Friday, August 16, 2019

Going to Hudson River Valley!

(Above:  Window CLXVI.  Layers of polyester stretch velvet on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques.  Framed:  19" x 17". $265.)

I've finished two more "Window Series" pieces just in time to pack up most of my studio for a great, upcoming opportunity.  Starting on Monday, I'm conducting a five-day workshop at the Hudson River Valley Art Workshops.  Steve gets to come along too!  This means I'll be stitching in the cargo van while looking out the window.  It's going to be a fantastic trip!

(Above:  Window CLXVII.  Layers of polyester stretch velvet on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques.  Framed:  19" x 17". $265.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Fiber Vessels with Epoxy

(Above:  Fiber vessel, exterior and interior with clock gears in epoxy.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I've again been experimenting with epoxy!  The idea isn't a new one; it's one that's been nagging at me for more than eight years.  It started back in 2011 while spending a month as an artist-in-residence at Hot Springs National Park.  (I wrote about it HERE.)  The idea was to transform one of my fiber vessels into something like a "spring", a body of water-looking substance in which unique/mysterious/unexpected object might be found ... sort of like the magical hot springs at this national park. 

It was the first time I stitched a vessel with open areas, but more importantly, I poured tiny bits of a glossy acrylic glazing medium into the center ... day-by-day ... allowing the medium to soak into the fiber and finally create a little depth.  I added a few beads and sequins.  Naturally, this piece was selected for the National Park's permanent collection ... even though it was really just an experiment, something I intended to do again in the future ... but never did ... until now.

 (Another fiber vessel with clock gears and epoxy.)

Back in 2011, I was using some cheap acrylic stuff purchased at a big box craft store and marketed for filling bottle caps for cheap jewelry.  It was a rather amateurish way to acquire itty-bitty amounts second rate material ... but it worked.  It would be several years before I did the research to find artist-grade, non-yellowing, UV filtering epoxy sold by the gallon.  It's not cheap ... but it works ... especially after sealing the interior with GAC 200, an acid-free fabric stiffener which prevents the first pour of epoxy from soaking into (and through) the yarn.

Instead of throwing in beads and sequins, I sought more inspired objects to encapsulate as if frozen in time.  Clock gears are automatically symbols for passing time, suggestions of minutes and hours and yesteryear preserved for tomorrow.  They are also nicely circular, mimicking the shape of the fiber vessels.  So, the first three pieces had clock gears.

The fourth vessel, however, has a collection of knickknacks, including a plastic cowboy and Indian, a domino, thimble, a rosary, a charm from Germany, a Monopoly house, a tiny toy train engine, two marbles, an antique ink pen nib, a Squirt bottle cap, and a pair of scissors from a craft sewing kit.  The epoxy pour isn't perfect.  I still have a bit of research to do that will allow a slightly deeper pour.  The epoxy I've been using is a self-leveling solution meant for quarter-inch depth only. 

I sure hope I don't wait another eight years to continue this experiment!  I don't think I will ... but I never expected so much to to have passed since first hatching this hair-brained idea! 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sleeping Beauty and reasons for reworking older art

(Above:  Sleeping Beauty. Mixed media with fibers and stitch. 14" x 13 1/2". $350. Click on any image to enlarge.)

Once upon a time (2004 - 2005), I made a series of mixed media works using my digital images of genuine African masks and artifacts.  Each one was printed as a high quality giclee print (approximately 22" x 17") which I fused to fabric before applying all sorts of stuff ... including silk and wool rovings and snippets of thread suspended in various gel media, pieces of fused polyester velvet, and fabric paint along with oil pastels.  Some had free-motion embroidery. Some had hand stitching (This one didn't have any stitching!)

 (Above:  Sleeping Beauty, detail.)

There were easily twenty-five or more pieces in this series.  Several were sold.  Several were removed from their frames and shrink-wrapped. I haven't looked at any of them in years, and I might not have peeked except for a particular Day-of-the-Dead "call-for-entry" at Visions Art Museum in partnership with the New Americas Museum. I noticed that there was a size limitation of 14" x 14" but thought nothing of it.  I have several Grave Rubbing Art Quilts under this size and thought I'd enter them.  Then, I read the entry more carefully.  I had a problem.  There is a very specific Day-of-the-Dead theme.  The focus is on the Luchadores.  The prospectus reads: Lucha Libra or free fight is the name of Mexico’s professional wrestling genre which was named a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage of Mexico City in 2018. Lucha Librewrestlers are called Luchadores and are characterized by their colorful masks.

 (Above:  Sleeping Beauty, view including the side.)

Well, I'd never even heard of this sport, but the idea of "masks" reminded me of the older work. Of course I know that West African masks have nothing to do with Mexican wrestlers ... but this particular mask was already titled Sleeping Beauty.  Even back in 2005, I thought of it as "dead" ... as in "lifeless" or "sleeping" or waiting for someone to remember a time when someone wore the mask.  Somehow (at least in my mind), this mask seemed right for any Day-of-the-Dead theme.  Yet, at 22" x 17", it wasn't even close to the limited size ... unless I cut it.  Why not cut it?  Why not rework it?  Why not take on a challenge to see whether I could transform a piece made fourteen years ago into a new work?

The very idea of reworking an older piece was once totally foreign to me.  I remember seeing the Dada show at the National Gallery of Art in 2006.  (Click here for a webpage about this major exhibition.)  Lots of the work on display were reworked several times. Many pieces had multiple dates of completion.  I thought, "How odd?" and "Why would an artist do this? Rework a perfectly sound piece of art instead of getting a new fresh start?" and "If it hadn't sold the first time, why spend any more time on it?"

Well, I get it now.  Storage is an issue!  Just because an owner wasn't found shortly after the work was done doesn't mean the piece wasn't any good.  Just because a piece is "good" doesn't mean it couldn't be "better" or at least "different"!  Why not rework an older piece?  Why not cut it up?  I cut Sleeping Beauty to 14" x 13 1/2" (because square was just too wide) and started adding hand stitching.  Then, I fused it to a piece of acid-free mat board and glued it to a stretcher bar cut to the same size.  I spent more time painting and distressing the stretcher bar's sides than anything else.  I'm quite pleased with the results, and I don't care if it gets in the show or not!  It was fun!

 (Above:  Paper tags for keys.)

While the paint was out, I decided to cover a few pieces of heavy watercolor paper and make tags for keys.  I also found an old, unsigned lithograph and painted over it too.  Darker colors were sponged on and ink was splattered over both sides of all surfaces.

 (Above:  Tags for keys ... in front of the Wall of Keys.)

I like having plenty of "tags" on hand for keys and for workshops I conduct.  After the page was dry, I scored and tore them into the desired strips ... but when I came upon the last section of the lithograph, I stopped.  Parts of it looked very intriguing, especially since the scraps from The Sleeping Beauty were sitting very close by.  Before I knew it, I made three little pieces for three old frames!

 (Above:  Cascade.  Framed: 17 3/4" x 12 1/4"; unframed 11 1/2" x 5". $100.)

Sure, I didn't design or print the lithograph, but I did paint over it and add the little squares from The Sleeping Beauty and the stitches.  How is repurposing an old lithograph really any different from collage artists who use images from magazines?  
 (Above:  Detail of The Cascade.)

Then, I put together two more pieces.  They are below.  I don't know that I'll spend more time altering old work but I will not rule it out.  It was fun.  It was a challenge.  It opened my mind to possibilities I hadn't really considered.  This is a good thing!

 (Above: Prairie.  Framed: 9 1/4" x 7 1/4"; unframed 5 1/4" x 3". $45.)

 (Above and below:  Summer.  Framed: 11" x 11"; unframed 5 1/2" x 6". $70.)

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Seasonal Leaves Commission

(Above:  Commissioned set of Seasonal Leaves.  Polyester stretch velvet on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine embroidery and melting techniques.  Each frame measures 19" x 15".  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Every Friday night while attending Bill Mishoe's estate auction, I play with my iPhone and upload images from my blog to Instagram and Pinterest.  I do this because so many people have told me, "Hey, Susan! You're a visual artist.  These are the on-line places that are specifically VISUAL ... just pictures, very few words.  You need to do this!"  Lots of these same people assume that I spend plenty of time on social media. The truth of the matter is, I upload and hope for the best.  I'm not one of those people who get sucked into streaming videos or browsing through thousands of images or listening to podcasts.  Sure, I still blog but that's my part of my personal documentation, and I like to write!  But basically, there's not enough time in a day to work a job, make art, and spend time on social media.  So I never really believed that Instagram was "necessary" ... but I could be really wrong about that!  Why? 

(Above:  Four pieces of black industrial felt with a heat-activated adhesive [Pellon's #805 Wonder Under] ironed onto each one.  The facing paper is still in place.  It was removed, exposing the adhesive.)

Well, recently I uploaded four Medium In Box Series pieces to Instagram and was contacted by a former client.  The conversation resulted in a commission!  Over the weekend I created a set of Seasonal Leaves. I documented every step in progress and created a PDF to accompany the work.  These are some of the images, including ....

... the foundation layer of polyester stretch velvet in seasonal color waves ...

... and the additional squares and rectangles fused to each unit.  Some are six layers deep.

Then came strips of chiffon scarves ...

... and self-guided, free-motion embroidery.  My husband Steve even shot a short video of this stage.  It is HERE.  

Each shape has a leave motif.  My leaf outlines come from this little paperback book, Tree Finder: A Pocket Manual for Identification of Trees by Their Leaves, by  May Petrea Theilgaard Watts (May 1, 1893 – August 20, 1975).  She was an American naturalist, writer, poet, illustrator, and educator.  The book was originally published in 1939 and reprinted in 1991.  I bought it years ago at Congaree National Park (back when it was still a National Monument).

After stitching, each piece was stapled to a stretcher bar and zapped by an industrial heat gun.  The photo above shows the work before ...

... the fringe was neatened with a pair of dull scissors ...

... and then stitched to acid-free mat board for framing.  In the future, I think I will pay a little more attention to Instagram and Pinterest.  The set is now on its way to a permanent home!  How wonderful!

Friday, August 02, 2019

Six New Lancet Windows

(Above from left to right: Lancet Windows CCXXII, CCXXIII, and CCXXI.  Polyester stretch velvet on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion embroidery and melting techniques. Each is framed at 31" x 11" and $395.)

I've been busy.  I need to keep going!  November will be here before I know it, bringing the prestigious Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show with it.  I'm determined to have as much new work in my booth as possible.  These six Lancet Windows have been in the works all week and are now finished, photographed, framed and ready to go!

 (Above from left to right:  Lancet Windows CCXIX, CCXXIV, and CCXX.)

Of course if someone wants to purchase one before then, I'm happy to ship.  I love making this work and especially facing the challenge of such elongated shapes.  Several of these new pieces can hang horizontally, and that's another great challenge.  Plus, I limited the palette on one piece. It was inspired by Greek motifs in my 1868 copy of Owen Jones' Grammar of Ornament. 

Photographing these pieces was easy today.  It was bright but also overcast ... perfect for taking pictures outside on my front porch.  I took several detail shots too.  Below are my favorites.

 (Above:  Lancet Window CCXXI, detail.)

 (Above:  Lancet Window CCXXIV, detail.)

(Above:  Lancet Window CCXXIII, detail.)

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Two Windows and a Box of Happiness

(Above:  The Box of Happiness.  Commissioned artwork.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I have a wonderful New York City collector who recently commissioned me to create a unique work of art, a piece to open when feeling depressed about life or simply sad.  I selected one of the boxes made this past spring while an artist in residence at the Osage Arts Community. It featured a vintage map of western Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, the city from which my client originally comes. 

By creating seventeen pieces of mat board on which "happiness" quotations were written, the work was transformed into The Box of Happiness.  Both sides of the mat boards were decorated and have a quotation. The research was the best part of this project.  I read hundreds and hundreds of quotations.  Some were ancient, some quite new.  Some were said by renown authors, some by celebrity actors or self-help gurus or inventors or corporate executives or religious leaders. Some were translations from other cultures or said by comedians.  Some made me cry and others made me laugh.  It was a thought-provoking way to spend a day. Narrowing down the selection was hard.  Finally, I had a list but it was still too long.  Randomly, I wrote thirty-four onto the pieces of mat board but included the list I compiled in a card to my client. I hope the box brings him some relief from the depression he suffers.

I understand depression in a visceral way. Though never officially diagnosed, it wouldn't be surprising if I had been or one day might be.  Fighting these mental demons is an on-going process.  I'm sure I'll consult my list of happiness quotes in the future.  It is further below.

  (Above:  Window CLXIV. Inventory # 4566. Framed:  19" x 17". $265 plus tax and shipping.)

I also finished two more Window Series pieces.  They have already been taken to the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville.  My husband Steve and I drove there on Saturday afternoon to deliver sixteen pieces.  We took the long way back home, driving through the mountains and by Looking Glass waterfall.  It was beautiful.  Nature is one of the sure ways for me to put any depression into perspective.

 (Above:  Window CLXV. Inventory # 4567. Framed:  19" x 17". $265 plus tax and shipping.)

Now ... here's the list of carefully selected "happiness quotes" sent to my special client!
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
― Dalai Lama XIV

“Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.”
― John Lennon

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

“The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it's all that matters.”
― Audrey Hepburn

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”
― Charles M. Schulz

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”
― George Burns

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust

“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”
― Mark Twain

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, "This is what it is to be happy.”
― Sylvia Plath

“I've got nothing to do today but smile.”
― Simon and Garfunkel

“Learn to value yourself, which means: fight for your happiness.”
― Ayn Rand

“The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.”
― Mark Twain

“And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon.”
― Edward Lear from The Owl and the Pussycat

“One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.”
― Rita Mae Brown

“Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.”
― Robert Frost

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”
― William Shakespeare 

“Happiness is an accident of nature, a beautiful and flawless aberration.”
― Pat Conroy

“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

“Laughter is poison to fear.”
― George R.R. Martin from A Game of Thrones

“I think happiness is what makes you pretty. Period.”
― Drew Barrymore

I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it.”
― Groucho Marx

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
― John Keats

“If only we'd stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time.”
― Edith Wharton

“My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose.”
― Ayn Rand

“Success is getting what you want..
Happiness is wanting what you get.”
― Dale Carnegie

“Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting some on yourself.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Just because you are happy it does not mean that the day is perfect but that you have looked beyond its imperfections”
― Bob Marley

“Happy. Just in my swim shorts, barefooted, wild-haired, in the red fire dark, singing, swigging wine, spitting, jumping, running—that's the way to live.”
― Jack Kerouac

“We're all golden sunflowers inside.”
― Allen Ginsberg

“Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly.”
― Leo Tolstoy

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.”
― Andy Rooney

“My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.”
― Michael J. Fox

“Laughter is a sunbeam of the soul.”
― Thomas Mann

“A flower blossoms for its own joy.”
― Oscar Wilde

“Your success and happiness lie in you.”
― Helen Keller

“Happiness and confidence are the prettiest things you can wear”
― Taylor Swift

“Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes.”
― Charles Dickens

“You have to be willing to get happy about nothing.”
― Andy Warhol

“Do the best you can, and don't take life too serious.”
― Will Rogers

“Some people are so much sunshine to the square inch.”
― Walt Whitman

“Pleasure is the only thing one should live for, nothing ages like happiness.”
― Oscar Wilde

“To be happy--one must find one's bliss”
― Gloria Vanderbilt

“I still believe that peace and plenty and happiness can be worked out some way.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

“How exquisitely human was the wish for permanent happiness”
― Toni Morrison

“Those who wish to sing always find a song.”
― Swedish proverb

“Everyone chases after happiness, not noticing that happiness is at their heels.”
― Bertolt Brecht

“We are all a great deal luckier that we realize, we usually get what we want - or near enough.”
― Roald Dahl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

“Happiness was waiting to be chosen.”
― Pearl S. Buck

“There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

A Good Problem to Have

(Above: In Box CCCXL.  Layers of fused polyester stretch velvet on recycled black industrial felt with self-guided, free-motion machine embroidery and melting techniques.  Unframed:17" x 13". Framed: 22" x 18", $325.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Just after receiving successful jurying results from next November's Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, my work experiences a surge in sales at the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville and receives an invitation to a fiber show called Deep Stitch at 567 Center for Renewal in Macon, Georgia.  I'm short on artwork! 

(Above: In Box CCCXXXIX. Unframed:17" x 13". Framed: 22" x 18", $325.)

Last week I delivered twelve pieces to the show in Macon, Georgia.  This coming weekend, I'll be delivering work to Asheville ... including more than half of these new "In Box Series" pieces. I'll be in my studio soon making even more.  Thank goodness I love what I do!

(Above: In Box CCCXXXVII. Unframed:17" x 13". Framed: 22" x 18", $325.)

The first four pieces are "medium sized".  They fit perfectly into a standard 16" x 20" frame even though, of course, my husband custom builds all my frames.  Nevertheless, 16" x 20" is a good size.  Glass comes in this dimension, and a standard 32" x 40" mat board provides four backing boards without any waste. 

(Above: In Box CCCXXXVIII. Unframed:17" x 13". Framed: 22" x 18", $325.)

The eight pieces below are my "small size".  In these photos, the two sizes might seem similar but one is definitely smaller than the other.  Naturally, the smaller ones are less expensive. They sell twice as quickly as the larger ones.  Thus, I always make more of them ... and I'll need even more before going to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  Two are in Georgia; four go to the Grovewood ... leaving me only two.  I've got to get busy, busy, busy! Studio, here I come!

(Above: In Box CCCXLI.  Unframed:  14" x 10. Framed:  19 1/4" x 15 1/4", $235.)

(Above: In Box CCCXLII. Unframed:  14" x 10. Framed:  19 1/4" x 15 1/4", $235.)

(Above: In Box CCCXLIII. Unframed:  14" x 10. Framed:  19 1/4" x 15 1/4", $235.)

(Above: In Box CCCXLIV. Unframed:  14" x 10. Framed:  19 1/4" x 15 1/4", $235.)

(Above: In Box CCCXLV. Unframed:  14" x 10. Framed:  19 1/4" x 15 1/4", $235.)

(Above: In BOX CCCXLVI. Unframed:  14" x 10. Framed:  19 1/4" x 15 1/4", $235.)

(Above: In Box CCCXXXV. Unframed:  14" x 10. Framed:  19 1/4" x 15 1/4", $235.)

(Above: In Box CCCXXXVI. Unframed:  14" x 10. Framed:  19 1/4" x 15 1/4", $235.)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

New Work and a Trip to the Rockies

(Above:  Selfie at the Visitor's Center in Rocky Mountain National Park. Click on any image to enlarge.)

Steve and I have sure been traveling a lot this year, and July was no exception! When offered a contract to teach a two-day workshop for the Rocky Mountain Creative Quilters, I made arrangements to drive to Colorado instead of flying there.  This allowed Steve to go along.  He obviously got more time to explore the area than did I, but he also had to drive the entire way and back.  (I got to stitch on wooden thread spool Christmas ornaments while looking out the window!)
 (Above:  Relic CCXVII. Inventory # 4549. Framed: 12 1/2" x 11". $100 plus tax and shipping.)

I always finish and frame my demonstration pieces started during a workshop. After all, I'm encouraging participants to MAKE ART, not just another "sample" or a UFO (unfinished object).  So, I do the same.  This is one of the pieces I made in Colorado.  The other got behind glass before I thought about snapping a photo. Further below are more images from our trip ... but first ...

 (Above:  Window CLX. Inventory # 4550. Framed:  19" x 17". $265 plus tax and shipping.)

... I've just finished four more "Window Series" pieces.  I started them while teaching in Columbus, Ohio and finished one while in Colorado.  Now, all four are framed.  I'm also working on lots of other new work because the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in November will be here before I know it.

  (Above:  Window CLXI. Inventory # 4550. Framed:  19" x 17". $265 plus tax and shipping.)

  (Above:  Window CLXII. Inventory # 4550. Framed:  19" x 17". $265 plus tax and shipping.)

  (Above:  Window CLXIII. Inventory # 4550. Framed:  19" x 17". $265 plus tax and shipping.)

 (Above:  Steve riding a camel at the Kit Carson County Carousel.)

On the way to Colorado, we overnighted in Burlington and got there in time for the last carousel ride.  This is a fully operational, three-row, stationary carousel housed in a 12-sided frame building and the only antique carousel in the USA still having original paint on both scenery panels and the animals. It dates to 1905. Steve rode a large camel.  I road a very pretty goat that looked much more like alpine steinbock. We had a blast!  The museum was outstanding too.

I took dozens of photos of the carousel ... but ...

... didn't actually take that many while in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I think I was just to overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the place.  Plus ... it was COLD!  At one point, slushy snow fell and accumulated on the window shield wiper!

There were banks of plowed snow at the visitor's center too!  We saw elk and a marmot.

Yet, it was the tundra foliage that intrigued me most.  I remember studying alpine flora and fauna while in Salzburg, Austria during the summer of 1976, but I really didn't get the sense of a severe, high elevation terrain until walking across the provided, paved trail at over 12,000 feet.  The ground was a patchwork of tiny plants.  It was lovely!

Steve and I also enjoyed a few microbreweries while in the Fort Collins area.  Horse and Dragon was our favorite!  Now ... back to work!  I've got so many things I'm just dying to make!