March 30, 2010

Sirali Santal Khatwa Embroidery

Isn't this wonderful? It's an Indian embroidery I've just added to my collection of ethnic textiles. It's done on a piece of natural silk, and the workmanship is excellent. I purchased it from Fiona Wright, at her Pukka Place site. She and her partner also run a hotel in Puskar, Rajastan, and book safaris. Poking around her sites gave me a serious case of wanderlust, which I partially allayed with the acquisition of this great piece of folk art. Fiona provided a translation of the story that Puskpar, the maker, wrote about the piece:

"Women wake up early in the morning, work starts.
First work is the water,
Then cleaning the house and make chapati, subji (vegetables) and all things.
When home is all finished then start on the outside work.
Husband's work is to do the outside work then sleep 1 or 2 hours.
Husband has only one job while a woman is busy from morning until evening
and jobs never finished."

All that, and I don't doubt that it's true, and yet look at the beauty and the joy that comes through in the work. Amazing.

As if all that weren't enough of a treat, take a look at the packaging. It came wrapped in fabric that was stitched together to close it:

Here's a closeup, where you can see how the ends of the stitching were sealed with wax:

Makes me long for a return to India......

March 22, 2010

Opening Night at the Arts Hotel

A good time was had by all on Friday at the opening reception of my show "Transformation: The Watt & Shand Series" at the Arts Hotel Gallery. Above is an exterior shot of the hotel, below is the entrance:
Then on to one end of the lobby; at the far end is the bar and entrance to the restaurant. After viewing the art, or before for that matter, one can get a drink and hang around and talk; it's a very relaxed and convivial atmosphere and many visitors to the reception stayed for quite a while.

And a shot of part of the gallery, before the crowd arrived. That's #5 & #6 at the far end, looking great against the old brick and stone wall.

And here I am, looking pretty happy as the night wore on.

There will be two more receptions, one on this Thursday from 5-8, and another on First Friday, 4/2, from 5-8. I hope you can join me there.

March 18, 2010

Today's Feature: Watt & Shand #10

First of all, some exciting news--I was featured in today's edition of the Lancaster Newspaper, in conjunction with the AQS show coming to town next week, and with coverage of my solo show opening tomorrow. There's even a great picture of me in front of Big Root Geranium, which will be at the AQS show. Read all about it here.

Today we've reached the end of the series with Watt & Shand #10, with images from May 2008. This one is about edges and the compartmentalization of space. During most of the construction project, the edge of the original Watt & Shand building on the east side of King St. was a bit of an awkward space. The facade ended abruptly and the corner was not yet visually integrated into the new construction. It did provide tantalizing and incomplete glimpses into the interior.

The new construction, on the other hand, was very straightforward, rising floor by floor in a systematic way, with a grid of future hotel rooms emerging. Added to the visual complexity was the angular scaffolding still supporting the facade.

At this point in the series, having stitched the outlines of the scaffolding and the facade and the new construction numerous times and in great detail, I knew it intimately and was very comfortable working with it. I was also getting a bit too comfortable with my ongoing color scheme, and felt like I had explored it as far as I cared to, so I threw caution to the winds and mixed it up a bit by pushing the Prussian blue tones of the cyanotypes into purple hues. From there it was an easy leap to picking up the bright greens of the tree foliage, and I found a piece of heavy silk twill woven in purple and green that made me very happy. The silk plaid used in the borders echoes the lines of the beams and girders. Here's one of the photos I used for the prints. I especially like that temporary platform in the upper left; it looks a bit like a springboard.
Another photo, with the platform jutting out, a plethora of of small spaces taking shape, and a good clear shot of the ornate "Watt & Shand" legend on the cornice.

It's been an extremely positive experience for me to produce this series of works. I enjoyed the mental preoccupation of thinking about it on some level for over two years and the discipline of physically creating it starting in January of 2009. I am especially appreciate of you, my friends and blog visitors, for keeping me company and for your support and encouragement throughout the process.
I feel like I have said what I needed to say, I have done the work I was driven to do, I have put in all the effort needed to get the series out into the world, and I am at the happy conclusion of this journey. In other words, it's Party Time! I hope to see you at the Arts Hotel Gallery this Friday 3/19 from 6-8, next Thursday 3/25 from 5-8, or on "First Friday", 4/2 from 5-8. If you can't make it in person, I hope you have enjoyed this virtual tour, and thanks again for taking this ride with me.

March 14, 2010

Today's Feature: Watt & Shand #9

Up for consideration today is Watt & Shand #9, with images from February 2009. I surprised myself with this one; I'm still not exactly sure where it came from. I had a different layout and color scheme planned originally. I started winging it when I made the themofax screen prints, using as background some fabrics I had just handpainted for a different project, and I kept going from there. Some of the fabrics seemed improbable when I first pulled them from the stash, but came together well when I started piecing them. I'm still using the orange and turquoise shades from the previous works here, but the buff tones have been downplayed and a cool minty green and brick red have been added, and there are silks and handwoven cottons that add textural interest. I'm especially pleased with the way the interplay of light and dark tones worked out.

The perspective is from the first block of South Queen St. Above is the front of the Montgomery House, seen previously from the rear in #4. You can see just a bit of the convention center framework on the right.
I was interested in the contrast of the window shapes and sizes in the old vs. the new construction.
Here's one of the photos I worked from.

And here's a photo that didn't make it into the quilt, but is still a pretty cool perspective:
I dropped off the work at the Arts Hotel Gallery this morning--very exciting! It's a good space and I think the nine works in the series will fit in it perfectly. I'm really looking forward to the reception Friday evening.

Today's Feature: Watt & Shand #8

Watt & Shand #8 is in the spotlight today, with images from February 2009. This one is all about scale and perspective. Workers were replacing the balustrades around the roof perimeter of the original Watt & Shand building. I liked this shot showing the scale of the man in relation to the scale of the building, and printed it in three crops and sizes.I dialed the color scheme way back for this one, using grays in silks and cottons, browns in Harris tweed wools, and a bit of blue to echo the reflection of blue skies in the windows.
More vintage blue hues are in the cyanotypes of the crane image. The oranges of the previous works in the series are referenced here by the yellow lines in the handwoven Indian cotton on the left. Here's the picture I used for the cyanotype images. It's a cool image but I like it even better after it's been printed and stitched; it adds dimension and hints at more of a narrative. "Transformation: The Watt & Shand Series" opens this Friday with a reception from 6-8 at the Arts Hotel Gallery in Lancaster, PA. There will also be a special reception on Thursday, March 25th from 5-8, and a First Friday reception on April 2. I hope to meet some of you there, it's sure to be a lot of fun, and if you want to stay for drinks or dinner I can recommend the adjacent bar and upscale restaurant.

Today's Feature: Watt & Shand #7

Today I'm featuring Watt & Shand #7, where I used images from March 2009. The project was nearing completion, with new windows installed--and I think it's wonderful they used operable
double hung windows, just like the originals. To bring further supplies into the building they were using a pulley system to bring things up and hand them in through the windows, and I got really lucky and got the shot I used in this panel:

I used some denim in this quilt, to pay tribute to the construction workers like my leaning man, as well as some wools and hand-dyed silks. I wouldn't have thought going into this project that I could find this many variations on a orange/blue/buff color scheme, but I really enjoyed putting the colors together for this one and making it fresh and vibrant.
The other activity readily visible from the street that month was the installation of a new balustrade, custom made to replicate the original. I like the angles of the cranes in relation to the building.
Here's a couple of the photographs I worked from. Notice the peeling paint and exposed lathe
on the adjacent building on this one, as well as the veins in the marble:

This shot of the cranes was a bit challenging to work with, as the angle of the sun washed out a lot of detail, but with some photo editing work it transformed into a particularly nice cyanotype print that almost looks like a line drawing:
If you are new here, you can track back the evolution of this series by clicking on Watt & Shand under Labels in the right sidebar. And if you are going to be in the vicinity of Lancaster, PA in the coming weeks, I hope you will join me for a reception at the Arts Hotel Gallery on 3/19 from 6-8, or 3/25 from 5-8, or 4/2 from 5-8.

Today's Feature: Watt & Shand #6

Today's feature is Watt & Shand #6, the companion piece to #5. I worked on them simultaneously, and enjoyed exploring two variations on the same format.
I made two screens from my image, and used the one that showed more details of the building and the scaffold to good effect against the black background. I kept the color scheme mostly neutral with just some shimmer from the metallics and the pop from the turquoise. I'd had the black and white silk hounds tooth fabric in my stash for many years and always felt it was too assertive, but here it fit in perfectly.
I've got the postcards for my upcoming exhibit, and I'm pleased with the look. Here's the front:

And the back with all the info. Hope to see you there!

March 13, 2010

Today's Feature: Watt & Shand #5

Today's feature is Watt & Shand #5, another work using screened images. Here I focused on
the repetition of a single image, and manipulated the colors and the scale. I kept the neutrals, blues and oranges of the previous works, but amped them up, intensifying the blue to a turquoise, the orange to a burnt hue, and the buff tones to a shiny gold silk. I also went for the high contrast of black and white. Many of the fabrics I hand painted to get just the right effect.

True confession time--the photo below was taken in April 2007. It happened by chance that I rounded the street corner and saw this amazing structure with the blue sky shining through the windows, and I was smitten by the beauty and the possibilities. I took a lot of amazing pictures that day, then lost them a few days later in a computer crash; I was not quite current enough with my backup. This was the only one remaining, which I had emailed to a friend and thus was able to retrieve. I am still a bit haunted by the ones that got away, but I'm by nature an adaptable optimist and so I've made the best of what I had to work with.
Along with making the screen prints, I had the image custom printed on yardage that I used for the borders. Using borders references the format of traditional quilts, Lancaster is one of the epicenters of the traditional quilt world, and I've made my share of almost traditional work (I was rebellious about some of the rules) so it all ties together nicely. A bonus is the lacey effect the repeated images gives to the edges of the work."Transformation: The Watt & Shand Series" opens on 3/19 with a reception from 6-8 at the Arts Hotel Gallery in Lancaster, PA; there's a special reception on 3/25 from 5-8, and a "First Friday" reception on 4/2 from 4-8. Tell your friends!

March 12, 2010

Today's Feature: Watt & Shand #4

Today's feature is Watt & Shand #4. It's one of the larger works in the series, at 50"h x 52"w, as I had a lot to say about this set of images from September 2007
At this point in the construction process the facade had been stabilized, the interior of the former department store demolished, and preliminary work had begun on the foundations of the new building. Preserved in its entirety and later incorporated into the convention center was the historic Montgomery House on the left.

These images seemed like naturals for cyanotype prints, which evoke the original blueprints likely used when the building was first constructed.

I love the way you can see remnants of the original paint colors used in the interiors, especially some pale greens and buff tones that had a heavy influence on the color palette for this work. I also like how at first glance it's difficult to ascertain what it is you are looking at--it could perhaps be a decaying European street scene.
I went to the top of a neighboring parking garage to get these pictures. Here's a wider shot that shows the huge construction crane that's evident in some of the panels. The tall building in the background is the Greist building, a 14 floor beaux arts building designed by C. Emlen Urban--when it was first built, and for a long time afterwards, country people would come into Lancaster city to marvel at our very own skyscraper. The new convention center has relegated it to the status of the second tallest building in town.
Watt & Shand #4, along with 8 other in the series, will be debuting at the Lancaster Arts Hotel Gallery a week from today with an opening reception on the 19th, with a special reception on the 25, and a First Friday reception on 4/2. I'm really looking forward to meeting some of you there!

March 11, 2010

Today's Feature: Watt & Shand #3

Today's feature as I count down the days, and count up the series, is Watt & Shand #3. (I'm skipping #2, it's been sold and will not be part of this exhibit, but you can see it here.) At this point in the series I wanted to try further abstracting some images. I chose two pictures from July 2008 that had strong lines, tweaked them digitally, and had themofax screens prepared from them.

A thermofax screen works basically like a silkscreen; you pull paint over the screen to print an image. I printed on white cotton sateen and natural linen fabrics, and I made extra prints to cut up and use in the patchwork. Most of the fabrics here are ones I painted or printed myself.

In the color scheme I am still referencing the oranges, neutrals and blues of the previous works, but I'm also bringing in the greens of summer. Lancaster is a very green city, literally, there are a lot of street trees, as recognized by its status as a Tree City USA for 32 years, and many homes and business have flower boxes and planters. I also added darker browns to reference the soil; life here, even in the city, is never far from our farming and gardening heritage.

Here's one of the pictures I worked with for #3. The scaffolding is down, giving an unobstructed view of the facade, and the new interior is beginning to take shape, but the windows are still empty and intriguing. It's that mildly unsettling and exciting sense of the unknown that I was working to capture in the prints and in the work as a whole. The stopped clock is a bonus. It was restored and is now a working feature of the hotel.

A repeat of the scheduling details: the opening reception is on the 19th, there's a special reception on the 25th, and a First Friday reception on April 2, all at the Lancaster Arts Hotel Gallery. I hope to see you there!

March 10, 2010

Today's Feature: Watt & Shand #1

"Transformation: The Watt & Shand Series" opens on Friday, March 19th at the Lancaster Arts Hotel Gallery in Lancaster, PA, with a reception from 6 - 8. In celebration and anticipation I'm going to feature one of the nine pieces in the exhibit each day leading up to the opening. Today I'm showing Watt & Shand #1, which is based on photos taken in June, 2008. The view from the street of the construction project changed dramatically during the month as the elaborate scaffolding that had been holding up facade of the original building was dismantled. Workers with torches took out the welds, as cranes removed the beams of the scaffold.

Here's the original photo I worked from for the fabric print. I'm still crazy about it; the sparks flying, the angles of the beams and the worker's back and arm, and the contrast of the blue sky all add up to a fine example of being in the right place at the right time. You can also see here how printing onto fabric and adding stitching abstracts the image slightly and gives it dimensionality.
The color scheme for #1 was drawn from the grays and tans of the building, the orange of the banners hanging from the scaffold, and the peeks of blue sky still visible through the empty windows. I used a lot of home dec fabrics, which have a heavier texture and add some visual weight to the work; two colors of orange silk add contrast and shimmer.

Here's another of the photos I worked from. There's a lot going on here! The curves and carvings of the old building, the efficient angles of the new construction, and the hodge-podge of the scaffolding are all grounded, for me, by that glimpse of sky through the window. It's all so complex and transitory, and that's what grabbed me from the start.
If you are going to be in Lancaster in the coming weeks, there are lots of opportunities to see the work. The opening reception on "Third Friday", 3/19 is from 6-8; there's an additional reception on Thursday, 3/25 from 5-8, and one more on "First Friday", 4/2 from 5-8. I will be present at all three and would welcome the chance to meet and greet and talk about the work. The gallery is open to the public daily, and is also a popular spot for private gatherings and business meetings, so if you are making a special trip it's good to call ahead at 717-299-3000.
If you are new here, you can track back the series as a work in progress by clicking on "Watt & Shand" under Labels in the right sidebar. Thanks for stopping by, and stay tuned for more of the countdown.