I was reading Rayna’s blog post of yesterday, which was all about voice. At the end, she says this:
I’ve said this before, I think – but it bears repeating. I once had to write an artist’s statement for a solo exhibit. When I groaned, the gallery director said “tell me what you do and why you do it.” It forced me to take out all my work, throw it on the floor, and look at it to see what it was about and what the common elements were. What I do and how I do it may have changed, but what a lot of my work is about has not changed. Listen to your work over the last 5-10 years and hear what it is saying – and you will know what your “voice” sounds like.
Remember – every voice has a range and sings a lot of different songs – but the underlying timbre is recognizable. What do you “hear” in your own work?
I’m not particularly given to self-analysis in artistic matters (though perhaps I should be?), but I found this interesting, especially since my work ranges across so many different media. I thought about it a bit and decided that yes, I do have a distinctive “voice”, and my work in general is all about adventure, challenge, and storytelling. I love a good story – often I will do something offbeat just for the heck of it, figuring either I’ll have fun or I’ll have a good story (hopefully both!). I love to embark on Grand Projects, because they have all three: adventure, challenge, and story value, as the project unfolds. By way of contrast, I rarely do “safe”, easy projects because they don’t make interesting stories. I rarely work in one technique for extended periods because I’m all about adventure and novelty, on to the next thing. I tend not to use subtle colors because I like bold statements. And in a sufficiently expressive medium, my work always tells a story – that is to say, it generally says something overt, not abstract.
So in the end, I think, my work (and life!) is all about adventure, and story.
Not too surprisingly, perhaps, the guild presentation I am doing in January is going to be about the creative process – partly about the fears that keep us back (and how to deal with them), but mostly about life as an artistic journey, and each project only a small leg of the overall trip. And then some stuff about planning each project, which is to say each leg of the trip, making discoveries and improvising along the way. I’m hoping that putting things in perspective (the project as a whole is just part of the journey, not something one succeeds or fails at in itself) will give people a new framework to look at their creative process – focusing less on the specific project at hand, and less on success or failure, and more on how much they grew, creatively, during the project.
I may or may not succeed at this – I’m hoping the theme is general enough that it will be of use even to people who don’t share my taste for adventure – but I think the presentation will be entertaining at least, especially when spiced up with photos and images from my fiber and travel “adventures”. So it won’t be a total waste of time. At the moment it’s taking the form of a series of short essays/talking points – I haven’t built in the imagery yet. That will come later; fortunately, I have plenty of time.
Ann asked me about my recipe for candied citrus peel. Mine is made up primarily out of my head, but VERY loosely based on a recipe from an excellent book, Chocolates and Confections, by Peter Greweling, meant to teach professional chefs the art of confectionery. It’s not cheap but there is no better book out there – that I know of, anyway.
Anyway, here it is:
2 quarts of citrus peel (about 6-8 pounds depending on type of citrus)
lots of sugar
corn syrup or glucose (optional)
Blanch citrus peels in boiling water for about 5 minutes. (This is necessary to “cook” the skin and make the sugar penetrate more easily.) If the peels are especially aromatic or bitter, you may need to drain and blanch again to make them milder.
Drain, reserving 4 cups of liquid for milder peels like lemon or sweet orange. For more aromatic/bitter peels, don’t save the water.
Mix the 4 cups of liquid (plain water or reserved liquid) with 4 cups of sugar. Pour over the drained peels, cover, and let soak for 24 hours (can be up to 2 days). If the peels are floating on the surface, float a small plate on top to keep them under. If there isn’t enough syrup, add more of a mix of 50-50 sugar and liquid.
The following day, drain the peels, saving the syrup. Add 2 cups sugar to the syrup and bring to a boil. Pour boiling syrup over the peels and let soak for another 24-48 hours.
The third day, drain the peels, and, IF you don’t want to crystallize the peels later (i.e. you want them to stay syrupy), add 1 cup corn syrup or glucose to the syrup. If you do want to crystallize the peels, add 1-2 cups of sugar instead. Reboil and soak for another 24 hours.
After that, each day, drain the syrup and bring to a boil. Measure the temperature, and boil each day to about two degrees Fahrenheit higher than the previous day. (So if you boiled to 215 on the previous day, boil to 217.) The boiling point will start out lower than on the previous day, because water will have come out of the peels overnight; that’s just fine.
Continue boiling like this until the syrup is very thick when cool, about 223-225 Fahrenheit. Bring peels and syrup to a boil, boil 5 minutes, and put in canning jars to 1/2″ of top, then seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
It’s a very loose recipe, but it seems to work for me. You can stop earlier if you don’t need the peel thoroughly candied, but since I am making fruitcake or dipping into chocolate, I usually want it thoroughly candied. (It will also keep better if there is more sugar in it.) Done this way, the peels stay tender. The reason candied orange peels come out leathery if processed too fast is that the sugar sucks all the water out of the peel without penetrating the peel, if the initial sugar content is too high. Gradual is the word here.