Sunday, December 30, 2012

Menopause ... and Christmas week

(Above:  Menopause, art quilt.  21" x 18".  Maxi-pads, tampons, recycled felt embellished with cheesecloth, cotton batting, and bridal tulle, thread.  Hand stitched.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I actively look for calls-for-entry, chances to submit my work for consideration in juried shows.  I don't generally MAKE WORK to suit any particular "call"; I'm generally looking for upcoming shows into which my existing work might stand a chance.  One of the places I regularly look for "calls" is SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Association).  I'm a PAM (Professional Art Member) of SAQA.  The organization's mission to promote art quilts is one I whole-heartedly support.  I was thrilled that an upcoming call-for entry was for a show called Metaphors on Aging.  To me, almost all my Grave Rubbing Art Quilts could qualify.  It wouldn't be much of a stretch to write a brief statement linking "aging" with "death".  The end of "aging" is "death".  No problem. 

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

But ... I had a problem!

My gut reaction to the exhibition title Metaphors on Aging isn't death or dying or a grave rubbing art quilt.  My true response is much more immediate, personal, and the artwork was already in existence.  I couldn't shake the idea of using it ... of using Menopause.  The stitched words are still appropriate to my ideas about aging:  I never thought I'd miss that time of month.  Aging is bittersweet.  These tampons really were the ones still under my bathroom sink after they were no longer needed.  This piece was PERFECT!

Problem:  It wasn't an art quilt.

SAQA's new definition of an art quilt is:  The art quilt is a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.  I like this new definition but I also know that more people understand "layers" as a quilt top, batting, and a backing material ... that's THREE layers held together with stitch.  My original Menopause was really just ONE layer with tampon embellishments.  It was stitched onto a piece of mat board and framed.  By adding the layer of Maxipads and a felt backing, the work became a legitimate art quilt.  The piece also increased in size and is unframed.  Frankly, it is much better now that ever before.

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

While making the recycled felt sleeve for a hanging rod, I decided to add my "label" in a unique fashion ... using an old girdle.  It, too, just seemed PERFECT!

(Above:  Carole Mullis donating vintage fashions, including an old flapper styled dress, to my "stash".  The blue holiday bag on the counter is full of old bras and girdles, probably from the 1960s because "spandex" is listed on some of the labels.  "Spandex", an anagram of "expands", was invented in 1959 ... the year I was born and Mattel's Barbie was first on the market.)

I don't think I would have added the girdle to the reverse had it not recently come into my "stash".  Carol Mullis recently donated a pile vintage garments, including several old bras and girdles.  I thought about these uncomfortable undergarments while stitching Menopause.  I thought about the horrible sanitary napkin belts I've been given in my youth.  Although getting older is bittersweet, there are definitely many things about younger years that I'll never miss.  Thus, the girdle on the reverse was free motion stitched with my name, date and the following sentence:  There are some things about aging and youth that I'll never miss.

I don't know if this piece will be accepted or not, but it is ready to be entered.  It also inspired me to use one of the girdles.  That action was the catalyst for yet another piece, Lift and Tuck ... which I started immediately after Menopause and stitched while riding in the car to Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania for a holiday visit to my parents' log home.  It will be finished later this week and posted.  It will be entered into the same Metaphors on Aging exhibition.  I almost can't believe that I've made two pieces specifically for one call-for-entry! 

 (Above:  My neighbor's upside down Christmas tree ... best decorations in Columbia!)

To end this blog post, I'd like to share a few thoughts about this year's holiday week.  Steve and I went to more parties than ever and enjoyed each one immensely!   One was held by the Elmwood Park Neighborhood Association.  This is our neighborhood, a place where the most unusual Christmas tree is on display!

(Above:  Chuck and Jeremy with their upside down Christmas tree.)

Chuck and Jeremy live a block down Park Street from us.  Their hand prints are on my recent Til Death Do Us Part art quilt.  When purchasing a live Christmas tree after Thanksgiving, the tree dealer was throwing out a tree that was deemed "too dry".  They "recycled" it into a giant ornament, complete with lights ... an upside-down Christmas tree and quite beautiful!  Our neighborhood rocks!

(Above:  Steve shoveling snow at Lenzelhof, my parent's log home outside Slippery Rock, PA.)

On Christmas Day Steve and I traveled to Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania ... in time for dinner and before the big winter storm Euclid dropped nine inches of snow.  We went for a walk around part of the frozen lake and took photos which I posted on a Flickr! set.  Later, more snow fell.  We almost got stuck in the accumulation that now measures fourteen inches!

(Above:  My Dad and his "gator" ... shoveling the driveway.)

Thankfully, my Dad and Steve worked hard to keep the long driveway passable.

(Above:  Clearing the driveway!)

Snow is lots of hard work!  Steve enjoyed helping but we're happy that we just "visit" snow!  I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a blog featuring fiber works in progress and thankfully a place that extended the submissions through today, Sunday!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Til Death Do Us Part

(Above:  Til Death Do Us Part, in progress, detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Ten months ago I joined a national group called CLAWS (Crossing the Line: Artists at Work).  Membership is limited to just twenty art quilters.  Every six months each member creates a 24" x 18" art quilt in response to a theme.  Karen Musgrave heads up this group and is seeking traveling exhibition opportunities for the work.  Our first deadline was August 15th.  The theme/title was:  Women Who Broke All the Rules.  I stitched a portrait of Skirt! Magazine founder and editor Nikki Hardin.  The next deadline is coming up:  February 15th.  I hate looming deadlines, the "last minute" feeling, and the anxiety of time slipping away.  I love working in advance.  I especially loved the new theme (social issues) and the new title (Art Can't Hurt You).

(Above:  Til Death Do Us Part, in progress.  Click on image to enlarge.)

My social issue:  Same gender marriage!  I knew from that start that I wanted to use a REAL gay pride flag ... not just strips of color-correct material.  I went to google for help and learned that there is a standard/universal size for flags.  It is NOT 24" in height!  Most flags are 3' x 5'.  Finally, I found one site that had 2' x 3', sewn, nylon "Old Glory"/Rainbow flag for just $7.50.  When I went to order it, however, I accidentally clicked the wrong button ... and received the "Rainbow and Stars", 3' x 5' screen printed flag instead.  I re-ordered ... basically spending more on shipping than on flags ... TWICE!  Oh well!  The second flag was PERFECT.  I used the first one for the art quilt's reverse ... navy background with fifty white stars ... just like the US flag!

(Above:  Til Death Do Us Part, in progress with pieces of polyester stretch velvet.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The gay pride flag background is machine stitched to recycled, white acrylic felt with dense lines of rainbow colored threads.  In the meantime, I asked a few friends and neighbors for their left hand print and anniversary date.  Sure, none of these marriages are legal here in South Carolina ... but the vows, the occasion, the commitment are every bit the same!  Why a "left hand"?  That's where married people wear their wedding rings!  Almost every hand print I received had a "bump" on both sides of the fourth finger.  I stitched matching arrangements of beads on each couple's hands ... symbolic rings.

(Above:  My studio floor ... covered in a selection of polyester stretch velvet ... all with WonderUnder already ironed to the back.  This is my "stash" for creating faux-stained glass windows, something on which I've been working for the past few weeks.)

At first I was stumped by color choices for the hand prints.  I thought about "flesh tones" ... but what, exactly, is "flesh toned"?  Too many options!  Then I looked at my studio floor.  My palette of polyester stretch velvets are still all over the place.  All the perfect colors were right there!  I traced the hand prints, cut them out, and ironed/fused them in place.  That is also how the blue heart with yellow equal symbol was made.  (This equality sign was developed by the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender/queer political activist organization in the United States and widely known as a logo promoting equal rights for glbtq people.)

(Above:  Til Death Do Us Part, in progress with hands cut from polyester stretch velvet ... laying in place ... ready to be ironed/fused to the gay pride flag background.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Until this piece, I had only read about "fusing" shapes as a design option for art quilts.  It works!  I zigzag stitched around everything ... and it was then ready to embroider!  This was fun and easy!

(Above:  Til Death Do Us Part, in progress, ready for hand stitching and with the original flag "header"/binding with grommets.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I also carefully used my neglected seam ripper to remove the flag's header.  (That's the "official" name of the heavy fabric that is bound to the side of a flag.  It includes the grommets for attaching the flag to a pole!)  I hand stitched the following on the header:  For Richer Or Poorer. In Sickness or Health. Til Death Do Us Part.  On each hand print, I stitched the participants first name.  Their anniversary dates were also embroidered near each couple.  The dates range from within a year back to Thanksgiving 1980.

Unfortunately, I cannot share more images.  Why?  Well, the CLAWS group allows members to blog about the group, the issues/themes, and the design process ... but not to share images of the finished piece.  I've personally NEVER understood this strange thinking.  For me, the more exposure ... the BETTER.  The more images on the Internet ... the more likely more people will want to see the exhibits!  In the art quilt world, however, this isn't the thinking.  Instead, I've been told, "We want some suspense and to pique interest" ... like a "teaser".

I wish I could share the finished images!  I really like this piece and hope people will want to see the whole thing!

(I generally share most blog post on Facebook.  This particular post resonated with my cousin Monika in California.  Facebook really brought us back into contact with one another after decades without any correspondence.  Anyway, an insightful Internet conversation took place ... one I'd like to remember ... in association with the artwork that sparked our interesting words.  So ... I've copied and pasted it to the comments here.  It took three comments to include all the words!  Who knew that blog comments were limited to 4,096 characters? I'm also sharing this post on Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a blog with links to various "in progress" fiber art works.) 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Lunettes ... A New Size of fiber stained glass!

 (Above:  Lunette IV.  Unframed 15" x 21".  Framed 23" x 29".  Click on image to enlarge.)

Before going to England last week, I was deeply involved in making new faux-stained glass fiber pieces for the upcoming February wholesale-only show in Philadelphia.  Since returning, I've pretty much finished this round of work ... construction, stitching, melting, and finally framing five large pieces and four in a totally new size.

So ... the new size!  They're horizontals!  Why?  Well, I've heard that "art consultants" currently prefer horizontal pieces ... especially since the biggest boom in corporate construction is in the creation of new hospitals.  Hospitals generally have hand railings throughout the areas where artwork hangs.  These handrails divide available wall space into horizontal stretches.  Despite the fact that I don't know a single place where a hospital is under construction in South Carolina or a single, professional art consultant (except for myself ... technically, I am an "art consultant" and have even made "house calls" to help people arrange/hang/acquire/frame artwork), I decided to jump on the "horizontal band wagon".  Why not?  I don't have any horizontals in this series.  I should be flexible.

(Above:  Five faux-stained glass fiber pieces in their black linen liners ... waiting for Plexiglas and frames. Individual works, unframed:  57" x 17"; framed 63" x 23". Click on image to enlarge.  )

I've always thought of stained glass as vertically oriented; but, the truth of the matter is that the many, really famous stained glass windows are generally magnificent "Rose Windows" ... circular ... and other windows are actually horizontal.  Lunettes are almost always horizontal.  So, I've decided to call the new, horizontal works "Lunettes".

(Above: Stained glass windows in the Mausoleum of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles.)
So ... What's a lunette?

Lunette,  noun (From an on-line dictionary)
1. Any of various objects or spaces of crescent-like or semicircular outline or section.
2. Architecture . (in the plane of a wall) an area framed by an arch or vault.
3. A painting, sculpture, or window filling such an area.

 (Above:  Stained Glass XXX - XXXIV in frames.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I don't even remember when I learned the word "lunette" ... perhaps in a college art history class or maybe from guide books while traveling in Europe while in high school.  Who knows?  Lunettes, however, have figured into my fiber stained glass for quite awhile.  Above are the five new pieces ... two of which have classic lunettes at the top!  (Third and fourth from the left.)  I guess this shape comes naturally!

(Above:  Top of Stained Glass XXXI.  Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above:  Top of Stained Glass XXXIV.  Click on image to enlarge.)

So ... this new size has a new name.  But, I'm not going to insist that each one actually has a "lunette"!  Why be normal?  It's just a name!  A name for a new size and orientation in an existing series!

(Above:  Lunette III.  Click on image to enlarge.)

While thinking about orientation, I also decided that one of the new lunettes could also be hung as a vertical; and, if you look closely, one of the large faux-stained glass pieces is also completely geometric and can be hung as a horizontal.  Why not be flexible!

(Above:  Lunette I and II in frames.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Steve and I are going to Columbia City Ballet's The Nutcracker this evening.  I'm also linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Walls Friday", a place to share works-in-progress.  The entire faux-stained glass series is ALWAYS in progress ... especially now that I'm gearing up for a wholesale show! 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

England in December

 (Above:  Me at Windsor Castle.  Click on any image in this post for an enlargement.)

Last week was a whirlwind trip to England.  Steve left on Monday, went to Brighton for a day, saw Mathias, our elder son, in his debut performance as THE PRINCE in Birmingham Royal Ballet's Cinderella in the Wednesday matinee, and met me at the train station on Thursday midday.

(Above:  New Street in Birmingham, UK with the German Christmas Market in full swing.)

Yes, it is December ... Christmas time ... a month when we both really can't leave Mouse House for an entire week.  So, I left on Wednesday.  Mere words can't quite describe the pride we felt watching Mathias in his royal role.  Suffice it to say, I didn't breath during a one-arm lift and tears leaked down my cheeks.  It was simply beautiful, a dream come true ... his dream!  We're just the shell-shocked parents who clap really, really hard during curtain calls!

When not watching ballet, we really enjoyed the German Christmas Market at Victoria Square ... which spills down New Street and also onto Board Street.  It was so much fun to see business people and holiday shoppers all enjoying half-meter bratwurst with pints of beer at lunchtime ... and again for dinner.  We even did a little shopping ... something I rarely do ... but even I can't resist English soaps and hand blown ornaments.  

(Above:  Textile piece by Jacqueline Lawrence.)

We also ventured to the Barber Institute of Fine Art, a wonderful art gallery on the Birmingham University campus.  The place is first rate.  Both the permanent displays and the temporary exhibitions were great.  The "learning room" on the second floor advertised Inspired by Lace, a small solo show by Jacqueline Lawrence.  The signs read that it opened on December 14th ... which is actually tomorrow ... but it was obviously available for viewing and I liked the work and concept very much. 

(Above:  Windsor Castle.)

Before flying home, we also went to Windsor Castle.  IT WAS WONDERFUL.  I am almost glad that photography wasn't permitted inside as I might still be there.  Still, we took plenty of photos this trip.  They are now on Flickr!  HERE or as a SLIDESHOW.   Now ... back to work!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Doesn't Everyone Want a 10' x 10' Pro Panel Booth in the Living Room?

(Above:  The truck delivering the 10' x 10' Pro Panel "Flex" booth pulls up to Mouse House.  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

Great big, sixteen wheel trucks have been delivering packages to Mouse House for over two decades.  One wouldn't think I'd be excited to see one pull up yesterday, but I was more than anxious!  This one wasn't bringing picture frame moulding or even a new piece of equipment.  It was bringing the 10' x 10' Pro Panel "Flex" booth plus a fancy lighting system.  I grabbed my camera!

It took the delivery guy several minutes to load the four big, flat boxes onto a fancy, wide pull cart.  The entire contraption was lowered to street level on a rear mounted, hydraulic lift.  He wheeled the boxes across Park Street ...

... almost to our front door.  Of course, there is no forklift-like elevator for the four steps onto the porch.  I have no idea how he thought that small hand-cart was going to be used!  Together, he and I picked up the boxes ...


... and pulled them inside the front door.  Right in the middle of the foyer!  These boxes could absolutely NOT remain in this place.  Something had to happen ... and I was DYING to see my new booth!

Well, there's only one place in our entire business/home in which these panels could be assembled ... THE LIVING ROOM!  For the remainder of yesterday afternoon, I unloaded the boxes, cut down the corrugated into manageable pieces, hauled the panels upstairs, and then set up a booth!  I didn't tackle the lighting system though.  I'll wait until next week ... and Steve's assistance.  Why?  Well ... Steve is already in England.  He left before the booth was delivered.  (Won't he be pleased with my room rearrangement!)  I leave for England tomorrow.  We are going to see our elder son Mathias in his first "princely" role with Birmingham Royal Ballet.  He's Cinderella's man on Wednesday afternoon and Friday evening.  Steve will see both performances.  I'll see one ... but "someone" had to be here at Mouse House to accept this important delivery!  This is my booth for the upcoming, trade-only wholesale Buyers Market show in Philadelphia from February 16 - 18th.  I'm nervous and excited.  My work is also a finalist for a Niche Award that weekend at the show.


(Above:  Mathias Dingman and Maureya Lebowitz, aka The Prince and Cinderella, as seen during Birmingham Royal Ballet's matinee performance on Wednesday, December 5th!)

This blog post has been updated from our hotel room in Birmingham, England.  Steve was stunned with pride and excitement after the Wednesday matinee performance ... featuring OUR SON THE PRINCE and his beautiful partner Maureya Lebowitz.  Mathias posted the photo on Facebook.  At the time of this update, I've got just a few more hours until I witness this show ... nail biting time!  The post is also being linked to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Friday" blog post featuring fiber art works in progress.