Monday, April 24, 2023

After a week of work

(Above:  Mandala CLIX.  Custom framed: 22 1/4" x 22 1/4".  Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt.  Found Objects include:  A fly wheel on which a toy motorcycle wheel was stitched; six toy convertibles; six International Atomic Star stainless spoons; keys; assorted coffee Kpods; copper colored can pull tabs; touchless door keys; four champagne muselet caps; four stain window corner brackets; external tooth lock washers; four turquoise pill bottle lids; buttons and beads.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I haven't written a blog in a week!  For me, that's a pretty long time ... especially when I've been as busy stitching as I have been!  So ... first up is this new Found Object Mandala.  It was inspired by the toy convertibles that were part of a table lot at my weekly auction house.  Stitching them to the quilt was a challenge. Drilling holes in them was out of the question.  A 1/6" drill bit would likely break if I attempted going all the way through the body of the car.  Instead, I tied 18" lengths of super strong thread around each wheel ... in the middle of the thread ... as in "nine inches on both sides of the wheel.  Then,  I threaded the ends and pulled the needle through the quilt.  The ends were tied together ... attaching each wheel to the quilt.  The rest of the stitching was straight forward.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CLIX.)

I'm really pleased with this piece, especially the design of six cars on a quilt base that is divided into four sections.  Neither design element commands more attention than the other.

(Above:  Springtime at Noxubee.  Framed:  19" x 15".  Unframed: 14" x 10". Layers of polyester stretch velvet on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine embroidery and melting techniques.)

This past week also saw the finish of Springtime at Noxubee.  This piece is my contribution to the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge's permanent art collection.  Part of my recent art residency was the commitment to donate an artwork inspired by the experience.  The donated artworks are on display in the Visitor Center's auditorium.

(Above:  Detail of Springtime at Noxubee.)

The artwork is currently on its way to Mississippi!  Along with it, I sent the following statement:

The work is part of my on-going In Box Series. Each piece is a free-motion machine embroidered artwork composed of layers of polyester stretch velvet on a piece of black, recycled, synthetic packaging felt. The felt was once the protective covering for a kayak or canoe being shipped from a manufacturer to my friend's outdoor shop. The work was stitched using 100% black cotton thread. In the final step, the work is exposed to intense heat from an industrial heat gun. The space between the polyester stretch velvet shapes melts away in just a few seconds. This technique (which I developed myself) is very much like the prescribed burns done in the refuge. It transforms the area into something new and beautiful. In the "boxes" are stitched drawings of leaves found in the refuge. I used the "Autumn Leaves Scavenger Hunt" handout found in the Visitor Center. Although my visit was during the spring, all these leaves helped make my many walks more enjoyable. The colors I selected reflect the new leaves on the budding dogwood trees, the blooming red buds, and the light, sky blue that appears with every dawn over Bluff Lake. Thank you ever so much for the time and space for creative exploration, quiet contemplation, and new discoveries in nature.

(Above:  New additions to my Patchwork Installation.)

Earlier this month, I shared the start of my newest installation, Patchwork.  At that time, I was hoping to sign a contract for my solo show, Once & Again: Alterations with a new venue.  At that time, I'd already met with the executive director, toured the spacious galleries, and discussed potential dates.  At that time, I had a vision for this new installation.  I wrote that my mind's eye could already see the pieces "meandering down the length of the walls ... a running, linear arrangement ... flexibly hung with only the sides abutting one another ... pieces moving up and down ... around the corners ... above and below other artwork." 

(Above:  Detail of the new additions to Patchwork.)

Well ... the contract arrived, was signed, and mailed back!  Once & Again: Alterations by Susan Lenz will be at the Imperial Centre's Maria V. Howard Arts Center in Rocky Mount, NC from September 1 to December 31, 2023. I'm very excited but also need to continue making LOTS MORE PIECES.  September will be here before I know it and I really want this installation to wrap around the provided walls!

(Above:  Detail of the new additions to Patchwork.)

When sharing images of this on-going project to social media, I've been asked about my process and how I am mounting the work.  Well ... I start by stapling a piece of recycled black industrial felt to a stretcher bar that is bigger than the one I will use for the finished piece. (The felt is the same material I use for my In Box and Stained Glass series ... because I have an unbelievable large stash of it!) Using a white pencil, I trace the outer perimeter of the stretcher bar to which I will mount the finished work.  Scraps of old quilts are pinned inside the pencil line ... leaving about a half-inch between the outer edge of the scraps and the penciled line.  Then, I stitch the pieces together.  When finished stitching, I remove the piece from the larger stretcher bar.

(Above:  A composite photo of mounting the finished scraps.)

Before mounting, I've painted the stretcher bar black.  I use the back of the stretcher bar as the front.  Why?  Well most stretcher bars have a raised edge on the front.  This is so that a canvas isn't touching the wood except at the very outer edge.  I use the backside ... because it is generally nice and flat.  I squeeze a line of glue around the inside perimeter.  Then, I position a piece of acid-free mat board on the glue and staple it in place.  The mat board is cut a little bigger than the inner perimeter of the stretcher bar ... leaving about a half-inch or more of the black face of the stretcher bar showing.  The stitched piece is then positioned over the stretcher bars.  I "feel around" to align the corners and tack them down.  Then, using assorted upholstery tacks, I tack the piece to the stretcher bar ... mostly hiding the raw edge of the piece.  Because the work is about a half inch smaller than the outer edge of the stretcher bar, it is easy to tack in place.  Finally, I use a soldering iron to melt away the excess black felt.  The soldering iron simply follows the outer edge of the tacks. My recycled felt is the same sort of material as the "cheap" acrylic felt from big box fabric store.  Because it is synthetic, it melts easily.  


Christine said...

Super way to stitch those cars to the material.

The new work is interesting, great tacks round the edges...

Catherine - Mixed Media Artist said...

Gosh the convertibles looks interesting but also "how to stitch them down"...