Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Although I'm always working on something I consider "major", I really enjoy making fun, small, accessible pieces too ... especially when I use recycled old keys! I love keys! I also love using my embellisher to create unique backgrounds onto which I can stitch each tagged key. All fourteen pieces incorporate recycled materials ... from antique scraps of brocade ... to trim and vintage lace from Bill Mishoe's auction ... to leftover pieces of rusted doileys and damask ... to donated bits of fabric with lovely beading from cyber friend Margaret Blank in Canada! (Thank you, Margaret!)
I made these keys in order to beef up my inventory for the upcoming Sustainable Midlands' Holiday Sale on December 1st and the Crafty Feast show on Dec. 14th. I'm very excited about these two events. I've attended both these shows in the past but never applied to be a vendor until this year. Hopefully, I'll have lots more handmade and recycled items to share during the coming month. In the meantime, I'm listing my inventory number, dimensions, and prices ... because ... well ... they are "for sale" and were made with "holiday gift giving" in mind. Yet, I hope no one thinks this blog is about "marketing" more than about "sharing". It has never been my intention to blog for the purpose of drumming up business. (This week I got blasted on an Facebook group because a price showed up on a post. I left the group.)
Of course, if someone reading wants to make a purchase ... well ... great! Just call or email me. (803) 254-0842 or email@example.com. Selling work has always been more of the "icing on the cake" than a reason to make anything. There's a real "rush" when someone buys ... but it isn't the same feeling that brings me to my studio for hours on end. It also isn't the motivation behind any of my installations. Seriously, who buys things like my recent "thread" installation? Selling is not the point! I think artists can make both deeply profound and generally unmarketable work as well as enjoy making items that are right for gallery representation, craft shows, and for Internet sales. As for me, making one type of work often provides the mental time to prepare for the other type of work.
So ... here are the rest of the framed keys made this week! Enjoy!
I am also linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 12:31 PM
I've known about this wonderful opportunity for several weeks but had to wait for the "official" announcement and the release of this great photo by Brian Dressler ... and that announcement was just made in a joint release from TEDxColumbiaSC and an article by Xavier Edwards in the Free-Times.
So ... it's official! I'm a local TEDxColumbia presenter!
I join a stellar group of people who on January 19th, 2015 will be making presentations on topics as diverse as the preservation of our rivers to the committee's need for social services to new approaches in breast cancer research to .... me! My presentation is called "Precious" and will focus on the reasons I use found objects and vintage materials in my artwork. Each presentation is meant to "challenge the audience to reconsider how they interact with others and our world". I hope people hearing my talk (which will be video taped and available later on the Internet!) will think about their own precious possessions, what makes each one "special", and especially what future they might plan for these items. A month after I present, I'd love to hear someone say, "I used my china and silver just for the fun of it!" or "I labeled the backs of all my family photos" or "I pulled out everything from under the bed and shared it with my family ... all my memories".
The presenters are all listed on the TEDxColumbiaSC website ... including an excellent new photo of me! I even like it!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 8:20 AM
Friday, October 24, 2014
(Above: Some Day We Will Understand, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt. 38" x 32". Crayon on antique child's dress with vintage lace trim and buttons; discharge cotton; dense hand stitching; vintage buttons. Click on image to enlarge.)
I've been asked to be part of an upcoming invitational event commemorating the sesquicentennial of General Sherman's buring of Columbia. The project is called Art from the Ashes and is being presented by Jasper Magazine and Muddy Ford Press in conjunction with One Columbia and Historic Columbia. Ten visual artists, a film maker, and sixteen writers were invited to participate. There will be a big exhibit at the Tapps Art Center in February 2015. A book will also be published.
Obviously, a great deal of research is needed in order to creatively respond to such a historic theme. To that end, there was a series of four, informal yet in-depth discussions led by leading historians. I attended all four and also visited the Woodrow Wilson Family Home (which is here in Columbia ... and is also the only museum in the country dedicated to the Reconstruction Period.) I love history. The speakers were very, very good. Now, it is time to make artwork!
(Above: Detail of the dense, Kantha styled running stitches over the entire background.)
My imagination was already deep into the sesquicentennial marking the end of the Civil War. I am currently working on Stitching Together, a piece I will submit for a regional juried show at the McKissick Museum of Art. I'm actually surprised by how inspired I am by a 19th century war. Why? It's sort of strange; I'm a pacifist through and through. Yet, I have several projects underway and I'm excited about each one. I think it is the entire notion of history. I'm fascinated by the concept of time. I walk on streets where bales of cotton burned. I grocery shop in a structure that was once the Confederate Printing Building. I live about a mile from the State House and know the bronze star markers indicating where cannons hit. A favorite restaurant was once the train depot, a military target and the passage out of harms way. The Civil War is still very much a part of Columbia. (Many say that the locals haven't surrendered yet! LOL!)
I'm not a Southern but I'm also not a Yankee. My Dad came to this country in 1952! I don't really belong here, but I've lived here longer than any other place. The results of the Civil War are still with Columbia. Heritage. Hate. It is all both familiar and foreign. Trying to imagine life in Columbia during the week of February 17, 1865 is captivating, easy and difficult. It is easy to imagine what one might do in a dire situation but it is nearly impossible to do without superimposing current values and lifestyles in the mix.
During several of the four educational/research sessions, there was a time for questions and answers. I asked: How many people died during the burning of Columbia? No one really knows. Where were the bodies buried? No one was sure. Who cleaned up? Everyone just laughed and said, "Of course Susan would ask!" The most reliable knowledge is that fewer than a dozen died, mainly Union prisoners being "freed". They were probably put in the potter's field just west of Elmwood Park Cemetery, near the river, near my house. The feminists in the group said, "The woman probably cleaned up!" Of course, this is probably correct.
(Above: Brown, cotton Austrian dirndl material.)
I hate war. Every person killed was mourned by someone. There's just so many viewpoints on the Civil War ... slavery, state's rights, Northern aggression, economic considerations, international alliances, biased reporting, etc. It's all highly opinionated, open to interpretation, and painful. There are conflicting stories about the burning of Columbia too, even in the original source material. Who burned all those bales of cotton? Sherman's troops or the locals trying to prevent them from falling into enemy hands? How much of the city was destroyed ... a fourth, a third, half, or as much as two-thirds? It depends on who you ask. All in all, it seems largely senseless to me ... plenty of reasoning but none of it completely sound.
I knew the perfect grave rubbing to reflect my feelings: Some Day We Will Understand. It's not that I actually think this understanding might come to pass, but it certainly feels like the scholars and the historians and the people still tied to this history think that day will arrive. Understanding war is like trying to understand death itself. Some day. Maybe. Maybe not. The grave rubbing went directly onto an antique child's dress. I later added the vintage lace "belt" and two buttons.
I selected this brown dirndl material. I bought it in the mid-1980s when I thought I'd make a dirndl using one of the popular Folklife patterns ... which, incidentally is still available ... #123 under Old Europe! Somewhere I might still have the pattern but I know I'll never need it! The thought of me making my own clothing is now hilarious. It would have gone badly. I loved the brown material though, still do. The tiny floral design looks like cotton! Perfect as the background for something intended to commemorate the burning of my town. Yet, the color was too deep, rich, and vivid. A few minutes in a bath of bleach and water and it was beautifully altered!
The discoloration was wonderful. I put a piece of recycled, black acrylic felt (former packaging for a kayak being shipped to my friend's outdoors shop) under it and started stitching. I took it with me to Oregon and stitched in airports, planes, and in the rental car while Steve drove. I used all sorts of threads and yarns.
The entire surface was covered in rows about 1/8" apart. Okay ... I admit it ... I drew an outline of the garment on the material before I started. My stitches weren't quite as tiny in the area that I knew would be covered up. Still, I knew to stitch there too. After all, this sort of dense stitching shrinks the overall piece considerably. I wanted this background to lie flat!
(Above: Detail of finished piece.)
Finally, I appliqued the garment to the background, blanket stitched the edges, and added the vintage lace and buttons. To finish it off, I used the same brown dirndl material for the reverse ... just a piece that wasn't discharged with bleach.
(Above: Steve holding up the work ... showing the reverse.)
Generally, I pin each piece to the gallery wall and photograph both the front and the reverse. This time, however, I forgot the reverse. Yet, I like seeing the proportions of it while Steve is holding it. The back is special. Why? Well, in addition to the former dreams of a brown dirndl, it includes three pieces of crochet given to me by Ann Feller. Ann was married to my Dad's first cousin John Feller. (John passed away a few years ago.) I used a large piece for the center. These pieces are important. Why? Well, the dirndl material is really a "false back". It is only attached to the front along the four edges (sort of like a giant pillow) ... until I applique on these vintage pieces. I hand stitch them to the back ... but in the process I also pierce the black acrylic felt in the center. Thus, all three layers become "one".
I machine stitched the title on one small piece.
I signed my name and the date ... but added "Crochet by Ann Feller". Thank you Ann! I am honored that you wanted me to turn these pieces into art. It is wonderful to know that my family truly understands why I love these precious pieces!
I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber art creations.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 6:15 PM
I haven't been attending the "I Believe Anita Hill" annual party since 1991 but several area women started this function twenty-three years ago here in Columbia, SC. I've been going for the past several years. It is a fabulous party, a great networking opportunity, and full of positive energy. It is wonderful to see the awareness being passed down to a younger generation. Many of the ladies cheering for the keynote speaker and clapping for the professional video hadn't been born when Anita Hill testified. The keynote speaker was only eleven years old. The best photo op location was under the event sign. I took the photo above ... and I don't know a single person in it but know each one shares something in common with me. (To read more about Anita Hill and her courageous stand against work place sexual harassment, CLICK HERE.)
My friend Dolly met Anita Garrett earlier in the week at another business function. I was introduced last night. Making connections, networking, and supporting other, strong, focused women is what the evening is all about. We are stronger together!
(Above: The crowd at 701 Whaley for the "I Believe Anita Hill" annual party.)
Anita, Dolly, and I had to wait for our turn under the sign ... because the evening was packed with people ... mostly women but also a few, strong, supportive men. I snapped the photo above ... of half the large room! It was a great evening ... worth foregoing my studio for. Ordinarily, very few functions can steal my precious studio time.
Fortunately, I did get plenty of studio time during the past week and managed to finish several new pieces. I'm working hard to increase my inventory. The American Craft Council shows in Baltimore and Atlanta will be here before I know it!
I know I want to make at least four more "Lancet Windows". The unique size is perfect for odd walls ... especially ones sort of "ruined" by light switches or thermometers, etc. Many collectors have homes that are quite filled with framed artwork ... but they frequently have a long, skinny place!
I also finished a new "Large Stained Glass Window" and have yet another under construction. These take hours and hours but the results are great!
I've also been busy with another hair-brained idea ... which includes my first attempts at natural dyeing. I'm only using plant life from my own backyard. I'm also busy rusting several vintage sleeping gowns. Those images will be shown sometime next week. I'm going to iron a few pieces before shooting pictures!
(Above: Wade Sellers ... the new owner of Time Revolving!)
Another wonderful thing that happened this week was that my friend Wade Sellers selected Time Revolving for his personal collection! This was my part of our trade. I think I got the better end of the deal! Wade is a real pro. His equipment and staff are "serious". His company, Coal Powered Filmworks is also a very well respected local business. This summer Wade shot a segment on our South Carolina veterans returning to the shores of Omaha Beach for eTV. His client list is significant. I don't really want to imagine how much his normal charges for my video would have been. Wade shot, edited, selected the music, posted, and made possible the fabulous video called Threads: Gathering My Thoughts. (CLICK HERE to see the video.) I've already uploaded it to one of the "call-for-entry" sites and used it to submit an exhibition proposal.
(Above: Steve with his new "toy" ... a gigantic, flat screen, HD, "smart" television.)
We did make a significant purchase this week. Why? Well the twenty+ year old television (which had been my parents before we inherited it) "died". My husband Steve is now very, very happy. He tells people that we've finally arrived in the 21st century with this enormous, "smart", high-definition television even though it sits on the treadle sewing machine on which I earned my Girl Scout sewing badge! As for me, I likely wouldn't own a television set. Everything I really want seems to be "on my computer"! LOL!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 2:34 PM
Monday, October 20, 2014
(Above: Rings made from recycled dairy pull tabs, artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters, and assorted beads.)
I adore using found objects and vintage materials in my work ... so naturally I wanted to be part of a one-evening-only, local holiday sales event sponsored by Sustainable Midlands. I support their mission and have bought things at past sales. Yet, I've never applied to be a vendor until this year! Luckily, I was accepted. It will be on Monday, December 1st at 701 Whaley from 4:30 - 8:30 PM. (My work was also accepted for Crafty Feast! This is a 100% handmade, juried, independent indie holiday craft fair on Sunday, Dec. 14th from noon - 6 at the Columbia Convention Center, Columbia, SC. I'll blog more about it later!)
(Above: One of two photos sent to Sustainable Midlands ... showing fiber Christmas ornaments, wooden spool ornaments, fiber vessel with more wrapped-and-stitched wooden spools, book marks ... all on a beer cap embellished framed mirror.)
I could only submit my website and two images of my work. Of course, this was problematic. The work on my website isn't exactly the right merchandise for such an event ... nor is it all "recycled". Sustainable Midlands is about reusing, repurposing, and recycling. So ... I sent these two photos.
(Above: Framed, tagged keys.)
While I strive to create "serious" ART, I also really enjoy making small things ... especially using found materials. Lately, I've been doing just that! So ... be prepared for more photos of framed, tagged, recycled old keys ... more Christmas ornaments ... and a couple of other "new" items like these fun rings! (Photo at top of blog post.)
(Above: One of the rings on the finger of a neighbor. I wish my hands looked like hers but alas my hands look like those of a middle aged artist! LOL!)
All year Steve and I have been saving little, plastic dairy pull tabs. I embellished them with the tiniest artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters and assorted beads. I'm thinking of charging $2 a piece. It was fun to make them in front of the television ... until the TV "died" last week. It was 20+ years old. It was a hand-me-down from my parents. We've been streaming things on the laptop since then. A new, flat screen is supposed to arrive later today ... HD and "smart"!
(Above: Two beer cap embellished photo frames.)
I've also been playing with an amazing stash of beer and soda caps ... making assorted mirrors and several photo frames. The photo frames have mats cut for 5" x 7" pictures. The mirrors are all various sizes ... because the actual mirror have come from Bill Mishoe's auction.
(Above: Corners of two of the larger, framed mirrors.)
Most of the frames have absolutely no repeated bottle caps! It was a blast to design and nail them to these frames. I am now turning my attention to earrings ... made using the plastic bread clips. Should be fun!
(Above: Installing my solo show at the Durham Arts Council in Durham, NC.)
Last month I installed my solo show, Fiber Architecture: Buildings in Stitches, at the Durham Arts Council. Steve drove me there and took some of these photos but I never got around to blogging about the experience. Why? Well, I was in the midst of my "thread installation" and I knew that the reception wasn't going to be held until last Friday night, during the "Third Friday" art crawl in their downtown. So, I'm blogging it now! We brought twenty-two pieces and hung them in the Allenton Gallery.
(Above: A large "In Box" piece flanked by two "Lancet Windows".)
These three were on a wall beside the elevator. Below is the rest of the show.
(Above: View of the wall with the elevator and one of the two main exhibition walls.)
(Above: One of two main exhibition walls.)
The reception was very, very nice. I was so pleased to talk with two other art quilters: Sauda Zahra and Christine Hager-Braun! They are both Facebook friends and members of PAQA-South!
I am also linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber artwork.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 3:00 PM