Monday, January 02, 2012

New Year ... new work ... new plans!

(Above: Birch in Snow. 45" x 63". Discharge velvet, fabric paint, free motion machine embroidery, beading. Click on image to enlarge.)
Happy New Year!
Steve and I had a fantastic trip to Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania for Christmas. We stayed with my parents, visited Grandma, my youngest sister Sonya and her husband Vipin, and went to church for Christmas eve. (I forgot to snap many photos ... but what I did get is HERE ... on "My Family Blog".)

We also went to Oil City to check out their artist relocation program. It was an interesting experience. No, we will not be moving. Yes, it helped me clarify some of the important features that a future move will need (like a highly professional community of artists with serious goals who make quality work ... instead of just a really good buy on property!) While there I purchased a book for my sister Wanda ... a silly reminder of a childhood song called "Senor Don Gato". The melody and the little "Meow, meow, meows" from elementary school are still humming in my head. Since we won't be seeing Wanda until April when we travel to her home in Munich (which coordinates with seeing Mathias and his girlfriend Laura-Jane dancing with Birmingham Royal Ballet in the Munich Ballet Festival), I posted the book HERE. (Quite cute!)

(Above: Chocolate mice in the container I used to transport them back to Columbia!)

Over the holidays we received two chocolate "mice" ... a unique combination of a Hershey Kiss, a chocolate dipped cherry, and almond sliver ears. They were made by Sonya's friend. Steve really, really wanted to eat them ... but I saved them from this intended fate for permanent display at Mouse House. (It helped that their ears needed to be glued in place after the trip. Thus, they are now no longer tempting for Steve's palette! I wrote a great blog post ... the chocolate mice in photo ops all over our shop. It is HERE. Most assuredly cute and shows various places in our shop!)

(Above: Birch in Snow, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

Of course I stitched in the car ... but not on this piece. This one is gigantic. It was actually started several years ago (2004) when our house nearly burnt down. I got too completely involved in beading the drifts of snow. It was a way to forget the daily trauma of the insurance claim, the nightmare of contractor's delays, and just the general chaos associated with the disaster. I rarely opened up the velvet to look at the work. I lost sight of "the whole". As a result, the bottom was saturated with beads; the top was unbalanced with a void I didn't want to address. I thought the entire project was a total waste. I shoved the entire thing into a crate and forgot about it.

(Above: Birch in Snow, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

I forgot about the beauty of the birch trees I'd seen in Alaska the year before (2003). I forgot about owning the discharge paste I used to create the trunks of these gnarly, weathered trees. I forgot about the pitch black, mysterious nights and the softly falling flakes. I forgot that this was stitched using a layer of thick, white felt as "batting" ... an art quilt before I ever heard the term!

(Above: Birch in Snow, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

I didn't find the piece until cleaning my studio for Vista Lights, the annual art crawl in Columbia that happens the Thursday before every Thanksgiving. I found it; spread it out; noted the problem of "balance" between "top" and "bottom"; and, surprisingly, I didn't think it was actually "horrible". In fact, it seemed worth finishing. I've been stitching on it during the evenings ever since.

(Above: Birch in Snow, detail of stitched signature. Click on image to enlarge.)

My friend Jeff Donovan (whose studio is across the atrium from mine at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios) suggested "bigger beads" to achieve a sense of balance in the upper areas ... and because falling snow generally is seen spatially ... with the closest flakes appearing larger and the further away flakes appearing smaller. He was right ... and I found all the beads I needed already in my studio.

(Above: Birch in Snow, detail ... as seen from the side. Click on image to enlarge.)

Instead of finishing this with traditional quilt binding and a sleeve for a hanging rod, I mounted the piece on stretcher bars covered with foam-centered board. This was fitted into a "floater frame" and wired for hanging. It is now hanging at Gallery 80808 with the work of the other artists who have studio space there. It is amazing how well it turned out. I really should take a photo of this area ... if for no better reason than to show scale. This piece is really, really big for what amounts to a lot of beading! I am quite happy to say that I don't have other UFOs (Unfinished Objects) any longer ... at least none that I know about!

(Above: Steve and I having lunch at the Columbia Ale House on New Years Day!)

So ... it is the New Year. The first day was glorious ... as is obvious in the photo above! I've generally used this time of year to reflect on my past and to set goals for the future. The cleaning I did for Vista Lights (during which I found Birch in Snow) carried through December. I went to the extreme of patching and painting my studio walls ... and allowing them to be bare for several weeks. (Blogged about that HERE.) I took down all the feathered shutter slats that hung above my space ... inviting "change". I've been thinking about a goal for the coming year and the changes I want to make, artistically. I've also been thinking about the title of a piece I finished last month ... a piece that needed a title.

Above: Spool Cradle. For a blog post about this work with images that can be enlarged, click HERE.)

I asked for potential titles on this blog. I asked for potential titles on Facebook. My blog post was shared on other blogs. I ended up with a very, very long list of fantastic titles. Even my Mom and Dad each had good ideas, excellent words. So many of the titles evoked beautiful, thoughtful mental images.

The most interesting part of this adventure was getting the chance to see how my work resonates with others. Some people saw the spools are symbolic of future dreams. (Layette Dreams and Weaving Future Heirlooms). Others saw them representing past dreams. (Requiem to Lovely Stitches and Before My Mother Was My Mother.) Several people related the spools to tribal drums. Various titles came from the techniques used. (Unraveled Redefined and Stitched Stories). There was a suggestion to use Oatmeal Kisses. In the end, I found that I really didn't want the title to focus on any one way of viewing the work. I didn't even want the title to reflect the way I personally saw the work. I selected a basic title, Spool Cradle, in order that everyone can relate to the work from his or her own vantage point with his or her own history. Thank you, one and all, for helping me come to this decision. The suggestions are all wonderful and I will probably refer to my list for future works!

In conclusion ... what New Year's resolutions have I come up with? First, I will continue to invite CHANGE into my artistic life. (I've been reading an "artquilt list" on-line. Many of the writers are selecting a single word for the coming year. CHANGE is mine.) In order to fulfill this resolution I will start attending About Face, a group that meets at the Columbia Museum of Art to sketch from life ... yes, that's generally a nude model. It is not my intention to draw nudes (though this might happen) but to work on paper and then to paint on canvas. I hope to dissect the canvas for art quilting raw material. I know that that dedicated time for this group will allow me to focus on exploring new ideas ... something that might not happen in my studio because I am very accustomed to "working" in there, not "playing" with hair-brained ideas. I am also expanding my new "home studio" for 3D work and will continue building "things" inside. In order to be accountable for these goals, I've made inquiry for a solo show at a local, Main Street location for later in the year ... nothing like publicly stating one's intentions and putting a public exhibit on the line in order to accomplish a goal!


Roberta Warshaw said...

I love the Birch in Snow. I can almost feel the blackness.......really wonderful. I imagine it is quite spectacular in person.........

Anonymous said...

Love all of your work! (just stumbled upon you at Pinterest) will be following you from now on :>)..Debbie.. great work!

Gabriela said...

Happy New Year!I love your new work!!!

lynda Howells said...

Just thought l would tell you l watch The Birmingham ballet company's Christmas "work" on was beautifulxxxxx

Anonymous said...

Birch in snow is wonderful - the drifts of snow seem so real and the velvety silence you get with heavy snow seems to exude from the whole piece.

Wanda said...

Birch in Snow is awesome. It's quiet and loud at the same time. Like the loudness of snow falling. This has won a 'favorite' place in my heart. And to think, it was a UFO for so long. I am sorry that Oil City wasn't exactly what you are looking for. I still say Sante Fe! Or Patagonia, AZ. It sounds like you have a plan for 2012. And you think I'm the one with the list. Well, I have slowly come to the conclusion that you too have a's just in your head. Ok, you may be a little more flexible than me as well. ha ha

Robin said...

Oh, Senor Don Gato was a cat. On a high red roof Don Gato sat.....I can't believe how reading those words on your blog brought that song back so sharply.Thank you for the memory:) I saw your Quilt Art post and am very moved that someone so accomplished could still feel the way you do. I worked with you on your post card exchange about 4 years ago and have watched you ever since. The Birch in Snow is phenomenal...the movement...the beading!!! Congratulations on finishing and hanging it for all to see.

Sharon Field / Inky A*Muse-ment said...

Love the quilt, have always loved birch trees! This is absolutely fabulous, bet it's even more stunning in person!

Jesse said...

I love the ´Birch in Snow´. Ik cant stop looking at the picture. Everytime i see something new in it. Thank you....

Jesse from the netherlands

Anonymous said...

Stunning! Susan you have created a masterpiece. Congratulations, it is just gorgeous. Thanks for sharing it.