Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Soil Quilt Project

(Above:  The Rensing Center's contribution to the Soil Sister's Soil quilt!  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

During my last days at Wormfarm Institute I visited with Erin Schneider at her farm, Hilltop Community Farm in Lavalla, Wisconsin (which is about six miles outside Reedsburg).  Erin had been contacting area farmers for participation in her Soil Quilt Project.  Wormfarm was among the contacts and her information was passed on to me.  It was wonderful touring Hilltop.  I learned that being "organic" isn't enough; sustainable is better.  I learned terms like agroforestry and permaculture design and all about solar panels, but what I came for was to learn more about Erin's latest project, the Soil Quilt.

We learned from one another.  I learned that 2015 is the U.N. International Year of Soil.  Erin learned ideas for taking all the "blocks" of soil printed canvas and how she might easily construct a quilt.  (I suggested mounting the pieces to a painter's canvas ... raw edges showing ... using WonderUnder.  Having grommets applied to the canvas would also allow Erin to hang the finished piece on the side of a barn or just about any structure without needing a sleeve and slats, etc.)  As a non-stitcher, Erin was scribbling notes as I talked.  As a non-farmer, I was simply fascinated.  Erin is a soil expert!  Really, that's her day job ... soil scientist!  She even teaches on the university level!  Her Soil Quilt packets for participation in the quilt are fabulous ... including instructions for burying the 13" x 13" piece of provided canvas, a timeline for completion, details for community "quilting bees" to collect and assemble the quilt, and basic information about what soil is and does!

Here's Erin's blog post called Let the Soil Speak!  It's another way to look at what soil is.  My favorite line is:
Soil is the mixture of minerals, organic matter, gases, liquids, and myriad organisms that together support life. Soil is considered to be the "skin of the earth" – it's largest, living, breathing organism and collective geologic slate.

 (Digging the hole for our part of the Soil Quilt.)

So ... I asked for a packet to take with me to the Rensing Center, another location whose mission includes an environmental focus.  Erin happily passed one to me!  Ellen Kochansky, the director of the Rensing Center was thrilled.  Now, I already knew how to dig a hollow and bury the canvas.  I'd watched Erin's You Tube video!  Erin put a few mushrooms in her square to add to the decomposition.  So, Ellen selected a spot and we agreed to try saturating our square with a bit of Gertrude the Goat's milk.  (That actually took as much time as digging the hole!  Canvas isn't very absorbent, even when already damp with water!)

Here's the canvas down in the hole ... about 14" x 16" inches down ... under the spreading wisteria roots and with the few extra tablespoons of goat milk poured in on top.

Erin's packet even included a yard of fancy yarn ... to put down into the hole with the canvas but allowed to come through the surface like a flag.  Good thing!  It would be just over two weeks before I would come to dig it back up!


One of the reasons Ellen selected this location was because of the nice red clay soil.  Two weeks ago, we didn't see as much of the red clay.  Yesterday, however, a new drain field for the old septic tank was being dug by Scott of Seneca Treehouse Project.  Scott, like Erin and Ellen, is concerned about the environment ... and DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT.  The Seneca Treehouse project is a great resource for people wanting to learn how they can do something too! Scott helps people use their land, even plots as small as a half acre, better and more sustainably. 

(Above:  Returning to the pink yarn ribbon to dig up the canvas!)

This morning I returned to dig up the canvas.  There was no problem finding it.  I was worried that it hadn't spent quite enough time in the ground.  Erin's paperwork said 2 - 3 weeks but leaned toward the three week mark.  My first two weeks here were HOT ... as in over 90 degrees without any rain.  I wondered if lack of moisture would slow down the decomposition and result in just a little "dirt", no interesting soil markings.

(Above:  Digging up the canvas square.)

This week, however, has been cooler and we did get rain.  I was really pleased how the canvas opened up with plenty of red clay marks.  It goes in a large envelop and gets mailed back to Wisconsin tomorrow!  Thanks, Erin, for letting Ellen and me participate in your important project.

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber artwork ... in the hopes that others will take up this unique idea for an educational and totally awesome way to share the needs of our planet's "skin", aka soil!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

More from the Rensing Center Art Residency

(Above:  New series underway, a work in progress.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

My time at the Rensing Center is dwindling away.  It saddens me as the time spent here is so laid back and relaxed.  There is a very natural flow of art, visiting and resident people, and environmental concerns. Conversations have been thought provoking and enlightened.  Plus, I am able to think a lot too ... which is a really, really good thing!  Much has been on my mind!

Once upon a time I read an interview about a prominent, self-supporting painter who was trying to pass on secrets of successful time management for professional artists.  (Unfortunately, I can't remember who!)  He said he'd carefully measured the way his days were spent over several weeks, even months.  His truth was that as much or more time was spent in the "paperwork" and "business end" of an art career as in the studio actually making the work.

(Above:  Fourteen pieces in progress for the new series ... laying on the floor in my studio at the Rensing Center art residency.)

At the time, I thought he was nuts!  How was this possible?  Surely there aren't so many contracts, commissions, inventory lists, and other "boring" pieces of paper and Internet correspondences to do!  Well, time has proven him right (whoever he is! LOL!)  Little did I know that I'd have to sacrifice nearly three days at the Rensing Center for "catching up on the business of art"!  Plus, I played "hooky"!  Steve drove up to Pickens late on Friday afternoon to take me back to Mouse House in Columbia for Saturday and part of Sunday.  I've been away from home/business since April 30th, and now there was a price to pay!

(Above:  Fourteen pieces in progress for the new series ... laying on the floor in my studio at the Rensing Center art residency.  I'm thinking of calling this series, Escutcheon.  To me, each one is really like a shield or a coat-of-arms.  Plus, I love the fact that the word "escutcheon" also refers to the flat piece of metal around a keyhole or door handle.  I've used such things in my found art objects ... as the photos below show!)

During the three residency days and the "hooky-playing" weekend I managed to tackle a seemingly impossible "to do" list including:
1)  Creating two lectures and two Power Point-like presentations for August's Festival of Quilts in England ... including learning the Office Libre program to create the slide show and then uploading/sending them using WeTransfer, a free on-line system for large data communication
2)  Enter the 701 CCA biennial, our state's overview of contemporary art
3)  Enter "What's for Dinner?", a special exhibition slated for the upcoming Festival of Quilts in Houston, Texas ... including taking the necessary photos
4)  Mount a recently made Lunette window for a "first refusal" at the Grovewood Gallery ... a piece Steve will deliver on Friday before picking me up at the Rensing Center on my last day
5)  Send a proposal for the "break out" sessions for next year's SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) national conference ... my TEDxColumbia presentation!
6) Submit images and statement for the Grovewood Gallery's website
7)  Make inquiries about acquiring the SAQA regional Cut from the Same Cloth exhibit to be on view at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios (where my studio is located) during an August workshop I'm teaching there
8)  Make delivery arrangements for the pair of altered boots I made for Judy Hubbard's upcoming installation called Envisioning O'Keeffe at Columbia College
9) Write an article and select images (and get Al Black's permission to submit since the article features our collaboration and his poetry) for Through Our Hands upcoming publication
10)  Print and sign an exhibition contract to go into the box with the three accepted pieces for the juried The Book as Art v3.0: No Jacket Required.
11)  Remove sold pieces from my inventory book
12)  Add new calls-for-entry into the three-ring binder for that purpose
13)  Put away all the things I shipped home from the art residency in Wisconsin
14) Design and cut the mats for over twenty Mouse House orders.
15) Cut Steve's hair
16) Buy new shoes, bra, and pantyhose plus pack for my son's wedding in Scotland ... a destination to which we depart immediately from the Rensing Center.

Sure ... some of these things are more "personal" than "art related" ... but catching up means lots of things needed my attention! While I was cutting some of the mats, I also prepared for this week at the Rensing Center ... cutting presentation mats that would help me gauge sizes for a new series.

You see, I've been added to the roster of artists with representation at Lagerquist Gallery in Atlanta.  They took four pieces in mid-February and have already sold three of them.  They want more work!  What's more ... the delightful owner gave me some very helpful critical feedback.  She looked at my "In Box Series" and said she really loved the individual elements, the tiny, simple blocks.  She suggested that I enlarge a single block ... as a finished work.  She was excited and said she could sell such a work for more than what my "In Box" pieces were commanding.  I almost protested ... because to do as she suggested was EASIER, less time consuming, and ... in my mind, wouldn't sell for a comparable price much less MORE money.  But, she's the gallery owner ... and Lagerquist has been around since 1971!  I knew to trust her!  This conversation was likely the first time I've ever had a really beneficial bit of feedback from a gallery!  So ... I really wanted to explore her suggestion.

(Above:  Three presentation mats with "fall outs" measuring the size of the works needed to fill the void ... plus three pieces, in progress, for each size.)

So ... while in Columbia for a day-an-a-half, I cut three presentation mats (templates).  I trimmed the fall outs to the size I would ideally need to fill each mat.  The outer dimensions of the mats, from left to right, are:  16" x 16", 20" x 16", and 20" x 18".  The fall outs are, from left to right:  6 1/2" x 7", 10" x 6", and 9" x 8 1/2".  When I returned to the Rensing Center, I cut my recycled, black acrylic industrial felt and started FOURTEEN pieces!

(Above:  The same three presentation mats with the three pieces fit inside the openings.)

It was much harder than I expected to resist making the pieces more complex.  I kept repeating to myself:  K-I-S-S ... Keep It Simple, Stupid!  Of course, these pieces will later have holes melted through the polyester layers and be zapped with an industrial heat gun.  I can't wait to go on to the next step!  In fact, I didn't finish all the stitching as I ran out of the 100% black cotton thread I use!  (The two in the upper left corner of the "group shot" aren't stitched!)  Thus, I'll finish them when I return from Scotland.  (Going for my elder son's wedding!)  I think the advise I've been given has really opened my mind to a new way of looking at my work.  I know I'm exploring a totally new and exciting direction.  It is wonderful to be at an art residency, a relaxing place ripe for new ideas and permitting an entire day for ART!  Please return to this blog to see how they turn out!

(Above:  Bonnie Boiter-Jolley's bridal shower.)

Now ... my whirlwind trip to Columbia wasn't all "work".  I had fun too!  On Sunday afternoon I attended Bonnie Boiter-Jolley's bridal shower.  Her mother, the hostess, is Cindi Boiter ... the co-owner of Jasper Magazine and Muddy Ford Press.  She's the lady who spearheaded February's invitational exhibition Art from the Ashes.  My work was used on the cover of the literary piece by the same name.  I had three installations and two pieces in this show!

(Above:  Sesquicentennial, Sherman's Burning, Mother's Garment.  A detail from this garment was used for the cover of Art from the Ashes.)

I submitted two of the rusted and naturally stained vintage garments used for an Art from the Ashes' installation into a juried show at the Mendocino Art Center in California.  Both were accepted ... including the one used on the cover of the book, Art from the Ashes.  I'm really pleased about this.

(Above:  Sesquicentennial, Sherman's Burning, Child's Gown.)

Submitting for juried shows is just one of the on-going bits of life for a professional studio artist.  Now comes the exhibition contract, packaging and sending it to the venue, the pre-paid return shipping label, etc.  It's all in a day's work ... and the hours really do add up!  No matter what, I'm happy to do the paperwork every time there's an ACCEPTANCE!

(Above:  Book I.)

That's why I was also very happy to box and mail all three accepted works for The Book as Art v3.0: No Jacket Required in Decatur, Georgia.  The juror liked EVERYTHING ...

(Above:  Book V.)

... including these bronze escutcheons ...

(Above:  Book VII.)

... and this piece with it's individual epoxy filled containers of "stuff"!

(Above:  Punch bowl at the Columbia Museum of Art.)

After the bridal shower, Steve and I both put in an appearance for a friend's retirement party.  It was held at the Columbia Museum of Art.  I was most impressed by the fact that laced punch was being served from a lovely, engraved silver bowl.  I see these sorts of things in museums and in historic building all the time ... but until Sunday afternoon, I don't think I ever saw one being used!  I think this is GREAT ... a sign of using PRECIOUS POSSESSIONS!  I'm all about doing that!