Monday, October 16, 2017

Freiheit I and II

 (Above:  Freiheit I and II drying in the garage.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

An idea for a new series surfaced months ago when I wondered about pouring epoxy (one of my favorite substances for experimentation) over the layers of polyester stretch velvet with which I normally work.  Experimentation happened over the summer as I created Celestial Orbs, an installation that is currently on view in my solo show at Waterworks Visual Art Center in Salisbury, NC. 

 (Above:  Freiheit I and II, framed and leaning against a big mirror in my home gallery.)

That installation went very, very well.  I learned a lot about sealing the porous surface of my material and the best way to pour the epoxy ... but I wasn't really satisfied.  Somehow or the other, I wanted MORE!  I wanted a series on which I could continue to work.  After all, the original idea wasn't really to make shiny circles but to pour epoxy over work that looked more like In Box CCLXXXIII.

(Above:  In Box CCLXXXIII and me ... back in January.)

When I made In Box CCLXXXIII, I knew I was channeling my inspiration from Gustav Klimt.  I didn't know if I could successfully emulate this piece but I wanted to try ... plus experiment with the epoxy. 

 (Above:  Freiheit I and II drying in the garage.)

The last week or so provided a bit time to try ... to start ... to seal the surface with fabric stiffener ... to glue the piece to mat board ... to attach them to stretcher bars ... and to pour the epoxy!

  (Above:  Freiheit I and II drying in the garage.)

Now ... photographing the shiny surface is really, really hard but I'm very, very pleased with the resulting work.  I have learned a few other things too.  Future pieces will manage to be the same size as one another, and I will not be gluing them to mat board and a stretcher bar.  Instead, I'm going to try Masonite. (There was some slight warping due to the moisture of the glue and the flexibility of the mat board.  I was able to solve this problem. But since I want to make even large pieces, Masonite will eliminate any future issue.)
 (Above:  Freiheit I.  Framed:  31 1/4" x 19 1/4". Inventory # 4098. $625.)

Naming this new series was hard.  My husband Steve and I will probably continue calling them "the Klimt-like" work but that is a terrible name!  (The explanation for this is in the blog post about In Box CCLXXXIII.)  I researched Gustav Klimt, the Wiener Werkstatt, and the Vienna Secession ... looking for a title, something suggestive of my inspiration without trying to imply a specific genre. 

 (Above:  Freitheit II.  Framed:  32 1/4" x 20 1/2".  Inventory # 4099. $695.)

For several days I considered Ver Sacrum, ("Sacred Spring" in Latin) and the name of the official magazine of the Vienna Secession, published from 1989 to 1903.  Something was just not right about it. 

  (Above:  Freitheit II, detail.)

This morning, I went back to my saved Internet sites.  Almost immediately I read: Der Zeit ihre Kunst. Der Kunst ihre Freiheit.  ("To every age its art. To every art its freedom.")  This is the phrase over the Secession Building in Vienna.

(Above:  The Secession Building in Vienna.)

Freiheit.  Freedom.  Love it!  I love the idea that my work is part of the 21st century but freely inspired by the art of the early 20th.  I love the idea that the artwork I so admire has the freedom to evolve under my sewing machine's needle into the art of today.  The notion of freedom isn't unique to the Vienna Secession.  It might easily apply to the freedom of changing my mind, changing my work, changing my materials.  Love it!

   (Above:  Freitheit II, detail.)

I also love the fact that the material is just slightly underneath the shiny surface.  It has the look of autumn leaves at the bottom of a puddle ... just out of touch ... almost gem-like.  I can't wait to make more!

 (Above:  Valerie Summers giving me a large bag of very carefully sorted letters clipped from magazines.)

I can't jump into production with this new series yet.  I've got other commitments ... like this past Saturday.  I demonstrated "How to Make a Fiber Vessel" at the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville.  It was so much fun.  I also brought a Large Stained Glass piece stapled to its stretcher bars ... ready to be melted.  It can be seen in the background of a video Steve shot.  (CLICK HERE to see the video of me stitching a fiber vessel.  I didn't even know Steve was filming!)  I've got to finish this piece and a couple others first.

 (Above:  Clipped letters donated by Valerie Summers!  THANKS, Valerie!)

The demonstrations went on all day.  I talked about my "Stained Glass" pieces and switched back and forth between my two Bernina sewing machines ... showing how I make cording from skeins of old yarn and how I make the fiber vessels.  One of the people who came was Valerie Summers.  I met Valerie in a workshop I taught at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg.  Valerie brought me an incredible box of vintage household linens and a big bag of letters clipped from magazines!

 (Above:  Wall of Ancestors: Her Today Gone Tomorrow, It's Never Too Late to Live.)

Valerie know all about my obsession with clipped letters.  She's even been to my solo show, Anonymous Ancestors, at the University of South Carolina Upstate's "Gallery on Main".  It's currently on view and I'll be there this Thursday to give a gallery talk at 6:00 pm.

  (Above:  Wall of Ancestors: Her Today Gone Tomorrow, It's Never Too Late to Live, detail.)

The gallery talk is during the monthly art crawl in downtown Spartanburg.  This month is particularly exciting because nearby Converse College is hosting the annual Tri-State Sculptors Conference this week.  Lots of artists are supposed to be out and about on Thursday night.

 (Above:  Wall of Ancestors: Life's Not Fair, Don't Grow Old.)

Like most of my series, I never quite end them.  Despite the fact that Anonymous Ancestors is in a gallery, I'm still making more work for it ... including these two pieces.  The ornate, antique frames came from Bill Mishoe's auction.  The letters were clipped from all sorts of sources, mostly vintage magazines and sheet music.  

 (Above:  Wall of Ancestors: Life's Not Fair, Don't Grow Old, detail.)

On these two pieces, however, I also included a phrase cut directly from pre-1945 Fortune Magazine advertisements.   "Don't Grow Old" and "It's Never Too Late to Live" didn't need their letter's clipped apart.  They are perfect as is!

Monday, October 09, 2017

A busy weekend!

(Above:  Signature block on In Box CCC ... as in THREE HUNDRED!  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I've been spending lots of time in my studio, in the garage melting new work, and in my frame shop finishing up each work's presentation ... but I've also been having fun outside the actual process of making art!  Steve and I had a busy Sunday ... going to a photography show that included a picture of me! ... and attending the South Carolina State Fair where I won an award.

(Above:  Scraps of polyester stretch velvet ... leftovers from making "Stained Glass" fiber artwork.)

First ... my artwork.  Lately I've been making work in my "Stained Glass Series".  There's four different sizes of work, each with an architectural name:  Lancet Windows, Lunette Windows, Windows, and Large Stained Glass.  I go through plenty of polyester stretch velvet when constructing these pieces.  All my velvet already has heat-activated adhesive ironed to the reverse.  (Brand name:  Wonder Under, Pellon 805).  There's time and money wrapped up in all the scraps.  Once the pile gets this size ...

(Above:  Polyester stretch velvet being cut into squares and rectangles.)

... it's time to switch gears!  It's time to cut the scraps into squares and rectangles ... and turn my attention to the "In Box Series."

 (Above:  In Box CCXCIX.  Framed:  19" x 15". $235.)

I've started this series in 2004.  At first, they were all sorts of different sizes.  Occasionally, there would be a variation ... like added beads or acorn caps.  Eventually, I settled on three different framed sizes:  19" x 15", 21" x 17", and 33" x 21".  Yet, I called them all "In Boxes" ... and the number surpassed THREE HUNDRED this week!

  (Above:  In Box CCC.  Framed:  19" x 15". $235.)

These new works will be headed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in November.  I've excited.  Scroll down to see the last two!

(Above: Black and White: Portrait Exhibition by Dalvin Spann and Lee Ann Kornegay. Opening night at 701 Whaley Community Hall.  Photo by Molly Harrell.)

Before finishing the last two, new In Box pieces, Steve and I attended the opening reception for friends Dalvin Spann and Lee Ann Kornegay at the Hallway Gallery inside 701 Whaley Street.  It was amazing!  There were performers, food and drink, and a very excited crowd looking at the various portraits.  Lee Ann, a 57 year old white female, took photos of ten interesting African Americans in our arts community.  Dalvin, a36-year old black man, took photo of ten interesting white members of our arts community ... including me ...

... laying on my studio floor atop my "palette" of polyester stretch velvet!  The fabric doesn't look as hideous as it really does in color!  Unbelievably, the zebra print I draped across myself is actually neon lime green and black with glitter! 

(Above:  Steve and me in the reception ... with a slide show in the background!)

The twenty portraits fit perfectly into the hallway gallery space and will make an excellent welcome for people entering the businesses and 701 Center for Contemporary Art which is on the second floor.  The show stays up through December 10th.  Yet, one of the most wonderful things about the reception was a running slide show featuring many of the images that were NOT framed in the hallway ... including one Dalvin shot of Steve and me in Mouse House!  I think I'll have to contact Dalvin to get a real print of this one!

(Above:  [When Women Were] To Be Seen and Not Heard. Mixed Media art quilt.  30 1/2" x 23" unframed; 33" x 25 3/4" framed.  Assorted 19th century copper-plate and steel engravings on heavy watercolor paper with hand-stitched shirt buttons.)

We left one art reception in time to attend another at the South Carolina State Fair.  Many artists would laugh at the notion of entering a "state fair" but here in South Carolina the award purse tops $24,000.  It would be silly NOT to enter ... especially since I live two miles from the fair grounds and there's no fee.  Each artist can submit two pieces.  One of mine won a $200 merit award!  I'm thrilled!

  (Above:  In Box CCCI.  Framed:  19" x 15". $235.)

After an exciting weekend, I finished the last two, new In Box Series pieces ... and am hard at work making other pieces.  I'll be sharing some soon!

  (Above:  In Box CCCII.  Framed:  19" x 15". $235.)

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Lancet Windows CCVI, CCVII, and CCVIII

(Above:  Lancet Windows CCVI, CCVII, and CCVIII.  Click on image to enlarge.)

In anticipation of November's Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, I finished three more Lancet Windows.  Lancet Windows are my most popular size. Why?  Well, when my mother suggested something "long and skinny", she said most people have such a place in their homes. She must be right!  Thankfully, I love the design challenge.

The two geometric designs were inspired by the many ornate tiled floors in cathedrals and 19th century public buildings in England.  The center piece draws on my background in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, my major in college.  Many ancient churches have lower levels built during the Romanesque period.  Hence, nice curved arches in the nave and side aisles.  Above soar Gothic bays of clerestory windows, emitting lots of light under their pointed arches.

I'm really pleased with these three pieces though photographing them remains "a work in progress".

(Above:  Lancet Window CCVI taped to the front window at Mouse House.)

For these pieces, I lightly taped the top and bottom edge to one of the front windows.  Getting the camera in perfect position is rather easy.  I use the shutters and sill to square the framing of the image.  It isn't precise but it seems to work.  Reflected light, however, might be a bit of a problem but I shoot each one using several different exposures.  Thankfully, I have an old version of PhotoShop to crop and create a collage of the three pieces together.

One more thing!  I'll be giving a gallery talk at USC Upstate's Gallery on Main during the October Art Walk in Spartanburg, SC in my solo show, Anonymous Ancestors.  It will be at 6 PM on the 19th.  I'm very excited because this falls during the 39th Annual 2017 Tri-State Sculptors Conference

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.

Monday, October 02, 2017


(Above:  Corked glass bottles with "transparency" messages.  Click on any image to enlarge.  I am looking for more "messages" as I have 144 bottles to fill!  Email me or leave a comment)

No ... I'm not going to be throwing hundreds of messages-in-bottles into the ocean.  No ... I'm not unduly or emotionally connected to the 1979 song by The Police.  It's all about TRANSPARENCY, and I need help in pulling this project off!  What sort of secrets would be revealed if everyone's life was lived with the transparency generally expected from government?  Send me your answers!

 (Above:  Photo posted to a local Facebook group by Andy Smith.)

It all started when Andy Smith posted this photo on a local Facebook group called "Bartertown". Something about it spoke to me.  I wanted this 16" in diameter glass light fixture immediately.  I wrote a response asking the price or the barter or whatever was needed to make it mine. 

(Andy Smith and one of his recycled scrap metal dinosaurs ... taken from a Jasper Project blog post by Mary Catherine Ballou.)

Andy wrote back with an address.  The light fixture was FREE and would be on his front porch.  I could pick it up at my convenience.  I went right away.  It was on the porch.  So, to the best of my knowledge, I have yet to meet Andy Smith despite the fact that we have plenty in common including roots in Ohio, being self-taught artists, and wanting to give new life to old things.

(Above:  My attempt to capture a close-up image of the glass ... all those lovely bubbles!)

Despite a few chips around the rim, the light fixture is more beautiful than I dared to hope.  It appears to be hand blown with lots and lots of bubbles in the glass.  It sits perfectly on a thicker section with a slight indentation that was probably where the glass was attached to a rod in the process of being blown.  I washed the fixture and let it sit on in my frame shop where I could look at it for a couple of days. 

I asked myself questions.  Q: Why do I love it? A: Hand-crafted  Q: What feature is most impressive? A: Transparency Q: Why is the transparency more impressive in this piece than other glass? A: Because the tiny bubbles make me actually LOOK at the glass, not just through it. Q: Can transparency be the focus of a new piece of art? A: YES!

 (Above:  A case of little glass bottles ordered from SKS Bottle & Packaging.)

I did a little research on the word "transparency".  The definition is very straight forward, but the word is more interesting when paired with "government" and/or "business". 

One on-line definition:
Openness, accountability, and honesty define government transparency. In a free society, transparency is government's obligation to share information with citizens. It is at the heart of how citizens hold their public officials accountable.
Another on-line definition:
Corporate transparency describes the extent to which a corporation's actions are observable by outsiders. ... To increment transparency, corporations infuse greater disclosure, clarity, and accuracy into their communications with stakeholders.

 (Above:  Corks for the little glass jars.)

I started asking myself more questions ... like "How much information is too much?" and "What if I had to be as open as I expect those in government and business to be?" and "What secrets would be revealed if everyone led a totally transparent life?"  That's when I thought of clear glass jars into which I could put note suggesting that level of transparency. 

 (Above:  My light fixture, Micron pens, card stock tags, and messages-in-bottles.)

So far, I've put the following phrases into the first few corked bottles:

Cheated on my income tax
Regularly exceed posted speed limits
Hide liquor bottles
Walked out on a restaurant tab
Lied on a job application
Can't balance my checkbook
Ignored an out-of-state parking ticket
Didn't get caught shop lifting

NO!  I have not done these things (except occasionally the speeding).  No, you don't have to be confessing something if you send me a phrase.  I've always found that asking the public for their impressions results in a more interesting finished artwork.  So, please leave a comment or email me at with suggestions.  I'll post photos when Transparency is finished!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Large Stained Glass LXXXI

 (Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXXI, detail.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

This past week has been very productive!  There are two major reasons.  First, I'm getting ready for the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in November.  Second, my "day job" hasn't needed much work from me.  My husband Steve and I own a business called Mouse House.  We do limited custom picture framing.  The past two weeks were SLOW ... very, very slow ... which meant I had plenty of time in my studio.  Of course, there is a draw back to this scenario.  We aren't making much money.  It is scary but it also an opportunity. 

(Above:  Stained Glass LXXXI.  Framed with crystal clear, anti-reflective glass:  63" x 23". Inventory # 4088. $1300.)

Many of the artists exhibiting in high-end fine craft shows live in hopes that sales will be good.  Many don't have a "day job".  It is a risky life style.  Time is spent differently.  These artists often have more time to explore new ideas and designs.  So, that's what I've been doing too!  I've really enjoyed consulting my 1868 copy of Owen Jones' Grammar of Ornament.  For this piece, I spent quite a bit of time really LOOKING at the details and motifs on this page featuring an Indian pattern.

 (Above:  Owen Jones' Grammar of Ornament, page featuring Indian designs.)

Obviously, I did not sketch out the exact design.  The vase shape is much the same but the rest simply borrows ideas, shapes, and the way curves and angles work together.  I'm very pleased how the finished piece turned out.

 (Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXXI beside the front door at Mouse House.)

In my last blog post, I mentioned photographing my work after it is mounted.  This is how it looks.  The fiber art has been stitched to a piece of over-sized mat board measuring 58" x 18".  That mat board it secured in a black linen liner ... as shown above.  I then position the work on the front porch ... as erect as possible ... sort of clamped to a nearby window jamb. (Not shown above!) My camera is on a tripod.  I work really hard to get the camera's view finder to be centered and square on the artwork.  I take various exposures, hoping one looks best. 

 (Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXXI, detail of top.)

After taking the "full view", I take several detail shots ... like this one of the top ...

... and this one of the middle section ...

... or this one of most of the vase.

Unfortunately, I have no good way to get a better image of the bottom.  It is impossible to keep the camera on the tripod when the bottom supported by the porch!  For smaller pieces, I can position the work on the actual window sill.  Yet ... these less-than-perfect pictures do give an accurate view of how large these pieces really are and also the texture, dimension, and physicality of the work.

By the way, the outer dimensions of the black linen liner are 60" x 20".  This was intentionally done so that an over-sized piece of glass (60" x 40") could be cut into two ... one side for each of two artworks.  The glass is put into an outer frame ... and the linen liner goes in next.  The liner and the frame create a narrow space so that the artwork never comes in contact with the glass.

I am linking this blog post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Large Stained Glass LXXX

 (Above:  Detail of Large Stained Glass LXXX.  Click on either image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Happily, I'm ahead of schedule for the work I want to make for the upcoming Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show!  Plenty more pieces are in various states of progression.  Thus, there will be more blog posts in the coming days.  Today I finished mounting Large Stained Glass LXXX.  Once a piece is mounted to acid-free mat board, I am able to photograph and frame it.

(Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXX.  Inventory # 4087.  63" x 23" framed with crystal-clear, anti-reflective glass.  $1300.)

Once a piece is framed, I make a label for the reverse and enter the work into my inventory book.  When I did this, I realized that LXXX is Roman numerals for EIGHTY!  That's eighty pieces in this very large series.

I couldn't help but to think of the first four.  I remember them very, very well ... from my very first museum show at the Sumter Gallery of Art, Sumter, SC.  That was eleven years ago.  The show was called Blues Chapel.  I started this blog in order "to hold on to some of the wonderful, artistic things that have happened to me".  Back in August 2006, my second blog post included that phrase and a single image from this installation ... showing the first four "Large Stained Glass" pieces.  (Click HERE to read that short post.)

At the time, I knew I'd tied up quite a bit of money framing those first four pieces.  I never thought they'd actually sell.  Selling wasn't the point.  Creating a the sacred feeling of a real chapel was my only intention, but later they did sell.  Even later, I got other shows for Blues Chapel and needed additional "Large Stained Glass" pieces ... depending on the venue, I sometimes needed eight.  Eventually, they were picked up at the Grovewood Gallery and are now important works in my Pro Panel booth at high end craft shows.  Sort of amazing!

Yet, when I realized that I've made eighty pieces in this series over the past eleven years, I also started thinking about time and documentation and writing ... whether on a publicly available platform or in the privacy of my house.  That's when I realized another, important milestone.  I've been writing "Morning Pages" for the past ten years ... since September 25, 2007.

Morning Pages are a daily exercise from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, a twelve step program for creative discovery.  Julia Cameron advised writing three pages of long-hand, stream-of-consciousness thoughts as a way to tap into one's truest, creative self.  I wrote long hand the first time I went through the program (summer 2004).  Then, I stopped writing for a while.  In 2007 I joined another group.  The group didn't last but I knew something good would come from it ... because I started writing Morning Pages again.  This time, however, I cheated and I'm still cheating! LOL!  I type them.

My laptop sits on my dining room table.  After breakfast, I type.  (By the way, I learned to properly type in high school.  I didn't take the one-semester class for college bound kids.  I took two years of daily, executive typing like business students took.  Back in high school, I regularly typed 100 words per minute ... five minute drills ... no more than five errors.)  For me, typing is the easiest and best way to tip into my self conscious.

There's another benefit to typing Morning Pages.  It is easy to dip back into myself because the entries are nicely organized.  There's a folder for every year.  At least once a month, I read about what I've done the year before, two years before, five, seven, and now a decade.  It is amazing to me to read about my own inspirations, doubts, and the many, many things that have happened in my life.  I have an accurate description of my own thoughts and feelings.  I am constantly amazed to read about art ideas that really did come into existence ... sometimes months or even a year after I first started thinking/writing about them.  I know what I thought of the art shows I've seen and the opinions I heard.  I know I never thought the day would come when I'd finish the eightieth Large Stained Glass piece!  Simply amazing!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Four New Windows for Philadelphia

 (Above:  Window CXXXIX, Inventory # 4083.  Framed: 17" x 15".  $265.)

I'm on a roll ... working hard to have plenty of new pieces for the upcoming Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft show in November.  Today I finished four new "Window Series" pieces.  This first one is based on my background, Medieval and Renaissance Studies.  I don't need to research the design.  I know it's a Romanesque arch with a lunette supported by two columns.  I don't sketch out a pattern.  I just take sharp scissors to my stash of polyester stretch velvet and start constructing in my designated area, 12" x 10".

(Above:  Owen Jones' Grammar of Ornament, 1868 ... turned to the page with the first of several Arabian designs.)

Just because I have knowledge of Gothic and Romanesque architectural elements doesn't mean I always want to use these designs.  That would get boring!  Earlier this month I consulted my copy of Owen Jones' Grammar of Ornament and made a really unique piece based on early Greek motifs from ancient red-and-black painted pottery.  (Click here for that post.) So, I opened the book ... almost randomly ... and browsed through Arabian patterns.  Most of the designs in Grammar of Ornament are for friezes or borders, repetitive patterns ... not "stand alone" imagery.  It was a challenge to lift elements from this page but I managed to create three totally new pieces!  It was fun! They are below.

  (Above:  Window CXL, Inventory # 4084.  Framed: 17" x 15".  $265.)

Over the weekend, I finished another Large Stained Glass Window.  It isn't mounted or photographed.  I'll shall share it later.  Since then, I also started the fourth Large Stained Glass Window that will go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft show.  For it, I used a lovely Indian design from Owen Jones.  I'll share that work when it is complete too!  

   (Above:  Window CXLI, Inventory # 4085.  Framed: 17" x 15".  $265.)

  (Above:  Window CXLII, Inventory # 4086.  Framed: 17" x 15".  $265.)