Thursday, April 11, 2024

Update on the progress of our move into the Cateechee mill village church

(Above:  Selfie at Todd Creek Falls.)

Every day at the Cateechee mill village church has been a busy one.  Box after box has been unpacked.  We work at finding new places for everything (and spend lots of time trying to remember where these places are!)  It is an exercise in "thinking outside the box".  What do I mean by that? Well ... just because we kept rolls of tape above the back sink doesn't mean we even have a back sink with overhead cabinets!  Finding a hammer, the broom and dustpan, and ... of course ... where we last put down our phones is a constant.  Little by little, however, everything is coming together.  (Now ... if the ever-so-behind-schedule contractor would finish the punch list ... well ... that would be nice!

(Above:  The upstairs bathroom.)

Blogging is something that I know will return with regularity when we are finally and fully MOVED IN.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.  Thank goodness.  Now, since my last blog post, lots has happened ... including hanging mirrors in the upstairs bathroom.  We really tried to sell most of the custom framed, beveled mirrors before we moved (at ridiculously low prices) but there were just too many.  So ... why not cover the upstairs bathroom in the remaining ones?

(Above:  The upstairs bathroom.)

The contractor's subs didn't manage to center the light fixture over the vanity ... but ... who really cares?  With the arrangement of mirrors, it just didn't matter to us.

(Above:  The downstairs bathroom.)

The downstairs bathroom had its share of problems too.  The shower door wasn't the correct size.  Three weeks after moving in, we got the door ... and on the same day, the free-standing tub was finally installed too.

(Above:  The downstairs bathroom.)

Obviously, it was worth the wait!

(Above:  The walk-in closet)

Had we understood that the "walk in closet" on the architectural renderings was simply an empty space, we might not have had to wait so long for it.  We didn't contract with ClosetPro until we'd been here for a week.  Then, it was two weeks before all these beautiful shelves and racks came.  The guy who put them in was fantastic.  Definitely, this was worth the wait!

(Above:  The 10' ceiling fan.)

Just last Friday, the 10' ceiling fan was installed.  (The contractor ordered the wrong down rod THREE TIMES! Thank goodness the architect ordered the right one! LOL!)  The sanctuary lights were rewired yesterday and today!  They weren't part of the original renovation, but we were able to independently hire the electrician who did all the other work.  We've also "bit the bullet" can have contracted with Lowe's to replace all eight sanctuary windows.  Believe it or not, the original ones are spray-painted (sky blues) Plexiglas mounted on wood in various states of disrepair.  We are hoping the new windows come in a couple weeks.

(Above:  The guest bedroom.)

We haven't found a bed frame yet ... but this will be the guest bedroom.  Our old futon mattress and feather topper are actually quite comfortable.


(Above:  A neighbor's son cutting the nearly one acre lot.)

We met several of our new neighbors.  One man was particularly helpful.  He loaned us his cat trap.  Why?  Well, we closed off the one broken vent in the crawl space.  We thought we'd scared all the stray cats out but apparently there was one mother with two kittens still under the church.  It took three days before we could say we were "feral cat free".  Ernie and Mr. Minnie seem to be the only cats with collars. After the first three weeks, we started letting them outside ... with supervision!  Mostly, however, they are staying indoors.  The sanctuary seems large enough for them to have space to roam!  The neighbor's son was then introduced ... and we hired him to cut the nearly one-acre lot and trim the low branches of the magnolia tree.  Now ... the yard looks wonderful!

(Above:  Stitching on a commissioned Found Object Mandala.)

The only way I am keeping sane during this transition is by having something on which to stitch.  Two, small pieces were finished (but not mounted, framed, photographed and ready to blog) when I got a commission from a dear friend.  The blue-and-white quilt had been her childhood blanket.  It was way beyond repair but absolutely perfect for this Found Object Mandala.  Just yesterday, Steve built the first frame in the church!  It was for this piece!  Plus, I've started cutting up crochet, lace, and other vintage linens in order to continue working on my Cascade/Lace Forest Installation

(Above:  Two visitors viewing the COVID-19 Mandala in Rescue: Waste and Redemption at the Lyndon House Art Center in Athens, Georgia.)

Steve and I also drove into Greenville for First Friday.  We got to three different venues and had a great time.  Yet, we were much more impressed by Rescue: Waste and Redemption at the Lyndon House Art Center in Athens, Georgia ... and not just because I stitched one of the twenty-two pieces accepted into the exhibit. 

(Above:  Guest curator Lizzie Zucker Saltz talking during the reception.)

This show was expertly curated by Lizzie Zucker Saltz.  There was a printed catalog (which also can be accessed digitally through the link above).  Ms. Zucker Saltz's approach was scholarly and well researched.  She even wrote the individual exhibition labels.  Every piece was tied to the problems facing our planet ... from hard to recycle materials, the hazards of hard plastics, climate change, the dangers in run off polluted water, fast fashion, to ordinary litter.

(Above:  Curator Lizzie Zucker Saltz beside Nell Ruby's 5.25.1910.)

Although every piece was brilliant, undoubtedly Steve and I had a favorite artwork.  It was Nell Ruby's 5.25.1910.  (The numbers refer to the date found on the chair indicating when it was made.)  The catalog reads:  When Breaking down a chair for disposal ... [Nell Ruby] soon gained an appreciation of each tour-of-the-century part, most of which could be reused or recycled. This is in contract to most of today's 'fast furniture' whose components often include off-gassing foam and un-recyclable fiber board held together by a formaldehyde glue."  The next paragraph includes: When you shop, look for wood furniture made from reclaimed wood and from wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

(Above:  Selfie above Twin Falls.)

I think Steve and I like this "exploded" chair best because we have always been drawn to the high quality and generally low auction prices of vintage and antique furniture (and everything else!)  Perhaps this is why we knew we wanted to safe the Cateechee mill village church!  Plus ... we love nature.  We've taken a few afternoons to visit waterfalls in the area.  Here are some of our selfies!

(Above:  Selfie at Riley Moore Falls.)

(Above:  Selfie at Yellow Branch Falls.)

 (Above:  Selfie at Ramsey Falls.)

Friday, March 22, 2024

We did it! We moved!

(Above:  Steve putting our house numbers above the center door to the church.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

It's official!  We've moved into the (mostly) renovated, old textile mill church in Cateechee, SC.  I've been talking and blogging about it for months.  Now, it is a reality!  We are thrilled and very, very busy.  In fact, I've been so occupied that it's been weeks since my last blog post.  As someone who considers herself dedicated to this blog and actively posting since 2006, it is highly unusual for me to go this long without a post.  I don't think I've ever gone this long ... but maybe I have.  It doesn't matter now!  I'm going to try to "catch up" ... for the most part ... and one day I might even write another post about the quick trip Steve and I took to New York City for the Outsider Art Fair. 

(Above:  Mr. Minnie on his first day in the church!  He has really settled into the place!)

Yes ... Steve and I went on a whirlwind trip to New York!  It was incredible.  In addition to the Outsider Art Fair, we visited the Morgan Library, the NYC Public Library, the New Museum, and a first Friday free evening at the Neue Galerie to see the Gustav Klimt landscape exhibit.  To other people, this trip probably sounds more than a little crazy.  After all, we returned for only a single day before closing on our Columbia house.  Yet, we didn't really want to wait another year for the Outside Art Fair. 

(Above:  Ernie is also quite at home in the CATeechee church!)
This trip was for "educational value" and I learned plenty.  My work certainly does qualify as "outsider" art.  Prices range from under $100 to well over $100,000.  Not all the booths were selling work by untrained artists.  Some represented artists with MFAs and years working in museums or other arts institutions.  The number of vintage and antique photos was overwhelming.  Some were altered (but not necessarily "better" than what I do with my anonymous images) and some weren't altered at all.  Hilariously, these photographs weren't called "anonymous" but "vernacular" to distinguish them from "fine art".  One dealer was selling quilts from a large pile sitting directly on the floor.  They looked an awful lot like the utility quilts that antique dealers use for packing furniture in their vans ... just cleaned and advertised as made in rural areas (in conversations that almost suggested something similar to a Gee Bend quilt!)  Steve and I were pleasantly surprised by the diversity in presentations.  Some works were in cobbled together wooden slats but hung beside others in finished-cornered gilded frames.  There were dealers from France and Japan and all over the USA.  This was decidedly NOT the time to approach anyone for proper representation but now I have some ideas for my own future.

(Above:  Steve beside the first picture hung.)
So ... we had a great time in NYC, returned to Columbia, and closed on Mouse House early on Monday, March 4th. We dragged our 30 year old mattress and box springs to the curb before going to the closing. We returned to our former residence and saw the city dump truck picking up things on the curb!  Already, Rob Shaw's contractor was ripping out carpeting and starting other building changes.  Ernie and Mr. Minnie were put into their carriers and into my van.  While Steve returned our cable box and went to the bank, I headed up I-26 streaming Baroque music and chants to help calm the cats.  Upon arrival, the cats were cautious but immediately more curious than anything else.  Now ... more than two weeks later, they act like this was always their home!
(Above:  The area behind the chancel railing ... featuring an encaustic and two painting with UV epoxy by my friend Suzy Scarborough.)
Lots has happened since then!  In no particular order, we got a satellite Internet connection ... the only option in this rural part of Pickens County. We bought a new, king-sized Tempurpedic bed.  It was delivered within days.  We also bought our first wall-mounted television.  We didn't plan on doing this.  In our old attic, we had even saved the box for our nine-and-a-half year old television.  Apparently, it didn't want to move; instead it totally died a week beforehand.  We scheduled an appointment with a nice young man from ClosetPro who designed the walk-in closet which will be installed next week.  (Apparently, we didn't realize that the walk-in closet our architect designed was simply the four empty walls! LOL!)  We hung curtains.  We had a repairman come to look at our brand new, stackable washer.  (Apparently, our contractor's crew didn't remove the four, large shipping bolts despite big tags on each one ... in three different languages!)  The staircases were finally sanded, stained, and varnished ... which was a strange time considering we have cats who really wanted to walk on the surface before it was all cured and dry. We've unpacked dozens upon dozens of boxes.  We've been to the Pickens County Recycling Center (aka "the dump") three times.  This will be our normal way to dispose of trash.  We've been to the giant-sized Pickens County flea market ... which will become a weekly trip every coming Wednesday.

(Above:  Detail of the pictures hanging in the altar area ... behind the chancel railing.  This view includes an antique hymn board from the abandoned Lutheran church in Udvari, Hungary beside the vintage attendance sign that was original to this church.)
The only way to get to the point of setting up my fiber arts studio, however, was to hang pictures. (Setting up my studio will not actually happen until after the walk-in closet is installed and a giant 10' ceiling fan is installed in the sanctuary.  There's still plenty of work to do ... including getting the downstairs tub out of the box sitting in the sanctuary and into the bathroom ... which is still waiting on a shower door.) Hanging pictures as "one of the first things to do when moving" might sound strange but it was necessary in this case.  After all, we moved most of our artwork in six storage units.  These were flat on the floor ... taking up plenty of space and surrounded by even more, larger pieces leaning up against them and most of the walls.  Basically ... the pictures were in a state called "a mess".  The only way forward was to hung them.  It took days!

(Above:  Detail of the pictures hanging in the altar area ... behind the chancel railing.)
Yet, I absolutely adore hanging pictures!  I love looking at all the beautiful images we have and remembering how/when/where we acquired them.  I adore thinking about all the friends who created many of these pieces.  So ... for the rest of this blog post ... just pictures with brief captions!  I'm missing the bathrooms and bedrooms but that will come on another day! I've mentioned just a few of the artists whose work we own.  Lots of these framed pieces, however, are antique.
(Above:  One of the walls in the kitchen ... beside the door to the stackable washer/dryer unit.  Artwork mostly by my creative mentor Stephen Chesley but also my friends Heidi Darr-Hope and Charlene Westbrook.  The centerpiece is a signed engraving by Edwin Landseer.  It is said that a young Queen Victoria was the model.)

(Above:  The downstairs hallway.  At the end is the first picture we hung, an antique engraving.)

(Above:  The dining room ... which is open to the kitchen.  The artwork includes another signed Edwin Landseer engraving surrounded by antique maps and images.)

(Above:  The view from the church's side door ... which is the one we will use most often ... to the open kitchen and dining room area. The artwork includes two copies of an Italian restaurant in Kuwait ... one in Italian and one in Arabic.  Steve went there back when he worked for Coastal Science and Engineering, a brief, three years after grad school ... before joining me to frame pictures!)

(Above:  The back of the hallway ... showing one of two doors leading into the sanctuary.)

(Above:  The back of the hallway ... showing the door to our bedroom and the steps into the area behind the chancel railing.  Artwork includes photos by my friends Ashleigh Burke Coleman, Jean Selman, and my own pictures.)

(Above:  Another view in the back of the hallway.)

(Above:  Another view in the back of the hallway.)

(Above:  The staircase inside the church's side door.)

(Above:  The area at the top of the staircase ... including artwork by my friends David Yaghjian, Michel McNinch, Tom Osburn, Mike Williams, Suzy Scarborough, and the late Kim Lemasters.)

(Above:  The area at the top of the staircase ... including one of my first art quilts and a view to one of the stained glass pieces we had commissioned over twenty years ago from Richard Morgan.)

(Above:  The living room ... including our new, wall-mounted television surrounded by artwork by my friends David Yaghjian, Stephen Chesley, Richard Lund, Olga Yukhno, Gina Langston, and Donna Bearden.)

(Above:  Another view in the living room.)

(Above:  Another view in the living room ... including our wrought iron Christmas tree and the two boxes of Christmas ornaments!)
(Above:  The view at the back of the living room/at the top of the other staircase ... with the door to the library.  Artworks by my friend Wayne Thornley and stained glass by Richard Morgan.)

(Above:  The library ... with another piece by Suzy Scarborough plus art by my friends Jeff Donovan, and Russell Jeffcoat.)

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Moving Update!

(Above:  View to about 98% of our belongings loaded into the sanctuary!)

Blogging has unfortunately been an item on my "to do" list that just hasn't been checked off in weeks.  Instead, Steve and I have been busy packing boxes, hauling things to the church, getting a mailbox (and starting rural delivery service), changing addresses on too many accounts to number, and doing all the other things that come with a major move.  We are super excited to announce that Mouse House will become Rob Shaw's frame shop, gallery, and home ... continuing our tradition of "living above the business".  Historic Elmwood Park neighborhood is thrilled too!  The property will be owner occupied instead of becoming the fifth of five 9 - 5 law firms (which we sort of assumed until Rob expressed interest!)  

(Above:  The five man crew from Palmetto Specialty Transfer!)

Last Tuesday, the five man crew from Palmetto Specialty Transfer came to haul away the big, heavy things that Steve and I couldn't manage ourselves.  This included several pieces of framing equipment ... because despite being retired from that industry, we will still need to frame my future artwork!

We were amazed at the speed, careful handling, and efficiency.  We were also stunned at just how strong these guys were.  They had two trucks loaded in less than a half day.

After they finished, I drove another van load of our things to the church.  This included our futon mattress.  I worked all afternoon and into the evening ... clearing space in the sanctuary for the load from the professional movers.  I swept and swept and swept ... after consolidating things that the contractor still had in the space and all the empty corrugated boxes that once held appliances, lighting fixtures, and plumbing needs.  When it got dark, I went to the grocery store and then made dinner. Finally, I went to sleep ... the first night in the church ... without flush toilets and with an HVAC unit that wasn't working.

(Above:  Steve and Ernie ... urban camping in our Columbia living room!)

Meanwhile, Steve was back in Columbia cleaning floors and investigating our future Internet needs.  We had already sold our old bed frame.  The box springs and mattress were pulled into the living room.  (They go out on the street on the morning of closing!  A new bed is in our future ... something special after 29 years with this one!)  So ... Steve had flush toilets, heat, and our two cats but little else.  This is also how we are living until this Wednesday.

On Wednesday we are flying to New York City to attend the Outsider Art Fair.  We've always wanted to go.  For a while, we thought this trip would get postponed for another year, but the closing on Mouse House is scheduled for Monday, March 4th.  We will return late on Saturday, pack up what's left on Sunday, and permanently move to the Cateechee mill village church after the morning closing on the 4th!  This is super exciting!


Although I am still stitching a little almost every day, I've also been busy with another creative pursuit.  Last weekend I was in Florida sitting on a writer's panel for Bullets and Bandaids at the Ringling College of Art and Design's Englewood Art Center.  Over the last two years, I've written four essays and created three artworks for this important non-profit. It was truly an honor to be included on this panel for my writing.  More than that, I've learned so much about veterans and their struggles.  So ... when facing the many excuses and delays with the church's renovations, I am much more tolerant.  Things could be a lot worse ... and just two days ago ... the plumbers managed to get our toilets flushing, the downstairs HVAC unit is working splendidly, and all sorts of other good things happened.  Steve and I are truly blessed.  There's plenty more to do but we can do it!

Monday, February 05, 2024

Hand-stitched Commission

(Above:  My friend Donna with her newly commission, hand-stitched In Box Series artwork.  The artwork is framed:  31 1/2" x 18".   Click on any image to enlarge.)

Recently I was honored with a commission from my friend Donna.  Donna works for a local bank.  Twenty-three years ago, the bank purchased a city block in downtown Columbia on which to build their new offices.  Donna convinced the bank's officers to allow artists to salvage anything from the three buildings scheduled for demolition.  I went.  Donna checked all the artists onto the fenced off block.  It was the very first time I ever signed my name as "an artist".  A year later, the bank held an event to showcase the artwork made.  This was one of the first times anything I created was also sold. So, it seems fitting that one of the last things I will stitch here in Columbia is a commission for Donna!  By the end of the month, Steve and I will be moved into our Cateechee mill village church outside Central, South Carolina.  Below is a bit of documentation for this commission.

(Above: A piece of recycled, black industrial felt onto which I ironed a piece of Pellon 805/Wonder Under.)
(Above:  My stash of polyester stretch velvet shapes.  The reverse of all this material was previously fused with Pellon 805/Wonder Under.)
(Above:  Pulling off the carrying sheet of the Pellon 805/Wonder Under.  The adhesive defines the area in which to create the artwork.  It also gives an extra firm hold on this foundation layer of polyester stretch velvet.)
(Above:  Assorted pieces of the polyester stretch velvet stash fused to the industrial felt.  I generally add another, solid layer of Pellon 805/Wonder Under over this surface before adding more layers.)
(Above:  Additional pieces of polyester stretch velvet layered onto the foundation pieces.  Some of the shapes are as much as five layers deep.  At this point, I iron another, solid layer of Pellon 805/Wonder Under over the entire surface.)
(Above: Strips of sheer chiffon and bridal tulle/netting are fused over the surface.  This provides a smooth surface for stitching.)
(Above:  The piece is then stapled to a stretcher bar.  I stitched this piece while riding in the cargo van, back and forth to the Cateechee mill village church.  Assorted 100% cotton embroidery floss is carefully stitched in a back-and-forth system so that no odd, diagonal stitch is visible after the melting process.  Basically ... I have to keep in mind where the stitch on the backside is going!)
(Above:  I use an industrial heat gun and melt the space between the polyester stretch velvet shapes.  This is the space where the felt is still showing.  It is the thinnest layer which melts within a second or two.  The cotton floss "bridges" do not melt.  They hold the shapes together.  These bridges are obvious on the back side.  They are the ones with the twisted colors ... because I've laced most of them when stitching from one square to the next.)
(Above:  The finished commission, full image without the frame.)
(Above:  Detail image at an angle.)
(Above:  The finished piece before Donna picked it up!