Saturday, March 31, 2018

Celebrating with New Work

(Above:  Window CXLVIII. Framed 17" x 15". $265. Click on any image to enlarge.)

I am still overjoyed with my incredible fortune about the Smithsonian Craft Show.  I'm already on the website too!  Click HERE to view the Decorative Fibers category, including me!  In celebration that I'll be in Booth 110 from April 26 - 29, I just had to make a new piece.  This is it!  My husband Steve is excited too.  He built me four frames with four linen liners instead of just one.  Therefore, I'll shortly be making three more this size.

(Above:  Wall of Ancestors: I Dreamed of Stardom and Hollywood Lights. 16" x 13".)

Now, whether I need more work or not (I don't, LOL!), I'm still finding a few more vintage frames for antique images to be part of my solo show Anonymous Ancestors.  The next show will be at Theatre Art Galleries in High Point, NC from May 24 - August 3rd.  Thus, these two altered images were finished this week too!

(Above:  Wall of Ancestors, Never Grew Up. 16" x 13".)

Friday, March 30, 2018

Welcome to the Smithsonian Craft Show

Dreams do come true! Being in the Smithsonian Craft Show has been a goal for years! April 26 - 29 will find me in booth 110! I'm on Cloud Nine ... nervous (because this is the nation's most competitive and most prestigious show) and excited (because this is a most awesome opportunity!)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Camp Gravatt and the Magic Carpet

 (Above:  Magic Carpet, detail.)

Once upon a time, my custom picture framing business was big ... really big!  We had up to fourteen on payroll, eight of whom were full-time. At the rate I was working, I was never going to get to becoming an artist.  In 2001 my husband Steve and I began to forcibly down-size the business.  It took two years to find jobs for all our employees and finish long-term commitments.  I finally got a studio and started stitching.  The only way for us to limit our client base was RADICAL.  We decided to frame for only those people who trust me ... entirely!  Customers no longer get to help pick out their presentations. In fact, they must happily agree that whatever I select ... in their absence ... will be loved and paid for.  No exceptions. If someone isn't comfortable, no problem; I simply refuse the order.  This isn't for everyone.  Most people are totally aghast that this arrangement, but somehow or the other, there are people who keep coming.  Some of them have been coming for nearly thirty years!  Some of them have even purchased my artwork.

(Above:  Camp Gravatt.  Map of South Carolina with Camp Gravatt marked by pin point, grommets and pieces of a tarp, canvas, and twine from a  tent that was lost in last year's hurricane winds.)

One long-time customer/friend/art buyer is now working for Camp Gravatt.  The camp lost a tent in last year's hurricane winds. She brought me a challenge ... pieces of weather-proofed green tent canvas with grommets and twine and a damaged, white tarp.  My job: Turn it into some sort of "art" for the upcoming fund-raiser auction.

Well, she brought these things months ago.  I didn't admit it at the time, but I was not at all inspired.  I did try.  I researched the camp's logo, history, and "tent" type artwork.  Nothing clicked.  It didn't really help that the items were dirty and the tarp smelled.  I'm generally not a procrastinator, but I put this challenge aside until last week.  My friend called to remind me.  The event is next month.  I had to face the provided material.

 (Above:  Camp Gravatt, detail.)

Over the weekend while working on a commissioned portrait, I put the items in my studio hoping for inspiration.  Nothing came.  On Monday, I decided to PLAY IT SAFE.  I am, after all, a certified professional framer.  I was one of the earliest people to pass the four-hour certification test administered by the Professional Picture Framing Association. (1991 or 92 ... can't remember exactly).  I got a map of South Carolina and matted it.  I cut the grommets off the canvas and tarp, rolled 5" squares of the canvas, pin-pointed the location of the camp, and double framed the entire collection into a shadowbox.  Sure it looks great ... but is it art?  Even I'd only call it "good design" and "excellent framing".  Steve said it looked great but he also said I could do better.  He said, "It's canvas.  Why don't you paint on it?"

 (Above:  Magic Carpet.  Unframed: 25" x 15"; framed 28" x 18". Oil pastels on green tent canvas with free-motion stitching.)

I protested a bit.  I don't paint ... but then I remembered my public performance piece, Nike's Advice.  I actually do have a style and am quite comfortable with oil pastels.  Now ... I know that oil pastels aren't really supposed to be used on unprimed canvas.  Besides, this tent canvas was sort of stretchy and oily from weather-proofing.  The "conversation framer" in me wanted to object ... but why?  Just because this might not last two-hundred years isn't a reason NOT to do it.  For all I know, the oily pastels might even be perfect on this fabric.  Such experimentation isn't taught in guidelines for framing certification.  Artists do strange things all the time.  So ... I did it! It worked.  I heat set all the pastels ... trying to remove any excess thickness and wax.  It doesn't smear now.  I used another piece of the canvas under the colorful marks and free-motion stitched the two layers together.  Then, I glued it to a piece of acid-free foam-centered board and put it in a frame. 

 (Above:  Magic Carpet, in its frame on the windowsill where I snapped photos.)

I think the results look amazing.  What a wonderful transformation from bright green tent canvas to an exotic design reminiscent of a magical, flying carpet.  I hope it brings lots of money for Camp Gravatt.  (No ... it is not a 100% donation!  I am getting some money for both pieces!)

(Above:  The back of the stitching.)

While this experimentation worked, I do not necessarily recommend using weather-proofed canvas.  The needle did get a little gummed up.  I'm guessing that the canvas was originally white and that the weather-proofing is the green coating on both sides.  The white interior does peek out on the reverse ... which didn't matter to me.  I glued this side permanently to the foam-centered board!

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.  I already linked this week but noticed other artist linking more than one weekly post ... and since this was such a productive week, I thought I'd do it too!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Faith Ringgold comes to Benedict College

 (Above: Faith Ringgold in front of her art quilt at Benedict College.)

My calendar was marked for months and the evening finally came!  Last night Faith Ringgold came to Benedict College for an informal chat moderated by Wendell Brown, associate professor and Ponder Gallery director.  It was enchanting.

 (Above:  Michelle Faith Wallace and her mother, Faith Ringgold signing autographs after the presentation.)

A natural born story teller, Faith spun reflections of her childhood, her early art career, and significant life experiences into subtly profound advice for everyone.  I was most struck by the positive attitude she retained while persevering in the face of difficult obstacles.  She never gave up ... and she seemed to do this with a confident smile.  It is little wonder why she is adored.  Her daughter, Michelle Faith Wallace, is also a celebrity.  She often added to her mother's recollections ... which was great, especially since the acoustic in the large chapel are horrible.  


The entire audience seemed to line up after the talk ... just to shake her hand and pay a compliment.  There were many lucky students in the crowd, and I feel certain that last night will become a highlight memory in their personal histories.  I know I learned plenty, especially about that positive attitude when under intensive pressure and opposition.

It took a while for all the hand-shaking before Faith Ringgold got to the gallery.  Once there, it was almost difficult to get her to pose for photos.  She was much more interested in looking at the other work accompanying her piece.  With art quilts on the wall, Faith Ringgold seemed almost oblivious to her own fame and the attention so many wanted to heap on her. 

The work on display was a continuation of an earlier exhibition called The Ancestor Project.  It started in 2007 whena Penny Dell from the National Association of Women Artists (NAMA) asked Faith to exhibit in the organization's New York City gallery.  Faith invited several art quilters to join her, making work in response to a story her wrote called "The Children Forgot to Play".  

(Above:  I wish this selfie was better ... but it was hard to get Faith Ringgold to stand still!  She's very, very active, especially around art!)

This is Faith's story:
An international Save The Children Meeting was held today in New York City. A woman from the Congo Region in Africa and a man from Scandinavia shared the stage to explain that their children had adopted a sedentary lifestyle and had forgotten how to play and that something must be done or life as we know it will cease. The crowd roared with unbridled enthusiasm. Toy stores, playgrounds, amusement parks and schools all over the world have shut down. Children have taken to their beds, like old people, complaining of headaches, backaches, muscle pains, dizziness and refused to move without a wheelchair. A man just back from the war in the Middle East said “They need the help of our ancestors, they would have the children and all of us laughing in no time. They had love and hope. All we have is hatred violence and war.”

All the quilts included this response:
One day the ancestors from all over the world came to the children in their dreams, dancing and singing songs of joy, love, understanding, forgiveness, hope and peace. They had heard that our children had forgotten to play and had taken to their beds to escape a world filled with; hunger, pain, ignorance, rioting, shootings, violence and war. Religious, racial, ethnic, sexual and gender hatred of anyone different was rampant.

The children all over the world were inspired to rise up from their beds to join the Ancestors in their song and dance for a better world. The children sang,

           We are young but we are many
           Filled with love not hate for any

When the children from all over the world closed their eyes to dream their ancestors now awaited the children’s dreams of a happier life.

(Above:  Wendell Brown with Faith Ringgold and several art quilting friends who drove up from Charleston.)

Reading this story, the response, and seeing the art quilts on display with Faith Ringgold in the room was an amazing experience.  It left little doubt as to why so many people love her, including me!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Portrait of a Man

 (Above:  Portrait of a Man, detail.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Two weekends ago I was in my 10' x 10' Pro Panel booth at the ACC (American Craft Council) Atlanta show talking about and selling my "In Box" and "Stained Glass" series.  One nice gentleman challenged me to create something totally unique, a portrait of a man ... but using my colorful palette, synthetic stretch velvets, and unique melting techniques.  We agreed on a size, a price, and a non-refundable $100 deposit.  We also agreed that if he didn't like the results, he was under no obligation to pay the balance.  Why?  Well, my process isn't like that of a painter.  I can't really "unstitch" things and make color changes without ruining the work.  Thus, this arrangement isn't a true commission; it is a "first refusal". Later we corresponded about a timeline and selected a sketch I drew referencing several images of Austrian artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the inspiration behind much of my gallery work. 

 (Above:  Portrait of a Man. Inventory # 4262. Unframed: 15 3/4" x 12 1/2". Mounted on a standard 20" x 16" acid-free mat board.)

I spent more time contemplating an action plan and trying to visualize/solve potential problems than actually making the work.  I also had to find my light-box, an item I haven't used in at least a decade! The result of this time, however, meant the weekend's work went very, very smoothly.  I'm quite pleased with the work and happy to report that my client is too!

 (Above:  Creating a unique background for the portrait.)

When I accept a commission or a first-refusal, I always document the process in photos and create PDF for the client.  That way, the client gets to see every step of the development.  This blog post includes many of those images.  Above is what the background looked like before starting the portrait.  The border is like my Peacock Feathers.

 (Above:  A photocopy of my sketch, Pellon's Stitch-and-Tear, and my light-box.)

The sketch I drew was significantly smaller than the size I needed.  I scanned the sketch, enlarged it using PhotoShop, and printed the correct size ... 14" x 10".  I used Stitch-and-Tear in 2013 to make my Grid of Photos.

I bought my light-box nearly two decades ago.  I can't remember why I wanted it or what I planned to do with it other than view old slides.  This was the first time I've ever used it in my studio practice!  Thank goodness the bulb still worked!  I traced the photocopy enlargement of my sketch onto a piece of Stitch-and-Tear.

The Stitch-and-Tear was then pinned in place on the background.

I was a little anxious about this part of the process.  The idea was to set my sewing machine for a narrow zigzag stitch but also for free-motion stitching. I started on the bottom in a place I could quickly stitch and then tear away to unique paper.  It worked!  I continued over all the lines, expanding the width of the zigzag stitching for thicker areas (like the eye's pupils and eyebrow).

After all the lines were covered, I started removing the Stitch-and-Tear ... little bits at a time and carefully removing any tiny pieces of paper caught in the stitching.

Generally, I use 100% black cotton thread.  This time, however, I switched to navy blue for the background.  This change allowed the background to visually recede ... because it "reads" as a "lighter" line.  Every square and rectangle was stitched with an different motif ... very much like my gallery work and in the tradition of Hundertwasser's concept of individualism.  My colorful shapes are meant to represent an aerial view to an imaginary Hundertwasser city.

After all the machine stitching is finished, I stapled the work to a stretcher bar and went to the garage.  I wear a carbon filtering ventilator mask because the fumes from melting synthetics are toxic.  I melted holes and dragged my soldering irons into lines mostly in the background areas.  During the process, I realized I'd forgotten to sign the work.

I added my name later.  Voila!  A Portrait of a Man was finished!  Today, it will be shipped to its new owner!

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

Friday, March 23, 2018

Felt necklace and getting ready for Open Studios

 (Above:  Pink felted necklace modeled by one of my neighbors.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

This week finds me finishing up one event and preparing for the next.  After last weekend's ACC (American Craft Council) show in Atlanta, there was paperwork to do and pictures to rehang here at Mouse House.  The Pro Panel booth walls, track lighting, and other things went back into storage.  There was custom picture framing to tackle (my "day job") and a few other waiting commitments.  Then, it was time to look ahead.

 (Above:  Another felted necklace worn by another, cute neighbor.  Thanks to both of you!)

Next weekend is Columbia's " 701 CCA Open Studios".  Mouse House is participating.  We'll be open on Saturday from 10 AM until 6 PM and on Sunday from noon - 6 PM.  There are lots and lots of other artists' studios open.  The entire event is free to the public.  It's a big deal ... especially for us!

Open Studios sort of means that Steve and I need to clean, dust, rearrange and tag artwork ... basically "spruce up" the place.  It is also the only time we ever have a sale.  Everything that is in shrink wrap is 50% off ... which means we need to make a few signs too!

(Above: Mouse House!)

Open Studios also means cleaning my studio!  I started this week.  I found two, large trash bags filled with recycled, felted wool.  This stash had been given to me over a year ago.  It came from another artist who worked as a care-giver for a woman who used to make hooked rugs.  This elderly lady went to thrift stores searching for wool suits and jackets and blankets to recycle into her rugs.  All the garments were snipped apart and felted in her washing machine. The work became too difficult to continue as she aged and the stash became mine.

One problem!  I generally don't use much felted wool.  I finally figured out something to do with the two bags of it ... make unique felted necklaces.  I made ten this week.  There's likely enough wool to make another dozen.  This has been a fun!  My studio is getting more tidy.  Some things are actually being trashed and the carpet has been cleared enough for vacuuming!

 (Above:  Booth 1408 at last week's Atlanta ACC Show.)

So ... here I am last week in my booth!  But, that's not all Steve and I did in Atlanta!

We also went to the Georgia Aquarium, the largest in the western world.  We watched the dolphin and sea lion shows.  We saw little Asian otters and large California sea otters.  The largest tank has two whale sharks!  There were sea horses, an octopus, sharks, alligators, sea anemone, and more fish than I could possibly list.  It was a great day ... especially having the opportunity to crawl under the penguin enclosure to see these amazing birds fly through the water.  I stood up inside one of the plastic tubes, just inches from very cute ones!  Great fun!

Below are a few more pictures of some of the felted necklaces!  Scroll down!

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

Monday, March 12, 2018

Last pieces before ACC Atlanta

(Above:  In Box CCCXII. Framed:  33" x 21". Polyester stretch velvets on recycled, black industrial felt with self-guided, free-motion machine embroidery and melting techniques.  Inventory # 4261. $550.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Tomorrow is a busy day.  Everything needed to erect booth 1408 for the coming weekend ACC (American Craft Council) Atlanta show will be gathered near our back door.  It is a day to consult the list of "little things" ... like pens, business cards, invoices, bubble wrap, price tags, bags, extra light bulbs, glass cleaner and rags, extension cords, tape, the Dust Buster, etc.  It will all go near the back door.  The cargo van will be packed early on Wednesday morning.  Then ... off to Atlanta!

 (Above:  In Box CCCXII.)

I'm always a little nervous before these big shows.  Not only am I afraid I'll forget something important, I'm afraid of failure.  A lot rides on a weekend like this.  More than the money (which is very substantial), it is difficult to stand in one, small space and say the same things over and over again if people aren't really interested.  It's hard to keep an upbeat attitude if sales are poor.  It's hard to keep telling myself, "Susan, your work is good!" if no one is looking.  Doing these high-end shows is an exercise in maintaining self-confidence! 

 (Above:  In Box CCCXIII. Framed: 19" x 15". Inventory # 4262. $235.)

Struggling with low self-esteem has always been an issue for me. Like many artists, it likely comes from childhood experiences.  One would think it easy to overcome by just "letting the past be the past".  It just doesn't work out that way.  For me, making art is the best way to combat my own mental demons.  So ... before most big shows, I simply make more work!  I always feel comfortable and happy in my studio.  Armed with a pair of scissors, a hot iron, and a sewing machine, I can conqueror just about anything! So, that's what I did this weekend!

 (Above:  In Box CCCXIV. Framed: 19" x 15". Inventory # 4263. $235.)

Yet, that's not all I did this past weekend.  I went to two dance productions and wrote reviews for Jasper Magazine.  Being the publication's "Dance Writer" has been an amazing experience.  I look at the performances differently and have to do a bit of research too.  There are two editors, too.  One makes almost no changes.  She's my age.  The other one (a much younger guy) seems to tweak at least three sentences.  For the most part, I've thought his rewording read pretty much the same as my original.  Hilariously, he altered one paragraph into a grammatical error by inserting the pronoun "they" (plural) which referred to back to the word "friend" (singular).  I said nothing ... but since I'm going to link the two articles, I didn't want anyone to think I didn't pay attention in nineth grade English classes.

Columbia Classical Ballet's Don Quixote review
Columbia City Ballet's Body & Movement showcase review

I've been writing for Jasper all season. If you scroll down the blog list, you'll find all my articles.  It's been fun!  I have only two more shows before my term is up.

Friday, March 09, 2018

More Great Quotations and Good News!

(Above:  Quiet Because I Stuttered, The Wall of Ancestors.  12" x 12". Anonymous photo, collage, antique frame and glass.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I'm excited!  Dates have been set for another solo show!  Anonymous Ancestors is going to the Gadsden Museum of Art in Alabama from January 4 - February 22, 2019.  In celebration, I turned this anonymous photograph into yet another piece for The Wall of Ancestors. I can't wait to transform the space, especially the large interior.  Each venue has provided its own challenges and ends up very different according to the room's layout.  This will be so much fun!

(Above:  Great Quotations XXVIII: Dance.  Quotation by Martha Graham.  Antique or pre-1945 image and letters clipped mostly from vintage magazines and ephemera on a page from Charles Richardson's English Language Dictionary, 1846.  Dictionary page was initially fused to fabric and includes free-motion machine stitching and watercolor.  Page measures 11" x 8 1/2".  Each piece is matted to 20" x 16".)

I've also just finished six more pieces in my "Great Quotations Series".  These are so much fun to create ... especially the research for just the right quotation.  From Martha Graham to Harry Truman to Carlos Santana and beyond, I'm reading some very profound and often funny statements.  Browse down for the other five, finished pieces.

(Above:  Great Quotations XXV: Write.  Quotation by Maya Angelou.)

(Above:  Great Quotations XXX: Style.  Quotation by Coco Chanel.)

(Above:  Great Quotations XXIX: Society.  Quotation by George Bernard Shaw.)

(Above:  Great Quotations XXVI: Wait.  Quotation by Carlos Santana.)

(Above:  Great Quotation XXVII: Faithful.  Quotation by Harry S. Truman.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Six new "Small In Box" series pieces ... ready to go to Atlanta!

(Above:  In Box CCCXI.  Inventory # 4253.  Framed:  19" x 15". $235.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

By this time next week, Steve and I will be in Atlanta setting up booth #1408 at the American Craft Council Show.  Some of the other artists have been doing high-end, fine craft shows like this for twenty to thirty years.  Some artists do as many as twenty shows per year. We've been doing this for five years and do two or three shows per year.  Nevertheless, we are now finally feeling like "pros".  We know where we are going, what to pack, how to set up and light the booth, and what shoes to wear (which is a very important consideration!)

(Above: In Box CCCIX. Inventory # 4251.  Framed:  19" x 15". $235.)

It is also important to have plenty of work for potential art-lovers to purchase.  Everyone like having a choice.  Until this past weekend, I only had two "Small In Box" series pieces.  It was time to make more.  These are the six that got finished!

(Above: In Box CCCVI Inventory # 4248.  Framed:  19" x 15". $235.)

I think we are ready for Atlanta!  Scroll down to see the others!

(Above: In Box CCCVII Inventory # 4249.  Framed:  19" x 15". $235.

(Above: In Box CCCVIII. Inventory # 4250.  Framed:  19" x 15". $235.)

(Above: In Box CCCX. Inventory # 4252.  Framed:  19" x 15". $235.)