Sunday, February 28, 2016

Let There Be Light!

 (Above:  Me working on a Large Stained Glass Window in my new "home" stitching studio!  Click on any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

This is the first full weekend for me to work in my new "home" stitching studio.  I'm loving it ... as I knew I would ... but there's an added reason why this time is so special.  It has to do with the lighting.

 (Above:  My 10' x 10' Pro Panel booth's track lighting installed on giant, heavy duty U-hooks ... the type generally used to suspend bicycles.)

Before moving my 4' x 8' wooden work table from my old studio at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios to my new home studio, I did stitch a small commissioned art quilt in this former bedroom.  It was fun.  The lady loved the piece. Everything went well but I knew I had a problem.  There wasn't enough light.  I really enjoy working in lots of light.  I needed more.  Steve and I discussed various ideas while on our way to the ACC (American Craft Council) Baltimore Show but nothing was decided.  It looked like a new expense ... until setting up our booth.  As I installed the three track lighting strips, it occurred to me that this was "lighting".  It was lighting that we already owned.  It was lighting that could easily be put into the studio and removed for the two weeks per year when needed in the booth.  Why I hadn't thought of this perfect solution will remain a mystery. LOL!

 (Above:  Another track lighting strip installed above the Babylock Tiara.)

Unbelievably, we also already owned the four, heavy-duty bicycle U-hooks.  They'd been purchased years ago to hold extra frames in the garage.  Steve knew just where they were.  Within minutes, the two of the track lighting strips were positioned in the home studio.  It is wonderfully bright ... and the LED lights are top quality, color correcting, and don't produce heat!  Perfect!

 (Above:  Two lights from my parents ... just to add charm to the studio!)

As much as I like the track lighting, these two Gothic inspired sconces really make me smile.  I remember them from childhood.  They were among the first "fancy" things my mother and father bought to make a proper, formal dining room.  I think they were from Venice but I'm not sure.  I have no memory of them ever being turned on ... which might account for the fact that the bulbs were still good.  They are plugged into a multi-outlet power strip and come on automatically with the track lighting.  I love them!  Thanks, Mom and Dad!

(Above:Donation of thread and yarn from Penny Mascaro.)

I'm also happy to share this fabulous stash of yarn and old thread donated by Penny Mascaro of Fort Royal Virginia.  The old thread is now part of the miles of unraveled string headed to the Mesa Contemporary Art Museum where my installation Threads: Gathering My Thoughts will be on view from April 29 - August 14.  The yarn will become a fiber vessel!  Thanks, Penny!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Back from Baltimore and New Work!

 (Above:  Me in Booth 701 at the American Craft Council 2016 Baltimore Craft Show.)

I admit it.  I was worried about the ACC Craft Show. Last year's event was a disaster. Record snowfall, icy roads, and a 50% drop in attendance meant an overall financial loss. It was difficult NOT to think, "Susan, your work sucks."  Yet, all the literature from the American Craft Council indicates that many people don't purchase until the work has really made a lasting impression. Often this means at least three times of exposure.  Let's face it!  It is difficult to make an informed decision when there's 620+ fine craftspeople under the same convention center roof. There are over fifty aisles.  That's a lot of "eye candy" fighting to make an impression! So I was worried.  Now I am just plain grateful!  There were two people who actually said to me, "Susan, we regretted not buying last year and came today especially to buy from you!"

Needless to say, I'm very, very happy and will continue to read the provided tips while making new work for the ACC Atlanta Show, March 11 - 13 at the Cobb Galleria.  The brooches did incredibly well on the first day.  Then there were only three left.  Not one sold. People seem to need more of a selection. Thus, I'm now working on a new batch.  I'll blog them upon completion.

 (Above:  At Rest in Oregon. 12" x 12". Crayon on unbleached muslin on an old handkerchief and scraps of a vintage table runner with buttons.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Knowing that I'd have plenty of time in the passenger seat of the rental cargo van for hand stitch, I prepared several small grave rubbing art quilts.  I've finished two of them, including At Rest in Oregon.  "At Rest" is a very frequent epitaph.  I have a piece by this title.  Then, when I created another work with the same words, I called it At Rest in Arkansas ... because that's from where the grave rubbing came.  Thus, it made sense to call this little piece At Rest in Oregon.  The grave rubbing came from Paisley, Oregon's lovely little cemetery ... twenty miles away from PLAYA, the art residency I so enjoyed last October.  During the first week a Northern Flicker flew into a window and later died in my hands. It made a strong impression and inspired lots of other artwork.  When seeing so many bird motifs in the Paisley cemetery, I just had to make grave rubbings of them.  I have several others which will likely be transformed into other, small art quilts.  

 (Above:  At Rest in Oregon, reverse.)

The edge of this piece is unique and was slightly tricky but worth the effort.  I adore tatting (mostly because I can't do it and feel a sense of guilt because it is a dying form of fiber artwork.)  I knew I wanted the tatting to trim the piece.  This is generally done AFTER a piece is created, not as a challenge to get the back and the front to work together with the trim already in place.  I also had to cut down the table runner to the size of the handkerchief. One end of the runner to create the hanging sleeve. The background for the reverse came from a round tablecloth that was badly stained but I really like the contrast with the other doily. 

 (Above:  Dearly Loved, 11" x 24 1/2".  Grave rubbings on silk with a vintage, cross stitched doily.)

Another challenge was figuring out how to cut the daisy motif to fit on this vintage doily and how to get the epitaph cut to fit between the cross stitched floral design.  Cutting is sort of risky.  I use very dull scissors.  The material is scrunched between the blades for a random-looking, jagged cut.  Once done, it's done!  I generally don't like to cut "too close" but this piece required it.  Thankfully, it turned out well.  Both these new art quilts have an incredible amount of hand stitching.  Running stitches cover the entire background surface leaving no quarter square inch without the resulting texture.  It is quite meditative to ply a needle in this manner.  The style is often called "kantha" stitching after the northern Indian style of quilting recycled sari material together for continued use.

(Above:  Dearly Love, reverse.)

Like the kantha stitching, I really like recycling old household linens.  It is my way of rescuing the handwork of the many, anonymous women who made these doilies and table runners ... a way to keep their unspoken dreams alive and surviving into a new generation. Most of the embroidery in my stash of vintage linens isn't as refined as my own embroidery skills ... which doesn't matter to me ... but this piece was really very nicely stitched.  It was, however, stained badly.  Thankfully, that doesn't matter to me either!  Since both these small art quilts used vintage table runners, I still have the embroidery on the "other end" of the runner to use later.

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

ACC Baltimore ... here we come!

(Above:  The packed rental cargo van!)

Last December Steve and I traded in our Scion of a small Ram Promaster cargo van.  It's a great vehicle and gets the same gas mileage as the car did.  It is large, large enough for me to haul artwork for solo shows and other art adventures but not large enough to transport the 10' x 10' Pro Panel booth for ACC Shows (American Craft Council.)  This morning we picked up the BIG rental van and moved my 4' x 8' wooden table out of my studio at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios and into my new "home" sewing studio.  There is absolutely nothing left in the old location! 

(Above:  The interior of the packed cargo van ... showing how I suspended the Pro Panel walls.)

By midday, we had the cargo van fully loaded.  This included suspending the Pro Panel walls above the artwork.  Why is this important?  Well, in the past the walls were on the very bottom, directly on the van's interior floor.  This loads easily but it certainly makes the set up difficult when arriving at the convention center.  We need the jigsaw puzzle carpet units and the walls FIRST, not as the last things to come out of the unloaded van.

Using heavy chain, strong metal "hooks", and two pieces of PVC pipe, I rigged the suspension system.  I also tied the entire unit together with rope.  I hope this works.  If it doesn't (and falls onto the framed artwork), we'll have a problem ... but all the weight/strength indicators for the chain and hooks were significantly above the actual weight of the walls.  Tomorrow, we pull out of the driveway and head north to Baltimore! We're ready!

(Above:  Flicker Feather IV. 11 1/2" x 15". Image transfer on fabric with self-guided, free-motion stitching attached to the face of a wooden frame with plenty of screws, nails, and assorted hardware.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Earlier this month my solo show, PLAYA: A Month in Paradise, opened at Anastasia & Friends gallery on Main Street. I met a lovely lady at the reception who commissioned a small version of my Flicker Feathers art quilt.  I honestly didn't think I would be able to start the work until after the ACC Baltimore Show.  Between getting ready for the show and moving my studio, I thought I wouldn't have the time.  Yet, Steve and I were days ahead on the move ... so much so that on Sunday, Valentine's Day, I was finally able to STITCH IN MY NEW STUDIO!  I wanted this occasion to be special.  Thus, I put the Flicker Feather under my machine ... finishing it over the weekend.

(Above:  Flicker Feather IV with its new owner.)

The new, camera-shy owner came right away to pick up the artwork!  If this isn't the perfect way to inaugurate a new studio and start off the week of an ACC show, I don't know what is!

(Above:  Our son, Mathias Lenz Dingman, on the billboard of the Hippodrome Theater for Birmingham Royal Ballet's production!)

Talk about perfection ... this picture is certainly worth a thousand words!  Plus, I'm linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber artwork.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day

(Above:  Valentine's Day ... first day in the new studio!  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Every Saturday and Sunday, Steve and I have been hauling a load from my "old" studio at Gallery 80808/Vista Studio to the room we prepared to become my "new" studio!  Well ... HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!  So much has been packed, moved, unpacked, organized, and made ready that today became the first day to actually WORK in the new studio!  The only thing left in the old one is the 4' x 8' wooden table.  It was made by Dietmar Weiser (aka "Waldi", a family friend since the 1970s)  This means, it's very, very well made.  Steve and I have already unscrewed the table top from the base.  It is ready to be transported on Tuesday morning.

(Above:  Lunette XXII. 23" x 29". $495, plus tax and shipping.)

Why Tuesday?  Well, that's the day Steve and I will pick up the rental cargo van for our trip to the ACC (American Craft Council) Baltimore Show.  The van is large enough to haul the table easily.

Earlier in the week, my studio looked like this ...

... and my new "home studio" looked like this.  By today, however, the home studio was equipped with my Babylock Tiara sewing machine and just about everything else.

I finally replaced the sign on the door.  Once, it read "Artist Shipping Center and Installation Storage Area".  Now, the sign reads:  SUSAN'S STUDIO.

The transformation is nearly complete.  I've left the broom in the old studio.  By Tuesday, even the table (which isn't pictured) will be gone.  Time to sweep up ... and then load the cargo van for the show in Baltimore.  Exciting times!

(Above:  Blessed Sleep II.  12" x 12" art quilt. Grave rubbing on silk with vintage linens. Self-guided, free motion machine embroidery with plenty of hand stitching. Vintage and new buttons and beading.)

Moving the studio has occupied plenty of attention and time ... but not all of it.  Every evening has found me stitching.  I just finished Blessed Sleep II.  This started as one of the "step outs" for the August taping of The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims.  I blogged about it HERE.    It made no sense NOT to finish this piece.  Almost every phase of it had been started.  I will likely donate this work to the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) 2016 fund raising auction.  After all, the auction calls for 12" x 12" art quilts ... and this piece is exactly that size.

(Above:  The Cabinet of Curiosities ... a work in progress.)

Every day this past week has also included time with my Cabinet of Curiosities. Whether I'm working on a new "curiosity" or adding to the supporting sculptural structure, I'm working on it.  I love it! 

In the studio move, I found a small cross stitch I made in the 1980s.  I added it.  Plus, I found colorful letters (from where?  I don't even know!)  I didn't have the letters for my last name ... but I could spell "Susan".  When finished, I'll sign the work on the rest of the wooden ledge beside my name ... and date it.

I added several pieces from a former work called The Archeology Project to one of the wooden boxes.

I created dozens of pages of foreign-looking text for the Archeology Project.  Lots were placed in the pineapple clip.  (The writing is totally a fantasy ... but it is based on a dreadful year spent trying to learn shorthand while still in high school!)

For over two weeks I went back-and-forth on the notion of collaging the cabinet.  I didn't want to hide the look and feel of wood grain, antique drawers, and the solid structure under pages of ephemera.  I worried that too much collage would hide the solid nature of the cabinet.  Yet, I also couldn't resist adding pages from an early passport ... with the visa to enter Kenya.  I added stamps collected from when I conducted Cyber Fyber years ago.  Other paper came from one of my Grandma Lenz's annual finance records.  I used 1962. Plus, I had handwritten letters from the 1950s and cancelled checks from the 1920s ... bought at Bill Mishoe's auction.

I added sea gull feathers to this antique knife stand ...

... and various pins to this ultra cool leather pin cushion from my friend Deborah Langsam ...

... and sepia toned anonymous photos as well as scraps of Chinese newspapers from some bygone era.

I tried to retain the look of the wood ...

... even when adding scraps of  early 19th century celestial engravings.

But, I did more than just add bits and pieces of collage.  I also used several unique buttons from Buttons by McAnaraks to make two "curiosities".  One features a shell and a piece of costume jewelry.

The other has a pewter Indian and is attached to part of an antique lamp ... as if a pedestal.

I filled one part of the cabinet with beaded blue flowers surrounding a sepia photograph in a round pendant.  It is surrounded by scraps of a man's handkerchief that was donated by my friend Ed Madden.

Old grocery stamps were pasted to the cabinet beside a train ticket stub.  I actually wrote the date on it ... June 16, 1974 ... an off-peak trip from London to Haslemere ... a special family trip.

Another "family" item is this antler .. though I don't ever remember anyone in my family hunting.  Still, I got the antler from my Dad.

I got the leather tassels from my friend Mary Langston ... off a broken dog leash (or at least that's what I thought it was! LOL!)

My Dad also gave me this rusted conibear trap.

During the week I replaced the missing glass in the old clock case ... using a piece of wavy, antique glass ... and inside that cabinet nailed up several tagged keys. Beside the tagged keys are now two more keys that are framed.  When I built the Cabinet of Curiosities, I used several drawers ... but not all the ones I had.  The extra drawers were put at the curb ... without their glass knobs.  Four of the extra knobs were used to attach the frame to the clock case.

My friend Kim Bendillo gave me a collection of belts, scarves, and accessories.  One piece had this cross-sections of a conch shell.  It is now part of the cabinet.

While working, I am constantly looking at the cabinet from every possible angle.  Thus, even the underside of some of the shelves includes collaged stamps and other ephemera. There's a good chance that I'll have to distress or sponge paint my lettered name.  I don't want it to stand out too obviously.

Finally, I put the little "found object" rabbit from my studio into the cabinet.  I made it years ago.  It sat on a ledge inside the door's window.  Now that the studio has moved home ... it still has an artistic place to be!  I'll be continuing to work on the Cabinet of Curiosities until April Fool's Day.  Then, it goes to ArtFields, a nine-day art competition on Lake City, SC.  Every day it brings me happiness.  Today, however, is special.  Valentine's Day ... and the first one stitching in my new studio!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Almost Ready for Baltimore!

(Above:  Fourteen new brooches!  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

This time next week will find Steve and me in Baltimore setting up our 10' x 10' Pro Panel booth in space 701 at the convention center for the ACC (American Craft Council) Show.  I'm nervous.  Sure, I'm always nervous but this year is a little different. Why? Well, last year I bombed in Baltimore.  I wasn't alone. The weather was horrible. Television weathermen urged locals to stay home. The roads were ice covered. Eight inches of snow fell on Saturday afternoon ... on top of the first foot of snow. Attendance was off by 50%. Many didn't make booth rent.  Even seasoned professionals who have been on the high-end, juried circuit for years had a "bad show".  They know that disaster can happen. They know that there are forces beyond an artist's control.  In theory, I've known it too, but last year I learned it "for real". Thus, preparations for this year have a new, ominous feel.  My solution:  Make more work!   

Last year I had framed brooches.  The idea was that the brooch could be attached to a little frame for wall display when not being worn. People liked the idea but no one made a purchase.  By Atlanta, I created other work for the frames and tried selling the brooches alone.  Almost all sold.  So, I made fourteen more.  Most of the stitching has been done in front of the television in the evening.  It was fun.  They are each only $50.  I plan on wearing one every day while in my booth.

(Above:  In Box CCXIII. Unframed: 27" x 15". Framed: 34" x 22". Inventory # 3637. $550 plus tax and shipping.)

This week I also finished several other new pieces to take to Baltimore.  I'm working to increase the depth of color in these works, experimenting with new ways to apply my heat-activated adhesive.  So far, so good!  

(Above: Window CXIX. Unframed: 12 1/2" x 10 1/2". Framed:  17" x 15". Inventory # 3639. $265 plus tax and shipping.)

I also returned to an older idea!  I made five new "Window" series pieces as if a view to an imaginary building facade.  I've done this before but not for the two years.  Instead, I've generally focused on symmetrical designs, motifs from a building's embellishment.  I'm really pleased with these new works!  The other four are below!

(Above: Window CXVIII. Unframed: 12 1/2" x 10 1/2". Framed:  17" x 15". Inventory # 3638. $265 plus tax and shipping.)

With luck (and God willing ... good weather!), I'll be able to gauge if my new ideas and work make a good (and profitable) impression.  Many people don't know that doing a show like this is REALLY EXPENSIVE.  Booth rates for a standard 10' x 10' space start around $1500 and don't include electricity.  That's another $150.  Add to that hotel bills, a cargo van rental, food, gasoline, and parking ... well ... it's a real commitment! 

(Above: Window CXX. Unframed: 12 1/2" x 10 1/2". Framed:  17" x 15". Inventory # 3640. $265 plus tax and shipping.)

 No matter how good an artist is, no matter how wonderful an artist's work is, regardless of the price and the attendance numbers ... being one among 650+ of the nation's most talented fine craftsman is an experience that puts the creative life into perspective.  Being an artist is RISKY!  There's no such thing as a "sure thing".  All one can do is work, work, work ... and mentally prepare for anything!  That's how my week is going!  I will blog about the set up, the show, and the results very soon!

(Above: Window CXXI. Unframed: 12 1/2" x 10 1/2". Framed:  17" x 15". Inventory # 3641. $265 plus tax and shipping.)

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

(Above: Window CXXII. Unframed: 12 1/2" x 10 1/2". Framed:  17" x 15". Inventory # 3642. $265 plus tax and shipping.)