Sunday, September 25, 2022

Winding Down My Art Residency at Catoctin Mountain National Park

(Above:  Fiber vessels thus far at my art residency in Catoctin Mountain National Park.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

A lot of things have happened since I last wrote a blog post.  All of them are GOOD!  So, in no particular order ... first ... I have zigzag stitched over sixty fiber vessels.  The photo above was taken last Thursday.  More have come into existence and I plan on adding to that number this afternoon and tomorrow morning!  It's nice to have a spare room in this large chestnut cabin with extra cots on which to line them up!

(Above:  Selfie at Chimney Rock.)

Second, I have officially hiked every trail in this National Park!  While that might sound majorly impressive, the fact of the matter is that there are only twenty-five miles of hiking trails.  I have, however, gone on some of them more than once!  My average hike has only been about six miles.  Compared to Guadalupe Mountains and Great Basin National Parks, it's been rather easy.  Sure ... some of the trails are rated as "strenuous".  They are difficult but not in the sense of elevation change, length, or sun/wind exposure.  They get that rating due to rocks!  


 (Above:  A section of the Gateway Trail.)

One must proceed carefully!  Due to rain, the leaves are often slippery and occasionally hide an exposed tree limb. Falling down could result in a serious injury.  How do I know?  Well, on my first week here, I did fall.  My right foot tripped on one of those exposed tree limbs.  I fell as if a hinged cabinet door being slammed to the ground.  Thankfully, it really wasn't on a dangerous, rocky section.  Because I didn't stumble, slide, and skit on the ground, I wasn't scraped at all. No blood.  No broken bones. No strain or sprain. Even the palms of my hands showed no result of both hitting the ground.  My chin, however came down on a rock and I've had a nasty bruise ever since.  Yet, my teeth are fine.  My nose didn't hit and break.  My glasses flew off my head but weren't damaged.  I bought concealer and powder before my presentations in the Thurmont Regional Library.  I've Photoshopped my own selfies.  By next week, there will be no signs of this incident!  It did serve to remind me that "strenuous" has many meanings on a hike.  Rocks can be dangerous!  

(Above and below:  Wolf Rock at Catoctin Mountain National Park.)

Yet rocks are one of the best reasons to hike at Catoctin Mountain National Park.  Wolf Rock is particularly magnificent.  These giant boulders and deep crevices are stunning.  


Because I hike on an early weekday morning, I am usually the only person around. There is a special feeling that happens when alone in nature, especially at such an unusual place.  All of life becomes simultaneously unique and precious but also just minuscule parts of the gigantic world.  Personal problems, politics, and a frenzied lifestyle become unimportant in the face of the environment and on the global timeline.  This is truly where one's mind finds clarity, peace, and creative inspiration.  This is why I hike.


Along the trails, I've seen all sorts of wonders ... like white-tailed deer, woodpecker holes, spider webs, and more lichen than I've even seen anywhere else.

I also saw this toad.  He stood still for this portrait! 

I've hiked beside several picturesque creeks ...

... with quick flowing water that filled the air with sound.  It's been pure joy to find myself surrounded by so much beauty.  Yet, that's not everything I've done while here!


 (Above:  The amazingly talented Leslie Riley and I at Evergreen Cemetery in Gettysburg.)

So ... third ... a week before I came, the local newspaper printed the press release sent by the Catoctin Forest Alliance.  It featured my then, upcoming art residency.  One of the people reading it was the super talented artist Leslie Riley.  We have met one another before this and were Facebook friends, but now we've actually spent time together ... talking art, making grave rubbings in nearby Evergreen Cemetery in Gettysburg, and having lunch twice!  It is fabulous to spend time with another artist!  I can only hope that I didn't talk too much and that Leslie enjoyed it half as much as I did!

Also, one of the ladies who attended my public presentation at the Thurmont Regional Library last weekend contacted her quilt guild.  So ... on Thursday, I went to Fairfield, Pennsylvania and gave another program for the Stitch n Piece quilt guild.  I returned on Saturday for the town's Pippinfest.  Named after the pippin apple, the festival was sort of like a town yard sale with food and crafts vendors.  The quilt guild installed a small show of members' recent works along with a couple of antique quilts. On my return, I stopped at the Emmitsburg Antique Mall.  Now ... in the past, Steve and I had several areas inside Terrace Oaks Antique Mall outside Charleston, SC.  We were dealers for more than twenty years.  As a result, I know a "good" mall from a rather shabby one.  This one was absolutely first rate!  I happily shopped for "found objects" for future Found Object Mandalas and found several cool things!  


(Above: My evening view to the antique crazy quilt blocks that I'm finishing as my donation to the Catoctin Mountain National Park's permanent collection.)

Finally ... but this list is hardly a complete recap of everything experienced! ... I've been spending every evening hand-stitching on the antique crazy quilt blocks, transforming these late 19th century pieces into a 21st donation to the Catoctin Mountain National Park's permanent collection.  This is the most relaxing way to end each day!

Tomorrow things change!  Steve is flying into Reagan Airport in Washington, DC and riding the metro to Shady Grove.  That end-of-the-line metro station is only forty-seven miles away!  I can't wait to share a little of this place with Steve.  We head back to South Carolina on Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

An Antique Crazy Quilt for Catoctin Mountain National Park


(Above:  Detail of an antique crazy quilt which includes a campaign ribbon for President Harrison, dated 1892.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

It was the very week that I learned of my acceptance as this year's artist-in-residence for Catoctin Mountain National Park that I received a box of antique quilt blocks from a Facebook friend.  I've never met this wonderful lady but I am totally grateful for her generosity.  She sent me thing her mother collected decades ago because she was downsizing in order to move closer to her grandchildren.  I was absolutely floored when I saw four special crazy quilt blocks.  Basted together but without more than a few inches of decorative stitching on only one block, these pieces included dated ribbons.  Every date was in the 1890s.  In the quilting and needlework world, this has to be the longest waiting UFO ever.  (A UFO has nothing whatsoever to do with aliens!  It stands for UnFinished Object!)  Immediately, I knew that putting these blocks together, stitching them during public engagements during the art residency, and donating the finished piece to the National Park's permanent collection was what I was going to do!


(Above:  Presentation on quilting at the Thurmont Regional Library on Saturday.)  

The Catoctin Forest Alliance (a non-profit organization that promotes and fund-raises for special Park activities and projects) arranged for me to present quilting at the Thurmont Regional Library on both Saturday and Sunday.  I imagined that people visiting the library would drop by for a few moments to see the project, talk about quilting (traditional, crazy, and art quilting!), and learn about learn about the enormous amount of textile waste in landfills ... which really would have shocked late 19th and early 20th century quilters who repurposed fabrics instead of buying new!  That's not what happened!  Instead, the ladies who came pulled up chairs and stayed for two hours!  We talked about EVERYTHING from quilts to inspiration found in nature!  It was wonderful!  One lady even drove up from Baltimore!


(Above:  The crazy quilt blocks arranged on batting with scraps of lace and a few little doilies ... basted together with bridal tulle over the entire surface.)

So ... to back up a bit.  I took the four crazy quilt blocks and arranged them on a piece of traditional batting.  Scraps of lace and a few doilies and snippets of crochet were added to hid where seams would otherwise be stitched to transform four pieces into one.  I didn't dare attempt to machine stitch them together.  Several pieces of these rather exotic fabrics are very fragile, especially the silk.  To protect them, I placed a piece of sheer bridal tulle over the entire surface.  Underneath, I put an old damask tablecloth.  Then, I carefully basted the layers together ... every four to five inches, both vertically and horizontally. 

(Above:  The crazy quilt on a PVC quilting stand ... ready to go to Catoctin Mountain National Park.)

My plan was to staple the piece to a 44" stretcher bar in order to stitch it.  This plan was flawed though workable.  If done this way, I wouldn't be "self contained" for my presentations.  It really would have been a problem on the earlier Friday afternoon when I was on the Park's Visitor Center porch.  I needed a quilting stand.  Miraculously, the weekend before I left, a nice local lady dropped by to donate some of her deceased mother's fabric-related things.  One of them was this wonderful, never before used, PVC quilting stand!  My crazy quilt was READY TO GO!  That's how I took it to the library on Saturday.  To my amazement, the library's porch had two nice tables for my use.  So, for Sunday, I took the piece off the PVC stand and stapled it to the stretcher bar.


(Above:  The quilt presentation at the Thurmont Regional Library on Sunday.)

This was particularly nice because one of Saturday's guests returned on Sunday with a friend.  The entire surface of this antique piece is now visible.  It's also good for me!  I've been stitching on this piece every evening since my arrival.  The middle part is largely finished.  Stapled to the stretcher bar, the edges are close at hand.

(Above:  Inside my chestnut log cabin.)

I've arranged the picnic table inside my provided chestnut cabin to accommodate both my sewing machine and the crazy quilt.   I'm sticking to my plan!  Fiber vessels during the afternoon and hand embroidery on the crazy quilt in the evening.

(Above:  The antique crazy quilt in my cabin.  View from the picnic table bench.)

I absolutely love stitching on this piece.  With any luck, I'll finish the embellishments before I leave.  At home, I'll trim it to a proper square, add a false back, bind it, and add a hanging sleeve.  Then, it will be sent back to the Park.  It truly is my privilege to honor the intention of the late 19th century anonymous maker.  It brings the past into the present and the donation will take it into the future.  Below are detail shots.  I didn't put the pieces together but the embroidery is all me!

There are several hand-painted handkerchiefs and six dated ribbons.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

More from my first week at Catoctin Mountain National Park

(Above:  Me ... earlier this morning at the Blue Ridge Summit Vista in Catoctin Mountain National Park, Maryland.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

So far, so good with my daily plan for this amazing art residency at Catoctin Mountain National Park.  Every day this past week, I've hiked one of the woodsy trails in the morning.  Afternoons are spent stitching a large stash of zigzag stitched cording into fiber vessels.  Evenings are spent on my contribution to the Park's permanent art collection, a crazy quilt that was started by some anonymous woman back in the 1890s and is now being finished by me!  (I'll be writing about this in my next blog post!  After all, I will be demonstrating hand embroidery on this crazy quilt this Saturday and Sunday from 2-4 at the Thurmont Regional Library.  I hope to get a few more images at that time!)

(Above:  A double stone wall along the trail to Cunningham Falls ... which is actually in the Maryland State Park Service but the trails are interconnected.)

I've hiked at least six miles every morning this week.  The trails are graded as "easy" and "moderate" but I've found all of them rather straight forward and more like a walk in the woods.  It is really super green and very, very pretty here.  Because I'm out during the weekdays, I've had almost every inch or every trail all to myself and the nature around me.  I've seen a couple white-tailed deer and a rabbit.  Thankfully, I have not encountered a brown bear.  They live here but I really don't need to see one in the wild!


(Above: The fiber vessels made in my first week!)

My afternoons are going very well too!  So far, I've stitched up all the fiber vessels in the photo above.  Not bad for one week!  These are headed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, November 11 - 13 but will also be added to my sales platform as soon as I get home! 

(Above:  Step one!)

Every time I post my fiber vessels here on my blog or on a social media platform, I get asked about the construction method.  A common question is, "Do you use rope in the cording?"  Well ... no I do not!  My cording is made entirely from strands of yarn over which I zigzag stitch.  All the yarn and even the thread was sourced from yard sales, thrift shops, auctions, and as donations from other people.  I spent a week outside Pickens, South Carolina just zigzag stitching my enormous stash of yarn into cording ... for the expressed purpose of creating the fiber vessels here at Catoctin Mountain NP.  (I blogged about the cording HERE.) So ... here's a little step-by-step tutorial of how I'm now transforming the cording into a fiber vessel.  I start with a very small coil of cording ... as seen in the image above.

Step 2:  I zigzag the little coil and just keep on zigzag stitching ... around and around ... until I come to the edge of my sewing machine.  At this point, I use the palm of my hand to continue the circular motion ... which causes the coil to start curling.

Step 3 is pretty much the same as step 2 ... just keep on zigzag stitching ... around and around ... using the palm of your hand and your fingers to keep the "bowl" moving and growing. 

Step 4 is pretty much the same as step 2 and 3 ... just keep on zigzag stitching ... around and around ... until you like the shape and think the vessel is finished. 

Step 5:  Cut the cording with what would probably make another pass around the rim.  Unpick the zigzag stitching of this remaining bit of cording.  Now ... cut the individual strands of yarn to different lengths ... so that the final pass is tapered to s smooth rim.
Step 6:  Twist the individual strands and zigzag stitch them to the rim of the fiber vessel.  As you zigzag stitch around, the twisting becomes almost unnecessary as the strands of yarn are fewer and fewer.  For this fiber, I switched both the bobbin and top thread to a burgundy colored thread ... so that the rim was a different color.  I generally stitch the rim twice before removing the vessel from the machine.  Any "ends" of the strands that are sticking up are cut off.  Then, I stitch around the rim with a very dense zigzag stitch.
(Above:  The finished fiber vessel.)

So ... that's how I'm spending my afternoon.  Being in this chestnut log cabin makes this even better.  I have a view to the woods and am serenaded by birds.  Below are some of the photos I've taken recently.

(Above:  Stone cairns ... which aren't generally something that National Park's encourage ... so I didn't build one, just took the picture!)
(Above:  The collier's hut along the Charcoal Trail.  A collier is the term given to those working in the coal industry, but before coal was used in iron furnaces, charcoal was used. In the mid-19th century, the Catoctin Mountain had more than one hundred charcoal making hearths to supply the nearby iron furnace in the production of pig iron.)
(Above:  Lichen ... one could spend all day snapping photos of lichen here!)
(Above:  Two views to a mushroom)
(Above:  View from Hog Rock Vista.)
(Above:  The underside of an uprooted tree.)
(Above:  One of fortunately very few trees with cut graffiti.)
(Above:  Two feathers ... that were near the remains of a bird wing.  No!  I did NOT pick them up!  Generally, it is illegal to collect the feathers of migratory and birds of prey.)

Monday, September 12, 2022

First few days as Artist-in-Residence at Catoctin Mountain National Park

(Above:  Stitching in public.  My first of three demonstrations.  The other two are this coming Friday and Saturday from 2- 4 at the Thurmont Regional Library, Thurmont, MD. Photo courtesy of Ranger Carrie Andresen-Strawn.)

I'm very excited to be this year's Artist-in-Residence at Catcotin Mountain National Park outside Thurmont, Maryland.  I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and will be here until September 28th. Inside of the first forty-eight hours, I was on the Visitor Center porch sharing my embroidery skills on four blocks of an antique crazy quilt.  Prior to coming, I assembled the four on batting backed with a section of a vintage damask tablecloth.  The presentation was a nice, relaxed conversation about types of quilting, crazy quilts, and how textiles make up the largest percentage of waste in this country's landfills.  If only more people repurposed some of their household textiles more like those Victorian era women did when piecing a crazy quilt!  I'll write more about this particular crazy quilt later ... after the presentations in the Thurmont Regional Library this coming Saturday and Sunday!

(Above:  Chestnut log cabin # 16 at Misty Mount campgrounds.)

My intention for this blog post is to share where I'm at and one of the things I'm doing!  So ... above is a photo of the chestnut log cabin here at Misty Mount campground.  I'm living here for the next couple of weeks.  Amazingly, there are three bedrooms with a total of seven simple cots.  There's a bathroom and a very spartan kitchen.  (I only have a microwave and a mini fridge.  No burner.  No oven.  No plates or utensils ... but I really don't enjoy cooking and I brought everything I need to nuke prepared meals!)

The smallest bedroom is at the front of the cabin.  I unpacked my sheets and Great Aunt Janet's quilt there.

Just inside the front door is the main living space which is absolutely ideal as an ideal studio!  In no time at all, I set up my Bernina on one end of the heavy wood table and the crazy quilt on the side.  My plan is to hike in the morning; stitch fiber vessels in the afternoon; and work on the crazy quilt every evening.  I have a mobile hotspot for emails and a view to a lush green outdoors.  For more than half the time I've been here, it's been raining.  I love the sound.  It is so relaxing to stitch in a cozy cabin while listening to the pitter-patter of weather just a few feet away.

So ... my plan started on Wednesday afternoon after moving into the cabin.  Anxious to start, the first fiber vessel was created!  All the cording I zigzag stitched at the Rensing Center outside Pickens will hopefully be transformed into these bowls.  These pieces are headed to November's Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, November 11 - 13.

Each fiber vessel is unique.  Even though I will be able to create two or three from a single ball of cording, no two are alike because I used different colored thread when stitching the vessels.  For example, the photo above shows a ball of mostly slate blue and tan cording.

Several hours later, I have stitched these two fiber vessels from that ball of cording.  One was stitched with a variegated blue thread.  The other was stitched with a variegated brown.  Obviously, the shapes are different too!

In one of the otherwise unneeded bedrooms, I set up the fiber vessels made on a cot.  From left to right, I have my production from Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Yesterday it rained all day.  I didn't hike.  I managed to stitch a lot more of them!

It wasn't pouring on Saturday.  I took my first hike ... just over five miles.  Today, I hiked another five miles.  Above and below are some of the photos I took.  Enjoy!