Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Top Ten for Twenty Fifteen

This is my chipmunk drying out after class - adds new meaning to the term nip and tuck.
10  Taxidermy - What can I say, I'm still a biology nerd at heart. This has been a curiosity of mine since I was young. The process gives you an increased respect for life and there's something powerful about taking a being apart and putting it back together. It was always so mysterious and I never thought I'd have the opportunity to do it, but thanks to the fact that taxidermy has become so popular, there are many chances to try it out. Thanks to my friends Bonnie and Melissa for being partners in this adventure.

9  Art 21 Conference - Attended a 2-day conference in NYC, Creative Chemistries: Radical Practices for Art + Education, with my good friend Merill Comeau. We listened to talks and participated in activities facilitated by Mark BradfordMary MattinglyOliver HerringLatoya Ruby FrazierMark Dion and many more. It opened my eyes to many facets of teaching and social justice.

One of my uncles, Lonnie Charles Isbell, who is never too far from his garden.
Granny with her mother and half sisters. I learned about many of the twists and turns in our lineage.
8  Family Tree - I travelled with my father to his childhood home of Birmingham Alabama where we walked down the ancestry trail together. I haven't been south for over 25 years but it felt like home to revisit old family and friends. Interviewing cousins answered many questions about my family origins and established a new sense of place.

First two reading group meetings were up on my deck where everything seems possible.
7  Artist Reading Group - On a midsummer night an artist reading group was launched with an erudite bunch. While sipping beverages and munching on goodies we review writings about art theory, practice and literature. It has become a highlight of my month.

 Mentoring - I've had the rewarding experience of working with several artists most notably an MFA candidate from Lesley University. My student is an ambitious, smart, engaged and talented painter who is exploring data based work and transforming it into sculpture and installation. It's been an inspiration, privilege and gift to work with and learn from her with lively discussions about material, process and art history.

We are having too much fun.
5  FiberLAB - Fulfilled a long-time goal and launched a new open studio workshop series. These classes foster independent study and experimentation. They take place in two locations: First Parish Church in Weston on Thursdays; and my Miller Street Studio on Saturdays. Our first session completed in December and we're already filling up for January. Click here to read more!

Many meaningful conversations were had around this very busy and productive work table
Free time spent socializing out on the porch while learning about felting and other handwork techniques. 
 Governors Institute on the Arts Vermont - I experienced the intensity of GIA as a faculty member, but I felt like one of the students. Each day was a new, unexpected and sometimes confusing string of events and activities on the subject of art. My classes included Installation Art and Power Figures. The students were engaged, intelligent and inspiring. In two short weeks of focused instruction I grew as a teacher and a person, and left with a bundle of experiences to carry forward in my practice. Click here to read more.

Adria and me at our pop-up exhibition. WHACK!. Photograph by Will Howcroft.
 WHACK! - Pop-up exhibit with my cohort Adria Arch in an unused storefront in Beacon Hill. Adria and I had completed a body of work inspired by our trips to Asia, Adria to India and me to China. We were ready to exhibit and without a venue so we took the opportunity to create our own spontaneous, energetic and very short exhibit. It was only up for 3 days in September. Click here to read more.

Just another beautiful October morning in my studio at Weir Farm Art Center.
 Weir Farm Artist in Residence - I spent October living by myself in a caretaker cottage and working in a state-of-the-art studio in the woods. It was a productive time in a heavenly setting during one of the best foliage seasons we've had in years. A generous gift of the Weir Farm Art Center at Weir Farm National Historic SiteWilton CT. Read my interview in the Norwalk Hour.

Floating Reed Village on Lake Titicaca. Inhabitants have been following this way of life continuously
since the time of the Inca as a defense against attack. The rafts used to be mobile but now are anchored to the reed islands. The foundations and shelters require continual maintenance against erosion from the moisture.
I learned how to create the figures for the traditional retablos of Ayacucho, Peru
as taught by the nationally certified artist Julio Urbano.
 Peru - Wayne and I travelled to Peru for a whirlwind 17-day tour where I had the privilege of working with many artisans in their studios - all while catching my breath at altitude. The discomfort of the environment combined with the language barriers was insignificant in the face of the generosity and inspiration of the Peruvian people we worked with. Similar to what we observed in China, there's a strong sense of national pride. Unlike China, however, Peruvians express a very determined sense of the individual. The color, culture, history, scenery and environment were overwhelmingly impressive and unforgettable. 

.   .   .   .

I wish for us all to make it to the new year with sound heart and sound mind though the current atmosphere in the world says otherwise. I take solace in my family, friends and extended communities who are all working hard and thriving in their lives and careers. I am proud of, and grateful for, all their love and support without which nothing would be possible.

Happy New Year to All!

We lost our beloved Sancho last year, the year of the snow.
He was a crazy guy and will be forever in our hearts.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Fiber Lab Workshops - New Session to begin January 2016

Just some of the materials on hand for everyone to experiment with.
The Somerville Lab happens in my studio, every other Saturday, with access to all my materials,
tools, books and secrets.

The first session of my new venture of open studio workshops called FIBER LAB has just completed to a resounding success.

We have an amazing environment where makers can experiment freely with materials provided, expand on current projects and learn from each other. We lose all concept of time and place and get lost in our work with lots of laughs and energy.  Participants quickly bonded to each other's work process, with several collaborative and wonderful demonstrations of new techniques as well.

I'm super excited and honored to be a part of this community and witness the creativity and ingenuity of everyone's process. It's only been one session yet we've learned so much already about basketry, sculptural crochet, weaving, embroidery, felting and organic freeform abstraction.

We're planning for future explorations into eco-dyeing, rust, journaling and inviting some guest artists for special technique tutorials.

Session II begins Jan. 14 for Weston and Jan. 16 for Somerville. Read below for all the info. If interested, you can sign up using the Paypal button in the sidebar of this blog... just choose location and session and the rest is easy.

Lots of laughter and fun in Weston Workshop.
We meet in the beautiful First Parish Church building in a classroom with ample space and light.
Perfect accommodations for us to spread out and make our happy messes.

THE FIBER LAB is an independent study group that provides individual instruction, exposure to contemporary art, experimentation with material and technique and a membership to a maker community.

- Individual tutorials of a myriad of fiber techniques including needlefelting,
sculptural crochet, weaving, embroidery and more
- Introduction to alternative materials
- Access to studio tools, books and materials
- Materials included for instruction of new techniques and experimentation
- Gentle peer group consults for feedback and information exchange
- Mentoring
- Nurturing environment that encourages risk taking and experimentation

Lots of time for individual instruction. This is an opportunity for those who are new to working with materials as well as the fiber enthusiast who is looking to add to their repertoire of skills.

Choose from two locations:

Weston Center
Every second Thursday 10:30a-1:30p

Session II Jan. 14, 28, Feb 11, 2016
Session III  Mar 24, April 7, 21 2016

Miller Street Studios
11 Miller Street, Somerville MA
Every second Saturday 10:00a-1:00p

Session II Jan. 16, 30, Feb 13, 2016
Session III Feb. 27, Mar 12, Mar 26 2016

Cost: $ 280.00 per three class session

All Levels Welcome!

Jodi Colella

Thursday, September 24, 2015

WHACK! is up

The Beasts are living large in a Beacon Hill shop window.

I'm too exhausted for words but will share some fun images. It's uncanny how perfect this empty storefront is for us – a former hair salon with intimate spaces, track lighting and architectural details. It's been a whirlwind experience with a significant learning curve. That said, we're pinching ourselves at how smoothly it is coming together. More tomorrow....

Feeling very surreal right now.
Adria sizing up one of our signs.

A Pop-Up Exhibition with new work by Adria Arch and Jodi Colella
September 25-27, 2015
Friday and Saturday 3-9 pm
Sunday 2-7 pm

Reception Friday 6-9 pm
Art Talk Sunday 3 pm

Reserve your place for the art talk here.

Monday, September 14, 2015

NEW!! Fiber Arts Workshop Series

I'm excited to announce a new program beginning this November!

Creating Magic with Experimental Material and Technique

A series of Workshops on various topics including WOOL, SCULPTURAL CROCHET, WEAVING, EMBROIDERY and more. INCLUDING an OPEN STUDIO WORKSHOP which allows for independent experimentation and exploration.

All classes include personal instruction, access to tools, an abundance of materials for in-class projects, examples of contemporary artists in the field, community support and lots of freefloating creativity.

Here's just some of what we'll be covering. There is no knowing where we will go once we all start working together.


Explore needlefelting, create orbs, incorporate found objects, build freeform sculpture, 2D painting and more. Includes a fieldtrip to " The Wonder of Wool" at American Textile Museum in Lowell.Thursdays, Nov. 5, 12, 19 - 2015

10:30 am -1:30 pm   
First Parish Church, Weston MA
$320.00  includes fieldtrip, admission fees and tour 

We'll cover improvisational crochet with wire to create 3D shapes. Plus my own adapted version of Irish crochet using fabric over wire and cord to design with scale, shape and texture.Thursdays, Dec. 3, 10, 17 -  2015
10:30 am -1:30 pm   

Create a unique sampler of improvisational freeform stitching that you will apply to future projects. They will be studies in color, texture, technique, 2D surface design and 3D form using alternative materials and applications.
Thursdays, Jan. 14, 21, 28  -  2016
10:30 am - 1:30 pm
First Parish Church, Weston MA

Independent study groups with individual attention that fosters experimentation. Introduction to alternative materials and techniques that apply to your own personal work. Access to studio tools and materials while in class. Materials for instruction of new techniques and assistance in sourcing more for personal projects. Gentle peer group consults for feedback and information exchange.
Every second Saturday  10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Session I   Nov. 7, 21, Dec. 5, 2015
Session II  Jan. 9, 23, Feb 6, 2016
Session III  Feb. 20, Mar 5, 26 (no class Mar 19), 2016

My studio, 11 Miller Street Studios, Somerville MA (plenty of off-street parking on Saturdays)

All Levels Welcome!
Lots of time for individual instruction. This is an opportunity for those who are new to working with materials as well as the fiber enthusiast who is looking to add to their repertoire of skills. Plus it's a perfect way to expand your community.

If interested, please sign up with Paypal here on the blog sidebar or email me for contact info.  

TERMS: Includes one-to-one consult prior to the start of the class and email support during session. Sessions register in groups of three classes. Makeup opportunity allowed within a session in exchange for a class on the opposite day (Saturdays for Thursday classes and vice versa). Refunds or credits not available for missed classes. Payment in full in advance to reserve a seat. Class size minimum of 5, maximum of 12.  Participants have access to in-studio tools while in studio. Tools stay in the studio.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Pop-Up Exhibition of New Work

I am so invigorated by this new experience. Adria Arch invited me to participate in one of her new projects – Pop-Up exhibits in a vacant storefronts.

Together we are creating a place to bring our new art out of the studio and into the public eye. The show's title refers to the intensity of color and texture on view and the immediacy and urgency of a three day show.

We've been busy planning and working with copywriters and photographers and soon we'll be installing. What an opportunity to organize yourself to spread the word about what we are up to!

After extensive research and several site visits, we settled on a former haircutting salon in Beacon Hill. It's a funky little space with walls large enough for Adria's expansive paintings and the perfect intimacy for my sculptures.

I/Me, reconstructed stuffed leopards, mixed fibers, brass, feathers, 36 x 29.5 x 15.5 in.

Here's a preview. These new sculptures are in response to my travels, to China and most recently Peru, and the common threads of humanity that weave in and out of history. Here is an excerpt from an essay written by art critic Shawn Hall:

"...Recalling fetish or totem items from some unknown past, these odd, decorated creatures have both a weighty, tactile solidity and a sense of wounded fragility... Colella seems to bring a hint of their ancient mysteries back to life, resonating with the cultural and psychological plights of the modern world."

Against Nature, reconstructed stuffed turtle, mixed fibers, 11 x 16 x 23 in.

Adria's dynamic paintings, inspired by a residency in India, are an exuberant powerhouse of spontaneous energy and movement. When situated together, our two collections present an unexpected relationship across a terrain of diverse media and subject matter. Here's a description taken from our press release:

Adria Arch's new paintings start with a splash. Working in an intuitive, gestural tradition, she brings in the element of chance at the beginning. The liquid spill, a pooling pour of paint, is the first mark that determines a causative sequence of subsequent marks. For works that are concerned with feeling and surprise and bursts of energy, Arch lets the abstract contour, and the initial color, of that first exuberant gesture determine the spaces she builds across her large-scale surfaces.

Next Nest, acrylic on panel, 48 x 48 in.

WHACK! A Pop-Up Exhibition of art by Adria Arch and Jodi Colella

Dates: Friday through Sunday, September 25 to 27
Place49 River Street, Beacon Hill, Boston MA
Reception:  Friday, September 25, 6-9 pn
Artist Talk:  Sunday, September 27, 3 pm
                     Sign up now for the Artist Talk. Our storefront is intimate and space is limited.
Hours: 3-9 pm Friday and Saturday, 2-7 pm on Sunday, and by appointment

Mystery WHACK! token gift to our first fifty visitors.

Follow us by checking in here and with Adria as we make our way through this event!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Slice of My Summer

Coconut Cream Pie at Irondale Cafe in Birmingham Alabama.
Irondale Cafe is the location of the movie Fried Green Tomatoes.
A quintessential southern whistlestop diner and the fried green tomatoes
are dangerously delicious.

It has been so long since I've written that it's become awkward for me to transition back into it.

To counteract my paralysis I'm going to jump in with two feet and write this abbreviated version, however long of a post, about my summer. Enough to break the ice and get back into the swing of things!

June 3, I accompanied my father on a trip to his childhood home in Birmingham Alabama. He manages to visit every couple of years but it's been about 25 since I've been there. I reconnected with aunts, uncles, cousins and met new family. Attended the 60th reunion of my fathers junior high school. Made significant progress adding information to a family tree. Visited graveyards, old houses, swimming holes and hangouts. Listened to many stories. And consumed lots of southern delicacies like catfish, hush puppies, biscuits, barbecue and more. A very rich experience that has given me new perspective on my family history.

My Uncle Donnie's installation.... I mean garage.  We definitely share a family resemblance!

Late June into July I had the honor to teach at Governors Institute on the Arts in Castleton VT. Faculty from diverse backgrounds including visual arts, poetry, music, puppetmaking, dancing, singing, acting, videography, and so much more, convened for 2 weeks of total immersion in daily artmaking. I taught two classes, Power Figures and Installation. The privilege to work with these passionate high schoolers who are finding themselves through art is bigger than I can put into words. Watch this video and see for yourself.

One of the many beasts created by the talented students at GIA.
HOUSE -  Conceptualized and installed by the Installation class in response to the haunted
second floor of the house where we held classes plus their interest in material culture.
Just a few of my fantastic, fun, intelligent rock-star students!!!

Three days after arriving home from GIA in mid July, we left for a 17-day jaunt through Peru. This trip proved to be very challenging for my husband and me. We were plagued with altitude sickness and other things which slowed us down and affected our energy level. In spite of those distractions we travelled to Lima, Ayacucho, Cuzco, Ollantaytambo, Chinchurro, Pisac, Puno and more. I met nationally renown artisans in their studios where they shared their artmaking processes with me. We visited Machu Picchu. We visited an authentic Reed Village on Lake Titicaca. We experienced the ingenuity of Inca culture at the Salt Terraces of Maras and the horticultural experiments in Moray. We witnessed the spirit and life of an indigenous proud people with spontaneous, unrehearsed happenings of dance and music that popped up everywhere when least expected. The colors are stunning. The vistas are raw and majestic. Individuals are incredibly independent, free-spirited and have a strong sense of who they are and where they come from.

Extremely photogenic and friendly smiles everywhere we went.
This photo was taken in the weaving village of Chinchurro.
Notice the hat. Each region of Peru has their own style of hat worn by the women.
Farther south in Puno, the hats are made and embroidered by the husband
upon the promise of marriage.
One of the artisans I had the honor of visiting during our stay in Ayacucho.
Here, Julio Galvez Ramos is teaching me how to carve alabaster into a heart pendant.
Not as easy as he makes it look!

So now it's September and the beginning of a new year (can't shake that school year cycle).

Here's a highlight of the coming months: 
- I'll be in a pop-up show with Adria Arch in Beacon Hill. We'll be showcasing our new work and providing a great reason to have a party... more on that soon!
- New workshops that I am offering beginning in November. Check out my website for current info.
- A tutorial video with Creative Living Works on needlefelting technique that we'll be recording in September.
- Thrilled to be mentoring an extremely talented MFA student from Lesley University for the semester.
- Invigorated by a new Artist Reading Group.
- And the whole month of October as the Artist in Residence at Weir Farm in CT where I'll be preparing for my solo show at Maud Morgan Arts Center happening in January.

If you made it this far into the post, I thank you for your attention! Please write me about your summer too.

One of my many rewards.
I received so many hugs and thank-yous and gifts and notes.
A real treasure.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


One from a series entitled 'Me, We'.
Small daguerreotypes punched and then embroidered.

During the worst winter of Boston's history I have been hibernating, incubating, germinating, researching, ruminating, learning and quietly growing. It has been an uncomfortable space sometimes, and lonely, but productive.

It's been time spent trying to make meaning out of my values, ideas and experiences. Trying to sort through what I know, and what I think I know but don't. Synthesizing what I'm trying to say and how to say it. Figuring out what to include and what to leave out, both physically and in the abstract.

My thoughts are evolving so quickly, and my process so time intensive, that my sculptures begin with one idea and end with another. I'm unable to find the words for what I'm going through – words to capture the elusive process of process – and thus the absence of my usual blog chattiness.

It feels confusing and aimless with moments of frustration when it seems I'll never figure it out. But a good friend told me to let that part go, because it's about the figuring out, and if and when I do figure it out I'll have nothing left to say.

And then today I found this poem by Ann Sexton entitled 'Rowing'.  Below is an excerpt that particularly resonates with me. You can find the complete verse here.

I wore rubies and bought tomatoes
and now, in my middle age,
about nineteen in the head I'd say,
I am rowing, I am rowing
though the oarlocks stick and are rusty
and the sea blinks and rolls
like a worried eyeball,
but I am rowing, I am rowing,
though the wind pushes me back
and I know that that island will not be perfect,
it will have the flaws of life,
the absurdities of the dinner table,
but there will be a door
and I will open it
and I will get rid of the rat inside me,
the gnawing pestilential rat.
God will take it with his two hands
and embrace it.

It feels good to talk about it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

This Into That

Excited to be a part of the current exhibition at Nave Gallery Annex called This Into That. It is curated by Caleb Cole and opens Wednesday night with a reception from 6-8.

A trinket purchased at the thrift store, an old photo in a family album, a lost hat or scrap of paper picked up from the sidewalk–these items come with their own functions and meanings, but through artist intervention they can be transformed into something else entirely. This can mean giving items a new context, arranging them in unexpected combinations, adding to or subtracting from an object, or using something intended for one purpose as the content or material for a new work of art.

It is sure to be a blockbuster with a long list of very talented artists. Come join us or at least visit while it's up. I'll be gallery sitting on March  12  and 14.

Included are three of my embroidery studies from my residency in China. Click here to learn more.

While in China this past fall, I embroidered pages from a Mao propaganda magazine of the 1960s with a traditional Chinese pine needle stitch. 

I found the threads discarded as waste by a local factory and the magazines in my studio. Inspired by the craftsmanship of classical chinese embroidery, I chose this technique to impose an air of cultural form within the context of a nontraditional application. After completing these artworks, a colleague interpreted the writings as affirmations of Chairman Mao and his unification of China.

The masking of faces and political prose symbolizes the struggle of society vs. the individual in a country where top down communist rule combined with capitalism results in a confused sense of identity and direction. 

Depending on the viewer, the bright colors and designs invoked one of two reactions from the Chinese. Most smiled out of optimism and pride and a few snickered from cynicism.

OPENING RECEPTION: Wednesday, March 4, 2015; 6:00 pm-8:00 pm


March 4-28, 2015

LOCATION: Nave Gallery Annex, 53 Chester St, Somerville, MA

Wednesday-Friday, 6:00-8:00 pm
Saturday, 2:00-8:00 pm
Sunday, 2:00 pm-6:00 pm

Friday, February 27, 2015

Power Figures

Power Figures are small sculptural studies in honor of African, tribal fetishes, Chinese dragons and other spirited cultural symbols. Inspired both by the words and work of Francis Bacon as well as my time living with the Chinese this past fall, these Power Figures are designed to “…seek to touch more closely on reality, a process of exploration based on instinct… A form of working dream.”
These works begin with stuffed toys as depositories of emotions for young and old, which are deconstructed and reassembled as faceless figures full of expression.  Invocations of power provoked by obsessive stitching with a needle and thread. Protective objects that conjure a perceptive experience rather than the limitation of visual appearances.

5 x 4.5 x 3 inches; deconstructed stuffed toy, embroidery,
needlefelting, wool and mixed fibers

5.5 x 3 x 4 inches; deconstructed stuffed toy, embroidery,
needlefelting, wool, steel wool, found threads


6 x 4 x 5.5 inches; Victoria Secret Dog, needlefelting,
wool, steel wool and string

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

November Works

The Chinese overwhelmingly had a positive response to the color and design of my folk sculpture 'Soldier'.
My response to the ideas of society vs. the individual.
At the end of the month in November at Da Wang Culture Highland, we had an exhibition of works created during the month by myself, Daniel Unsworth, Tom Hayes (both from Great Britain), Joop Haring (Holland) and Haitao (China).

It was a great opportunity to focus on the work accomplished during this time and wonderful to collaborate with the other artists while installing too. There were challenges in communicating about lighting and other issues to the gallery workers who didn't speak english... a very interesting experience all around.

Below are some images of the event. It was enlightening to witness the reactions and interpretations of the local Chinese to my artworks. It gave me another opportunity to understand them and their values.

Tom Hayes is a ceramicist who also works with iconography and the meaning of symbols. Here he planted grass seed beneath a porcelain slip in the image of one of his generic icon shapes.

'Ant' is my version of a symbol of emergent behaviors in an environment void of an traditional culture and ruled from the top down rather than organically from the bottom up. It's primitive color and craftsmanship appeal universally, some viewers identified it with Aztec or pre-Columbian folk art tradition and the Chinese identified with the color and pattern as their own. More on the story behind the making of this piece in the next blog post... stay tuned!

Daniel is a talented young fibre sculptor from Liverpool. Here he is exhibiting his crocheted suspension using found materials and natural dyes.

'Colony' is an installation using found clamps used for staging apparatus, and gold leaf. They are interlocked from the bottom up in a precarious agglomeration.

A good perspective of just how large the gallery is!
Joop Haring with his ceramic piece about the growing Shenzhen from 2013.
This year's exhibition is called 'Birdhouses of China.' 

Small studies of bundles using porcelain slip. While in residence where there is a fully equipped ceramics studio...
one needs to explore the medium right?

A very large bundle created from found fabrics and other materials. I saw it as a study of oppression vs. expression.
The Chinese were more optimistic, they saw it as an expression of China exploring who they are,
what shape will they become?

And of course, my embroideries...
read here to learn more about these works.

his post is part of a series documenting my experiences in China. 
Please follow previous entries by using the blog archive in the sidebar to the right. Or click here for the beginning.