Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cording, Keys, and Using Time Wisely!

(Above:  So Obvious It Might Bite.  Machine zigzag cording wrapped around scrap metal. Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

The last two days at the Anderson Center art residency have been amazing.  For the most part, the weather has been beautiful.  Even an late afternoon storm seemed refreshing.  Time, my constant enemy, seems to have slowed down which is part of the reason I covet art residency opportunities. Here I have all day, day after day, to work.  It's wonderful!  At home I have a balancing act, like most people.  There's my "day job" and my "art job" plus all the paperwork and other demands that come with both jobs.  Time always seems to get away from me. Days pass too quickly.  Hours are gone in the blink of an eye.  Yet here in Red Wing, Minnesota, I can sit at an outside picnic bench and enjoy the sunshine while wrapping zigzag stitched cording around scrap metal.  What could be better! 

(Above:  The small box of hundreds and hundreds of old keys that I brought with me.)

Of course I'm spending my time as wisely as possible.  Though seemingly "stretched out, it is limited! But having an art residency means there are larger blocks of time to put toward various goals ... like tagging keys.  I brought a small box of old keys with me.  It's small but it certainly weighs more than one would guess.  I set a goal for myself, 500 newly tags keys.  It is a lofty goal, loads of work, hours and hours of time.  I might not make it but at least I have a fighting chance.  People on Facebook and here on my blog left me suggestions for about 275 keys.  So, I'm past the halfway point!  (If you want to make a suggestion, leave me a comment!)

  (Above:  The first table filled with tagged keys!)

This is the first table of tagged keys!  Two tables are filled and I'm working on the third!  Yes, the provided studio is really this large.  It's great!  I stitch the tag to the cord and then the cord to the key.  I've been timing myself too.  It takes forty-five minutes to attach twenty-five tags.  I made piles of twenty-five tags (in order to count them).  After every twenty-five, I dipped my thumb and forefinger in matte medium and twirled the stitching ... sealing the ends of the thread ... and then put the keys on the table to allow the matte medium to dry.

(Above:  Cording for key tags.)

Tagging keys is a very meditative process.  It is also quite fun because I have to select each key.  The "Key to a Flibbertigibbet" can't be an ordinary looking key!  The "Key to Breaking the Hegemony" needs to be a big, powerful looking one.  The "Key to Beauty" must be pretty.  The "Key to Debauchery" shouldn't look like the "Key to Piety".  The "Key to Originality" ought to be unique ... just as the "Key to Simplicity" should reflect it's name!  I even had a key with the word "Lion" on it for the "Key to the Lion's Den" ... and a funny looking American Tourister key for the "Key to Silliness".  During the process, I ran out of cording.  Sure, I made balls and balls of cording for the first four-and-a-half days but it was all the wrong sort.  The cording I use for the keys is made using only two strands of ordinary, acrylic knitting yarn.  Also, I zigzag stitch it twice: once just to make the two strands into a cord and once with very close zigzag stitching to make it thin, strong, and more like twine.  The second pass takes a long, long time.  I nearly stopped when I knew I had enough ... but this is an art residency.  Time is different here.  This is a chance to use my time wisely.  Don't stop with "enough"! Make a really, really big ball!  I'll always need it!  This was my opportunity!

(Above:  Red Heart variegated acrylic yarn.)

Now, my stash of yarn is enormous.  I never bought any of it new.  I got all of it from yard sales and auctions, other women's dreams of sweaters and afghans and other handmade objects.  Lots of it is really cheap acrylic yarn, probably purchased on sale.  I found two unused skeins ... Red Heart's Williamsburg and Fall.  The ball of key cording above is what happens when ALL of it is used.  Looking on-line, I learned that these skeins have 236 yards each.  It took me over four hours to make the ball of key cording.  That second pass takes a long, long time!  During an art residency, I can afford that time.  I'm almost giddy that I now have so much key cording ... so ... send me your "words" and "phrases" for new keys!  I'm on a roll!

(Above: So Obvious It Might Bite.)

While making all that key cording, I had plenty of time to think about the work I'm making, the proposal I wrote, and the concepts of turning objects into conceptual works.  I thought about the fact that I ran out of cording for keys.  I brought more, after all ... but I used some to wrap a few of the pieces of scrap metal.  I thought about the scrap metal I hadn't yet wrapped.  I especially thought about the one heavy piece with all the jagged edges.  What on earth was I going to do with it?  Why did I carry it back to my studio in the first place? What did I like about it? What was it telling me? In the four hours of making key cording, the answers came to me .... it was So Obvious It Might Bite.  I made the piece right after the cording!  I like it!

(Above:  The first table of tagged keys.)

I stood on a stool, put my camera flat against the ceiling, and snapped the photos of the first and second table of tagged keys!  They look lovely sitting there!  Thank you to everyone who contributed a word or phrase ... including Ed Madden, Jose Lanters, Martha Diane Hansen, Cindi Boiter, Monika Lenz, Vivien Zepf, Betty Malone, Sue Krekorian, Traci Paxton Johnson, Angie Hall Collett, Barbara Fueston Grandon, Jane Bartlett-Symes, Mary Jo Cartledgehayes, Stephanie Sarkisian, Corryna Geers, Mary Langston, Laural Siler, Gwen Bordenkirchen, Denna Hayes, Linda Lemon Leeke, Karen Kobylus, Kate Webb, Margaret Neville, Deana Remick, Anne Marie Desaulniers, Mary How, Nicholl Ransom, Sonya Lenz, Sandy Townsend Donabed, Gypsye D. Legge, Karen Kershaw, Karen Christensen, AAnne Olesnicki-Shuhan, and my Dad! (Plus anyone I accidentally forgot! Sorry!)

(Above:  The second table of tagged keys.)

(Above:  Ship of Fools, work in progress?)

I've been rotating my projects ... tagging keys, wrapping scrap metal, and making fiber vessels meant to generate some sort of conceptual response or suggestive of a tidbit of narrative.  I used the ball of cording made from thick "denim" yarn and assorted complimentary colored yarns and filled it with rusted chains, wrapped old scraps of metal and even an old, rusty hammer head.  I'm not entirely sure I'm done with the piece or even whether I like it.

One scrap metal does suggest a lone paddle.  The claw hammer head suggests an anchor.  The weight of the chains is really "crazy" for a sea-worthy vessel ... all part of the Ship of Fools ... but I'm thinking I need some sort of mast and ratty sail?  I'm not sure. 

One of the other things about "spending time wisely" is knowing when to put a piece aside.  I can't afford to solve this piece right now.  It will wait.  If anyone reading has any suggestions, I'd welcome them.  Now ... back to my studio ... back to "the gift of time" which I intend to use wisely until the very last moment!

(Above:  The A. P. Anderson Award in "the Barn".)

On Friday night the Anderson Center hosted its annual award banquet in the remodeled "barn" which functions now as an elegant performance and event space.

The dinner was delicious.  The speeches were few and to the point!

Butch Thompson, the jazz pianist and clarinetist widely known for his twelve years with the Prairie Home Companion, was the award honoree. After a brief and very amusing interview, he played for the appreciative audience.  It was a privilege to be among those applauding.

While almost everything here at the Anderson Center is wonderful, there was one sad event.  The storm that blew through late one afternoon blew the hatchling robins from their window sill nest.  I found one dead baby at the foot of the water tower.  I didn't even look for the others.  The two robin parents were still chirping with alarm in the tree branches.  I was told it was early enough in spring; they might lay more eggs.  I don't know but it was sad to see the empty nest.


Bruce the Great said...

They will do it up to three times. Whew!

Yael said...

I have nothing but appreciation for you Susan! AND: you will make the 500! I know you will! :-)

Sherrie Spangler said...

I'm just amazed at how fast you turn out your art. It's fascinating to watch the process -- thanks for sharing.