Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Nuestra Señora and Two Peacock Feathers

 (Above: Nuestra Señora. Framed: 12" x 14 3/4". Image transfer on fabric with hand and free-motion embroidery plus trapunto (stuffing).  $150. Click on any image to enlarge.)

After finishing Leaving the Pueblo, I needed another project on which to hand stitch.  I generally spend evenings watching television with my husband Steve. There's rarely anything on television that completely captures my attention. I have to have a threaded needle!  

When I order images transferred to fabric from Spoonflower, I generally fill the entire yard with "something" ... including small pictures like this one.  It was a perfect for the last two nights ... and now I'm looking for another project because this one is finished!
  
(Above:  Nuestra Señora, detail of the trapunto.)

I don't know why I love trapunto but I do.  I adore how fabric is flexible enough to add dimension if the background is densely stitched.  The foreground (in this case ... the Virgin's face) can be filled with a little stuffing from the reverse.


(Above:  Peacock XXI.  Framed 31" x 11". $395.)

I also finished, mounted, and photographed two more Peacock Feathers.  These will be going to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, November 2 - 4 ... which will be here soon!
(Above:  Peacock XXII.  Framed 31" x 11". $395.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Leaving the Pueblo, an art quilt

(Above:  Leaving the Pueblo. 36" x 23". Image transfers on fabric, pieced, machine and hand stitched.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

At the end of August, my husband Steve and I enjoyed a wonderful Western adventure to National Parks in Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.  I took hundreds of photos, and many of them were detail shots of the amazing textures found in Ancestral Puebloan ruins.  We took an early morning extended tour of the Balcony House at Mesa Verde.  Inside one of the enclosures was the remains of 13th century wall decor.  Just looking at the picture makes my mind wonder about the people who lived there, the many footprints that came and went, the history, and the passage of time.  (To read about our trip, CLICK HERE.)

 (Above:  Leaving the Pueblo, detail.)

Like most people, I take photographs to remember a particular place and time.  I take pictures because I'm amazed and overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of a place and because the textures are so vast and intricate that I know my stitching will never compare ... but I'd like to try!  Generally, I don't try.  There isn't enough time in a single life to recreate the sensations from a trip like this. 

  (Above:  Leaving the Pueblo, detail.)

The tour guide talked about the native population that left Mesa Verde and surrounding areas. There is no concrete reason. Perhaps it was due to years of drought and failing crops. Perhaps the population had outgrown the land's capacity for crops.  Perhaps it was after raids from other tribes.  For whatever reason, they migrated south.  Were these ancient people forced to flee?  It is hard to imagine an entire area leaving behind well constructed dwellings, homes, storage bins of food, kivas and places to worship without also imagining some foreboding force in the equation.

  (Above:  Leaving the Pueblo, detail.)

In other places, we learned about the Long Walk of the Navajo Nation and other tribes, an attempt at ethnic cleansing by forced migration in 1864.  Many died along the seven or so paths that stretched out over 300 miles.  Few were prepared for the long journey.  Some escaped and raided the soldiers.  The conditions at the internment camp were deplorable, including brackish water, failed cropped, and starvation.  Four years later, those that remained were allowed to return to their homelands, an Indian reservation.  This is a story that isn't confined to the area known as "the four corners".  Tribes east of the Mississippi have the Trail of Tears.  They were never permitted to return but granted ever shrinking areas of land in places totally unlike their native landscapes. The history of North American's native population is a horrible one, a dark spot on the USA nation's past.  
  
  (Above:  Leaving the Pueblo, detail.)

Everywhere we went, I saw footprints of modern people in the sand.  People coming and going.  People walking along the same paths as those used over the course of history.  I wondered how many people today were related to those who fled, those who forced them to go, or those in other parts of the world where other conflicts caused other sad tales of migration.  My father and his parents were forced from their Hungarian farm after World War II.  There must have been footprints there too.

 (Above:  Leaving the Pueblo, reverse.)

Perhaps I noticed the footprints because of history.  Perhaps I photographed them simply for their texture.  Perhaps I snapped the shots with the idea of stitching this quilt. Like the reason behind the Ancestral Puebloan people leaving their cliff dwelling, I really don't know.  But I do know that the images later inspired me to have Spoonflower transfer a couple shots to fabric so that I could enter a piece in the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) call-for-entry for a traveling exhibition called Forced to Flee.  Odds are long for an acceptance but that's not why I made this quilt.  Really, it was high time that I actually try to stitch some of the textures from one of my trips! 

The reverse of the quilt is an image of footprints.  My husband Steve likes it better than the front!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Lancet Windows CCXVII and CCXVIII

 (Above:  Lancet Window CCXVII. Framed: 31" x 11". Inventory # 4363. $395.)

Over the weekend I finished two more pieces intended for the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  I'm already at work on two Peacock Feathers, and I also finished an art quilt with plenty of hand stitching.  I'll post those as soon as they are photographed!

 (Above:  Lancet Window CCXVIII. Framed: 31" x 11". Inventory # 4364. $395.)

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Focusing on New Work After an Art Reception

 (Above:  In Box CCCXXXI, detail. Click on any image to enlarge.)

Time is flying by and the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show will be here before I know it.  Because I delivered a dozen pieces to the Grovewood Gallery last Friday, I know that I've got to be very focused in replacing them before heading north to Pennsylvania.  Thus, I spent the weekend busy in my studio.  In addition to In Box CCCXXXI, I worked on four new "Window Series" pieces which are at the end of this blog post.  Just scroll down!

(Above:  In Box CCCXXXI. Framed: 25 1/4" x 37 1/4".  Polyester stretch velvet on recycled, black packaging felt with free-motion stitching and melting techniques. $695.)

Of course, I was really happy in my studio.  After all, the weekend came on the heels of last Friday night's reception for my solo show, Last Words, at the Greenville Center for Creative Arts.  

 (Above:  Last Words at the Greenville Center for Creative Arts.)

The evening was great fun.  I talked to lots of people and almost forgot to snap a few photos until almost everyone had left.

 (Above:  Beth Andrews and me.)

Fortunately, my friend Beth Andrews was one of the other exhibiting artists.  Her work was in a group show called Textiles: A History of Expression which also included artists Alice Schlein, Sasha de Koninck, Kristy Bishop, and Meredith Piper.


I really enjoy watching people look at my work and the many interesting conversations that result.


People are always surprised that I don't mind touching!  My general artist statement includes the line:
I am drawn to textiles for their tactile qualities and often make work that is meant to touch and be touched.  I mean it!  I even allow people to touch the quilts, take a peek at the reverse side.

 (Above:  In Box CLVI. Inventory # 4359. Framed:  17 1/4" x 15 1/4". $265.)

Now ... here are the four "Window Series" pieces that I started during the weekend, finished yesterday, and photographed today.

  (Above:  In Box CLVII. Inventory # 4360. Framed:  17 1/4" x 15 1/4". $265.)

  (Above:  In Box CLVIII. Inventory # 4361. Framed:  17 1/4" x 15 1/4". $265.)

 (Above:  In Box CLIX. Inventory # 4362. Framed:  17 1/4" x 15 1/4". $265.)

Friday, October 05, 2018

Two new pieces!

 (Above:  In Box CCCXXX, detail.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Today my husband Steve and I are closing our business, Mouse House, early and heading north to Asheville.  It is always great news when one's gallery requests more artwork.  We are delivering.  Of course, this presents a slight problem.  I'm doing the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in less than a month.  Thus, I will have to work hard to replace the pieces I'm taking to the Grovewood Gallery today!  Thankfully, I've just finished In Box CCCXXX and can turn my attention to the work I need to make for the upcoming show. 

(Above:  In Box CCCXXX. Framed: 25 1/4" x 37 1/4".  Polyester stretch velvets on recycled, black packaging felt with free-motion stitching and melting techniques. $695.)

Working in a limited palette is challenging for me.  I'm so used to having all the colors, all the time.  Working in blues and purples is especially challenging.  These are the colors to which I'm least likely to gravitate.  I'm more of a "Tuscan/warm/rust, mustard, and olive green" person!  Yet, I am quite pleased with this cooler toned work!

(Above:  God is a Fairy Tale.  15" x 21 3/4".)

For the rest of the month, I will have to resist making more and more work for the upcoming March Alternative Storytellers show.  I don't need more!  I already have too many for my allotment of space, but I just couldn't help myself when it came to this mother-of-pearl Korean lacquerware. I got it at my weekly auction along with a piece of framed embroidery (which interested me ... the lacquerware was just "with it", not really what I wanted.)  It was obviously made for the tourist industry.  After all, what traditional Asian craft would feature a very Western looking church with a cute steeple? The scene reminded me of the ballet Giselle, but seriously ... who outside ballet circles really knows that story.  I googled several phrases including:  Fairy tales with night scenes, mother-of-pearl in a fairy tale, and finally churches in fairy tales.  One of the listed entries included an article called "Christianity is a Fairy Tale."  Having been brought up Lutheran and having converted to Catholicism, this title struck me as rather brazen.  I had to start reading it.  It wasn't long before I had my phrase for the lacquerware.  It only took about a half hour to transform the scene with a little gold metallic paint and letters clipped from vintage ephemera.  I know this will offend some.  Frankly, I don't agree but it does put the conversation in the air!

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Sleeping Beauty

 (Above:  Sleeping Beauty.  Framed: 57" x 37" x 2 1/2".  Seriously damaged vintage party dress, artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters, epoxy.)

For the past two weeks I've been working on this piece.  It started as a hair-brained idea, one I didn't think would work but had to try.  After all, I had absolutely nothing in the dress.  It was given to me by one of the other "regulars" at Bill Mishoe's auction.  It was in terrible shape, literally falling apart.  To me, it looked like a dress straight from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, something like the decaying wedding frock worn by Miss Havisham, something that was once beautiful but had been ravaged by time. Yet the pretty pink color also made me think of a Sweet Sixteen party from a long ago fairy tale, one attended by Princess Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty.
 
(Above:  Sleeping Beauty, detail.)

I've been working on all sorts of fun projects in anticipation of a spring show with artists Flavia Lovatelli and Olga Yukhno called Alternative Storytellers.  The dress seemed a perfect vehicle for a twist in the plot.  First, however, I had to figure out a way to use a garment in such poor condition.

(Above:  The finished piece leaning up against a wall here at Mouse House.)

The dress was very, very fragile, especially the chiffon sleeves.  The back of the dress looked better than the front.  So I removed some of the existing trim from the front and attached it to the back.  I knew I wanted artificial cemetery flowers to surround the garment and I knew I wanted to pour epoxy over the entire thing.  The epoxy would protect the deteriorating dress.  It would also create a reflective surface that would heighten the sense of a former, luscious textile ... so close to the viewer's touch but subtly out of reach.

(Above:  Sleeping Beauty, before being put into custom frame, on our front porch.)

The shiny surface of epoxy, however, makes photographing the work very, very difficult.  Most angles reflected my tripod and camera, the sky, and the trees and building across the street.  Inside was even worse.  Steve helped hold up 32" x 40" pieces of black foam-centered boards in order to capture any worthwhile image.


I am really pleased with the results even though the dress actually looks far better than I expected.  I sort of thought it would retain more of a disheveled appearance.  Below are in-progress images and the entire story line that is written in individual letters on the frame's inner lip.


Because epoxy adds plenty of weight, I started with a piece of particle board cut to 54" x 34" and a piece of over-sized foam-centered board cut to the same dimensions.  I applied a heat-activated glue to the foam-centered board.  It curled badly while drying.


I stapled the curled foam-centered board to the perimeter of the particle board.


I had to put staple every few inches.


I auditioned several colors of fabric for the background, deciding that the black was definitely the best for both contract and the concept of death.  The fabric, however, did not iron properly to the heat-activated glue.  I applied a very thin coating of the glue and position the fabric on the wet surface.  It stuck perfectly.


The entire black surface was coated with Golden's GAC 400 fabric stiffener and allowed to completely dry.


I purchase the fabric stiffener by the gallon but have never used it expect to coat fabric with a thin wash.  This time, I had to pour it.  Picking up the fragile dress wasn't possible.  It could hardly carry its own weight.


The stiffener was poured under sections of the dress and over the top.  The solution was moved around gently until all the fabric was saturated.  To be honest, it looked dreadful.  I knew that the stiffener was supposed to dry to a crystal clear finish. By the next day, there were still "white" areas of stiffener.


Amazingly, the solution did become crystal clear after the second day.


Because I've poured epoxy over all sorts of surfaces, I knew that this piece would require two applications.  The first coating went on perfectly well.  These photos come from the second pour.


During the second application, I could move the epoxy to fill areas that weren't as thick.  Using my gloved hands, I made sure the entire surface had at least some epoxy.


Quickly, I used the propane torch to force tiny air bubbles to the surface.  This gives the epoxy the high reflective, shiny surface.  I had to work fast because there is only about a fifteen minute open time with this UV filtering, artist grade epoxy and I had more to do!


Before pouring the epoxy, I'd set out artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters.  All the plastic parts had been removed.  These are simply the fabric of the flowers and leaves.


I had to remove my gloves for this part.  They were covered in epoxy.  I picked up and positioned flowers with my left hand.  I pressed the center into the epoxy with my right index finger.  Epoxy is very, very sticky.  I couldn't risk getting any on my left hand!  (Please note, the piece was raised from the table's plastic covered surface ... so that it wouldn't stick to the table!)


For this shot, Steve got on the ladder and turned off the lights in the garage.  Why turn off the lights?  Because overhead is a long fluorescent bulb.  From this angle, all that could be seen was its reflection!   (We had the big door open for natural light!)


Finally, I had all the flowers I wanted positioned around the dress.  The piece dried overnight.


Now it was time to create the custom frame on which the alternative story would be told. A champagne colored shadowbox was built to the outer dimensions.  Then, a wooden liner was built to fit inside it.  I painted that liner black and ironed on pink, green, and copper heat-activated metallic foiling.  Finally, I wrote my story, counted the letters/spaces, divided by the linear inches and came up with a plan for spacing out all the letters inside the lip.  


I have two different containers of letters clipped from various sources.  One container is all vintage letters, mostly in shades of black-and-white.  The other has letters clipped from contemporary magazines, mostly in vivid colors.


Around the lip I applied the letters.  They spell out:

The story of the Sleeping Beauty has Prince Phillip kissing the comatose Princess Aurora and lifting the one-hundred year curse. The prince's desire might have been the result of necrophilia. She probably looked like a beautiful corpse but her dress would have deteriorated beyond regal recognition.


Mostly, I used the modern, colorful letters.  They seemed to match the artificial flowers.



I even had a place for my name and the date.