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.
I grew up in Buffalo NY, moved to the South in my forty's and finally landed in Wyoming eleven years ago. Every move has influenced my art and choice of art making materials. While living in Georgia, I became interested in a fascinating grass…bamboo. Walking through bamboo groves is like being in a living wind chime with the rustle of leaves and the clanking of culms. Bamboo boosts hundreds of species with different colors and patterning. The rate of growth is astounding. A truly renewal resource used by many cultures for shelter and food. The South’s bounty of amazing plants also became my fiber source for paper making and vines for my paper mache pieces. Another fast growing Southern plant led me to a series about the sweet potato and Southern foodways. I collected old regional cookbooks looking for recipes. I haunted the Dekalb County Farmers market surreptitiously searching for interesting shapes. I even took my sweet potatoes casts to a Jill Connor Brown book talk. Brown is the author of several books including,The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of LoveandThe Sweet Potato Queens' Wedding Planner/Divorce Guide.She “adored,”my sweet potato paper-casts and agreed to autograph them if she could own one too! I continue to interpret the things that interest me and the places I live through the language of art. Art never ceases to bring me to interesting, places, spaces and faces.
Southern Sojourn will be on display through June and July. Openings on June 11th and July 9th during the Cheyenne Artwalk from 5-8. Other times by appointment or chance.
Buffalo NY has a rich architectural history. The Tri-Main Center, built in 1915 by the famous archiect Albert Kahn, is one of those places. Over 600,000 Ford Model T's were produced there by 1927. Then Hercules Motors became a tenant and produced diesel engines for the Navy and Bell Aircraft. In 1941 Bell received the contract to construct America's first jet engine warplane. It's top secret build took place on the upper floor of the building which became known as the "black project." In 1947 the building became the headquarters of the Trico Products Company, the world's largest maker of windshield wipers. In 1989, Tri-Main Center became Buffalo's first large-scale rehabilitation of a vacant industrial complex.. Tri-Main now boasts over a 100 diverse businesses including the Buffalo Arts Studio. BAS has over 30 artists' studios, exhibition space, a ceramic center and an education space.
Last Thursday, I wheeled my pink suitcase up to the 5th floor, went all the way to the left and stepped into the BAS gallery. After a tour with friend and curator, Shirley Verrico, I was ready to set up. I had brought 4 of the 8 strips from my "Crazy" project, lots of embroidery floss and needles. I was getting ready for our 3-6pm stitch-in. It was relaxing, creative fun peppered with stimulating discussion about the problems facing garment workers and our environment. As an added visual treat, we were surrounded by Shirley Thompson's exhibition, Making Memories: Telling Visual Stories,. Do take this show in if you are in the area. You'll enjoy touring the Tri-Main Center and the journey into Thompson's personal history through her mono-print and collage work.
Thanks again to all the people who gave their time and thoughts to the, "Crazy- A Contemporary Quilt about Fashion's Pressing Problems." at the Buffalo Arts Studio!
" Let's go to the Lockport Nature Trail and get some exercise while we talk.." The sun had largely been absent since I first arrived in Buffalo NY and it looked like it was going to stay that way on the 7th. Undaunted, I grabbed an umbrella and headed out to meet my good friend, Deb Roberts. We met Deb's family when my kids were young and we lived in Medina NY. The Robert's are farmers and Deb's husband's family owns Roberts Farm Market in Medina. By the way did I mention that I love apples? Well I do and the season is in full swing here! My favorite variety is Empire apples. So good! Tart but sweet with a crisp bite....but I digress.
Deb and I spent the next several hours hiking the trail and then grabbing lunch at Reid's Drive-In. Risking the rain and looking for space to spread out, we headed over to one of the outdoor picnic tables. Wiping away the morning's rain, we settled in to eat, talk some more and work together on the "Crazy" project.. Deb get it. She is intelligent, curious and has already sought out sustainability in some of her clothing choices. Our conversation threaded between the topic at hand and how our lives and families had progressed since we last caught up with each other. Deb is a Yoga teacher and felt an infinity with the Indonesian segment. She reached into her past experience with embroidery and added a few daisy chain flowers next to the label information. Before we said our good-byes, she told me about American Giant,a San Francisco based clothing manufacturer whose motto is; MAKE THINGS BETTER, MAKE BETTER THINGS.
Makes sense to me.
Georgia Rowswell is a mixed media artist living and working in Cheyenne WY.