Drawing Jonathan Stray in Berlin

Living in Berlin, we get to have visitors from the US quite a lot.

Jonathan Stray by Suzanne Forbes June 19 2016

Jonathan Stray by Suzanne Forbes June 19 2016

Berlin is a great place to visit and people in our community travel a lot for both business and pleasure. Sometimes I get to meet members of our family I hadn’t met before! It’s wonderful.

Amazing art collab night!

Daria and Ian came over to work on stuff.Daria and Ian By Suzanne Forbes June 16 2016 Berlin

Me and Daria are going to have a table at Berlin Graphic Days.

Daria Rhein's artwork on textiles, June 2016

Daria Rhein’s artwork on textiles, June 2016

Just the Friday night, not the whole event, because tabling for a whole weekend is totally out of range for me spoon-wise.

So we are making lots of stuff for our table.

 

 

 

 

Daria Rhein's artwork on textiles, June 2016

Daria Rhein’s artwork on textiles, June 2016

We tried out all kinds of cool printing stuff, like vinyl stickers and fabric transfer printing and temporary tattoo printing.

It all worked pretty well. The stuff you can make yourself with an ordinary printer these days is incredible. I cut up an old tablecloth to see if we could transfer images to it and it totally worked.

I traded Daria an embroidery moth for the original drawing of the breathtaking moth.

I’m going to frame it in a really ornate black frame I have, I just need to get glass cut. We traded tattoo time for two of my hand-sculpted necklaces too- she now has a tentacle and an anatomical Heart of Gold.

Here’s Ian!Ian by Suzanne Forbes June 16 2016

Ian drew the whole time when he wasn’t pitching in on graphic design or Daria’s website.

Ian made this beautiful drawing of me and I grabbed a frame out of my beautiful new workshop cabinets and framed it and hung it up right away!

I don’t have the Instagram because I don’t have a telephone but I can look at things on it!

Drawing of Suzanne Forbes by Ian Bowden June 2016

Drawing of Suzanne Forbes by Ian Bowden June 2016

Ian and Daria graphic design-ified this old drawing of mine for stickers.Suzanne Forbes mantis sticker 2016

I am the happiest I’ve been since I was 19.

My workshop/mixed media studio, finally built!

In honor of National Week of Making, proclaimed by Obama!Workshop_Suzanne_Forbes_artist_2016

I don't love order so much as I hate chaos.

I don’t love order so much as I hate chaos.

tools2

Our apartment came with an enormous kitchen. An enormous, empty kitchen.

kitchenLike most Berlin apartments, it had no sink, stove, fridge, cabinets or counters. Just pipes sticking out of the wall. We bought an initial basic kitchen setup through a very kind gift from D’s grandfather.

I designed the overall kitchen wall, figured out what the minimum to start was, had the IKEA cabinets delivered and built them. Then a handyman named Tyler helped me install them.kitchen plan Suzanne Forbes 2015

That was only the beginning. I had never thought about combining kitchen & office & craft room, but the minute I did I was sold 100%.

So I came up with the idea of making the other big empty wall my workshop/machine room. Here’s the first rough iteration, made in November.workshop rough Suzanne Forbes 2015

Normally, the tools and appliances of an office and workshop look awkward as hell in any (Gothic-Rococo-Victorian Brothel) room I design.

But it happens I like a white kitchen, and our kitchen happens to have incredible lighting.

So it was the perfect place to put things like a printer and my sewing machine, and hopefully eventually a 3D printer and milling machine.

workspace table plan Suzanne Forbes 2015

I was enjoying doing my embroidery at the kitchen table, in the bright, even light, enormously.

So I decided there should be a worktable in the center, where we could eat if we ever wanted to eat in the kitchen instead of in the library while watching Silicon Valley.
island rough Suzanne Forbes 2015

 

 

At New Year’s when we had friends cooking in the kitchen it became clear we needed a good-sized island as well.

islandI agonized over the aspect ratio and measurements before finally going with a simple design that could be both sewing table and food prep surface. The whole thing cost less than 130 euros in the end, but it’s very solid.

It will have nice cute handles like the machine wall eventually, I just ran out of money.

Then I designed the machine wall in detail. workshop plan Suzanne Forbes 2015

There had to be a place for the ladder, and for blank canvas storage, and the, um, annoying amounts of recycling German living generates.

I needed big flat shelves to store drawings and shelves and lots of deep drawers for materials. And of course it had to cost as little as possible. Since food comes slightly before making stuff, I focused on the kitchen part first.

kit2

Kitchen side, not quite finished but getting close!

I found a great handyperson, James, an Australian fellow who has all the tools in the world, and we worked together to build the rest of the kitchen side wall. It came out pretty well! We haven’t had money for a dryer yet, but in time.

There will be cool newsprint curtains over the open shelves- I hate open shelving, no matter how hot it is on Apartment Therapy.

This month we finally had enough cash to buy the cabinets for the machine wall.

tools3Ikea delivered them and then I spent five gruelling days building them. It was a lot of work but saved us easily 300 euros even at cheap Berlin labor rates.

James and Jason, another Ozzie, hung the cabinets and suddenly there it was, my workshop.

 

My organization of mixed media materials is very much inspired by my beloved friend/muse/patron Monique Motil, an artist who manages her studio space as beautifully as she creates.

fabric storageThis Thursday was the shakedown cruise. Daria and Ian came over and we ran all the systems- printing, drawing, ironing decals onto fabric, using every tool in every drawer.
bins

Doll hospital and um, laboratory.

Doll hospital and um, laboratory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

toolsI can honestly say my design worked beautifully.

I opened the second leaf on the table and we all had room to sit and work, and any time we needed something- “Let’s cut the stickers with deckle-edge scissors!” or “Let’s see if we can use the decals to make pendants!” – I could just grab whatever tool or material we needed out of the drawers and cabinets.norden-klapptisch-wei-__0104381_PE251365_S4

 

 

When the left-hand leaf is closed, it’s a perfect setup for me to work alone- the drawers are in the right place for a lefty 🙂

We had the most incredible, exhilarating night collaborating in my new workspace.

I know we worked really hard to get to this life, but I still feel like we’ve been given a miracle beyond imagining.

 

Dear blonde girl in the white pants: imaginary amends letters from the men who sexually assaulted and harassed me as a child.

This morning, I suddenly realized I deserved amends from the men and boys who sexually assaulted me.

photo John Garetti 1977

Age 10, photo by John Garetti, 1977

I decided that if I wanted them to make amends to me, I was going to have to take care of it myself.

So I wrote some letters from some of the strangers who violated me during my childhood.

The people I knew and who knew me, well, that’s up to them, and they haven’t made much progress to date.

Dear blonde girl in the white pants near the Waverly Theater in 1980:

Age 13, photo by J Nebraska Gifford

Age 13, photo by J Nebraska Gifford

I’m sorry I called that phone booth you were walking by. When you picked it up I said “I want to rip those tight white pants off you and fuck you” and you hung up and looked frantically around you. You were young, maybe fourteen or fifteen. Young enough to fall for the “prank” of someone calling a phone booth from another one across the street. Actually, maybe you were only thirteen. Tight pants were in fashion, and I made a lot of those phone calls. I’m so sorry for how unsafe and violated I made you feel in that moment, and in so many moments afterwards.

Dear ten-year-old girl in the Elgin Theater in 1977:

When I silently slid into the seat next to you, you were so engrossed in the movie you didn’t notice a thing. What were you doing alone in the theater watching “The 400 Blows” anyway? You were so pretty, with your blonde hair. I carefully edged my hand towards your lap and grabbed your crotch. You jumped up and screamed at me, but there was no-one in the theater to hear. You ran out into the lobby, shouting. “Fucking pervert son-of-a-bitch!” you called me. I watched you run off up 8th Avenue. I wish I had stayed in that program they put me in back in ’72, for people like me.

Dear blonde hippie chick in the see-through skirt in front of the deli at Abington Square in 1982:

Age 15, on Abington Square

Age 15, on Abington Square, 1982

When me and my friends passed you and your little girlfriend at 2 a.m.- she was even younger than you I think, maybe only fourteen- the streetlight shone right through your skirt. I ran the two steps back and grabbed your crotch, hard. Then I ran back after my friends. You came after me, screaming and shouting. You called me a fucking bastard motherfucking son-of-a-bitch. Your friend looked so afraid.

Then you ran into the deli and I heard you telling them to call the police. Lucky for Past Me, they ignored you. Present Me wishes they had at least acknowledged you. I thought of you over and over that night, as we rambled around the Village. What was I thinking? I had a sister your age. I don’t know why I thought what you were wearing gave me the right to assault you. I often wonder, when I see a girl in a see-through skirt like that in some Coachella video, if someone will hurt her, too. I wonder if you remember that night in the Village.

Dear little girl in the kitchen at Thea’s New Year’s Eve party near Westbeth in the ’70s:

We were alone in the kitchen when the Auld Lang Syne music started to play in the living room. You were looking in the cookie jar. I said hello to you, and you responded not very politely. I could hear shouting from the next room- Thea and Bill, your father, had been dealing a little in those days, and everyone was drinking hard as well. “Give me a New Year’s kiss”, I said, and bent down and grabbed your face. I forced my tongue in your mouth and you pulled away. I was fifty-two, and I just walked into the living room and got another glass of wine. Three years later, during an acid trip in New Mexico, your dead-eyed little face swam up in my memories and I realized what I’d done. I am so, so sorry. You were just a little girl.

Dear Rachel (I think your last name was Ketchum?):

When Cliff and Emerick said they knew this girl who lived in Chelsea who had her father’s apartment all to herself on the weekends, I was so down. Since they started at Stuy in September I didn’t see them as much, and I missed them. I was fifteen that Fall, and I wanted to get laid so bad. I knew a guy in Corona who had Quaaludes, and I went and bought five. Emerick said he had weed and Cliff said he had some speed. When we got to your place on Friday night I couldn’t believe you were only thirteen. You looked so much older, in your purple jumpsuit.

You had bought champagne for the party. They just sold it to you, no questions asked. I got wasted really fast, with the hash we were smoking, the booze and everything. I remember we were out in the neighborhood, and we were doing some tagging. You had spraypaint and markers. We were in the Cuban-Chinese restaurant, and you said you had a headache, you wanted to go home to get some aspirin. “Here, take this”, Cliff said, and he dropped a Quaalude in your water glass.

I got stopped by the police in Washington Square, trying to buy some acid, and you talked the cop out of busting us. You told him that I was your cousin from Queens and this was my first time in the city, and you were just trying to give me a classic New York experience. I couldn’t believe the cop fell for it. He kept looking down your front.

We bought tickets for the midnight show of Rocky Horror at the 8th st. Playhouse- you had been, and Cliff, but not me and Emerick. We had an hour to kill so we went to smoke a bowl in a vestibule across the street. Cliff took his dick out, and then Emerick did too, and so I did too. We all started grabbing your hands and trying to make you jerk us off. You were so wasted, you could barely fight us. You said it was time to go if we wanted to get good seats.

Later that night we were at your place. You had made some kind of food, like chicken salad, and we started to make brownies with some of your father’s weed, but then we were too wasted. Cliff put on The Who- Who’s Next, Baba O’Riley. He did the thing with the record player where the song plays over and over. You said you were tired and went into your bedroom. We all got on the bed with you and started groping you. I could hear the music from the next room-

“Don’t cry Don’t raise your eye
It’s only teenage wasteland-”

and you were telling us to stop touching you. Like that was gonna happen. Obviously Cliff and Emerick expected you were going to have sex with us, but you seemed really surprised. You grabbed your white Princess phone and called someone, told him you were in trouble, you were being attacked. I could hear him through the handset. “What do you want me to do about it?” he said; he sounded about our age.

Cliff tore your jumpsuit trying to get it off you. You were fighting now, as the song started again, and you were weirdly strong. I remembered Cliff saying you were some kind of exercise nut. None of us went to gym or anything, and we were really high. You kicked and struggled and bit us. Cliff was so high he started to pass out. Emerick was still trying to get your clothes off, but he was a pretty small guy. Somehow Cliff slid onto the floor and you bundled Emerick after him and shoved them both out the door and told me to get out. You locked the door and we all passed out.

In the morning the song was still playing. The apartment was so trashed. You made us breakfast, I don’t know why, and then you made us leave. We were all still really high. I hung around the lobby of your building, and when you came downstairs a little later I shot at you with my bb gun as you rushed towards the door. You looked really freaked out. You didn’t notice me, but I followed you as you walked back to the Village. I saw you go into the 99 Cents store on 8th st., and come out with a little package. I saw you open the package of razor blades in a vestibule in Soho and cut your wrist. You stayed there for hours, bleeding, even though it turned really cold. i had to go home because my mom was expecting me for Sunday dinner.

I lost touch with those guys after that, and I don’t know what happened to you. Every time I heard Baba O’RIley, I remembered that night. At first it gave me the creeps, but then it became sort of a romantic thing, like this cool wild night from my teens. After a few decades I forgot about it. Then one night I decided to watch this new TV show. It was called CSI New York. The theme song came on, with blurry New York flashing lights. It was Baba O’Riley. I was sitting in my living room in Flushing, and suddenly it hit me. We tried to gang-rape you. You were thirteen years old, and the only reason we didn’t actually rape you was we were too wasted. You tried to kill yourself the next day. Jesus. I don’t know what I can possibly say, at this moment. I’m just so fucking sorry. I wish I’d never gone into the city with those guys that night. I hope you’re ok. I hope you can listen to Baba O’Riley without being sad. I hope you recovered from what we did to you. I hope you can watch CSI, if you like CSI.

This month’s bricolage roundup.

I mostly think of myself as a horribly lazy person who keeps terrible hours, sleeps a lot and wastes huge swathes of time every day.Suzanne Forbes May Bricolage Collage

But sometimes I think of myself as a highly effective person whose productivity is just really weirdly distributed.

Here are the various bricolage projects I did this month, in between building the workshop, unpacking my mixed media materials, teaching a new class, starting a new painting, and drawing.

These flies are what I call “Uplift Projects”, after David Brin’s “Uplift” series.

They’re commercially produced decorative items I bought somewhere for almost nothing and am “improving” (according to my weird personal lights). I got these awesome glitter flies for 90% off at Cost Plus after Halloween. WIP Uplift Fly on the left, completed one, with beading, Swarovski crystals, more shades of glitter and micropearls on the right.

Mixed Media Suzanne Forbes 2016Mixed Media Suzanne Forbes 2016

 

 

This decoupage table originally came from Ross.

Insect and roses Decoupage Table Suzanne Forbes 2016I made them give me 10% off because it had a chipped corner. I repaired the corner with epoxy clay and spraypainted the whole thing with matt fuchsia acrylic from Dupli-Color, the German spray paint company that has a special line for graffiti artists.

Then I cut out all these amazing German decoupage pieces.

Insect and roses Decoupage Table Suzanne Forbes 2016Insect and roses Decoupage Table Suzanne Forbes 2016These are reproductions of the decoupage elements that have been produced here since the Victorian era.decoupage stag beetles

I used acrylic varnish to attach them in my weird little bug-infested way, painted the trim on the table with artist’s acrylic, and covered the decoupage with twelve coats of acrylic varnish. That actually was a pain in the ass. But worth it, I think. I’ve had the Alphonse Mucha coaster you see on top of the table since I was fourteen years old.

This dresser is a piece I got on Amazon.de through their repacking program.

dresser by Suzanne Forbes 2016You can often buy things that are brand new and perfectly good but have been returned and repacked at the warehouse for a fraction (20% in this case) of the original cost. It was stuffed all higgledy-piggledy into the box but all the (many, many) pieces were there, so I carefully assembled it.

Then I stained it with ten coats of Hazelnuss dunkelbraun stain (the equivalent of  the exploding-on-Pinterest General Finishes Java Gel stain). Ten coats may sound like a lot but with water-based gel stain, the coats go on and dry so fast it’s really no hardship.

perry gargano knobThe knobs are ones I’ve been collecting for years, like the brass verdigris tentacles from Perry Gargano for Anthropologie. (Of course I got mine all on clearance!). I’d learned from my research before we moved that German apartments have ZERO closets or built-in storage. BlueBayer Bat knobsSo I planned for buying a lot of furniture, and even splurged on four bat skull knobs from Blue Bayer on Etsy two weeks before we left.

 

Buying handmade items directly from an artist is the one time I’m happy to pay full price.

ombre table Suzanne ForbesI’ve had this table for almost twenty years- I got it at the Berkeley flea market.

It’s been spray-painted black, then pink, then black again. But this is the first time I tried making it ombré. I’m pretty thrilled with the results.

I used a deep sapphire blue, a dark forest green, and a pale celadon, all gloss finish from Dupli-Color. I built a sorta cheapass spray booth on the balcony out of boxes to paint it in.

ombre table1

 

Don’t spray paint indoors, dude. You don’t want to get what we used to call Technicolor Phlegm.

shadowbox Suzanne Forbes 2016I made this little shadow box out of some ribbon roses I made for my first wedding, hoarded velvet leaves and a frame I got at the Berkeley Flea, also like 20 years ago.

I got this plaster deer head from a German eBay dealer who specializes in vintage hunting lodge taxidermy.

deerhead

Taxidermy is so cheap here, Williamsburg craft beer bar owners would lose their minds. My dealer has been very kind about accepting my “Best Offers” for the most weird, kinda messed up pieces he lists.

I repaired the big chunk of missing plaster with epoxy clay, and repainted it. I left the rest of the damage ’cause I like it. deerheadebay

Now I’m waiting til the next time our handyman James comes over with his magic SuperStudFinder, which can detect metal and electrical wiring in the walls. Our walls have a LOT of janky old wiring in them so I like to check before I drill a great big hole for an anchor.

I think that’s all my bricolage this month.

Oh, and I decorated the frame for the octopus!Octopus Mixed Media Suzanne Forbes May 2016

Our Drawing Adventure

Me and Daria had an adventure day in Kreuzberg.

Photo by Daria Rhein drawings_of_Suzanne_Forbes_and-Daria_Rhein_May_28_2016

Photo by Daria Rhein

We had Tibetan food at Little Tibet, and ice cream down Yorckstrasse- i had jogurt-maracuja (passion fruit) and lemon-basil-strawberry; Daria had kokonuss and the darkest dark chocolate sorbet I’ve ever seen.skatepark by Suzanne Forbes May 28 2016

Scooter stunt in Berlin by Suzanne Forbes May 28 2016Then we went to the Park am Gleisdreieck and walked along, seeing the last of the lilacs and many wildflowers I know from New England, like Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod and blue lupine. Goldenrod is considered an invasive species here, and Daria was surprised to learn you can make dye from it.

There were vast bushes of wild roses. I was startled to see actual poppies growing wild here as well, unlike the US where they are policed up.

We saw a unicorn. We saw glades of birches growing in the old railroad tracks and Daria hugged them. I did not know birches were so identified with Moscow; I think of them as a New England thing! We looked up another tree and learned it was Quaking Aspen.Rollergirl by Suzanne Forbes May 28 2016

After 18 years of silver-grey California foliage, I am so glad to be among the flora of my childhood again. There were people wandering about everywhere, in the muggy Berlin semi-sun. It was so relaxed.

Eventually we came to this skatepark, where there was a cafe in what looked like an air-traffic control tower. We got Fritz-Kola (tagline: For the night from Thursday to Sunday. Much much caffeine.) and Wostok (tagline: To Friendship and Space Travel!). I had rhubarb and Daria had plum-cardamom!

skater by Suzanne Forbes May 28 2016 BerinWe made some drawings, and we came up with a new art motto:
NO ART SHAME!!

Daria has a new portfolio site up. It is beautiful and full of gorgeous things. She is the kind of versatile art talent you meet only a few times in a lifetime.

I LOVE BERLIN!

Saturday Night on the U7.

This is another U-Bahn drawing that took several rides to finish.Saturday night on the U7 by Suzanne Forbes May 28 2016

I did a lot of drawings with really intense perspective over the last month or two as I got ready to teach my first class on the subject.

I don’t want to ask my students to do anything I wouldn’t do myself! I don’t know where the big guy and the skinny guy were going, because I got off before they did. But pre-gaming with a beer or bottle on the train is totally normal in Berlin, and not just on Saturday night!

Maypole!

I glimpsed this little girl dancing around the subway pole, surrounded by tall black-clad guys, at the beginning of May.Maypole_by_Suzanne_Forbes_May_28_2016

Then I carefully reconstructed the scene over a series of short U-Bahn rides. Since you never know which model of train you’ll get, or if there will be a seat in the correct position, detailed U-Bahn drawings tend to take a few rides!

Giant Octopus finished at last!

This is the biggest thing I’ve ever embroidered.Embroidered Octopus Suzanne Forbes 2016

Embroidered_Octopus Suzanne Forbes 2016I started it a few years ago, when I had just begun embroidering again as an adult. I had trouble keeping the fabric from wrinkling on such a big hoop and wasn’t sure how to finish it. But now I am much more expert and confident, and have lots more colors of thread!

It’s amazing how much embroidering is like painting.

Embroidered_Octopus Suzanne Forbes 2016Just like with every canvas I paint, I made sure to leave a few small areas of the original blank surface. Here’s a peek at the back, for the curious. It is a mess, as usual.

WIP, Quinn in Berlin

Quinn by Suzanne Forbes WIP May 2016This is a very intense month.

I’ve been working on a lot of things, but laggy about sharing them. At the beginning of May I started this portrait of our friend Quinn Norton and her companion. I haven’t had a minute to do any more work on it, but luckily they come to Berlin quite often and we’ll pick it up again on the next visit.

I chose to do the sitting in our library because its earth-tone palette better suited Quinn’s dark copper hair.

Quinn_by_Suzanne_Forbes WIP May 2016

Quinn Norton by Suzanne Forbes ,WIP, May 2016

It will be a ravishing jewel-colored picture when finished!

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