Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Catching Up before Going Out-of-Town Again!

 (Above:  My work in the current issue of Fiber Art Now Magazine.)

Since returning from Espanola, Canada, Steve and I have been working like crazy people!  There's so much to do, especially since we leave early tomorrow morning for Fort Myers, Florida.  I'm so happy that my three recent garments made from recycled materials will be in the Trashion Fashion Show this coming Friday night at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center.  What makes this extra special is that these three dresses are currently featured in Fiber Art Now Magazine.  I am truly indebted to Noelle Foye for such a beautiful article. 

 (Above:  The Class of 1949 and the Red Carpet Dress in the store front window at the Tapps Art Center.)

Before going, I had to retrieve the dresses from the large, corner window at the Tapps Art Center where they've been on 24/7 display since the ecoFAB Trashion Show on August 31st.  For this earlier opportunity, the garments were paired with both a 2D and 3D creation.  In the background of the photo above appears A Picture of a Plant, the 2D creation using vintage photo album pages and pressed flowers to make a statement about plant extinction.  It goes with The Class of 1949 dress and the Black Lives Matter fan as well as the 3D piece, the Anonymous Ancestors Folding Screen.  The screen will next be on display at the 701 CCA South Carolina Biennial.

The Red Carpet Dress was paired with an altered circus poster and Red: A Biomorphic Abstraction (basically a really, really large boa made from the same floor covering as the dress).  It's almost shocking to think that as soon as we return from Florida, we are headed back to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show ... the place where I rescued a section of the red floor covering!

(Above:  You Are My Sunshine in the store front window at the Tapps Art Center.)

The third dress in the store front window was You Are My Sunshine.  It was paired with one of my Things Kept 2D pieces and all the altered cigar boxes made at the Osage Arts Community residency in Missouri.  This dress will stay in Fort Myers for the run of the Turf Wars Exhibition at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center.  Yet, these three dresses are only half the garments making the trip.  I'm so happy that my Pantyhose Dress, Leaf Dress, and Flower Dress are also going to be on the runway!  I am passionate about how art can bring awareness to issues of global warming, the need to "reduce, reuse, recycle", and ways in which individuals can be part of a movement to impact positive environmental change.

 (Above:  Relic CXXIII.  Framed:  13" x 11 1/2". Inventory # 4622. $100.)

As much as I'm looking forward to the weekend, this past week has also been about finishing up projects from the immediate past ... including the "relics" made while conducting the two workshops for the Espanola Fibre Festival.  As a workshop instructor, I feel it very important that I'm NOT just giving another "example" or making another "sample".  I always finish, frame, price, and put into inventory every demonstration I start while teaching ... including these five pieces.

(Above: Relic CXXII.  Framed: 12 1/4" x 11". Inventory # 4622. $100.)

I use scraps of picture frame moulding and leftover mats and fillet to frame these works.  They are never sold through galleries but serve as examples for future workshops. I price them so that just about anyone who wants one can afford one.  I like the title "relic" because it indicates something remaining from the workshop experience ... something precious, something meaningful, something that possesses the energy and significance of sharing my processes with others.

(Above: Relic CXXIV. Framed:  13" x 11 1/2". Inventory # 4624. $100.)

In Canada, one participant arrived after my first demonstration ... so I did that demonstration again.  That's why there's an odd number of Relics!

(Above: In Box Relic CXXV.  Framed:  13 1/4" x 11 1/4". Inventory # 4625. $60.)

On the second day of the two workshops, my demonstration pieces are melted with both the soldering irons and the heat gun.  I finish them too!

(Above: In Box Relic CXXVI.  Framed:  12" x 10". Inventory # 4626. $60.)

It is fun to think about having talked through these demonstrations.  It is a challenge to finish them since I wasn't truly paying attention while initially working!  I was "teaching".  Then, I have to "fix" whatever shifted or went slight awry!  Challenges are always good!  They force me to solve problems that I wouldn't otherwise encounter!

(Above:  Altered Cross Stitch:  Most Enemies [Can Be Paid Well Enough to Simply Go Away.]  Framed:  24" x 21".  Inventory # 4627. $400.)

There's no way for me to work on pieces from my workshop while riding in our cargo van.  Beads just don't cooperate with bumpy roads and sharp curves.  So, I brought along another piece from my Alter Cross Stitch Series.  These pieces position anonymously stitched vintage cross stitches on darker linen.  I've stitched updated phrases around each one and then densely applied running stitches over the entire surface.  These running stitches unite the old with the new.  It is easy to ply Appleton wool thread while in the cargo van!

(Above:  Altered Cross Stitch:  Most Enemies [Can Be Paid Well Enough to Simply Go Away.], detail.)

The vintage cross stitch was donated to me by a friend.  She added some of her own seed stitches to the original border.  It is a lovely thing to know that at least three women worked on this piece!

(Above:  Altered Cross Stitch:  Most Enemies [Can Be Paid Well Enough to Simply Go Away.], detail.)

Although I have two more vintage cross stitches on which I might work.  I haven't started on them yet.  The day might come ... but it might not.  Lately, I've been thinking about the several series that I have and return to and think about and work on.  I seem to need the ability to jump from one to the other, especially between major projects.  I don't seem capable of always making my "signature" work, my In Box and Stained Glass Series.  I need diversity, a "stitch vacation", a momentary way to "play" with other ideas and project.  In fact, I occasionally need a simple lark!

(Above:  Autumn Leaves, in progress.)

Such was the case this past week.  When taking apart two very old framed pictures for a client, I found two pieces of acid-free barrier paper used to buffer the antique engraving from the acid-filled corrugated backing.  (Okay ... I admit it ... back in the mid-1980s, I did this too!  The idea was to "protect" the artwork from the inferior backing.  Of course, the barrier paper absorbed the acid, staining it ... and over time the acid would eventually effect the image.  But this was the mid-1980s.  Most custom picture framers were just learning about conservation material, and I was just learning to frame ... period.  Naturally, I quickly changed to using acid-free materials!)  Anyway, the client's engravings look perfectly fine, and I was about to toss the acid-damaged barrier paper ... before a hair-brained idea occurred to me!  Why not use them for an experiment?!

I picked up five leaves outside my house, taped them gently to the barrier paper, and sponge painted around the shapes.  I then flicked black ink specks over the surface.


For the paint, I mixed up a watery solution of brown acrylics that sort of matched the acid-stain on the barrier paper.  I used a unique "brush" that another artist gave me.  Instead of bristles, pieces of chamois are affixed in a seemingly random arrangement on a handle.  It works perfectly!

(Above:  Autumn Leaves, in progress.)

I liked what I saw but knew it really wasn't enough!

(Above:  Autumn Leaves in Ink.  14 1/4" x 17".  Inventory #4628.  Shrink-wrapped. $50.)

On one piece, I used my rapidograph to draw the outline and veins of the leaves.  I added gold lines around the edge, including dips that marked the hinges for the engraving.  Then I added a French line.  As a picture frame who once specialized in antiquarian prints, I'm a good "French matter".

(Above:  Autumn Leaves in Stitches.  12" x 17 1/2". Inventory #4629. Shrink wrapped. $50.)

I fused a piece of fabric to the back of the darker painted piece and then free-motion stitched the veins, outlines, and the perimeters.  A gold and rapidographed French line finished the work.

(Above:  Detail with signature.)

These two pieces took less than an hour to complete.  They were a fun experiment, a great way to use an old piece of barrier paper (which is probably now PH balanced similar to paperback books printed during World War II), and a way to keep my mind excited in the studio.  In my opinion, acting on hair-brained ideas and simply "playing" is the best way to keep engaged and productive.  Odds are that these two pieces will never be in a show, never hang on a wall, never be cherished or saved or valued beyond a listing in my inventory book.  Yet, they are important.  They are the momentary thrill that keeps me on my toes.  They are the diversions from the "normal work" that permits me to keep up a busy schedule!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Espanola Fibre Festival 2019

(Above:  Steve and me outside our charming cabin at Agnew Lake Lodge.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

For the last week, Steve and I have been on an incredible adventure to northern Ontario, Canada for the Espanola Fibre Festival. Three years ago, I gave my TEDx talk, Precious: Making a Plan for Your Precious Possessions, as the opening presentation for the festival.  (Click HERE for a blog post about that trip!)  So ... I knew this opportunity was going to be fantastic, especially since we were hosted by Agnew Lake Lodge in the same wonderful cabin with a real bearskin hanging on the wall!  The autumn colors were terrific.  Everything was grand!

 (Above:  Steve and me with my 100-year-old Grandma!)

On the way north, we stopped to see my 100-year-old Grandma.  She didn't know we were coming.  It was a great surprise visit.

(Above:  Jody Pilon, founder and coordinator of the Espanola Fibre Festival and her amazing Boro Bower.)

The Espanola Fibre Festival was founded and is coordinated by the super talented and incredibly organized Jody Pilon who displayed her Boro Bower at the festival.  This "nest" inspired tent was made from hundreds and hundreds of textile patches. Jody painstakingly stitched for months.  Many of the postcard sized pieces were donated by people all over the world.  The details were extraordinary. 

(Above:  Composite of images from the two workshops I conducted.)

As much as I went to see Jody's Boro Bower in person, I was in Canada for a very important reason ... actually two of them! I conducted my two-day HOT workshop twice!  It was held in the Espanola Golf Clubhouse ...

... which was spacious, well lit, had excellent parking, and more than enough tables and chairs for both groups to really spread out!

One of the best features, however, was the kitchen!  We plugged in my soldering irons and heat gun right under the excellent gas oven's ventilation system.  Nothing could have been better.  Generally, I encourage using the two carbon-filtering ventilation masks that I bring.  With this system, we didn't really need them!

Everyone made multiple pieces.  I bring all the supplies, equipment, and materials ... including lots of pre-cut 8" x 10" mats.

 (Above:  One of the many projects created by a participant during the workshop.)

It is always amazing to see how patterned fabric is manipulated and changed into something entirely different inside of just a few hours!  The art coming out of one of my workshops is always incredible. One lady managed nine pieces in just two days.

Between the two workshops, I had a day off.  It was a great day because the Espanola Fibre Festival was in full swing.  Several people were demonstrating all sorts of techniques and sharing them with visitors ... including totally adorable children!

We bought a couple original fiber art cards and a bison leather belt for Steve ...

... and hydroponic greens, local soap and bath salts, homemade zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, and jams (including something called haskap, a cool temperature fruit that sort of looks like elongated blueberries).

Then we headed for Manitoulin Island and Bridal Veil falls.  The autumn colors were spectacular.  The views over Lake Huron were amazing ...

... and the creek was filled with Chinook salmon trying to swim through swallow water and up rapids to spawn under the falls in their place of birth.  The struggle to survive this journey wasn't what I was taught in fourth grade, a time when the trek read like a romantic cycle of life.  Dozens upon dozens of salmon don't actually make it.  They lay rotting on rocks and along the sides of the creek bed.  Life and death, beauty and ugliness, vivid colors and corroding scales are all part of nature ... and all part of a walk under a wide, blue autumn sky.  The day was beyond amazing.

Without Internet, Steve and I read and stitched in the evenings. We had a fire in the fireplace and watched sunsets and sunrises. The workshops, festival, and the salmons made for deep conversations, especially ones during which we remembered why we were there:  To live life to the fullest, to travel as much as possible, to meet new people and make new friends, to share fiber and stitch, and to look with awe and wonder at the world ... to swim like salmon inspite of the risks!

(PS  I managed a short video of salmon swimming upstream and posted it to You Tube.  CLICK HERE to see it!)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Second Marriage

(Above: Second Marriage, 46" x 57". Antique double wedding ring quilt section altered with acrylics, staples, metal washers and nails.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

No!  I am definitely NOT leaving my fabulously supportive, super intelligent, hard-working best friend for another man ... but I could think of no better title for this altered, antique double wedding ring quilt than "second marriage".  Without Steve's willingness to go along with another hair-brained idea, this piece wouldn't exist.  It's been one of those slow moving projects, a plan of action that didn't progress daily but over time.  Steve didn't push for action but did suggest that the results might be worthy of submission to Art Quilt Elements. He also kept me aware of the pending deadline ... which is today.  Whether the work is accepted or not doesn't matter.  It was an adventure; it has inspired all sorts of ideas for other work; and it was entered on time!

(Above:  Second Marriage, detail.)

The project started months ago in two entirely different places.  First, I visited the Milwaukee Art Museum while conducting a workshop for the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts.  I went with a friend, Linda Sweek.  I don't even remember which of the permanent collections included a contemporary work on which paint covered staples, but I remarked, "They look like stitches."  Even then, I knew I'd seen other, prior work that gave me this impression, but it was the first time I said the words out loud.  Sharing this seemed to make a deeper impression.  I remembered all the boxes of half-inch staples back at home.  I'd owned for nearly twenty years.  They fit into a heavy-duty staple gun I rarely use.  (I regularly use a smaller, lighter weight staple gun.)  Somehow or the other, a seed got planted right there in the museum ... Use the staples on an old quilt and paint over it!

(Above:  Second Marriage, detail.)

A month later while at Bill Mishoe's auction, a lovely but slightly tattered, totally hand stitched double wedding ring quilt was offered for sale.  The bidding stopped with my $17.50 offer.  I knew even then, it was the right piece for the staples.  I told Steve about my idea that night.  He liked it right away but nothing happened for weeks.

(Above:  The antique double wedding ring quilt before being altered.)

I'm guessing that this quilt wasn't highly valued for a couple of minor reasons.  First, it had an ugly green binding.  Second, a couple pieces were worn through to the batting.  Third, there were several pieces of a bright red material scattered haphazardly over the surface.  Yet for my purposes, none of it mattered.

(Above:  The double wedding ring quilt on my dry mount machine in the process of being cut.)

I'd finally thought about my ideas, the necessary equipment and supplies, and an action plan long enough.  It was time to start!  (Perhaps I delayed because cutting this piece seemed almost sacrilegious ... but even my own TEDx talk mentions the fact that sometime drastic action is the only way to save something for a future life in another generation.)

 (Above:  The outer rings, cut away from the quilt.)

Out came the scissors.  Off came the outer ring of the quilt, including the ugly green binding.  I have no idea what I'll do ... if anything ... with this large scrap!

 (Above:  The saved section on silicone-coated paper being painted with GAC 400 fabric stiffener.)

I placed pieces of silicone-coated paper on the floor.  This is a product I use in my dry mount machine.  The saved section of the quilt was placed on top and painted with Golden acrylic's GAC 400, a fabric stiffener that I buy by the gallon.

 (Above:  Steve helping to square up the damp quilt.)

In order to keep the piece as square as possible, Steve built a stretcher bar to the approximate outer measurement.  We pulled, stretched, and arranged the quilt inside the frame to assure it would dry in the right shape.  GAC 400 looks milky when wet.  It is crystal clear when it dries. 

Another product from the picture framing industry is this fabric adhesive.  It's acid free, water soluble, and must be some other acrylic solution.  It is generally used to attach fabric to wooden liners but that's not what I did!

 (Above:  Spreading the fabric adhesive to a 1" thick piece of plywood.)

After cutting a 4' x 8' one-inch thick piece of premium plywood to about 4' x 5', I spread the fabric adhesive over the surface, positioned the now stiff quilt on top, and put weights along the edges.  It dried for two days.

The rest of the project happened outside in our back parking lot.  First, I used a jigsaw to cut away around the circular edges.  Steve even shot a video.  CLICK HERE to see it!

Then, I got out the heavy-duty stapler and all the boxes of half-inch staples which still sported the $2.79 price tag per box.  (They now cost $3.99 at Home Depot.) I stapled every quarter to three-eighth of an inch around the outside of every ring.  It didn't happen all at once.  I could only staple about four rings at a time before my hands were stressed.  It sort of felt like training for American Ninja Warrior's grip stretch obstacles.  (We LOVE this show!)  Steve shot a video of my stapling too.  CLICK HERE to see it.  To the center of each ring, I hammered in a fender washer with a 1" roofing nail.  Other nails were added too.
 (Above:  Painting in progress.)

After careful consultation with the Golden Acrylic website, I settled on a sixteen ounce container of heavy-body zinc white paint.  My reasoning was sound.  This paint is rather transparent.  Thus, it would allow some sense of the original fabric's coloring to show.  It is also thick enough that it wouldn't flow down into every crevice and fold in the stiffened quilt.  I wanted a surface that still alluded to the original quilt.  I wanted to see some of the color.  I was hoping for a wonderfully textured surface that hinted at yesteryear but was decidedly modern.  So, I applied the paint.  

I liked all the detail images that I shot.  I like the texture.  I liked the color. I liked that my reasoning seemed sound, that the paint worked the way I wanted.

I just didn't like the overall impression.  As a whole, it was rather "crusty" and uninteresting.  The application of staples and paint were too obvious.  Something was wrong, and Steve thought so too ... even though he is smart enough not to say anything like, "I don't like it." LOL!

Sitting on a pair of work horses in our parking lot, the piece just looked like a scallop-edged piece of white wood.  It took a few days to decide how best to address the problem.  Finally, the Golden website helped again.  I got a small container of fluid Titan Buff to paint all the muslim a solid off-white color.  The fluid paint seeped into all the crevices and folds without totally eradicating the hand stitching.  It united the fender washers and nails to the shapes on which they were nailed.  I used GAC 100, the basic fluid polymer emulsion of acrylic paints, to thin the heavy-bodied zinc white and painted the rings.  This concoction didn't totally flood the fabric but eliminated most of the original colors and patters.  There's just enough peeking now.  The contrast between the rings and the background is perfect too.  The old quilt has been given new life!  There is still enough of the original left but the overall effect is decidedly new.  The staples do look like stitches.

Of course photographing a white/buff tone-on-tone piece is difficult.  I erected a temporary dark grey fabric on the garage door, hung the work, and waited until this morning for overcast lighting.  All in all, this has been a great project.  In the future, I hope to explore some of the options that occurred to me during the various design stages.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas Ornaments!

(Above:  Some of the recently finished Christmas Ornaments that will be going to the upcoming Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

For weeks and weeks, I've been in the process of making Christmas ornaments for my booth at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, November 8 - 10.  It is a real production.  I do not make them one-at-a-time but step-by-step.  First, any old thread is removed and then the wooden spool is wrapped with yarn.  I get my yarn from yard sales, auctions, thrift stores, and because there are so many wonderful people who donate to my stash.  That's also where I get all my embroidery floss, lace, and beads.  The only thing I purchase new is the hanging ribbon (and even some of that was gifted to me!)

After the wooden spools are wrapped in yarn, I buttonhole stitch the edges ... top and bottom.  Then, I embroider patterns into the yarn.  When that's all finished, I am ready to turn them into Christmas ornaments.  To do this, I  transformed our living room into "Ornament Central"! LOL!  The tile-topped table is generally outside near our grill.  Now, it is arranged with containers of buttons, a glue gun, and waxed linen thread.  The two smaller storage containers are filled with beads.  For the past two weeks, I've spent evenings making Christmas ornaments.  It's fun and colorful.  I hope people like them, buy them, and hang them for years to come.

The picture above shows how many I've made so far.  I'm now on the "home stretch".  There's only one more fiber basket of spools left for me to turn into more ornaments.  I'm right on schedule ... which is a good thing.  The coming weeks are really busy!  On Tuesday Steve and I head to northern Ontario, Canada where I'll conduct two, back-to-back, two-day workshops for the Espanola Fibre Festival.  On Halloween, we are taking several of my art garments made from recycled materials to a "Trashion Show" in Fort Myers, Florida.  Then, we go to Philadelphia!  Busy, busy, busy!

I'm really happy that all the super, gigantic wooden spools are finished.  They were donated to me and really great to use.  Snippets of lace, exotic beads, elaborate trim and beads were used to embellish each one ... plus ...

... the ends were collaged with canceled stamps from my childhood collection!

I'm fairly sure that every one of the wrapped spools will become an ornament before the Philadelphia Show despite the upcoming busy schedule!

Talk about travel!  Last Friday, Steve and I decided to leave the opening reception for my solo installation Last Words at the Caldwell Arts Council and drive to Columbus, Ohio instead of going directly home!  It was homecoming at The Ohio State University.

We walked around the newly revitalized Mirror Lake, visited the historical objects on view inside the Main Library, reminisced how the campus has changed and not changed, and posed for a photo outside Ohio Stadium ... the place where we met ... at the 1977 OSV vs. Oklahoma football game ... in the student cheering/flashcard section called Block O.

Then we went to a campus bar called Threes Above High and to a Block O reunion.  We brought with us a bunch of memorabilia, including a hardly worn Block O t-shirt from 1977, my 1977 student game ticket, out 1986 South Carolina vanity license plate reading Block O, and plenty of photos taken from when Steve and I were officers in this organization that now has an impressive website.  They was no website when we were part of the Block. Of course, there was no Internet either.  It was wonderful to meet these young people carrying on a tradition that brought Steve and me together ... even though it was a bit strange to think, "I could be their grandmother!"  After all, when I was eighteen and sitting in Block O, my mother was thirty-eight and my grandmother was fifty-eight.  I'm sixty years old ... so ... yes ... these are "my grandchildren" and happily, they really liked meeting Steve and me!  It was great.

One of the things that has definitely changed on campus is the addition of the Wexner Center for the Arts ... a multidisciplinary arts laboratory/exhibition space for contemporary art.  It is really strange to realize that the place is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary.  It really isn't new at all, just new to Steve and me!  The current exhibition is WONDERFUL, featuring three, world famous, Ohio-born female artists:  Ann Hamilton, Jenny Holzer and Maya Lin.

I should have taken more photos but I was so entranced with each and every installation.  There was so much to take in, appreciate, and think about.  I truly love thought-provoking work.  Now ... back to the Christmas ornaments!