Friday, January 31, 2020

The Clothesline, part one

(Above:  The Clothesline on the second floor porch at the Enos Park Art Residency in Springfield, Illinois.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

My Springfield Art Association residency proposal called for a "creative clothesline" made from vintage and found textiles that would draw attention to the benefits of line drying, the need for household energy conservation, and the beauty of doing things BY HAND!  If you've been following my blog posts, I left off after a weekend of tracing and cutting my hand and forearm outlines from fabric to which I'd already added a heat-activated adhesive (Wonder Under).  It took two days.  I estimated four hand prints per pillowcase, two on each side.  I have sixty pillowcases.  They were legally salvaged from the former South Carolina State Mental Hospital.

(Above:  A stack of thirty-two pillowcases and several household linens onto which I fused the fabric hand prints.)

I wasn't sure exactly how many hand prints I had, but it took the better part of a day to iron them onto thirty-two pillowcases.  I also added handkerchiefs, embroidered doilies, finger tip towels, and other items from my stash of vintage material.  I was finally ready to sew!

(Above:  Zigzag stitching around the fused hand prints.)

I used the stop watch on my smart phone to time how long it took to zigzag stitch around a hand print.  After stitching ten, I learned my average time was four minutes and one second.  With an average of four hand prints per pillowcase, that works out to a hair over sixteen minutes of stitching times thirty-two ... or eight-and-a-half hours.  Of course, this doesn't include the time to get the hand print under the machine, deal with the thread ends, and get the next pillowcase ready to go.  It also doesn't include the time to stitch around the added doilies, handkerchiefs, etc. or eat or go to the bathroom or sight-see in Springfield.  Also, I promised myself that I would NOT work on The Clothesline in the evenings.  That's been a time to hand-stitch on 12" x 12" mini art quilts.

 (Above:  Chairs that helped organize my stitching!)

It took two-and-a-half days to complete the stitching on these thirty-two pillowcases and five vintage pieces.  To speed up the process, I knew I couldn't stitch the pillowcases individually.  I would spend way too much time switching out bobbin and top thread.  So, I used three chairs to keep track of what I was doing.  How did this work?  Well when stitching with blue thread, I worked my way through the original stack ... stitching around the hand prints needing blue thread ... and putting that pillowcase onto the next chair, creating a stack of "blue finished" pillowcases.  Then, I switched to pink thread and worked through the stack ... putting each "pink finished" pillowcase back on the first chair. Back and forth the stack went.  As a pillowcase got totally finished, it went on the third chair ... until they were all there ... done! 

 (Above:  Ironing the finished pillowcases.)

This morning I ironed the finished stack.  I took photos of several of the pieces.

For some reason, I tended to snap images of the single hand prints on a found textile.

As I ironed, I tallied the hand prints.  My estimate was off a little (probably because of the several "single" hand print sides!).  There are now one-hundred and seventeen hand prints in the collection.

I think I really like the single hand print sides because I've never really had a good use for handkerchiefs, especially not the sort that were "made in China".  They've always looked sort of "cheap" to me even though I am well aware that many were given as special Mother's Day, anniversary, and Christmas gifts.  They have stories to tell despite the dime store appearance ...

... they really add to these pillowcases!

After ironing all the pillowcases, I decided to hang them on the residency porch.  I'm on the second floor; so they are safe.

This represents a solid week of work with a minimum of eight hours a day on the project. Yet, the results only fill two lengths of the porch's width.  Each pillowcase is only seventeen inches on the short side.  Once all sixty are finished, I'll have eighty-five feet of clothesline (or just twenty-five yards). 

 (Above:  A ball of yellow cording brought from home for the actually clothesline and a container of thread donated to me by a friend.)

I'm really pleased with the progress of this project and especially honored to have this art residency during which I can bring it into existence.  Without this dedicated time to focus on the work, The Clothesline probably wouldn't happen.  At home, I can't spend eight hours a day for several weeks on any one project.  This is what makes an art residency truly "a gift of time."  Below are more photos from the porch!  Now ... back to work!  I've got another twenty-eight pillowcases and more vintage textiles needing hand prints that I haven't even cut yet!


Ann Scott said...

Great post. I'm amazed at your use of time and all you achieve in that time. That uninterrupted time would be awesome but IMO, it takes being very organized (maybe imaginative would be a better word?) and driven, two traits you seem to have. Love the photos of them hanging on the porch. I'm guessing people who walk in the neighborhood are used to seeing art on that porch... Have you spoken to anyone outside admiring your work and wanting to ask you about it? This time of year maybe not too many strolling by!

Caryquilter said...

What an interesting way to promote line drying and energy conservation. Using the vintage pillow covers and linens reinforce the connection to an earlier time, and to women's role in doing laundry. Thank you for posting.

Denise @Playlearnteach said...

I love all of the elements of this project: handprints, pillowcases, appliqué, vintage linens and handkerchiefs. Exhibiting them on the porch clothesline is such a bonus! How special it is to have that dedicated time to work! Thanks for sharing your inspired creativity!

Catherine - Mixed Media Artist said...

What an awesome project idea for the art residency, and yes I can understand that time out to achieve so much. Keep on keeping on, and thanks for sharing...

irene macwilliam said...

Back here in Northern Ireland I dry my washing outside, the air means it smells wonderful, especially when left out a couple of days due to rain and me not being available to take it in when first dry. I do miss though the sight of a line of white nappies blowing on a clothes line.

Christine said...

What a wonderful sight this must be....the passersby must love it. I think it is really beautiful and an incredible idea.

Christine said...

Such memories your comment brought back. Mentioning it to friends, we were all agreed...yes, the best sight in the world - nappies blowing on the line.

Christine said...

Such memories your comment brought back. Mentioning it to friends, we were all agreed...yes, the best sight in the world - nappies blowing on the line.

Christine said...

What a wonderful sight this must be....the passersby must love it. I think it is really beautiful and an incredible idea.

Zohra Arastu said...

I love your art which truly preserves the past memories of the days when people didn't have so much stuff but yet making use of what they had eg., time, clothing, leftover wall/fence paint, bed linens, etc., to beautify their homes and surroundings. You bring out the value of their efforts in a very creative way. My mother always told me that anyone can buy new material and make something but to make something new out of the old material is a real talent. She would use inexpensive material and make gorgeous outfits for herself and me.