Saturday, April 04, 2020

Stir Crazy in South Carolina

 (Above:  Detail of Stir Crazy in South Carolina.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

New art ideas have been bubbling since the COVID-19 "sheltering in place" ordinances were announced.  Visions of isolation, solitary confinement, and other "social distancing" situations came to mind, especially when hearing about others needing "entertainment" and ways to escape boredom.

(Above:  Stir Crazy in South Carolina. 32 1/2" x 24 1/2".  Paper-pieced, machine-stitched crazy quilt with hand stitched "counting" motifs.  Materials include discarded wall covering fabric scraps from both the House of Representatives and Senate done when the South Carolina State House was renovated in the late 1990s.

I can't remember ever being bored.  Being stuck in my studio all day, every day is like a dream-come-true.  I have everything I need.  There are no interruptions.  Stepping into the backyard is glorious because springtime in South Carolina is quite beautiful. Azaleas are flowering. All the pink and white dogwood trees are blooming.  The weather is wonderful.  In many respects, this period of quarantine is so fabulous that it is difficult to comprehend the dire straits in over-crowded hospitals, the need for masks, and the panic about too few ventilators.  But that's what's happening, and there are whole families trying to function with parents working from home while attempting home-schooling lesson plans.  What a disaster!  Just because I'm not going stir crazy doesn't mean others aren't counting the hours in a day, the days in a week, and wondering when this will all end.

 (Above:  Stir Crazy in South Carolina, in progress.)

Thinking about other people, made a difference.  My imagination saw a lonesome guy marooned on a deserted island using a sharpened rock on a cliff-side wall to mark the passing days.  One upright, two, three, four, and a diagonal slash for every five days. It would be easy to stitch, a simple and universal illustration ... just like cartoons of prisoners awaiting their release ... very "stir crazy".  The phrase itself suggests a crazy quilt.  But what fabric?

 (Above:  Stir Crazy in South Carolina, detail.)

Well ... my stash of fabric isn't the typical collection of 100% cotton quilting material.  In fact, I don't know if I have anything that most quilters would consider appropriate, but I do have a tub in which I store rather unusual pieces and "things I like".  I decided to create this piece using only fabrics from that one, plastic tub.  I also knew that tub held two pieces of conceptually perfect pieces of fabric ... scraps discarded from the late 1990s State House renovations.

 (Above:  The interior of the South Carolina State House.)

Back in the late 1990s, the South Carolina State House enjoyed a much needed total renovation.  One of the companies hired was from Pittsburgh, PA ... near where I grew up. One of the experts for installing the several patterns of exotic fabric wall coverings was a guy I knew from high school.  He gave me two rather large scraps rescued from the trash.  These were the sections that had been cut away for doors and windows and the waste when lining up the patterns.  He asked me if I wanted more.  I probably should have said YES, but at the time I couldn't think of a good use for this fabric.  At the time, I wasn't a practicing artist ... just a custom picture framer. I worried that I wasn't even supposed to own these pieces of "trash".     

(Above:  Stir Crazy in South Carolina, reverse ... including a seal of the state cut from a section of the fabric wall covering used in the State House.)

The two pieces came from the House of Representatives and the Senate.  I know this because these words are in the weave of the cloth.  One piece is blue; the other golden yellow.  The golden yellow piece included the words South Carolina Senate outside the seal.  I cut the words off, leaving only the seal as my signature place on the reverse.

But ... before getting to the reverse, I had to stitch the crazy quilt. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I remembered a very early experiment with paper piecing.  After less than fifteen minutes of research, I had the process committed to memory.  It took me longer to remember how to use the "line tool" in Photoshop.  Within an hour, I had twelve eight-inch squares designed and printed.  I found fabrics in the tub that went well enough with the two from the State House.  It was fun to actually stitch something "functionally" but it was so much more fun to hand stitch all the little counting lines.  I have no idea how many there are.  I got lost in the process.  Who knows how many there are or how many days are left in this "stay-at-home" time of a pandemic.  As long as it continues, I'll be making more art.

1 comment:

Christine said...

Beautiful! Love the idea of the desert island scratching.... Even though we have been blessed with all this creative time, there's still not enough!!!