Friday, October 30, 2015

Last Week at PLAYA

(Above:  Four blue fiber vessels created during my four week art residency at PLAYA.  Click on any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

I'm blogging from the Portland Airport before my red-eye flight back to Charlotte.  The last few days were emotionally strained.  I loved every single minute at PLAYA, the art residency where I've been soaking up nature and enjoying inspired quietness in the wonderful studio.  I really, really hated counting down the hours until this morning's early departure.  It was so sad to close the door on the lovely cabin and its glorious view to the dried lake bed and the Milky Way stars at night.  I started missing this high desert sanctuary even before I pulled out the driveway. Sure, during this past month, I missed my husband Steve.  Sure, I missed having a high speed Internet connection at my fingertips any moment, day and night ... but I absolutely cherished the solitary time of uninterrupted work and the chance to contemplate my current work, future plans, and upcoming goals.  Being at PLAYA was magical ... and productive.

(Above:  Paisley Caves: Man and Nature.  Sun-bleached animal bones, discarded ammo shells, fiber vessel.)

My original residency proposal included a desire to create fiber vessels ... more than just "containers" but conceptual pieces.  I wanted to mentally think about the forms I was zigzag stitching and find ways to use the results as part of a greater statement.  One of the best ideas came in an instant.  Deb Ford, the executive director of PLAYA, took several of the artists-in-residence to the nearby Paisley Caves, the location where archeologists uncovered the oldest DNA evidence of man's existence in North America.  Approximately 14,000 years ago humans inhabited these caves ... which are only about ten miles from PLAYA.  When we visited, we gathered a few animal bones.

No!  These are NOT relics!  Raptors nest above the caves and dine on the small rodents, pigeons, and other creatures who live in the area.  They discard the bones. These caves are on public land.  It isn't a designated historical site, and the archeological dig is finished!  (I posted photos on Facebook and many people were alarmed that I was stealing away precious relics!  Not the case!)  Anyway, there were also plenty of small ammo shells on the ground.  Instantly, I looked at the shells and thought, "Well, there's modern day evidence of man!"  

(Above:  Detail of Paisley Caves:  Man and Nature.)

From that moment, I wanted to collect more bones, more ammo shells, and fill a fiber vessel.  There's a concept!  Deb warned that the dirt road had deep ruts.  It might be very risky to drive back in a small car, low riding car.  I thought about it and thought about it ... and finally risked the drive.  It was worth it!  I'm really pleased with this piece!
(Above:  Three, natural toned fiber vessels.)

I'm not precisely sure how I will use some of the many other fiber vessels to make strong, conceptual statements ... but I had fun making them nonetheless!

(Above:  Composer Susan Alexander and the fiber vessel she bought.)

Some of these vessels don't need a lofty concept.  Two have already been sold.  One went to Susan Alexander, a composer.  Another went to Stephanie Dykes, a printmaker from Salt Lake City.  (Thanks, Susan and Stephanie!  Your support means the world to me!)

(Above:  Free motion stitching a new Lunette Window.)

This week also found me creating another Lunette Window for my upcoming solo show at the Douglasville Arts Council in Douglasville, Georgia!  I've got a busy, busy week ahead when I return to Columbia!

(Above:  My photo arrangement for the four, blue fiber vessels with the Five Points Pavement Diptych tacked to the design wall.)

Another deadline includes my commissioned diptych for the Five Points Association.  The two works tacked to the design wall will be available through the Starry Night Gala on December 3rd.  They are due, however, on Tuesday of next week.  Thank goodness I selected the framing material before I left home!

(Above:  Additional images of pavement in Five Points ... in the process of being free motion quilted and embellished with hand stitching.)

When I created the digital files for my Five Point Pavement Diptych, I also ordered several, smaller prints of my picture.  This past week allowed me to finish most of these small works.  They have been so much fun to stitch!  Plus ... I was also working on another deadline.  I didn't snap a photo but I plan to do so before I ship the pieces to Washington, DC!  So ... what's the big secret?  Well, I was selected to create the twelve Christmas ornaments from South Carolina for the National Christmas tree.  This year the ornaments had to reflect each state's National Parks and Monuments.  I gathered my images, uploaded them to Spoonflower, and waited to receive the protective 5" plastic globes in which the ornaments were to fit.  The globes arrived in Columbia after I was in Oregon.  Steve shipped me one ... so I made eighteen during my final week at PLAYA.  (That means I have a few extra for the SC Arts Commission, my friend Dolly Patton who recommended me for the commission, and for my parents who kept this a secret!)  Yes ... Steve and I actually get to go to DC with coveted tickets for the National Tree Lighting!  I'm excited!

(Above:  Four containers of different soil collected at PLAYA.)

As exciting as this opportunity has been, it can't compare to the hair-brained ideas that came to me during my final week at PLAYA.  I think that during my first week I was simply too in awe of the natural surroundings to entertain new ideas.  By the second week, I was heavily into my proposal and making the work I planned for this special time.  By the end, however, unique opportunities seemed to present themselves ... like collecting four samples of soil to make "paint".  One of the samples came from the mowed grass paths.  One came from the salty crust of the playa.  One came from the grey sand that blows into eddy in the late autumn heat, and the final sample of cinnamon brown soil was dug up from just under the cracked, sere lake bed in areas that are able to sustain some plant growth.  I mixed each sample with a little water from the spring fed pond at PLAYA.  Then, one by one, I used wadded up pieces of paper (as I had no proper brushes!) and spread and flinged the mixtures onto the Wonder Under I brought.

(Above:  Wonder Under painted with soil samples from PLAYA.)

(Above:  Detail of my soil painting on Wonder Under.)

I allowed each sample to dry before adding the next, preventing the hues from mingling into a really muddy mess!  Now ... I know Wonder Under!  It is a heat-activated adhesive but it only effectively holds a very thin layer of coloring agents.  My soil samples were too thick.  Once dry, I brushed off most of the encrusted soil ... leaving just the traces.

(Above:  PLAYA soil samples on Wonder Under ... with a few twigs of local vegetation ... ironed onto paper.)

Then, I cut the Wonder Under and ironed it onto 100% cotton rag paper.  On this one, I also added a few stems of local vegetation.

(Above:  PLAYA soil on Wonder Under ironed to paper.)

I am really, really pleased with this hair-brained idea.  I ended up with eight horizontal pieces and two smaller works.  I plan to coat them with polymer emulsion, fuse the paper to fabric, and add a couple of machine embroidered lines suggesting a horizon line.  Stay tuned on this blog!  I'll be getting to this as soon as my shipped boxes arrive in Columbia1

(Above:  Sign for the Fremont Recreation Trailhead.)

Now ... as much as I absolutely loved my uninterrupted studio time, I did get out into nature while in Oregon.  One day last week I went hiking to Cat Canyon.  It was miraculous to be all alone in the wilderness.  I saw deer, chipmunk, and plenty of birds.  The high desert scenery is wild and full of life.

In sections the path was quite steep and rocky.  In other areas it was more like a gentle indentation across a board, upward inclined field.

I went through patches with tall Ponderosa pines and marveled at the deep texture of the bark.

Some trees were intentionally downed to prevent a forest fire from spreading.

Other delicate trees clung to their late fall leaves that rustled in the occasional, fierce wind.

I collected a few rocks ... and obsidian!  I admired the lichen.

(Above:  A group from PLAYA out to explore an area with many petroglyphs.)

At another time I went to Coffee Pot Flats and found more obsidian!  I'm thrilled ... and I found even more while visiting the native American petroglyphs with other residents from PLAYA.  All and all, I really did spend time in nature as well as in my studio!

(Above:  My stone spiral formation on the playa.)

In fact, at least twice a day ... sometimes three or four times ... I walked from my cabin to the studio (or back) via the playa ... collecting stones along the way ... depositing them in my own spiral formation.  Unfortunately, I learned that only the one called Black Diamond and the line called True North are allowed to stay.  Neighbors have complained about these "unnatural" formations despite the good intentions and the pure joy in the making.  Reluctantly, Deb Ford asked that I dismantle mine.  If I didn't do it, the nice facilities guy would have to do it.  Better me doing it with sadness than him doing it while cursing the artist!  So I removed all the stones ... hauled them off into the sage brush.  To me, this felt very much like the sand mandelas created by devote lamas ... whose final gesture is to brush away their efforts.  It was wonderful while it lasted and it now back to the pristine, arid lake bed ... waiting for another artist to have the same sort of temporary fun. 

Last my stone spiral, I'm now gone from PLAYA ... and hopeful to return.  Yes, I'll reapply!  It was a magical time of vast horizons and special details ... like this stack of chopped wood waiting for the winter.

While I drove to Portland, it started to rain ... and even rainy days are wonderful in Oregon!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Productive week at PLAYA

(Above:  A collection of three fiber vessels made from an extra large ball of zigzag stitched cording.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

My days at PLAYA, an art residency in the remote "Oregon Outback" are numbered.  This time next day will see me driving the cute little red rental car back to the Portland Airport.  I will be very sad to leave this high desert location and all the natural beauty surrounding my very private and totally perfect cabin.

(Above:  My cabin!  Now what sort of accommodations would be better than this?  None that I can think of!)

I've fallen into an ideal, daily routine.  My morning starts with a spectacular sunrise every day.  They haven't all looked the same.  One overcast morning revealed a bank of fog over the dried lake bed that truly resembled snow.  Another day was a study in contrast but most mornings are a show of intense color.  It is my habit to type stream-of-consciousness writing while viewing the sunrise, have coffee, and mentally prepare for the day.  The quietness is inspirational.

(Above:  My spiral stone formation on the dried Summer Lake bed.)

Each morning I take a long walk across the playa picking up stones for my spiral formation.  It is growing nicely and different from the other stone formations created by past art residents.  My stone are abutted, one to next, not spread out.  I like it this way and hope to continue adding more stones if the moisture (which is steadily building up in the soil) doesn't turn this area into the lake that will stay through the winter and evaporate during the summer.  This long walk leads to the other side of PLAYA, to my studio!

(Above:  The giant ball of mostly off-white yarns stitched with King Tut's "Sands of Time" 100% cotton thread.)

During this past week I created six new, medium "In Box" pieces.  Four have been melted with the soldering irons I brought.  When I return home, I'll tack them to a stretcher bar and melt them with an industrial heat gun.  They are headed to my solo show at the Douglasville Arts Council.  I'm delivering them on November 4th ... and on schedule to do just that!

(Above:  The shelving unit in my studio ... filled with the fiber vessels I've made during the first three weeks of my residency.)

In the meantime, I'm deeply into making fiber vessels.  I've already gone through over 10,000 yards of thread.  Thankfully, there's a great quilt shop in La Pine called Homestead Quilts.  I've come to La Pine every Friday, including today, in order to blog, grocery shop, fill up the gas tank, and purchase more thread.  Last Friday I ordered a cone of King Tut's #933 Hieroglyphs.  I left a business card, and on Wednesday they called Steve back in Columbia, SC to say the order was ready to pick up!  I'm hoping for some other shades as well.  The giant ball of mostly off-white yarns and the first vessel used nearly the entire cone of King Tut's "Sands of Time".  I've made two other fiber vessels from the giant ball and might get two more (or one really big one) from the remaining cording.  There are plenty more photos below ... but that's not all I've been working on!

(Above:  My studio ... with the Five Points Diptych pinned to the design wall.)

I've also been stitching steadily on this commissioned diptych for the Five Points Association's December 3rd Starry Night Gala.

(Above:  The Five Points Pavement Diptych, in progress.)

I stitch every evening but have pinned the works to the design wall to check the progress.  I'm really enjoying how the embroidery is adding textile to the images of pavement shot last summer in the Five Points neighborhood.  Rarely do I notice all the interesting colors, shapes, and patterns underfoot.

(Above:  A large, bright orange fiber vessel.)

Below are more of the fiber vessels made this past week ... including this big, bright orange piece! At first, the cording didn't look promising.  The more thread I added, the better and better it got!

(Above:  A small, mostly pale lime green vessel stitched with black thread.)

At PLAYA I've been experimenting with the threads I've used.  Most of my cording is double zigzag stitched in order to add another, subtle layer of color.  Some of the vessels are then stitched using a strongly contracting thread ... like black!

I love the way the black thread intensifies the colors of the cording!

Here's another shot ... focusing on the interior rather than the outer edge and rim.

Believe it or not, the vessel about was made using the same cording.  It was stitched, however, with the same thread used to make the cording ... King Tut's "Nile Crocodile".  (Gotta love the Egyptian names for this 100% Egyptian cotton thread!)

Here's another example of two vessels using the same cording.  One was stitched in with a blue that blended into the basic coloring of the cording.  The other was stitched with black thread.

These three vessels were also created this week ... in response to the fabulous coloring of the local vegetation. 


The yellow straw colors, subtle tans and multiple shade of light brown make the high desert rich with variety.

Yet, it is the yellow I love the best!

(Above:  Two yards of unbleached muslin covered in crayon grave rubbings.)

Last week I bought two yards of unbleached muslin at the Homestead Quilt Shop.  The staff told me how to find the nearby Bi-Mart in order to purchase a box of crayons.  I took these to the Paisley Cemetery.  Grave rubbings! What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Best of all were the "birds".  These small, delicate motifs were on many of the graves.  Each one was part of a Woodsman of America marker.  I've never been to a cemetery with such a high percentage of graves provided by this insurance company!

Even though I know these birds are "doves", I saw them as flickers!  To me, PLAYA and the Oregon Outback will always remind me of these beautiful birds.  Thus, I made over a dozen rubbings of the two different designs.  I don't know what I'll do with them ... but I now have them!

There were also several graves illustrating the "Gates of Heaven" ... quite nice!  I would have preferred silk fabric, but I couldn't find any.  Silk seems to "hug" the gravestone and subtly show the indentations of the chiseled letter.  It also seems to "drink in" the wax crayon's pigment.  Muslin will have to do ... and it did!

After visiting the Paisley cemetery last Sunday, I drove up the extremely scenic Mill Street road, a winding pavement following this crystal clear creek.  It was a great day and I'm looking forward to returning and hiking to a place called "Cat Canyon" ... selected simply because it is only two miles from the road and I like the name!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Flicker and fiber vessels

(Above:  A dead flicker in a fiber vessel inspired by its beautifully colored feathers.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Well ... I'm back in La Pine at the McDonalds in order to blog about the past, glorious week at PLAYA, an art residency program in Oregon's "Outback".  The location is along side the dried Silver Lake bed about ten miles south of the Summer Lake Lodge and eighteen miles north of the town Paisley (population 243).  This place is fabulously remote.  My cell phone sometimes has reception ... about fifty to hundred yards out into the arid landscape.  There is one, slow, broadband connected computer terminal.  Despite the fact that I blog, maintain my website, have a Constant Contact account and over 1800 Facebook friends ... I LOVE THE ISOLATION and especially the lack of distractions that happen in my "real world".  Time seems to have slowed down. The beauty of nature is obvious from every morning's scarlet and pink rays of sunrise to the falling shadow of Winter Ridge spreading across the playa.  Needless to say, I'm also getting plenty of work accomplished.

Every morning I take the longer path from my cabin ... across the cracked earth that will be filled with water within a month ... across the zigzag pond's bridge ...

... and to my separate studio.  In the above photo, my cabin is well beyond the frame on the left.  My studio is beyond the frame on the right.  The morning walk is glorious!  One day, however, I heard a rustling in the tall grass and found a wounded flicker.  I carried him to Michael, a great guy and staff member here at PLAYA.  He gave me a box and said to "hope for the best".  I did but the bird was still in the box on the following day ... dying.  Michael said to put it out in nature for its final hours.  I did, but I promised the poor creature that somehow I'd use him for "art".  I thought I'd harvest the feathers but learned this isn't permitted.  (I thought only raptor feathers were off limits, but apparently not!)  I had to come up with another plan ... and I did.  I decided to make my first fiber vessel ... inspired by the flicker.

Serendipitously, I had all the right yarns and threads.  As I worked, I took breaks to check the bird.  He died just as I finished.

Nearby was a rough rock perched on a well weathered block of wood.  I placed the vessel and the flicker atop and took several photos.

I have an idea to frame one of the photos and present the empty "nest" below it ... a sort of shrine to the flicker.  The idea is still forming but it is clear that my residency proposal was going well, just in an unexpected direction.

My residency proposal said that I would spend my time exploring how to turn my fiber vessels into more than a suggestion of an ordinary, possibly functional form ... into a more conceptual work.  The dead flicker immediately inspired this course of action.

(Above:  The shelving unit in my studio ... filled with fiber vessels and balls of cording for even more fiber vessels.)

I made so much "flicker inspired" cording that other vessels naturally occurred ...

... including this "cage" made using four pieces of barbed wire found on my early morning walks.

The night skies inspired other vessels.  Here the Milky Way is obvious every night.  I hardly ever see half as many stars while at home in Columbia.  The wide open space is vast ... and is a different sort of "containment" ... like a giant, twinkling dome overhead.

Here's another flicker inspired vessel.  This actually cording is the same as the others.  I've simply zigzag stitched the piece using a bright orange, Oliver Twist variegated cotton thread ... and then black for the rim.

Here's another "night sky" vessel ...

... and another Flicker inspired piece.  I used all of the King Tut "Obsidian" thread I bought last Friday.  I also used all the "Shifting Sands" King Tut thread too.  That's 2000 yard each.  I'll be going back to the Homestead Quilt Shop and Gallery after I'm done blogging ... for more thread!

Zigzag stitching the cording requires plenty of thread.  The flicker inspired cording was over-stitched ... just to get a little bit more orange into the mix.  I used the orange in the bobbin during the second pass over the cording.  This vessel was then zigzagged with the "Obsidian" thread.  How am I making these vessels?  Well ... it's easy!  HERE is my free, on-line tutorial!

Here are two more night inspired pieces.  The small one was made with the "leftover" cording.  Once it's gone, it's gone!

Here's another flicker inspired piece.

(Above:  My studio and how I arranged taking photos.)

I shot all the photos of these vessels in my studio.  Why?  Well, the light at PLAYA is amazing and bright, too bright for capturing good images.  When natural light is so intense, areas of shadow are often too dark.  Thus, I waited until the early afternoon, opened the garage door in my studio (allowing ambient light into the space), and set up the same rough rock and weathered wooden block of wood I originally used for the pictures of the dead flicker.  I put them on a studio stool in the corner.  It seemed to work very, very well.  Occasionally, I had to "photoshop" the white wall ... where a screw showed.  So ... what's on my makeshift pedestal?

(Above:  Bucket List, in progress.)

This is Bucket List.  It is a fiber vessel I made in May at the Anderson Center and intended to fill with ripped-and-stitched and rolled-and-wrapped pages of old National Geographic Magazines.  This piece sort of guaranteed my exhibition proposal and gave me something on which to immediately start working.  Conceptually ... and before the Internet ... the majority of American's created their "bucket list" of world locations they'd like to visit by turning the pages of this wildly popular, monthly magazine.  Of course, they didn't call it a "bucket list".  We call our fantasy travel plans by that name now.  Yet, this is how my grandparents and everyone else visited "the world".  I really wanted pre-World War II issues ... long before the Internet ... the "Greatest Generations" subscriptions.  My mentor, Stephen Chesley, gave me a stack of recent issues ... but I really didn't like them.  The magazine's new branding has done away with the mostly text filled cover.  The classic yellow binding and edges are a brighter yellow.   

While with my solo show, Last Words, in Carrollton, Georgia, I went to Horton's Book store and found TWENTY issues dating before 1945!  Each was only 75-cents!  Thus, I'm spending every evening in my cabin working on this piece.  Thus far, I have ten issues dismantled.  It is a perfect way to watch the last red rays of sunlight and the first stars appearing in the sky!

(Above:  Lunette XVIII, XIX, and XX in progress.)

Now ... fiber vessels aren't the only things on which I'm working.  I take a break every now and then to do something else ... like creating more pieces for my upcoming solo show at the Douglasville Arts Council.  These three pieces are ready for the final stage of melting using an industrial heat gun ... which will happen after I return home!  I have my soldering irons with me but not the stretcher bar and the heat gun.  That was too much to pack!

(Above:  The Paisley Caves.)

Plus, I've gone on two side trips!  First, a group of artists went with PLAYA executive director Deb Ford to the nearby Paisley Caves.  IT WAS SO COOL!

(Above:  Deb Ford ... leading our way up to the caves.)

The system of four caves are off Highway 31 on a dirt road ... without a sign.  They were first studies in the 1930s but it wasn't until 2002 when archeologists uncovered the oldest DNA evidence of human habitation in North America ... coprolites ...that's fossilized "poop".  Radiocarbon dating puts these remains at about 14,300 years ago.

On the way, Deb found a horned lizard ...

... and in the caves were all sorts of recent bones from the various mice and pack rats that live there ... and are food for the nearby raptor aeries.  

Here's the view from the cave ... with our two vehicles in the foreground and the dried lake bed, playa, further back.  I can see the butte on which the Paisley Cave are found from my cabin deck!

(Above:  Looking down Main Street in Paisley, Oregon.)

I also drove into Paisley in order to mail some postcards.  I wanted to make sure that my Dad's postcard had a commemorative stamp and a hand cancellation.  The nice post lady laughed.  In Paisley all the mail gets hand cancelled. 

Of course I visited the cemetery while I was in Paisley.  I didn't expect it to be so interesting but it was!

I will be looking for a crayon and some fabric ... to return for a few special grave rubbings.  In the meantime, I couldn't help up to snap a photo of this bronze cowboy hat and ...

... and this real, wooden marker casting a long shadow.

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