CAMAC!!! (Part II)

 

CONTINUED from CAMAC!!! (Part I)

Of course, a post about CAMAC wouldn’t be complete without mention of my studio and the work I began while there! As I said before, my studio was located just above my bedroom, and had to be entered through CAMAC’s gallery space (where, during the month of September, another artist was installing his exhibition – more on that in another post). The space itself was incredible – huge with wonderful natural light and a great view of the property…

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As many of you know from my fundraising pitch on USA Projects last Spring, I proposed to work on a large-scale hair embroidery depicting the back of a doll’s house at CAMAC (working title “House 27”). I’ve created many small embroidered works on paper, and many large-scale installations, but until now, these two elements of my work have never collided. It’s an ambitious project, and has certainly been a great challenge. I had hoped to make four such embroideries during my sabbatical year, but after spending two months at CAMAC and not even finishing the FIRST one, I realized that this is clearly not possible – I greatly underestimated just how long it would take to embroider a 3.5 x 5.5 foot piece of paper using single strands of hair, that’s for sure! I’ll be completing “House 27” during my three-month residency in Paris this Spring (I hope! I hope!), but for now, I’ll fill you in on its process and progress from last Fall:

The very first order of business was to lay out and flatten the final piece of paper that I would be using, which I had to purchase in a roll…

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As it flattened over time, those first few weeks at CAMAC were spent drawing, and drawing… and drawing some more. I drew individual pieces of furniture and detail elements like picture frames, vases, and the like. I also made a drawing of the house frame / layout at this time…

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Because all of these drawings were in different scales, I then had to project them, one by one, onto a larger piece of paper to create a composite drawing (which had to be inked in for clarity after that, of course – I never seem to make anything easy!)….

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And just a quick side note:  I wanted to share this picture from when, after having left the room for a moment, my screensaver was projected onto the wall, creating a whole new work of art.  I thought it was kinda fun…

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Inking…

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Finished!

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Once the composite drawing was completed and scanned, I tacked the final paper to the wall so that I could project the drawing onto it and, using a needle, begin poking all of the necessary holes for creating the image with embroidery. (I don’t use a needle during the actual stitching process in order to avoid the needle holes from becoming too large on the surface of the paper. I merely push and pull the hair through the small holes using my fingers – just another reason this process is so very time-consuming!)….

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Just before I was able to begin working with the needle, we had our Open Studios event (and opening reception, or vernissage, for the exhibition in the gallery), so I was forced to clean up my studio a bit and try to explain my work IN FRENCH for an evening (oh, boy)…

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 Photo by Raquel Esquives

With Open Studios behind us, and after solving some projector problems, I begin the tedious process of poking holes at all the crucial ‘connection points’ throughout this very, VERY big drawing…

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This process lasted almost an entire week, and the needle took its toll on my poor little fingers. I tried all kinds of thimbles and other solutions – I had to find the right balance between protection and control. I settled on using a band-aid to affix a one-cent euro coin to my finger. Creative solutions are what art is all about, right?!

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And then came ‘the moment of truth’ as I began to call it in my head: The time when I would suspend the large sheet of paper from the ceiling, using a home-made rigging system (which was the brilliant brain-child of my dear friend and artist, Scott Kip. Thank you, Scott!) I was very nervous that the paper would bend or rip during this process, rendering the week of needle-work pointless (and costing me a pretty penny), but courage is required when trying something new, right? So I gathered mine, and with the help of a few fellow residents, we got the paper up with relative ease… PHEW! We were even able to rig it so that the apparatus was adjustable – that way I could move it up and down depending on which section I was stitching. This made my back very happy, indeed…

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And then, with only two weeks left in my residency, I FINALLY begin stitching! It was a lovely, albeit daunting feeling. How long it had been since I’d actually had my hands on some hair… me, the HAIR ARTIST!

And so it went for the next few weeks: I stitched and stitched, sometimes sitting, but mostly standing, listening to music and French language-learning podcasts. I used the composite drawing as a ‘map’ of sorts – following it to make sure the stitches were placed correctly…

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BRILLIANT photos of me working by Maja Pegan…

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This embroidery process has always been time consuming, even when making small pieces of only 8×10 inches. Factor in having to physically take a few steps between each stitch (walking from the front of the paper to the back and vice versa), and you can imagine just how much that increases the time required to complete such a piece. By factors of… what? Tens? Hundreds? I don’t even know because I haven’t finished yet! ARRRRGGGGHHH! (I am keeping track of the hours of stitching and numbers of hair strands just out of morbid curiosity. I’ll let you know when the final numbers are in!)…

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Here’s a small detail shot of the embroidery in progress. I’m sorry I don’t have more of these to share with you – in my fervor to get as much done as possible in those last few weeks, my documentation habits fell to the wayside…

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And so it stands, my pièce de résistance, unfinished and waiting for me to return to Paris. My only hope is that my studio space there has a nice big window that I can open to SOMEWHAT enjoy the beautiful Parisian Spring because I certainly have a LOT of work to do!

 

And with that, I’ll stop for today. More posts about my time at CAMAC to come, including pictures and stories about my fellow residents, their work, and some of the fun ‘field trips’ we took together to cities and towns near Marnay-sur-Seine. Until then, à très bientôt!

One thought on “CAMAC!!! (Part II)

  1. With these pictures, I finally understand just how difficult and time-consuming this project is – but OMG it is going to be incroyable!!!!

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