Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Allergic Reaction

WIP pink flowers by Roberta Warshaw
WIP pink flowers, a photo by Roberta Warshaw on Flickr.
Over the last 20 years or so, I have developed some interesting allergies to things in my environment.

It first began in the late 1980's when I was working at a hotel in upstate New York and the hotel installed new carpeting. I had such a bad reaction to the smell of the new carpet, I couldn't go into work for days until it had all aired out. Of course everyone thought I was quite nutty.

The second time I had an allergic reaction was to a new shower curtain I had purchased. I couldn't even have it anywhere in the house. The smell affected me just like the new carpet. My head filled up as though I had a bad cold and my eyes burned.

Sometimes I cannot even read a magazine. Especially high end magazines with very glossy paper. It must be something in the paper varnish. The Wall Street Journal comes out with a lovely quarterly magazine but I am unable to open it due to the smell and my immediate reaction to it.

I am also allergic to some band-aids and adhesives for wounds. In fact I developed an awful rash from the bandage on my back after the surgery. It was itchy and blistery like poison ivy.

Which leads me to my newest allergic reaction. Encaustic. Yes, it is true. Each time I worked in my studio I came out with a headache and burning itchy eyes as well as a stuffy nose. I did try to ventilate as I know you are supposed to. I had a fan blowing the fumes towards the window and another fan pulling the fumes out of the window.

But it was not enough. I think that my home studio is too small to work in that medium. I think you really need a big space. or maybe it wouldn't matter. Maybe it is just another of my allergies. I don't know. But I can't work in it.

Yes, I am disappointed, but my art is not worth risking my health.

I will have to work in water based media since oh yes, I forgot to mention, I am allergic to turpentine and turpenoid and so cannot work in oils any longer either.

It is weird that I never had a reaction to the polymer clay. Since that is melting plastic for heavens sake!

Well, I'll figure it out. I will find a medium I can work in and then I will get back to work.

I did really like the monoprinting and collaging aspects so I am hoping I can monoprint with water based paints.

Always something............


Mª Reyes said...

Pues lo tuyo es mala suerte!!!tener alergia a productos con los que normalmente trabajas. Ojalá la arcilla polimérica no te afecte, ya que haces autenticas maravillas con ella. Besos

Joanne Holtje said...

Oh, Roberta! That is so sad.
My husband has lots of similar issues with upholstery, clothing, and I'm not going to get into the food thing. It is wild. And, yes, everyone thinks you are nuts or difficult or looking for attention... totally unfair!
Hmm. I wonder if it is the damar in the medium.
Anyway, I am so sorry to hear your experiments with encaustic have come to a premature close.
How are you with acrylics? I'm thinking some of the same mono print/collage stuff could work with that.
Not to be a vulture, but if you think you would like to sell off any left over materials and tools, I might be interested. email me directly if you like.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about your reaction - I was really looking forward to your experiments. Is it worth trying to work with a mask on (very uncomfortable I know). I did stained glass and the flux/soldering made me sneeze uncontrollably until I started wearing a mask.

I worry about the plastic fumes from polymer, so the fact that you don't react is a good sign?

Roberta Warshaw said...

I was looking forward to it too. As far as a mask goes, I really can't work like that. Plus I have a tiny condo and my husband was complaining about the smell. So it went all over my condo in spite of the fans.

Candace said...

Oh, I'm sorry since this was something so new and exciting for you.

Ginger Davis Allman (The Blue Bottle Tree) said...

Well that's cruddy. And you were really enjoying it, too! Allergies are an interesting thing, so unpredictable. I've been debilitated by them at various points in my life and other times nothing bothers me. My daughter's current trouble is, soap,'s awful. But it gets her out of doing dishes at work. An upside to everything? You have learned new aspects that you DO enjoy and maybe you can expand on those. There are some really incredible media available to work with acrylics nowadays, maybe there can be some help there. I've always fancied all the exotics like Micacous Iron Oxide and such. You'll find something you enjoy, just hang in there.