Sunday, July 30, 2017

Last Day at Homestead National Monument

(Above:  Two pigs at the Gage County Fair, Beatrice, Nebraska.  Click on any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

Today was the last as an artist-in-residence at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska.  I've accomplished so much while year and enjoyed the quiet, solitary time to contemplate the work I want to make in the coming year, new directions, and how a sense of space affects the way I approach art.  I've blogged every day.  First, I've shared something about this unique place.  Then, I've shared what I worked on that day.  Some days included other activities or locations in the area.  Today was my second visit to the Gage County Fair.  Earlier in the week (before the fair officially opened), I went to watch people bringing their livestock, canned goods, household items, artwork, tractors, and everything else for competition.  Today, I got to see some of the results and watch small pets being judged.
 (Above:  The Palmer-Epard Log Cabin, 17 1/2" x 23 1/2".  Image transfer on fabric with both free-motion machine embroidery and hand stitching.  Buttons.)

First however, I'd like to share my donations to the Homestead National Monument's permanent art collection.  I finished The Palmer-Epard Log Cabin on Day Seven.  I knew while working on this piece that I would donate it.  This tiny log cabin was once the home to a family with ten children.  I can't even imagine living in such close quarters.  It is charming, of course, but it will always remind me how lucky I am to have studio space larger than this.

(Above:  Homestead Act Postage Stamp.  13 1/2" x 17 1/2".  Digital image of the 1962 Homestead Act  Centennial US Postage Stamp printed on fabric.  Buttons.  Hand stitched.)

I asked Ranger Hunter Hendricks if Homestead National Park would accept two pieces from me.  He said, "Absolutely!"  I'm glad because this little piece really ought to stay here!  I shared it on Day Three.  This piece will always remind me of the vastness of the American Dream, the size of 160 acres, the risks and perils of being a lone pioneer in a great big prairie, and the uniqueness of this rural location. 

Plus, I gave Homestead National Monument seven uncanceled Homestead Act stamps.  Years ago at auction, I bought a stamp collection that included several nearly full sheets of 4-cent stamps including this one.  I used four on the last piece I made, Anonymous Homesteader.  (Shared yesterday, Day Twelve.)  I distributed all but seven of them at last night's campfire series ... one to anyone who wanted one.  After the program, one of the ladies said she was so grateful.  She'd lived her entire life in Nebraska and Homestead was her favorite spot.  She said she was going to have that stamp framed.  Now, how could I buy anything so valuable for 4-cents?  It seemed to me that the art quilt featuring this stamp ought to stay here too!

I leave tomorrow morning as soon as a ranger is available to collect my keys and check me out ... around 8:00 AM.  I spent the late afternoon packing and cleaning.  I walked the trails one last night at dusk ... but ... midday found me at the Gage County Fair!

I went to see the cats judged.  I didn't realize that other small pets would be judged too.  There were rabbits, a hamster, and a dog in addition to the cats.  (There could have been ANY small, household pet ... including mice, rats, gerbils, etc.)  The judge was eminently qualified having grown up in 4-H, graduated from college after studying animals, and is now a student adviser at the University of Nebraska.  She was kind, gave helpful tips and suggestions, and explained everything so thoughtfully.  What I didn't know before arriving is that most of the people coming for this competition were experiencing their first occasion to present an animal.  One of the girls is a "clover", too young for 4-H.  Most were twelve or under.  This was a gentle, educational, supportive and safe environment for kids to begin ... before going on to the much more serious 4-H competitions.  They were judged by the condition of their pet, their knowledge about the species and its care, and the living situation they provided for their pet.  It was really cute!

Yet, I saw other animals at the fair ... ones I didn't expect at all like this recently sheared, white alpaca ...

... and a tortoise ...

... and a camel!  (There were, of course, cows, horses, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, etc.)

Then ... there were these "animals".  I love looking at all the 4-H judged categories, especially the ones with which I'm unfamiliar like "vegetable art".  Who knew?

This display of ribbons was all award winning cookies!

They were near the pet rocks ...

... and the twig display.

In another building I found the adult competitions,including Needle Arts ...

... and the Flower Department.

They were near the "engineering" toy section which included this unique tractor made from an antique sewing machine!

Finally, I browsed through the "real" antique tractors.  It was a fun day at the fair.  I will miss Nebraska!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Homestead National Monument, Day Twelve

(Above:  The Not-So Junior Ranger Program ... with successful pin and badge!  Click on any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

This is day twelve as an artist-in-residence at Homestead National Monument.  I've been blogged every day.  First I share something about this unique location.  Then I share the artwork I made.

So ... it was almost a week ago that I learned about the No-So Junior Ranger Program ... all thirteen pages of it!  I've been working on it ever since.  It was harder than I expected but was also lots of fun.  It took me back to the farm implement exhibit ... looking for answers.  It took me back to the all-weather flip book on prairie plants ... looking for answers.  It took me to the Heritage Center to access the Homestead Land Entry Case Files (digitized files being created from the over 30 million documents stored in the National Archives ... for which all Nebraska records are available).  What was I doing?  Looking for answers, of course.

 (Above:  Ranger Hunter Hendricks and me shaking hands after my official oath.)

I finished yesterday but wanted Ranger Hunter Hendricks to be the one to "swear me in".  We couldn't get together until this afternoon.  Not all National Park Service properties have a "No-So Junior Program" but the idea is catching on.  It really does make the experience more meaningful.  What will I do with my pin and badge?  I'll add them to my Cabinet of Curiosities!  One had to be "curious" enough to seek out all those answers!  It was worth it!

 (Above:  Saturday night campfire series at Homestead National Monument.)

Part of a National Park art residency is presenting a public program.  Here at Homestead National Monument that means being featured during the weekly Saturday night campfire series.  My work was displayed on a table.  I talked about how I applied, my proposal, why I wanted to come to this particular place, and what I stitched during the past twelve days.

I shared this evening's program with the Windy River Dulcimer Society.

In addition to playing familiar, generally pre-1940 songs, the group tells jokes and invites their audience to sing along.

We had a small campfire but allowed it to burn out.  It's been too hot here lately.  We only needed a touch of ambiance, not the additional warmth! LOL!
 (Above:  Waste Not Fresh Tears VI, 18" x 14".  Xylene photo transfer on printmaking paper fused to fabric.  Accented with water soluble crayons.  Buttons and beads.  Hand stitched.)

Now ... what did I stitch today?  In the morning I created Waste Not Fresh Tears VI.

 (Above:  Waste Not Fresh Tears VI, detail.)

Like most series, it gets easier and easier.  Selecting the buttons, determining placement, and stitching through the paper-fused-to-fabric is now pure joy.  It also goes more quickly.  I'm really enjoying this series and might return to it in the future.

(Above:  Anonymous Homesteader, 18" x 14".  Xylene photo transfer on printmaking paper fused to fabric.  Accented with water soluble crayons and metallic gold pencil.  Collage using original 1860s and 70s Harper's Weekly advertisements and four 1962 Homestead Act Centennial stamps.  Buttons and embroidery floss.  Hand stitched.)

This series has other possibilities too.  I first created the xylene photo transfers back in 2009.  At the time, I made twenty-five large transfers and they became my "Angels in Mourning" series.  To these larger pieces, I added clock gears, scraps from hand-written ledgers, artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters, and all sorts of trinkets.  They were all framed and have been part of my solo show Last Words.  At the time, I thought I might collage epitaphs onto the smaller transfers ... but I never got around to them.

(Above:  Anonymous Homesteader, detail.)

So, when packing for this residency, I saw the transfers and thought, "Susan, it might be fun to stitch buttons to these!  Take them along!"  It was definitely an after thought when I grabbed a stash of Harper's Weekly pages from the 1860s and 1870s.

(Above:  Anonymous Homesteader, detail.)

Because my original intention was to collage an epitaph onto the paper, many of the smaller transfers are NOT in the middle.  They were off-set ... to allow room for "words".  Well ... as it turned out ... I used the space to collage advertisements from Harper's Weekly.  I even found an ad for homesteading acreage in Nebraska!
(Above:  Anonymous Homesteader, detail.)

Some of the other ads were for buttons, a treadle sewing machine, and a new "frontier" novel.  What could be more perfect for the last piece I'll stitch in Nebraska?  Tomorrow I'm off to the Gage County Fair to watch cats being judged.  (I thought this was happening on Friday.  Thank goodness I checked the schedule before heading out!)  Then, I have to pack up.  I leave at 8 AM on Monday morning.  I will blog tomorrow ... after all, I'm going to the fair!

Homestead National Monument, Day Eleven

(Above:  A fawn at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Today has been my eleventh as an artist-in-residence at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska.  I've been putting up a blog post every day, sharing something about this unique location first ... and then sharing the artwork on which I am working!

Since my arrival, I've been walking the trails everyday.  I've been taking pictures of everything but have been especially fond of capturing the wildlife ... insects, birds, bunnies, and deer! I've depressed my camera's shutter button at least a thousand times.  Mostly, I get a blur.  Occasionally, I find focus, good lighting, and a nice picture.  These are the only images saved.

Taking pictures of rabbits is actually easy here at Homestead National Monument.  They are everywhere.  Getting the sunset's lighting on a bunny's ears ... well ... that was luck!  The rest of my wildlife photos are further below.  Just keep scrolling down!

(Above:  Volunteer quilters for Friends of Homestead National Monument.)

Every Friday volunteer quilters stitch together on a commissioned project.  All funds raised by these talented ladies go to the non-profit Friends of Homestead National Monument.  Like last Friday, I spent the afternoon with them.

Yes, I quilted ... on a traditional quilt!  It was fun, easy, and an excellent way to make new friends.

(Above:  The reverse of Staking Her Claim.)

Yesterday I shared a 19" x 25" art quilt called Staking Her Claim.  (CLICK HERE for that post.)  It was nearly finished ... but not quite done.  This morning I made the hanging sleeve from two 1963 linen calendar dish towels.  I added the doilies and lace and signature label.  All these additional were hand stitched onto the background fabric (a section of a vintage quilt top).  When stitching, I am careful to get the threaded needle into my felt batting but without piercing through the front's surface.  These stitches act to unite all three layers:  Front, middle/batting, and back.

(Above:  My contribution to Through Our Hands' Portrait Shuffle, in progress.)

It's hard to believe that next weekend will find my husband and me flying to England for The Festival of Quilts.  I will be exhibiting Saint Anastasia with Through Our Hands, an international group of textiles artists.  I am very proud to be an affiliate member of this distinguished group. So, of course, I volunteered to participate in an important project that coordinates with the members' show.  The project is called "Portrait Shuffle", and it benefits Save The Children.  The donated piece could be any sort of portrait, even an abstraction.  It had to be 15 centimeters by 21 centimeters (which is 6" x 8").  I knew I wanted to stitch this piece while at Homestead National Monument and to use buttons.  I just hadn't done it ... until today.  I took one of my xylene photo transfers of a cemetery angel and measured out the required size.

Each one of these images is on printmaking paper fused to fabric.

I used a metallic gold water soluble pencil to create a halo and stitched on a field of buttons.  I'm pleased with the result and hope it helps the cause.   Now ... just scroll down to enjoy the wildlife here on the Nebraska prairie!

(This is a thirteen lined ground squirrel ... so cute!)

It is rather easy to see a deer when walking the trails when the deer is also walking the trails! LOL!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Homestead National Monument, Day Ten

Today was my tenth day as an artist-in-residence at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska.  I've been blogging every day, sharing first something about this unique place.  Then, I blog about the artwork on which I'm working. So ... today ... PLANTS!

Homestead National Monument is home to lots and lots of flowers, prairie grasses, and even trees.  I've been snapping photos on every walk ... and I've been walking in the morning, during the day (especially now that it's not too hot), and especially at dusk.  Only one percent of the original tallgrass prairie still exist.  Homestead has 100 restored acres.  I have only learned the names of a few species, but there's an all-weather flip book very near the education building with lots of information ... including interesting facts like:  The Compass Plant's resin was used by native American children as chewing gum.

I've posted eleven of my favorite plantlife photos after showing the piece I finished stitching today!  Just scroll down!

(Above:  Staking Her Claim, 19" x 24".  Image transfer on fabric with both free-motion machine embroidery and hand stitching.  Buttons.)

This piece is finished ... well, almost.  The reverse still needs a few finishing touches, but it wouldn't have made it this far without help.

This is Ranger Rayma and me.  Rayma was the person who solved my dilemma over the sky area.  I knew I wanted a great phrase, something to let viewers know the image depicted a woman homesteader.  Homesteading was open to former slaves, immigrants, women, and other marginalized people.   Rayma showed me a book documenting the lives of many females on the prairie.  The title was perfect:  Staking Her Claim.  Thanks, Rayma.  (By the way, Rayma also was instrumental in finding a few answers for my Not-So Junior Ranger pamphlet.  I'm sure to get my pin tomorrow!  It is a lot harder than I thought it would be!)

This morning I finished the seed stitching around the couched letters.  I trimmed the work, ironed/blocked it, and made sure it was square.

Then I brought out a glass mixing bowl full of grey buttons and started stitching them to the edges.

It's fun to select buttons!  I like variety in size, shade, and style.

I also placed several in the foreground.

This photo was taken after the reverse was added ... but it also effectively shows the buttons added in the lower section of the quilt.

This shows the back once all the buttons were stitched in place.

I used another section of the same quilt top used for my earlier piece.  This time, however, I didn't cut the buds and put them back together again ... because this section actually lay flat from the start.  Finally, the blanket stitch attached the reverse to the quilt.  Tomorrow I will add a hanging sleeve and several doilies.  I add the doilies in order to better attach the reverse.  As shown, the reverse is only attached around the edges.  When adding other elements, I always stitch into the felt batting ... and that unites the layers.

Now ... just scroll down for the photos from the prairie!  Enjoy!

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