Embroidery

My Last Paint Out :sniff sniff:

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.

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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.

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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!

Upcoming:

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!

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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!

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I’m really excited to install part of Convergence again. It’s so much fun to see how the character of the piece can change from space to space. It is really beautiful in the Vernon Nester Gallery at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri and will be up until the end of February. I also have some collages and a few examples of my plein air embroidery. The show is called Omnia because it’s a collection of all my different mediums. The gallery reception and artist talk will be on January 31st from 4-6pm. The talk will be at 4:15pm. Come on by and say hi!

Convergence II: Converge Harder

Convergence II: Converge Harder

Lighting always seems to be an issue with this piece. I’m really tempted to throw down on some spots.

In other cool news, I am going to be on TV! I will be doing an interview with Rick Jey on JCTV’s “Mid-Missouri Art News. We do the taping on Febuary 13th. Not sure when it’ll be out so stay tuned to the old social media. It’s another great opportunity to talk about art and inspire some future artists. Can’t beat that!

Nothin' But Rain

McKendree University moved their Get Out! Paint Out! plein air painting event back to the beginning of September this year. Which is wonderful because August was such a blur I would not have made it anyways.

But the rain.

It rained so much that Saturday, Lebanon became an island. They wouldn’t let anyone leave town. Luckily rain doesn’t mess up threads too much and I found a nice spot under my friend Amy’s porch. Her back yard is always full of magical plants and sculptures to embroider. This year I was particularly attracted to a grouping of terra cotta statues.

Garden Nymphs in the Rain

Garden Nymphs in the Rain

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The light moves so fast! I wanted to work with the stitches as if they were large blobs of paint. I wasn’t so concerned with covering the fabric completely. It is nice seeing the purple peek through here and there.

I pulled out one of my new tricks for this piece. The rain drops in the back ground are iridescent thread. Depending on how it is lit, it shines. I was inspired by Van Gogh’s rain paintings. They are so masterful, it is breathe taking.

This Paint Out I decided to stay really small. Both pieces are only three inches by three inches. Sunday I went out for round two down on the main drag of Lebanon, IL. There wasn’t any rain but I still tucked myself under an awning just in case.

I’d Rather Be Painting

I’d Rather Be Painting

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I chose a lighter linen with grey marbling to represent the cloudiness of the sky. Buildings are hard! It’s difficult to get the fine details and keep everything in perspective. I also think that the weave of my linen was a little too loose to allow me to be accurate.

As you can see, I was fighting cars and trucks all day to see the bottom half of the buildings. I made up my friend Amy sitting in the glow of the gallery doing office work when she would “Rather Be Painting”. No regrets embroidering here. Wouldn’t we all just rather be making art?

Look for me next @ Vulpus Bastille in Kansas City the First Friday in October. I’ll have some collages there with Justin Border and Jen Appel. We’ll be exploring Signal to Noise.

Farm Report

We’ve had a bumper crop of Thai chilies this year and I can’t wait to make Sriracha. I’m slowly drawing down the garden which means some epic fried green tomatoes and egg plant parmesan. It is apple season! I’m canning apple sauce and apple butter pretty much every day. Apple crisp has become my new breakfast of choice. Gotta use up those apples somehow.

A Good Challenge

September is in full swing. Bea is back in school and I have survived my first week of the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. I really do mean survived. 

My wall of designs completed.

My wall of designs completed.

Going into the challenge I had a lot of grand ideas about the quality of work that I would be producing. An hour and a half or two hours is a drop in bucket in the world of embroidery. Which is really all the extra time that I might have on a given day. But stitching is just so slow that I'm almost not able to finish well thought out pieces. The works are just going to be ideas for material combinations and forms. However, I'm still sticking to ideas about quantum entanglement, which is manifesting as a bunch of circles. Who doesn't like circles?

Creating on consistently the spot is another challenging factor in this endeavor. There's a lot of pressure to get something out that is at least semi-formed. Granted all the pressure is coming from myself, and I'm working a day in advance to have some wiggle room, but I'm learning to always be thinking of combinations and ideas throughout the day in order to lessen the planning phase. I've also lowered my standards. You can't make a master piece every day. But I'm learning how to mentally put myself in a creative place at the drop of a hat which is important.

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This weekend we got out for a little end of season fire works at Powell Gardens and some plain old medieval fun at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. I love the Ren Fair and swear every year that next year I will come in costume and then it always sneaks up on me again. There's nothing better than all the costumes, both terrible and epic. This year we actually got to see jousting. We also visited all our favorites from last year, like the fairy houses, the merman, the juggling booth, the wooden spinning ride powered by shirtless teenagers, the washing wenches....ah those washing wenches. 

BurgFest is happening on Friday the 23rd and Saturday the 24th in Warrensburg. My work will be installed in the windows of the Old Drum Coffee House; I might even have the progression of my works from the 30 in 30 challenge displayed even though the challenge won't be complete until the end of September. So if you make it to the 'Burg this weekend stop in and see some fiber art.

Reading: The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual by Barbara Pleasant - I'm learning so much and will re-pot my lovelies soon. Now what to do with the plants that have mealy bugs and spider mites?

Listening to: The Myths and Legends Podcast. A Chinese Cinderella whose mother is reincarnated as a yellow cow that can puke up parallel straw. What's not to love? 

Cooking: We can't get through this second wave of tomatoes fast enough, so I made sauce.  

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The Big 30

Monday was my 30th birthday and I spent all of it in the car driving back from our epic summer vacation in Wyoming. Which means, I had plenty of time to contemplate being 30, art, and what the rest of our life is going to look like. I can't help but remember being 20 and telling everyone that I would take over the world by 25. And then the exhilaration and trepidation of celebrating my 25th birthday in Japan, just after the earthquake, newly married, and new to the military. This life feels like mountain climbing with all it's ups and downs; bravely soldiering on.

My goal for 30 and the next ten years will be to care less about other people's opinions about what you are supposed to do, how you live life, etc. I'm going to try and be brave enough to make choices that work for me and stick to them. My goal is to be my authentic. I'm not sure what that is going to look like yet but I'm excited to find out.

As for art, I still want to keep creating art now more than ever. I want to make work that interests me and that I'm proud of. I want to work with other artists and create a community. Most importantly I want to keep traveling, learning, and creating a beautiful life.

While I was thread painting at the beginning on our vacation, Bea pulled all the paper sleeves off my DMC floss. I realized that I needed to do a complete over haul of how I stored my threads. For too long they have been stuffed into a plastic sheet container or my metal ice skate box.

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Inspired by the thread organization which Penny has at her shop, Ewe Count in Cheyenne Wyoming, I set out with Bea to buy rings and some curtain rod brackets. Voila!

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Now Bea thinks that we own a thread store, which makes me laugh because I sure do have a lot of thread. Everything that has a hole for a ring is displayed on the curtain rod and everything else is placed in a little Floss A Way bag and hung on the hanger too. I'm going to go back and sort things a little bit better by color once I have more rings. The thing that concerns me is light fastness and dust accumulation because they are hanging out in the air. 

Look at all the browns and greys I have? Look at how little red I have. Maybe I need to do more shopping. And this isn't even all the threads I own!

In big news, I'm in a show in Kansas City! Wahoo! Stop by Gallery Eight One Five to check out my collages. I'm bummed I can't make the opening tonight as I'm sure it'll be a blast.

The giant burrito that I mistakenly ordered on my birthday.

The giant burrito that I mistakenly ordered on my birthday.

Listening: Bea singing Rainbow Rocks songs for hours in the car on the trip back to Missouri

Reading: Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Klepas; I blame my mother for my romance book obsession. 

Cooking: Kombucha! The sister-in-law gave us a skoby and we've started our first batch.

The alien creature that came home with us and will make us a delicious fermented beverage.

The alien creature that came home with us and will make us a delicious fermented beverage.

Plein Air Stitching

Creating your artwork outdoors is both a wonderful and challenging experience. When we spend so much time creating from images on screens we lose the ability to translate the experience of life in three dimensions. I think that it's vital to an artist's skills. My drawing from life skills needs serious improvement but that's why I do things to stretch my abilities. 

My view in Amy's Garden

My view in Amy's Garden

This year I worked in embroidery for Get Out! Paint Out! at McKendree University. Stitching is less exact than painting.; it's more about manipulating textures and direction of the threads to create space than about how well drawn out your work is. Because I was unable to fill in large patches of color in the back ground and then build up the details like I would in painting, I used the direction of the threads and softened the color choices in order to create space and atmosphere.

Distracting myself with selfies that try and make stitching look cool

Distracting myself with selfies that try and make stitching look cool

The key challenge of plein air embroidery is time. It took me nine hours to stitch a 5" diameter circle and I'm a relatively quick stitcher and decision maker. The beauty of working outside is that your really begin to understand how light and the position of the sun affects the colors and the shapes within your composition. Because of the slowness of stitching I couldn't keep up with the light. I memorized colors and gave an approximation of what I saw when the light was at it's best.

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The first four hours are a meditative process and you are in the flow of the work. But then as the it gets closer to noon and the sun gets higher and hotter, the body starts to get cramped up from sitting on the ground, and your legs are on fire from all the bug bites. Plein air becomes an exercise in endurance. You start taking longer breaks to stretch, because you're cramped but also because you're just so sick of looking at it and the huge mental check list of stitches that should be fixed. You start to get lonely because you've chosen a spot where no other living human has been for the last five hours. Your fingers itch to be checking Facebook. "Should I post that progress photo to Instagram?" It's an act of supreme will to keep yourself focused on the task at hand, maybe get that cup of coffee about 2:30. It's after the shot of caffeine that you realize that you only have three hours left to get this inspiration looking like a finished work and not just a mess of stitches. Diligently  working as other artists set up for the supper party around you,  you've placed that last stitch. Relief and accomplishment allow  you to finally stretch out your cramped body on the ground and take a moment to relax.

I had to bring a little crazy to my embroidery because it was looking a little too tidy and realistic.

I had to bring a little crazy to my embroidery because it was looking a little too tidy and realistic.

It's such a worthwhile experience; create art outdoors! 

9 hours later and I'm finished.

9 hours later and I'm finished.

How a Fiber Artist Packs for Plein Air

The words "Plein Air" are usually accompanied by the word "Painting", but who follows tradition. Last summer, I embarked on an artistic adventure at McKendree University to create Plein Air Embroidery. Embroidery can be called painting with thread, after all. My professor, Amy MacLennan, invited me knowing I don't paint;  I didn't disappoint in bringing the fiber or the crazy. 

We are going again this year but we are going to be a little crunched for time. I get one whole day of embroidering/painting in the ridiculous Illinois heat while the mister and kiddo go sight seeing in St. Louis. I've decided to approach this a little differently this year and just do straight stitching and I might even try to do a little watercolor. 

So what does a fiber artist bring for plein air embroidery?

  • Table cloth or plastic sheet - you've got to sit on something. I'd really love a collapsible stool but I don't have the room in the car this year. 
  • Water bottle - It's gonna be the surface of the sun out there. Stay Hydrated!
  • Floppy hat 
  • Good pair of thread scissors - I have mine on a string around my neck. 
  • Hoop - Stretches and frames the work instantly. 
  • All the threads - You never know what color you will need
  • Small fabric selection 
  • Palette - Because I might actually watercolor
  • Small selection of brushes
  • Watercolors
  • Water Container! 
  • Paper - To stretch or not to stretch?
  • Rag?
  • Pastels - Because... why not?
  • Travel case

I'm pretty excited. Maybe I'll go down town and and sit in a shady spot and work on some perspective. There's all kinds of crazy things I could try:  incorporating found textiles or thread into my embroidery, stitching into the watercolors. The ideas are flying!

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Work continues on the mural. It's beginning to look a little bit more polished with those brush strokes disappearing. My theory is to start in the upper left corner and work my way down and to the right. No palms smearing paint. 

Farm Report: Yet another batch of dill pickles canned and we have decided to experiment with left over brine and make refrigerator pickles. We'll see how they taste in four days. I'm really looking forward to the baby eggplant. 

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