Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Clothesline at the Rensing Center

(Above:  The Clothesline Installation at the Rensing Center, an art residency program just outside Pickens, SC.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

The Clothesline Installation started with a proposal sent to the Enos Park Art Residency Program with the Springfield Art Association in Illinois.  The proposal called for a "creative clothesline" made from vintage and found textiles that would draw attention to the benefits of line drying, the need for household energy conservation, and the beauty of doing things BY HAND!  I started cutting, fusing, and zigzag stitching hand prints in January 2020.  Little did I know at the time that COVID-19 was already spreading its way across the globe and about to change everything.  

Shortly after returning home, the cancellations, indefinite postponements, and business shutdowns started.  Phrases like "social distancing" and "contact tracing" and "flattening the curve" became commonplace.  Mouse House, the limited custom picture framing business I have with my husband Steve, was deemed "non-essential" and forced to close.  This gave me time to continue making more and more items for The Clothesline.  (Plus ... lots of nice people were spending time "downsizing" and "cleaning out their attics and garages" ... which meant they were donating their vintage household linens to me too!  THANK YOU!)  Basically, I made a lot of pieces for the "future installation", and my project even spoke to the pandemic ... as in ... "Wash your hands"!  By the end of the year it was clear:  I needed a place to experiment.  I needed a place to attempt putting up a temporary, non-invasive clothesline.  I needed a BIG patch of "green" and time to work!  I applied for another art residency at the Rensing Center and got it!
My action plan seemed simple enough.  I was going to use a sledgehammer to pound half-inch wide, ten-feet long, galvanized electrical conduit two or more feet into the ground.  I was going to zip-tie a large screw eye into a previously drilled hole in the top of each conduit.  I was going to string a clothesline through the screw eyes, safety pin the items to the line, and add clothespins "for a proper look".  Like many of my plans, this was hilariously flawed but good enough to make a start!
I learned many things.  I learned that at no point in my entire life (even when young and fit) could I ever wield a sledgehammer ... not with one hand while the other held the conduit ... not when on a six foot ladder attempting to hit a ten foot pole ... not if it meant the darn thing needed to be swung higher than my own waist.  What on earth was I thinking when I put the sledgehammer into my cargo van?  Thankfully, a regular hammer worked. I learned that one can't drive an electrical conduit into the ground deeper than top soil.  If one hits solid rock, that's it.  Solid rock at the Rensing Center is approximate twelve inches under the grass.  I learned that fire ants bite ... so look down often.  I learned that wind is a real factor and had to be addressed almost immediately.  I learned that keeping a straight line doesn't matter.  In fact, a meandering line looks even nicer.

Thankfully, I had a back-up plan (or a place that I knew that would rescue me!)  Bivens Hardware store is awesome!  Family owned since 1923, Bivens' staff really HELP people and they sure helped me.  I came with just five electrical conduits.  I planned on purchasing more at Bivens.  After precariously pounding my five electrical conduits into the ground, I learned that eight-foot lengths would be better.  I can't cut electrical conduit.  Bivens can and did.  Bivens also drilled the holes on the ones I purchased there.  What took me an hour, took them minutes.  They also had plenty of rope and tent pegs to stake the poles against the wind.  With this help and the "gift of time and space" provided by the Rensing Center, I learned how to install a temporary clothesline.  Next time (and hopefully I'll get a "next time"), it will be easier and quicker.

I had hoped to install ALL the pieces made for this installation and accurately measure the yardage.  That didn't happen but that's okay.  Bivens ran out of electrical conduit.  Only a little more than half the individual pieces made in onto the clothesline.  Yet, I can now claim "more than seventy yards" ... because that's what's hanging now!  I also learned that my Clothesline Installation can withstand strong winds when the poles are staked using tent pegs and rope.  I learned that my Clothesline Installation can withstand an entire night of rain!  It dried again in the sunshine ... just like any other clothesline!  I also learned that cows seem to enjoy art installations!


Catherine - Mixed Media Artist said...

A lot of "learning" but in a great way and finding a hardware store, willing to go the extra mile - for the art viewing cows, even better.

Yes your "hands" have definitely taken on an extra stance during covid "wash your hands" ideal...

Ann Scott said...

Such a feat! This made me smile, every word of it. Oh, and I'm way impressed. Looks like a beautiful place to dry textiles and entertain cows.

Ashley Felder said...

Loved this piece as well as the intention behind it. Beautiful handwork and statement! Hope to see you in Pickens again soon!

- Ashley, Rensing assistant