Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hot Springs National Park ... The Gifts of Time and Space

Things are going wonderfully here in Hot Springs National Park! Of course they are! This is the GIFT OF TIME! It is also the GIFT OF SPACE. Although I probably could work at only one project, day after day, it is fantastic to divide my attention between several on-going projects … which means that I can easily put in twelve to sixteen hours every day without ever feeling the slightest bit bored or weary of any one project. So ... that's what I'm doing!


(Above: The Book of the Dead, in progress ... under two, provided Ott lights on a "proper", titled drafting table ... obviously, "heaven"! Click on image to enlarge.)

In the front “studio room”, I am currently working on The Book of the Dead. There is no way I could easily, quickly, efficiently work on this project in Columbia. The sketchbook was a Christmas gift (2009) from my mentor Stephen Chesley. He’s filled at least two since then! I hadn’t put a single mark in mine …until now. This oversized sketchbook is from Art Alternatives and contains 348 blank sheets of paper. That’s 696 pages of 75 lb. acid free paper measuring 12 ½” x 10 ¾”. It’s GIGANTIC … and too overwhelming for me to have tackled until now.

(Above: The Book of the Dead, in progress. Click on image to enlarge.)

On and off, it took three days to fill the book with washes and splatters of ink, coffee filter stains, and watercolor gestures … in a “zen like” process of simply “marking the paper” and then responding to the mark with the next color. My fingernail are still stained with black India ink. Now, I’m using a calligraphy pen and writing my collection of epitaphs on the pages … responding to the arrangement of color and marks … as if casting the words into a physical space. I gave hundreds upon hundreds of epitaphs from all over the USA and England. I can only write for about an hour at a time before my wrist hurts. Fortunately, I don’t have to put anything away. I just leave this desk as it is … returning in a couple hours to write some more. I plan on creating a unique cover and spine when all the pages are filled.

(Above: The kitchen counter/sewing center! Please notice the cupboard is a perfect place for my notebook in which I recently jotted down epitaphs from four different Hot Springs cemeteries! There's even natural lighting!)

Now … my sewing machine had been on the dining room table. This worked for the initial stitching on my Cemetery Flag quilt (sorry … no photo) but it was too “shaky” for my next project ... epitaph banners. Thus, I’m now sewing at the kitchen counter. This works, of course, because I’m the only one here!

(Above: Stitching an epitaph ... I've already snipped the threads between various letters and words in the first line. After an epitaph is complete, I turn the banner over and clip the bobbin threads. Every other epitaph faces the opposite direction on the banner ... so it can be half read from both sides. Please notice just how sheer this chiffon is ... especially by clicking the image to enlarge.)

I saved these banners to stitch while here in Hot Springs. Why? Because each one takes about three hours from start to finish. At home, that’s almost my entire weekday in my studio. Here, however, I can get one done before lunch and then move on to another project! This is the sheerest material on which I’ve ever stitched! I love it … but unfortunately, it’s been discontinued.

(Above: The front "studio room" with the first epitaph banner folded over a coat hanger, hanging from a non-working fan in the ceiling. Click on image to enlarge.)

The banners are headed for my solo show, “Last Words”, in Rocky Mount, NC this coming January … where the ceiling is easily fourteen feet off the floor. I started using the epitaphs I collected here in Hot Springs on my very first day!

(Above: Hot Springs paper and fiber collage on vintage guest towel. Work in progress. Click on image to enlarge.)

I’m also working on my first piece directly related to Hot Springs National Park. Mimicking both the look of the Fordyce Bathhouses’ stained glass and the mosaic tiled floors in all the bathhouses, I’ve created a collage from the pamphlets and information sheets in the park with previously painted WonderUnder (Bond-a-Web) and layers of chiffon scarves. I have more plans for this … including quilting it.

Also, I spent Saturday afternoon from 1 – 5 PM stitching in the Fordyce Bathhouse (which is the National Park Headquarters and the park’s restored bathhouse museum). I designed Anonymous, a Grave Rubbing Art Quilt, for this purpose. It allows me to demonstrate handwork techniques that would have been done by women coming to the area during both the Victorian era (earlier bathhouses) and during the first part of the 20th century (later/current bathhouses). Basically, I’m crazy quilting … the Victorian rage. Yet, I’m crazy quilting snippets from actual, vintage household linens … exactly the sort of embroidery women would have done probably sitting in the same place in which I sat! What’s really great about this piece is that it is also indicative of my own, contemporary work … it includes a grave rubbing and is part of my concept of recycling and focusing on universal mortality! The grave rubbing is on a child’s slip … likely from the 1930s … and reads: This is for the memory of unknown family members. I’ll post some detail photos on another day! Now … back to work!

5 comments:

Els said...

What a wonderful piece of artwork are you working on again!!!
The machine stitching on the sheer banners: it looks to me as if you use strips of some "water soluble" fabric ....
(I've done some machine stitched writing myself on a quilt and at some point my hands were so cramped that I would have to stop "writing"... )
Good luck to you

Julie said...

I cansee from the top photo how organised you are. Now I know how you achieve so much ;-)

I took some photos of a 3D piece at the FEstival of Quilts this last week that I thought might interest you so I'll email them across. They're a little grainy sadly but not too bad.

Lynn said...

Oh how I love visiting you there and seeing all you are accomplishing. Just amazing to me.
And each project another gem in itself and all it's detail.
So love the lady looking closely to see your stitches and art coming together (and the guy in the background on his cell phone! Or maybe he's taking a photo?)
Just wonderful. We had a new baby in our family born this weekend. So I am all a flutter. ;-) Just had to share.

Wanda said...

Oh Susan...it is really a DREAM there! So awesome! You have everything you could possibly want and even company when you so desire! Your work is so beautiful. I would love to be there with you...but I guess that would be running away in my situation right now. I'm sewing though...my hideous crewel embroidery project. ha ha Looking forward to the next posting!

Anonymous said...

I tried to leave a comment elsewhere but it did not go. Thanks for sharing as usual. Will be bringing some quilt pieces I found at a yard sale. love Mom