Friday, June 28, 2013

Good news and three different projects in the works!

 (Above:  Detail of Stained Glass XLII.  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

I've been busy and I have GOOD NEWS ...  really busy and some really exciting things coming up!

First, I've finished another, large Stained Glass fiber piece!  My last blog post included two others that were waiting for over-sized mat board for framing.  I was so happy when it arrived that I immediately completed the work ... forgetting to snap photos before the Plexi-Glas was installed.

(Above:  Stained Glass XL and XLI in frames, behind Plexi-Glas ... so there is a little glare ... but don't they look wonderful!)

So ... here they are in their frames.  The next piece is one that can hang either vertically or horizontally.

(Above:  Stained Glass XLII ... in a photo I took outside ... with too much bright sunshine that cast a shadow of the black linen liner at the top ... but ... you get the picture!)

(Above:  Lift and Tuck ... accepted into SAQA's Metaphors on Aging exhibit.)

My goal is to have two more of these large works finished before going to England for the annual Festival of Quilts in August. I'm thrilled to be going ... and seeing my piece, Lift and Tuck, in the debut of SAQA's (Studio Art Quilt Associates) Metaphors on Aging exhibit.  In addition to these large pieces, I plan on having lots of smaller ones done too.  I'm already working on two "In Box" series pieces.  I've consulted my calendar and written out a schedule to assure that I have enough work for both the Washington Craft Show and the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show ... both in November.  I'm hoping to have enough work to fill the booth at least twice ... closer to three times.

(Above:  Detail of Stained Glass XLII.  Click on image to enlarge.)

 Now for some good news!

(Above:  The Canopy, as seen at Studios Midwest, an art residency program in Galesburg, Illinois ... where I made the piece.)

The Canopy has been invited to be part of a summer exhibition at 701 Center for Contemporary Art here in Columbia!  I'm very, very excited.  This is a top-notch exhibition space that always features fantastic work of regional, national, and international artists.

(Above:  The Canopy, detail from the Artfields 10-day festival earlier this year.)

The show is called Interior Spaces. Obviously, The Canopy creates its own space ... under it ... a place for a bed or a location for a wedding.  Yet, the best part of being in this show is that I was given a unique opportunity to expand the work by creating an installation.  Thus, the new name for the work is Under the Canopy.  (Or Under the Canopy, Where Heirlooms Sleep ... I left the choice of titles up to the curator.)  

(Above:  Two walnut Victorian side chairs recently purchases at auction.)

My statement is:
A bed is an iconic symbol from fairy-tales, dreams, childhood, romance novels, historical interiors, and personal furnishings.  It means different things to different people.  Despite modern technology and changes in advertisements and parenting practices, most little girls in America still dream of a canopy bed … like their mothers did, like their grandmothers did.  For some, a canopy bed represents the security of the womb.  For others, a canopy bed represents an ideal or a “Happily Ever After” promise for the future.  Canopies represent protection but also sexual fulfillment or marital bliss.

Canopy beds are frequently associated with the preciousness of feminine childhood, a concept largely manufactured by an adult society.  In it, the idealized girl carries all the dreams for her parents. So, is this magical sleeping arrangement really the child’s desire or is it projected by the hopes of adults?  So often, childhood memories are searched as an explanation of adult discontent.  How does the fantasy of a canopy bed figure into the loss of happiness?

Personally, I am interested in the concept of childhood memories, especially how the canopy bed seems to stay part of little girls’ collective desires through generations.  I am also interested in the notion of a perfect wedding, especially how the canopy's vintage needlework, lace, and frilly white fabrics seem to conjure up such a vision … across Judaic marital traditions and into female imagination at large.  Toys, playtime, hopes for the future, stereotypical gender roles, adult nostalgia and romance, a parent’s vision for an archetype child, and the threads that stitch together fairy-tales are woven into the fabric of The Canopy. 

The opportunity to create an interior grouping of found objects in support of my concept has been quite rewarding.  Mismatched tableware, discarded foreign books, symbols of passing time, and furnishings in various states of disrepair suggest the half forgotten dreams promised through fairy-tales, ethereally beautiful but bittersweet.  They pay homage to all the anonymous women who made countless doilies for their would-be perfect homes and as heirlooms for future generations that didn’t come to value them.

This installation is meant to stimulate conversation with regards to all possible associations.  Creating it was a labor of love and a conversation with myself.  Sharing it is simply a joy.   

So ... to create this assemblage of discarded tableware, neglected linens, and assorted furniture in various states of disrepair ... I went to my favorite auction house.  The first two pieces I bought are the gorgeous walnut Victorian chairs above.  I paid $10 a piece.  Sure I was thrilled at the price but also shocked and conflicted.  I just couldn't bring myself to rip off the upholstery, make them look old and distressed.  I want a "pretty scene" but one that shows the signs of age and abandonment.  I want something with a first glance of romance that bears unfortunate truths upon closer examination.  I'd have to "ruin" these chairs.  I couldn't do it.  I went back to the next auction. 

 (Above:  Staging my assemblage.)

Over the last few weeks I managed to buy a cast-off table, another chair, and a tarnished tea set.  Most of the rest, I already had ... from other auctions over the years.  I really enjoyed "staging" my little "tea party".

(Above:  The table with an open drawer and mismatched china, etc.)

There are two hand stitched handkerchiefs, a homemade hourglass, a rosary, assorted old bobbins and a well worn pin cushion.  It was great gathering all this "stuff".  On the floor there's an old piece of needlepoint ... once a seat cushion but now a make-shift rug. 

(Above:  A second chair will be placed nearby with a little foot stool.  The foot stool has no upholstery, just a few antique quilt blocks made from recycled silk ties.)

(Above:  Unique end table with clock).

I didn't just want to "hunt-and-gather" my assemblage.  I wanted to add subtle, creative touches ... like using a set of  mid-19th century Swedish books (in various states of disrepair) to make a unique end table.  The top of the table is the cover of late 19th century book of chromolithographs illustrating The Sermon on the Mount.  I drilled holes in all the books, inserted a metal rod, and used plenty of glue to make this piece.  I also created to special tagged keys ... one is a clock key tagged "Time" ... one is a very rusted large antique key tagged "Family Heirlooms".  I've packed all this up now.  This Sunday is "Installation Day" ... when I'll hoist The Canopy and arrange this special "interior" under it.  I can hardly wait!


My work has been accepted for the 701 Center for Contemporary Art's Biennial.  This two part exhibition will open in September and November.  I don't know which part I'll be in but I'm thrilled.  

Also, I learned today that I was named the South Carolina Art Commission's Fellowship Alternate for Crafts!  It's just a title; only the actual Fellowship winner gets a monetary award ... but I'm elated!  (Plus, I really admire Robert Lyon's work.  He's a full professor in the University of South Carolina's art department and has served as chairman of the department too ... also, he's really nice! Congrats Bob!)

 (Above:  Jeana gluing on thumbnails of my family photos onto wrapped and stitched wooden spools.)

So ... my third project for this week (actually there's another one ... I'll share it later!) is that a whole bunch more little wrapped and stitched wooden spools got done.  Jeana, my new studio assistant, was invaluable.  She cut and glued all the thumbnails of my family photos onto the spools.  It took hours ... and then I shared with her the fact that I've got two more gallon-sized Ziploc bags full of wooden spools that still need stitching!  Around here, there's always work to do!

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

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Waiting for over-sized mat board

(Above:  Stained Glass LX and LXI hung over the handle of my small dry mount press ... waiting for over-sized mat board.  Click on either image in this post to enlarge.)

About a month ago I learned that my "In Box" and "Faux Stained Glass" series were accepted into the very prestigious, annual Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show this coming November.  I was elated and am now in the process of making lots and lots of work for my 10' x 10' booth.

The day I applied for this opportunity was the same one during which I also applied for The Washington Craft Show.  To be perfectly honest, I thought my odds were stronger for the show in DC than in Philly ... but ... I didn't get into DC.  I did, however, get "wait listed".  I thought that would be the end of it ... until Monday.  THEY'VE OFFERED ME A SPOT!  Of course I said "YES".  Now, I've got two really big, retail shows coming up ... back-to-back, November 1 - 3 and November 7 - 10.  I can safely say that many upcoming blog posts will be featuring new work from these two series.

My last blog post featured several photos of Stained Glass LXI in process.  I promised finished photos "soon" ... but this will now have to wait until next week because I forgot to order over-sized mat board.  The two pieces are now hanging over the handle of my small dry mount press waiting for the framing materials to arrive.  We've ordered plenty ... since I'll be making plenty of new work! 

(Above:  Jeana and I in the garage melting holes into Stained Glass XLI.)

In the meantime, I've got a new studio assistant!  Jeana used to work at Mouse House.  It is great to be catching up with her ... even though our conversations have been through the ventilator masks we are wearing during the melting process.  Yet, Jeana is also ironing WonderUnder (Bond-a-Web) on the back of my entire stash of polyester stretch velvet.  I'll likely be needing it all ... so this is very, very welcome help!  Thank you Jeana!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cut, Fuse, Stitch, Melt ... New Work!

(Above: In Box CI.  Unframed: 14" x 11".  Framed: 19 1/4" x 15 1/4".  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

A little over a week ago I posted three, small "In Box Series" pieces that I made and shipped with three other pieces to a gallery in Colorado.  Well, before completing this great order, the gallery owner wrote saying that she's like the same number of pieces sent to her second location!  (WOW!)  I had two "Window Series" pieces; I had a "Lancet Window" too ... but I needed three more of the small "In Box Series" pieces in order to complete her second order.  I went straight to work and shipped both orders out last Wednesday.  Above is the first of the new pieces.  The other two are at the bottom of this blog post.

Next, my attention turned to three large "Stained Glass pieces".  Unfortunately, I forgot to snap photos of Stained Glass XL in progress but below is a step-by-step group of photos on the construction of Stained Glass XLI.  (Stained Glass XXXIX is finish and photos are below!)

(Above:  Me with one of the tackiest polyester stretch velvet fabrics ever!)

I guess I remembered to shoot these photos because it was my first time using this unbelievably tacky, tiger-striped polyester stretch velvet!

(Above:  Stained Glass XLI, in progress, step 1.)

I start with a piece of recycled, black acrylic felt (which used to be the packaging material for a canoe or kayak being shipped from a North Carolina manufacturer to River Runner, my local outdoors shop).  My stash of polyester stretch velvet is "ready to go" ... which means I've already ironed WonderUnder (Bond-a-Web) to the reverse.  Shapes are cut and ironed into place.  Above is the first layer.

(Above:  Stained Glass XLI, in progress, step 2.)

The method of making these pieces is a variation on my original "In Box Series".  I wrote a free, on-line tutorial called, "How to Make an In Box".  It is HERE.  After I lay out the first layer, I add more polyester velvet shapes, as in the photo above.

(Above:  Stained Glass XLI, in progress, step 3.)

At this point, I iron previously painted WonderUnder over the entire surface and add metallic foiling.  I get my foils and my selection of chiffon scarves from Dale Rollerson's The Thread Studio in Australia.  It is the only place where I seem to be able to find all the things I want for fiber arts.  It is worth the shipping from another continent ... and fun to think about how "international" fibers really are!

(Above:  Detail of step 3 ... metallic foiling!  Applying this is like having the Midas touch!  Such fun and instant gratification!)

(Above:  Stained Glass XLI, in progress, step four.)

I continue to cut all sorts of polyester velvet shapes ... filling the entire surface.  All my shapes are cut by hand.  In the photo above, I've already started to add little pieces of previously painted WonderUnder over the new shapes.  The right side of the photo has the WonderUnder.  The left side is waiting for it!  Why do I add more of this heat-activated adhesive?

(Above:  Stained Glass XLI, in progress, step 5 ... adding snippets of various colored chiffon scarves.)

I add more previously painted Wonder Under to the top of the new velvet in order to apply snippets of various colored chiffon scarves across the entire surface.  This is important because it allows my free-motion embroidery foot to glide over the various shapes without getting caught in the layers.  Next ... I spend several hours stitching with black, 100% cotton thread.  Finally, I staple the piece to a stretcher bar, poke holes in it with two different sizes of soldering irons, and melt it from the reverse with a heat gun.  Hopefully, I'll have more photos of this soon!

(Above:  Stained Glass XL.  Click on image to enlarge.)

After each piece is finished, I stitch it to an over-sized piece of mat board installed in a black linen liner and then put the entire thing into a frame behind Plexi-Glas.  Below are details of Stained Glass XL, above!  Further below are the other two, new "In Box Series" pieces!

(Above:  Top part of Stained Glass XL.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

(Above:  Upper middle section of Stained Glass XL.)

(Above:  Lower half of Stained Glass LX.)

(Above:  Bottom of Stained Glass LX.)

(Above: In Box CIII.)

(Above: In Box CII.)

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

Monday, June 10, 2013

Photo Installation in progress

(Above:  Shadow, my new "studio assistant", helping with the photo installation.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)


On May 13th I blogged about a hair-brained idea that I had ... and put through a successful experiment.  That post is HERE.  Basically, I took randomly selected vintage photographs purchased at auction, fused them to off-white fabric (also bought at auction), cut them out, glued them to Pellon's Stitch-and-Tear, stitched them into a grid, and tore away all the Stitch-and-Tear.  This left an arrangement of anonymous photos all connected via stitch ... a grid of photos.  At that time, I wrote that my intentions were to create a giant piece ... roughly 5' x 10'.

(Above:  Steve ... my temporary "studio assistant" ... tearing away the Stitch-and-Tear from the reverse of a grid of photos.)

By the end of May, I had plenty of "small grids" of photos.  Since Charity, my studio assistant, moved to Virginia.  I solicited my husband's help.  Nightly, we tore away Stitch-and-Tear from the reverse of these "small grids" ... approximately eighteen of them.  I wrote about this HERE.  So ... now I was ready to connect all these "small grids" into one, giant piece ... which has ended up much larger than originally planned ... approximately 5' 8" x 15' 6". 

(Above:  Creating a giant grid of anonymous photos at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.)

In order to do this, I needed a very, very large space ... like the atrium at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios which is just outside my studio door.  Of course, this is a rental space.  A show was on view at the time.  In fact, Artfields Extended was on view ... including The Canopy, my piece!  Thus, I had to work after hours ... like after demonstrating dry felting at EdVenture for the Mini Maker Faire on Saturday, June 1st. 

(Above:  The large grid of anonymous photos ... drying on the floor after the current exhibit closed for the day.)

I went to the studio around 6 PM ... after the show closed/after making dry felted bookmarks with kids from 9 - 5.  I lay out plain white paper to protect the floor.  Then, I laid out the eighteen smaller grids.  Between the grids, I put wide strips of Stitch-and-Tear ... and lightly glued them to photos on both sides of the space between them ... effectively attaching them into one large unit ... at least "underneath".  Next, I added more anonymous photos to these spaces ... filling in all the gaps ... until it looked like a single unit. 

(Above:  The large grid of photos ... drying under The Canopy ... over night ... on Saturday, June 1st.)

I worked until nearly 9 PM, working to combine the individual, smaller sections into one, giant grid  ... clipping photos to fill the gaps ... adding dabs of glue to the new photos.   I allowed the glue to dry over night ... and got to the studio before 8 AM on Sunday morning.

(Above:  Detail of the large grid.  If you click to enlarge, you can see the spaces that exist between the smaller girds.  These are the spaces between photos that are not stitched to one another.)

(Above:  The large gird ... rolled up for the week.)

That Sunday, June 2, I rolled up the giant grid.  In the photo above you can see a few of the strips of Stitch-and-Tear that link the smaller girds to one another.  I stashed the roll in my studio ... waiting for the next weekend ... waiting for Sunday when no one would be in the atrium. 

(Above:  This weekend in the studio ... same place ... no show in the gallery ... Sunday morning ... getting ready to stitch the "smaller grids" together.)

Currently, there isn't an art show booked into the gallery.  The space is simply hung with work by the resident artists ... including me.  I guess I could work in the atrium at any time ... but this was going to be tricky ... really, really tricky.  I wanted to attempt this work alone, quietly and without stress.  I decided that yesterday, Sunday morning, June 9th was the right time.  

(Above:  Midway through stitching the giant gird of photos.)

There is no easy way to stitch into the middle of this grid.  There is no easy way to keep the shifting grid flat ... except close to the floor.  I set up my Bernina in the atrium.  I put a folding table (folded) on the floor ... I taped mat board behind my sewing machine ... all in an attempt to make a surface relatively level to the sewing.  I also brought an over-sized (40" x 60") piece of poster board on which to place the bulk of the giant gird ... as a way to "move" it more easily.  I got down on the floor to stitch.

(Above:  Stitching the giant grid ... in process.)

It took six hours with breaks about every forty-five minutes.  Why?  Well, I'M OLD!  I'll be 54 later this month.  I can no longer sit hunched on the floor with one knee bent under the material and the other leg trying to push the foot pedal!  My back needed stretched.  My legs needed stretched.  I'd frequently paced the room just to restore circulation ... BUT IT WORKED!  I'm very, very pleased.  It is one, giant grid now!

(Above:  Tearing Pellon's Stitch-and-Tear off the back of the giant grid.)

Of course, the stitching is now complete but it work isn't quite finished.  I am now at home ... in front of the television ripping the Stitch-and-Tear away from the sections that attached the "smaller grids" together.  Thank goodness the living room is large enough for the piece. This is going to require several nights ... likely all week.

(Above:  Removing the Stitch-and-Tear ... with Shadow, our cat.)

My husband Steve took these photos.  He hasn't decided if he wants to help remove the Stitch-and-Tear ... even though he was quite capable when tackling the "smaller grids".  He says I don't need TWO studio assistants and that Shadow, our cat, has obviously volunteered to help!  (Yeah ... if only I could lay on my back and get something done!)  Next ... I've got to tackle the hanging device!  I've got another hair-brained idea!  Please remember, I intend for this giant grid to be suspended in front of a wall at least six inches ... casting its shadow onto the wall.

(Above: Shadow, the new furry, home studio assistant hard at work.)

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

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Newspaper article from Arizona and new work!

Vision Gallery hosts Decision Portraits

Through July 26, Vision Gallery in downtown Chandler will be displaying Decision Portraits by Susan Lenz. The portraits are created by a Xylene photo transfer onto tea-stained muslin. Each portrait is designed differently with diverse embroidery, buttons, beads or even eggshell.

(Above: In Box C.  Unframed 13 1/2" x 9 1/2".  Framed 19" x 15". Click on image to enlarge.)

I'm especially pleased with the sensitive handling of the exhibition in this article.  The telephone interview with Mandy went very, very well ... and it shows in her writing.

In the meantime, I've finished four, small "In Box" pieces.  Three of these are headed to Earthwood Gallery in Colorado.  The fourth is my start on work needed for my booth at the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Craft Show this coming November.  I'm excited ... especially since the "In Box" series now numbers ONE HUNDRED!  Yes, the letter "C" in Roman numerals is ONE HUNDRED!

(Above: In Box XCIX.)

(Above: In Box XCVIII.)

(Above: In Box XCVIII.)

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

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Mini Maker Faire at EdVenture and photos from Castle Dome Ghost Town

(Above:  Demonstrating dry felting and making fiber bookmarks at the Mini Maker Faire at EdVenture, the Children's Museum in Columbia, South Carolina.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last Saturday I had a total blast at EdVenture, the Children's Museum, here in Columbia, South Carolina.  I was part of their Mini Maker Faire, a licensed event from Maker Faire.  The Maker Faire website explains:

Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned.

(Above:  Making dry felted bookmarks at the Mini Maker Faire.)

To be a "maker", I had to apply, be accepted, set up, and spend the day sharing!  That's exactly what I did ... with "kids" of all ages, from three to around seventy-five.  I brought my Babylock embellisher, a stack of over 140 strips of Pellon's heaviest and stiffest non-fusible interfacing, four balls of variegated yarn, some small examples of my work, and a container of previously cut, multi-colored triangles of craft felt.  As soon as the doors opened, I started showing people how to take these things and make bookmarks.

(Above:  Making dry felted bookmarks.)

My husband Steve came in the afternoon and snapped a bunch of photos and even shot some videos.  I created a little YouTube video.  It is HERE.  It was 5:00 PM before I knew it.  There are more photos at the bottom of this blog post.

(Above:  Mounting Stained Glass XXXVIII.)

Since then, I've finished melting, mounting, and framing the commissioned piece, Stained Glass XXXVIII.  It is being delivered to Ellen Taylor Interiors later this afternoon.  I've also created four small pieces in my "In Box" series which now need melted and framed.  Thus, I'll be back in the garage wearing my ventilator masks very soon!

(Above:  Saguaro Cactus in bloom.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Also, I finally finished working with all the images Steve and I shot while in Arizona.  Sure, I posted the pictures from my solo show, Decision Portraits, at Vision Gallery ... but I had hundreds more to sort through.  I created a Flickr! set of the image from our half-day trip to Roosevelt Dam, our time in Organ Cactus National Monument, the visit to the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park, and Quartzsite HERE.  (As a slideshow ... click here!)  Yet, our favorite part of the trip was going to Castle Dome Mining Ghost Town.  I arrived with a fully charged camera battery and shot until it died.  THIS PLACE IS AWESOME!

(Above:  A general view at Castle Dome Mining Ghost Town.)

Steve and I didn't know that it really wasn't supposed to be "open".  We got lucky and arrived at the exact same time as a van full of people who were brought from a mental health facility as a form of "art/history/therapy".  They knew to call ahead.  (THANK GOODNESS!)  Well, we got to enter the place with them.  They left after less than an hour.  We stayed for over four ... enough time that the owner/manager, Mr. Allen Armstrong, told us simply to make sure the gate was locked on our way out!

Basically, we had this marvelous 30+ structure ghost town to ourselves on a picture perfect day in the middle of "nowhere" Arizona.  FANTASTIC!  I deleted over half the photos I shot but still ended up with about 221 left.  The Flickr! set is HERE.  (For my Dad ... the slideshow is HERE!)   One travel review writes:

Since buying the property in 1993, Allen and Stephanie Armstrong have created a sprawling museum. They started with a handful of original buildings still standing. More structures were hauled in from outlying mines, while others were constructed on-site using salvaged materials. Today, visitors can prowl through 50 buildings, including a hotel, doctor's office, church (with functional bell tower), blacksmith shop, assay office, sheriff's office, jail and several saloons. And you'll be hard pressed to determine which buildings are original and which are re-creations.

Our time at Castle Dome was magical, inspiration, and an adventure all its own.  I highly recommend the place ... to ANYONE!  It was so worth the drive down an unpaved, 10-mile desert road!

(Above and below ... more photos from Castle Dome Mining Museum and Ghost Town.  All images can be clicked on for closer inspection.  Further below are more images from the Mini Maker Faire at EdVenture where I demonstrated dry felting by machine and made bookmarks with kids of all ages.  Enjoy the photos!)

(Further below are the images from EdVenture's Mini Maker Faire.)