Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Canopy is headed to Missouri!

(Above:  The Canopy as seen at Artfields 2013, a 10-day arts festival and competition in Lake City, SC.)

I'm over the moon that The Canopy was accepted into the national juried Fiber Fever exhibition at the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, Missouri!  Although it has been shown four times, this is the first that will involve shipping and someone other than me doing the installation!  It feels so like "the big times" to be doing this!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Blog Hop Post

(Above:  Melting two "In Box Series" pieces.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

I was tagged by Gerrie Congdon to participate in the Monday Creative Blog Tour.  Wow!  How exciting.  This post is therefore partially one showing what I've been up to lately but also answering the following questions that are part of the "blog hop":

1) What am I working on?
2)  How does my work differ from others of its genre?
3) Why do I write/create what I do?
4) How does your writing/creative process work? 
(Above:  In Box CLXIV, detail of lower right corner including the signature box before using the industrial heat gun.)

To answer the first question, I generally work on more than one project every day, every week.  This past week is no exception.  I've got an art quilt in the midst of being hand stitched and finished.  I'm preparing a press release for my September installation which is a collaboration with graffiti artist Michael Krajewski.  I'm writing a exhibition proposal for a small group I'm in.  I applied for the Smithsonian Craft Show and the American Craft Council shows in both Baltimore and Atlanta.  I'm also creating a few more pieces for my September solo show at the Durham Arts Council in Durham, NC.  These two medium-sized "In Box Series" pieces are for that opportunity.

Because I never quite follow rules, I'm now going to answer the final question:
How does my writing/creative process work? 
Well, the "In Box" and "Stained Glass" pieces that I make have several unique steps.  I developed this technique myself and have shared it as a free, on-line tutorial HERE.  One of the most important steps, however, is melting with an industrial heat gun.  The space between my polyester velvet shapes is the thinnest layer.  It melts away very quickly.  That "substrata" layer is recycled, black acrylic felt that was formerly the packaging material for a canoe or kayak being shipped from a manufacturer to my local outdoors shop.  I have a video of the process but it really doesn't show a "before-and-after" image.

The first image in this blog post shows two, medium sized "In Box" pieces.  The one on the left has had holes melted through the multiple layers of polyester stretch velvet and is almost totally melted with the industrial heat gun.  The one on the right has only had the little holes melted ... using two sizes of soldering irons.  It hasn't been exposed to the industrial heat gun.  The photo directly above is a detail of the lower, right corner  (aka ... BEFORE).  Please note, I haven't melted any holes in the signature block yet.  I did this ... then I "zapped" the piece with the industrial heat gun ... and then ...

.... that same corner looked like this photo!  (Above ... aka ... AFTER!)


The photo above shows the other piece.  I've melted the holes using the soldering iron.  I've "zapped" it with the heat gun ... but it hasn't quite been "freed" from the surrounding black, acrylic felt.  Sometimes I continue using the industrial heat gun to melt more of the felt.  Sometimes I just use the soldering iron and melt away the edges. 


Here is the same corner after I used the soldering iron to completely "free" the piece with the surrounding black, acrylic felt.  What looks like "fringe" is simply some of the acrylic felt melted into the cotton thread I stitch to the outer shapes.


At last the two pieces are almost finished.  They are pictured here on the plywood work table in the garage.  All melting is done in this location while wearing a carbon-filtered ventilator mask.  The fumes from melting felt are toxic.

(Above: In Box CLXIII.  Framed:  21 3/4" x 17 3/4". $325.)

Each piece is then stitched to a piece of acid-free mat board and framed.

(Above: In Box CLXIV. Framed:  21 3/4" x 17 3/4". $325.)

These two pieces will be in my solo show in Durham ... along with several others which are pictured on a blog specifically to share this work.

(Above:  A new shipment of polyester stretch velvet.)

So ... question # 2 asks:
How my work differs from other fiber artwork.  
Well, my work is very different from most fiber artist and especially from most art quilters.  One of the reasons is my choice of materials.  As an art quilter and an installation artist, I use found objects and vintage household linens.  I adore the fact that these items have been cherished by another generation.  I seem to tap into the inherent life they've led and the symbolic and familiar associations viewers see in them.  Yet, my "In Box" and "Stained Glass" fiber work also use fabrics that most others would NEVER consider!  I use lots and lots of polyester stretch velvet.  Recently, I ordered ten assorted yards ... including an absolutely eye-boggling, psychedelic print!  The available selection at Spandex World is hilariously great ... including colors with glitter, metallic, and animal prints!

(Above:  My son Mathias Lenz Dingman and his new fiancĂ© Laura-Jane Gibson.)

Finally, question # 3:  
Why do I write/create what I do?
I am most inspired by a sense of time.  I want to communicate ideas, images, and emotions that express the ways each of us select to spend our limited time on earth.  Last weekend, my son Mathias made one of these important decisions.  He asked his girlfriend Laura-Jane to marry him!  Obviously, she said YES!  Steve and I are so happy ... and looking forward to next July's wedding in Scotland!

(Above:  Newest stash of wrapped-and-stitched wooden spools ... each with a reproduction thumbnail image from vintage family photo albums.

What compels me to create new work is often a sense of family, generations of relates, and the stories we pass down in hopes of being remembered.  My general artist statement probably says it best:

Generally using needle and thread for self-expression, Susan Lenz works to articulate the accumulated memory inherent in discarded things. She seeks a partnership with her materials, their purposes, values, and familiar associations. Memory, universal mortality, and personal legacy are central themes. Vintage and recycled materials are combined with meticulous handwork. Susan is drawn to textiles for their tactile qualities and often makes work that is meant to touch and be touched.

(Above: Detail of spools.)

These tiny gem-like objects are very much part of my desire to make artwork that embodies a sense of family history, familiar objects, and the desire for personal legacy.  Making them is also obsessive! 

(Above:  Various fiber vessels filled with wrapped-and-stitched wooden spools at Mouse House, the business I own with my husband Steve.)

I have no idea how many wrapped-and-stitched wooden spools I have ... undoubted hundreds ... likely at least a thousand or more.  I'm still making more.  Why?  Well, first it is an obsession which I love ... especially while a passenger in the car.  Second, I have an opportunity to share this work at the Columbia International Airport in a locked, enclosed art exhibition space ... September through October. 

I am currently traveling.  In fact, I'm typing this post from my parents' log home in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.  I came for a family cookout being given for my sister Wanda and her husband who are visiting from Munich, Germany.  Yet, my artwork figured into the trip.  I am wrapping and stitching approximately fifty or more wooden spools plus we picked up an antique quilting frame that will be made into a sculptural work for yet another art exhibition opportunity!

(Above:  Michel McNinch sketching an owl brought by the Carolina Wildlife Center to Gallery 80808/Vista Studios for the Congaree Vista Guild initiative "Third Thursday".)

Another reason why I create the work I do is the fact that I've completely integrated art into my life.  I do very little that isn't directly involved with the arts.  Even my "day job" is custom-picture framing.  My studio is in a cooperative setting with twelve other professional artists at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.  Last Thursday the Carolina Wildlife Center partnered with our location for "Third Thursday".  Looking at the animals is great ... but ... when artists look at animals it is with their sketch books, paint, and cameras!  The approach to every day and special occasions is always from the standpoint of a creative adventure!

I even got to hold Lucy ... the snake! 

I know that Jeanne Hewell Chambers knows exactly what I mean from a full immersion into life as an artistic way of living.  That is why I'm tagging her for the next Monday blog hop.  I know that I could tag two artists, but Jeanne is perfect ... as she is both an artist and a writer ... and has more than one Internet location to share her vision of the world!

One of her blogs is HERE and another is HERE.  Jeanne's website is HERE!

(Above:  Drawing and photographing a opossum.)

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Free-Times Review of "Last Words"

(Above:  Last Words, my solo show at Tapps ... during the "First Thursday on Main Street" reception, July 3, 2014.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Every Wednesday here in Columbia, South Carolina The Free-Times is published.  This week's edition carries a marvelous review written by Amanda Ladymon.  The article is called "Last Words Leaves Lasting Impression."  I'm simultaneously humbled and proud.  CLICK HERE to read!

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

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2014 ... China

(Above:  Dragon heads ... from the Dragon-lion cart.)

Last Thursday afternoon, just before going to the opening reception of Last Words, my solo show at the Tapps Art Center, Steve suggested getting up early the next morning and heading to Washington, DC for Fourth of July fireworks and the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall.  Of course, I thought this was a brilliant idea!  I love spontaneous and "last minute" ideas.  I also love Washington, DC.

(Above:  Hands-on Chinese calligraphy tent.)

I stitched on the car ride there and back but didn't even touch a needle and thread on Saturday!  Why?  Well, how could I resist and entire day visiting KENYA and CHINA ... or at least the "best of the best" that is always part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

I've gone to several Folklife Festivals over the years.  They've been on the National Mall for the past 47 years.  I had no idea though, that the National Mall is part of the National Park Service.  Recent Park Service changes have resulted in restrictions on how the Mall can be used by groups and events in the future.  If something isn't done, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival will become impossible to stage there.  I learned this from a volunteer who was passing out "Save the Festival" cards directing people to sign an on-line petition.  CLICK HERE to access.  I did!

 (Above:  Relief printing and painting tent.)

Why do I love the Smithsonian Folklife Festival?  Well ... where else can a person watch a block of wood being carved ....


 .... inked ...

 ... and pressed into paper.  Then painted by artisans whose family is the living heritage of the process?

 Where can you meet a master kite builder, create a small kite, and fly it with people from all over the globe?

Where can you experience live, fully costumed performances from far away countries ... for FREE ... and then watch the troupe have lunch?

Where else can you see the actual tools used by batik artists ...


... who share their designs ...

... display pieces especially created for the festival ...

 ... allow people to touch them ...

 ... and photograph every detail ...

... and let you sniff their dyes ...

 ... and see their recipes ...


... and point out rare stitches (because people weren't really supposed to touch this particular display ... but few could resist and the sign continued to be covered up!)

Only at the Folklife Festival can one admire jackets like this ... unless one can afford the $3000+ price tags ... which are actually very well worth all the expertise, silk embroidery, and fine craftsmanship!

Too beautiful!

So much work by woman like ...

 ... this talented embroiderer.

This lady didn't speak a word of English but was so happy to communicate her passion for embroidery to anyone expressing the slightest bit of interest.  At one point, she demonstrated a stitch using very large stitches directly through the yellow tablecloth.  She smiled the entire time, put samples into the hands of the audience, showed the backs of everything, and laughed with pure joy!  She was a delight!

No book can adequately show the dimension to some of the artwork.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is an excellent way to see so many styles, ideas, and inspirations that are unique to another culture and also the styles, ideas, and inspirations that are now so easily shared across borders and oceans!  This was the contemporary quilting display!

There were women stitching the most incredibly detailed pieces ... like the Mona Lisa ...

... and this amazingly realistic macaw.  I can admire their dedication, fine craftsmanship, and especially the sparkling personalities needed to stitch in front of so many people ... but there's no way on earth I'd ever attempt anything like this!  We are all different.

Yet, we are also alike!  Please notice the Hershey's chocolate container for pins and needles!

Yes, there were plenty of other tents and art forms being shown in the China area but I spent almost all my time in the Textile tent.  Plus ...  after snapping the rest of these photos, my camera's batteries died!  Enjoy!  Sign the petition!