Friday, December 26, 2014

Surprise trip to London!

(Above:  Curtain Call in London's Coliseum for English National Ballet's Nutcracker.)

When Steve and I are planning a big trip, I generally mention it on my blog ... before we leave.  This time, however, was different.  We decided to surprise our son Mathias Lenz Dingman who was guest dancing as the Nutcracker Prince for English National Ballet.  He had no idea we were in the audience when I (illegally) snapped the above photo.

(Above:  London's Coliseum before the Nutcracker curtain came up for the show!)

I wasn't supposed to snap this photo either but I certainly wasn't the only one doing it! LOL!  We surprised Mathias by the stage door after the sold-out audience departed.  He was only expecting to see his fiance Laura-Jane Gibson and her parents Jim and Jane.  (They didn't know we were coming either!)  It was wonderful ... and Mathias' performances were spectacular.  We were able to see two shows.  All the shows were sold out.  Mathias couldn't even get Laura-Jane a ticket for his final performance! 

(Above:  Mathias Lenz Dingman and Erina Takahashi.)

Now ... this blog is supposed to be fiber orientated.  It is generally written as a way to share my work and inspirations, focusing on the pieces I stitch.  I did have an art quilt with me but I'm not ready to share it.  Instead, I'd like to share one of the pages from English National Ballet's lovely program (paraphrased):

Facts and Figures
Some fascinating statistics from the Wardrobe Department

Each Sugar Plum Fairy top skirt takes one day to make. There are nine. Under the top skirt are sixteen layers of netting.

Over 3000 meters of fabric are used for Nutcracker costumes. 400 total costumes were made.

Each Flower Man's shirt takes sixteen hours to make and each waistcoat takes 34 hours.  There are twenty in the production.

Each Sugar Plum Fairy costume requires over 2000 British pounds worth of man hours and fabric, not including the cost of the donated Swarovski elements.

The value of the Swarovski elements used in the Nutcracker costuming is 10,000 British pounds.

Fabrics for the Nutcracker costuming includes German faux fur, American stretch faux fur, German lycra, brocade from India and France, and English moleskin.

There are 24 people working on costumes including three wig makers, a head dressmaker, a milliner, and two dyers/distressers.

I don't know how many Swarovski elements were on Mathias' costume but he certainly sparkled!

(Above:  Rochester Cathedral.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Of course we did a lot of sight-seeing while in London as well as in Rochester.  We stayed south of the city and took a train to nearby Rochester on our first day.  It is a charming city with a beautiful cathedral ...

(Above Rochester Castle.)

.... and a well maintained ruin of a castle.  A leisure day in Rochester was a perfect way to get over jet lag.

(Above:  Me on one of four bronze lions in Trafalgar Square.)

Before going to London, I told local friends that I was going to tick off one of the items on my "bucket list" ... and I did.  What?  Well, I was intent on riding one of Sir Edwin Landseer's twenty-foot bronze lions at the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.  I've been told that this is actually against the law but the police can't possibly haul in all the tourists doing it.  Tourists must work together, however.  The back sides of these lions are quite slick and definitely polished from people mounting them.  I helped push a father and his children up.  Then, they pushed me up.  Steve took photos ... of me ... but also for the family!

Now ... I'm on a mission ... getting my picture made with other lion sculptures!  I found lions outside the British Museum and will have to visit Grant's Memorial in DC.  These lions are featured on the opening credits for Netflix's House of Cards.  This could be a new series!

(Above:  St. Paul's Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge.)

We had to plan our days carefully because it starts to get dark in London around 3:30 PM.  By 5:00, it's night.  One evening, however, we managed to get to St. Paul's in time for Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols. It was perfect!  A very special holiday treat.

(Above:  The German made harp used for Britten's A Ceremony of Carols.)

Almost every section of London has its own market but Notting Hill has "the best" with the weekly Portobello Market.

(Above:  Row house in the Notting Hill area near Portobello Market.)

We had such a great time looking at the make-shift street vendor stalls and browsing through the meandering antique dealer booths.  There was something for everyone!

Watching people from all across the globe trying to find special Christmas gifts and travel souvenirs was great fun.

The displays ranged from haphazard collections of silver ...

... to neatly organized vintage buttons at Rita Stephenson's corner enclosure in one of the sprawling antique malls.  (She was charming but I resisted!)

The colors, textures, and exotic nature of the Portobello Market was quite inspirational.

There were moments when I felt like I'd stepped back in time ... like watching this attractive, totally vintage clad but tattooed girl shop for letters from a block print dealer.

The street musicians were GREAT ... and also visually interesting!

I took hundreds of photos ... and then we went to other markets!

In the Southwark Market we drooled over fresh fruit and vegetables ...

... and sweets!

By the time we arrived at the Spitafield's Market it was late and we were hungry.  Our friend Molly Harrell clued us into the fact that Beigel's Bagels are "the best in the world" ... and now we agree!

Steve and I aren't much for shopping.  In fact, the only thing we bought was a refrigerator magnet for our friend Dolly Patton who watches Max the Cat when we are out of town.  (She collects these ... whether she knows it or not!  We get her one everywhere we go!)  Yet, I can easily see why people need to visit an ATM while shopping in such fabulous, original locations.  Old, iconic British telephone booths are now being "recycled" into ATMs!  Awesome!

(Above:  The Tate Modern seen through a beautiful stand of late autumn birch leaves.)

We had great weather the entire week but it was still "winter"!  As much as we might have liked staying outside in the markets, we had to go inside ... museums!  We've been to the Tate, but until this trip I hadn't been to the Tate Modern.

(Above:  Interior at the Tate Modern)

We saw several excellent exhibitions and each one stimulated an equally fascinating discussion.  The space is enormous.  I would go back in a second!

(Above:  The National Gallery)

We'd been to the National Gallery ... several years ago ... but it is always worth a repeat visit.  The building is as lovely as the artwork.

(Above:  The National Gallery ... people in front of the wall of Van Gogh's oil paintings.)

The only room that was crowded was the one with the wall of five Van Gogh's paintings.  We waited and stood in front of each masterpiece.

(Above:  Van Gogh's Sunflowers, 1888.)

Of course these are fabulous ... and very, very worthy of the crowds ... but ...

... as far as I'm concerned, this Botticelli takes my breathe away!  No one was elbowing me to get a better look and there was even a bench!

(Above:  The entrance to Highgate Cemetery.)

We nearly spent an entire day at Highgate Cemetery.  There are two sides to this amazing, mostly Victorian resting place.  The east side is open daily to the public for a small admission fee.  Karl Marx is buried there.  The west side, however, requires a tour-guide.  Tours are generally booked well in advance ... except for Saturdays.  On Saturdays, it is first-come/first-serve and tours depart every half-hour or so.  We went then and had a very, very well informed guide. 

He was full of good stories and included the Dickens family graves even though they generally aren't "on the tour".  He said, "It's Christmas! This is a gift!"  He knew his history backward and forward.  I was able to take lots of photos and still keep up with the group.

After touring the west side, we leisurely visited the east side.  It is an amazing jumble of new and old graves, profound epitaphs, and lots and lots of ivy.

These are only a few of the hundreds of photos I took between copying down personal epitaphs.

To visit all these place, Steve and I got our own "oyster cards".  These are the plastic passes swiped on London area trains and the underground.  No matter how many places we went, the system wouldn't charge us more than the "day rate".  It was definitely "the way to go"!

(Above:  Model of the British Museum.)

Another day was spent in the British Museum.  Both Steve and I have been there but it was years and years ago!  It is gigantic!  There's no way to see a measurable fraction of it but we managed to see Witches and Wicked Bodies, an exhibition of rare engravings from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century.  It was WILD ... a survey of witchcraft, the occult, harpies and hags by Albrecht Durer and Goya through the Pre-Raphelite Rossetti ... exploring everything from the vilest to the most profane as well as the exotic temptresses and the most grotesque beguilers. 

We also wandered around the "highlights" ... the Rosetta Stone and the architectural elements from Athens' Parthenon ...

... and through the vast collection of Egyptian artifacts and mummies.  These were the rooms that I remember best from a childhood visit.  We dragged my sister Wanda into the museum, kicking and screaming that she HATED all museum.  When the building closed, we dragged her out ... kicking and screaming that she wanted to see "just one more room". LOL!

(Above:  Gold oak wreathe from 350 - 300 BC.)

I found the British Museum as fascinating as I did then.  Now, however, I'm impressed by the sense of time.  This absolutely marvelous gold necklace looks like it might grace the red carpet at a high celebrity event ... and yet it dates to 350 - 300 BC. 

(Above:  Cradle to Grave by Pharmacopoeia.)

Not too far away, however, is Cradle to Grave by Pharmacopoeia.  This remarkable piece explores health issues, the way people deal with sickness and try to secure well-being.  It was created by Susie Freeman, a textile artist, David Critchley, a video artist, and Dr. Liz Lee, a general practitioner.  Each side of this long, Plexiglass enclosure displays a length of fiber netting, one for a woman and one for a man.  Each piece contains over 14,000 drugs, the estimated average prescribed to every person in Britain within their lifetime.  Photos and notes from the artist's family members (showing "life moments") were positioned at the edge of the netting.  It truly read like a "time line". 

We saw skeletal remains from 11,000 BC too!  
TIME ... it is always my strongest inspiration.  The trip to England reinforced this!

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber art ... even if I didn't show any of my own this week!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Art from the Ashes, Night of Terror ... and installation in progress

 (Above:  One of thirteen vintage garments intended for the upcoming Art from the Ashes invitation exhibition.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last month I posted the first few photos that resulted from a collision between my hair-brained ideas for natural dyeing with an upcoming art opportunity.  (That blog post is HERE.)  Happily since mid-October, I've been rusting vintage garments with old nails, wire, and assorted washers ... often tying the fabric around pebbles ... and frequently baking my concoctions in a covered, cast iron pot donated by my mother. 

I've brewed up magnolia, kutzu, oleander, and rosemary in antique cauldrons.  Poke berries were colorful but didn't have lasting color.  Acorns and crepe myrtle pods worked wonderfully.  White vinegar and sea salt smells pretty wretched when baked with railroad spikes but the stains are tremendous.  All in all, I've been having a blast ... partly because I have no formal ideas for what I'm doing and partly because I have no expectations.  Thus, everything is surprising and the results are thrilling me!

My intentions are to use these garments (and others ... as I plan on continuing these experiments) in the creation of an installation.  I'm hoping to use several alcoves at the Tapps Art Center, making "vignettes" with these garments.  My focus is to make visible the fears and terror felt by the average citizens on the night during which one-third of Columbia was burnt by General William T. Sherman's troops.  This Civil War "March to the Sea" occurred 150 years ago.  Columbia is gearing up to commemorate the event. 

I've been working to stain these garments with Columbia earth, from the soil and the plant life in my own backyard.  The destructive power suggested by the rust is meant to reflect that night, those fears, and the uncertain future.

Recently I took the first thirteen, finished garments to Gallery 80808/Vista Studios for a photo shoot.  Each piece was pinned to the gallery's nice, white walls ... under the four skylights.  It is a perfect location for capturing quality images.  This blog post includes one shot of each garment.  Yet, I shot until my camera's batteries died ... hundreds and hundreds of pictures.  Most were deleted.  One-hundred-and sixteen were saved.  These images are now on a Flickr! set.

Wonderfully, I was contacted by Cindi Boiter, the editor of Jasper Magazine and co-owner of Muddy Ford Press.  Cindi and her husband Bob are considering one of these pictures for the cover of the literary publication that will accompany the Art from the Ashes exhibition!  I'm excited and my fingers are crossed!

 Knowing that my work would be considered for a book cover, I shot several details of each garment.  It was an interesting process ... thinking about whether a vertical or a horizontal image might be better ... thinking about how the colors and textures might interfere or enhance the text ... wondering whether a more abstract detail would suit the publication or a more figurative suggestion.  I could imagine several different ways these garments might be used for illustrative purposes.  Which would I pick?  I don't know!  What would you pick? 

There is now a website for the city's sesquicentennial commemoration.  It includes Art from the Ashes but it also includes the juried show Crafting Civil (War) Conversations at the McKissick Museum.  My piece, Stitching Together, was accepted ... and delivered yesterday.  Honestly, I never thought this subject would have inspired me the way it has but I'm certainly enjoying the experience!

Later this evening I'm going to another photo shoot.  This one will include all the invited artists involved in Art from the Ashes.  Evidently, there will be an article on our work and this exhibit!  I'm excited ... and thankful for this awesome opportunity!

I am also linking the post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber art work.

This garment was NOT rusted or naturally dyed.  It was soaked in alum water, hung to dry, and pounded with flowers from the backyard ... mostly tiny sprigs of pink clover.  I blogged about it HERE.  I call this garment Antebellum and plan to showcase it to contrast with the other pieces.