(Above: Lift and Tuck, detail. Vintage table runners, bra and girdle; recycled acrylic felt; mat board with collage; wool yarn and sewing thread. Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)
Just after Thanksgiving Carole Mullis donated a pile of vintage clothing to my "stash". Her generosity included a large bag of intimate apparel ... otherwise known as "bras and girdles". Some must date to the 1960s as their labels declare spandex in the content. Spandex, an anagram of "expands", came on the market in 1959, the year Mattel's Barbie and I were born. Some of the girdles and bras are older, likely from the early 1950s or even the late 1940s.
(Above: Lift and Tuck. 44" x 20". Click on image to enlarge.)
To be totally honest, I wasn't sure exactly what I might do with these pieces of old underwear ... but ... an idea appeared. It was one of those thoughts that just wouldn't leave me alone. The inspiration came from a call-for-entry for a SAQA traveling exhibition called Metaphors on Aging. (SAQA stands for Studio Art Quilt Associates and the call-for-entry is HERE.) I decided to stitch a piece called Menopause for this art opportunity. On the reverse, I used one of the girdles as a "label". Stitching the girdle in place got me thinking about aging, the quest for a youthful appearance, and the pains most women go through in attempts to fool the ravages of time. I thought about my great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, my sisters and myself. I thought about today's girls and tomorrow's girls. Beauty and aging, the fight against oncoming years ... well, it's been going on forever and likely always will. To me, these relics are iconic symbols for women and aging. Lift and Tuck just had to be made ... whether for a specific call-for-entry or not!
(Above: Lift and Tuck, in progress.)
I started by simply throwing a vintage table runner with lovely crocheted ends and edging onto a piece of black, recycled acrylic felt. (The felt once protected a kayak or canoe being shipped from a North Carolina manufacturer to a local outdoor shop. It is the same material I use for my faux-stained glass fiber works.) I selected the bra and girdle that seemed the best size on the available space. Next, I pinned everything in place and basted a line around the garments. I removed the bra and girdle at this point. About a million running stitches quilted the felt and runner together. Wool tapestry yarn and sewing thread were used. Inside the basted line are longer and fewer stitches. After the entire surface was covered, the bra and girdle were stitched in place. The excess felt was cut away.
(Above: Lift and Tuck, in progress. This shows the reverse of the work after all the running stitches were plied and the bra and girdle were stitched down. Click on image to enlarge.)
For a finishing touch, I added vintage buttons to both sides. Then, it was time to tackle the reverse and determine exactly how this artwork would best hang.
(Above: Lift and Tuck, detail.)
Because the top of the piece is rounded, a standard 4" hanging sleeve became problematic. If I applied a short sleeve at the top, the sides might flop inward. If I applied a longer sleeve below the rounded area, the top might flop down. What to do?
(Above: Lift and Tuck, reverse/hanging device, in progress. Click on image to enlarge.)
Other, more seasoned art quilters ... especially those with a more traditional background ... might have better ways of tackling this problem. My background, however, is in custom picture framing; so, naturally, I turned to the materials that are familiar ... like mat board. Mat board is stiff. If stitched to the reverse of the rounded top, a standard 4" hanging sleeve could be applied in a lower position without causing any problem. So, I cut mat board for the back of the top ... and collaged it with antique images from mid-19th century Godey's Fashion Magazines along with an old, anonymous bridal photograph which likely dates to the late 1940s or early 1950s.
(Above: Lift and Tuck, reverse/hanging device, in progress.)
Using button hole thread, the rounded mat board was stitched to the reverse of the art quilt ... both around the edge and in several places within the space. I used thread matching the front ... hiding the stitches in the dense rows of running stitch.
(Above: Lift and Tuck, reverse. Click on image to enlarge.)
A second table runner was used to cover the back. One crocheted end was folded over and made into the 4" hanging sleeve. This, too, was stitched through the mat board at the top. As a result, the piece hangs perfectly flat again any wall. A slat or rod, which is generally used to hang art quilts, slides right into the sleeve, midway down the mat board. Perfect!
(Above: Lift and Tuck, reverse, detail of bottom.)
One of the challenges of using vintage household linens is the fact that the sizes needed don't always match up with the linens available. The runner used on the back was a perfect width but it was too short. I used a cotton doily at the bottom ... which needed a center seam to adjust its width! This area became a great place for some free-motion machine embroidery ... the title, my name, and the date. This is the last piece I finished in 2012. I shot the photos just yesterday, New Year's Eve!
(Above: Lift and Tuck, reverse, detail of top.)
Today is New Year Day. It is also the first day for submissions into Metaphors on Aging. After posting this blog entry, I'll be visiting the SAQA website and uploading my images, applying for consideration. I have no idea how my entries will fair. It doesn't really matter. I feel very good about my selections. My mentor Stephen Chesley has always advised me to enter work which honestly reflects the work I feel strongest about in relationship to an exhibition theme. So ... Menopause, Lift and Tuck, and Forever will be entered. (Yes, I will be entering one grave rubbing art quilt after all!)
I enter many juried exhibitions but generally don't announce them on my blog. I guess this one is different because I actually MADE work specifically for this chance. I'll blog about my acceptance/rejection when it happens! The SAQA prospectus indicates that I'll have a chance to submit a 50 word or less statement. I don't really know if this statement is "in general" or specific for each entry. If needed, here's my individual statement for Lift and Tuck:
Whether viewed as a distance memory, an ageless quest for a youthful shape, or a continuing attempt to ward off physical signs of advancing years, this intimate work strikes a chord in the melody of feminine life.
I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Walls Friday" blog featuring fiber art works in progress ... where she is also requesting an inclusion of participant's "word of the year". (Sort of like a New Year's Resolution but wrapped up in a single word.) Last year my "word" was CHANGE and a wrote about this new attitude HERE. Though I didn't elaborate on exactly the changes I wanted to make, I knew I wanted to experiment with painting canvas, cutting it, and stitching the pieces back together as a unique painting/art quilt and I wanted to pour epoxy over stitched textiles. To this end, I booked a solo show at an alternative art space, Frame of Mind, for August 2012 featuring this "yet to be created, new, changed artwork". This created a deadline and a way to be held accountable to the resolution. The experiments were done and the show was a success! I blogged about some of the work HERE. So ... this year, my word is EXPAND. I will be continuing my experiments by adhering vintage garments and/or textiles to large stretched canvases/cradled board with paint and other mixed media. I will continue pouting epoxy ... in larger sizes. I will bring a new series out of my "hunter/gatherer" phase and into physical stitches. This new work explores the shocked view of finding myself OLD ... well, middle aged ... closer to death, nearer to earth, oddly invisible in a male dominated art world full of interest in youth, the future, and an academic bend rather than the wisdom of experience, the richness of the past, and a lifetime of hands-on education. Lift and Tuck and Menopause were created in the spirit of this new body of work which will be shown as a solo exhibition at the Tapps Arts Center, November 2013 with an opening reception during the monthly "First Thursday" on Main Street art crawl, November 7th. This show was booked a couple days ago ... another way of assuring accountability to my resolution and my new word! I even added the show to this blog's sidebar and my website!