Monday, November 30, 2009

In Box LIV and miniature heat transfer leave quilts

(Above: In Box LIV, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

While installing Blues Chapel in Texas, I had my laptop and corresponded with a couple back in Columbia. The wife had seen my "In Box Series" pieces at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios...where my studio is. The husband needs artwork for his new, corporate office. He came to look at them, but most are now at the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville. Using images on my blog, we came to an agreement for a commission which I just completed! I hope they like In Box LIV!

(Above: In Box LIV. Full view. Click on image to enlarge. For a tutorial for making this work, please click HERE.)

I also created six miniature quilts using the fabric that I made with the public while demonstrating heat activated paints and crayons at Saluda Shoals Park on October 4th at an event called Unearth, A Celebration of Naturally Inspired Art. I thought only the kids would get involved but found that EVERYONE....young and old enjoyed making crayon rubbings of the leaves. I used these images for the "positives". I used the actual leaves with heat activated painted paper to create the "resists". I don't have any photos from the day....because I was too busy ironing!

(Above: Six matted, miniature quilts made using heat activated transfer paints and crayons on polyester. I added the "center". It was made using water soluble material as a stablizer on a chiffon scarf. The leave was free motion stitched on the chiffon/stablizer; rinsed....dissolving the stablizer; and tacked on top of the fabric.)

My friend Dolly Patton is the executive director of the Saluda Shoals Foundation and spearheaded the event. I made these pieces for her to use however she can to promote the park as an arts destination....maybe as special gifts for major sponsors. The public and I actually made four pieces of material. Above are the other three....also going to Dolly in order for her to use anyway she can!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Blues Chapel makes the Denton newspaper!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 , Updated

Artist honors blues singers in Denton exhibition

by Morgan Walker of North Texas Daily

Susan Lenz, a fiber and mixed media artist, installed her latest work “Blues Chapel” on Sunday at the Gough Gallery in the Denton Center for Visual Arts.

Students interested in learning the art of mixed media now have an opportunity while listening to the soulful sounds of early female blues singers.

Susan Lenz, an artist from Columbia, S.C., installed her latest work “Blues Chapel” on Sunday at the Gough Gallery in the Denton Center for the Visual Arts.

“Tapestry in Blue,” a mixed media quilt, honors 24 early female blues singers and inspired Lenz to create the larger installation, “Blues Chapel.”

“These early female blues singers lived in a male-dominated culture in the segregated South, primarily,” Lenz said.

The chapel honors singers such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and Bessie Smith.

Lenz said she wanted to depict these women as if they were martyred saints because they put the woes in their life into their lyrics and were passionate about music.

When she started to make art, Lenz said her mentor told her to enter juried shows, which provide artists the opportunity to submit their work to a qualified juror who then decides whether to do a show featuring that artist’s work.

“You get more rejects than acceptances,” Lenz said.

The best juried shows have well-respected jurors from beyond the local area who produce catalogs, Lenz added.

Lenz said she came to Denton because of Materials: Hard and Soft, a show the Center for Visual Arts puts on every year.

“Two years ago I got one piece in and last year I got two pieces in and got awarded with a catalog and it was so exciting,” Lenz said.

Deb Dyer, associate director of the center, said she loved the idea of the “Blues Chapel” from the moment she saw Lenz’s work on a disc.

“I wanted something that gave another dimension to fiber art besides just patchwork quilts,” Dyer said.

It has a much stronger statement than paintings hanging on a wall, Dyer added.

Lenz created an environment for “Blues Chapel” by placing church pews in the center of the gallery with her work surrounding the room while soulful music plays.

“It’s not painting a single piece, it’s something that sort of builds and when you create that environment it becomes multidimensional,” Dyer said.

Lenz said when the installation was first created in 2006, three of the women she included in her piece were still alive but Ruth Brown and Anita O’Day died in November 2006 and Koko Taylor died in June 2009.

“I wanted a way to pay tribute and respect to people that paved the way for the world to be a better place,” Lenz said.

“Blues Chapel” will be at the Gough Gallery until Jan. 8.

For more information call the Center for Visual Arts at 940-382-2787.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blues Chapel at the Greater Denton Arts Center, TEXAS!

(Above: Blues Chapel in the Gough Gallery at the Greater Denton Arts Council, Denton, TX. Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

It is my distinct honor to have Blues Chapel on display at the Greater Denton Arts Council in Denton, TX through January 6, 2010. I've looked forward to this experience for months...and it lived up to and well beyond my wildest dreams. It's said that "everything is BIGGER in Texas"....well, I don't know about the size of things but the quality of everything is definitely BETTER!

Steve and I drove a Penske rental truck loaded with artwork and arrived at the gallery around 10:30 AM last Wednesday. The staff and volunteers were waiting to help unload and install! They were amazing and helped in more ways than I dared imagine. (THANK YOU!) Within no time at all, we were hanging pictures on the wall, placing votive candles around the music stand, and putting the faux-church bulletins and fans on the pews.

(Above and below are images of the installation in progress. The volunteers worked tirelessly. I couldn't have done it without them and the talented staff!)

The Gough Gallery is a perfect setting for my work. The high ceilings and smooth floor immediately took on the atmosphere of a church-like place. The lighting was even more amazing. There were three spot lights for three of the faux-stained glass pieces. The other three were hung on the adjacent wall...creating a total feel of sacred ground.

On the opposite side of the gallery, I positioned the Altar for Forgiveness. The gallery provided the pedestals for the Plexi-glass box and signage.

Before the afternoon was over, everything was in place....

...from the signage on the entrance doors.... the exterior signage outside the building.

The exhibition looks wonderful. Below are some of the photos I took.

I can't say enough about the people and town of Denton! While there, I gave two presentations. One was for the museum docents. They were so interested in every part of Blues Chapel and were carefully preparing to take the county's fourth graders through the exhibition. They asked some of the most intelligent and relevant questions, including "What would you like for your work to impress upon fourth graders?" (Answer: Creating art doesn't necessarily require drawing skills.....and that embroidery doesn't necessarily need to be painstaking, perfect, or counted!)

This photo was taken of me with two new friends: Connie Akers and Amanda Johnson. The other presentation was for the public/area fiber artists. There's nothing quite like being surrounded by like-minded stitchers! Amanda wrote about the "openness and encouraging spirit" of this past weekend. Believe me, I felt it too!

The photo above was taken on Denton's town square. Dominated by the late 19th c. courthouse, the square is surrounded by independent businesses (except only one store!) including a Beth Marie's Old Fashion Ice Cream parlor, an enormous used book and record shop, Recycled Books, in the former opera house, and Jupiter House Coffee....where all the town's important wheeling and dealing takes place over great java....and, evidently the freshly squeezed wheat grass!

(Generally, I'm adventuresome....but, no, I didn't sample this! The nice girl behind the counter promised a clear complexion. Fortunately, I don't have to worry about this!)

Denton also provided another interesting graveyard for epitaphs. Until visiting Oakwood Cemetery, I'd never seen a tombstone listing the date for EXECUTION! Still, the ones for infants will always be the most touching....even if the baby never got a name.

All in all, the trip was wonderful. The installation went so smoothly and the exhibition looks great. Everyone was friendly and my only hope is that the art will touch many. It's on view through January 6, 2010. Then, Steve and I will return with the Penske rental truck....and see our new friends again.

By the way....even the graffiti in Denton is charming. The only spray painted symbol I saw was a heart.....a heart in Texas! How perfect!

Update on Recycled Felt!

(Above: Connie Akers with the purse she lined with recycled black felt!)

The black felt I use for my Grave Rubbing Art Quilt series is recycled from the River Runner, a kayak and canoe shop here in Columbia. Believe it or not, these outdoor boats are shipped to suppliers wrapped in felt. Generally, the felt is simply thrown out, but River Runner's owner, Guy Jones, saves all the felt for me. Recently I had more than I could handle and mailed it away. Five went to people outside the USA (my limit!). I still have more to mail to people inside the USA.

(To see the original blog post about this, click HERE!)

While in Texas, I met one of the wonderful ladies that had already received some of the black recycled felt. That's Connie Akers, above, showing how she used the felt to line a cute purse. Below are postcards I received from Carole Kokinis in England and Margeeth....who also sent the fantastic buttons. She's in the Netherlands. These postcards were most unexpected. I only asked that a postcards be sent to Guy Jones at the River Runner, 905 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC 29201! Guy didn't know anything about this until postcards started coming. He and his wife have promised to find a time when I can photograph them with their new treasures....which THEY LOVE! Thanks to everyone who sent a postcard to Guy!


I'm catching up! Why? Because my blogging is SO FAR BEHIND! Steve and I just returned from a glorious experience installing Blues Chapel at the Greater Denton Arts Council.....and I haven't even posted about our trip to Oregon over Halloween weekend!

So.....the full OREGON POST is on "My Family Blog". Click HERE to access all the wonderful photos taken on the sand dunes, in the tree house, at Crater Lake, and during a great vacation...which, of course, included visits to two cemeteries! (My artistic passions go with me everywhere!)

Along with this post, I uploaded four videos....just a few seconds each!

Click HERE for the Oregon Sand Dunes
Click HERE for the Rope Bridge at the Out 'n' About Treesort
Click HERE for me trying the rope swing
Click HERE for Crater Lake!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


(Above: The final chapter of my recent The Artist's Way group....going around the table from the front left to the front right....Margaret Nevell, Kristine Hartvigsen, Kim Bendillo, me, Gita Larson, Kay Reardon, Regan Regan, Dolly Patton, and Doni Jordan....only one person was missing!)

This past week has been a whirlwind of activity. Steve and I are almost ready for tomorrow morning when we pick up the 12' long Penske rental truck, load Blues Chapel, and head out to Denton, TX! Blues Chapel will be installed on Friday. I'll give a "talk" to the museum docents and then a Power Point presentation to the area fiber artists/public on Saturday. The opening reception is on Sunday. Then we head back to Columbia. (I'll have blog updates! Quite exciting!)

While we're gone, the annual fall kick-off to the holiday season, Vista Lights, will take place. Every year the downtown galleries and retail businesses stay open late, throw art receptions, and light the big, outdoor Christmas tree. Gervais Street, the "main drag", is shut for pedestrian traffic and Gallery 80808/Vista Studios (where my studio is located) is crowded with people from 5 - 10. The thirteen artist with studios at Gallery 80808/Vista Studio mount a group show. I have five pieces from my Decision Portrait Series in the show (below). Dolly Patton and Margaret Nevell, two of my friends who just complete the Julia Cameron's 12-week The Artist's Way art adventure with me, is manning my studio.

(Above: Solidarity. Decision Portrait Series. 31" x 25", framed. Words: I shave my head to support those with breast cancer. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin, assorted threads, ribbon, beads. Hand stitched and beaded. Click on image to enlarge. )

Mentioning The Artist's Way, I recently facilitated a group and we just finished the final chapter yesterday evening. This is my second time through the book. The first time was MIRACULOUS! Through the process, I learned to claim my artistic dreams, believe in myself, and start to live everyday as an ARTIST! It changed my life. This new experience has been much more subtle but equally significant. I recommend the book most highly.....not to "read" but to "live". I wouldn't have believed that I could come so far in just the past five years....but I have....and I'm going further! Thank you Julia Cameron!

(Above: Recycler. Decision Portrait Series. 31" x 25", framed. Words: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; Think Green. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin, recycled soda tabs, beads, clipped magazine letters. Hand stitched and beaded. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Patriot, Decision Portrait Series. Framed, 31" x 25". Xylene photo transfer on tea stained muslin. Hand beaded and stitched. Stitched words: I decided to serve my country. Marine LCpl. Born July 26, 1984. Entered Jan. 12, 2004. Killed in Action Mar. 14, 2005. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Muslim, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: I Forgive Those Who Look at Me with Hate. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand beaded and stitched. 31" x 25", framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Living with HIV, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: Didn't always practice safe sex. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. 25" x 19", unframed. 31" x 25", framed. Hand beaded and stitched. Click on image to enlarge.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Working Like Crazy!

(Above: Transported Soul, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt Series. 14" x 19 1/2". Crayon on silk collaged with vintage doily onto severely light damaged, recycled curtain. Vintage and buttons. Hand and free motion embroidered. Click on image to enlarge.)

I'm behind....pure and simple. With less than two weeks until my husband Steve and I pack up the rental truck and drive Blues Chapel to the Greater Denton Arts Council for my solo show, my "to do" list is incredibly long...and growing no matter how many items are ticked off! I haven't posted about our incredible trip to Oregon...the sand dunes, the rocky coast line, Crater Lake, the Oregon National Caves, and a night in a tree house. I promise; it's coming!

(Above: Transported Soul, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt Series. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

In the meantime, I have been working. The one thing that absolutely CANNOT be put onto the "back burner" is time to stitch every day! The only way to submit for juried shows, mount exhibitions, have gallery representation, and live as an "artist" is to continue MAKING MORE WORK. So, even when I can't find time to blog about it, I'm still up to my elbows in creativity.

(Above: Transported Soul, reverse. Click on image to enlarge.)

Recently I finished two small additions to the Grave Rubbing Art Quilts Series. The one above includes some of the beautiful, carnival glass like buttons purchased in the Czech Republic and some of the linen thread came from Mickey Smith formerly of Claremont, CA....whose granddaughter inherited her "stash" and passed most of it on to lucky me! The title was selected from the list complied for an earlier Grave Rubbing Quilt. Lee Monts, a talented painted, suggested it on Facebook. Thank you Lee!

(Above: Weep Not For Me, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt. 21 1/4" x 16 1/4". Crayon on silk collage with vintage linens and doily on a scrap of material acquired at a local household auction. Vintage and new buttons, including what might actually be "horn" from Austria and also "buckle" like plastic/celluloid notions. Hand and free motion embroidered. Click on image to enlarge.)

This piece includes several button-like embellishments purchased in Austria. I'm not sure, but the larger ones might actually be bone. They are not alike in size, texture or color. I'm also not sure what, exactly, the ones on the edges were intended to be. They resemble "buckles". If anyone know, please inform me!

(Above: Weep Not For Me, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

One of the important things on which I'm putting "finishing touches" is a Power Point presentation about my work, working with a theme, and presentation as a driving creative force. I'm giving it in Denton on Saturday, November 21 at 2 PM. I've already been in contact with a few fiber enthusiasts from the area and am eager to meet them.....and anyone else!

(Above: Weep Not For Me, reverse. Click on image to enlarge.)

Even as the show in Texas grows closer, I'm acutely aware that my show in February at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios is also approaching....and fast! Thus, my Decision Portrait Series is sort of on "hold"....out of necessity....though I've recently transferred three new portraits to tea-stained muslin and am ALWAYS on the lookout for new decision on which to focus. I'll be returning to this work by February at the very latest. So, now, I'm working every day on the grave rubbing quilts, the installation if hanging epitaphs, the Angels in Mourning Series.....and still collecting artificial flowers from the dumpsters of local cemeteries (NEVER from the graves directly). Thank goodness I have a wonderfully understanding and supportive husband! Below is a photo of our guest bathroom earlier should have seen the mess on the living room floor where I dissected all these blossoms before laundering.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


(Above: Father and Mother, Grave Rubbing Quilt. 29" x 30". Crayon on silk rubbings. Vintage drawn work linen. Silk. Hand and free-motion machine embroidery. Click on image to enlarge.)

Over the past Halloween weekend my husband Steve and I went to Oregon for a magical time....exploring the sand dunes, rocky coastline, the caves, Crater Lake, and lots of wilderness trails. We sampled microbrews and skate (yes...I ate part of a "sting ray!"). One night we were in the Crown Plaza presidential suite; one night in a rustic seaside cabin with a fireplace; one night in a treehouse called the Peacock Roost....30 feet above ground. Photos are coming.

In the meantime, I received an email confirming the acceptance of Father and Mother into the prestigious ArtQuilt Elements 2010 international juried show in the Wayne Art Center outside Philadelphia, PA! This is my first truly "international" show! The list of accepted work is HERE. I'm over the moon about this!