Trying out a new skill. Christmas will be full of swirls.
This piece began over four years ago when I met Andrea Graham at Fiberart International 2011. She is a multi-media artist from Canada, and I was also in this show with her, which featured one of my lottery ticket suits. She sent me a box of Pocket Slot lottery tickets from Canada when I got home, and they sat in the box waiting for the right project.
I mainly make items of clothing, suits, boots, gloves…fanciful looking items that are meant to be transformative from the bad luck of the losing lottery tickets I normally find in my neighborhood in Rhode Island. These tickets were a different shape and have tabs. I couldn’t put my finger on what to make until recently. Then the Gladstone Hotel accepted my work and proposals for Hard Twist 10, an annual fiber arts show in this historic hotel in Toronto. I knew I had to make something with them, and after a visit to the Rhode Island School of Design Museum in Providence, RI, I had my idea.
They have a new section upstairs dedicated to textiles and clothing, and fabulous drawers you can open up and look at smaller items like gloves, and purses up close in storage. A video monitor nearby can be touched and give one more details about the items in each case. Right now, there are several drawers filled with amazing fans of all kinds. Fans have always fascinated me. Besides being a useful item to fold up into a purse, there are more elaborate ones of feathers, beads, denoting ritual of secrecy, spiritual connotations or privacy. Maybe much more. So much to say with such a small item.
A lot of my work centers around luck; wishing for luck, wanting more luck, transforming circumstances. I thought back to a show I saw as a student in St. Louis. It was at a nearby community center in my neighborhood, and it was one of Nick Cave’s first shows as he was becoming a well-known artist. He had created these ritualistic looking objects from household items and tool; referencing his relatives who were hairdressers. I can’t remember all of the connotations of the work, but I remember the intimacy of the object; the care in which they were made.
I’ve been wanting to make similar items with the lottery tickets but related to my central themes of wanting something better, fanning the flames of luck so to speak. Rain Maker is one of the first of these items. It is a two-sided piece with a handle wrapped in dental floss. The central core is cardboard and felt, with the lottery tickets sewn onto it. A fringe of betting slips rings the perimeter. It feels good in the hand and makes a lovely sound with touch.
What a nice show to be in! Please go look at the work from across the country, related to nature in one way or another. My Icarus is part of the stellar group. Open from now until April 5, 2015. More here.
I found out this morning I won a prize for my Captain America Suit at the Newport Art Museum. I’ve actually never entered this annual call, so this makes it double nice! Many thanks to the juror Alyson Baker, and the Newport Art Museum staff for always taking good care of my work, and congratulations to the other winners.
Velma, 2014, mulberry paper, thread, 6″ x 6″ x 10″
Velma Alverta (Crabtree) Siemering was my grandmother, and this light pink paper hand sewn dress is made in honor of her memory. She inspired me to become an artist by her everyday craftsmanship of scrap materials into beautiful things. She was born in the middle of Nebraska at the turn of the last century, and had twelve(?) siblings. Velma was one of the youngest of the ones who lived through the flu epidemic at the time. Her father worked on the railroad, and she, her mother, sisters and one brother figured out how to fix things and re-craft items they needed on their own. She kept copious hand written notebooks about how to make all sorts of things and patterns for toys and cloths. She lived with me for part of my childhood until her death in 1987. I often think if she had been born a little later, and in different circumstances, she would have been a designer or an engineer.
Velma married and had three boys. For someone who loved to sew, her skills were a little lost on them. She made the loveliest quilts and hand sewed Barbie doll clothes for all of the little girl grandchildren that followed, including me. It was a privilege to get to know her. She was very simple in taste, and wore mainly pink and turquoise house coats. A very practical person who tried to imbue some simple elegance into what she wore every day, with a place to put her pencils, scissors and notebooks for things she was thinking about. She hand knitted pillbox hats and kept then like a tower of Pisa in her bedroom.
As I have gone through art school and my career as a fiber artist, I think of her often. I come back to simple solutions to make my work. I recently had surgery on my hand from an old injury and taking care of a rambunctious kiddo. I could not close my hand at one point. For my first art piece after surgery, I went a little off from what I normally make and used tissue like pink paper to make a little house dress to represent her. It is all hand sewn, and I took a cross stitch pattern from one of her books to embellish it. It has helped in my physical therapy even, which I can do at home. My PT therapist thought my life in sewing has made strong, flexible fingers.
Please join me for a retrospective talk on The Lottery Project at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA, on September 21. In conjunction with the exhibit Fiberart International 2013, I will discuss how discarded items, particularly lottery tickets, were used to create the refined clothing pieces of the collection. My Captain America Suit, is on view in the current exhibition Fiberart International.