Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Last Two Found Object Mandalas before the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show

(Above:  My new booth design for the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Monday was "Packing Day" ... the day when everything needed for Booth 303 at this year's Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show has to fit into the cargo van.  It is exciting and exhausting.  This year was also a bit scary because we did not get a place on our favorite aisle ... the 100 aisle.  Why is this our favorite?  Well, there's nothing but wide open space behind aisle 100.  It's like an amazing "storage area" for bubble wrap, packing boxes, and the crates used to transport my Found Object Mandalas.  Between most aisles is just a two foot space ... which is shared with the artist on the next aisle.  There are other options (like hauling this stuff back to the van in its long-term parking place or finding a spot in the provided storage room used by all the artists and show staff which isn't exactly convenient ... and our crates might tip over and damage another artist's extra artwork).  So, Steve and I designed our booth differently.  It isn't the full 10 in depth.  Thus, we have 14" in addition to the two feet behind our booth.  We also ordered shelves for the fiber vessels.  Because this is such a different set-up, we erected the booth in our parking lot before loading the walls into the cargo van.  We feel confident in this new design!  We also took plenty of photos so that we can re-do it again on Wednesday when we move into the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show!

(Above:  Mandala CXLV.  Custom framed:  24 1/2" x 24 1/2".  Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include:  The face of an egg timer; a set of souvenir spoons; watches; green casino chips; eyeglass frames; plastic bottle lids; lime green and copper can pull tabs; hair clips; golf tees; external tooth lock washers; and buttons.)

Happily, I'll have two more Found Object Mandalas for Booth 303.  These are the last two finished and finally photographed ... and put into crates!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXLV.)

I've been collecting the souvenir spoons for months.  Finally, I had enough that looked good in a circular formation.  I'm still collecting ... especially since some of the ones I have are either too long or too short for a similar arrangement.

(Above:  Mandala CXLVI.  Custom framed: 32" x 32".  Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include:  A copper pastry mold on a silver trivet; blue perm curlers; gold spoons; brass grommets floral wedding cake leaves; red adapters of 45 records; wooden blocks cut into half; blue, silver, purple, and orange plastic bottle lids; keys; copper hinges; silver brioche molds; odd 3D vintage gold metal embellishments that were labeled "buttons" but aren't buttons; two sets of metal numbers from 10 - 49; buttons and beads.)

I worried a lot about this colorful mandala.  Why?  Well ... the alphabet isn't all there.  I'm missing a G and an R.  After month, I never found wooden block the right size with the correct letters ... but what the heck! These were too pretty not to use!  Personally, I really couldn't recite the alphabet until middle school!  Even the song didn't help.  For me, there was always this "really long letter" in the middle ... the one that sort of blurred together LMNOP! LOL!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXLVI.)

I sort of decided to use the blocks after acquiring all the metal numbers.  I have a big bag of them.  After sorting, I realized that I didn't have a 5 or an 8.  There were only two 37s and 35s.  I don't know what these number were ever used for ... but there are over a dozen of every number in the 20s.  They end with 50.  So ... I started at 10 and went to 49 in two sets.  Each number had a hole above it.  I drilled all the holes underneath ... the the holes in the spoons and the blocks and the bottle caps!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXLVI.)

I hope some of these Found Object Mandalas find permanent homes at the upcoming show!

Monday, November 07, 2022

Two, commissioned Large Stained Glass pieces!

(Above:  Composite image of two commissioned Large Stained Glass horizontal artworks.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Recently I was contacted by the Grovewood Gallery, a place I've been proud to have represent my artwork for over a decade.  A client wanted a Large Stained Glass piece for over her bed.  The work needed to a horizontal and slightly larger/taller than my normal size.  The finished/framed size was to measure 27" x 63"  (My usual size is 23" x 63").  The gallery asked me if I would make two pieces so that the client could have a selection.  The second one would immediately go on the gallery walls.  This sounded great to me ... especially since I was allowed to design the works and there would be no other input.  Creative freedom!  What a blast.  So the rest this blog post shows the process of making these two works!

(Above:  A composite image showing the pattern pieces for the foundation layer.  I had already sketched the basic design on graph paper.)
(Above:  The foundation piece of polyester stretch velvet ironed onto the substrata of recycled black industrial felt.  My entire stash of polyester stretch velvet already has Pellon 805/Wonder Under ironed to the reverse side.)
(Above:  Additional shapes of polyester stretch velvet are cut and layered onto the foundation pieces.)
(Above:  Even more shapes of polyester stretch velvet are cut and layered onto the surface.  Some of the layers are as deep as seven shapes on top of one another.  The image above shows the final design.  At this point, I iron another layer of Pellon 805/Wonder Under over the entire surface in order to iron strips of sheer chiffon scarves on top of everything.  The chiffon scarves create complex shifts of colors and also provide a smoother surface over which I can more easily do the self-guided free-motion machine embroidery.  I stitch with only 100% black cotton thread.  The thread is the only natural material in the entire process.
 (Above:  After stitching the entire piece, it is stapled to a stretcher bar.  This is to prevent the piece from shrinking during the final melting process.  In the image above, the strips of chiffon scarves are quite obvious.)

(Above:  I used two sizes of soldering irons to melt holes through the layers of polyester stretch velvet.  Some of the holes become "lines" as I drag the soldering iron through the material.  In the photo above, the stitching is more obvious ... especially the "little bridges" that link the foundation pieces.)
 (Above:  I always wear a carbon filtering ventilator mask to avoid breathing in the toxic fumes produced by melting polyester stretch velvet.  Ernie doesn't have a mask but he didn't stay too long in the garage while this step was being done.  Ernie does tend to supervise every step ... except for the final one.  The final step is exposing the entire surface to the intense heat of an industrial heat gun.  I start from the reverse and aim for the space between the foundation pieces ... the space linked by the "little bridges" of cotton thread.  This technique works because "Synthetics Melt" and "Naturals Don't Melt".  Everything except the thread is a synthetic.  Of course, if I kept aiming the heat gun at all this polyester stretch velvet, it would eventually melt into a plastic blob.  Of course, if I kept aiming the heat gun at the "little cotton bridges", they would eventually BURN.  The final step is rather quick and easy ... just melt away the excess felt between the foundation pieces.  It can be viewed on You Tube at: )
(Above:  One of the two commissions mounted on over-sized mat board.  After using the heat gun, I trim up the "fringe" ... which is simply another line of machine stitching ... sort of like a "little bridge to nowhere".  Some of the felt just gets caught in the cotton thread.  Then, I hand-stitch the piece to an over-sized piece of mat board and fit it into a black linen liner.  At this point, I wire the linen liner in order to capture photographs.  Pictures are taken while the piece is hanging on our garage door ... when the sun isn't shining on the door!  Finally, Steve puts the linen liner into the frame.  The glass is already in the frame and it thus between the frame and the liner.  This is important because this means the glass isn't touching the artwork.)
(Above:  Delivering the two pieces to the Grovewood Gallery.  I don't know which the client will take!  It is sort of exciting!  Steve and I delivered the work yesterday, Sunday morning.  Lots of people were shopping at the gallery!  Today ... we turned our attention to packing our cargo van.  Tomorrow we head north to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show where I'll be in booth 303 with my Found Object Mandalas and Fiber Vessels.  Below are a few more detail shots of the two commissions.


Monday, October 31, 2022

Mandala CXLIV

(Above:  Mandala CXLIV.  Custom framed: 28 3/4" x 28 3/4". Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include:  A rotary telephone dial; cookie cutters; doll clothes hangers; keys; bottle caps; paper sewing machine bobbins; lavender insulin syringe caps; checkers; long needle-like parts of prostate radioactive seed implant devices; red, adapters for 45 records to be played on a stereo; buttons and beads. Click on any image to enlarge.)

It took more than an hour for me to dismantle the old rotary dial telephone.  There are all sorts of "things" firmly attached to the back of the dial.  I wanted it "flat".  I was determined! I'm very happy with the results and grateful to my friend Flavia Lovatelli who donated the telephone to my stash. 

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXLIV.)

Flavia and I are both getting ready for the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  It's a lot of work but so rewarding to be surrounded by aisles of top-notch fine craft artists from all over the country.

(Above:  Mary Edna Fraser and me in front of The Grid of Photos, one of my pieces at my solo installation, Anonymous Ancestors, at City Gallery at Waterfront Park.)

It was equally rewarding to have Mary Edna Fraser come to the opening of my solo installation, Anonymous Ancestors, at City Gallery at Waterfront Park in downtown Charleston.  Mary Edna is like ... famous! ... and fabulously talented!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXLIV.)

Believe it or not, I am still working on another Found Object Mandala.  I think that the way I deal with anticipation, fear, stress, and all the other emotions associated with "the next big thing" is to keep stitching! LOL!

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Mandala CXLII

(Above:  Mandala CXLII. Custom framed: 37 1/4" x 37 1/4" when hung as a square and 53" x 53" when hung as a diamond.  Found Objects hand stitched to a section of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include:  A clock spring; wedding cake leaf decorations; PEZ dispensers; coffee K-pods; gold salad forks; assorted hair curlers; doll hands; copper colored can tabs; vintage coffee klatch coasters; heart shaped buttons; red, plastic peanut butter lids with orange plastic circles cut from a six-pack beer yoke and Snapple beverage lids; buttons and beads. Click on any image to enlarge.)

This Found Object Mandala was so much fun to create!  It also reminds me of a special day during my recent art residency at Catoctin Mountain National Park in Maryland.  While there, I gave a presentation to the Stitch in Peace quilt guild in Fairfield, PA.  I talked about my passion for giving second life to old things among other things.  Afterwards, two sisters approached me.  They wanted to give me an old family quilt.  They explained that it was not in great condition and neither of them knew which of their grandmothers had actually stitched it.  So, I returned later in the week.  Fairfield was having an apple festival.  The quilt guild was mounting a small show.  The sisters presented me with a green-and-peach basket pattern quilt.

(Above:  The donated green-and-peach basket pattern quilt.)
Compared to the Bear Paws quilt I cut up last weekend, this quilt was in excellent shape!  Yet, it really was beyond good use as a bed covering. Seams were fragile. Edges were fraying. It showed plenty of love over many years. It was truly an honor to transform it into ART!  (More pieces in this series will be stitched on the rest of this pretty quilt!) 

(Above:  Mandala CXLII on pointe. 53" x 53".)

On my drive back from Fairfield, PA, I stopped at the Emmitsburg Antique Mall.  WOW!  What a place! I know antique malls.  Once upon a time, I was an anchor dealer in an antique mall outside Charleston, SC ... something I did as a dealer in framed, antiquarian prints ... for thirty years! So, I've visited dozens and dozens of antique malls over the last three decades.  This place was amazing.  With 34,000 square feet, I expected dim lighting and too much summer heat (which would mean freezing temperatures in the winter.)  I was wrong!  It was well lit, temperature controlled, and had plenty of parking too!  There were over 120 booths and none of them looked neglected.  The staff was nice.  Best of all, I found several things for my series ... among them ... affordable PEZ dispensers!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXLII.)

At my local auction house, I've attempted to bid on table lots with PEZ dispensers.  They've always gone too high.  So I was thrilled to purchase these.  I also got the perfect, green coffee klatch set of coasters.  My haul included plenty of other interesting things ... which ... like normal ... have been mixed into my stash.  Soon, I'll forget where I got some of the items purchased that day ... like I've forgotten who donated the pretty copper can tabs.  Please know, if you donated to my stash ... THANK YOU!


(Above: Detail of Mandala CXLII.)

Some people have asked if I glue my object in place.  I don't ... expect when I do!  LOL!  In order to keep these PEZ dispensers arranged the way I wanted them, I used a dab of glue behind each "head" ... and then stitched them in place.  Otherwise, everything is stitched down.  Even the coffee klatch coasters were pre-drilled in order to stitch them to the quilt.

Mandala CXLI and CXLIII

(Above:  Mandala CXLI. Custom framed: 21" x 21".  Found objects hand stitched to a section of an old, tattered quilt.  Found objects include:  A hand mirror; four, brass door knob plates; Lincoln Logs; red checkers; loose paper binder rings; copper pipe straps; blue plastic lids; clock gear shaped buttons; buttons and beads.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last weekend I cut up an old and very tattered quilt and stapled sections to various stretcher bars.  The smallest piece became Mandala CXL and I blogged it last Monday. During the week, I worked on three pieces, two of which used the same, tattered quilt as a substrata.  This post shows the results.

(Above:  Mandala CXLIII.  Custom framed: 29 5/8" x 29 5/8" when hung as a square and 42" x 42" when hung as a diamond.  Found objects hand-stitched to a section of an old, tattered quilt. Found objects include:  A decorate metal ring that was glued to a cheap glass container; four, brass discs that were part of a trophy; clock face and gear shaped buttons; four, brass knob plates; orange insulin syringe caps; ViewMaster reels; assorted, red bottle caps; eight hors d'oeuvres forks; buttons and beads.)

I've actually had the old quilt in my stash for several months.  Part of me didn't want to use it.  It was in really poor shape. Yet, part of me couldn't resist.  This is just the sort of old quilt that I love best.  I adore the brown fabrics, the pop of red and blue, and even the name of this pattern:  Bear Paws!


(Above:  The Bear Paws quilt used for three Found Object Mandalas.)

This old quilt is also the sort that has no other use.  It NEEDED a second life!  So despite the badly tattered areas, I stapled parts to stretcher bars and then cut remaining parts to layer on top of the places that were "really bad".  Like all of my Found Object Mandalas, I then put a layer of bridal tulle over the entire surface.  Even the areas where the real cotton (including seeds!) shows are protected by the bridal tulle.  The result worked well and I am pleased with these new additions to the series!  Below are a few more pictures!  Enjoy!

(Above:  Mandala CXLIII on pointe.  42" x 42".)

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXLI.)
(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXLIII.)

Monday, October 17, 2022

Mandala CXXXVIII and CXL

(Above:  Mandala CXXXVIII. Custom framed: 24" x 24". Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: A glass floral frog, wooden clothespins; four silver napkin rings; eight drawer pulls; four Tinker Toy connectors; hard cider bottle caps; four metal plates that read "Fill Every Day"; and assorted buttons. $350 plus tax and shipping.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last Wednesday I blogged Mandala CXXXIX.  I do not know why I forgot about Mandala CXXXVIII but I did.  I hadn't snapped a photo but I did create a label and enter it into my inventory book.  Honestly, I thought I had a well established habit ... finish a piece, photograph it, list it in the inventory book, create a label for the reverse, and then BLOG IT.  Somehow, that didn't happen and I didn't even realize it until Mandala CXL was finished!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXXXVIII.)

I was really thrilled to stitch this piece.  The clothespins were sent by a dear friend, Nancy Cook.  Someone else sent the cute hard cider bottle caps but I've forgotten who (but I am very grateful!)  I don't know what the "Fill Every Day" metal plates were for.  I got them at an auction along with some of the five "speed" indicators I used on Mandala CXL.  In fact, there were all sorts of metal "things" on that table lot.  I just don't know where they came from or what they were once attached to.

(Above:  Mandala CXL.  Custom framed: 18 1/2" x 18 1/2". Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include:  a glass circle from an old lamp; five shoe horns; five metal "speed" plates; Lincoln logs; red, plastic lids with external tooth lock washers; hair clips; heart shaped and round buttons; beads. $250.00 plus tax and shipping.)

This piece was a challenge.  I had five shoe horns and no prospects for finding more.  Yet, they really did seem to create a nice star effect!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXL.)

So now ... I think I'm caught up with my blogging ... until tomorrow!  I'll be finishing another piece later tonight!  This series is so addictive!

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Anonymous Ancestors at City Gallery at Waterfront Park, Charleston, SC

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors at City Gallery at Waterfront Park, Charleston, SC.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

It is my great honor to bring Anonymous Ancestors to City Gallery at Waterfront Park in downtown, Charleston, SC.  It was also a challenge on several levels.  First, the space is extremely large.  Second, the space is divided by sectional walls into three distinct areas.  Third, the space has a very contemporary feel to it. 

It was my job to conqueror these challenges and I'm very pleased with the results. I'm also quite happy that Steve and I were able to install inside of seven-and-a-half hours!  On Thursday, we packed the van with more items than we've ever brought for one of the earlier exhibitions of this work.  This is the first time the two folding screens and the empty bird cage were part of the show despite the fact that they were always part of it (at least in my mind!)

I needed these extra things in order to transform all three areas of this big gallery.  I also had to spread out some of the other furniture.  In past shows, at least one or two chairs and the marble-topped table were actually on the Oriental carpet ... not just "near it"!  My goal was to make all three, contemporary spaces look and feel as if a parlor in a stereotypical, Victorian house where walls are hung with family photographs.

City Gallery at Waterfront Park has two levels.  Back in 2010, my Decision Portraits occupied both levels.  (Click HERE for a blog post and lots of images of this giant gallery! That show was called Personal Grounds.)  Because of this earlier opportunity, I knew the gallery space well ... especially the center section.  It is a totally open, soaring, two-story space.  Back in 2010, I had access to a Genie lift and hung 45 two-story long, sheer chiffon banners.  Without a Genie lift, I had to carefully figure out where to suspend the two Sculptural Garments ... where I could tie a wire around the banisters of the overhead walkways.

The second floor will soon be used for a juried show called Homegoing, artwork inspired by Yaa Gyasi's 2016 novel by the same name.  According to the call-for-entry, "Homegoing follows the parallel paths of two sisters, split apart by the slave trade, and their descendants through eight generations."  In my mind, the themes are intertwined.  My anonymous photos pose questions about heritage, identity, passing time, and family memories.  I think the two exhibits will create a very thought provoking experience for visitors.

Yet, Anonymous Ancestors will be open three weeks before Homegoing.  The opening reception for my solo show is on Friday, October 28th.  The other show doesn't open until November 18.  Both close during the last week in January 2023.  It is nice that a big gallery like this staggers openings and closings, allowing each exhibit to shine on its own as well as to provide joint considerations.

After Steve and I finished installing, I took the photos posted here and also a video.  (CLICK HERE to view the video on You Tube.) Then, we counted the number of pieces on the walls.  The grand total is 309!  All but two small piece were hung ... including four new ones. 

I've tried to stop making more pieces for The Wall of Ancestors.  Seriously, I don't need more than 311 of them ... but ... I can't help myself.  Often, I see an anonymous photo at Bill Mishoe's auction house and it seems to be crying out for me to "rescue it" by "turning it into art."  My mind instantly composes a flash fiction statement, something that the picture seems to suggestion.  Those words are easily collaged onto the image.

This past week four anonymous photos were transformed and framed.  They are all hanging now.  For some strange reason, I only snapped photos of three of them.  They are at the bottom of this post.

The Grid of Photos has never looked better than now.  I'm sure it has to do with the amazing quality of light in this side area of the gallery.  The gallery lights are aided by all the natural light flooding in from the waterside park.  The shadows are amazing! 

The shadows were an intentional feature of this artwork.  It is obvious in the statement I wrote for this piece when it was stitched in 2013.  

Each snapshot is a frozen moment in time, a single second on life’s timeline. To stand in front of The Gird of Photos is to remember a not-so-distant past. It triggers a sense of familiarity and common ground. It is easy to envision one’s own family and friends, holidays and special occasions, former cars, and hilarious fashion trends. Yet, these are anonymous photos. They come from yard sales, auctions, and abandoned locations. Who are these people? Who knows? We stand in the present; they look out from the past; too soon we will all be the shadow on the wall. 


I would really like to stitch another Grid of Photos, something that could be hung "in the round".  I certainly have enough anonymous photos to do it.  Perhaps the time is coming for me to start fusing them to unbleached muslin in preparations for this!

Of course, I don't have another exhibition scheduled for Anonymous Ancestors ... but I've written that before!  And, I am still drawn to the concepts, the photos, and the lives that seem to say "more is always better!"

The photo above shows all the things Steve and I unloaded from the van ... before we started installing the artwork.  It is hard to believe that it all fit into the van.  It is scary to think that it will all need to return inside the van next January!  Below ... three of the four new pieces!  Enjoy!

(Above:  A Daughter Was Good But a Son Was Better.)
(Above:  First Catch.)
(Above:  When Flying Was Glamorous.)