Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mended Words, a new series

(Above:  Mended Words III, The Lady of Shalott.  Original late 19th century engraving, ripped and mended, collage of letters clipped from mostly vintage sources.  Stitched to an acid-free mat measuring 16" x 20".  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Years ago, Mouse House (my business) was a full service custom picture framing shop with up to fourteen on payroll.  Full-time employees enjoyed covered health insurance, paid vacation time, and over-time pay. Although we framed for just about every government agency in the state and hundreds of local companies and individuals, our specialization was actually antiquarian prints. Every week I made a trip to Charleston, picking up and delivering framing orders to all the high-end antique shops on King Street.  I had several walls in an antique mall outside of Charleston ... for twenty years.  I worked CONSTANTLY ... until I finally admitted that I wanted to be an artist "when I grew up".  That was in 2001.

 (Above:  Mended Words I, The Exiles.)

Very few people really understood why my husband and I decided to "kill" our very successful frame shop. It doesn't make much sense to downsize a business that was still growing by double-digits ... but the fact of the matter was simple:  It was killing me. My creative soul was dying!

It took two years to finish long term commitments and to help employees find suitable jobs elsewhere. It took two years for me to find a studio and get "serious" about making art.  It was a gradual transition from "full time picture framer" to "artist".  (I still frame pictures for "a living" ... but now only "part-time"!)  Eventually, I gave up the walls in the antique mall and hauled off most the antique prints to an auction house outside Washington, DC.  Yet, there are still a few half-forgotten shelves and drawers on which antiquarian prints are stacked.  Every once in a while I come across a pile ... and recently I decided to rip, mend, and collage clipped letters onto a few.  It's been a fun way to start each day.   

 (Above:  Mended Words II, Homeless.)

I've really had a great time researching quotations that seem appropriate to the engraving's subject.  For Mended Words II, Homeless I found a great statement by the musician Gustav Mahler who felt like an outsider no matter how influential and talented he was.  

 (Above:  Mended Words VI, The Confidence Broken.)

Then the next day, I found a great quotation by William Blake.  Though the engraving suggests an ideal "confidence", the ripped paper forebodes a different outcome.  Hence, I added the word "broken" to the title.

 (Above:  Mended Words V, Shakespeare.)

One morning, I spent almost an hour reading quotations from Shakespeare's many works.  It was hard to select just one for his portrait.  Finally I settled on "Words without thoughts never to Heaven go" because it implies a warning to other writers and poets.  To me, this makes sense of the ripped-and-mended engraving.

(Above:  Mended Words, The Duel.)

While reading lines from Shakespeare's plays and consulting the engravings I had, I was stumped on this scene from The Twelfth Night.  The illustration is obviously perfect for the torn paper but I didn't like any of the quotations.  Finally, I googled and found one by Toba Beta.  I admit it. I'd never heard of this Indonesian poet and fantasy syfy novelist ... but the quotation is wonderful!

 (Above:  Mended Words VII, Hamlet.)

There were plenty of quotations from Hamlet that could have been added to this engraving but I really liked the princely reference since the portrayed actor was so handsome.  Then, I noticed the name of the actor ... Edwin Booth.  Yes!  Edwin Booth was quite famous and some theatrical historians claim he was the greatest 19th century actor in the role of Hamlet.  His fame, however, was eclipsed by his younger brother John Wilkes Booth, a man who assassinated President Lincoln.  So, I added "Sic Semper Tyrannis" at the bottom.  Why?  Well, supposedly John Wilkes Booth screamed this after shooting Lincoln but more importantly in this context, it also comes from legends of the Ides of March ... from Julius Caesar, another Shakespearean play.  It means "Thus Always to Tyrants" and is the motto of the state of Virginia.  It seems fitting for a ripped engraving of Hamlet too.

(Above:  Mended Words VIII, Macbeth.)

I'm really having a great time researching Shakespearean quotations and applying them to ripped engravings.  Macbeth brought back memories from tenth grade English literature.  I've got other engraving to transform too.  I'm not really spending too much time with this series.  It is just a curiosity, a morning exercise, a way to combine literature and stitch, and I'm enjoying it!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Wasted Words: Global Warnings has a permanent home with the Textile Museum

(Above:  Wasted Words: Global Warning, fiber vessel filled with ripped-and-rolled and stitched pages from articles on conservation, pollution, and ecological issues found in World Book Encyclopedia Yearbooks, 1962 - 75.)

I made this piece in 2009 and blogged about it HERE.  Later, I entered the piece for curatorial review at the Textile Museum in Washington, DC.  It was accepted into a exhibit called Green: A Color and a Cause.  Steve and I went to see the show and I blogged about that trip HERE.  More recently, I had my Cotton Installation in another exhibition at the Textile Museum.  (Blogged about that HERE.)

During that last opportunity, I mentioned that I would LOVE to donate my fiber vessel to the museum ... which until recently didn't accept contemporary works of art.  I received mild interest and followed up with an email.  The correspondence was encouraging.  In June, I shipped the work and received a "temporary deposit receipt".  I was told that the work would be presented to the Board of Directors in November and a decision would be made after that time.

Today I received an awesome email:

I am writing to share that The Textile Museum’s Board of Directors formally accessioned your work, Wasted Words: Global Warnings, to the museum’s permanent collection.

I am so excited about adding this important line to my resume! Lots of people think museums just accept generous gifts whenever things are offered.  This just isn't the case!  Why? Well, the museum isn't just "getting something"; they are promising to preserve, protect, and keep records on the art and artist. Each donated piece must have  a sensible connection to the goals of the permanent collection.  Today I am really, really happy!  Something I've made will definitely be around long after I'm dead!  Something I've made is part of something bigger than my studio practice; it's a true "museum piece"!

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

Sunday, December 10, 2017


 (Above:  Detail of In Box CCCV.  Layers of polyester stretch velvet blocks with metallic foiling, machine stitching and melting techniques.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

The two, new pieces shared in this blog post started as a mistake. My husband Steve accidentally cut two, black linen liners instead of the off-white linen liners.  It was an understandable mistake.  I used to use black, not off white ... but that was when my outer frame was this really wonderful, rounded dull gold.  Unfortunately, that picture frame moulding was discontinued and we had to come up with another plan. 

(Above, left: The "old" presentation, black linen liner with rounded, dull gold frame. Above, right, the "new" presentation, off white linen liner with a distressed black moulding featuring a very narrow distressed gold lip.)

There are lots and lots of ways to successfully frame my work.  I know! I've been a professional, certified custom picture framer since 1987.  Yet, there are many things I have to take into consideration with my artwork.  Price! The presentation must be affordable enough to sell even with a 50% standard gallery commission.  Versatility! The presentation must be appropriate for both traditional and more contemporary settings.  Scratch resistance and ease of repair! The presentation must be able to survive going to high end shows, FedEx shipping, and the general wear-and-tear of being hung in different locations (or going in and out of storage) in galleries that represent me.  Both examples fit the bill.

 (Above:  In Box CCCV, 34" x 22" framed. Inventory # 4130. $550.)

So, when Steve cut two incorrect, black linen liners, I decided to try something different!  For the foundation blocks, I used mostly dark colors of polyester stretch velvets and lots and lots of metallic foiling.  I also decided not to solder any interior holes in the blocks of polyester stretch velvet.  I mounted the work on a brighter white mat board and added a wider, more obvious gold frame.

 (Above:  Taking the photos of these two works.)

I'm currently using one of the two front windows of my business, Mouse House, in order to snap photos of completed work.  It is sort of difficult as my tripod must be positioned a bit higher than the center of the work and angled downward ... to compensate for the fact that the artwork isn't perfectly vertical.  Thankfully, this seems to be working and it is an area with plenty of natural daylight without being directly in the sun.

 (Above:  In Box CCCIV, 34" x 22" framed. Inventory # 4129. $550.)

I'm pleased with how these two pieces turned out but I have another idea brewing!  This almost always happens.  One idea simply gives birth to the next one!  I have a funny feeling there's a lot more metallics in my future!

(Above:  In Box CCCIV, detail.)

Monday, December 04, 2017

My Teeth

(Above:  My Teeth, 25" x 25".  Digital X-rays transferred to fabric with free-motion and hand stitching.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I'm lucky.  Dr. Walter "Jack" Turbyfill is my dentist. If it weren't for him, I would have ended up with dentures (his specialty) years ago. Instead, I have a mouth full of caps, crowns, an implant, several root canals, and some sort of "bridge" between two of my upper front teeth.  I also have a bite plate which I dutifully wear every night.  When traveling, my bite plate is packed in my carry-on luggage because it was once in a checked bag that was temporarily "lost".  I woke up the next morning with aching jaws.  I'm a "clincher".  Dr. T knows it.  He knew just what to do to save my teeth. 

 (Above:  My Teeth, detail.)

Dr. T is an expert in complete dentures and removable prosthodontics. Although I don't think he's taking on any new patients, he still maintains a private practice in restorative dentistry.  My case is a full-mouth restoration.  He's been practicing since the week before I was born.  This coming June will mark fifty-nine years.  I am very, very thankful that Dr. T "flunked retirement" at least twice.  Every year or two, he gets out his specialized camera to snap photos of my teeth ... for his lectures ... to show how a full mouth restoration should look after (now) eighteen years.  Dr. T lectures all over the USA.  He's always been on the cutting edge of dentistry.

(Above:  My Teeth, detail.)

So, it shouldn't have surprised anyone when he bought a 3D imagining X-ray machine.  Just because he's over eighty doesn't mean he doesn't still want the latest, greatest, most advanced new thing in his industry.  Since all new X-ray machines are digital, I asked for jpegs of my mouth in order to create this unique art quilt.  The ones in the middle are from the new machine.  Now, how cool is that!

(Above:  My Teeth, reverse.)

I didn't have a vintage textile featuring a tiny, white fluffy dog (like Dr. T's "pride and joy" pets).  So, I had to settle for a white cat on the reverse!  I had a lot of fun stitching this piece.

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Special Commission

(Above:  In Box CCCIII, Framed:  57" x 26"; unframed 17" x 48". Click on any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

I was honored with a special commission for an "In Box Series" piece to fit over a king-sized bed in a room with a decor mostly in burgundy.  It was so much fun making this piece, my largest in this series and uniquely a horizontal.  Yesterday I sent a PDF to the nice lady who ordered the work.  She already loves it ... just from the photos!  Below are some of the images I sent in the PDF documenting the process.

First, I ironed out a piece of Wonder Under the size of the finished work. This foundation allows me to see exactly where the edges need to be.

Then, I lay out the initial layer of polyester stretch velvet squares inside the perimeter ... using red, magenta, burgundy, light pink, purple, lavender, tan, light blue, turquoise, medium blue, royal blue, dark teal, metallic gold, metallic copper, metallic silver, and a psychedelic pattern with plenty of colors.

Another layer of Wonder Under is ironed over the blocks.  To this, I apply heat-activated metallic foiling ... in purple, magenta, royal blue, gold and copper.

Then comes the most fun part of the construction. Lots and lots more squares and rectangles are piled onto the initial shapes, often as many as six layers.  Each shape is progressively smaller.

Another sheet of Wonder Under is ironed over the surface.  To this, I add strips of chiffon scarves. These thin strips serve two roles: first, they allow my machine to more easily glide over the uneven surface and second, they as color shifts and extra interest to the palette.

I forgot to snap any photos while I stitched the work ... but afterwards, it was stapled to a stretcher bar (except for one short end ... which was laced to the wooden framework.)

From there, I go to the garage.  Wearing my carbon-filtering ventilator mask, I melt holes through the synthetic layers using three different sizes of soldering irons.  Finally, I zap the work with an industrial heat gun.

Here I am stitching the finished piece to mat board.  The mat board is already in a gold liner.

This is how I took the photos of the finished work ... on our back steps.  The gold liner was placed into the outer frame.  I snapped the photo before fitting crystal clear, anti-reflective, UV glass between the liner and the frame.

This is a detail of the work. I can't wait to show it to its new, wonderful owner. She's already written that it is perfect! Today is a good day ... in fact GREAT!  It is always such an honor to be trusted with the creation of something that will be hanging and admired for years to come. 

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

Friday, November 24, 2017

All I Want for Christmas

(Above:  All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth, The Wall of Ancestors.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

I need more framed images of anonymous people with collaged phrases like I need a hole in my head, but how can I resist?  I can't ... especially when coming upon a few perfect photos that seem to beg from a distant past for a future as art!  I also can't resist picking up antique walnut frames and original, hand wrapped velvet mats.  As a result, I think there are now over 250 pieces in The Wall of Ancestors for my Anonymous Ancestors installation.  Thankfully, this work gets to come out of storage for the month of January when it will be on view at the Eastern Shore Art Center in Fairhope, Alabama.

(Above:  Always Said My Prayers, The Wall of Ancestors.)

Creating these pieces was a perfect way to spend some of Thanksgiving day. I am particularly thankful for the art opportunities I've been given and for the support I have in pursuing new ones. My husband Steve will helping load the van, install the show, and do all the driving.  That's a lot of support!  I am also thankful for all those who recently purchased Christmas ornaments!

(Above:  Boring!, The Wall of Ancestors.)

I am also very grateful to a nice lady here in Columbia who has commissioned me to create an "In Box Series" piece to hang above her king sized bed.  I've been working on it and plan to share it soon!  It is always such an honor to be sought out for such original art!

(Above:  Business Partners: Looking for a Fast Buck, The Wall of Ancestors.)

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always very, very busy.  Custom picture framing work continues to arrive at our business, Mouse House.  One day I hope to be a self supporting artist, but in the mean time I'm thankful for those who financially keep those dreams alive!

(Above:  Could Have Been a Contender, The Wall of Ancestors.)

One of the best things about this time of year is MUSIC!  My most refined Pandora Internet radio station is called "Classical Christmas".  I've added and eliminated suggested melodies to the point that "Grandma never gets run over by a reindeer" and no one "rocks around the Christmas tree".  Popular covers of traditional carols have also been eliminated.  My Christmas music is seriously traditional ... just the way I like it!  Generally, I don't listen to music in my studio ... but I love this!

(Above:  Daydreamed My Life Away, The Wall of Ancestors.  Please notice the original, hand-wrapped red velvet mat ... true Victorian!)

My favorite Christmas carol is Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming ... whether sung in English or in its original German, Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen.  My Pandora station has several versions of both.  I can never tire of this melody.

(Above: I Preferred Cats, The Wall of Ancestors.)

As I look toward the coming weeks, I can honestly say that all I really want for Christmas is more time in the studio and continued support from those who care about my art as it moves into the coming year.  When people truly care about my passion, I feel extremely thankful.  This weekend reminded me of all those who are so supportive, loving, and kind.  Thank you!

(Above:  It Took Courage to be an Independent Woman, The Wall of Ancestors.)

(Above:  A Man's World or Board of Directors, The Wall of Ancestors.  I couldn't quite decide the title for this one, so I went with both ideas!)

(Above:  No One Knows the Troubles I've Seen, The Wall of Ancestors. Please notice the original, Victorian hand-wrapped blue velvet mat that came with this ornate antique frame!)

(Above:  We Pretended to Have Money, The Wall of Ancestors.  The hand-wrapped red velvet mat is Victorian. Unfortunately, the frame in which it came was beyond all hope.  This is a new frame.)

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017


 (Above:  Wrapped-and-stitched vintage wooden thread spool Christmas ornaments.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

This past weekend's Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show was WONDERFUL!  Lots of artwork found permanent walls on which to hang and hundreds of wrapped-and-stitched vintage wooden thread spool ornaments went home with holiday shoppers.  I made HUNDREDS of them.  Because my booth space had a limited space for the ornaments (and because I had hundreds of them!), not all were even made available.  Every day, I put out more to replace those sold.  Still, I came back with about 150 of them.  Because I shared them on Facebook, I got requests to sell some "on-line".  Well ... I'm not experienced in on-line shopping but today I made an attempt to try.

 (Above:  Forty-two groups of three ornaments ... neatly arranged in numbered sections!)

My camera went onto a tripod focused on a piece of linen mat board.  I shot forty-two groups of three ornaments each.  The groups were carefully placed in slotted foam-centered containers.  Each row is numbered.  I just uploaded them to a Facebook album with this message:

Wrapped-and-stitched vintage wooden thread spool holiday ornaments by Susan Lenz. Hundreds were made and sold at the recent Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. Every day, more were made available but not everyone of them actually made it out into the booth for sale. (Limited space!) These are the ones that are left. At the PMA Show, I sold three for $40. I am offering each group of three for $47 including tax and shipping anywhere in the USA. (South Carolina actually charges tax even on out-of-state sales!) To make a purchase, send me a private Facebook message or email at PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. I will send a PayPal invoice. Once paid, I will ship immediately and remove the image from this album. You do NOT have to have a PayPal account to pay the invoice! You can also call me at Mouse House at (803) 254-0842 to pay by credit card. My regular hours are 9:30 - 5:00. If you purchase more than one group, the shipping will only be $7 regardless of quantity. Thanks! Susan

 (Above:  Ornaments, Group One ... SOLD!)

Obviously, I'll sell them to people reading this blog!  Same information applies ... except, if a group actually does sell, I'll write SOLD in the caption!  Just scroll down to see the other forty-one groups!

 (Above:  Ancestor Wall: Like Mother Like Daughter.)

Before sharing all the holiday ornaments, I'd also like to share three more pieces for my solo installation Anonymous Ancestors.  The next time the work will be exhibited is this coming January at Eastern Shore Art Center in Fairhope, Alabama.  I really do love making more and more work for this show!

 (Above:  Ancestor Wall:  Sisterhood Forever.)

 (Above:  Ancestor Wall: The Long Exposure.)

Now ... here are the available groups of Christmas ornaments!

(Above:  Group TWO ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group THREE)

(Above: Group FOUR)

(Above: Group FIVE .... SOLD!)

(Above: Group SIX)

(Above: Group SEVEN ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group EIGHT ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group NINE ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group TEN)

(Above: Group ELEVEN ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group TWELVE)

(Above: Group THIRTEEN ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group FOURTEEN)

(Above: Group FIFTEEN)

(Above: Group SIXTEEN ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group SEVENTEEN)

(Above: Group EIGHTEEN ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group NINETEEN)

(Above: Group TWENTY ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group TWENTY-ONE)

(Above: Group TWENTY-TWO)

(Above: Group TWENTY-THREE ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group TWENTY-FOUR)

(Above: Group TWENTY-FIVE)

(Above: Group TWENTY-SIX)

(Above: Group TWENTY-SEVEN ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group TWENTY-EIGHT ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group TWENTY-NINE)

(Above: Group THIRTY ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group THIRTY-ONE ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group THIRTY-TWO)

(Above: Group THIRTY-THREE ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group THIRTY-FOUR)

(Above: Group THIRTY-FIVE ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group THIRTY-SIX ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group THIRTY-SEVEN ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group THIRTY-EIGHT ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group THIRTY-NINE ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group FORTY)

(Above: Group FORTY-ONE ... SOLD!)

(Above: Group FORTY-TWO)

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