Thursday, May 31, 2012
(Above: Death of Desire. Grave Rubbing Art Quilt Series. 27 1/2" x 40 1/2". Crayon on silk grave rubbing with vintage and used buttons. Hand and free-motion machine embroidery. Click on image to enlarge.)
I've been working on this piece, off and on, for over two months. The design area is free-motion embroidered using my favorite King Tut thread (#983, Cedar) which I now purchase by the 2000 yard spool. The area surrounding the design is densely stitched with "seeding fill stitches" (tiny, randomly placed straight stitches meant to create texture).
(Above: Death of Desire, detail. Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)
Generally one would stitch the center and gradually work toward the edges. Why? Because the stitching makes the layers shrink up a bit. To stitch the outside first creates a "bubble" of "extra material" that might not lie flat when stitched later. This is a really good "rule" to follow.
Of course, (stupidly) I didn't do it this way. I just started the hand work when I needed "something" to stitch during the evenings. I meant to do the free-motion work before getting too far along on the background ... but it just didn't happen. Naturally, the "bubble" of extra fabric was created. I thought I'd ruined the entire piece ... but carefully ... very, very carefully ... I managed to stitch by machine densely enough to shrink the "inside" until it "fit" back flat into the "outside". (It helped that I had basted the piece with long running stitches every four inches in both directions.)
(Above: Death of Desire, detail.)
So I managed to bring back this art quilt from the verge of a disaster of my own making. I'm really pleased (and relieved!) with the results. The grave rubbing comes from my very favorite marker in Charleston's Circular Churchyard. The name of the woman buried under it is Desire Peronneau. She died in 1740. I made the rubbing last Halloween weekend.
(Above: Death of Desire, reverse.)
The reverse of the art quilt is made from vintage household linens including a piece of a large damask tablecloth, two monogrammed place mats, a yellow bun warmer, and a small piece with shadow embroidery. I added my signature, date and the information about the gravestone. The sleeve for a hanging rod was once a lacy table runner.
(Above: Grave marker for Desire Peronneau in the Circular Churchyard in Charleston.)
This is a photo of the actual grave. I'm very fortunate to have been granted permission to make crayon-on-fabric rubbings in this location. There are signs posted prohibiting this activity. For the art quilt, I used another gravestone's motif (another winged skull/angel) below the words "Here Lyes Buried the Body". If fact, I used it twice ... side by side. One of the great things about making a crayon rubbing on fabric is the easy ability to alter the placement of motifs. The word "Body" is actually on the left side of the stone. I put it in the middle of the quilt ... because I rarely like to include a person's name on my quilt. I like the "universal" associations that come with eliminating a specific person's identity.
(Above: Death of Desire, a SAQA art quilt donation. 12" x 12".)
I've actually made more than one rubbing from this grave. The central motif was used for my SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) 2012 auction donation. (It is posted HERE on the SAQA website ... scroll down ... it's on the right about two-thirds down!) The auction starts in September. The price of the available works drops every day until almost everything is sold!
(Above: Invitation to Textiles in a Tube 2)
Generally, I'm pretty good about blogging all my latest creations. Yet, two pieces sort of "slipped away". Perhaps this is because I made them especially for a juried show opportunity. I generally don't work toward a exhibition theme. Instead, I look for shows that either have "open entries" or have selected a theme that is right for the work I'm already making.
Textiles in a Tube 2, however, is a juried show occurring in my home state. They had a "big name" juror last year ... Terry Jarrard-Dimond. I wanted to meet her. I entered the show, had two pieces accepted, but then couldn't get to the reception. (I did win third place!) Later, I got to see the exhibit. It was wonderful! Everything had to fit inside a standard 36" mailing tube to qualify. I thought this was very clever.
(Above: Wall of Keys.)
So, this year the juror is another "big name", Kathleen Loomis, and I wanted to meet her too. I created two pieces to enter. Five was accepted. The Wall of Keys wasn't. The opening is tomorrow night but I'll be at my own solo show opening in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Maybe next year I'll get to meet "someone" with a "big reputation"!
(Above: Wall of Keys, detail.)
These keys are different from those I made last spring. Instead of collaging letters clipped from vintage sheet music and magazines, I free-motion machine stitched the words onto ultra-suede, fused cotton material to the back (covering the back of the stitching), and cut the tags out. The cord is all made by zigzag stitching over assorted yarns.
(Above: The original Wall of Keys.)
Now my studio has the original 1200+ tagged keys hanging on one large wall ... and the collection of stitched, tagged keys on another wall. I really must stop this before I'm totally surrounded by keys!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 1:54 PM
Monday, May 28, 2012
(Above: Me ... after completing the installation of my solo show at the Fredericksburg Center for Creative Arts. Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)
I admit it ... I'm busy and behind on my blogging once again!
There's a good reason for the my delayed posting. I'm been working toward an exciting opportunity to share my work as a solo show at the Fredericksburg Center for Creative Arts (FCCA) in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Yesterday Steve and I were on the road by 5:30 AM with a car load of art.
We arrived in the early afternoon at the historic Silversmith House (ca. 1785) along the banks of the Rappahannock River. Everything was in full bloom around the brick filled, half timber building that now serves as the area's oldest art center. The non-profit organization was founded in 1963 and is a vital part of the community, hosting over twenty national and regional exhibits a year. I'm thrilled to be one of them!
(Above: Fiber Architecture: Buildings in Stitches. Click on image to enlarge.)
This is a perfect location for a series of my work focusing on architecture! What could be better than displaying "buildings in stitches" inside a historic house? For me, it was a great way to see how my interests in architecture has both changed and remained the same over time! I know, that's a paradox ... but it is also true. The show includes some older pieces, especially from my "Elements of Architecture Series" as well as lots of new work. The focus has remained on details. Over the years, my focus has become keener, more specialized. I used to incorporate larger parts of favorite architectural style. Now, I tend to concentrate on the decorative motifs and ornamentation on great, historic buildings ... especially the windows!
(Above and below: Fiber Architecture: Buildings in Stitches. Solo show at FCCA.)
Steve and I were greatly helped by FCCA Members' Gallery Coordinator (and Facebook friend ... and fellow fiber artist!) Elizabeth Woodford. Her blog is great and her classes for beading are been scheduled all over the country! We finished the installation in time to trek back to Columbia, South Carolina by 10:15 PM! Long day ... but a really GOOD one.
(Above: Me ... after we finished installing!)
The reception for my show and the "Regional Juried Exhibition" that fills the upper level will be during "First Friday", June 1st. Steve and I will be driving back up I-95 for this special evening. I'm very excited.
(Above: Panel discussion at the South Carolina Book Festival, including author Ann Hite.)
Now ... last weekend! Yes ... I got caught up with my blogging from a trip to the UK but I didn't manage to write a thing about a very, very important weekend! I finally got to meet Ann Hite, author of Ghost on Black Mountain. We've been corresponding for almost a year!
(Above: Ann Hite reading from Ghost on Black Mountain.)
Another Internet friend put Ann and me together through emails. Why? Well, Ann has a three-book deal with Simon & Schuster. Ghost on Black Mountain is the first of the three. About a year ago, while deep into writing book two, Ann had hit a snag with one of her characters named Faith. For the sake of the plot, Faith needed to spend time in a cemetery but there wasn't a really good reason for her to actually be there. Now, Faith is an artist who creates grave rubbing art quilts! Sound familiar? I'm so flattered.
More importantly, Ann has been a great supporter of my work. She's encourage me in more ways than I can fully describe. Steve and I had Ann, her talented husband Jack, and their daughter Ella over for dinner. It was a magical evening.
(Above: Ann Hite, Ella, and Jack at the South Carolina Book Festival.)
Posted by Susan Lenz at 10:16 AM
Monday, May 21, 2012
(Above: Ed Madden wearing the Vista Queen of the Night sash and me.)
Where has May gone? Oh, yes! I remember ... I've been traveling A LOT. Most recently I've spent a week in England and Scotland watching my elder son, Mathias Dingman, a soloist with Birmingham Royal Ballet. He was cast in the newly choreographed Lyric Pieces by American Jessica Lang. It was simply beautiful. He was also "Jasper" in Pineapple Poll, a truly funny ballet where the girls go mad over a naval officer but love is found closer to home. Jasper gets the girl! Most importantly, he danced the pas de deux from Don Quixote ... nine minutes in which I try to hold my breathe. The stages in both York and Buxton are both raked! That's SLANTED toward the audience. Dancers are literally going UPHILL and DOWNHILL and I have no idea how they manage multiple turns on a tilted floor. All six performances were amazing and, of course, I'm very proud.
(Above: York Minister. Between rain drops, it was beautiful! Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)
While away, I actually caught up on my reading ... back issues of Surface Design Association's Journal, Quilting Arts, and Crafts Magazine ... nearly a half a year's worth of guilt over subscriptions was washed away! I also had plenty of time to THINK about my work, future plans, and various goals. Intellectually, it was a period of rejuvenation. Unfortunately, it also means I have no images of "new work" to share in this post ... except the Vista Queen of the Night sash that I made last Saturday after my return home. (Yup, it's a drag queen show and fund raiser for the local, professional theater here in Columbia.) There was a moment of panic when I realized that I've never actually SEEN a pageant sash anywhere except on television ... but it turned out rather well with rhinestones and star-shaped beads and hand embroidered lettering. I had one self-imposed rule: Everything had to come out of my studio; No new "stuff" could be purchased!
(Above: The gorgeous ceiling in York Minister's octagonal built Chapter House.)
It rained off and on the entire time I was in York. Evidently, it had been raining for weeks and the river was quite swollen. This didn't really bother me much. I was headed to the new Quilt Museum where I saw Celebrating Diversity, an exhibit by the European Quilt Association and also a great collection of miniature quilts from the museum's permanent collection.
(Above: Park benches along York's flooded Ouse River.)
I did have time to walk through the city's park ... a place that uses stone coffins from the 13th c. ruins of St. Mary's Abbey Church in their flower gardens ... quite unique! (I took more photos, of course, while in York ... though not too many. This was my second trip. What I saved are now on Flickr! HERE or as a slideshow HERE.)
(Above: Stone coffins in the flowerbeds near York's 13th century St. Mary's Abbey ruins.)
Now, there are plenty of people who think I'm some sort of jet-setter, a wealthy person who can fly off to foreign countries on a whim. Well, I do get to travel quite a lot ... but ... I also have a budget. For this particular trip, I saved by staying in youth hostels and most meals were purchased from corner convenience shops. (I love egg salad sandwiches ... even out of a plastic container!)
(Above: Ace Youth Hostel in York. View to main foyer and front door from the reception desk.)
Of course, the Ace Youth Hostel in York isn't exactly "roughing it" in terms of decor! This grand 1752 Georgian townhouse boasts a stone-flagged entrance hall, high ceilings, chandeliers, and clean rooms. I stayed in a coed 14 cot dorm room. Everyone was quiet and considerate. The only problem was the noise out in the street but it calmed down shortly after midnight.
(Above: Breakfast at Ace Youth Hostel, York.)
Free Wi-Fi and breakfast was included. There was even a bar, laundry facilities, a movie room, and more. I thought I would stick out like some old lady ... but most of the people were actually rather close to my age (or even older!)
(Above: Central staircase at the Ace Youth Hostel in York.)
At the top of this sweeping staircase .....
(Above: Doors to dorm rooms II and III.)
..... were the doors to dorm rooms II and III. I was in II. It was quite secure and had plenty of space for everyone's luggage. Inside was a bathroom with shower for those staying in that dorm room.
(Above: Staircase at Castle Rock Youth Hostel in Edinburgh, Scotland.)
After the performances in York, Birmingham Royal Ballet went back home for a couple days before setting out for Buxton. I went by train to Edinburgh instead ... and checked into the Castle Rock Youth Hostel. The location couldn't have been better and the place was enormous, popular, clean, and secure. I stayed in a girls room for four.
(Above: My room at Castle Rock Youth Hostel in Edinburgh.)
I shared the room with two architectural students and a nurse from Canada one night. The students left and were replaced by two Korean girls on a three-week trek through Europe. Again, the place was nice, very quiet, clean, included free WiFi, and the beds were quite comfortable. (I really recommend both youth hostel in which I stayed ... highly!)
(Above: Edinburgh Castle.)
Although there was some rain while I was in Edinburgh, it was the wind that threatened to make my time in this gorgeous city problematic. I opted for the castle straight away ... plus, it was literally just around the corner and up the hill from the youth hostel!
(Cannon and view to Edinburgh from the castle.)
The views were magnificent ... even though I thought I'd blow off. Fortunately, there were lots of buildings into which to go .....
..... like the lovely royal apartment with its embossed white ceilings, painted friezes, and decorative windows and lamps.
The Great Hall featured all sorts of weaponry, carved wooden panels, and an enormous stone fireplace. It also displayed the "key to the castle" ... with golden tags for every time the monarch visited.
The castle often housed prisoners of war. Parts of the prison were on the tour showing conditions in various centuries .....
..... but there were also cases of artwork made by the prisoners, including this ornate jewelry box. The filigree was carefully made of twisted and coiled paper.
Embroidery is obviously one of the things I seek out. Edinburgh Castle didn't disappoint. There were all sorts of meticulously stitched pieces, especially in the museum for the dragoons. Above is a very ornate flag .....
..... which wasn't far from the elaborate goldwork on this dress uniform ......
..... and this fancy "miter" cap.
One of the best pieces was this work by Thomas Dickson, a prisoner of war in Gottingen who had been captured on the 23rd of August 1914. He stitched this piece as an act of defiance! Now, I like embroidery being considered a political activity, a confrontational statement, an ACT OF DEFIANCE!
(Above: The St. Margaret's Chapel at Edinburgh Castle.)
The military exhibitions weren't the only place for good embroidery inside Edinburgh Castle. St. Margaret's Chapel was the best. The multiple layered altar cloth by Hannah Frew Paterson is remarkable. There were a few laminated sheets explaining every detail, symbol, and color choice. Since returning home, I've googled Hannah Frew Paterson, a life member of Scotland's Edge textile group. I found a most intense quote from her in Linda Cluckie's Rise and Fall of Art Needlework: Its Socio-Economic and Cultural Impact (2008) which was originally taken from an Art of the Stitch exhibition catalog of 1995.
"Outstanding embroidery", she said demanded "not only the originality of concept, but the skill and sensitivity to of relating stitch, thread, and texture and craftsmanship to that concept in order to lift it above the vast majority of mediocre work."
I've always been a "concept" person. This quote really speaks to me, telling me to pay close attention to craftsmanship. Hannah Frew Paterson's work is certainly QUALITY on every level.
(Above: Altar cloth by Hannah Frew Paterson. Click on this or any image for enlargement.)
Attention to detail, symbolism, concept, function, and beauty are found in this piece. Yet, I found other wonderful embroideries in Edinburgh too. On my second day, I went to St. Giles Cathedral.
(Above: Nave of St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.)
Many European cathedrals are drenched in history almost to the exclusion of contemporary features. This was not the case at St. Giles. The organ is late 20th century (1992). There are four lovely, modern banners around the altar. The stained glass is mostly Victorian. The nave's vaulted ceiling is painted bright blue. The cathedral gift shop and cafe are open and obvious ... not tucked away from view. Plus, there's the Thistle Chapel which was built in high Gothic style in 1911.
(Above: Vaulted ceiling in the Thistle Chapel.)
The Thistle Chapel is very ornate. No expense was spared ... and it costs ₤3 to enter.
(Above: The Thistle Chapel.)
It serves the highest order of chivalry in Scotland. There are sixteen knights' stalls along the sides. Each stall is capped with a lavish canopy with the helm and crests of the knight. Obviously, the knights are Scottish men of wealth and prestige who have coats of arms and deep heraldic roots ..... but .....
(Above: One of the canopy toppers in the Thistle Chapel.)
..... personally, some things are better left to traditional materials, colors, and designs. I just couldn't get over some of the gaudy ornaments in this otherwise magnificent place .....
(Above: Key hole to the Thistle Chapel.)
..... especially when every other detail was so lovely! (I love keys and keyholes, nails, spools, and all sorts of interesting things! I didn't love the turquoise lion with the bright yellow claws and teeth!)
(Above: Embroidered altar cloth at St. Giles.)
Further along, I came upon a lovely embroidered altar cloth. It must have been 19th century or older. Even the wear and distressed areas were beautiful. I took quite a lot of photos in the Cathedral and created a Flickr! set HERE ... or it can be viewed as a slideshow HERE. (Included are more photos of this embroidery!)
(Above: Angel bearing Holy Water, seen from the back, at St. Giles Cathedral.)
Some of my favorite photos inside the Cathedral were undoubtedly of this beautiful angel. I love sculptures of angels and have used many of my shots for art. This one will have to be "something"!
(Above: Embroidery from the side altar at Canongate Kirk.)
From the cathedral, I went to the castle's ancient parish church, Canongate Kirk. The interior was great and included plenty of royal touches. One embroidered side altar cloth was amazingly stitched ... and late 20th century. There was a display of modern photographs too. What I came for, however, was its old cemetery. I started taking LOTS of photos. Then, I visited Old Colton Cemetery and took more photos. Finally, I headed for the most famous of the ancient cemeteries, Greyfriars ... where I took even more photos.
(Above: Vintage toy sewing machine at the Museum of Childhood on the Royal Mile.)
Yet, on my way from one cemetery to the next, I walked leisurely down Edinburgh's Royal Mile and happened to come upon the Museum of Childhood. Knowing that my upcoming summer installation is wrapped up in "memories of childhood", I went in. WOW! It was so inspirational.
(Above: Selection of antique needlework items for children.)
Of course I headed for the rooms with "embroidery and crafts" but I was totally mesmerized by the doll collection. MORE PHOTOS ... which are not on Flickr! and will probably become part of my upcoming installation! I did, however, create a Flickr! set with most of the other Edinburgh photos ... including the castle, more embroideries, and general views. It is HERE .... or as a slideshow HERE.
(Above: Dolls at the Museum of Childhood.)
So ... what's this new installation? Well, I've been selected for another artist residency. This one will be in August with Studios Midwest, part of the Galesburg Civic Art Center. I'm quite excited. Every residency is different. This one affords me the challenge of creating an entire installation and conduct a public art program. My mind is spinning with the chance to make real an idea that has been brewing for over a year! These dolls could figure into the equation!
(Above: Greyfriars Kirkyard.)
Well ... on to Greyfriars, a most ancient churchyard full of stately mausoleums, memorials, and burial sites. I took hundreds of photos and saved nearly half of them. Still, there are 266 left. I also wrote down interesting epitaphs and did find one suitable (reachable) stone for a crayon-on-fabric grave rubbing! I can't wait to stitch it ... reliving all the time in Edinburgh!
(Above: Detail of one of the massive memorials in Greyfriars Cemetery.)
Both nights I was in Edinburgh, I splurged a little and had a real, Scottish supper!
(Above: Haggis, neeps and tatties.)
I had haggis, neeps and tatties twice in a row. Why? Well, on the first evening I didn't realize that my camera's batteries had finally died in a cemetery! I had to order the same meal the following night ... just to get a photo. This was a very fancy arrangement compared to the first sampling ... but both were equally good!
(Above: Interior at the Buxton Opera House.)
From Edinburgh I headed south to Buxton and three more performances by Birmingham Royal Ballet. I didn't take many photos in Buxton. (I've been there before and the weather was pretty lousy). The shows were held in the very fancy Opera House. No photography is allowed during a performance but I asked if I could take just one before the curtain went up. This is it.
Now ..... the remaining photos in this blog post are a selection from the 266 I saved from the cemeteries in Edinburgh. The set is on Flickr! HERE or as a slideshow HERE. The diversity in materials used for graves was amazing. The distressed surfaces were rich with age. Occasionally it rained and even the drops created interesting photos. The lighting was often very, very good ... late day under cloud cover, without strong shadows. I had a blast!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 11:00 AM