Sunday, September 18, 2011

Coming up for air!

It's been two weeks since my last post ... which is a rather long time for me to neglect my blog. Please don't think, however, that I've been neglecting my art! I've actually been quite busy! Of course, there was a pile of custom picture framing and other "work" waiting from my attention after the month of August in Hot Springs National Park as the "artist-in-residence". That ate up a lot of my time. Then ... I had a few special projects to tackle ... washing and sorting all the buttons collected from the alteration/laundry facility in the former State Mental Hospital ...

These thousands of buttons were scattered all over the dirty floor.

Why was it dirty? Well, the buildings haven't been occupied for decades.

Chipped paint from the ceiling, inches of dust, and general dirt was literally scooped up by hand and broom.

(Photo by Fred Delk, Executive Director of the Columbia Development Corporation, who helped arrange for me to visit this unique, otherwise "off limits", historic site and collect socks, buttons, and other materials for my use in art!)

I was given permission to collect them for my art. I plan to use them for an installation at S&S Art Supplies December. It was high time to wash them ... and the water turned BLACK ... but the results were worth it. I sorted them into two groups: white and multicolored.

Buttons weren't the only things in need of washing. I had artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters to dissect, wash, dry, and package!

Here's the spare bathroom tub ... the rinsing station for the flowers. (I hand wash by the sinkful!)

After draining the water from the tub, I spread old towels on the floor where the flowers can dry.

All these cemetery flowers joined the bags I'd already collected over a year ago. These are the "previously collected flowers" in two JUMBO "space bags" ... the kind from which a vacuum cleaner or shop-vac sucks all the air. We'd never used them before.

... but they sure work! That's Steve (above) with the same two jumbo bags of artificial flowers. (We used our Shop-vac in the framing garage!)

Those two bags then fit into the old box for our miter saw!

The box joined six others filled with a total of 175 pounds worth of artwork now on the way to Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona! My solo show "Famous Last Words" opens on October 7th. The reception is on October 21st ... and I'm very excited to by flying out for this exciting part of the annual Dia de los Muertos celebration.

(Above: Killed Instantly, 24 1/2" x 24". Running stitch in wool. Vintage doily with embroidered poppies and vintage lace and linens on severely light damaged material salvaged from an old office window. Grave rubbings made with crayon on silk with words: Born 1817. Killed instantly in front of Petersburg, Va. June 22, 1864. Brave Christian Solider Fare Thee Well. For more about this piece with images that can be enlarged, click HERE.)

One of the art quilts, Killed Instantly, was on Vision Gallery's curated list. It will be sent directly from the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum in Athens, Tennessee where it just won Best of Show for art quilts in The 29th Annual National Hertiage Quilt Show with the theme: "Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow: The Civil War"! I wish I could have gone; I love these sorts of historic museums.

In addition to "washing" my raw materials and shipping artwork, I've also been enrolled in a book art class at City Art. The first week we learned several types of Japanese stab bindings. Our homework was to create two, coordinating books using these stitched bindings. I decided to make three ... partly to use all three bindings taught ... but also because I really messed up and had to redo pages from one of the books ... which eliminated the planned "coordination".

The small book now has cemetery angel photos stitched with antique bookend paper that coordinates with the more colorful book. The cover was made from leftover Thai Stucco paper, the "third layer" of all my Decision Portraits. (All photos can be enlarge.)

The "more colorful" cover was made from the title page of an antique book with a collage of bookend paper and an antique engraving. The paper was really was too brittle for this purpose (hence some of my initial problems). I ended up taking the entire book apart ... ruining the original pages (they were salvaged for another use!). I glued antique red brocade fabric to the inside of the covers and finally managed a "fern stitch" binding ...

...with a second batch of pages. These "new pages" used some of the Thai Stucco paper with angel images ... hence "coordination".

Finally, the third book is filled with larger (6" x 4") photos of cemetery angels. It has a Thai Stucco paper cover ... and just doesn't coordinate with any of the red tones or bookend paper. Oh well!

It does, however, show the tortoise shell binding ... which was totally new to me!

During the second class we learned COPTIC BINDING! (There are four more classes ... but this is what I really, really wanted to learn ... and I LOVE IT as much as I hoped I would!)

There was absolutely no way for me to "read" instructions for Coptic binding and figure it out. Yet, once shown the steps, it is rather easy. For homework, we were told to "make a book using the Coptic binding".

I am NOT considering this "homework" to be a "class project" and it certainly isn't a "kit". I took apart two early, mixed media pieces on 5" x 7" masonite panels. Holes were drilled, folios torn and folded into signatures, thread was waxed, and He Said, She Said was created.

My original titles for these two works were: He played and She Listened. Obviously, the poses are very suggestive. Although I'd never before created an intentionally provocative piece, this is what the images suggest ... and I had a blast putting all my vintage clipped letters together into a sexually charged piece.

Above it the title page.

Above is one spread ... using the original titles. To see/read the entire book, please visit the video that includes Ravel's Bolero. It is HERE. Who knows what the homework for week three will be!


lynda Howells said...

I love buttons...oh bliss........ What wonderful projects you are involved in. Good luck with them all and have funxxxlynda

Els said...

Ha! Susan : a bit like Cinderella sorting through these heaps of buttons!!!!
I really giggled when I saw your bathroom floor.... (Artificial flowers is unknown here on cemeteries)
It must be a wonderful feeling to have a solo exhibition!!!
And your books are lovely: lots of work done!

EmandaJ said...

Glad you're back -- I always love to know what you are up to in your fiber/book/quilt art. Best wishes for your solo show! And congratulations on your best in show quilt!


Lynn said...

button button who has the button...what an opportunity to get to go and take all those things from the mental hospital.
Know this will be ONE MORE WONDERFUL show of your WONDERFUL ART!!! And will be so appreciated by all who are lucky enough to see it.
All those flowers totally overwhelm me.
Will you be in the tub full again?

correspondent said...


You have made beautiful art out of nontraditional means. We're glad to hear Space Bag was able to help be part of your project by condensing the artificial flowers into a manageable size. Just wanted to let you know Space Bag has an online community called Space Savers where we invite customers to share their Space Bag story with others. We'd love for you to visit and submit your story. Thank you for choosing Space Bag to help with this project and congratulations on your exhibition!

Best wishes,
Space Savers Correspondent

Yvonne said...

We received the boxes and I can't wait to open them. It is going to be a fabulous exhibit and we are very happy you will be joining us for the reception.

Elizabeth said...

So much to see!! My mind is awhirl- I feel overwhelmed by the volume of your phenomenal work!! Killed Instantly is amazing!! the red poppies give it such pop and impact!!!

Your books are wonderful - that Thai stucco paper looks very tough- almost like our tar paper but with such luscious texture!!!

I showed my husband your button gathering exploits and the washing of the silk flowers and he looked at me with his eyes saying - "don't get any bright ideas!!" As I look around the house and see remnants of my art projects all over the place!!!! Actually if I was really determined he would support me but....... LOL!!!

Elizabeth said...

I would have been right there with you gathering those socks and buttons!!! What a find and such treasures!!

Wanda said...

Wow! What a great opportunity, to be able to go into an abandon building and dig around! I love the book, it's beautiful. The flowers in the tub are awesome. Steve looks great, by the way! And so did you on the floor! ha ha This post was awesome. So much going on ....

Wanda said...

I forgot to say that it's extra exciting for me to know that you will be at the opening in Chandler. I was there! I know what the place looks like so I can better imagine it! Very exciting stuff going on, Sue!


WOW! I'm coming up for air just reading this and looking at the photos! I want to go and dig in that old building! How awesome (did you miss me??). Love the SPACEBAGS...I never leave home without them (and you know vanity bag is probably bigger than yours and Steve's entire suitcase on any trip!!) The buttons....all I can think of is WHERE are you storing them? How are you sorting them? and what, oh what will you do with them?? Can't wait to see!!!


Any ghosts in that old building? Or do you just get them up here in PA??