Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Thread ... lots and lots and lots of THREAD!

(Above:  My new "Unraveling Station" along with a pile of gorgeous, old thread ... an installation in progress!  Click on this or any other image to enlarge.)

I read two on-line forums.  The first is the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associate) Members list.  The second is called "Quiltarts".  (Note to my parents, especially to Dad ... these on-line forums are sort of like social media.  A person joins the on-line group. The group has a common interest and topics must stay within the interest of the group. Any member can pose a question or make comments.  I receive these comments as a "digest" ... which means that I get all the comments in a single email message ... once a day.  I lurk; I rarely write anything!)

(Above:  The Nature of Memory on left and Gathering My Thoughts on right.)

Recently, a member posted a sewing concern.  Her thread was constantly breaking.  Various members suggested all sorts of reasons for this problem ... from a burr on the bobbin case ... to issues with slippery threads ... to the possibility of the thread being OLD!  One member shared a story of fighting with OLD thread.  Another member urged everyone to simply "throw out" their old thread.  That post forced me to write ... asking members NOT to throw out old thread but to send it to me!

(Above:  Gathering My Thoughts, the first attempt.)

Why?  Well, I use old, unraveled thread in some of my work.  The Nature of Memory was my first such piece.  I loved using all this unraveled sewing thread around a half-model of a brain.  The threads truly resemble thought patterns.  All the unraveling threads make visual sense.  They are like the concept of losing one's memory over time, the notion that we forget details, the idea that our thoughts are ethereal ... slipping away, fading, or being lost to Alzheimer's or because we simply forgot to listen to the stories of our ancestors before they died.  So ... next I created the little piece above.  I called it Gathering My Thoughts.  I liked it; it was cute.

It wasn't long before I realized that the problem with this piece was it's small size.  It need to be BIGGER ... and have lots and lots more unraveled thread.  So ...

(Above:  Gathering My Thoughts ... top basket.)

I made it larger!  I unraveled thread found at Bill Mishoe's auction ... old thread ... and plenty of it.  I used various old baskets mounted to the wall.

(Above:  Gathering My Thoughts ... middle portion.)

The thread cascaded down the wall, in and out of the original little basket ...

(Above:  Gathering My Thoughts, lower section.)

... and into a laundry basket on the floor.  I blogged about this installation HERE.  It was also shown during my solo show I Am Not Invisible last November and December.  It looked great ... but ... there was still a problem.  The same problem.  It needs to be even

(Above:  Donation of old thread from Carol Ann Waugh.)

Thus, I asked other stitchers to please send their old thread to:
Susan Lenz
2123 Park Street
Columbia, SC  29201

(Obviously ... I'm more than happy to accept more, old thread!  Sorry, I can't pay for shipping but I promise to blog all about this upcoming installation with words of thanks!)

AMAZING!  I got four donations.  Carol Ann Waugh sent a nice big box and a lovely card! (Above)

(Above:  Donation of old thread from Eileen Doughty.)

(Above:  Donations from Elizabeth McAllister in Youngsville, NY and Pat Owoc in St. Louis, MO.

I've been unraveling all of it.  The living room's tile floor now has a glorious mass of ever-growing thread!  During the process, my husband Steve shot a video clip showing me unraveling seven spools of thread at once ... using a little black box.  It worked well until yesterday.

(Above:  Two boxes of old thread from Read Brothers in Charleston and the new "unraveling station" ... along with the mass of thread already unraveled.)

Yesterday I had framing work to accomplish in Charleston.  I stopped by Read Brothers on King Street.  It is an odd place, old and dusty, sparsely stocked with bits and pieces from past decades, and a cash register that undoubtedly dates to 1912 when the family started doing business on this site.  I love these sorts of places and felt certain that there might be some really old thread just waiting to be part of my installation.  Sure enough ... I found plenty.  It was definitely old ... likely from before 1985 when Conso Products were still making thread in Union, South Carolina.  Some of the boxes looked as if partly eaten by mice.  Some of the thread doesn't break immediately in hand ... but most of it does. As old as this thread was, the price was still a dollar per spool.  There's no way to bargain with some people ... no matter how one tries to explain the adjective STARVING as the stereotype description for a career as an ARTIST.  What could I do?  I bought 225 spools.  I don't know how much thread I actually have.  The paper labels only state that this thread is 0/3 in size and 2 oz. per spool.  I'm guessing I've got miles and miles.  I also knew I'd need an even more efficient way to unravel all this thread.  An old wooden chair was fitted with eight screws ... and now, I can really unravel at high speed.  Steve shot another video clip... with our television blaring in the background.  I've turned the clips into a UTube video ... just 1:28 long.  It is HERE.  This is how I'll be spending my evenings until the installation.  I'm also collecting more baskets.  I'd hoped to give details for the upcoming installation ... but my meeting has been postponed.  Let's just say, Gathering My Thoughts is aiming to be a room-sized installation of unraveled thread ... opening during Artista Vista 2014, April 24th!  If you have old thread ... please consider sending it!

(Above:  Stained Glass LVIII.  Framed:  62 1/2" x 22 1/2".)

Although I could probably spend all my time unraveling thread, I'm still making other work, especially pieces needed for the upcoming ACC Baltimore show and the Germantown Friends School Juried Craft shows.  Stained Glass LVIII was finished this week.

(Above:  Detail of Stained Glass LVIII.)

Also, In Box CXXXVIII was finished. 

(Above: In Box CXXXVIII.  Unframed approximately 17" x 13".  Framed:  21 3/4" x 17 3/4".)

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts. 


Yael said...

Dear Susan, when reading this exciting post, I wished I had tons of old thread to send you! Then when I saw you unraveling bent over the black box I was worried that you will get back pain from this unnatural posture. I was glad to watch you sit more comfortably in the second video in front of the new unraveling station!
You surely are one of the most talented, creative AND diligent artists I found in blogger world. I just so love your colorful and amazing work!
Happy unraveling and stitching! :-)

Mosaic Magpie said...

Carols donation of thread is amazing! I am glad you have a new system of unspooling your thread....that bending over the box could bring on an aching back.
All those threads you have, that represent the thought process...are surely only a small part of representing what goes on in that mind of yours!
I am often left shaking my head at all the ideas you come up with.
Keep up the good work, friend!

Wanda said...

I think you are doing this just to BUG me!! ha ha Seriously...what a concept! I get it too. I really do! The finished box and stained glass pieces are great! Do you always hang around your house all dressed up? You look great!

Cay Denise said...

Love the photo pairing of 'The Nature of Memory' and 'Gathering My Thoughts'. Its an eclectic but neat look.

Unknown said...

What's your plan for the empty spools? :)

Gwyned Trefethen said...

Fascinating! No old thread here, but I do save my empty spools for a year just to see how much thread I go through. If you decide to create installations from spools you can have mine.

LA Paylor said...

gosh, I just keep using my thread, old or new. You certainly find new inventive ways to use materials!
LeeAnna Paylor