Friday, April 30, 2021

The Big Day's Artist Books

(Above:  Anonymous Brides, an altered, vintage photo album.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

One weekend, more than a month ago, I decided to transform one of the vintage photo albums in my stash to function as a guest book for my upcoming solo show called The Big Day.  My plan quickly went out of control when I pulled out the stash of "stuff" intended for this project. Instead of one, three books happened.

(Above:  One of the spreads in Anonymous Brides.)

After all, I happened to have three, vintage photo albums/scrap books that were the same basic size.  I had more than enough anonymous images that were suggestive of brides, marriages, and anniversary parties.  For pages, I pulled out a stack of xylene photo transfers made years ago ... actually ... over a decade. 

(Above:  One of the spreads in Anonymous Brides.)

One of the nice things about having a blog is the fact that I can find early posts regarding such things.  I made dozens and dozens of xylene photo transfers of cemetery angels in order to create a series of twenty-five pieces called Angels in Mourning. (To see some of them, CLICK HERE.) I blogged about making the transfers ... outdoors ... in a makeshift station ...  HERE.  At that time, I was working on my solo show, Last Words.  I was exploring different directions in which to take my concepts and ideas ... embroidery, grave rubbings, photographs, epitaphs.  The theme was grounded.  The artistic approaches were from lots of different places. 

(Above:  One of the spreads in Anonymous Brides.)

Anyway ... I transferred LOTS of images.  Why not?  As long as I set up an outdoor station, had an entire stack of printmaking paper, and bunches of photocopies, why not make "more than enough"?  As a result, I had plenty of images from which to select the twenty-five that would become my Angels in Mourning Series and plenty more to sit on a shelf until which time as I might need them.  That time was last month.  

(Above:  One of the spreads in Anonymous Brides.)

I cut every leftover piece into pages for these three albums.  The black paper in one album was still good, stiff, and in perfect condition.  It had never been used.  So, I zigzag stitched each page to one of the printmaking paper pages ... after having zigzag stitched photos to each side.  This became Anonymous Brides.

(Above:  The Big Day Guest Book, volume 1.)

Working only with the printmaking pages, I made the guest book for the upcoming show.  Actually, I made so many pages that I ended up with volume 1 and volume 2!  On each page I zigzag stitched donated index cards.  They aren't ordinary index cards but a filing system used by a mid-century bride from a prominent Mississippi family.  These carefully organized cards were filed alphabetically with all family names and addresses.  They noted the dates for wedding and shower invitations, received gifts, and sent thank you notes.  They were saved for decades before being given to me with the hope that art might happen.  

(Above:  The Big Day Guest Book, volume 1.)

After zigzag stitching three index cards to one side of each page, I flipped it over and zigzag stitched three more in the same place. 

(Above:  The Big Day Guest Book, volume 1.)

I really like how the xylene photo transfers add just a touch of the inevitable.  The angels seem to appropriately haunt both books.  They seem to suggest that every "big day" will be quickly ushered into the past ... almost like the need for index cards.  (Thank goodness for Excel sheets and other on-line and/or computer kept filing systems!)

(Above:  The Big Day Guest Book, volume 2.)

My hope is that visitors to the exhibit will take the time to sign their names right on the vintage index cards.  Maybe a few stories will be shared, added to the memories of past "big days".  After the show, I will add some of the notes I received from those donating their wedding dresses. 

(Above:  The Big Day Guest Book, volume 2.)

While I have no illusion regarding the odds for these guest books surviving another generation, they have managed to present a few, special wedding items from past events at this time, currently, in the 21st century ... thus ... second life.  I could almost feel the anonymous brides and their guests while constructing these books.

(Above:  The Big Day Guest Book, volume 2.)

Both guest books have about twelve spreads.  That's a lot of index cards.  Yet, I didn't use even half of the ones in the donated box.  So, now I have no more xylene photo transfers of cemetery angels but plenty of wedding index cards.  I'll keep the cards.  I have no idea how or whether I'll use them in the future.  But, I didn't know how or whether I'd use the leftover image transfers either!

(Above:  The Big Day Guest Book, volume 2.)

A friend of mine once said that artists who collect intuitively will always have on hand exactly what they need.  I believe this!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Picking the Right Dress for The Big Day

(Above:  Selfie in a donated wedding dress and veil.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Next week is a very busy and exciting time!  I'll be in the Pickens County Museum of Art and History in Pickens, SC installing The Big Day, a solo show focusing on both the lasting love of marriage and the socioeconomic pressures of pulling off a show-stopping wedding. The reason for this exhibit is Steve and my fortieth anniversary (September 12, 1981!)  I started this over a year ago, before the pandemic hit.  Yet from the beginning, it was my intention to collect forty wedding dresses.  After all, "the dress" is generally one of the most important elements for a wedding.

From the start, I envisioned a day trying on all the donated and found wedding gown.  I intended to snap a selfie in each dress.  This meant setting up a suitable location, a "set" that might look like a bridal boutique.  I used the pipe-and-drape system originally purchased for The Cocoon.  Of course, I never actually bought the drapes!    I made them! That installation is all about vintage household linens.  The "drapes" were panels of of dish towels, tablecloths, doilies, evening gloves, crocheted baby bonnets, antique sleeping gowns, napkins, quilt tops, and everything else.  (Currently, that installation is in Lake City at ArtFields.)  Thankfully, I own another set of vintage drapes.  I purchased them at auction for a one-night-only event for Saint Anastasia, a piece that is currently traveling in a SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associate) show called 3D Expressions

Up went the pipes.  Up went the vintage curtains.  Then, I realized that I couldn't really capture a selfie that adequately showed off each wedding dress.  Another set was needed.

In another part of the house, another set was created using an extra large mirror, two pieces of 48" x 96" foam-centered board, and an amazing amount of lace yardage that had been donated to me for the simple reason that "she knew I loved lace".  Aiming my phone's camera into the mirror got another view.

It took all day one Saturday to repeatedly get dressed, snap a selfie in front of the mirror, walk to the other set for a close-up selfie, have Steve take a picture of me in our living room, and get undressed for the next gown.  Frankly, it was as exhausting as I remember the weekend when my mother and I visited all the bridal shops in western Pennsylvania! 

Like the 1980 shopping trip, I tried on lots and lots of dresses that didn't fit me.  Back then, here were plenty of promises about alterations, hemline lengths, subtle shades of white/off-white, and conversations about how a lengthy train would be gathered and hooked up to allow for dancing.  There was talk about preservation services that would clean and seal my dress in an acid-free container.  I didn't opt for that ... thank goodness ... because this past year I've purchased four different gowns still in these sealed containers.  Not one cost me more than ten-dollars.  Years later, styles change, divorces occur, and daughters have different ideas about their one-and-only wedding attire.  Kept for decades, these dresses just didn't have lasting value despite their high costs and conservation efforts.

So ... I tried just to have a lot of fun in these dresses. After all, each one represented a special day, hopes for a happy future, and an ethereal beauty.  Each dress got picked for The Big Day!  I was actually surprised at how every dress ... no matter how tacky it might be considered in today's world of fashion ... was pretty in some unique way.  I'm nearly sixty-two years old but felt much younger, as if on the cusp of a new adventure. 

Maybe I felt that way because I knew some of the dresses weren't for a first walk down the aisle but for a new life with a new husband.  Weddings are the beginning of a new adventure.  After forty years of marriage, Steve and I still talk about our future escapades, the places we want to discover, and the ideas we want to share. Our lives really are an adventure, and it started when we got married.

Between one "set" and the other, I had to walk through our living room.  It only made sense to have Steve snap one more picture of me in each dress.  Using PhotoShop, I've been eliminating the living room.  Thus, there are three pictures of me in every one of the wedding gowns.

Ernie the Cat had to get involved too!  The photos have all been printed.  Each is just a 4" x 6".  I purchased seventy doll-clothes hangers with clips.  In the exhibit, all these little coat hangers will be mounted on a wall, a visualization of trying on multiples of gowns!

Toward the end of the day, I finally came to my own wedding dress.  It was the second dress I tried on in the first store visited.  I still like it.  I'm too fat for it though!

I am too big for most of the wedding dresses.  It was hard to take a selfie in a strapless gown that couldn't get zipped up!  Some selfies were taken while I was sitting on the floor, sort of inside the open dress!

 I wasn't too fat for one dress.  This one is special.  It is quite large.  I've taken out the entire back seam (in all three layers ... satin, gathered tulle, and lining!)  At the exhibit, this gown will be suspended in front of three, large mirrors.  I've put elastic loops on the sides to accommodate various heights.  The idea is that viewers will be able to stand behind the dress, wrap it under their own arms, and snap their own selfie.  I'm hoping that a little of the fun I had on a full day of "playing" with these special dresses is shared with others.  The silliness is obvious.  Hopefully, the subtle truth about a wedding dress will hang in the air.  It really doesn't matter what garment is worn.  They all have some charm but they aren't the thing that lasts!   

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Getting Ready for The Big Day

(Above:  I Didn't Tell Him that I Was Already Pregnant.  Framed: 17" x 15". All these pieces are altered anonymous photos.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

More than a year ago I started planning a fortieth wedding anniversary installation called The Big Day.  I envisioned suspending forty gowns and surrounding them with other artwork.  Here on my blog and on social media, I asked if readers had an old wedding dress to donate.  (THANK YOU to everyone who answered this request!) I started looking in thrift stores and at my local auction house.  Slowly, my collection started to grow.  I don't quite have forty but I'm really close!  (I think there are 36!)

(Above:  Everyone Else Saw Only My Disability Except for Him.  Framed:  13 1/2" x 11 1/2".)

I was never really worried about the number of gowns.  Who would be counting, anyway?  I was, however, worried about finding a venue that would offer me time and space for this yet unproven installation.  It's hard to write a decent exhibition proposal without great images. It's hard to relate the concepts being translated through found objects that haven't yet been found!  It's hard to secure solo shows even during "normal" times.  This task was almost impossible during a pandemic!  Shows scheduled for 2020 were generally pushed back a year.  Few thought shutdowns would continue in 2021 ... but it is still happening!  Shows are still being pushed back!  Fortunately, I managed to find a place:  The Pickens County Museum of Art and History in Pickens, South Carolina!

(Above:  He Had to Convert in Order to Marry Me.  Framed: 12" x 14".)

The Pickens County Museum of Art and History is a special place for me.  During the summer of 2008 I took Blues Chapel there.  Although I'd shown this work at the Sumter County Art Museum (invited because I knew the executive director and she had a cancellation on her hands!), this was the first time I wrote a proposal and sent it to a museum.  Getting this opportunity seemed like a "once in a life time" chance!  I was nervous but some wonderful things happened.  The director (until his retirement) became my "go to" person for future letters of recommendation.  I met Ellen Kochansky, a two-time Governor's art fellowship winner who later started the Rensing Center art residency program.  (I've been to the Rensing Center twice and will be there again ... starting later next week!)  The connections were wonderful.  

(Above:  He Was Even Younger Than Me.  Framed: 17 1/2" x 15 1/2".)

Back in 2008, Blues Chapel felt like the pinnacle of my art career!  How little I knew then! I didn't know how many future exhibition proposals I would write, juggle, and tweak for various possibilities.  I didn't know I could come up with an increasing number of ideas for installation work.  I didn't know how easily a rejection would roll off my back because I didn't know how many places would even accept a proposal.  I'm still "flying by the seat of my pants", but I've come a long, long way.  Returning to the Pickens County Museum is like a homecoming and a sweet memory rolled into one.  It is a perfect place to mount The Big Day.

(Above:  He Gave Me His Ex-Wife's Ring.  Framed:  13 3/4" x 11 3/4".)

Everything was well planned for Blues Chapel.  I'd been working on this show for two years and had more than enough work.  I visited the location and studied the floor plan.  A panel truck was rented. There was a physical mailing list, a reception, and a well written statement.  I sent press releases.  For months leading up to this exhibit, all my attention was on this one show.  My life revolved around it ... happily and innocently.  I thought this was it ... my one, big opportunity ... the chance of a life time. 

(Above:  I Out-Lived Two Husbands.  Framed:  24 1/2" x 20 1/4".)

Right now, I have The Cocoon on view at ArtFields.  After installing The Big Day next Monday and Tuesday, I'm heading to the Appalachian Center for Craft in Smithville, Tennessee to hang Last Words.  Then, I'm headed back to the Rensing Center to mount The Clothesline.  

(Above:  I Promised to Obey.  Framed: 17 1/4" x 15 1/4".)

That's four different installations!  Last Words has been shown multiple times over the past several years.  The Cocoon was created and shown at the Rensing Center.  It even had a South Carolina Arts Commission grant.  Both have statements, an installation plan, great images, and lots of other "paperwork".  At this point, I know what I'm doing ... totally.  In a sense, these two installations are now easy.  

(Above:  I Saved My Gown and Veil for My Daughter. She Didn't Want Them. Framed:  14" x 12".)

I can't say the same for The Big Day or even The Clothesline.  They are at different stages of development.  While at the Rensing Center, I'm going to try figuring out how to create and install a temporary clothesline.  (Think galvanized electrical conduit hammered into the ground with string running from one to another!  Hope this works!)  I'm going to hang up all the things I've made for my clothesline ... and measure the length.  My backyard isn't large enough for this! Although I have a proposal, it is truly "a work in progress"!  It would be nice to have a tried-and-true installation plan.  It would be nice to know how many yards of hanging items there are.  It would be nice to know how many safety pins I really need to keep the items on the rope.  I am grateful for the opportunity to play around with my work during the upcoming art residency.

(Above:  If One There Had Been Same Sex Marriages.  Framed: 8 3/4" x 6 3/4".)

The Big Day is in a similar stage of development.  I have ideas.  I have artwork.  I have lots of bridal gowns too.  What I needed was a place to "work", to "play", to experiment.  Thankfully, the Pickens County Museum of Art and History is allowing me to do just this!  I will be back in the same room that Blues Chapel once filled.  I'll get to learn how best to suspend gowns.  I'll get images for a proposal.  I'll get to see pieces come together.  Frankly, I might not have been given this opportunity if it weren't for the pandemic!  Right now, the museum isn't encouraging visitors.  Social distancing, lack of school groups, a smaller staff, and less funding has the place operating on a scaled back schedule.  There will be no mailing, no reception, no press release ... but ... for me, this is the perfect!

(Above:  It All Went By So Quickly.  Framed:  14" x 12".)

In addition to the wedding dresses, I've invested in two, heavy-duty rolling garment racks.  Wedding dresses weigh A LOT and take up plenty of space.  Today, fifty padded coat hangers arrived.  Last month, I spent a weekend snapping selfies in all the donated and found wedding dresses.  The results are printed.  They will be hung from doll clothes hangers that have clips.  It's been fun searching on-line for these needed things!  (I'll blog some of the hilarious images later!)

(Above:  It Worked As Long As He Was Overseas.  Framed:  8" x 8".)

I've been printing various signs too.  One is my exhibition statement:

On September 12, 1981 I married Steve Dingman, the first and only love of my life. Although we’ve never been people who exchanged anniversary gifts or celebrated in other, traditional ways, our fortieth anniversary does seem like a very big occasion. For the briefest of moments, we thought about throwing a party. After all, our wedding had been the over-the-top extravaganza of my mother’s dreams. I soldiered through it by repeating to myself, “At least I got to pick the groom”. With a party no longer in consideration, Steve and I talked about other, creative ways to mark our anniversary. These conversations were often the result of hearing about a 2020 planned wedding and its adaptations to the challenge of health measures necessary during a global pandemic. In the face of these and other ceremonial disappointments, we thought the best way to mark our occasion was through a humorous installation, something that would poke a little fun at the needless socioeconomic pressures for an expensive, ideal day and the stress of pulling off an elusive event. After forty years, I can attest: The dress isn’t that important … nor is the cake or the invitations or the venue or the guest list or the music for the first dance. As an artist, it is my job to shift perspectives, challenge tradition, and uproot stereotypes. Collecting donated wedding gowns and snapping selfies in each was hilarious. It made me wonder why I kept the dress in which I was married because (like most of the dresses) it would never be in style later. It was too easy to find anonymous pictures of forgotten brides because these images are almost never a child's or grandchild's favorite visual memory. My hope is that viewers find a few laughs but mostly some thoughts on the importance of a wedding day, the promise of a lasting love that money just can't buy.

(Above:  Our Marriage Was a Circus Act ... Literally!  Framed:  19" x 15 1/4".  I did plenty of research on this antique cabinet photograph.  I thought it would be very valuable.  Some sellers on eBay have exorbitant prices on similar images by NYC photographer Charles Eisenmann. (He was really prolific and printed hundreds ... if not thousands ... of circus photos.)  I contacted an expert, Greg French.  He answered right away.  Our correspondence was honest and fun.  He let me know that my two, married "little people" were in such poor condition that the item worth about ten-dollars!  It was, however, quite an adventure!)

I've also been adding to my Wall of Ancestors Series.  This blog post shares the new pieces.  Each one features found, anonymous images with phrases collaged in individual letters clipped from vintage ephemera.  Most are in antique frames.

(Above:  The Man of My Dreams and Nightmares.  Framed:  12 1/2" x 14 1/2".)

There will hang with other pieces from The Wall of Ancestors.  This series is part of my solo installation Anonymous Ancestors.  I've shown this exhibit plenty of times.  Right now, it is in storage ... except for the ones dealing with love and marriage and divorce!  They get to be part of The Big Day!

(Above:  The Right Girl. The Right Boy.  Framed:  17 1/2" x 24".)

Some of the other pieces are called: Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride; Faithfully Devoted, Arranged Marriage; Happily Married for 40 Years; Home Wrecker, I Busted Up My Friend's Marriage; In Love, Eloped, Stayed Married; Match Made in Heaven; My Proudest Role ... His Wife; Old Maid; One Enchanted Evening; Our Love Affair was Epic; Prim and Proper; The Salad Days; Single Mother; Sister Spinsters; The Girl Next Door; Donna Reed Was My Role Model; Eloped as Teenagers; He Broke My Heart; He Cheated On Me; I Would Marry Four Times; Married for Money; Shot Gun Wedding; This Was Meant to Last Forever; I Lived in the Shadow of His First Wife; 'Til Death Do Us Part and Virgins on our Wedding Night.

(Above:  Third Time's a Charm.  Framed:  14 1/2" x 16 1/2".)

In this same vain, I made an artist book called Anonymous Brides.  Last February, I made two more books, guest books.  I'll share these and other things for The Big Day later this week.  I can't wait to see this all come together.


Friday, April 23, 2021

Mandala XLVIII

(Above:  Mandala XLVIII. 25 1/2" x 25 1/2". Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include:  A rotary telephone dial and four gongs; glass chandelier prisms; keys; buckles; vintage stitch pattern knobs; salt & pepper shaker tops; buttons; red Corby's whiskey, parrot-topped cocktail swizzles; metal picture frame hangers; white, plastic bottle caps; loose leaf paper rings; and long needle-like parts of a prostate radioactive seed implant device.  Click on image to enlarge.)

This found object mandala couldn't have been stitched without the donations from several friends including Flavia Lovatelli, Marty Ornish, Teddi Fine, Scot Hockman, and Linda Whittenburg.  Truly "one artist's trash is another artist's treasure!" THANK YOU to everyone who has sent things for me to repurpose!  (If you have multiples of stuff needing an opportunity for artistic use, just mail them to me at Mouse House, 2123 Park Street, Columbia, SC 29201!)

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XLVIII.)

The other, important source for my stash is (and likely always will be!) Bill Mishoe's auction.  I've been attending for more than thirty years.  Often, I don't even bid on anything.  I just look.  Walking up and down the aisles of used household items is inspiration. There are suggested narratives on every table lot, untold stories of the people who once owned the items.  There are visions from past lives and an aura that seems to haunt my imagination.  Sometimes, I do bid.  Sometimes, I end up with vestiges of yesteryear for no particular reason.  I didn't have a plan for the two, old rotary dial telephones in my stash when I bought them (years ago), but last week it occurred to me that there might be interesting parts inside them.

(Above:  A composite image of the two, old rotary dial telephones that were once part of my stash.)

I'm a wiz with a screwdriver.  Within minutes, I had both telephones taken entirely apart.  Between the two phones, I had four gongs but only one dial (because I already used the other one for Mandala XXVIII.)  I don't know if the other parts will find places on future mandalas but I also don't know why I didn't dismantle these phones when I stitched down the first rotary dial!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XLVIII.)

The more mandalas I stitch, the more variations have presented themselves. I really how the small, black buttons work themselves into a variation on a classic quatrefoil pattern, a design that looks like four symmetrical clover leaves.  It wasn't planned at the beginning.  In fact, it was the last thing stitched on this piece.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XLVIII as seen from an angle.)

I am also pleased with the texture of this mandala.  From the side, there are plenty of elevations created by the found objects.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XLVIII.)

Still, the focal point is the old, rotary dial.  This was an object that was once found in just about every house.  I had one until 1994!  Getting rid of a rotary dial phone was important to me then. With a newer telephone, I could finally accept credit cards.  Now ... that's not how it works and I don't even have a landline!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Mandala XLVII

(Above:  Mandala XLVII. 16" x 16".  Found objects hand stitched to a block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include:  a clock face; colorful numbers from a child's game; four springs from a cuckoo clock; four toy truck wheels; buttons; plastic eyelashes donated to my stash by cyber friend Marty Ornish; and four, gold colored metal circles that were bases for beaded earrings.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I ran out of orange bridal netting to cover the surface of another, four-patch mandala.  But, I had a piece of gray that fit over this single quilt block.  So ... I stitched this fun piece.  At first, I didn't like it.  I thought the colorful numbers were too bold.  I didn't know how to bring balance to these strong, in-your-face colors.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XLVII.)

I had hoped that the green toy hubcaps, gold-colored jingle bells, and metal jewelry circle would be enough balance ... but they didn't.  Even the funny, plastic eyelashes weren't enough.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XLVII.)

Finally, I added layered buttons on the edge.  The buttons on the top were in assorted colors.  I think these little items actually brought the balance I was seeking.  Funny ... buttons can do so much!  Gotta love them!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

TEXTILE TALK: Textile Narratives: Vintage, Found & Transformed (Surface ...

Super thrilled to share this recording of TEXTILE TALK: Textile Narratives: Vintage, Found & Transformed featuring Maggy Rozycki Hiltner, Jennifer Lee Morrow, and ME!  It is moderated by the super talented Merill Comeau.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Spark Plug Mandala!

(Above:  Mandala XLVI, the Spark Plug Mandala. Framed as a diamond: 23" x 23"; hung as a square: 16 1/2" x 16 1/2". Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: spark plugs; a clock face; four, blue plastic bottle caps; zipper pulls; brass hinges; vintage cocktail forks; four, silver square-beads that were once part of a bracelet; a metal circle with six holes; and lots of buttons.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Most of this post is an illustration for how I've managed to mount my mandalas and distribute the weight of the found objects that are hand-stitched to a section/block of a vintage quilt.  I've selected this particular mandala to use for my example ... because ... well ... this many spark plugs are obviously heavier than most other objects I've been using.  I got these spark plugs at Bill Mishoe's auction house, a place selling everything from antiques and paintings to used household items ... and ... apparently, brand new spark plugs ... still in a box.


(Above:  Lot 208 with the silent auction bidder's sheet.)

There were several lots of spark plugs in small, corrugated boxes.  Someone bid the opening/minimum of $6 on all the boxes.  I wrote $7.50, the next increment, and my "permanent" bidder number (#74) on just this one box.  No one bid more.  (Permanent numbers are for "auction regulars". I've been attending Bill Mishoe's auctions for more than thirty years.  Ordinarily, the auction is live but during this on-going pandemic, it is held like a silent auction with bidder sheets.)


(Above:  The spark plugs!)

Inside the corrugated box were six smaller boxes.  Inside each smaller box were eight, individually packaged spark plugs.  Brand new, small engine (whatever that means!), spark plugs.  I was thrilled and decided to use almost all of them on a small, single quilt block.

(Above:  Mandala XLVI, detail.)

Because these spark plugs are small and not at all flat, I needed something on which one end could rest.  Thankfully, Marty Ornish recently sent a package of found objects for my stash.  In it was a clock face with the perfect rim.  Each spark plug was stitched down with at least seven stitches.  I used purple #5 perle cotton.  All this stitching was done while the vintage quilt block was stapled to a stretcher bar.

(Above:  The finished quilt block, removed from the stretcher bar.  The stretcher bar, on which a piece of acid-free foam-centered board was glued and stapled in place.)

When all the found objects were hand-stitched in place, I removed the vintage quilt block from the stretcher bar.  A piece of acid-free foam-centered board was cut to fit inside the slight lip/bump of the stretcher bar.  It was both glued and stapled into place.

(Above:  The quilt block re-stapled to the stretcher bar.)

Because I'm using vintage quilts which are not always in excellent shape, I lay down a piece of netting over the quilt block before attaching any of the found objects.  I did this after stapling the quilt block to the stretcher bar.  Why?  Well, netting can rip rather easily.  Having staples put through it and later removed would risk it being torn.  I re-stapled the quilt block to the stretcher bar without pulling the netting around.  The photo above shows the piece re-stapled to the stretcher bar and the netting not being stapled down.

(Above:  One corner of the stapled quilt.)

To deal with the corners, I pull out as much of the batting as necessary to eliminate bulk.  I also cut away the quilt backing.  This makes it much easier to fold/pull/staple a neat corner.

(Above:  This shows the corner, folded/pulled/stapled.)

Ideally, the corner would be neater but that isn't always possible when dealing with vintage quilts.  Yet with the bulk of the batting and backing removed, the corners are almost neat enough!

(Above:  The netting pulled around to the reverse and stapled in place.)

When all four corners are stapled in place, I pull the netting around to the back, twisting the netting at the corners, and then stapling it to the back of the stretcher bars.  This means that all the staples are actually UNDER the netting.

(Above:  The piece finished on the stretcher bar.)

Finishing the sides and corners in this way produces a nice look even if I weren't going to put the work into a frame.

(Above:  The back of the piece.)

Now comes the important part!  It is necessary to distribute the weight of the found objects.  On all my other mandalas, I used buttonhole thread and stitched long running stitches through the foam-centered board and piece ... in both vertical and horizontal rows ... every two to three inches.  Therefore, no part of a mandala is stressed by more than a two to three inch square of the whole. 

(Above:  Detail of the weight distribution stitching.)

For this spark plug mandala, I used the same #5 perle cotton thread and stitched through the foam-centered board, up through the quilt block, and around each spark plug ... twice ... firmly securing each spark plug in place.  The weight is evenly distributed because the spark plugs aren't just attached to the quilt but stabilized by the foam-centered board.

(Above:  The finished piece and its floater frame.)

As a certified, professional picture framer since starting my shop in 1987, I've always approached my art-making with presentation in mind.  Before stitching the very first mandala, I knew I wanted a "floater" styled frame.  This is the type of picture frame moulding that doesn't have a lip over the edge of the artwork.  The moulding lips around the back of the artwork.  The artwork fits INSIDE the frame and is put in place from the front, not the back.

(Above:  Off-set clips used to attach the stretcher bar to the floater frame.)

I used just six off-set clips to screw the stretcher bar to the back side of the floater styled frame. 

(Above:  The finished piece from the back.)

Another piece of foam-centered board was installed to protect the stitching on the back.  A label was attached and wires installed for hanging either as a square or a diamond.  I hope this blog post helps others with their presentation/framing needs!