Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mended Words, a new series

(Above:  Mended Words III, The Lady of Shalott.  Original late 19th century engraving, ripped and mended, collage of letters clipped from mostly vintage sources.  Stitched to an acid-free mat measuring 16" x 20".  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Years ago, Mouse House (my business) was a full service custom picture framing shop with up to fourteen on payroll.  Full-time employees enjoyed covered health insurance, paid vacation time, and over-time pay. Although we framed for just about every government agency in the state and hundreds of local companies and individuals, our specialization was actually antiquarian prints. Every week I made a trip to Charleston, picking up and delivering framing orders to all the high-end antique shops on King Street.  I had several walls in an antique mall outside of Charleston ... for twenty years.  I worked CONSTANTLY ... until I finally admitted that I wanted to be an artist "when I grew up".  That was in 2001.

 (Above:  Mended Words I, The Exiles.)

Very few people really understood why my husband and I decided to "kill" our very successful frame shop. It doesn't make much sense to downsize a business that was still growing by double-digits ... but the fact of the matter was simple:  It was killing me. My creative soul was dying!

It took two years to finish long term commitments and to help employees find suitable jobs elsewhere. It took two years for me to find a studio and get "serious" about making art.  It was a gradual transition from "full time picture framer" to "artist".  (I still frame pictures for "a living" ... but now only "part-time"!)  Eventually, I gave up the walls in the antique mall and hauled off most the antique prints to an auction house outside Washington, DC.  Yet, there are still a few half-forgotten shelves and drawers on which antiquarian prints are stacked.  Every once in a while I come across a pile ... and recently I decided to rip, mend, and collage clipped letters onto a few.  It's been a fun way to start each day.   

 (Above:  Mended Words II, Homeless.)

I've really had a great time researching quotations that seem appropriate to the engraving's subject.  For Mended Words II, Homeless I found a great statement by the musician Gustav Mahler who felt like an outsider no matter how influential and talented he was.  

 (Above:  Mended Words VI, The Confidence Broken.)

Then the next day, I found a great quotation by William Blake.  Though the engraving suggests an ideal "confidence", the ripped paper forebodes a different outcome.  Hence, I added the word "broken" to the title.

 (Above:  Mended Words V, Shakespeare.)

One morning, I spent almost an hour reading quotations from Shakespeare's many works.  It was hard to select just one for his portrait.  Finally I settled on "Words without thoughts never to Heaven go" because it implies a warning to other writers and poets.  To me, this makes sense of the ripped-and-mended engraving.

(Above:  Mended Words, The Duel.)

While reading lines from Shakespeare's plays and consulting the engravings I had, I was stumped on this scene from The Twelfth Night.  The illustration is obviously perfect for the torn paper but I didn't like any of the quotations.  Finally, I googled and found one by Toba Beta.  I admit it. I'd never heard of this Indonesian poet and fantasy syfy novelist ... but the quotation is wonderful!

 (Above:  Mended Words VII, Hamlet.)

There were plenty of quotations from Hamlet that could have been added to this engraving but I really liked the princely reference since the portrayed actor was so handsome.  Then, I noticed the name of the actor ... Edwin Booth.  Yes!  Edwin Booth was quite famous and some theatrical historians claim he was the greatest 19th century actor in the role of Hamlet.  His fame, however, was eclipsed by his younger brother John Wilkes Booth, a man who assassinated President Lincoln.  So, I added "Sic Semper Tyrannis" at the bottom.  Why?  Well, supposedly John Wilkes Booth screamed this after shooting Lincoln but more importantly in this context, it also comes from legends of the Ides of March ... from Julius Caesar, another Shakespearean play.  It means "Thus Always to Tyrants" and is the motto of the state of Virginia.  It seems fitting for a ripped engraving of Hamlet too.

(Above:  Mended Words VIII, Macbeth.)

I'm really having a great time researching Shakespearean quotations and applying them to ripped engravings.  Macbeth brought back memories from tenth grade English literature.  I've got other engraving to transform too.  I'm not really spending too much time with this series.  It is just a curiosity, a morning exercise, a way to combine literature and stitch, and I'm enjoying it!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Wasted Words: Global Warnings has a permanent home with the Textile Museum

(Above:  Wasted Words: Global Warning, fiber vessel filled with ripped-and-rolled and stitched pages from articles on conservation, pollution, and ecological issues found in World Book Encyclopedia Yearbooks, 1962 - 75.)

I made this piece in 2009 and blogged about it HERE.  Later, I entered the piece for curatorial review at the Textile Museum in Washington, DC.  It was accepted into a exhibit called Green: A Color and a Cause.  Steve and I went to see the show and I blogged about that trip HERE.  More recently, I had my Cotton Installation in another exhibition at the Textile Museum.  (Blogged about that HERE.)

During that last opportunity, I mentioned that I would LOVE to donate my fiber vessel to the museum ... which until recently didn't accept contemporary works of art.  I received mild interest and followed up with an email.  The correspondence was encouraging.  In June, I shipped the work and received a "temporary deposit receipt".  I was told that the work would be presented to the Board of Directors in November and a decision would be made after that time.

Today I received an awesome email:

I am writing to share that The Textile Museum’s Board of Directors formally accessioned your work, Wasted Words: Global Warnings, to the museum’s permanent collection.

I am so excited about adding this important line to my resume! Lots of people think museums just accept generous gifts whenever things are offered.  This just isn't the case!  Why? Well, the museum isn't just "getting something"; they are promising to preserve, protect, and keep records on the art and artist. Each donated piece must have  a sensible connection to the goals of the permanent collection.  Today I am really, really happy!  Something I've made will definitely be around long after I'm dead!  Something I've made is part of something bigger than my studio practice; it's a true "museum piece"!

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

Sunday, December 10, 2017


 (Above:  Detail of In Box CCCV.  Layers of polyester stretch velvet blocks with metallic foiling, machine stitching and melting techniques.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

The two, new pieces shared in this blog post started as a mistake. My husband Steve accidentally cut two, black linen liners instead of the off-white linen liners.  It was an understandable mistake.  I used to use black, not off white ... but that was when my outer frame was this really wonderful, rounded dull gold.  Unfortunately, that picture frame moulding was discontinued and we had to come up with another plan. 

(Above, left: The "old" presentation, black linen liner with rounded, dull gold frame. Above, right, the "new" presentation, off white linen liner with a distressed black moulding featuring a very narrow distressed gold lip.)

There are lots and lots of ways to successfully frame my work.  I know! I've been a professional, certified custom picture framer since 1987.  Yet, there are many things I have to take into consideration with my artwork.  Price! The presentation must be affordable enough to sell even with a 50% standard gallery commission.  Versatility! The presentation must be appropriate for both traditional and more contemporary settings.  Scratch resistance and ease of repair! The presentation must be able to survive going to high end shows, FedEx shipping, and the general wear-and-tear of being hung in different locations (or going in and out of storage) in galleries that represent me.  Both examples fit the bill.

 (Above:  In Box CCCV, 34" x 22" framed. Inventory # 4130. $550.)

So, when Steve cut two incorrect, black linen liners, I decided to try something different!  For the foundation blocks, I used mostly dark colors of polyester stretch velvets and lots and lots of metallic foiling.  I also decided not to solder any interior holes in the blocks of polyester stretch velvet.  I mounted the work on a brighter white mat board and added a wider, more obvious gold frame.

 (Above:  Taking the photos of these two works.)

I'm currently using one of the two front windows of my business, Mouse House, in order to snap photos of completed work.  It is sort of difficult as my tripod must be positioned a bit higher than the center of the work and angled downward ... to compensate for the fact that the artwork isn't perfectly vertical.  Thankfully, this seems to be working and it is an area with plenty of natural daylight without being directly in the sun.

 (Above:  In Box CCCIV, 34" x 22" framed. Inventory # 4129. $550.)

I'm pleased with how these two pieces turned out but I have another idea brewing!  This almost always happens.  One idea simply gives birth to the next one!  I have a funny feeling there's a lot more metallics in my future!

(Above:  In Box CCCIV, detail.)

Monday, December 04, 2017

My Teeth

(Above:  My Teeth, 25" x 25".  Digital X-rays transferred to fabric with free-motion and hand stitching.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I'm lucky.  Dr. Walter "Jack" Turbyfill is my dentist. If it weren't for him, I would have ended up with dentures (his specialty) years ago. Instead, I have a mouth full of caps, crowns, an implant, several root canals, and some sort of "bridge" between two of my upper front teeth.  I also have a bite plate which I dutifully wear every night.  When traveling, my bite plate is packed in my carry-on luggage because it was once in a checked bag that was temporarily "lost".  I woke up the next morning with aching jaws.  I'm a "clincher".  Dr. T knows it.  He knew just what to do to save my teeth. 

 (Above:  My Teeth, detail.)

Dr. T is an expert in complete dentures and removable prosthodontics. Although I don't think he's taking on any new patients, he still maintains a private practice in restorative dentistry.  My case is a full-mouth restoration.  He's been practicing since the week before I was born.  This coming June will mark fifty-nine years.  I am very, very thankful that Dr. T "flunked retirement" at least twice.  Every year or two, he gets out his specialized camera to snap photos of my teeth ... for his lectures ... to show how a full mouth restoration should look after (now) eighteen years.  Dr. T lectures all over the USA.  He's always been on the cutting edge of dentistry.

(Above:  My Teeth, detail.)

So, it shouldn't have surprised anyone when he bought a 3D imagining X-ray machine.  Just because he's over eighty doesn't mean he doesn't still want the latest, greatest, most advanced new thing in his industry.  Since all new X-ray machines are digital, I asked for jpegs of my mouth in order to create this unique art quilt.  The ones in the middle are from the new machine.  Now, how cool is that!

(Above:  My Teeth, reverse.)

I didn't have a vintage textile featuring a tiny, white fluffy dog (like Dr. T's "pride and joy" pets).  So, I had to settle for a white cat on the reverse!  I had a lot of fun stitching this piece.

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