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Experimenting with Homemade Materials and Spaces

Lesson 4 from: The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture

Jennifer Thoreson

Experimenting with Homemade Materials and Spaces

Lesson 4 from: The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture

Jennifer Thoreson

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Lesson Info

4. Experimenting with Homemade Materials and Spaces

Lesson Info

Experimenting with Homemade Materials and Spaces

So I told you I kind of quit photography for your eyes to started gathering stuff materials this is just all, you know, sultry spores that come off the trees. Um the little round weird things I just that's all those just thousands of them. I just talking with the truck and people, but I'd lost my mind and I probably had but, you know, I collected them then they sent in my studio for a long time and I just photographed him and played with them and made stuff out of him. So I feel I realized in the end that I was choosing things that were freighted, that I felt they were heavy with something. I felt kind of sorry for them or something like that or that the materials were symbolic. So I got really into wool and well is used in the bible sheep or using the bible hundreds of times. So that kind of material that actually has meaning embedded in it became really important to me. So if I look at these verses that come and I started realizing it, saying okay, well, how does well talk? How is th...

at symbolic and my work? And I would just look online google will and the bible and I'd find versus like this my sheep listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me I mean the second one behold the lamb of god which take the way to the scent of the world that's that's pretty heavy stuff and that's in the fiber that's in the material I'm using to make the photograph so what that does is add a layer of meaning it adds and layer to the onion right so that someone will look at the work and see literally physically what it is but it has more to it than that so I've found all of these kind of cool things for wax I am poured out like water and my bones are out I join my heart is like wax is melted within my brasses great first so I started using wax a lot and clay you are a father where the clay human hair that the parable of samson and delilah and losing strength and and actually the hair it's pretty pretty amazing so I used human hair and a lot of my sculptures I started making things that looked like my own skin so that which is born of the flesh is flesh and born of the spirit the spirit thinking about actual flashiness and I used latex to mimic skin so here is like the first wolf lease that I got short directly off of a sheep and put it into a bag and wet it and it's no awesome in my studio thanks you and after a few months it made this fear it felt itself and made this circle and that was a huge discovery for me I was got so much joy out of that and just started making object so this has just braided human hair that I didn't pinned to the wall this is a cloak that I made out of human hair so it's woven with bull and human hair the loom um I mentioned clay earlier so I got some porcelain clay and started making what I thought looked like communion wafers so I just make a little ball it's mush it and I did it thousands and thousands of times ended up with that there was this meditative thing that was happening from it. I wasn't thinking about the photographs I was thinking this would even be photographed I just needed to make stuff and that the biggest thing I can say in this process for you is trust your process trust your process because if I had looked at myself literally during that phase I would have abandoned it easily. I would've been at mile too long. What are you doing? This is not photography but no trust your process so started making again things that looked kind of like human skin out of latex I was casting things casting fruits and then I realized I could I could cast specific fruits biblical fruits like apple, right like that fall of eden so I did that for awhile made plaster casts in latex casts and I took a sculpture class so I could learn how to do this stuff this I learned how to make latex fabric I took the latex and rolled it on on the floor and let it cure in the and peeled it up and I had fabric rubber fabric and so while you know an experienced sculpture might think yes or what to me that was just the coolest thing I did that I discovered that and that feeling you guys know what it's like when that happens right when you figure something out you did it it's so it gives you so much energy and then then you're able to start feeling that kind of narcissistic part of the process like I did that I'm awesome right so then I covered this dress and in bees wax may beat a beeswax casts out of fruits then I started working with wool so this is needle felted wool which I'll show and later segment how to needle felt but I just have a needle you punch a needle into the wool tangles the fibers and you can make shapes and designs out of it so I started with this much and ended up with that much and it does take commitment to say I'm going to buy ten pounds of red wolf yeah it's an investment it's time and money and you have to go I'm narcissistic enough to know that it's gonna work somehow I'm gonna make this work and I use the word narcissist narcissistic lightly but it's just that belief in yourself that I'm gonna this is gonna be good this is gonna be awesome we're gonna do it I'm gonna make it work somehow and I have made this thing that was six feet long I'm gonna make it work to make it work moment like tim gunn says so I did all that I made all these things and then I got myself back in my rut this is what happens right I made the object and then I photographed them digitally studio and put them together and this is what happened and I hated the work hated it I knew it wasn't working and I couldn't figure out why it was such a frustrating thing I finally had a studio visit with someone who came in and said why don't you just put him together in the same space I was like why don't I do that so then I started thinking a lot about the actual space the space that might be special because again I'm trying to add layers to my onion okay so not just any space which is what I'd done before in the previous versions those with just any space or just some kind of blank room right no I wanted something that connected back to that spiritually meaning that kind of southern baptist upbringing I was getting at, so I started looking for homes that reminded me of my own family home that I grew up in in the eighties, my little cottage family house. So I looked and looked, and I went all over craigslist and all over everything looking for this perfect space, and I finally found a rental property and the lady he was willing to let me bring bizarre things into her house and photograph them, and I rented this house for a year. I signed a lease agreement and rented the house that's a moment right then, like that doesn't make it work moment I just spent this money, I've got to make this work, but I find that works for me putting my neck out and then running like catching myself up to it works. So I sent a lot of time, and this is just with my iphone photographing the house and just sitting in there and getting to know the space and letting it kind of means something to me, and I loved it because it has so many scars and so many signs of life on the walls, it wasn't perfect, you know, it was a little house that had been used and loved and worn, so I wanted to celebrate those things, I just kind of let the place speak to me a little bit I love the way the windows made little white patterns on the walls is like the house of spring something to me and we got to know each other pretty well spent a lot of time in there. I got so attached to it. In fact, at the end that pulling the exhibition down was extremely painful. One day when I was working in there I found this footprints poem um that I remember from my grandmother's house when I was growing up and it was felt like a little secret message of the house had given me like a little gift. So then I started looking back at my own family photos and looking not just at us and what we're wearing, but the things that were in the background so even just looking at that textile that's behind my mother's head and remembering what it was like in that house and I started pulling so the television that's in that photograph I went and found that exact almost that exact television to put in one of the photographs the photographs that are on the wall, the pictures, the books a little eagle shaped trophy that's on the bookcase. I found all of these things in thrift stores and I had I brought some things from home too the way the curtains are those exact curtains I remember those and I remember them now and the way they smelled and felt so I found some that were just like him for the photographs, even the same end table, same one found in the thrift store had to have it remember my mom's bowls in china and in the sheets that were on my bed. So I started gathering those things and putting him in the house, and it started to feel like home again. And then I brought the object in there and looked at them in the light, and started photographing them in the space, and everything changed. And now I know that's how I want to make photographs for the rest of my life. I want to make things and then put them together so reconciliation, death, resurrection, and then repurpose that is the process of making this work and the objects themselves, the house, the photographs, all of it, that's what I'm doing, so thinking about a lot of, like, a temporary body, us physically temporary and our life cycle, so I'm still playing with that dna thing, that human fiber, but even just like the scars on the wall in the house, celebrating those things that show signs of life, if actual dna of human beings being in the world, that became very important in the work, so to things that are kind of that play already having us an inn for the imperfection of human life so start when I got into the house started thinking a lot about that heaviness and that that imperfection that we deal with the day to day and the idea that we deal with these things all the time, we all carry burdens around all the time and each other, we see each other doing it, but we don't talk about it, you know, it's, just something we do and hold onto in this heaviness that we carry. It was very interesting when I was photographing one of the images for testament. My pastor, I was modeling for it, and I had all of these heavy, full like bees wax objects on his back, and it probably weighed fifty, sixty pounds, but the things we put him on one at a time, and it didn't seem like much, and he sat there for the longest time. It took us a few hours to photograph him, but at the end we pulled them off all at once. He was like, oh, my gosh, that's amazing the feeling of release what you didn't even realize you were carrying that's what the works about that right there and that experience, the thing is I was able to have that happen in real time because I wasn't sitting in front of the computer it was happening in front of my face and I learned from that experience and that changed the meaning of the entire body of work that's what's the word what the works about so then I started putting these things on people and experimenting with my sculptures I'd made I'll photograph them this one object maybe five, six times just in that room and then I put it in a different room and in a different room and just tried it all kinds of different ways all of us my studio assistant there she is being a superstar so it was just a matter of trial and error and seeing what these things look like on people that one on the right is the human hair cloak that I made started make another stuff. So this is a felted wool felted suit and I made out of felted wool to a pair of underwear and a top and yeah, so that's my sketch of it and then that why not you know, and then have someone wear and see what happens? These air, the wax objects I was talking about, so I filled stockings full of full and then coated them in these wax and made these bizarre things that then made a really interesting burden for someone to carry and I made these plaster arms I used the dryer duct things covered him in plaster and then I made my latex fabric and covered them in latex so they looked like big skin arms and what I would do is make these images print them, take him to the house and look at him in the house and that's how I made my decision is it a good or is it not in fact the whole first siri's was out I redid the mall but it was that process just letting the house almost approve of them I wanted to see them in the light where they were taken and it really helped for me to make the final decision and the final exhibition then was in the house I made these big wool stilts out of um well batting and well roving these are my latex rubber casts of fruits that I made I started making a few and then I made a few thousand and covered the whole table in them. I mean, in one of those takes about an hour to make a cure so we're talking about a lot of time and that's where you're in that moment where this is going to work this is kind of work this is gonna work this is going to great is gonna work you can't let yourself believe anything else so that's what happened to make enough of them and I'm a little latex cast finally of those tree spores that I've been had in my studio for finally figure out what to do with them, I cast them and then I made a mask out of them and I made another mask and sewed it altogether. These are balloons that I took in, turn inside out filled with sand and then covered with another balloon and cut the top off, and they kind of look like doves or I don't know write the cool thing wass and what I was realizing is, when I when I photographed this stuff, it transformed the material because in person you could smell them, you could see them, you knew what they were immediately in the photograph, though it was a different story, and they looked so much heavier and so much different, powdery or almost like they were living things, and I love that I could do that. I have that controlled by the way I light something in the way I I show it very specific angle that I allow a viewer to see it it's, not a sculpture, somebody could walk around it's, a photograph and that's when I fell back in love with photography that's why I love this photography think because I don't have control over the end of this process, but it's the document of the process

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with RSVP


Bonus Materials with Purchase

Book Proposal Sample.pdf
Critical Mass - Digital Book.pdf
Curriculum Vitae Example.pdf
Keynote PDF Segment 1.pdf
Keynote PDF Segment 2.pdf
Keynote PDF Segment 3.pdf

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

"Thinking about art is not making art." In this inspiring and informative workshop, Jennifer helps you put thought into action - through meaningful self-reflection, exploration and by taking her through her own processes. Through exercises and examples, she explains how to pull out a thread of an idea and develop it into a conceptual project that is informed and invigorated by personal experience, preference, interests, and so much more. Her workshop not only feeds the creative soul, but offers earnest information on taking first steps toward publishing and showing fine-art. Jen so beautifully shares her talent and her love of teaching - I first "met" her on Creative Live and have had the joy of being mentored by her in-person as well. This workshop is a very close second to spending time with her one-on-one. Thank you, CL, for bringing her back!

kalei harmon

I love Jennifer, she's one of my cL favorites! She is such a soulful photographer and her art just resonates with me in so many ways. While she was creating her conceptual piece with the mother and child, my eyes welled up because it was such a profound experience to witness. I appreciate that she has a graduate degree in art and is able to refer to others in the field who are leading the way. She is so genuine and I'm grateful for her willingness to bare her soul to us through her art and process. I've learned so much by watching how she interacts with models and communicates efficiently and gently to get AMAZING poses. Definitely worth the buy if you're looking for inspiration from an artist who creates images which evoke emotion and communicate a message, not just trying to make "great photos." I can't wait to learn about the business side of it all!


I am so grateful for this class; it is just what I have been looking for to help me go beyond my "photographic potty training". By leading us through her own creative process, Jennifer Thoreson invites us to think about why we do what we do and to make our work more meaningful and authentic, creating our unique visual vocabulary. Moreover, she provides detailed info on submitting work to galleries and publications, contests, printing editions, preparing an exhibition and pricing. In her calm, unpretentious manner, Jennifer demystified art without trivializing it and I finally saw light at the end of a rather long tunnel.

Student Work