Thursday, June 22, 2017

Silence is Golden and other new artwork!

 (Above:  Silence is Golden I, detail.  Click on any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

Last week I finished His Secrets and Her Secrets.  I blogged about them HERE.  It was such fun project and I truly thank the many people who contributed digital images of their mouths/lips.  Yet, I didn't feel done.  Many of the sent images weren't high enough in resolution and/or out of focus.  These snapshots weren't "terrible".  They just weren't good enough for the slightly larger, color phots I used with the red buttons.  I felt a little guilty that I hadn't used all my digital donations.  I knew that if I desaturated the pictures and made them a smaller size, I could use almost all of them.  That's when an idea occurred to me:  USE GOLD BUTTONS!

 (Above:  Silence is Golden I, 30 1/2" x 22 1/2".  Black-and-white images collaged to heavy watercolor paper with gold buttons and stitched with gold, metallic thread.)

With a gold button over every mouth, the piece would accurately reflect the old adage Silence is Golden.  I went to work.  Each picture is 2" x 4 1/2" ... in order to create a grid 5 images wide by 15 images in each column.  That's SEVENTY-FIVE "shut mouths".  I had so many images that I am now working on Silence is Golden II.  There aren't 75 photos ... but plenty more!  So ... thank you once again ... to everyone who sent a picture!

 (Above:  Silence is Golden I, in progress.)

Silence is Golden I is glued to a white-painted stretcher bar, just like His Secrets and Her Secrets.  This time, however, I didn't place a bunch of heavy objects all around the edges in order to get a firm, even attachment.  I used a bunch of clamps with strips of foam-centered board to protect the artwork's surface.  This was easier and better.  I'd forgotten that I had so many clamps!

(Above:  In Box CCXCVI.  Inventory # 4034.  Framed:  33" x 21".  $550.)

I've been busy this week!  Two new, large "In Box Series" pieces were completed.  These will likely go to my solo show at Waterworks Visual Arts Center, a regional museum in Salisbury, North Carolina.

(Above:  In Box CCXCVI, detail.)

I am about to start making another selection of Lancet Windows ... because all those that I've made are either sold or in galleries.  I'll need more before November's Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  Planning so far in advance feels a odd but it is absolutely necessary.

(Above:  In Box CCXCV.  Inventory # 4033.  Framed:  33" x 21".  $550.)

It is especially important when scheduling workshops!  I'm teaching "Second Life" at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts on October 21 - 22.  (Click here to register.)  I'm teaching "HOT!"at AYA Fiber Studios in Stuart, Florida on October 25 - 26.  (Click here to register.)  These workshops have been on the organization's website for over a month.    

(Above:  In Box CCXCV, detail.)

This week the Eastern Shore Art Center listed my upcoming January 26th "HOT!" workshop on there website.  (Click HERE to register.)  If you live near Fairhope, Alabama, you might want to consider this!  This workshop coordinates with my solo show Anonymous Ancestors which will be at the Eastern Shore Art Center from January 5 - 27th.

(Above:  Husband and Wife? or Brother and Sister? What Does It Matter?, The Wall of Ancestors.  Altered antique image in antique frame with convex glass.  18 1/2" x 24 1/2" including the frame.)

Speaking of Anonymous Ancestors, I'm still creating more work for the Wall of Ancestors.  How can I resist ... especially when my successful bid for this frame, convex glass, and image was just $10?  I knew when I bought it what phrases I'd use.

(Above:  Her Lines and Hem Lines, Conformity ... Inside the Lines for The Wall of Ancestors.)

I didn't know exactly what words I wanted on this vintage classroom photograph.  I only knew that I wanted the letters to address the uniform hem lines on all these homemade skirts.  This piece is much smaller.  The glass size is just 7" x 9".

(Above:  The Modern Woman for The Wall of Ancestors.)

Finally, here's another antique frame.  Sure, it is missing one of the wooden leaves for the cross-bowed frame intersections ... but I don't really care.  With age comes a little wear and tear!  That said, I'm older too.  On Saturday I turn fifty-eight years old.  To mark the occasion, I've updated all my social media profile images to reflect "how I really look" ... just me ... without make-up ... in a t-shirt ... with eyeglasses ... in front of my Wall of Keys.

(Me ... by Forrest Clonts Photography.)
Yes ... there's a little wear and tear ... and wrinkles and gray hairs ... but that's me!  (Okay, I admit it ... a professional photographer had a lot to do with this! LOL!)

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.

Monday, June 19, 2017

EPOXY ... Installation-in-progress, Week Six

 (Above:  One of the circles/orbs ... with epoxy poured over it and with a new hanging device.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last Friday afternoon, I returned to CMFA (Columbia Music Festival Association) and collected seventeen circles/orbs from my public installation-in-progress.  I stapled yellow signs to the wall reading:  Installation-in-Progess.  The missing orbs will be returning!  This weekend I'm experimenting with epoxy.  If successful, the orbs will have a shiny, reflective surface.  Come back to see!

 (Above:  How the installation looked today.)

The photo above shows how the installation looks now.  From this distance, nothing much has changed.  But it is different! The epoxy experiment was a SUCCESS.  Thus, seventeen of the circles/orbs are covered in epoxy and have new hanging devices.  Sixteen others have been removed and are now waiting to have epoxy poured over them!  The yellow signs have been updated ... saying that more epoxy is coming!  So, what did this week's work involve?

 (Above:  The circles/orbs ... drying after an application of Golden's GAC 400, a fabric stiffener.)

Knowing that epoxy is poured in a liquid form, I wanted to prevent it from totally oozing into the porous textile surface.  A coat of Golden's GAC 400 was applied and allowed to dry.  This is a polymer emulsion formulated to "stiffen fabric".  For good measure (and because I had a half gallon on hand), I then applied a coat of Golden's GAC 200.  (Use the same link as above.)  GAC 200 is the hardest, least flexible polymer emulsion available.  I knew it would increase the fabric's stiffness while sealing the surface very, very well.  Once finally dry, I cut 2-ply gold or silver metallic paper to back each orb.  I did this to some of the orbs in "Week Three".  Now ... all the orbs are going to have this shiny backing.

(Above:  Homemade epoxy pouring station.)

While waiting for the circles/orbs to dry, I built an epoxy pouring station.  It is simply four pieces of wood screwed into a square.  This square went inside a large plastic bag (sort of like a dry cleaner's bag).  On the top of the square is an old picture frame.  Holes were drilled into all four sides.  Wire was woven through all the holes.  This contraption allowed me to pour epoxy over the circles/orbs and "catch" the excess on the plastic bag.  When a puddle formed on the plastic bag, I simply lifted the frame and smeared the front of an orb in the solution ... preventing a lot of waste.  When finished, I threw out the sticky plastic bag.  Simple clean-up!
 (Above:  Me in my tyvek suit ... ready to pour epoxy.)

Pouring epoxy requires planning.  There's only about twenty-minutes of "open time" before the epoxy begins to harden.  First, the two solutions are vigorously mixed for three minutes.  My husband Steve times this.  Then, pour!  As each orb was finished, I handed it to Steve who took it to the prepared drying area inside the garage.

 (Above:  Using a propane torch on the epoxy-poured orbs in order to eliminate bubbles.)

The photo above shows the table inside the garage.  We had it prepared before we started.  It was covered in paper.  We had plenty of wooden blocks ready.  (Extra blocks can be seen on the right, in the corner of the table.)  These blocks are important.  Why?  Well, if we had laid the circles/orbs down directly on the paper, they would be firmly attached to that paper.  Epoxy is very, very sticky.  Therefore, each orb is sitting on a block, slightly above the paper.  Excess epoxy dripped onto the paper ... which was thrown out after everything dried.

(Above:  Detail of the propane torch eliminating bubbles in the epoxy.)

Within ten minutes of the pouring, air bubbles created while mixing the epoxy become visible and start to rise to the surface.  The quickest and best way to eliminate these bubbles is to use a small propane torch.  Trapped bubbles react to the torch's rich carbon dioxide exhaust. It is fun to do!

(Above:  Pieces of 2" x 2" wood, painted white and drilled with a hole.)

Next, I cut a 2" x 2" piece of lumber into small sections.  I drilled holes in the middle of one side and painted them white.

 (Above:  The new, wooden hanging devices being glued to the reverse of the circles/orbs.)

These wooden blocks were then glued to the reverse of the circles/orbs.

 (Above:  Testing the new hanging device.)

Before gluing everything, I taped one of the blocks to the back of one of the circles/orbs and hung it on the wall.  I had to make sure it was going to work!  A single 1 1/2" nail was hammered into the wall.  The block's drilled hole fit nicely over the nail!  Voila!

The orbs stay flat and parallel to the wall.  They cast nice shadows too.  Next week I might use only a 1" thick block ... varying the distance from the wall.  Please notice the shiny reflection of the epoxy on this circle/orb!
 (Above:  One of the circles/orbs hanging at CMFA.)

Finally, I took the seventeen circles/orbs back to CMFA and rehung the installation-in-progress.

I updated the yellow signs ... to say more epoxy is coming!

It is difficult from me to capture a good photo of the different surfaces.  In the photo above, however, it is obvious which orb is covered in epoxy.

I really like the results.  Of course, if there is time after all the orbs are coated, I might pour more epoxy over some of them.  The additional epoxy would fill all the holes and be really, really a smooth, reflective surface.  Time will tell.

Friday, June 16, 2017

His Secrets and Her Secrets

 (Above:  Detail of Her Secrets.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Three weeks ago I blogged about To Be Seen and Not Heard, a unique art quilt made from over eighty antique engravings of idealized women. I stitched small, white shirt buttons over each mouth.  While doing this, I dreamed up another "button project" ... His Secrets and Her Secrets.   

 (Above:  Her Secrets.  30 1/2" x 22 1/2".  Photographs adhered to heavy watercolor paper with hand stitched buttons and running stitch.  Mounted to stretcher bars.)

The earlier blog post included this request:

I'm really pleased with the piece and it has led to new ideas.  I am now in search of people willing to provide a close-up, relatively high resolution image of just their mouth ... smile or no smile!  With luck, I'll use the images to create two pieces tentatively called Her Secrets and His Secrets.  In my mind, I see lots of larger, red buttons!

Lots of people sent me pictures!  Facebook friends sent me "their mouths".  I captured more images while at Soda City Market on Main Street ... just approaching strangers (and most of my favorite veggie and bakery vendors) and saying, "I'd like to snap a photo of just your lips".  Sure, people thought I was crazy but that doesn't matter? (Maybe I am a little nuts? LOL!)  I took more pictures at "First Thursday", a monthly art crawl ... also on Main Street.

 (Above:  Her Secrets, detail.)

Two computer folders were created:  Male and Female.  All the images were sized to 3" x 5 1/2" ... a perfect size for the heavy watercolor paper onto which they were adhered.  That's four columns ... ten rows ... a total of forty mouths.  Forty men; forty women.

(Above:  His Secrets.  30 1/2" x 22 1/2".  Photographs adhered to heavy watercolor paper with hand stitched buttons and running stitch.  Mounted to stretcher bars.)

Each 3" x 5 1/2" image was formatted to print in the middle of a standard 4" x 6" print.  I trimmed each one to the desired size.  I carefully measured and drew lines on the watercolor paper ... guidelines for placement.  I played around with the images until I liked the arrangement and then used polymer gloss medium to adhere them in place.  Why polymer gloss and not matte medium?  Well, the resulting shiny surface looks more appropriate when working with actual photographs.

 (Above:  His Secrets, detail.)

Both pieces were allowed to dry overnight.  In the morning, the heavy watercolor paper wasn't flat.  It curled as if in four columns.  This is typical when applying moisture/wetness to paper, even very heavy art paper.

(Above:  Her Secrets, in progress.)

For me, this isn't a problem.  As a custom picture framer, I own a dry mount press.  Heat and pressure are all they needed to become totally flat again.  The picture above shows Her Secrets in progress, fresh out of the dry mount press.

 (Above:  Her Secrets and His Secrets, in progress.)

Because I spent three days last week sorting my enormous stash of buttons, I had a container of red ones and a container of pink ones ready for this project.  The two works were placed on my living room floor while I played around ... deciding which button went on which mouth.  I liked this arrangement.

 (Above:  Two trays made of foam-centered board ... a way to organize the selected buttons.)

There might have been an easier way to keep the selected arrangement of buttons but I don't know it.  For me, creating two trays of foam-centered board worked.  Each tray has ten rows.  The buttons were pinned in the same arrangement as they'd sat on the artwork.  In the evening while watching television, I stitched them to the coordinated mouth.  (By the way, in order to make the stitching easier, I used an awl and tack hammer to poke holes for all the stitching ... hundreds of holes for all the running stitching between the rows and columns.  It made stitching a pure joy!  No more stress trying to ply a threaded chenille needle through the thick layers of these works!)
 (Above:  One of the two pieces under assorted "weights" while being glued to a stretcher bar.)

Two stretcher bars were cut with the same outer measurements as the watercolor paper.  Before gluing the work in place, I finished the back of the stretcher bars (see photo below).  Then, I glued each one to the front.  To assure a firm attachment, strips of wood were placed around the edge and weighed down. They sat overnight.

(Above:  His Secrets and Her Secrets, reverse.)

By the next morning, the pieces were finished.  I added my label to the back ... which, as mentioned above, was already finished.  What are the two metal things on each side?  Well, because even heavy watercolor paper is prone to expand and contract with changing humidity, I wanted to eliminate any problem of the paper bulging in the future.  A "strainer" (a piece of wood the same thickness as the stretcher bars) went across the middle.  The metal brace holds the strainer in place. The pieces are glued to the strainer as well as the stretcher bars ... not leaving much room for the watercolor paper to expand ... ever.  For a polished back, I screwed a piece of mat board over the entire reverse. 

 (Above:  His Secrets, detail.)

When dealing with so many mouths, I quickly learned several things:

People generally smile in front of a camera.
Men with mustaches and/or beards are eager to pose.
Women fret if they don't have lipstick ... even if they don't generally wear any.
Lipstick and stubble were often my only clues to the gender of the lips in my images.
There are several shapes and "styles" of mouths but within a particular "style" many look quite similar.

Most interesting:
Ethnicity is often blurred.  There are several Hispanic and Asian mouths on each artwork ... but I can't even remember which ones they are ... and not all the African-American looking skin tones belong to African-Americans!  I particularly like this reflection of the great American "melting pot".  In our lips, we are more alike than we are different!
 (Above:  His Secrets, detail of my nephew Tony.  Thanks, Tony!)

Despite the fact that many of the mouths are similar and few are personally known to me, there are a few that I really do know!  My nephew Tony sent me great images of his lips!  Thank you, Tony!  I snapped a photo of my husband Steve's lips and my own.  Otherwise, no one else is related to me!

(Above:  Her Secrets, detail of my own lips and signature.)

Yes, I included myself.  If one asks others to participate in an art project, one better be willing to participate too!  I used my own lips on the very bottom, right-hand side ... where I collaged letters and numbers clipped from vintage magazine for my signature.  If you look carefully at His Secrets, my husband Steve's lips are in the same position!

 (Above:  Her Secrets, detail.)

Not all the images I had made either art quilt.  I had more than enough and felt very badly about the images supportive people sent that I didn't end up using.  For the most part, the pictures sent to me weren't high enough in resolution and/or in focus.  What looks great on Facebook isn't always great when printed.  Most people don't understand that fact and I felt too guilty to ask for "better".  So ... I had to think hard about those who were otherwise "left out".  I came up with another button idea!

 (Above:  His Secrets, detail.)

I am already at work on two more, similar pieces.  These will be titled Silence is Golden I and Silence is Golden II.  By sizing all the images to 2" x 4 1/2", the small sizes didn't matter so much.  By desaturating the colored images to high-contrast, black-and-white, the slight blur didn't matter much either.  Silence is Golden I has five columns ... fifteen rows! That's seventy-five mouths on one piece.  So ... if you sent me a photo and can't find it here, just wait!  It might have made the next button-inspired art quilt!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ready, Aim, Fire!

(Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire!, detail.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Anyone following my blog already knows that I've been lately obsessed with buttons.  I have thousands of them (literally!).  I've also got an upcoming national park art residency at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska, an opportunity that resulted from a proposal to use buttons for new work.  What I didn't have, however, was any discernible organization to my button collection.  I spent three days sorting, separating, and finding the yellow, red, and blue buttons needed to stitch this bulls-eye target.  Now all my buttons are in clear containers ... by type and/or color.  It was worth the time and I know I'll be very glad about it later. 

 (Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire!, 40" x 24".  Found police target practice sheet fused to 2-ply rag paper and to fabric with a bulls-eye target of stitched buttons.)

So ... Ready, Aim, Fire! was inspired by the fact that I already had the police target practice sheet.  I've had it for years.  Why?  Well, I'm friends with a very talented artist named Pat Callahan.  In addition to being a very fine artist, Pat is a long-distant runner.  Her husband walks a lot ... and they both pick up "treasures".  They find all sorts of rusty washers and cast-off metal pieces for Pat's Entangled Jewelry.  But, Pat has also salvaged other interesting things.  Once she found a piano.  I got the keys ... which became part of my sculpture Time Signatures.  One day she came upon a stack of used police target sheets.  I got several.  I used one in 2014 for a themed exhibit called Just Another Cliche.  I made Hit Me With Your Best Shot.  Somehow or the other, a bulls-eye reminds me of both a button and a target practice sheet.  They just go together.

 (Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire! in progress.  Tacking the police sheet to fabric.)

First, I had to figure out how to get the target practice sheet into a usable/stitch-able form.  When I created Hit Me With Your Best Shot, I simply dry mounted the paper to foam-centered board.  I can stitch through foam-centered board but it isn't fun.  It's much too thick.  Each stitch is difficult.  So this time, I used gel medium to adhere the badly shot-up target practice sheet to a piece of 2-ply rag paper.  Next, I used Fusion 4000, a framing industry product, and fused the paper to fabric.  In the photo above, I'm tacking the paper to the fabric with my tacking iron.  The piece is sitting atop my dry-mount press.  After tacking the layers together, the piece went into the press for five minutes at 185 degrees with 28 pounds per square inch of pressure.  Viola!  Fused!  It became one, nice, thin, easy-to-stitch through sheet. 

(Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire! in progress.  This image shows the back of the stitched piece while sitting on my mat cutter.  Detail below.)

Stitching this piece required a little planning.  It is somewhat flexible but it does not drape or fold.  Most of the piece had to sit flat on a small table.  I'd rotate the piece as I stitched ... pulling it toward me ... so that only a small portion wasn't on the table ... allowing me to stitch.  The center was obviously the most difficult area to keep balanced.

 (Above:  Detail of the back.)

The center, of course, had the most stitching!  I added several straight stitches around the edge of each colored band.

 (Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire!, under weights.)

Once stitched, the next issue was to tackle the hanging device.  First, I coated the back of the piece with Golden's GAC 400, a fabric stiffener.  This dried overnight.  This step was supposed to prevent other gels from soaking into the fabric.  Next, I cut a piece of mat board slightly smaller than the piece.  I covered it with gel medium.  I cover the back of the piece with more gel medium ... and put the two together ... and under lots of weights.  (See the photo above.)

 (Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire!, detail of the button bulls-eye.)

Something went wrong!  I think it has to do with the extremely high humidity here in South Carolina.  The piece was still damp the next day.  I put it outside in the sunshine.  It dried but curled.  I put it back under the weights.  If the buttons weren't so "deep", I could have run it through the dry mount press under a blanket of foam ... but I didn't want to risk damaging the buttons (and certainly not the dry mount press.)  Finally, I took off all the weights and discovered that the mat board wasn't attached to the reverse at all.  With the amount of gel medium used, this shouldn't have happened.  Most interesting is the fact that the reverse appears to have soaked up all the gel medium.  The stitching can hardly be seen at all.  The mat board appeared to have none of the gel medium.  Yet, the piece is nicely rigid ... rigid and stabilize enough to mount to stretcher bars.

 (Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire!, reverse.)

Stretcher bars were cut slightly smaller than the piece.  I painted the edges black and added a stabilizing bar.  This bar goes across the middle of the bulls-eye target, the section with the most weight.

 (Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire!, detail of the reverse.)

The piece was glued to the face of the stretcher bars.  Finished!  It hangs perfectly flat.  I plan to enter it into the upcoming SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) Loaded Conversations juried exhibition.   Whether accepted or not, I'm very happy with this newest additional to my button obsession!

 (Above:  Will I Be Remembered? Time Did Tell, Wall of Ancestors.  Antique frame and image with letters clipped from vintage magazines and sheet music.  Unframed:  16" x 12"; framed: 32" x 28".)

At this week's local auction, I was the successful bidder on several antique frames including two rather large ones.  Both needed a little work but was worth the effort.  Between the various frames, panes of antique glass, and the anonymous images, I put together these two additions to my Wall of Ancestors. The Wall of Ancestors is part of my solo installation, Anonymous Ancestors ... which seems to be increasing every week. 

(Above:  Life Wore Me Out, Wall of Ancestors.  Antique frame and image with letters clipped from vintage magazines and sheet music.  Unframed:  20" x 14"; framed: 30" x 24".)

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.