Monday, January 27, 2020

The Clothesline Begins and Tour of Edwards Place Mansion

 (Above:  First five items for The Clothesline.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Once all the stitching on the twenty quilt blocks for Sue's Environmental To Do List were finished, it was time to turn my attention to the heart of my art residency proposal:  to fashion a creative clothesline from vintage and found materials that focuses on the benefits of line drying, conserving household energy, and doing things (like using a clothesline!) BY HAND.
 (Above: The living room at the Enos Park Art Residency duplex with sorted linens.)

Honestly, I wasn't entirely sure how this project was going to work.  I only had a "foggy vision" for the way it might look, but I knew I would need at least two tubs of vintage fabric.  I don't always know what is inside these tubs.  There's no real organization to them.  The contents came from thrift stores, yard sales, Bill Mishoe's auction, and from generous friends.  So first, I sorted the stuff into piles in the residency duplex's living room.  Having space for such a task is one of the top reasons I seek out residency opportunities.  Like most artists, I've already filled almost all the available space in my home and studio!  It was fun to spread out and really look at what I brought.

 (Above:  A piece of vintage material covered with a fusible and from which a hand print was cut.)

I also knew that my concept included the visual use of a fabric hand print on the vintage linens.  Hands automatically symbolize a sense of touch, an act of doing, and the suggestion of "hand made/hand done."  So, I ironed Wonder Under, a heat activated adhesive, to the reverse of several pieces of fabric including some 1950s-60s era plaid picnic clothes.  I traced my hand on the adhesive's facing paper and cut along the outline. 

I cut just a few hand prints out and used them on five items.  These are the five pieces in this blog post's top image.  I zigzag stitched around each hand print and hung the five on my inside clothesline.  I liked what I saw!  Thank goodness! I now consider these five "the prototypes" for The Clothesline. What will come won't be different. Yet, it was important to make these first ones in order to figure out how to proceed.

 (Above:  Shelving unit with sixty pillowcases.)

As soon as these five pieces were hanging, the "fog" in my former vision began to lift.  I formed an action place!  First, I counted the pillowcases I once legally salvaged from the former South Carolina State Mental Hospital's laundry building.  Including the one in the prototypes, there is a total of sixty-one.  The pillowcase in the group of prototypes used four hand prints, two on each side.

(Above:  Hand prints cut from the facing paper of the Wonder Under being used for outlines to cut even more fabric hand prints.)

It doesn't take higher mathematics to realize that sixty pillowcases, each with four fabric hand prints, will require a total of 240!  That's a lot of fusing and cutting.  I fused lengths of Wonder Under onto several pieces of found fabric.  Carefully, I pulled up half the facing paper and inserted some of the facing-paper hand prints cut for the prototypes.  I then pulled up the other side, inserted more hand prints, and ironed the top facing paper back down.  Then, I cut the fabric around the hand prints.

The more I fused and cut, the more facing-paper hand prints came into existence.  For a moment, I thought about how I might use all these pieces.  Then reality hit!  I can't use EVERYTHING ...

... especially when I also ended up with a large bowl of fabric cut away from the fabric hand prints.  All this fabric has Wonder Under ironed to the reverse.  I threw out the facing-paper hand prints and am trying to figure out something to do with these scraps.

By the end of the weekend, I had all these fabric hand prints cut and ready to be used.  I've started in earnest and will update the progress of this installation soon!  Check back!

 (Above:  Edwards Place.)

Now as much ironing and fusing as I've been doing, one might think I've done little else ... but that is hardly the case!  Recently I toured Edwards Place ... which is part of the Springfield Arts Association and has been since 1913.  This mansion was once the home of attorney Benjamin Edwards, youngest son of Governor Ninian Edwards and brother-in-law of Mary Lincoln’s sister Elizabeth. In 1913 Alice Edwards Ferguson was approached by members of the Springfield Amateur Art Study Club for permission to rent rooms in Edwards Place as meeting place but she surprised them by offering to donate the entire house to serve as meeting, gallery, and classroom space.

I didn't have to go far!  The residency duplex is on the grounds.  My van is literally parked beside a brick wall that extends from the Springfield Arts Association office. Edwards Place was used as an art gallery until 1937. Art classes were being held in the upstairs bedrooms as late as the 1960s. Today Edwards Place is a historic house museum interpreting the social and domestic life of Abraham Lincoln's Springfield, Illinois. A full-scale restoration in 2014-2105 restored the first floor and much of the second floor to its c. 1857 appearance.  So ... below are some of the photos I took while touring the mansion.  It is a wonderful place!

 (Above:  The parlor ... looking in one direction.)

 (Above:  The parlor ... looking in the other direction.)

(Above:  Still in the parlor ... looking behind me to the "courting couch" on which Abraham and Mary undoubtedly sat during the early days of their romance.  At that time, the couch was owned by Mary's sister and was located in her house elsewhere in Springfield.)

As much as I love the rooms, I often find myself focusing on the small details!

Upstairs.  Several of the rooms include places or patches of original wallpaper or, in this case, the painted plaster.

This is a view to through the second floor's ceiling skylight.


Shirlee Fassell said...

Susan you are indomitable! Am looking forwards to seeing the result of all your hands!

Ann Scott said...

Living in the young (relatively speaking) California, I enjoy your walks/talks through some historic places, especially art related.
I enjoyed the raven post too with all of the intertwined stories. Hands have my attention, can't wait to see what's next.

Margaret said...

I agree with Shirlee that, indeed, you are indomitable. You already know that I don't believe you ever sleep...but for this particular post...I admit fascinated with that thing in the parlour that looks like a piano keyboard -- complete with adjustable seat -- but with a sort of wide-to-narrow chimney. Any idea what that thing is? (Inquiring minds want to know!)

Catherine - Mixed Media Artist said...

another great project - with your hands well and truly to the pump...and with the historic buiilding next door, one can imagine the "staff slaving over the washing" without the use of the electrical gadgets we can have if you wish.

Is there space in your yard there, or at home to put up a really old fashioned clothes line with a central stick that raises the rope line up and down?

Susan Lenz said...

Thank you all for commenting on my blog post! Working alone (please read as "happily and without the normal distractions of everyday life" but still the only person in this apartment!), I am especially aware that there are people out there in the cyber world sharing this adventure. THANK YOU!

Although I have responded directly to Margaret, I'll post here that the odd looking "chimney shaped" instrument in the Edwards Place parlor is indeed a piano. I asked about it too! I was told that this design really didn't go over well. As a result, few were made and fewer kept. It is not in working order but for several thousand dollars could be restored. Money, of course, is tight in all non-profits and thus this piano will simply remain a piece of beautiful, Victorian era furniture.

Catherine's profile doesn't provide a link to which I can respond personally ... but I do plan to raise a clothesline here in Illinois despite the cold temperatures, occasional snow, and the icy conditions. I will be doing this on the upstairs porch. So, please continue to be my "silent partners" and read the upcoming blog posts.
PS I am sleeping very well here ... my normal eight hours ... deeply. Earthquakes generally can't wake me! LOL!