(Above: The Key to Imagination. 4" x 3". Dry felted and stitched background with key and a handmade tag and cord. Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)
(Above: Doors with Keys at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios ... as seen during Artista Vista 2008.)
Once upon a time I had a foggy vision of an artwork I wanted to create. My mind's eye saw old wooden doors with peeling paint completely covered with keys. The keys were to represent some of the abstract qualities people look for in life ... The Key to Happiness, The Key to Knowledge, The Key to Success, fame, fortune, the American Dream, a fast Internet connection, a successful diet, the future, the past, and every other seemingly impossible, intangible. I went to work and created the sculpture piece shown above. I called it Decisions and blogged about it here.
The work was part of Artista Vista 2008, an annual spring art crawl in downtown Columbia. Gallery 80808/Vista Studios is always an anchor arts location for this event and the companion art crawl Vista Lights each autumn. My studio is located there ... so, yes, basically, I have two art shows in which to show new work every year. It is wonderful and keeps me on my toes.
Well, in 2008, the artists with studio space at Gallery 80808/Vista Studio were looking for a title for our group exhibit. I suggested "Personal Grounds". They liked it and selected it. My statement for this sculptural unit of doors and keys was: Personal Grounds is a location in life. It is the place in which one exists as a result of doors opened, keys turned, and decisions made. I was very pleased with my work, the show, and the statement. Yet, something was missing. I realized that I needed "people" to surround the doors. This is how my Decision Portrait Series started. I kept Personal Grounds as my solo shows title and I retained the same, simple statement. Soon, the portraits took over my artistic direction ... all 108 of them. Yet, the doors were still around ... and they aren't the easiest things in the world to move!
(Above: One of the sculptural door units at City Gallery at Waterfront Park, Fall 2010.)
But, move they did! They went to City Gallery at Waterfront Park for Personal Grounds, fall 2010. For this exhibition, I also created my first "Wall of Keys". From Charleston, the doors came back to the Tapps Arts Center and became Keys to the City, a corner window installation.
(Above: Personal Grounds at Waterworks Visual Arts Center in Salisbury, NC. Spring 2011.)
Well after that, Steve and I were tired of moving these large, heavy pieces around. We finally just took them back to Mouse House, our business. We live upstairs.
(Above: The doors with keys at Mouse House. The photo was taken last week.)
They've been here for a little more than a year-and-a-half. Amazingly, people have purchased some of the keys. The panels were looking rather empty ... not at all like my original vision. It was high time to do something about that!
(Above: The doors with keys at Mouse House.)
It was time to make new, framed keys. After all, this is the start of a new year. It was time to replenish the keys and time to fill up a pile of frames Steve had made for this purpose. Framed keys are an excellent way to use up little pieces of scrap picture framing moulding. For the past week, I've been doing just that. Here are some of the new pieces I've made:
(Above: The Key to Chance. Framed: 8" x 6". Click on any key to enlarge.)
(Above: Key to Peace. Framed: 11" x 8".)
Each piece includes a dry felted background with embroidery and a tagged key. The cords are all made by zigzag stitching over scrap yarn. Most of the pieces also have beading. They are stitched onto a piece of mat board and framed with spaces and glass. I took most of the photos before putting the glass into the frames. This avoids reflection and glare.
(Above: The Key to Power. Framed 8" x 5".)
Some of the frames are cut "on the side" which allows me to install Plexiglas on the top rim. I drill holes in the Plexiglas and use decorative tacks or nails to adhere it in place.
(Above: The Key to Respect. Framed 9 1/2" x 5 1/2".)
I found a tiny sample I made while demonstrating my Babylock embellisher. It became the background for this key.
(Above: The Key to Sanity. Framed: 9" x 6".)
(Above: The Key to the Love of Beauty. Framed: 11" x 9".)
I also found scraps of embellishment I made while in a workshop with my Swedish embroidery friends under Sara Lechner in Austria, fall 2009. They worked up beautifully for the keys. I love using up little trinkets and seemingly neglected or random bits of fabric.
(Above: The Wall of Keys as seen at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios for Artista Vista 2011. Click on image to enlarge.)
This past week I've been focusing on the backgrounds and trying to make the keys work with the frames. I haven't, however, been making any of the tagged keys. I've still got well over 1200 of them. The photo above was taken when they were hanging outside my studio. Now, they are all inside my studio ... close at hand. Some times I get sucked into the wall just trying to figure out which one I want to use inside a frame!
(Above: The Key to Utopia. Framed: 10" x 7".)
Some of the new, framed keys have tags made with printed letters clipped from vintage sheet music and 19th century books. Some have tags with free motion machine embroidered letters on light tan ultra-suede.
(Above: The Key to Youth. Framed: 8" x 6 1/2".)
(Above: The Key to the Cure. Framed: 11" x 8".)
(Above: The Key to Knowledge. Framed: 13 1/2" x 11 1/2".)
I used a scrap of late 18th century fabric on this one.
(Above: The Key to Optimism. Framed: 10" x 7 1/2".)
(Above: The Key to the Journey. Framed: 8 1/2" x 6 1/2".)
Last year I had Steve (who does our laundry!) save dryer lint for me. After about a half a year he quit because I hadn't used any of it. For the life of me, I can't remember why I wanted it ... but I've now used some of what was saved in the background for this key. Maybe I should simply "dry felt" it all into a piece of unique fabric? Maybe I should do something with the drawer of Shadow's cat hair too? That's another thing I'm saving without a plan!
(Above: The Key to Your Life. Framed: 12" x 10".)
This key is another one in a frame with the Plexiglas fitted to the front. I used my favorite copper brads.
(Above: The Keys to the Stars and to the Moon. Framed: 9" x 11".)
These two keys just had to go together!
(Above: Key West Ocean. Framed: 51" x 34 1/2".)
In the spirit of replenishing my small, affordable artwork available here at Mouse House, I decided to cut up the largest piece I made for last August's Sun and Sand show at Frame of Mind, an alternative art space on Columbia's Main Street. (We also needed the picture frame moulding for a client's order!)
(Above: Another "Drop in the Ocean", a series of small pieces made with pieces of acrylic painted canvas stitched onto one another.)
I filled six little frames and numbered them in a series called "A Drop in the Ocean". I also matted some of the pieces of canvas and installed them in frames that once housed Decision Portraits but were cut down for my eerie photos of antique dolls. Now, for their third incarnation, these frames are for the "Key West Series". I ended up with nine of them!
(Above: One of the "Key West Series" pieces created after cutting down a large work.)
(Above: The Key to Smooth Sailing and Tranquil Seas. Framed: 11 1/2" x 6 1/2".)
Of course there were narrow strips of the large canvas piece remaining after all these frames were filled. I used one of the pieces for the back of this frame and made a special key to dangle inside. One side of the tag reads: Smooth Sailing. The other side reads: Tranquil Seas.
(Above: Another large bucket of picture frame moulding scraps.)
No matter what, I'm quitting this "replenish project" by tomorrow afternoon. I'll be tidying up my studio ... which is now a utter mess. (I've pulled out all my embellisher ... THANKS MOM for buying this cool "toy" for me, all my embellishing supplies, my beads, assorted hand threads, and several containers full of interesting old garments and materials. It looks like a bomb went off.) Tomorrow is an annual art event at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios. My mentor Stephen Chesley and three wildly talented friends (Mike Williams, Ed Wimberly, and David Yaghjian) are opening their annual show. It is always a highlight of every year, well attended, and worth cleaning my studio for the overflowing crowd to have somewhere else to hang out!
UPDATE: I have finished a few more framed keys. They will be shown in a later blog post. I'm linking this one to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Friday", a site sharing fiber "works-in-progress".