The Seventh Starving Artist Story

In the previous story, I told you how I got to Cranbrook Art Academy by train.  I also want to tell you about some of the clothes that I packed for the trip.  Since I didn’t have enough money for winter clothes, and had never been in snow, I thought that I would do just fine with my levi jacket, and an old Granny coat without buttons.  I made my own boots.  A friend of mine, (who grew and sold wheat grass for a living), showed me how to make knee-high crocheted boots.  They were brown, with cream, emerald green, and red-orange trim.  They had a tongue, and laced up with rawhide straps.  The soles were dipped in toluene-based adhesive that I bought at a model airplane shop, so that they would be water-resistant.  The wet of the snow penetrated the soles the first time that I wore them.  I was freezing to death in that levi jacket.  When winter set in,  Mary Fowler Hecht, a rich kid  from New England, gave me an old polyester quilted jacket.   Another girl gave me an old pair of Red Wings.

I didn’t have any money for art supplies,  so the first month I just wandered around into everybody’s studio, seeing what they were doing.  The school was heavily departmentalized, with eight disciplines in total.  The biggest slackers were the architecture and design students, who were also the most fun and creative.  I started hanging out with them and avoided my own department, in sculpture.  I knew that I had to do something, so I started going around the school, and rummaging through the trash bins of all the departments.  I found a gold mine at the fibre department.  I found a ton of yarns, woven metallic fibres, and newspapers.  Outside, there were pine cones everywhere.  I stripped the spikes off the cones so that only the central spine was left.  Then, I would wad up a softball size of newspaper at one end of the pine cone spine.  I would  take the jute twine that I found in the fibre departments trash bin, and carefully wind it in a nice descending spiral down the ball of newspaper.  On the final layer,  I would  glue on some of the metallic or cashmere fibres,  criss-crossing over each other.  The end result resembled a chicken leg.   Many years later, I saw an Egyptian exhibit, in which they had displayed mummified birds.  They were so similar!  If only I had a better art history education, I would have known not to name them “Disco Chicken Legs” – but I was on the right track.

 Photographing some work for the portfolio before acceptance to Cranbrook

Photographing some work for the portfolio before acceptance to Cranbrook

I actually have some old slides of these “Disco Chicken Legs”.  I might have them converted and show them in a later post.


  1. Posted December 18, 2008 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    one of my favorite things about this story, is the photo’s you have to go along with it!

  2. Posted January 19, 2009 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Lavanna, you have had such an amazing “trek” in life. I’m so glad you’re documenting your past…sometimes I can’t believe we’ve survived all that we have. Cheers!

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