Monday, September 06, 2021

The Clothesline Project at Guadalupe Mountains National Park


(Above: The Clothesline at Guadalupe Mountain National Park's Frijole Ranch.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Even before driving across the country for this unique art residency, I knew that only a very small portion of The Clothesline would be needed for my public activity here at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  Somehow or the other, I brought just the right number of pieces to fill a clothesline strung up between two trees and the corner of the spring house.  (To see more of The Clothesline, CLICK HERE for a video taken at the Rensing Center outside Pickens, SC.)  Everything was set up and ready by 10:00 AM on Saturday.  The activity went from 10 - 3 for all three days of this Labor Day Weekend.  It was the first time in eighteen months that the ranch house was open, and plenty of people came!   

On one picnic tables, I set out a nice selection of vintage fabric already backed with Wonder Under (Pellon 805, a heat-activated adhesive.)  Project participants sat down and traced their hand print on the adhesive's backing paper and it out.  


All sorts of individuals, families and friends had fun selecting which pattern they wanted and helping younger kids use the scissors.

At times, people got to meet other hikers and park visitors.  Many conversations swirled around which of the trails was the most picturesque and what wild life had been seen that day.  I mostly talked about the benefits of line drying clothes ... how the dryer is the biggest suck of household energy and how clothes actually last longer if never put inside a dryer.  Of course, there is also the joy of doing something by hand ... something that the families who once lived at Frijole Ranch knew all about.  Certainly, they had a clothesline!

Most people snapped photos of one another and their finished piece.  There was lots of laughter ...

...especially on Saturday, the slowest of the three days.  On that day, I also brought out my Bernina sewing machine and let people attempt to zigzag stitch around their hand print.  In the photo above, the young girl's father assisted in moving the fabric from the opposite side of the table.  She was working the foot pedal.  Together they persisted.  Both parents had fond memories of their older relatives who hung laundry on a line, used a vintage iron like mine, and sewed all their family's clothes.  Yet, this was the first time their daughter had ever done any of this.  We had a meaningful conversation about the way our world has changed.

It truly was a glorious day for stitching outside!

After cutting the hand prints out of the chosen fabric, participants moved to my ironing board.  On the ground was a large tub of vintage linens ... guest towels, place mats, pillowcases, dresser runners, decorative napkins, and dish towels.  Each person or group made a selection, removed the Wonder Under's facing paper from the back of the hand print, placed the hand print on the linen, and ironed it down ... fusing the hand print to the linen.  Several couples linked their fabric fingers!  It was sweet!  The husband in the photo above was from Hawaii.  For this photo, he posed with his hand in the Hawaiian surfer shaka/Hang Loose gesture.

 Later, another couple got creative with their hand prints.  She cut out a peace sign.  He did the shaka sign.

There were several families who sweetly put their hand prints together, but I only got this one photo.  Even the National Park's superintendent participated ... and I forgot to snap that picture too!  No matter what image I didn't take, I think the project made a positive impression.  The three days were rewarding in many ways.  Perhaps a few people will even use a clothesline in their future ... conserving energy, prolonging the life of their clothes, and enjoying the simple pleasure of doing something BY HAND!



Christine said...

Congratulations on, what sounds and looks like, a super weekend. Bet some of those folks will be talking about it for years and the children....what a memory.
Well done you.

Linda Laird said...

Susan, your mind is brilliant, and your heart is always open. A great combination for an artist!

mycamerandme365 said...

There is nothing nicer than bringing in a basket of dry laundry from the clothes line, warm and sweetly smelling of the breeze!

Ann Scott said...

I loved reading this post, you sparked something so special, this memory making time and activities, for these people and families.

Catherine - Mixed Media Artist said...

Such a different art residency than seems to be your usual stance - love that people came to your "doing days" - and the way the people thought about the "hand shape" and then went through with it all.