Sunday, November 29

Luck and prayers

This is a really big week coming up. All my final projects for the semester are due. So wish me luck and keep me in your thoughts- I could use some extra good energy to make it through.


I have my final Crit in Fibers studio this Tuesday. The flatiron piece has gone from this: Now to this:
Last night I took some India Ink to it, which was either a huge mistake or a stroke of genius. I'll let you know how it all works out.

more craftiness

This is what happens in my house when I leave felt and needles and thread lying about! My daughter loves the felt bird I made for fiber sculpture class a while back (the robin in the back of the photo below), and decided she wanted to make her own. She says this one below is a baby robin because it has spots on its grey breast. And this one is a parrot.
This, I believe is her not-so-subtle way of reminding me how much she wants a pet bird! Secretly, I'm in seventh heaven seeing her with a needle and thread in hand.

Thursday, November 26

Getting Crafty

Next week I'll be assisting at a kids' ornament sewing workshop at NLArts, so my daughter and I did a test run of some ideas. These 2 are my daughter's. I heat-transferred some copy-right free image photocopies onto muslin, then we colored them in with fabric markers, cut them out, layered them with felt backs and sewed. They all have some polyfil stuffing. Some more than others...
These 2 are mine. The camel has french knots around the perimeter. The monogram was done by stitching right sides together, turning, stuffing, slipstitching closed. I like the smaller scale of that one.
Now that Thanksgiving is over, everyone turn their thoughts toward Christmas. Anybody doing a handmade Christmas?

Wednesday, November 25

Happy Thanksgiving!

I've been plugging away at my research paper this week with little time for art making, unfortunately. More by chance than by design, I'll be home tomorrow cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my little nuclear family.

This year I'm thankful for a family that's been supportive of my art and studies, the chance to go back to school and have the opportunity to earn my Masters degree, and for all the amazing things I'm learning and working on. I'm also thankful for the online community of stitchers and readers. Hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 21

Painting and Drawing for 12-13 year-olds

Today was the last day of the Fall session at Fleisher, and my last day with a great group of 12-13 year-olds. I'm hoping the all come back next semester, as I felt like they were only just starting to open up and feel comfortable. Below you can see 4 out of the 6 projects we did.Students worked together in teams to make group mark-making drawings, which were then divided and individualized. They then enlarged them drawing using the grid method.

For these object collages students focused on value and prepared by painting three sheets of color in light, medium, and dark values. They also used ink line drawing experiments from a previous project.

Students made 4 different drawings of the same still-life from different angles and by using a different drawing technique for each drawing. Throughout the semester I encouraged a lot of drawing exploration, including blind contour, gesture, line drawing, value drawing, etc. It was interesting to see which drawing styles students seized upon. Several brought in their drawings from home to show me how they continued their explorations-totally unexpected but incredibly rewarding!

Students looked at John Singleton Copley's portraits, especially at how he used objects in hands in order to identify the sitter. So the students used personal objects and painted their hands holding the objects.

Now I get to plan for next semester!!!

Polar Opposites

So, these are the 2 pieces I've been working on this week, and they kind of illustrate how reactionary my response to artmaking is. I really like the experimental, exploratory nature of the rust-dyeing, and the building up of abstract imagery. But then I get itchy to make something more realistic. It makes it sort of difficult to build a body of work, as it looks like 2 different artists made these. The streetscape above is my street ala Google Maps Streetview, which I collaged together into the panorama. I used 2 shades of grey for the buildings and cars, and a variegated blue/green/yellow for the foliage. It's sort of foggy looking, nebulous, looking off to the no-man's land of North Philly.
The rust-dying below is a remnant of the giant piece, which I over dyed with more rusty objects, pricked, and painted with India ink. I think it'll get some French knots in black before it's finished.There's some imagery, but I'm hoping it's not overly obvious. What do you see?
Again, sorry if I don't post much next week.... Lot's of deadlines coming up.

Thursday, November 19

Disappearing act

Forgive me if I don't post much over the next two weeks, but I've got final projects for 3 different classes due the first week of December. Wish me luck! I will try to photograph all my students' work on Saturday to share as my first session teaching Painting and Drawing for 12-13 year-olds comes to a close. Until then...

Tuesday, November 17

Before and After- Rust print in progress

Here's the before image I last presented to my critique group at school. Things they hated about it included the "overallness" and the gird, and that there was not much interaction between squares of the grid. My connection to the "map" was also questioned.

So based on that I went back to the drawing board a bit, thought some more about mapping, about creating more cohesiveness and movement with the image as a whole, and so here I am:
If you scroll down a bit to a previous post you'll see the drawing I made to determine the size divisions. There are now 4 large 9x9's that stayed virtually the same, 13 4.5x9's, 4 4.5x4.5, and 24 3x9's, so that overall it is more representative of my local neighborhood map. The shift of light to dark sort of represent what I perceive as safe zones and danger zones which also correlate to the more public and private areas of the neighborhood.
I'm still considering puncture holes and french knots in black perle, but have to sketch it out a bit more. I have an individual crit a bit later where I may negotiate some of that. TTFN.

Saturday, November 14


Thought I'd share some interesting sites I've been pointed toward or discovered recently:

Sort of sad that next week is the last week of fall session over at Fleisher. My 12 & 13-year-olds have been such a pleasure and they're just starting to open up. I hope they'll all come back for Winter Session. However it'll free up time to wrap up my research and work for school.

Friday, November 13

more mapping

I'm thinking of breaking down my rust dyed piece into a more accurate (proportionally) map of my neighborhood. So a plan is always good! I've been overdyeing some of the pieces in order to get alittle more complex/more mark-making/ more value differences in the sheets of paper.
In other news, today I mailed my submission for the Text/Textile show at Da Vinci in February! I'm really glad Kathryn Pannepacker is still curating this show despite Philagraphica and SICA (sp?) taking over what would normally be the city's time slot for the Philadelphia Fiber Biennial. Who cares about prints and ceramics? I WANT FIBER!!!

Map Love

Today I was looking at the work of Joyce Kozloff for mapping inspiration. Sometimes she uses actual maps, but she also makes inventive composite narrative maps that combine a feeling of maps but also Middle Eastern miniature painting/illustration and patterning.
See some more work and an interesting review here as well.

Tuesday, November 10

Critique day

I spent the last week not sleeping to bust these out for a critique today. Thought I'd share my wall with you. I had these 6 street find slow cloths above, and the 4x5 grid of rust dyed pieces below.
The rust dyed piece is not complete- in fact I'm thinking of breaking it down into smaller rectangles like the one below and combining pricking and stitch into the paper. The image below is a sample experiment. Critiques are terribly stressful, compounded by my sleep-deprivation. I need to remind myself that I wanted to be pushed and that critiques are by nature sort of negative. I need to weed out what was said and decide what was valuable and rich for further exploration.

Nimble Fingers

Betsy Wetsy has a new hat. I'm really pleased that my daughter has started to crochet. She has a natural sculptural sense, and it's interesting to see how she has applied that to crochet. The only thing I helped her with on this is the join between two pieces. I also think it's pretty cool that this doll has provided so much pleasure to 3 generations now. Actually- Betsy is wearing the cap made by my daughter, a dress made by my mother, and a sweater made by my grandmother.

Monday, November 9

History field trip

This past lovely Fall Friday afternoon I found my way over to the Haddonfield Historical Society in Haddonfield, NJ in order to take a look at their collection of needlework samplers. The Haddonfield Historical Society plays a rather significant role in my personal artistic development as it was after a preschool field trip there that my teacher asked us all to draw something we remembered from our visit, and I drew (in high detail and accuracy for a 4-year-old) a row of dolls upon a mantelpiece from their doll collection. The teacher remarked to my mother after seeing my drawing that I just may have some artistic talent, and my mother thereafter always allowed me artistic opportunities and access to supplies. In addition to an artistic connection to the HHS, their collection includes a number of artifacts owned or created by several of my ancestors (albeit branches of the family, not direct lines), as I have ancestors living in the Camden County area back to the 1600's.

So back to the samplers! The HHS has a truly rich variety of needlework, with samplers spanning from 1700 to 1896. It represents an accurate chronology of style and purpose consistent with embroidery artifacts throughout the original states. As I'm preparing for an art history presentation on the subject, I hope you'll bear with me as I survey this collection.

The Mary Hudson sampler of 1700 above represents typical early samplers following the long band format that came over from England. It includes a variety of stitches such as cross-, back-, satin, rice, and eyelets, and explores a variety of motifs including "Indian Pink" zigzag vine, an alphabet, and text that reads in continuous lines without care for the beginning and ends of words. Mary Hudson created it at age 9. Diane Snodgrass, the collections manager at HHS told me that the Camden County Hist. Soc. owns a similar band sampler, a bit longer and rolled, that shows obviously how the mother or instructor stitched a row as an example and then the young embroiderer stitched a copy row. This example is not so obvious, but perhaps one motif in the row was made and then followed by young Mary. Although I wonder whether the missing satin stitches in the daisy below are a result of wear and tear and age or a variance in craftsmanship.The Letitia Matlack sampler of 1736, created at age 13, shows the beginning of the development of a more American style. It is worked entirely in cross-stitch (not as ambitious perhaps technique-wise, but certainly more so in terms of composition). The typical strawberry vine has shifted to become a border instead of strictly a band, the format has become more rectangular, text other than an alphabet is included, a short family tree is listed, and the placement of motifs is more random. The text reads, "Favour is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruits of her hand and let her own works praise her in the Gates." Among the tree-of-life motifs is placed additional text reading "Learning is an Ornament". This shift in style and montage of motif is the focus of my research, as I'd like to think of samplers as the "pop art" of their day absorbing multiple cultural influences.

Forgive the awful photo, but below is the sampler of Mary Troth (my ancestor!!!) dated 1826. I'm including it more for sentimental value than artistic, but you can see how the strawberry vine has recurred but been abstracted. The fact that this sampler is purely alphabetical makes me think that was probably created as her very first needlework, probably in a school setting at a young age (I've got to look up her birth year to know how old she was when this was made). I believe she was sent to study at the Westtown School in SE Pennsylvania and also created one of the embroidered globes they are known for. The work below is of A.R. Clinton in 1831 (at age 9) and shows the more pictorial development of American samplers. It is much larger than the previous examples, and more square in format. It contains a Greek Key border, a fancy strawberry border, Quaker square motifs, text, and a lush rose bouquet and vase. The text reads "This work perhaps my friends may view When I have bid this world adieu. And whilst these blooming flowers they se (sic) Then will remembrance picture me". The greek key pattern would have been popular during the Georgian and Federal periods, and so it's interesting to see this architectural motif in a sampler- further evidence of embroidery's absorption of popular culture of its time.The quaker square motif in the Clinton sampler is evidence that the girl was likely enrolled in a Quaker school, of which there were many in the area and where many of our young embroidering 19th century ancestors learned to ply the needle.
The same motif shows up in the very late Caroline Pearce sampler of 1895 detailed below. This sampler is the same size as the Clinton sampler, and contains an extremely similar strawberry vine as well as the quaker square. However the Pearce sampler has only the "signature" text, no phrases, and is a compendium of motifs "clip-art" style. With no research on it yet, one wonders whether at such a late date if Pearce created it in a school still or based it on other inspiring samplers. The Haddonfield Historical Society has not only samplers in their collection, but also 2 silk embroidered paintings. Here you can see the mourning embroidery c.1800, maker unknown. The painted text on the monument reads "Sacred to the memory of the illustrious Washington". While many mourning embroideries are in honor of the stitcher's late family members, a great many honor the legendary President Washington (emerging pop culture/cult of personality!). Most include a painted background and faces, a monument, a weeping willow tree and one or more figures in dramatic mournful poses. This example is in its original oval frame with gold and india ink on glass. The india ink has flaked off a great deal and stained the picture, requiring some conservation. I thank Ms. Snodgrass and the Haddonfield Historical Society for allowing me to photograph the work for my research, as well as for her help in examining the works. Anyone interested in researching objects like these should really look into local Historical Societies- they are very cooperative and excited to have people interested in their collections. And if you're interested in seeing an excellent range of American samplers, take a trip to Haddonfield!

Wednesday, November 4

Working Spontaneously

Today I wanted to share the work of Frances Schatz with you. Frances is currently in her second session of Stitch and Surface with me at Fleisher, and I'm enjoying the chance to see a student's work grow and be sustained over time. Frances has a fine arts background and is enjoying her retirement to finally have time to invest in her creative life. She is also recovering from a stroke and sees her work in embroidery as a part of her physical therapy. I truly admire her passion for art and life and commitment to not allowing physical challenges be a roadblock to her creative expression!

The image here is of her sampler work from this session. The parameters were to make a band sampler of about 4-5 inches wide and create parallel lines or sections of different stitches as a piece that would be sustained over the course of the semester. This piece is not "finished", but in a middle stage of progression. Frances started with a printed "feedbag" type fabric on which she began parallel lines stitched down the length of the band. However, in true Frances-style, she began to play with the motifs, surface, and embellishments responding spontaneously to the printed image and developing embroidery. The piece now has a combination of stamping, fabric painting, embroidery, ribbon embroidery, applique, and button embellishment.

Her lazy-daisy flowers above reminded me of Fleisher's new logo. During class today we talked a bit about how artists need to connect to their child-like impulses, find the curious explorer within, trust those instincts, take risks, be spontaneous, be open to the happy accidents of a process, and allow the work to develop without preconceptions.
It's not a way of working that I find easy to do. It's hard for me to let go of control or not have the idea of a piece not begin with it fully formed in my head. I've been trying very hard to allow for more spontaneity and discovery in my work (doesn't that seem an oxymoron? trying very hard to allow for spontaneity?). Here's the latest stage in the constellation. I really like how the large glass shards feel in the piece.

So here's to Frances and passion and commitment and spontaneity!

Tuesday, November 3

In color love

Caution: Broken Glass!

I think I need some yellow caution tape around my work table in the studio! It's littered with glass and wire at the moment. I worked on the middle section of the constellation piece today. Here's the work in progress:
I've got one more week to finish this up before my next critique. Hopefully I'll get there!

Is bigger better?

This morning, this wallhanging greeted Tyler folk. It's about 20 feet long and hanging against one of the 2-story columns in the Tyler entryway (why green?why?). Massive fiberworks like these are always impressive because we know anything with fiber is neccesarily time-consuming.
It has a dyed-canvas backdrop with a collage of burned and manipulated fabrics machine-embroidered at the base. I saw the work in progress and wondered what was happening with it. (Sorry, I don't know the artist's name)

From up close it doesn't read- it just seems like a mish-mash of fiber waste. The texture and color contrasts are curious, but it was not until I posted the photograph above that I understood the imagery involved- a sort of woodland view. So the piece becomes life-size- a window back to Tyler's Elkins Park days perhaps?

I'm always working in the minutiae of embroidery, and so the scale of this piece astonishes me. But is bigger better? Is blowing up the scale the only way to break out of the traditional connotations of fibers?