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  • Katie Hughes


For as long as I can remember, I have always loved making art, but hated showing my work, and it's beginning to show. As I spend more of my time delving into design and teaching, I've come to realize that (g00d) documentation of the work process is almost as important as the work itself. Part of this realization has come from piecing together my portfolio from years and bits and pieces of really poorly documented work, and part comes from reading Austin Kleon's Show Your Work.

In order to help myself slow down and appreciate the creative process more, and to help everyone else see how I make the weird things I make, I've decided to start writing about my projects here (yikes, bear with me).

Of my previous work, the only project that I have in- progress shots of is my fur painting, Fuzzkin. Like most of my projects, one day an idea popped into my head, and I was not going to be able to do anything else that day until I had gone on a Joann's trip, sat down on the floor for 6 hours, and finished it.

So, here is the process of Fuzzkin. I almost never sketch out project ideas. I normally dive head first into whatever I'm making because I have a pretty intense desire to just start. This can be a good thing and a bad thing - good because it usually means I get projects done really quickly (like the earrings I made last night out of those small hands that you put on your fingers, which took me 5 minutes after I ripped a sliver in one side and realized that late-night projects and scissors are not the best mix.) In all seriousness though, planning out projects with clear inspirations, directions, and back-ups is something I'm working hard to get better at.

Luckily for Fuzzkin, the first thing I did was plan out my idea.

I knew I wanted a square canvas with jigsaw puzzle-like shapes made of faux fur attached, with googly eyes on top. This was a much more fleshed-out idea than I normally have when I start a project. But there were still a few variables - what colors of fur, how many did I need, how am I going to

put all this together? So, with a quick sketch, and an aforementioned Joann's run, I picked out four shades of lurid faux-fur, and a variety of sizes of googly eyes. I ended up having to run back for more googly eyes in different sizes because the original ones were too large, which just goes to show that planning in advance will save you trouble and gas money.

Now, as I mentioned, these are really bad pictures that I had enough forethought to have my friend Sarah take of me as we were hanging out in my apartment (which had no lighting

whatsoever in the living room). Unfortunately, I don't have access to a well-lit studio to work in. Even after moving, this is still a headache for me, and I've taken to painting outside on the roof to get better lighting, for my eyes and documentation purposes too.

But these are what we've got, so we're gonna roll with it. Initially, I took the 2'x2' canvas and sketched out roughly the same shapes I had in the small sketch, but larger. I modified some of the shapes to make cutting out the fur easier. I would learn that what I initially predicted to be a quick half-hour long project would turn into somewhat of a logistical nightmare.

I didn't have tracing paper, so I took to hanging the canvas against the window , which backlit the canvas so I could use the only paper I had - colored construction paper - as tracing paper to copy the shapes onto something I could use as a mock-up stencil for the fur. After cutting out all the individual pieces, I took one at a time I traced the shape onto the back of the faux-fur (which is a mesh material that lies flat), careful to make sure I flipped each piece so that the fur front would not be the mirror-image of the shape on the canvas.

I also marked the canvas before the fur-cutting process with each color I wanted the pieces to be (which I did mess up once, as you can tell from the differences in the color mapping from sketch to final product), and I made sure no two adjacent pieces were the same color.

Shape-wise, I knew I wanted to combine the traditionally flat and 2D idea of a jigsaw puzzle with fun materials. I also love the idea of making paintings out of things other than paint. I've recently experimented with LEGO paintings. I have been enamored with tactile and interactive art since I was thrown out of The Getty in LA at the age of 3 for trying to touch the art work. I want people to interact with my art - I actively invite people to pet my painting when they visit my room.

I initially was worried about constructing Fuzzkin for durability. I wanted the piece to last and to hold together - and so far it has. I decided a glue-gun would probably be sufficient to adhere the pieces to the canvas. Krazy Glue and other strong adhesives didn't seem to give me the flexibility I would need to move things around a bit and adjust, and duct tape seemed out of the question. Luckily the fur adhered nicely to the canvas and I've only had to touch a wandering tendril up once or twice. Miraculously, the googly eyes also held on to the fur with the glue gun glue really well, which was another concern I had because the fur itself is not a stable material to bond the eyes to. I was worried the eyes would be too heavy for the candy-floss fur to hold on to, but lo and behold it worked out all right.

I love this piece. It is by far one of the more fun things my mind has come up with. It consistently brings me joy to look at it, and every person I've met really gets a kick out of it. One of the main jobs I want my art to do is to spark joy. Kids love making art, and being free to be silly and enjoy bright colors. I want adults to have that same experience too, and I've found pieces like Fuzzkin strike a good balance between being funky and also simple. It's not messy (don't ask my roommates about the rainbows of fur-shed we had hanging around the apartment for months after I was done), it's not obnoxious - it's the right amount of lurid and eye-catching.

That being said, there were a few things I would have done differently. Other than better documentation, the process absolutely could have been streamlined by having proper materials (tracing paper, masking tape, exacto-knife, cutting table), planning things out in advance a little bit better so that I'd know how many of each size of googly eye to buy, and also slowing down so the fuzz shapes would be more precise (most people can't notice the gaps between the pieces, but I wish they were hugging each other a little tighter).

Overall, this piece is one of the things propelling me into making more art on a regular basis and getting into design. I want to make things for people to enjoy, to see life as a little more fun and a little less tiresome. I think Fuzzkin does a pretty good job of that, and I can't wait to see what I do next.

Swipe through some of the other process pictures below to see more detail. Thanks!

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