Thursday, April 10, 2014

Arrowmont and Beyond

(Above:  The Fiber Studio at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.  The photo shows the room set up for my "trunk show" and workshop instruction on Thursday night.)

I've done it again.  It's been nine days since my last blog post which means this is LONG!  Of course this has everything to do with the fact that I've been to "paradise" and back, made loads of work, and met too many wonderful people to count.  My adventures started in Gatlinburg, Tennessee at Arrowmont School for Arts and Crafts where I was teaching "Second Life", a three-day workshop during Legacy Weekend.  This workshop focused on my grave rubbings and use of vintage materials in order to create heirloom art quilts.  Household linens and lace were combined with old buttons, beads, keys, and stitch to express concepts of time, admiration for long-gone anonymous stitchers, and to also speak to future generations.  I love this sort of thing ... and so did those in the workshop!

(Above:  The entrance to the main building of Arrowmont School for Arts and Crafts.  The fiber studio, book store, metal studio, exhibition space, auditorium, photo lab, and offices are in this building.  There's a breezeway to the clay and paper studios.  It is across the driveway from a spacious wood studio/building.)

It was such an honor to be an instructor in a place with a 102 year history ... especially on the weekend when deeds were signed passing the land from the founding Pi Beta Phi fraternity to the Arrowmont organization.  It really was a celebration ... a milestone for the Legacy weekend.

(Above:  The Staff House.)

My quaint bedroom was on the second floor of the lovely staff house.  Many people said the entire place felt like a summer camp for adults.  Well ... that might be true ... but I never went to a camp with such wonderful accommodations!  It was great:  WiFi everywhere, rockers on an enclosed front porch, plenty of closet space, and even a large tub in addition to a shower in the shared bathroom!

(Above:  The Dining Hall.)

The Staff House is actually connected to the Dining Hall.  The food was delicious.  I'm not generally one for desserts but couldn't pass up pineapple-upside-down-cake, the moistest chocolate cake in the world, and other homemade goodies.  The salad bar was excellent and all the vegetables were fresh.  There was even a "Taco Night"!

(Above:  Interior of the Dining Hall.)

I tried to sit with different people during meals in order to hear how things were going in the split oak basket workshop and the "crocks and pots" clay workshop.  Elsewhere were other workshops:  digital nature photography, painting, cigar box ukuleles, and wood turned stools.  But ... this blog post isn't really supposed to be about good food or various workshops.  It's all about THE FIBERS!

(Above:  The spacious Fiber Studio.)

Unfortunately, I don't have many photos from the workshop.  I was really, really busy once we started.  I totally forgot to snap images of the participants, works in progress, or much of anything else.  Yet, the set up for this Thursday night - Sunday afternoon workshop was more leisurely than I've ever experienced.  I had all day Thursday to haul in my material, design work stations, and set out supplies.  So, I took these photos then!

(Above:  Three tables full of vintage and recycled materials plus my collection of grave rubbings.)

I've also never had so much space in which to spread out materials.  It was great to have THREE LARGE TABLES just for "stuff"!

The first table was for vintage material ... mostly all the white and off-white household linens ... and even an off-white bridal gown from a thrift store.

The middle table was for all sorts of colored fabrics, old batiks, even a pair of spats and an old 48-starred flag.  All of this was "used" ... which means it had another "life" before I bought it at auction or inherited it from someone else.  Nothing on these first two tables was purchased "new".

On the third table I placed a really large piece of white acrylic felt.  It had once been the packaging material for a kayak or canoe being shipped from a North Carolina manufacturer to my friend's outdoor shop.  The rest of the table was filled with my collection of grave rubbings.  Some were on vintage material.  Most, however, was on silk or silk-like fabric that I did purchase new ... but that's about the only material in the entire workshop that didn't have a life before I got it!  Still ... it had all been to a cemetery or churchyard.  The surfaces were covered in crayon-on-fabric grave rubbings.  I brought them because ... if it had poured rain for the entire weekend, my workshop would have been seriously flawed!  Weather is a factor when incorporating a field trip to a graveyard!

(Above:  The button, bead, thread, needle and pin station.)

I had so much room, I used another entire table as an embellishment station!

(Above:  Four tables for my four workshop participants.)

One of the reasons I had all these extra tables is the fact that this workshop only had four participants.  Talk about a WONDERFUL way to connect!  Plenty of one-on-one conversations ... everyone easily able to see every demonstration ... no problem remembering anyone's name!  This was GREAT!  Also, each participant had her own large table too!

(Above:  The ironing station.)

The Fiber Studio is equipped for every kind of fiber arts ... including dyeing, silk-screening, weaving, batik, etc.  There was a large shelving unit for a bank of Bernina sewing machines too!  Since we weren't using the sinks, I set up two ironing board in front of them.  Also ... there were electrical outlets everywhere ... even hanging from the ceiling to prevent all sorts of cords puddling on the floor as a trip hazard.  Arrowmont is ready for any fiber action imaginable!


As a workshop, we didn't use any of the lovely, provided machines.  I brought my two Berninas and my Babylock dry felting machine.  With so few people, we had no problems sharing these.

(Above:  Station for tagging keys.)

Believe it or not ... I still had more tables!  Thus, this one became a "key tagging" station.  After my Thursday night trunk show, we talked about the concept of time, memory, legacy, and leaving heirlooms for future generations.  We discussed making art with "intention" and how text/epitaphs on graves create mood, atmosphere, and profound thoughts.  This was a perfect segue-way in using an old key and collaging a tag.  It was a perfect way to "make something" quickly, give an object a "second life", and focus on the memories we wanted to capture and share through art.

(Above:  Wooden spool station.)

Beside the "tagged key station" was the "wooden spool" station.  This was another place to use a small object for creative expression.  I brought plenty of thumbnail photos scanned from my family's photo albums to be collaged on the ends of wrapped wooden spools embellished with stitch.  These are quick, fun, and attractive, but they are also tokens suggestive of past memories.

(Above:  Mounting and matting station.)

There was one table still left ... which turned into the "presentation station".  This is where we mounted and matted work.  One of the advantages I bring to any workshop is my years of experience as a custom picture framer.  

 (Above:  Fiber artwork by Rena Wood, fiber artist-in-residence at Arrowmont.)

While setting up the Fiber Studio, I happily ran into Rena Wood, the fiber artist-in-residence at Arrowmont.  I invited her to join us for my Thursday night "trunk show".  Of course, I then asked if she would conduct a tour of her work in the Arrowmont exhibition space.  Lucky us, she agreed!  The exhibit was just outside the Fiber Studio door and showcased the work of all five artists-in-residences who are about to wrap up their eleven month program.  Rena's work is incredible and speaks to so many of the same concepts of time and memory.  She incorporates vintage materials too.  I was immediately drawn to her artist statement:

My work gives physical form to the ephemeral sense of memory.  The time I spend working is marked by each stitch, each knot, and each repetitive act of my hands. I construct and deconstruct my materials to show a suspension between formation and falling apart, the acts of remembering and forgetting, and to represent time passing and time stopped.


This is one of Rena's most incredible hand stitched pieces.  First, she dyes all her vintage pieces black.  Then she hand stitches ... allowing the design to incorporate the existing needlework.  These three photos were taken by Jeanne Hewell-Chambers, one of my workshop participants.  Thanks, Jeanne!  Yes ... I forgot to snap photos from the very start of the workshop! LOL!


This photo is a detail shot of the image immediately above.  Rena is using subtle shades of thread ... all hand stitched ... lots and lots of running stitches!  Truly amazing work.  I was so happy to unload some of my stash into her more than capable hands.  It is beautiful to think of these textiles finding their "Second Life" as art.  After Arrowmont, Rena will be headed to the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft for another residency program.

(Above:  Gatlinburg ... shops on Parkway Avenue.)

Although we were caught in a downpour, the workshop was able to go to White Oak Cemetery in downtown Gatlinburg.  Anyone who's been the Gatlinburg is probably puzzled!  A cemetery in such a touristy place?  Well ... yes ... just behind this row of shops is a steep hillside with trees.  There's a mini-golf business on the right ... but on the left ... there's a small historic cemetery ... established in 1830 yet still active today.  I scouted the place on Wednesday in the late afternoon within a half hour of arriving in Gatlinburg.  Please remember, this workshop advertised my expertise in grave rubbings.  Everything sort of hinged on the ability to actually MAKE A GRAVE RUBBING and I'd never been to Gatlinburg!  This cemetery is within two block of the Arrowmont drive way ...

... it is behind stores like this one selling "legal moonshine" ... and on Wednesday afternoon there was a coffin, a deep hole, and a funeral home canopy in place.  Thankfully, the burial was on Thursday before my workshop ever started.  More thankfully, the cemetery had plenty of unique and interesting stones for rubbings.  It was a perfect place!  I went there twice with people in the workshop!

 (Above:  Work-in-progress by Jeanne Hewell-Chambers.)

Fortunately, people in the workshop remembered to take their own photos.  Some were posted on Facebook.  Everyone has allowed me to repost their pieces here.  Jeanne Hewell-Chambers blogged her entire Arrowmont experience every day.  She came with her engineer husband ... who took his first clay workshop!  On the third day, Jeanne designed ELEVEN pieces.

 (Above and below:  Works-in-progress by Jeanne Hewell-Chambers.)

Though not all the pieces incorporated a grave rubbing, Jeanne was totally absorbed in the reuse of old garments, cloth, and house hold linens.  She's got plenty of work to stitch in the weeks to come and said that she really loved having all the space in which to design this new body of work.


One of the pieces in my stash was this table runner.  I loved it but knew I'd never, ever find a way to use it myself.  Yet, Jeannie designed this fabulous creation.  Believe it or not, she brought the bright pink gloves ... which went perfectly with the black ones I had.  Why?  Well, the black gloves had a row of French knots in the exact pink color!  It was meant to be!

 (Above:  Cyndy Falgout's artwork.)

Cyndy Falgout said that she could have spent the entire weekend tagging keys.  Fortunately, she used several in pieces like this!  I'm not showing any of Valerie Summer's work.  Why?  Well, Valerie just took out a business license as a professional artist, has an entire exhibition under construction, and ordered 16 8" x 10" mats and 24 11" x 14" mats from me to continue with her new series.  She paid me one of the biggest compliments ever when saying, "You changed my life".  I am honored ... humbled ... proud ... excited ... and totally in awe of the energy unleashed during these few days.

(Above:  The Key to the Sand in the Hour Glass.  Crayon on fabric grave rubbing, tagged vintage key, free motion and hand embroidery.  Framed:  15 1/2" x 13". Inventory # 3100.  $110.)

So ... what did I do?  Well ... I talked a lot.  That's what workshop instructors generally do but I also stitched some.  Pardon the glare in the photo above.  I took the picture after it framing it was glass.

(Above:  The Key to Hope.  Inventory # 3098. Framed:  9 1/8" x 7 1/8". $70.)

I finished these three tagged keys.  Two have dry felted backgrounds.  One incorporates a grave rubbing.  I also started a 12" x 12" art quilt for the upcoming SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) auction.  It served as my demonstration for free motion embroidery.  I worked on a larger Grave Rubbing Art Quilt ... which served as an example for different stitched textures and how I often use buttons on the edge of my work along with the blanket stitch.

(Above:  Quatrefoil Key.  Inventory # 3099. Framed:  9 1/2" x 7 1/2". $40.)

In addition to my workshop, I did walk all over the Arrowmont campus.  My Dad would have LOVED the entire wood studio.  There were all sorts of areas for the various way on which people work with wood ... lots and lots of machines.  It also smelled wonderfully!

 (Above:  Wood Studio at Arrowmont.)

(Above:  Workshop participant in the cigar box ukelele class.)

 (Above:  Totem poles at Arrowmont.)

In addition to visiting other workshops, I walked up the trail past the totem poles ...

... to the artists-in-residence studios ...

... where I peeked into Rena's very, very neat and tidy studio ...
... and found H. P. Bloomer's clay studio!  He was having an "open studio" sale. Bill and Mary Ann Smith, the split oak basket workshop instructors were already there.  I did find two bowls that needed to come home to Columbia!  So did Bill and Mary Ann!  Artists are great people ... and know great art ... and buy from one another!

(Above:  Where Were You When Kennedy Was Assassinated? Ancestor Wall Series. 12 1/4" x 14 1/4".)

Well, all good things come to an end ... and so did the workshop at Arrowmont.  The drive through the Smokey Mountains was gorgeous.  I returned to another kind of "mountain", aka a pile of waiting framing work.  But this week, I've also continued making more pieces for my Wall of Ancestors installation.  There are now over 100 pieces.  The installation will be part of Gallery 80808/Vista Studios' group show called "Say Something" for Artista Vista, the spring art crawl in downtown Columbia.  The show will run April 24 - May 6th and the reception is during the Artista Vista evening of Thursday, April 24 from 5 - 9.  There are several new pieces.  Just scroll down to see them!  I can't wait for the entire collection to be hanging as if a real "family wall", an encounter with people whose names have been forgotten but whose images are still captured in anonymous snap shots. 

(Above:  Window XCIII.  Inventory # 3119. Unframed:  13" x 11"; Framed:  17 1/4" x 15 1/4". $265.)

Before I left for Arrowmont, I'd finished the stitching on several new "In Box" and "Stained Glass" pieces.  Since returning, these works have been melted, mounted, and framed.  More of these are also in the works.

(Above: Window XCII. Inventory # 3118. Unframed:  13" x 11"; Framed:  17 1/4" x 15 1/4". $265.)

(Above: In Box CXLV.  Inventory # 3120.  Unframed:  14" x 10"; Framed:  19 1/4" x 15 1/4". $225.  This is the smallest of the "In Box" series.)

I updated my blog for the sale of these works.  There are three sizes of the "In Box" works and four sizes of the "Stained Glass" work called Windows, Lancet Windows, Lunettes, and Large Stained Glass.  That blog is HERE.

(Above: In Box CXLVI.  Inventory # 3121.  Unframed:  17" x 13"; Framed:  21 1/2" x 17 1/2". $325.  This is the medium size of the "In Box" series.)

(Above:  Donation of old thread from Wilma Black.)

Every evening I am continuing to unravel miles of old, neglected thread for my upcoming installation Threads: Gathering My Thoughts which will be held at Gallery 80808/Vista as a solo show from September 17 - 30th with a "pilot project" during Artista Vista at Studio Cellars, 912 Lady Street from April 23 - May 1.  I'm very excited about this project!  I'm also in debt to plenty of people who have donated their old thread, including Wilma Black!  Thank you, Wilma!

Below are the rest of the newest pieces for my Wall of Ancestors installation.  Enjoy!  I sure did!

(Above:  Cheers! Prosit! A Toast to the Future.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed in an antique cross bow walnut frame.  12 1/2" x 14 1/2".

(Above:  All American.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed in an antique walnut frame.  14 1/4" x 12 1/4".)

(Above:  All That is Left.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed:  6" x 7 3/4".)

(Above:  Beware of Boys.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed:  7 3/4" x 6 1/4".)
(Above:  Fading From Memory.  The Wall of Ancestor Series.  Framed:  6 3/4" x 7 3/4".)
(Above:  Gentleman Caller.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed: 7 3/4" x 6 1/4".)
(Above:  I Could Not Wait to Leave Home.  Wall of Ancestor Series.  Framed:  10" x 9".)
(Above: In Love, Elope, Stayed Married.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed:  10 1/4" x 13 1/4".)
(Above:  Life's Race Well Run.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed: 13" x 16".)
(Above: Little Lady.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed:  6" x 5".)
(Above:  Perfect Family.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed:  8" x 6".)
(Above:  Prim and Proper.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed:  8 1/4" x 6 1/2".)

(Above:  Quality Family Time.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed:  8 1/4" x 6 1/4".)

(Above:  Salt of the Earth.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed: 7 3/4" x 6 1/4".)

(Above:  Single Mother.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed: 7 3/4" x 6 1/4".)

(Above:  The Girl Next Door.  The Wall of Ancestors.  Framed:  11 3/4" x 8 3/4".)
(Above:  The Last Ride.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed:  6 1/4" x 8 1/8".)
(Above:  There is No Place Better Than Your Own Back Yard.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed:  9" x 9".)
(Above:  Trip to Paradise.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed:  9 1/2" x 7 1/4".)
(Above:  A Picture to Keep By Your Heart.  The Wall of Ancestors Series.  Framed:  11 1/4" 7 1/2".)

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


Mosaic Magpie said...

Loved this post start to finish and I am so envious of those that were in your classes. You truly shared your heart with them. Love the keys and the captioned photos.... my favorite, "Fading From Memory".

Julie said...

What a perfect workspace! I knew you would have a great time. I have piles of anonymous family photos too that I cannot identify. Your work will pay tribute, as it so often does, to all those people who have slipped into the past. These old photos always pose so many questions.

Yael said...

You must be a perpetuum mobile Susan - thank's god for that!
What an awesome post, WOW! :-)

Wanda said...

What a great post! What a workshop! So much space and possibility. There is no way that imaginations could be held still in a setting like that! Wonderful. The Wall of Ancestors is so eye-opening and thought provoking. The Windows and Boxes just keep getting better! I'm so glad that your workshop went well and you had such a nice place to teach it. Yes, I know you arrived home with your feet already much to do!!!