Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I'm hurt...I think...Please advise!

Okay...Here's another of my silly, stupid, hilarious confessions: For over a year I didn't really know what my site meter was doing. I never checked it. I "spammed" the weekly messages. I had no idea why I had installed it or how to check it.

About a month ago, I figured it out. It was thrilling to see that someone in Estonia and Brazil had spent more than zero seconds on my blog. It was thrilling to see a few of the same locations pop Canada, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and Sweden. I felt a sense of community and a surging sense of curiosity. I check in on my site meter every few days...if only to look at the world map with lots of multi-colored dots on it!

Today, there was a "new" referral. I clicked it. I found a "review" of sorts by a weaver in my state. I don't think I know her. At first I was thrilled. In fact, I'm still really rather excited about the fact that someone saw my solo exhibition at Francis Marion University and actually took the time to blog about it. Yet, some of the conclusions really stunned me.

Perhaps I shouldn't have responded. It has been one of the problems many people have said about the Internet and the anonymous nature of cyberspace. We can all write whatever we want without too much regard to others, their feelings, or even the truth. Perhaps I shouldn't have written a response, but I did....

So, I guess this is confession #2. In a moment of pain, I wrote a reply...knowing that the blog owner can "zap" it but still would have read it. Below is her entry. Further below is my response. To those of you who have been so supportive, please tell me the truth....what should I make of this? Do I owe this woman an apology now? Should I have kept quiet? Did I write appropriately? Was I out of line? Isn't everyone entitled to an opinion...both her and me? Or, should either of us simply kept our fingers to ourselves?

I thank each and every responder in advance for taking the time to read and write.
(PS...I just finished the free-motion embroidery into three new pieces I hand stitched while in the car to and from will likely be taken and posted tomorrow!)

Entry from the blog:

I accidentally found myself at a small fiber show last night. The show consisted of works by a Susan Lenz of Columbia SC. There were two kinds of work in the gallery. One kind consisted of arranging yarns, ribbons, threads across a dissolvable web and then free motion embroidering with her sewing machine over them. The result was something that looked remarkably like weaving. I loved the colors and textures. The pieces were mounted on white mat board. The mat board, in other words, did not cover the edges. The edges, in all their messiness were there for all to see. The messiness was not great, however. It was just enough to reveal the maker's hand. And the whole thing was framed. The fiber pieces themselves, without mat board or frame appeared to be about 12 inches wide by 30 inches tall.

The other kind of piece consisted of very small fabric squares. They appeared to be about one inch square. They were embellished with paints and free motion embroidery. They were then linked to one another with free motion embroidery. I assume the pieces were laid on dissolvable web and then the machine stitching was done. And I call it linking because there was space between each of the individual pieces. As with the previous type, the complete piece was placed on a white mat board and then framed. The size of these works as also about 12 inches wide by 30 inches tall.

Strange, I have been vaguely thinking about small weavings. Weaving with weavettes. Pin weaving. Perhaps I am reacting to weaving all this yardage?

I walked back to my car with renewed energy.

When I Googled Susan's name, I learned, much to my sorrow, that her current interest seems to be primarily altered books, though she is starting to play with quilting. Why this shift? I reflected on what I had seen. Yes, I really liked the stuff. And yes, her stuff made me think about what I was doing. But her stuff was all the same. She was really only repeating the same two ideas over and over again. There was no development. She must have been bored. I certainly would have been. She must have seen no possibilities for exploring in new ways what she was already doing. So she moved on to something different.

To learn more about Susan Lenz, check out her blog.

My response:

I just read your review of my work at Francis Marion University. Part of me is absolutely thrilled to know that someone looked at my work and cared enough to actually blog about it. Part of me is a bit stunned, of course.

First, seventeen pieces of work...even using your measurements...isn't exactly what I'd call a "small" exhibition. I approached this opportunity with complete seriousness. It is a really important exhibit, as far as I'm concerned. Professionalism, unpunctuality, proper framing, accurate exhibition lists, documentation, press releases and formal contracts were all important aspects of such an undertaking.

Perhaps, in weaving, solo exhibitions are quite commonplace, include vastly more square inches (or linear inches) of material, showcase more pieces, and display more variety. I really don't know. For me, I consider the exhibition at Francis Marion University a major event in my year. I'm thrilled beyond words to have even been considered for such exposure and am very, very proud to have the work on display in such a fabulous facility.

Truly, I hope I am so honored in the future; and, if so, I will approach each and every such opportunity as a really BIG deal. Universities tend to prefer exhibits that are narrower in scope but allow students to see labor intensive work based on a few, simple themes....basically, the willingness of an artist to experiment within the confines of a limited set of variables...hence, two related bodies of work that show very subtle, intentional alterations to the process of creation.

Second, the mat board is Crescent 7553 Edelweiss (or 87553...which is the over-sized boards in the same linen surface). It is an acid-free natural linen, and the same boards were used for both bodies of work. This mat board provided a unified ground on which to display both bodies of work while simultaneously providing a subtle, soft sense of textile. "Messy" edges relate to the theme of the earth's strata. (I actually wrote a detailed tutorial on "How to Create an 'In Box' several months ago on my blog...complete with specific framing instructions. I am a certified custom picture framer.)

The second body of work was not created on "dissolvable web" but on 100% acrylic craft felt. They were also not painted. Instead, previously painted, heat-activated adhesive was ironed onto the surface. I also used heat-activated metallic foiling and overlays of chiffon scarves. All this was then soldered using a fine-tipped soldering iron before being melted used a heat gun.

You were quite correct, however, in that both bodies of work were created on grounds that I intentionally would by dissolving in water and the other by melting with heat. Using this approach, boredom is hardly a problem. When the final step is to subject the work to deconstruction processes, there is always a slight anxiety as to the results...a mystery, a sense of eager anticipation, a question, a hope, an idea for the next work...hardly a repetitive process and never boring.

Where's the development? Easy! The series has developed significantly. One series has over forty pieces. It started quite small and grew to the current size. The exploration has been in the choice of fabrics for the approximate one-inch squares, the distance between their placement, the motifs used for free-motion embroidery, the color choices, the amount of fabric melted while inflicting the soldering iron, the number of "bridges" that link the pieces...all sorts of questions, ideas, and inspirations....I'd call this development. Perhaps these are simply not questions that perplex and drive weavers?

The other body of work is "younger". In the pieces on display where several fresh thoughts that have and will continue to inspire the series over time. In one, I used a solid chiffon scarf. Another incorporated hand stitched circles of yarn linked with both hand and machine embroidery. Some included vertical running yarns with gaps to be "bridged". Others were denser. Each answered an old question, asked a new question, and related to my ideas for future work as well as current ideas. Most test the boundaries of such contemporary approaches. All related to the strata of the earth. This series, as well as the other, are still on-going. I have not begun to exhaust the possibilities.

Finally, you "googled" my name and only looked at a few pages...whatever you could absorb in all of two minutes and fifty second (according to my quite unbiased site meter) and determined that my interests have shifted and that I had to have been bored with my fiber work and had moved on to something else.

You couldn't be further from the truth if you tried. For the past two years I have been working with artist and altered books WHILE I work on my first and true love...FIBERS! If you had scrolled down a few blog post entries, you would have seen that I'd been profiled by Cyndi Lavin. Cyndi contacted me due to my altered books. Profiles such as hers are conducted a month in advance. I held the posts about the newly altered books in order to coordinate my blog posts about them with her profile about me. The results have been hundreds of hits to both blogs from all over the world.

Also, altered books of this nature take weeks upon weeks to create. The two most recent books were made WHILE I was busy working on the pieces for the Francis Marion Show. Basically, it's good time management skills....collage a little, stitch while it dries, collage a little, stitch while it dries....etc.

There's been no shift in my work, no boredom with my fiber explorations, and no abandonment of embroidery/fibers in favor of another media. If you continue to read my blog or spend more than three minutes looking at even two weeks worth of past work (and/or future work), this will be more than obvious.

I also do not refer to my embroidery or my altered books or anything I create as "stuff". I would NEVER refer to YOUR work (which I have never had the pleasure of seeing) or anyone else's artwork as "stuff". It's ART. It's FINE CRAFT. It's precious! It is certainly not STUFF.

I'm happy that you left the exhibition THINKING. I hope my response to your "review" will also give you cause to THINK!

Also, I most cordially invite you to my studio and/or my business. My studio is located at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, 808 Lady Street in downtown Columbia, SC. I spend time there each and every day and try to put in at least 35 hours a week creating artwork. My business, Mouse House, Inc. is located at 2123 Park Street, also in downtown Columbia. (803) 254-0842. My cell number is (803) 606-9804. My husband and I live above the shop which features antiquarian prints, decorative mirrors, and my fiber arts. We'd love to have you come by for a glass of wine and good conversation. By the way, there's a gallery opening at the studio this Friday night. The exhibition is called "FAME FACTOR" and it is being presented by Wim Roefs of if Art Gallery. More information is available on the calendar section of the gallery's website (which I manage). It can be accessed at

Your blog entry has cause me to think as well. I've written things that likely weren't as well researched as they ought to have been. I thank you for reminding me of this fact. I will write more of my opinions from now on with a few more minutes of research at the least. After all, the world of fibers is too small for me to risk injury to another by a few sour words among an otherwise nice review.


Emmcee .... Marie C said...

Wow - some people have a real nerve don't they.... I understand how you would feel hurt and find your response intelligent, controlled, very well articulated and totally appropriate - I certainly hope it HAS made her think twice about posting thoughtless, uninformed comments like that - luckily, it doesn't happen often, and I'm so sorry to see it here.

PS Love your work!

Jacquelines blog said...

This one is hard, I know I would be the same; reacting in a very impulsive way, writing back to this very blunt article writer, who thought she figured your work out without even talking to you. (than it is really easy to judge) but I don't know if it is wise. Maybe you have to be over that person, you can do without this (negative) energy and keep you're energy for you're lovely art work. All artists work in series, you can't make just one single piece and than switch to something complete else. You have to learn from the first piece and improve the next and the next and the new idea that comes along....and so on. Pity that she doesn't understand the work of a fiber artist... Keep your head up girl, you are doing a wunderfull job!!!
No doubt about that.

Anonymous said...

Well, I came to visit your blog because of the link that blog writer provided. Her post gave such a positive impression of your works that I couldn't resist clicking on the link. I was quite surprised at your reaction, as I had a totally different take on what the blog writer was saying. In no way did it seem that she was writing a review nor a critique of your work, but rather, was simply sharing of her impressions, which I gathered were exceptionally positive. Perhaps you were simply having a bad day when you read her post, I don't know. Your reaction seems to make some broad assumptions, which I think should have been clarified before going on a public rant. If she did unwittingly choose to use indivual words in contexts that were offensive to you, did you contact her privately to try and clarify? That is what communication is about after all.

Stef said...

This blogging thing can be difficult. You put your work and your life in the public sphere and never quite know what will happen.

In this case, I really do think your reviewer enjoyed your work, even if she didn't quite understand how it was accomplished. She also mentioned that she was inspired by your work. I think that's really positive.

However, she also made some assumptions that were incorrect and some judgments (for example, that you were bored) that really didn't reflect what you've been discussing in the past several months that I've been following your blog. I think in this fast, fast information age, people (including myself) can get careless with comments. I wouldn't take it personally.

In my opinion, the repetition in the body of your work for the exhibition is perfect. The subtle shift of color and texture is one of the things I find most fascinating in art. Can you imagine if your reviewer had seen a Rothko exhibition? All that man did was paint blocks of color - he truly must have been bored.

The exploration of new media enhances our art. I regularly immerse myself in things other than the weaving that is my main focus. Exploration feeds creativity, it's not a sign of boredom. So there. ;-)

Keep up the wonderful work! I look forward to reading more.

Nikki said...

First, let me say that I love your work and I think very highly of you as an artist.

I can understand how her comments on your blog could be hurtful. I know my first reaction would be to get angry and defensive. I'm sure she didn't put a lot of thought into her critique of your blog. I know you must have put more thought into your reaction to her words (and are still thinking about them).

Follow your heart in regards to if the tone of your response was appropriate. A dialogue may provide a learning experience for both of you.

In Love,

Karoda said...

I really don't like to tell someone how they should feel and response to being hurt, but since you've asked, I didn't see the other blogger's comments as negative or demeaning to you or your art work...maybe she didn't fully come away with what you hoped or didn't understand the process in its entirety, but I read her post as overall positive and read your comments as a little over the top and thought maybe it would have been better to explain to yourself why it pushed your buttons and why you felt so vulnerable.

Think over creating a dialogue with this blogger. Hopefully it will work itself out for both of you.

arlee said...

I'm aghast in one sense----i couldn't possibly "review" a show without some research on the medium, the artist and her processes or thoughts. On the other hand, if she isn't a "professional critic" and i mean that neither as a good thing or bad, it was purely her sense of the show.
She *did* however seem to be more concerned with "appearances" rather than the intent. Perhaps the methods she uses are more "finished" ie "tidied" and hiding mechanics, but again, style is in the eye and hand of the maker.
Any PR is good PR, as they say.
As for "boredom", well....maybe all she does *is* weaving----some of us love to explore other objects/mediums while we work on our techniques and cross pollination occurs--i NEVER got the sense you were bored, flitting around, or a dilettante as she seems to be inferring by your "switching gears".
I *can* empathize with you *and* with the other comments here---the Big things are---you are proud of your work, you are established enough to have shows, you are very talented and versatile, you consistently sell your art.
You can never please all of the people all of the time!

jonio said...

Dear Susan,

I am new to your website, but what I've seen and read on your blog so far I think is great. I love all of your work I've had a chance to look at so far. I believe you create from your heart. I believe what you create speaks to you and thru you. I have a hard time considering myself an artist, although I have been creating in some form or other all of my life. I've had no formal training, no college degree in the field. I just know what I feel and what I like. I've also learned that not everyone understands what I create. I have tried different things but currently love doing mixed media collage, jewelry, atcs, and anything else new I can do and learn. I am looking forward to maybe dropping into your studio/shop sometime when I'm in Columbia and I intend to go to Pickens (that's closer for me) and see your pieces there. Keep doing what you are doing - - all of it - - art, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The kindred spirits understand and hear the "voice" of the art you create. I have put your blog on my favorites list so I can keep up with what you're creating. Don't let this person bother you with his/her comments. That's only one small opinion. I think you handled this situation very well.

Anonymous said...

it's interesting that you emotionally sopped up the small bit of negative input and let all the positive things only touch you lightly........ you must be born under the sign of cancer. your response came out as long winded and very defensive. your work is gorgeous, why do you need so much outside validation? a life lesson here, please don't miss it........

sammy said...

I can see why your are hurt... I would be also... I think your art is stunning! sometimes people can not look any further then the tip of her nose!

Go on with what you do and just let her slide on life thinking there is only one way of art! How very sad!