Saturday, December 29, 2007

Strata XII or Geodes II

(Above: Strata XII or Geodes II. Click image to enlarge.)

Yesterday Steve and I sent
Strata XI, Geodes to Denton, Texas. It was accepted into "Materials: Hard and Soft", a national juried show. It must arrive between January 2 and 7. All last week I knew I would miss it. I've really liked this piece ever since I made it.

I never liked Strata V, Autumn. So, I decided to create a new "Geode" piece. It fits right into Strata V's frame. I'm planning to significantly alter Strata V...maybe flower foot stitching in cotton and burned? Funny, I don't like the new Geodes nearly as well as the old one even though I added lots of beads and burned out the centers in order to have a void, like a real geode. It will probably grow on me, especially since I'm already making another one in blues and oranges.

The name is a bit of a problem. The first piece was part of my "Strata Series" but now a new series seems to be developing. I could change Strata XI to Geode I, but it is headed to a show with a proper catalog...too late to change the name. Is it really strange to use a title like the one I just used for this post? Any suggestions?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas! Gifts from Cyber friends!

Several years ago I had to come to the realization that having a ballet dancer in the family would probably change least the day on which we celebrated it. Christmas is generally Nutcracker season. Many top companies perform through the holidays and into the new year. Yet, Birmingham Royal Ballet had a nice, long vacation...including Christmas eve and day last year. This year, Mathias has to return to work earlier. We aren't too sad about this. They are rehearsing for a month long tour in Japan during January. So, this morning, Mathias is boarding flights back to England. We stayed up until midnight and celebrated during the wee hours of Christmas Day morning.

Mathias played with our cat Shadow.

Alex had fun on the laptop.

I showed off the incredible creativity and very generous gifts from cyber friends including Doreen, Nikki, Sammy, Emmy, Arlee, and Kate.

I cannot adequately express my sincerely, overwhelming feelings about these gifts and the sense of global support I've received from so very, very many fiber artists over this past year. I've left a few comments on various blogs today....but, please know, I am grateful for each person who has visited my blog and for each person who uploads a photo and writes a few sentences in order to share with others. May the coming year be a productive, creative adventure filled with fantastic stitches, interesting compositions, exotic colors and patinas, artistic insight, novel approaches, unusual experimentations and the wonderful communication with like minded souls are over the world.

Friday, December 21, 2007


One of the only things I wanted for Christmas was for my family to donate blood. I've donated fairly regularly for years. I'm "O" Positive and CMV Negative. I didn't really know what the CMV part meant but agreed to be tested once, years ago. Since then, much of my blood goes to the neonatal unit. Evidently, 50% to 80% of adults are means that they've had a one of several kinds of viruses at some point or the other in their lives and now have antibodies that fought it in their system.

This morning, only Steve and I were able to donate. Alex is afraid and Mathias woke up with a sinus headache and a running nose. He might try later. Why was this so important to me? Months July...a little girl, Madeline Willoughby Lester, in Seattle went to Children's Hospital for a heart operation. My blogger friend Nikki wrote about it on her blog. Maddie's mother is Nikki's best friend. I've followed Maddie's ordeal and her parents' overwhelming love, faith, and story ever since. Maddie needs a heart transplant. The only thing I could do was GIVE BLOOD! Not directly to Maddie...there's too many miles and too much "red tape"...but for every one needing blood this Christmas time.

For me, this is the best way to celebrate all my blessings. Below, is Elements in Blue, Blessings. It's serendipitous that it was finished when I've been thinking most about blessings!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Someone's Loved Ones

It might be close to a decade that I traded a few empty frames for this cynotype print on fabric. I found it while looking for the strips of vintage quilted squares used on Bessie's Quilt. Gee, it is blue. Somehow, I knew I would use it soon. I did. I even found a piece of distressed black velvet for the back. I don't remember when I distressed it. Happily, I also used scraps of one of the backgrounds I dyed during my "month of backgrounds". The piece measures 24" x 17 1/4", as pictured with hanging device 33" x 17 1/4". (Inventory #1002!)

Jacqueline asked in a comment for the number of pieces I've got ready for my solo exhibition of Blues Chapel in Pickens County Museum. I'm not sure. I just keep making more! I'll count them soon.

My Inventory Book

(Above: Stephen Chesley and his ledger.)

(Above: Stephen's ledger.)

Before going to England (and maybe even earlier), I promised a post about my method of keeping track of the artwork I inventory book. This is that post, but it requires a bit of background information about my mentor, Stephen Chesley.

Stephen Chesley is one of the Southeast's best respected oil painters. He's been self sufficient for over two decades. He's generous with his knowledge, advise, and support. He encouraged me to pursue my artistic passions long before I could admit them, even to myself. His studio is now directly across the hallway from mine.

When I first started stitching original work, Stephen showed me his catalog and urged me to keep a similar book documenting each piece. He told me to buy an ordinary ledger, the kind found at office supply stores. For every work, draw a thumbnail sketch and record the measurements (framed and unframed if applicable), the date of completion, the price, and a few words about the process or thoughts involved in the making. Later, he told me to add an inventory number and information about purchases and juried exhibitions. Fortunately, I followed his advice. (This week, I recorded #1000! Believe me, having an inventory number is helpful when a piece done three years ago sells!)

I don't always draw the sketch. (One "In Box" pretty much looks like another when reduced to simple lines!) Unlike Stephen's book, I make more detailed notations about the techniques and materials used. (Stephen only needs a word....oil, watercolor, pastel, ink, etc.) Yet, fundamentally, both serve the same purpose. We are organized and never wondering about the price of a work, the size of a piece, the date, etc. It makes filling out juried show entry forms a snap. It lists collectors. It is easy, too. I figured that "if this system is good enough for Stephen Chesley, it's good enough for me".

(Above: Jeff Donovan, another artist/friend, and Stephen Chesley in Stephen's Studio.)

(Above: The view of Stephen's studio from the door.)

This post might have ended here, except that recently I learned something else about this system. Steve and I went to the Edward Hopper exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. It was awesome. Edward Hopper's work has influenced many painters, including Stephen Chesley (who is suppose to be in DC this weekend looking at this show and the Turner Exhibition!) The exhibit is wonderful, all masterpieces. We wandered from one incredible room into another...somewhere along the way there was a Plexiglas covered pedestal. Inside were ledgers....ordinary ledgers with thumbnail sketches, measurements, dates, information...just like Stephen Chesley's catalog...just like mine! (To see images, click here.)

I was shocked. Later, back in Columbia, Stephen laughed. He thought he had told me that he always thought "that if it's good enough for Edward Hopper, it's good enough for me."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Yes, I've been stitching!

I'll bet there are some people wondering if I've actually done any embroidery of late. I haven't posted such a photo for over two weeks, but I have been stitching. In fact, I stitched on the drive to Pennsylvania and on the plane to England. I can't imagine a time when a needle and thread won't be part of my daily activities. The weather and the holidays, however, have interfered with my photography. I take pictures of my work the afternoon when the sun isn't hitting the front of the garage. Recently, we had a spot of rain and most often I've waited too long. It gets dark much earlier now. Today, I got some pictures!

Above is an older embroidery. It used to be matted and framed. I've recycled it into a small wall hanging...actually, it qualifies as a quilt. There's batting and a back and everything. The back used to be a canvas tote bag. I was given it by our local museum. As an artist, I agreed to decorate/paint/reconstruct/deconstruct/reconstruct or do "whatever" to the tote bag. There are about thirty others doing the same. The resulting art work will be sold at a charity event coordinating with an upcoming exhibition, Excavating Egypt as well as the tenth anniversary of the museum in its current, modern location. The museum's website has all sorts of information about this gala.

Here's the back...a former canvas tote bag. I used painted Wonder Under (Bond-a-Web), copper metallic foil, and a sheer chiffon scarf with a rainbow of metallic threads running through it. The museum's logo was already on the bag. The piece measures 20 1/4" x 16 1/2". It is "quilted" together with beading. All these pictures are "clickable".

Okay, the quilt is sort of a "cheat". I did the Egyptian inspired embroidery about five years ago. These three piece I finished in the last few weeks. There are all headed to Pickens County Museum for my solo exhibition next summer. Above is Elements in Blue: Anchor. Below is Elements in Blue: IHS.

Below is Elements in Blue: Chi Rho Variation. All these are approximately 10" x 8". I use heat transfer paints and crayons to set the pattern on 100% polyester. They are stitched using big, bulky yarns and any other blue related thread I can get my hands on. Finally, I put a piece of felt underneath each one and a piece of chiffon scarfing over the front for free-motion machine embroidery. The edges are free-motion zigzagged.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Photos from England and Tagged.

Today I posted pictures from the trip to England. There's an entry about Coventry and two about beautiful Ludlow. There's also more pictures of the German Holiday Market and another post with shots of Steve and/or Mathias. I put all these things, however, on my Family Blog. Why? I really wanted to post lots of photos...mostly to share with family. This blog is more about my artistic journey. Sure, travel images do inspire me....but, I can always look at them can anyone else! Just click here.

I'm almost caught up...almost ready to take some pictures of my latest work....and I've also been tagged by Vivian. I've been tagged before...last June. Here's what I said then:

1) Both my boys were born on their due dates.
2) I put my husband through graduate school by delivering singing and dancing telegrams in Columbus, Ohio.
3) I graduated from Ohio State University with honors in Medieval and Renaissance Studies (Phi Beta Kappa at age 20). The senior honors thesis was written under the same man that later became my graduate adviser in History of Art. Thankfully, I quit after a year. This adviser was later arrested for taking a pen knife to precious documents in the Vatican Library and trying to sell them through antiquarian print dealers. I think he's now either dead or in prison. (I still adore 14th century Tuscan art!)
4) When I was eight years old (or younger...hard to remember), I spun a gerbil exercise wheel at my great uncle's house and killed a tiny gerbil. For years I thought I was going straight to hell for breaking one of the ten commandments. (I also lied about it!)
5) I take advise from my nineteen year old elder son because he's smarter than me, world famous, and closer to "perfect" than anyone I've ever known.
6) I know that God has a sense of humor because he blessed me with my younger son who is quite like me and very, very difficult...totally unique.
7) I am extraordinarily apprehensive and nervous about my fiber work because I lack an academic background, don't know the name of many stitches, can't make anything "useful" with any of my sewing machines, and haven't read many books (including the ones I own).

Here's what I'll add:

1) I'm afraid of sharks.
2) I hate cranberries.
3) I wash my hair every other week. (Okay, I have to wet it down in the morning and control the curls but it really doesn't need washed more often!)
4) I stopped wearing make-up last year when I got glasses. I love my glasses
5) I prefer total quietness to any sort of music, often working in beautiful solitude for hours.
6) I have forgotten all math past simple adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing....and I can't figure out a calculator....I do all math by longhand, including fractions for cutting mats. I'm very good at this.
7) I haven't mastered the "clickers" for the I don't watch unless someone's there to turn it on for me. The only TV in the house has a 21" diagonally measured screen; the computer has a 19" one. This is perfect.

Last June I happily provided the list above. I rather enjoyed doing this one too, but like last June I'm going to skip the part about tagging others! Sorry Vivian! It's just not in my nature! (I'm on a campaign to become a "wild animal"....incapable of all domestic tasks and other activities that I don't fancy. So far, Steve is doing all the cooking, laundry, grocery shopping and much of the household cleaning....and I'm not going to tag anybody either!)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I'm going to catch up....I promise!

It is a busy time of year. I am behind in posting blog entries and sorting through hundreds of images taken while in England. I solemnly promise to catch up!

Please know that one of the reasons that I am behind is due to the fact that I've spent nearly every available "free moment" in my studio....creating art...stitching, working, making art.

I have managed, however, to finally get through the photographs. I will be posting many tomorrow. There are dozens of good pictures...memories with Steve and Mathis in Ludlow, laying siege to castle walls, exploring historic homes, and and climbing the church tower for the best view possible. I've got images of Coventry too...more than a few. I will post soon; I promise.

In the mean time, let me share a short story....

Once upon a time (a few weeks ago...before embarking on our trip to England), Steve and I decided to go to the movies, see Enchanted, eat some know, have a night out. It was chilly outside. I needed a sweater or coat. I went to my closet and noticed the black leather motorcycle jacket hanging on a forgotten hanger. It was purchased years ago for Mathias...after seeing Ethan Stiefel (ABT principal dancer) in Center Stage on his Harley Davidson. It is now too small for Mathias' strong, broad shoulders...but it fits me to a tee...perfect...young, sexy, black leather...what more could I want! I wore it to the movies.....

Steve and I were charged senior citizen admission.

Steve was thrilled...he saved four dollars!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Manning Williams

Before Steve and I flew to Birmingham, England, I promised a post on Manning Williams. Why? Because I want to remember this day, this experience, and the emotions I felt while wandering around one of the most amazing studios spaces I've ever encountered. Above is a shot of the master in his sacred setting, an artist in his environment.

Manning Williams is legendary as a Southern painter. His credentials are exhausting to read. He is old. He is growing more feeble and his mind meanders through time and place; yet, he is steadfast with artistic passion and keen about every detail. To learn more, factual matters, click here.

Truthfully, I'm not a great admirer of Manning's subject matter or even his particular artistic flair. I've framed nearly eighty or so pieces of his work for my very best (and most influential) client; so I am familiar with his art. I just don't care for it that much. I appreciate it. I marvel at the new, comic-book abstractions. Recently, I had to pick up a finished commission for framing. This afforded me the opportunity to visit Manning's studio.

Thankfully, I knew to ask "How big is it". It is six by eight feet. I rented a truck. I took my camera. I watched while a friend and a art dealer helped and poked into boxes and stacks of work. I thought about a lifetime of artistic output. I thought about aging, dependency, and greed. I took pictures of books, toys, art supplies, samples, sketchbooks, source materials, found objects, and a compulsion to surround oneself with fanciful things, inspiration.

Eventually, the painting was loaded and I had to go. The photos are my keepsake. They serve as a reminder of a creative genius and how a studio can incredible space; a huge cavernous space full of ideas and half completed work; a life line between reality and the fantasy of art.

Recently, Libby Mills wrote a post about her studio and questioned the way in which an artist works in the available space...facing the center, facing a wall, etc. I walked through the stacks of bookcases and the mounds of boxes in Mannings' studio and wondered how he would answer this question, "How do you position yourself in your studio". The place is so large that the answer is difficult. Manning faces a two story wall in the middle of an area that can be viewed from nearly every angle. The entire place is an addition to his comfortable home. Frankly, I think Manning Williams life is his art and his art is his completely that there is no focal point, no walls, no sacred space. After decades of self-supportive effort, Manning Williams studio is merely an extension of Manning Williams. Art and life are one...view it any way from any place...all the barriers are blurred.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Returned from BRB's Nutcracker

Steve and I have returned from a wonderful visit to Birmingham. The Nutcracker was absolutely magical, and Mathias was great in all the roles in which we saw him perform. Unfortunately, we are now facing more framing than I'd like to admit to having accepted for Christmas deadlines. Thus, my blogging will be done over the next week or two in installments. There's so much I want to remember, to share, and to enjoy again.

I haven't really finished the posts I've started for the weekend before we left...but I'll get it all done...somehow. In the mean time, here's a few images of the German Christmas Market in downtown Birmingham. I went very early to capture them...later, the place is mobbed with shoppers, eaters, and gluhwein drinkers!

Thanks to everyone who left comments while I was gone! I've got lots of other blogs to read too!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Nutcracker in Birmingham

I'll be away for just under a week. Steve went to Birmingham, England last year to see Nutcracker. This is my year...but he was so impressed, he's going again! I can hardly wait to see Mathias as the Jack-in-the-Box, Spanish, Russian, and in the corps de ballet....not all at the same time, of various casts! Thanks to all on recent comments. I'll be posting when I return.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Craftform 2007 Reception and Show

(The catalog for this show is available on line!)

Steve and I were on the road before 6:00 AM last Friday morning...headed to the Wayne Art Center outside Philadelphia and that evening's opening reception of CRAFTFORM 2007. I was a bit nervous, more than a little excited, and used the time in the car for stitching. Once we arrived, I was surprised to see that photography was permitted...this evening only, I think. Thus, above is me beside The Collector, my accepted piece...unbelievably in the same room as Noel Palomo-Lovenski's Camouflaged Confessions! Like her bridal gown Bridezilla in the Fiberarts International juried show, this garment was silk printed with personal, "I once killed a lady and got away with it" and other "don't tell" sort of messages. I am truly honored to be among artist's like Diane Savona. Her piece, Burned Out, is just the tip of the iceberg. Check out her website!

I'm standing in front of Brenda Jones' Willa's Milky Way, an pinafore of maps and assorted papers stitched together by machine and hand.

Allyn Cantor's piece, Things Lost in Time, was intriguing...part stretched canvas, part fabric, part paint. The image is among her new works, click here. Katherine K. Allen's large deep blue silk with metallic gold screen printing ink also was perfectly wonderful...and big! An image of it is on page two of seven on her website. Bonnie Epstein came to the opening from Manhattan and seemed as awe-struck as me. Her No End in Sight was a powerful piece made from clipped death notices from the New York Times of war victims...she has a stack to add at home.

On the back wall one can see Eleanor McCain's award winning quilt. To see a better image, visit her website. The surface and design of this piece are so perfect that one almost forgets there are seams! Her ability to put fabric together is amazing.

On the left (below), near a recessed window hangs Susan Webb Lee's Log Cabin Remodeled. Although it isn't pictured on her website, there are several pieces that have the same feel, beautiful fabrics, and quality stitching. Also attending the opening was Ed Bing Lee whose Trophy I on Glass Plate totally baffled do all the other pieces in this "delectable" series! These are KNOTS!

I could go on an on about the work in this show. Here, I've only mentioned most of the fiber pieces. The ceramics, furniture, jewelry, glass, wood, and other art were equally amazing. The reception itself was a divine evening that included champagne, excellent food, a silent auction, local artists, live music, and tango dancers!

Bessie's Quilt

Here she is...Bessie Smith, the incredible Blues singer, on a quilt! I scanned the photo and worked on it with PhotoShop. Not only did this eliminate the background but it took created more of a line drawing with higher contrast. I burned the result on a CD and had Kinkos print it to 24" x 18". This, I cut out and carefully used Xylene to transfer the image onto muslim.

Years ago at an auction I bought four long strips of vintage fabric...six by six squares pieced by hand into blocks. The blocks were sewn together by single line. Nothing about these strips were really measured or particularly flat; but, I loved the colors, the nostalgic feel, and very idea of time and "handmade". I knew there would come a day for me to use them. I envisioned them surrounding a xylene transfer of Bessie Smith when I visited the museum where my solo exhibition will hang this coming summer. I wanted this quilt. I didn't really think I could make it though...but, once the transfer was complete, I got carried away. I couldn't help myself. I loved every minute of making this, very stitch, very button, even the rod's sleeve on the reverse.

The buttons are mostly vintage, collected over years. I used a variegated perle cotton for the quilting on the strips. The rest of the quilting is all French knots. I backed the quilt with a delicate floral print on black. The size of the piece is 51" x 44" For a non-quilter...especially not someone who makes anything remotely traditional...I'm thrilled.