Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Gift of Time

 (Above:  Cigar boxes in progress.  Key contact areas have been sanded away using a dremel and then painted ... to allow the lids to close after collage elements have been added.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I absolutely love art residencies.  They are a Gift of Time.  Every morning after I get up, make coffee, check email messages, and write my "Morning Pages" (a eleven+ year habit developed by following Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way), I have one thing on my "To Do" list:  MAKE ART.

This two month residency with Osage Arts Community has provided time to explore.  I have no idea whether altering all these cigar boxes will amount to anything or not.  I'm pushing through the struggle to collage so many surfaces.  (They are cubes, after all ... with six interior sides and six exterior sides!) I'd like to instantly be a "master" at collage techniques but I'm really only a beginner.  Being at an art residency almost means forcing myself to practice what doesn't come perfectly naturally.  I have the time to learn.  I have the time to think about potential concepts: Confinement but now also the notion of a secret place inside or even an inviting safe harbor.  The more I work, the more gets accomplished ... inside and out ... of me and the boxes.

I also had the time to start and finish an art quilt for an upcoming invitational show.  Unfortunately, the requirements include "not sharing" the work until later this summer.  Let's just say that this project would have taken more than a month if I were at home.  At an art residency, it took only a week.

 (Above:  Altered Cross Stitch: Some Things Never Change.)

This past week, I've spent all day, every day with the cigar boxes and art quilt.  But, the evenings are different.  I've been altering vintage cross stitch pieces.  Last winter I bought several at Bill Mishoe's auction.  They were all in cheap, skinny black frames ... a typical presentation for works made from pre-printed fabric kits dating to the late 1950s to 1960s.  I removed and washed them but then set them aside.  Why?  Well, there's a story!

In April 2014 I had the honor of presenting a workshop Arrowmont School for Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One of the participants had a selection of these vintage cross stitches and asked how she might use them.  A thought immediately occurred to me and I made that suggestion:  Cover them with your own stitches!  Make the work about then & now; past & present; old & new ... a collaboration with an anonymous maker in hopes that both are remembered in the future.

As soon as I voiced my encouragement, I also felt a tinge of regret.  I had just given away an idea that would have liked to do. I answered honestly with an action plan coming straight from my heart ... and appropriately for a workshop called "Second Life".  I know that a good teacher really should give generously.  I did.  I also thought that once I had given away an idea, I couldn't act on it myself.  I had GIVEN IT AWAY.  I rationalized, "Susan, there's not enough time in a single life to do all your ideas anyway ... just think up another idea".  

 (Above:  Altered Cross Stitch: From Dusk to Dawn.)

I resisted the idea until last winter.  At the auction, no one else wanted the sad stack of pieces.  I bought them for a total of six dollars.  Still, I couldn't bring myself to use them until this art residency approached. I knew that I would need a hand-stitching project (or two or three or more) for every evening.  These were perfect.  I stitched Some Things Never Change even before I left ... to make sure it was something I would like to really spent time doing.  I loved it!

Of course, I had to change the idea I gave away ... a little bit!  I decided to mount the pieces on a larger piece of linen and add a contemporary phrase.  My original idea expanded to include new comments on the old sayings or even a twist on the original intention.  Time allowed my idea to germinate, to expand into this approach.  Time is also necessary to accomplish this much handwork on this small amount of fabric!  Thankfully, an art residency is "the gift of time".

 (Above:  Altered Cross Stitch:  I Love Everything.)

After couching my phrase, I started dense running stitches with a tan wool thread.  To highlight the center, I added off white perle cotton to the outer edge of the vintage piece.  It's been so much fun.  Every night here at Osage Arts Community, I've been stitching and streaming episodes of Nurse Jackie on Netflix (a show I had never seen).   

 (Above:  Altered Cross Stitch: I Love Everything, detail.)

And now the rest of the story!

I am still in contact with the lovely lady from Arrowmont, the one who owned a collection of these vintage cross stitches, the one to whom I gave away my idea!  She took my suggestion and added batting to the backs of a few and rice stitches to the edges ... but did nothing more.  Like me, she set them aside.  Then amazingly, she sent me part of her collection!  I'm guessing the time was needed for the project to germinate into this series. I can't wait to add my work to hers.  This is going to be so much fun. 

(Above:  The gift from a friend ... given at the perfect time ... during a gift of time.)

Moral of the story:  What you give away might come back in ways even better than what was released!  THANK YOU my friend for a little miracle!


Ann Scott said...

Such a neat story. You have so many cool ideas. I'm looking forward to seeing what you aren't able to share yet!

Christine said...

Amazing! So pleased for you both.
I can just picture you sitting there in peace and quiet, stitching away.... bliss!

Margaret said...

Those embroidered pieces are wonderful -- restored to "treasurehood" once again with your care and imagination!

Gwen Goepel said...

Great story!
Enjoy your residency and time!