Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Lunette, a Window, and a ballet review

 (Above:  Detail of Lunette XXXII.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

As normal, time is flying by and soon my husband Steve and I will be on the road to the Smithsonian Craft Show.  These are the last pieces I'll be able to finish before we pack the cargo van.  Earlier, I thought I would be making a few more smaller works instead of a larger, "Lunette".  Something wonderful changed my plans.  A nice lady who saw Large Stained Glass LXXXI at Art Quilt Elements at the Wayne Art Center outside Philadelphia contacted me and bought a one of the Lunette Windows I had here in South Carolina.  So ... I made Lunette XXXII to replace it.

 (Above:  Lunette XXXII.  Inventory # 4276. Unframed: 17" x 23". Framed: 22" x 28". $495.)

This really is one of my favorite designs even though no two ever turn out alike.  Sometimes I put a right-side-up heart at the center.  Sometimes I change shapes on the outside edges.  Never are the colors the same.  I guess this design is really a "variation on a theme". 

 (Above:  Window CLI. Inventory # 4275. Unframed: 13" x 11". Framed: 17" x 15". $265.)

The first time I cut a five pointed, palm-shaped piece of fabric I wasn't thinking about a hamsa symbol.  I simply liked the shape.  Perhaps future pieces will include a more intentional created hamsa because I truly like the idea of a protective amulet.  There really are so many more motifs to explore!

Finally, Sunday marked the final ballet performance for me to review for Jasper Magazine.  It's been an interesting year of watching and writing.  I don't know yet if I'll continue next season but seeing principal dancers from New York City Ballet on stage with the University of South Carolina Dance Program performance majors was certainly a great way to end a literary assignment!  The review is HERE.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Two Windows, headed to the Smithsonian Craft Show

 (Above:  Window CXLIX. Framed: 17" x 15". $265.  Click on either image to enlarge.)

Although it's been two weeks since I learned that I have booth 110 at the Smithsonian Craft Show, I'm still a little in shock.  It's been a goal for years.  Now, it's just days away!  Earlier this afternoon, I learned that my assigned "move-in" time for unloading the cargo van is on the evening of Monday, April 23rd.  That's in ELEVEN DAYS!  How do I cope with the nervousness and excitement?  Well, I make more art, of course!  Here are two recently finished pieces in my "Window Series".  There's not much more time but I do plan on a great upcoming weekend in my studio!

(Above:  Window CL. Framed:  17" x 15". $265.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Focus on Fibers 2018

(Above:  Second Life Workshop at Focus on Fibers, a program of workshops and retreat time conducted at the Atlantic Center for the Arts outside New Smyrna, Florida.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last Thursday after making a presentation at the Swamp Fox Quilt Guild in Florence, South Carolina, I drove down I-95 to Florida.  Specifically, I was headed to a most amazing place, the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Everything about this place is special. The eco-friendly buildings have lots of natural light.  The above ground boardwalks make every walk one with nature. The food is terrific and the company is awesome.  I've taught my HOT workshop there before.  (CLICK HERE for that post from 2014.)  This time, I conducted my other workshop:  Second Life.  I bring EVERYTHING needed for a successful experience, including about half my enormous stash of vintage and antique household linens, lace, and ...

...even this embroidered apron!  Participants are welcome to whatever they need to create their artwork.  My only "rule" is: Promise to USE whatever you take!  It is fabulous to watch once neglected guest towels and crocheted doilies find a place in a new piece of stitching.  It is great to know that this nice lady will continue to wear this apron to future workshops!  (Considering the pristine condition of the apron, I don't think it had ever been worn before!  It was high time someone claimed it for its intended use ... and doesn't it look perfect on her!) 

(Above:  Some of the workshop participants working on pieces for the 8" x 10" frame I brought for each to use.)

My workshop description is:

SECOND LIFE is a workshop aimed to inspire participants to create fiber art heirlooms using vintage and recycled materials and to discover unique ways to stitch expressions of personal legacy. Various exercises are conducted to tap into hidden artistic desires, including stream-of-consciousness writing and tagging old keys with significant words. Crayon on fabric grave rubbings are incorporated with beads, buttons, old lace, and anonymous photos. This workshop delves into both memories from the past and hopes for future remembrance. Susan shares her vast collection of grave rubbing art quilts and her daily studio approaches to making art. Participants leave with more than a finished work but with ideas for their own action plan with regards to their own family treasures and personal fiber stash.

 (Above:  At the Edgewater-New Smyrna Cemetery making grave rubbings.)

Early on the second morning, we visited a nearby cemetery.  I'd already scouted the location and talked to the two maintenance men.  They told me all sorts of interesting stories about the place and pointed out significant markers for us to consider for a crayon-on-fabric rubbing.  Some of the participants did not go on this outing but it didn't matter.  I bring a broken tombstone with a lovely rose motif and an epitaph that includes the words: Blessed Sleep.

I used this tombstone on the set of the television program hosted by Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims.  I've made several small pieces from rubbings made on it.  (CLICK HERE to see two of them.)

Most of the participants brought family memorabilia.  This photograph, necklace, cosmetic compact, hanky, and eyeglass case were perfect on the antique crazy quilt scrap with the tatted doilies I brought.  Carefully, we designed the work to fit into a standard 16" x 20" shadowbox frame that she can find later.

This same lady designed another work first ... using an anonymous photo, lace, a scrap of embroidery, and beads coming entirely from my stash.  The beads were a recent donation to me from my friend Dolly Patton.  Years ago, Dolly's mother made fancy wedding cakes and decorated the setting with all sorts of tulle and these beads.

The beads also went on this wooden spool Christmas ornament made by Susanne Miller Jones.  I didn't get photos of all the keys that got tagged in this workshop or any of the other wrapped-and-stitched wooden spools ... but all sorts of things did get created, even a 3D piece or two!

(Above:  The Key to Harmony and an anonymous bride photograph with a tagged key reading: Happily Ever After.)

Like my other workshops, I teach by going a demo and then allowing participants time to work on their own.  I always finish my demonstration pieces.  In this workshop, presentation is very important, especially the "how to frame it" demonstrations.  So, I created the Key to Harmony in order to show how to "top mount" the work on a mat but get it into a frame without the glass touching it.  If you look closely, you can see the pure white "walls" that are glued to the interior sides of the picture frame.  They create the space/shadow box for the work.  Then, I took an old, anonymous photo previously fused to fabric.  I stitch on it, beaded it, and attached a tagged key.  The final demonstration showed how to attach a mat and lift it up to create space for the beads. 

(Above:  Tagged keys.)

In the evening, I worked too.  All these tags were made during the Deckle Edge Literary Festival last March.  (I blogged about this public art event HERE.)  The public used all my letters clipped from vintage ephemera to make bookmarks.  I knew even then that I would turn all the ones I made into tagged keys. While in Florida, I did it!  I also brought all the letters for the workshop too.

 (Above:  The one-meter telescope at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.)

One evening, however, I didn't work on any project or artwork.  Instead, I went to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to peer through their one-meter telescope.  Several times every year, the telescope is open for public viewing.  It was aimed at Ceres, the asteroid/dwarf planet.  I was thrilled.  I knew about the asteroid belt from middle school science class.  Everyone in the class had to write a report and my assignment was Ceres!  It was pretty cool to actually see it twinkling in the night sky!

I also visited Canaveral National Seashore which was just beautiful!  My time in Florida was grand!

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Second Shot! Ready, Aim, Fire! II

 (Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire! II.  Recycled police practice target fused to 2-ply rag board with hand stitched buttons.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

On April 22 the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) international juried exhibition Guns: Loaded Conversations opens at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles in California.  Ready, Aim, Fire! is part of the exhibit.  It is even featured in the SAQA website's banner promoting the show.  The opening show runs through July 15th.  I'm very proud to be part of it.  The catalog arrived in this past week's mail. It's great! The exhibit is very, very strong.  I gladly signed the show contract permitting a two year loan of the piece.  It is hopeful that during this time additional venues will be found.  I was perfectly happy about all this until something happened.

 (Above: Ready, Aim, Fire! II, detail.)

An Atlanta based curator contacted me in regards to an autumn exhibit she was putting together.  The show focuses on contemporary artists who transform ordinary objects into unique works of art.  She requested Time, my 3D found object sculpture and Ready, Aim, Fire!  Of course I was thrilled to have my work noticed and wanted for a show. 

 (Time, found object assemblage of clock cases and parts with other objects.)

Time is most certainly available but Ready, Aim, Fire! will likely be sitting in the SAQA shipping center in Ohio next fall.  It's not appropriate to ask for it "on loan" from SAQA when it is already "on loan" to SAQA.  What's an artist to do?  Well ... I asked the curator if I could simply make another one.  The answer was YES!  This is the result ... a second shot!  I don't have the final details for this invitations exhibit but will post it when available.

(Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire! II sitting on my front porch for its photo shoot!  Ready, aim, snap that camera button!)

Monday, April 02, 2018

Celestial Orbs at ArtFields 2018

 (Above:  Celestial Orbs and me!  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last summer I created an installation of circles for a solo show at Waterworks Visual Art Center, a regional museum in Salisbury, NC.  I called it Celestial Orbs.  It was made in part as a response to the total solar eclipse but also as a response to Waterworks' executive director who challenged me to make my fiber pieces in such a way that they didn't need custom picture framing.  CMFA (Columbia Music Festival Association) hosted me work-in-progress over the summer.  I blogged every week as more and more parts were made.  Finally, I submitted the installation to ArtFields, a nine-day competition held annually in Lake City, South Carolina. (April 20 - 28, 2018 ... obviously, I will not be at this event as I'll be doing the Smithsonian Craft Show in DC.  Still ... my work will be on view for this entire time.)

 (Above:  Installing Celestial Orbs at 122 Sauls Street in Lake City, SC.)

Today was my installation day.  It was quite an honor to be the first artist to put holes in a brand new wall in a brand new gallery space.  The fact of the matter is, the building isn't quite finished yet!  The "punch list" for the construction crew is underway in this fantastic new space.  The renovation of this once neglected store front is totally first-rate.  The wooden ceiling beams are exposed.  There's plenty of natural light in addition to great track lighting.  There are rolling, temporary walls too ... which are amazing units.  I'm on a permanent wall.  The place is truly beautiful. My husband Steve and I even got to meet the architect! 

 (Above:  Celestial Orbs at ArtFields in the new gallery space at 122 Sauls Street, Lake City, SC.)

It took less than an hour for me to attach the comet, the orbs, and all the little circles I call "comet dust".

The shadows cast on the wall are great too!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Celebrating with New Work

(Above:  Window CXLVIII. Framed 17" x 15". $265. Click on any image to enlarge.)

I am still overjoyed with my incredible fortune about the Smithsonian Craft Show.  I'm already on the website too!  Click HERE to view the Decorative Fibers category, including me!  In celebration that I'll be in Booth 110 from April 26 - 29, I just had to make a new piece.  This is it!  My husband Steve is excited too.  He built me four frames with four linen liners instead of just one.  Therefore, I'll shortly be making three more this size.

(Above:  Wall of Ancestors: I Dreamed of Stardom and Hollywood Lights. 16" x 13".)

Now, whether I need more work or not (I don't, LOL!), I'm still finding a few more vintage frames for antique images to be part of my solo show Anonymous Ancestors.  The next show will be at Theatre Art Galleries in High Point, NC from May 24 - August 3rd.  Thus, these two altered images were finished this week too!

(Above:  Wall of Ancestors, Never Grew Up. 16" x 13".)

Friday, March 30, 2018

Welcome to the Smithsonian Craft Show

Dreams do come true! Being in the Smithsonian Craft Show has been a goal for years! April 26 - 29 will find me in booth 110! I'm on Cloud Nine ... nervous (because this is the nation's most competitive and most prestigious show) and excited (because this is a most awesome opportunity!)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Camp Gravatt and the Magic Carpet

 (Above:  Magic Carpet, detail.)

Once upon a time, my custom picture framing business was big ... really big!  We had up to fourteen on payroll, eight of whom were full-time. At the rate I was working, I was never going to get to becoming an artist.  In 2001 my husband Steve and I began to forcibly down-size the business.  It took two years to find jobs for all our employees and finish long-term commitments.  I finally got a studio and started stitching.  The only way for us to limit our client base was RADICAL.  We decided to frame for only those people who trust me ... entirely!  Customers no longer get to help pick out their presentations. In fact, they must happily agree that whatever I select ... in their absence ... will be loved and paid for.  No exceptions. If someone isn't comfortable, no problem; I simply refuse the order.  This isn't for everyone.  Most people are totally aghast that this arrangement, but somehow or the other, there are people who keep coming.  Some of them have been coming for nearly thirty years!  Some of them have even purchased my artwork.

(Above:  Camp Gravatt.  Map of South Carolina with Camp Gravatt marked by pin point, grommets and pieces of a tarp, canvas, and twine from a  tent that was lost in last year's hurricane winds.)

One long-time customer/friend/art buyer is now working for Camp Gravatt.  The camp lost a tent in last year's hurricane winds. She brought me a challenge ... pieces of weather-proofed green tent canvas with grommets and twine and a damaged, white tarp.  My job: Turn it into some sort of "art" for the upcoming fund-raiser auction.

Well, she brought these things months ago.  I didn't admit it at the time, but I was not at all inspired.  I did try.  I researched the camp's logo, history, and "tent" type artwork.  Nothing clicked.  It didn't really help that the items were dirty and the tarp smelled.  I'm generally not a procrastinator, but I put this challenge aside until last week.  My friend called to remind me.  The event is next month.  I had to face the provided material.

 (Above:  Camp Gravatt, detail.)

Over the weekend while working on a commissioned portrait, I put the items in my studio hoping for inspiration.  Nothing came.  On Monday, I decided to PLAY IT SAFE.  I am, after all, a certified professional framer.  I was one of the earliest people to pass the four-hour certification test administered by the Professional Picture Framing Association. (1991 or 92 ... can't remember exactly).  I got a map of South Carolina and matted it.  I cut the grommets off the canvas and tarp, rolled 5" squares of the canvas, pin-pointed the location of the camp, and double framed the entire collection into a shadowbox.  Sure it looks great ... but is it art?  Even I'd only call it "good design" and "excellent framing".  Steve said it looked great but he also said I could do better.  He said, "It's canvas.  Why don't you paint on it?"

 (Above:  Magic Carpet.  Unframed: 25" x 15"; framed 28" x 18". Oil pastels on green tent canvas with free-motion stitching.)

I protested a bit.  I don't paint ... but then I remembered my public performance piece, Nike's Advice.  I actually do have a style and am quite comfortable with oil pastels.  Now ... I know that oil pastels aren't really supposed to be used on unprimed canvas.  Besides, this tent canvas was sort of stretchy and oily from weather-proofing.  The "conversation framer" in me wanted to object ... but why?  Just because this might not last two-hundred years isn't a reason NOT to do it.  For all I know, the oily pastels might even be perfect on this fabric.  Such experimentation isn't taught in guidelines for framing certification.  Artists do strange things all the time.  So ... I did it! It worked.  I heat set all the pastels ... trying to remove any excess thickness and wax.  It doesn't smear now.  I used another piece of the canvas under the colorful marks and free-motion stitched the two layers together.  Then, I glued it to a piece of acid-free foam-centered board and put it in a frame. 

 (Above:  Magic Carpet, in its frame on the windowsill where I snapped photos.)

I think the results look amazing.  What a wonderful transformation from bright green tent canvas to an exotic design reminiscent of a magical, flying carpet.  I hope it brings lots of money for Camp Gravatt.  (No ... it is not a 100% donation!  I am getting some money for both pieces!)

(Above:  The back of the stitching.)

While this experimentation worked, I do not necessarily recommend using weather-proofed canvas.  The needle did get a little gummed up.  I'm guessing that the canvas was originally white and that the weather-proofing is the green coating on both sides.  The white interior does peek out on the reverse ... which didn't matter to me.  I glued this side permanently to the foam-centered board!

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.  I already linked this week but noticed other artist linking more than one weekly post ... and since this was such a productive week, I thought I'd do it too!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Faith Ringgold comes to Benedict College

 (Above: Faith Ringgold in front of her art quilt at Benedict College.)

My calendar was marked for months and the evening finally came!  Last night Faith Ringgold came to Benedict College for an informal chat moderated by Wendell Brown, associate professor and Ponder Gallery director.  It was enchanting.

 (Above:  Michelle Faith Wallace and her mother, Faith Ringgold signing autographs after the presentation.)

A natural born story teller, Faith spun reflections of her childhood, her early art career, and significant life experiences into subtly profound advice for everyone.  I was most struck by the positive attitude she retained while persevering in the face of difficult obstacles.  She never gave up ... and she seemed to do this with a confident smile.  It is little wonder why she is adored.  Her daughter, Michelle Faith Wallace, is also a celebrity.  She often added to her mother's recollections ... which was great, especially since the acoustic in the large chapel are horrible.  


The entire audience seemed to line up after the talk ... just to shake her hand and pay a compliment.  There were many lucky students in the crowd, and I feel certain that last night will become a highlight memory in their personal histories.  I know I learned plenty, especially about that positive attitude when under intensive pressure and opposition.

It took a while for all the hand-shaking before Faith Ringgold got to the gallery.  Once there, it was almost difficult to get her to pose for photos.  She was much more interested in looking at the other work accompanying her piece.  With art quilts on the wall, Faith Ringgold seemed almost oblivious to her own fame and the attention so many wanted to heap on her. 

The work on display was a continuation of an earlier exhibition called The Ancestor Project.  It started in 2007 whena Penny Dell from the National Association of Women Artists (NAMA) asked Faith to exhibit in the organization's New York City gallery.  Faith invited several art quilters to join her, making work in response to a story her wrote called "The Children Forgot to Play".  

(Above:  I wish this selfie was better ... but it was hard to get Faith Ringgold to stand still!  She's very, very active, especially around art!)

This is Faith's story:
An international Save The Children Meeting was held today in New York City. A woman from the Congo Region in Africa and a man from Scandinavia shared the stage to explain that their children had adopted a sedentary lifestyle and had forgotten how to play and that something must be done or life as we know it will cease. The crowd roared with unbridled enthusiasm. Toy stores, playgrounds, amusement parks and schools all over the world have shut down. Children have taken to their beds, like old people, complaining of headaches, backaches, muscle pains, dizziness and refused to move without a wheelchair. A man just back from the war in the Middle East said “They need the help of our ancestors, they would have the children and all of us laughing in no time. They had love and hope. All we have is hatred violence and war.”

All the quilts included this response:
One day the ancestors from all over the world came to the children in their dreams, dancing and singing songs of joy, love, understanding, forgiveness, hope and peace. They had heard that our children had forgotten to play and had taken to their beds to escape a world filled with; hunger, pain, ignorance, rioting, shootings, violence and war. Religious, racial, ethnic, sexual and gender hatred of anyone different was rampant.

The children all over the world were inspired to rise up from their beds to join the Ancestors in their song and dance for a better world. The children sang,

           We are young but we are many
           Filled with love not hate for any

When the children from all over the world closed their eyes to dream their ancestors now awaited the children’s dreams of a happier life.

(Above:  Wendell Brown with Faith Ringgold and several art quilting friends who drove up from Charleston.)

Reading this story, the response, and seeing the art quilts on display with Faith Ringgold in the room was an amazing experience.  It left little doubt as to why so many people love her, including me!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Portrait of a Man

 (Above:  Portrait of a Man, detail.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Two weekends ago I was in my 10' x 10' Pro Panel booth at the ACC (American Craft Council) Atlanta show talking about and selling my "In Box" and "Stained Glass" series.  One nice gentleman challenged me to create something totally unique, a portrait of a man ... but using my colorful palette, synthetic stretch velvets, and unique melting techniques.  We agreed on a size, a price, and a non-refundable $100 deposit.  We also agreed that if he didn't like the results, he was under no obligation to pay the balance.  Why?  Well, my process isn't like that of a painter.  I can't really "unstitch" things and make color changes without ruining the work.  Thus, this arrangement isn't a true commission; it is a "first refusal". Later we corresponded about a timeline and selected a sketch I drew referencing several images of Austrian artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the inspiration behind much of my gallery work. 

 (Above:  Portrait of a Man. Inventory # 4262. Unframed: 15 3/4" x 12 1/2". Mounted on a standard 20" x 16" acid-free mat board.)

I spent more time contemplating an action plan and trying to visualize/solve potential problems than actually making the work.  I also had to find my light-box, an item I haven't used in at least a decade! The result of this time, however, meant the weekend's work went very, very smoothly.  I'm quite pleased with the work and happy to report that my client is too!

 (Above:  Creating a unique background for the portrait.)

When I accept a commission or a first-refusal, I always document the process in photos and create PDF for the client.  That way, the client gets to see every step of the development.  This blog post includes many of those images.  Above is what the background looked like before starting the portrait.  The border is like my Peacock Feathers.

 (Above:  A photocopy of my sketch, Pellon's Stitch-and-Tear, and my light-box.)

The sketch I drew was significantly smaller than the size I needed.  I scanned the sketch, enlarged it using PhotoShop, and printed the correct size ... 14" x 10".  I used Stitch-and-Tear in 2013 to make my Grid of Photos.

I bought my light-box nearly two decades ago.  I can't remember why I wanted it or what I planned to do with it other than view old slides.  This was the first time I've ever used it in my studio practice!  Thank goodness the bulb still worked!  I traced the photocopy enlargement of my sketch onto a piece of Stitch-and-Tear.

The Stitch-and-Tear was then pinned in place on the background.

I was a little anxious about this part of the process.  The idea was to set my sewing machine for a narrow zigzag stitch but also for free-motion stitching. I started on the bottom in a place I could quickly stitch and then tear away to unique paper.  It worked!  I continued over all the lines, expanding the width of the zigzag stitching for thicker areas (like the eye's pupils and eyebrow).

After all the lines were covered, I started removing the Stitch-and-Tear ... little bits at a time and carefully removing any tiny pieces of paper caught in the stitching.

Generally, I use 100% black cotton thread.  This time, however, I switched to navy blue for the background.  This change allowed the background to visually recede ... because it "reads" as a "lighter" line.  Every square and rectangle was stitched with an different motif ... very much like my gallery work and in the tradition of Hundertwasser's concept of individualism.  My colorful shapes are meant to represent an aerial view to an imaginary Hundertwasser city.

After all the machine stitching is finished, I stapled the work to a stretcher bar and went to the garage.  I wear a carbon filtering ventilator mask because the fumes from melting synthetics are toxic.  I melted holes and dragged my soldering irons into lines mostly in the background areas.  During the process, I realized I'd forgotten to sign the work.

I added my name later.  Voila!  A Portrait of a Man was finished!  Today, it will be shipped to its new owner!

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