Monday, February 28, 2011

Recycled Bride in progress...and a trip to watch our son FLY!

(Above: Memory, a miniature Grave Rubbing Art Quilt. 11 3/4" x 11 1/2". Crayon on silk grave rubbings collaged on a vintage handkerchief with bits of crochet. Hand and free motion machine embroidery. Click on image to enlarge.)

Steve and I love to travel....and we sure have been going places recently! Only a week after our trip to Washington State and Port Moody, we are now off to Birmingham, England to watch our elder son Mathias as Alain in Birmingham Royal Ballet's production of La Fille Mal Gardee. It's a "principal part", and we've been told that he's wired for FLYING! It's quite exciting!

Well, I always have a stitching project with planes, trains, bus rides, or on long car trips. I took the small piece above on the last trip....and did all the handwork over the weekend. It is going to the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) annual benefit auction. I've never participated in this event...but have only heard wonderful things about it.

(Above: Memory, reverse. Vintage damask napkin and doily. Click on image to enlarge.)

During the past week I worked on my Runaway Runway recycled fashion show garments. I have entered three designs: a bride, a bridesmaid, and a flower girl.'s the bridal crinoline made from plastic bags. The bags are really, really big. They come when we order mat boards here at Mouse House! (My "day" job is custom picture framing with my husband.) They've all been gathered and stitched together by hand. The only "non-recycled" thing is a piece of 1" heavy-duty elastic. The paper napkin skirt is laying on the table in the background. (All images can be enlarged!)

The bodice is entirely created on Mokuba adhesive coated water soluble stabilizer (often marketed for creating "free lace" scarves). First, I place a layer of artificial flowers on the adhesive coating....completely covering the surface. Then, I stitch a grid....effectively "attaching" all the flowers into a material/fabric/ground. Third, I free motion stitch more artificial flowers to the surface. Finally, the stabilizer is rinsed away....leaving a garment entirely made of artificial flowers and thread. I did this last year when creating my artificial and Flower Dress and Leaf Dress. I wrote about it HERE. The bodice laces up the back....with a cord made from assorted yarns and twine.

Every bride must have jewelry! A "recycled bride" must have "recycled jewelry" an interesting necklace and matching bracelet. Fortunately, a recent framing client wanted us to completely re-frame a piece bought over the Internet. It came with a double length of tuflon plastic coated stainless steel wire....the really expensive kind that I don't buy! I saved it, curled it, attached lots of plastic dairy seals and sheer ribbon.

The ribbon came in a "table lot" from Bill Mishoes' estate sale....someone's collection of used craft supplies.

I couldn't have created these pieces without help from Michelle Goldsmith in New Hampshire. She read my need for the dairy container seals and mailed the envelop above! THANK YOU MICHELLE!

A local friend, Margaret Carter, donated an old lamp shade covered in beautiful silk. My friend Jeff Donovan donated the handle. It came off a large plastic bucket of aquarium supplies. Jeff's neighbor is in this business and throws out the buckets regularly....hence....recycled! Of course, I stitched more of the artificial cemetery flowers to the edge. Thankfully, I had help sorting all the cemetery flowers....removing all the white ones from the eight trash bags I currently have.

Yet, I was able to find enough "white" flowers in the cemetery dumpsters to create a bouquet. This meant a return trip to the graveyard....because I ordinarily "dissect" all the flowers, throw out the wires and plastic, and wash the fabric. Please note, I NEVER take flowers from the graves....only the dumpsters. Every blossom was headed to a landfill before I took it!

The ribbon on this bouquet was made by cutting up a large plastic bag from JoAnn's Fabric Shop. So....tomorrow we've off again to England....with another project in hand and silk in the suitcase. I'm lucky enough to be going to Nottingham...where there are the most wonderful tombstones of slate. The miniature quilt above had rubbings made in Nottingham last year! I can't wait!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Weekend in Washington State and Port Moody, BC

(Photo from La Push on the coast of Washington State and very near Forks, WA...where the program "Twilight" is filmed...but we didn't see any of the "vampires"!)

Last weekend Steve and I flew out to Seattle, took a rental car to the Olympic peninsula, and went to the Wearable Arts Awards fashion show of recycled materials. The weather was picture perfect. The trails were well marked and easy. The rocky coast line included expanses of sand, sea tumbled rocks, and even a sea gull skull (which, of course, I took home!) Bald eagles soared overhead during the day. The night time ferry ride from Port Townsend was lit by a big, clear, full moon. The entire trip was a wonderful experience in the wild beauty of nature.

(Above: La Conner Quilt Museum. Click on image to enlarge.)

We also went to the La Conner Quilt Museum. Situated on the top of a hill, the old Gaches Mansion now houses three stories of exhibition space. The ground floor is refurbished with late Victorian furniture, wall paper, and period accessories. It showcases work from the permanent collection....which, at the time, were CRAZY QUILTS! I love crazy quilts and photography was allowed on this level. (I took several more images and posted them HERE!

(Above: Detail from a late 19th century crazy quilt at the La Conner Quilt Museum. Click on image to enlarge.)

The upper two levels were exhibiting embroideries by Marjorie Bachert, Sandra Little, Maura Donegan and Lisa Harkins. These women all hold a London City & Guilds Diploma in Research, Design and Embroidery from the Gail Harker Creative Studies Center. The work was diverse, exceedingly well crafted, and beautifully presented.

(Above: The Leaf Dress at Wearable Arts Awards 2011.)

The main reason for this trip, however, was to attend the Wearable Arts Awards fashion show of recycled materials in Port Moody, British Columbia. Two of my garments, The Leaf Dress and The Flower Dress, had been accepted into this international show. I thought we'd come a long way to attend...but there were other artists there from the United States and also addition to many from all over Canada. Dancers wore the accepted fashions on a red carpet runway. Original choreography and carefully selected music complimented each grouping of four or five outfits. Thus, my floral creation appeared with other, new age or hippie inspired dresses and while "The Age of Aquarius" filled the air. It was so much fun. Plus.....I WON FIRST PLACE in the category called "Second Life", basically the "recycling award"!

(Above: The Flower Dress at Wearable Arts Awards 2011.)

Of course, taking photos of moving dancers from several feet night....with a spotlight following the model...without flash....resulted in very, very blurry photos. These two were the "best" I could manage. To see these dresses better, click HERE! At the same time as this fashion show was taking place...but on the other side of the continent, I was being honored with another award! Window I won the Niche Award in the category of decorative fibers at the Buyers Market of American Craft in the Philadelphia Convention Center! I'd love to say that "I'm thrilled".... but, in truth, these two awards are so awesome that's I'm really just "stunned"!

(Above: Steve on Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point in the continental United States.)

On our return to Seattle we went to the Bellevue Art Museum to see "The Mysterious Content of Softness", an exhibition featuring the work of eleven international and very contemporary fiber artists. It was an excellent show full of thought provoking concepts.

Lastly, I've only got a couple days in which to spend in my studio because we are headed to Birmingham, England to see Mathias dance in La Fille Mal Gardee. He's second cast in the role of Alain....a plum part in which he'll be wired for "flying"! I can't wait!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Personal Grounds, Salisbury's Waterworks Visual Arts Center

Yesterday was INSTALLATION DAY at Waterworks Visual Arts Center, an art museum in Salisbury, North Carolina. Everything went smoothly....from picking up the Penske rental truck, collecting the four doors from storage at the Tapps Center for the Arts, loading the artwork back at Mouse House, driving to the location, unloading.....and finally hanging all the work.

(Above: Entrance from central hallway into the Osbourne Gallery at Waterworks Visual Arts Center. Click on image to enlarge.)

Unfortunately, the photos aren't the best. This is due to the fact that I'm using my "old camera".....the one with which I rolled down a giant sand dune in Oregon. Sand in the shutters eliminates fine focus capabilities. My newer camera has been sent for repairs at the Canon location in Newport News, VA. I miss it! Hopefully, it will be returned soon. Thankfully, I also have Steve's camera....and even older model that replaced the camera I broke four years ago in California by slamming the rental car door on my coat pocket! I'm hard on cameras and other small devices. (My cell phone no longer has a back cover....moped accident!)

These images can, however, be clicked upon for enlargement in order to see the exhibition. It's called "Personal Grounds", just like my show last fall in Charleston. (Blog post for this show is HERE.) The statement for the show is:

Personal Grounds is a location in life determined by the doors opened, the keys turned and the decisions made.

This exhibit in Salisbury includes only a selection of the Decision Portraits, less than a third of the finished work. Yet, the balance between the "doors", "keys", and "decisions" is much, much better and clearer. One of the reasons for this is the fact that I included a variation of the statement as a piece of machine embroidery on Peltex. It is display in an old-fashioned typewriter. (This is only the second time I've ever programed my Berina 1630 to "write" words. I usually only "free motion" text!)

Also, I was able to draw attention to the "keys" by suspending them on #4 fishing line hung from a ceiling mounted grid. My studio assistant Olivia helped tie all the monofilament to the grid last Sunday. Thus, I only had to tie the keys to the other end of each thin line....saving lots of time!

They look GREAT and the fishing line is so thin as to be nearly invisible! My husband Steve made the wooden and chicken wire grid....and painted it white to match the ceiling.

The last thing I did before leaving the museum was to touch up all the frames. They are all intentionally "crackled" with white match the four old doors covered with tagged keys (framed and unframed)....and easy to "touch up".

The rest of the photos show other angles in the two spaces: The Osbourne and the Woodson Galleries. The long, curved wall links the two areas. The public reception is on Friday, February 25 from 6 - 8. I'll be taking more photos....maybe with my repaired camera if it has been returned by then! My fingers are crossed!

The portraits included in this exhibition:

Bald is Beautiful
Behind in the Mortgage
Boomerang Child
Broken Nest
Cold Turkey
College Student
Dealing With Alzheimer's
Death Wish
Drag Queen
Fighting Illiteracy
First Love
Graffiti Artist
Happy Family
Hitch Hiker
Leukemia Decision
Mackenzie at 15
Mother's Milk
On Making Decisions, Learning Disabled
Organic Farmers
Overcoming Ovarian Caner
Pro Choice
Public Servant
Pulling the Plug
Self Portrait
Sister Support
Someone Else's Miracle
Soul Mates
Tattoo Artist

Later during the week the staff at the Waterworks Visual Arts Center will be installing "wall text" in the space above. The pedestal will remain where it is place beneath this "signage". On it sits another "book" that includes all 107 Decision Portraits....along with edited blog posts/stories about each piece. In a sense, all the work is least in the book!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Busy, busy, in progress!

(Above: The top of Charles Otis' gravestone at the Unitarian Churchyard, Charleston, SC. Click on image to enlarge.)

I haven't post for an entire week! Yet, it isn't a sign of laziness; it is a sign of being BUSY! I've got several projects going on at once and couldn't be happier about it!

First, I got permission to make a grave rubbing at the Unitarian Churchyard in downtown Charleston! All the historic cemeteries are clearly marked with rules banning grave rubbings. While some have said, "Susan, you could manage it and not get caught", I would never break such a posted regulation. There's something very, very wrong about capturing the word "sacred" with crayon on fabric after reading the rules. Besides, God would see! I know there are people who think that TOUCHING a grave is a horrible thing to do.....but I wish they could see the churchyard in England where my husband shot THIS VIDEO of the flat markers being used as a parking lot!

(Above: The Unitarian Churchyard, Charleston, SC. Silk over the grave of Charles Otis with a crayon rubbing already made. Click on image to enlarge. Yes....I was flat on my stomach on the brick path in order to capture the last few lines of the touching epitaph.)

So....I've been writing, attaching my resume to emails, linking blog posts and images of earlier work....and finally got the permission! This past Saturday was a beautiful morning to make a gorgeous rubbing! I spent the rest of the day collecting "trash" along the beach and marsh on Folly Island...for another potential fiber art project. What a great day!

(Above: Dress form with "recycled" crinoline made from plastic bags that originally covered linen and silk mat boards. Steve and I own Mouse House, Inc. ... where we frame pictures!)

During the week I have been hard at work on this year's entry for Runaway Runway, a local fashion show of recycled garments. It will be called Recycled Bride. Thus far, I've got the bodice completely made from white/off white artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters. I forgot, however, to snap a photo of it. I've also got the paper napkin skirt made. Artificial cemetery flowers decorate the hem. I forgot to snap that photo too. Yet, the photo above shows the crinoline for under the skirt. I'm using the dress form that had been my mother's and had passed down to my sister Sonya....who doesn't even sew! (THANKS!)

I've also been working on part of the veil. The photo above shows a length of adhesive coated Mokuba water soluble stabilizer on which small white/off white artificial cemetery flowers have been placed.

Medium sized flower went toward the "bottom". Then I applied the "clear" water soluble material over the completed arrangement.

Free motion machine embroidered "bridges" connected all the flowers. Then I rinsed away all the water soluble material and let the "veil" dry on my ironing board.

The "bridges" held the flowers together into a unique netting. I'll be adding dry cleaner bags, some clear cellophane and a band of artificial flowers in order to create the finished veil.

After my installation in the window of the Tapps Department store ends next week, I'll have all my colorful artificial cemetery flowers back. Then, I'm going to make garments of two more models....a recycled bridesmaid and flower girl! Runaway Runway is on the evening of April 29th.

September 12, 2011 is Steve and my 30th wedding anniversary. I guess this is the inspiration for the bridal ideas. It is most certainly the reason for my upcoming Artista Vista (spring art crawl in Columbia) installation called "I do / I don't" (April 28 - 30th). I've been collecting "statements" from fellow bloggers and from Facebook contacts. These words are now being stitched (using the same water soluble ideas as the veil above) to six actual veils and onto yards of white ribbon. These items will be suspended from the ceiling. I'll have two "bulletin boards", index cards, and pens for the public to write and post their "I do" and "I don't" statements. I'm also going to make an artist's book with all the "statements". (If you have one you'd like to contribute, just email me at No names will be included!)

My studio assistant Olivia helped stitch all these ribbons. The words say: I do; I don't; Marriage; Divorce; Anniversary; Tie the Knot; We filed for divorce on line; Never go to bed angry; Marriage is a lifelong commitment to an unknowable partner; The third marriage was the charm; If you want your marriage to work, work at your marriage; Marry in haste....Repent at leisure; Compromise; etc. etc. etc. (Thanks so much to those who have already contributed great statements!)

As if these projects aren't enough, tomorrow is INSTALLATION DAY at Waterworks Visual Arts Center in Salisbury, North Carolina. A selection of my Decision Portraits will be on view. I'll be posting soon! Also, we are traveling to Vancouver, British Columbia for a long weekend....and to watch two of my artificial cemetery garments from last year's Runaway Runway in this year's Wearable Arts Award fashion show!

Monday, February 07, 2011

From Socks to Gloves

(Above: Work in progress....Title yet to be determined. Vintage clothe and leather gloves, vintage cutwork tablecloth, antique paisley material, recycled felt (batting). Gloves are hand embroidered with female family first names. Click on image to enlarge.)

I'm into gloves. This new object of obsession is probably the result of stitching down so many socks on my public art quilt, Looking for a Mate. Hands and feet....the body's extremities....fascinating! Also, I got a really good buy at a recent Bill Mishoe Estate auction. All these gloves (and a large pile more) were in a single "lot". I knew exactly what I was going to do with them even before bidding....and I only had to raise my hand once....for $5! What a great buy!

My mother is my "studio assistant" on this project. She's the keeper of family genealogy and provided dozens upon dozens of interesting female first names going back nine generations. I couldn't create this piece without her help! These names have been stitched onto the white gloves. I'm still pondering on the words for the gorgeous, opera length red gloves in the center. Perhaps:

Handed Down

Yet, would I stitch this on both gloves, split the list, add other words for the second glove? I'm not quite sure but will have plenty of time to thing about it. This is one of those handwork projects I stitch in the evening....and it will likely be entirely stitched by hand. This could take well over a month. (Any suggestions about the center wording are welcome!)

I've got so many other gloves that small projects are also possible. One is even complete!

(Above: Handed Down, miniature art quilt. 19 1/2" x 8 3/4". Vintage materials, hand stitching. Click on image to enlarge.)

I have my friend Connie in Texas to thank for the antique quilt scraps. I used some of these precious pieces of hand pieced material last year when making Only Child, a grave rubbing art quilt. The reverse is vintage household linens.

(Above: Handed Down, reverse. Click on image to enlarge.)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Stained Glass XXVII...and YOUR HELP NEEDED!

(Above: Faux -Stained Glass XXVII. Framed: 64 1/2" x 24 1/2". Click on image to enlarge.)

I love making these pieces....using a soldering iron and heat gun on polyester stretch velvet....wearing a cool, bug-like ventilator to melt the acrylic felt...and especially having a great reason to create more. The Grovewood Gallery in Asheville just accepted a total of twelve new pieces! (Four "Lancet Windows", four small faux-stained glass pieces called "Windows", two large faux-stained glass pieces similar to this one, and two small "In Box" variations)

(Above: Top quarter of Faux-Stained Glass XXVII. Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

While these free motion machined works keep me busy, I'm still making other art and about to embark on a fantastic installation called:


The installation will include at least five or six wedding veils suspended from the ceiling. On the sheer white netting I'll have free motion machine embroidered collected "statements" about marriage and relationships like....

"We didn't stay married long enough to file joint income tax"

"My mother said to marry a man with a great sense of humor; he'd need it. Laughing for 30 years and counting!" (This is my personal contribution!)

"We drifted so far apart that we filed for divorce on-line"

So....PLEASE LEAVE YOUR STATEMENT(S) AS A COMMENT or email me privately at I won't be using your name...unless you use it in your statement! I need lots of "I DO" and "I DON'T" statements for the veils.

PLUS....I need lots of "post consumer" dry cleaner bags and those little white plastic things that pull off milk and cream containers. These are for my recycled wedding dress that will appear in Runaway Runway 2011 at the Township Auditorium in Columbia, SC on Friday, April 29th. The wedding dress is already under construction....paper napkins collected at the Three Lions' Pub during the Ohio State vs. Michigan football game....white artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters....etc. Dry cleaner bags and those little white plastic things can be dropped off at my studio....Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, 808 Lady Street or at Mouse House, 2123 Park Street, Columbia, SC 29201 (or mailed to Mouse House!) Thanks!