A Short History

by Susan Janvrin

I have always been interested in repeating patterns. Over the years as a stained glass artist, my designs were usually pattern oriented. Over time, all that lead handling became a health concern. I took what I learned with leaded glass, and switched to glass mosaics. For a young artist with no money, glass was sometimes out of the budget so projects got put on hold or never happened. Being determined and resourceful, I eventually began experimenting with incorporating various non-glass flat materials as well, including 45’s from the thrift store and those free AOL CD’s. I already loved everything about 45’s; the size, the label designs, the colors, the song titles, the sound. Love turned into obsession when the geometric and mathematical design possibilities of this new resource were discovered. From then on, glass was forever out of the picture.

The earliest pieces were drafted with pencil and paper, then built on 48 x 48″ plywood and framed in zinc. The very first piece had an “X” pattern and a haphazard label arrangement, showcasing the pure wonderfulness of as many labels as possible for the viewer to enjoy, as the eye’s focus drifts from label to label.

King; 48 x 48″; 45’s and CD’s on plywood

I personally found a deep meditative quality in both making the piece and looking at it, and wanted to enhance that. 45’s were organized in groups of label color so that they could become the palette for a soothing monochromatic visual arrangement. Label color was carefully considered in all subsequent pieces.

Red; 48 x 48"; 45's and CD's on plywood

After seeing my work at the first exhibition, a friend handed me a box of black and white marbled 12″ vinyl that some local band abandoned in his storage room. It took quite some time to decide how to use them in a piece. I abandoned hand drawings and started to use Photoshop. This made it easy to duplicate shapes and play with color.

Check; 48 x 48"; LP's, 45's, and CD's on plywood

From this point, the patterns became more complex as more components were added. Designs using the larger LP’s created a lot of negative space which I felt overly compelled to fill in with 45’s, CD’s, and convex mirrors. The convex mirrors accented the overall reflective quality and brought the viewer’s line of vision deeper into the piece. They also served the practical purpose of covering an unsightly joint created by mixing the two vinyl sizes.

Detail view

Blue Overload, Photoshop Sketch
Max Red, Photoshop Sketch

In the next series, I found refinement by letting go of the compulsion to put everything in a square and cover every inch. The pieces began to take their own shape, which resulted in more of a sculptural piece. A painted background was added for exposure between the records.

Superhero; 36″ x 72″; LPs, screenprint, acrylic on hardboard
(Preliminary Sketch) Finished piece 36 x 36″

Reconsidering the negative space, the painted background was cut out and eliminated. I also switched to 3/4″ plywood for self-supporting construction so that no braces interfered with the new lacy shapes. The edges of the plywood are painted black.

Kaleidoscope Sky; 48″; LP’s, acrylic, convex mirrors, on plywood

The textbook, Decoding Design, uncovers the secrets of how the numbers 1-10 are symbols that speak to our subconscious mind and the ways in which this is exploited in commercial art. It is really fascinating how this subconscious language speaks to us visually no matter the language or cultural background. Drawing inspiration from this book, the next series is inspired by simple single digit numbers.

Three to the Power of Three; 48 x 42″; LP’s on plywood
Side View
Six Degrees of Separation; 42″; LP’s, acrylic, convex mirrors on plywood

We picked up a free architectural plotter on Craigslist. This new tool afforded me extreme accuracy in pattern-making. I switched from Photoshop to Illustrator. Previously, the final design was duplicated by hand onto the plywood, but in Illustrator, it was now possible to print a large CAD of the scaled line drawing on the plotter. This, combined with increased jigsaw skills acquired from practice, resulted in a final piece that was polished and precise. To celebrate this newfound precision, the black edge was eliminated and the beauty of the layered ply was exposed.

A Bee’s Lament; 24 x 72″; LP’s, acrylic, convex mirror on plywood
Lava; 24 x 72″; LP’s, acrylic, convex mirror on plywood