Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Sister Wanda is going to London too!

I waited and waited to post about my trip to London...thinking that my plans were at last finalized. Then, an hour or so later, my sister Wanda, a fabulous counted thread stitcher, decided to book a flight to join me! She lives outside Frankfurt, Germany. We'll have time to catch up, shop for threads, and enjoy Mathias dancing. This is going to be a GREAT trip!

Going to London

I've been waiting for weeks to write this post. I'M GOING TO LONDON. Why wait? Because only part of the reason I'm going is fiber related. I'll be able to go to the Knitting and Stitching Show at "Ally Pally" (a colloquial term I had to "google" several weeks ago). I'm terribly excited about seeing the vendors, especially since I heard that my favorite supplier The Thread Studio, is suppose to be going. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to see work by members of the Sixty-Two Group. And, I'm mostly looking forward to viewing the Valerie Campbell-Harding Retrospective. The other part of my trip is ballet, of course. Just today the casting was posted for Nine Sinatra Songs at Sadler's Wells Theater. So, I'll be seeing Mathias dance "Forget Domani" during the matinee on October 10! Mathias will also be appearing in just about all the Edward II productions and in other parts of the "Strictly Dancing" evening...but these are not parts generally listed on the public cast notice.

So, who else is going?


(Click on image for closer view)

Several years ago I made these autumn leaves from 100% acrylic felt. I've given some away, lost some, but always intended to make a big pile one day. About two months ago, my friend Dolly Patton, executive director of the Saluda Shoals Foundation, finalized the selection of artists for a one day art event called "Through the Eyes of Art". It will include original dance choreography from the students at Columbia College, songwriters and musicians, poetry reading, student film-makers documenting the event, and visual artists demonstrating their processes...including me. All the art is suppose to be inspired by nature, and Dolly is working hard on a big media blitz.

For me, this was a wonderful opportunity to make the pile of leaves. For a month, I dropped into almost every local fabric store and craft outlet...even Wal-Mart...looking for the right golden/rusty felt. I had once purchased at least a yard; but I only had about a 10" x 18" piece left...not many leaves. I was getting rather desperate...I knew I couldn't alter my plans because there are maps and press releases already announcing the artists and their work. I HAD TO FIND THE FELT.

Finally, I googled "acrylic felt" and found The Felt People who had 7270 Old Gold. The minimum order is $100; the minimum cut of felt is three, now I'm swimming in eighteen yards of felt (in six different colors...Old Gold and some shocking neon colors too.) I'm way behind schedule but at least I've got the correct felt now!

By the way, the leaves are made by free-motion embroidery. Only local, deciduous leaf designs are being stitched. Each is cut from the felt with a fine tipped soldering iron and then dabbed with watered down acrylic paints on both sides. After the paint is dried, they are scorched with a heat gun. The paint prevents areas from shrinking but otherwise the leaves distort and curl into perfectly realistic autumn debris. I'll be stitching leaves for another week or so. The art event is on Sunday, October 7.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Two new videos!

I've been struggling with Blogger and PhotoBucket issues since early last week but have finally resolved the problems and posted the videos of my two recently altered books on Alex did a great job with both Black God and New Song in a Strange Land, which is currently art of the the MOJA juried arts exhibition in Charleston, SC.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Busy Weekend, Part Four

As much as Steve and I had crammed into our weekend by Saturday night....there was still Sunday to wake up to, other places to go, and more art on which to feast ones eyes. We drove back to Columbia in the morning. I stitched in the car.

There were thirty-nine scarves waiting to be tagged and boxed for the Artisan Center. I dropped off my two entries for the South Carolina State Fair juried art competition and drove to Walterboro.

The brand new South Carolina Artisan Center retail space just opened after three days of moving from the older building...which will now be office and classroom space. The hardworking staff was still carting more merchandise, sprucing up arrangements, placing artwork on shelves, and writing sales tickets by hand (computers should be operational later today!) Amazingly, everyone was in good spirits and happily took the box of scarves.

(Above: The area in the SC Artisan Center with my work!)

(Above: My parents, Alex, and his friend on the steps of the new SC Artisan Center's retail building.)

My parents drove up from their time-share on Hilton Head. They had taken Alex and his friend with them after school this past Friday. So, from here, I had the two boys as I continued to Charleston for the MOJA Juried Art Show reception at the Avery Institute for African-American History and Culture.

I wasn't hoping for anything more than the slight chance to confirm that my proposals for exhibition had been received and would at least be looked at. Wonderfully, I was able to talk to the MOJA Coordinator. It's a busy time...with the MOJA festival just starting...but, I'll keep my fingers crossed that perhaps Blues Chapel will be on view this time next year.

I was elated that my friend Lynda English won first place, a purchase award of $1200. I was shocked to be named one of two honorable mentions! The drive home would have been a long one after all the excitement and visual stimulation over just two days...but the boys played "hardcore" music from their iPods directly into the speakers of the car...scary how that sort of ranting, raving, constant beat and fast pace can keep one's hands clinched to a steering wheel! (Okay, they did play some Jesse Cook just for me...and marveled at how my favorite guitarist is really in a class far beyond any of their favorite musicians....another lesson/maybe the same lesson....hard work pays off and quality art takes time and patience and PRACTICE!)

(Above: View of the reception for the MOJA juried art exhibition at Avery Institute.)

Busy Weekend, Part Three

Seia Rassenti and Joseph Watson dancing "Softly As I Leave You"

My immediate response to seeing the sculptural books by Daniel Essig and the fibers at the Mint Museum was to stitch....and stitch and stitch....while trying to come to terms with my own work. I could easily have swirled down into the pits of depression but I didn't. Mental "pep" talks and Ohio State football on ESPN saved me (we won handily). Soon it was time to dress for ballet at Charlotte's Blumenthal Theater.

The program, called Manhattan Moves South, was to be in three parts: Night Creature from "Ailey Celebrates Ellington" (1974) in three movements; Twyla Tharp's Nine Sinatra Songs; and a new work called Artifice by the company's resident choreographer Dwight Rhoden.

After taking our excellent, nearly dead center mezzanine seats, Steve and I noticed that Seia Rassenti, Mathias' classmate, would appear in only the last two numbers. Then, just before the curtain rose, there was an announcement of several casting changes...I couldn't quite "get" all the substitutions but...Seia would be in the first piece as well. We were thrilled, of course, but knew these sort of changes often meant a dancer was injured.

I really liked the first piece. I like the flow, the spacing, but especially the costumes which were fabulously dyed by Elissa Tatigikis Iberti. I'm guessing they were rented from Alvin Ailey. Some of the lines just didn't look right to me...because I thought a couple was actually missing...later, I learned I was right.

North Carolina Dance Theater is a small but wonderfully funded company. There are only eighteen professional dancers. There are six paid members of North Carolina Dance Theater Two...what many other companies consider "apprentices" or unpaid positions. The company keeps its numbers small but pays well enough to attract real quality and years of loyal dancing. I started to worry about the opening announcements...the possible injuries.

I was surprised about the final piece. In past years, I haven't much cared for Dwight Rhoden's choreography and this work started with John Adam's music (I think) which might be the source of my dissatisfaction. Fortunately, the dancing was wonderful, the partnering was interesting, and the overall effect wasn't too serious making it quite enjoyable.

The highlight of the night, of course, was Nine Sinatra Songs. The Oscar de la Renta costuming added more glamor than I anticipated...and I was anticipating a lot of everything. Afterall, I'm seeing this same piece in about two London with Birmingham Royal Ballet and (hopefully) a cast including Mathias.

It opened with Seia and her partner Joseph Watson dancing "Softly As I Leave You". It was wonderful, infatiguating, and set the stage for Nicholle Rochelle and David Ingram's "Strangers in the Night", a sexy, faux-tango to be followed by Traci Gilchrest and Ian Grosh as charming, inebriated party goers with some of the most clever lifts and twists I've ever seen in "One For My Baby (and One More for the Road)". All three couples glided on and off the stage for "My Way".

I would have been happy had I only seen this much of the continued and grew even more delightful with Anna Gerberich (or maybe someone else?) and Justin VanWeest in "Somethin' Stupid" and Kara Wilkes with Jhe W. Russell in "All the Way"....or, at least that's who I thought I saw. I don't know these dancers quite as well as I do Rebecca Carmazzi...who appeared with Randolph Ward in "Forget Domani".

Seeing Rebecca, one of my favorite dancers in the company, in this role was exciting. First, Mathias is currently "second cast" for this section. Therefore, it was the part I most wanted to see. But, Rebecca was listed for "That's Life"...the dance generally reserved for the principal dancers....(sure, NCDT is an ensemble company...but everyone knows who generally gets the principal parts, who's been with the company longer, who's got more experience, etc.) Then it dawn on me...we hadn't seen Mia Cunningham....she was cast in the Alvin Ailey piece too but didn't appear. As much as I wanted to really concentrate on the flashy dancing and the adorable, fru-fru pink dress, I couldn't help but to wonder about "That's Life".

Sometimes, an injury is an opportunity....and Seia Rassenti had been Rebecca's understudy. She commanded the stage in a too-die-for red gown and in Sasha Janes' arms right down to the last note and on into the reprise of "My Way" along with the other couples as a finale. Seia was the last to bow, center stage, and all smiles. I had tears in my eyes and hoped her parents had witnessed this two evenings before.

Steve and I took Seia to dinner. Unfortunately, her Mom and Dad came for Thursday's performance...Mia had been able to dance. We dropped them a short email this of heart-felt congratulations for their daughter. The evening was capped off when a nice lady approached our table to shake Seia's hand. Blushing, Seia confessed that she'd never been picked out of a crowd like's to many more occasions.

Busy Weekend, Part Two

Though my eyes had seen plenty for a single day and my mind was spinning...Steve and I drove into Charlotte and checked into our hotel room. Soon, we were walking up the street to the downtown Mint Museum of Craft and Design. On view is Fiberarts International 2007, an international, juried biennial organized by the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh. I was rejected from this event...along with hundreds and hundreds of others...only about six or seven percent of the submitted works were accepted. We saw the last biennial while it was in Pittsburgh and hadn't been that impressed. This time, I was blown away.

Fortunately, Steve kept me walking. He'd scoped out the floor plan and subtly directed me on a path that took me by each piece. Had he not, I might still be there. Much of my reaction came in waves of awe but there were moments of giggling, confusion, and pure joy too. I made a few notes. I couldn't take my eyes off some of the best work, however, in order to write. Thus, my notes are really just that...notes! A way to help me remember a vision, an inspiration, an idea.

Here are some of the things I wrote: Maria Simonsson's Fragment # 5 included what appeared to be rusted nails welded into a wreathe-like circle that conveyed the feeling of an antique map's compass perfectly. These weren't rusted nails used just because they were "cool"; they were so much more. Found fabrics and flattened birch bark formed the base. It was a map. There was a stitched circle indicating "home". Each individual piece helped create the whole. Personal touches united for a universal work. I so wanted to use the birch bark I collected a couple years ago in Alaska but I didn't know how. She did. She did it wondrously....because she used it because it was important to the overall meaning of the work...not just a "cool" technique, an interesting found object, but a key or symbol to a greater meaning. I need to remember this.

While typing this, I'm "googling" the artists. Thus, this entry will serve one of the primary reasons I started this blog over a year be a place where I can record my inspirations and artistic journey and to learn from what I experience. Thus, I found an image from the series I saw by Maria Simonsson and a link to her personal website.

Mary Sleigh's A Fine Line is a great book, uniquely combining the text from Needlework: Practical and Decorative by Jan Strachan, 1921 with her own stitching and binding. Brilliant...use what you love...all of it...don't compartmentalize the different areas of your own interests.

So, I've now "googled" this British talent...I'm stunned all over again. The work on exhibit didn't inform me about another passion...Africa! Now, I'll be looking for this book and will revisit her website too. There's lots to be learned here!

Camile Brent Pearce created Rustbelt Garden from a scrap of an antique silk kimino overlaid with a velour embossed vintage chiffon scarf. It was rust and transfer dyed and stitched by hand. What drew me to this piece was its subtlety. The techniques used weren't "in your face" but each seemed to compliment one another. Had there been no label, I would only have figured out "kimino" and "hand stitched"...everything else blended into a perfect piece.

I found nothing more on-line...but that's okay. I need to remember that technique shouldn't be the focal point or the reason for making a work of art. This is often one of my mistakes and greatest temptations. I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately. Here was a work made by a master's hand...someone who wasn't driven by technique but controlled them...made techniques into tools, methods for expression.

Angela Silver had dozens upon dozens of spools...mostly wooden...wrapped in strips of text. All were arranged atop a white pedestal covered in a plexi-glass cube. They were interesting. I liked fact, I would have loved them but I couldn't quite get away from the fact that I, too, had submitted my wooden spools...painted, wrapped in yarns, stitched, and collaged with faces.

Daniella Woolf's Beauty at My Feet was one of the most compelling pieces in the show. I found an image of it on Daniella's website. Yet, there is no way that a photo can do this texture justice or reveal how the colors blended or the natural elements worked with the encaustic waxes. It was simply outstanding.

Gabriella Kecseti is a Hungarian artist and her work was an assemblage of raffia like reeds meshed into paper-like fabric. Here technique seemed a reason to create a work but the result really wasn't the expected impression. Instead of making me wonder, "How was this done?" (my normal response to many technique inspired work), I wondered, "What is it?" The process managed to make a work that conjured up ideas of an agrarian world, the remains of an untold story.

Noel Palomo-Lovinski's Bridezilla was just the right piece for me to enjoy between sometimes overly serious moments. Though Noel has no personal website, a photo of this bridal garb isn't really even necessary. It was a lovely white dress...just what one might imagine in a formal wear shop window. What set it apart, made it hysterical, and created a way to discuss many of the silent truths about weddings was the pink print upon the fabric. The text read like stream of consciousness writing...all the doubts on the morning of the "big day". All the modern day stresses associated with the ceremony.

Cutting edge, contemporary fiber exhibits always include many, many works that are driven by technological advances...or just ways in which new machinery and digital applications are being incorporated into the realm of fibers. I really love these novel ways of using computers and industrial processes. Yet, generally, many of the results leave me as "cold" as those pieces whose inspiration is "technique" driven. In fact, I think it is the same thing...the new technologies are the new techniques and many times it is for its own sake.

Joan Dreyer's Tree of Loss # 2 is why we must abide the "technology for technology's sake" and "technique for technique's sake" work. Because, eventually, true artistry rings out. Technology is employed for statement, for meaning, for beauty, as a tool for self-expression. I could have gazed at this piece for an hour and not fully appreciated it. It is a "whole cloth" quilt with a digital print of a winter tree....obviously modern technology was essential. What made is ART was, however, the way in which the image was combined with hand stitching in order to transcend the technique and even the medium. The work profoundly was a "Tree of Loss" didn't even need a title. On every level this was brilliance. The stitching was simple...straight those keeping count...four vertical lines with a single diagonal...five. The arrangement of these grouping focused attention on the center. The coloring subtly darkened to the outside.

Steve and I stood for quite a while in front of Emiko Nakano's Ruins. Though it was an interesting combination of paper, paper making and weaving, there was a feeling to which I could relate. There was a sense of decay, antiquity, layering, foreign text, contrasting colors, and of familiarity. Nothing about it was made using approaches I use but it "spoke" to me. From this feeling, I must draw inspiration.

There were many, many other pieces I could have written about, made notes about, been inspired by, and noticed more publicly. There were even awards...but I didn't pay attention to this. However, had I been asked to place a ribbon on just one piece, it would have been Lesley Richmond's Leaf Vein Lace.

Okay, okay....I know that I'm trying to come to grips with "technique" and "technology" and find my personal way to incorporate these "tools" into artistic statements. I know this is paramount in taking the "next step" artistically....yet, I cannot help myself when it comes to this work. It is brilliant and I'm totally blown away by whatever unique heat-reactive techniques were employed. There is no personal website or immediately apparent image for me to use. No words will adequately describe the texture of this three piece (though is truly appears to be a single unit) detail of a decomposed leaf vein. The label read, "Heat-reactive base, cotton, rust patina, metallic paint, devore, screen printing paint". I have absolutely no idea what was cotton or how this was made. My "google" search brought me to a website listing a "portfolio" that is no longer available. It read:

Portfolio Vol 40: Lesley Richmond

Sheila Martineau

end October 2007. Prize winning artist from Vancouver, Canada. Lesley Richmond creates textiles that suggest organic surfaces. Distressing techniques and chemical processes allow her to alter the surface structure of the fibre in to an illusion of organic decay.

ISBN: 9781902015972

Time for more research!

Busy Weekend, Part One

There's no way I can post everything I've been thinking about artistically, looking at with new eyes, and feeling with deep emotions. It's been a very, very busy weekend...full of stitches, pages, and steps.....fiber art, book art, and the art of dance. I want to remember. I want to capture some of my mental plans and hopefully a little of the inspiration.

Here's part one: Waterworks Visual Arts Center in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Early last week, a string of events led me to this museum/gallery's website...a friend had a show there over the summer, we corresponded on another matter, I "googled" the museum and noticed that there was a page called "Exhibition Submission Guidelines" with two annual deadlines (including September 30), I wrote a proposal (a scary, new attempt for me), and I saw a blurb on the home page for a show called "Sculptural Books" by Daniel Essig.

I went to Daniel Essig's amazingly beautiful place of mystery, a blend of ancient and primitive cultures, one computer click after another of handmade books...not just "handmade" by passionately created volumes. I knew I had to see them for myself.

Salisbury isn't too far up I-85 from Charlotte...we were headed to Charlotte...we started out early...we were alone in two wonderful rooms with the work. I couldn't resist...I snapped off several photos (no flash, of course....but perhaps not the sort of images I ought to post without permission). There was a price list...and the cost to own one of these precious pieces wasn't as high as I'd have imagined, instead each was reasonable, almost tempting. Yet, I'd rather spend my money on a workshop with Daniel Essig. Hopefully, his website will be updated soon. Those listed are mostly in the past.

I was struck by the small size of the inset enclosures, the smooth surfaces juxaposed with rough, crusty areas; the use of antique and handmade paper but otherwise no personally added text or collaging; and the strong notion of ancient beauty....possession of books being an exclusive, wondrous privilege. The rusted nails and ostrich shell beads lent a primitive, African sense of earthy, tribal rituals. The most elegant Coptic bindings made me think of medieval monasteries and religious mysteries. There was attention to every fine detail on every surface. The fossils worked better than any expensive gem would have in order to convey a sense of pricelessness. I wanted to touch everything but resisted. It was hard to step from one piece to another. It was more difficult to leave this exhibit...but there were other places to go, other art to be seen, and a space to be considered....just in case my proposal would be accepted.

I made a mental note upon exiting Waterworks....take your time while constructing something meant to appear as if steeped in many passing years...dig deeper for symbolism....learn more about binding....pull at your heartstrings to find a universal connection to others.

Waterworks Visual Arts Center is also an incredible place in a revitalized downtown, historical area. I would be so very, very proud to have Blues Chapel installed there. I was amazed on Sunday upon our return trip to have a personal letter acknowledging the receipt of my proposal in the mailbox.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Works in Progress

Strange, I haven't posted much lately because I haven't finished much lately. Yet, I'm working....working hard. I've written exhibition proposals and burned CDs of images to accompany them...preparing packets that I hope will be looked at for just a few moments before form letters of rejection are sent. I've been told that a rejection is still an opportunity to have one's art viewed by curators and gallery it's worth it. I'm embracing this idea.

Anyway, I'm working toward the solo exhibition that I do have coming up, the "Blues Chapel" in Pickens next summer. I'm preparing pages from the late 19th century Bible that will become Blues Bible. The volume is four inches deep...four inches of pages. Yikes! Fortunately, my plan will create quick thick pages and thus not over thousand or so spreads!

I've been painting the removed pages blue...for the past four days. Yesterday I started applying fabric with WonderUnder (Bond-a-Web) to the folds and zig-zagging them for additional security. My "test" page included lots of GAC 100, polymer emulsion...which I use for collaging. The results are sturdy, can be bound as single spread signatures, look good, and keep the fabric from peeling up with the additional moisture of the acrylic medium. PLUS, each page is nicely thick. In the meantime, I've begun "hunting and gathering" for source material to fill the pages and started a MicroSoft document of reference notes too.

Another piece for the exhibition is also being stitched. I must be thinking "big" right now because this piece has more than five times the number of square inches than the others in the "Elements" series. I really didn't think about posting a photo "in process" until reading SammyStuff last night. I have so admired her beaded blocks...they are incredible. She recently posted her September block "in process". It was wonderful to get this glimpse while decisions are still to be made, and now I am anxious to see how it is finished.

Then, I remembered so many other projects that I enjoyed watching as they unfolded on my screen over days and weeks and months. Like, Carol's torso and Emmy's Sumptuous Surfaces and Julaine's banner and Kate's quilted cats and so many of Arlee's magnificent creations and too many others to remember right this minute. Anyway, I figured I'd share this embroidery while in process.

I used heat transfer paints to "color" the background and a heat transfer crayon to set the design (which I "blurred" near the bird but this won't show in the end!). Now, I'm stitching with lots of thick blue yarns and threads. Stitching and stitching and stitching. I've got three evenings so far on it...and many more to go!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Vote for Seia in Nine Sinatra Songs
Above is a link to the newspaper in Charlotte where Mathias' classmate Seia Rassenti is featured as one of three couples in Nine Sinatra Songs. There are three short videos and a voting for "favorite couple". Right now, Seia and her partner Joseph Watson are winning! This is almost amazing as the other two female dancers have been with the company for years and generally get cast in leading roles. Seia, like Mathias, is just nineteen years old. Anyway, the pieces are from Nine Sinatra Songs....which Birmingham Royal Ballet is also dancing...even in London while I'm there. Of course, BRB is a much, much larger company with over 65 dancers versus North Carolina Dance Theater which under, Mathias has a harder time getting better parts...but, he's cast in one of the pieces and I'm crossing my fingers that I'll get to see it. I'll write more about Mathias' other part in Edward II later.

Friday, September 14, 2007


This past Saturday Steve and I went to the annual Decor Expo Art and Custom Picture Framing trade show in Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center. This used to be a major event in my year. I used to be considered a major buyer too...with company representatives pulling me into hidden enclosures for champagne while trying to entice me with their newest line. I don't miss these days. Now, Steve and I stroll up and down the aisles, find a few bargains, and are finished in time for lunch at a micro-brewery in mid-town with football on the overhead televisions. (Yes, I'm a football fan! Ohio State!)

We bought a wonderful new print stand for my matted and shrink-wrapped artwork (The Black God Series, The Life Everlasting Series, and truck loads of miscellaneous things and older work removed from frames). In very little space, this unit will hold work up to 16" x 20"....three racks on four sides. We also bought some moulding...some at 50% off...the industry still seems desperate . Mostly, however, we admired the four or five dealers selling antiquarian prints. This is the focus of Mouse House, Inc., our business.

Of course, these dealers are trying to sell most of their images at a "wholesale" price that is actually higher than our "retail" price. That's why they've got such nice selections. Every now and then, however, we've found something we couldn't live without. This year, I saw these pages of letters and resisted...for an hour...then couldn't stand it...went back and bought. There are 68 pages from what had been a turn-of-the-last-century scrapbook. They are each covered, front and back. The glue was sparingly used and isn't the kind that turned brown. Many of the clippings are literally falling off...and revealing more letters on the reverse.

My instinct is to use all this in my altered collage with it. Yet, I've seen how others have scanned such images and made them available...both for free and for a price. I really don't know what to do...other than to admire them. Any suggestions?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

African-American Dolls at Ponder Gallery

Tyrone Geter is a wonderful artist, a friend, and the one of the curators of Ponder Gallery at Benedict College, the fourth large HBCU (Historical Black Colleges and Universities) in the United States. The campus is very small, very private, and only about a mile from my house...but I'd never been there until last night. I received an email from Tyrone about the opening of A Reflection and Interpretation of Our Culture: African-American Doll Collection of Cassandra Williams-Rush I knew I had to go. I'm so glad I did. I had no idea what to expect, having never been to a doll show of any kind. Yet, I've seen so many great images of dolls and doll-like figures on-line, that I compelled to see some in person.

There were many handmade, one-of-a-kind dolls. They were utterly beautiful, well crafted, and I was in awe. What I didn't expect were so many mass produced dolls...not that this was a problem. They were interesting too. I had no idea how many African American Barbies there are or that Madame Alexander has issued dozens too. The ones in these pictures were designed by Bob Mackie...yes, Cher's and Carol Burnett's fashion designer!

My favorites were the two created by Adrienne Anne McDonald. They were from what appeared to be a series called "Urban Faeries". The tag read, "Inspired by the decadent, whimsical, downtown New Yorkers, Urban Faeries are created from found objects and discarded clothing. One often thinks of faeries in the woods but they dance among the city streets." I especially liked the light bulb for a head...a very bright idea!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Ordinarily, State Fairs don't have excellent reputations for professional quality artwork. I've found too many "fine artists" who snicker at the idea of entering such events. Even some serious textile people look down their noses. Yet, here in South Carolina, we have a very large, juried art exhibition every year. The total in prizes is $29,750. Annually, between $15,000 and $25,000 additional dollars are spent as "patron's purchase awards"...basically, people pledge to spend a certain amount before even seeing the selected work. These folks are invited on a preview order of the amount buy before the show opens. There is no entry fee. There are two divisions: professional and amateur. Best of Show is awarded $6,500. The State Fairgrounds are about two miles from my house...and about one mile from my studio. My work falls into the "open media" category. I enter as a professional. I've won first place in the division twice. So, I'd be an IDIOT not to enter. Entry is an on-line application (though there is a seriously more complicated way to do it in person). So, about a week ago, I clicked over to the website and filled in the required spaces. Everything about the rules and regulations were quite clear; I've done this before; there is a big, bold message warning that once an entry is send, it's final. I opted to submit my altered book American Dream and In Box XXXVI. I clicked "send". By the next day, there was a confirmation message among my email. I printed it. I noticed the "drop off dates" (which were perfectly obvious when I entered). I flipped my appointment book to September Sept. 23-25 and penciled in a reminder. Something caught my eye....big red letters on Saturday, September 29. It read, "PICK UP AT FRANCIS MARION". Oops! In Box XXXVI is at Francis Marion. It cannot be retrieved earlier! It cannot be delivered to the State Fair on the required days. There was only one is pictured here....a "new" In Box XXXVI (aka In Box XXXIX)!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Stitching in the Car

I planned to do all the hand stitching on this piece last Saturday while riding in the car to Atlanta and back. I forgot that the sun goes down, the car gets dark, and embroidery just can't be done under these conditions. So, I finished the handwork on Sunday, did the free-motion embroidery yesterday, and photographed it today. It's another piece that is a "spin off" of my "Elements in Architecture" series. I'm calling the series "Elements in Blue". Instead of giving each piece a Roman numeral, I'm giving each a comma and another name. Thus, this is Elements in Blue, Madonna and Child.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Over the past week and a half, I've been making a couple scarves each day. It's been like an exercise or a way to "warm-up" in the studio before tackling other projects. It's also been quite fun.

The idea started with some great yarn purchases. First, I went to Hancock Fabrics on a day when inventory was being done. Evidently, a bunch of decorative yarns were no longer going to be they'd been marked at 25 cents and 50 cents each. Some were ribbons, eyelash-style, etc. Most were regularly priced at $5.99. I'd even bought at that price before. I "scarved" up at least one of each to the tune of $14 for a large bag full.

Then, while in Charleston, I went to KNIT! on Wentworth Street. I'd heard about this place but never gone. I needed blue yarn for hand stitching. Of course, I found blue yarn....but....I also found an antique washtub overflowing with gallon zip-loc bags of very decorative yarns. Each bag had four different skeins with prices at $8 to $14 each...but the entire bag was marked at $18. Obviously, this was yarn that hadn't moved well and was being unloaded at a deep discount. I sorted through the large piles of bags but couldn't make a decision. Finally, I got up enough nerve to ask..."Please don't be offended, but how much if I take ten bags?" The proprietor seemed thrilled that I'd be taking so many and said, "I can do 20% more". She pushed a few buttons on her calculator and continued, "That's $14 a bag". I smiled and said that I'd be back at her counter with my ten bags in a minute while my head crunched the numbers....that's roughly $3.50 a piece per skein!

I also have an enormous box of assorted yarns, mostly acrylic but some wool, that I bought at an auction for almost nothing at all. So, I've been taking all these materials and placing them on strips of Mokuba water soluble adhesive sheets. I can make a scarf in approximately one hour. I've already sold a few to other artists which studio space near mine. Otherwise, I've been collecting them at home...lined up on the banister that separates our open living room from the staircase down to the business on the first floor. By the annual Vista Lights festival on November 15, I'm planning to have enough "merchandise" to really kick off the holiday season. After that weekend sales event (which includes Vista Studios where my studio is), I'll send the rest to the Artisan Center in Walterboro. This is the first time I've actually created something that is truly USEFUL...FUNCTIONAL!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Elements in Blue

(Above is Elements in Blue: Ankh)

First and foremost, thank you again to everyone who made a comment on my last entry. Comments left there and in my email's "in box" simply brightened my day. Hopefully, I will meet this weaver and we will become friends. After all, the world of fiber art is too small to hold on to negative energy.

Second, these three images are now in frames...recycled ones from my "Elements of Architecture Series". They were made the same way too...heat transfer painted polyester; hand stitching using most heavy, bulk yarns; and free-motion machine embroidered using a sheer chiffon scarf to prevent the sewing machine's foot from become tangled in the handwork. I did all the hand embroidery in the car, to and from my parent's home in Pennsylvania. I've got one more design ready to go...and a trip to Atlanta this Saturday during which to do the work!

These pieces will become part of next summer's Blues Chapel exhibition at the Pickens County Museum. Two use Egyptian symbols (ankh and Horus' eye)...which have been adopted by many African Americans as motifs to express their heritage. (Personally, I also just love hieroglyphics.) The other blends an African cross design with the logo to the AME Church.

I've also just acquired a heavy wrought iron sewing machine stand from about 1890-1910 to be turned into a kneeler for the yet-to-be-created "Blues Bible".

(Above is Elements in Blue: Horus' Eye.)

(Above is Elements in Blue: AME.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I'm hurt...I think...Please advise!

Okay...Here's another of my silly, stupid, hilarious confessions: For over a year I didn't really know what my site meter was doing. I never checked it. I "spammed" the weekly messages. I had no idea why I had installed it or how to check it.

About a month ago, I figured it out. It was thrilling to see that someone in Estonia and Brazil had spent more than zero seconds on my blog. It was thrilling to see a few of the same locations pop Canada, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and Sweden. I felt a sense of community and a surging sense of curiosity. I check in on my site meter every few days...if only to look at the world map with lots of multi-colored dots on it!

Today, there was a "new" referral. I clicked it. I found a "review" of sorts by a weaver in my state. I don't think I know her. At first I was thrilled. In fact, I'm still really rather excited about the fact that someone saw my solo exhibition at Francis Marion University and actually took the time to blog about it. Yet, some of the conclusions really stunned me.

Perhaps I shouldn't have responded. It has been one of the problems many people have said about the Internet and the anonymous nature of cyberspace. We can all write whatever we want without too much regard to others, their feelings, or even the truth. Perhaps I shouldn't have written a response, but I did....

So, I guess this is confession #2. In a moment of pain, I wrote a reply...knowing that the blog owner can "zap" it but still would have read it. Below is her entry. Further below is my response. To those of you who have been so supportive, please tell me the truth....what should I make of this? Do I owe this woman an apology now? Should I have kept quiet? Did I write appropriately? Was I out of line? Isn't everyone entitled to an opinion...both her and me? Or, should either of us simply kept our fingers to ourselves?

I thank each and every responder in advance for taking the time to read and write.
(PS...I just finished the free-motion embroidery into three new pieces I hand stitched while in the car to and from will likely be taken and posted tomorrow!)

Entry from the blog:

I accidentally found myself at a small fiber show last night. The show consisted of works by a Susan Lenz of Columbia SC. There were two kinds of work in the gallery. One kind consisted of arranging yarns, ribbons, threads across a dissolvable web and then free motion embroidering with her sewing machine over them. The result was something that looked remarkably like weaving. I loved the colors and textures. The pieces were mounted on white mat board. The mat board, in other words, did not cover the edges. The edges, in all their messiness were there for all to see. The messiness was not great, however. It was just enough to reveal the maker's hand. And the whole thing was framed. The fiber pieces themselves, without mat board or frame appeared to be about 12 inches wide by 30 inches tall.

The other kind of piece consisted of very small fabric squares. They appeared to be about one inch square. They were embellished with paints and free motion embroidery. They were then linked to one another with free motion embroidery. I assume the pieces were laid on dissolvable web and then the machine stitching was done. And I call it linking because there was space between each of the individual pieces. As with the previous type, the complete piece was placed on a white mat board and then framed. The size of these works as also about 12 inches wide by 30 inches tall.

Strange, I have been vaguely thinking about small weavings. Weaving with weavettes. Pin weaving. Perhaps I am reacting to weaving all this yardage?

I walked back to my car with renewed energy.

When I Googled Susan's name, I learned, much to my sorrow, that her current interest seems to be primarily altered books, though she is starting to play with quilting. Why this shift? I reflected on what I had seen. Yes, I really liked the stuff. And yes, her stuff made me think about what I was doing. But her stuff was all the same. She was really only repeating the same two ideas over and over again. There was no development. She must have been bored. I certainly would have been. She must have seen no possibilities for exploring in new ways what she was already doing. So she moved on to something different.

To learn more about Susan Lenz, check out her blog.

My response:

I just read your review of my work at Francis Marion University. Part of me is absolutely thrilled to know that someone looked at my work and cared enough to actually blog about it. Part of me is a bit stunned, of course.

First, seventeen pieces of work...even using your measurements...isn't exactly what I'd call a "small" exhibition. I approached this opportunity with complete seriousness. It is a really important exhibit, as far as I'm concerned. Professionalism, unpunctuality, proper framing, accurate exhibition lists, documentation, press releases and formal contracts were all important aspects of such an undertaking.

Perhaps, in weaving, solo exhibitions are quite commonplace, include vastly more square inches (or linear inches) of material, showcase more pieces, and display more variety. I really don't know. For me, I consider the exhibition at Francis Marion University a major event in my year. I'm thrilled beyond words to have even been considered for such exposure and am very, very proud to have the work on display in such a fabulous facility.

Truly, I hope I am so honored in the future; and, if so, I will approach each and every such opportunity as a really BIG deal. Universities tend to prefer exhibits that are narrower in scope but allow students to see labor intensive work based on a few, simple themes....basically, the willingness of an artist to experiment within the confines of a limited set of variables...hence, two related bodies of work that show very subtle, intentional alterations to the process of creation.

Second, the mat board is Crescent 7553 Edelweiss (or 87553...which is the over-sized boards in the same linen surface). It is an acid-free natural linen, and the same boards were used for both bodies of work. This mat board provided a unified ground on which to display both bodies of work while simultaneously providing a subtle, soft sense of textile. "Messy" edges relate to the theme of the earth's strata. (I actually wrote a detailed tutorial on "How to Create an 'In Box' several months ago on my blog...complete with specific framing instructions. I am a certified custom picture framer.)

The second body of work was not created on "dissolvable web" but on 100% acrylic craft felt. They were also not painted. Instead, previously painted, heat-activated adhesive was ironed onto the surface. I also used heat-activated metallic foiling and overlays of chiffon scarves. All this was then soldered using a fine-tipped soldering iron before being melted used a heat gun.

You were quite correct, however, in that both bodies of work were created on grounds that I intentionally would by dissolving in water and the other by melting with heat. Using this approach, boredom is hardly a problem. When the final step is to subject the work to deconstruction processes, there is always a slight anxiety as to the results...a mystery, a sense of eager anticipation, a question, a hope, an idea for the next work...hardly a repetitive process and never boring.

Where's the development? Easy! The series has developed significantly. One series has over forty pieces. It started quite small and grew to the current size. The exploration has been in the choice of fabrics for the approximate one-inch squares, the distance between their placement, the motifs used for free-motion embroidery, the color choices, the amount of fabric melted while inflicting the soldering iron, the number of "bridges" that link the pieces...all sorts of questions, ideas, and inspirations....I'd call this development. Perhaps these are simply not questions that perplex and drive weavers?

The other body of work is "younger". In the pieces on display where several fresh thoughts that have and will continue to inspire the series over time. In one, I used a solid chiffon scarf. Another incorporated hand stitched circles of yarn linked with both hand and machine embroidery. Some included vertical running yarns with gaps to be "bridged". Others were denser. Each answered an old question, asked a new question, and related to my ideas for future work as well as current ideas. Most test the boundaries of such contemporary approaches. All related to the strata of the earth. This series, as well as the other, are still on-going. I have not begun to exhaust the possibilities.

Finally, you "googled" my name and only looked at a few pages...whatever you could absorb in all of two minutes and fifty second (according to my quite unbiased site meter) and determined that my interests have shifted and that I had to have been bored with my fiber work and had moved on to something else.

You couldn't be further from the truth if you tried. For the past two years I have been working with artist and altered books WHILE I work on my first and true love...FIBERS! If you had scrolled down a few blog post entries, you would have seen that I'd been profiled by Cyndi Lavin. Cyndi contacted me due to my altered books. Profiles such as hers are conducted a month in advance. I held the posts about the newly altered books in order to coordinate my blog posts about them with her profile about me. The results have been hundreds of hits to both blogs from all over the world.

Also, altered books of this nature take weeks upon weeks to create. The two most recent books were made WHILE I was busy working on the pieces for the Francis Marion Show. Basically, it's good time management skills....collage a little, stitch while it dries, collage a little, stitch while it dries....etc.

There's been no shift in my work, no boredom with my fiber explorations, and no abandonment of embroidery/fibers in favor of another media. If you continue to read my blog or spend more than three minutes looking at even two weeks worth of past work (and/or future work), this will be more than obvious.

I also do not refer to my embroidery or my altered books or anything I create as "stuff". I would NEVER refer to YOUR work (which I have never had the pleasure of seeing) or anyone else's artwork as "stuff". It's ART. It's FINE CRAFT. It's precious! It is certainly not STUFF.

I'm happy that you left the exhibition THINKING. I hope my response to your "review" will also give you cause to THINK!

Also, I most cordially invite you to my studio and/or my business. My studio is located at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, 808 Lady Street in downtown Columbia, SC. I spend time there each and every day and try to put in at least 35 hours a week creating artwork. My business, Mouse House, Inc. is located at 2123 Park Street, also in downtown Columbia. (803) 254-0842. My cell number is (803) 606-9804. My husband and I live above the shop which features antiquarian prints, decorative mirrors, and my fiber arts. We'd love to have you come by for a glass of wine and good conversation. By the way, there's a gallery opening at the studio this Friday night. The exhibition is called "FAME FACTOR" and it is being presented by Wim Roefs of if Art Gallery. More information is available on the calendar section of the gallery's website (which I manage). It can be accessed at

Your blog entry has cause me to think as well. I've written things that likely weren't as well researched as they ought to have been. I thank you for reminding me of this fact. I will write more of my opinions from now on with a few more minutes of research at the least. After all, the world of fibers is too small for me to risk injury to another by a few sour words among an otherwise nice review.