Wednesday, February 06, 2019

HOT workshop in Seneca, SC

(Above:  HOT Workshop for the Lake & Mountain Quilt Guild of Seneca, SC.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Monday and Tuesday were wonderful!  I presented my truck show of Grave Rubbing Art Quilts at the monthly meeting of the Lake &Mountain Quilt Guild in Seneca, SC and followed it up with a whirlwind, one-day HOT workshop.  It was lots of fun, and all sorts of marvelous, finished project went home with happy participants.  

The facilities at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension were perfect. The grounds included a an eight circuit Chartres Labyrinth.  Because I arrived early, I got to walk the path ... thankful for good weather, new friends, and for a life as an artist.

(Above:  In Box Relic CCVIII.  Framed: 9 3/4" x 7 3/4". $60.)

When conducting a workshop, I make it a point to finish every demonstration I start. This generally produces at least two pieces.  Unfortunately, I can't finish the first demonstration piece during the one-day experience.  I still have to add embroidery stitches and beads, but the small In Box Relic did get done and was put into a frame today!

Monday, February 04, 2019

Seasonal Leaves: Summer

 (Above:  Seasonal Leaves: Summer.  Inventory # 4411. Framed: 29 1/4" x 23 1/4"; unframed: 21" x 17".  Polyester stretch velvet, metallic foil, free-motion stitching and melting techniques.)

In the past, I've made four pieces for four seasonal ... duh!  Originally, I thought of Autumn in olive green, dull yellows, and rust colors.  Winter was in blues and silver. For spring, Easter egg pastels.  Summer was red, orange, copper ... hot colors!  It wasn't until last November when a nice man bought "Summer" and called it "Autumn" that I thought about my choices.  

 (Above:  Seasonal Leaves: Summer, detail.)

Not everyone sees the seasons in the same palette.  Not everyone associates "hot colors" for summer.  In fact, when thinking about leaves and trees and summer foliage, green might just be a much more appropriate color.  So this is Seasonal Leaves: Summer! Green is the compliment to red.  It just seems right.

 (Above:  Seasonal Leaves: Summer, detail.)

Friday, February 01, 2019

A Picture of a Plant

 (Above:  A Picture of a Plant, detail.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Late last year I joined ecoFAB Couture, a group of artists who create wearable art from trash.  The collective is organized by the incredible Flavia Lovatelli, a paper coiler and inventive artist whose vision isn't just to present fashion made from unusual, recycled materials but to showcase them in vignettes with both 2D and 3D artwork. I totally agree with Flavia that such an arrangement is an easy and comfortable way for viewers who might not ordinarily attend fine art events to find a way to enjoy it.  Fashion made from trash makes the elite world of haute-couture accessible.  When paired with fine craft and fine art, the entire display becomes accessible even to people who have never stepped foot into an art museum or gallery. 

(Above:  A Picture of a Plant.  44" x 46 1/2".  Pressed botanicals circa 1930-40 collaged with pages from a Victorian photo album with calligraphy and letters clipped from vintage ephemera.  Coated in epoxy, mounted on fabric.)

Even though part of ecoFAB Couture's mission is to promote fine arts and crafts, the more obvious concept is to bring attention to the destructive, human forces damaging the natural world.  Recycle, reuse, and repurpose is the mantra! Keeping things from landfills is the idea.  Creating a vignette that is a "perfect trifecta" is the challenge for each artist.  (A "perfect trifecta" is a vignette made up of a recycled garment accompanied by a related 2D and 3D work.) So, I've made The Class of 1949 as the fashion focal point and Anonymous Ancestors Folding Screen as my related 3D artwork.  Now, A Picture of a Plant makes my perfect trifecta!

 (Above:  A Picture of a Plant, in progress.)

I'm not altogether sure that the concept will totally come through, but the sepia, tan, and black-and-white tones make the three parts visually coordinated.  The concept, however, is there ... even if I can't quite put it all in words yet!  There's something very powerful about "anonymous photos" and "extinction".  Throwing things away, sending stuff to a landfill, and discarding objects that might still have purpose is (at least in my mind!) similar to fading memories, forgotten photos, and all the family stories that are lost from generation to generation.  To me, there is a strong connection between the physical environment and one's emotional/spiritual/mental environment.  Species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate.  Old photos and family heirlooms are being discard.  The loss is permanent.  My message is for preservation of both.
 (Above:  A Picture of a Plant, in progress.)

So ... how did I make A Picture of a Plant?  Well, it started at Bill Mishoe's weekly Friday night auction and a successful $25 bid on six, framed pressed botanicals dating to the late 1930s and early 1940s.  The paper labels indicated that they came from Scandinavia.  As a custom picture framer, I immediately recognized the nice, distressed Italian moulding.  I took them apart and fused the paper to acid-free, black foam-centered board.  I used my giant Seal dry-mount press, covering the plants with a piece of poly-foam due to the uneven thicknesses.  I was nervous.  This could have ruined them ... but it didn't.  Next, I took several pages from a very broken, Victorian photo album.  I soaked them in my kitchen sink in order to remove the decorative paper from the cardboard on which it was mounted.  I wasn't sure this would work either.  (As a child, this is how I soaked canceled stamps off paper envelops.)  It worked!  I ripped and collaged the paper to the exposed backgrounds of the botanicals.  To me, the paper album surrounds suggest that the "plant" is a "picture" in a forgotten family photo album.  Nothing dried perfectly flat ... so I put them in the dry mount again.  Thank goodness ... this worked too.  Using a rapidograph and carbon-based, permanent ink, I wrote on each one.  The sentences are about plant extinction.  I also added letters clipped from vintage ephemera to the upper left corner reading: A Picture of a Plant.  Finally, I poured epoxy over each one.
 (Above:  A Picture of a Plant, in progress.)

The pressed botanicals were framed on camel-colored pieces of mat board, but I didn't use them.  I knew I didn't want to put glass over the work.  Epoxy eliminated the need for glass over the plant life.  Paper mats, however, require glass. I mounted a similar colored fabric on foam-centered board.  (The fabric came from Bill Mishoe's too ... an entire bolt for $6.00!)  Fabric doesn't require glass.  I glued the epoxy covered botanicals to the fabric and let them dry under weights.

 (Above:  A Picture of a Plant, detail of one of the pressed botanicals.)

Once dry, I fit the pieces back into the original frames, screwed the frames together, and put them in a floater frame.  I think they really look great!

(Above:  A Picture of a Plant, hanging at Mouse House.)

Now that I have a perfect trifecta, I will start on a new arrangement.  It is quite challenging to think about the relationship between these three parts of a vignette.  It is an exciting way to work, to bring an environmental issue to life using unique materials through different media in three different approaches: fashion, 2D and 3D!  Below are more detail images of A Picture of a Plant.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Freiheit X, XI, XII, and XIII

 (Above:  Me with Freiheit X, XI, XII, and XIII. Click on any image to enlarge.)

Since December 2005, the four square frames against the yellow painted wall have hung with embroideries stitched in response to my very first art residency.  They are still very nice and maybe one day they will find a permanent home; but in the meantime, it was time for new work and my new Freiheit series seemed like a perfect replacement. 

(Above  Freiheit X.  Framed:  20" x 20"; unframed: 16" x 16".  Polyester stretch velvet and metallic foil with self-guided, free-motion stitching and covered in two layers of epoxy.)

Over the past two weeks, I created these four pieces.  Today, they went into the frames and hung back on the same wall.

 (Above:  The temporary set-up for photographing the four pieces.)

Today I also tried a new approach to photographing the work.  Black curtains were hung on my installation of doors and two large pieces of 96" x 48" foam-centered board blocked any direct light from the outside world without totally darkening the room. A black wind breaker jacket was wrapped around the tripod and I covered myself in the black velvet cape I usually wear to evening performances.  This set-up seemed to work!  There is still a hint of reflection, indicating the epoxy surface, but without the glare or a discernible objects that happen to be in front of the work.

 (Above:  Freiheit XIII, detail.)

The detail shots are particularly nice!  I'm pleased!  Below are the other pieces and also another picture for my Anonymous Ancestors installation.  I just can't help rescuing old photos of forgotten people even though I don't have another solo show scheduled after the current one at the Gadsden Museum of Art comes down late next month.  As an artist, it's my job to CREATE even when it doesn't make sense! LOL!

 (Above:  Freiheit XI.)

 (Above:  Freiheit XII.)

 (Above:  Freiheit XIII.)

(Above:  Wall of Ancestors, Life Kept Me Down.  16" x 13". Vintage frame with convex glass and antique photo altered with letters clipped from vintage ephemera.)

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Freiheit VI, VIII, and IX

(Above from left to right: Me, Freiheit VII, Freiheit VIII, and Freiheit IX.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Although I haven't written a blog post in over a week, I have been busy! Constructing these pieces took less time than the process of preparing them for not one but TWO pours of epoxy.  It was worth it!

 (Above:  Freiheit VIII on the left and a sliver of Freiheit IX on the right.)

Taking photographs of artwork covered in two layers of epoxy is tricky!  I haven't figured it out but I'm trying.  Inside, there is absolutely no place where I'm not getting reflections of overhead light or the tripod and camera, or myself ... as can be seen in the photo above.

(Above:  Freiheit VII.  Framed: 41 1/2" x 32 1/2".  Layers of fused polyester stretch velvet, metallic foil, and epoxy with self-guided, free-motion stitching.  The work is wrapped around and stapled to wooden stretcher bars.  The stretcher bars included a piece of foam centered board for support.)

To snap the individual photos, I set up a contraption on my shaded front porch.  It included black curtains hanging in front of the piece.  Even so, the curtains were quite wide enough.  My husband Steve held up large pieces of black foam-centered board.  These are the best images we got!

(Above:  Freiheit VIII.  Framed: 41 1/2" x 32 1/2".)

I know that I need some "hot spots" of white reflection ... in order to indicate the epoxy ... but the lighting is still quite uneven.  The picture at the top of this blog post is actually the best representation of how the appear in person.  At an angle, I can eliminate most of the glare, but I really do need images that are taken straight-on and squarely.  Perhaps I'll try again!

 (Above:  Freiheit IX.  Framed: 41 1/2" x 32 1/2".)

Below are some of the detail shots ... which were just as difficult to capture as the larger image.  Thank goodness that I make work because I love it, not because I'm most interested in a good picture of the result!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Class of 1949

(Above:  Sierra Hampton modeling The Class of 1949, a garment made from vintage yearbook photos for upcoming opportunities with ecoFAB Trash Couture.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I'm very excited about my inclusion in a unique collective of artists known as ecoFAB Trash Couture.  It was founded by my friend Flavia Lovatelli who encourages participants to create unique garments made from material headed to landfills and other recyclables. For the most part, Flavia discourages the use of ordinary fabric/discarded clothing despite the fact that more than 15 million tons of used textile waste is generated each year in just the USA. The challenge is to make something WONDERFUL from more unusual materials ... like the photos from a 1949 yearbook!  Take a look at the ecoFAB link.  There are so many fantastical dresses made from used CDs, bicycle tires, dryer sheets, coffee k-cups, and so much more! 

 (Above:  The Class of 1949 on a dress form.)

There will be two runway shows for ecoFAB Trash Couture.  One will be during Charleston Fashion Week, Friday, June 14 and the other will be here in Columbia on August 31st.  More than just one-night-only events, Flavia organizes ways to showcase these recycled garments in artistic vignettes with related 2D and 3D artwork.  In anticipation of this, I've already finished my 3D piece for this garment.  It is my Anonymous Ancestors Folding Screen.  (CLICK HERE for a blog post featuring this work.)  My idea for a 2D piece is still rolling around in my head ... but it will include more photos.

 (Above:  Constructing The Class of 1949.)

Making a recycled garment generally takes a bit of ingenuity, some explorations with regards to the approach, and some experimentation.  For me, however, I knew this would work!  This garment was made exactly like my Grid of Photos and part of the skirt in my first Anonymous Ancestors Sculptural Garments ... both of which are currently in my solo show at the Gadsden Museum of Art in Alabama.  In fact, I will be devising a way to temporarily turn the skirt into a cape for this new dress.

 (Above:  The Class of 1949 being stitched on my Babylock Tiara.)

The make The Class of 1949, I first fused all the pages of class photos from a vintage yearbook to some unbleached muslin donated to my stash years ago.  Then I cut all the pictures apart.  The cover of the yearbook was already gone because I used it on the Alternative Storytellers pedestal made last month.

Then, I glued the individual images to a piece of Pellon's 806 Stitch-and-Tear. The Stitch-and-Tear was already cut into a basic shape/pattern for the garment.  I even stitched two darts on the front side.  I am thankful to have a Babylock Tiara sewing machine because it made it easy to keep the fragile piece together and flat during the free-motion stitching.  Every photo was linked to its neighbors on every side.

 (Above:  The Class of 1949, stitched.)

It really didn't take long to stitch the work, but it took two days to carefully tear all the pieces of Stitch-and-Tear away from the photos! My living room looked like a confetti bomb had exploded and everywhere I went seemed to leave a little trail of tiny paper squares.  It was worth it!

 (Above:  Detail of the stitching from the back, before removing all the Stitch-and-Tear. The little blobs/discoloration in the middle of each photo shows the tab of glue that held the photo in place for the stitching.)

Every square, no matter how small, was torn away.  Then, I had to address the side closures.

A garment like this is fairly adjustable in size.  This is a good thing because I really don't know who will be modeling the garment for the runway shows.  Siena would like to do it but it is not up to me!

 (Above:  Stitching cording from strips of plastic.)

At first I thought I would create closure ties from strips of plastic.  It worked well enough but the resulting cord was too stiff.  I ended up making cording from strands of neglected yarn.

There are four ties on each side.

I had fun arranging the larger senior class photos with the rest of the school portraits.

Sierra works two doors away for my state representative Todd Rutherford.  I asked her to model for these pictures and she came this morning dressed perfectly in black.  I think the outfit looks amazing and can't wait to start my next one!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Another Year

 (Above:  Another Year, a Grave Rubbing Art Quilt. 11 1/2" x 21 1/2". Crayon grave rubbing on silk with vintage doily.  Free-motion and hand stitching.)

At one point in my life, I had numerous grave rubbing art quilts in production. Taking a crayon and a length of silk into a cemetery was an obsession.  I haunted burial grounds, collecting unique epitaphs and photographing sculptural angels.  The work was my "rock", a firm anchor. I reveled in it. Although, I'm still drawn to final resting places, only occasionally do I make a new rubbing.  The sad fact is, I don't need more of them.  Last Words, the solo installation that grew from this obsession, only has one future exhibition ... next October at the Caldwell Arts Council in Lenoir, North Carolina. 

 (Above:  Detail of Another Year.)

I could do this work forever but it doesn't make sense.  There are so many related area for me to explore ... like suggesting narratives for the anonymous people staring out of forgotten photographs.  Truly, my current solo installation, Anonymous Ancestors, grew out of my passion for "all things funereal".  Other avenues exist too, and yet I can't quite give up the relaxation found in the running stitches that cover most of my Grave Rubbing Art Quilts.

 (Above:  Detail of Another Year.)

I adore this series.  The concept comes from the very heart of my desire to express myself.  So, it really isn't any wonder that I return to it upon occasion.  Cemeteries remind me of the passage of time.  2019 is another year and this is another piece in my ongoing love affair with final words and the motifs of death. For me, none of this is morbid.  I am not so concerned with the "last day" but how I intend to use all the days leading up to it.

(Above:  Another Year, reverse.)

I also have a great desire to give vintage household linens a "second life" as art ... even if they are used only for the reverse side of my work.  Every piece on the reverse was donated by my friend Valerie Summers.  Thank you, Valerie for rescuing them!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Things Kept, Five New Pieces

 (Above:  An assortment of beautiful, vintage buttons.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

One might say that I collect buttons but truly that's an understatement.  I amass buttons!  At auction, I can't help myself.  I bid even though I don't need more, even if the selection is ordinary, even if I have seemingly run out of room to store them. One way or the other, I find a way to sort and keep them ... all of them.  I love buttons!  There's a old wooden box in which I've stashed my very favorite ones ... like those in this picture.  But recently I had to ask myself, "What are you keeping them for?  When are you finally going to use them?"

(Above:  Things Kept I.  Framed 38" x 30".  Decorative paper, fabric, buttons, vintage fans on heavy watercolor paper.)

Many of the buttons I've bought at auction were kept in neat cookie tins or glass mason jars. Without knowing the original owners, I am quite familiar with the reasoning behind keeping buttons:  One day I will need them ... One day I will use them ... One day will come!  Yet, it didn't come.  I got them instead and applied the exact same rationalization.  

(Above:  Things Kept II.  Framed 38" x 30".  Antique bookend paper, fabric, trim, buttons, vintage beads and ephemera on heavy watercolor paper.)

It is sort of pathetic to know that my enormous stash, and especially the "favorite buttons", had gone from one rationalization to another rationalization.  So, this New Year, I had to DO SOMETHING.  The day had come to finally use some of the most precious buttons.  These are the five pieces made inspired by my best-of-the-best.  

(Above:  Things Kept III.  Framed 38" x 30".  Decorative paper, fabric from an antique Chinese folding screen, thread, vintage print of ancient ceramics, buttons, beaded purse on heavy watercolor paper.)

I also dove into my stash of decorative papers and another box in which I've stored small previous keepsakes ... like a damaged, beaded handbag from the early 20th century, Sunday school gloves, antique lace and shells, and scraps of hand embroidered silk.  These are all THINGS KEPT, which became the title for the new work.  These are all things I intended to use "one day" and the day finally came.

(Above:  Things Kept IV.  Framed 38" x 30".  Decorative paper, embroidered Chinese fabric, buttons, glove, shell and beads on heavy watercolor paper.)

One of the things that prompted the work is an upcoming opportunity to have my artwork at a popular, fine dining restaurant called Motor Supply Co. Bistro (because the original use of the historic, brick building was as a motor supply store!).  In my mind, these pieces will look fabulous on the walls and appropriate to the classy decor.  The opportunity came from a friend, Bohumila Augustinova.  She curates a rotating schedule of artwork for the restaurant, changing it every three or four months.  Bohumila is originally from the Czech Republic ... the place where most of my favorite buttons were made.  It was in her honor that I decided, once and for all, to use these precious possessions instead of just keeping them hidden in the little, wooden box. 

  (Above:  Things Kept V.  Framed 38" x 30".  Antique paper with xylene photo transfer of a cemetery angel, water soluble crayon, epoxy, and buttons on heavy watercolor paper.)

In my stash of decorative papers, I found a xylene photo transfer of a cemetery angel.  I made it years ago.  It was made on an extremely large piece of antique paper that came from a giant-sized book.  I adore the foxing on the paper.  It sings with age.  It became the perfect place for a collection of fine Czechoslovakian jet buttons.  I added shading with water soluble crayon and an epoxy halo. Below are some of the detail shots featuring the buttons that inspired this work. 

 (Above:  Detail of button on Things Kept I.)

 (Above:  Detail of Things Kept II.)

 (Above detail of button on Things Kept IV.)

  (Above detail of button on Things Kept IV.)

  (Above detail of button on Things Kept V.)

 (Above detail of Things Kept V.)