Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Persistence and Resilience

(Above:  Persistence, digital image on fabric with hand and machine stitching, beading, and trapunto. Framed:  25 1/2" x 17 3/4".  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last December I embarked on a fiber adventure by accepting an invitation to create a 50" x 30" art quilt for a traveling exhibition called A Better World: Heroes Working for the Greater Good
At the time, I knew exactly what I wanted to make because I had already purchased several early 20th century photographs of anonymous African-Americans, scanned them, and had them digitally printed on fabric by Spoonflower.   I also knew that I had plenty of time in which to hand-stitch the work.  I made my piece while enjoying a two-month art residency with the Osage Arts Community in Belle, Missouri. 

(Above:  Resilience, digital image on fabric with hand and machine stitching, beading, and trapunto. Framed:  25 1/2" x 17 3/4".)

What I didn't know for sure was how my digitally printed images would work together.  I didn't want to risk cutting into some of the fabric, ruining it, and not having those images in the final piece.  Thus (as a safe guard!), I ordered two pieces of fabric featuring my two favorite pictures ... two strong, confident looking women.  From the moment I saw their photos at Bill Mishoe's auction (where I bought the pictures), I adored them.  These two women undoubtedly lived in the face of racism, sexism, and many cultural disadvantages.  Their stance, facial expressions, garments, and the fact that they obviously could afford a professional photography session resonated with me.  These ladies were formidable. 

(Above: We Had a Dream: Equality. 50" x 30". Digital images on fabric with hand quilting.  To read more about this art quilt, CLICK HERE.)

Fortunately, my piece for the traveling show fell into place easily, and the finished work is now touring the nation in the exhibition.  I was left with the two extra pieces of fabric and the desire to stitch two "stand alone" pieces.  While stitching, I thought about words to reflect the determination and independence I saw in these to ladies.  The words "persistence" and "resilience" stayed with me.  I ordered brass plate with these titles and customized the frames with assorted tacks. 

 (Above:  Persistence, detail.)

The tacks are subtly part of my thought process.  Why?  Well, popular idioms include "sharp as tacks".  These two had to be observant, smart, and able to navigate through a world with many obstacles.  Tacks are also like nails ... as in "strong as nails".  These two undoubtedly had strength enough to overcome many hardships.

 (Above:  Resilience, detail.)

Most of the stitching in the halo area was done with metallic thread ... the type generally used in a sewing machine.  The stitching is quite dense except on the figures themselves.  When stitching like this, the surrounding area/background tends to shrink a bit due to the pull of the thread.  Doing this is generally not advised.  Instead, it is advised to stitch from the middle to the outside edges ... in order to avoid the center from bulging outward.  I know this.  I count on this ... because I intended to stuff the central figure from the reverse.  This is a technique known as trapunto.

(Above:  Persistence, detail at an angle to show the subtle dimension achieved through the trapunto/stuffing technique.)

As a result, both pieces have a slight three dimensional quality.  Both figures are slightly raised from the densely stitched background.  The trapunto work enhances to visual focus.  I'm very pleased with the results.   Like the statement for the piece I stitched for the invitational opportunity, the same words ring true:  This art quilt pays homage to those who lived in hope that their work would one day bring about a better world. To dream of equality is the American Dream. To dream in the face of adversity is to be a hero.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Finished! Lots of small pieces!

(Above:  Relics made in the recent workshop for Quilters' Connection outside Boston.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Every time I conduct a workshop, I challenge myself to finish, frame, price, and enter into inventory each and every demonstration started.  I call them "relics" because they are the artifacts that remain after the experience (plus, I like the words!)  While recently outside Boston with eleven fantastic participants, I created these three.  Since returning, I've framed them.  From left to right:  In Box Relic CCXXVIII, $60; Relic CCXXVII, $100; and In Box Relic CCXXIX, $60.

 (Above:  Four small, totally hand-stitched In Box series pieces.)

On the way to and from Boston, I hand-stitched while riding in our cargo van.  In fact, I even zapped one of these pieces as a "bonus" demonstration while there.  Since returning home, they've all been finished and framed.  Photos of each one are below.  Thankfully, I have other hand-stitching projects on which to work ... because Steve and I are off again on another adventure.  We're about to leave for Hilton Head Island, a trip planned in order to watch the Ohio State Buckeyes in their rivalry game against "the team up north".  For the past four years we've watched this Thanksgiving weekend game at Mangiamo's, a 24/7 and 365-days-a-year Ohio State decorated pizza parlor.  It is so much fun to cheer with other scarlet-and-grey fans!

 (Above:  In Box CCCLXIX, Inventory # 4632.  Framed:  15" x 12". $150. Polyester stretch velvet on recycled black industrial felt, hand-stitched in assorted, cotton embroidery floss, and zapped with a heat gun.)

(Above: In Box CCCLXXI. Inventory # 4634.  Framed:  15" x 12". $150. Polyester stretch velvet on recycled black industrial felt, hand-stitched in assorted, cotton embroidery floss, and zapped with a heat gun.)

(Above: In Box CCCLXXII. Inventory # 4635.  Framed:  15" x 12". $150. Polyester stretch velvet on recycled black industrial felt, hand-stitched in assorted, cotton embroidery floss, and zapped with a heat gun.)

(Above: In Box CCCLXX. Inventory # 4632.  Framed:  15" x 12". $150. Polyester stretch velvet on recycled black industrial felt, hand-stitched in assorted, cotton embroidery floss, and zapped with a heat gun.)

Monday, November 25, 2019


(Above:  The interior courtyard at the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

My husband Steve and I just returned from a fantastic trip to the Boston area.  I've only been looking forward to this since I was about nineteen years old!  Seriously!  Going to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has been on my "bucket list" since studying Italian Renaissance art in college.  The collection is amazing and includes works by Botticelli, Fra Angelico,  Piero della Francesca, Cellini, Michelangelo, and Raphael (to name a few from this particular era) but also works by Titian, John Singer Sargent, Matisse, Rembrandt, Degas, Whistler, Tintoretto, Andres Zorn, and too many others to name.  The very building is magnificent.  Yet, the reason for the trip wasn't this museum!  It was the opportunity to conduct a two-day workshop for Quilters' Connection in nearby Watertown, Massachusetts.

 (Above:  Trunk show for the Blythewood Historical Society.)

First, however, I gave a trunk show of my Grave Rubbing Art Quilts for the Blythewood Historical Society.  That was last Tuesday afternoon.  Steve and I headed north directly after this fun afternoon. 

 (Above:  My HOT workshop for the Quilters' Connection.)

The HOT workshop was on Thursday and Friday.  I also gave a my "Beyond a Series" lecture for the guild's monthly meeting.  This workshop was the first time I had a past workshop participant return for a second experience.  I am ever so grateful to Laura Brady ... not just for returning but especially for an amazing gift!

 (Above:  Me with Laura Brady's incredible Max the Miracle Cat fiber art piece.)

Laura usually does dogs, greyhounds in particular; but for me, she made a fiber art picture of Max!  It is AWESOME.  To see more of Laura's fabulous work, visit her "Skinny Dog Stuff" Esty Shop.  When I'm teaching, I often say that I want every participant to bring her own style and aesthetics to my technique, to find her own unique way to explore with polyester fabric and heat, and to become a better artist because at least "one little thing" from the workshop made a difference.  Well ... Laura has certainly done all of this and more!  I am so proud to hang this piece in my dining room  THANK YOU, Laura!

 The rest of this blog post is simply a few of the images I shot while enjoying the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  I really do hope to return some day because a couple hours are not enough to take in the place!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, the 701 CCA South Carolina Biennial, and a new piece!

(Above:  In Box CCCLXVII, detail. Click on any image to enlarge.  The photo of the entire artwork is further below, the last picture in this blog post.  Just scroll down!)

It's hard for me to realize that last Thursday (a full week ago!) was the gala opening party for the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  At least Steve and I remembered to snap a photo of my booth right before the big party started.

(Above:  Me and my booth at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show ... right before the gala started.)

It is such an honor to be among the 190 artists selected by a team of jurors from over 1200 applications.  Yet, it is also risky and a lot of work!  Sales aren't guaranteed.  Our 10' x 15' booth rent was about $1800 (and that doesn't include the $150 for electricity!) Lots of physical labor is required too.

Steve and I loaded the cargo van last Monday afternoon.  We left Columbia on Tuesday morning and spent the night about an hour south of Philadelphia.  Our scheduled move-in time was Wednesday at 9:00 AM.  Fortunately, cargo vans are allowed to drive straight onto the convention center floor.  We were able to put down our interlocking carpet tiled floor before dumping everything else onto it.  Ideally, unloading should take no more than forty minutes ... in order to allow another cargo van access.  Then, the fun starts ... erecting the ProPanel walls, installing the lights, hanging the artwork, posting pricing labels, and preparing receipt pads, pens, bubble wrap, bags, and a PayPal machine in anticipation of a busy weekend.

The gala was wonderful.  We even sold a few pieces (which is actually a bit unusual during a gala!)  Then on Friday morning, the line starts forming outside the show.  Steve always likes to go out and snap a photo of the crowd.  We were busy all day on Friday, 11 AM to 9 PM.  My feet were sore ... but I really couldn't think about them because I was standing from 10 - 6 on Saturday and 10 - 5 on Sunday.

I managed to take exactly one picture of people in my booth.  Otherwise, I was busy talking about my work, selling Christmas ornaments, and trying to place artwork into permanent homes!  As far as I can tell, there's no good way to figure this "art thing" out.  In the past, my Lancet Window Series has always been my best selling size.  This time, I didn't sell a single one.  At home, no one has really been excited about the pieces over which I poured artist-grade, UV filtering epoxy.  Yet, I sold five of the seven I brought to Philadelphia.  The fiber vessels did well too.  The only thing that was really different is the location in my booth where I put the display stand on which the vessels sat.  All in all, it was a very good show ... and then Steve and I dismantled the booth, loaded it back into the cargo van, and came home to the mountain of required paperwork that comes with out-of-state sales tax!

(Above:  The Loss Installation on view at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art's South Carolina Biennial.)

This week has been busy with other things too!  Yesterday was the opening reception for the 701 CCA South Carolina Biennial.  Two of my works were accepted.  I went by earlier to take a look and snap a few photos.  I am profoundly happy that my Loss Installation was on view.  Before this, I was the only person to have ever seen it hang.  That happened because I installed and took pictures all by myself.  Sure, I shared images on this blog, my website, and on social media ... but it is just not the same as having the work really seen in person!  For a blog post about this installation and how it was my way of coping with the grief of family estrangement, CLICK HERE.)

The reception was really nice.  It is an honor to be among the state's most talented artists and to hear the things people say when viewing my work.

 (Above:  Visitors to the show admiring my Anonymous Ancestors Folding Screen.)

The show is up until December 22.  There's a catalog too.  Before going to the reception, however, I finish mounting In Box CCCLXVII, a totally hand-stitched piece.  I stitched it in the cargo van on the ride to and from Philadelphia.  It is similar to the one I finished after riding to Fort Myers, Florida a weekend earlier.  Fortunately, the other piece did find a home while in Philadelphia.  This new piece will be going to the Grovewood Gallery this weekend.  With luck, it too will be adopted!

(Above:  In Box CCCLXVII.  Framed 26" x 20".  Inventory # 4631. $435.)

Monday, November 04, 2019

Back in Town ... Only to Leave Again!

(Above:  An assortment of fiber vessels made before the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

During late October ... if I had even five or ten minutes of "free time" ... I zoomed up to my studio and zigzag stitched on a fiber vessel.  These thirteen managed to get completed in time to go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  (These pieces are not made using a clothesline!  They are made first by zigzag stitching several strands of yarn into a cord ... and then zigzag stitching the cord into a fiber vessel.  For a free tutorial, CLICK HERE.)

 (Above:  The packed cargo van.)

Yesterday was "hunter-gatherer" day, a time to collect all the things needed to set up booth 104 on Wednesday.  Today was "pack the cargo van" day.  Inside we have a display unit for the fiber vessels hanging above the booth walls, artwork, boxes of interlocking floor carpet, lighting, extension cords, bubble wrap, chairs, and a small file cabinet with pricing labels, receipts, pens, business cards, tape, the PayPal card reader, and lots of other very necessary things for the show.

 (Above:  In Box CCCLXVI, Inventory # 4630.  Framed:  22" x 18". $350.)

One of the last pieces to be packed was also the last piece to be finished!  This is In Box CCCLXVI, a totally hand-stitched work.  I  stitched it while riding to Fort Myers, Florida and back.  That was just days ago.  My husband Steve and I went in order for six of my garments made from recycled materials could be in a Trashion Fashion Show at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center.  That was on Friday night!   

 (Above: Detail of In Box CCCLXVI.)

The Trashion Fashion Show's aim was to bring awareness of textile waste.  In this country alone, more than 15 million tons of textiles go into landfills.  Most of it is less than three years old!  By showcasing these garments, the hope is that audience members will think twice before pitching their clothes and will look for ways to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!  My six garments in the show were The Leaf Dress, The Pantyhose Dress, You Are My Sunshine, The Class of 1949, The Red Carpet Dress, and the Flower Dress.

We were short a model short ... and so I actually walked the runway in The Flower Dress!  Yet the best thing was the fact that You Are My Sunshine won first place.  It has stayed in Fort Myers and will be on display with the Turf Wars: Art Speaks for the Earth exhibition through November 25th.

 (Above:  Writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' home ... which is now a Historic State Park north of Ocala, Florida.)

On our return drive, we stopped for a fabulous house tour at Cross Creek.  It was a remarkable step back into time, to the cracker homestead where Marjoie Kinnan Rawlings wrote her Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Yearling and other beloved books.  (Click HERE to access the website for this renown location.)

Almost everything inside was original ... including the stove, pots and pans, and cooking utensils that Marjorie used while writing her Cross Creek Cookery book in 1942.

The tour was as wonderfully slow paced as the suggestion of time surrounding the acreage.

The tour guide was genuinely passionate and able to tell great stories about Marjorie, the locals, and the house ... including a story about this bathroom, the first in the area to have indoor plumbing ... an event that Marjorie used for a celebratory party!

Now ... on to Philadelphia!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Catching Up before Going Out-of-Town Again!

 (Above:  My work in the current issue of Fiber Art Now Magazine.)

Since returning from Espanola, Canada, Steve and I have been working like crazy people!  There's so much to do, especially since we leave early tomorrow morning for Fort Myers, Florida.  I'm so happy that my three recent garments made from recycled materials will be in the Trashion Fashion Show this coming Friday night at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center.  What makes this extra special is that these three dresses are currently featured in Fiber Art Now Magazine.  I am truly indebted to Noelle Foye for such a beautiful article. 

 (Above:  The Class of 1949 and the Red Carpet Dress in the store front window at the Tapps Art Center.)

Before going, I had to retrieve the dresses from the large, corner window at the Tapps Art Center where they've been on 24/7 display since the ecoFAB Trashion Show on August 31st.  For this earlier opportunity, the garments were paired with both a 2D and 3D creation.  In the background of the photo above appears A Picture of a Plant, the 2D creation using vintage photo album pages and pressed flowers to make a statement about plant extinction.  It goes with The Class of 1949 dress and the Black Lives Matter fan as well as the 3D piece, the Anonymous Ancestors Folding Screen.  The screen will next be on display at the 701 CCA South Carolina Biennial.

The Red Carpet Dress was paired with an altered circus poster and Red: A Biomorphic Abstraction (basically a really, really large boa made from the same floor covering as the dress).  It's almost shocking to think that as soon as we return from Florida, we are headed back to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show ... the place where I rescued a section of the red floor covering!

(Above:  You Are My Sunshine in the store front window at the Tapps Art Center.)

The third dress in the store front window was You Are My Sunshine.  It was paired with one of my Things Kept 2D pieces and all the altered cigar boxes made at the Osage Arts Community residency in Missouri.  This dress will stay in Fort Myers for the run of the Turf Wars Exhibition at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center.  Yet, these three dresses are only half the garments making the trip.  I'm so happy that my Pantyhose Dress, Leaf Dress, and Flower Dress are also going to be on the runway!  I am passionate about how art can bring awareness to issues of global warming, the need to "reduce, reuse, recycle", and ways in which individuals can be part of a movement to impact positive environmental change.

 (Above:  Relic CXXIII.  Framed:  13" x 11 1/2". Inventory # 4622. $100.)

As much as I'm looking forward to the weekend, this past week has also been about finishing up projects from the immediate past ... including the "relics" made while conducting the two workshops for the Espanola Fibre Festival.  As a workshop instructor, I feel it very important that I'm NOT just giving another "example" or making another "sample".  I always finish, frame, price, and put into inventory every demonstration I start while teaching ... including these five pieces.

(Above: Relic CXXII.  Framed: 12 1/4" x 11". Inventory # 4622. $100.)

I use scraps of picture frame moulding and leftover mats and fillet to frame these works.  They are never sold through galleries but serve as examples for future workshops. I price them so that just about anyone who wants one can afford one.  I like the title "relic" because it indicates something remaining from the workshop experience ... something precious, something meaningful, something that possesses the energy and significance of sharing my processes with others.

(Above: Relic CXXIV. Framed:  13" x 11 1/2". Inventory # 4624. $100.)

In Canada, one participant arrived after my first demonstration ... so I did that demonstration again.  That's why there's an odd number of Relics!

(Above: In Box Relic CXXV.  Framed:  13 1/4" x 11 1/4". Inventory # 4625. $60.)

On the second day of the two workshops, my demonstration pieces are melted with both the soldering irons and the heat gun.  I finish them too!

(Above: In Box Relic CXXVI.  Framed:  12" x 10". Inventory # 4626. $60.)

It is fun to think about having talked through these demonstrations.  It is a challenge to finish them since I wasn't truly paying attention while initially working!  I was "teaching".  Then, I have to "fix" whatever shifted or went slight awry!  Challenges are always good!  They force me to solve problems that I wouldn't otherwise encounter!

(Above:  Altered Cross Stitch:  Most Enemies [Can Be Paid Well Enough to Simply Go Away.]  Framed:  24" x 21".  Inventory # 4627. $400.)

There's no way for me to work on pieces from my workshop while riding in our cargo van.  Beads just don't cooperate with bumpy roads and sharp curves.  So, I brought along another piece from my Alter Cross Stitch Series.  These pieces position anonymously stitched vintage cross stitches on darker linen.  I've stitched updated phrases around each one and then densely applied running stitches over the entire surface.  These running stitches unite the old with the new.  It is easy to ply Appleton wool thread while in the cargo van!

(Above:  Altered Cross Stitch:  Most Enemies [Can Be Paid Well Enough to Simply Go Away.], detail.)

The vintage cross stitch was donated to me by a friend.  She added some of her own seed stitches to the original border.  It is a lovely thing to know that at least three women worked on this piece!

(Above:  Altered Cross Stitch:  Most Enemies [Can Be Paid Well Enough to Simply Go Away.], detail.)

Although I have two more vintage cross stitches on which I might work.  I haven't started on them yet.  The day might come ... but it might not.  Lately, I've been thinking about the several series that I have and return to and think about and work on.  I seem to need the ability to jump from one to the other, especially between major projects.  I don't seem capable of always making my "signature" work, my In Box and Stained Glass Series.  I need diversity, a "stitch vacation", a momentary way to "play" with other ideas and project.  In fact, I occasionally need a simple lark!

(Above:  Autumn Leaves, in progress.)

Such was the case this past week.  When taking apart two very old framed pictures for a client, I found two pieces of acid-free barrier paper used to buffer the antique engraving from the acid-filled corrugated backing.  (Okay ... I admit it ... back in the mid-1980s, I did this too!  The idea was to "protect" the artwork from the inferior backing.  Of course, the barrier paper absorbed the acid, staining it ... and over time the acid would eventually effect the image.  But this was the mid-1980s.  Most custom picture framers were just learning about conservation material, and I was just learning to frame ... period.  Naturally, I quickly changed to using acid-free materials!)  Anyway, the client's engravings look perfectly fine, and I was about to toss the acid-damaged barrier paper ... before a hair-brained idea occurred to me!  Why not use them for an experiment?!

I picked up five leaves outside my house, taped them gently to the barrier paper, and sponge painted around the shapes.  I then flicked black ink specks over the surface.


For the paint, I mixed up a watery solution of brown acrylics that sort of matched the acid-stain on the barrier paper.  I used a unique "brush" that another artist gave me.  Instead of bristles, pieces of chamois are affixed in a seemingly random arrangement on a handle.  It works perfectly!

(Above:  Autumn Leaves, in progress.)

I liked what I saw but knew it really wasn't enough!

(Above:  Autumn Leaves in Ink.  14 1/4" x 17".  Inventory #4628.  Shrink-wrapped. $50.)

On one piece, I used my rapidograph to draw the outline and veins of the leaves.  I added gold lines around the edge, including dips that marked the hinges for the engraving.  Then I added a French line.  As a picture frame who once specialized in antiquarian prints, I'm a good "French matter".

(Above:  Autumn Leaves in Stitches.  12" x 17 1/2". Inventory #4629. Shrink wrapped. $50.)

I fused a piece of fabric to the back of the darker painted piece and then free-motion stitched the veins, outlines, and the perimeters.  A gold and rapidographed French line finished the work.

(Above:  Detail with signature.)

These two pieces took less than an hour to complete.  They were a fun experiment, a great way to use an old piece of barrier paper (which is probably now PH balanced similar to paperback books printed during World War II), and a way to keep my mind excited in the studio.  In my opinion, acting on hair-brained ideas and simply "playing" is the best way to keep engaged and productive.  Odds are that these two pieces will never be in a show, never hang on a wall, never be cherished or saved or valued beyond a listing in my inventory book.  Yet, they are important.  They are the momentary thrill that keeps me on my toes.  They are the diversions from the "normal work" that permits me to keep up a busy schedule!