From Start to Finish: The Creative Process

A few stray pictures offer a glimpse into the creative process involved in bringing to life the altar to honor Ilene and Frida.

A couple of months ago, I stumbled upon an essay that Ilene had written and sent to me years ago called “Saint Frida”. I recall reading it, loving it, and then tucking it away in my computer files. When I found it again a few months after her death, I immediately had the vision of an altar to celebrate her creative life and how it had been influenced by Frida. And so the wheels started turning. The story rested on the altar in hopes others would read it.


After weeks of feeling into the piece and ultimately having the design approved by the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, I set about drawing it onto a large sheet of Tyvek paper. Tyvek is a fibrous, very tough product that cuts well with an exacto knife and holds together fairly well once complete. You can just barely make out the penciled drawings in the photo below.


I have several cutting mats, but for this project I used my largest – 3 x 5 feet – that fits atop my flat work table. Below are two photos depicting the bottom portion – one on the cutting mat and one off of it – and one photo of the top half cut before painting and mounting.




This particular roll of Tyvek was white on both sides. More often I use Tyvek that is black on one side and white on the other, so this piece required spray painting one side to make it black. And then mounting it on various handmade paper backings ensued – some in an effort to add color and some to make it a more sturdy piece to hang on the museum wall.




Once completed at home, I gave it a test hang and set up to ensure all was well.


And then I packed it up and brought it to the museum for installation. My friend Lily joined in the set-up fun.



The opening night of the Dia de los Muertos exhibit was festive.



Pictured: Me with Ilene’s husband Conrad Satala and Elizabeth Moon-Gabet, Conrad’s assistant and mutual friend.

La Katrina and El Katrine providing some extra flare to my piece.


The papercutting portion of the installation now hangs in my office space. Whenever I’m feeling like I want a little boost from dear art mentor, I have only to glance left and see her penetrating gaze sending me love and support. It is only a thin veil that separates our two worlds, yes?


Conrad’s gift to me hangs behind my chair – a photo of him in the midst of a ritual in Satiago. The fires of creativity burn bright in this little corner!



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Regina Leffers McCaleb, Ph.D.

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