Thursday, April 28, 2011

Arts WACH: Artista Vista artists unveiled...including my installation

Arts WACH: Artista Vista artists unveiled: "Artista Vista celebrates 20 years and William Starrett takes a look at some of the people involved in the kick off as well as someone who was there at the very start."

The above link is what appeared on television today....including my "I do / I don't" installation and The Wall of Keys!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I do / I don't, Installation Book!

(Pages from I do / I don't, an installation book. Click on image to enlarge.)

Bloggers, art lovers, family, and friends contributed "statements" about both MARRIAGE and DIVORCE. I stitched them on the wedding veils. I added them to photographs that are now in the installation (scroll down!) ... but I also used most of them to create this unique, artist book. The entire volume (to which I plan on adding!) can be seen as a Flickr Set or a slideshow! Click the links to visit! The installation is now complete and ready for visitors during Artista Vista 2011, opening this Thursday, April 28 from 5 - 9 with continued hours on Friday from 11 - 6 and Saturday from 11 - 7.

Monday, April 25, 2011

I do / I don't, Installing the work

(I do / I don't, installation at 927-929 Gervais Street for Artista Vista 2011, Thursday, April 28 from 5 - 9; Friday, April 29 from 11 - 6; Saturday, April 30 from 11 - 7. There are lots more photos further down in this post. More information about the installation project is HERE!)

Last Friday was installation day for I do / I don't. It was quite exciting, especially since Wach Fox's "Arts Watch" program was filming for an episode that should be aired this coming Thursday!

My husband Steve helped me get a 12' step ladder to the site. I arranged all the veils and the ribbons on the floor ... roughly under where I planned to hang each one ... on single staples to the ceiling. The work went quickly.

On the shelves in front of the inset mirrors, I placed photos ... some framed and some just mounted on foam-centered board.

Each one included one of the quotations about marriage and/or divorce contributed by various people (friends, blog readers, people receiving my "newsletter" ... just sign up on my website's Home Page!)

These are the same quotations that are free motion embroidered onto the suspended wedding veils.

I had plenty of these photos for the beautiful, marble topped fireplace mantel too.

In order to have just one more place for these quotations, I've also made a book. I'll be posting pictures tomorrow...and creating a Flickr set too!

The filming was done by an expert camera man. The host of the program is William Starrett, artistic director of Columbia City Ballet. (I've known him for years. My elder son Mathias' first ballet lesson was a "private" half-hour class with William.)

Clark Ellefson, one of the first artists to work in the downtown Vista area and who has spearheaded events like Artista Vista, gave one of the interviews.

Jeffrey Day, who curated the group of installation artists, gave one of the other interviews ... as did Kara Gunter, one of the other talented installation artists. My work was a great backdrop for the filming.

William even shot the opening segment while walking through the veils saying, "Stay tuned as Artista Vista is UNVEILED".

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Wall of Keys

(Above: Detail from The Wall of Keys. Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

I had planned to count all these keys while installing them but I lost track. There were too many interruptions during the five hours of nailing the keys! Honestly, I didn't think it would take quite that much time. Roughly, there are nine hundred keys.

When I started, the wall was empty and the card table was overflowing.

The nails are these really cool ones...tempered steel with a brassed, knurl-head from Ziabicki. They leave the smallest holes and are also quite attractive. (Yes ... I do have to patch and paint this wall after the show!)

(Above: The Wall of Keys. Click on image to enlarge.)

Each key has a handmade tag attached with a cord made by zigzag stitching over yards and yards of leftover yarn. There's the key to happiness, knowledge, my heart, respect, hell, a promotion, satisfaction, safe travels, the garage, failure, love, devotion, and world peace. There's a key for glory, amusement, animal magnetism, honesty, envy, her lips, and wisdom. It was lots and lots of fun to think up all the attributes, characteristics, and fantasy possessions that one might be looking for in life.

The installation is part of the show at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios for the annual Artista Vista spring "art crawl" here in Columbia. The rest of the exhibit includes work by the other twelve artists, plus me, ... all of whom have a studio in this location. The opening is Friday, April 28 from 5 - 9. Artista Vista continues on Friday and Saturday. Click here to access the event's website. I am also part of "Install It", a group of installations. My "I do / I don't" work is currently under construction ... photos coming! My LOOKING FOR A MATE, public sock art quilt is being presented to a delegation from the Mayor's Office on Friday at 11 AM. Quite a busy week ahead!

(Above: The Wall of Keys as seen from the side. Click on image to enlarge.)

I have a small sign/statement that is now posted on the metal beam to the left of the wall. It reads:

The Wall of Keys

Individually, each key might be regarded as a simple trinket. Collectively, the Wall of Keys confronts viewers with countless human desires for real and imagined locations in life. One cannot help but to wonder which characteristic, quality, condition or special place is most sought. Which one key is most important in your personal journey?

Susan Lenz
Individual Keys $15

A single key could open a door; a wall of keys might open the universe.

Yes ... I accept Visa/MC and can mail them (for just a few dollars more)! So ... if you want one (or more!), you can make a selection by using the really, really BIG photos below. They show the wall in four sections, from left to right, and are large enough to really zoom in on the tags. Call my husband Steve or me at Mouse House, (803) 254-0842, or send me an email at

(Above: Section One. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Section Two. Click on image above.)

(Above: Section Three. Click on image above.)

(Above: Section Four. Click on image above.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Handed Down and a busy weekend!

(Above: Handed Down, an art quilt. Vintage gloves, paisley wool, and card table sized cutwork tablecloth. Completely hand stitched. Click on image to enlarge.)

Although a rain storm and even threats of tornadoes tried to ruin the weekend, it was a wonderful time! I finished an entirely hand stitched art quilt, Handed Down, went to the Runaway Runway 2011 rehearsal at the Township Auditorium, and volunteered at the "Sewing Tent" during Crafty Feast. The Florestine Collection film premiered and there was a tea-party at the nearby cemetery on Sunday afternoon.

(Above: The Sewing Tent at Crafty Feast 2011. Click on image to enlarge.)

First ... the SEWING TENT! The partnership between the Crafty Feast, an "indie" street fair, and the Indie Grits Film Festival included a space for volunteers to introduce hand stitching to the public while publicizing the premier of Helen Hill's film, The Florestine Collection.

(Above: One of Helen Hill's college day friends, Ariana Anthony, who bussed down from NYC for the premier of The Florestine Collection. She is pictured checking out several of the dresses on display in the sewing tent ... and she's wearing one too! Click on image to enlarge.)

Various people donated materials and supplies ... including a great stash of vintage scraps from my neighbor Gita (Thanks!) and over two dozen vintage aprons I acquired at Bill Mishoe's auctions. There were even a few used pieces of clothing in the mix.

(Above: Jillian Owens wearing an altered dress she created in the Sewing Tent. Click on any image to enlarge. Below: Renee Rouillier, a nationally known ceramist, stitching in the sewing tent. She made and wore away a felt flower pin!)

The public was invited to take anything they wanted! The volunteers, like me, taught people how to stitch. Lots of boys and men actually learned to sew on a button! It was great fun.

(Above and below: Two of the men stitching in the sewing tent! Plus, above, Ansley Green who organized the project. Click on images to enlarge.)

All during this time, we also distributed hand-outs about the premier of the Florestine Collection that night. This 31 minute film focused on a collection of over 100 handmade dresses salvaged one Mardi Gras weekend from a rubbish pile by Helen Hill. They had been hand stitched by an elderly woman, Florestine Kinchen, who had recently passed away. Hurricane Katrina nearly ruined these dresses again ... and the in-progress film. Helen continued to work on the project. She moved back to New Orleans with her husband and toddler a year later and was untimely murdered by a home invader. Her husband had to finish the project. (I have created a Flickr set with all my photos ... including the McKissick Museum exhibit in 2008; the sewing tent; the film premier; and the cemetery tea party. Click here to access.)

(Above, left to right: Betsy Newman, another friend, Heather Spires (Director of Development at Nickelodeon Theatre), Becky Lewis (Helen Hill's mother), and me ... all wearing dresses from the Florestine Collection to the premier of the film. Click on image to enlarge.)

It was my honor to help iron and repair some of the dresses about a week ago. It was also my honor to wear one to the film's premier last Saturday night and attend a tea-party beside Helen's grave the next afternoon.

I really hope that the film, the dresses, the legacy of a brilliant film maker who saw beauty in handmade stitches finds many locations for exhibition and eventually a permanent institution to care for them.

(Above: The Runaway Runway rehearse ... in the backstage section known as "the holding area".)

So ... during the middle of sewing in the tent, I had to dash off to the Runaway Runway rehearsal. The place is ENORMOUS! The runway will be built from the stage ... straight down the middle of the "orchestra" seating area. The chairs will be arranged to face the runway. Spot lights will follow each of the 63 models as they strut their stuff.

(Above: On the stage with the auditorium beyond.)

It is all very exciting ... and more than a little scary! This fashion show of recycled garments is on Friday, April 29th. More photos to come. My entries make up a recycled bridal party: flower girl, bridesmaid, maid of honor, and a bride.

(Above: Handed Down, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

Finally ... at long last I completed all the stitching on Handed Down (first photo on this post!) It has taken weeks and weeks. It also was nearly ruined at one point due to "something" greasy making an unbelievable stain. I tried to "spot clean" that area. That effort made matter much, much worse ... creating water stains. After finishing all the running stitches on the vintage table covering, I removed the red gloves and washed the work-in-progress SEVEN TIMES .... using Vasoline (as it "takes a grease" to "get a grease") ... plenty of soap and cold water ... until the stain was diminished to an acceptable point.

(Above: Handed Down, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

Fortunately, nothing about this art quilt is "new" or "perfect" or "without some noticeable flaw/discoloration". This is one of the challenges and beauties about working with 100% used materials.

(Above: Handed Down, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

The gloves, which were mostly purchased at Bill Mishoe's auction ... except for a few from my neighbor Gita, are stitched with family names going back nine generations. My mother was my "studio assistant" for this! She's the keeper of our family genealogy! Originally, I was going to include a list of words like "Handed Down; Generation to Generation; Family Tradition; Mothers to Daughters", etc. on the red gloves. I decided not to do this. These words are on some of the gloves instead. I even couched my name and date on one of the gloves at the bottom.

(Above: Handed Down, reverse. Click on image to enlarge.)

The reverse is a piece of inexpensive, machine-made lace. It is vintage ... and stained ... but allows a "peek" to the used automotive upholstery felt that was used as "batting". I'm really pleased with this piece ... and relieved that it was able to be cleaned after the greasy mishap.

One more thing! Becky and Kevin Lewis hosted a catered tea party on Sunday afternoon in Elmwood cemetery beside their daughter's grave. It was a rare privilege to attend what seemed like an old-fashioned custom from the 1930s.

Quilts were spread on the lawn. Fresh daisies were placed by the porcelain picture on Helen's grave. Mismatched tea sets added a distinctly sweet character.

The entire idea was beautiful ... a perfect way to remember a loved one with friends. Best of all, there were sugar cookies shaped exactly like Helen's drawing of a Florestine dress ... with icing and sprinkles to create a unique, handmade piece of art, just like the real garments.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Postcard Show: Wish You Were Here

(Above: Memory, a postcard. 4" x 6". Crayon on silk grave rubbings. Hand and free motion machine embroidery. Click on image to enlarge.)

The first fiber postcards I ever made were for an international show that I mounted here in Columbia. It was called CYBER FYBER and it took place in January 2009. I made and traded over 400 fiber postcards and ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) ... and I haven't made a single one since then ... until I read about The Postcard Show: Wish You Were Here.

Skirt Magazine in Charleston, SC is hosting this exhibit and one-night sale of postcards to benefit their scholarship fund for the College of Charleston. I made the postcard above, submitted it for consideration, and was just accepted. The coolest thing about the show is that each postcard will cost $75 but the artist's name will only appear on the reverse side ... which will not be seen during the event. Thus, many of Charleston's "big name" artists will have work available in this small format but buyers not be able to know exactly which piece was done by which artist. Of course, I'm not a household name in Charleston's art scene and I doubt whether many people in the city read my blog ... so ... no harm showing which one is mine!

The event is on Wednesday, May 11th from 6 - 8 with a $10 admission fee. I'm planning on attending.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Finishing things up and preparing for two big weekends

(Above: Eleven vintage and used wedding veils covered in free motion machine embroidered, collected public statements about marriage and divorce ... hanging in my studio ... waiting for my I Do / I Don't installation, April 29 - 30th, 927-929 Gervais Street. Click on image to enlarge.)

Springtime in Columbia is BUSY! I'm busy! I haven't blogged in the last week but the extra time is keeping in on-schedule for two big, artistic weekends.

(Above, left to right: Heidi Darr-Hope; Eileen Blyth, Laura Spong, Candy Waites, Kirkland Smith, former first lady Rachel Hodges and her friend, and Ellen Yaghjian. Click on image to enlarge.)

So first ... let me share an amazing evening I spent among many talented, ambitious, and wonderful women. The Southeastern Institute for Women in Politics hosted the "2011 Leading Women Dinner Reception and Art Sale" on April 1st. I had two pieces in in the sale hanging on the fantastically distressed walls at 701 Whaley Street. All the artists shared a table and were joined by former first lady Rachel Hodges and her friend.

We listened to Valerie Biden Owens (above) engaging keynote address on leadership. It was sprinkled with the perfect amount of family anecdotes, historical facts, and educational ideas for empowering women in the political field. She was followed by our first female (Republican) governor, Nikki Haley (below), in an equally charming speech. This was a great bi-partisan evening supporting women! What could be better?

During the past week I finished tagging every key in my possession! These tagged keys will be hung on one, large wall at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios for the annual spring art crawl, Artista Vista. The opening reception is the same evening as my installation "I Do / I Don't" opens up the street. My husband Steve will be manning my studio and talking about/selling (hopefully!) the keys. (They're $15 each, by the way!)

(Above: Detail of tagged keys waiting to be installed as The Wall of Keys. Below: All the tagged keys ... inside a bag that can no longer hold the weight ... which is now inside a box! Click on images to enlarge.)

I have the following statement that will be placed near the keys:

Individually, each key might be regarded as a simple trinket. Collectively, The Wall of Keys confronts viewers with countless human desires for real and imagined locations in life. One cannot help but to wonder which characteristic, quality, condition or special place is most sought. Which one key is most important in your personal journey?

Since I finished all four recycled bridal garments for Runaway Runway last week, I've been hard at work on the "I Do / I Don't" installation of suspended, embroidered wedding veils. By Sunday evening, this too was complete!

There's no easy way to photograph these wedding veils as they're hanging in my studio waiting for "installation day". So, above is a simple view from my doorway.

Here's a closer look at the eleven veils ... all different ... all used ... all covered in free motion machine embroidered, collected public statements about both marriage and divorce.

Some are fancy; some are plain. Some are white; some are ivory. Some are long; some are short. What I now like most about them ... THEY ARE DONE! (All images can be enlarged.)

(Above: View from the floor to the ceiling through the wedding veils.)

As important as the weekend of April 28 - 30th is, it is not the only "big weekend" for me in April. The weekend of April 16th and 17th is also very, very special. It's the Indie Grits Film Festival and the Crafty Feast Fair (a funky, independent, heavily tied to the DIY movement sort of street fair of vendors). I've never been involved before but am humbly honored to help keep Helen Hill's vision alive and well. Helen Hill was a film maker. She was murdered in her New Orleans home after Hurricane Katrina. She was in the process of making a film about the dresses she found discarded by the roadside ... over 100 handmade garments made by the then recently deceased Florestine Kinchen. Helen's vision kept alive the legacy and memory of this humble, black lady who made all her own clothes. The dresses and Helen's film work were shown at the McKissick Museum in 2008. I blogged about it HERE.

(Above: Film makers, friends, and artists repairing Florestine's dresses ... the ones saved by Helen Hill and the subject of her last film. Click on image to enlarge.)

Helen's husband, Paul Gailiunas, finished the badly hurricane-damaged film as a loving tribute to his wife. The film is part of the Indie Grits Film Festival. This year, the film festival and the Crafty Feast have teamed up. There's going to be a sewing tent. I'm going to be one of the volunteers helping people learn to stitch while advertising Helen's film. I'm donating several dozen vintage aprons for the cause ... as something for people to embroider, add a pocket, alter, or to simply remember that some people really do MAKE THINGS WITH NEEDLE AND THREAD.

Yesterday I went to Helen's mother's house and helped repair some of the dresses in the "Florestine Collection". I'm even allowed to wear one to the film's opening after the Crafty Feast! So ... photos will be coming! The following day, Becky Lewis, Helen's mother, is hosting a tea party in the cemetery. I wouldn't miss this for the world!

Now ... one last but very important bit of news! My piece Ancestors in a Fiber Vessel was selected for the publicity and exhibition invitations for "Re-Tread Thread" at the Joan Mondale Gallery in Minneapolis' Textile Center! I'm elated! They even sent me an extra stash to mail to all my relatives/ancestors!