Monday, June 25, 2018

Two weeks completed at the Rensing Center

 (Above:  Detail of The Cocoon, a fiber installation currently under construction at the Rensing Center.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I have just finished up the second of a five-week art residency at the Rensing Center, a program located just outside Pickens, South Carolina.  My project involves turning a large stash of vintage household linens, garments, lace, and assorted textiles into a giant, soft enclosure called The Cocoon.  I secured a SC Arts Commission grant to assist with the pipe system on which the installation is being created.  I got enough pipes to build a 20' x 20' cube ... even though I cannot actually build a 10' x 10' cube in my residency studio/apartment. Initially, I thought I'd build a 10' x 10' cube, take it down, and build another cube.  That isn't happening, but the idea was to build enough sections so that in the future I can be very flexible about the size ... depending on locations.  My plan was to create at least two sections per week.  Happily I am on schedule!

 (Above:  My second Bernina on the counter with one completed section hanging inside the studio/apartment front door.)

I had to work hard to keep to my schedule due to issues with my sewing machine. My old Bernina limped through last weekend, went into the shop on Monday, and didn't managed to get repaired during the week.  Parts were ordered but not received.  I spent most of the week adding yoyo-s, buttons, and garments by hand.  When I received news about my machine in the shop, I decided to drive back to Columbia on Friday morning.  I retrieved my second Bernina and worked through the weekend to catch up with my scheduled work!  (Why I just didn't load both sewing machines into my cargo van will remain a mystery! LOL!)

(Above:  Newly erected section ... in front of the bed ... using the extra height under one of the skylights.)

Since my last blog post, I've switched some of the panels around, added more yoyo-s, and erected another section in one of the only available places.  (The pipe system is 8' in height.  Unfortunately, the ceiling isn't uniformly 8' in height.  I have carefully positioned several pipe ends under the open space above several skylights.)

Another thing that has happened since my last blog post is hearing from a few people who are already reacting to my installation.  These comments mean the world to me because they validate my original concept and deepest hope for the entire project.

M. A. Corkin sent me the following email message. "As I follow the progression of your work through your blog, I am beginning to toy with some ideas of creating something special with two of my mother's high school gym shirts. They are embroidered with signatures of classmates whose memories deserve honor.  Your energy is infusing life into the silent strength of feminine hands who left a powerful legacy via needle and thread."

My message back included the following:

"From the beginning, I've wanted this fiber installation to do several things.  I wanted to have a place where a mother and child could thread a needle, fasten a button onto a piece of cloth or learn a basic running stitch. I wanted people of all ages to share stories of family members who quilted, stitched, made all the garments for their family or crocheted doilies for the house.  I also wanted to inspire others to DO SOMETHING with their treasured textiles.  Perhaps (and most hopefully!) I've inspired you!"

Up until this important correspondence, I had concentrated mostly on "how to build the installation" and "how to pay for the pipe system" and "where to find the time and space to work in". I hadn't really thought about ways to continue the project into the future even though I plan for future opportunities to show the work. The more I thought about it, the more I knew that the installation is going to need some sort of documentation, a signature book like those in fancy bed-and-breakfast accommodations or at weddings and funerals or at some art receptions or even on-line reviews. I need a "guest book" but one that is really just a three-ring binder.  Using this system, I can print emails like the one I received, include photographs, allow visitors to leave comments sharing the stories of their stitching relatives, and share the inspiration they've felt!

It's a good thing I got this message and thought about the future opportunities to show the work!  Why?  Well, an amazing thing happened!  The Rensing Center is going to host the first public viewing for The Cocoon in its library on Thursday, July 12 from 6 - 8!  If you are in the area, please consider yourself invited to 1165 Mile Creek Road, Pickens, SC 29671.

Another wonderful thing happened just yesterday!  Rensing Center Executive Director Ellen Kochansky took me to Greenville Little Theater's production of Beauty and the Beast!  That was yesterday, my birthday!  What could be a more wonderful way to spend a special day than stitching all morning, a musical in the afternoon, and sushi for dinner!  Thank you, Ellen!

By the way, one of my Facebook birthday messages included this comment: "Just reading your blog about the vintage linens makes me see my grandmother's tablecloth as a piece of fabric instead of a holy relic."  This is EXACTLY what I most hoped might happen to people experiencing this installation!

Also, my friend Jinny Cherry donated these beautiful linens to the project.  She dropped them off at Mouse House back in Columbia ... and I brought them back to the Rensing Center with my second Bernina.  Can't wait to include some on future sections of The Cocoon.

The rest of the images are details of The Cocoon.  Please take a look and check back as the project progresses!


Wise Old Al said...

boatloads of work that is stunning

Shirlee Fassell said...

At first I didn’t know what this would be but I find it evokes a lot of emotions! Love the attention to the details... buttons, yo-yos, doilies etc!