Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Texting From the Grave

(Above:  Texting From the Grave.  26" x 24".  Crayon grave rubbings on silk mounted on black Kraft paper, folded and stitched with a silver metallic painted piece of mat board.  Double sided, individual "text message" on heavy Peltex each measuring 15" x 20".  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

The photo below was added to several places in this blog post but has since been removed! LOL!


Last month I wrote about my submissions for the Metaphor on Aging SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) call-for-entry.  I wrote that I rarely ever make work specifically for a unique call-for-entry but I did for that opportunity.  Well ... I've gone and done it again!  This time I've made work for the upcoming Text Message SAQA call-for entry.  I couldn't help myself.  Once I had this idea, I had to make the work! 

(Above:  Texting From the Grave, installation shot.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The call-for-entry includes this description:  In this exhibit, you have free rein to explore the many facets of what 'text messages' means to you--from the obvious connection to modern technology to works comprised solely of actual or implied writing. The unifying theme will be text on quilts, in any language, and each quilt must contain at least one visible letter or word.

At first, I thought, "Susan, this will be easy!  All your Grave Rubbing Art Quilts could qualify!"  For me, the text found on graves are always words for the living ... messages from the grave ... a form of communication ... a written memory in stone.  Some of my favorite epitaphs are from the Victorian era when it was popular to directly address future visitors to the grave site, like ....

Reader, here lie the REMAINS of a good and virtuous man.  “Go Thou and do likewise”.  1821.  Charleston, SC

Gentle reader as you pass by, As you are now, once was I.  As I am now, so you must be.  Prepare for Death and follow me. 1856.  Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond. VA

Farewell Dear Husband, my life is past.  My love for you until Death did last.  And after me no sorrow take but love my child for my sake.  1859.  Mission Dolores Cemetery, San Francisco, CA

Yet, these sorts of epitaphs aren't restricted to the 19th century:

Who am I?  I am the person you knew yesterday.  I am the person you know today.  I am God’s Child.  I am your memories.  1992. Woodlawn Cemetery, Colma, CA

So, I thought I'd submit a couple grave rubbing art quilts until I closely read the rules for this call-for-entry.  The width of each entry must be 24"The height must be at least 24"I've stitched over 60 pieces ... but none fit the size requirements.  I tried to forget about this call-for-entry, but I just couldn't get past the challenge of creating a grave rubbing envelop with "text messages" to fit inside. 

(Above:  Half-size envelop template.)

The first thing I did was to dissect an ordinary envelop and enlarge it to half the needed size.  Then, I mapped out the full size of an outer perimeter on the back of some ecru colored silk.  Off to the cemetery!  The rubbings were carefully placed on the silk, ironed, and then the silk was dry mounted onto black Kraft paper using Fusion 4000 in my over-sized Seal press.  (It's good to own a custom picture frame shop!)  The resulting fabric/paper folded perfectly.  I zigzag stitched the edges.  The width is exactly 24".  Yet, this envelop didn't have the stability and strength I needed for my ideas.  I needed "something" stiff.

(Above:  Charcoal gray mat board being painted with Golden Acrylic's Iridescent Stainless Steel paint.)

I needed mat board!  I traced a template and hand cut a piece of black-core, charcoal mat. I wanted the mat board to resemble the fancy, metallic foils that often line expensive wedding envelops.  So, I painted the surface with Golden Acrylic's Iridescent Stainless Steel paint.  It looked great!

(Above:  Painting the mat board.)

The paint has just the right reflective quality and still visually reads as a perfect neutral.  Yet, there was "too much" of it.  I dug around in my stash of grave rubbings and found a great 18th c. winged angel I'd made in Lyford, England.  Perfect size.  Perfect shape.  Simply wonderful!  WonderUnder (Bond-a-Web) was ironed on the reverse.  I "rough" cut the edges and ironed it in place.  Just to make sure it stayed put, I put a "denim" needle on my stitching machine and stitched around the perimeter ... straight through the mat board.

Next, I applied Yes! Paste, a glue generally used by bookbinders, to the back of the mat board and attached it to the black Kraft paper.  It stayed under weights for 24 hours.

The side flaps and bottom of the envelop were then folded into place.  Using a curved needle, also in my book binding supplies, I stitched the bottom to the side flaps.

I used buttonhole thread.  In order to give a little "breathing room" to the interior, I didn't quite pull the sides together.  Perhaps I should have added a bit to the template.  Now, I had a small problem ... a "gap".

This was one of the problems I'm glad I had ... because the solution became a better design as a result.  I decided to mimic sealing wax.  As a kid, I loved melting crayons and candles onto paper and embossing the hot liquid as it solidified. 

To make this additional piece, I mixed the same Iridescent Stainless Steel Golden acrylic with gloss medium.  I poured it over a plastic lid ... twice.  The first attempt was sort of "wobbly" (on the right, above).  The second attempt is on the left with the lid still under the poured paint.  It went much better.

(Above:   Crayon grave rubbing from Nottingham, England cut into a circle, zigzag stitched, and set into a ring of metallic, acrylic paint.  It is on a piece of silicone treated paper.)

I stuck a hat pin into the plastic lid, lifted it off the silicone treated paper and pressed a previous cut circle from another grave rubbing into the wet paint.  This was allowed to dry overnight.

(Above:  Mock wax seal for the over-sized envelop.)

The next day the acrylic was dry and the mock wax seal peeled off the silicone treated paper.  It was ready to be glued onto the envelop.

I put the silicone paper inside the envelop so as to protect it from any of the glue on the back of the mock wax seal.  Yes! glue was used to adhere it.  Again, this dried overnight.

(Above:  Decorative clasps stitched to the sides of the envelop for hanging purposes.)

The last thing I did to the envelop was to stitch ornate clasps to the sides.  These can be used to hang the work on a wall.  (They tuck neatly into the envelop, unseen, when not in use.)  I also stitched a black "hook" (half of a large hook-and-eye) to the top center.  This envelop was designed to hang both against a flat wall or "in-the-round", suspended from a ceiling using a thin thread of mono-filament. 

(Above:  Texting From the Grave, the envelop.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I'm really please how this over-sized envelop turned out.  Both the front ....

... and the back!  Yet, this is only part of my vision!  During all the "drying times", I was also working on the "text messages"!

(Above:   Six "text messages" for the envelop.)

Stiff, heavy Peltex was cut into six 15" x 10" pieces.  I found five grave rubbings in my stash that addressed others directly and fit on the space.  Free motion embroidery outlines all the letters.  For one, I went to Elmwood Cemetery and rubbed individual letters that were added onto a small rubbing.  They read:  Be Ye Also Ready.  For me, these four words simplify many of the Victorian epitaphs.  Since text messaging in the 21st century includes lots of simplifications and abbreviations, the reverse side of this piece reads:  R U Ready ... sort of like a "real" text message!  (Pictured at the top of this blog post inside the envelop.)

(Above:  The reverse of the six text messages.)

Not all telephones display text messages inside of cartoon like clouds, but mine does!  So, in order to make the text messages also reversible, I cut other pieces of grave rubbings in these shapes.  They fit comfortably around the words on the reverse side.  I zigzag stitched around the perimeter ... which shows on the front.

(Above:  Texting From the Grave, installation.  Click on image to enlarge.  Please note ... the "envelop" is pictured from the reverse ... not the front which would be considered a "full view".)

Early this morning I went to Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.  My studio is over the wall on the left.  I suspended the envelop and the messages on a wall where my mentor's giant wave painting hung the day before.  Wednesday is the day when exhibitions are changed.  By tomorrow, the next show will be in this space ... but, this morning, the gallery was all mine for photography.  Other than the "in progress" shots, all the images here were taken within two hours.  Several more are below.

(Above:  Texting From the Grave with the text message:  Be Ye Also Ready.  The reverse of this message read:  R U Ready and is pictured at the start of this blog post.)

Of course the SAQA call-for-entry will not consider the "installation".  So I shot several individual messages inside the envelop for this opportunity.  I am still debating which picture to send.  I like Be Ye Also Ready but mainly because the opposite side has the more 21st century text:  R U Ready.

(Above:  Texting From the Grave with the text message:  Farewell, My Dear Wife.)

I like this photo too because the text message is short enough to be seen in its entirety along with the whole 18th century angel's face behind it.

(Above:  Texting From the Grave with the text messages:  We Shall Meet Again.)

Perhaps the best single view is this one!  Let me know if you have an opinion!

I am attaching this blog post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", an Internet location for artists working with fibers to share works in progress.


Suella said...

These are both intriguing and really lovely. I very much appreciate you sharing the details and challenges of your work. Thank you!

Holly Hall said...

What a great concept! I am so inspired by your work, and like Suella, I really appreciate your openness when it comes to your process. Thank you!

Lynda Howells said...

I am speechless...this is work is beautifulxx thank you for sharting your work and being so open about it.lyndax

Julie said...

It's interesting to see where else your grave rubbing work is taking you. I love th eway you have made the seal and it was interesting to see the size of it compared to the size of your hand, it gave a good sense of scale.

Wanda said...

I think this is great! Not only the finished piece but how you interpreted 'text message'. You are SO RIGHT! It is a message in text. It is not limited to handies, ipads, ipods and all that jazz. Really really cool.

Glen QuiltSwissy said...

So impressive. Grave rubbings are important here in S. Louisiana as well. We have groups wandering our cemetaries on weekends. Of course we have some really interesting graves here!


Judy Ferguson said...

My goodness Susan, you have got to be the most inventive person on this planet. I will take some supplies with me the next time I go to the family plot. You must be some kind of genius.