Epic Lips, this is the end

I'm thrilled. I'm depressed. I'm adrift. I'm free.

 Epic Lips. X stitch self portrait, 2015.

Epic Lips. X stitch self portrait, 2015.

A little less than six months after starting Epic Lips, I finished the piece in the middle of the night last night. 

It's unnerving to take one piece of your face and break it down, pixel by pixel like that. Like I did with Spanish Eyes (2015).

 Spanish Eyes, 2015.

Spanish Eyes, 2015.

I'm looking at myself this morning, seeking other pieces to photograph and translate into stitch. Yes, the world is filled with much more than my face and body. But turning my body into art is intoxicating. And intoxication is calling me.

 Almost there... stitching in the middle of the night.

Almost there... stitching in the middle of the night.

I will play and drift for a while. Sketch. I need a new sketchbook. That will be my first task for today. I'm picky about these.

A few details about Epic Lips. It's based on a self-portrait of my mouth that I designed and my dear friend Rebecca Gibson shot and edited. It's roughly 8x10 inches. It used 32 shades of DMC six-strand cotton floss (four strands of each) and is on 14 point Aida cloth. I edited the design quite a bit as I started stitching. 

I created the piece for Stitch Fetish 4 (curated by Ellen Schinderman) which will open in LA on February 6, 2016, at the Hive Gallery. 

 Backside.

Backside.

And now, I go on.

30 x 112 Stitches to Go!

Stitching until my fingers are bloody and raw.

 WIP: Epic Lips, Dec. 5, 2015.

WIP: Epic Lips, Dec. 5, 2015.

Yes, I'm stitching like a mofo to finish my photorealist self-portrait of my lips. Thirty by one hundred and twelve stitches to go. Gulp!

 My current life -- stitching in my tiny apartment.

My current life -- stitching in my tiny apartment.

I'm not doing a whole lot else creatively until I finish this piece, which I'm proud to say has been accepted in the Stitch Fetish 4 show at the Hive Gallery in LA!

 Sunday morning in bed.

Sunday morning in bed.

More details to come. Back to work.

Epic Lips, a bit of progress

Keeping focus is hard. I want to work on so many art projects! Especially after the fantastic and inspiring lectures and workshops I attended at the Common Thread Symposium at NC State College of Design this weekend. But I will sit and stitch on my Epics Lips.

 WIP: Epics Lips, Nov 8th, 2015.

WIP: Epics Lips, Nov 8th, 2015.

I WILL make the deadline to get this into the erotics stitching show in LA. I will do it.

I am Not Crafty

But I have been crafty of late. I have even purchased a glue gun!

 Glittery mask painting.

Glittery mask painting.

First, I painted and glittered a mask, which I wore to the fabulous Muse Masquerade for the Carrack Modern last Friday. The masquerade was lovely, filled with glamorously dressed adults in the elegant galleries of the 21 C Hotel.

 Wearing my crown and mask.

Wearing my crown and mask.

My dear friend Alex came down from Virginia to attend. The insanely cool craftivist Betsy Greer joined Rebecca, Alex and me for the sparkly night.

 Betsy Greer and me!

Betsy Greer and me!

I made myself a wild flower crown.

 Arturo the art dog modeling my crown and mask. 

Arturo the art dog modeling my crown and mask. 

And then matching flower bracelets.

And then I tried something completely outside of my comfort zone by making these Tinkerbell slippers for my friend Beth’s four-year-old’s Halloween costume. I used glitter and Modge Podge. Like a real crafter! 

 Tinkerbell slippers for a 4-year-old.

Tinkerbell slippers for a 4-year-old.

Before this, I was not a fan of glitter. Now I want to make a grown woman pair for myself.

 

This crafty thing is kind of fun.


Epic Lips Deadline!

I have less than two months to finish this monster!

 Epic Lips, with my hand for scale.

Epic Lips, with my hand for scale.

If you don't stitch, two months may seem like a long time. It is not. At least not when I have a full time day job.

 WIP: In the Q frame.

WIP: In the Q frame.

I'm plannin to submit the finished piece to Stitch Fetish 4 in LA. I just hope it's erotic enough.

It's been a rough patch with work. Looking forward to the weekend with my girl Keefie and good times with Betsy and Rebecca at the Muse Masquerade, a benefit in support of the Carrack Modern. (A wonderful non-profit gallery in Durham!)

Here is Arturo wearing the mask and flower crowns I made for my costume. Yay!

 I hope I look as good as Arturo, the art hound, in my costume.

I hope I look as good as Arturo, the art hound, in my costume.

Sometime the tiny pulls the huge

Sometimes the tiny pulls the enormous out of orbit.

 Purple Pull, 2015. Hand embroidery, watercolor and charcoal. 11 x 14 inches.

Purple Pull, 2015. Hand embroidery, watercolor and charcoal. 11 x 14 inches.

This little planet is tugging.

 Detail from Purple Pull.

Detail from Purple Pull.

This little planet probably will not win the battle. But she won't give up.

"Color is seductive"

I struggle with color. I have no control. 

 WIP: Purple Planet. First layer of honeycomb stitched. More layers to come. Watercolor and hand embroidery, 11 x 14 inches.

WIP: Purple Planet. First layer of honeycomb stitched. More layers to come. Watercolor and hand embroidery, 11 x 14 inches.

It helps to know that I’m not alone in this struggle. I can relate to the concerns shared by Japanese artist Fuyuko Matsubara, who creates stunning woven pieces, in an interview with her in the Fall 2015 issue of Fiber Art now magazine.

She said, “Color is seductive and when I don’t think about the values, [the work] gets flat, which is my weakness.”

Color is a weakness for me, too. I will work to address it.

But for today, this color is with me.

I work another layer onto my Purple Planet.

 

WIPs and Goals

Well, mostly WIPs. It's hard for me to talk about goals in my art. Is it for you?

 WIP: Purple planet.

WIP: Purple planet.

For instance, I made two pieces earlier this year that I'm trying again, on a larger scale. Purple Planet, above, is one of them. Today I'm painting it using water only, removing color, distressing the image and the texture of the paper, before I stick the needle and thread into it.

 WIP: Lips self portrait x stitch.

WIP: Lips self portrait x stitch.

I can nervously talk about goals regarding the photorealistic Lips x stitch above. I say nervously because it is my actual goal to show this in LA in the Stitch Fetish, erotic stitching show. And to admit that I have that kind of goal is a little scary because the curatorial decision is out of my control.

 Embroidered tank I made for my friend Juline. I love this font.

Embroidered tank I made for my friend Juline. I love this font.

Another goal is to make more gifts for my friends and loved one, like this embroidered tank I made for my cool friend Juline who moved away and who I miss terribly.

 Bifurcated, Take 1. Embroidery on 2 inch square watercolor.

Bifurcated, Take 1. Embroidery on 2 inch square watercolor.

Finally there is the goalless, WIP-only Bifurcated embroidery. I'm just playing with this image, with process. This is a very wonkily stitched, tiny version on watercolor paper. No goals or directions. Just experimenting.

 

O, Puerto Rico, my Puerto Rico (not my Puerto Rico)

I am half Puerto Rican. Half Anglo.

I have access to both identities and access to neither.

 Rinse Recuerdame, para siempre. Hand embroidered Puerto Rican flag.

Rinse Recuerdame, para siempre. Hand embroidered Puerto Rican flag.

I have traveled all over Latin America, but I went to Puerto Rico for the first time last month. It was an amazing and unnerving experience.

I was comfortable and strange at the same time.  The island felt both familiar and distant.

So much about the place felt like something from my childhood (the people, the food, the loudness). I felt like I belonged. Like I was absorbed.

 Luquillo Beach, where my parents met in 1964.

Luquillo Beach, where my parents met in 1964.

But then, in another sense, I felt foreign. Like I’m so close to Puerto Rico emotionally, but I don’t really have access to it. This is what it’s like to love and to be invisible to your beloved.

(My Spanish is not fluent. Then there are the realities of the privileges of my Anglo half, my American half. The half of me that passes.)

 Peeking out from the banyan tree, Old San Juan.

Peeking out from the banyan tree, Old San Juan.

The juxtaposition of familiarity and distance felt like something from a dream. When you dream you go home and it’s home but utterly unfamiliar. My personal/cultural experience Puerto Rico has a dreamlike kind of unreality.

 Recuerdame. Para siempre.

Recuerdame. Para siempre.

Strange, beautiful, divided. I loved the oddness of the experience. The disconcerting pause it gave me.

 The sky through the rain forest. El Yunque. Always, my view is obscured.

The sky through the rain forest. El Yunque. Always, my view is obscured.

Recuerdame means “remember me.” But I don’t know if this stitch is my voice asking Puerto Rico to remember me, or if the island is begging me to remember her


Edit my teeth, for a brighter, whiter smile

I finished the first 50 x 50 stitch square of my big old lips x stitch.

 WIP: 8/18/15.

WIP: 8/18/15.

And I find that the stitches representing my teeth look a bit dim and dark. So I will edit the colors, changing the floss color to make the teeth pop a bit. 

 Initial image, shot and edited by Rebecca Gibson.

Initial image, shot and edited by Rebecca Gibson.

Designing with x stitch is still very new to me. So this is going to take some real experimentation. Gulp. #artistatwork

WIP O'Lips, Take 1

Another epic, photorealist x stitch of a part of my face. 

This time... my lips. Hoping to submit this to a show in LA next winter. This is a long, slow project. I love me some photorealism stitching of parts of my body. Not for vanity. But because it's mine and I get to control the image.

This is what a 40 something woman looks like.

 

I love to edit

When I was young I felt a rush to complete things. To tie that bow on it and be done.

 Detail from Honeycomb Rings, 2015 (originally 2013). Watercolor and hand embroidery.

Detail from Honeycomb Rings, 2015 (originally 2013). Watercolor and hand embroidery.

And I see the same tendencies in younger artists. 

But as a grown woman, I value the subtle pleasures of editing my work. This may all make sense in the context of the digital world, etc., but I edit things that don't exist merely in the digital space.

 Started in 2013. Long lines added in 2015.

Started in 2013. Long lines added in 2015.

Take this piece, for example. Honeycomb Rings. It sits on the fireplace mantel in my bedroom, but I feel like it needs these diagonal lines. So I added them.

I may need some editing to myself. A trim of people and obligations who are no longer invested in me but who I've clung to. It may be time for another massive shedding of the pressures and people of the past. 

Because as Nina Simone said, you have to learn to get up from the table when love is no longer being served. Which is not about romantic relationships, to me. But is about the whole damn world.

Honey Planets

As if space and planets aren't visually strange and wonderous enough, for some reason I keep imagining green skies. And planets circled by rings of a dozen moons.

 Honey Planets, 2015. Hand embroidery, watercolor and pencil.

Honey Planets, 2015. Hand embroidery, watercolor and pencil.

And constellations strung together with colored thread.

 Stitching.

Stitching.

The little Moonlet piece below started it.  And I'm working on a larger version of Moonlet for myself. (The original is in my sister-in-law's collection in Austin.)

 Moonlet, 2015. Hand embroidery and watercolor. 5x7 inches.

Moonlet, 2015. Hand embroidery and watercolor. 5x7 inches.

More planets, moons and suns, pulling and pushing each other, are in the works. Along with more tiles of Earthea

 Detail from Honey Planets.

Detail from Honey Planets.

Now, I'm headed to a tropical rainforest.  Can't wait to see what the Earth looks like there!

Welcome to Earthea

A few months ago I started painting and stitching little 2 inch squares. I didn't have a connecting idea. I was just playing. 

 Earthea, 2. Hand embroidery/x stitch on watercolor segments.

Earthea, 2. Hand embroidery/x stitch on watercolor segments.

While I was waking up on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago, a dreamlike image came to me of tiles of slightly large squares of bits of land and sea, seen from above. And over the surface of these little scenes, thread and text and paint and experiments.

 Earthea 1.

Earthea 1.

So, Earthea was born. These first two pieces are watercolor and embroidery/X stitch. No words, yet. I will play with images of the world... satellite images and maps. Jungle and glacier. Ice and sand. With words and without. 

The only thing to unify the pieces will be the 3.5 x 3.5 inch canvas. And our planet. And experimentation. And, perhaps, a gold star on each.

 This image was inspired by the painted maps in the Map Room at the Vatican in Rome. 

This image was inspired by the painted maps in the Map Room at the Vatican in Rome. 

Not sure where I will take this, but I'm off to Earthea.

The biggest challenge for me will be not to go too extreme with the colors. I love saturated color. I shall endeavor to be more restrained.

Longing and art

Fantasies of a dedicated studio space and time to create have overcome me again. 

 Pearl cotton, size 8. WIP on a watercolor. 

Pearl cotton, size 8. WIP on a watercolor. 

But they remain fantasies.

In the meantime, I experimented with stitching a window frame and bush fronds (in crossed, fly stitch) on the castle print I made a few weeks back at a printing workshop at Artspace.

 Peering through a window upon a Castle. Hand embroidery on a print.

Peering through a window upon a Castle. Hand embroidery on a print.

I completed a layer of black honeycombs on a watercolor painting I’m slowing working on. Now I’m plotting the next layer.

 WIP: Honey Planets. Hand embroidery on watercolor and pencil.

WIP: Honey Planets. Hand embroidery on watercolor and pencil.

And I’m back to work on another large scale, photographic x stitch of one of my body parts. This time my lips, which my dear friend Rebecca shot and edited for me.

 Plotting my Lips. I love the colors!

Plotting my Lips. I love the colors!

And always, 10,000 ideas. 

 Geeking out on the subtle but important distinction on DMC 975 versus 400.

Geeking out on the subtle but important distinction on DMC 975 versus 400.

And always, longing. 

Play with ink, paper and prints

Spent the day in a print making workshop at ArtSpace Raleigh.  It's liberating to try something entirely outside your normal medium.

 Castle prints.

Castle prints.

I had no idea what I was doing and I wasn't very good at it. But it was fantastic to learn about the steps and to touch the papers and to watch an accomplished and talented printmaker, Susan Soper, at work. Energizing.

 A fragile branch, printed on newsprint.

A fragile branch, printed on newsprint.

Me, with my thread fetish, wants to pierce the paper and these images with my needle, to add the next layer. 

Slowly, haltingly getting back up

I'm back to painting and stitching again. Woot!

 WIP: Stitching a layer of honeycomb in the fading sunlight. Watercolor, graphite, hand embroidery. June, 2015.

WIP: Stitching a layer of honeycomb in the fading sunlight. Watercolor, graphite, hand embroidery. June, 2015.

Slowly. Haltingly. But making again.

 WIP: Tiny, but powerful. purple planet. Watercolor. June, 2015.

WIP: Tiny, but powerful. purple planet. Watercolor. June, 2015.

Stitching into higher quality watercolor paper is such a pleasure. It feels like fabric. You can sense the fibrous nature of paper with the cold press Arches. Expensive but worth it.

 Painting and drawing.

Painting and drawing.

The struggle is between art and time. Sneaking in time to create.

 Chaos in my apartment. Arturo looks on.

Chaos in my apartment. Arturo looks on.

Other things going on in my life... spending time with my squeeze, exploring Durham and North Carolina together. Hiking, meeting people, looking at art.

 Out and about with the fabulous squeeze.

Out and about with the fabulous squeeze.

And I'm very excited to be included in the Phone Home Durham exhibition at the Power Plant Gallery. They selected a photo I took of Geer Street to be in their exhibition celebrating the interaction of camera phones with the beauty of our hardscrabble yet wondrous city. 

 Get out to the Power Plant Gallery before Aug 21, 2015, to see the work of local photographers.

Get out to the Power Plant Gallery before Aug 21, 2015, to see the work of local photographers.

Getting back up again.

 

Colors in words, colors in stitch

I'm still casting about creatively. After reconnecting with an earlier stitched words project, I turned my focus to my collection of color words stitched on piece of beautiful, often hand-dyed (not by me) fabrics.

 An assortment of my stitched color words.

An assortment of my stitched color words.

I collected these words in the handwriting of friends and family from all over the world. And I'm thinking about placing them into blocks of colors, in broken frames of an old window. (The redwork words I wrote about in the previous post didn't work for me in the window context. They'll have another venue, TBD.)

 A pile of darks.

A pile of darks.

For whatever reason, I like the words spelled out on the wrong color. The cognitive dissonance.

 Backstitch in No. 8 pearle cotton. My favorite thread.

Backstitch in No. 8 pearle cotton. My favorite thread.

I like the failed expectation of "olive" stitched in blue thread on hot pink. Not a green in sight. Ceci n'est pas Olive.

 All lies. The pile, mid May 2015.

All lies. The pile, mid May 2015.

Still moving slowly, though. Still getting back to myself after surgery. The pain much less, but the fatigue still makes the days a bit of a slog. 

 2 inch x 2 inch, my new tiny "canvases."

2 inch x 2 inch, my new tiny "canvases."

I also started a new, ongoing project. I'm in the very early stages, but I'm imagining a sort of colorful mesh or net of 2 inch by 2 inch pieces, in many different mediums (paint, stitching, image transfers, etc.) I can see myself piecing these tiny pieces together somehow.

Forming a collection of mark making and experimentation. The only connection between the pieces being their identical size.

I love mark making. This project is a lovely canvas for me play.

A Dearth of Verbs

A few years ago I started collecting words in various handwriting and obsessively stitching them onto white cotton cloth with red, size 8, pearl cotton thread.

 I have piles of these words.

I have piles of these words.

For some reason, these have captured my imagination again. While looking at my piles of words, I found very few verbs, which surprised me. I love verbs! Verbs rule!

 Stitching a fresh batch.

Stitching a fresh batch.

I'm still not entirely sure what I'm going to create with this pile. I recently purchased an old window that, for some reason, I can imagine the strips of words getting caught in. Stitched into screen panels. 

But right now I'm playing without a real plan.

 I want to smash the glass and scrap the paint. I think.

I want to smash the glass and scrap the paint. I think.

I'm spending this Spring healing my body. This amorphous project is good for me as I struggle to stay awake and recover. I can't wait to feel energetic again.

Until then, please send verbs. 

Eyes Framed and Ready for Their Closeup

I PROMISE that this is the last post I'll write about the Spanish Eyes piece! I know this must be getting boring.

 Spanish Eyes, x stitch portrait of my own eyes, 2015.

Spanish Eyes, x stitch portrait of my own eyes, 2015.

It was the biggest art project I'v ever completed. The final piece is 6.5 inches x 14 inches.

 WIPS over the year it took to stitch up.

WIPS over the year it took to stitch up.

I started it back in January 2014. I had no idea what I had taken on, in terms of it's size and the time it would take to finish it. It was my first x stitch design and only my second x stitch piece.

 The backside was so messy! I won't make such a mess again.

The backside was so messy! I won't make such a mess again.

The design is based on a photo I took of myself in the NYC subway system, while waiting for the train. I was just entertaining myself, playing with my phone.

 Supplies before I took my first stitch.

Supplies before I took my first stitch.

I used four strands of DMC 6 strand cotton in 34 different shades.  I took the piece with me on a two-week trip to Prague and Italy last Spring and to LA in the Summer. 

 The proprietress of the Bull City Art and Frame Company unveiling my piece.

The proprietress of the Bull City Art and Frame Company unveiling my piece.

When I finally finished it, in March 2015, I splurged and had it custom framed by the Bull City Art and Frame Company. They did a BEAUTIFUL job with the frame work. I could not be more pleased with the quality of their finished work.

I've had some high quality postcards made by Moo.com. I've sent them around the world. If anyone would like a postcard, leave me a comment here. I'd be happy to share one.

 Give me shout if you'd like to send you a postcard.

Give me shout if you'd like to send you a postcard.

And now I'm flitting about, looking for another piece to capture my imagination. I suspect it may take a while... but I promise that I will write about different projects again, soon!

But, for real, I do appreciate all of the comments and support while I worked on this epic piece. And I'm so happy.

Onward, ho!