Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Catching up!

(Above:  Ed Madden and me ... the Monarchs of the Jasper Magazine Mardi Gras krewe.)

It seems like ages since I last wrote a blog post but it has only been two weeks (which, admittedly is a long time between my normal posting.) Plenty has happened since then ... like reigning over one of the local Mardi Gras krewes in a fun filled parade.  My friend Ed Madden, the city's poet laureate, and I were the "monarchs" (a gender neutral esteemed title) for Jasper Magazine.  Our regal head-wear was created by Kendal Turner ...

... and we rode in a '68 convertible Corvette driven by its proud owner J Britt.  Photographer John Allen walked the entire length of the parade with us, snapping many hilarious photos en route.
(Above:  The packed cargo van.)

After the weekend, Steve and I loaded the rental cargo van and drove to Baltimore for the American Craft Council Wholesale and Retail show.  It is truly an honor to be under the same, enormous convention center roof with 640+ nationally juried, professional craft artists working in clay, glass, metal, wood, and fiber.  Hundreds of people came despite dreadfully low temperatures and several inches of fresh snow.
(Above:  In Box CLXXIV. Inventory # 3376. Framed: 19 1/4" x 15 1/4". $225. Click on image to enlarge.)

I finished three, small pieces in my "In Box Series" right before we left.  I didn't have time to blog them before leaving ... but here they are!

(Above: In Box CLXXV.)

It's funny that two of the three sold during the show despite the fact that I had three others the same size!  Only In Box CLXXIV is still available!

(Above: In Box CLXXVI.)

Before leaving, I started a new art quilt.  I was otherwise between hand stitching projects and couldn't imagine a long drive up and back without needle and thread.  This new piece is coming along very, very well.  I'm excited!  Also, I got my contract to teach my "HOT" workshop at the Craft Alliance Center of Art and Design in St. Louis on May 16 and 17 ... just after a 2-week art residency at the Anderson Center in Minnesota.  I'm very excited.  "HOT"  is my workshop on heat-activated techniques for creative embroidery which has been taught at Focus on Fiber for Mary McBride in Florida, the Center for Contemporary Art in Pittsburgh, the Columbia Museum of Art, The Studios of Key West, and for the Masters of Art in Teaching program at Lander University.  CLICK HERE for information on the workshop in St. Louis!

I'm linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber artworks.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Framed brooches and last push toward ACC Baltimore

(Above:  Detail of Lancet Window LI.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

This week has been crazy!  Why? Well, there's so much to do before Monday morning when Steve and I load the rental cargo van and head north to the ACC (American Craft Council) Baltimore wholesale (Feb. 18 - 19) and retail show (Feb. 20 - 22.)  There's plenty of custom picture framing to finish and clients to call but there's also the "last minute push" to finish new work for the booth ... including Lancet Window LI and another, large In Box piece pictured below.  Right now, there are three, small In Box pieces in the garage waiting for the final, melting touches and to be framed.  These three will be the last pieces done until returning from Baltimore.  I'm not sure if I'll get them photographed and blogged but I will get them into the van!  

(Above:  Lancet Window LI, Inventory # 3359. Framed: 31 1/4" x 11 1/4". $375 plus tax and shipping.)

Tonight is the reception for Crafting Civil (War) Conversations at the McKissick Museum.  I have a piece, Stitching Together, in this juried show.  Tomorrow evening I'll be helping with a Mardi Gras float sponsored by the Jasper Magazine krewe.  My friend, the super talented poet Ed Madden, and I have been named the krewe's "Monarchs"! We will be riding in a convertible during Saturday's parade!  I'm excited! The rest of the weekend will be spent in "hunter-gatherer mode", trying to assemble everything needed for the ACC show into one place near the door!  That's the 10' x 10' Pro Panel booth, all the lighting equipment, the boxed artwork, packaging blankets, receipts book, business cards, order forms, bubble wrap, the "jig-saw" foam booth floor, signage, etc. It's a lot of work but very exciting.

(Above: In Box CLXXIII, Inventory # 3360. Framed:  33 1/2" x 21 1/2. $525 plus tax and shipping.)

Preparing for a show also includes a lot of nervousness.  The outlay of money for booth rent, electricity, the cargo van, gas, hotel stay, and food add up to an incredible amount.  "Breaking even" doesn't always happen for every artist, no matter how talented.  Honestly, every artist in this show is already among the best in the country ... and there are over 600 of us.  The energy during set-up is fueled both by happy anticipation and financial worry.  It is an awesome mix of emotions and very different from doing anything in my hometown.  I'm proud to be going, thrilled for the chance to be among such peers, and praying for sales!

(Above: Brooches VII and VIII.  Framed:  9 1/2" x 8 1/2". $150 each.)

Since I haven't been "on the high-end craft circuit" for very long ... basically within two years, I haven't really had to consider changing my work too much.  Some of the other artists have been doing ACC shows for two decades or more.  Over time, their inventory has changed, been updated, and created to appeal to both new and repeat buyers.  Yet last year, I did hear plenty of people ask me if I had anything "smaller" than my small, "In Box Series" pieces.  I heard people comment that they'd like something "under $200" and something that could easily be shipped back home or as a gift. (Yes, people really do fly to Baltimore for an inspired weekend looking at and buying fine craft!) These comments prompted me to create the "On Gold Series".

(Above: Brooches XI and XII. Framed:  9 1/2" x 8 1/2". $150 each.)

Another thing I noticed during last year's ACC Baltimore show was how most women are totally attracted to any type of jewelry, especially rather large brooches.  Yes, I realize that this is obvious to most people ... but it was news to me! LOL!  (I'm atypical in many respects.  I don't cook, clean, shop, keep up with fashions and accessories, and generally skip looking at jewelry when browsing artists' booths.  I don't generally wear pins or brooches ... and if I were to do so, I'd select something very small.)

Jewelry, however, is a separate, juried category for an ACC show.  My work falls under "Decorative Fibers".  This fact made me dismiss the idea of creating a brooch, but then I had a hair-brained idea that solved the dilemma.  I could make a small decorative fiber piece which could, upon occasion, be removed from its frame and worn!  I made eighteen "samples" last March while teaching for Mary McBride's Focus on Fibers retreat in Florida.  I blogged about them HERE.      

(Above: My set up for photographing the collection of framed brooches.)

During the last two weeks, I worked on the "samples" ... turning them into framed decorative artworks ... finishing the backs ... and playing with velcro.  I'm happy with the results and used the top of my dry-mount press to photograph them.

(Above: Brooches XIII and XIV. Framed:  9 1/2" x 8 1/2". $150 each.)

There are two sizes of frames ... 9 1/2" x 8 1/2" ... to better suit the more vertically oriented pieces or the more squared ones.

(Above: Frame with velcro patch, brooch, and the velcro "hanging device".)

So ... how do these brooches work as decorative fibers?  Well, the frames include another Crescent Couture mat board (not quite as expensive as the gold leafed mats used for the "On Gold" series but certainly not as affordable as even a 100% rag paper mat!).  This silver metallic threaded surface is lovely and has great contrast with the ornate gold-lipped frame.  I applied a patch of blue velcro to the center.  This blue velcro has a really, really strong sticky back.  I bought a yard 2" wide, non-adhesive backed, black velcro and cut it into pieces.  The brooch, when framed, is pinned to this black velcro ... which is easily attached to the blue patch. 

(Above:  The reverse of a brooch ... about to be pinned to the black velcro.)

The velcro hanging system worked perfectly ... except for one problem.  The brooch didn't hang vertically.  It tilted downward because the stitched pin jutted too far out from the top of the brooch. To counter-balance the pin, I used velcro glue to attach a small piece of black, foam-centered board to the velcro.  Using a gold metallic pin, I wrote "This side toward the brooch".  I also used an awl to poke obvious holes in the black velcro.  Perhaps this example isn't totally clear, but I think it will be obvious to anyone actually handling the brooch.  It is easy to take off the frame.  It is easy to wear.  It is easy to reattach the brooch to the black velcro and get it back on the frame again!

(Above: Brooches V and VI. Framed:  8 1/2" x 8 1/2". $150 each.)

The funny thing about these brooches is the fact that I'd forgotten just how many I'd made last spring.  I had Steve build sixteen frames because that's how many I counted when determining how many 8 1/2" square frames and how many 9 1/2" x 8 1/2" frames I needed.  

(Above Brooches IX and X. Framed:  9 1/2" x 8 1/2". $150 each.)

When I photographed them, I was one brooch short.  I thought I miscounted and had an extra frame.

(Above: Brooches III and IV. Framed:  8 1/2" x 8 1/2". $150 each.)

Steve insisted there were sixteen brooches for the sixteen frames.  I, too, thought there were originally sixteen.

(Above: Brooches I and II. Framed:  8 1/2" x 8 1/2". $150 each.)

With everything else going on this week, I didn't want to wait to photograph the brooches.  If I waited, they might never get photographed, entered into my inventory book, and shared on the blog.  Fifteen was just going to have to be good enough.

(Above: Brooch XV. Framed:  8 1/2" x 8 1/2". $150 each.)

Thus, this was the last one ... number fifteen ... until last night!

(Above: Brooches XVI and XVII.)

In my sewing basket I found TWO MORE brooches ... obviously now XVI and XVII.  One will get a frame.  I figured I'd just wear the extra brooch at the ACC Show.  Yet, I'm actually now two frames short and one brooch short.  Why?  Well, until writing this blog post, I'd forgotten that I made eighteen "samples".  Where the other brooch is ... anyone's guess!   

(Above:  A Gee's Bend art quilt in the process of being stitched to a uniquely spliced 100% cotton rag mat.)

Will I find the "lost" brooch in time to be photographed before the show?  Probably not!  If I find it, I'll share the photo when I share the images of the last three, small "In Box" pieces that are in the garage.  In the meantime, I need the top of my dry mount for other things ... like framing this Gee's Bend art quilt!  Two of the Gee Bend's quilters were artists-in-residence for a week in 2010 at a local elementary school.  The staff purchased this quilt ... and brought it to me for framing!  I am particularly pleased that I could splice the mat to allow the blue field to sit upon a red mat!  Totally cool!

I'm linking this blog post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber art works. 

Friday, February 06, 2015

Panel Discussion, three poems, and two new Lancet Windows

 (Above:  Lancet Window L ... as in FIFTY ... Roman numerals!  Inventory # 3358. Framed: 31 1/4" x 11 1/4". $375 plus tax and shipping. Click on image to enlarge.)

Daily I split my time between custom picture framing (the "day" job aka the "paying" job), making art, and doing the many things that go into growing a career as an artist. What does that really mean? Well, the first part is fairly obvious.  I work at Mouse House, a business I own with my husband Steve. We frame pictures for our clients. Our hours are weekdays from 9:30 - 5:00 and some Saturdays from 10 - 2. It's a full time operation.  Yet, I'm the boss! I do have a great deal of flexibility in terms of my day time hours. Frequently, I'm mounting and framing my own work. This is also when I blog, enter work into my inventory book, apply for juried shows and other opportunities, and ship artwork to various locations.  

 (Above:  Lancet Window XLIX. Inventory # 3357. Framed: 31 1/4" x 11 1/4". $375 plus tax and shipping. Click on image to enlarge.)

The past two weeks have been packed full with installations and exhibitions ... but I've also been MAKING ART!  Behind the scenes I've been working hard to create a good collection of pieces for the upcoming ACC (American Craft Council) Baltimore wholesale (Feb. 18 and 19) and retail shows (February 20 - 22).  I can't ease up because March will find me at the ACC Atlanta show.  I need all the art I can make!  Thus, two more Lancet Window Series pieces are part of this final push.  Over the coming weekend I hope to make two or three more small "In Box Series" works.  MAKING ART is what I live to do.  The day job and the "other job" is what I have to do in order to sustain the "making".

(Above, from left to right: Cindi Boiter, editor of Jasper Magazine; Michael Krajewski, and me at last evening's artists' panel discussion for Art from the Ashes show at the Tapp's Art Center.)

So ... the "other job".  Like custom picture framing and "making art", its another full-time commitment.  In a sense, I'm constantly working THREE full time jobs! Yet, these are all labors of love.

The job of growing an art career is a commitment to being organized, keeping good records, following-up on the details of documenting, marketing, selling, and shipping artwork. It involves Internet searches for opportunities and follow-through on projects. It means a lot of writing: artist's statements, exhibition proposals, interviews, press releases and articles.  It means a lot of record keeping too.  But, sometimes it also means the honor and great fun of an artists' panel discussion!  That's what I did last night.

Cindi Boiter and her Jasper Magazine made it possible for me to create THREE installations and hang two art quilts in an invitational exhibition called Art from the Ashes, one of the events in the city-wide sesquicentennial commemoration of Sherman's Civil War burning of Columbia.  Last night the public gathered to listed to six of the visual artists (including me) talk about their inspirations, creative process, and the deeper meanings behind the works in the show.  It was great!

 (Above:  Poet Al Black and me in front of our collaborative installation, Nails in a Coffin.)

One of my installations was a collaboration with local poet Al Black. Al and I were the only two non-Southerns involved in the Art from the Ashes project. He's from Indiana, played football for Purdue University, and is a Big 10 fan. (He teased me all fall but cheered for my Ohio State Buckeyes in their successful bid for the National Championship.) More importantly, Al Black is the kind of poet with whom any visual artist would be proud to collaborate, especially on a project inspired by the Civil War.  Like Walt Whitman, Al served with country as a conscientious objector ... working in battlefield hospitals ... tending war torn wounds ... and writing profoundly deep words thereafter.  Al graciously gave me permission to reprint all three of his poems in this blog post.  Read them for yourself. I'm sure you will be touched.

 (Above:  Nails in a Coffin, a collaborative installation with Al Black.)

Handful of Nails, Part I 
The Undertaker
this war of hubris
I was
a cabinet maker 
crafter of tables & chairs
couches for the parlor
pie closets, shelves
dressers and beds
to lie on 
I hammer together
rough boards and nails
for the dead 
if the resurrection
comes to pass
a handful of nails
is all

they'll find

 (Above:  Handful of Nails, Part Two and view of wrapped, rusted nails.)

Handful of Nails, Part II
The Native Son

I was your native son
your barefoot soldier
your collateral damage 
tenant farmer's son
forced to fight
or find other fields to plow 
you planted me
along the hedgerow
no place for momma to pray 
only a handful of nails
remain to testify

that once I was a man

(Above:  Nails in a Coffin, detail.)
Handful of Nails, Part III
Soldier Blue

Soldier blue
Yankee Doodle Dandy
marched south then east
and north to heart of sedition
I saw America
not in Leaves of Grass
but in the blisters
on the soles of my feet
in Pee Dee gator swamps
typhoid found me
name and address
pinned upon my chest
my family will send
the undertaker
to build me a pine bed
with a handful of nails
and carry me north
so I don't have to
sleep alone in
blood red clay

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

On Gold and other things

(Above: On Gold VI. Inventory # 3346. Framed: 9" x 11". $150 plus tax and shipping.  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

Every once in a while I see a new custom picture framing product that I can't resist. It happened several months ago ... when Crescent Mat Boards introduced their Couture Line. Most of the small samples didn't appeal to me at all, but 1314 Gold Leaf took my breathe away. It is undoubtedly the most attractive in the collection. It is the most beautiful mat board I've ever seen. It is featured prominently on all the company's marketing material for these new mat boards. Hand gold-leafed, 100% cotton rag, 8-ply, black core ... what was not to like?   THE PRICE, of course. At just over $200 a sheet WHOLESALE, I couldn't justify buying it without a really, really good reason.

(Above: On Gold IV. Inventory # 3344. Framed: 11" x 9". $150 plus tax and shipping.)

I found a great reason! Because this is gold leafed, it doesn't really require glass or plexiglas. The surface is sealed.  It didn't take me long to figure out how to mount small pieces using gel medium ... allowing both the beautiful mat board and my artwork to be presented without glass ... open to the touch!  I cut my 32" x 40" sheet into sixteen 8" x 10" pieces.  These are the finished works.  I'm calling the series On Gold for obvious reasons. Later this month they are going with me to the ACC (American Craft Council) Baltimore Show. I hope people like them!

(Above: On Gold II. Inventory # 3342. Framed: 9" x 11". $150 plus tax and shipping.)

It's very difficult to get a good photo of these works.  The reflection off the gold leafing is dazzling.

So ... I had my husband Steve pose with a few ... just to give a better sense of size.

(Above: On Gold VIII. Inventory # 3348. Framed: 11" x 9". $150 plus tax and shipping.)

The "top mounted" presentation, however, isn't difficult to see in this detail shot.

(Above: On Gold VII. Inventory # 3347. Framed: 9" x 11". $150 plus tax and shipping.)

To adhere the fiber art work to the gold leafed mat, I applied heavy gel medium to the reverse of the work, positioned it onto the mat board (already secured in the frame), put a piece of silicone paper over the top and then a piece of foam-centered board, and finally added weights. I have enough weights to do four at a time.  After several hours, I removed the weights, foamcore, and silicone paper.  (The silicone paper prevented any of the gel medium ... oozing up from the holes .. from sticky to the foamcore.  Most of the gel medium was dry. The piece was stuck to the gold-leafed mat board.  Yet, some of the gel medium was still wet in my interior holes.  I used a Q-tip to remove all the excess medium.  Within another hour, all the gel was dry.

(Above: On Gold X. Inventory # 3350. Framed: 11" x 9". $150 plus tax and shipping.)

I'm really pleased with the way these little gems turned out. The rest are further below. Scroll on down!

Before getting to these other works, I want to share last Sunday morning! I sat with my installation Cotton (and my other work too!) that is currently hanging in Art from the Ashes, an invitational show commemorating the sesquicentennial of Sherman's Civil War burning of Columbia, my city.  The Tapp's Art Center's executive director was worried that children might damage the strands of cotton.  Why? How? Well, the Columbia Presbyterian Church rents the facilities every Sunday morning for two services. So, I volunteered to be there from 6 AM until 1 PM. I brought my hand stitching and was quite productive. The congregation was most delightful. Most read Al Black's poetry our collaborative installation, Nails in a Coffin. The pastor took the photo above and sent it to me during the coffee break. 

I took the photo above. The installation was admired and nothing was damaged. I'll be there again this coming Sunday.  The exhibit's opening was last Sunday evening. Tomorrow, Thursday, February 5th, is the artists' panel discussion from 7 - 9. The show looks great.

(Above:  Death of Desire. Grave Rubbing Art Quilt Series. 27 1/2" x 40 1/2". Crayon on silk grave rubbing with vintage and used buttons. Hand and free-motion machine embroidery. Click on image to enlarge.)

In other news, Death of Desire, is headed to an invitational exhibition called Southern Highlights at the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts in Melbourne, FL from May 15 - Aug. 22nd.

Spool Quilt has returned in its crate from the show in Arizona ... requiring two FedEx ground deliverymen to get it back into the house!

Skirt! Is a Rebel is currently part of the SAQA's (Studio Art Quilt Associates) on-line exhibition Photo to Fabric. (Guest curated by Priscilla Stultz.)

Plus ... I receive a nice sized box of old thread from Phillippa Lack, a very talented silk and fiber artist working in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Thank you, Phillippa!  I'm unraveling it all ... adding it to the rest of my collection of thread ... all of which is part of an exhibition called Threads: Gathering My Thoughts. I'm also sending proposals for this work to be seen elsewhere ... anywhere ... and suggestion of fiber receptive locations are always welcome!

And ... serendipitously ... Kayle Rice, a Facebook friend, in Kalamazoo, Michigan must have known that I was planning another round with my clipped letters.  From time to time, I have to add to my stash.  I was planning on doing just that during the upcoming Sunday services at the Tapp's Art Church while sitting with my installation!  Kayle sent me all these wonderful, colorful letters to sort into their little alphabetized trays!  I'm thrilled.  Thank you, Kayle! 

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

Further below are the rest of the sixteen pieces in my new On Gold series!

(Above: On Gold I. Inventory # 3341. Framed:11" x 9". $150 plus tax and shipping.)

(Above: On Gold XI. Inventory # 3351. Framed: 11" x 9". $150 plus tax and shipping.)

(Above: On Gold XII. Inventory # 3352. Framed: 11" x 9". $150 plus tax and shipping.)

(Above: On Gold XVI. Inventory # 3356. Framed: 11" x 9". $150 plus tax and shipping.)

(Above: On Gold XV. Inventory # 3355. Framed: 11" x 9". $150 plus tax and shipping.)

(Above: On Gold III . Inventory # 3343. Framed: 11" x 9". $150 plus tax and shipping.)

(Above: On Gold XIV. Inventory # 3354. Framed: 11" x 9". $150 plus tax and shipping.)

(Above: On Gold XIII. Inventory # 3353. Framed: 11" x 9". $150 plus tax and shipping.)

(Above: On Gold V. Inventory # 3345. Framed: 11" x 9". $150 plus tax and shipping.)