Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Cocoon, a fiber installation by Susan Lenz

The Cocoon at the Rensing Library

 (Above:  Me stitching inside The Cocoon.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last Thursday was a wonderfully exciting day.  Not only was my installation, The Cocoon, already receiving visitors in the Rensing Center Library, but Libby Dallis, a multi-media specialist with SCETV (South Carolina Educational Television) came to interview me on film.  It was quite amazing to see the professional equipment being erected and put into use.

(Above:  Libby Dallis, setting up her equipment.)

Libby had already sent a list of questions.  We talked about my concepts, my TEDx talk that inspired this installation, the SC Arts Commission grant that helped fund the project, and the hopes that The Cocoon will find future venues.

 (Above:  Libby interviewing me inside The Cocoon.)

Libby was quite thorough and spent several hours capturing detail images and watching people view the installation during the evening's reception, including ...

... the children who really did add one of the available yoyo-s to the existing panels.  


It is my fond hope that more people will want to share stitches and embellishments to the installation.  Yet, I know that few will actually get to experience The Cocoon in person.  My husband Steve suggested a video.  He even shot one!  CLICK HERE for this You Tube video of The Cocoon!

(Above:  Steven Chapp posing beside his mother's 1948 satin wedding gown.)

One of the best moments of the day was a visit from printmaker Steven Chapp.  Steven donated his mother's incredible satin wedding dress to the installation.

Another special touch was the delectable canapes and deviled eggs served beside colorful flower arrangements.  The Rensing Center's board member Ron Few was in charge of hospitality.  I am so very, very grateful for his time, attention to details, and theatrical arrangements.

(Above:  Staff members/volunteers for the Oconee Cultivation Project viewing The Cocoon.)

On Friday morning, fifteen teenagers from the Oconee Cultivation Project came to the Rensing Center to learn about bees and other pollinators. Before embarking on this activity, they toured The Cocoon.  Because it is a bit tricky to receive permission to photograph and blog/publish images of minors, I took only images of the staff/adults!  (It was easy to ask the parents of the children attending the reception ... but not on a summer camp sort of workshop!)

(Above:  Katrina Black, a Parks & Recreation PhD candidate at Clemson University specializing in youth programming development.)

So ... I couldn't snap pictures of the teenagers but I could capture the dreamy look of one of their supervisors, Katrina Black, who recently became engaged and found the nostalgia of the wedding dress a perfect way to remember her family's sense of "home" and all their marriages!

Shortly after taking this picture, Steve and I had to dismantle The Cocoon.  It took only one-hour-and-fifteen minutes to take down all the panels, fold them over the heavy-duty hangers, walk the hangers to the cargo van, dismantle the pipe structure, and say good-bye.  I'm now back home putting the finishing touches on the final report for the South Carolina Arts Commission's successful grant!  Soon, I'll be working on an exhibition proposal and hoping to erect The Cocoon again!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Cocoon Gets Finished and Installed

 (Above:  Inside The Cocoon at the Rensing Center Library.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Yesterday and today have been simply grand!  The vision in my head became a physical reality. The Cocoon is mostly installed in the Rensing Center Library.  I've got a few finishing touches to add (like threaded needles and buttons on the little, round table ... something visitors can use!), but otherwise I'm ready for Thursday evening's art reception, 6 - 8 pm.  If you are in the area, please come!

 (Above:  The front side of the last two panels created for The Cocoon.)

Before writing about the process of transporting and installing, I'd like to share the last two panels created.  The one on the left has three different petticoats below a simple camisole on top of a pink tablecloth. The other panel was more complicated.  The decorative edges of five different bed sheets were removed and stitched into strips and decorated with yoyo-s.  The rest of the cotton sheets were donated to the Rensing Center for an upcoming indigo dyeing workshop.

 (Above:  The back of the last two panels.)

It's been great fun deciding how to incorporate my stash of mismatched, often damaged, generally well worn and neglected old textiles.  Yet, I've run out of hangers and I know I've made more panels than can be on display Thursday night.

(Above:  Spoonflower printed labels with the South Carolina Arts Commission and other funding information ... ready to be ironed onto sixteen different panels.)

One of the last things I did was to attach sixteen labels to various panels.  I designed the labels in Photoshop and ordered a "fat quarter" of them from Spoonflower.  Wonder Under (a heat-activated adhesive) was ironed to the label's reverse and then onto the panels.  Each label includes the official logo for the SC Arts Commission and the following statement:  Funded in part by the SC Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, and the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of SC. Including this information is part of the agreement for the funding.  The funding assisted with the purchase of the pipe system on which The Cocoon is built.

Finally, I had all thirty-six hangers filled and ready to be transported to the Rensing Library.  (Just look how nice my label looks in the lower portion of that panel!)

I had what seemed to be a great pipe for my cargo van.  All thirty-six hangers fit nicely on it.  I thought it was brilliant ... until I tried to drive down the gravel path and out onto the paved driveway.  In my rear view mirror, I could see the pipe bouncing and bending under the weight of these textiles.  I knew I was in trouble and needed a better pipe!  I did manage to get to the Rensing Library, thank goodness.  It's only about one hundred yards away!  I unloaded my hanging panels.

Then I headed into downtown Pickens to Bivens Hardware store ... a real hardware store ... with an owner/manager and a knowledgable and hard-working staff.  The boss' nephew measured the inside of my cargo van, cut a much thicker pipe, drilled holes in it for hanging hardware, and chained the well-designed contraption to the cargo van's roof.  It can even be easily taken down later ... and put back up again when needed.  This service ran me $21 but I insisted on an equal tip!  It was so worth it!  This hardware store even sells my favorite, hand-cut, square Tremont nails!

So ... finally I was back in the library with the assemblage system in place.  The view above is how visitors will first enter the space.

This is how it looked from behind where the two chairs sit.

This is the view across the space ... obviously these views were before the panels were installed.

Now I have all the pipes filled but still have thirteen filled hangers.  I really don't mind the fact that not all the work will be on display.  I've known from the start that I had enough pipe system to erect a 20' x 20' area.  The Rensing Center Library isn't that large ... but hopefully future opportunities will require all the panels!

So, the rest of the photos are details of The Cocoon.  This one is in the interior.

In another indentation hangs the beautiful, heavy satin 1948 wedding gown.

Visitors will be able to walk totally around The Cocoon, looking at both sides of the panels.  The view above is one of my favorites.  In the distance is Rensing Center Executive Director Ellen Kochansky's grandmother's treadle sewing machine!


Between the skylights, the track lighting, and another set of double doors, one would think the interior would be awesomely lit. To be honest, the installation could use more light. But in another sense, the shadows from one side to the other are absolutely amazing!


With more even lighting, I don't think I could have taken this fantastic shot. It really showcases the elaborate designs of an otherwise white tablecloth.  The green color comes from a tablecloth on the other side of the panel.  The lighting for this particular view is stellar!

I'm very much looking forward to watching people explore The Cocoon.  Best yet, I can't wait to hear their stories of family members who stitched, quilted, and did handwork.  It's going to be wonderful!


Saturday, July 07, 2018

More Panels for The Cocoon

(Above:  Detail of gloves now attached to one of the panels in The Cocoon.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

The piles of vintage textiles laying on the floor of "The Pottery", my accommodations and studio here at the Rensing Center, are getting smaller. More panels are stitched every day!  Soon it will be time for me to move the entire installation to the Rensing Library for next week's reception.  (Thursday, July 12th from 6 - 8)  I'm getting excited! The Cocoon will be open to the public!   

 (Above:  Three more panels for The Cocoon.)

I've been hanging the newly made panels on this outer section of the pipe-assemblage cube and photographing both the front (above) and the back (below).  Of course, there really won't be a "front" or a "back" once the installation is set up.  There will be only "interior" and "exterior".

(Above:  The "back" of the panels shown previously.)

After I took these photos and the details, I took the panels down and hung them on my 22" heavy-duty bedspread/drapery hangers and immediately started stitching new panels to replace them. So, scroll down.  I'm sharing the details of this first set and following it up with the next set!

This detail shows a how I attached one of the small circular tablecloths to a larger green one ... and then put a blue apron on top!

Here's a crocheted collar that I attached with buttons.

I put a very small piece of crochet (possibly one meant to be combined with others and made into a doily?) on top of this great but damaged hand embroidered, cotton doily.

I love how the green curtain on the other side of this panel makes the lacy tablecloth stand out!

 (Above:  The next set of three panels created since the Fourth of July.)

Figuring out how to incorporate the circular tablecloths was a challenge!  Getting the elastic that gathered up the "arm part" of these colorful gloves was another challenge! 

(Above:  The "back" of the panels just shown previously.)

I was able to use a lightweight, ruffle edged bedspread as a backdrop to yet another antique, cotton dress.  Below are the detail shots of both the "front" and "back" for the second set of panels.  Enjoy!

I used six different cotton placemats on this panel!

The center of this circular tablecloth was embellished with yoyo-s and another, small lace doily.

My stash included several coats-of-arms for Scandinavian countries, and I found a place for each one!

Ironing an antique dress like this is a real pain!  I cannot imagine doing it without an electric iron!

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

The Fourth of July at the Rensing Center

 (Above:  The Cocoon, in progress.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Since taking down all the previously constructed panels and putting them on the drapery/bedspread hangers, I've made several more sections for The Cocoon.  This is my last week to make these panels as I will be moving the entire installation to the Rensing Center Library next Tuesday for the Thursday, July 12th reception ... which is from 6 - 8 pm and open to the public.  If you're in the area, please consider this your invitation.

 (Above:  The reverse of the three panels shown in the first image.)

All these panels are double-sided.  Originally, I thought I would be attaching the front to the back with buttons ... in a sense, quilting the two sides together.  Yet, I learned that this just doesn't work.  The varying weights of the fabric and the many odd shapes and wrinkles mean these panels hang much better just flowing down to the floor.  Each one is slightly longer than the eight foot pipe system.  I like the effect, the "puddling" of vintage fabric at the bottom.

 (Above:  Another panel beside half of the previously made panels that are now on hangers.)

I am also trying to use the crocheted doilies.  They are sort of difficult to incorporate but important.  Why?  Well, the entire idea for this installation stems from my TEDx talk.  The presentation is called Precious: Making a Plan for your Precious Possessions.  In it, a often mention "Grandma's doilies".  In it, I suggest USING your precious possessions ... but the truth of the matter is: No one uses doilies anymore!  So this installation really needs to become a place for at least some of them!

 (Above: Detail of an appliqued and embroidered crib cover with yoyo-s.)

So ... today is the Fourth of July!  What did I do? I stitched, of course!  Yet, I also went to the Pickens County Flea Market.  There were hundreds and hundreds of people there.  It was a lot of fun but not as much fun as continuing my project.  Scroll down for a few more detail images!

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