September 18, 2015
Creating in the Garden at the Governor's Residence
The opening reception at the PA Governor’s Residence for the Pennsylvania Arts Experience installation was excellent. Over 70 artworks were on display in the elegant public spaces of the residence, expertly placed by curator Rob Evans. There I am above, with my Watt & Shand #3, in the State Dining Room, and below is a wider shot. I enjoyed looking at all the art and saying hello to the other artists and friends attending. There is a stunning amount of talent represented in this organization.
And after torrential downpours the day before, the weather cooperated with picture perfect conditions, low 70s and scattered clouds. About a dozen artists set up to create en plein air in the gardens around the residence. There were painters, a sculptor, a performance artist, and myself. I’d never done work on site in public before, so I was excited to give it a try.
I found a good spot with a view of a spectacular magnolia tree, and broke out my needlefelting supplies. My plan was to create an impressionistic scene with wool and wool roving. The green and yellow tool is a hand needlefelting punch. It has needles with tiny barbs that entangle the fibers and lock them together. It’s a very slow method, like a lot of my work, and I was happily interrupted frequently by visitors curious about the process. I had a lot of fun explaining to adults and kids, and giving them bit of roving to handle. I love that fiber is such a tactile medium, and the way it speaks to everyone.
I usually work in quiet and solitude in the studio, so it was challenging to figure what to focus on creatively with all the outside stimulation. I got the background blocked out and laid in, put in the skeletal framework of the magnolia tree, and started on some rosebushes while on site. Below is how it looked at the end of the day: Back at the studio, I spent some time tightening everything up by working on it with the needlefelting machine. This device looks like a sewing machine, but in place of a threaded needle it has a cluster of barbed needles just like the hand punch. It does a great job of locking everything together, and saves my hands and wrists a lot of trauma. The piece now looks like this:
That’s just the beginning. I will build up texture and color on the background and add the leaves and flowers, and then detail it even more with stitching. But I am very happy with this start, and even more pleased that I took a chance on trying something new and working outdoors. I’m already filled with ideas on how to improve the presentation the next an opportunity presents itself.