Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Arrival at the Rensing Center

(Above:  Me and my very filled cargo van just before pulling out of the driveway to go to the Rensing Center.)

It's been over a year since I dreamed up the idea of creating a spacious, soft enclosure out of my enormous stash of vintage household linens and lace.  I started calling the project The Cocoon.  I wrote a proposal, got a SC Arts Commission quarterly project grant to assist with the cost of the convention center piped booth assemblage, and secured a five-week art residency at the Rensing Center outside Pickens, South Carolina.   I've been talking about the project for months, but during the last couple of weeks, I started to get nervous!  Could I pull it off?  Could I really turn the foggy vision in my head into a reality, a safe place for future public art engagements?  A major fiber installation where people could share stories about embroidery and quilting done by past generations of women?  A location where someone could donate a doily, stitch on a button, learn to thread and needle and pull it through hanging yards of tablecloths and pillowcases?

 (Above:  "The Pottery", one of the Rensing Center's self-contained studio and living spaces ... named because it was formerly a ceramic studio.)

Thankfully, Ellen Kochansky, a noted fiber artist and Rensing Center executive director, believes in my ability to pull things off ... even giant projects that only exist on paper and haven't yet been tested!  So, last Sunday Steve and I hauled all the boxes of linen, the new pipe system, my sewing machine, and supplies for the next five weeks into the cargo van.  I drove out of our parking lot and off on this new adventure. 

 (Above:  The Pottery's kitchen.)

My home for the next five weeks is called "The Pottery".  It's down a short gravel drive off a meandering driveway.  It is a self-contained efficiency apartment and studio all rolled into one with sliding glass doors overlooking the woods.  It is secluded and beside a trail that leads to a hidden waterfall.  I have everything I need and time to work.

As soon as I arrived, I unloaded the van ...

... surveyed the space and moved all the furniture ... order to finally set up the pipe system.  I hadn't anticipated one important thing.  The ceiling isn't eight feet except on one side of the big room.  No matter!  I was able to set up enough to get started.  I will certainly be able to work, step back and review, continue, and envision the space I'll be creating.  It is actually kind of exciting to know that I will work for five weeks, seeing sections at a time, and not see the finished product.  It is exciting because this means the final "unveiling" will be at a different time, something that can be arrange, publicized, and open to the public!  All in all, this is perfect!

I couldn't wait to get started sorting all the boxes into piles.  I also hung up a special donation, a satin wedding dress donated to my cause by Steven Chapp, an extremely accomplished printmaker who only lives in nearby Easley, South Carolina.  I haven't quite decided how this vision from the past is going to figure into The Cocoon, but I know that garment automatically infer a human element ... and wedding dresses infer a special day, a beautiful ideal, and this one perfectly belongs among all the table runners and formal damask napkins and other fine occasion textiles.  I am sure the gown will let me know how to use it!

 (Above:  The sofa covered in vintage garments.)

The wedding gown isn't the only garment.  While sorting, I was amazed at just how many pairs of bloomers, sleeping dresses, and especially infant clothing I actually had!

The collection of yoyos was much larger than I thought too!

Although this looks like a lot of crocheted doilies, it isn't quite as many as I had in 2012 when I made The Canopy while on another art residency in Galesburg, Illinois.

Nor is this stash of lace trim as plentiful as I had then.

Yet, I have never had as many gloves, baby bonnets, and lace collars!  Ever!

I have already learned that I can rip the elastic out of the late 1960s gloves ... which I like better!

I made piles of pillowcases, linen dish towels sporting printed calendars, tablecloths ...

... and quilt blocks, tops, and scraps.

On Monday I started stitching.  The first panel took forever and looked dreadful.  Well, maybe not "dreadful" but certainly not promising.  I thought I'd bitten off more than I could chew.  I had to stand back and think about my own concept.  I wanted LAYERS, not just a flat, pieced panel.  The plan was to EMBELLISH the larger pieces with the smaller ones.  So, I continued through Tuesday and this is how far I've gotten.  I am much happier, especially after I added some yoyos, gloves, and infants garments.  Putting doilies onto tablecloths and adding quilt tops (no matter how poorly constructed!) improved the dull, flat look for the first panel.  Color brightened the initial day!

This is how the back looks.  Actually, it's not really "the back"; it's the exterior!  After a day of doubt, I've returned to excitement! I can already say with confidence that this project is going to be a success ... after about a million stitches!  I can and will do it!

 Further below are plenty of detail images.  Please take a look!  Scroll down!

(Above:  A ring of old, rusty keys and two sheets of antique buttons.)

As much as I have to do ... because I have enough pipe system to create a space measuring 20' x 20' ... I will not tax myself completely!  I will have fun, walk to the waterfalls, looks at the stars, and go to the nearby Pickens County flea market on Wednesday mornings!  Today I scored a ring full of rust keys and two sheets of very nice antique buttons.

(Above:  Gallery 80808/Vista Studios last Saturday night.)

There's one more thing I'd like to share!  On Saturday evening, right before leaving for the Rensing Center, I returned to Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, my first studio ... from 2002 - 2016. I learned to "be an artist" in this studio and almost everything I ever made happened on the small patch of dark blue paint in the photo above. I moved out two years ago, just before the landlords closed off the large exhibition area that had been over the back wall of my studio.  The landlords started a gradual transition for their warehouse.  By this year, the remaining artists had to move out.  Most went to a new, more expensive complex called Stormwater.  My mentor, Stephen Chesley and Carl Larson ... who occupied my space after I left ... got permission to use the space and showcase the last piece of art they made in  together using the leftover wall and floor paint.  The permission was for one-night-only ... last Saturday.  So, I went to visit my "old haunt", my sacred space, and soak up the atmosphere.

Please note, the landlords are about the most wonderful, supportive people ever.  Gallery 80808/Vista Studios existed with low rent for nearly thirty years.  Early on, the area had been a little sketchy but more recently it turned into a bustling urban setting full of restaurants, hotels, bars, and very little parking.  It was time for the landlords to make changes and start the process of cashing in our their warehouse investment.

I didn't know what to expect after all the studio partitions were removed.  I hoped for a little mental clarity and I got it!  It was amazing to see just how tiny my little space was.  Change is necessary for growth.  I started making art in that space ... seventeen years ago.  Where will I be in seventeen years? There's no way to deny "mid-career"!

I took a photo of my own feet in the exact place I used to stand.  That was then.  Now I'm ready for the future, the next phase of my studio practice, and for working on giant sized projects that couldn't have been done in the past.  I'm on a new adventure ... onward and upward!

Now ... details of the major fiber installation on which I'm working!  Scroll down!  Check back!  I'll be blogging regularly from the Rensing Center where my new life is already underway!

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


Sherrie Spangler said...

I love your idea of a soft cocoon of space and look forward to following its progress!

Shannon said...

I'm excited to see where you go with this. I love that you're jumping after big ideas!

Ann Scott said...

Oh wow, I bet your space is going to spark many conversations and memories for visitors. The entire project sounds amazing and I look forward to following along. Thank you for sharing your early art studio memories too.

Ellen Lindner said...

Well, this is certainly intriguing. I still remember the huge wedding canopy you made. I loved it!

Norma Schlager said...

What a huge undertaking! I look forward to seeing what you do. Thanks for sharing this great adventure.

Marianne said...

Bonne résidence et je me réjouis de voir le projet fini