Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Plunging Ahead!

(Above: In Box LXVI. Framed 19" x 15". Click on image to enlarge.)

I've started stitching on the stack of Decision Portraits. It is exciting and scary just how much I have to embroider....especially since I still have a few other pieces "in the works". There's a Grave Rubbing Art Quilt nearing completion and another one underway. I'm in the midst of making bookmarks for the South Carolina Artisan Center and the Sumter Museum of Art gift shop. (Oh....and I was asked to be the juror for the 7th Annual South Carolina Low Country Juried Art Exhibition at the Artisan Center! What an honor!)

Happily, I finished In Box LXV and In Box LXVI for the Grovewood Gallery. I'm really pleased with them.

to collect socks for a future project! I'm looking for all the socks that have no mates....old, worn, a hole or problem! It'll be a fun project! (The collection above came from my dear neighbor Gita! Thanks so much!) So....please collect socks for me!

I'm at:

Susan Lenz
Mouse House, Inc.
2123 Park Street
Columbia, SC 29201

....or at my studio:

Gallery 80808/Vista Studios
808 Lady Street
Columbia, SC 29201

Socks can be dropped off or mailed to either location! The project will get underway as soon as I have a good stash and will become a "public" art event next fall! I'm excited. More details will come once I've "started"!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Decision Portraits....the BIG push!

(Above: Stack of 25 Decision Portraits ready to be stitched! Click on image to enlarge.)

I have a major exhibition coming up this fall at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Charleston. It is a bit overwhelming because the space is gigantic.....several rooms spread over two floors. The Office of Cultural Affairs selected my Decision Portraits for the show. Although I have 45 completed pieces, ideally I need 90. This has meant that the last month has been spend looking for "models".....people willing to share an important decision with me....sign a provided model's release....and submit a digital photo. There LOTS of correspondence to making these things happen. I've been writing to over 45 people. Little by little, the necessary items have been coming in. On Saturday and Sunday I used the garage as a temporary "xylene transfer studio" and successfully created 33 images on tea-stained muslin. Serendipitously, Guy from River Runner, the local kayak and canoe shop, got in a large boat.....wrapped in SIXTEEN FEET of white felt. Generally, the felt is black. Recycled white felt, however, can be used for the Decision Portraits! The first ten had recycled white the last 33 - 45 will also have it. After the transfer is made, I rough cut white felt and Thai Stucco paper from Legions, creating a sandwich. The photo above is a stack of 25. I ran out of the Thai Stucco paper but have ordered more. This is a lot of stitching! I estimate that if I complete an average of one every three days, I'll be okay! This is scary! No more late night out for me!

(Above: Sixteen feet of white felt recycled from the local kayak/canoe shop! Click on image to enlarge.)

Runaway Runway and a big weekend....or why I can't party like a kid anymore!

(Above: Bonnie, #2 on the runway, wearing the dress created from artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters.)

Today I feel like I'd been run over by a truck. I'm old. I can no longer "party" to the wee hours of the morning, several nights in a row. I need EIGHT HOURS OF SLEEP and I haven't been getting it! Why? Thursday was Earth Day and Artista Vista; I worked all day and was out until 2 AM. Friday was Runway Runway; I worked all day and was out until 2 AM. On Saturday I worked on xylene photo transfers until I went to the Dining With Friends Aids Benefit party; I was out until 11 PM. I finished over 33 photo transfers for my Decision Portrait Series on Sunday, fell into bed at 11 :30 and woke up exhausted. The pace and late night hours caught up....

I already posted the photos from Thursday. I forgot to take any on, here's the images from Runaway Runway. No, my dress made entirely of artificial flowers from the cemetery dumpsters took no award. I honestly didn't think it would. This is an event that is "for the fun of it". Some of the garments were spectacular; some were just plain silly; some were very clever uses of discarded items; some are likely in a landfill now. Remember....this was for fun. I embraced the "fun" aspect of it and provided my model with a live prop: a tall male model dressed only in a geranium covered dance belt tossing artificial flower blossoms from an over-sized basket....trailing behind her, tossing petals into the air. The roar from the crowd was so loud that the dress description wasn't audible. Cameras flashed like mad. It was a sensation and can be seen on a video made by The State Newspaper HERE. (The clip is within the first 21 seconds after an annoying 30 second car ad.) A dress made from the old college card catalog cards took the top prize.

Because I was a "designer" I had to be on site by 5 PM. Many of the designers were still "putting together" their outfits, gluing things on, taping problem areas. Of course, my outfit really IS A DRESS....washable, wearable, and slipped on over the head in about 15 seconds or less. This gave me a lot of time to watch the event set up. The doors opened at 6. The "entertainment" started at 7 and the girls came down the runway at 7:30. The theme of recycling was beautifully everywhere....from the "Recycling is Sexy" t-shirt clad guys bringing in "green" trash bins... the Fetzer "Earth Friendly Wine"..... the 360 Eco-friendly Vodka... the recycled gift pins that were presented to all the judges by Runaway Runway, chairman, Gene Bell (below)!

There were fourteen judges, most local celebrity types and people associated with the Columbia Design League, the group hosting Runaway Runway.

The judges spent some time backstage chatting with the models who were lined up by number. Bonnie was obviously #2.

The following images are from this time backstage.

Then, five drag queens put on a fantastic pre-runway show. (This was an OVER 21 Only crowd....except for a few entries who had to have parental permission to participate!)

Then The Lady Chablis, famous from the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, took total command of the catwalk....strutting her stuff....lip-syncing and teasing and wiggling....

....and even stepping down onto the front row seats.....mingling with the crowd and flirting with the numerous cameras. It was a treat. She's two older than me.....hard to believe!

Then the show started!

Bonnie looked great! As I mentioned above, her "prop" was fantastic.

When all 48 had their quick minute up and down the catwalk, all were brought back in....

...for one last look....

...while images, like the one with Bonnie above, were projected onto the walks.

My other cemetery flower dress was worn by a friend Paige Haas. We posed for one another....and for dozens of other people too!

Here's Paige above and her (below) with our mutual friend Kirkland Smith, who also has a studio at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios and is very well known for her recycled trash assemblages.

Maria Vick, a new friend, posed with Paige and I. She was one of the event volunteers.....who had to wear black instead of something "fun".

So....that was Friday. Scroll up for my weekend of xylene photo transfers and an update on the Decision Portrait Series.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Every Day should be EARTH DAY!

(Above: Wasted Words: Global Warnings. Fiber vessel created from recycled yarns and zigzag stitching filled with ripped, rolled, stitched pages from conservations articles from World Book Year Books, 1962-75. JUST ACCEPTED INTO GREEN: THE COLOR AND THE CAUSE, April 16 - Sept. 11, 2011 at the Textile Museum in Washington, DC! Click on image to enlarge.)

Yesterday was EARTH DAY. It was also Artista Vista, an annual spring art event in downtown Columbia. So....I wore my "leaf" dress and enjoyed being called an "Earth Day Goddess." Yet, this made it very easy to distribute fliers for tonight's Runaway Runway, a fashion show of recycled materials.

I'm NOT MODELING this dress on the "catwalk"! I have a MODEL to wear one of the two artificial flower dresses. All blossoms and petals were collected from cemetery dumpsters and trash bins....never from a grave! The second dress is being worn by a friend who will also be attending. I've heard there are 48 entries; the judges will select three finalists; the audience will text their votes for these selected three outfits. Last night I learned how to send a text message and am hoping to be able to vote for my creation if it is lucky enough to be in the top three!

As if all this GREEN and EARTH DAY happenings weren't enough, today an acceptance letter arrived from the Textile Museum in Washington, DC. Wasted Words: Global Warnings (above) was ACCEPTED into a show this coming year! I've visited this museum dozens of time and am SO EXCITED! Click here to see the blog post I wrote when I created the piece. It has more photos!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Runaway Runway is this Friday night!

Below is an article appearing in today's Free Times! The photo is of Ashleigh BURKE (not Gunter!) who is wearing one of my artificial flower creations! This photo was taken informally in my studio.....just fitting Ashleigh in the garment. I'll have more photos after the event. I'm wearing my "leaf" dress. Ashleigh and Bonnie will be in the "flowers". Bonnie is walking the runway!

Runaway Runway
701 Whaley, Friday

“It may not sound like a lot, but that’s a long 50 or so feet,” Clay Owens admonishes a group of 48 models.

It’s a perfect spring Sunday and the women of all ages and sizes have gathered at 701 Whaley to practice their catwalks with a professional runway coach in preparation for Friday’s recycled fashion show, Runaway Runway. Owens, the show’s organizer, was trying his best to avoid any model mishaps on the big day when each of the models will be wearing an original creation made entirely out of used or post consumer products.

Ashley Gunter in a dress by Susan Lenz made from discarded fake cemetery flowers.

These trash-ionistas have used every item imaginable over the years to build their garments. Ashley Gunter chose two items that she had been hoarding around the house — beer bottle caps and old copies of Free Times — to make a dress.

“My husband and I always grab a copy every week, so they begin to stack up,” Gunter says. “And for some reason, I saved all those caps from cookouts and girls’ nights.”

The top of her dress is formed from scraps of a garnet turtleneck and studded with caps emblazoned with the logos of Michelob Ultra, Corona, Bud Light and Fat Tire. Gunter cut two editions of Free Times into thirds and wove them into a skirt — if you look closely, you can read bits of 8 Days a Week or Rant & Rave.

Tom Chinn has been involved with Runaway Runway for years, but he had yet to design an outfit until this year when he decided to make up for lost time.
“I made one dress for my sister,” Chinn says. “But then I had so many more ideas I ended up with four dresses.”

After years of working in the furniture industry, Chinn had a stockpile of black and gray floral paper that lamp companies use to pad the lamps. Through a system of twisting and braiding, he ended up with several designs — long, short and bubbly, fitted and one-shoulder. To add a touch of whimsy — and a bit of naughty — he dug through his piles of leather samples and crafted little leather floggers or what he calls “love taps” for the women to brandish as they walk the runway.

The Columbia Design League is in its third year of putting on the fundraiser and has several presentation upgrades in the works.

“This year, we are planning on having a video projection component,” said Design League’s Gene Bell. “We haven’t quite worked out all the details, but we want it to look as much like a real fashion show as possible.”

Also new is a text-to-vote feature, which will replace the Audience Choice from last year. Judges will choose the top three designs, which will then be projected onto a screen. Audience members can then text in their votes and watch as the numbers are tallied live.

“It really is a great interactive feature and a way to keep the audience engaged,” Bell says. The board also decided to charge a $10 entry fee to fund further upgrades in coming years.

Once again, The Lady Chablis of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame will provide the entertainment and DJ Peter Ray will spin the prancing tunes. Nickelodeon Theatre director Larry Hembree and Columbia Design League board member Betsy Newman will emcee the event.

Tickets for Runaway Runway are $10 for standing and $20 for limited reserved seating. They are available at the door and online at or by calling 803-343-2214. Let us know what you think: Email or leave us a comment below.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Art Quilt Elements 2010

(Above: Me by my art quilt, Father and Mother, at the Wayne Art Center, Wayne, PA. Click on image to enlarge.)

Saturday was the SAQA symposium at the Wayne Art Center. It was my first time attending such an event. The program was called "Building an Artist's Community" and included an excellent keynote address by Sue Benner. The three jurors, Jason Pollen, Robin Schwab, and Deborah Warner, spoke about the jurying process. Lisa Chipetine and Sandra Sider talked about new gadgets and ways to network on the Internet....with focus on how these forms of communication could establish art quilt critique groups. We had plenty of time to see the exhibition, talk among ourselves, exchange business cards, and enjoy lunch....before the official opening of Art Quilt Elements 2010. It was a great day. I met lots of interesting and talented people!

(Above and below.....all images are from the opening of Art Quilt Elements 2010. Click on any image to enlarge.)

Weekend in Philadelphia

(Above: Examples of kantha embroidery being stitched at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Click on image to enlarge.)

Steve and I headed north on I-95 last Thursday and attended an antiquarian book auction outside DC that evening. We were successful bidders on four shelf lots of mostly art books....but also an amazing collection of ephemera that we have yet to fully explore.

(Above and below: Architecture in downtown Philadelphia! Amazingly beautiful buildings, fountains, parks, and weather! We loved walking around and especially the art museum. Click on images to enlarge.)

On Friday we went on to Philadelphia and visited the Fabric Workshop and Museum. It was a disappointment. The facility was "between" exhibitions. The staff was too busy talking among themselves to engage in conversation even after I said I was considering their post-graduate program. We didn't stay long...and I'll have to reconsider their program....or call for an appointment ahead of time. (I thought about calling before we left but really wanted to get a "feel" for the place from the "outside". It wasn't very engaging....or I'm just too old for cutting-edge people...whatever!)

(Above and below: Steve doing the "Rocky" run up the steps at the Philadelphia Art Museum. Click on images to enlarge.)

Since we didn't stay long at the Fabric Workshop, we had more than enough time to enjoy the city. What a wonderful place! The architecture was so beautifully diverse. We walked from City Hall to the art museum. Steve did the "Rocky" run up the steps and posed with the nearby bronze statue. I'm trying to create a little video....but can't find free "Gonna Fly" music for it.

The museum had a fabulous exhibition of Kantha embroidery and had three Indian women demonstrating their stitching. Kantha was originally a form of quilting layers of older textiles (mainly worn out saris) for continued household and ritual use. The running stitch was dominate.....a way to bind/quilt the layers together. I love kantha. I love the texture and the history and the way clothe was treasured in the remote areas of northern India and Bangladesh. I especially like the the common sense approach to recycling older garments and linens for continued use. There is a preciousness in kantha. The simplicity of the running stitch adds to the beauty. Form and function are married with creativity and individual expression. All my Grave Rubbing Art Quilts are intentionally created using recycled fabrics and are predominately held together with the running stitch....kantha!

Now, however, kanthas are made using newly purchased cotton. They are highly decorated with all sorts of other stitches as decorative motifs. The running stitch is there....but as the background....playing a subservient role to the colorful threads . Most kanthas are sold/exported, never used by the stitcher. The new embroidery is breathe-taking but I still prefer the traditional way to honor the fabric....the feel of "new life" in older material. I asked about using "old saris" but was told that was "old fashioned". I guess everything must become "contemporary" in one way or the other!

After our day in Philadelphia, we drove to Wayne, Pennsylvania. Saturday was the SAQA seminar at the Wayne Art Center and the opening of Art Quilt Elements be covered in the next post!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dining With Friends 2010 Platter and work for the SC Artisan Center

(Above: Fused glass beads attached to a hand-painted platter created by Margaret Nevill and me. This is a donation to the Dining With Friends Dessert Finale benefiting AIDS patients and research. Click on image to enlarge.)

It's been a very busy week. "Short weeks" are always busy! Tomorrow Steve and I head north to a book auction in the Washington, DC area before traveling on to Wayne, PA for the opening of Art Quilts Elements 2010. I can hardly wait to see Father and Mother, my Grave Rubbing Art Quilt, hanging alongside the work of so many talented art quilters and to attend the SAQA symposium on Saturday.

(Above: Margaret and I are putting the finishing touches on our platter. Click on image to enlarge.)

In the meantime, I'm trying to finish up things and pack. One of the just completed projects is my Dining With Friends Dessert Finale platter. I've done a platter for several years. Each one is sold at silent auction to benefit those with AIDS and for AIDS research. This year I collaborated with Margaret Nevill, owner of The Mad Platter. Margaret and I did Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way together...and she purchased a fused glass kiln during the process...which she added to her shop's list of activities. My mother was in town when we created the fused glass pieces...and she helped too! The event is Saturday, April 24th.

(Above: In Box LXIV. Polyester stretch velvet, recycled black felt, previously painted WonderUnder (Bond-a-Web), and chiffon scarves. Free motion embroidery, soldering and melting. Framed: 15" x 17". Click on image to enlarge.)

Another just completed project was getting additional artwork to the South Carolina Artisan Center in Walterboro. I brought six older pieces plus these two new "In Box" pieces. They are framed differently than those in Asheville...thus, slightly shorter measurements! Now....TIME TO PACK!

(Above: In Box LXIII. Same description as above. Click on image to enlarge.)