(Above: Taking photos of contestants in the Miss Teen SC and Miss South Carolina pageant during the Friday night gala at the Columbia Convention Center. Click on image to enlarge.)
As a girl ... well ... let's just say I was an "ugly duckling". Beauty pageants weren't part of my youth. Steve and I had two boys. Scholarship pageants (as they are now called) were never a blimp on our radar screen. This isn't the case for our neighbor Jerry Finney, a prominent lawyer here in Columbia. His law firm is beside Mouse House, our home/business. Jerry's fourteen year old daughter Felicia is very active in the pageant world. That's one of the reasons why I selected her as my model for last April's Runaway Runway fashion show of recycled materials. (Click here to see a blog post from that evening!)
(Above: Elaine, Felicia, and Jerry Finney at the South Carolina Pageant Gala.)
Jerry provided Steve and me with two tickets to the Friday night gala at the Columbia Convention Center. It was an eye opening experience, an evening of beautiful girls celebrating their public service awards, a magic show, and plenty of photo-ops. Steve and I decided to attend the actual "event" the next night in Columbia's Township Auditorium.
(Above: Mrs. Finney, Retired Chief Justice Ernest Finney, and Jerry Finney.)
Unfortunately photography wasn't permitted during the competition. Steve and I were honestly surprised at how entertaining the entire evening was. Sure, all the girls are beyond beautiful but it was the quality of the programing that made it great. The emcee was wonderful and the staging was great. Before leaving, I did snap this photo of Felicia's grandparents, including her famous Grandpa ... who didn't plan to wear the same suit as Jerry! (They are a total blast!) I didn't get a photo with Nikky Finney, Jerry's sister. She attended some of the preliminary pageant evenings. We met her earlier in the week. (Nikky's fourth book of poetry, Head Off and Split, won the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry.) The entire weekend felt like we were rubbing elbows with "the elite".
(Above: To Laugh Often, in progress ... laid out on a piece of recycled black acrylic felt and basted. Click on image to enlarge.)
Yet, I wasn't just "rubbing elbows" over the past two weekends. I was also sweating buckets. A hair-brained idea took me to the local cemetery in nearly 100 degree temperatures ... armed with a big piece of silk, a black crayon, and the following Ralph Waldo Emerson quotation:
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
(Above: To Laugh Often, in progress. Click on image to enlarge.)
The lone grave rubbing I made while in Edinburgh, Scotland somehow sustained "damage" during my return trip. I never discovered what happened. Nothing was leaking or broken but an oil spot marred the silk. I spent several days further distressing it with silk paints and sewing machine oil. During the process, I had the idea to combine the fabric with another piece of silk and letters spelling out the quotation about success in life ... one grave rubbing letter at a time ... running around from tombstone to tombstone ... as if creating a clipped letter ransom note. It took nearly four hours but I LOVE THE RESULTS.
(Above: To Laugh Often, in progress. Click on image to enlarge.)
All the letters and the Scottish grave rubbing are now outlined with charcoal thread ... free motion embroidery. Pearl cotton straight stitches around the Scottish grave rubbing give it a "patch-like" look which I really like. For me, it resembles a "roughness" that ancient grave markers naturally have ... like all the grave sites in Edinburgh. French knots were added to the upper grave rubbing ... and now all I have to do is stitch about two or three million seeding stitches over the rest of the surface.
(PLEASE NOTE: I rarely ask that my images NOT be copied and reposted elsewhere. This piece, however, is likely going to be submitted to Quilt National. They have very strict rules about images appearing anywhere other than on the artist's own site. Please don't repost these until I get the "rejection letter". Personally ... I think this rule is silly but it is a rule. It is a really, really big juried show, considered by most in the art quilt world as the highest achievement one can hope to gain. Odds are very, very long at being accepted. This will be my second attempt at this biennial.)
(Above: The Processing Room ... ready for Mathias to use as a make-shift bedroom.)
So ... This blog post is titled "New Experiences, New Work, New Adventure". I've covered the first two. Now for "New Adventure". I'm about to leave for a month-long artist residency at The Galesburg Civic Arts Center in Illinois. I'm excited. This is an opportunity to create a very, very large fiber installation ... larger than my studio would allow. I'll be creating a giant canopy (approximately 10' x 16') from vintage and antique crochet, lace, and household linens. I've had this nagging idea for over a year ... and been collecting for longer than the idea! I collect things for found art objects and store them in "the processing room". (I call it "the processing room"; Steve calls it "the junk room"!) This room must double as a make-shift bedroom when Mathias, our elder son, visits from England. He's coming this Saturday! We are really proud of him; he's recently been promoted to "Senior Soloist" at Birmingham Royal Ballet. He'll be driving me to Illinois, flying on to visit my parents in Pennsylvania, flying back for more time with Steve before returning for the next season of ballet. So ... I cleaned up the processing room! (I will NEVER show photos of it when it isn't straighten up! What a disaster!)
(Above: Bags of vintage crochet, lace, and household linens ready to be packed for my artist residency.)
During the cleaning, I sorted the linens ... creating several bags of vintage crochet and lace for the canopy. Now ... I've got to buy the PVC pipes and other materials for the canopy construction. This is going to be a challenge. An opening reception for the piece is already scheduled! Yikes!