Archive for August, 2015

I wrote recently about attending a poetry reading by Jennifer Hetrick, about workers.

This is a follow up, regarding Jennifer’s interview with me for the Reading Eagle. How it all came about is a twisted path, starting with a recommendation from Jane Stahl of Studio B Gallery in Boyertown. Jennifer pitched an interview with me to her editor, then it got waylaid. I nearly forgot about it.

I attended Jennifer’s reading without connecting her with that long-ago idea for an interview, and got caught up in her poetry reading.  I introduced myself afterwards, and she remembered my name. She then re-pitched the article, got the go-ahead, and did the interview.

Here is her final product. Thank you to Jane and Jennifer!



Art Fairs from the artist’s point of view, at least mine last weekend, yield the sweet gratification of a person looking you in the eye and “getting” your art. But also the bitter taste of hour after hour of not selling any art.

I was accepted into the Mt. Gretna (PA) Outdoor Art Fair this year, a prestigious, large, well attended show. I did all my homework leading up to the event: made sure I was well stocked, everything was tagged and priced, and my display was above par.

My husband helped me set up the canopy the day before the event, and I arrived Saturday morning smiling and ready.

Sure enough I made my first sale of a piece of art within the first hour. My heart soared!

But the rest of that day all I sold were smaller items: Friendship Wine Totes, Hot Spots, hand stitched greeting cards, and — lord help me — Handy Litter Bags for the car.

Yet folk seemed to be serious about returning to make purchases of the actual art pieces.

Sunday morning dawned fair and cool and I arrived full of hope that someone would indeed come back. I greeted each person with a smile and my explanation of the art form, and my artistic motivations.

But by afternoon the day had grown hot and humid,and no one returned, and no one else bought a piece of art. I didn’t let my disappointment show. I kept my expression pleasant. I made quick visits to my new art friend just a few booths away.  She is on Facebook!  We have a friend in common! She likes my work! We traded a piece of art!

A judge came by to present me with a “Judges’ Choice Award” that came with a check. Cool! I was happy.  But the big fat ribbon outside my booth didn’t attract any more art sales.

My husband arrived to give me an ice cream break at 3:30, and that is when a couple finally returned and bought a $300 piece.

My heart soared!

The day after the fair my spirits were still dampened.  I had only sold two pieces of actual art, plus the exchange with my new friend. My total for the weekend was just under $1000, which was my personal minimum goal. And of course I now have to restock all of the litter bags I sold!

But the following day I was happy again. A lot of people signed up on our e-mail list. I am still new to this area, and the exposure was great. I am going to make a sign explaining Art Quits and how to hang them. Now I’m ready to get out there again!

Judges' Choice Award, Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show

Judges’ Choice Award, Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show

Martha Ressler booth at Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show, 2015

Martha Ressler booth at Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show, 2015

Cross training

Posted: August 13, 2015 in Art, Events
Tags: , , ,

Sometimes I find it useful to cross over to a completely different artistic medium.  What I am thinking about is attending poetry readings, and then trying my hand. Yes, writing a poem. I’m not a writer, so it stretches new muscles in my brain. Or maybe that is supposed to say, creates new neural pathways. At least I like to think so!

I went to a poetry reading by Jennifer Hetrick last week, sponsored by Berks Bards. I ended up writing this poem when I came home.

I sent it to Jennifer, and she put it on her own blog! I’m thinking this was like a mirror image of a mirror image of a mirror image . . . . The link to her blog is at the end.

Poem for Jennifer

by Martha Ressler

I came to hear poetry about working.

I expected a grizzled time worn poet, face like leather, muscles knotted, hands scarred.

Instead stood this young woman, long light brown hair and so thin she could have walked out of her boots.

She read her poems, tentatively.

She had listened to workers, for hours.

I could hear their voices as she read.

They talked about their tools, their machines, their co-workers, and their losses.

They spoke of their boredom and fleeting moments of joy.

I remember the one about the worker delighted, briefly, by a mother and baby bird, flying up in the rafters.

I remember the poem about the sewing machine operator whose factory closed down.

Everyone moved on, but the women left the secrets they’d told, the laughs they’d shared, in a tangled knot of threads on the floor.

I liked that the young woman with long brown hair stopped reading, once, to reach for a pen.

She wanted to correct “sewing” to “knitting.”.

“I got them confused before I learned the difference.”

She learned that and so much more. She learned about extruders, swing shifts, piecework versus hourly pay, and the difference between warp and weft.

She listened and absorbed, asked questions, and then listened some more.

Then she spun those stories of boredom, routine and joy into her silken word threads.

I bought myself a present recently, Dianne Hire’s 2004 book Quilters Playtime. I had read an article in the Reading Eagle about an event called “Quilters Odyssey” in Hershey, PA.  But, darn, I missed the event. I read the article after the event had already happened!

What caught my eye in the article was a class called “Danglers, Curvies, Wedgies — a fabric free for all.” That really appealed to me! When I looked it up the teacher was Dianne Hire. So I bought her book and decided to teach myself instead.

I don’t usually piece. Most of my work has been raw edge applique. I was surprised at how much time her methods took. But, yes, they are fun “games.”

So far I’ve played “Hopscotch” “Tic Tac Toe” and “Checkerboard.” Here is my first completed piece using the games. The blue part is using “Hopscotch” and the yellow background is using “Checkerboard.” The rest — found objects, yarn, and embroidery are my own addition. I can’t help myself! The title is Pirate’s Lair.

A second piece is half way finished, and there are more to come.  Thank you Dianne!

Quilters Playtime, Dianne  S. Hire, 2004, American Quilter's Society

Quilters Playtime, Dianne S. Hire, 2004, American Quilter’s Society

Pirates Lair

Martha Ressler, Pirates’ Lair, 19 x12″, fabric and found objects, 2015.

Michael L Miller, Wyomissing art teacher and founder of Berks Community Murals, started off his walking tour of the murals of West Reading with addressing one the biggest fears of public murals. Many people have seen murals they don’t like– the colors might be garish, or the design primitive. He described the dreaded “Let’s put some paint brushes in the children’s hands.”

But his approach, learned from the Philly Mural Arts Program, is very different. He has been able to retain overall artistic direction, and yet involved many people, including young children, in the actual work.

He showed us an example in the “West Reading Is . . . .” mural on Cherry Street. Residents were invited to write down what they think of when they think about their community.  The answers were many and varied: from skunks to skateboards. All of them were then represented by simple visual stencils. The overall design of the mural was created by Mr. Miller, but young painters were let loose to divide areas into geometric designs, and apply the stencils. The overall design is unified and artistic, while incorporating real meaning.

Another example is “Viral Van Gogh.” Wyomissing Area High Schools Public Art Workshop was trying to come up with a design for a mural on the wall of a pharmacy. One idea was based on Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, Starry Night. Another was based on greatly magnified viruses. After collective brainstorming, students came up with a design that has the look of Starry Night, but is inhabited by giant viruses that look like starbursts. More subtly in the design are chemical formulas and lab beakers.

During the course of the morning, he gave us all the details: how do they create these giant works of art? What materials do they use? How long do they last? What surfaces are good for murals?

Most are painted on a polyester interfacing material. The design is drawn out and the colors coded. Painting becomes like filling in a giant color by number piece. The individual pieces are then glued to the wall with a clear, acrylic gel glue. And no — they cannot be removed. “Just enjoy them while they are there,” Mr. Miller advised. The life of a mural is 15-20 years. He says, “Then it’s time to make another one!”

The paint used is an acrylic with UV protection manufactured by Nova Color. An additional UV protective acrylic varnish is added to the surface. But eventually direct sunlight will break down the vibrancy of the murals. Additional maintenance may have to be done if the wall becomes damaged in some other way.

As far as the wall surfaces go, rough surfaces can be smoothed. But the cloth panels can otherwise be adhered to brick, concrete block or concrete.. East facing walls are the best. For south facing walls, Mr. Miller recommends use of glass mosaic. This increases the cost, but is not affected by sun damage over time.

The murals in West Reading were mostly funded through the West Reading Elm Street Program, Dean Rohrbach, Manager. The murals are owned by the property owner, and could theoretically be painted over, but that has not happened, nor has graffiti damage.

Initial skeptics have in many cases become ardent supporters of the beautiful murals. Residents prize them. Visitors also find time to eat in one of the many fine restaurants in West Reading, or shop in local stores and art galleries. The murals have become a local treasure.

Kline Street Mosaic 2010

Mosaic on garage on Kline Street. 2010. Designed and created with students in Wyomissing Public Art Workshop.

Classroom of Michael L Miller at Wyo elementary school

Michael L Miller in his art classroom, explaining the details of the creation of murals.

A Walk in the Park by Jane Runyon lead artist

Mr. Miller points out where the four panels of cloth meet on this approximately 10 x 16 foot mural by artist Jane Runyon, 2014. Russ Slocum looks on.

Detail Viral Van Gogh

Detail of Viral Van Gogh, painted on the side of a pharmacy. The overall design takes after Vincent Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night, but giant viruses (including HIV) take the place of star bursts.

I and West Reading 2010

I and West Reading, 2010. Designed and painted by students in WAHS’s Public Art Workshop. The mural is inspired by artist Marc Chagall’s painting I and the Village, painted in 1911.

Sixth and Franklin Mosaic Michael L Miller 2012

Blocked in windows look a lot better with these mosaics made by Michael L Miller. This is an example of a south facing wall which is better served by using glass mosaic, which is not subject to fading in the sun.

Detail of West Reading Is . . . stencils of what residents think of when they think of West Reading. Note how the green tree also becomes roof shapes for row houses. Designed by Exquisite Fource, created b youth from Wyomissing Public Art Workshop

Detail of West Reading Is . . . stencils of what residents think of when they think of West Reading. Note how the green tree also becomes roof shapes for row houses. Designed by Exquisite Fource, created b youth from Wyomissing Public Art Workshop