Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Going to Birmingham, England

Today was a whirlwind of activity. There were pieces needing my framer's eye....work to be done. There was laundry, telephone messages, and all the little details that one must face before leaving the country for a week. Tomorrow, Alex and I head for England to see Mathias dance in Birmingham Royal Ballet's choreography showcase.

I also created a new blog for my family called http://susanlenzfamily.com. This is a place I intend to use for images that aren't quite the type I want on my "real" blog....this blog. Sure, I generally write in a diary sort of fashion...I always have done this...since reading Harriet the Spy while in the eighth grade. But, part of me wants to keep this blog about my artistic pursuits, my professional goals, my daily work as an artist, my influences, my setbacks, my hopes, my work ethic, my life as a fiber enthusiast, etc.

Part of me writes, however, for my family. I had taken photographs during the weekend in West Virginia...more than the single one I posted earlier of my Great Aunt Janet. I wanted to share these...but recognized the limited audience. Hence, the new blog.

This blog has been many things for me. It has served the purpose of putting into writing my intentions. There is something significant about stating a purpose on-line. It is almost like taking a public oath. I have been pushed to greater productivity because of this blog. Recently, I have found a world of like-minded fiber friends. These artists have amazed and inspired me greatly.

Anyway....between cutting mats and designing framing presentations, I managed to create a new blog, download images from my camera, and get ready for a trip to England. Later, I went to my studio and completed the free-motion stitching on two more pieces in the "Elements of Architecture" series. More importantly, I was able to quickly create several new foundations for more pieces in this series....which I'm going to need. These are for the plane ride and the lengthy airport waits and late evenings in Mathias' flat. If I don't get to write during this week, I'll be stitching!

Hand Stitching in the Car

Above is the "masterpiece" painting for Elements of Architecture XXXVIII. I used heat-activated paints on regular typing paper. I'm not much of a painter...OBVIOUSLY! I even accidentally stepped on the painting before it was dry (and figured sales tax in the upper corner!). Still, I used the result. Once dry, I turned it face down onto 100% polyester and ironed with a very, very hot iron. The chemical reaction between the dried paint and the polyester occurred....setting my "masterpiece" on the polyester...ready for hand stitching.

Above is the "masterpiece" ironed onto the polyester. I always staple such pieces to wooden stretcher bars. I stitch with ANYTHING and EVERYTHING, fairly randomly...sometimes following the color I used for the painting...sometimes changing the color...I stitch quickly and rarely remove even a single thread. I like big, bulky yarns, decorative fibers, metallics, and cheap DMC floss. I try to keep my thread in plastic Ziplock bags...but they never stay organized. I generally have one, large bag full of an enormous "tangle". I love that bag.

Above is the stitched result. While in the car over the past few days, I stitched. I stitched during the ride to Charleston and Edisto Island. I stitched to West Virginia and back. This afternoon, a piece of a purple chiffon scarf (www.thethreadstudio.com) went over the hand-work. I free-motion machined stitching into the piece and zig-zigged the edge.

A few weeks ago...I seriously can't remember if it were last week, the week before, or even 10 days ago...I painted yards upon yard of paper with the remaining heat-activated paints that were in my studio. There is suppose to be a "shelf life". They were well surpassed it, but a test revealed that the product was still "good". So, I painted and painted and painted. I even tried to use a brush but that didn't last very long. I used a piece of wadding plastic, the side of piece of corrugated board, and my hands. It was so much fun. I did, however, have a plan...a rough idea...a hope.

I thought that I could use the heat-activated crayons on top of this haphazard painting. I hoped that a simple line drawing would fix my design without the need to actually PAINT a PICTURE. It worked! I lightly drew a "building" on top of the dried paint...using the heat-active crayons. The result is a colored background...perfect for big, bulky hand stitching...with a guideline for stitching.

Above is the "painting" with the crayon design...ironed into place on 100% polyester. Below is the stitched piece...hand work with free motion machine embroidery done on top of a sheer, chiffon overlay. This is an easier approach...especially since I'm much better at line drawing than trying the paint an area with full color.

Memorial Day Weekend 2007

The weekend started with a ballet recital at Keenan Theater. We went to see Claire Yaghjian, the Kana kids, and several other local students dance. Willie Moore, who isn't a student and doesn't take class at the studio presenting the show, also danced. He was the high-light of the evening, performing the male variations from Diana and Acteon and Flames of Paris. He is getting ready for a guest dancing opportunity this summer. Nancy Kana is now a college student but still returns to Anita Ashley's dance school. I don't know why she doesn't switch to the quality dance program at USC. William Kana can not dance ballet at all, but he's a very fine, tall tap dancer. It is still a little strange to think back over the years to when none of these kids were born. Tim Kana, William's dad, hired Steve as a senior scientist in his civil engineering company. We moved to Columbia. Steve hated consulting and joined me in our framing operation. The Kanas became clients. Now, we them at our children's dance performances. Claire Yaghjian was very pretty was still not really given a good part on pointe. Overall, the show was fairly poor but enjoyable enough.

On Saturday, Steve and I headed to Charleston where we restocked our area at Terrace Oaks Antique Mall. From there we went to Edisto Island for the artists' reception of the Frolics, Romps, and Rolicks: Dances for the Lighthearted show featuring Janet Kozachek and me. The owner cleared the walls in one room and hung our work. Lots of other art filled the tables and shelving units, art bins, and other areas of the room. Three dancers from the local Fred Astaire studio demonstrated a few ballroom moves. Wine was served. There were about forty or so people in attendance. Nothing sold from the "show", as far as I know. It was nice but it isn't the type of show I really want for my work in the future. Sure, the gallery is designed to SELL stuff...mostly art but also plenty of souvenir items from this resort island and plenty of mass produced things bought at a wholesale market. Everything was the way it was suppose to be. Everyone was pleasant. I'm almost embarrassed, however, to write that I WANT MORE!

On Sunday, Steve, Alex, and I headed north to Huntington, West Virginia. We arrived in time to go to dinner at Great Aunt Janet's plush retirement community's dining room. It was quite lovely. Aunt Janet is now 93 and gets around with only a walking cane. She's sharp, spirited, and in very good health. She's a real treasure. On Monday, we all went to Wal-Mart and bought dozens of cut flowers for the cemeteries. All in all, we went to three and placed arrangements on several relatives' gravestones. We made it back home in time for a late dinner.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Elements of Architecture XXXVII

I know! I know! I should be working on the pieces for my solo exhibition....but....I started the hand stitching on Elements of Architecture XXXVII at the Artisan Center in Walterboro last weekend. Embroidery is easy to demonstrate, and I generally finish things I start. So, I finished it.

How are these pieces created? The design is painted on regular typing paper using heat-activated paints. I have some of these made by Ranger but I also mixed up my own from ingredients purchased at PRO-CHEMICAL. (They call them "disperse dyes".) Once the paint is dry, I place the painting, face down, on 100% polyester and iron using a very, very hot iron. There is a chemical reaction between the dried paint and the polyester. The result is a bright design...ready to be hand stitched.

I stitch using ANYTHING and EVERYTHING...but mostly big, bulky yarns. There's a lot of couching and straight stitches. I use bold colors. Once the design is filled in, I put a sheer, nylon scarf over the entire area. (Purchased from www.thethreadstudio.com) This allows me to free motion into my hand stitches without the foot becoming tangled. Also, I put a layer of craft felt underneath. The last thing I do is to free motion zig-zag the edge. I use a candle to "burn" a clean edge.

This last image is of In Pieces VI. It is the collage I made with the painted typing paper after I transferred the image.

I will be working on others from this series (despite the need to work toward the solo exhibition which will feature machine embroideries). We are scheduled to visit my great aunt this weekend. She lives in West Virginia. We'll be taking her to the graveyard to put flowers out for Memorial Day. I'll be hand stitching in the rental car....by the way, Firestone accepted responsibility for the damage done to the Scion. They are paying for an entirely new engine and picking up the rental car tab. Thank goodness!

Lives Unwritten

I know I have a solo exhibition coming up. I know the work isn't done. I know I should be concentrating on this.....but....I couldn't help myself. For some reason, Lives Unwritten just had to be created. I guess the experience at the SABA conference called for me to tea-stain watercolor paper and use the buttonhole stitch on the edges of the pages. The binding is what I call "album" but I think it is more correctly called Japanese side binding (?) Whatever!

The piece is more a "small sculpture" than a book. It simply sits, fanned out. The words are all collaged letters from a late 19th c. book; I think it was about the Chicago Exposition. The eight vintage photographs were bought in an antique shop in Angels Camp, California. They were mounted exactly alike and must have been from the same, unknown family. They caught my eye because of they were so obviously a "group", a "family"....but they'd been forgotten, undocumented, unloved, abandoned.

Thus, the book is constructed with eight pockets for the photographs. Between each image is a page with the lettering....Birth....Confirmation...Married...Divorced or Widowed or Remarried....Gave birth to or Parent of....Lived at or Moved to or Settled in....Employed by or Retired from....Date of Death....Survived by. Basically, the phrases one might complete in order to document one's life, but these people have "Lives Unwritten".

I absolutely have no "Vs" left from this vintage source for letters!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I finished In Box XXXII shortly after In Box XXXI. I want four of these for my solo exhibition at Francis Marion University. I still have XXX. I'm already at work of the next one. I've got another idea for the one after that...using all earth toned velvets and doing the free motion embroidery exclusively in leaf patterns. Just an idea.

Since joining the Fiber Arts Friends blog ring, I've received some wonderful feedback about this series of work. At least one writer suggested that I post a step-by-step description of the process. I think this is a wonderful idea. Frankly, I'm more than a bit flattered that there are people so interested. I've learned so many interesting things from other's blogs, it is nice to know I have something to share. I've started documenting In Box XXXIII already.


Recently I finished In Box XXXI. I'm quite happy with my initials in the corners as a signature. This is now the second piece for the Francis Marion University show....since I sold In Box XXIX.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Demonstrating at the Artisan Center

From Edisto I drove to Walterboro where I spent the afternoon stitching on another piece from my "Elements of Architecture" series. People came and went, making purchases, and chatting with the artists: me, a tatter originally from Thailand, and two potters.

Edisto Beach

I couldn't resist a few moments at the beach.

Fish of Cut Bait Gallery

This morning was glorious. In fact, the entire day was perfectly beautiful. I was in the cute, little, white rental car zipping down the highway before 9 AM. By noon I'd arrived at Fish or Cut Bait Gallery on Edisto Island dropping off the pieces for the upcoming show, "Frolics, Romps, and Rolicks: Dances for the Lighthearted".

I have no idea where this show is to be hung. The gallery is simply full of artwork. Most is original but there is a mix of small, commercially produced gift items. There were plenty of tourists browsing and buying. I am delighted that I don't have to hang the work, label it, or send the invitations. Alex and I will return for the "Meet the Artist's" opening next Saturday.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Collaborative book made at SABA

The images above are the pages created in Peter Madden's workshop at the Southeast Association of Book Arts Conference this past week. We were suppose to "do a little something" on the back. Two or three people signed their backs with a simple "doodle" but most were totally blank. Stephanie Nace, however, did a back as incredible as her front. I ironed on an African inspired cotton rectangle...backed with WonderUnder. These pictures are below with the signature page. All the pages were made of a medium weight paper by Rives. Most of these pages were tea dyed. I plan to create a cover using the front of the conference brochure and then bind it.

Update on Steve's pet weed

Several weeks ago I wrote about "accidentally" backing into Steve's pet weed and killing it. (IT REALLY WAS AN ACCIDENT!) We heard from friends that this plant is likely known by the common name "Poke Weed". Steve's been whistling the '60s tune, "Poke Salad Annie" ever since and watching the remains take on new life...times three. Now, if we get a new car...or the old one fixed...I might need to run into this ugly thing again...accidentally!

SABA Conference

I spent Wednesday and Thursday at the Southeast Association of Book Arts (SABA) here in town at the University of South Carolina. It started was a power point lecture by Jeffrey Makala about the university's rare book collection and how these works could inspire today's artists, although there had been an opening dinner at Susan Hogue's house the evening beforehand which I attended. Susan headed up the event and was one of the faculty members instrumental in starting the bookarts center on campus. Most of my time was spent in Peter Madden's workshop called "Alternative Processes", but there was also a luncheon talk by Spartanburg's miniature book printer Frank Anderson. Also, Peter Madden gave a slide show about his work.

I was really surprised how much I actually do know about making books even though my mainly self-taught. I just don't seem to know the vocabulary or the names of the "big book artists" and workshop presenters. For the most part, the workshop was really, really laid back...almost slow in pace. I had a good time. It was quite relaxing and I learned several great techniques like gelatin printing (interesting but not really my "thing") and Xerox transfers (utterly fantastic). Peter's work was quite inspiring, though he didn't bring any...just the slides.

We even were assigned homework...something that I haven't really had in twenty-five or so years. Each student and Peter had to create a page for a "round robin" or collaborative book. Thus, we each had to make a single page twelve times. Most of the class bound their copy with simple white paper covers.

One of the things I learned in this class, however, is that I prefer to create pages before binding them...with is sort of funny since I also like altered books. Yet, in my studio, I have enough release paper to work/paint/decorate a surface without marring the others. I plan on posting the pages...photographing them will be much easier before they're bound too.

I did my "homework" around a presentation I did for the Rosewood Art Guild. About ten people, including my felting instructor Barbara Bryan, came to watch me demonstrate heat-activated processes for contemporary embroidery.