Thursday, August 28, 2008

Teaching fibers at the Art Museum

(Click on either image to enlarge.)

I finally remembered to take my camera out of my purse and snap a few pictures while teaching at the Columbia Museum of Art. It's a great group of ladies. Last week we experimented with heat-activated techniques using previously painted WonderUnder (Bond-a-Web), metallic foils, polyester velvets, soldering irons, and snippets of just about everything imaginable. This week we continued "playing" with textiles and I gave both hand and free motion embroidery demonstrations. Next week is the final session about proper mounting and display of contemporary textiles.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Happy Family

(Click on image to enlarge. Happy Family. Stitched words: Max and his Mommys, Mommy Lori, Mommy Janet. Xylene Transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand beading and stitching. 25" x 31" unframed. 31" x 37" framed.)

This is the first in the series to really use any colors and I'm pleased with the results. I knew that this portrait had to reflect a childlike happiness. The rainbow is perfect and simultaneously almost the colors found in the Gay Pride flag...except I didn't use two blues, indigo and cyan.

I've known Lori for years and years. She's the owner of my favorite fabric shop, The House of Fabric, also known as Chez Fabrique. Her grandfather started it and still lives above the Main Street shop. Her parents founded and run the professional theater here in Columbia, Trustus. As a result, the very best, most interesting, totally exotic, and every other "good" type of fabric for weddings, theater, dance, and specialty is just up the street from me.

Lori, Janet, and Max came by my studio several weeks ago. I took photos and they all signed a model's release....including Max (above)! Below is a detail from the finished piece. I used three different kinds of clear sequins under the variety of colored beads.

TAST....Barred Chain and Alternating Barred Chain

(Click on image to enlarge.)
Well, here it is! This is the TAST (Take a Stitch Tuesday) stitch of the week, the barred chain and the alternating barred chain. It is done. I didn't really like it. I don't plan on using it ever again, but now I know!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Behind on the Mortgage

(Click on image to enlarge. Above: Behind on the Mortgage. Stitched large words: Some how...Some way...I'm keeping my home. 25 1/5" x 19" unframed. 31" x 25" framed. Xylene transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand beading and embroidery. Catalog # 1076.)

(Above and below: Details. Click on image to enlarge.)

After I posted my "wish list" for possible subjects in the Decision Portrait Series, I was contacted by Theresa Mack who volunteered for Never to Late to Learn. I wanted someone at least 70 years of age pursuing a college degree. This textile artist, however, isn't close to 70 but has gone back to school at nearly 50. I was intrigued but not quite sure this was "right". Then, I learned more....about a struggle to keep a home. Her blog post resonated with me. I knew Theresa was right for another portrait....this one, Behind on the Mortgage. Theresa's story reminded me of my Dad and my grandparents.

Once upon a time (1953), my Dad and his parents came to America from a displaced persons camp in Germany. Dad wanted to go to college but Ohio State wouldn't accept his foreign high school diploma; he went to night school. My grandparents were much older and didn't speak English very well. The jobs they had, even with my Dad working, didn't bring in much money. Once, the mortgage was due in a week and they didn't have the sum. They held a "family meeting"....just the three of them. They DECIDED that "whatever it took, they'd keep the house". Odd jobs, scrap metal, overtime....hard work....the American Dream. They made a DECISION without knowing exactly how to bring about the desired result. They didn't even know if it was possible. There's grit and determination in these decisions. I felt the same story was being told by Theresa. I felt she had made the same decision. I wanted to put a face to this determination and I'm so pleased with the result.

By the way, my Dad did go on to college....all the way....PhD. He and my Mom live in a fancy log home by their own lake in Pennsylvania. My special hope is that Theresa will look back on her current struggles from such a beautiful, future vantage point.

As far as the stitching is concerned, I know I was influenced by the two-day class I took in Sweden under Tilleke Schwarz, but in an unexpected way. My fascination with stitched text drew me to her class. I thought I'd find some sort of "mentor", someone to emulate. I hoped to learn better methods of design.

What I learned, however, was quite different. Instead, I learned that I've been on my own path using text for a long, long time. I stitch very rapidly and am highly productive. I have no problem plying my own thoughts with needle and thread. My ideas are personal and I have no problem developing them. My method of design works for me. I've been using text for own, wonderful way. I learned that I should trust my own instincts and that I don't really want to emulate anyone else. This is a good lesson!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

TAST....Catching Up!

(Click on images to enlarge. TAST or Take a Stitch Tuesday. Feather Stitch)
Time preparing for Sweden, a week in Sweden, and work waiting for my return meant my TAST challenge got left undone. Thank goodness there's a week after every three stitches to CATCH UP! So, I'm caught up....sort of....I have no idea what this week's stitch(s), barred chain stitch or an alternative barred chain stitch, even is! Yipes! Gotta get working!

(Above: TAST, Fly Stitch.)

(Above: TAST, Cross Stitch.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

African Series Revisited, A New Laptop and a New Blog Look!

(Click on image to enlarge. Above: Still Happy. Mixed Media: Manipulated digital image on paper, fiber snippets, chiffon and polyester velvet, acrylics, and free motion machine embroidery. 16 1/4" x 21 3/4" or 41 x 54 cm. )

(Click on image to enlarge. Above: Mother. Mixed Media. Manipulated digital image on paper, fiber snippets, chiffon, emu feathers, acrylic, and free motion machine embroidery. 21 3/4" x 16 1/4" or 54 x 41 cm.)

Last week went by in a blur! I was so busy but I was also so EXCITED! While in Sweden, Steve and Mathias purchased a new laptop...just for me! I've only ever used a laptop on rare occasions so everything seemed new. Getting all my files and programs in place has been an adventure. I even worked on a video of the 80808 on 80808 exhibition at the gallery. This opened on 8.08.08, of course...while I was in Sweden. My Peacock Boxes are in this show...with a RED DOT! The potential clients loved it, bought it, and will have it in their home when the show closes on the 26th! Anyway, the new laptop goes with me for the six weeks MacNamara Foundation artist residency next month....hard to believe it comes up in only a month!

Also over the weekend Blogger made some changes to older blogs using "ancient" mine. Even my sister Wanda wanted to know why I didn't have a "Subscribe" button. I do....I think? If someone could let me know if this new function works, I'd appreciate it. I lost all the changes I had made in the past two years....generally using the html format. This new design is much, much easier! I've recreated the changes and found my site meter again....great cyber fun!

Coming back from a fantastic week in Sweden also meant I had to readjust to my old schedule. Almost as a "warm up" (though it took several days to complete!), I decided to revisit my older African Series. I'd already had the digital image on paper and mounted to a fabric base. I just hadn't really worked on these two with acrylics and fibers and stitch. I'm really happy with them. Once complete, I went back to working on my Decision Portrait back!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Stitching in Sweden....a funny video!



(Above: Stockholm from Skansen, the outdoor museum.)

(Above: Stockholm, the center of town where water meets land....and land meets water!)

It’s hard to believe that I was in Sweden just last week. It’s harder to believe that it’s taken days for me to write a blog post about this incredible trip. In my defense, there was a pile of work waiting for my return, approximately 800 images to sort, and this was my elder son Mathias’ last week with us. In just a few hours he flies back to England to begin his third season with Birmingham Royal Ballet.

(Above: This is the square in Gamla Stan, the oldest island of Stockholm City. It is dominated by the Nobel Foundation building. This image includes a modern dance company performing. Later, we had dinner in the ground level restaurant in the third building from the left....fabulous place!)

Generally, I like to keep this blog focused on my embroidery, my artistic journey, and keep unrelated thoughts to a minimum; but this entry is going to be more. The entire trip was a beautiful mix of friendship, inspiration, textiles, and travel. There’s no easy way to separate the personal from the professional, the art from life. The written approach is traditional: in chronological order…. from a flight to Stockholm…a train ride to the city center where I was met by Annica…another train to Gävle…an hour’s ride north….and a bus ride to the symposium at the Västerbergs Folkhögskola in Storvik (a lovely boarding school in a beautiful rural area).

(Above: The area around the Västerbergs Folkhögskola in Storvik.)

Annica and I were roommates. Though we had only met that afternoon, by bedtime I felt like we were old friends…blogging is a great thing!

(Above: Tilleke Schwarz's teaching.)

Annica and I were in the same class, “Telling Your Own Story” under Tilleke Schwarz from the Netherlands. This was a design class using collage and drawing.

(Above: My collage. We created collages as a form of introduction...addressing our current work, concerns, personalities, and future plans.)

The best part of this experience was meeting other professional level stitchers like Madde and Barbro Eriksson. (This link is to a Barbro's blog post that is a mosaic of images from the symposium.) The talent in the room was awesome.

(Above: Symposium participants examine the kanthas.)

Another teacher presented an in-depth lecture on the kantha embroidery of Bangladesh. Kantha is both the stitch and the resulting work. Simple running stitches over layers of soft, recycled sari material define the work that is still being done. The enthusiasm of kantha is spreading rapidly.

(Above: Sara Lechner.)

Tilleke Schwarz also gave an interesting lecture but it was Sara Lechner’s presentation that seemed to capture everyone’s attention. Her slides documented her development as an artist. Her words spoke of future plans, ideas for development, heighten imagination, explorations through technique, and how to successfully blend hand and machine stitch with embellishing. Sara Lechner’s work has a distinctive style….and so does her incredible personality. Her stitching reads as a narrative; her story telling is funny and fascinating. I was totally honoured just to be in her presence.

One evening the entire group of embroiderers went to Wij Gardens for a private tour. This place was so much more than an award-winning garden. It was landscaping and planting infused with an artistic touch.

(These first three images are from the "Forest Garden" by
Ulf Nordfjell.)

Ulf Nordfjell’s “Forest Garden” was more like three living installations describing the uniqueness of Sweden, its rocky coastline, its bogs, and the woodlands. I would have been thrilled with just this…..but…..there was so much more.

(Above: Annica in one of the several "Experimental Fields.")

University landscape students created the experimental fields. Each section blossomed with color and creativity.

Our poor guide was losing her group as embroiderers fanned out in every direction.

(Above: Embroiderer hard at work!)

Cameras aimed at pollinating bees....

...and into tiny sheds that doubled as art installations....

....full of waxed books....sort of nostalgic and mysterious all at once.

In another section of this vast garden was a mosaic path cutting across a yard.

Even the reflections in water and glass near the endowed houses were subjects for photography.

Everything about Wij Gardens was inspiring.

The end of the evening was spent in one of the massive gardening classrooms with stitching, wine, and song.

(Above: Group project in action!)

Our final evening was spent together as a group creatively stitching. Simple felt, a dab of glue on a piece of corrugated cardboard, and a nail was put together into an interesting totem-like work of art.

(Above: Completed group project!)

Conversations mixed with laughter. The symposium was a big success and a meaningful experience on so many levels.

(Above: Self portrait! Annica, Sara, and I!)

Early the next morning, Sara, Annica, and I travelled into Stockholm. Seasoned travelers couldn’t have managed to experience this city as well if given a week. (My most sincere thanks to Annica!)

Stockholm is so clean, so pretty, and so welcoming to visit. I adore architecture and Stockholm was a visual feast. From towering modern to colorful older buildings, I was in awe. The ornamental details were wonderful too. Stockholm is a city of great beauty.

(Above and below: Interesting architectural details!)

With Annica as a personal guide, Sara and I visited two museums...full of wonderful artifacts....including intricate textiles.

We also shopped....and shopped....and shopped! It was so much fun!

(Above: Sara's youth hostel room was swimming with purchases...including a new wardrobe from Indiska. I found some gorgeous variegated yarn dyed and spun in Sweden. We all bought fashionable leggings, thread, books, and visited several Swedish folk art and design shops.)

We took in city views from various heights, rode by boat and bus, visited fine craft galleries, and sampled all sorts of wonderful food.

(Above: Sara Lechner samples some of Sweden's famous ice cream. Annica tried chocolate spiced with hot peppers! Quite unique! There were more flavors than Baskin and Robbins!)

We shopped until we just had to take a beer break in a local pub!

(Above: Our first evening's meal was spent under umbrellas on a terrace at a wonderful vegetarian restaurant. The Stockholm cityscape glowed as night approached. The view was as good as the food.)

Public art was everywhere.

In Gamla Stan there's an impressive, traditional bronze sculpture of St. George slaying the Dragon. St. George is the patron saint of the city. The patina was magnificent. Yet, bronze public art comes with a sense of humor too. From this bronze rat....

... to this unique city worker below!

My final day in Stockholm was with Annica in Skansen. (Unfortunately, Sara had to fly back to Austrian earlier in the morning.)

Loving architecture the way I do, this place was HEAVEN. From quaint, rustic cabins to formal early 18th c. manor house we explored every building.

There was a general store, a book binder, a glass blowing workshop, a working mill, a church, a greenhouse, and a unique structure that really reminded me of Baba Yaga's hut of Russian fairy-tales and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

There were log farmsteads and....

animal life that included bear cubs, wolf pups, and wild boar piglets. Yes, I saw moose and elk and reindeer too!

Many of the building had costumed docents. Some demonstrated traditional a bakery shop....a flaxen mill....

...and a metalsmith who created jewelry.

Of course, I was also on the look out for architectural details...and this accounts for dozens of images of wrought iron functional hardware.

The woodwork was incredible the "scales" on this bell tower. The paint coats had crackled into the most beautiful textures!

The various interiors were full of elements from daily life, necessities, luxuries, and folk art. Wall murals decorated some rooms while art nouveau wall paper covered others. Every little detail was historically perfect.

Folk art was everywhere and on everything. No matter which way I aimed my camera, there was something on which to focus and snap.

It was indigenous persons day in Sweden, so these northern people were performing native songs and even preparing their version of pancakes over an open fire.

The weather could not have been more perfect.

The trip could not have been more perfect. There were even fireworks on Friday night....8.08.08. All of Stockholm celebrated the once in a millennium date that just happened to be part of their telephone area code (08)!

I cannot wait to return with Steve….ah….to dream of this... return to a city as inviting and beautiful as this!

I am so grateful to Annica for sharing her world, her city, herself....

and to Sara for making every step of the way a delight....and to the entire symposium staff. The entire trip was fabulous...from country stitch to city stitch.
(Above: Annica and I reflected in an early 18th c. mirror in Skansen.)