Wednesday, July 26, 2017

DAY EIGHT, Homestead National Monument

 (Above:  The Freeman Brick Schoolhouse at Homestead National Monument.  Click on any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

This is Day Eight as an artist-in-residence at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska.  I've been blogging every day:  First, something about this unique place.  Second, what I've stitched.  Today is a little different.  Why?  Well, today I went to the Gage County Fair ... which officially opens tomorrow.  Today was "drop off" day ... as in bring the chickens, canned goods, roses, 4-H entries, quilts, etc. and have a BBQ dinner.  Plus, antique cars!  So ... after I've shared my own creativity, I'm sharing the County Fair!

 (Above:  The interior of the Freeman Brick Schoolhouse.)

Less than a quarter mile down Route 4 (and still part of the Homestead National Monument), stands the Freeman Brick Schoolhouse.  It opened in 1872 and served as a center for education, the township's polling place, where First Trinity Lutheran Church met, and a location for other clubs and community functions.  That's all pretty normal.  What isn't quite so normal is the fact that this school was in continuous operation until 1967.

One of the placards displayed a photograph from 1967.  Eight children were playing in the yard while a teacher looked on.  At first this seemed like "ancient history".  After all, the desks and globe and room are all so "antique".  Then I realized, I was eight years old in 1967.  More than half the kids in the photograph were younger than eight.  I never really thought about the possibility that I would have ever gone to a one-room-school house, but I would have had I lived here!

While my elementary schools (I went to two) weren't anything like this, there was a place for coats ... with the same sort of hooks.

We did carry lunchboxes ... though not quite this old (and I doubt the kids in 1967 used this one either!)

One of the best reasons for art residencies is the time for contemplation.  From the outside looking through the windows, I got the best reflections ... old fashioned desks with power lines, the road, the National Monument marker, and a street sign.  Yesterday and today.

From the other direction, I got the prairie with the desks.  I've been thinking quite a lot about my own life, dreams, and the direction in which I want to take my artwork.

(Above:  Waste Not Fresh Tears V.  14" x 18".  Xylene photo transfer on printmaking paper fused to fabric.  Accented with water soluble crayons.  Buttons and beads.  Hand stitched.)

 So ... my artwork!  Today I stitched Waste Not Fresh Tears V.  I tried not to be so dense and overlapping with the buttons.  I also added a few beads. While stitching I thought about why these angels seem so appropriate to me while here at Homestead National Monument.  I've been thinking about my elementary school days when I first learned about America's westward expansion.

 (Above:  Waste Not Fresh Tears V, detail.)

I was in the fourth grade.  We were studying various aspects of pioneer life ... including an attempt to hatch an egg in an incubator.  It was supposed to require a certain number of days, but nothing happened.  Mrs. Shaw, our teacher, explained that such things weren't precise.  As a class, we waited a few more days, maybe a week.  Finally, Mrs. Shaw decided to crack open the egg ... on my desk.  Now, I don't know what she thought was going to happen.  Surely it crossed her mind that a half-formed baby chick would end up dead in a puddle of slimy liquid.  Perhaps not ... because that's what happened.  Of course, this was disastrous.  Everyone was upset.  We were all told to return to our desks (which meant I was still sitting with the dead bird).  Mrs. Shaw quickly disposed of the mess, wiped the surface, and announced that we would have a movie about pioneers!  Everyone was thrilled.  Movies were a big deal.

   (Above:  Waste Not Fresh Tears V, detail.)

The projector was set up.  The film showed a large family traveling in a covered wagon.  It showed their clothes, food, tools, and other sorts of thinks about homesteading.  It focused on one of the daughters during the winter.  She got sick and died.  Her name was Susan.

Now anyone growing up in the late 1950 and 1960s probably had at least one "Susan" in their class.  I can't remember a time when there wasn't two of us.  The other Susan got totally hysterical.  The movie was stopped, and poor Mrs. Shaw had to take the other Susan to the principal's office in order to call Susan's mother to come take her home.  As they left the room, Mrs. Shaw gave strict instructions to the rest of us.  "Put your head down on your desk and don't move!"

I can remember thinking to myself, "I don't know why the other Susan is upset.  It was just a movie, and she doesn't have to plaster her face on a desk where a dead chick lay less than an hour ago."  So, for me the reality of "death" and homesteading were always intertwined.  Later, Laura Ingalls Wilder's books reenforced the notion of "death" being a risk when seeking The American Dream.  (I remember crying for poor Jack, the dog, when lost in a swollen river.)  Danger, peril, and loss are truthfully part of this history.  

Here at Homestead National Monument, I've learned that only 40% of the initial claims were ever "proven".  Unproven claims reverted to the government.  Sixty percent of those hard-working, big dreaming, hopeful people weren't successful ... generally because of forces beyond their control.  Thus for me, the specter of Death is ever present.  Yet, it is not a deterrent and it does nothing to squelch my.willingness to take risks, make art, travel, and experience new things.  For me, Death is a fascination because it is a companion to Life.

Later in life, I had a miscarriage.  When it started, I said to my husband, "Don't worry!  After all, what did they do in pioneer days?  They lived through it."  I believed that right up until the time I was wheeled into an operating room for a D&C.  Though my elementary school experience should have taught me that they also "died through it", I remain an optimist.

While I'm stitching buttons to images of cemetery angels, I am aware of Death.  I am thinking about the sixty percent of the homesteaders would didn't succeed.  I am thinking about their hardships and loss.  Yet, I am also thinking about the risk being so worth taking.  That's why I titled this series Waste Not Fresh Tears.  The rest of the Euripides quote is Over Old Griefs.  In the face of Death, life must go on.

 (Above:  Staking Her Claim, in progress.)

Life must go on ... and so must stitching!  I couched the selected phrase on this piece and started seed stitching the background.

 (Above:  Staking Her Claim, detail in progress.)

I am trying not to be so dense with the stitching.  More isn't necessarily better, it is simply against my normal inclinations.

Now ... the Gage County Fair!  I love fairs.  In fact, I started stitching after visiting the Ohio State Fair with my husband Steve back in the 1980s.  We walked through the arts and crafts building looking at the needlework on display.  I kept saying, "I could do this" and "I could do that".  Steve said, "Put your money where your mouth is."  I went to the library and repeatedly checked out the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework ... and taught myself!

The Gage County Fair buildings all have quilt blocks.

I have NEVER before seen anything for sale at a fair with a six-digit price tag!

All the open entries were being dropped off ... including the flowers ...

... and crafts ...

... and these ladies getting their "ducks in a row".

There are antique tractors ...

... and lots of antique cars.  I especially like taking creative images of car details ... most particularly the hood ornaments (even if I accidentally got my own reflection in the chrome).

The superintendent here at Homestead National Monument gave me a ticket for the BBQ dinner.  I think I was in line with the entire county!  It was wonderful!  (Thanks, Mark!)

Here's another hood ornament.  I took well over one-hundred pictures but culled the number down to just thirty-one.  To see them, CLICK HERE.  I put them on a Flickr album!  Enjoy!  Tomorrow I'm going to Lincoln, Nebraska to visit the International Quilt Study Center.  Check back!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Homestead National Monument, Day Seven

 (Above:  A happy community gardener.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

It's hard to believe that today is the "halfway" point in my art residency at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska.  I came one week ago.  I leave in one week, but I'll be blogging every one of those days.  First, I'll share a few things about this unique place, and then I'll show what artwork was accomplished!

Since it's been very, very hot here, I've been walking the mowed paths early every morning and at dusk.  This evening I came upon a lady from Lincoln gardening in Homestead National Monument's community garden.  She drives forty miles two or three times a week to weed, water, and pick fresh vegetables.  She had a bumper crop of zucchini and her tomatoes are doing well.

By Halloween, she'll have nice, fat pumpkins ... and her basil is simply beautiful.  The 10' x 15' plots and water are totally free to accepted applicants. No pesticides will be allowed. Homestead National Monument's website page for the community garden says: This is a place for people to connect with the homesteader lifestyle and earth itself!  (Click HERE for more information.)

The community garden is very near the Palmer-Epard log cabin ... and so is the barbed wire display!  The display fencing is very, very long ... with different types of barbed wire between the fence posts. Believe it or not, between 1868 - 1874 over five hundred U.S. patents were issued.  Guess what?  The Homestead National Monument's website has a PDF called Fencing on the Great Plains: The History of Barbed Wire

 (Above:  Daniel Freeman, the first homesteader, and his wife are both buried here on their 160 acre claim.)

Every day I walk passed the grave markers for Daniel Freeman, the first homesteader, and his wife.  Freeman claimed this site, plowed this land, and lived on it until his death.  It's a lovely, final resting place.

 (Above:  Walnut Grove Pet Cemetery in Beatrice.)

Anyone who knows my work knows I love grave markers and cemeteries.  Last week when I drove into Beatrice (the nearest town to Homestead National Monument ... just four miles away), I saw a sign "Pet Cemetery". I had to go! 

The cemetery spans several acres and over 1,000 pets are buried under the shade trees.  Burying a pet is totally free for local people.  They must register the burial and provide the marker.  There are dogs and cats, of course ... but also hamsters, birds, rabbits, ferrets, bunnies, snakes, and even a hedge hog.    

Most of the markers were obviously purchased at the same place.  They are plastic.  The relief doesn't lend itself to a crayon grave rubbing on fabric ... though I managed to get something fairly good from this unique plague.

 (Above: Palmer-Epard Log Cabin.  17 1/2" x 23 1/2".  Image transfer on fabric with both free-motion machine embroidery and hand stitching.  Buttons.)

Now ... I spent the entire day finishing the Palmer-Epard Log Cabin.  I'm very pleased how it turned out.  Here's how the day went:

For the most part, I played with every shade of yellowish looking buttons I had ... determining the order along the edges ...

... and which ones to carefully place on the field of yellow prairie coneflowers.

I don't often show the back of my stitching because it rarely looks as neat and tidy as this.  I think the ability to work long hours in the same place allowed me to finish off every thread's end.

One of the reasons it took all day to complete this piece is because of the reverse.  I like to use vintage textiles.  At home, I have boxes and boxes of old table clothes, doilies, runners, handkerchiefs, and napkins.  Here at Homestead National Monument, I have a little pile ... just some of the items most recently purchased at Bill Mishoe's weekly auction.  One of the things in the pile was this old quilt top.  It looks good on the clothesline but trust me!  None of the individual block came together correctly.  The applique was done on machine ... and not well done.  I'm pretty sure this quilt top wasn't worth finishing ... but it sure made a pretty back for my piece!

I cut a section from one corner, cut it apart, and put it back together so that the flowers went in different directions (and so that section finally lay flat! LOL!)  I stitched it back together and made the hanging sleeve using my Bernina ... which just happens to be set up on top of a treadle sewing machine in that bedroom!

 (Above:  Palmer-Epard Log Cabin, reverse.)

I also added three doilies and a label.  I do this so that my "back" isn't like a pillowcase (not attached to the front ... or only stitched together on the edges).  I hand stitch the doilies through the back fabric and into the felt batting.  Thus, all my layers are united.  Below are two more detail shots of the front and a sunset photo.

Tomorrow I'm going to the Gage County fair!  So ... check back to see what else happens!  I'll be blogging again tomorrow.

Good night from Nebraska ... as another lovely sunset ended today!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Homestead National Monument, Day Six

 (Above:  Hunter Hendricks showing off his first Junior Ranger badge.)

Today was my sixth full day as an artist-in-residence at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska.  As promised, I'm blogging every day ... first sharing something about this unique place and then following up on the artwork on which I'm working.

So ... did you know that most National Parks have a Junior Ranger program?  Well, they do!  Typically participants are between the ages of 5 - 13, though anyone can get involved.  CLICK HERE for more information and a complete list of the parks.  Homestead National Monument is among them and today I got to witness one of the newest Junior Rangers pledging her oath to "Explore, Learn, and Protect" (which is the motto).

Hunter Hendricks officiated and then presented the young lady with her pin.  It's a big deal.  Hunter even showed off his very first Junior Ranger pin.  The experience lead him to his current job ... which included a telephone interview with me several months ago while I was vetted for this artist-in-residence opportunity.

Well ... Homestead National Monument hasn't forgotten about "Not-So-Junior" visitors. This is Carol Fettin, a talented art quilter from Omaha, and her husband Mark with the thirteen page program book for adults.  If finished, participants get a pin too.  I picked up a copy and will begin tomorrow.  I'll let you know if I earn my pin!  There are LOTS of fill-in-the-blank questions, a crossword puzzle, a drawing exercise, and a page to practice penmanship!

Carol Fettin and her husband drove all the way from Omaha to visit.  Frankly, I'm impressed.  Sure, I'd drive two hours to meet a visiting art quilter ... but it sure feels special when it's me someone else is driving to see.  I'm touched, honored, and had a great time!  Thank you, Carol (and Mark for actually doing the driving!)

 (Above:  Waste Not Fresh Tears IV.  14" x 18".  Xylene photo transfer on printmaking paper fused to fabric.  Accented with water soluble crayons.  Buttons.  Hand stitched.)

Among the things I shared with Carol was Waste Not Fresh Tears IV.  This is shaping up to be a little series and I'm very much enjoying it.

 (Above:  Waste Not Fresh Tears IV, detail.)

I truly love playing with the buttons, deciding which ones go where, and stitching them all down.

 (Above:  Palmer-Epard Log Cabin, in progress.)

Today I also finished the seed stitching in the sky portion of my Palmer-Epard Log Cabin

(Above:  Detail of the seed stitched sky area on the Palmer-Epard Log Cabin.)

I tried to make the stitches ever so slightly larger and less dense toward the top ... to give some sense of distance.  It's hard.  I seem to have a naturally small stitch tendency and an innate desire to have them very close together.

 (Above:  The Palmer-Epard Log Cabin trimmed, blocked, and checked for being "square".)

One of the reasons I like to stitch while the work is stapled to a wooden stretcher bar is to prevent it from getting skewed.  The material isn't getting pulled in various directions as the stitching is plied.  It was very easy for me to trim the piece on the edge of the digital image and iron it.  I trimmed using a pair of scissors, not a rotary cutter.  The only thing I used the cutting pad for was to check whether it was square.  It was.

 So ... now the yellow buttons.  You'll have to check back to see how this goes!  I'm sure the art quilt will be finished by this time tomorrow night!  I'm excited.

 (Above:  Staking Her Claim, another art quilt in progress.)

I stapled this piece to the stretcher bar.  The lower half is already free-motion stitched.  The public domain image depicts a California woman receiving the deed to her proven homestead.  Yes!  Women, former slaves, and other marginalized groups were welcomed as homesteaders!  A month before I came, I had this (and the other digital images) printed on fabric by Spoonflower.  I knew I wanted to stitch this piece ... because it shows a female ... and because I figured that I'd find the perfect quotation to stitch into the otherwise empty sky once I arrived on site.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a great phrase.  Almost everything used the word "man" ... as in "to elevate the condition of men" (Abraham Lincoln) or "a farm free to any man who wanted to put a plow into unbroken sod" (Carl Sandburg) or "a man with a stake in his own land is a free man" (Gerald Ford and others) or "If a man owns land, the land owns him" (Ralph Waldo Emerson ... and the last quote in the movie played in the Homestead Visitor's Center.

Finally I asked one of the rangers ... a nice woman ... who showed me a book in the gift shop.  I had to look no further than the title:  Staking Her Claim!  I can't wait to get started!

I'll be stitching again tomorrow.  This was this evening's sunset!  Wow!

Because it has been so very hot here, I've been walking the trails early in the morning and at dusk.  In addition to a beautiful sunset, I could also see the lights in the distance ... I think this is the nearby fertilizer company ... as in a mile away.  Views here in Nebraska stretch out to a faraway horizon under a big, big sky.