Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Lunette XXXV

(Above:  Lunette XXXV.  Framed: 22" x 28"; unframed: 16" x 22".  Layers of polyester stretch velvet on recycled black industrial felt with self-guided/free motion machine stitching and melting techniques.  Click on either image to enlarge.)

Galleries were closed and shows were cancelled during the pandemic.  It took a while until my In Box and Stained Glass Series had opportunities to find permanent homes.  Finally, there were a few virtual shows and the Grovewood Gallery re-opened.  Sales trickled in ... and now ... there is a good reason to make more artwork.  I need more work!  Yippee!

(Above:  Detail of Lunette XXXV.)

Honestly, I don't just make these pieces for retail opportunities.  I LOVE making this artwork.  I regard it as my "signature series".  But ... how many framed pieces does one need in a series?  It got depressing to make another one, to constantly use the same materials, to run out of places to hang them, and to realize that no one was getting the chance to see any of it.  During the pandemic, I explored all sorts of different ideas.  I made lots of work about the pandemic, social justice, and even played with abstract compositions.  I learned plenty.  Now, it feels wonderful to return to my stash of polyester velvet.  It feels good to cut colorful circles and squares, fuse them together, and run my machine at top speed over the layers.  The timing is right!

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Two More Single Block Found Object Mandalas

(Above:  Mandala LXXI. Framed:  14 3/4" x 14 3/4".  Found objects hand-stitched to a single block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include:  A gold disc from a trophy; a silver disc from some unknown object; hot hair curler clips; New Castle Brown Ale beer bottle caps; garter hooks; screw eyes; white plastic rings; red and yellow plastic cowboy and Indian toys; and buttons. $200 plus SC sales tax. Click on either image to enlarge.)

These small mandalas are so much fun to stitch.  There's the fun of selecting found objects, the joy of hand stitching, and the excitement to finish ... all within about 48 hours.  I'm very pleased to be using floater frames and stretcher bars that I already had ... which also speeds up the entire process.  Best of all, the old quilt is getting a new life.  This quilt really wasn't very attractive, wasn't pieced with any precision, wasn't square in any direction, but was stained! As I've been working with it, I've also learned that the batting was actually a worse looking and extremely worn, older quilt.  The fact of the matter is, cutting it up was an improvement!

(Above:  Mandala LXXII. 14 3/4" x 14 3/4".  Found objects hand-stitched to a single block of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include:  A pair of rooster shaped scissors; a galvanized circle (unknown function); gold faux-coin dangle charms; garter hooks; keys; corn cob holders; dismantled duck shower curtain hooks. $200 plus SC Sales tax.) 

I also had to figure out how to use the duck shower curtains found at a local thrift shop.  They wouldn't lay flat.  I removed the hook from the duck, drilled holes in the ducks, and stitched eight of the hooks and four of the ducks onto this mandala.  Like the quilt, I think the ducks are much improved! LOL!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Three new pieces

(Above:  Mandala LXIX. Framed as a diamond: 23 3/4" x 23 3/4"; as a square: 16 3/4" x 16 3/4".  Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include: a collection of plastic toy animals; four butterfly votive candle holders; garter hooks; laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands; sewing machine bobbins; a blue plastic canning ring; a gold disc from a sports trophy; four gold beads; and buttons. $250 plus SC sales tax.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

(Above:  Detail of Mandala LXIX.)

Designing this mandala was a challenge.  In my mind, it was going to be super easy to use the colorful plastic animals.  They were all going to lay perfectly flat and form a ring of equal width around the center.  The colors were going to be balanced too.  It took quite a lot of "play" to achieve these results.  Some are stacked.  Some are close together.  Some overlap.  Eventually, I had them arranged and snapped a cell phone image so that I could get them stitched down the way I planned.  


(Above:  A collection of plastic animals and dinosaurs.)

I will probably use this approach in the future because I have plenty more animals, dinosaurs, army men, and cowboys and Indians too.  They came from Bill Mishoe's auction.  I wasn't the successful bidder on the table lot with them.  I didn't bid against the antique dealer wanting the collectible metal toys that were also on the table.  They went for quite a fair sum.  The box with the plastic toys was literally under the table. I made an offer to the antique dealer and got hundreds of these little toys for a mere ten dollars.

(Above:  Mandala LXX.  Framed:  14 3/8" x 14 3/8".  Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include: a metal gym whistle; screw eyes; casino chips; sewing machine bobbins; garter hooks; two bracelets; and buttons. $200 plus SC sales tax.)

I've also started stitching found objects onto blocks from another old quilt.  Of course it came from Bill Mishoe's auction ... for $12.50.  

(Above:  An old, slightly tattered and stained quilt from Bill Mishoe's auction.)

I've cut this quilt into eight blocks.  In order to staple each block to the stretcher bar, I had to cut and zigzag stitch the orange patterned sashing from one place to another.  It worked well.  In fact, in fact, the sashing hardly shows on the finished piece.  The added sashing simply made it possible to stretch the mandala over the stretcher bar.  

Five of these "star" blocks will be put into existing floater frames with existing stretcher bars.  Why?  Well, back in 2007 ... I created a series called Strata.  They were meant to reflect the layers of the earth.  I used all sorts of fibers and a water soluble stabilizer.  They were framed.  There were at least a dozen of them.  They were in a show at Francis Marion College in Florence, SC. A couple pieces sold; the rest went into "storage". Seven years later, I took Strata V: Summer (the one I liked least) apart, cut it into two, applied mat medium to it ... which also attached it to a ready-made 12" x 12" stretched canvas (which I painted with copper acrylics).  I like it so well that I did the same thing to all the remaining Strata Series.  (The original Strata Series frames were the same size as my Large In Box pieces.  Obviously, In Boxes were then made for those frames.)  Back then (2014), I put the newly altered pieces into floater frames.  Several sold; the rest went into "storage".  Basically, there are five floater frames left.  Mandala LXX was stitched specifically to be stapled to one of the five existing stretcher bars and to fit into one of the five existing floater frames.

(Above:  Keys to Climate Change. Framed: 10 1/2" x 8". $70.)

 So ... what happened to the half of Strata V: Summer?  Well ... I cut part of it for a scrap frame made from a piece of leftover moulding.  It turned into Keys for Climate Change.  It was so much fun to transform this piece again!  The rest of the piece was cut and stitched to more greeting cards.  This is one of the reasons I love fiber arts!  Reworking older pieces is easy!

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Several More Found Object Mandalas

(Above:  Detail of Mandala LX.  Framed as a square: 25 1/4" x 25 1/4"; as a diamond: 35 3/4" x 35 3/4".  Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include: a ceramic dish; souvenir spoons; laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands; washers; four letter openers; plastic protective corners for a beveled mirror; decorative wire embellishments; buttons; Blue Moon bottle caps; corn cob holders; garter hooks; brass screw eyes; dairy pull tabs; jingle bells; and toy NASA space shuttles.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

This blog post features four different found object mandalas. Although it isn't unusual for me to have multiple pieces in production, it is rather unusual for me to finish and photograph so many on the same day.  Why did this happen? Well, these were intentionally left at various stages of development so that I could share my process with the Logan Lap Quilters, a local chapter here in Columbia. 

(Above:  Mandala LX.)

I needed one to be on its stretcher bar in the process of being stitched.  I needed one off the stretcher bar with the stretcher bar ready to be covered with a piece of acid-free foam-centered board.  I needed one stapled back on the foam-center board covered stretcher bar and in the process of getting stitched to the foam-center board.  I needed one ready to fit into the floater frame.  It took a little planning.  It took a lot of resistance too!  When I'm close to finishing a piece, I'm itching toward that finish line! LOL!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala LX.)

It was fun to share my process with others.  It was especially fun to talk about the constant search for unique multiples.

(Above:  Doll faces purchased on a table lot at Bill Mishoe's auction.)

I've had quite a bit of luck lately while attending Bill Mishoe's auctions.  He holds two every week.  On Tuesday, most things are sold by "the table lot" ... which means that a card table is stacked up with lots of stuff.  The successful bidder gets everything on the table and under it.  Sometimes, I only want a few of the items.  This means that 1) I either bid higher than others and have to "get rid" of the things I don't want (because the successful bidder is supposed to get the stuff OUT OF THE BUILDING!) or 2) I let someone else purchase the table lot and then hope that person will sell me just the things I want.  There is strategy and risk involved!

(Above:  More of the things I got on my table lot from Bill Mishoe's auction.)

I was the successful bidder on the table lot with all these doll faces and toys.  I was also successful in selling the rest of the stuff on the table to the antique dealer who bid against me.  We were all both happy!  Two holes were drilled into the wings of the toy NASA space shuttles in order to stitch them onto the mandala.  The four doll faces were stacked on top of one another ... and also drilled with an eighth-inch drill bit ... up both sides.  Amazingly, the ceramic dish was also drilled.  I really thought it would break ... but it didn't!

(Above:  Mandala LXI.  Framed as a square: 16 1/2" x 16 1/2"; as a diamond: 23 1/2" x 23 1/2".  Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include: a faucet valve knob; four, red toy motorcycles; four blue hair curlers; screw eyes; New Castle Brown Ale beer caps; laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands; loose leaf paper rings; owl-eye paper clips; orange insulin needle caps; and buttons.)

I used four of the red toy motorcycles on Mandala LXI.  To do this, I had to cut the silver exhaust pipe and muffler off of one side.  This required a dab of hot glue to keep the other side attached ... but it worked and allowed the toy to lay flat.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala LXI.)

I have a lot more of these red toy motorcycles and plans for them!  I've got a plan for the dozens of toy tractors too!

(Above:  Mandala LXIII.  Framed: 15 5/8" x 15 5/8". Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include:  Stork scissors; keys; dominoes; loose leaf paper rings; three plastic sifter lids; eight, vintage canape cutters; eight one penny UK coins; gold beads; dairy pull tabs; Arizona craft beer caps; and buttons.)

The Logan Lap Quilters meeting was on Tuesday but amazingly, I got to make the same presentation on Zoom for an art quilt group in Arizona ... on Wednesday!  In anticipation, I included four craft beer caps collected on Steve and my recent trip to Arizona!  Neither of us can remember which brewery we visited near Sedona, but we remember asking for more beer caps, especially the ones featuring the Arizona flag.  It is always great when drinking beer becomes part of one's artistic endeavors!

(Above: Detail of Mandala LXIII.)

Thankfully, I learn a lot when making these presentations.  Someone at the Logan Lap Quilters told me that I was using canape cutters.  I thought they were chocolate molds! LOL!

(Above:  Mandala LXII.  Framed: 13 3/4" x 13 3/4".  Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include:  Speaking cap of a rotary dial telephone receiver; screw eyes; hair permanent curling rods; bright pink Spoolie hair curlers; plastic sifting caps; sewing machine bobbins; Dogfish Head beer bottle caps; buttons.)

 I also learned that the grey hair curlers used on Mandala LXII were for permanents. Who knew? Not me!  My hair certainly doesn't need a perm!  After the two presentations, I finished up all four pieces within a day of each other.  I'm already at work on the next one!

(Above and below:  Me presenting my work at the Logan Lap Quilters!)

Friday, June 18, 2021

Hand-Stitched In Box ... number CCCLXXXIII

(Above:  Detail of In Box CCCLXXXIII.  Click on most of these images to enlarge.)

I am behind in my blogging but I'm not behind in my studio ... even when my studio happens to be the passenger seat of our cargo van!  One of the reasons for not posting sooner has to do with an unexpected weekend trip!  Last weekend we delivered four pieces to a very nice woman who recently purchased my work through the SC Arts Foundation Sale.  It simply made more sense to drive to Watkinsville, Georgia in exchange for some gas money than to package up and ship the artwork, something that would have cost a great deal more.  She saved money; we got a weekend get-away!

(Above:  In Box CCCLXXXVIII. Framed:  24" x 20; unframed 16" x 12". $375 plus tax and shipping.  Layers of polyester stretch velvet on recycled, black industrial felt with hand stitching and melting techniques.)

 After making the delivery, Steve and I headed for a wonderful hike down and back up the gorge at Tallulah Falls.  This was where the 1971 movie Deliverance was filmed.  The trails were fabulous.  Some of them were made from shredded, recycled rubber tires.  There was also a suspension bridge.  The roar of the water was awesome.   

Unfortunately, no one was permitted off the trails and into the clear, cool water.  Perhaps after this pandemic is finally over, we will return and get river access.  The day was great!  We stayed in Sylva, North Carolina that night.  Dinner was at a craft brewery.  The next day, we drove into Asheville and delivered more of my artwork to the Grovewood Gallery

(Above:  My view during the drive ... to In Box CCCLXXXVIII in progress.)

Before leaving, I constructed a new In Box series piece.  Most of this series is free-motion machine stitched using 100% cotton thread.  For a hand-stitched piece, I use all sorts of cotton embroidery floss and perle cotton thread.  

Steve and I had a great time, especially since we were sort of celebrating!  Why?  Well, my two-or-three times postponed 2020 art residency at Guadalupe Mountains National Park in west Texas has firm dates!  I'll be there from August 18 - September 18!  I'm excited.

 I promise to catch up with the several new mandalas that are also finished.  They all got done at pretty much the same time.  Why?  Well, I had several in different stages of development.  I did this intentionally.  They were used for my presentation at the Logan Lap Quilters Guild on Tuesday and for a Zoom presentation for an art quilt group in Arizona on Wednesday.  Tomorrow ... I promise ... to share them.  

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Mandala LIX

(Above:  Mandala LIX. Framed: 15 1/2" x 15 1/2". Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: a made-in-Japan decorative ceramic dish; keys; beer caps; clock gears; external tooth lock washers; sewing machine bobbins; four, gold shank buttons; flat buttons; pink hair curler pins; and four bright pink, plastic, fold-over plastic hair curlers.  Click on either image to enlarge.)

I'm pretty sure that the woman behind the sales counter at the Pickens Thrift Store thought I was stark raving mad when purchasing several bags of hair curlers.  My hair is a natural mop of long ringlets.  With South Carolina's high humidity, one could often describe it as a frizzy mane.  I've never had a reason for hair curlers ... ever .... but I do remember them from childhood, especially those that used pink pins.  The ones in my house (because my younger sisters often used them) went with grey, spring wire mesh curlers.  I picked up the bag because of the pink pins.  Before doing this, I had never seen the rubbery, pink curlers that folded over themselves.  I nearly threw these curlers away because they were too bulky for a mandala.  Folded up, however, they were the perfect corner accent pieces for this mandala!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala LIX.)

Generally speaking, I only use flat buttons on these mandalas.  The shank ones just won't sit upright.  Yet, I really wanted to use these four, gold-colored shank buttons.  I cut tiny pieces of acid-free foam centered board and poked holes in each one.  These worked as shims for the buttons.  Perhaps I will do this for more shank buttons.  I have so many and many are so pretty!

Monday, June 07, 2021

FIFTY-ONE New Fiber Vessels!

(Above:  Detail of fifty-one fiber vessels stitched during the last two weeks! Click on any image to enlarge.)

For the past two weeks, I've been in-and-out of my studio stitching up all the cording I made during a recent two-week art residency at the Rensing Center outside Pickens, South Carolina.  It actually takes twice as much time to stitch the cording as it does to stitch the vessel.  I couldn't have made this much work if it hadn't been for the uninterrupted time at the Rensing Center.  Here at home, I am constantly distracted by unsolicited telephone calls, normal household duties ... and of course ... work/framing (and Steve!)

(Above:  Fifty-one fiber vessels waiting for their photo-op!)

While I was at the Rensing Center, Ellen Kochansky (the owner/executive director) asked why it is that I seek out so many art residencies.  Until being questioned, I never really thought about "why" I do this but the answer came pouring out.  I adore focused time without distractions. The ability to leisurely put in sixteen hour days is heaven-sent.  Yes, I know that most people would think that "leisure" and "a sixteen hour work day" are an oxymoron, but it doesn't feel like that to me!  When I am able to do exactly what I want to do, without distractions, all day, for day-after-day, I really can and do work best.  My soul seems to want this way of life ... at least for a little while!


(Above:  Balls of cording made at the Rensing Center.)

My father once said, "We are German. We work to live and live to work."  For me, it is the truth ... at least for a month or perhaps two. Yet, I don't think I could keep up the pace forever (or even for more than sixty-days).  I'm pretty sure I need periodic events and changes in my schedule.  From time to time, I want to be around other people, especially other artists.  Still, an art residency is a time during which my mind is totally focused on the task at hand.  It is a time when I can work almost like a very happy machine ... like the "little engine that could"!

(Above:  A selection of multi-colored fiber vessels.)

So, I made more balls of cording than I've ever had at one time during the art residency.  Then, I made the fiber vessels.  There were many interruptions but slowly, fifty-one came into existence.  Yesterday, I took photos of them, first in groups and then one at a time.

(Above:  Selection of purple and brown fiber vessels.)

All of this was done in anticipation off the upcoming Philadelphia Museum of Art Show in November.  My work was accepted into two categories: Decorative Fibers (my found object mandala series) and Basketry (these fiber vessels.)  I'm not waiting to sell them though!  They are currently available on a sales blog set up just for them.  After all, I can always make more!

(Above:  A selection of red and burgundy fiber vessels.)

Almost all of these fiber vessels is priced at just $65 plus SC sales tax and shipping.  No two are alike.  Several have been stitched with metallic thread.  Most have some sort of variegated thread ... just because I adore variegated thread!

(Above:  A selection of blue and green fiber vessels.)

For the most part, the exterior thread is different from the interior thread.  The rims are frequently in another thread altogether.  Quite a bit of the thread was purchased by me ... because using "old thread" is frustrating if it breaks all the time.  Yet, at least half of the thread was donated to my stash ... still good!  For those reading who would like to try making one of these fiber vessels, CLICK HERE for a free, on-line tutorial.  Below ... just a few of the fiber vessels recently stitched.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Mandala LVIII

(Above:  Mandala LVIII. Framed: 28 3/4" x 28 3/4". Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage bow-tie quilt. Found objects include:  Half of an ambrotype, hinged case with an embossed copper spandrel; a tintype (not original to the hinged case); clock gears; slides in paper mounts; 2" cotter pins; external tooth lock washers; gold beads; buttons; antique vials of photographic paint; one and two penny English coins; brass screw eyes; paper fasteners; rivets; bobbins; and grey hair curlers.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

This mandala started two weeks ago at Bill Mishoe's Tuesday night, walk-about auction of used household items. For months during the pandemic, I really missed these fast moving weekly sales where almost everything is sold by the "table lot".  Basically, consignors deposit their "stuff" onto provided card tables.  Bidders vie for everything on the table (and frequently everything under the table too!)  Many of "the regulars" sell items at flea markets, antique malls, eBay, and on other on-line platforms. I used to be one of them.  After all, I was an antiquarian print dealer at Terrace Oaks Antique Mall for twenty years.  Driving to and from Charleston to restock was a weekly trip.  I gave up my spaces in order to have more studio time, but I just couldn't stop going to auctions.  (I still have my "permanent dealer's bidder number".)

(Above:  An unused box of antique "liquid photograph colors".)

Perhaps it is my history as an "antique dealer" and the years of auction-going that inform my studio practice.  Perhaps this is why I gravitate toward found objects. Perhaps all my ideas, concepts, and creative expressions are a result of watching the remnants of other lives on the auction block.  In my TEDx talk, Precious: Making a Plan for Your Precious Possessions, I refer to Bill Mishoe's auction as "my favorite art supply store" because most of my materials really do come from Tuesday night sales ... and two weeks ago ... an antique box of never-used "liquid photograph colors" caught my eye.  I really, seriously wanted these glass containers for my next mandala ... only, they were on a card table full of all sorts of other stuff.  The bid went higher than I thought reasonable for just the box of vials.  I really didn't want all the other stuff.  It really was a very full table of all sorts of things.  If I had bought it, I would have had to carry it all to my van ... and take it home ... and do "something" with the things I didn't even want.  Yet, my friend Bert was the successful bidder.  I approached Bert, asked if he might sell just the box, and was surprised when he handed it to me saying, "I know you'll do something cool with this!"   (Thank you, Bert!)

(Above:  Detail of Mandala LVIII.)

In gratitude, I started planning this mandala with more intentions that ever before.  It only seemed right to select at least a few other found objects to coordinate with the photographic paint.  

None of the vials had ever been opened.  Except for one vial, all the liquid had evaporated through the carefully corked and paper-wrapped openings. Some of the chemicals stained the inside of the vials, leaving traces of brown, flesh tone, rose, scarlet, orange, yellow, violet, black, and two shades each of blue and green.  It seemed a shame that such a beautiful set of specialized paint had never been used. Handling these vials reminded me of all the hand-tinted, anonymous photographs I've altered for my installation Anonymous Ancestors.  The vials just seemed to need a location near other items with a photographic connection. 

(Above:  Detail of Mandala LVIII.)

At home, I found a tintype (which also came from an earlier Bill Mishoe's auction) and an ambrotype hinged case (which also came from an earlier Bill Mishoe's auction).  I knew this would be the centerpiece, but I had to figure out a way to turn a horizontal into a circle. Gold beads and a ring of little brown buttons went down first.  Next, a ring of clock gears were stitched in place. Finally, the vials went down.  Ordinarily, I never use any glue on these mandalas, but there is a dab of hot glue under each one ... just to secure the positioning of the vials.  (By the way, I did open the one vial in which liquid was still present.  I poured it out, cut a new cork for the opening, and wrapped the top with a similar piece of brown paper held in place with a thread.)  From there, I added six, paper mounted slides and all sorts of other items.  

(Above:  Detail of Mandala LVIII.)

This is the first time I've intentionally selected some of the found objects with a theme in mind.  I'm very pleased with the result.  I think Bert will think it's cool too!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala LVIII.)

I'm not sure if conceptually connected items will figure into future work or not.  For the most part, I simply look at the shape, texture, color, size ... and especially the quantity ... of my found item stash.  I like putting random bits together.  I like elevating the mundane, not necessarily highlighting a few objects as if more precious than the others.  Yet, this mandala is special because it truly touches on the reasons I gravitate to old quilts, anonymous photographs, and other relics that had a life before I found them.  This approach suggests the forgotten story that all my found objects keep secret.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala LVIII.)

I will never know the names of the family depicted in this tintype.  I will never know the homes that counted hours by the clock gears in their devices.  I will never know who didn't use their set of liquid photographic colors or how many hands exchanged the English coins.  I do know, however, that the last people who accepted these copper pennies was Steve and me!  I also know that we recently found the Ziploc bag in which we've kept foreign money.  There will be more coins on mandalas in the future.  There will also be more things from Bill Mishoe's auction too.  It really is my favorite art supply store!

(Above:  The back of the mandala.)

Finally, a friend recently left a comment on Facebook regarding the backside of my mandala.  She was not referring to the way I've stitched the mandala to foam-centered board in order to distribute the weight of the found objects.  She was referring to the colorful threads connecting the items to the vintage quilt.  So ... here is that image.  I'm not a particularly neat embroiderer but I'm also not a "total mess"! LOL!