Friday, February 27, 2009
(Above: Doni Jordan...and the cake we split for lunch last week before I left for England.)
I left for England last week....and before I got a chance to blog about a wonderful lunch I shared with my friend Doni Jordan. Doni's a wonderful artist who enjoys fibers, African art and artifacts, conceptual approaches to creativity, and book arts. Doni's also new to blogging. She had some early difficulties....but was able to trade postcards with me for CYBER FYBER. She's up and running now! Her blog is here and I know she'd really appreciate a few supportive comments!
(Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)
To continue with dining experiences...above and below are two photos of Mathias and Laura-Jane during two of the dinners we shared during the past week. The one above was cooked by Mathias. The one below was taken in a fancy Italian restaurant.
To see more images of Mathias and Laura-Jane...from the three week Birmingham Royal Ballet tour to China, just visit My Family Blog. During the week, I color/contrast, cropped, titled, and generally "corrected" all the photos Mathias took during the trip. He took hundreds....of course he did....THEY WERE IN CHINA after all! I didn't get to see Mathias dance this trip as he wasn't cast this week. The part he's in, however, is a total blast. I hope he gets to dance it while BRB (Birmingham Royal Ballet) tours to Plymouth and/or Sunderland....and especially while they appear in London in April....as Steve and I are flying with my mother to see these performance. In the meantime, Laura-Jane was quite beautiful in her part.
(Above: Craft by the Bay.)
Even though Mathias wasn't on the stage this week, both he and Laura-Jane went to "work" every day....that's ballet class in the morning followed by afternoon rehearsals. I had plenty of time to sight-see and meet fiber friends.
I spent last Saturday in Cardiff with Carol Taylor. We were instantly talking as if we've always known one another and the very best time....so intensely that neither of us remembered to capture one another (much less both of us together!) in a photograph! Carol blogged about our day here.
(Above: Fresco from St. Teilo's restored church. Click on this and any other image to enlarge.)
We walked around the lovely waterfront and spent wonderful time at Craft by the Bay (above), just soaking up inspiration from the high quality wares available. Then we went to a fabulous outdoor museum with many interesting building from all different locations and centuries of Welsh history. I love these sort of places. One of the most interesting structures was the restored St. Teilo's church. The frescoes were incredible....but I also loved the general store, the row houses with each unit restored to a different decade, the cock-fighting silo, and the tannery.
(Above: One of several lime over heavy stone farm houses.)
Meeting Carol was tremendous. I can't really put into words how wonderful it is to finally meet someone with shared interests whose been an Internet friend!
Believe it or not, I also met another Internet fiber friend! Sue Krekorian met me two days after visiting Carol in Cardiff! We both arrived in Taunton at the exact same time and spent four hours admiring a textile exhibition in the sprawling gallery and theater lobby.
(Above: Detail of the altar cloth in the Abbey Church in Bath created by Jane Lemon.)
I've always admired ecclesiastical embroidery, especially the exotic silk and metal threads. My favorite works are the ones that blend traditional stitch with a contemporary approach. Jane Lemon's work is hands-down FANTASTIC. No photo can do her work justice.
(Above: The Roman Baths with a view to the Abbey.)
Well...yes...after a delightful and totally inspiring time with Sue in Taunton, I went on to Bath, a city I've wanted to visit since childhood. I worried that my expectations were too high. I wondered if Bath might just be a tourist trap. I thought I might be making a mistake to plan two full days there.
I shouldn't have worried at all. I could have enjoyed much more time in this fabulous destination. I WAS GREAT! I stayed at the YMCA....and it was GREAT too!
I went to the ancient Roman Baths first. It was more than I had dreamed. The sense of history was present with every step. The patina of time scarred the wall and I could feel the heat rising from the water's surface as steam!
I spent more than two hours in the Abbey. Unfortunately, begging didn't get the docents to agree to let me make grave marker rubbings....but I was ready. (I got some great ones, however, from the cemetery in Birmingham!) Thus, I photographed lots and lots of interesting memorials and wrote down some really great epitaphs....very inspirational stuff for my newest embroidery series. Of course, I also took the tower tour.
From the Abbey heights, I could look down to the Roman Baths where I'd spent the morning.
Above is the excellent guide, a museum graduate student who is doing an internship in the archives. She was pointing out the ways in which the ten heavy bells are struck. The five of us on the tour even got to ring the bells! I have no idea what the citizens of Bath think when odd sounds peal from the tower at strange times, but it was great fun!
We also got to go behind the clock face.
(Above: One of the Assembly Rooms)
That evening I met with Janet McNulty for dinner at a Nepalese restaurant called Yak Yeti Yak. Janet is one of the "Friend of BRB" who actually reads this blog, knew I was going to be in Bath, and emailed to meet me! She just happened to be working in Bath this past week. It was wonderful to spend time with someone so knowledgeable about the ballet company. She also showed me around the other side of the Avon river and explained quite a lot about the magnificent Georgian architecture and the places where Jane Austen lived.
The next day I visited a city park and the botanical garden before going to the Fashion Museum and its spacious Assembly Halls (above) with their nine fabulous, late 18th c. chandeliers. Unexpectedly, I was thrilled to see the solo exhibition of contemporary embroidery, Laura McCafferty: Drawing with Fabric. It was top notch. I particularly liked her choice of fabrics and the overall presentation. Her stitching was obvious but did not take away from the well thought-out design. Her power of observation made each ordinary scene special.
(Above: The Crescent in Bath.)
Talking about the 18th century. I was totally blown away by the Crescent (above) and the Circus. The restored No. 1 Crescent house museum was excellent. Each room was well appointed and had a docent who just loved to talk about everything from this era. An elementary school group went through the building with me. It was great to watch them learn about time before computers and flush toilets!
Not everything I did in Bath was historical or educational. I also managed to get in a little shopping. This is really saying something as I'm not ordinarily much of a shopper....but...on Walcot Street there was one artisan shop after another including a glassblowing workshop....
.....and a long alleyway that was just one big business selling reclaimed architectural pieces, from chair-rail moulding to copper lined bath tubs, from solid wooden doors to staircase spindles, from church pews to light fixtures and more!
I love Bath....and already want to return!
(Above: The Forge Mill Needle Museum in Redditch.)
Yesterday I went to Redditch to the Forge Mill Needle museum. Sue Krekorian sent me a link about the place because there was a juried embroidery show on display. I plan to write a separate blog post on this exciting exhibition too. It was very, very interesting. The location, however, had a fascinating history itself. I had no idea that during most of the 19th c. and into the 20th c. nearly 90% of the world's needles had been made in Redditch. I never really thought about how needles (and fish hooks!) were manufactured but now I do! I also enjoyed the archeological site of the former abbey on this site and its small museum.
Tomorrow I return home....to work and my studio....and to the future blog posts I intend to write about the two contemporary stitching exhibitions I saw.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 6:12 PM
Monday, February 16, 2009
(Click on image above to enlarge. Grave Rubbing Quilt Series. God Called Her Home to Heaven. This work is obviously "in progress" and will be going with me to England. Vintage linens and lace were simply pinned with crayon rubbings on silk to a felt background. I free motion stitched it together. Yes....I'm a little strange this way! Instead of hand basting and then free motion stitching, I do it in the opposite order! This will be mostly hand stitched...including some sort of way to attach the antique photo.)
It seems that every time I'm about to go on a trip I finish the hand stitching that could go with me! It has happened again.
I'm flying to England on Wednesday evening...arriving Thursday in Manchester and catching a train to Birmingham...to Mathias and Laura-Jane's apartment which I've only seen in photos. I've got all sorts of great plans for my time in England...more than just ballet. In fact, I'm only seeing ONE performance of Sylvia. That show isn't until the evening of Thursday the 26th.
(Click on image above to enlarge: Grave Rubbing Quilt Series. Lost at Sea. This is a work in progress and will be going with me to England. The background was once a curtain....severely light damaged but now recycled with scraps of a semi-opaque chiffon scarf and lots of machine stitching...simple rows of variegated thread and silver metallics. I actually hand basted the grave rubbings on silk using perle cotton and some upholstery thread. I've just started to outline the grave rubbings in free motion embroidery.)
So...what am I going to do with all the time beforehand? I'm going to Cardiff in Wales on Saturday, February 21st. It's going to be an especially great experience as I'm meeting up with the talented and adventuresome CAROL TAYLOR. She's meeting me outside the central train station at 9:45 for a day of sightseeing, stitching, and textile talk! I can hardly wait. (If you're anywhere in the area and want to join us...drop Carol a note!)
(Click on image above to enlarge: Grave Rubbing Quilt Series. Petersburg. Vintage lines, doilies, lace and grave rubbings on silk pinned to a severely light damaged scrap of an old curtain. Obviously, a work in progress....and this one is too big to take to England.)
On Monday I'm going to Taunton to see another textile exhibit recommended by Maggie Grey. I'm sure this will be inspiring. That evening I return to Bath, a place I've wanted to visit since junior high school. I'm staying at the YMCA through Wednesday.
(Click on image above to enlarge: Grave Rubbing Quilt. The Just by Faith Shall Live Again. This is a work in progress and going to England to be hand stitched. The grave rubbing on silk came from a 1796 tombstone. It was free motion embroidered to a vintage doily on a piece of a severely light damaged curtain. I love recycling material...especially when it is the absolutely PERFECT coloring!)
Well, needless to stay, I need at least one...two...or possibly three hand stitching pieces to go with me. How could I spend time on a plane or a train or in the evening without a needle and thread? So this weekend was spent in my studio starting a number of new grave rubbing quilts.
(Above and below. Click on images to enlarge.. Grave Rubbing Quilt. Thy Blessed Will be Done. Grave rubbing on silk machine stitched to a vintage doily, a scrap of a severely light damaged curtain, and finally onto a piece of fringed crochet. I hand stitched it to the crochet so that the back is still visible. I'm working on a rod for hanging....otherwise....this one is done!)
Posted by Susan Lenz at 9:50 AM
Thursday, February 12, 2009
(Click on image above: Grave Rubbing Quilt Series. Father and Mother. 30" x 30". Crayon on silk rubbings. Vintage drawn work linen. Silk. Hand and free-motion machine embroidery.)
Okay, this is officially a series: The Grave Rubbing Series.
I made all these rubbings in Maine while at the MacNamara Foundation residency program. I had fantasies of making art with the results. It all seemed so bohemian and exotic...dancing alone in a cemetery with yards of silk fabric and a child's brown crayon...dreaming about the art I'd make...letting nature and a sense of eternal peacefulness take control.
(Click on detail above to enlarge.)
Somehow...in the autumn sunsets and the picture-perfect setting...I thought this was just a "wish" or wishful thinking. I thought that I'd feel regret for purchasing the fabric and wasting a perfect afternoon pursuing an idealized idea of "being an artist". Honestly, I hoped to make art...but never would have bet on actually doing it. The "censor" in the back of my mind chided me...saying, "You'll never really DO anything with all these grave rubbings".
(Click on image above to enlarge.)
Well....I did. I am.....and.... I will be doing even more. This is officially a series. Where it is going is anyone's guess. Father and Mother is the latest one finished. I think I stitched it to within an inch of its life...or death! I used some sort of Pellon, stiff material on the back so that the corners would hold their positions despite a lower placement for the rod sleeve on the reverse.
(Click on image above to enlarge.)
I'm going to England in less than a week. I'm quite excited about this trip because it really isn't about ballet or Mathias. Sure, I'll be staying with Mathias and his girlfriend Laura-Jane at their Birmingham apartment....but I'm making trips...to Bath and now to Cardiff! Details are unfolding by the minute. Train schedules are being consulted. I'm going to be meeting at least one, special cyber friend and will mention it as soon as she says "when and where". I'm also going to see an embroidery show recommended by Maggie Grey. Plus, I'm going to Bath...to see the mosaics that I've only dreamed about seeing! I'm too excited for more words!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 9:53 PM
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Sunday, February 08, 2009
(Above: Grave Rubbing Quilt Series. 18th. Century Angel. Click on image to enlarge.)
The rubbing was made in Maine; it incorporates the chiseled relief from two very early graves...one with an angel and the other with a fern. The fabric is silk. The date on the tombstones was 1796. I appliqued the heat-set crayon rubbing onto a vintage piece of linen with an elaborate crocheted edge. The linen was damaged....the center had several holes and stains. I simply adore taking a discarded object and restoring it to a state of beauty. The background fabric was recycled from an office in the building where Gallery 80808/Vista Studios is located. The sun had stained the curtains. Dirt, errant sprays of paint, and neglect had taken its toll on the material. I asked the janitor if I could have it. He thought I was insane....but...it is the PERFECT coloring...the PERFECT weight and texture. It is also the PERFECT feel for this piece. The edge is a row of vintage buttons.
(Above: Detail of 18th. Century Angel. Click on image to enlarge.)
I hate really hate to write numerous posts on the same day. It takes too much time. It feels like I'm burying important parts of my life...not sharing....not organized. Yet, I couldn't help it this past week. I've been totally swamped with work and art and inspiration.
As busy as I've been, however, I've been stitching. Mostly I've been working on my newest series...Grave Rubbing quilts. I'm heavily into the next one even though one of these isn't truly finished.
(Above: Grave Rubbing Quilt Series. Early Grave. Click on image to enlarge.)
This is the piece that isn't quite finished. I see it as something more than a simple quilt. I've already bought a rusted, iron fixture to use with it. I envision a shroud....and modern words on sheer netting. I thing this piece is pivotal in the series as this piece is more personal than the others. After all, I'm turning fifty year old this summer.
Okay, I know I've been "claiming" to be 50 since early last year. I HATE all the ages ending with the number 9. Jack Benny forever ruined the age "39" and no one really believes those ages anyway. I went straight for the "big" number as soon as I thought I could. So....I've been claiming to be age 50 for over a year despite the fact that my birthday isn't until June 24th of this coming summer.
The grave in Maine coupled the words "50 yrs. 6 mos." with "early grave". Well, I certainly think dying at 5o would be an early grave! Somehow, I've got to get this piece to reflect my emotional response to seeing the grave. I've been experimenting with free-motion embroidery on netting for a stream-of-consciousness text to "float" over the quilt. So....here's my quilt....I'm still working on the proper way to display it!
(Click on image above to enlarge. ME....in my "booth" at the Florence art sale!)
Friday was just one of many, recent hectic days. I rented a cargo van. The morning was spent with a client and his enormous, high-end framing job. The afternoon was spent at Terrace Oaks Antique Mall where Steve and I have sold our antiquarian, framed prints for most of the last nineteen years. The evening was spent in Florence, South Carolina.
Geodes II won one of the top honors! That's two awards in a week. I'm on Cloud Nine!
Saturday was spent in my "booth". I really don't do art festivals and booth shows. I've never invested in the proper display materials. Yet, I am more than happy to participate in the annual show in Florence. The organization makes everything so nice and easy....and I've won a prize!
(Above: Signage, clothes lines, and bale of debris from Ellen Kochansky's Embedded Energy at 701 Center for Contemporary Arts, Columbia, SC. Click on any image to enlarge.)
As if I needed more visual "eye-candy" last Thursday after touring the YLI facility in Rock Hill, I attended several art opening later in the evening. Along with writer Cindi Boiter, I went to Frame of Minds on Main Street to see a small show and some stunning eye glass frames. We went on to City Art to see the work of Tarqi Mix and to the preview party for Laura Spong and Leo Twiggs work at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.
Finally, we ended up at 701 Center for Contemporary Art, 701 Whaley Street. My husband Steve met us there. It was fantastic. Ellen Kochansky's exhibition is the result of several months in residency in this building....the former cultural and entertainment center of the Olympia Mill village. Of course, the textile mill is closed but Ellen managed to make contact with families that had once lived, worked, and cherished the place. She packaged all the emotions and lingering memories between sheer fabrics with bookbinders glue. She hung deteriorating bridal gowns, clothes lines, and vintage sheets of hand written text. She baled debris from the neighborhood. She filled the gallery with the ghosts of an almost forgotten era.
(Above: View to a hanging, deteriorating bridal gown along with one of the textile panels and bale of "energy" at Ellen Kochansky's Embedded Energy installation. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: The signage seen between two textile panels. Click on any image to enlarge.)
(Above: Reception for Ellen Kochansky's Embedded Energy at 701 Center for Contemporary Arts in Columbia, South Carolina. The image shows several sheer, textile panels in which artist-in-resident Ellen Kochansky placed natural elements between sheer material or placed inked footprints on the material.)
(Above: Other art lovers looking at Ellen's textile panels. Click on images to enlarge.)
(Above: Placed in significant locations throughout the installation were pedestals for wire containers. Each grouping was a rich, natural wonder of materials. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Detail of the natural materials Ellen selected for one of the pedestal arrangements.)
(Above: This textile panel was cut to show the otherwise invisible footprints that crossed over the natural materials. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: The cut footprints allowed those in attendance to see through the fabric....aware others and the mystery from the cut void. Click on image to enlarge.)
These are some of my photos from the reception and exhibition. I've been told....by a very, very well informed source (aka ELLEN!)....to return during the day. The light from the large windows will completely transform the work. I'm eager to return.
(Above: Click on image to enlarge. This is one of Ellen's "suggestions" of the people who passed through the mill and the mill village....a footprint. Some of the footprints were simply treads of a shoe. Some, like the one above, were created from handwritten text.)
(Above: Two of the many panels of textiles in Embedded Energy by Ellen Kochansky. One is of footprints. The other includes various natural remnants between the silks of sheer material....a suggestion of the embedded memories and energies from the former site and its people.)
(Above: Detail of one of Ellen Kochansky's panels'. Embedded Energy...embedded natural artifacts seen between layers of sheer fabric.)
(Above: Detail of one of Ellen Kochansky's panels in Embedded Energy.)
Posted by Susan Lenz at 10:05 PM
(Click on any image to enlarge. Above: Inside of YLI in Rock Hill, South Carolina.)
One of the final CYBER FYBER "1" details that required my attention was returning the artwork to my new friend Fulvia Boriano Luciano in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Rock Hill was actually a "secret" destination on my FANTASY WISH LIST!
While I was in Maine at the MacNamara Foundation residency, I needed more thread. I went to the Mariner's Compass in Bath, Maine. I found plenty of thread...including the most wonderful...truly most beautiful....absolutely stunning variegated, cotton thread on WOODEN SPOOLS. My heart went pit-a-pat! I bought one of every shade. It was a REAL FIND!
(Above: Wooden spools....actually made from the wood of an ash tree and distributed from a company in Maine!)
While making my rather substantial purchase at the Mariner's Compass, I noticed the spool's label. Clearly, it said ROCK HILL, SC. YLI jumped to #1 on my travel plans!
I'd come all the way to Maine to find the perfect thread from my home state of South Carolina. Of course I wanted to visit this place....YLI....in Rock Hill. Returning Fulvia's artwork made a perfect excuse. I called Fulvia. She was only too eager to join me on this travel excursion!
(Above: Just look at the extremely large cones of the most beautiful variegated cotton thread! Yes....I want the little spools....but not as much as I'd like the great big ones!)
(Above: These packages had Fulvia and I making sound that could have been dubbed into X-rated films. There were packages of hand-dyed, pre-cut postcard backgrounds....packages of hand-dyed silk hankies....packages by colors or moods or seasons of the year.....!)
(Above: YLI stands for YOU'LL LOVE IT....and we certainly did!)
(Above: Jane Garrison. firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Fulvia and I toured the YLI facility. Jane Garrison, an amazingly talented instructor/educator, was our guide. Jane shows us EVERYTHING! She knew exactly what to show us....she UNDERSTANDS! Jane is "one of us"... she's someone who oohs and aahs over variegated yarn, gets frustrated with uncooperative bobbin tension, and finds pleasure in the various weights of thread. Her experience is deep. Her generosity in showing us YLI will not be forgotten!
(Above: Jane holding an incredibly large cone of the most beautiful variegated blue thread imaginable! Fulvia and I plotted as to how we might escape with it! Alas....we were panting too hard to make a mad dash with the spool in tow!)
(Above and below: Just some of the many shelving units devoted to THREAD!)
(Above: More thread!)
(Above: I couldn't stop myself. I had to snap the photo above because everything at YLI seem larger than life and this image certainly expressed this NOTION!)
MACHINES....oh, yes....YLI has plenty of machines! I found each and every one more fascinating that the next. Jane explained them all. I forget just about everything she said...but...I assure you, it was all very, very interesting!
Some of the machines took large....really enormous...spools of thread and spun smaller amounts onto smaller spools.
Some machines wound thread onto cards. Some machines created the cards!
Some of the machines braided thread into ribbon. Other machines created thicker, stronger twists from several smaller threads. It was all too much to absorb....but wonderful to watch!
I have a video of the braid machine....eighteen bobbins of thread spinning at dizzying speeds into complicated, figure-8 patterns to make braided ribbon! It was electrifying to watch!
With all the modern technology and intrigue machinery, some of the work at YLI is still necessarily done by hand. Putting on the label, fastening the end of the thread into the end of the plastic spools, and arranging various spools in packaging units....well....that's the HAND WORK!
(Above: Labels for thread!)
(Above: One YLI employee doing the last HAND WORK needed before send the wonderful threads into the world!)
(Above: Another YLI employee fits assorted threads into variety packages.)
YLI is a giant place. The visual information is too much to take in. Yet, it is also an extremely efficient business. Just twelve employees manage to do all the work. I was stunned....overwhelmed...truly awed!
Above: These were about the most beautifully, pure gold and silver threads I've ever seen!
Above: Try to imagine all the threads that will be wound onto these empty bobbins!
YLI is a complex facility....just look at one of the electrical systems!
Above: The braiding machines work at an alarmingly fast pace! Just see my very, very short video here...two quick seconds!
It is no wonder that many of the spools of thread must be separated into smaller quantities...just look at the size of these thread cones!
Most of the smaller, individual spools of thread are encased in plastic by the shrink wrap system, above.
Above is the desk of the BOSS! Hopefully, within a week there will be a proposal for CYBER FYBER 2 sitting among the sparkling, luxurious threads on this desk. It is the "boss' desk" at YLI! I hope he wants to support CYBER FYBER 2 with some sort of a contribution!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 9:06 PM