Thursday, June 25, 2015

This week at the Rensing Center

(Above:  Working the Land, 5" x 16" x 11". fiber and found objects.  Zigzag machine stitching.  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

I'm closing in on my second week at the Rensing Center, an art residency program just outside Pickens, South Carolina.  I'm getting plenty of work done ... both fiber arts and catching up on lots of the computer and paperwork that come with a career in the arts.  One of the pieces I finished just the other day is Working the Land

(Above:  Working the Land, detail.)

I uncovered the rusty old pitchfork part while pulling wild wisteria from the Rensing Center's upper garden.  For the past two or three years, the garden was a little neglected while owner Ellen Kochansky established the art residency program.  This August, however, it will be the site of a wedding for the Rensing Center's bookkeeper.  Lots of weeding, planting, and needed maintenance will continue through the summer.

Now, since I found the pitchfork, I was allowed to keep it!

(Above:  Working the Land, detail.)

This was undoubtedly the most complex vessel incorporating found metal objects I've thus far made.  I knew I wanted "green" for the fibers ... to represent the many things this pitchfork probably tossed.  Many pitchforks have only three or four prongs.  They are for hay, straw, leaves or other "loose" material.  Five prong pitchforks are generally for dung or silage.  I'm going with the "silage" ... which an on-line definition is: grass or other green fodder compacted and stored in airtight conditions, typically in a silo, without first being dried, and used as animal feed in the winter.  Green is GOOD!  I'm really, really please how this one turned out.  There were moments when I thought it really was going for "the dung"! LOL! 

(Above:  One of four art quilts on which I'm furiously stitching.)

I'm not ready to share the four, large digitally printed, whole-cloth art quilts on which I'm currently working.  Yet, here's a photo of one folded over a stool near my Babylock Tiara.  I don't actually sit on the stool to stitch.  I stand.  This particular piece will incorporate an enormous area for seed stitching.  It's rather relaxing to do!

(Above:  Tying the Knot, a wedding installation, work in progress.)

Every art residency is different.  Some have rather steep participation fees.  I've never gone to one of them.  Some require each artist to donate a piece to their permanent collection.  I did this at Hot Springs National Park in August, 2011.  Some require a workshop ... like the Studios of Key West, March 2012.  Some are basically "the gift of time" ... like the Anderson Center was in May of this year.  I just came from Wormfarm Institute, a place requiring fifteen hours of work on their farm ... every weekday morning from 8:30 - 11:30.  It was hard but interesting.  Here at the Rensing Center I paid a very reasonable $50 per week and get to elect how I want to contribute eight hours of work. What's more, many of the work details also function as ways to get to know the other artists!

Due to the logging being done on a steep slope that is very near the upper garden, Ellen Kochansky (who is out weeding and working alongside everyone else) asked me to brainstorm about an installation that might deflect from this eye sore.  Immediately I thought of my I Do / I Don't installation which is currently on view at the Bilston Craft Gallery in England in the show The Liberated Quilt: New Work from Through Our Hands.  (If you haven't visited Through Our Hand's website ... it's a MUST SEE!)

 (I Do / I Don't as seen during Artista Vista 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina.)

Alongside the eleven wedding veils are hung "tie the knot" ribbons.  I made this suggestion.  Ellen then pulled up a particularly large wisteria root from which plenty of shoots and smaller roots hung and said, "I like the idea!  Something like this ... organic!"  Within a day, we raided Ellen's studio for all the ribbon, lace, trim, and interesting string she had.  Then we raided a storage structure.  Inside was a large bag of t-shirts that had been cut, stretched, and twisted into rope.

A new work detail was issued ... called "Movie Night"!  Now, that's the way to work!  We watched the King's Speech and made many of the strands now hanging in my studio here at the Rensing Center.  I've been working on this project ever since.  It's going to be gorgeous!  This is definitely a great way to contribute hours of work while also MAKING ART ... the focus of an art residency!

(Above:  Tying the Knot, detail.)

Best of all, there's rumor that another "movie night" will be happening later this evening!

(Above:  The Pickens County Dump!)

Another "work detail" is hauling all the trash to the Pickens County dump!  I've elected to go both weeks.  I'd never been to a dump before and this one is GREAT!  It has proper bins for all sorts of recycling, from glass, plastic, paper, and corrugated to electrical components and more!  That's Ellen and Katie Nocella, the Rensing Center intern.  We all went to recycle!

(Above:  The Hagood Mill's giant water wheel.)

Another fantastic thing about the Rensing Center is the "field trips"!  Last Saturday we went to the "third Saturday" mini-festival, a monthly event at the Hagood Mill

(The interior of the Hagood Mill.)

Songwriters were performing on a stage and every building on the site was in full operation.

The mill grinds all sorts of things that are sold in their gift shop.

Everyone was busy inside ...

... and outside ... and in the other buildings where weaving and quilting and churning butter were being demonstrated.

This is the cotton gin!

Despite the heat, the blacksmith shop was operational too ... as well as the moonshine area (though I don't think they actually make real moonshine!)

(Above:  The Pickens County flea market.)

On Wednesday mornings there's always a field trip to the Pickens County flea market.  It's gigantic and sells all sorts of fresh produce, discounted household items, used clothing, "junk", antiques and collectibles ...

... and even baby pheasants for $1.50 each ...

... and this guy drives up from the coast every week with fresh shrimp!

There are vendors who hawk their wares and edibles just like the "as seen on television" commercials.

I marveled at the size of those panties

... and the Batman who was entertaining kids while at a stall for a local charity.

I absolutely LOVED these found object sculptures ...

... and probably should have bought this one.  It was only $25.  Maybe next week if it's still there!

The variety of things and services was amazing ... like this portable key shop ...

... and these salt and pepper shakers!

Now ... remember the shrimp?  Well, that's what we had for my 56th birthday celebratory dinner on Wednesday night.  It was so good that I forgot to snap a photo until afterward when we made a toast with writer Gavin McCall's home brewed stout!  What a wonderful birthday!

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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A walk around the Rensing Center

(Above:  Filigree in Blue, a fiber vessel made by zigzag machine embroidery.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

It's hard to believe that a week ago I was spending my last day at Wormfarm Institute, an art residency set on a working organic farm.  I left last Friday morning to spend the day in the Chicago Institute of Art.  I took scores of photos and hope to blog about it later ... but time is precious, especially since I'm now at the Rensing Center in Pickens, SC ... another art residency ... the gift of even more time!

(Above:  The Main building at the Rensing Center.  My studio is actually just inside the sliding garage doors!

The Rensing Center is located on 26 acres in the Appalachian foothills near Pickens, South Carolina.  It is owned by Ellen Kochansky, an internationally respected fiber artist, who also serves as the center's executive director.  I've know of Ellen long before we were finally introduced (a moment I remember very, very well ... it was in June 2008 at my solo show opening for Blues Chapel at the Pickens County Museum of Art and History.  I was honored ... floored that someone with her reputation would even come ... and I said so on this very blog!)  I also wrote about Ellen's solo show, Embedded Energy, the inaugural show at 701 CCA.  That was February 2009.  Since that time, Ellen has focused on creating the Rensing Center.

The Rensing Center is unique among art residencies as it focuses not only on art but ecology and professional creative development.  I'm thrilled to be here and plan on making art, learning more about composting and ecological issues, and also doing quite a bit of "professional development" as I have several great opportunities on the horizon.

From their website: 
The Rensing Center nourishes creative capability. It fosters individual renewal, community connection, and interdisciplinary interaction among people in artistic, environmental, and entrepreneurial fields.

We are a residency program, providing living and work space to self-motivated applicants looking for an isolated rural, creative landscape, for periods ranging from three weeks to three months. Focus may be creative, professional, environmental, or all of these.

So ... This is the door into the Rensing Center's main building.

It opens onto an indoor porch ... where containers for recycling are located.  I've already had the opportunity to take them to the Pickens County Trash Facility.  It was great!  I've never been to a dump before ... especially one that has a recycling bin for everything from electronics to corrugated to paper, glass, plastic, and a working compactor!

There's also a laundry area!  No more laundromats like I used in Wisconsin!

Here's my bedroom.  Please notice it comes with a cat!

This is Bob.  He rules!  He's already protected me from "something".  I'm not sure what it was as Bob left only the intestines uneaten!  Good cat!

The Main Building is the location of a large and well stocked library.  It also has a WiFi hook up!  Yippee!

Books range in topics from all area of art, art history, environmental concerns, poetry, non-fiction, and even a section for DVDs and other media!

Here's the kitchen.  (Please notice, Bob has his own door!)

Best of all ... a BATHROOM WITH A FLUSH TOILET!  No more out house!  Yippee!

My studio is enormous!

No, I didn't bring most of the things in this area ... but I have more than enough space!  (It doubles as a wood working studio ... thus there are plenty of tools around too!  Love it!)

(Above:  Three fiber vessels.)

I was able to arrange my machines and materials and get right to work.  Using cording made at the Anderson Center in early May, I immediately made these three fiber vessels.

This is a detail of the "open" one that I'm calling Filigree in Blue.  I'm very happy with how it turned out.

This one ended up a bit flatter than I anticipated, but I still like it.

These photographs were taken on the studio floor ... when I had the garage door up.

Some local guy drove up to inquire about the logging being done elsewhere on the property.  He was quite taken with my vessels even though he thought they were hats! LOL!  So ... let's look around the rest of the place!

My large studio garage door looks directly across to Ellen's new, sustainable house!

(Above:  A former resident, the new intern, two residents, the goat herder, and Ellen.)
This is where everyone gathered for a potluck dinner on Tuesday evening.

We ate on the back porch ... which looks over the pasture ... including several goats.  Two were born just this week!

Aren't they adorable!

Every day Chad comes by to milk them.  They are his goats.  He has lots more grazing on other local farms.  He's very generous with the milk!

The goats (and some cows) have a nice barn ...

... on the other side of which is Evelyn Rensing Kochansky's house.  The center is named for her.  She is exactly how I hope I am at ninety-five years of age ... smart, adventuresome, independent, and living to the max!

Just down from there is the "guest house".  It might look small but there's a screened porch on the back which makes it a perfect place for writers or poets or other artists who don't need an enormous studio!

Unfortunately, the guest house is beside a steep slope that was once planted with cotton.  Cotton doesn't fair well in this soil and especially in this near vertical orientation.  The crop failed.  Pine trees were allowed to grow among the hardwoods ... but they are now dying and have to be torn down before they fall into the road below (or onto a person!)  I'm learning plenty on soil management!

Next comes a garden.  It's been a couple of years since it was well maintained.  Part of my "work detail" is helping to reclaim this area.  Pulling wisteria is actually great fun.  The roots go on forever!

Soon this will be the site of a lovely wedding.  The Rensing Center's book keeper will be saying her vows here!

Beside the raised beds in the garden is "The Pottery".  It was once a large pottery studio but is now a large place for an artist or two in residency.

This is the back area of "the pottery".

Very near there is the entrance to the Alder Creek trail ...
... which winds down along the pasture ...

... until reaching the water ...

... always near quilted trail markers ...

... but it was the details that really caught my eye!

A great spider's web

Beautiful moss

Interesting lichen

A blossom on the water

I'm not sure if this is rhododendron or mountain laurel ... but it sure is pretty!

Finally ... a cascade of little waterfalls ...

... and the end of the trail.