Sunday, June 28, 2015

Introducing Agnes Herczeg

Needlelace & wood wall sculpture by Agnes Herczeg
Thanks to the Textile Arts group on Facebook, I have discovered Agnes Herczeg whose work I have fallen in love with. I've seen nothing quite like it, and it has totally transformed my idea of what lacework can be - truly an art form, not just decorative. 

Needlelace and ceramic wall sculpture by Agnes Herczeg

This Hungarian artist has a most interesting background of textile conservation, traditional handicraft techniques, and use of natural materials.  She couples her lacework with wood, bark, coconut, and ceramics that she molds herself.

Needlelace and coconut shell by Agnes Herczeg

From her "about me" page:

"Design is a significant part of the creative process because I have to think through not only the visual appearance of the work but its overall structure and the order of the individual steps. Lace-making is an extremely time consuming occupation; it takes several days just to complete a small piece." 

A peek into Agnes Herczeg's process

Indeed, it is obvious that a lot of thought goes into each work, a form she calls "wall sculpture". All of her work is intriguing but it is what she does with faces that truly captivates me.

A recent wall sculpture by Agnes Herczeg

For a long time now, I've felt that a true artist must have a vision; everyone else is just dabbling. Agnes Herczeg is an artist in my eyes, with a vision that really appeals to me. Thanks to Agnes for giving me permission to post pictures of her work here. Check out her website, Wall Decoration With Lace or her Facebook page and be amazed!

Needlelace and bark by Agnes Herczeg

Friday, June 26, 2015

Off to Virginia...

...that is, my quilts are off to Virginia, due next week at the location of the Sacred Threads Exhibit. It's easily been 10 years since I've shipped a quilt to a show, especially to one so far away - essentially from one coast to the other, thousands of miles away. I had such a sinking feeling as I handed the package over to begin its trek, not wanting to let go of the box, not wanting to leave the shipping store, staring (I'm sure balefully) at the box as the shipper sealed it up and slapped on the label. They are just quilts, I tried to convince myself. Just trust and let it go. But it was hard! I get a similar feeling when I drop quilts off for my local exhibits but at least they are minutes away and I can go check on them.

But out of sight, out of mind just a bit as I've busied myself with other things. Today I decided to check the tracking to see where they were and was delighted to find this map showing the route thus far, with flapping wings on my package! Ok - It made me laugh and I'm fine now, feeling like they are in good hands and turning my attention back to the next things I need to do here.

If you will be in the D.C. area during the run of the exhibit, please consider stopping by to take in the quilts and their wonderful stories. And let mine know how worried I am about them. ;-)

The Sacred Threads Exhibit is Opening Soon

Exhibit Dates: July 10 - 26
Monday - Saturday, 11:00 - 5:00
Sundays, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
$5.00 for seniors (65+) and Children (7-12)
Children 6 and under are free
$20 for 3-day pass
To purchase tickets in advance 
click here to go to our store.

Location: Floris United Methodist Church, 13600 Frying Pan Road, Herndon, VA 20171

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day

The Mahanke brood - June 1959
One of the major but worthy diversions keeping me out of the studio lately has been a concentrated effort to get the "family archives" in order. I am the keeper of old photos and photograph albums plus various newspaper clippings, letters and heirlooms my mother saved/collected and passed on to me. I've been a fairly good steward of these items, except that much about them is not really written down, too many oral stories bantered about by relatives, and bits and pieces stuffed in files to be left unconnected. I've said for years that, if nothing else, I'd like to get the pictures and letters scanned, then get what I know written down. I'm finally devoting significant time to this.

And I am loving it. I am a researcher at heart, and love history of all kinds. I love to tell a good story (you may have noticed), and I love to make connections that help me understand the bigger picture. It hadn't occurred to me, though, just how time consuming this would be. Nor just how much stuff I have that needs to be scanned and coordinated. I've set myself a monumental task that I now see will take longer than I thought. Yesterday, I pretty much removed everything from the two file cabinet drawers where most of this is kept, suddenly realizing what a daunting task this is. But it is an important task, and I owe it to my brothers and the next generations that are showing an interest.

So this accounts for some of the lags in posting here, though it doesn't mean I'm not going to be spending time in the studio too. Just that the way I divvy up my time has temporarily changed, weighted a bit more to family history than the creative journey. Today is a good case in point. My dad died back in the 1990's so normally I let father's day come and go without much thought. And if I did think about it, I'd be thinking about our personal relationship, looking for photos of the two of us. 

But today, I found myself wanting to find a different sort of picture, probably because I've been working with letters my oldest brother wrote back in 1956 and searching the family photo album for pictures from that time period. What I needed today was a picture of dad with all of his kids - there are so few of them because the age difference between the first and last child is 15 years and that oldest brother died about 5 months after the picture at the top of the post was taken.

I look at that picture, dad and his brood, see and feel the responsibility on his shoulders. Gosh, he was a hard worker all his life, and with this many mouths to feed, it was always a strain to make ends meet. He worked in the silver mines, rarely taking a sick day since it meant losing a day's pay. When the mines went on strike, he found jobs elsewhere to keep food on the table until the strike was resolved. He never wanted to be pitied and he certainly never wanted charity. He was a tough old bird, sometimes hard to love, but always doing what he needed to do no matter how hard. Happy Father's Day and rest in peace, dad. You deserve it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Proof of Progress

I finished the last bit on the 5 padfolios from the covers printed out so long ago. After applying closures (sometimes velcro, sometimes magnets, sometimes a tie or elastic), I always treat them with a UV/stain protectant which needs to dry overnight. Then I can take pictures and announce to the world, "I'm done!" Well - I AM done!

You've seen the insides of most of these so will not repeat that here. You've also seen the frog before (see this post) and a similar woodgrain one (see this post). The orange flower one was the first of the group to be completed which you saw on this post. But the moose is new. This pic shows the front and back - the front works nicely but the back, well, it was the position of the moose behinds that I failed to envision on the computer screen that caused me to work up what I think is a better design, and one that allowed a little more stitching on the cover (see this post). Still, I'm guessing there will be those out there thinking the backsides on the backside is a hoot. 

And now - I suppose there aren't many excuses left for getting on with that beading. What? Me intimidated by the next step on Masks? Um...well yes, just a little. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Good Karma

The gods must be smiling down on me this week. To my great relief, the two quilts I'll be sending off next week to the Sacred Threads Exhibit will not need new hanging sleeves attached. Those in place are the proper width. To my further relief, I will not have to make the required cloth bags to put them in. The old pillowcases I have on hand are big enough. And finally, the box I'd been eying out in the garage has proven to be big enough accommodate the one quilt that needs to be shipped flat. The only thing left to find are plastic bags...and that should not be a problem.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Experimenting with Closures

Attaching button to back of padfolio
I've just about wrapped things up with the five padfolios. Four of them are in the process of having magnets or velcro applied to secure their flaps. This one cried out for something different. The stitching at the center of the flower was a bit ragged but even if it hadn't been, that center still wanted a button over it. I spent a lot of time thinking through how I could attach it and the elastic cord all as one and pondering if it was a good idea to do this on the back of the padfolio.

Pocket folded back for access

I knew if I was going to do this, I'd have to do it before satin stitching the pockets in place. But in my eagerness to assembly-line glue baste all pockets in one session, I forgot. Luckily, I was able to peel back one edge of this pocket to gain access to the spot where the elastic would come through. Some knotting under the button after sizing up the length of cord needed held things in place on the outside so that I could knot the ends on the inside. The button is not as flush to the padfolio as I would have liked, but it works.

It does make a bit of a bump under the notepad, but I am hoping this won't be an issue for the user. Here is the back after all the satin stitching has been done and the elastic has been stretched around to hold it closed.

And here it is from the front. I'm surprised at how much I like this now compared to when I was just looking at the printed fabric. Even so, I won't be repeating this design.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

More Things To Play With

As if I didn't already have enough untouched non-textile related art supplies lying around, this is what arrived this week. I blame it on my inability to pass up a good deal and my ceaseless curiosity. The Atelier Interactive acrylic package is a free sample I was alerted to via an e-letter I subscribe to. Once I watched the video, remembering the issues I've had with paint drying before I could apply special techniques, I was intrigued. No, I don't work with acrylics much, but hey - free is free, and what I received was two generous tubes of paint (titanium white and pthalo blue?) and the activating Unlocking Formula. Yes, I had a moment of guilt about signing up for the free sample because I'm not a "real" acrylic paint artist who would buy more if I liked it, but I got over it as my mind wandered to how I would try it out in my mixed media experiments. Besides, it was a "for a limited time" offer based on availability of supply so there was every chance I'd miss out.  It had been quite awhile since I signed up, so had about given up on having gotten in on the great deal. Must admit to a bit of whoop when I pulled the package out of the mail box.

The ArtGraf water-soluble graphite blocks I blame on Cheap Joe's and their e-mail alert to a special deal. Well, I guess I can't blame them totally, as I've been playing a bit with water-soluble graphite pencils with the art journaling exercises. But I was totally unaware of these earth-tone varieties which suddenly seemed the answer to my feeling limited with only black to grey work. Again, demo videos (including this one & this one) plus some artist reviews clinched the deal, even as I repeated "you do not need these you do not need these they won't work on fabric." Oh - but it was a substantial markdown...and they are EARTH-TONES! Yes, I am a sucker for earth-tone anything. Into the on-line cart they went. And now that I've had time to ponder while awaiting their arrival, I've come up with an idea to try on fabric.

As long as I was ordering from Cheap Joe's, I remembered that I'd seen this YES! paste in their catalog. It is one recommended in one of my bookbinding instruction books but I'd been having a hard time tracking it down. Besides, I had other suggested adhesives on hand so no big deal, right? Well, frankly, I've been pretty frustrated with my glues and gels, and quite irked when they promise wrinkle-free adhesion with even the most delicate papers, but I get wrinkles just the same. So we shall see if this is any better, or if the book is like everyone else - selling me a questionable bill of goods. Have any of you tried this stuff?

As I unpacked my new treasures, I couldn't help thinking about my post not long ago, the one that mentioned following many paths, wandering around, and "the unsettling feelings of not ever being at home where you are" leading to/defining the term confusion. What is it I really want to do with my artistic leanings? Am I just confusing myself by flitting off in different directions rather than narrowing my focus? Is there something I'm running away from, "trying to get somewhere else," or am I hoping all these different experiments will lead me toward the place where I feel at home again for good? I'm betting on that last one, sensing its truth in me and knowing I've been unsettled far too long.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Details, Details

Picking out lining and pocket pairings for padfolios
Bloggable progress has been slow to come due to several worthy diversions. And those of you  anxious to see beading will have to wait (I partly blame it on waiting for a strand of beads that missed getting into my original order). I've been moving forward with those padfolios, remembering now why some of them had been set aside for later. Not rejects, but more a matter of what looked good "on paper" as they say, didn't work as well as other designs I worked up once they were printed out. I wouldn't call them "seconds" either, but more like personal disappointments that someone else might think fabulous. So I'm finishing them up and putting them out there for sale.

I must admit I often spend more time digging through my stash for coordinating fabrics to go inside than may be warranted, but I do rather enjoy that part as much as coming up with the cover designs. And even though the lining and pockets are not the stars of the show, they are still seen and worthy of thoughtful choosing. Each "perfect" pairing is a little triumph worthy of a brief happy dance.

Fun batik lining improved perception of cover
This time round, some of what I found to go inside were basically scraps - pieces big enough for something but nothing too big, and because of their size, difficult to store. A couple of these had been lying out, in fact, part of the stash I inherited from my late friend, washed and ironed and puzzled over as to their use. One such quarter cut appeared destined for a journal cover, but it was also wide enough for this. Another piece of batik was the size I needed for coordinating pockets with hardly anything left over. Those two fabrics worked a kind of magic on a cover that was less than exciting to me. 

I can't tell you how satisfying it is to find homes for these smaller chunks of this and that, too beautiful to discard but too small of an amount to consider as the start of a bigger project. I've moved on to the satin stitching of the edges, another detail that sees me carefully considering threads from my stash. Soon these will be done, and I can get back to other things. 

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Sharing Your Vision

I don't know about you, but it takes me quite a bit of time to craft an artist statement specific to a particular piece of artwork. If you've followed me for long, you know I can get quite wordy about my process and my inspirations - I just have so much I want to share and explain, although much of it might not be of vital interest to most viewers. Sometimes it is a good thing to be forced to edit down to a specific size placard or finite number of words. With editing comes clarity - not just in verbal expression but in visual expression as well. For my Sacred Threads entries, I was lucky I could cut and paste previously composed statements from this blog and make them fit with just a bit of additional editing, but even that took more time than one might think. We won't talk about time spent getting good photos ready for submission.

Now the shipping deadline is coming up at the end of the month which will be its own time consumer, as I cross my fingers I will not have to replace too narrow sleeves (I can't remember if these got the full 4" ones since I can get away with narrow sleeves at my local venues) nor search too long for a properly sized and sturdy box, ticking off the other requirements I haven't had to deal with for so long. I'm taking the "Gone With The Wind" attitude at the moment, Scarlett's famous line of "I'll worry about that tomorrow."*

So with this on my mind, imagine my heavy sigh when an e-mail arrived from Sacred Threads saying they'd like me to record a 90 second statement giving additional information about my quilts. Granted, I was glad for the opportunity to share some things I'd had to leave out of my written statements (although I wasn't sure I wanted to revisit the emotions this would stir up). But I also knew it would mean carving out quiet time to decide what I wanted to say, compose that statement, time it, and then edit it down. 90 seconds goes fast! And so does the time between getting the e-mail and the last day I can record my message! I've been mulling this all week, going back over blog posts for gems I could pull out, referencing what I already submitted, building up courage to dial that phone number and say my piece, out loud sans quavering voice.

So today has been the day to set all else aside and get this done. I've composed both statements and think I am happy with the editing. I've practiced out loud several times while I checked the timing (thank goodness for the stopwatch feature on my simple cell phone). I'm nearly done writing out the final drafts in easy to read form so I don't stumble over my words. This is taking an inordinate amount of time, but I'm almost ready to dial that number...

The things we do for our art!


* I couldn't help looking it up to see if I was getting the quotation right. From the movie, the lines around that one describe my feelings about the shipping even better:

 "Oh, I can't think about this now! I'll go crazy if I do! I'll think about it tomorrow."

But the line as written by Margaret Mitchell in the book from which the movie is adapted is a bit simpler but equally apt: 

"I won't think about it now, I'll think about it tomorrow, when I can stand it."

Of course, when tomorrow comes, repeat statement! 

Monday, June 01, 2015

Ah - So This Is The Problem...

“People would say I must have had such a great life doing this,” Mr. Koch once recalled, “people who were engineers, doctors, insurance salesmen or whatever. But it was the kind of work where every morning I would wake up and think, ‘My God, I wonder if I can do it again today.’ There is no way you prepare to do it, or even know how you do it.”

In a similar vein, this from Ian Svenonius:

If one becomes a lawyer, scholar, mechanist, typist, scientist, production assistant, or what-have-you, the world will commend your decision. Each day at lunch, on vacation, or at whatever party you attend, your choice will be applauded, upheld, and affirmed. And you will know what is expected of you. Even if your job is difficult—if you are a brain chemist, international death merchant, or rocket designer—your responsibilities will be obvious and your goals concrete. If you achieve them, you may be rewarded by promotion. If you fail, you might be fired or demoted, but nonetheless—unless your boss is insane—the job will have tangible parameters.

[Art], however, is different. You will never know exactly what you must do, it will never be enough… no matter what change you achieve, you will most likely see no dividend from it. And even after you have achieved greatness, the infinitesimal cadre who even noticed will ask, “What next?”
Yes indeed. Reminds me of how my late husband used to prod me if a quilt came back from a competition with a ribbon. There I'd be, glowing in my success, and he would slyly say, "Yeah, but what have you done lately?" Damn! Back to the studio...