Sunday, July 31, 2022

A Week Stitching Cording

(Above:  The garage studio at the Rensing Center showing my stash of yarn ... except that I forgot to open the lid to the wicker chest.  It was also packed solid with yarn! Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last Sunday morning I headed up I-26 from Columbia to the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville.  By the late morning, I had successfully dropped off all sorts of artwork.  I'm so very proud to have representation in such a wonderful place.  I was also really happy that this was just the start to a fuel efficient, ten-day journey.  Instead of heading back home, I drove to the Rensing Center outside Pickens, SC.  The Rensing Center was, until very recently, a non-profit art residency. In the past, I've had three experiences there. It is in transition now.  The non-profit has been dissolved, and the various apartment units are being offered through AirBnB for long-time stays (as in at least one or more weeks).  Thankfully, Rensing Center alum (like me!) are still able to make arrangements for art retreats.  I was lucky enough to secure this past week. 

(Above:  Most of the stash of yarn.)

I wanted this time for a very special task.  My Fiber Vessels have once again been accepted into this coming November's Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. (My Found Object Mandalas were accepted too!)  So ... in anticipation ... I needed to stitch up a brand new supply of Fiber Vessels.  In order to do this, I first needed to zigzag stitch lots and lots of cording.  Basically, my Fiber Vessels are composed of just two things:  Yarn and thread.  Each Fiber Vessel is the result of a two-step process.  First, I stitch up the cording.  Second, I zigzag the cording into a vessel.  The inspiration for these 3D objects is simple!  It is based on one of those 1970s braided rugs ... a cord zigzag stitched in an oval or circle ... row after row.  The difference is obvious:  A rug remains flat and the vessel simply forms because my sewing machine base isn't flat for long!  When the circle grows larger than the width of the machine, it starts to curl!  (To see more, CLICK HERE for an early blog post showing the process.) 


(Above:  Looking down into the tubs of yarn.)

So ... the first step is the cording.  It is a rather boring task.  All I really do is pull nine to eleven strands of assorted yarn through my Bernina's cording foot while constantly zigzag stitching.  It is time consuming.  It is the sort of process that can otherwise be easily interrupted by any other daily task, unsolicited telephone calls, my "day job" cutting mats for custom framing, and anything else.  Being at the Rensing Center meant "no interruptions" and "no distractions" and nothing but twelve hours of constant zigzag stitching a day.  This translates into lots and lots of cording for future Fiber Vessels. The yarn and thread are sourced from yard sales, thrift stores, auctions, and through donations from friends.  Absolutely nothing used in the stitching of the cording was purchased new by me.  (Okay ... I admit it ... when stitching the actual Fiber Vessel, I do use new thread!  But all the cording is made from second-hand material.)

(Above:  Looking down on the stash of assorted thread.)

The stash of thread was almost as overwhelming as the stash of yarn.  None of it was bought new by me.  It all came from the same yard sales, thrift shops, auctions, and generous donors to me stash.  Not all of it is "good".  All week I had to struggle with this thread.  Some of it wouldn't zigzag stitch without either breaking or skipping lots of stitches. (The "bad" thread ... once tried several times ... was unceremoniously pitched.)  Yet like the yarn, all of it was once purchase by some anonymous person with the intention of being used.  This week was the material's chance to actually function as intended! 

(Above:  The first big ball of cording stitched.)

I arrived at the Rensing Center midday last Sunday and immediately set up my temporary studio in the garage area.  The first ball was actually started in my "One Woman's Trash Transformed" workshop for QSDS (Quilt and Surface Design Symposium) in Columbus, Ohio.  It was less than four inches in diameter upon arrival.  Now, it is quite large!

(Above:  Yarn being sorted on the garage floor.)

One the the advantages of being in a large garage studio is all the floor space.  After stitching all sorts of light blue and turquoise yarn into the first, big ball of cording, I started sorting the yarn into piles ... by colors.  The photo above shows the start of this plan.  Soon, the entire floor was covered.

(Above:  Nine different yarns being zigzag stitched into cording.)

I took only one shot of yarn being fed through my Bernina's cording foot.  This was it.  Nine different yarns (some quite "fancy") were zigzag stitched into cording ... which is coming out the back of the machine's foot.  Doing this requires a strong grip and muscles to pull the cording out the other side. 

(Above:  A large tub of mostly white and "nursery" colored pastels ... things I knew I'd never use.)

I stitched until midnight on Sunday.  I stitched pretty much from 9:00 AM to midnight on Monday and Tuesday.  By Tuesday night, however, I knew that I would never stitch all the white yarn and the "nursery" pastel yarns.  I piled them into one, large tub.  The next morning I went to the Pickens County flea market.  I donated the entire tub to a nice husband and wife team.  They were as thankful to receive the yarn as I was to get rid of it! 

(Above:  The cording stitched during my week at the Rensing Center.)

After returning from the flea market around 11:00 AM, I stitched until 11:00 PM.  I stitched all day on Thursday and Friday too.  On Saturday, my left hand was swollen and sort.  Also, I was physically exhausted.  Why?  Well, it wasn't just the hard, physical labor involved in this task.  It was also because I was only getting about seven hours of sleep each night.  Many people have joked on social media, "Do you ever sleep?"  Well ... yes I do!  I generally sleep eight to eight-an-a-half hours each and every night.  So on Saturday, I was exhausted ... body and hand.  I just couldn't pull more cording. 

(Above:  A log bridge along the Hagood Mill Nature Trail.)

I had to take a break!  What did I do?  Well ... from here I'm headed to the Lake and Mountain Quilt Guild in nearby Seneca, SC.  I'll be giving a Power Point presentation tomorrow (Monday) followed by a two-day, sold out workshop on my melting techniques (Tuesday and Wednesday).  So ... I practiced my lecture.  I haven't given it since pre-COVID 19.  I added more images to do.  I applied for a SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) juried traveling exhibit, caught up on my email correspondence, and then went to the Hagood Mill.  I visited all the rustic cabins, the moonshine still, the blacksmith shop, and the native American petroglyph museum.  I also took the three-quarter mile nature hike.  At one point, there was a little path off the trail.  I had to go down it.  I found a giant log over the creek.

(Above:  Me on the giant log.)

Despite not having the proper shoes, I climbed up and over the creek.  I took the photo above as proof that I did "something else" during the week.  I also had an early dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Pickens before returning to the Rensing Center.  I went to bed at 6:00 PM and slept until 6:00 AM.  Thankfully, the day away from the cording and twelve hours of rest meant I was able to work on my last full day for another twelve hours!  Tomorrow ... I'm off to Seneca ... the last leg of this mini-adventure!


(Above:  A bag full of empty thread spools.)

Before leaving, I will of course be cleaning my temporary studio.  This means taking out the trash ... which includes a lot of empty thread spools!

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Two New, Large In Boxes

(Above:  Me with In Box CDXIX.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

The last few days have been CRAZY!  Why? Well, I've been in a rush to finish up several new artworks that will be headed to the Grovewood Gallery in the morning.  The rush was largely due to the fact that last week's supplies from our framing distributor only arrived this Wednesday.  Thankfully, Steve and I have been framing since 1987.  We know how to go into "high gear", especially when on a deadline.  The artwork has all been finished, framed, photographed, and now ... blogged!  From the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville, I'm headed to a week outside Pickens, South Carolina.

(Above:  In Box CDXVIII.  Custom framed with UV filtering/anti-reflective, conservation glass: 32 1/2" x 22 1/2". Layers of polyester stretch velvet fused onto recycled, black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques. $575.00.)

Until this year, the place in Pickens was a non-profit art residency program called The Rensing Center.  I've been lucky enough to have been there several times in the past.  Yet, running such a place is difficult.  My friend Ellen Kochansky, who owns the buildings and land, has decided to transform her place and rent out some of the accommodations through AirBnB.  Thankfully, she has allowed a few Rensing Center alum to continue coming.  I'm so glad to have next week in the country, in solitude, in a place where the phone isn't going to ring with unsolicited calls and there is no custom picture framing needing my attention.  My plan is to work, work, work ... and by that, I mean ... stitch, stitch, stitch.

(Above:  In Box CDXIX.  Custom framed with UV filtering/anti-reflective, conservation glass: 32 1/2" x 22 1/2". Layers of polyester stretch velvet fused onto recycled, black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques. $575.00.)

What will I be stitching?  Well ... cording!  I've amassed an enormous stash of yarn and thread.  All of it comes from auctions, thrift stores, yard sales, and generous others who have donated to my stash.  I will be zigzag stitching it into enormous balls of cording.  The cording will later be stitched into fiber vessels.  I need them.  Like my Found Object Mandalas, my fiber vessels have been accepted into next November's Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.

(Above:  Detail of In Box CDXVIII.)

Zigzag stitching yarn into cording is a rather monotonous task.  It is one of those things that can easily be interrupted.  Being alone and away make it possible to just stitch, stitch, stitch.  I do plan on blogging at least once while I'm there ... if for not better reason than to share the enormous stash!

(Above:  Detail of In Box CDXIX.)

From Pickens, I am going directly to a quilt guild in Seneca, South Carolina where I'll be providing a lecture and a two-day workshop.  I'm really thrilled that I can string these plans together (and save on gasoline).  It's going to be wonderful ... peace and quiet followed by fun with fiber friends.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Six New Lancet Windows

(Above:  Me holding Lancet Window CCXXXIV. Click on any image to enlarge.)

As promised, the six Lancet Windows that I constructed and stitched last week were finished today when our weekly delivery of framing supplies finally arrived.  Each piece is made from layers of polyester stretch velvet fused onto recycled, black synthetic packaging felt and stitched with 100% black cotton thread. Three different sizes of soldering irons melt holes through the layers. Finally, the work is exposed to the intense heat from an industrial heat gun.  The space between the polyester stretch velvet foundation pieces melts away in seconds.  The thread linking the pieces does not melt; it holds the piece together.  Each one is framed with an outer dimension of 31" x 11".    

(Above from left to right: Lancet Window CCXXIX, CCXXX, and CCXXXI.)

At least four of these pieces will be headed to the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville.  I'm going this coming Sunday morning. After dropping off the artwork, I'm headed to Pickens for a one-week art residency at the Rensing Center.  Sadly, the Rensing Center is ending its program but will continue to be open to past residents ... including me!  I plan on zigzag stitching miles of cording from which I'll later turn into fiber vessels.  I'm looking forward to this week, a time without distractions ... just stitch, stitch, stitch.

(Above from left to right: Lancet Window CCXXXII, CCXXXIII, and CCXXXIV.)

Monday, July 18, 2022

Lost & Found V

(Above:  Lost & Found V. Custom framed: 22" x 22". Found Objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage, applique quilt. Found objects include: a hand mirror; pale grayish-blue, wooden Carrom Board rings; fluted circular and triangular brioche molds; souvenir spoons; laminated Tampa Nugget Cigar bands; wavy curlers; touchless door openers; four plastic eyeglasses (without lens); beer caps; blue casino chips inside four orange beer can yolks; a broken rhinestone necklace and bracelet; buttons and beads. Click on any image to enlarge.)

This piece almost got away from me.  The hand mirror's original back got damaged in the process of having holes drilled into it.  I had to remove the flimsy gold paper which was under a cheap sheet of plastic.  Layers of matte medium and additional paper fixed some of the problem. Finally, I found a bit of leftover gold embossing powder and added that.  It isn't the same as the original but it looks pretty much like the hand mirror I started with.  I still have the matching hair brush.  I wonder what will happen if I try using it!

(Above:  Detail of Lost & Found V.)

I thought I was finished at one point but something was off.  The space between the buttons lining the hand mirror and the Carrom rings looked odd.  The piece leaned up against the wall for two or three days until I found the broken rhinestone necklace and bracelet.  Once the odd space was filled, the piece was done!  Funny, the rhinestone's are highly reflective. They almost give this piece a sense of the mirror on the other side!

(Above:  Detail of Lost & Found V.)

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Mandala CXXX

(Above:  Mandala CXXX. Custom framed: 28" x 28". Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: an embossed metal circle; part of an poached egg pan; assorted, vintage cookie cutters; black and white dominoes; four combs; hinges; four View Master reels; eight, large red, wooden checkers; four, large white, wooden checkers; four, small, black, plastic checkers; and lots of buttons.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

This past week has not gone according to plan.  My custom picture framing shop did not receive our weekly order.  It was supposed to bring much needed mat board and the moulding for six, new Lancet Windows.  I created these pieces last weekend.  I cannot mount and photograph them until these supplies arrive next week.  So, I turned my attention to this Found Object Mandala.  I'll post the Lancet Windows next Wednesday (hopefully!)

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXXX.)

I'm really pleased with this Found Object Mandala as I wasn't entirely sure this many dominoes would still be balanced with the other objects ... especially considering all the colorful dots on the white ones. Although I am blessed with a keen sense of visualization, I'm occasionally worried that my mind is seeing "what I want" and not necessarily "what is there"!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXXX.)


Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Lost and Found IV

(Above:  Lost & Found IV. Custom framed. 20" x 20". Found objects hand stitched to a section of a vintage applique quilt.  Found objects include:  A hand mirror; watch faces; dominoes; red Christmas tree light bulbs; two, orange juice lids; yellow, blue, and red plastic lids; Mexican mineral water and beer caps; two, miniature soft dolls; two, yellow squirt pistols; two, bright pink 3-way combs; two, bright pink 3-way combs; keys; a pet tag; pieces of a colorful but broken, floral necklace; two miniature screw drivers; lavender insulin needle caps; beads and buttons.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I'm really having a good time with this new series. It is an off-shoot from my Found Object Mandala Series.  For this new body of work, I don't seem to need as many multiples.  It is providing me places for just two objects instead of always needing a minimum of four. 

(Above:  Detail of Lost & Found IV.)

I'm also enjoying the colorful palette and the use of an applique quilt.  Of course, this means that I'm now saving even more "stuff" than I was ever before!  The stash has taken over half the living room floor (upstairs ... above Mouse House where we live) and an entire table in a room downstairs (in the business area!)  Thankfully, Steve likes finding things to add to the collection!


(Above: Detail of Lost & Found IV.)

Friday, July 01, 2022

Mandala CXXIX

(Above:  Mandala CXXIX. Custom framed: 37 1/4" x 37 1/4". Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt. Found objects include:  A stainless steel trivet; a coffee pot strainer; a coffee K-pod; six gold flatware forks; six brass discs from old trophies with red, wooden checker pieces; six, round, orange Tinker Toy connectors; twelve dull red, wooden hoops from a Caron game; glass chandelier prisms; six pairs of scissors; four Maxwell House coffee lids; twenty-eight doll hands; beer caps; eight wooden blocks [cut in half]; twenty-eight touchless door openers; four brioche molds with red, wooden checker pieces; six, antique tin type photos; forty long needle-like parts of prostate radioactive seed implant devices; buttons and beads.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

After cutting up an old quilt into small sections for workshop participants, I still had one, big piece left.  I stapled it to a large stretcher bar.  The patches of fabric looked like a mess.  A piece of orange bridal tulle, however, seemed to bring balance to the surface colors.  I add tulle to every one of my Found Object Mandalas.  Besides providing a "wash" of color, it also protects the fragile fabric.  This particular quilt had plenty of weak seams and even some batting showing.  Next, I had to make a decision about the contrast between dark fabrics and light ones. 

(Above:  The old quilt before I cut it.)

I looked at my stash of objects and really wanted to use more of the carved wooden mules.  I bought them at an auction ... months ago.  I stitched them onto two earlier pieces.  Back then, I had plenty of darker mules, lighter mules, and even ones that seemed maple colored.  Now, the remaining ones all looked pretty much the same.


(Above: Stained half the wooden mules with dark walnut and the other half with red maple.)

It didn't take me long to figure out a solution!  I got some dark walnut and red maple stain. Half got one shade; half the other.  This seemed to solve the issue of contrast too.  I had just the right amount of contrast in the mules to balance out the contrast in the quilt fabrics!  Amazingly, I still have a few mules left.  I might drill holes in them and transform them into Christmas ornaments.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXXIX.)

It took a little while to find the correct size for the circle.  I wanted walnut, then maple, then walnut, etc.  If the circle were too large or too small, I'd end up with two of the same shades beside one another.  After I stitched the mules in place, I tackled the inside and outside.  For the inside, I had six pairs of identical scissors.  They were very sharp.  I went to Columbia Appliance Sales and Services.  It's a cool, independent shop that sells clippers, trimmers, and supplies for barbers and beauty shops.  The owner also sharpens scissors.  In the past, he has sharped our scissors.  This time, however, I had him remove the sharp edge.  Thank goodness he is also an artist and understood my odd request.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CXXIX.)

I'm really pleased how this piece turned out.  Thanks to everyone who has contributed to my stash of objects.  Having so many diverse things really makes a huge difference when designing these pieces.

(Detail of Mandala CXXIX.)