Building Blocks at Marion Art Center

Building Blocks at Marion Art Center

Plastic bags of ice; autumn olive dyed wool felt; Building Blocks 1.

Time for the summer member’s exhibition at the Marion Art Center. Since moving to the South Coast in 2020, the member exhibits offer a chance to evaluate how my work’s changed in six months.

The big realization? Experiments and process stack up in the studio, but there is virtually nothing completely finished. Ok, I guess. The process and time has been instructive.

What are the materials for my fiber art these days?

  • Stitching with plastics – the stuff that we’d normally toss and cannot be recycled.
  • Using materials at hand.

These parameters give me lots of room and interesting results. I’m calling this series Building Blocks.

Alanna Nelson Fiber Art - Wool, plastic, cotton - Building Blocks 1

Scientists report that plankton, the building block of our oceans, consume and sometimes process micro plastics found throughout the water column.

Building Blocks: 1 was finished in time for last October’s @Doorway_a_Gallery skill share, so I took the path of least resistence and just dropped it off for the show.

This piece includes wool felt that I overdyed with Autumn Olive leaf dye bath, embroidered using cut up ice bags from our summer cruise and machine quilted.

My hub worries that my plastic hoarding habit is growing, so I guess it’s time to finish more work so he can understand what I’m really up to.

Plastic and stitching can be a great combo – especially because it performs pretty nicely when left outside. Hmmm….

The reception is August 12, 2022 from 5 – 7 pm. Hope to see you there!

Make Felt in Marion May 7

Soap, water and wool; express yourself and create; your own felt fabric.

May 7, 2022 1:00 – 3:00 pm

Silvershell Beach, Marion, MA

Join me outdoors near the shore as we play with soap, water and wool to create a piece of felt all your own.

Play with color, include your favorite symbols and learn several ways to create felt. Learn how your wool choice impact the final fabric.

Class price is $20 and includes all materials and supplies.

Register here. It’s a good activity for those 12+. We’ll sit and stand and might get a big wet. Bring an apron (oil cloth, if you have one) and get ready to roll up your sleeves.

Soap, water and wool is part of South Coast Spring Arts and is the first time I’ve taught since December 2019! Can’t wait to be outdoors and see what people create.

Join me!

Wool felt success at Alanna Nelson learn to felt class 2019

5 Squares for the Violet Protest

 Respect for the other   Citizenship   Compromise 

 Country over party and corporate influence 

 Courage   Candor   Compassion   Creativity
Core American Values promoted by the Violet Protest

Can we agree on these American values? Artist Ann Merton thought so, and sought to remind the 117th Congressional delegation of their obligations to their constituents. With that, the Violet Protest launched.

Calling out to those who create with textiles, red and blue 8″ squares were gathered in hopes of creating a violet wash of expression. Knitters, weavers, quilters, crocheters, embroiderers, surface design textile artists of all kinds stepped up. More than 2,000 people from all 50 states and many Canadian provinces made at least 5 squares.

I’m one of 229 people in Massachusetts who donated squares.

Did you notice only four squares? As I photographed before sending them off, a flared edge on a knit square caught my eye. I pulled back the bind off and chose a different technique then popped it in the mail! At least it got to Arizona by the deadline.

Creating the five squares was straightforward, in principle. My stash yielded fabric, felt, thread and yarn that fit within the Violet Protest’s framework. But how to best express the seven principles and the message of the protest?

Probably too much energy was spent on this topic. As the deadline neared, my goal switched to imbibing each stitch with the unity, determination and good will of the project. I thanked Congress for their work. I scolded Congress for the divisions that they represent. I gave a pep talk and promimsed to do my best to embody those values in my civic life. And I finished those squares within the framework, by the deadline.

Violet Protest squares on view to the public

Squares that reached Arizona by January were included in an exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum. It looked glorious, and yet not all of the 13,500 squares donated had arrived yet.

After the exhibit, Ann and the team packed up 24-25 squares and an explanation of the project for each of our 435 members of Congress.

Did the Representatives see them? Did they feel them? Will they feel the mandate demanded?

We don’t know yet. But each of us can hold those values to guide our own behaviors. There’s a lot to do, and each of us can contribute to civic life.

Thank you, Ann, for working so hard to create this project. She hopes to make a documentary about the Violet Protest, and if you’d like, you can donate to that effort.

In honor of a client

In honor of a client

In our house, she was known as the “Closet Lady.”

Nearly a decade ago, she found me through the grapevine. I repaired and recreated textiles. Her silk Roman shades needed mending, suffering sun damage. She insisted that the repairs happen without uninstalling shades. I could adapt, no problem.

Thus began five years of journeys to her meticulously decorated home. I would sew, repair, reweave and piece together the silk textiles carefully chosen to coordinate with the furniture, paintings and other decorative elements. 

We set appointments on the phone, from her land line only. I introduced her to the pleasures of a smartphone. She promptly purchased one, but I never saw her use it. 

How did Closet Lady acquire her moniker? In her front entry, the coat closet had a door. When you opened it, there was a large gold French passamenterie gold tassel at the end of the light pull. It looked out of place with the wooden hangarars and neatly stacked cloth covered storage boxes on the shelf above. She purchased smocked gold dupioni silk to make a curtain that created a backdrop for the tassel. When she opened the closet door and pulled the tassel light cord, the closet glimmered.”It gives me great pleasure to take my guests’ coats and jackets and keep them in a gracious location,” she mused after I installed the curtain.

Like me, silk and wool were irresistible to her. Silk curtains, silk shades, silk duvet covers, wool paisley jacquard weave upholstery adorned windows, archairs, piano stools. She had worked with a designer to decorate the home when she first purchased it, but clearly she was in charge of the project. To find the exact colors, textures and patterns was a grueling process and she had no desire to do it again.

All repairs happened at her home. Packing up my tool bag, I curated a selection of threads in a range of weights and fibers that reflected the home’s palette. Pearl cottons, silk, wool and cotton embroidery threads, buttonhole thread plus machine and hand sewing threads were neatly lined up in a box. A daylight lamp and sewing machine often traveled with me. Normally, it was a four hour stint at her place.

Of course I should stay for lunch! Dainty dishes, cloth napkins and vintage flatware elevated the deli salad as we discussed Museum exhibits, current affairs and political escapades. A stickler for grammar, she would frequently bemoan errors she heard on NPR or in the New York Times. These lapses were not just noted, but reported to the perpetrator. My conversational contributions were subject to the same scrutiny. 

While eschewing my grammatical errors, she would bring her writing to me for analysis, ever searching for the perfect word and tone. I suggested synonyms and phrasing options for her correspondence. Mind you, this was included in my $35/hr textile tech charges. She encouraged me to charge my editorial hourly rate, but I never did.

Sections of the textiles most beloved to her had more reweaving than original fabric. Did she really want to sink more hours into extending their fragile lives? My schedule was tighter, working deadlines on projects that paid better and were located closer to home. I gave her the number of a great upholstery business that could recover a few of her chairs when she found the right replacement fabric.

We exchanged holiday cards. On occasion, we would send each other newspaper clippings. 

In the summer of 2019, she sent me a letter asking me to please come, as her textiles needed me. She would gladly pay my time in transit and hoped I could fit a trip in as soon as possible. I felt split: this gig didn’t pay much, but her gracious hospitality and appreciation for our time together put this offer in a different light.

I responded that could get there in the fall. If she wanted to drive or have them delivered to me, I would work on them gradually. That summer was so busy, it didn’t occur to me until I wrote her 2020 New Year’s card that she hadn’t responded.

In February 2021, my New Year’s card to her returned to me. “Unoccupied” was scrawled across the envelope.

Discreet as she was, traces of her personal life on the internet are nondescript and few. Deep in a pdf newsletter of Boston club, there was reference to her death. While the exact date wasn’t listed, late summer 2019 is probable.

Knowing that she had no children and her nephew was the closest family member she mentioned, I wonder what happened to her carefully curated home. What about that gold silk smocked curtain? Those gorgeous tassels that she enjoyed every day?

I am grateful to have known her.

 

Pay it forward – Notions & Fabric

Pay it forward – Notions & Fabric

In 2003, someone asked me if I would be willing to take the notions and fabric from her mother in law’s haberdashery. The shop closed temporarily when she had a health problem, never to open again. They were remodeling and just wanted all of this carefully stored inventory to disappear – and be appreciated.

The only caveat? I must take everything.

Two station wagon trips later, my Via Volta studio was full of notions and fabric. With friends, we dissected this treasure trove, giving away, selling, and enjoying for ourselves everything from embroidery floss to shoulder pads, silk velvet to snaps.

View down Via Volta, Monza, Italia near Cafe San Biagio
My old stomping grounds on Via Volta, Monza

Those were wonderful days! When I left Monza, my fabric and yarn friends made me a wonderful scrapbook of those days. During my March Madness painting spree, I enjoyed paging through this wonderful work of love. But I digress…

I’ve made incredible progress on this gift, but it makes sense to #payitforward again. Here’s a list of the notions and fabric I’d like to give to another creative soul or business.

I’m giving it away, and it’s definitely something that can fit into a small car (it’s about 2 medium moving boxes). I ask that you enjoy, make beautiful things and perhaps consider donating to Follow Your Art Community Studios in Melrose if you are able.

Leave a comment below, or find my on Instagram or Twitter so we can arrange delivery. Everything’s been in boxes for more than a month (kind of like me!), so the quarantine time for textiles has passed.

Stitching Palestine, the movie and the embroidery

Last night, I was lucky enough to see Stitching Palestine at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

 

While the film and its stories held me in its web, I kept thinking, “Where’s the embroidery? I want to see and learn more about the embroidery!”

Well, there’s a story to that…

I missed the real action the night before. For the closing celebration of the Palestinian Film Festival, Clotide Abudi’s embroidery was an integral part of the event. Her embroidery will be on exhibit Tuesday through Saturday (October 31 to November 4, 2017) at the Center for Arabic Culture in the Somerville Armory.

Wafa Ghnaim, author of Tatreez & Tea: Embroidery and Storytelling in the Palestinian Diaspora was also in attendance. And you could see fashion embellished with Palestinian embroidery from the crowdfunded fashion brand Taita Leila .

Once again, Boston is the home not of FOMO (fear of missing out) but YAMO (you are missing out).

I’m looking forward to seeing the embroidery and learning more about Palestinian embroidery.