When I worked for Old Navy HQ in San Francisco, my my job was to design store windows for all the flagship stores. It was so fun and just the best time! Not only because my childhood dream of becoming Rhoda Morgenstern came true, but because of the many creative challenges that came along the way. What my department was tasked with was dimensionalizing flat graphics for an experiential environment. When I first started this position I was coming from a 2-D design background and so it was very difficult for me to start thinking in a 3-D environmental way. I had an awesome boss at the time and he taught me so much over the 13 years that I did this type of work. I often though of window designing as set design, sometimes referencing the old fashioned community theater type of propping such as "rotating turbulent cardboard waves." Here are some of my favorites windows from my Old Navy Days.
Anyway, fast forward to today! I've been spending my free time making cigar box dioramas in my kitchen. This has been going on for a few years, and I even teach workshops on how to do this at The Richmond Art Center. In my workshops, I teach how to make the Japanese Tatebanko style dioramas which are entirely made of paper.
Here is a great link to check out if you are interested in this tatebanko stye. http://tatebanko.com/products/index.html And for other types (more dimensional modular cinema style diormas), check this out. For some reason, I went absolutely obsessively bonkers with my most recent creation using the Tatebanko style for my State Bird and Flower Cigar Box diorama.
It happened that one day I found this old library book on the street and took it home as a reference book for my illustration library.
But, then, while preparing for my latest Diorama Workshop, I had the idea to cut out every single bird and flower and use it in this one piece. Crazy, I know. But, I really felt compelled!
This project took about 30 hours and a full bottle of Elmer's glue. I used a cheap set of portable watercolors to paint every beautiful black and white illustration before I glued them onto lightweight cardboard. Then, I used a tiny VERY SHARP pair of Fiskar scissors to cut out all the pieces. I will admit that I cut my finger tips more than once, but nobody said art was painless. Now, even though I had sketched out the original idea on paper, the process was rather organic. The one thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to make this diorama very chock-ful of dimension/depth and a never-ending scene of delightful things to look at. The many layers and placement just happened naturally as I listened and felt where the paper "wanted to go." To achieve the 12-15 layers of depth, I used foam core, hot glue and adhesive foam stickies of various dimensions. In some cases, I glued things directly onto the cigar box. There were so many birds and flowers to include, the design crept around to the back, sides and out onto the lid.
One of the final attachments was a toothpick cantilevered bird and branch with fake cherry blossoms stuck onto the protruding pics. I love it.
In my craft stash, I also found some dyed feathers, packaging grass, and some vintage wallpaper with which to embellish my cardboard cigar box. These 3-D dimensional elements take this diorama away from the true Tatebanko style, but make it extra special, I think. And some tropical printed cotton fabric was perfect to cover the inside of the lid.
For some reason, I have been very interested in State Birds and Flowers for a while. I am noticing a theme in some of my latest work. This summer I did a personal sketchbook challenge where I illustrated a state bird everyday with a fun fact in this mini hand bound artist's book.
I also embroidered this Starbucks coffee cup with Washington's State Flower, the Rhododendron and State Bird, the Western Goldfinch.
I must say that I've learned many state related fun facts over the year. Did you know that the Grousse is Pennsylvania's state bird? Yes! And the Yucca Flower calls New Mexico it's home. The Cardinal is the state bird of seven states. Well, duh. He's so pretty (Sorry, Ruffed Grousse). Now that this new diorama undertaking is over, I will most likely start another mixed media project in addition to working on a new sketchbook challenge. A friend once asked, "What are you going to do with it?" when I showed him my kitchen creation. The answer to that is that I'll probably leave it on display in the living room for week or so and then it goes down to the #crafthole with it's brothers or sisters. I hope you enjoyed this little post. It's fun to make things!