Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Fiber Vessels and a Silly Woodpecker

 (Above:  The Jagged Edge.  Fiber vessel and found scrap metal.  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

For the past two days fiber vessels have been under construction in my enormous, provided studio space here at the Anderson Center art residency program.  It's been WONDERFUL!  One of the best things about this experience has been the many moments of serendipity.  For example, my original residency proposal outlined my ideas for including found objects going through the walls of my vessels to convey some sort of concept or suggest some sort of narrative.  I gave as an example, my desire to have an old rusty chain going through one vessel.  I brought my chain.  It is still in my car.  Why?  Well, the Anderson Center has an outdoor blacksmith studio with a very large, though orderly, piles of rusty scrap metal.  I was given permission to use whatever I wanted ... and the finds from this stash is BETTER than anything I'd dare dream!  I hauled several pieces back to my studio.  One piece looked sort of like a dagger or knife blade uncovered from an archeological dig.  An edge included the remains of solder (?).  The coloring matched one of my balls of cording.  I knew I wanted this piece of metal to go through a vessel made with that cording ... but my vision was that the metal be positioned with the soldered edge facing up out of the bowl.

(Above:  Flipping the vessel, inside out and under the machine ... in order to switch stitching directions and create a "hole" in the vessel for the scrap metal.)

Getting the scrap metal into the position I wanted presented a problem.  The width of the scrap metal would need to be perpendicular to the rows of stitched cording.  It couldn't be easily slid between a slit in the rows.  I thought about it and thought about it ... and then an experiment came to mind.  What if I turned the cording around and stitched in the opposite direction?  I tried it.  To do this, the vessel had to be flipped inside-out and rotated underneath the body of the machine ... allowing me to stitch in the opposite direction.  Once I stitched back to almost the same place (one rotation around the vessel), I had to re-flip the vessel "right-side out" and stitch back in the opposite direction.

This explanation might make no sense whatsoever ... but I'll bet the photo above shows how I switched directions to leave an opening.  I did this on both side of the vessel ... carefully comparing my scrap metal to the holes I was creating.


 When I finished the vessel, I inserted the scrap metal.  Believe it or not, I can still take the scrap metal in and out of the vessel.  The experiment was a SUCCESS! 

 (Above:  Collapsing World, fiber vessel still attached to the ball of cording from which it was stitched.)

Next, I decided to make another asymmetrical vessel.  I knew I wanted to leave a small ball of the cording inside the work ... as if still unwinding.

To make the vessel look as if it had once been a sphere, I had to start another vessel for the "top" and stitch it onto the upper rings of the lower vessel.  From the "top's" edge, I allowed the rest of the ball of cording to dangle down to the ball beneath.

It took nearly as long to stitch that ball together (so they it will never unwind) as it did to make almost the entire vessel!  Every time I thought it was finished, I found another part that needed stitched down! LOL!  I wasn't sure what to call this vessel until last night.  After dinner the poet, two novelists, and musical composer did me the honor of coming for a studio tour to see my work.  One remarked that this vessel appeared to be "collapsing".  Immediately, I fell in love with this word and the suggestive qualities and the way it described a motion and an emotion all at the same time!  Thanks, Stephan!

 (Above:  Metallic copper vessel.)

As long as I was experimenting, I thought I'd try another idea ... one I knew would be very, very hard to accomplish.  I wanted to use metallic thread on the outside of a vessel ... especially a lovely but difficult copper thread I brought with me.  Metallic threads are HARD.  Zigzag stitching at the widest width is HARDER! 


Even with a metallic needle, thin bobbin thread, and slowing the speed at which I stitch, the thread gets tangled, breaks, and there's a lot of swearing under my breathe.  It took seemingly FOREVER to make this vessel but, oh is it pretty!  No image can truly capture the reflective nature of metallic thread.  I'm very, very pleased with this attractive work.
 (Above:  Blue Vessel.)

After making the metallic copper vessel, I just needed to unwind with something much easier.  I made this nice blue vessel.  I'm not sure what, exactly, I'll do with it in order to make it something more than a mere vessel, something "conceptual".  I might do nothing at all.  What's wrong with a simple shape, especially after a difficult piece? LOL!

Yesterday afternoon was also quite special.  I was invited to attend an elusive art history club in Red Wing.  The organization was started back in 1901.  Membership is limited to around thirty ladies because meetings are held in members' homes.  Every year a topic for study is selected and eight session are held with a presentation related to the focus genre.  This year is "the year of glass".  Yesterday's meeting was all about the history, making, and use of glass beads.  The speaker (one of the members ... they all take turns hosting, preparing a shared dessert, and making the well-informed program) was absolutely marvelous.  She was well informed from ancient times through trade beads to the differences between Venetian and Bohemian glass production.  She had fabulous examples too!  The stylish home sat on the Upper Mississippi river and was furnished with great art.  It was a privilege to be there.  Ruth Nerhaugen, a free-lance correspondent for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, picked me up and brought me back ... taking a long, scenic return trip to the top of one of the bluffs overlooking the town and along the river road.  Thank you, Ruth ... and also for the wonderful artist you wrote introducing all of the May artists at the Anderson Center, including me!  (CLICK HERE for that article!)
 (Above:  Two aqua vessels.)

Another idea for these fiber vessels was to use two different shapes while stitching them.  I used a slightly variegated green thread on one side and a light blue on the other when making these two vessel.

 (Above:  The silliest woodpecker!)

While stitching many of these vessels, I thought I heard a strange noise.  My sense of hearing isn't very good.  I especially have difficulty determining the direction from which a sound it coming.  I could have sworn, however, that the sound seemed metallic ... like someone banging on a tin roof ... something outside ... something that starts, stops, starts again, and then ceases.  Finally, I figured it out. 

This silly woodpecker continues to visit a sculpture right outside my studio door .... pecking on the upright hollow rod ... as if it were a tree.  He's been doing it every few hours for days.  Maybe that's why we refer to "silliness" as being acts done by Bird-Brains!


irene macwilliam said...

I love the evolving vessels. Great blogs, so interesting.

Teresa Duryea Wong said...

Those baskets are awesome. And great photo of the woodpecker... they can be quite elusive sometimes.

Debbie said...

Love the vessels, especially the copper one, worth all the effort.

Sandy said...

These are great, Susan!

In Maine, We used to have a woodpecker who went on the mailbox - good alarm clock with the void inside adding to the sound. Sometimes they tap metal exactly for the sound. "Male woodpeckers are not drilling for insect food, but calling for a mate. And the louder, the more important the male, and the better his chance of attracting a lady woodpecker as his mate." via a nature watch site ...example a satellite dish.