Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Lift and Tuck

(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!


Roberta said...

A beautiful use for instruments of torture.

Lynn Cohen said...

Susan, I graduated high school in 1959 and yes I was wearing that girdle! I had no stomach at that age to hold in. But it did aide in holding up my seamed nylon stockings. It was also used on occasion as a sort of "chasity belt" as it kept any rambuncious teenaged boys from getting into my pants so to speak! I wore it over underpants! LOL Really!
My bras were of that "make them look pointy" era too. Although I did not have much to put in a bra at that time! Thanks for the memories ... I guess. LOL

Your pieces turned out brilliantly beautiful. I love your solution to the flapping/hanging problem.

Good luck in getting into the show! I hope some of the judges are my age! ;-)

wholly jeanne said...

You've gone and done it again: created a strikingly creative piece that's not just layers of cloth, but layers of meaning - all coming together in a way that leaves room for viewers to wriggle in with their own memories and emotions. Love your creative resourcefulness, your keep-going attitude. Very nicely done, Sugar.


I can't say that I ever used the maxipad belts...but I remember seeing one once. I wonder if they are even still used?? Anyway, it made me think of someone I know (?V?) who "found" one of those belts and used it to make a sling shot...needless to say, his mother was not pleased!

Judy Ferguson said...

As a 1959 high school graduate, I remember those devices of torture well. What were we thinking? Ha ha. Congratulations on being so inventive.

Sandy said...

This is a great way to speak volumes to the aging theme. And very much in your own style, too. I do hope they choose it. But if not, I think I would love to see a series of work like this!
Sandy in the UK

Deborah OHare said...

A really thought provoking piece, beautifully executed and wonderfully explained.

MulticoloredPieces said...

Marvelous piece, Susan. Doing research in women's studies, I find it interesting the changes in clothing and what it says about how "society" views and treats women. Women's liberation didn't come too soon! I used to make pins out of my mom's garters.
Great way to start the New Year!
best, nadia

Martha said...

Ah. . . another amazingly creative piece, Susan.

Nina Marie said...

love where this series is going - love the word expand - and - forgive me Susan for this - but am I the only one that sees a bit of an Owl in Lift and tuck? Wonder if its because there are so many owls out right now and its all the pop rage!

Wil said...

What a great idea! I love both Menopauze and Lift and Tuck, they both make me smile and I agree with you. I won't miss them.

Gabriela said...


Christine said...

Love this .... your post has made both me and DH laugh so much. I remember my Mother wearing the passion killers and then ... he said his practice wife used to wear them ...ho! ho! ho!

Redcurlzs Vintage Patterns said...

Oh I love this!!