Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Recycled Cemetery Flower dresses

(Above: Two flower dresses made from blossoms recycled from cemetery dumpsters and trash cans. Click on image to enlarge.)

In less than a month the fourth annual Columbia Design Leagues' Runaway Runway fashion show will be held. It's on Thursday, April 29th at the 701 Whaley Street. I've never been to one of the earlier events. I've never actually been to a fashion show....much less a fashion show of recycled garments. Yet, this year I'm entering the competition with a dress created from recycled flowers and leaves from local cemeteries. (NO...I never take flowers from the graves...just the dumpsters and trash cans! YES...They've all been dissected and thoroughly washed. These are the flowers I used in my recent solo show at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios!)

(Above: Leaf Dress. Click on image to enlarge.)

I'm a little intimidated. I've never made up my own pattern and I haven't stitched anything remotely wearable in over two decades. Even when I attempted to "make some clothes", it wasn't a serious pursuit...probably because I wasn't very good at following directions! The event, however, isn't a "serious" competition. There's a video from last year. It looks fun and very well attended. I have a model. I have two dresses. Why two? I asked a nice young lady to model for me. She's at least six foot tall and a size two; she looks like she is a professional model instead of an assistant art gallery manager hoping to get into a good school for an arts administration master's degree. She'd already agreed to help with the judging for the event...but she said she'd wear one of my dresses! Thus....the longer one for her; the shorter one for a dance major about to graduate from the University of South Carolina who will walk the runway for me.

But....I didn't know what I ought to wear to this event. Finally, I decided to be a "leaf" and made the totally green dress. After all, this is supposed to be a fashion show with a conservation conscious. What better garment that a "green" one. I also have a pair of dyed-to-match green shoes recycled from my younger sister Sonya. Sonya must have worn them in a friend's wedding party. They are PERFECT. By the way, Sonya has invited me to teach in Salzburg, Austria...for the Cultural Studies Academy. Check it out HERE!

So....how did I make these dresses? Well, first one must have a bag full of artificial flowers from the cemetery. These were collected over several months....by dumpster diving and searching the insides of all the trash bins....NEVER from a grave site. All the artificial flowers were dissected and the fabric carefully washed and dried. I used them in my recent solo show. They've been stored in clean kitchen trash bags.

(Above: First layer of flowers laid out on the adhesive coated, water soluble stabilizer. Click on i image to enlarge.)

Next, I used Mobuka's adhesive coated, water soluble stabilizer. I cut out two dress shapes and attached flowers to it. Above is a view from one direction; below is a view from the other direction.

Then I stitched a grid. This grid worked to attach the ground layer of flowers to one another...forming a fairly solid piece of floral fabric.

(Above: Stitching a grid over the first layer of flowers. Click on any image to enlarge.)

After stitching the grid, I switched to free motion embroidery....stitching little circles in the center of the assorted flowers directly on top of the grid....covering the entire surface.

(Above: Free motion stitching assorted flowers on top of the grid of flowers. Just a little spiral in the center....clip the thread....go on to the next flower....covering the entire surface. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above and below: The reverse after all the flowers were free motion attached to the garment. Notice the circular shapes. The flowers will protrude on the front. The grid will hold the first layer of flowers together as a "ground" underneath. The "interface" looking "white" material is the adhesive coated, water soluble stabilizer. It dissolves and rinses away when exposed to a lot of water with agitation. Click on images to enlarge.)

I attached flowers all over both sides...then stitched the two sides together at the shoulder. I left both sides open. Then, I dissolved the stabilizer. It took lots and lots of water....more than one rinsing....lots of agitation.....and finally everything was melted away. Thus, the dresses are entirely made of recycled artificial cemetery flowers and thread. Nothing more. Totally washable. Very wearable. Perfect for spring. Photos with the models are coming!

(Above: The reverse of one side of the dress before being dissolved....notice the grid that holds the foundation flowers together and the little free-motion spirals that attach the blossoms. Click on image to enlarge.)

I hope this event goes well. I'm excited!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Catching up....Part Six: FIBERS!

(Above: Artist, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt. 12" x 16". Crayon on silk grave rubbing collaged with vintage linens and recycled material. Hand and free motion embroidered. Click on image to enlarge.)

Anyone reading on a fairly regular basis will see all these blog posts today and think, "Isn't she stitching?" Well....YES! Of course I'm stitching! I stitch every day...no matter what....on the plane to and from California and England, every evening before bed even when traveling, and also while Steve drove the big rental truck to Charleston to pick up the oil paintings rescued from the River Course Clubhouse fire!

(Above: Artist, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

During the past two weeks I finished these two pieces in my Grave Rubbing Art Quilt Series. One is a special gift to my mentor Stephen Chesley....who helped Steve and I install and dismantle my recent solo show at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, who talks about art concepts and ideas with me nearly every day, who continually supports me (even listens when I'm whining and feeling sorry for myself), and who painted an oil for me on my birthday last summer....which totally blew me away! It was high time for me to create something unique for him.

(Above: Artist, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

I knew exactly where to find the one, special word for this gift. It came from a local artist's grave in Elmwood Cemetery. I took this piece with me to San Francisco.....where, in the historic cemetery in Napa, I found "wise mentor". If I hadn't already started...and nearly finished...I would have put "wise mentor" on the front. It had to be part of this piece. So, it went perfectly on the back with my free motioned inscription. Stephen loves it!

(Above: Artist, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt, reverse. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: In God's Care, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt. 27" x 26". Crayon on silk collage with vintage linens and recycled felt "batting". Vintage crochet covered buttons. Hand and free motion machine embroidery. Click on image to enlarge.)

I also finished In God's Care. The vintage linens and the running stitches were worked to the point where the individual pieces became too integrated. I'd managed to stitch it so heavily that I lost the contract between the large, circular doily and the small table covering on which I'd placed it. In my studio I considered several solutions but selected additional free motion embroidery....using button hole thread to bring out the outline of the doily. I'd never used such a heavy thread for free motion stitching....but I might do it again! It worked like a charm!

(Above and below: In God's Care, detail. Click on images to enlarge.)

(Below: In God's Care, reverse. Click on image to enlarge. I'm very pleased with the reverse of this art quilt. The recycled black felt gives great contrast for the delicate withdrawn work on the vintage tablecloth....something I lacked on the front until the button hole thread was applied!

I don't remember if I mentioned that I got a piece into the national juried show in La Grange, GA. It's the 26th biennial. Juror J. Richard Gruber, PhD, selected only 24 pieces for the decorative arts exhibition. Our Darling Sons, one of my Grave Rubbing Art Quilts, received a merit award! No money this time....but there's a catalog being produced that will include the image of the art quilt! I'm thrilled of course!

Catching up....Part Five: River Course Clubhouse Fire

(Above: The River Course Golf Clubhouse, Thursday, March 18th at approximately 2 PM. Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

Once upon a time I was a major custom picture framer. My husband Steve and I ran Mouse House, Inc., our shop, with up to fourteen people on payroll. We offered full health insurance, a retirement plan, paid vacation, and over-time. The first person clocked in at 6 AM. The last left at 6 PM. Our best hours were after dinner, 9 PM until 1 or 2 AM....except from Halloween until December 24th. During Christmas, if awake, we were working and we tried to stay awake as long as possible. Of course the pace nearly killed me after about fourteen year. At one point I stopped sleeping for six weeks before finally seeking medication. In the summer of 2001, I finally admitted to myself and the world that I wanted to be an artist "when I grew up". I was forty; we forcibly downsized the business. I got a studio and despite lack of professional training, I set off to become a fiber artist.

(Above: The former front door.)

Yet, we can't quite make a living on my artwork. I kept one client....one very important client....the kind of client that trusted me with some amazing projects, the ones I've always been most proud. About fourteen years ago Mouse House framed EVERYTHING in the very exclusive, very expensive, very posh River Course Golf Clubhouse on Kiawah Island. It was loaded with original art, antique furniture and oriental carpets, hand-painted wallpaper, the finest wine, the best Pro Shop, and everything else one can imagine to appoint the best golfing facility.

Well, on Wednesday in the early afternoon I got a call from this one, important client. Calmly, he said, "The River Course Clubhouse burnt down last night at 3 AM. I need you to rent a truck and pick up the only things saved, six mural sized oil paintings by Linda Fantuzzo and Bill McCullough." I was in shock. I was in shock the next afternoon too....seeing the building in ashes, still burning, firemen pouring water on the flames, loading the rental truck.

(Above: The "side" door used to exit the building to the golf course. The Pro Shop was once just inside on the right.)

(Above: The back of the building...still burning.)

There's something about this....spiritually....artistically....like a sign. I had looked at this place as the site of one of my greatest achievements. Now it's gone. It's high time for something new, another stellar example of accomplishment but this time it'll be my own art, not just framing someone else's work!

(Above: The back of the building.)

In the meantime, my foyer looks like this (below). We've deodorized the moulding and the stretcher bars on the back. The smell of smoke is all but gone. (Steve also painted the Mouse House bathroom this weekend.....the lingering scent of smoke, deodorizing solution, and paint created a brand new, original aroma!)

Catching up....Part Four: Thank you Dawn!

(Above: City Gallery at Waterfront Park, front of building at night.)

Even while traveling, I'm stitching. A grave rubbing quilt went with me to San Francisco and to England. I'm also trying to keep up with my email correspondence for the Decision Portrait Series. I recently asked Dawn Goldsmith to post something about my need for "models" on her impressive blog, Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles.....and SHE DID! The post is HERE! I am humbly grateful to Dawn....and to all those who have responded....which has been many! Of course, I'm still needing more "models"....people willing to share a decision!

(Front of building during the day.)

All the work will be on display in a solo exhibition at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Charleston, SC from Sept. 10 - Oct. 10, 2010. These are a few image of the gallery I found on-line. It's a HUGE space!

The space spreads over two floors with walkways from one side of the building to the next.

I'm planning on an installation of chiffon banners....hanging down between the two central, second floor walkways....on which I'll free motion stitch hundreds of questions. The questions will be about decisions, like "Should I wear the red dress or the blue suit?" and "Am I too drunk to drive?" and "Should I donate blood today?" and "Is Botox right for me?" and "Eeny, meany, miney moe....the republican woman or the democratic man?" and "What should I say to my neighbor now that she's on food stamps?"

I'm hoping to have at least 90 finished Decision Portraits as well as my doors and keys sculptural unit and hopefully a wall of just old, tagged keys....like "The Key to Knowledge" and "The Key to Happiness", etc. This is going to be a lot of work. With a space like this! It'll be worth all the effort, panic, and stress!

Catching up....Part Three: Nottingham

Mathias and Laura-Jane go to work....just like "normal" people. It still seems strange for me, however, to think of "ballet" as "work"....but that's exactly what it is. They get up and go to work! While I'm there visiting, I plan things to do while they're "working". This trip I met up with Guzzisue and Julie in Nottingham. Julie met me at the train station and we walked around the town.....

...past England's oldest pub, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (all photos in this post can be clicked on for enlargement)....

....past the castle and it's Robin Hood sculpture

...and past Anish Kapoor's Sky Mirror.

Sky Mirror is impressive from every conceivable angle! The reflections on the "inside" of the convex/concave shape appear upside down. It's 5.75 x 5.75 x 1.08 meters of stainless steel and was constructed in 2000.

From this side, the "outside" the reflections aren't upside down. Julie and I snapped photos of ourselves looking into the shiny surface.

Unfortunately, these are the only photos we took with one another. The rest of the day was spent in constant chatter about art, fibers and stitch which continued, non-stop through our lunch with Guzzisue. Then....Julie KNOWS WHAT I LIKE.....cemeteries!

Nottingham has two of the nicest, historic cemeteries I've ever seen. It really was like stepping into heaven. They were so large and so full of epitaphs and photo-ops that I came back the next day, alone, to "work" myself.

I guess most people wouldn't consider going to a cemetery to make grave rubbings and collect epitaphs and photographs to be "work"....but, I'm working as a professional fiber artist....so that's exactly what it is. Like ballet, my "work" is different. It is also WONDERFUL. I love every minute....and Nottingham was especially enjoyable.

I've never before seen an angel sculpture with butterfly wings.....

....and I even found the grave of the Sheriff of Nottingham....wrong century for legend, but still pretty cool!

Catching up....Part Two: Birmingham, England

The day after returning from San Francisco I flew to Birmingham, England to see my elder son Mathias and his girlfriend Laura-Jane.....dancing! On Wednesday night I saw the Birmingham Royal Ballet's 20th anniversary gala. Prince Charles saw it too! Later, I saw two different casts perform The Sleeping Beauty.....one included Mathias dancing the principal role "Bluebird" and Laura-Jane dancing the soloist role "Fairy of Song". They were tremendous. Because there are about six casts in order to rotate people during the month of shows held all over England, I also got to see the two dance several other parts. Laura-Jane was Little Red Riding Hood (Too cute for words!) and Mathias danced in a waltz and garland dance. They both dance other parts too.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet website recently posted a rehearsal video....one long "take"...of Ambra Vallo and Mathias Dingman's adagio from the Bluebird Pas de deax. It is HERE! It is wonderful! (That's them above!)

On Sunday night Mathias fixed us a steak dinner....but he forgot to take any photos in costume! He's promised them later. What else did I do in England....well, I went to the historic cemeteries in Birmingham....of course! I also visited with two bloggers in Nottingham, but that's for the next post, Catching up....Part Three!

Catching up....Part One: California

Frequently I'm behind on my blog. I've got good excuses this time! First, Steve and I went to San Francisco and Napa Valley. Second, I went for a week to Birmingham and Nottingham in England. Third, I came home to the inevitable pile of work that waited for my return....plus....had to pick up gigantic paintings salvaged from the River Course Golf Clubhouse fire on Kiawah Island. It's been quite a time! (All images can be clicked on for enlargement!)

So....San Francisco! We love this city! The mix of architecture is wonderful. The arts and cultural opportunities are tremendous. We took in San Francisco Ballet's triple bill after a fancy dinner at Indigo on Thursday evening....after shopping in the Ferry Terminal market.

We just don't have anything like this in Columbia....or in South Carolina for that matter!

We have mushrooms.....but not all these....and certainly not packaged so attractively!

If we have these....I don't know about them; but, I also don't really know what they are....they seemed to be for eating though and PRETTY!

Sure....we have pasta, even "fancy" pasta....but not in these colors, patterns, and packaging!

We even have a farmer's market on some Saturdays....and a few organic vendors....but not a well established, second generation, permanent store in a high traffic area! It all seemed a little overwhelmingly wonderful.

Another thing we noticed was the proliferation of signs for other organic items....especially t-shirts.

Praise the Lord....it's Praise the Lard! This was undoubtedly my favorite t-shirt design seen over the long weekend. (No, I resisted a purchase but almost regret doing so.)

One of the great things we noticed was that recycling efforts are the norm....and colorfully everywhere.

We made this trip so that I could revisit Colma, City of the Dead. Colma is the suburban town on the public transportation line just outside San Francisco. After the earthquake in 1906, San Francisco banned future burial within city limits and were physically relocating almost all the early graveyards to Colma by the 20s and 30s. Three-quarters of Colma's land is divided between seventeen cemeteries and a Pet Cemetery. Steve and I visited last May. (I blogged about it here....with dozens of photos!) Yet, one day wasn't enough. We had to go back. I came prepared with silk, crayons, a notebook, and camera and spent all day Friday making grave rubbings, collecting epitaphs, and snapping images of angel sculptures. I was fantastically productive.

On Saturday we rented a car and drove to Napa Valley. Our hotel included free wine tastings in five vineyards....we made it to three. Above is Black Stallion Vineyard, a small boutique winery with great tastes in buildings and art.....and, of course, WINE!

This is Steve enjoying our tasting at Black Stallion.

This is Steve enjoying our tasting at V. Sattui.

This is Steve after enjoying our tasting at Rutherford Grove....where we bought handmade soap.

This is Steve enjoying more wine....at Conn Creek....which wasn't on our free package deal but where we bought a case of wine and had it shipped home! Thankfully, all the vineyards close around 4 - 4:30. We were quite loopy by that time.

On Sunday we went on the Napa Wine Train. We thought this might be a bit touristy....even tacky....but far from it! It was great and able to cater to EVERYONE! One could simply ride the train, have a three-course lunch on the train with or without the additional wine selections, have several wine tastings in the tasting car, visit one of two vineyards, and even enjoy a vegetarian selection. The staff came from all over the world. The nice girl above hailed from Russia. Our waiter came from Bulgaria....yes, we had the lunch!

This is Steve at our table. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the food....and it really was picture-worthy!

After we ate, various staff members immediately fixed the car up for the later lunch ride.

We were escorted down the train....past the on-board kitchen....

...past windows to the vineyard filled vistas...

....to the dessert car.

This is Steve in the dessert car....

...where I remembered to snap a photo of both our desserts!

The view was tremendous. The weather was perfect. The wine was....from Napa Valley, of course....and EXCELLENT!

I even shot a video. It is posted HERE on my video blog.

Mustard plants were blooming everywhere. They grow them in order to rejuvenate the soil.

Our train ride included a tour of Domaine Chandon, the champagne vineyard. Two of the train staff accompanied a group off the train and during the walk through the facilities....

...and to the tasting! We learned a lot....and enjoyed it immensely!

Cheers....with bubbly!

By the way, they recycle in Napa too....with a twist!

Before heading back to the airport, we visited the historical cemetery in Napa too. Of course we did! I love this series! There's a cemetery everywhere we go. Steve loves the series too....there's a legitimate, partial tax deduction everywhere we go!