So, here's the sky in process, below.
And so on.
But after thinking about the project for a while, I decided that would be cluttered and rather boring.
So I noodled around about how to abstract the ideas of this small town on the flat, flat Coastal Plain. That's where I am now. I bought a big roll of primed canvas and today began to paint the sky. Later there will be rice fields. Maybe a train. Maybe one rice dryer (that's a pretty nice photo on the left.) Probably some live oak trees.
The Eagle Lake Chamber of Commerce has been redecorating its Visitor Center/front office on Main Street. The building is an old mercantile, with lots of space, a new roof, and mostly donated furniture Back in March, volunteers did a massive cleanup and painting project.
We painted the walls and ceiling white and added a huge Texas flag on a wall you can't see here. For the right hand wall above, I volunteered to make a big quilt. featuring something about Eagle Lake. Gee Gee and I had driven around town taking photos of likely buildings, etc.
Finished today! I was getting worried about finishing the two long, narrow pieces, but finally got it done, bound, label in place. I had to raise the brackets in my display space to hang them up.
Not the world's best photo, but you get the idea. Mayahuel, on the left, is the Aztec goddess of everything agave, including tequila,and is also a fertility goddess. Thus, the multiple rabbits. In the desert she emerges from an agave plant, wearing an elaborate tuniic and ar crown that resembles the blossom on her pink staff. She is fierce, but willing to share the vessel of beverage in her raised hand.
Mary, visiting for the first time, wears the colors traditional to her in Mexico. She thought of bringing some wine, but wine jars are heavy and it's a long way from Nazareth. She will settle down, pet the bunnies and get to know this new sister goddess. Both are depicted as being pregnant, so they have a lot to talk about.
The Aztecs controlled central Mexico from about 1300 to 1521, when the Spaniards conquered Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City). Mary appeared to the young Juan Diego in 1531 on a hill called Tepeyac, traditionally dedicated to the Aztec mother goddess Tonantzin. Lots of room for syncretism here.
The looming, volcanic mountains, barren of vegetation in this dry country, rise crisply against the sunset sky. Time for a margarita, or maybe the delicious Campari-Mescal cocktail I enjoyed in Baja del Sur.
I've been invited to exhibit some pieces in Marfa TX at their annual Agave Festival in early June. Remarkably, this happened because a gallery manager learned about "Complex Border Issues", which is made from agave fiber placemats. There are several pieces in my quilt closet that can be sent easily, and we will drive out there to attend the festival. In addition to the gallery show, there will be various programs about agaves, and a grand dinner at the end. One program will discuss the Aztec goddess Mayahuel, who oversaw the production of pulque and, eventually, tequila and Mezcal. I like this deity! She is also a fertility goddess, usually accompanied by 40 rabbits.
She suggested I might create something on that theme. Be careful what you wish for!
Cute animals are not my style. But I do have a remarkable embroidered tablecloth in the Michoacan style that includes rather intimidating rabbits:
So I figured out how to make a pattern and to vary the size, and used some garish ties from the 1970s to make my 40 rabbits.
Now granted, mine look something like dogs. Or goats. But they will represent mythical rabbits just fine. I'm painting the background, will use some other yard-sale fabrics for scenery. I dyed some silk for the goddess. Lots more to come.
It has to be done in the next two days. Photography appointment with Rick Wells on Thursday afternoon. I have stitched 30 blocks to strips of clear vinyl, and now I'm trying to figure out how to finish the edges.
As usual, it's the mechanics that challenge me. I can do the conceptual part easily, but physics and materials engineering are areas of ignorance. How much weight can the vinyl take? What strength fishline to use? (more on that later) If I show it, how to package and ship?
For today, I want to make the piece conform to size requirements of an exhibition. I plan to gather it to size with fishline. Yesterday, while sewing, I considered how to make holes in the vinyl for the fishline, resulting in a trip to the hardware store and purchase of a soldering iron. Today I will experiment on some scrap vinyl and hopefully make holes and gather the piece. Then I can do whatever edge finishing seems sensible tomorrow. SENSIBLE--is that a word that fits in here???
In the back of my mind, ideas are circulating for the next two pieces, which have nothing to do with this one. Thank goodness, I say. This experiment and the one that collapsed have messed with my confidence a little. But not a lot. Not yet.
Once in a while you have to try something that you can't be sure will work. I'm going to make this one work. Somehow.
Wow! Yesterday I sold a piece that I made in 2009, during the drought that plagued Texas for several years. It was on the website, and a friend found it and wanted it for her home.
Here I am with Gayelynn Thomas, owner of Gayelynn's Candles in Eagle Lake, handing off the art work. I am so pleased that she loved the colors and texture.
The piece was an experiment with transparency/translucency, using a remnant of linen gauze for the substrate and applying paint, various fabric bits and crochet in various browns with a tiny touch of green, for hope.
In this image, it was displayed outdoors in a park in Huntsville while the drought was ongoing. I like being able to see through the work. In its new home, it is displayed on a caramel-colored wall, and the colors glow.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, a project doesn't really come together. Reasons can be many--materials not available, somebody else publishes a piece that's just TOO similar, some technicality got in the way (sewing machine couldn't get through the many layers and glue, for example). You wake in the night and discover you loathe the concept. You wake in the night and realize that you love the concept but this piece doesn't express it. Engineering challenges preclude finishing the piece (it's too heavy to hang, or it topples over no matter how carefully you balance it, or it grows too large and unwieldy to ship anywhere).
I'm at that point with a current piece. The elements are there, but the thing just doesn't jell. Deadlines are approaching, and even if I spent 24 hours a day on this, I still doubt it would coalesce. So I've decided to abandon that one for a while. No, I won't throw it away. I think it will eventually form up in my mind, maybe in a different shape or size. I've had that happen before with good results--cut it up, turn it around, dye it, print something on it, add or subtract parts. (Never throw away patchwork.)
This frees me up to concentrate on the other project I was working on, without feeling guilty. And I can finish that one by the deadline, even with church obligations and a trip to Mexico in the interim. And I have two more in the planning and design process for later this spring and summer. So looking forward to that.
On another topic: last Sunday I was one of three SAQA artists who subbmitted work for a live online critique by Arturo Sandoval. The results were recorded and will be available for SAQA members to watch after editing (there was a lot of stuff to cut where we had trouble connecting to the site and getting the technology to work properly). Arturo is an innovative fiber artist and an art professor; he had provided us with some questions he might ask so we could prepare. It was a revealing experience. He was interested in different things than I had expected. I tend to go right to the "story" and he didn't really care about that. The most useful observation was that my piece, Glacier, compressed too much into the space. He suggested I work much bigger and allow more empty space in the work. The critique was the same for other photos I had provided. So I will take that to heart and see what I can do about working larger. How to accommodate this in my studio is the question I will be considering while on vacation.
My evenings are spent fooling around with found textiles. How deteriorated can a fragment be, and still be useful? I am stitching away on tattered quilt pieces and sun-damaged crochet, semi-automatic work while a plan evolves for the final project. Fortunately for the project, slow stitch permits slow evolution.
The yard-sale quilt was bought for fifty cents. Machine pieced, hand quilted, cotton batting, clearly much used. I think the pattern is Caroline (or Carolina) Lily. It was once pink and white, with red and purple flowers, dark green stems and lighter green leaves. I have dyed the usable parts of it and overstitched with perle cotton, using garden cloth as a new backing to provide support without additional weight.
I'm not sure what will happen next, but there are lots of squares to stitch and I expect to discover the next step pretty soon.
I stand in awe of people who visualize the project completely and then make it. They say Mozart heard his music in his head, then wrote it down. Thank God I am not Mozart (for many reasons, but mainly for this one).
For the last several years Gee Gee and I have been helping to staff the local Food Pantry, which is open three Monday mornings a month. Most of the time she serves as greeter and repackager of rice and cheese, while I manage the computer entry that keeps track of patrons.
Last Monday, the Pantry coordinator showed me his latest purchase: a 40 lb. block of frozen chickens. He had not been informed that it came in one block rather than being individually packaged. We brainstormed ideas--how to get the birds separated without thawing? Who would undertake such a mission? (He clearly was not volunteering.)
In an excess of zeal, I offered to take the iceberg home, put it in my refrigerator until I could separate the birds and wrap them. As long as they stayed stiffly frozen, I figured, we would not be putting anyone at risk. So the thing was shoved into the trunk of my car and I drove the 5 blocks home.
In the garage, I levered the block onto my dolly and hauled it into the kitchen. Emptied the bottom shelf of the fridge. Measured the block to be sure it would fit. (Yes! 27" x 18" x 12"). Somehow got it into the refrigerator. That was Monday.
On Tuesday I picked Gee Gee up at the Austin airport as she returned from the holidays in Tampa. Discussed the matter on the way home; noted on arrival that the chicken had not thawed much. Deferred decision/action until the next day.
Today we again surveyed the chickens. We decided that they could come out into the kitchen to thaw enough to be separated. Then, seeking the assistance of whatever gods there be, I performed the above Chicken Dance. In a couple of hours I was able to separate the first two chickens from the block, and within the next hour all were rewrapped and in the freezer in the garage. We will transfer them to a cooler and drive them back to the food pantry's freezer this afternoon.
That's my story. It's not fiber, and it's taking apart, not stitching together. But it's done. End of Dance.
Going through more boxes, finding more stuff. The acid-free box in the closet containing various ancestral textiles came first. What to do about the familial christening dress, which is gorgeously handmade with tucks and lace and a longer petticoat underneath, so that we look like a royal family when the rare christening occurs. Right now there are no Nolan births on the horizon, alas. Back into the tissue paper with it for the moment.
But then there was the bag of booties. Way back in the day (when I was an infant), babies were given knitted or crocheted booties, which they immediately kicked off. Now, babies wear onesies with feet in them; like so many old traditions, booties have become obsolete. But there were many pairs of them, along with a couple of kidskin booties that actually show some wear, and a pair of long, handknit, woolen baby stockings. My mother told me that these were pinned to the diaper (!) when worn in the Minnesota winter; this in the days before rubber or plastic pants were available, and long before disposable diapers. Imagine the state of the woolen stockings and the dirty diaper. Gack. And of course, they had to be washed by hand and carefully dried. These are essentially felted from multiple washings.
Anyway, I had to come up with a use for these artifacts, so I stuffed them all with Polyfil and replaced any rotted ribbons.
As you see they were accompanied by a piece of antique needlepoint which I had found in my mother's sewing machine stool. It is beautifully done in perle cotton on that flimsy canvas that you could pull out, thread by thread, if you were stitching onto a piece of clothing. So it's not very durable on its own; I have stitched it onto a piece of black cloth for support. Looking at the stitched pattern, I saw that it could easily become a quilt block. For the last several days I have been experimenting with that.
I've made the block in several sizes, using my naturally dyed stash fabrics. I'm not sure where this is going, but think the booties will be walking somewhere on the final product.
I also finished a donation for the SAQA silent auction held at its conference in San Jose in April. This is made from one of the crocheted squares I wrote about earlier. It has been dyed, paintsticked and stitched.
You know how we aging people keep trying to purge, gift, sell excess stuff? And we do try--Gee Gee sells a lot on Ebay, and I give stuff to the thrift shop and force some onto my son. Then along comes a friend with beautiful handwork from her mother and I can't say no, so there's more stuff for my stash.
It's not a NEED, of course. But it is kind of a WANT. So much beautiful work should not be discarded casually. Not only is it beautifully crocheted, but the squares are joined with perfection.
Or, rather, they were joined with perfection. I have taken them apart and now have a substantial stack. I will launder them, and plan on dyeing them, adding threads, etc. in the near future. It will have to get warmer outside before I plunge into dyeing. I'm thinking madder. Maybe bois d'arc. Some of the squares are sun-damaged; I expect these will take dye differently, maybe with variations in hue.
Maybe on a black ground--I have this neat stuff, "garden cloth", given me by a friend. It's used to diminish weeds in a garden; seeds can sprout right through the little holes. It could be a good background for some adventuring.
Kakishibu might work. I'll think about that; it requires bright sunlight to take properly. Right now it's really cold around here.
Bobbe Shapiro Nolan, Fiber Artist in Eagle Lake, TX. Trying to learn to call the sewing room my studio, and myself an artist. I retired after 15 years in hospice nursing--so now I have the time!.