(Above: Melting two "In Box Series" pieces. Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)
I was tagged by Gerrie Congdon to participate in the Monday Creative Blog Tour. Wow! How exciting. This post is therefore partially one showing what I've been up to lately but also answering the following questions that are part of the "blog hop":
1) What am I working on?
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
3) Why do I write/create what I do?
4) How does your writing/creative process work?
(Above: In Box CLXIV, detail of lower right corner including the signature box before using the industrial heat gun.)
To answer the first question, I generally work on more than one project every day, every week. This past week is no exception. I've got an art quilt in the midst of being hand stitched and finished. I'm preparing a press release for my September installation which is a collaboration with graffiti artist Michael Krajewski. I'm writing a exhibition proposal for a small group I'm in. I applied for the Smithsonian Craft Show and the American Craft Council shows in both Baltimore and Atlanta. I'm also creating a few more pieces for my September solo show at the Durham Arts Council in Durham, NC. These two medium-sized "In Box Series" pieces are for that opportunity.
Because I never quite follow rules, I'm now going to answer the final question:
How does my writing/creative process work?
Well, the "In Box" and "Stained Glass" pieces that I make have several unique steps. I developed this technique myself and have shared it as a free, on-line tutorial HERE. One of the most important steps, however, is melting with an industrial heat gun. The space between my polyester velvet shapes is the thinnest layer. It melts away very quickly. That "substrata" layer is recycled, black acrylic felt that was formerly the packaging material for a canoe or kayak being shipped from a manufacturer to my local outdoors shop. I have a video of the process but it really doesn't show a "before-and-after" image.
The first image in this blog post shows two, medium sized "In Box" pieces. The one on the left has had holes melted through the multiple layers of polyester stretch velvet and is almost totally melted with the industrial heat gun. The one on the right has only had the little holes melted ... using two sizes of soldering irons. It hasn't been exposed to the industrial heat gun. The photo directly above is a detail of the lower, right corner (aka ... BEFORE). Please note, I haven't melted any holes in the signature block yet. I did this ... then I "zapped" the piece with the industrial heat gun ... and then ...
.... that same corner looked like this photo! (Above ... aka ... AFTER!)
The photo above shows the other piece. I've melted the holes using the soldering iron. I've "zapped" it with the heat gun ... but it hasn't quite been "freed" from the surrounding black, acrylic felt. Sometimes I continue using the industrial heat gun to melt more of the felt. Sometimes I just use the soldering iron and melt away the edges.
Here is the same corner after I used the soldering iron to completely "free" the piece with the surrounding black, acrylic felt. What looks like "fringe" is simply some of the acrylic felt melted into the cotton thread I stitch to the outer shapes.
At last the two pieces are almost finished. They are pictured here on the plywood work table in the garage. All melting is done in this location while wearing a carbon-filtered ventilator mask. The fumes from melting felt are toxic.
(Above: In Box CLXIII. Framed: 21 3/4" x 17 3/4". $325.)
Each piece is then stitched to a piece of acid-free mat board and framed.
(Above: In Box CLXIV. Framed: 21 3/4" x 17 3/4". $325.)
These two pieces will be in my solo show in Durham ... along with several others which are pictured on a blog specifically to share this work.
(Above: A new shipment of polyester stretch velvet.)
So ... question # 2 asks:
How my work differs from other fiber artwork.
Well, my work is very different from most fiber artist and especially from most art quilters. One of the reasons is my choice of materials. As an art quilter and an installation artist, I use found objects and vintage household linens. I adore the fact that these items have been cherished by another generation. I seem to tap into the inherent life they've led and the symbolic and familiar associations viewers see in them. Yet, my "In Box" and "Stained Glass" fiber work also use fabrics that most others would NEVER consider! I use lots and lots of polyester stretch velvet. Recently, I ordered ten assorted yards ... including an absolutely eye-boggling, psychedelic print! The available selection at Spandex World is hilariously great ... including colors with glitter, metallic, and animal prints!
(Above: My son Mathias Lenz Dingman and his new fiancé Laura-Jane Gibson.)
Finally, question # 3:
Why do I write/create what I do?
I am most inspired by a sense of time. I want to communicate ideas, images, and emotions that express the ways each of us select to spend our limited time on earth. Last weekend, my son Mathias made one of these important decisions. He asked his girlfriend Laura-Jane to marry him! Obviously, she said YES! Steve and I are so happy ... and looking forward to next July's wedding in Scotland!
(Above: Newest stash of wrapped-and-stitched wooden spools ... each with a reproduction thumbnail image from vintage family photo albums.
What compels me to create new work is often a sense of family, generations of relates, and the stories we pass down in hopes of being remembered. My general artist statement probably says it best:
Generally using needle and thread for self-expression, Susan Lenz works to articulate the accumulated memory inherent in discarded things. She seeks a partnership with her materials, their purposes, values, and familiar associations. Memory, universal mortality, and personal legacy are central themes. Vintage and recycled materials are combined with meticulous handwork. Susan is drawn to textiles for their tactile qualities and often makes work that is meant to touch and be touched.
(Above: Detail of spools.)
These tiny gem-like objects are very much part of my desire to make artwork that embodies a sense of family history, familiar objects, and the desire for personal legacy. Making them is also obsessive!
(Above: Various fiber vessels filled with wrapped-and-stitched wooden spools at Mouse House, the business I own with my husband Steve.)
I have no idea how many wrapped-and-stitched wooden spools I have ... undoubted hundreds ... likely at least a thousand or more. I'm still making more. Why? Well, first it is an obsession which I love ... especially while a passenger in the car. Second, I have an opportunity to share this work at the Columbia International Airport in a locked, enclosed art exhibition space ... September through October.
I am currently traveling. In fact, I'm typing this post from my parents' log home in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. I came for a family cookout being given for my sister Wanda and her husband who are visiting from Munich, Germany. Yet, my artwork figured into the trip. I am wrapping and stitching approximately fifty or more wooden spools plus we picked up an antique quilting frame that will be made into a sculptural work for yet another art exhibition opportunity!
(Above: Michel McNinch sketching an owl brought by the Carolina Wildlife Center to Gallery 80808/Vista Studios for the Congaree Vista Guild initiative "Third Thursday".)
Another reason why I create the work I do is the fact that I've completely integrated art into my life. I do very little that isn't directly involved with the arts. Even my "day job" is custom-picture framing. My studio is in a cooperative setting with twelve other professional artists at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios. Last Thursday the Carolina Wildlife Center partnered with our location for "Third Thursday". Looking at the animals is great ... but ... when artists look at animals it is with their sketch books, paint, and cameras! The approach to every day and special occasions is always from the standpoint of a creative adventure!
I even got to hold Lucy ... the snake!
I know that Jeanne Hewell Chambers knows exactly what I mean from a full immersion into life as an artistic way of living. That is why I'm tagging her for the next Monday blog hop. I know that I could tag two artists, but Jeanne is perfect ... as she is both an artist and a writer ... and has more than one Internet location to share her vision of the world!
(Above: Drawing and photographing a opossum.)
I am linking this post blog to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber artwork.