Sunday, December 24, 2023

Last Day of Accepting Framing at Mouse House and News from the Church!

Last Friday, December 22nd was the final day during which Steve and I accepted custom picture framing orders at Mouse House.  The last week was CRAZY!  At the end of the day on Friday, we threw out all our mat board and moulding corner samples.  After 35+ years, we are finally in the process of retiring!  Okay ... we now have a mountain of work to tackle, work that came in during the last few days.  So, Mouse House will remain open with regular weekday hours, 9:30 - 5:00 until at least mid-January.  Yet, every day brings us a little closer to moving into the Cateechee Mill Village church outside Central, South Carolina (which is about eleven miles from the better known city, Clemson!)


I'm writing this blog post after Steve and I visited the church today ... Christmas Eve.  We are truly grateful for this opportunity, for the many friends and clients who frequented Mouse House over the many years (decades!), for the abundance in our lives, and especially for the wide, open sanctuary that will soon be my sacred fiber arts studio.  The floor is fabulous ... especially ...

... since all the pews found a new home!

They all went to a wedding chapel that is being built outside Blythewood, South Carolina!  It took a six man crew and five trailers to haul them away.  (Okay ... I admit it!  Steve and I kept the only two short pews.  The others were all one-inch shy of fifteen feet in length ... except the ones in the loft which were twelve feet and eight inches long!)

The removal of the pews meant that Steve and I can move more and more things into the sanctuary ...

... including tubs of yarn, the start of my Cascade Installation, The Cocoon, The Clothesline, three of our bookcases, dozens of boxes of books, and all sorts of other things.  Everything, however, is being protected because there will be some work done in this space which will cause dust!  After snapping the photo above, the wedding gowns were securely covered with a giant tarp.  My hope is that during the coming year, all the wedding dresses will be transformed into a small circus tent.  After all ... isn't a wedding a circus? LOL!  My desire to work BIGGER is truly one of the more important reasons for this move ... plus ... I can't retire from framing and stay living above Mouse House.  After 35+ years, people would still come and it would be SO HARD to say "No more framing"!
The progress in the living area is also moving forward.  Appliances arrive on January 2nd and the custom kitchen cabinets will be installed on the 16th.  This past week included replacing floor boards!  It is super exciting and I promise to blog more soon!

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Kinsfolk, a new series

(Above:  Kinsfolk I - VI.  Individually framed: 25 1/2" x 21".  Original, antique "charcoal" photographs surrounded by parts of an antique crazy quilt with embellishments and hand embroidery.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Lots of people have portraits of long gone relatives that appear to be very accurately drawn in charcoal.  They are frequently in ornate Victorian (often 20" x 16") frames or under convex glass (often 20" x 14").  Guess what?  That aren't original drawings; THEY ARE PHOTOGRAPHS!  Sometimes this type of photographic image is called a "crayon portrait" and other times it is called a "charcoal portrait" because they were enhanced after being photographically printed. The first step was photographic in nature.

(Above:  Kinsfolk I.)

These pictures were produced by a solar enlargement process in the late 19th and early 20th century.  One needs to know a little bit about the early days of photography to understand why these pictures became so popular.  Photography was largely experimental in the 18th century but by the mid-19th century the process had evolved to the point where glass negatives were placed in direct contact with chemically treated paper.  When exposed to light, an image was made.

(Above: Detail of Kinsfolk I.)

Yet, this meant that the images were only the size of the negative.  Sure ... some of the glass negatives were 4" x 6" to 8" x 10" but that's a rather bulky and expensive way to get a bigger picture ... especially if you wanted the picture to appear like a proper, aristocratic oil portrait.  Many people in the growing "middle class" wanted LARGE portraits but didn't have access or the means for expensive oil paintings.  So, solar enlargers were then invented.  It was a way to use sunlight to project the smaller negative onto a larger piece of treated paper.

(Above:  Kinsfolk II.)

Of course, there were problems with this process.  Flaws in the glass were also enlarged.  The edges became blurry (just like enlarging the small number of pixels on a Facebook picture if attempting to print an 8" x 10" picture!)  Early on, the resulting image was also prone to fading.  Adding crayon, charcoal and pastels became the norm.  This also made the images look more realistic, detailed, and closer to the look of an oil painting.  Even as this process improved during the early 20th century, retouching them was popular.  The retouching provided superior detail and color.

(Above: Detail of Kinsfolk II.)

Before the retouching, the photograph-on-paper was first mounted to a support made of thicker paper board or even canvas.  Between 1880 and 1930, it was popular for the images to be mounted to convex molded paper boards.  Over time, all these substrata became brittle and were prone to cracking.  Over time, families often forgot the names of their then deceased relative and/or the images were damaged ... frequently with a water stain, a missing corner, or a crack that impacted the sitter's face.

(Above:  Kinsfolk III.)

I've used several such "anonymous" portraits in my installation Anonymous Ancestors.    Anonymous Ancestors is currently at the Morris Center of Lowcountry Heritage in Ridgeland, South Carolina until February 17th.  I haven't secured another venue for it.  Plus, there's already over 300 framed pieces.  (Click HERE for a blog post showing how this installation looked while on view at City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Charleston.)  The truth is that I don't need more pieces for Anonymous Ancestors but I couldn't resist these portraits.  I knew I wanted to "do something" different ... but what?

(Above: Detail of Kinsfolk III.)

From the recesses of my brain, I remember the cover of Surface Design Association's Summer 2012 quarterly magazine.  (Click HERE to see it.)  I don't really remember the article at all, just the idea of stitching on old portraits. Of course, I didn't want to copy this artist; I wanted to stitch "in my own, personal way" but didn't know what that "way" even was until the first of these four portraits (the black-and-white ones) were donated to my stash.  All of a sudden, I knew!  I even had the crazy quilt to use!  Then, I got one of the colored portraits at Bill Mishoe's auction and a framing client donated the other, colored lady!

(Above:  Kinsfolk IV.)

Each of the portraits was fused to upholstery material in my dry mount press.  This was stapled to a stretcher bar.  Next, I pinned a section of the crazy quilt over the surface.  Little by little, I cut from the center to expose the head and part of the upper chest.  A piece of soft orange bridal tulle (fine netting) was then pinned over the entire surface.  This netting protects the fragile places in the crazy quilt and gives the portraits a warm cast.  I stitched flat, red African beads cut from vintage vinyl records around the opening and then added plenty of hand-stitching and embellishments.  The original crazy quilt wasn't particularly decorative.  So, my stitching blends with the original and integrates the netting into the surface.  Finally, I pinned the pieces to acid-free foam-centered board and put them into barnwood black frames.  I'm really please with this series and am now looking for a couple more portraits because I still have enough of the crazy quilt to do at least two more!

(Above:  Detail of Kinsfolk IV.)

 Further below are more images of these new pieces! Enjoy!

(Above:  Kinsfolk V.)


(Above: Detail of Kinsfolk V.)


(Above:  Kinsfolk VI.)


(Above: Detail of  Kinsfolk VI.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2023


(Above:  Mandala CLXXIII. Custom framed: 20" x 20".  Found objects hand stitched to the back side of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: A red vinyl 45; vintage scissors; ballpark seat tags; red checkers; four, vintage diecast cars; gold and brass belt buckles; and assorted buttons. $325. Click on either image to enlarge.)

Lots of things came together for this Found Object Mandala.  First, I had a stick of wide, black linen liner in the closet near my sales counter.  Why it was in the closet and not the garage is anyone's guess.  Recently, I cleared out the closet.  After all, we will hopefully be moving into the renovated church at the end of January.  It's high time to investigate closets, under beds, the pantry, etc.  Well ... I asked Steve to cut and build it into the largest square possible.  He did.  Then, I started looking around for "something" that would be a great focal point for a Found Object Mandala that would fit into the liner.  Because the liner is rather wide, I wanted something proportional, something "big".  I wasn't having any luck until Steve suggested the red vinyl 45.  He had saved five of them for a future Found Object Mandala ... but not in the mess-of-a-room where my stash is stored.  Basically ... I started with two things that weren't in their proper locations. 

At that point, I remembered the donated of ball park seat tags but couldn't find them. The nice lady who gave them to me came in person.  We looked at them while standing beside my dry mount press.  It was well over a year ago.  I'd looked for them on several occasions and actually thought I lost them somewhere in that mess-of-a-room where my stash is stored ... but NO!  I found them ... still right beside the dry mount.  For over a year, I simply overlooked the Altoids tin in which they were put.  So ... one more thing that wasn't in its proper place was used.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CLXXIII.)

I'm guessing that the ball park seat tags were "lost" because they were simply waiting to be used on this piece.  I also used the back side of the vintage quilt ... all blue.  The diecast model cars came from a thrift shop in Florida.  They were well loved!  The silver belt buckles also came from another thrift shop in Florida.  I drilled holes in the black linen liner to stitch them in place.  All in all, I'm rather pleased with this Found Object Mandala, especially since it incorporated so many "lost" and now truly "found" parts!