Friday, October 16, 2015

Flicker and fiber vessels

(Above:  A dead flicker in a fiber vessel inspired by its beautifully colored feathers.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Well ... I'm back in La Pine at the McDonalds in order to blog about the past, glorious week at PLAYA, an art residency program in Oregon's "Outback".  The location is along side the dried Silver Lake bed about ten miles south of the Summer Lake Lodge and eighteen miles north of the town Paisley (population 243).  This place is fabulously remote.  My cell phone sometimes has reception ... about fifty to hundred yards out into the arid landscape.  There is one, slow, broadband connected computer terminal.  Despite the fact that I blog, maintain my website, have a Constant Contact account and over 1800 Facebook friends ... I LOVE THE ISOLATION and especially the lack of distractions that happen in my "real world".  Time seems to have slowed down. The beauty of nature is obvious from every morning's scarlet and pink rays of sunrise to the falling shadow of Winter Ridge spreading across the playa.  Needless to say, I'm also getting plenty of work accomplished.

Every morning I take the longer path from my cabin ... across the cracked earth that will be filled with water within a month ... across the zigzag pond's bridge ...

... and to my separate studio.  In the above photo, my cabin is well beyond the frame on the left.  My studio is beyond the frame on the right.  The morning walk is glorious!  One day, however, I heard a rustling in the tall grass and found a wounded flicker.  I carried him to Michael, a great guy and staff member here at PLAYA.  He gave me a box and said to "hope for the best".  I did but the bird was still in the box on the following day ... dying.  Michael said to put it out in nature for its final hours.  I did, but I promised the poor creature that somehow I'd use him for "art".  I thought I'd harvest the feathers but learned this isn't permitted.  (I thought only raptor feathers were off limits, but apparently not!)  I had to come up with another plan ... and I did.  I decided to make my first fiber vessel ... inspired by the flicker.

Serendipitously, I had all the right yarns and threads.  As I worked, I took breaks to check the bird.  He died just as I finished.

Nearby was a rough rock perched on a well weathered block of wood.  I placed the vessel and the flicker atop and took several photos.

I have an idea to frame one of the photos and present the empty "nest" below it ... a sort of shrine to the flicker.  The idea is still forming but it is clear that my residency proposal was going well, just in an unexpected direction.

My residency proposal said that I would spend my time exploring how to turn my fiber vessels into more than a suggestion of an ordinary, possibly functional form ... into a more conceptual work.  The dead flicker immediately inspired this course of action.

(Above:  The shelving unit in my studio ... filled with fiber vessels and balls of cording for even more fiber vessels.)

I made so much "flicker inspired" cording that other vessels naturally occurred ...

... including this "cage" made using four pieces of barbed wire found on my early morning walks.

The night skies inspired other vessels.  Here the Milky Way is obvious every night.  I hardly ever see half as many stars while at home in Columbia.  The wide open space is vast ... and is a different sort of "containment" ... like a giant, twinkling dome overhead.

Here's another flicker inspired vessel.  This actually cording is the same as the others.  I've simply zigzag stitched the piece using a bright orange, Oliver Twist variegated cotton thread ... and then black for the rim.

Here's another "night sky" vessel ...

... and another Flicker inspired piece.  I used all of the King Tut "Obsidian" thread I bought last Friday.  I also used all the "Shifting Sands" King Tut thread too.  That's 2000 yard each.  I'll be going back to the Homestead Quilt Shop and Gallery after I'm done blogging ... for more thread!

Zigzag stitching the cording requires plenty of thread.  The flicker inspired cording was over-stitched ... just to get a little bit more orange into the mix.  I used the orange in the bobbin during the second pass over the cording.  This vessel was then zigzagged with the "Obsidian" thread.  How am I making these vessels?  Well ... it's easy!  HERE is my free, on-line tutorial!

Here are two more night inspired pieces.  The small one was made with the "leftover" cording.  Once it's gone, it's gone!

Here's another flicker inspired piece.

(Above:  My studio and how I arranged taking photos.)

I shot all the photos of these vessels in my studio.  Why?  Well, the light at PLAYA is amazing and bright, too bright for capturing good images.  When natural light is so intense, areas of shadow are often too dark.  Thus, I waited until the early afternoon, opened the garage door in my studio (allowing ambient light into the space), and set up the same rough rock and weathered wooden block of wood I originally used for the pictures of the dead flicker.  I put them on a studio stool in the corner.  It seemed to work very, very well.  Occasionally, I had to "photoshop" the white wall ... where a screw showed.  So ... what's on my makeshift pedestal?

(Above:  Bucket List, in progress.)

This is Bucket List.  It is a fiber vessel I made in May at the Anderson Center and intended to fill with ripped-and-stitched and rolled-and-wrapped pages of old National Geographic Magazines.  This piece sort of guaranteed my exhibition proposal and gave me something on which to immediately start working.  Conceptually ... and before the Internet ... the majority of American's created their "bucket list" of world locations they'd like to visit by turning the pages of this wildly popular, monthly magazine.  Of course, they didn't call it a "bucket list".  We call our fantasy travel plans by that name now.  Yet, this is how my grandparents and everyone else visited "the world".  I really wanted pre-World War II issues ... long before the Internet ... the "Greatest Generations" subscriptions.  My mentor, Stephen Chesley, gave me a stack of recent issues ... but I really didn't like them.  The magazine's new branding has done away with the mostly text filled cover.  The classic yellow binding and edges are a brighter yellow.   

While with my solo show, Last Words, in Carrollton, Georgia, I went to Horton's Book store and found TWENTY issues dating before 1945!  Each was only 75-cents!  Thus, I'm spending every evening in my cabin working on this piece.  Thus far, I have ten issues dismantled.  It is a perfect way to watch the last red rays of sunlight and the first stars appearing in the sky!

(Above:  Lunette XVIII, XIX, and XX in progress.)

Now ... fiber vessels aren't the only things on which I'm working.  I take a break every now and then to do something else ... like creating more pieces for my upcoming solo show at the Douglasville Arts Council.  These three pieces are ready for the final stage of melting using an industrial heat gun ... which will happen after I return home!  I have my soldering irons with me but not the stretcher bar and the heat gun.  That was too much to pack!

(Above:  The Paisley Caves.)

Plus, I've gone on two side trips!  First, a group of artists went with PLAYA executive director Deb Ford to the nearby Paisley Caves.  IT WAS SO COOL!

(Above:  Deb Ford ... leading our way up to the caves.)

The system of four caves are off Highway 31 on a dirt road ... without a sign.  They were first studies in the 1930s but it wasn't until 2002 when archeologists uncovered the oldest DNA evidence of human habitation in North America ... coprolites ...that's fossilized "poop".  Radiocarbon dating puts these remains at about 14,300 years ago.

On the way, Deb found a horned lizard ...

... and in the caves were all sorts of recent bones from the various mice and pack rats that live there ... and are food for the nearby raptor aeries.  

Here's the view from the cave ... with our two vehicles in the foreground and the dried lake bed, playa, further back.  I can see the butte on which the Paisley Cave are found from my cabin deck!

(Above:  Looking down Main Street in Paisley, Oregon.)

I also drove into Paisley in order to mail some postcards.  I wanted to make sure that my Dad's postcard had a commemorative stamp and a hand cancellation.  The nice post lady laughed.  In Paisley all the mail gets hand cancelled. 

Of course I visited the cemetery while I was in Paisley.  I didn't expect it to be so interesting but it was!

I will be looking for a crayon and some fabric ... to return for a few special grave rubbings.  In the meantime, I couldn't help up to snap a photo of this bronze cowboy hat and ...

... and this real, wooden marker casting a long shadow.

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


Sandy said...

May be ages before you read this, but the two bowls together, small and large, made me wonder what the bowls would look like joined together. Like when ready to stop the one, use the cord to carry on with another. perhaps a series...starting on a new cord where ever it happened to want to be joined (or that could be where a perfectly placed hole would be) linked in a similar way to your baskets of thread thoughts tumbling from one to the other.

So, anyway, not that you are short of ideas out there! LOL
PS if you get more than 2 seconds on a computer, have a look at SAQA at Knitting and Stitching on my blog.

Els said...

That bird .... how sad ... and how BEAUTIFUL !!!
Love your vessels ;-)

Gwyned Trefethen said...

What a lovely tribute to the flicker, Susan. Thank you for sharing the link to how you create your vessels. Very generous of you.

Wanda said...

Susan, I understand the vessels maybe for the first time now! How awesome! When I saw a picture of the blue one earlier, I wasn't quite sure where it fit in. But now, after reading your fits in PERFECTLY! They are wonderful!! What a wonderful fulfillment of a promise to the little bird you achieved. And, if you think about how everything is tied together, maybe, just maybe, that was why the bird existed. So that you could honor it in such a moving way. I am absolutely in love with Playa. I am meant to be there...I'm so glad I found it through you!! I can well imagine that you have lost all track of time there. I love Paisley. There are so many towns like that throughout the country. You have, in your way, put them on the map! I anxiously await your next McDonald's visit!

Cynthia Nicole said...

I have to say I'm amazed at how you can produce so much art all the time.

These are so gorgeous.

Kudos to you, big time.

Teresa Duryea Wong said...

Looks like quite a journey you are on. The bird is distirbingly beautiful. Looks like a great place to make art.