Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Be Ye Also Ready, Beloved

(Above:  Be Ye Also Ready, Beloved.  Grave Rubbing Art Quilt Series.  25" x 24".  Crayon on silk and on vintage damask dinner napkin; vintage buttons; free motion machine embroidery and hand stitching.  Click on image to enlarge.)

A decade ago Wendy Wells, co-founder of City Art Gallery, told me that jurors, gallerists, curators, and other professionals in the art world generally looked for continuity in an artist's work.  She cautioned me to submit related pieces when entering juried shows.  She warned against showing too much variety because it tends to send the wrong signals when others are asked to evaluate one's seriousness, quality, and approach to making art.  At the time, I'd been making art for less than a year ... but I took the advise to heart.   Since then, I've heard this advise over and over again ... sometime phrased differently, often for other reasons, frequently on Internet forums discussing the creative process.   

(Above:  Be Ye Also Ready, Beloved. Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

By the time I found on-line art quilt groups, I was already quite accustomed to "working in a series".  My Grave Rubbing Art Quilt series now numbers almost seventy individual works, and I continue to be inspired by the concept of cemetery words and motifs speaking through repurposed materials and plenty of stitching.  Every time I think, "I'm done with this series", I find another way to express the messages left on tombstone as the next piece.

Recently, SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) posted a call-for-entry for an upcoming traveling exhibition called Text Messages.  Well, for me, epitaphs perfectly fit the bill.  Yet, the rules for this show state that all works must measure exactly 24" in width and at least 24" in height.  Until this month, none of my earlier pieces fell within these limitations.    

(Above:  Be Ye Also Ready, Beloved.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I generally don't make art in order to submit for any specific call-for entry.  I wasn't going to enter ... BUT ... I couldn't get an idea out of my head.  I just had to make Texting From the Grave, an envelop with individual "text messages" all created out of grave rubbings.  So, I had ONE, and only one, piece to enter.  Somehow this just didn't feel right.  One piece doesn't convey the fact that I do work seriously in a series, explore my concepts in depth, and approach art making with continuity.  Thus, I had to make another piece ... within the acceptable size requirement.  Be Ye Also Ready, Beloved is it!

I took a large, 25" x 25" vintage, damask dinner napkin to Elmwood Cemetery.  It is less than four blocks from my home.  I know it well.  I knew where to find a great tombstone for the black crayon rubbing.  I did not capture the family name that is in the provided, curved space at the top.  On this grave marker background I put a brown crayon rubbing from a late 18th century marker in Charleston's Circular Churchyard.  It was one of my favorite's from the ancient place of resting ... a combination of cross bones, skull, and winged angel head.  The single word "Beloved" was on a grayer piece of silk.  It was made in Rock Ridge Cemetery in Washington, DC.  I traced the outline of the curved, family name place onto an unused section of the grayer silk ... and returned to my local cemetery.  I know exactly where to find perfect sized letters!  The phrase "Be Ye Also Ready" was created, letter by letter, using only two grave markers from the mid-19th century.  I've seen this four-word message on plenty of Victorian stones.  I've even made another art quilt using this phrase.  (It is HERE.)  To me, "Be Ye Also Ready" is the ultimate "text message" from the deceased past to the present living and to all the future.  

(Above:  Be Ye Also Ready, Beloved.  Reverse.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I added brown crayon marking on the remaining part of the damask napkin ... simple texture from another gravestone.  The grave rubbings are all free-motion stitched with King Tut #983 Cedar variegated thread.  The "batting" is really just recycled, white acrylic felt.  It used to be a protective covering for a kayak of canoe being shipped from a manufacturer to River Runner, a local outdoors store.  Various off-white threads were used for the dense, vertical running stitches.  Two-strands of charcoal gray embroidery floss was used for the tiny seeding stitches.  When all the stitching was complete, the piece only shrunk about a half an inch in width.  I trimmed it to 24" and added the edge of vintage buttons.  Another damask dinner napkin was then placed on the back, turned under, and button-hole stitched to the front.  My "label" is slightly damaged doily with a pretty tatted edge.  It was hand stitched to the reverse ... into the non-traditional batting.  Yet another damask napkin was used for the hanging rod's sleeve.  I'm ready to submit TWO pieces for the upcoming SAQA call-for-entry which opens on February the first!

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site sharing fiber artworks in progress (on in this case ... finished!)


Lynn Cohen said...

They are awesome Susan, in each and every detail.
Loved reading all of this.It made me want to enter a series of my Taco Jalisco paintings I used to make up my book into the next juried art show here! Thanks for this informative idea!

Julie said...

You would never know that all these pieces came from separate gravestones. I hope you are successful with both or either piece. I like the way that you are able to incorporate all these separate fabrics into one piece. The stitching brings the whole together.

Roberta Warshaw said...

That is some message!

Lovely work as usual!

redcatdance said...

I find your blog very inspiring and this post, with your comments about entering/showing your work to juries to be invaluable. It is exactly what I have been told as well. I think your graverubbings/text messages/envelopes are brilliant. Congrats.

wholly jeanne said...

LOVE this series and LOVE that you're submitting it for this exhibit/show. perfect.

Wanda said...


Kit Lang said...

70 in a series! Wow. How has the series evolved through 70 pieces? Do you have a link somewhere to them all in one place?

(Here from OTWF)

Shannon said...

I love seeing new ideas! If you're at number 70, it's obviously not new to you, but I've never seen anything like this (quilt wise) and it's fabulous! The quilt and sentiments and construction and ideas! I'm working on something for the SAQA show too- but this is absolutely perfect! An eternal text message. What a stark contrast to the throwaway communications (texts/tweets) we're all getting used too.

Judy Ferguson said...

As I said before, you must be the most creative woman on this planet. Such dedication.

Unknown said...

I love reading about your process and seeing the final piece. Thank you so much for sharing your work. - http://mary-goingnative.blogspot.com/

Nina Marie said...

The rubbings are so interesting - you could really go in a lot of directions with it! thanks for sharing the process