On a trip to San Francisco last year, Dawn Endean and her husband Steve went to a major retrospective of Richard Diebenkorn’s Berkeley years at the DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park. Dawn thought the show was fantastic but the inspiration she took away from her trip came from a quite a different source.
Leaving the museum, Dawn and Steve took a walk, dipping into a live butterfly experience at the park’s conservatory. But what really caught Dawn’s eye there was a utilitarian-looking box of butterfly cocoons.
Intrigued by the suspended shapes of the protective coverings, she said the display “felt to me like it wanted to be a three-dimensional art piece.”
Back in her studio, Dawn went to work on the idea of an altered book that would incorporate crafted cocoon forms for Shift’s Palimpsest II show at the Convention Center. But she soon found herself abandoning the book to focus solely on cocoon-like constructed prints made from her work and fashioned with wire, shellac and thread. These became her contribution to the show.
Afterwards she kept going, working through numerous drawings of cocoons and experimenting with constructing them in different sizes and with different materials. “My first attraction to them was entirely visual and aesthetic,” she said. “But as I was working on them I was more and more thinking of the process of transformation.”
In Dawn’s case, the transformation was not of cocoon to butterfly but of 3-D piece to 2-D expression of that form and then back to a 3-D interpretation again. Thus, her current Shift show, Permutations, through June 28, was born.
Dawn said that preparing for this show was the most focused and sustained time she has spent exploring a concept. That focus paid off—in an unintended consequence.
Having completed a body of work for her show, Dawn felt she had both the time and the “emotional safety” to work on another series of prints that further extrapolated from cocoon-like forms. She liked the results so much that those prints ended up replacing others she had originally designated for her show.
Transformation is not a new experience for Dawn. She’s basically lived it to become the artist she is today. Several years ago, Dawn was a full-time graphic designer for a major company when she took a book-making course in Ballard as a creative outlet. She’d always made art and was fascinated by bookmaking.
The class presented a number of techniques that could be incorporated into art books. One was solar-plate etching. Dawn remembers pealing the paper off her first plate to view the result and thinking, “Wow, there is something about this!” She said she simply fell in love with printmaking.
A short time and a two-day introduction to printmaking class at Pratt Fine Arts Center later, Dawn took a leave of absence for a monotype class at Pratt—and just never went back to her job.
Since that time she’s managed her own free-lance marketing company focusing on the travel industry so that she can afford to spend as much time possible in her studio. “I just knew I had to find a way to keep making art,” she said. And she has.