Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Keys, Nails, and Doors: Personal Grounds

(My studio and the start of an installation. Click on image to enlarge.)

Earlier in the month I wrote about a "foggy vision" for an installation. I was wrapping rusted nails and contemplating the symbolism of keys. I envisioned an old door with peeling paint, an entryway or physical representation of life's many decisions. Well....I found four of them. This weekend Steve helped me install them in my studio...now a place of tiny little passageways through piles of material and fibers! While many bloggers were tidying there work space as a New Year's resolution, I've evidently gone in the opposite direction.....and I LOVE IT!

(Click on image to enlarge.)

The vision is now a little clearer, but it has a long way to go. Keys in boxes, not quite accessible. Keys with wordless tags. Nails, wrapped and unwrapped, hammered into doors and lovingly in containers. The installation will be my contribution to the annual spring event called Artista Vista. The artists with studio space at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios always participate with an exhibition. The title for our show is going to be Personal Grounds! How perfect!

(Above: View from the door to my studio. Click on image to enlarge.)

To me, personal grounds is a place. It is a place one finds by life's decisions; the doors one opens; the keys one turns, the nails one uses to join life together and the nails of sacrifice. Though just at the beginning of this installation, I've already got a title, "Decisions".

(Above: Key to Happiness. I used embellished and stitched vintage fabric...dyed during my "month of backgrounds". Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Key to Prosperity. Another handmade cord and tag with a key on an embellished and stitched fragment. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Key to Knowledge. Embellished scrap of a vintage lace tablecloth.)

(Above: Key to Her Love. Embellished and stitched fragment of vintage brocade. I'm hand distressing and finishing all the frames too.)

An Art Filled Weekend

This past weekend was a busy one, artistically. Personally, my installation using doors, old keys, and wrapped, rusty nails moved onto a real construction phase...which will be in my next post! Socially, there was a great art opening in the gallery just outside my studio door. Called Winter Exhibition, it is the eighth annual show for four of my friends: Mike Williams, Ed Wimberly, David Yaghjian, and my mentor Stephen Chesley. I took the photo above while standing on my worktable...looking over my studio wall into the reception. More about this show can be found here or here or here.

(Above: The Night on the Nile Gala...view from the second floor to the lobby. The setting was incredible. One of the chairmen told me that crews of volunteers spent a week decorating. There was even a camel outside the front door, belly dancers, a DJ, a live band, and some of the most ingenious floral designs I've ever seen.)

On Saturday night I attended the Night on the Nile, black tie gala at the Columbia Museum of Art. This event celebrated the tenth anniversary of the museum's new location on Main Street and the opening of Excavating Egypt. Thirty artists, including me, were asked to paint, alter, or decorate a provided tote bag. I blogged about mine here. I was a bit nervous as the minimum bid was set at $300. Gala tickets were already $150 a piece, so attendees had already made a significant contribution to the museum without feeling the need to show support by purchasing artwork. (Artists were given complimentary tickets...thank goodness!) Sadly, many of the tote bags were not purchased....and the artists have no idea what the museum's plans are for these unsold pieces. Happily, mine had at least three bids before the silent auction ended. Sold!

(Above, some of the tote bags...but I forgot to snap a photo of mine!)

I even got my tarot cards read...a new experience for me. Lady Noor said I was a very serious person!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Madonna of the Blues, a work in progress, part two

(Click on image to enlarge.)

I've stitched. I've beaded. I've back her with batting and some thick, stiff interfacing stuff (can't remember what it's called), cut her out , and turned the edges under. She's now a really big appliqué. Madonna of the Blues is now ready to audition possible backgrounds. I'd like to say I know where this project is headed...but I'm not sure! I'm thinking "frame" not "quilt". Hmmm?

(Heat transferred paints and crayon on polyester, hand stitched and beaded. Current size: 25" x 19"...finished size is anyone's best guess!)

Thursday, January 24, 2008


(Above: Ashanti. Click on image to enlarge.)

I don't even remember where I got this piece of hide; but, upon finding it, I wondered if Sheer Heaven paper would transfer my photo of this wooden African sculpture onto it. It worked! Within a few moments, the results were stitched to an Africa textile. I put it in a frame that I distressed by hand. Hardly any time at all.

While I'm not saying that this is a "great" piece of art or anything, I am posting this after contemplating this link on Arlee's blog. I've thought quite a bit about "slow cloth" and the time it takes to create something and about the ten qualities described so eloquently by Elaine.

I think I managed most of the points:
1) There was joy in the process.
2) I did contemplate the process...at least there was a question and an answer!
3) There is an acknowledgment of diversity and a the rich multi-cultural history of textiles.
4) Believe me, my interest in African art and its incorporation in my work is my way to honor lineage and teachers.
5) No problem respecting the materials...probably why I have these items and keep all sorts of scraps.
6) Quality...no problem. There's even UV glass in the frame to prevent fading. How could I go wrong with the artistry of West African craftsmanship?
7-9) Beauty, community, expressiveness...check, check, check.

Only one possible problem: Skill and mastery. There's really not much skill to this...so perhaps I mastered it...or perhaps the skill is in the ability to work quickly, make decisions easily, and put materials together...something I take for granted. Not sure here.

In any event. I whole-heartedly agree with others that the time spent or not spent does not determine value. By the way, Ashanti is a name from Ghana; it means STRONG AFRICAN WOMAN. The piece is 9 1/2" x 7"; the frame measures 15" x 13 1/2".

Monday, January 21, 2008


(Click on image to enlarge.)

Last June I was working toward my solo show at Francis Marion University. I created a number of new pieces, my Strata Series. These were made with assorted threads, yarns, and sheer materials sandwiched between an adhesive coated, water soluble fabric and a clear water soluble top. Each was free motion stitched and dissolved. One of these was called Strata V, Summer. I blogged about it. I said I wasn't "wild" about it. In truth, I never liked it at all. Something was "wrong" but I couldn't figure out what; I didn't have more time to spend on it.

At about that time there appeared several blog posts about the flower stitcher foot. There was even helpful link to Valerie Cambell-Harding's workshop. I bookmarked this. Everything about this attachment fascinated me. I found one at the local sewing center, bought it, and tucked it away...for when I'd have time to experiment.

The time for the flower stitcher and the time for Strata V came this weekend. From a work I disliked, I managed to create a piece in which I can take pride. I cut jagged strips of purple, acrylic felt and stitched them to the back...continuing the idea that the work should reflect the strata of the earth. Into this I flower stitched densely in assorted variegated threads. I added free motion circles in orange and gold and linear rows of sparkle green. I took my heat gun to it and added some hand stitches in burgundy yarn and green floss French knots.

The flower stitcher foot is everything I hoped and ever so much fun. The piece is better than I hoped too. It is 26" x 15".

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Fran Gardner's solo exhibition at the Florence Museum

Last night Steve and I drove through a wintry mix of rain and snow to Florence, South Carolina for Fran Gardner's art show reception at the museum. The exhibition is called "Orienting the Self: Studies in Time, Place and Person" and includes twenty-nine pieces of machine embroidery mounted on wooden boards with paint, found objects, acrylic transfers, and nails. Most of the work was quite new, nineteen produced during the past two years. They show the direction in which Fran is taking her work, to a more painterly end that blends her free motion zigzag into the colorful wood support. Her new work is about color and texture....how the fabric and the paint relate to one another...their similarities and differences. Four painted nudes include details in stitch. Ancient Wisdom was one of the strongest in the exhibition and truly united embroidery with paint, fine craft with fine art. Fran's wooden supports have also changed to include wainscoting with layers of subtly changing acrylics. She has also introduced hand beading as a meaningful accent, as in The Weight of the Line: Family (seen above), the delicate black line flowing down the left side of the focal, red mark. Personally, I prefer Fran's earlier work; but, that's because I'm not a painter. I adore the seemingly unrelated objects placed in harmony on her panels...the tarot cards with the circuit boards, the house numbers with the bits of rust, the National Park Service maps with fragments of foreign text...all with embroidery tying the whole into one. Fran's work has always taken me to a special, personal place...alone in a crowd with swirling ideas and strangely familiar symbolism.

What I will remember most, however, is one line in her statement: "I constantly remind myself to trust that the process will reveal my intention and my audience will understand." To me, this is significant and worth repeating often to myself...worthwhile advice from a master embroiderer.

(Above: Difficulty in Translation. This is the piece that won first place in the Southeaster Bienniel Juried Show: Fiber Fantasia in Duluth, Georgia. Funny, it is also the one I picked as my personal favorite in last year's exhibition in Camden, SC. I blogged about it here.)

(Above: Orienting the Self.)

From the Florence Museum website

A native South Carolinian, Fran Gardner lives and works in
the communities of Heath Springs and Lancaster, not far
from her birthplace, Hartsville. She earned her BFA from
Columbia College (1982) and later, her MFA from Vermont
College of Norwich University (1993). She is an associate
professor of art and art history at the University of South
Carolina Lancaster where she teaches a variety of
foundations studio courses and art history and
appreciation. Her work has been exhibited regionally and
nationally and published in several journals and books. In
her summer 2005 article in Fiberarts Magazine, Rhonda
Sonnenberg described Gardner’s work:
“Fran Gardner's sensuous work always begins with
stitching, which draws the viewer almost unaware into a
universe submerged by time, memory, and place. A sea of
petroglyphs, ancient text, celestial calendars, medieval
tarot cards, maps, numbers even computer motherboards,
all of which speak to a universal, timeless language,
encases Gardner's hand drawn human form like a soft

While she is generally known as a fiber artist, Gardner has
gained national attention in mixed media collage. The
stitchery portions of her work are machine sewn using
thread on canvas or cloth. The completed stitchery is then
mounted with her drawings and paintings and often
embellished with found objects and beads.
Recent awards include First Place for her entry "Difficulty
in Translation" exhibited in the Southeastern Bienniel
Juried Show: Fiber Fantasia, in Duluth, GA; and First Place
for her entry "Trying to Remember the Beginning" in the
28th Annual Statewide Art Competition, Florence Museum
of Art Science and History.

Gardner is married to Van Richardson and has one
daughter, Keller and two step-daughters, Mandy and

Friday, January 18, 2008

Home Sweet Home

(Above: Home Sweet Home, framed: almost 10" x 7.5". Click to enlarge.)

I embellished this a while ago. As I am beading on my Madonna, I picked it up and beaded it too!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wonder Under Image Transfer

(Above: The Harp and Mother and Child. Each 7" x 5" plus size of frame.)

Like many fiber arts bloggers, I read with keen interest Maggie Grey's post on Bond-a-web image transfers...knowing, of course, this meant Wonder Under to me and others in the USA. I had to try it. It's not like I don't have any Wonder Under...all painted and stacked in a corrugated box!

My first transfer was a disaster. I rubbed much too vigorously. Everything came off...paper, ink, and parts of the Wonder Under too. The second, however, was fine; as was the third. Yet, I wasn't thrilled. Like many transfers carried on paper, there's a cloudy residue. It seems impossible to remove absolutely all the paper and not accidentally tear into the ink. So, I kept working with my two images...adding some scraps of sheer chiffon scarves, a little paint, and even a bit of embellished lace on one. I tried heat activated metallic foil...which doesn't stick on the ink but adheres to the small areas where the ink was damaged and the Wonder Under was exposed. I put a piece of felt under each and free motion stitched. The chiffon wasn't really attached, so I poured about two tablespoons of GAC 200 on each one and carefully blotted the liquid into the entire surface. They dried quickly but weren't completely flat. Under a sheet of silicone coated paper (baking parchment will also work), I ironed them. Some hand stitches and beads were put on the one I'm called The Harp. The other is now titled Mother and Child.

Oh, I'm so glad that many people liked my studio space....not all that space is actually mine! The gallery is rented out to artists and groups by the week. When it is not rented, the artists (like me) renting studio space can hang their work in the gallery. I can let things dry overnight in the hallway and gallery because I work in the late afternoon and evening...and come back early in the morning to remove it all! It is a fabulous facility!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Wonder Under/Bond-a-Web

Those who have been fortunate enough to have had a workshop/class with Jan Beaney and/or Jean Littlejohn have likely heard their phrase, "A woman can't have enough painted Bond-a-Web"...that's Wonder Under here in the USA. Students generally chuckle...but it's true.

Every so often I buy a bolt and paint it all with watery acrylic paint. Here's the latest batch drying outside my open studio door.

The paintings and sculpture in the first photo aren't mine...obviously...but there's an angled view of three from my Strata series on the hallway door. My studio is one of thirteen in the building with a large gallery, atrium, and great lighting. It's called Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Juried show acceptance, selling from a booth, and fermenting ideas

I've read so many blogs full of wonderful resolutions for the New Year, ideas for greater creativity, increased production, stretching ones' boundaries, taking risks, and accepting all sorts of new challenges. I'm almost tempted to set some lofty goal in stone...but...I know myself better than that! While I admire those who can, I can't. Yet, I've always used this time of year for personal and business reflection and looking for ways in which I can bring about positive change. So, I've been thinking a lot lately.

While thinking, I've been working on several long term projects. I've already shared my hand embroidery...which will take weeks and week to finish. Above is another project...a twist on all the rusty things I've seen and pondered over the past year.

I've been wrapping rusted nails and attaching distressed tags to rust keys...the key to the future, the key to the past, the key to knowledge, success, happiness, failure, death, creativity, the city, my heart, understanding, faith, fulfillment, joy, and just about every other abstract noun imaginable. I envision an old door, one with peeling paint, a physical representation of life's many entryways...sometimes locked but covered with labeled keys. The nails...life's bittersweet memories, the symbol of accuracy, hard work, and sacrifice. That's all the further I've gotten with this idea, but in the wrapping there is a repetitive motion that stimulates additional thinking. I know the foggy vision will become clear and take physical form....an art installation.

I've also had two pieces, Strata VII and In Box XXXIX (I never posted a photo of this one, but this links to the tutorial!) accepted into Artsfest 2008, a juried show in Florence, South Carolina. While this is only a small, localized exhibit, I am very, very excited because I also applied and was accepted into the SALE! This means that I'm going to have a booth! So, if you're anywhere near Florence, SC on the weekend of February 8 - 10, come by the former county library at 319 South Irby Street to see me! There's a gala on Thursday evening too...it's the reception for the juried art show. I can't wait.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Madonna of the Blues, a work in progress

I've got several projects going...long term sort of things. I'm still working on my antique keys and rusted nails. I've got two artist books started. There's a "big" idea in the planning stages, and I've been hand stitching Madonna of the Blues. The vision is to stitch, bead, and cut out the image; then appliqué the result to another background; then stitch some version of the Sorrowful Mysteries; and finally to decide on a presentation...framed or quilted. I've got a long way to go!

(Background: Heat transferred paints and crayon on polyester. Current size: 25" x 19"...finished size is anyone's best guess!)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Geodes III

I've thought and thought....what's in a name, anyway? I've been calling these pieces "Geodes"...so what if the first one is titled Strata XI? Thus, the decision has been made...the last one is officially Geodes II. This is Geodes III. The first one will remain Strata XI. Today I might start Geodes IV!

It measures 35 1/4" x 23 1/4" framed and 25" x 15" unframed.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Fifteen Minutes

(Above: My broom with the "stuff" off the floor...all images will enlarge.)

Although I've been so very, very tempted to subscribe to Fiber & Stitch, I haven't done so. Honestly, I have trouble reading the books and subscriptions I've already got. Thus, I've resisted. There is another, closed blog on which subscribing members can post their impressions, discuss resulting work, and share experiences based on the articles in this zine. Occasionally, there are open blog posts about experimentation and works created after reading a particular article. I've enjoyed these posts.....and recently was inspired.

There was "something" about "fifteen minutes" and "scraps" and "making something from these things". I was intrigued. I saw these snippets on the floor while sweeping and thought, "Here are my 'scraps'. What can I do in just 'fifteen minutes'?" The challenge was on!

(Above: Previously painted Wonder Under (Bond-a-Web) and an indigo blue piece of acrylic, craft felt with my iron.)

(Above: A little copper metallic foil on the Wonder Under (Bond-a-Web).

I looked at my "scraps" and thought, "There's no possible way to integrate these odd colors and textures inside of fifteen minutes!....No! I'll cut them all up and toss them like a salad!"

(Above: Cut, tossed, and ironed...although only the bottom fibers were adhered...and then embellished from both the front and back...quickly; time was ticking!)

(Above: Simply lines of straight stitches. This was the end of my "fifteen minutes".)

(Above: Two postcards and two ATCs.)

I was working as quickly as possible...which was very, very interesting. It prevented me from embellishing forever and didn't allow any room for doubt. I am pleased with the results....but, I didn't manage to get all this done inside of fifteen minutes. It took fifteen minutes to make the fabric and fifteen more to make the postcards. Something was wrong.

Since then, I returned to reading other blogs....I think the experiment urged readers to GATHER THINGS for no longer than FIFTEEN MINUTES and then MAKE SOMETHING! I've been laughing ever since.

By the way, I couldn't have done any of this if it weren't for the postcards recently sent at Christmas. I love them and have learned from each one. I posted an image of some of these amazing gifts in December. Since then, I also received a postcard and tag from Jacqueline. (Thanks so very, very much!)

Back from a New Years holiday at Lenzelhof and Harmony

With a few more inches of snow, we could have been snowbound at my parents' house, Lenzelhof, just outside Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. It would have extended our fabulous New Years holiday. As it was, we enjoyed great German food, music, and the museum in historic Harmony, PA, counting down the final seconds of 2007 in both English and German as a twinkling ball dropped from a crane which was followed by fireworks.

(Above: One of the holiday decorated log homes in Harmony, PA.)

(Above: The main intersection of Harmony, PA...the Harmony Inn, now a restaurant. From the porch, the festivities were conducted and the music was played.)

(Above: My Dad and Mom in their Austrian winter wear...definitely the best dressed in the crowd!)

(The porch and view to the lake at Lenzelhof, my parent's log home.)