Wednesday, January 19, 2022


(Above:  Me holding one of the twelve In Box pieces that were created for the blue veneer frames.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Once upon a time, my Elements in Blue Series was framed.  That was about fifteen years ago.  Some sold.  Twelve didn't.  At some point, the twelve were removed from their frames and shrink-wrapped.  They sat in a print bin for several years ... until I had the opportunity to mount Blues Chapel at the Kershaw County Arts Center, a show that coordinated with a Blues Festival.  That was in October.  I blogged about it HERE.  

(Above:  In Box CDV.  Framed: 16 1/4" x 14 1/4"; unframed artwork: 11" x 9".  Layers of polyester stretch velvet on recycled, black synthetic felt with free-motion embroidery and melting techniques.  All of the pieces in this blog post are the same size and framed alike. Each one is $195 plus SC sales tax and shipping.)

For this solo show, I had to re-frame the twelve pieces.  Thankfully, my husband Steve found a discontinued BLUE moulding. It was PERFECT.  The show looked great ... but ... it's done now.  Okay ... six of the piece were selected by curator Harriett Green for my show Behold the Wonder at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Sumter, South Carolina.  I didn't even get a good picture of this grouping ... but ... they are there now.  Unfortunately, that show will come to a close soon, February 13th. 

(Above:  In Box CDVI.)

It became quite obvious that by mid-February, I'd have twelve blue frames holding much older work.  I really don't need the older work framed.  It makes more sense to simply shrink-wrap them again.  It makes more sense to create newer work for the newer frames.  So, last weekend I did just that!

(Above:  In Box CDVII.)

There was another, important reason for making this new work.  It is all wrapped up in the creation of 145 In Box pieces for the Cambria Hotel that is currently under construction here in Columbia.  Each guest room will have an original "Susan Lenz"!  The pieces were created using the interior design's palette ... blue and orange.  (I blogged about this HERE.)  After making that many blue-and-orange pieces, I started seeing "orange" every time I see anything "blue".  In my studio, "blue" just goes with "orange".  The two colors have melded in my mind.  Filling the blue frames with ANYTHING other than blue-and-orange was my exercise to eradicate the assumption that these two colors just had to go together.

(Above:  In Box CDVIII.)

Although blue and orange are complimentary colors according to color theory and every color wheel ever made, blue doesn't have to go with orange.  Why not purple? Why not red?  Why not yellow or green or silver and gold?

(Above:  In Box CDIX.)

No two of these twelve pieces is exactly alike but each one started out with plenty of blue!  It was great fun.

(Above:  In Box CDX.)

I worked on these pieces all weekend long.  By Monday morning, I was in the garage melting them, happy that I was no longer seeing "orange" as the automatic response to anything blue.  Then, I got an email from the arts consultancy company that commissioned the 145 blue-and-orange guest room pieces.  They want five more ... for storage ... in case something breaks!

(Above:  In Box CDXI.)

Hilariously, I am now making five more blue-and-orange pieces.  I guess this is an excellent example of "the best laid plans"! LOL!  The plan worked ... but not for long!  Perhaps I'll just have to make more blue-and-anything-else pieces next week!

(Above:  In Box CDXII.)
(Above:  In Box CDXIII.)
(Above:  In Box CDXIV.)
(Above:  In Box CDXV.)
(Above:  In Box CDXVI.)

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Catching UP: Round Six, Seven new Relics

(Above:  Relic CCXLVI. Framed: 13 1/2" x 11 3/4". Layers of polyester stretch velvet fused to a piece of cotton upholstery material with scraps of chiffon scarves.  A soldering iron makes indentations in the synthetic material. Each piece is then hand-stitched with assorted threads and beads.  Each piece is  $100 plus SC sales tax and shipping. Click on any image to enlarge.)

This is the last post for today!  With it, I'm finally caught up on my blogging!  I created these pieces in order to enjoy over New Year's Day ... a Saturday ... and on the Sunday thereafter.  Why?  Well, I knew that I would want to spend those days watching the Rose Bowl Parade and football games.  Thankfully, the Ohio State Buckeyes won.

(Above:  Relic CCXLVIII.  Framed: 12 1/2" x 11 1/2".)

So ... in order to be productive even while watching television, I prepared these seven pieces.  Three factors were involved in the decision of "what to stitch".  First, I am almost out of other, previously stitched "Relics".  Generally, I don't make one of these pieces unless I'm conducting my HOT workshop.  These pieces are the results of my demonstrations.  I figure that if I'm demonstrating as a "professional artist", I'd better not just be making another "sample" but making ART, a piece worth finishing, framing, and writing into my inventory book.  It is the best way to encourage workshop participants to finish, frame, and take their own creations seriously.  Generally, I bring several examples with me.  All of them are priced low, just $100 ... including the frame.  Many participants seem to want to own one of my pieces and this provides an affordable work to those who have already paid to be in the workshop.  Of course, I haven't had a workshop since 2019 due to the pandemic.  Yet, almost all of my examples were sold here in my frame shop or at local sidewalk sales.  That's a slight problem!


(Above:  Relic CCXLIX.  Framed 13 1/2" x 11 3/4".)

I'm hoping that my June 2022 workshop at QSDS (Quilt and Surface Design Symposium) in Columbus, Ohio fills.  I love teaching this five-day workshop.  If it does, I'll need these examples.  They are so much fun to make and they are the perfect lead into my melting techniques.  Everyone in all of my workshops finishes at least two pieces.  Most finish several more. 

(Above:  The seven pieces still stapled to small stretcher bars.)

The second reason for stitching these pieces has everything to do with a very generous friend who has contributed lots and lots of her mother's fabric to my stash.  She knows that these material are headed for "workshop supplies".  (Yes ... I bring EVERYTHING needed for everyone in my workshops.  The only item on the supply list for participants to bring is their own scissors.  Oh ... I bring scissors too, but mine aren't necessarily very sharp!)  With no workshop scheduled since 2019, I felt sort of bad about the seriously large amount of fabric my friend was donating.  I wanted to let her know that some of it was definitely being used.  Every one of these Relics was created on fabric she gave me.  By the time I finish one of these pieces, the original upholstery material isn't distinguishable.  So, I took the photo above so that the edges (which are under the mat board) show the transition from one design to my design.

Above:  Relic CCL.  Framed: 13" x 11".)

Finally, the last reason for making these seven pieces was about the frames.  I bought them for "next to nothing" at my local auction house.  None are absolutely perfect but I really like the "finished corners" on them.  I also knew that the interior depth would accommodate my mat, wooden fillet inlay, and the space needed to prevent the beads from touching the glass.  Each piece was designed carefully to fit each frame.  (Yes ... I cover this approach in my workshops too.  I even provide standard 8" x 10" mats with pre-cut openings!)

(Above:  Relic CCLI.  Framed: 13 1/2" x 11 3/4".)

So now I'm ready for June's workshop.  If, however, I sell these before the workshop, I'll simply make more!  Obviously, I can find an excuse for watching television! LOL!

(Above: Relic CCLII. Framed: 13" x 11".)
(Above:  Relic CCLIII. Framed: 12 1/2" x 11 1/2".)

Catchin UP: Round Five: Mandala C ... as in 100 !

(Above:  Mandala C ... as in Roman numeral 100 !  Custom framed: 13 3/4" x 13 3/4" when hung as a square. 19 1/4" x 19 1/4" when hung as a diamond.  Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt. Found objects include:  A gold Christmas light reflector; seven, bronze colored Dogfish beer caps; tiny brass hinges taken from small corrugated gift boxes; old keys; binder rings; antique, bone underwear buttons; clear sewing bobbins wound with yellow thread; four, corrugated centers from other Christmas light reflectors; and assorted sewing buttons.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

It's been just over a year-and-a-half since I started this Found Object Mandala Series.  I remember a thought from the beginning.  I wondered whether I would have enough "stuff" to finish the mandalas stitched on the first old quilt I cut into sections.  There was no way I would have believed that I'd hit the "one hundred" mark, but I did!

(Above:  Detail from Mandala C.)

Little did I know that there were generous people willing to donate to my stash.  Little did I know that my eyes would focus on "multiples" while haunting local thrift stores.  Little did I know that the series would be accepted in last November's Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft show and the upcoming 2022 Smithsonian Craft Show.  Yet, all of this has happened and I'm continuing to stitch more pieces.

 (Above:  Mandala C when hung as a diamond.)

At this very moment, I have three more pieces under construction.  One is quite large. One is quite small.  All will be finished, framed, photographed and shared here on my blog!  Life is good!

Catching UP: Round Four, Mandala XCIX

(Above:  Mandala XCIX. Custom framed: 18" x 18" when hung as a square; 25 1/2" x 25 1/2" when hung as a diamond. Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: an octagonal shaped cookie rosette; dairy pull-tabs; Christmas light reflectors; Bud Light beer caps; single serving coffee K-pods; gray hair curlers; red protective, plastic corners for beveled mirrors when being shipped to our frame shop; and buttons.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Between the holidays, solo exhibitions, and my day job custom picture framing, I've fallen a bit behind.  I'm not referring to my artistic pursuits ... far from it!  I've been as productive as ever!  It's just that my blogging has fallen behind.  So today, I'm determined to catch up!  This is the fourth of several posts featuring new artwork made in late December or early this year.  In fact, this is the first piece entered into my inventory book in 2022!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XCIX.)

Like several other pieces in my Found Object Mandala series, this one was stitched on a block cut from a rather poorly made Dresden Plate quilt.  Yet, I adore the bright colors and the challenge of hiding the irregularities.  The ring of white, plastic dairy pull-tabs hides the fact that the center really isn't round.  It's very lopsided!  The protective layer of netting over the entire surface prevents the fragile fabric and poorly plied blanket stitches from being a future problem. 

(Above:  Mandala XCIX, hung as a diamond.)

Stitching down the old, Christmas light reflectors was also a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays!  Plus, I'm gearing up for the 2022 Smithsonian Craft Show, April 20 - 24.  This series was accepted! 

Catching UP: Round Three: Mandala XCVIII

(Above:  Mandala XCVIII.  Custom framed: 17 1/2" x 17 1/2" when hung as a square; 24 3/4" x 24 3/4" when hung as a diamond. Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include: a blue, plastic lid on which was stitched a decorative copper candy mold; white dairy pull-tabs; dominoes; eight electric toothbrush attachments; wavy hair curlers; white plastic water bottle lids; assorted beads and buttons.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

This Found Object Mandala was stitched to another section of a rather poorly made Dresden Plate quilt.  The bright red background fabric is happily tremendous and worth the effort to figure out how to deal with the otherwise poor, original applique work and the fact that the center isn't really round at all.  Using the dairy pull-tabs, hid the lack of symmetry.  Over every one of my Found Object Mandalas, there's a layer of nearly invisible netting.  This netting protects the fragile material and damage ... though, one can see the ill-plied blanket stitch in places. 

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XCVIII.)

Despite the problems with this vintage quilt, I really do like the colors and pattern.  Each piece stitched on a block from this quilt is vivid and draws attention to itself.  I was especially happy to used these dominoes.  I've used other dominoes in the past but these are the kind my family had.  I'm very lucky that they were donated to my stash.  Thanks, Marguerite!

(Above:  Mandala XCVIII when hung as a diamond.) 

The electric toothbrush attachments came from a local church bazaar.  I am thankful that another good friend recommended this opportunity because I really scored all sorts of great things that Saturday morning!  Thank you, Sue!

Catching UP: Round Two, Mandala XCVII


(Above: Mandala CXVII.  Custom framed: 14 3/4" x 14 3/4". Found objects hand-stitched to a block from a vintage quilt.  Found Objects include: a decorate brass candy mold surrounded by two bracelets; laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands; star-shaped charms; Newcastle Brown Ale beer caps; laminated 2-cent stamps, four aluminum brioche molds; beads and buttons.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Between the holidays, solo exhibitions, and my day job custom picture framing, I've fallen a bit behind.  I'm not referring to my artistic pursuits ... far from it!  I've been as productive as ever!  It's just that my blogging has fallen behind.  So today, I'm determined to catch up!  This is the second of several posts featuring new artwork made in late December or earlier this month.

Lots of people ask in person and on social media, "Susan, do you ever sleep?"  They are constantly amazed that I manage to finish so many artworks.  Well, the answer to this silly question is obvious:  Of course I sleep!  In fact, I sleep an average of eight+ hours each and every night.  My productivity comes from two important factors.  

First, my husband Steve takes care of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, bill paying, and outside lawn work.  By day, we work together in our custom picture framing shop, Mouse House.  It is the first floor of our downtown, historic house. As a result, if I'm not working on a client's order, I'm totally involved with my artwork.  Steve takes care of everything else. 

Second, I plan in advance ... not "long term" planning but short term realization of the hours during which I will be sitting in our cargo van or in front of the television or at my local auction house.  I make sure I have small portable projects planned and ready in advance.  Such is this small, Found Object Mandala.  I stitched it at Bill Mishoe's auction when watching the remains of other people's lives go up for bidding.  It is just small enough to fit into a bag.  Basically, I waste very little time.  Why waste time when I can be stitching!

Catching UP: Round One, Mandala XCVI

(Above:  Mandala XCVI. Custom framed: 22 5/8" x 22 5/8". Found Objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include:  A glass lamp section over a clock gear; laminated pieces of a six-part paper calendar fan from 1910; shower curtain hangers; orange insulin needle caps; copper pennies from the UK; six, antique yellow bird Christmas ornaments; six drawer pulls; laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands; four aluminum cookie cutters, buttons, and orange-and-yellow flowers cut from a decorative textile trim.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Between the holidays, solo exhibitions, and my day job custom picture framing, I've fallen a bit behind.  I'm not referring to my artistic pursuits.  I've been as productive as ever.  It's just that my blogging has fallen behind.  So today, I'm determined to catch up!  This is the first of several posts featuring new artwork made in late December or earlier this month.

(Above:  The six pieces of a paper fan printed with a calendar from 1910.)

This Found Object Mandala was entirely inspired by a holiday party at the Red Lion Antique mall here in Columbia.  The entire place was decorated, had plenty of wine and finger food, and many booths offered special sales.  Steve and I had a very good time and I found a couple treasures like this six-part fan printed with a 1910 calendar.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XCVI.)

I also found the adorable, glass bird Christmas ornaments.  I'm not sure how old they are but I knew I wanted to stitch them to a section of this particular, old quilt.  In my mind, I saw how the yellows and oranges would work together.  Yet, something was off.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XCVI.)

Then ... and most unexpectedly ... a nice lady donated a large stash of "stuff" to my collection.  Among the things was a decorative fabric trim of yellow and orange flowers.  Once cut into small pieces and stitched to the surface, this mandala strung to life!  I am always so grateful to those who are contributing to my stash.  It is amazing how very many times the perfect "something" arrives just when it is most needed!

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Anonymous Ancestors at Black Creek Arts Council in Hartsville, SC

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors at the Black Creek Arts Council in Hartsville, SC.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Yesterday was an awesome one!  It was a time spent installing my solo installation Anonymous Ancestors at the Black Creek Arts Council in Hartsville, SC.  Tonight is the reception from 5:30 - 7:00.  Receptions are always nice but hardly the reason for having a show.  For me, mounting the work is all wrapped up in the very concept.  It is a time when the individual pieces get to come out of boxes, out from "storage".  It is the opportunity to share the work, to pose the questions it asks, and to hopefully impact those who see it. 

(Above:  My iPhone takes panorama shots!  Who knew?)

It took most of Tuesday to collect everything.  The dozen boxes of framed photos are stored in an upstairs, former bedroom.  Most of the furniture is stored in a downstairs room. The hanging garments are elsewhere.  Once gathered near our back door, I'm almost scared! I know that I've got to squeeze it all into our cargo van.  Thankfully, I've done it often enough that I know it will fit!

(Above:  The gallery space before we started to install.)

Upon arrival,  everything is then brought into the space.  The photo above doesn't actually show all of it! There were several more things to the right of this grouping! The first thing done is to roll out the carpet.  Immediately, the gallery starts to take on the feeling of a old-time parlor.  The furniture is then placed.  I have a Victorian rocker, an arm chair, four folding chairs, a marble-top table, a glass-top table, a two-tier table, a wooden commode, a magazine holder, and a foot stool.  Most have been upholstered with fabric I designed, fabric featuring more photos.

(Above:  The wall with the signage and the guest book.)

The next thing to decide is the placement of the signage and guest book.  By tonight, there will be a low cabinet under this arrangement.  It was in the art center's lobby ... which will be cleared for the reception.  The executive director said she would move it into place sometime today.  It will be an excellent place for a few business cards.

Then, the three sculptural garments are placed.  Two are suspended from the ceiling.  Two have circular carpets.  These pieces lend a sense of "people".  The interior feels inhabited, more intimate, and also strangely familiar ... as if the sitting room of a stereotypical grandparent.

Once the three garments are up, it is time to tackle the walls.  The Black Creek Arts Council has a unique arrangement of walls.  In every other exhibition for Anonymous Ancestors, I've hung my Grid of Photos.  Here, there wasn't a wall with at least sixteen running, linear space.  Instead, the space is a series of carpeted wall sections that covered the former windows of the old building.  Between these soft, gray sections is the original, white painted wall.  This creates a unique "alcove" like area in which I hung ovals and crossbow frames. 
The largest framed anonymous ancestor were then hung in the middle of the carpeted sections.  From this point on, hanging the work is very much like solving a jigsaw puzzle.  Thankfully, I have more than 300 altered, old images.  By the time the last nail was hammered into place, more than 260 were on the walls.

Each one of these pictures features an anonymous person.  To each, I've added individual letters clipped from vintage ephemera.  The words describe a potential life ... like "Pillar of the Community" or "Town Drunk" or "Virgins on Our Honeymoon Night" or "Forgotten Family" or "Life Was Hard" or "First in My Family to Go to College" or "Mama's Boy". 

Steve and I worked right up until the Black Creek Arts Council closed.  Our timing was perfect ... finished at 5:01!

The framed signage reads:

To stand within Susan Lenz’s installation, Anonymous Ancestors, is to become immersed in the myriad of family stories handed down through generations. Each snapshot is a frozen moment on life’s time-line. Letters and words clipped from vintage print material allow one’s mind to wander, envisioning forgotten friends, past holidays, ancient occasions, former cars, and hilarious fashion trends. Yet, all the images are anonymous. The photos come from yard sales, auctions, and thrift stores. Who are these people? Who really knows? They are distant aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, siblings, and in-laws. They are society’s family tree, our collective wall of ancestors.

Susan invites visitors to sit for a moment, browse through the scrapbooks, albums, and altered images. Please use the provided white gloves while contemplating your own heirlooms.

The rest of this blog post simply features more images!  Enjoy!