Friday, August 31, 2007

First "real" art quilt!

Although I've made a few things that might be called "art quilts", I never looked at them as such. They just happened to be three layers with stitching! So, this piece...which certainly has its share of my first, official ART QUILT. I made it using some of the background fabrics that I dyed several weekends ago.

I'm not sure why I decided to try an art quilt....I think that the individual components suggested this use when they were laying on my studio floor together.

This weekend Steve and I are headed to Pennsylvania to visit my parents. My Dad is recovering from surgical complications...but he's improving. This will be Alex's first weekend home alone...not that I'm nervous for him!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I've been profiled!

A few weeks ago a wonderful blogger, Cyndi Lavin, asked to profile me for her fabulous blog Layers Upon Layers. I was thrilled, of fact, her questions made me stop and think about "where I've been", "where I am", and "where I want to go". During all this reflection and future planning, I recognized the need to have a place from which access to my altered book and installation videos could be easily accessed. I created another blog:
I also realized that my son Alex and I never made videos for two altered books created last year. They'd been in a traveling exhibition for a year. So, they're sort of "making their debut" today. The books are called Becoming An Artist and Imagine Illiteracy. There are slide shows of each on Flickr!

I'm really thrilled to have had this opportunity to share not only my art but a little of my life with so many people.

There's also more good news today. One of my African Series (Happy) and one of my other altered books (New Song in a Strange Land) were accepted into the annual MOJA Arts Festival juried show in Charleston, South Carolina!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Black God, The Book

I almost forgot about this post. Of course, I finished ironing and waxing all these pages...over forty spreads. I've even submitted this altered book and A New Song in a Strange Land (as well as three pieces from my African Series) to the annual MOJA Festival juried art show in Charleston. Alex hasn't had time to create the videos yet. He's still working at Subway but also now back in eleventh grade. Maybe this weekend!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ma Rainey: Domestic

Two weekends or so ago I dyed some fabric...or maybe I painted it? What is the correct term when one alters the color of material using Deka Silk paint without actually "painting" something, just letting paint and water soak into fabric?

Anyway, I "cleaned up" some of the blue paint using a vintage guest towel that just happened to be in a nearby pile. I liked it. In fact, I loved it. Instantly, the finished image came to mind....Ma Rainey, the Mother of the Blues!

The vintage guest towel was never finished. An area was carefully counted and finished for a withdrawn embroidery design. None was ever added. It looked like a "cage" or a sort of "prison" having been one of the best entertainers in the country trapped into a later life working as a domestic maid. I rarely do counted stitching but this piece needed it. I used one of the pictures I collected of Ma Rainey behind the withdrawn-work grid.

So, this is my first "new" piece for next summer's Blues Chapel exhibition!


Last week I worked on a few smaller pieces of paper/fabric. I think this technique has many possible applications for future work, and I really liked making these pieces. The little pieces were created as backgrounds for my recent experiments using house paints, inks, and a few additional "chemicals" that caught my fancy.

Since my experiments were attempts to "translate" British English into American English (and thereby understand to what products various blog writers were referring), I decided to call these five pieces "Translations in (Name of Color/Multi-colored).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pickens County Museum...Where "The Blues" Will Be

Yesterday I drove to South Carolina's upstate, to Pickens County, to the Museum of Art and History. I thought about "Blues Chapel" it looked in my studio like an intimate place for it looked in the spacious Sumter Gallery of Art like a public place for prayer. I wondered what kind of setting had been selected by the museum's curators and board. I'd been told it was called the "Sealevel Gallery".

Upon arrival, I learned that this space was on the second level. It was up a ramp in the older part of the building. I'd been there before...just didn't know the names of the various rooms. These are the images that awaited me.

Below is a picture of the museum from the street corner.

Below is a picture of the museum, including its new wing, from the back parking lot.

I had my notebook with me are wrote this:

The Sealevel Gallery is the room in which Susan Sorrell taught the class I attended about two years ago. Without the tables and chairs, the beads and fabric, the chatter of voices, the room is quite lovely. There is a quiet sense of isolation which I like. It's a feeling of being apart from the outside world, almost hidden. I can hear traffic buzzing in the street below but it is muffled by the thick ply of off-white carpeting on the wall. The windows all have fitted blinds in the exact same neutral color. The woodwork also matches. The result preserves the feel of an institution, a museum, while providing a comfortableness of an intimate setting.

Currently hanging is "The Photographer's Photographer", an exhibit of work by the area's influential instructors. It is well hung and includes very professional labeling. The lighting is good. I am nicely alone in the room.

There is only one wall for "Tapestry in Blue", my focal point. I will hang the twenty-four portraits like I did in Sumter...three rows of eight instead of four rows of six. I will need only a single church pew. The other walls are broken by windows and "projections" that must cover former fireplaces. There is also another, most wonderful feature, a circular niche over which is a turret-like, Victorian, round, tin roof. Here will be the kneeler I plan to make. On it will sit "The Blues Bible" that I started but abandoned...until ALTARED book.

I've been think about small triptychs for a month while making backgrounds. There are wide windowsills and one that is a bit more narrow....maybe places for triptychs? I have much to consider. Maybe I'll even try an art quilt...perhaps a xylene transfer on muslim with the vintage strips of one-inch blocks that I've saved for years....perhaps a few very church-inspired "Elements of Architecture" all stitched in shades of blue...perhaps some collages of early female Blues singers tied to advertisements for "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars" and "Singing Bee" and "So You Think You Can Dance?"...perhaps a Black Madonna fusing my masks with a western icon...perhaps a blue "In Box".

Lots to do. I left happy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What I Did Do!

Here are some of the things I did get done this past weekend. Above is a collage I made by transferring my digital images onto an 8-ply board. I sort of "lost" the focal point along the way but revived it with a transparency which I made after reducing the picture to mere black and white outlines. I even included a scrap from one of my embellished "backgrounds". I've never quite made a collage in this way and am quite pleased with this one.

Above is the detail. Below is my only "background" from last week. It is also my first attempt to make "paper fabric". Early 19th century German book pages and marbleized paper are in all this. It was rather difficult to photograph, especially since it is about 22" x 28". I nailed it to a wall trying to avoid the glare from the metallic golden paint. I really liked making it and have already started several small pieces of "paper fabric".

The two final pictures are of "Tropical", a piece of hand embroidery on purple craft felt. Actually, the felt was the "leftovers" from some of my "In Box" series. When I melt away the In Box, there are scraps of lacy felt remaining on the stretcher bars. This is what I some dyed mulberry bark and metallic foiling. I applied a coat of GAC 400 by Golden to the back of the piece. It worked like a charm. All thread ends are quite firmly attached; not one could possibly unravel. Also, the piece has a nice stiffness. I attached a wire to the back. It hangs on a wall perfectly.

Monday, August 20, 2007

New Song in a Strange Land

This is suppose to be my post on "backgrounds" made during my fourth and final week of doing nothing but make "complex cloth" intended for a new body of work. It isn't that post.

I can't post the backgrounds because I only made one. I have been working very, very hard....but not on backgrounds. I have learned several important things about myself and about the way in which I work. I have had to face a few facts, too.

I started making art about seven years ago. I don't have a background in art, and this is a fact that still haunts me. Like many, I've always suffered from an incredible lack of self esteem. I've always worked harder than most people I know in order to compensate for what I lack in every other area. I rarely feel like I'm good enough. My "artist's statement" centers on this concept.

I've also been blogging for over a year, reading other's blogs, admiring all sorts of interesting work, and often feeling rather stupid. I worry about asking idiotic questions; for example, I didn't know what an "embellisher" was...everyone else seemed to know...I didn't ask...if I had, I would have owned this wonderful machine long ago. I was afraid of sounding "dumb". It's silly, I know. My fears of inadequacy are very powerful driving forces...I always get a lot done, but I never think it is enough.

Also, I always look at other ideas as being "better" than my own. Hence, when an artist I greatly admire suggested working in complimentary colors, I immediately set up this task. It was interesting, but I also assumed that her way of looking at and making art was infinitely better than my own way. This too is silly.

I set about making backgrounds for a month because it seemed like a "good idea", i.e. "someone else's way of working that just had to be better than my own". At first, the plan went along beautifully. Later, however, I found myself wanting to get side tracked, to MAKE something, finish ANYTHING, explore another option. Stubbornly, I kept my eyes on the goal until...last week.

I just can't do it anymore. I'd become utterly frustrated. Finally, I had to admit to myself that I work best with a plan that allows deviation and conforms to intuitive actions. I had to admit that I will never manage nice, evenly spaced machine stitches. I will never have a perfect "zigzagged" edge. I will never get fabric or paper or anything else aligned to one another or anything else. I will not follow directions. I will not even remember that there were directions. I will use straight stitches and French knots 98% of the time. I will never learn the names of more complex stitches...much less how to execute them. I will substitute materials freely. I will estimate everything before I measure anything. I will make on-the-spot decisions at the blink of an eye and never ponder other possibilities. I will use whatever color that catches my fancy. I will jump in before I have a clue what to expect. I will probably do all these things no matter how hard I try to be "correct" or "take my time" or "follow a plan".

What's more, I will probably always doubt myself...but, from now on I'm going to work on the assumption that my personal approach is likely the best one for me.

This isn't to say that I'm giving up on my plan of making "backgrounds". I'm just giving up on the notion that this is all I ought to do for a month. I need more variety...and days in which something "new" gets started and something else gets "finished". Experimentation is great...but working in one's comfort zone is also quite nice.

So, last week I decided to switch gears....even media. I finished one of two altered books using my digital images of genuine West African art and artifacts. It's called (how perfect is this title?) New Song in a Strange Land. There are over eighty spreads. Alex and I are already at work making a video.

The other altered book using much of the same material is Black God. There is no additional text in this volume. Unbelievably, I found 130 postal stamps from Africa to use in it instead...found them on the bookshelf in collections both Steve and I had as kids! I've only got to iron, wax, and photograph the pages. I'll post images later.

In order to tear into something other than a "background", I also worked on two hand stitched projects. One is nearly complete. The other actually uses one of the "backgrounds" I made last last!!! I am going to love USING the I will continue making them...just, no pressure!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Backgrounds, Week Three

I'm posting images of some of the "backgrounds" I made this past week. I was going to put them in a "logical" order...but, I'm short on time. I was inspired by pieces made by Nikki Wheeler. Since I've never dyed anything...the idea of using paint as a "dye" never occurred to me. I once bought the entire supply of Deka Silk Paints and Resists from an art shop that was closing. I've only used some of them once...because I'm not really into painting scarves or even "drawing". I also have an antique white bedspread of very fine embroidery. It is completely damaged. Parts are missing. I used the silk paint on pieces. This is one part.

Above is another section of the bedspread...painted with Modern Options "Copper Topper" and then "Blue Patina". Parts didn't receive any coloring. I didn't like, these areas were "dyed" with cinnamon-colored Deka silk paint. Now, I really like this piece.

The bedspread was made in two layers. The heavy, corded embroidery is on the top. This was hand stitched loosely along the designs to a plain background. After I dyed another section with moss green, brown, and golden yellow...I tore the front from the back. This is the back.

I cleaned up blue and purple and turquoise dye using the ultra thin silk from a vintage was close by. I'm keeping these results.

I cleaned up the red and ochre and cinnamon dye with another section of the kimono lining...including a piece of cotton. It is pictured with some of the scraps from the bedspread. I like all this together. I might even try to make a "real" art quilt...that could be interesting since I've never really done this either!

Above are a few royal purple dyed silk pod carriers from Oliver Twist. I bought them last September in Birmingham...never used any of them. I was inspired by Kimberly Baxter's blog. She posted beautifully rusted pieces stitched to a background. I had to try this. It was awesome possibilities.

Above is the front of the moss green/brown/golden bedspread section...with fringe.

Above is another background inspired by Nikki...muslim (or as it is called in the UK...calico) free-motioned into small circles and dyed with silk paint.

This piece is also inspired by Nikki Wheeler...but I used scraps of silk.

I also made several pieces using the embellisher. This piece of acrylic craft felt was first colored with heat transfer paint. After embellishing it with wool tops, I added a piece of hot pink chiffon and free motion stitched. I hated it. So...I took my heat gun to it....much, much better.

The final piece I'm posting (yes, there's lots more but little time!) is another piece of acrylic craft felt colored with heat transfer paint, embellished, and stitched.

Experiments with Bleach/Translating English into English

I had decided to work on nothing but backgrounds this month....but this idea expanded. "Backgrounds" just seem to mean..."experimental ideas that might prove useful for other, future, yet-to-be-determined work". To this end, I've been inspired by various images I've seen on the web as well as by an incredible scroll pictured in one of Valerie Campbell-Hardings books. (Yes, I'm still READING...all of these books...sort of at the same time.)

The pictures fascinated me...the captions were, of course, in English....but not my particular type of English. What, exactly, is emulsion? Somewhere is read "house paint". What, exactly, is that writing ink called something like Quirk...something that turns blue with bleach?

I looked under the sink. I found: Kilz, Semi-gloss interior enamel, oil-based sign paint, and exterior oil primer. All were white. All could be considered "house paint". None had the same chemical make-up. This called for EXPERIMENTATION.

I found an old, ugly machine embroideried piece and cut it into four per type of house paint/emulsion. After a day of drying, I quartered each of the four pieces...and tried various inks...watercolor based, acrylic based, etc. Then, I started applying bleach. From there...I cut again and tried all sorts of other things...gouache, ink on top of bleach, Modern Options "copper topper" and "blue patina", "weathered wood", and whatever else was on hand. I had to make a chart to keep track of it all. I had a blast and like several of the results.

The end result is a translation of "English" (UK) into "English" (USA): For the best results: Use oil-based exterior paint with watercolor based ink!

The best part: new ideas and a whole bunch of little "things" to add to my pile of "backgrounds/future work".

Friday, August 10, 2007

Blog Anniversary--Solo Show booked for next summer!

(Above: Blues Chapel Installation at Vista Studios, April 2006.)

(Above: Blues Chapel, Solo Exhibition last July at the Sumter Museum of Art.)

A day or so ago Kate posted a fabulous drawing in celebration of her quilting/fiber blog's first anniversary. As I read, I remembered last August. Vaguely, I recalled starting my art/fiber blog at the about the same time. I looked. Today's the day. I nearly missed it.

This blog is actually my second one. The first was begun earlier last year by complete accident. It still exists on "blogstream" where the imaging capabilities are dismal. So, last year on August 10, I posted three messages. Yesterday, I went back and read....

"....part of my desire to have a blog is to hold on to some of the wonderful, artistic things that have happened to me. One, most recently, was my first solo exhibit in a real museum setting. Blues Chapel was my installation in the Sumter Gallery of Art during the month of July 2006. It was dedicated to the many early, female Blues singers who lived in a male dominated world, in a culturally segregated society, and worked in an unfair musical industry. Singers from Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, to Koko Taylor and Ruth Brown paved the way for the many singers of today. I had a wonderful time creating the 24 images. I had an even better time creating the atmosphere of a chapel, complete with mahogany church pews and fiber "stained glass" windows. I made faux-church bulletins and ole-time church fans. The installation was first shown during Artista Vista, an annual arts event in downtown Columbia, SC. Yet, the museum setting was quite wonderful. I only uninstalled it earlier this week. I'm hoping to have another location for it in the future. I'm already making another piece: A Blues Bible--an ALTARED book!"

It was wonderful to think about this exhibition yesterday. I had to admit to myself that I hadn't gotten very far on the Blues Bible. Sadly, I seemed to fallen away from this project when my quest for a new installation venue didn't work out. I had submitted the show to another museum and received positive feedback...but no acceptance.

Then, I checked my email.


Allen Coleman, executive director of the Pickens County Museum of Art and History, had just written to say that BLUES CHAPEL has been approved by the board of directors for exhibition from June 21 through August 21, 2008. Now that's a proper blog anniversary blessing!

(Above: The back of the chapel while in the Sumter Museum of Art....I've since sold the four "stained-glass" pieces....made just like my "In Box" series....better get working!)