dolls Adventures in England" since it seemed too sad to end on a note of disappointment and loss. So I hit upon the idea of surprise and unexpected elation instead. The premise of the story is that three dolls take a trip to England to surprise their friends: Mr. Brown, Mrs. Stone and Mr. Graves. Each time they try to visit and surprise each friend, they find that they are not at home. As soon as I printed a mock layout, I realized that the end must contain some levity and turning the surprise upon the dolls themselves seemed like a perfect way to conclude their adventures in England. For what child (or adult for that matter) would like to experience disappointment at their failed attempts at surprising their friends?
As we will not be back to visit England until the Spring, I decided to photograph the final image here in Los Angeles. Luckily, there is an Episcopalian church right up the street from where I live made of stone that was built in 1889. The Church of the Angles, which was "patterned after Holmbury St Mary's Church, near Dorking, Surrey, England", was a perfect place to set the final scene. I could see the dolls standing in front the small side door which could easily pass as a place they would have stayed in England. 
The cobble stone, gravel and small wooden door with an iron hinge worked well with the rest of the images that were indeed photographed on location in Norwich, England. I employed some friends of mine to play the part of Mr. Brown, Mrs. Stone and Mr. Graves respectively. I had very distinct ideas of what they would wear and each friend did not disappoint when they came dressed up like the characters in the book.
Little did we know that the very hour and day which I had designated as a time to meet at the church, was going to be the exact time a wedding would be held at the church! We did see a white vintage Rolls Royce outside the church and knew that we had very little time to take the shot on the other side of the building. We quietly walked up to the door, took our places and set the cake and dolls up quickly as to not disturb the ceremony. Of course, as soon as we began shooting, the bells began to ring signaling the bride and groom had just been married. Nervously we stood there and luckily I got the shot before the ill-fated moment, when Mrs. Stone knocked jokingly upon the door.
The Vicar swung open the door and asked us if we were with the wedding party! What could we say with dolls, and cake and a camera? Indeed an awkward moment was at hand, one that none of us will soon forget! No we said, we were just doing a photo shoot and quickly packed up the cake and dolls, and hurried down to the street where we waived to the bride and groom as they sped away in their Rolls.This couldn't have been a more appropriate ending to this photographic adventure I started a year ago. I  hope that the very element of surprise and unexpected elation that we experienced making this final image is felt in the final page of my very first children books.
Here's to a New Year filled with many happy and unexpected endings!

Julie Pavlowski Green
December 28, 2013

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Honeycomb Kind of Kristmas

It's that time of year, when the world falls in love all over again with the ornaments they have collected over the years. At least I do! Each box is opened to reveal an old friend that you haven't seen all year long. Besides my collection of ornaments, as you may know from reading my blog this year, I have a bit of an obsession with paper honeycomb centerpieces! And the Christmas themed centerpieces are really the apex of my collection.

Santas, snowmen, angles and bells decorate my house in a mid-century mindset. Their delicate nature is what makes they even more special to me. They have weathered the test of Christmases past and continue to bring my family and guests enjoyment every year they come out to decorate our home.
"Mr. Snowman" is one of those friends I look forward to seeing every year! One of my oldest honeycomb centerpieces, this gold top hat 14" snowman is so cheerful and festive, with his gold scarf and cane, and holding a sign wishing all a Merry Christmas, he is really a show stopper in my arsenal of paper items. I am very fond of his facial features in their simplicity and gesture. Overall, he is 1960's design at its finest!
The "Snow Figures", as Hallmark called them, are also some of the oldest in my collection. They are a little rickety from continuous use but especially from the fact that the buttons and faces are constructed in a way that makes you have to push into the honeycomb every time they are placed on the figures.
What I love most about the older designs are the embossed gold accents. Their decorative scroll work catches the candle light and make the pieces shine. These particular snow figures have very intricate hats that require a very delicate assembly but a very simple round base. 
Their 15" honeycomb bodies are very wobbly and are hard to keep upright. I have brought them out every year since I purchased them about 5 years ago and although literally on their last leg, I will continue to prop them up and display them proudly on my mantle. 
My snowman collection continues with this lovely 16 inch plans-a-party centerpiece. At $1.50 and with sanserif fonts, I can tell "Christmas Snowman" is from a later date then snow couple above. His cheerful eyes harken back to "Mr. Snowman" but the design is chunkier and his arms and accents are less intricate than the older ones. He also does not have any gold scroll work.
But at 16" he hold a very strong presence on the table. His plump belly holds up nicely on his sturdy base interestingly constructed with a sawtooth edge and has remained in pristine condition. I purchase this snowman this year along with a santa and christmas bells (listed further down in this blog) from a woman who knew their original owner. All of the packages from her collection were carefully cut at the top and great care was taken in folding and storing each and every one of them. 
Hallmark's signature decorating guide and planner grace the back of this package. This one suggests: "A Holiday 'Progressive Dinner' can be fun for all. Each course is served at a different home, and guests travel from house to house until dessert is served. If it's a neighborhood affair, it might be fun to walk, caroling along the way." Boy that sure would take a large amount of organizing that one! 
The snowman party check-list has all the matching party accessories "you need to make entertaining easy, with more fun and less work for you"! Just make sure to keep those coordinating matches away from all the other matching paper products!
Talking about matching paper products, this little pink snowman is the only set I have with matching Bridge Table Cover and "Nut cups" (both unused). I have seen some invitations on Etsy, so if anyone has forgetten me on their Christmas list, be sure to get them for me!
Thinking about it, I should start a Bridge Club with all the unused nut cups I own! 
Snowmen are cute, but this is the season to celebrate SANTA and my all time favorite paper honeycomb decoration is none other than this Christmas Decoration seen below. Once again, the accents in embossed gold foil and cheery facial expression just hit the right note for me. On top of that this large 16" wall hanging is not a centerpiece at all. It is INDEED a clever gift, or more like clever design!
This Santa is in pristine condition due to Hallmark's clever design work. The entire face, beard and hat band are one piece of paper that just slides over the DUAL COLORED honeycomb structure. I have not see a two colored honeycomb piece in all of the years I have been collecting these pieces. 
Funny enough, I haven't been able to bring myself to curl the mustache and beard as instructed but even the original owner left those elements flat. A choice that has probably attributed to this decoration being in very good condition. It would be very difficult to store if I did curl them…

Holly leaves and berries accent the brim of the hat and the belt buckle, giving the paper Santa an even more festive flair! To me, the great condition that these items are in after all these years is a miracle! But one that is found time and time again with Christmas decorations. Brought out only for the holiday, these paper structures had a chance to survive if stored flat and in a cool environment.
I've propped him up here. As I mentioned, he is not a centerpiece and does not stand. He is meant to hang and is currently gracing the side of our dinning room mirror. There is obvious tape marks that were used to hold him up in another household but I find this charming and shows me that this piece was used and represents a bit of the history in the lifespan of this decoration. 
These matching Santa cones are just delightful. They too encapsulate everything that I absolutely adore about these honeycomb decorations: whimsical but simple design, embossed gold accents and vibrant pop colors. 

What's really interesting here as well is the very best design I've seen in my collection for the base of these delicate paper structures. Here you can see that the designer came up with an ingenious but very simple solution which holds these sweet Santas upright and have contributed to the papers longevity.
The beard and the light rays coming off the star on top of their heads are simple lines of circles but when the light hits them just right, they look like stings of Christmas lights! These are gracing our mantle piece this year and although they are not holding a string of circles wishing all a Merry Christmas, these embossed accents are twinkling by the firelight once again.
Not quite $1.50 but this later "Santa" is thee largest honeycomb decoration I own at a whopping 18 1/2" tall! The base had to be strong enough and the decorations adorning the centerpiece light enough to stand up! I am especially in love with the cotton pom-pom attached to the top of Santa's hat. When they add actual trim to the paper, such as a cotton ball, ribbon or yarn, it creates a very three dimensional feeling.
At first I thought this Santa was from the 70's but upon looking closer at the illustrations, I think it is closer to late 60's. Unfortunately, the top of the Christmas tree has been squished from years of placing the tree topper in the paper honeycomb but the vibrancy of the red and his sweet drawn demeanor makes him a lovely addition to the collection.
My second largest honeycomb is this jolly "Santa" and is  most likely from the early 70's. The font used for Santa is a dead give away as well as the $1.50 price tag. This paper structure is also very well constructed. His paper ring base, which his feet are attached to, just connects together and by placing a tab in the crease of the honeycomb, doesn't tear into the actual paper.
The illustration of Santa is very different from anything I have seen in the plans-a-party series. The lines are created with small dots and the cheery face is not reminicent of the 60's graphics found in the earlier centerpieces. The extremely large honeycomb itself is a delight to behold. 
The red itself has faded which I just LOVE and reminds me of a color from my childhood, specifically from the Wizard of Oz. Funny enough, it's this color red that reminds me of the wicked witch of the west and her cloud of red she would jump into and the sand in her egg timer... Blood red is cheerful for me, faded red has a WHOLE HOST of other visual connotations for me.
That same faded red can be seen in these "Christmas Bells". All of the faded honeycombs here were a part of a collection I obtained this year and I just know she must have brought them out year after year with the very same excitement and anticipation that I feel when constructing them and placing them out on display for all to enjoy. Additionally, this charming 13 1/2" centerpiece contains a satin red faded bow that harkens back to an older generation. 
I have an entire collection of honeycomb ornaments but I will save exploration of their construction and variety for next Christmas. I hope you have enjoyed exploring my collection this year. Although it is not about or contain my photography (which this blog is about) it is a peek into a part of me that appeals to my aesthetics. Hopefully you have been able to garner a better understanding of how I see and appreciate the smaller things in life!
Merry Kristmas to all and to all a good Honeycomb Holiday!

Julie Pavlowski Green
December 21, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"Fleeting Perspectives: A Paper Ballet" Part 7


Photographing shadows for the paper ballet was everything I was hoping it would be: elusive, fleeting, mysterious, transparent, a subconscious perspective. I started by thinking about what shadows I wanted my dancers to have and how their recognizable shapes would relate to and effect the relationships between their images, the background and when seen in a pair, to the other dancer.

As I have been creating this series, I have continually been aware of and tried to create tension between the dancers while at the same time incorporating the graphic and natural elements of the sets. Now with this last layer, I am hoping to complete the narrative with these shadows.

Although completely independent from both the dancer or the background, I wanted to create a third element that would connect the other two elements together subconsciously. To represent the unfocused awareness and inner knowledge of the dancers visually, I decided to employ shadow to represent a deeper expression hidden in the gestures of the dancers. The shadow is the key that unlocks the relationship between the dancers and their environment.

We all have inherent responses to common shapes, so I began to explore them and list those that I thought would help create that connection to the underlying subconscious narrative I was trying to build. I began to explore shapes that represented flight, mechanical toys and childhood memories.

I started playing around with items that represented transportation as a means of expressing movement. Planes, cars, boats, bicycles, trains, birds - anything that moved.  I began to explore and ruminate on what their physical features would look like and how they would be interpreted as the dancers shadow.

Inspiration came from watching Murnau's "Nosferatu",  "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and a multitude of Vincent Price movies. I wasn't particularly looking for scary shadow imagery but I knew these movies contained a plethora of shadow play in their narrative and it certainly influenced the tenor of the final objects.

By extracting objects out of their normal environment and placing them into an entirely different context, the shadows I believe, now embody the unconscious state of the dancers. Hopefully one that becomes a subtle and underlying accent to the drama unfolding on stage.

The subliminal visual stimuli of the shadows that I am aiming to place beneath the threshold of conscious perception, is one that I have explored throughout this project. I hope they induce an emotional response that is undetectable but at the same time fulfills the objective of tying the pieces together.

It was important that the shapes would be easily recognizable once projected. As I set up my make shift photo studio in my living room, I started by shooting the figures from 3-4 feet away from the backdrop. I quickly figured out that I needed to lay the structures on the set itself to create a more defined shadow.

Distortion was important to think about as well. How does a shadow appear stretching from the ground to the wall? Did I want it to be at direct angels or graduated? I ended up with several scenarios for each shadow that I could select from once I sit down to put the final pieces together in the computer. 

Depth perception is another subject that Rudolf Arnheim, the avant guard Bauhaus contemporary psychologist that I had mentioned in Part 1 discusses in his book "Art and Visual Perception". It was in the back of my mind as I was balancing all the various elements in my mind. Proportion will play a large roll when considering the sizes of the shadows in the final layout.

As I began to draw the shapes in white chalk on thick black hard board, I began to wonder how old shadow puppetry was. It wasn't a far leap to imagine ancient cavemen using their hands against the fire light to tell a story. I was about half way through creating the various shapes when I finally sat down and did more research on its history. I was delighted to see the many way in which people had created their shadow puppets and realized it has been a tradition throughout the world dating back as far as 960 AD in China. 

Phantasmagoria, a type of theatre which used magic lanterns to project shadows on the wall, which was extremely popular in the 18th century, is a subject I will certainly have to explore in more depth in the future. Today, many toy makers continue the tradition of suppling us with shadow puppets to play with. Some of my favorites are Moulin Roty, Paper Tales and Tinyfolk.

Shooting the last element for my paper ballet is now complete. Now I will begin to put all the pieces together and fine tune their placement within the frame on the computer. It has been a labor of love and a real treat to be able to take a full year to complete this project.

The shadow knows....

Julie Pavlowski Green
December 14, 2014

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Patterns and Tones Print Sale!

Yes, it's that time of year when gift giving is in full swing and thoughtful purchases are made for those we love. In the spirit of the season, I thought I would offer my readers an opportunity to purchase archival prints in a limited edition from images I have posted this year.

My Etsy store is now open for business!

Each Giclée print is stamped and numbered in a limited edition of 25. I have also provided a selection of sizes to choose from. If there is an image that you are interested in that is not in my Etsy store, please don't hesitate to inquire.

Printed on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth Fine Art paper, these museum quality prints are 100% cotton and are archival. Their light fastness has been tested and exceeds a 100 year longevity.

"Ice Cream Snowmen"  
I hope you have enjoyed reading and looking at Patterns and Tones this year. I look forward to providing you with more enjoyable, entertaining and visually intriguing imagery on a weekly basis throughout the New Year, including a new series I have just started entitled "A Day In The Life of a Rock and Roller"!

Happy Holidays,

Julie Pavlowski Green
December 7, 2013