Multitasking artmaker: South Bristol painter and silkscreen artist Joy Vaughan is getting ready to host a public sewing event on Saturday, Oct. 6 in front of the kNOw S.U.P. office in downtown Damariscotta, right next door to Midcoast Kayak. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., she and 25 volunteers will be taking turns manning four sewing machines on which they will sew dozens of canvas bags to give away to anyone who wants one.
I sat down with Vaughan recently at her home to talk about how her canvas bag project came about, as well as to talk about her brand-new book, “Off the Edges & Outside the Lines: A Guide to Making Meaningful Personal Imagery,” released this month (more about that in a bit).
“I’m 72,” Vaughan said. (OK, stop right there. The youthful Vaughan does not look anywhere close to 72.) “When you’re my age, you want to get rid of everything, because when you die, you don’t want everyone to have to go through all your stuff.” Along those lines, she came across “a ton of canvas” at her house, on rolls, leftover from when she used to stretch her own canvases for paintings, and decided she needed to put it to good use.
Vaughan recalled a time, 25 years ago, when the current Hannaford Supermarket in Damariscotta was a store called Shop ’n Save, which offered “good canvas bags” that one could buy instead of using the store’s single-use plastic bags. “I still have one,” she said. “It’s held up for 25 years.”
Inspired by that rugged canvas bag, and by Rising Tide Co-op’s recent canvas bag giveaway, Vaughan got the idea to turn her rolls of canvas into reusable bags – and have fun and community in the process by having a public sewing event. “So when the Pumpkinfest parade goes by and all the people are watching the parade, we’ll be sewing bags and giving them away,” she said. “It’s like, ‘We’re having fun and here’s a bag.’ … This is a friendly gesture. We’re giving them away to anybody who wants them.”
Vaughan is in the process of cutting out handles and silkscreening pieces of canvas with the words “cotton hemp plastic” in black. She will silkscreen a red “X” over the word “plastic” on each bag-size canvas piece. “The bag I designed for this event is a copy of the bag that I bought at Shop ’n Save 25 years ago,” she noted.
Vaughan invites people to stop by her bag-sewing event and pick up a canvas shopping bag – and just hang out and chat. “It’s such a friendly day, anyway,” she said, referring to the Pumpkinfest-focused day.
On to Vaughan’s new book. “Off the Edges & Outside the Lines” is the new version of her 1999 book by the same name. The 2018 version features Vaughan’s same friendly, useful wisdom about how anyone – whether or not they are self-described artists – can produce, as she terms it, “meaningful personal imagery.”
The new book, unlike its predecessor, features numerous colorful images of Vaughan’s work – artwork that any reader can find approachable, doable. “I had an intuition that I had to produce this book,” Vaughan said, holding up the relatively austere 1999 version, “in a beautiful form, with color.”
“The content of this book is based on the 55 years I have been expressing myself through images, and the 35 years I have been working with people to help them do the same,” Vaughan writes. The very likable Vaughan, as many know, offers classes and workshops on self-expression through image-making, in addition to creating her own art and showing it in the area.
Her book is divided into four sections: Inspiring Yourself, Making a Mark, Showing Yourself and Being Seen, and Resting.
“Getting Started” is the first chapter under Inspiring Yourself, and it starts out pragmatically: “Showing up is, of course, the first and most difficult step. Without analyzing yourself into a state of inertia, just start.”
“Perhaps one of the reasons many of us find it difficult to get started in the art-making process is that we have tremendous trepidation about entering into an act where the outcome is unknown,” Vaughan acknowledges a little while later. Her book aims to allay those fears.
At times reading like a comforting self-help book (“It is only when we let go of control that we begin to have fun”), “Off the Edges” is a do-it-yourself “kit” that covers pretty much every issue that might pop up and every approach that might be taken to produce a piece of artwork that is satisfying to the maker – and that seems to be the book’s main point.
Vaughan credits book designer David Allen and “editor extraordinaire” Emily Stuart with making the new version of her book the attractive, highly readable gem that it is.
“Making art is a basic human need,” Vaughan said. “I mean, every parent has watched their child scribble and scribble and scribble. And then they make a circle. And then they put eyes in the circle.”
Check out her chapter called “Scribbles,” in the Making a Mark section: “Often, when I have no clue about what I want to do in my studio but I know I want to do something, I get a pile of big paper and start scribbling. I have surprised myself over and over again with the results.” That’s good advice, straight from the horse’s mouth, as they say.
(Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write me a letter in care of The Lincoln County News, P.O. Box 36, Damariscotta, ME 04543. I love to hear from readers.)