Sunday, July 30, 2023

Future Mouse House Home/Studio in Cateechee, SC


Steve and I took this walk-through video on Saturday, July 2th when delivering the Lindy Bouknight made set of drawers that will become part of the future bathroom design.  More videos are coming! 

Monday, July 24, 2023

Anonymous Ancestors at the Morris Center for Lowcountry Heritage

(Above: Anonymous Ancestors at the Morris Center for Lowcountry Heritage. Click on any image to enlarge.)
Today was the eighth time Steve and I have installed my solo show Anonymous Ancestors.  Each time, the venue has presented its own unique challenges.  The Morris Center for Lowcountry Heritage was no exception despite it being the smallest space for the exhibit. The challenge came in the required hanging system.  The former gas station (now a historic building) uses patented STAS minirail.  This hanging system is actually very easy to use and it protects the historic walls (which would have been difficult anyway ... white-painted brick walls and hard boards to block the pane glass garage door!) 

Yet this sort of hanging system does prevent me from creating vignettes of framed pictures.  For the show at City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Charleston, Steve and I hung 309 pieces.  (CLICK HERE for a blog post showing this very large solo show.)  Knowing that we would be dealing with perlon cords and zipper security hooks, I knew to bring only the larger pieces and more furniture than I've ever used.

Even without all the altered photographs, this show looks wonderful!  There's something very special about having such a small, intimate space. What was once a garage is now quite convincingly a stereotypical Grandmother's Victorian inspired parlor filled with family pictures, photo albums, seating, and even the specter of inhabitants through the positioning of the art garments.

For this show, the artist books are better on view.  I even brought wooden music stands/lecterns for a few of them.  The excellent lighting will allow visitors to browse through the pages.  Sure ... these books have been in almost every other show but I don't think people really paid attention to them due to the hundreds of framed photographs on the walls.  

Every show really has been different but every time has also been a successful transformation of the available space.  This show definitely has its pluses!  I hope people can attend my Artist Talk on Saturday, August 26th at 11 AM!  

Please scroll down for more images! The signage for this show reads:

To stand within Susan Lenz’s installation, Anonymous Ancestors, is to become immersed in the myriad of family stories handed down through generations. Each snapshot is a frozen moment on life’s time-line. Letters and words clipped from vintage print material allow one’s mind to wander, envisioning forgotten friends, past holidays, ancient occasions, former cars, and hilarious fashion trends. Yet, all the images are anonymous. The photos come from yard sales, auctions, and thrift stores. Who are these people? Who really knows? They are distant aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, siblings, and in-laws. They are society’s family tree, our collective wall of ancestors.

This installation was made possible through the support of family and friends, including Kayleigh Vaughn and the staff and board of directors at the Morris Center for Lowcountry Heritage; Springboard for the Arts and the Hinge Art Residency program, Fergus Falls, MN; Bill Mishoe’s Estate Services, Columbia, SC; Steve Dingman; all those who have donated vintage materials to Susan’s studio practice; and the many anonymous individuals who stared out of their half-forgotten pictures with inspiration.


Monday, July 17, 2023

Found Object Tidal Wave

(Above:  Found Object Tidal Wave.  Custom framed: 40" x 40".  Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt.  Too many object to include in a description!  Click on any image to enlarge.)
This piece was so much fun to stitch!  I really tried to use as many found objects that I could, especially things that I didn't have in multiples ... especially things sent to me by generous donors to my stash ... things I hadn't yet used.  Like my Found Object Mandalas, this piece gives "second life" to many obsolete and neglected items. It speaks to the abundance of life and the desire to "keep for a rainy day". It is also about finding a bit of tranquility in the hand-stitched process.
(Above:  Detail of the Found Object Tidal Wave.)

Yet this piece also addresses another important concern ... pollution in our planet's oceans.  Twelve years ago, I stitched Two Hours at the Beach.  Polluted oceans have been a concern of mine for years.  Plus, I've seen several art exhibits featuring this issue, including the profoundly wonderful show by Duke Riley at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.  It was called Death to the Living: Long Live Trash.   I was truly transfixed on Riley's faux-scrimshaw pieces, artwork made from discarded plastic containers ... many of which were salvaged from New England beaches.  Though these works really looked like scrimshaw and lots of other pieces by Riley are indeed whimsical, there's nothing really funny about trashed coastlines.    

(Above:  Detail of Found Object Tidal Wave.)

Over the years, I've seen television footage of debris left by hurricanes and tropical storms.  I've walked on South Carolina beaches and couldn't pick up all the trash I encountered.  Earlier this year while at Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi, I was also given a bag of fishing lures and floaters ... things caught in trees when fishermen were casting lines.  These memories and lures were important additions to this piece.

(Above:  Detail of the Found Object Tidal Wave.)

So ... stitching this piece is as much about the environment as it is about the rescuing found objects.  It is as much about carelessness in nature as it is about the nostalgia of giving "second life" to vintage objects.

(Above:  Detail of the Found Object Tidal Wave.)

This piece challenged me.  It is the first time I've decided to leave a large swatch of the vintage quilt without any objects.  Because I put a layer of netting over the quilt, I was worried about these otherwise "blank" areas.  I worried that the netting would be obvious.  My solution was to add more quilting lines in six-strand embroidery floss.  It worked!  The netting becomes nearly invisible!  The two layers are united!

(Above:  Detail of the Found Object Tidal Wave.)

Like several of my Found Object Mandalas, this piece is rather heavy.  To distribute the weight, the quilt was stapled to a stretcher bar over which I glued a piece of acid-free foam-centered board.  I then spent hours and hours stitching through the foam-centered board and quilt ... uniting these layers and making sure that no section of the piece is supporting more than a two to three inch square of the whole.

(Above:  The sign in front of our newly purchased church.)

Now ... to show the sign outside our newly purchased church.  This sacred place will become our home and my studio after extensive renovations are made by our contractor.  This past weekend, Steve and I decided to remove the metal sign for the Hispanic Baptist congregation that used the place until 2018.  (After that, the building sat unused.)  We were really surprised to find a slab of marble underneath the metal sign.  My original thought was to order a new metal sign and screw it into the same wooden slats.  Now, however, I'm rethinking the idea.  I really want the place name, Cateechee, to show.  So ... on our next visit we will have a better screwdriver to attempt removing the wooden slats.  Perhaps a smaller wooden frame can be erected so that a smaller, metal sign can to added to cover only the lower words ... something to say Mouse House Fiber Art Studio!

(Above:  The 30' dumpster ... already filled with the debris left in the building, old duct work, older ceiling tiles, and various other "junk" that needs to be removed so that the renovations can more forward.)

We were happy to see the 30' dumpster, the port-a-pot for the contractor's team, and the headway made toward the renovations.  We also met with our architect, JaneAnn Bolin of Wildflower Design Studio.  More measurements were made, electrical plans are underway, and things are really beginning to happen.  Our hope is still to be moved by Christmas!

(Above:  Steve at Blue Ghost Brewery)

Before going to our church, we delivered artwork to the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville and celebrated the day at Blue Ghost Brewery for lunch.  I hope to have more successful weekends like this!

Sunday, July 09, 2023

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! Retirement and a move to a new location.


For several years I've been telling Steve that I wanted to retire from custom picture framing to live in a giant warehouse that would function as my home and studio. It was a dream. I never thought Steve would agree, but he surprised me last December by locating a property outside Central, South Carolina. It's not a warehouse. It the former Cateechee Textile Mill Village's old brick church. The church hasn't been used since 2018. We made an offer. "Due diligence" took longer than anticipated in order to secure a clear title, a survey, find an architect and contractor, figure out the cost for renovations, and line up financing. 

 A couple weeks ago, we signed closing documents! Last week, the church got its new roof! In four to six months, the place will have a new, beautiful living area where Sunday school rooms and offices once were. The hardwood floored sanctuary will serve as my studio and storage area. We hope to be relocated in time for Christmas. What a celebration that will be! 

(Above:  Selfie with Steve ... taken from the choir loft and looking down into that sanctuary which will become MY STUDIO!)

Today is the official announcement!  Why?  Well, this coming Friday is Bastille Day, my personal day of independence!  Why?  Well, in 2001 on the French Day of Independence, we started down-sizing Mouse House (established in 1987). Back in 2001, we had fourteen on payroll and worked twelve to fourteen hour days, seven days a week, fifty weeks a year. Since that time, its been just Steve and me. 

It is now time for our next great adventure! So, it is fitting to start selling custom framed mirrors, antiquarian prints, and lots of my older artwork plus many pieces in our personal art collection.  (My Found Object Mandalas, In Box Series, and Fiber Stained Glass pieces are NOT on sale.  They have gallery representation!)

(Above:  Image from our contractor's drone taken after the old shingles were removed and before the new ones were installed!

Now that this announcement has been made, please check back.  I will be blogging about this experience to relocate to 320 North Church Street, Central, SC 29630.  (For those of you who aren't familiar with this part of South Carolina ... well ... it is eleven miles from Clemson.  Steve and I have no intention of cheering for those "Clemson Kitty Cats".  We will remain loyal to The Ohio State University Buckeyes!

Saturday, July 08, 2023

Passing My Goal for 100 Pieces!

(Above:  The Patchwork Installation, in boxes and waiting for my solo show at the Imperial Centre Art Gallery in Rocky Mount, NC.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I'm busy ... and excited ... ahead of schedule ... and most of all LOVING this series!  The goal was to create at least one hundred units for the Patchwork Installation.  My imagination already sees them hanging at the Imperial Centre Art Gallery in Rocky Mount, NC.  They will be abutting one another while meandering up-and-down and around the gallery walls in my solo show, Once & Again: Alterations, which opens on September 1st.  .

(Above:  One of the pieces being stitched while I ride in our cargo van.)

Originally, the goal seemed too lofty, impossible, and totally insane ... but that's not how the effort has progressed.  I am deeply committed to this project.  Turning the scraps of vintage textiles and lace and doilies has proved to be WONDERFUL!  I love this!  I adore giving "second life" to these bits and pieces.  I've even stitched on some while riding in our cargo van!

As a result of the many hours of hand-stitching, I passed the 100 mark this week ... but I'm not quitting.  More pieces will come into existence if for no better reason than I have time to make them.  So ... scroll down to see the ones finished this week.  There will be more!