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.
I had so much making this piece! Thank you to Mr. Fluevog for selecting me as a finalist.
Please vote here:
What I wrote for my submission Should I stay or should I go?
It is summer, and blackberries and raspberries are blooming and coming to fruit in my yard. The heady scent of all all of my garden, the bees and birds, insects and rainfall, reminded me of a particular passage from Jane Eyre, in the midsummer moment along antique walls, birds, moths, and cigar smoke, Jane and Mr. Rochester meet among the flowers and confess their love for one another eventually:
“Sweet-briar and southernwood, jasmine, pink, and rose have long been yielding their evening sacrifice of incense: this new scent is neither of shrub nor flower; it is–I know it well–it is Mr. Rochester’s cigar. I look round and I listen. I see trees laden with ripening fruit. I hear a nightingale warbling in a wood half a mile off; no moving form is visible, no coming step audible; but that perfume increases: I must flee.”
Jane is the embodiment of blooming and almost bursting desire. Will she run or will she stay? Her shoes will help her anywhere she needs to go, if her heart and mind tell them to.
Each of these flowers is hand sewn, quilled, or cut in a variety of papers and watercolor.
Can one also tell I happen to listen to The Clash a lot when I am working?