Thursday, February 24, 2022

Mandala CXIV

(Mandala CXIV. Custom framed: 22 3/4" x 22 3/4". Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include: A blue plastic lid inside an antique adding machine's ribbon case with a sewing machine bobbin under a glass section of a table lamp; six, black chess pawns; old Ram car keys; small, round, glass prisms from a chandelier; green, metal can pull tabs; blue, plastic water bottle lids; buttons; and green golf tees printed with the word Hawai'i.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

This Found Object Mandala is full of stories.  If it could speak, it would talk about my friend Bert Easter, a "regular" ... like me ... at Bill Mishoe's auction.  Bert has great tastes and several booths at the Red Lion Antique Mall here in Columbia.  Months ago, Bert was the successful bidder on a "table lot".  That means, Bert got everything on and under the card table ... and it was "loaded".  I didn't bid against Bert because there was only one thing on the table that interested me ... the small crib quilt.  But, this crib quilt was really dirty, rather ratty, and sort of smelly.  So, my interest was very limited.  Bert had no interest in it at all. Knowing that I often bid on quilts, Bert simply gave me the old thing.  (Thanks, Bert!)  Well ... I threw the thing into my washing machine.  The setting was on "delicate" but apparently that was too much agitation.  Lots of the fragile pieces didn't hold up.  I wasn't sure I could use this crib quilt at all.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXIV.)

More recently (and also at Bill Mishoe's auction), I was the successful bidder on a stack of old, framed artwork.  One of the frames was perfectly square, very chunky, and seemingly "perfect" for a Found Object Mandala.  Generally, my husband Steve and I build our own frames ... but this looked like a new challenge.  It also looked like a good time to try using the crib quilt.  I cut the best section I could and then used the leftover parts to replace the damaged pieces.  I'm never really worried about the condition of the fabric for my Found Object Mandalas because I put a layer of netting over the surface before stitching down any of the objects.  I used a yellow netting ... because there was a lot of yellow in the crib quilt.  

I worried about creating a strong contrast between the chunky black frame and the cheerful yellow fabric.  I knew I needed to bring something "black" into the composition.  The first things I tried were the black chess pawns (also from some random "table lot" at Bill Mishoe's auction).  Then, things fell into place ... not because of the black or the yellow or even the strong blue fabric ... but because the bottoms of the chess pawns were green felt.  Let's face it!  Blue and yellow do make green!

I got some of the car keys from Margaret Blank in Canada. I got the blue water bottle caps from Jane Hiller, a local friend.  I got the green metal can pull tabs from my local friend Flavia Lovatelli ... but the things that really makes this piece are the green golf tees.  Believe it or not, they arrived in the mail from a cyber friend, Rose Kauhane, who lives in Texas.  They arrived on the day I designed this work.  The timing was absolutely perfect.  In a sense, it takes a village to stitch a mandala!

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Mandala CXII and CXIII

(Above:  Mandala CXII.  Custom framed. 17 1/4" x 17 1/4" when hung as a square; 24 1/2" x 24 1/2" when hung as a diamond. Found objects hand-stitched to a block of an old red-and-blue Dresden Plate quilt.  Found objects include: Lots of parts from a broken, antique adding machine; a glass lamp base; gold, plastic hangers for men's ties; keys; brass belt closures; four, plastic lids with thread labels and jingle bells; and buttons and beads. Click on any image to enlarge.)

This is the last Found Object Mandala made on the red-and-blue Dresden Plate quilt.  It's been fun trying to hide the original hand stitching ... because it was never done very well.  I've liked thinking about the anonymous woman who probably hated applique work.  I'd like to think that she is smiling down from heaven, knowing that her quilt was transformed into art.  

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXII.)

This piece, however, was inspired by a recent purchase from Bill Mishoe's Tuesday night "walk around" auction of used household "stuff".  One of the items that no other bidder wanted was a broken, turn-of-the-last century adding machine.  It had to have been state-of-the-art when first made.  Taking it apart required various sizes of screw drivers, lug wrenches, needle-nosed pliers, and finally a hammer ... because I never could figure out how to free the inner machine from its heavy, cast iron base without beating it until "things broke off". 

(Above:  Me taking apart an antique adding machine.)

There had to be more than seventy-five tiny, spiral springs ... and I still haven't freed the individually numbered key pads.  Dismantling this adding machine took almost a full day.  It was great fun!  My appreciation for the genius minds who invented late 19th and early 20th century machines increased with every passing hour.  It was strange to think about all the mathematical functions this machine was designed to do ... and how so many more were incorporated into my iPhone.  Truly, technology advanced by light years in a span of next-to-no-time at all!  The parts I retrieved were all so unique.  I'm glad that parts of this old machine will have a "second life". 

(Above: Mandala CXIII. Custom framed. 30 1/2" x 30 1/2". Found objects hand stitched to a section of an old, signature quilt.  Found objects include: Brown combs; pre-wound, paper sewing machine bobbins with white thread; a door lock; a ring from a towel hanger; orange and tan, plastic lids and aqua-printed lids from Arizona tea bottles; brioche molds from Sweden; laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands; white, plastic "S"-shaped cafe curtain hangers; brackets for screen doors; brass grommet washers; brass knobplates; and buttons.)

This is the second Found Object Mandala made on an antique signature quilt.  When first cutting this quilt into quadrants, I seriously worried about the black thread used for the stitched names and initials.  I worried that I couldn't conquer the stark contrast and that these letters would stand out too strongly against any design of objects.  I stitched Mandala CVII with plenty of black-and-white layered buttons in an attempt to draw a viewer's eye away from the signatures.  In the end, I realized that it didn't even matter.  The objects do the trick on their own.  So, I didn't even worry about the contrast when stitching this piece.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXIII.)

While stitching this piece, I thought about all the ladies whose names or initials were stitched to the surface.  I hope they are looking down from heaven and smiling too!  After all, I am intentionally trying to give "second life" to old things but I am also trying to pay homage to all those quilters and stitchers and collectors of "every day 'precious'" as well.  These names just add to the artwork.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXIII.)

I am also grateful to all those people who are really helping in these quests.  This is the first of what will assuredly be many more Found Object Mandalas that has incorporated some of the great things I recently got from the local, Central South Carolina Habitat for Humanity Re Store.  The manager is a friend.  He sent me a message saying that the available hardware had to be thinned out.  Much of it would end up in a dumpster headed to a landfill.  Of course I went.  The haul was AMAZING.  Not only did the screen door brackets and the brass knob plates come from the Re Store but the center door lock did too.  Using these didn't even put a dent into the stash I brought home that day!  I gave a monetary donation ... but seriously ... it was a paltry sum compared to the great things I got.

Friday, February 18, 2022

All in one day's adventure

(Above:  Foust Textile's Warehouse Sale.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Yesterday was a whirlwind of fun.  Steve and I were up and out of the house by 6:30 AM.  We stopped for coffee and headed up I-77.  On the road, Steve asked, "Do you think many people will be coming for this sale?"  I admitted having no idea at all and said, "This is a wholesale only company.  They've saved me from playing the 'coupon game' at Joann Fabrics by always carrying bolts of Pellon's 805 Wonder Under for a very low price.  I just want to see what sort of products are carried, things that might not be listed on their on-line shopping selection.  Maybe we'll be the only ones there.  Who knows?"

(Above:  Giant boxes stretching from one end of the warehouse to the other ... filled with cuts of fabric that were being sold by the pound.)

We were not the only ones there.  Arriving around 8:30 (just a half hour after the doors opened), we found the last place in the parking lot.  License plates were from Florida, Virginia, West Virginia, and both North and South Carolina.  By the time we left, both sides of the frontage road in front of the warehouse were parked full.  It was AMAZING!  We were greeted at the door.  Our credentials were checked ... wholesale only ... retail sales tax information and/or an established account.  We have both.  Two extremely large warehouses were connected to one another.  There was more fabric than I could imagine.  I nearly cried when finding packages of chenille needles.  I bought four little, folding travel scissors for an upcoming Found Object Mandala, another bolt of Wonder Under, skeins of perle cotton in boxes of six, and 6000 yard cones of 100% black cotton thread.  I even found three pieces of polyester stretch velvet.  It was like hitting the jackpot.

(Above:  Selfie with Didi Salvatierra.)

Best of all, we ran into Didi Salvatierra who was purchasing fabric for her guild's Quilts for Valor charity work.  Everyone was so nice.  Steve and I are already planning to return when the next sale happens.

From there, we drove to Carolina Steinway.  I'm happy to say that all three Found Object Mandalas, including the recently finished one featuring all 88 keys, were purchased for their collection.  I forgot, however, to take a photo.  Trust me!  It was a glorious feeling that these pieces have a new home!


(Above:  Giving my Artist Talk at the Sumter County Gallery of Art.)

Steve and I drove home, changed, and went on to the Sumter County Gallery of Art where I was treated like royalty.  Seriously, I'm almost always embarrassed by the kind introductions.  Executive director Karen Watson's words were no exception.  Curator Cole Miller led the conversation with some of the best topics ever.  This wasn't a "tell me about this piece" sort of talk.  We spoke about inspiration, legendary and mythical embroiderers from history, and the desire to leave a lasting legacy.  The audience seemed as captivated in hearing as much as I was in speaking.  Truly, yesterday was a great adventure!

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Mandala CXI, Steinway Piano Key Mandala

(Above:  Found Object Mandala CXI, The Steinway Piano Keys.  Hung as a square: 52 1/2" x 52 1/2"; hung as a diamond: 74 3/4" x 74 3/4".  All 88 piano keys from an old, broken, upright Steinway hand-stitched to a section of a vintage, hooked rug.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Late last month I blogged about the old, broken upright Steinway that I received from Carolina Steinway in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Read it HERE.)  At first, I couldn't believe that I would be given this musical instrument.  Seriously ... it was a STEINWAY.  Like many others, I thought that a Steinway was like a Stradivarius violin, something that could last "forever" ... or at least for centuries.  Sadly, that's just not true. Once the sound board is cracked/broken, needed repairs cost considerably more than a new piano.  So ... I got a Steinway and had a wonderful time dismantling it.  Two Found Object Mandalas were stitched and offered to the Steinway dealership. I'm very pleased and totally honored that both were purchased.  Yet, I hadn't done anything with the piano keys!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXI, The Steinway Piano Keys.)

Believe it or not, this Steinway was so old that the white keys are real ivory.  I was told that they could be bleached but that just didn't seem like the right approach. A bright white, new-looking key just doesn't suit my personal aesthetics, this series, or the even the rest of the wooden key.  Also, I liked the very slight discoloring. Real ivory does this over time.  Some of the keys show organic patterns called Schreger lines.  This is a sign that the material came from an elephant's tusk, real ivory.  I really didn't want to bleach this away.

(Above:  The vintage hooked rug used as for the foundation of this piece.)

Another reason against bleaching the white keys was my choice for a foundation layer.  I didn't want to use an old quilt.  I wanted something stiffer, less flexible, and very sturdy but also nice and flat.  Well ... I had just the thing!  I got this old hooked rug last summer while at Bill Mishoe's auction.  No one wanted it.  I gave the minimum six-dollar bid, a mercy bid. I understood the lack of interest.  This rug had seen better days.  There were several holes and obvious signs of repair ... but I couldn't resist it.  Still I wasn't sure if it were the perfect surface for the Steinway keys.

(Above:  Laying out the Steinway keys.)

I am blessed with a very good ability to visualize size, color, shape, and all sorts of other artistic things, but eighty-eight keys on this vintage hooked rug was questionable.  There was only one way to truly "see" how it might come together.  I lay out the keys in their correct order ... right on the floor ... near the rug ... to see if a mandala circle would even fit on the rug ...

... and was about to move sections of the keys to the rug ... when Ernie the Cat let me know that he absolutely approved of this idea.  The size was perfect too.  I didn't even have to put the keys on the rug.  I could see the finished piece at this stage.  Steve built a stretcher bar.  A heavy-duty staple gun attached the rug to it.  I thought about how I would stitch this piece and then drilled four, well-placed holes in all eighty-eight keys.  Next, everything went upstairs for the next phase.

(Above:  The eighty-eight keys on top of the vintage rug foundation.)

The photo above shows how my living room has looked over the past few weeks.  Two sets of workhorses have been in the living room for over a year now.  Large Found Object Mandalas are stitched there.  This one, however, was the biggest.  The piano keys were laid out in proper order.

(Above:  Laying out the piano keys around a large pan's glass lid.)

It took about an hour to arrange the keys around a center circle.  I knew I was making the right choices because one of our glass pan's lid was the absolutely perfect size to hold the center circle!  Although I rarely use any glue on my Found Object Mandalas, it was necessary to put a dab of hot glue under each key ... just to hold it temporarily in place for the hours of hand stitching.

This was my view of the work in progress.  On the left side of the photo, there are a few brown lines of thread ... just beyond where the black and white parts of the keys end and the wood shows.  There's one stitch coming up from the back, on each side of each key, and going down through the drilled hole.  That's 176 stitches around the middle of the keys.  

The same thing was done for the holes drilled on both sides of the "nail thing" on the end of the keys.  There is also a stitch at the end of every key, right near the base.  For this, I used a really great thread.  It is thin but SO STRONG!  If I were to attempt to break it with my bare hands, I would end up bleeding ... and without a broken thread.

(Above:  The strong thread!0

I got an enormous cone of this thread from YLI in Rock Hill, South Carolina.  I don't really know what it is ... except that it is great!  For the most part, I stitched using a very large chenille needle, this thread doubled, and a pair of bent chain needle nose pliers.  It was hard work but worth every stitch!

(Above:  The reverse side of Found Object Mandala CXI.)

My stitching wasn't finished when all eighty-eight keys were attached.  The weight of these pieces has to be distributed.  It just can't be framed while stapled to a stretcher bar.  First, the piece was removed from the stretcher bar.  A piece of foam-centered board was glued to the front of the stretcher bar.  Then the piece was carefully stapled around the perimeter ... every half inch.  It went back to the workhorses in the living room.  It took time but more stitching was done ... straight through the foam-centered board, the rug, and through the existing hole/slot in each key.  More stitches were also plied ... distributing the weight of the piece evenly over the surface.

To hide the staples along the edge, I used a gold liner.  The outer dimension of the liner matches the outer dimension of the stretcher bar ... thus ... it sits on top of the staples.  Then, a large, deep antique styled frame went around the liner.  Of course, I forget one, important thing.  I forgot to add my name!  So ... in the photo above, I'm sitting on the floor stitching through the foam-centered board and rug ...

 ... adding my name and the date.  I did this in two orientations because this piece can actually hang as a diamond.  I am really happy with this piece!

Friday, February 11, 2022

Peacock Feathers

(Above: Peacock Feather XXIX. Framed: 17 1/4" x 15 1/4"; unframed: 12 1/2" x 10 1/2".  Real peacock feathers on layers of fused polyester stretch velvet and under a ultra thin piece of a chiffon scarf.  Free motion machine stitched.  Melting techniques. Each piece is framed for $195.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Worlds have collided.  Okay ... that's an exaggeration but there are seemingly unrelated things in my life that are coming together in unexpected ways.  For example, Peacock Feathers!  I've been creating Peacock Feather artworks for a couple of years.  They've been long, skinny pieces featuring one, full peacock feather.  I've always used a dark olive polyester stretch velvet under an aqua piece with plenty of turquoise metallic foiling.  I've always used copper metallic squares around the perimeter.  I've done this so many times that this is the way I see peacock feathers ... always with turquoise and copper ... which is a lot like "blue and orange".  (Click HERE to see earlier Peacock Feathers.)

(Above:  Me holding one of the new Peacock Feathers.  Please know that I'll soon be blogging about both the large piece far behind me and the one with all eighty-eight Steinway piano keys.  Finished photos need to be taken but today isn't that day.  Today, we are getting new shingles on our garage roof.  I use the garage door for photography!)

Well "blue and orange" was recently the way I saw my In Box Series.  After successfully creating 145 "blue and orange" In Box Series pieces for a local hotel (which is nearing the end of construction!), I knew I needed to see things differently.  That's when I created a series using "blue with anything else".  I blogged them less than a month ago.  (CLICK HERE for that blog post.)  I thought I had my "color coordination vision" back to normal.  Then, the art consultant company ordered five more "blue and orange" pieces ... as "attic storage", things to replace one of the original 145 in case something happened.  I made them.  I was back to seeing "blue" always with "orange".  Something had to happen.

(Above:  Peacock Feather XXX.)

Something happened!  I was offered a solo show at a very upscale, local senior citizen complex.  Of course I said, "Yes!" even though this was to happen in April and even though the fancy venue with professional track lighting can accommodate just over SIXTY PIECES!  That's a lot of artwork!

(Above:  Peacock Feather XXXI.)

April is already a very busy month.  I'll be at the Smithsonian Craft Show with my Found Object Mandalas.  Found Object Mandalas are also part of a solo show at Artisan on the Square in Greenville, Georgia.  Of course the dates overlap!  The first weekend is also Open Studios here in Columbia.  The second Sunday is another, local event: Melrose Art in the Yard Sale.  So ... please insert a touch of terrified sarcasm here ... why not do another solo show with almost sixty other pieces? 

(Above:  Peacock Feather XXXII.)

It would be really nice to spread these opportunities out ... but that isn't within my control.  I either have to say "Yes!  I'll do that!" or "No! I'm not going to do that!"  After two years of this on-going pandemic, I'm much more inclined to say ABSOLUTELY!  I want to do that!  Besides, I have plenty of artwork in storage and I can make more! 

(Above:  Peacock Feather XXXIII.)

So ... twenty-seven pieces from my Muses Series will be going to the retirement center.  I love this work.  I still love this work.  It was made back in 2011.  Originally, there were eighty-eight pieces.  Twenty-five were framed. Several pieces sold but eventually, they were all shrink-wrapped ... and perhaps waiting for this opportunity to go into frames again.  Yet, I need more artwork ... like the recently finished In Box Series pieces meant to "get me over thinking blue-and-orange."

(Above:  Peacock Feather XXXIV.)

Yet, there are only twelve of these pieces.  More artwork is needed for the senior citizen center opportunity.  I looked around Mouse House and wondered about the frames on another series.  The Home Series was created when the pandemic shutdowns happened. As depressing as these works are, I knew none would sell ... and none sold ... but the frames could be used!

(Above: Peacock Feather XXXV.)

I looked closely that these frames.  They have a wide, bright silver metallic lip.  A thought occurred to me:  I could attempt to change the way I've always viewed peacock feathers!  No more aqua and copper!  I'd have to try different colors to work with this silver lip!

(Above:  Detail of Peacock Feather XXXV.)

The challenge was on!  I wasn't sure I'd like every one of the resulting ten works but I do!  I'm now more excited about peacock feathers than ever before!  (By the way, the Home Series is now shrink-wrapped!)

(Above:  Peacock Feather XXXVIII.)

I even tried other variations on the theme of peacock feathers ... like two together or one with the non-eyed feathers.  It was fun!  Now ... why I made ten pieces when I only had nine frames?  I don't really know.  Apparently, I didn't count correctly when cutting the synthetic felt substrata.  No worries though!  I found another frame for the last one.

(Above:  Peacock Feather XXXVI.)

Still ... I'm short on the work for the senior citizen retirement center ... but I will figure something out!  I'm up for this challenge!

(Above:  Peacock Feather XXXVII.)

Friday, February 04, 2022

Two more Found Object Mandalas

(Above:  Mandala CIX. Custom picture framed: 17 3/4" x 17 3/4". Found objects hand-stitched to a block of an old quilt. Found objects include: a vintage cherry candy tin lid; fleur di lis charms; miniature, black clothespins; four toy motorcycles; old keys; Italian beer bottle lids; beads and buttons. Click on any image to enlarge.)

I am more than happy to report that Carolina Steinway purchased both of the recently finished Steinway Found Object Mandalas!  In celebration, I immediately started another piece ... in fact ... I started three.  Two are finished.  One will be taking considerably longer as it has all eighty-eight Steinway piano keys on it.  

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CIX.)

I'm also anxious to stitch even more pieces in this series.  Why? Well, I have a solo show coming up in April at Artisans on the Square in Greenville, Georgia.  This opportunity overlaps the Smithsonian Craft Show and both need mandalas!  It is fun to think about artwork in two different venues, in two different states, and in front of entirely different people.  All that needs to happen is MORE ART!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CIX.)

These two pieces include things donated to my stash by several friends including Flavia Lovatelli (whose incredible paper pieces were also accepted to the Smithsonian Craft Show), Jane Hiller, Sabrina Lindenmann, Sue Porter Heiney, Dolly Patton, and Shirley Fassell ... among others.

(Above: Mandala CX.  Custom picture framed: 12 1/2" x 12 1/2". Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: a copper brioche mold; felt piano hammers (non-Steinway!); grey hair curlers; four, green Christmas light bulbs; English coins; buttons and beads; and green felt circles (function unknown to me!) from the recently dismantled Steinway.)

Mandala CX was inspired by the green, felt circles that were retrieved from the recently dismantled Steinway piano and the four Christmas tree light bulbs.  The felt circles were filthy but they hand washed well in cool water.  I really should have snapped a photo of Ernie the Cat while he tried to help.  Ernie is a strangely wonderful cat.  He seems to love a stream of water flowing from the sink's spigot. He also like going outside while it is raining.  Maybe next time. 

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CX.)

I had this little mandala stitched and supposedly finished.  Something was "off" though.  I needed "something" in the space beside each of the one-penny coins ... "something green" but something that didn't fight with the light bulb or felt circles.  I don't really know why I looked into a container of green buttons.  I already had enough buttons on the piece, but amazingly I found eight, flat, square, antique glass beads.  They shouldn't have been in the container with buttons ... but they were ... and the perfect number too! Sometimes I think the "Great creator" is adding to my stash too!  I don't remember ever seeing these eight, unique beads!

 (Above:  The green, felt circles still on the wooden part of the old Steinway ... along with the dirt!  This is why they were hand-washed!)