(Above: My living room! This is the pile of unraveled thread for my upcoming installation which will be on view from April 23 - May 1 at Studio Cellar in downtown Columbia. CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)
The pile is still growing! Max, our fourteen pound cat, has stopped using it as a giant "nest". I think he's sort of afraid of all this old, unraveled thread. More donations are pouring in. I'm excited and really enjoy pulling thread from as many as thirteen spools at once! I'm getting really good at this task. But, before I share more on this project, let me back up a bit!
(Above: Steve paying our entrance to the Eastern State Penitentiary, a historic prison in Philadelphia.)
I know it is strange for me not to blog in over a week, but my life has been more than a little crazy. Last I wrote, Steve and I finished the ACC (American Craft Council) show in Baltimore and traveled to Philadelphia for the following weekend's 30th annual Germantown Friends School Juried Craft Show. This allowed us several sight-seeing days in Philly! Of course we visited all three building of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Reading Market ...
(Above: Me in the Betsy Ross House.)
... the Betsy Ross House ...
(Above: Steve in the Eastern State Penitentiary.)
... and the Eastern State Penitentiary ... which was WONDERUL. I've never seen such a glorious ruin! The layers of peeling paint, the patina of rusted metal, the decay, the feeling of isolation and ghostly presence were overwhelming. I shot pictures until my camera's batteries died.
(Above: Al Capone's cell. He was there only briefly but lived in far better comfort than any ordinary prisoner ... which was a very quiet, bleak condition.)
We went mostly because I've read about the installation art projects on view. It is a highly competitive process and top-notch artists have been involved. The work was fascinating but couldn't quite compare to the place itself.
(Above: Remains of a bed frame in a prison cell ... with snow.)
The wings of the prison extend from a central room. These wings are in various states of dilapidation, many too dangerous for visitor passage ... but all exuding an otherworldly aura of another century and where good intentions went awry. The guide was excellent. We were also taken into the hospital wing ... which was indeed creepy.
(Above: Shadow of a prison gate.)
This historic structure has also served as a movie set, including the mental facility scenes in the Bruce Willis/Brad Pitt Twelve Monkeys. The largest portion of income for this non-profit comes from an annual Halloween tour. It is reportedly so frightening that many use the half-way point escape route!
(Above: View into another cell.)
The history of the penitentiary was outlined in story form by the guide, but the information is also available on the excellent website ... which also includes the "call for entry" for installation art. The deadline is in June. I wonder if I should try applying? I have an idea (of course ... who couldn't find inspiration in such a setting?) It would be grand to return and transform one of these cells into a unique vision of my own.
(Above: One of the long hallways with prison cell doors on both sides.)
Steve and I stayed as long as we could ... visiting every nook and cranny ... until we nearly froze to death. Although I'm originally from Slippery Rock, PA and went to college at The Ohio State University in Columbus ... I am no longer used to such harsh weather and low temperatures. Of course a historic penitentiary is NOT heated!
(Above: Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia.)
Despite the outdoor weather and low temperatures we also went to the historic Laurel Hill Cemetery. I couldn't stay long but did manage to get some great photos. This is the first time I've been to a cemetery covered in snow since the start of my Grave Rubbing Art Quilts and my fascination with mortality expressed creatively through art.
(Above: St. Martin's Cross.)
It was nice to see this lovely stylized St. Martin's Cross ... a recent motif for one of my Lancet Window Series pieces. I might use this image and make another one in the coming weeks!
(Above: A broken angel.)
I also was quite taken with this sculpture of a broken angel. In all the cold weather, there was something serenely appropriate ... strong, steadfast, determined ... about this figure. This angel seemed like a special survivor.
(Above: Detail of the unraveled thread!)
So ... after the Germantown Friends School Juried Craft Show, Steve and I traveled back south just ahead of Winter Storm Titan. Unfortunately, I cracked a crown on one of my front four teeth. Thus, a trip to my dentist was scheduled in between a trip to Sumter to pick up my recent solo show at the university gallery and a visit to another doctor .... for a routine colonoscopy.
In addition to these things, there were other tasks this week: unpacking, returning the rental cargo van, out-of-state sales tax, inventory, transferring money collected in our PayPal account, and other paperwork associated with high-end juried craft shows. I also had to tackle the neglected custom picture framing orders that sat idle in my absence. (My "day job".) The week has been hectic ... especially since I'm leaving again on Tuesday morning!
I'm going to Mary McBride's Focus on Fiber workshops and retreat at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. I'm teaching my HOT class. This weekend has been spent in "hunter-gather" mode ... collecting up all the supplies and equipment for my workshop! I'm enjoying it though.
(Above: Donation from Nanette Zeller! Thank you, Nanette!)
Every evening this past week, I've literally "unwound" by "unwinding" miles of old neglected thread for my upcoming installation for the 23rd annual Artista Vista art crawl. My work will be at Studio Cellar from April 23rd through May 1st. I'm excited!
(Above: Donation from Jill Hoddick. Thank you, Jill!)
The installation is called Threads: Gathering My Thoughts and will feature a dozen-and-a-half or so baskets suspended at various levels from the ceiling. All the unraveled thread will cascade from the ceiling, down and through all the basket and onto the floor and a laundry basket. The concept is to make visible the "threads" of our mind ... the myriad of thoughts that tie together our human minds.
(Above: Donation from Nichol! Thanks, Nicki!)
I couldn't have a pile of unraveled thread so large if it were not for the generosity of so many fiber artists here in the Columbia area and all over the USA and even beyond (Thank you, Margaret Blank for your earlier donation and making this an "international" event!)
(Above: Donation from Sandra Baker. Thank you, Sandra!)
Some of these donations were simply left at my studio door! I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see a plastic bag of old thread hanging on the doorknob! THANK YOU ... to everyone who has donated. I might even have bigger and bolder plans for this insanely wonderful tangle of thread!
(Above: Two of my fiber vessels. The one on the left has wrapped and stitched wooden spools that will be made into decorative Christmas ornaments ... sometime before Thanksgiving of this year! LOL! The vessel on the right is going with me to the workshop and retreat in Florida. These wooden spools have been wrapped. I've plied the blanket stitch to both ends of the wrapped wool yarns. While in Florida, I'll add the embellished stitching.)
This project just seems to generate more work! I love this sort of "trickle down" affect! You see ... some of the donated old spools of thread are wrapped around vintage wooden spools. I love them. I use them. I turn them into their own special type of art. Wooden spools just seem to beg for a wool yarn wrapping and embellished stitches. Once this is accomplished, I add buttons, beads, and ribbon to make a Christmas ornament ... or add a thumbnail image from old family photo albums ... glued to the ends of the spools ... and display them in groupings called Ancestors. One of my projects always seems to lead into the next and vice versa! This project is really keeping me busy!
(Above: The wooden spools from this last batch of donations ... waiting to be transformed into miniature works of art!)