Monday, August 28, 2023

Autumn Palette Commission

(Above:  In Box CDXXXV.  Custom framed: 30" x 49 1/2". Layers of polyester stretch velvet fused and stitched on recycled, black industrial felt with unique melting techniques.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

During the last few weeks, I've been working on a wonderful commission!  The nice lady who requested it wanted an autumn palette of mossy greens, rust, orange, and mustard yellows.  Thankfully, these are among my favorite colors too!  We also corresponded about the size she needed.  Once everything was settled, I went to work.

(Above: Squares and rectangles of polyester stretch velvet previously backed with WonderUnder/Pellon 805.)

Believe it or not, there are nineteen different colors of polyester stretch velvet in this piece.  All my polyester stretch velvet is previously backed with WonderUnder/Pellon 805, a heat-activated fabric adhesive.  Obviously, I buy it by the bolt and at wholesale prices.

(Above:  The foundation layer.)

The finished size of the framed artwork was to be 30" x 49 1/2".  Why?  Well ... after subtracting the width of the selected, narrow frame, the needed UV filtering/anti-reflective glass would be 28 1/2" x 48".  I advised my client that anything over that 48" length would run into "big bucks".  Leaving approximately two inches of mat board showing around the artwork meant that the artwork needed to be 24 1/2" x 44".  That's the size of the work in all these images!

(Above:  Lots and lots of smaller rectangles and squares were fused onto the foundation layer.)

After the foundation layer is firmly ironed to the recycled, black industrial felt, I start cutting smaller and smaller pieces of polyester stretch velvet to them.  Some of the shapes have as many as five layers!  Everything is fused together using a hot iron. A piece of silicone treated paper protects the fabric from the ironing.

(Above:  Strips of sheer chiffon scarves and bridal tulle/netting are added.)

Next comes another layer of WonderUnder/Pellon 805 over the entire piece.  This heat-activated adhesive fuses strips of sheer chiffon and bridal tulle/netting in place.  I like these strips of sheer fabric for two important reasons.  1) The shifting hues produce a more complex coloration. 2) The sheers provide a smooth surface over which my sewing machine can more easily navigate. The foot of my machine is less likely to get caught between the many layers of polyester stretch velvet.  Then ... I stitch like crazy ... free motion style!  I use a Babylock Tiara with black 100% cotton thread.  That thread is the only natural in the entire artwork. Everything else is a synthetic.  I stitch individual motifs on every square and rectangle.  More importantly, I stitch back-and-forth to link every shape to its neighboring shapes.  These little stitched "bridges" go over the space between the shapes ... the space where the felt is still visible.  

(Above:  The artwork stapled to a stretcher bar.)

At this point, the artwork is stapled to a stretcher bar and taken to the garage.  I put on my ventilator mask because the fumes from melting polyester are harmful.

(Above:  Melting a hole with a small soldering iron.)

I use two sizes of soldering irons to melt holes through the polyester stretch velvet.  In the photo above, the little "bridges" are very obvious.  They are totally important because ...

(Above:  Melting the space between the shapes using an industrial heat gun.)

... in the final step, I aim my industrial heat gun at the space between the shapes.  The felt melts in a matter of a second or two.  The shapes are held together because the cotton thread doesn't melt!  Synthetics melt; naturals don't melt.  I melt from the back side because the material tends to curl in that direction.  It is important to melt from the middle to the edges ... because once you melt the edges, the piece falls out of the stretcher bar!

(Above:  Hand-stitching the artwork to an acid-free mat board.)

The artwork is hand-stitched to a piece of acid-free mat board and then fit into its frame.  Strips of foam-centered board are glued to the interior side of the frame to hold the glass away from the artwork.

(Above:  The finished piece!)

Today, the client picked up the finished artwork!  Today was a great day!

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Lost & Found XI

(Above:  Lost & Found XI.  19" x 21".  Found objects hand-stitched to a section of an antique quilt. Found objects include a hand mirror; Christmas tree light reflectors; casino chips; gold flatware; hair curlers; small dominoes; screw eyes; Barbie doll clothes hangers; paint brushes; off-white, flower-shaped washers; Princess phone key chain rings; beads and assorted buttons.  Click on image to enlarge.)

This is the first time I've used the back of a quilt as my foundation for found objects. I started using the "front" but just didn't like it.  I auditioned other pieces of quilts but didn't like them either.  Finally, I flipped the first piece over.  Perfection!  I'm really pleased with the results and might do it again in the future. 

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Mandala CLXIX

(Above:  Mandala CLXIX.  25 3/4" x 25 3/4". Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt.  Found objects include:  A decorative double outlet switch plate; a trivet; salad forks and demitasse spoons; mascara wands; jingle bells; bottle caps; Tinker Toy connectors; keys; can pull tabs; yellow plastic lids; capacitors; assorted buttons. Click any image to enlarge.)

It's been over a year since I met a nice lady who volunteers with Wands for Wildlife, a non-profit based in western North Carolina.  She told me about the organization and the amazing art education projects that use old mascara wands.  She said she would send me an assortment.  Well ... she did!  At first, I was hesitant about opening the box.  After all, I thought there would be smears of old mascara everywhere ... but NO!  All the wands were perfectly cleaned and many had never been used.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CLXIX.)

It seems that cosmetic companies donate unused and discontinued wands.  Some of the wands are used to assist wildlife caregivers remove fly larva from small, furry mammals (like a mouse or a baby rabbit) and others to reach difficult places ... like the underside of a turtle's shell. 

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CLXIX.)

Wands for Wildlife now has so many wands that they can't accept more, but they have great ideas for using the ones they have and great ideas for how others can use old wands to benefit wildlife.  I'm just happy that some of them ended up on this Found Object Mandala.  Because I now have so many, I'm sure future pieces will also incorporate more wands!


Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Another, hand-stitched In Box!

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

When riding in the car or cargo van for any distance of sixty miles or more, I am generally hand-stitching. Sometimes I'm working on Christmas ornaments.  Sometimes, I'm seed stitching the background of an art quilt.  Sometimes I'm stitching layers of polyester stretch velvet fused to recycled, black industrial felt.  That last one has occupied my recent trips.  More of these hand-stitched In Box pieces are in my future.  Why?  Well ... I've had a bunch of wonderful art commitments recently and have several more in the coming weeks.  So, I've been riding and stitching!  Plus, Steve and I are trying to visit the church we bought every couple weeks.  It's just over two hours away!  That means ... more riding and more stitching!

(Above:  In Box CDXXXIV.  Framed: 20" x 16".  Totally hand-stitched and then exposed to intense heat, my signature "melting technique".)

On Friday, Steve and I will be attending the reception for The Gap Between Art and Life, the inaugural installation art biannual at the College of Central Florida in Ocala.  I have three works in this exhibit. We continue on to my Artist Talk at the Morris Center for Lowcountry Heritage in Ridgeland, SC.  On the 31st, we will deliver my solo show to Rocky Mount's Imperial Centre in North Carolina ... and then it is back to Florida for another Artist Talk on September 6th!  That's plenty of time for riding and stitching!

(Above:  Detail of In Box CDXXXIV.)

Recently, I finished a similar piece.  It was blogged HERE.  It was also shared to social media.  As a result, a nice lady in Washington State purchased it.  Another wonderful woman in New York inquired just after the sale happened.  I promised her "first refusal" on this work.  This morning, she bought it!  I'm totally over the moon about this.  I'm also already stitching the next one.  


(Above:  Steve and I during our most recent visit to our future home/fiber art studio in the old Cateechee Mill Village's brick church!)

I started the next hand-stitched In Box piece on the drive to and from Cateechee!  We were thrilled to see two more openings cut between the second floor of the "home area" (former Sunday school rooms and church offices) and the sanctuary.  The two narrower but taller openings will be for the stained glass we already own and have enjoyed in our current living room.  We thought we would have to leave them with Mouse House.  Now, however, they will be moving too!

(Above:  The opening for one of our two stained glass pieces!)

Friday, August 18, 2023

Tidal Wave II

(Above:  Tidal Wave II.  Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt.  Custom framed: 39 1/2" x 39 1/2".  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I had so much fun stitching the first Tidal Wave that I was eager to create another.  Since I had more of the same, well worn, vintage quilt, I thought I would stitch a mirror image.  Of course, I hadn't kept the large piece of paper on which I drew the first wave outline.  So, this one really isn't a mirror image.  The wave is simply headed in the opposite direction.  Thankfully, I have an enormous stash of found "stuff".  Between the two tidal waves, I have managed to put a small dent in the collection.  The room in which I store my found objects is still a disaster area though.  Perhaps another tidal wave!

(Above:  Detail of Tidal Wave II.)

Like the first piece, this work provides a place for many unusual and often obsolete things, especially things that I don't have in multiples for a Found Object Mandala.  Like the first piece, this work is also a response to the problems of ocean pollution.  This has been one of my concerns for years and years.  Yet this week, I'm like most people.  I'm thinking about a disaster of another nature ... wildfires ... especially as the death toll climbs on Maui.  I haven't figured out an appropriate way to turn these horrible events into a visual expression but I am thinking about tornadoes. 

(Above:  Detail of Tidal Wave II.)

A tornado is another disaster that sends objects in every direction.  When one hits a town, news channels film the aftermath, the scattered debris that was once treasured.  My mind is thinking about button outlines and random found objects.  The vision is still very foggy.  So, it's an idea that may or may not become a reality.  As long as I continue to have such an assortment of "stuff", I might as well consider other ways to use them!

(Above:  The back of Tidal Wave II.)

Like Tidal Wave I, this new piece is very heavy.  I spent nearly a full day mounting it.  The photo above shows the backside.  It shows the stretcher bar to which I glued a piece of acid-free foam-centered board.  A strong, doubled thread was then stitched through the foam-centered board and the quilt, generally through one of the holes in one of the objects.  In this way, the weight of the objects is distributed.  No part is required to carry the weight of more than an inch or two.  Everything is firmly attached to both the quilt and this substrata. 

(Above and further below ... more detail images of Tidal Wave II.)


Thursday, August 10, 2023

The End (at least according to Steve!) of my Patchwork Installation!

(Above:  The last piece in my Patchwork Installation.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

From the start of this project, my goal was to stitch one hundred units for the installation.  It seemed like an impossible number.  It wasn't.  This piece brings the total to 123.  At this point, Steve said, "You need to stop this!"  Please know, he wasn't being unsupportive.  He wasn't trying to stifle my creativity.  He certainly knows that I have more than enough vintage textile scraps to stitch more than another hundred. He was, however, looking at the overflowing boxes containing this series and wondering exactly how I am going to get it all in the cargo van with the rest of the artwork that is headed to my solo show at the Imperial Centre in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  Seriously, storage is an issue and the available space in the cargo van is limited!  So ... I've stopped (at least temporarily!  In another few months, I'll show Steve some beautiful scraps and he'll think it was his idea that I stitch up more pieces! LOL!)  

The exhibit is called Once & Again: Alterations.  It opens on September 15th and there will be a public reception on Sunday, September 24 from 2 - 4.  In addition to the Patchwork Installation, I will be showing all four Sun Bonnet Sue series:  The Feminist To Do List, Sue's Environmental To Do List, Sue Goes to the Protest, and Sue's Thank You Notes ... plus Crazy (In the Millennial Era), The Clothesline, and several Found Object Mandalas.  If there's room, I have a few more pieces I'd like to take too.  The provided space can handle more!

The last piece is special! (It's the first one in this blog post.) I saved the red-and-white quilted block for just this milestone.  It was stitched by my Oma Lenz and given to my cousin Monika.  Monika has followed the progression of this installation and sent it to me.  (It had been a pillow!)  Oma Lenz was from "the Old World", born and raised in rural Hungary where girls weren't educated past fifth or sixth grade.  They were taught other things ... like how to plant flax seeds and then harvest it ... and then go through the retting process ... and then scrap it ... and finally spin it so that it could go to the weaver's shop.  (Click here for an excellent article explaining how linen is made!)  Oma did not do her own weaving.  She was busy cooking, cleaning, keeping detailed financial ledgers, and taking care of the household with three boys ... without indoor plumbing other than a rooftop installed rain water cistern.  Oma Lenz could sew anything, crochet anything, knit anything ... all without a pattern.  Her apfelstrudel was better than anything from a bakery.  She died in December 1977.  Sadly, this was before I found myself addicted to needlework ... though years earlier, Oma Lenz did get my through my Girl Scout sewing badge.  I was touched to receive her quilt block and truly loved incorporating my stitching with hers.

I will not be selling this last piece but the other 122 will be available after the show in Rocky Mount.  Steve and I have discussed pricing multiple times.  We've decided on one-dollar per square inch ... even if these pieces are sold through an exhibit or gallery taking a commission.  For me, it is far better to have these pieces find permanent homes than to stay with me.  I'm guessing that's what Monika felt when she mailed Oma Lenz's quilt block to me.  I'm guessing Oma Lenz would approve too!

The installation plan is to hang these pieces randomly abutting one another ... up-and-down and literally around the gallery walls like a meandering stream of textiles.  I can envision it and am hopeful that what my mind sees comes to life! One way or the other, I'll be taking a video and lots of pictures of this installation and then figuring out how to sell from there. 

Lots and lots of people have contributed to this installation by donating lace, well worn quilts, lengths of fancy trim, and appliqued butterflies, etc.  THANK YOU ... all of you! 

Now I have to admit something!  I thought I had already blogged the pieces that were finished at the end of July.  I shared them to Facebook.  I shared them to Instagram.  But, I forgot to blog them!  Trying to keep up with art correspondence, social media, blogging, working as a custom picture framer, mounting a solo show at the Morris Center and then having three installations at the College of Central Florida, plus the excitement of our future move into a renovated church ... well ... Sorry I forgot!  Truly, I am sorry.  As much as I enjoy the speed and reach of social media, I love my blog the best. 

One of the most important reasons for my blog is the ability to link various posts.  Just last week I was contacted by the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum in Carrollton, GA for an October solo show.  It was an unexpected opening in the schedule.  They looked at my website and knew that my work in Central Florida would be ending.  Without really knowing what the work even was, they asked if I could bring it to Carrollton.  It was SO WONDERFUL to quickly write back and link the blog post I wrote ... with images that are twice the size of the compression for pictures on social media.  With a clear understanding between us, I am now expecting a contract tomorrow!  I can't number the times when linking a blog post has saved me time and provided the right information to someone else.  I promise to keep blogging ... even if I forget sometimes!  Now ... just scroll down for the pieces finished at the end of July!


Monday, August 07, 2023


(Above:  Me holding In Box CDXXXIII.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

For the ride to and from the installation at Central Florida, I constructed a small In Box Series piece to stitch.  Most in this long, on-going series are free-motion machine stitched with 100% black cotton thread but occasionally, I do this!  These are much more colorful and a great way to spend time in the cargo van!  (By the way, if you missed the installation at Central Florida, CLICK HERE.  It was a great opportunity!

(Above:  In Box CDXXXIII.  Framed: 20" x 16". Layers of polyester stretch velvet fused on recycled, black industrial felt.  Hand-stitched with assorted DMC thread and then exposed to intense heat. $375 plus SC sales tax and shipping.)

Amazingly, the size was perfect for the ride.  I finished about twenty miles from home!  I might have to stitch another one when it comes time to return and de-install my artwork!

(Above:  Detail of In Box CDXXXIII.)

By the way, anyone interested in learning my unique melting techniques should consider attending the Hudson River Valley Workshops in December.  It's a fabulous facility with 24/7 access to a great studio, gourmet meals together, and plenty of time for conversations on art, life, inspirations, and fiber experimentation!

Friday, August 04, 2023

Springtime in Noxubee for the Dept. of Interior's permanent art collection

(Above:  Me holding Springtime in Noxubee.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

My 2023 art residency at the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee Nation Refuge in Mississippi was a wonderful experience and I blogged about it in several posts from this past March. My donation to the refuge's permanent art collection was sent in late April.  I called it Springtime in Noxubee.  (I blogged about it HERE.)

(Above:  Springtime in Noxubee ... for the Department of Interior's permanent art collection!  Framed:  24" x 24". Layers of polyester stretch velvet fused together and on recycled, black industrial felt.  The work was free-motion, machine embroidered with 100% black cotton thread and then exposed to the intense heat from a heat gun.  This process melted the space between the polyester shapes.  The cotton thread, however, doesn't melt but holds the shapes together.)

After the artwork arrived back at the refuge, I was asked if I would create another piece as the representative of the refuge for the Department of Interior's permanent art collection!  What an honor!  Of course I said YES!  

(Above:  Detail of Springtime in Noxubee.)

During a teleconference call with representatives from the Department of Interior, two ideal outer frame measurements were suggested.  I picked 24" x 24" and went about making the artwork to fit inside.  Though I didn't have to frame the work, I wanted to do this ... and as a professional framer since 1987, I could assure them that my products were all conservation quality.  Steve even used museum glass on the donation.  I did this because they agreed to let us deliver the artwork and to give us a tour of the collection!  Now ... to start that correspondence!  I can hardly wait to get to DC and be the proud artist representing this very special location!

I will include the same statement with this piece that I provided to Noxubee's permanent art collection:

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.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

Installations at the College of Central Florida

(Above:  Selfie with gallery coordinator Amanda Lyon at the College of Central Florida's Webber Gallery.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

It was quite a thrill to learn my installations were accepted into the inaugural installation art biannual, an exhibit titled The Gap Between Art and Life. Eight diverse artworks by only four different artists were selected from the 89 submissions.  Leslie Hammond, president of Artistic Eye Fine Art Services, and Victoria Billig, assistant director of the Appleton Museum of Art, made up the jury panel.  Amazingly, three of installations were mine!  Steve and I drove to the Webber Gallery on the College of Central Florida's campus in Ocala on Monday.  We were up early and arrived around 12:30 pm.  Four hours later, the space had been transformed!

(Above:  Part of The Clothesline and the outside corner of The Cocoon.)

The exhibition will open Monday, August. 7.  It will be on view until Thursday, September. 7.  Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. There's going to be a free opening reception on Friday, August 25th at 5 p.m., and Steve and I will be there!

(Above:  One outside corner of The Cocoon with The Loss Installation in the background.)

Installing The Cocoon was pure joy.  The Webber Gallery provided a perfectly wonderful, large space.  The Cocoon has only been shown twice before ... once at the conclusion of a 2018, five-week art residency at the Rensing Center. This was a special opportunity because South Carolina's ETV came and produced a fantastic, seven-and-a-half minute segment.  CLICK HERE to view!  Yet, the truth of the matter is that the Rensing Center's library was really too small for the entire structure.  The only other time The Cocoon was on view was during the 2021 ArtFields competition.  I took a video that time ... but again ... the selected space was truthfully too small for my original vision.

(Above:  The Loss Installation.)

The Loss Installation has only been shown once.  It was part of the 2019 701 CCA biennial in South Carolina.  Sure, the two smallest garments have been in various juried shows as "stand alone" pieces that speak to miscarriages and stillbirths, etc.  Yet, the entire grouping is much more powerful.  It speaks to all sorts of loss ... from crib death to estrangement to the loss of a mother by dementia.

(Above:  Part of The Clothesline.)

My third installation for this exhibit is The Clothesline. This on-going project started in 2020 during an art residency with the Springfield Arts Association. It has grown ever since and even become my public engagement project at both Great Basin and Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  Part was shown at Wildflowers, an art gallery in Barnegat Light in New Jersey and part of it was in my solo show Once & Again: Alterations at Piedmont Arts, a regional museum in Virginia.  

At this point, I could likely hang a clothesline to surround a football field!  Earlier this year, my husband Steve had to gently tell me to "STOP" making more items for this installation!  (Recently, he has expressed concern over my newest obsession.  My Patchwork Installation now has more than 120 pieces.  My goal was only 100!)

The Patchwork Installation will be going to the Imperial Centre in Rocky Mount, NC for my solo show there.  More of The Clothesline will be there too.  I'm betting that between the two shows, I'll be able to hang at least half the collection! LOL!  Obviously there's an obsessive compulsive streak in many of my projects!

Finally ... I am in debt to the South Carolina Arts Commission for their support!  A grant helped me offset the costs of making The Cocoon.  The installation is built on a typical convention center pipe-and-drape system and has about thirty, heavy-duty drapery hangers and a heavy-duty rolling garment rack.  These things cost plenty and I am grateful for the assistance!

Continue scrolling down for more images of these three installations!