Artists residencies happen all over the world in all kinds of situations, cultures and climates. With a little bit of Spanish and a lot of excitement, I embarked on a personal residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal in the Fall of 2016 to work on my year long Leap 366 Life Ring project.
Residencies are all about giving artists the gift of time. Time to work on current projects and time to incubate new ideas. Fast forward to my February 2021 residency in the High Plains of Ucross Wyoming, population...25! Ucross Foundation for the arts was started by philanthropist Raymond Plank in 1983 to, " foster the creative spirit of deeply committed artists and groups by providing uninterrupted time..." Surrounded by snow and a few days of temperatures that dipped to -22 degrees, I was able to spend hours in my beautiful studio working on projects that revolve around textiles as storytellers. Today I continue to work on ideas and artwork started at Ucross in my downtown Cheyenne studio while applying for my next residency adventure!
Interested in an artist residency? Here's the website I use to search for opportunities around the world, Alliance of Artists Communities
My big, little sister, Nancy Quinn, doesn't really like to make things. She would rather support people like myself who do which is just fine because It takes both kinds to make the art world go round. Even though there were a few sighs, Nancy graciously agreed to add a few embroidery stitches on segment #7 of the, Crazy- A Contemporary Quilt about Fashion's Pressing Problems project.
n town for a family wedding, Nancy stayed with us for a week before the wedding. During a book purging before she left Virginia, she found a Crazy Quilt Stitching book that belonged to my Mother. Knowing I was working on a project that involved stitching, she brought it with her. Together we spent time at my studio stitching and talking all while our Mother, Dot Stiefler, was present through her long forgotten book.
PS We had a great time at the family wedding in Denver!
Putting on your clothes for the day can bring you in touch with people from around the world. Our clothes are almost exclusively made overseas. As an interesting and informative exercise, look at the labels in the clothes you put on in the morning, then when you have a minute look up something about those countries. What's the story of its people, traditions and environment? For instance, today I am wearing a hot pink, velour sweatshirt made in Cambodia. I Googled Cambodia and the first article screamed this headline:
What else did I learn in just a few minutes? Built in the 12th century, Angor Wat is the largest religious structure in the world by land area. It's one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists around the world. A line drawing of the temple appears on Cambodia's national flag, and it is the country's main tourist attraction.
Let your clothes be your armchair tour guide to the
fascinating and diverse world we live in!
31" of heavy, wet snow fell on the City of Cheyenne last Saturday and Sunday. It's Tuesday now and the side streets are still impassable. Dave and I strapped on our cross country skis to get to our daughter house several blocks away just to see our grandson Aviv! Grandparents to the rescue! I haven't been able to get to my downtown studio in days! Fortunately I have a hand stitching project a home to work on. Never be without a project!
One good thing about being snowbound is the extra time to do some reading and research. My current read is the excellent, The Fabric of Civilization: How textiles Made the World by Virginia Postrel. In that same vein, my research led me t0 Clare Hunter's website, Sewing Matters "where you can read about, explore and discover the social, emotional and political significance of needlework. I just ordered her book, Threads of Life. Goodreads tells me that although the book doesn't have any images, Hunter's website has pictures that correspond to the chapters in her book. Of course I went to her site and found images titled, Connections. One of the pictures is from the Foundling Museum in London. Take a minute to read about the Museum's emotional Threads of Feeling exhibit about the role textiles played in a foundling's life.
What next for a snowbound day? Perhaps some baking. Chocolate chip cookies anyone?
Growing up in Buffalo NY, I know when you hear the snow crunch under your feet and the snow sparkles like diamonds....it's cold out! During my two weeks residency In early February at Ucross Foundation, the weather and COVID regulations kept the artists in residence separate but well cared for. Lunch and Supper were delivered to my studio door by the talented chef, Cindy Brooks, who didn't repeat a meal during the whole two weeks! It's amazing how much work you can get done when you don't have to cook for yourself or anyone else. Most days I worked from 9:00 to 9:00 on the three projects planned for my residency.
Project #1 - To continue my ongoing Thrift Life Ring series. Ucross is about 30 minutes from Sheridan which had two thrift stores I was interested in working with, Urban Thrift and 2nd Hand Blessings, (follow this link for blog posts on the Thrift series.)
Project #2 - A badly damaged, overshot coverlet I found 4 years ago at Bridge Street Thrift in Saratoga WY, was the starting point for this project. Like many old coverlets, it was woven in two panels and then carefully stitched together, matching the pattern so it appeared to be one large weaving. Separating the two panels, I paired one with a Japanese kimono and one with an Indian sari. Upcycling isn't new to either of these countries. Japanese Boro and Indian Kantha are both ancient techniques that saw the value in reclaiming and transforming used textiles.
Project #3 - "What would it be like to create a piece that could undulate and flex? That could be rearranged in different ways each time it was exhibited?" I had begun working with these ideas in my Cheyenne studio but had only gotten about 8 inches constructed. The gift of time I was so generously given at Ucross allowed me to expand that 8 inches into 7 feet!
Thank you Ucross for an amazing two weeks.
I love our library so when Jennifer Rife, library employee, accomplished artist and friend, asked me to exhibit "Crazy" and LEAP 366, I of course said YES! Together we developed a four part exhibition revolving around telling stories through textiles. The exhibition winds its way through all three floors and focuses on stories about where our clothes come from, who makes them and what happens to all those clothes we get rid of.
If you are in Cheyenne or passing though, please visit our fantastic library while taking in the exhibition. Textile Stories will be on display until February 16th,
As I write this, I am sitting in the McMurray Foundation Gallery at the Nicolaysen Art Museum in Capser WY. Circling the walls is a parade of my work. I've calculated that a third of the work was already completed when I got the invitation to have a solo show here and the rest is new work made over the past year and a half for this show.
In this same room, laid out over 7 tables, is my "Crazy- A Contemporary Quilt About Fashion's Pressing Problems." I have spent the last week welcoming classes and individuals to join me in learning the slow craft of embroidery while talking about Fast Fashion and its issues. Tonight the public is invited to preview the exhibition and watch the documentary, The True Cost by Andrew Morgan. Afterward there will be time for discussion and project collaboration. I hope you can join us but if not, take a minute to watch the trailer for the documentary and consider renting the whole film. It will open your eyes!
Thank you to all the people who contributed to the "Crazy" quilt during the September Cheyenne Artwalk. A special thanks to Vanda Edington and Barbara Wolf who are coming back for their third day of embroidery this Thursday! They'll be sneaking in their final stitches before I roll up and package the segments.
Preparing art to travel takes time and thought. I'm using old blankets and comforters to sew pockets for my 2-D work. Heavy duty card board tubes rescued from the back hallway of the Hynds building are now protecting some of the work. Foam insulation boards will cradle my 5 foot wide Leap 366 Life Ring. When the show is over I will reuse the foam as foundation boards for my artwork. My goal is to be as environmentally responsible as I can with not only my artwork but the way I pack and protect it. If you have been following the fires in California and Oregon and the storms off the East coast, you know climate change is real and dangerous!
I'll leave you with a quote from an article I read yesterday;
"If everyone in the U.S. brought one used item instead of new in 2019 it would save nearly 6 billion pounds of carbon emissions generated by the production of new garments. That's the equivalent of taking more than half a million cars off the road for a full year"
“Crazy Stitch In”
Blue Door Arts 1608 Capitol Ave
Cheyenne Artwalk September 10th 5-8pm
“Crazy” is a nineteen inch wide by seventy foot long instillation taking its design inspiration from the wildly popular, intricately decorated, Crazy Quilts, of 1800’s America. The piece is composed of layers of thrift store clothes from the top 36 exporters to the United States .
Designed to spark conversations about “Fast Fashion” and its cost to textile workers and the environment, “Crazy”is a collaborative project involving participants in the “Slow Craft” of embroidery and the social aspects of a traditional quilting bee. To date I have done embroidery collaborations with children and adults in private and public settings
from Cheyenne to Istanbul.
Join in on this informal
No experience necessary
For the past year and a half I have been thinking about and working towards my solo show at the Nicolaysen Art Museum in Casper WY. The room I have been given is the McMurray gallery. It's white walls are spacious and waiting to be filled with my work starting September 25th. I will be showing work that is inspired by Wyoming's geology and landscapes as well as two pieces that use textiles to tell personal and global stories.
In addition to the show I will be an artist in residence from September 21st to the 25th. The museum has an active educational component that will be working with me on the ongoing "Crazy- A Contemporary Quilt About Fashions Pressing Problems" project. The public is also invited to drop in and collaborate through embroidering with me on the quilt.
Filling a room with my art and only my art is exciting and a bit nerve racking! Art is a form of communication for me. I can't wait to see how the exhibit communicates to me and to the people that come to see it.
Georgia Rowswell is a mixed media artist living and working in Cheyenne WY.