Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Mandala XLIV

(Above:  Mandala XLIV. 46 1/2" x 46 1/2" when hung as a diamond; 33 3/4" x 33 3/4" when hung as a square.  Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: the metal part of a vintage glass trivet; keys, buttons, caps for syringes; shower curtain hangers; hinges; red milk bottle caps; blue water bottle caps; galvanized washers; external tooth locker washers; paper fasteners; white plastic rings; clear plastic bracelets, and red Corby's whiskey, parrot-topped cocktail swizzles.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Sometimes it is better for me not to know about the generosity others have extended to my stash.  Until just a few moments ago, right before sitting down to compose this blog post, I had no idea that the red Corby's whiskey, parrot-topped cocktail swizzles were vintage and sold on eBay for up to nine-dollars a piece.  They were a gift.  They came unceremoniously in a used plastic shopping bag from a long-time friend simply thought I would like them and might use them for a mandala.  I was thrilled of course but totally unaware of the potential value.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XLIV.)

I also didn't know that these swizzles once came in different colors or that were made back in the 1950s and 1960s.  I didn't know that Corby's whiskey is a Canadian liquor.  All I saw were lots and lots of cool items for the next mandala and cute parrots.  Frankly, I didn't see the brand name on the swizzles until several were stitched in place. 

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XLIV.)

Yet, I am looking at many things quite differently now.  While browsing aisles in thrift stores, I'm seeing the parts of things, not the whole.  I'm seeing potential in lamps parts and electronic parts. I'm seeing cheap costume jewelry and hair curlers and salt shaker lids in new ways too. 

(Above:  Mandala XLIV, hung as a square.)

I'm also thankful that I finished this mandala today.  Later this afternoon, Steve and I are flying to Phoenix for Easter in the desert.  We are National Parking until April 6th and likely looking at nature in new ways too.  The pandemic has only made us appreciate the outdoors more than ever before ... sort of like looking at "junk" in the light of a future mandala!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Cocoon at ArtFields

(Above:  Me at the entrance to The Cocoon.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

It's been nearly three years since my summer 2018 art residency at the Rensing Center outside Pickens, South Carolina.  That's where The Cocoon came to life and was shown for the first and only time until today! It was supposed to be part of ArtFields 2020 but ... well ... everyone knows what happened to in-person events during the pandemic.  I submitted it again, for this year, and it was accepted.  I can't wait for visitors to enjoy the maze of vintage household linen, antique garments, and all the handmade embroidery.  It is truly my honor to be part of this exhibit and competition, April 23 - May 1, 2021.

(Above:  The sun room of the old funeral parlor that was about to be transformed into The Cocoon.)

The venue is a new location for ArtFields. It was a former funeral parlor.  It is now called "The House on Church Street". The buildings needs lots and lots of work.  Yet, the old mauve and puce paint, the scrappy wooden floor, the antique glass windows, and the recent neglect seem absolutely perfect for my installation.  There's an atmosphere of nostalgia, as if memories hang in the air. There's a suggestion of yesteryear and the people who once lived and worked here.  It is perfect.

(Above:  Steve with the rolling cart carrying the panels for The Cocoon.)

Within minutes of entering the building, Steve and I were unloading the van.  Most of The Cocoon hangs on heavy-duty drapery hangers from a rolling bridal-wear rack.

(Above:  The satin wedding gown and the pipe-and-drape system which functions as the substructure for The Cocoon.)

Temporarily, we hung printmaker Stephen Chapp's mother's 1948 satin wedding gown from the light fixture.  The pipe-and-drape system was deposited in the middle of the floor.

(Above:  The sun room before starting to install The Cocoon.)

When everything was brought inside, I surveyed the room.  Originally, I requested a larger space, but I wouldn't have traded for more square footage after seeing three walls of windows!  One thing was absolutely clear: The lighting was going to be amazing! 

(Above:  Me installing panels on the pipe-and-drape system.)

With the heavy-duty bases in place, the uprights were installed.  The panels slipped over the cross-beams, one by one until the sun room was totally transformed.  The walk through The Cocoon meanders nicely.  The images below were taken while I walked through myself.

(Above:  The entrance/exit to The Cocoon.)

For the photos below, I entered on the right side.

(Above:  Entering The Cocoon.)

I also walked through while taking a video.  It is HERE on You Tube.

(Above:  The far right corner of the room.)

I absolutely love this view.  The lighting is tremendous.  I put two folding chairs in this area.

(Above:  Two of four, old folding chairs upholstered with sections of an old quilt.)

Recently, I purchased four, old folding chairs while at Bill Mishoe's auction. I upholstered them with parts of an old quilt.  The fact of the matter is that most of The Cocoon came from Bill Mishoe's auction.  Some of the pieces, however, were donated to my stash by friends.  Some people sent antique and vintage garments and linens from their families.  Even Steve's Aunt Virginia sent a few things before she died.  I do hope that a few people will sit in the provided chairs ... just to think about the people they knew and loved, people who stitched, people who brought handmade beauty into their homes.

(Above:  The heavy satin wedding gown donated to my stash by printmaker Steven Chapp.)

I have another installation coming up soon.  It is called The Big Day.  It will be at the Pickens County Museum of Art and History from May 11 - July 23, 2021.  People from all over the country have donated their old wedding gowns to this exhibit ... but to be perfectly honest, it is this gown I love the best (even more than the one I wore which will also be in the show!)

(Above:  View from the wedding gown to the further corner.)

I used several galvanized electrical conduits to alter the shape of The Cocoon.  This is how the path meanders.  I also did this because I knew I had more than enough panels to create nooks.  By the time I filled the space, I still had six panels leftover.  They might get to hang ... next time!  Fingers and toes are crossed that The Cocoon will have more opportunities in front of the public.

(Above:  The back center area of The Cocoon.)

I really tried to use the panels on which vintage garments were stitched.  With this wonderful lighting, they brought a human touch to the installation.

(Above:  The far left corner of The Cocoon.)

In this corner, I allowed slight gap.  One really can't see out but more light does enter the space.  There's also a broken window behind the panel on the right.  It's just a small pane but it allows a breeze into the installation.  Some of the fabric oscillates ... sort of like laundry on a clothesline.  Speaking of a "clothesline", I will not only be installing The Big Day at the Pickens County Museum of Art an History in May, I will be back at the Rensing Center to install The Clothesline!  I started this installation while at the Enos Park Art Residency with the Springfield Arts Association in Illinois ... last January ... just before the pandemic hit.  Parts have been hung as more and more items were made, but I haven't had a time or place to put the whole installation together, especially in an outdoor pasture area!  I'm excited!  (To see one of the days during which part of The Clothesline was hanging, CLICK HERE.)

(Above:  The last area of The Cocoon, right beside the way back out.)

In the near, left corner (right beside the way back out of The Cocoon) is a low, marble top table and another folding chair. This is where I'm put several things.

(Above:  Items on the marble top table.)

They include my business cards and a three-ring binder. The binder includes all the blog posts written while The Cocoon was under construction.  Those posts are easy to find.  Scroll down on this blog's right-hand side-bar.  There is a list of months since 2006.  Scroll down to find June 2018.  The first post is HERE ... and it really does start to explain how The Cocoon came into being.  The three-ring binder also includes pages on which visitors might leave a comment, tell a fiber story, or share a memory.

(Above:  An authentic English pub tray collaged with children's dress patterns and filled with thread, scissors, needles on a magnetic base, and lots of buttons.  The patterns were donate by my friend Anne Fowler Wade.)

One of the most important reasons for creating The Cocoon was the hope that it would provide a soft, safe haven for storytelling.  I could imagine mothers telling daughters about grandmother's who crocheted doilies and fathers telling sons about the quilts under which they slept when visiting grandpas.  I wanted a place in which stitching could happen, even if it only meant someone showing how to attach a button.  To this end, there are buttons, thread, and needles.

(Above: The view to the way out from The Cocoon.)

Below are two more pictures ... the last one was taken at the exit, looking back inside The Cocoon.  I am happy that this installation was possible due to funding in part by the SC Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, and the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of SC.  There are several acknowledgement with the SC Arts Commission logo printed on fabric and stitched to the bottom of several panels.

The Cocoon at ArtFields, 2021

Monday, March 22, 2021

Mandala XLIII

(Above:  Mandala XLIII. Framed on point: 46" x 46"; as a square: 32 3/4" x 32 3/4". Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: Clock gears and spiral springs, keys, brass hinges, Swarovski chandelier prisms sent my my friend Teddi Fine, bangle bracelets, metal picture frame hangers; Tinker toy wooden spools, paper fasteners, druid-like game pieces, white plastic bottle caps, wooden clothespins, and lots of buttons. Click on any image to enlarge.)

Just when I thought I would run out of unique multiples for the next, large mandala, a box arrived in the mail.  It was from my friend Teddi Fine, a very talented bead artist I met while we were in the same aisle of the Smithsonian Craft Show.  We've stayed in contact.  She knew that I'd love her Swarovski chandelier prisms.  They are PERFECT for this first mandala on a newly cut vintage quilt.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XLIII.)

Each time I've approached a new substrata (a "new-to-me" section of a vintage quilt), I'm a bit nervous.  I've gotten so used to stitching on a different pattern and different fabrics and different colors that the new background looks intimidating.  Coral, purple, and pink with stark contrast to off-white sashing is so very different from the last background.  Yet, I remember the first mandala stitched on that "now familiar" background.  I thought that last old quilt was totally unusable and I called it "ugly".  As soon as the prisms were stitched in place, I loved this new background!  By the way, the prisms were the first element stitched down.

(Above:  Old, tattered quilts and two, new afghans purchased recently at Bill Mishoe's auction.)

The photo above shows a recent purchase from Bill Mishoe's auction.  I got all this for a ten-dollar bid.  Some of these old quilts might not turn into mandalas.  Some are more damaged than is feasible but a few will definitely become art!  I truly love this part of my studio practice. It comes very naturally to me to give "second life" to old, neglected, and otherwise unwanted things ... especially textiles!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XLIII.)

Serendipity often figures in my life and art.  Just like receiving the prisms when I most needed them and purchasing the stack of old quilts when stitching the last mandala, I found a tube of metal polish under my kitchen sink right when I collected all these old USPS post office keys.  I don't remember purchasing the tube.  In fact, I don't remember ever seeing the brand name ... but it was there when I needed it!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XLIII.)

Most of the buttons used were from the company that sent a fifty-pound box of discontinued ones.  I have, however, purchased a few skeins of #5 perle cotton ... purple, red, and orange.

(Above and below:  Ernie helping the mandala process!)

Of course Ernie the Cat has been helping!  He's gotten so big since the first mandalas!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Mandala XLI

(Above:  Mandala XLI.  Framed: 24" x 24". Found objects hand-stitched to a section of an antique quilt.  Found objects include: a clock face, rivets, antique dominoes, clock gears, washers, paper fasteners, keys, buttons, decorative wire spirals, zodiac symbols clipped from a metal belt, safety pins, and game pieces shaped like medieval druids. $550. Click on any image to enlarge.) 

Finding unusual multiples is now an obsession.  Once I had started looking, I started finding them ... some were even in my house!  Such was the old, brass belt.  It came on a table lot from Bill Mishoe's auction, a purchase made well over two years ago.  It was in my stash but I'd never really looked at it until this series developed.  Using a pair of wire cutters (which is a tool that is in constant use here at Mouse House, our custom picture framing shop), I had twelve zodiac circles inside of five minutes.  Hilariously, there are two Virgos and no Scorpio ... but these mandalas aren't picky!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XLI.)
Each mandala seems to have stories that connect me to other people.  The blue ceramic button in the middle was recently given to me by my friend Dolly.  Dolly helped sort the fifty pounds of discontinued buttons that were sent from a button manufacturer.  Dolly sorted almost all the slate blue buttons from the box ... some of which are now on this mandala. When she was visiting the beach, she went to a gallery that had ceramics, including a few ceramic buttons. She couldn't help herself; she knew I needed one!  

The wooden looking game pieces came from a local antique mall.  I thought they were wood but they are some sort of very hard plastic.  In order to get them to lay flat, I used a vise grip to hold each one while sawing away the slanted backside with my Dremel tool.  It created quite a mess of very fine, dark powder.  After cutting the first one, I cut the others in the garage ... wearing a dust mask and goggles ... and then had to take a shower.  

I bought the druid-like game pieces at the same time as this set of dominoes.  These aren't like the ones I had as a kid.  They are much older and definitely wooden.  The indentations were painted. Much of the paint was chipping off.  I mixed up some acrylic paint and touched them up.  In fact, I painted dots on the sides that were blank too.  I just sort of liked "more dots" rather than an empty side.  Then, I drilled holes in each one ... one hole on each end, one hole in the middle of the long sides.  These were used to stitch the dominoes to the quilt.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XLI.)
The spiral wires came from my Canadian, on-line friend, Margaret Blank .  Using things sent by friends is always a welcome challenge.  As long as I have at least four, I can likely find a place on a future mandala!  This series will be on-going because I recently purchased an entire stack of antique quilts.  All are in rather poor condition ... which, like the imperfection of the zodiac symbols, is PERFECT for these mandalas.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Six, small Mandalas and a BIG box of buttons!

(Above:  Mandala XXXIV. Framed: 13" x 13". Found objects hand stitched to a block of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include: sewing machine bobbins, toy truck wheels, safety pins, laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands, metal picture frame hangers, two red pull tabs, a pair of small scissors, buttons, and three rabies vaccination tags for pet cats. $185 plus tax and shipping.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Lots of wonderful things seem to be happening here in Columbia as spring approaches.  This includes finishing six, small mandalas.  I might have blogged them separately or even two at a time but I ran out of the linen liner used to frame them and had to wait for my weekly supply delivery.  They were finished right before yesterday's Cottontown Art Crawl.  I took two along.  Neither sold but both received plenty of notice and many compliments.

(Above:  Mandala XXXV. Framed 13" x 13". Found objects hand stitched to a block of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include: a bracelet, clock gears, external tooth washers, red syringe caps, keys, drapery hooks, buttons, laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands, zipper pulls, and a pair of Central or South American cloth figures. $185 plus tax and shipping.)

(Above:  My display at Saturday's Cottontown Art Crawl.)

I did sell several fiber vessels and lots of small, framed pictures.  It was a great way to enjoy the outdoors and share artwork with real people while still staying safe.  There were over eighty artists set up on forty front yards.  Both Steve and I had lots of fun and saw people we haven't seen in over a year!

(Above:  Mandala XXXVI.  Framed: 13" x 13".  Found objects hand stitched to a block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: red plastic bottle caps, orange syringe caps, beer caps, external tooth washers, keys, buttons, square cut nails, and the lid to a replacement typewriter ribbon.  $185 plus sales tax and shipping.)

Most of the conversations spiraled around art and the weather and how nice it was to finally be seeing friends.  Yet, almost everyone started with a COVID-19 vaccination announcement.  Every few minutes was a mini celebration for someone announcing two injections.  Proudly, I got to say that my first shot will be this coming Tuesday.  The air just seemed rich with anticipation for "the light at the end of the long pandemic tunnel."  I'm excited and hopeful!

(Above:  Fifty pound box of buttons.)

Yesterday was great!  The weekend before was also wonderful but in a very different way.  Several weeks earlier I contacted a button manufacturer with hopes of purchasing buttons in bulk at wholesale prices.  A manager was amused enough to actually look at my website, see a few of my finished mandalas, and make me an offer that I absolutely couldn't resist.  He said that he'd send me a fifty pound box of buttons that were being discontinued for the cost of the shipping.  So for thirty dollars, I got delivery of lots and lots of buttons. Of course Ernie helped!  Some of these small mandalas feature buttonss from this box!  Sorting was great fun.  The tiled, living room floor was a maze during the three days it took to sort them into Ziploc bags.  I am quite thankful that Steve is used to the strange things I do for the sake of my artwork.

(Above:  Mandala XXXVII.  Framed:  13" x 13".  Found objects hand stitched to a block of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include:  a bracelet, champagne muselets, keys, buttons, laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands, decorative bead patches for Indian saris, wire scrapbooking spirals, and a pair of Central or South American cloth figures.  $185 plus sales tax and shipping.)

There are several art happenings on my horizon.  I'll blog about them later.  Things seem to be looking forward to a positive future!  Below are the other, small mandalas finished this past week.

(Above:  Mandala XXXVIII. Found objects hand stitched to a block from a vintage quilt.  Found objects include: a spiral clock spring, blue plastic bottle caps, metal washers, buttons, laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands, clock gears, screw eyes, antique pen nibs, plastic pull tabs, and red syringe caps.  $185 plus sales tax and shipping.)

(Above:  Mandala XL.  Found objects hand stitched to a block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include:  keys, felt covered piano hammers, scissors, garter hooks, a clock gear, and buttons.  $185 plus sales tax and shipping.)

Friday, March 05, 2021

Mandala XXXIII

(Above:  Mandala XXXIII. Framed 32 1/2" x 32 1/2".  Found objects hand stitched to a section of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: a clock gear, brass house numbers, scissors, dominoes, sword-shaped cocktail skewers, buttons, four salad forks, keys, paper fasteners, bottle caps, washers, shoe buckles, and vintage garter hooks.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

For an old quilt that I initially thought had no real potential for "second life", this one really has worked out very well!  This piece is also presented with the last of the lovely, distressed silver "floater" styled frame.  The moulding was discontinued a year ago.  Steve and I bought the remaining stock.

(Above:  Mandala XXXIII, detail.)

The series is going on nonetheless.  One of the reasons is, of course, because I am really, really enjoying the thrill of the hunt for multiple found objects.  Another good reason is the fact that I really was able to purchase six or seven old, tattered quilts for future work.  Plus, there's the challenge to figure out how to stitch objects in place.  The sword-shaped cocktail skewers were at first a problem.  They don't sit flat.  Finally, I figured out how to cross the tips in such a way that they cooperated.

(Above:  Mandala XXXIII, detail.)

The brass house numbers were purchased on a hardware store sale table.  I only wish there were multiples of other numbers.  They only had four "eights", but these numbers provided a "ledge" for the ends of the cocktail skewers.

(Above:  Mandala XXXIII, detail.)

Another fun thing about these mandalas is how others have contributed to my stash.  My friend Flavia Lovatelli (who is also a recycling artist!) recently gave me all sorts of medical things.  She got them from a nurse.  She kept part of the device for prostate radioactive seed implants but gave me the long, blue tipped needle-like part.  (It isn't a needle though ... at least there is no sharp end!)  Who would have guessed that eight dozen of them were perfect on this mandala!

(Above:  Ernie agrees that this series must continue!  Where else could he go to be more helpful with my studio practice! LOL!)

Thursday, March 04, 2021

More Skeletal Leaves

(Above: Blue Skeletal Leaf in silver frame. Framed:  10" x 7 1/2". Every piece in this blog post is just $50 plus SC sales tax and shipping. If interested, drop me an email at or or call 803-254-0842.)

A week or so ago, I had so much fun cutting apart older work from my PLAYA Series and transforming it into the decorative background for colorful, skeletal leaves.  The leaves were donated to me by my Canadian fiber friend Margaret Blank.  The frames were cut and built by my Steve from leftover pieces of picture frame moulding in our garage.  Each one has a bit of free-motion embroidery and most have hand-stitched beads.  

(Above: Two Red Leaves. Framed: 10 1/2" x 8 3/4".)

(Above: Two Olive Leaves in dark cherry wood frame. Framed: 12" x 9 1/2".)

(Above:  Two Olive Leaves in a distressed black frame. Framed:  11 1/4" x 9 1/4".)

(Above:  Three Blue Leaves. Framed:  11" x 9".)

(Above:  Single Red Leave in gold frame with beaded lip.  Framed: 8" x 6 3/4".)
(Above:  Red Leaf in gold/black striped frame. Framed: 7 3/4" x 6 1/2".)

(Above:  Olive Leaf with copper metallic foiling and copper beads. Framed: 8 1/2" x 5 1/2".)

(Above:  Olive Leaf in silver acorn frame. Framed:  6 /34" x 5 1/2".)

(Above:  Olive Leaf with tiny green sequins. Framed: 8 1/2" x 6 1/2".)

(Above:  Five Leaves in a pink frame. Framed: 13" x 11".)