In an exercise of futility and utter masochism, every year I attempt plein air embroidery in the Get Out! Paint Out! event for the McKendree University Gallery of Art in Lebanon, IL. I battle bugs, heat exhaustion, and hang overs (we throw a wicked BBQ) in an attempt to capture the light before me in an embroidery. All madness because it takes me a good eight hours of continual stitching to fill in a three inch by three-inch square of linen.
This year was my last. Not because I’ve smartened up with each passing year by shrinking my format and refining my technique. No! But because we are moving to the great state of Alabama. I have been defeated by the thought of a two-day drive. It was great while it lasted. I will forever dream of sides of salmon roasted on the grill with fresh rosemary, limoncello shots, and the fabulous red velvet wall paper of my professor’s house.
I managed to complete two pieces this year. The first was the back of this beautiful blue house with a fantastic garden, white picket fence and zinnias. Unfortunately, my stitching spot was next to the compost heap in full sun, so I had the over whelming smell of sun baked rot to contend with for eight hours. But I loved watching the butterflies and hummingbirds flit from flower to flower as I embroidered siding and shingles. I think this house is everything that I want when I grow up. Victorian, old trees, huge garden, sun porch…I day dreamed what my life would be in this house.
As far as technique goes, I tried something different by using the whole embroidery floss. Embroidery floss can usually be broken down into six threads and I typically use two because it looks more refined. I used two threads in the back ground but six threads in the foreground to make it chunkier and come at you more. No fancy stitches this year though. I didn’t really feel it fit the piece.
The second day, I stayed close to my professor’s house. Her neighbor has a ton of cats and so I call this the cat house. I think in the four hours that I embroidered their house I saw ten distinct cats. What I really loved about this spot was the way the dead plum tree curls toward the house and the green foliage creates this textured swirl.
I tried to accomplish this swirling composition with the house fading in to the background and the foliage looking wild and gnarly around the edges. I had some success but I think my down fall was in the choice of colors for the background. I should have gone darker and more neutral. Maybe a gold? Brown? Despite this being the cat house I forgot to put a cat in it! What I really love about this piece is that I used reflective thread for the wind chime and I’m in love. It’s this hidden little focal point that draws you in. You know how I love shiny!
You can see the show at McKendree University Gallery of Art from now until October 5th. The opening reception is October 3rd from 5-7pm. I will actually be able to make the opening reception this year! I’ll be in St Louis for the Surface Design Association Conference so I can just nip on over, eat snacks, and see who gets prizes. There were some really beautiful pieces there when I dropped off my work. I can’t wait!
I’m going to Jentel Artist Residency in Banner Wyoming October 15th – November 13th. I’m so excited and frantically running around packing. I can’t wait to be out in the mountains getting some of that rejuvenating inspiration. I’m not sure what the internet situation will be like so I may or may not be active on Instagram and the blog until I get back. What fun!
My beloved Beatrice had her first drawing in a gallery! She’s such a talented drawer and story teller. Such a goofy picture taker.
Lebanon, we’ll miss you so much!