Thursday, March 29, 2018

Camp Gravatt and the Magic Carpet

 (Above:  Magic Carpet, detail.)

Once upon a time, my custom picture framing business was big ... really big!  We had up to fourteen on payroll, eight of whom were full-time. At the rate I was working, I was never going to get to becoming an artist.  In 2001 my husband Steve and I began to forcibly down-size the business.  It took two years to find jobs for all our employees and finish long-term commitments.  I finally got a studio and started stitching.  The only way for us to limit our client base was RADICAL.  We decided to frame for only those people who trust me ... entirely!  Customers no longer get to help pick out their presentations. In fact, they must happily agree that whatever I select ... in their absence ... will be loved and paid for.  No exceptions. If someone isn't comfortable, no problem; I simply refuse the order.  This isn't for everyone.  Most people are totally aghast that this arrangement, but somehow or the other, there are people who keep coming.  Some of them have been coming for nearly thirty years!  Some of them have even purchased my artwork.

(Above:  Camp Gravatt.  Map of South Carolina with Camp Gravatt marked by pin point, grommets and pieces of a tarp, canvas, and twine from a  tent that was lost in last year's hurricane winds.)

One long-time customer/friend/art buyer is now working for Camp Gravatt.  The camp lost a tent in last year's hurricane winds. She brought me a challenge ... pieces of weather-proofed green tent canvas with grommets and twine and a damaged, white tarp.  My job: Turn it into some sort of "art" for the upcoming fund-raiser auction.

Well, she brought these things months ago.  I didn't admit it at the time, but I was not at all inspired.  I did try.  I researched the camp's logo, history, and "tent" type artwork.  Nothing clicked.  It didn't really help that the items were dirty and the tarp smelled.  I'm generally not a procrastinator, but I put this challenge aside until last week.  My friend called to remind me.  The event is next month.  I had to face the provided material.

 (Above:  Camp Gravatt, detail.)

Over the weekend while working on a commissioned portrait, I put the items in my studio hoping for inspiration.  Nothing came.  On Monday, I decided to PLAY IT SAFE.  I am, after all, a certified professional framer.  I was one of the earliest people to pass the four-hour certification test administered by the Professional Picture Framing Association. (1991 or 92 ... can't remember exactly).  I got a map of South Carolina and matted it.  I cut the grommets off the canvas and tarp, rolled 5" squares of the canvas, pin-pointed the location of the camp, and double framed the entire collection into a shadowbox.  Sure it looks great ... but is it art?  Even I'd only call it "good design" and "excellent framing".  Steve said it looked great but he also said I could do better.  He said, "It's canvas.  Why don't you paint on it?"

 (Above:  Magic Carpet.  Unframed: 25" x 15"; framed 28" x 18". Oil pastels on green tent canvas with free-motion stitching.)

I protested a bit.  I don't paint ... but then I remembered my public performance piece, Nike's Advice.  I actually do have a style and am quite comfortable with oil pastels.  Now ... I know that oil pastels aren't really supposed to be used on unprimed canvas.  Besides, this tent canvas was sort of stretchy and oily from weather-proofing.  The "conversation framer" in me wanted to object ... but why?  Just because this might not last two-hundred years isn't a reason NOT to do it.  For all I know, the oily pastels might even be perfect on this fabric.  Such experimentation isn't taught in guidelines for framing certification.  Artists do strange things all the time.  So ... I did it! It worked.  I heat set all the pastels ... trying to remove any excess thickness and wax.  It doesn't smear now.  I used another piece of the canvas under the colorful marks and free-motion stitched the two layers together.  Then, I glued it to a piece of acid-free foam-centered board and put it in a frame. 

 (Above:  Magic Carpet, in its frame on the windowsill where I snapped photos.)

I think the results look amazing.  What a wonderful transformation from bright green tent canvas to an exotic design reminiscent of a magical, flying carpet.  I hope it brings lots of money for Camp Gravatt.  (No ... it is not a 100% donation!  I am getting some money for both pieces!)

(Above:  The back of the stitching.)

While this experimentation worked, I do not necessarily recommend using weather-proofed canvas.  The needle did get a little gummed up.  I'm guessing that the canvas was originally white and that the weather-proofing is the green coating on both sides.  The white interior does peek out on the reverse ... which didn't matter to me.  I glued this side permanently to the foam-centered board!

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.  I already linked this week but noticed other artist linking more than one weekly post ... and since this was such a productive week, I thought I'd do it too!

1 comment:

Linda M said...

You have had a productive week and two totally different pieces from the canvas, good job!