Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas vacation in the studio

(Above: Window XXII. Unframed 11" x 9"; Framed 17 3/4" x 15 3/4". Click on image to enlarge.)

This is the first Christmas that Steve and I have spent by ourselves. Our elder son, Mathias, stayed in Great Britain, visiting his girlfriend's family. Although our estranged child Alex did manage to visit briefly and there were several great telephone conversations with other family members, Steve and I had a fantastic few days alone. It was like a wonderful, quiet Christmas vacation. I went to my studio ... the place on earth I enjoy the most. It was peaceful and perfect. I was productive and happy. We will be heading north on Wednesday to spend a long New Year's Eve weekend with my parents in Slippery Rock. We are going to the "Silvester" celebration in Harmony, PA. (That's the German name for New Year's Eve!)'s what was accomplished in the past few days...when I have nothing but glorious, uninterrupted time for art!

(Above: Lancet Window II. Unframed 28" x 8"; Framed 31 1/2" x 11 1/2". Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Lancet Window III. Unframed 28" x 8"; Framed 31 1/2" x 11 1/2". Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Lancet Window IV. Unframed 28" x 8"; Framed 31 1/2" x 11 1/2". Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Lancet Window V. Unframed 28" x 8"; Framed 31 1/2" x 11 1/2". Click on image to enlarge.)

So....This is a new size for my faux-stained glass fiber pieces. It was a size sort of suggested by my mother for a special location in her log cabin home .... between two story high windows overlooking her lake. That's why Lancet Window I isn't posted. It's her Christmas gift. She knows it is coming .... but she'll have to wait to see it in person! I'll post images later.

A lancet window is, according to an on-line dictionary: a tall narrow window with a pointed arch at its top. It acquired the "lancet" name from its resemblance to a lance. Instances of this architectural motif are most often found in Gothic and ecclesiastical structures, where they are often placed singularly or in pairs.

(Above: Window XXIII. Unframed 11" x 9"; Framed 17 3/4" x 15 3/4". Click on image to enlarge.)

I also finished Window XXII (first photo in this post) and XXIII. With all this work, I've run out of several supplies including 100% black cotton quilting thread and Wonder Under, especially the "previously painted" Wonder Under (also known as Bond-a-Web). So, I've been shopping and painting!

(Above: Yards of painted Wonder Under on the hallway floor just outside my studio door on a perfectly quiet Christmas Day!)

I've been thinking about New Year's Resolutions too but haven't quite settled on which one(s) to concentrate!

Thursday, December 23, 2010


(Above: My friend Ashleigh, my third cat Max, and I last November wearing the artificial cemetery floral garments for our entry photo shot. Click on image to enlarge.)

Both my Cemetery Flower Dress and Cemetery Leaf Dress were accepted into the Wearable Arts Award performances and exhibition at the Port Moody Art Centre in British Columbia! For a fiber artist who generally creates NOTHING that is functional in any form, this is BIG NEWS! I hadn't made anything "useful" in well over two decades. Now two dresses are going down the catwalk in another country! To celebrate, Steve used our "companion ticket" (basically, buy a flight and get the second seat FREE) to book airline reservations for us to attend the fashion show in February. We're going to Seattle and renting a car .... looking at scenery, stitching during the ride, and seeing a high class, recycled fashion show! I'm SO EXCITED!

To see how I created these wash-and-wear, recycled dresses made of artificial cemetery flowers/leaves collected from dumpsters, CLICK HERE. They were stitched on a water soluble, adhesive coated stabilizer. Then, the stabilizer was rinsed away .... leaving only the thread and the flowers/leaves.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Four New "Windows"

(Above: Window XVIII. Framed 17 3/4" x 15 3/4". Click on image to enlarge.)

I've tried hard to prevent the busy holiday season from intruding on my personal studio time. It isn't easy but I've managed. As a result, I've got four new "Windows" to share!

(Above: Window XIX. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Window XX. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Window XXI. Click on image to enlarge.)

I've also decided to try a new size .... long and skinny. The measurements will be approximate 28" long by 8 " in width. The Edelweiss colored linen mat board on which each will be stitched will be 30" x 10". I can get four pieces mounted from a single sheet of mat board. It is financially important to maximize my framing materials ... but it also feels good not to be wasting anything. The first one is nearly finished so there will be photos coming soon! These will be called "Lancet Windows". According to Wikipedia, the definition of a lancet window is: "a tall narrow window with a pointed arch at its top. It acquired the "lancet" name from its resemblance to a lance."

(Above: Window XVIII framed and hanging on the wall here at Mouse House. Click on image to enlarge.)

With the mention of "framing", here's a photo of Window XVIII in its frame. It is stitched to the very palest "sea grass" green mat board ... which is likely just a green tinted off white ... with a matching silk liner and a dark frame with a distressed silver lip. The glass is between the liner and the frame ... which holds the glass away from the artwork. Now ... back to work!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stained Glass XXVI and Ancestors

(Above: Ancestors, detail. Wooden spools, painted, wrapped, and stitched with thumbnail images from vintage family and assorted found photographs. Click on image to enlarge.)

It's holiday framing season even at a severely downsized Mouse House, Inc. ... the business I have with my husband Steve. I haven't done a thing with the amazing photos from our long weekend in Seattle, but I will soon ... maybe on Christmas day! In the meantime, I've been framing various 2D gifts and earning the money for future travel. (I'm not really complaining....ten years ago I would have been spending every waking hour at my mat cutter ... from before Halloween until Christmas eve!)

(Above: Me with two of the kittens!)

We've also been very busy with a litter of kittens and the feral mama cat who deposited her family in the shed attached to our garage. My mentor Stephen Chesley has talents beyond painting. He's an expert cat catcher ... has his own cat trap and a pair of heavy welding gloves. He caught the kittens by hand. Mama Cat was in the trap by the next morning. I took her to our veterinarian, Shawn Verbrick at The Cat Clinic. $232 later, Mama was spayed, given rabies shots, tested for feline leukemia and then released. She's more than capable of survival in our neighborhood; we've seen her on an off for over two years. She can now hunt squirrels without the worry of another pregnancy. Yet, we still had three kittens ... until posting them on Facebook. The amazing power of the Internet found loving homes for all three.

(The little black and white kitten's photo for Facebook!)

My blogging and correspondence time has suffered through all these activities ... but I refuse to cut into my studio time. Therefore, I can share Stained Glass XXVI and Ancestors.

(Above: Stained Glass XXVI. Polyester stretch velvets, previously painted heat activated adhesive/Wonder Under, metallic foiling, chiffon scarves, free motion machine embroidery using 100% black cotton quilting thread, melting. Unframed: 58" x 18"; Framed: 64 1/2" x 24 1/2". Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Top of Stained Glass XXVI. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Middle portion of Stained Glass XXVI. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Bottom of Stained Glass XXVI. Click on image to enlarge.)

Scale is often a difficult thing to visualize when surfing the web. Sure, I post dimensions ... frequently "framed" and "unframed" ... but sometimes a photo with something for "reference", like our cat Shadow, is helpful. These three pieces are stitched to over-sized linen mat board and already in black linen liners. They will soon be put into frames with Plexi-Glas between the liner and the moulding ... which will bring them to the 64 1/2" x 24 1/2" total size.

(Above: Ancestors with fiber vessel. Click on image to enlarge.)

Most evenings I stitch by hand while Steve watches television. (I'm supposedly watching too but I often can't even remember what was showing!) Recently I've been stitching into the yarn wound around the sanded and painted wooden spools created a week or so ago. Each one includes a thumbnail image from a vintage family or collected photograph. I took photos with and without the fiber vessel. I'm not sure which is "better" or "why". Vessels are created after zigzagging several strands of old yarn together and then zigzagging the cord into a three dimensional form. It is very meditative to do!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Back from Seattle....and Ephemera

(Above: Ephemera I. Mixed media: collage of wooden spool labels on a page from Tableaux du Temple des Muses (date....1655 !) with a late 19th c./early 20th c. cigar silk and free motion machine embroidery. Paper size: 13 3/8" x 8 3/4"; Matted size: 20" x 16". Click on image to enlarge.)

We're back from a WONDERFUL long weekend under crystal clear skies in Seattle! We watched the new Harry Potter movie on the IMAX screen, enjoyed the Stowell/Sendak "Nutcracker" by Pacific Northwest Ballet, rode the nearly fifty year old monorail, ate in the 1962 World's Fair Space Needle's revolving restaurant, made monoprints in the Bellevue Art Museum (in addition to seeing some of the best fine crafts in one of the best spaces in the USA), loved the Seattle Museum of Art and the sculpture park, and wandered through the galleries and studios near Pioneer Square for the monthly "First Thursday" art crawl. I'll be posting photos and more details later.

Before I left, Ephemera I was complete....just not matted, mounted, and photographed. It is the result of a combination of influences that occupied my studio.

First, I was in the process of started a project called Ancestors. One hundred and eighty-six or so wooden spools are involved. The first step was to remove the paper labels and sand the ends for painting. Most of the labels crumbled away, but some came off in tact. They were sitting together in a little pile.

Second, I was rummaging through vintage and antique images in order to create a wooden Nutcracker for Columbia City Ballet. I happened to find a stack of pages from a mid-seventeenth century book we once owned. Well, that's not entirely true. We never really had the entire book, just a section of it in a new binding. Some of the pages were missing. Some of the engravings were also missing. We framed and sold the remaining images. I turned most of the volume into a altered sketch book that I used during the one-week artist residency on Pritchard's Island in 2003. On other pages I applied a coat of gesso to one side. These were the pages I found. On one page I decided to collage the spool labels. I fused fabric to the gessoed reverse using my large vacuum-mount press. (Yes, it is good to own a frame shop!) Then I free motion stitched on the page and added the cigar silk that was also uncovered during the hunt for Nutcracker images.

This piece was fast and fun. I'm planning on doing more...because it was fast and fun! The title Ephemera refers to the transitory and diverse nature of so many paper labels, advertisements, and books with missing pages.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Nutcracker and my work on USAToday Travel website

I'm thrilled to see Window XIV featured on an article called "Marriott's SpringHill Suites Chain Wants Hotels to Double as Art Galleries" by Barbara De Lollis. The article is HERE. The art sale is this Friday night....but I'll be in Seattle. Steve and I fly out tomorrow morning for a long weekend!

The plywood Nutcracker has been transformed into "THE NUTCRACKER IN 1893". (Click on any image to enlarge.) This is a mixed media collage of antique and vintage images that illustrate all the scenes from the Nutcracker Ballet. I tried to use pictures that dated as close to the 1893 premiere as possible....but some are twenty years early and others are 32 years later....but close enough! The work is to be used in a fund-raiser for Columbia City Ballet.

(Above: Detail of the shield.)

Even the base is done in chromolithographs of textile designs, dated 1883. I added buttons....including over a dozen vintage black glass ones from the Czech Republic for his beard!

(Above: Detail of the vintage glass buttons from the Czech Republic.)

On the back is the following full-sheet label and my signature:

The Nutcracker in 1893

Mixed Media Collage by Susan Lenz

The great French born Marius Petipa and his successor Lev Ivanov created the two-act Nutcracker Ballet as an adaption of E. T. A. Hoffman’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”. It was premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on December 18, 1892 and set to the original score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Columbia artist Susan Lenz first saw the Nutcracker at the Township Auditorium in Columbia, South Carolina during Thanksgiving weekend 1987. William Starrett, a guest dancer performing the Sugar Plum Cavalier, partnered rising star Mariclare Miranda. Susan was pregnant with her first, Mathias Lenz Dingman, now a first-artist with Birmingham Royal Ballet who has danced Nutcracker roles as Jack-in-the-Box, rat, Spanish, Clara’s Act One cadet partner, Russian, and others. Mathias has also danced the role of Sugar Plum Cavalier at the Township Auditorium with Carolina Ballet (2005). Thus, creating this Nutcracker has been an opportunity for Susan Lenz to reflect on the ballet, her personal association with the local company, and the traditions of dance carried through generations of performers. A mixed media collage of vintage images dating as close to 1893 became Susan’s concept for the piece. Below is a selected list of sources for the vintage and antique images used.

Dance and Dancers of Today, 1912 by Charles Henry and Carolina Chaffin. (The photos used include: Anna Pavlowa; Adeline Genée in her Butterfly Dance; Lydia Lopoukowa in the dance-drama Shéhérazade; Rita Sacchetto in her Spanish Dance: Adeline Genée in her Empire Dance; Ruth St. Denis in the Nautch Dance; Mlle. Katarina Geltzer of the Russian Imperial Ballet; and Adeline Genée in the Silver Star.)

Art and Architecture, World’s Columbia Exposition by George Barre, 1894-95

Handbook to Paris and Its Environs by Thomas Carlyle, 1893.

Auguste Racinet’s Le Costume Historique, 1876-88. (Edition used was published in 1880. Images used include costume chromolithographs from India, Spain, and Russia)

Little Pictures of Japan, edited by Olive Beaupré Miller and illustrated by Katharine Stuges, 1925

Nursery Friends from France, translated by Olive Beaupré Miller and illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham, 1925

Tales Told in Holland, edited by Olive Beaupré an dillustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham, 1926.

Ornamente der Gewebe (Ornamental Tapestries) with chromolithographs by Friedrick Fischbach, 1883.

Animate Creation, 1894 with chromolithographs by Selmar Hess

Buffon’s Historie Naturelle, ca. 1840.

And assorted other 19th century engravings and lithographs.