Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Spark Plug Mandala!

(Above:  Mandala XLVI, the Spark Plug Mandala. Framed as a diamond: 23" x 23"; hung as a square: 16 1/2" x 16 1/2". Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: spark plugs; a clock face; four, blue plastic bottle caps; zipper pulls; brass hinges; vintage cocktail forks; four, silver square-beads that were once part of a bracelet; a metal circle with six holes; and lots of buttons.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Most of this post is an illustration for how I've managed to mount my mandalas and distribute the weight of the found objects that are hand-stitched to a section/block of a vintage quilt.  I've selected this particular mandala to use for my example ... because ... well ... this many spark plugs are obviously heavier than most other objects I've been using.  I got these spark plugs at Bill Mishoe's auction house, a place selling everything from antiques and paintings to used household items ... and ... apparently, brand new spark plugs ... still in a box.


(Above:  Lot 208 with the silent auction bidder's sheet.)

There were several lots of spark plugs in small, corrugated boxes.  Someone bid the opening/minimum of $6 on all the boxes.  I wrote $7.50, the next increment, and my "permanent" bidder number (#74) on just this one box.  No one bid more.  (Permanent numbers are for "auction regulars". I've been attending Bill Mishoe's auctions for more than thirty years.  Ordinarily, the auction is live but during this on-going pandemic, it is held like a silent auction with bidder sheets.)


(Above:  The spark plugs!)

Inside the corrugated box were six smaller boxes.  Inside each smaller box were eight, individually packaged spark plugs.  Brand new, small engine (whatever that means!), spark plugs.  I was thrilled and decided to use almost all of them on a small, single quilt block.

(Above:  Mandala XLVI, detail.)

Because these spark plugs are small and not at all flat, I needed something on which one end could rest.  Thankfully, Marty Ornish recently sent a package of found objects for my stash.  In it was a clock face with the perfect rim.  Each spark plug was stitched down with at least seven stitches.  I used purple #5 perle cotton.  All this stitching was done while the vintage quilt block was stapled to a stretcher bar.

(Above:  The finished quilt block, removed from the stretcher bar.  The stretcher bar, on which a piece of acid-free foam-centered board was glued and stapled in place.)

When all the found objects were hand-stitched in place, I removed the vintage quilt block from the stretcher bar.  A piece of acid-free foam-centered board was cut to fit inside the slight lip/bump of the stretcher bar.  It was both glued and stapled into place.

(Above:  The quilt block re-stapled to the stretcher bar.)

Because I'm using vintage quilts which are not always in excellent shape, I lay down a piece of netting over the quilt block before attaching any of the found objects.  I did this after stapling the quilt block to the stretcher bar.  Why?  Well, netting can rip rather easily.  Having staples put through it and later removed would risk it being torn.  I re-stapled the quilt block to the stretcher bar without pulling the netting around.  The photo above shows the piece re-stapled to the stretcher bar and the netting not being stapled down.

(Above:  One corner of the stapled quilt.)

To deal with the corners, I pull out as much of the batting as necessary to eliminate bulk.  I also cut away the quilt backing.  This makes it much easier to fold/pull/staple a neat corner.

(Above:  This shows the corner, folded/pulled/stapled.)

Ideally, the corner would be neater but that isn't always possible when dealing with vintage quilts.  Yet with the bulk of the batting and backing removed, the corners are almost neat enough!

(Above:  The netting pulled around to the reverse and stapled in place.)

When all four corners are stapled in place, I pull the netting around to the back, twisting the netting at the corners, and then stapling it to the back of the stretcher bars.  This means that all the staples are actually UNDER the netting.

(Above:  The piece finished on the stretcher bar.)

Finishing the sides and corners in this way produces a nice look even if I weren't going to put the work into a frame.

(Above:  The back of the piece.)

Now comes the important part!  It is necessary to distribute the weight of the found objects.  On all my other mandalas, I used buttonhole thread and stitched long running stitches through the foam-centered board and piece ... in both vertical and horizontal rows ... every two to three inches.  Therefore, no part of a mandala is stressed by more than a two to three inch square of the whole. 

(Above:  Detail of the weight distribution stitching.)

For this spark plug mandala, I used the same #5 perle cotton thread and stitched through the foam-centered board, up through the quilt block, and around each spark plug ... twice ... firmly securing each spark plug in place.  The weight is evenly distributed because the spark plugs aren't just attached to the quilt but stabilized by the foam-centered board.

(Above:  The finished piece and its floater frame.)

As a certified, professional picture framer since starting my shop in 1987, I've always approached my art-making with presentation in mind.  Before stitching the very first mandala, I knew I wanted a "floater" styled frame.  This is the type of picture frame moulding that doesn't have a lip over the edge of the artwork.  The moulding lips around the back of the artwork.  The artwork fits INSIDE the frame and is put in place from the front, not the back.

(Above:  Off-set clips used to attach the stretcher bar to the floater frame.)

I used just six off-set clips to screw the stretcher bar to the back side of the floater styled frame. 

(Above:  The finished piece from the back.)

Another piece of foam-centered board was installed to protect the stitching on the back.  A label was attached and wires installed for hanging either as a square or a diamond.  I hope this blog post helps others with their presentation/framing needs!


Els said...

Wonderful another "repurpose" mandala !
(Enjoyed the webinar yesterday !)

Toni Arman said...

What brand of spark plugs did you use? Depending on the brand and if it’s for sale ? I may have a buyer!

Susan Lenz said...

Toni! They are Champion spark plugs. I swear, however, that I never even considered spark plugs having a manufacture. For me, they are simply shiny, cute, unexpected, and make an excellent ring for a found object mandala! I hope the buyer wants "Champions"! LOL! Susan

Catherine - Mixed Media Artist said...

that's amazing, I've collections of things, that I've bought on sale at the hardware/thrift store but I'm not always looking in all the aisles. And NO, I'm not going to use them for mandalas but an idea I've simmering to do with the books I make (i.e. the front cover)

and seeing Toni's remark about "what brand" is having me think you'll be looking at "themed brands" in the future. Maybe there is a different type of collector out there for you...