Tuesday, November 15, 2011
(Above: Muses Series, True to Life. Click on image to enlarge.)
Several years ago Steve and I bought an old book ... a really old book! It was published in 1655. The title is TABLEAVX DV TEMPLE DES MVSES, (Tirez Dv Cabinet De Fev Mr. Favereav). We still have the title page. The book had been rebound at least once ... and the existing binding was broken. Some of the engravings and pages were missing. We took the book apart, framed and sold the engravings (personally keeping two ... hanging in our living room), and were about to throw out the pages. I just couldn't do it. To touch these pages was like "touching history". I kept them ... and now I've finally used all 88 pieces for art. (This antique book can be seen in its entirety on line ... just click HERE.)
(Above: Muses Series, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. Click on image to enlarge.)
First I fused a canvas-like upholstery fabric to the back of every page. I used Fusion 4000, an acid-free mounting product from the framing industry. It works using heat and pressure in a professional dry-mount machine. The bolt of fabric came from Bill Mishoes' auction, my favorite place for used household "stuff". My studio assistant carefully cut the excess fusion and fabric away from the edges of the pages. Now ... I could both hand stitch and free motion embroider on the paper.
(Above: Muses Series, Any Minute Now. Click on image to enlarge.)
Before stitching, however, I used ink and watercolor on each page. The marks were done using Zen-like gestures, each color reacting to what came before it. This is how I painted The Book of the Dead. I found that the brown "wing-like"/abstracted willow tree/gateway symbol is something that flows almost from my unconscious. I started with this, then added the other washes of color and luminous gold "moon" orbs.
(Above: Muses Series, The Time of Your Life. Click on image to enlarge.)
I drew my hand on a piece of paper, cut it out, and used it like a stencil on all 88 pages. I free motion stitched the "hand print" using a beautiful, variegate purple thread .... Oliver Twist ... a special purchase from the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in 2006. Then I started stitching by hand using mostly pearl cottons in running stitch. As I finished a few, I began collaging random adages (especially about "time") onto each page. I also collaged bits and pieces of ticket stubs from family trips in 1974 (Kenya, the UK, and Austria) along with 19th century cancelled stamps, words from letters written before I was born, and other assorted ephemera ... then I started free motion machining, especially around each vintage clipped letter. Finally, I added beads and a button from the now vacant laundry department of the South Carolina State Mental Hospital.
(Above: Twenty-five framed "Muses Series" pieces and two piles of them shrink-wrapped! You can see the "label" on the back of two of the framed pieces ... a photocopy of the original book's title page with a block that includes my name, title, inventory number, pricing, etc. Click on image to enlarge.)
At one point, I had stacks of these pages all over both the house and studio ... in various stages of completion! Finally, I started mounting and matting them. Because of the buttons and beads, I decided that each mat needed "fillet", a wooden insert at the mat window opening. (Thankfully, this champagne colored fillet has been discontinued and was at a ridiculously low price ... since I needed nearly 400 feet!) The fillet simply "raises" the mat above these embellishments. It took several days ... but (except for a few stragglers because I ran out of mat board!) ... THEY ARE FINISHED and ready to be shown at S&S Art Supplies next month. Steve selected twenty-five for framing. (I like them all and just couldn't pick! The ones pictured in this blog post were randomly selected too!)
Okay ... I admit it. Twenty-five of them don't have any hand stitching or collage work! I did not photograph them ... just mounted and matted them as they were ... color and stitched hand print. I call these Touching History I - XXV. Some of the others have been photographed. I'm not about to upload them all here ... but I did post them on my "Strata" blog ... a place where I "bury" things in the layers and tiers of my personal planet! There are approximately 55 of them HERE!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 12:50 PM