Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Mandala XII and XIII

(Above:  Mandala XII.  Framed: 20 1/2" x 20 1/2" as a square or 29" x 29" as a diamond.  Four blocks of a vintage quilt covered with pale blue tulle and embellished with clock gears, screw eyes, metal hair curlers, blue cement screws, plastic and metal rings, labels from Cartier-Bresson balls of thread, buttons, zipper pulls, allen wrenches, keys, old souvenir slides from Shiloh Military Park, and lamp fixtures.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Although I am working on new pieces for the upcoming Philadelphia Museum of Art's virtual craft show, evenings still find me hand stitching these mandalas.  It is a relaxing way to end the day and so much fun to do.  

(Above:  Mandala XII, detail.)

Even though some of the things I've been using are now depleted, I'm lucky to have cyber friends who have sent me interesting items ... like the zipper pulls.  Who would have ever guessed that they were forever lost as unclaimed airline luggage?  

(Above:  Mandala XIII.  Framed 20 1/2" x 20 1/2" as a square or 29" x 29" as a diamond.  Four blocks of a vintage quilt covered with pale blue tulle and embellished with clock gears and other parts, antique fountain pen nibs, tweezers, felt piano hammers, sewing machine bobbins, buttons, zipper pulls, yellow paper clamps and vintage paper clips, safety pins, and lamp fixtures.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I am now stitching on the last piece of this mainly blue-and-white antique quilt.  Soon, I will be raiding my own stash in search of another quilt to cut and stitch into a mandala.

(Above:  Mandala XIII, detail.)

Hopefully, I'll find something suitable ... something that isn't going to need more pale blue perle cotton.  I had several balls but have used all but two.  I'm using one of the two.  Ernie, our six-month-old kitten, has hidden the other one!

(Above:  Mandala XIII, detail.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Eight New "Window Series" Pieces

(Above:  Free-motion stitching with Ernie.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I'm in the process of creating lots of new work for the upcoming VIRTUAL Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, November 6 - 8.  Among them are these eight "Window Series".  Each one is layers of polyester stretch velvet fused together on recycled, black industrial felt.  Strips of sheer chiffon are placed over the top to shift and add color.  Each one is then free-motion stitched using black, 100% cotton thread.  I stitched them on my Babylock Tiara.  Ernie was "so helpful"!

(Above:  Window CXCIII.  Each piece is roughly 13" x 11" and framed with spacers and glass.  The outer dimensions of the frames are 19 1/4" x 17 1/4".  Each one includes a stitched "LENZ" somewhere in the lower right corner.  The price ... just $265 plus tax and shipping.  Documenting this is really important, especially now! 

(Above: Window CXCIV.)

In addition to making this new work, I'm figuring out how to best show it on a blog dedicated to selling it!  This means extra photos, more blogging, and changing my website to direct people to the available work. This is scary!

(Above: Window CXCV.)

I really like how these new pieces are turning out.  I am already turning my attention to new Lancet Windows.  The list is long and challenging but will be worth it!

(Above:  Window CXCVI.)

The leaf motif is really new!  I might have to try other types of leaves in the future!

(Above:  Window CXCVII in a composite image.)  
This is how I'm planning to show the work on the dedicated blog.  I hope the image with me holding the new work gives a good sense of the presentation as well as the scale of the work.)  

(Above: Window CXCVIII.)

Ernie also tried to help mount the pieces!  Each one is stitched onto a piece of Bainbridge 8511, acid free mat board.  Scroll down for two more pieces!

(Above:  Window CXCIX.)
(Above:  Window CC ... and in TWO HUNDRED!)

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Lockdown! My article in Australia's "Textile Fibre Forum" magazine

(Above:  The first page of my article.  Click on any image to enlarge and read.)

The mail recently brought a copy of Textile Fibre Forum, a 100% Australian owned textile art magazine in which my article "Lockdown!" was published. I am so impressed and also happy to report that working with the staff was a fabulous experience.  The layout is so professional and perfect ... not only for my article but the entire magazine.  The range of textile arts is diverse in approaches but also runs the gambit from cutting edge to more traditional.  If I were in Australia, I certainly would be a subscriber. 

I absolutely adore the way the text on each page is superimposed on one of my artworks. Writing this article was a bit of a challenge.  Why?  Well, I'd already written an article for SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) Journal and an article for my SAQA region's newsletter.  To write another, pandemic response article forced me to really think about my concepts and to remember the thoughts I had when starting new work and especially how my Clothesline Installation morphed from an art residency project to a visual display reminding please to "Wash Your Hands". 

The article forced me to step back and see the relationship between the different works I stitched.  There really was a common thread between the mini art quilts of creepy dolls and dead birds with the old keys and the vintage textiles.  Writing articles like this makes me THINK ... and it is a good thing.  So ... if you are reading from Australia, please consider this magazine.  All the articles are thought-provoking and well worth your time.


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Small Mandalas

(Above:  Mandala V.  Each one of these small mandalas is a collection of small found objects stitched to single blocks of a tattered, vintage quilt over which a layer of pale blue tulle was placed.  Each one is framed with outer dimensions of 9 1/4" x 9 1/4".  Found objects include safety pins, plastic toys, buttons, clock gears, screw eyes, old keys, bobbins, beads, small hooks, a mechanical compass, needle threaders, tiny ceramic insulators, tweezers, 2-part snaps, fountain pen nibs, metal washers and brackets, blue cement screws, zipper pulls, and more.)

Before going to my two-week art residency at Great Basin National Park, I finished stitching five of these seven little mandalas but didn't have time to complete them all.  Since returning home, I got them all finished, framed, and photographed.  Each one was a challenge.  I didn't want to obscure the vintage quilt block on which each one was stitched. 

(Above:  Mandala VI.)

Another challenge was the odd way the old fabrics came together.  When stitching the larger mandalas, it wasn't so noticeable if a block had only a single piece of orange or didn't have darker fabrics in all four corners or had only one strangely placed plaid.  I think, however, I managed to add just the right amount of "stuff" to keep the quilt block in sight but not necessarily the odd fabric selection.

(Above:  Mandala VII.)

I am in debt to Kathy Garvey who sent me an amazing stash of zipper pulls.  (Kathy is an amazing graphic designer whose fabrics can be ordered from Spoonflower.)  Even though only one of these small mandalas have zipper pulls, I am now working on three medium-sized mandalas in which more zipper pulls will be used.  (The medium-sized mandalas are built on a piece of the vintage quilt with four blocks.  The large ones, which are already finished and blogged over a month ago, are built on a piece with nine blocks.)

(Above: Mandala VIII.)

Although I am working on the next three mandalas, they probably won't be finished soon.  I've had to turn my attention to the new "Stained Glass" and "In Box" series pieces that will be part of my participation in this year's VIRTUAL Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  I sure have a lot to do!  Below are the other, small mandalas.

(Above:  Mandala XI.)

(Above:  Mandala X.)

(Above:  Mandala IX.)

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Aspen and my donation to Great Basin National Park

(Above:  Me holding my framing art quilt of aspen trees.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

One of the reasons I applied for a two-week art residency at Great Basin National Park was because Steve and I visited in June 2019.  At the time, there was so much snow still in the park that most trails could only be accessed with snowshoes!  In fact, the last part of the twelve mile scenic drive on Wheeler Peak was closed.  Steve and I didn't get to hike any of the trails but I did get some fantastic images from along the road.  One of them was of aspen trees.  I had Spoonflower print that image on cotton fabric and took that fabric with me.  During my art residency, I hiked lots of trails but was especially fond of the 1.1 mile walk from the Summit Trailhead parking lot to Lake Stella. It winds through a clone of aspen trees.  I never failed to see at least six or more mule deer (often as many as 18!) munching at the roots of these trees.

(Above:  Aspen.  My digital image from June 2019 printed on cotton and embellished with both free-motion machine and hand embroidery. Blanket stitched edge.  13 1/5" x 18"; framed: 20" x 24 1/2".)

Every evening I stitched on this piece, adding more and more lime green French knots for the springtime aspen leaves and darker green straight stitches for the pine needles.  The edge is my typical blanket stitching.  As I worked, the autumn aspen leaves were turning brilliant yellow and floating down to the ground.

(Above:  Autumn aspens along a trail at Great Basin National Park.)
I never felt alone when hiking in Great Basin National Park because aspen trees grow alongside every trail.  Their "eyes" seemed to keep my company. One afternoon I hiked over my favorite 1.1 mile trail and the entire Alpine Lake Loop with a sketch book.  I stopped frequently to practice drawing these eye formations on the trunks. 

(Above: Composite image of some of the aspen eyes.)

These eyes are formed because aspens don't grow well in shade.  As they grow, they "self-prune", dropping the lower branches that don't get enough sunlight.  The resulting eye-formations are actually the scar from these former limbs.  

(Above: Cut graffiti on an aspen trunk.)

Aspen bark is a chalky white that scars easily, and I'm guessing these facts account for the graffiti cut into the trunks.  The whiteness comes from the way the bark grows.  Instead of forming a thick bark like other trees, the outer cells die/shed and leave a white powder behind. This thin, white surface is relatively smooth.  When someone cuts graffiti into it, the tree slowly but surely reacts.  Over a few years, it forms a thicker, woody bark to heal the wound. 

(Above: Autumn aspen leaves.)

In even a slight breeze, the aspen leaves "quake", a trembling sort of movement like a twirling pirouette dancing on a stem.  When watching them, they really do appear like three dimensional orbs, like French knots!  Tiny straight stitches are obviously a lot like pine needles.
(Above:  Aspen, detail.)
I framed my art quilt donation with UV glass so that it can hang on a hook-and-nail and in locations that might receive indirect light.  It is an honor to have another work in the permanent collection of the National Park Services.
(Above: Baker Lake.)

For the rest of this blog post, I am going to recap a few of the things I did during the last week of my art residency, thoughts and images I couldn't manage to blog while struggling with the poor Internet connectivity.  They aren't really directly "art" related but they were so important to my creative spirit.  I managed to hike much more than I thought I could ... longer, higher, further, steeper, and even every day.  

(Above: Johnson Lake.)
I thought a lot while hiking, especially about the "new normal" that will eventually come in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The art world (in fact, the whole world) will be different. I'm guessing that there will be more and more virtual exhibitions, on-line workshops and tutorials, Zoom meetings, and platforms for selling artwork on-line.  There will be a learning curve, even for someone like me who maintains my own website, navigates Facebook like a pro, and has been blogging for well over a decade.
(Above:  Rusted machinery and cable from WWI era tungsten mining, above Johnson Lake.)
I thought about the evolution of acrylic paints ... because it really wasn't that long ago when many snubbed the idea of acrylics, thinking that a "real painter" only ever used oil paint.  Times changed. I thought about the evolution of quilting ... because it really wasn't that long ago when many snubbed machine stitching, thinking that a "real quilter" only ever would quilt by hand.  Times changed.  I also thought about the evolution of digital photography. It really wasn't that long ago when juried exhibitions only accepted carefully marked slides sent by mail with a self-addressed stamped envelope for their return.  It didn't take long before digital was the only way to enter shows, apply for art residencies, share an exhibition proposal, or provide pictures for a magazine article.  Times changed and will continue to change.
(Above:  Dead Lake ... along one of the trails returning to the Snake Creek Trailhead.)
I thought about all the artists I've known who really couldn't manage these recent transitions.  The more I hiked, the more I was determined not to be among those who can't face the challenges that are already here the those that are coming.  I WILL OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES!  That is my new mantra!
(Above:  The ridge of mountains between Baker and Johnson Lakes.)
So ... to keep a little of the internal spirit that I had while at Great Basin National Park, I'm going to list the hiking I did with the steps counted by my Fitbit counted and the equivalent in miles along with the change in elevation.  I'm not bragging about this (although I'm quite proud of this accomplishment!) I am setting it in a public record to which I might refer in the future.  After all, if I can hike like this, I can face the technical/cyber challenges that are ahead.  This is a reminder that I will not set my sights too low but aim for achievement, even if it seems too far, too high, too long of a journey.  

(Above:  The ridge of mountains between Baker and Johnson Lakes with trail marked by a cairn.)
So ... here's my two weeks!
Monday, Sept. 14:  Most of the Alpine Lake Loop, up to the bristlecone grove, and up the road from the Wheeler Peak parking lot to the Summit Trailhead parking lot.  20,536 steps/8.97 miles. 600' elevation change, starting at 9,800'.
Tuesday, Sept. 15:  Glacier Trail. 19,068 steps/8.33. 1,100 elevation change, starting at 9,800'.
Wednesday, Sept. 16.  Took it easy by preparing for the Art in the Dark program but walked the nature trail behind the Lehman Caves Visitor Center three times and set up The Clothesline Installation. 10,454 steps/4.68 miles. 80' elevation change, starting at 6,825'.
Thursday, Sept. 17. Wheeler Peak and set-up for Art in the Dark. 36,912 steps/16.16 miles. 2,900' elevation change, starting at 10,160.  Highest point in the park at 13,063.
Friday, Sept. 18. Took it easy but walked the nature trail behind Lehman Caves Visitor Center three times. 13,274 steps/5.83 miles. 80' elevation change, starting at 6,825'.
Saturday, Sept. 19. Star-gazing night hike to Stella Lake. 14,173 steps/6.28 miles. 600' elevation change, starting at 9,800'.
Sunday, Sept. 20. Osceola Trail. 26,329 steps/11.48 miles. 100' elevation change, starting at 8,400'.
Monday, Sept. 21. Sage Loop and Strawberry Creek Trail. 20,241 steps/8.84 miles. 1,100 elevation change, starting at 8,216'
Tuesday, Sept. 22. Sketching along the entire Alpine Lake Loop. 13,473 steps/5.88 miles. 600' elevation change, starting at 9,800'.
Wednesday, Sept. 23. Baker Lake Trail. 34,266 steps/14.97 miles. 2,620 elevation change, starting at 8,000'.
Thursday, Sept. 24. Took it easy and conducted a mini workshop for home school students but walked the nature trail behind Lehman Caves Visitors Center twice. 11,265 steps/4.92 miles.
Friday, Sept. 25. Johnson Lake and up to the top of the ridge between there and Baker Lake.  32,171 steps/14.05 miles. 3,290 elevation change, starting at 8,320'.

Saturday, Sept. 26. Serviceberry Trail and Snake Canyon loop. 20,583 steps/9.00 miles. 728' elevation change, starting at 8,320'.

Sunday, Sept. 27. Return to Glacier Trail but scrambling further up and over the boulders to reach the snow field. 22,827 steps/9.95 miles. At least 1,300' elevation change (not listed because the "scrambling" isn't actually on a trail, starting at 9,800'.

Monday, Sept. 28. Return to the Alpine Loop and taking down The Clothesline Installation. Packing the vehicle to sadly leave. 19,881/8.68 miles. 600' elevation change, starting at 9,800'.
(Above:  Me on the snow field above the Glacier Trail.)

The spirit of determination, the peacefulness found in both quietness and relaxation, remembering how much I love reading a book, and the profound inspiration of natural beauty are things that will feed my soul for a long time ... hopefully for the rest of my life.  It was a wonderful art residency.

(Above:  Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty.)
My husband Steve flew into the Salt Lake City airport on the day I left Great Basin. Together we went to see Robert Smithson's iconic earthen sculpture set in 1970 on the banks of the Great Salt Lake.  We talked about many things ... including the fact that I will need to put my convictions to "keep up with technology" to work.  

(Above:  Inside the unique building at Dinosaur National Monument.)

COVID-19 cancelled many things this year.  Other events went "virtual" ... including the upcoming Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  Instead of being in my booth and talking about my work to potential buyers who physically come to the show, I will be uploading images to a newly revamped on-line sales site, changing the look of my website to reflect this important show, and figuring out how to effectively show and sell VIRTUALLY!  As restful as my time was in Nevada, it is now imperative that I get really, really busy!

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

The Clothesline Installation and mini workshop at Great Basin National Park


(Above:  Newest pieces for The Clothesline Installation hanging outside the Lehman Caves Visitor Center at Great Basin National Park in Nevada.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Sadly, my two-weeks as the artist-in-residence at Great Basin National Park came to an end. I will miss the quietness, the aspen leaves changing colors, the mule deer along the trails, and the Milky Way nights.  I learned much about myself, my approach to art making, and the benefits of solitude.  I will not miss the frustrations of poor Internet connectivity.  I'm back home now and able to post a few more entries about the experience ... like the opportunity to hang new pieces in my Clothesline Installation.


  The Clothesline's newest pieces.)

I brought a small collection of recently uncovered household linens and vintage fabric.  After arriving, I went to work.  Newly cut fabric hand prints were fused and zigzag stitched and then hung under the covered walkway leading to Lehman Caves' entrance.  They stayed up until the day before I left. Unfortunately, there are no tours of the cave at this time.  There is no way to social distance a cave tour. 

(Above:The sign I stitched for the installation.)  

In order to let viewers know what and why these pieces were hanging, I stitched a sign on an old handkerchief atop a piece of heavy upholstery fabric.  I hung it with a line of safety pins.  The sign reads: The Clothesline is a reminder to save energy through line drying, to do more things by hand, and to help stop the spread of the virus by washing our hand. Created by artist-in-residence. Susan Lenz.


  (Above:  Detail of the Clothesline while hanging at Great Basin National Park.)

Each one of these pieces is attached to the zigzag cording that serves as my clothesline with a clothespin, but each one is also safety pinned to that cord.  The wind can really kick up at these high elevations, flipping the pieces.  I took these images right before taking down the installation.  The sign really shows the force of the wind; the edges were raw and definitely frayed after only ten days!


(Above: Cutting out a fabric hand print.)

The Clothesline Installation was important part of my art residency. It was the inspiration behind a mini-workshop for local home school students.  I prepared several pieces of vintage fabric by ironing Wonder Under (a heat-activated adhesive) to the reverse side.  The participants traced their hand print on the facing paper of the Wonder Under and cut each one out.

After cutting out a hand print, the facing paper was removed and the hand print was ironed onto a vintage napkin.

Each person had a turn zigzag stitching around his or her hand print.

After the zigzag stitching, I stitched the machine to free-motion stitching.  Everyone wrote their name in thread on their hand print.

(Above:  Four of the five participants holding up their finished piece.)

It was a great way to inspire people to stitch, to talk about the low humidity in the area which really makes line drying easy, and about the common sense ways we can help stop COVID-19 from spreading to others.