Sunday, October 31, 2021

Mandala LXXXVIII and Mandala LXXXIX

(Above:  Mandala LXXXVIII. Custom framed: 29" x 29". Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt. Found objects include:  a table lamp's glass base under which is a clock gear; brass screw eyes; wooden textile mill perns; dairy product pull tabs; silver, wavy hair curlers; coffee K-pods; silver, metal picture frame hangers; ViewMaster reels; four, inlaid wood backgammon game pieces, and buttons. Click on any image to enlarge.)

This piece is NOT going to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, (Nov. 5 - 7).  Neither is the other, smaller piece featured in this blog post.  For the most part, everything needed for my booth (#102) is in boxes or crates, sitting near our back door, and waiting to be loaded into our cargo van.  The "grand pack" happens tomorrow.  How it will all fit into the van is a scary mystery!  Sure, I've been part of this prestigious show for the past six years, but this is the first time I'm bringing this, new artwork.  Everything feels brand new again.  Plus, the sheer size of the waiting boxes, Pro Panel booth sections, light fixtures; electrical cords; display racks; etc. is a clear indication that I really don't need to bring more stuff!

(Above:  Mandala LXXXIX. Custom framed: 18 1/2" x 18 1/2". Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: a lid to a vintage typewriter ribbon can; brass screw eyes; lots of individual key pads from a vintage typewriter; dominoes; blue brushes from a local ceramic paint studio (most without any bristles due to over use!); stag charms; keys; beer bottle caps; laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands and vintage grocery store stamps; cafe curtain hangers; wheat pennies; two sizes of vintage capacitors; and buttons.)

At this point, I know that people like these found object mandalas.  I just don't know if people attending the PMA show will be in a mood to part with money!  If they do ... THANK GOD!  If they don't ... well ... I'll have more than enough work for the invitational exhibit at The Vendue in Charleston and for my solo show next spring at Artisans on the Square in Greenville, Georgia.  Of course, if I sell lots of artwork at the PMA show, there could be a potential problem: Will I have enough work for the upcoming opportunities?  There's no way to know in advance.  My only good option is to continue making more ... which ... I would do one way or the other!  I love making these pieces!  I love both the search for unique found objects and the stitching.

(Above: Detail of Mandala LXXXVIII.)

Plus ... there's the fact that hand-stitching is my way to relax.  I'm rightfully nervous about the PMA show.  Therefore, I am stitching ... a lot!  Framing all this new artwork doesn't make a lot of sense ... especially since I have so many older pieces still around.  So,  Mandala LXXXVIII was created specifically to go into the large, off-white, distressed floater frame.  I've had that frame for years (admittedly ... for more than a decade.)  At first it held a mixed media, gallery wrapped canvas featuring a xylene photo transfer of a cemetery angel image (July 2011 ... blogged HERE).  Later, it was used for a piece inspired by sand patterns on Key West beaches (June 2012 ... blogged HERE.)

(Above: Detail of Mandala LXXXVIII.)   
There are two of these floater frames.  I'm already working on the next, complimentary piece.  It has been a fun challenge to design a found object mandala that works with this more obvious framing.               
(Above: Detail of Mandala LXXXIX.) 

Mandala LXXXIX is the first one stitched on the surface of this bright red, Dresden plate quilt. Whoever stitched the original quilt must not have liked applique (or was getting up in years or not seeing particularly well).  It isn't well done and it isn't in great shape, but I'm very pleased with the result.  (Please know that I have a layer of netting over the entire quilt's surface.  This helps stabilize the more fragile fabrics and original stitching.)                                                                                                  

(Above: Detail of Mandala LXXXIX.)

I was especially pleased to figure out how to remove the individual key pads from an old, manual typewriter, removing them from their metal stems.  I used laminated grocery store savings stamps given to me by my friend Jenny Cherry, laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands from my friend Dolly Patton, nearly bristle-less paint brushes from my friend Margart Neville who owns a local ceramic paint studio called The Mad Platter, vintage capacitors from my friend Ellen Kochansky, and deer/stag shaped charms from a new, cyber friend Maggie Hugie.  Each one of these pieces remind me of a wonderfully supportive community!

Thursday, October 28, 2021

My Contribution to Guadalupe Mountains National Park's permanent art collection

(Above: Dawn Along the Old Highway. 23" x 7". Digital image printed on fabric.  Free-motion machine stitching. Custom framed.)

Most of the National Park System art residency programs ask selected artists to contribute to their permanent art collection.  It is an honor, of course!  It is a great line on one's resume. Yet the fact of the matter often is that there isn't a lot of wall space for 2D artwork ... not after years, even decades, of the successful program.  Guadalupe Mountains National Park's Visitor Center isn't that large.  After all, it is in a rather remote location and attracts hikers and campers who come to enjoy the designated wilderness areas.  The gift shop is tiny.  The public exhibition space is quite small.  It seemed to me that they really didn't need another, 2D piece to hang in an office that isn't even open to the public. (I might be wrong about this!  It was only my personal observation ... but I really think this is the case!)

(Above:  My altered book which documents the sights, trails, and experiences during my art residency.)

Guadalupe Mountains National Park has a very nice library.  Sure, it isn't open to the public, but it is the place for staff meetings and other functions.  (While there, I attended a going-away party for one of the interns ... in the library!) There was plenty of available shelf space.  It seemed like an artist book might be a nice addition to the collection ... especially since a book is meant to be handled, could be taken to various presentations (like the Carlsbad Rotary Meeting that asked me to talk), and could be used by rangers for various in-park programing. So, that's what I created.

The book was originally a Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  The cover, inside and out, was collaged with a variety of decorative papers. All the original recipe pages were tossed into the trash.  Watercolor pages were cut to size and attractively stained with coffee.  Five holes were punched in each page.  Ninety images were printed and zigzag stitched on the pages.

Now, I'm certainly not a professional calligrapher but I do own a calligraphy pen!  When using it, I attempt to have a really nice, legible script.  First, however, I penciled in lines and words I wanted to write.  After letting the ink dry, the pencil lines were carefully erased.

The book documents the trails I hiked, the places I visited, my Labor Day weekend Clothesline Project, the volunteer day of picking up highway trash, and all sorts of flowers and insects.  (I did not use the one photo of a rattlesnake ... but I did include the image of the two tarantulas!)  It isn't in chronological order but that doesn't really matter.  The book is a visual adventure about my month as the Park's artist-in-residence.

I hope the book gets seen, read, used ... handled ... and promotes Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  It really is a wonderful place and needs to be shared with many people.

I used one of my images ... a photo of dawn taken while walking along the old highway (as seen in the picture above) for another piece.  I'm calling it Dawn Along the Old Highway.  It is a free-motion machine embellished, 2D artwork.  (It is the first image in this blog post.)  It is framed in a chunky moulding so that it can literally sit on a shelf ... perhaps in the library!  It doesn't need a wall.  There's no glass.  It could easily be taken by Park rangers for in-park programming or outside presentations. 

It is my hope that both pieces will find a way to help promote the park.  They are now on their way west, to their new home!  Below are a few more pictures of the many pages.


Tuesday, October 26, 2021


(Above:  Mandala LXXXVI. Custom framed: 16 1/4" x 16 1/4". Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: a 19th century ambrotype surrounded by an embossed, copper spandrel in half of an antique, hinged case; round, crystal prisms; dominoes; cafe curtain hangers; two small locks; two sewing machine bobbins; two ornamental brass clock fixtures; four Hungarian ten-fortin coins on four galvanized washers; plastic garter hooks; clock gears; buttons; and four, brown rings of unknown function and small brushes that were sent to me by a cyber friend in Connecticut.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Months ago, I cut a really ugly quilt into single blocks.  I had to.  There wasn't a section with four blocks worth using.  The colors were too varied from block to block, and several blocks were damaged beyond hope.  Yet, it was a really large quilt.  I had so many single blocks that I thought I'd never run out of them ... but ... I did.  These two, small mandalas are the last of the blocks.

(Above:  Mandala LXXXVII.  Custom framed: 16 1/4" x 16 1/4". Found objects hand-stitched to a single block of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include:  a 19th century ambrotype surrounded by an embossed, copper spandrel in half of an antique, hinged case; beads and sequins; keys; round, crystal prisms; felt covered piano hammers; cafe curtain hooks; four inlaid backgammon pieces; four English two-pence conis; eight Hungarian fortins; clock gears; buttons; and four brown rings of unknown function.) 

The last two quilt blocks were amazingly the same fabrics.  Therefore, I created two related mandalas by using the antique ambrotypes in the center.  I didn't break the cases.  They were already broken. These might be the last, small mandalas finished before the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show ... but I've already started another another one.  Time will tell!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala LXXXVI.)

Steve and I have plenty to do before the big show.  One of the major tasks is creating boxes for all the larger mandalas.  1" x 3" wooden slats, two pieces of corrugated, and plenty of washers with screws are needed per box. Each box is labeled with a description of the enclosed artwork.

(Above:  Mandala LXXXVI, detail.)

We will pack the cargo van on Sunday ... try to "remember what we've forgot" on Monday ... and leave at dawn on Tuesday.  I'm nervous and excited.  Below are a few more detail images.

(Above:  Mandala LXXXVII, detail.)
(Above:  Mandala LXXXVII, detail.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Three more Found Object Mandalas

(Above:  Mandala LXXXIII. Custom framed. Hung as a diamond: 23 1/2" x 23 1/2"; as a square: 16 3/4" x 16 3/4".  Found objects hand-stitched to a single block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: a green valve; felt covered piano hammers; brass screw eyes; keys; Tinker Toy connectors topped with brass anchor buttons; casino chips; inlaid wooden backgammon pieces; palmetto tree charms and ribbon holds with the word "commerce"; round prisms from a chandelier; four faux coins; and buttons. Click on any image to enlarge.)

This past week I finished three more, small mandalas.  These will go with me to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, Nov. 5 - 7.  I think I am stitching more just to remain calm.  Shows like the PMA Craft Show are expensive, and this will be the first time I've been in a booth with just my mandalas.  Sure, I know people like them, but will some of them find permanent homes?  Will I "make booth rent?"  Will I "make expenses"?  Will I "bomb"?  It's kind of crazy but stitching is my way to relax.  So ... I'll just continue making more artwork!

(Above:  A composite photo of me dismantling a piano with a broken sound board. Photos taken by my friend Dolly Patton, the new executive director of the Arts Center of Kershaw County.)

My search for unique found objects took me to the Arts Center of Kershaw County. Sure, I was also there to look at the exhibition space where my Blues Chapel installation is currently on view, but I got to dismantle an old piano with a broken sound board.  It was such a cool experience!

(Above:  Me with the parts of the piano I most wanted!)

The Arts Center kept the black-and-white keys, the piano framework (for its potential to be made into a great desk), and other parts.  I got the part with the felt hammers ... exactly what I wanted for my found object mandalas. 

(Above:  Mandala LXXXIII, detail.)

Around the inlaid wooden backgammon pieces are brown, plastic rings.  I don't know what they were once used for.  I got them at YLI in Rock Hill when purchasing a very large cone of very strong thread.  YLI distributes all sorts of thread nationally but I needed super strong thread similar to buttonhole thread ... but on a cone.  I use this thread for all sorts of things ... including stitching my found object mandalas to acid-free foam-centered board during the mounting process ... but also for wrapped, wooden thread spool Christmas ornaments that will be available at the PMA show.  The nice owner took me up and down several aisles at YLI to look for a suitable cone.  In the process, I found a box of these brown, plastic rings.  He didn't know what they were for either ... so he gave them to me for my mandalas!  I am so grateful for all the people who are helping with my search for unique objects!

(Above:  Mandala LXXXIII, detail.)

I am still using some of the Department of Commerce Awards donated to my stash by Sonoco Recycling.  The little palmetto tree charms and the ribbon hangers with the word "commerce" came from this donation. 

(Above:  Mandala  LXXXV. Custom framed. As a diamond: 23" x 23"; as a square: 16 1/2" x 16 1/2".  Found objects hand-stitched to a single block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: a glass circle that was once part of a table lamp covering a clock gear; dominoes; felt covered piano hammers; the tines of eight silver plated forks; hinges from the Department of Commerce award boxes; four wavy curl metal curlers; four shower curtain hangers; sewing machine bobbins; vintage capacitors; four English pennies; four eyeglass lenses; and buttons.)

On Mandala LXXXV, I used some of the tiny hinges from the Department of Commerce's award boxes along with more of the felt covered piano hammers.  The fork tines came from Bill Mishoe's auction.  Apparently, someone consigned the remains of a short-lived craft life. Whoever this person was, he or she used the handles for jewelry.  I didn't even purchase the lot.  I got a plastic bag with these tines from the flea market dealer who did purchase all the jewelry supplies and tools!  I just wanted the tines!

(Above:  Mandala LXXXV, detail.)

The wavy curl curlers also came from Bill Mishoe's auction.  They were on a table overflowing with never used salon supplies.  I didn't purchase the lot. I made an offer to the flea market dealer who did buy it all.  As a result, I ended up with 240 of these silver, metal curlers.  Obviously, there will be more of them used on future mandalas.

(Above:  Mandala LXXXV, detail.)

As far as my husband Steve is concerned, it is his contribution to this found object mandala that is most important.  Steve recently got new lens in his eyeglass frames.  He found an even older pair of lens from an older pair of glasses.  Proudly, he said I should incorporate them.  They are really great and add a unique feature to this found object mandala ... transition!  Yup!  When I took the photos outside, the lens turned dark.  Back inside, they are clear again!

(Above:  Mandala LXXXV, detail.)

I'll be going to Bill Mishoe's auction again tonight.  Maybe I will find new "found objects"; maybe not!  I guess it doesn't matter as long as I have generous friends who give me things locally and generous cyber friends who mail things to me!  (If you are thinking of doing this, my address is 2123 Park Street, Columbia, SC 29201!)

(Above:  Mandala LXXXIV. Custom framed. As a diamond: 16 1/4" x 16 1/4"; as a square: 22 7/8" x 22 7/8".  Found objects hand-stitched to a single block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: a glass ring from a table lamp over a clock gear; four, orange plastic circles cut from a six-pack beer yoke; keys; laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands; vintage slot machine tokens; laminated 2-cent stamps; silver-plated spoons; blue water bottle caps; eight brass shower curtain hangers; four Samuel Adams Octoberfest bottle caps; brass screw eyes; four inlaid backgammon pieces; eight, very well used blue-handled paint brushes from the Mad Platter; and buttons.)

Margaret Neville is another, very generous friend of mine.  She owns the Mad Platter, a studio for painting ceramics, fusing glass, summer kids camps, and adult parties (plus more)!  Margaret saved all the paint brushes that were so well used that some had no bristles at all.  She saved them just for me!  The handles are triangular in shape and therefore lay perfectly flat. I have more of these too!  For this series ... there's no end in sight!  They are keeping me sane as I approach the PMA show!

(Above:  Mandala LXXXIV, detail.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Three, small Found Object Mandalas

(Above:  Mandala LXXX. Custom framed: 16" x 16". Found objects hand-stitched to a single, vintage quilt block. Found objects include: an entire, wooden set of chess pieces; a glass floral frog; wooden alphabet letters; casino chips; bronze colored perfume vial funnels; sewing machine bobbins; and buttons.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I've been busy stitching more found object mandalas in anticipation of next month's Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  This past week, I got my booth assignment.  I'll be in booth 102.  Due to this on-going pandemic, the show really didn't feel real until I got my booth assignment.  Now, I'm getting a little nervous.  When this happens, I stitch more!  As a result, I have these three new pieces finished, photographed, and entered on a brand new blog!  This new blog documents the entire series.  CLICK HERE to access it.

(Above:  Mandala LXXX, detail.)

Even though my fingers were itching to stitch, I had serious reservations about this found object mandala.  It just wasn't looking "right".  Something seemed "missing".  Then, totally unexpectedly, the mail came.  A cyber friend sent exactly what I needed!  The wooden alphabet was in the box of goodies!  THANK YOU, Connie!  Truly, there's more than a bit of serendipity at play in this series!

(Above:  Mandala LXXXI. Custom framed: 12 1/2" x 12 1/2".  Found objects hand-stitched to a single block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: an orange valve; New Castle Brown Ale bottle caps; casino chips; laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands; keys; insulin needle caps; and buttons.)

This little, found object mandala was totally inspired by the orange valve.  I bought it at an antique shop in Carlsbad, New Mexico while enjoying a month as the artist-in-residence at nearby Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  I found several other "treasures" there which will appear in future works.

(Above:  Mandala LXXXI, detail.)

I'm really having a great time using colors that generally don't work together especially well on such a small surface.  Putting together orange, pink, blue, purple, and yellow is actually fun!

(Above:  Mandala LXXXII. Custom framed: 11 1/4" x 11 1/4". Found objects hand-stitched to a single block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include:  a part of a meat thermometer mounted on a red, plastic bottle cap; dominoes; parts of a brass light fixture; round-shaped, crystal chandelier prisms; laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands; brass screw eyes; vintage capacitors; and buttons.)

This mandala almost didn't happen.  Why?  Well, whoever made the vintage quilt must have run out of the light-colored, printed fabric.  So, instead of a nice, rose-colored fabric "cross" in the center ... with the four light-colored, printed fabric in the corners ... one of the corners was also the rose fabric.  It looked ridiculous.  It screamed, "I'm all wrong."  But, the arrangement of dominoes hides this mistake nicely.  Everything fell into place as soon as the "error" wasn't obvious!  I really love bringing new life to old things.

(Above:  Mandala LXXXII, detail ... and if you look closely, you can see the substitution in the original fabric selection!  Lower left!)

Monday, October 11, 2021

Sue Goes to the Protest

(Above:  Sue Goes to the Protest.  Nineteen, vintage Sue Bonnet Sun blocks altered with miniature, hand-stitched protest signs.  49" x 100". Individual frames: 16 1/4" x 16 1/4".  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Unbelievably, I came across another set of Sun Bonnet Sue quilt blocks.  The first set became The Feminist To Do List. (2019) The second set became Sue's Environmental To Do List. (2020) When I recently got these nineteen blocks, I wasn't sure I could come up with another modern twist.  I had to think about it for a couple weeks.  More than that, I had to think about another presentation.

(Above:  Sue Goes to the Protest, seen from an angle.)

The earlier works were put into embroidery hoops.  This wasn't possible with this new set.  The figures were positioned very close to both the top and bottom of the muslin squares.  Imposing a circular presentation would severely cramp the design, even cut off parts of the dress. To make matters more complicated, there was an uneven number of blocks.  I really had to think long and hard about this series.

(Above:  Making decisions about the hanging presentation.)

I'm not altogether sure how I landed on the concept of protest signs.  It might have been one of the potential slogans considered for Sue's Environmental To Do List:  I axed the slogan "Save the Whales."  I axed it because the list was made up of active, daily measures ... a real "to do" list ... like "conserve water" and "pick up litter" and "reduce food waste".  Saving whales isn't necessarily a daily activity even though it was one of the global issues during the 1970s when I formed my own opinions on political, social, and environmental issues.  Axed from the second series, "Save the Whales" stayed in my mind. 

(Above and below:  Details from Sue Goes to the Protest.)

When I thought about "Save the Whales", my imagination pictured a protest sign.  The more I thought about it, the more protest signs seemed like a good idea.  Conceptually, Sue Goes to the Protest was born ... but in actuality I had to solve a couple of problems!  There really wasn't enough space for the sign.  The muslin blocks weren't really large enough for embroidery hoops or protest signs.

As a custom picture framer, I solved this problem by using a two-inch wide, off-white linen liner.  Each block was pinned over acid-free foam-centered board ... eliminating two inches of blank material behind the figure and showing as much of the fabric as possible in front of the figure. 

I had a long list of potential slogans.  It was hard to narrow the list to just nineteen.  I wanted to touch on several issues and eras. The signs were made by fusing unbleached muslin to card stock.  The pole was a Starbucks coffee stirrer.  (I didn't swipe them; I asked!)  The hand-stitching and pinning were done while at Guadalupe Mountains National Park during my month long art residency.  French knots were stitched in three of the signs' corners ... directly through the fabric and acid-free foam-centered board.  Only one corner remained detached.


Back at home, each piece was put into its linen liner and frame.  Then, a tiny hole was drilled through the linen liner.  The last French knot attached the sign to the linen liner through this hole. 

My final problem was finding a location for the photography.  I don't have a blank wall large enough for this work.  I did, however, have an idea.  I contacted the University of South Carolina's art department and asked if I could use their empty studio at Stormwater Studios.  The studio has been empty because of the on-going pandemic.  The university can't put a graduate student in the space to create work for a public BFA or MFA show because the space has been closed to the public until very recently. (The artists renting the other studios do have access ... just not "the public".)  I got the key early today, hung the work, took the pictures, filled the holes in the wall, and returned the key.  THANK YOU, USC !

I'm not sure if this series will ever have a chance to hang again.  It will be part of my exhibition proposal for Once and Again: Alterations.  I have a show with this work scheduled for spring 2023 but no idea if the space will accommodate all the work I already have.  As an artist, it is my job to simply "make the work".  Only the future will tell if this series sees the light of day again.  Right now, it is stored in a box in storage.  Nevertheless, it was fun to alter these quilt blocks.  It was fun to think of people carrying these signs at real protests.  It was a great way for me to stitch my opinions ... to "save the whales", etc.