Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ready, Aim, Fire!

(Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire!, detail.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Anyone following my blog already knows that I've been lately obsessed with buttons.  I have thousands of them (literally!).  I've also got an upcoming national park art residency at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska, an opportunity that resulted from a proposal to use buttons for new work.  What I didn't have, however, was any discernible organization to my button collection.  I spent three days sorting, separating, and finding the yellow, red, and blue buttons needed to stitch this bulls-eye target.  Now all my buttons are in clear containers ... by type and/or color.  It was worth the time and I know I'll be very glad about it later. 

 (Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire!, 40" x 24".  Found police target practice sheet fused to 2-ply rag paper and to fabric with a bulls-eye target of stitched buttons.)

So ... Ready, Aim, Fire! was inspired by the fact that I already had the police target practice sheet.  I've had it for years.  Why?  Well, I'm friends with a very talented artist named Pat Callahan.  In addition to being a very fine artist, Pat is a long-distant runner.  Her husband walks a lot ... and they both pick up "treasures".  They find all sorts of rusty washers and cast-off metal pieces for Pat's Entangled Jewelry.  But, Pat has also salvaged other interesting things.  Once she found a piano.  I got the keys ... which became part of my sculpture Time Signatures.  One day she came upon a stack of used police target sheets.  I got several.  I used one in 2014 for a themed exhibit called Just Another Cliche.  I made Hit Me With Your Best Shot.  Somehow or the other, a bulls-eye reminds me of both a button and a target practice sheet.  They just go together.

 (Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire! in progress.  Tacking the police sheet to fabric.)

First, I had to figure out how to get the target practice sheet into a usable/stitch-able form.  When I created Hit Me With Your Best Shot, I simply dry mounted the paper to foam-centered board.  I can stitch through foam-centered board but it isn't fun.  It's much too thick.  Each stitch is difficult.  So this time, I used gel medium to adhere the badly shot-up target practice sheet to a piece of 2-ply rag paper.  Next, I used Fusion 4000, a framing industry product, and fused the paper to fabric.  In the photo above, I'm tacking the paper to the fabric with my tacking iron.  The piece is sitting atop my dry-mount press.  After tacking the layers together, the piece went into the press for five minutes at 185 degrees with 28 pounds per square inch of pressure.  Viola!  Fused!  It became one, nice, thin, easy-to-stitch through sheet. 

(Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire! in progress.  This image shows the back of the stitched piece while sitting on my mat cutter.  Detail below.)

Stitching this piece required a little planning.  It is somewhat flexible but it does not drape or fold.  Most of the piece had to sit flat on a small table.  I'd rotate the piece as I stitched ... pulling it toward me ... so that only a small portion wasn't on the table ... allowing me to stitch.  The center was obviously the most difficult area to keep balanced.

 (Above:  Detail of the back.)

The center, of course, had the most stitching!  I added several straight stitches around the edge of each colored band.

 (Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire!, under weights.)

Once stitched, the next issue was to tackle the hanging device.  First, I coated the back of the piece with Golden's GAC 400, a fabric stiffener.  This dried overnight.  This step was supposed to prevent other gels from soaking into the fabric.  Next, I cut a piece of mat board slightly smaller than the piece.  I covered it with gel medium.  I cover the back of the piece with more gel medium ... and put the two together ... and under lots of weights.  (See the photo above.)

 (Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire!, detail of the button bulls-eye.)

Something went wrong!  I think it has to do with the extremely high humidity here in South Carolina.  The piece was still damp the next day.  I put it outside in the sunshine.  It dried but curled.  I put it back under the weights.  If the buttons weren't so "deep", I could have run it through the dry mount press under a blanket of foam ... but I didn't want to risk damaging the buttons (and certainly not the dry mount press.)  Finally, I took off all the weights and discovered that the mat board wasn't attached to the reverse at all.  With the amount of gel medium used, this shouldn't have happened.  Most interesting is the fact that the reverse appears to have soaked up all the gel medium.  The stitching can hardly be seen at all.  The mat board appeared to have none of the gel medium.  Yet, the piece is nicely rigid ... rigid and stabilize enough to mount to stretcher bars.

 (Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire!, reverse.)

Stretcher bars were cut slightly smaller than the piece.  I painted the edges black and added a stabilizing bar.  This bar goes across the middle of the bulls-eye target, the section with the most weight.

 (Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire!, detail of the reverse.)

The piece was glued to the face of the stretcher bars.  Finished!  It hangs perfectly flat.  I plan to enter it into the upcoming SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) Loaded Conversations juried exhibition.   Whether accepted or not, I'm very happy with this newest additional to my button obsession!

 (Above:  Will I Be Remembered? Time Did Tell, Wall of Ancestors.  Antique frame and image with letters clipped from vintage magazines and sheet music.  Unframed:  16" x 12"; framed: 32" x 28".)

At this week's local auction, I was the successful bidder on several antique frames including two rather large ones.  Both needed a little work but was worth the effort.  Between the various frames, panes of antique glass, and the anonymous images, I put together these two additions to my Wall of Ancestors. The Wall of Ancestors is part of my solo installation, Anonymous Ancestors ... which seems to be increasing every week. 

(Above:  Life Wore Me Out, Wall of Ancestors.  Antique frame and image with letters clipped from vintage magazines and sheet music.  Unframed:  20" x 14"; framed: 30" x 24".)

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

1 comment:

Madalene Axford Murphy said...

What a thought-provoking piece! The contrast of the buttons(domestic, intimate part of everyday life connected to clothing with holes) and the target with its bullet holes creates a complex emotional response. Hope it makes it into the show so many people can see it!