Tag: textile art

Where Do We Go From Here?/Two Boyfriends

“Where do we go from here? I/Two Boyfriends” by Mary Vaneecke, 2023, 36” by 20”
“Where do we go from here? I/Two Boyfriends,” detail

I am ending 2023 with the first piece in a new series, “Where do we go from here?”.  I feel I am at a crossroads (and our country is, too).  I’m wrapping up a huge multi-year project (have you heard of it?)…  supporting loved ones with serious medical issues… grieving my parents and the sense of mortality that comes with that loss.

No, I don’t have 2 actual boyfriends.  The first class I took with Jane Dunnewold was about applying color, line, and shapes to plain fabric.  She warned us that some of us would come to her with our ‘boyfriends’–fabrics we had created and loved so much that we wouldn’t want to change them.  I have been hanging on to these boyfriends for years, wondering what in the heck to do with them.  Here I have appliquéd a sheer silk organza boyfriend onto a Fuji silk broadcloth that was dyed using a Katano shibori method.  Hand stitched with single strand embroidery thread (this was really tough on my hands and I won’t be able to handwork an overall design again any time soon).

I kinda like the new guy.  What do you think?

You can see the work at Agua Caliente Park in Tucson.  Show details below.  I am looking forward to a productive and art-filled 2024 with some new friends and exciting challenges.  What is on your calendar?

‘Little Elegies,’ the First Exhibition of The Mourning Project, and the Bootie Haboob

‘Little Elegies,’ the First Exhibition of The Mourning Project, and the Bootie Haboob

Let’s just say it’s been a whirlwind…  It started with the installation, then the exhibition, meeting some of the local makers (two of my sisters flew in for the show), running the panel discussion, and finally, the de-installation.  Phew.  Here are some of the behind-the-scenes moments you might have missed…and did I mention the bootie haboob?

The Plan

This first exhibition, at the YWCA of Southern Arizona, was an outdoor installation.  (Note:  for reasons that will soon be clear, I am re-thinking any future outdoor installations).  Little Elegies would be in a large courtyard surrounded on three sides by brick and mortar, and on one side (the west side) with a steel security fence.

YWCA courtyard, in the rain.

I visited the site multiple times, at different times of day, measured, and carefully sketched out this installation plan:

Installation plan for the first exhibition of The Mourning Project.

The curve of the installation plan follows the curve of the fence.  The 8 foot fence runs all the way down to the cement floor, so no worries about packrats invading the installation and stealing booties (these are the things you must take into account in Arizona).  The forecast was negative for rain, and this being Tucson, you could pretty much depend on that anyway.  A few days before the installation, however, I realized I had not thought about the wind, or even worse:

A haboob.

I checked the weather forecast to see that the maximum winds predicted were 13 mph.  Not exactly a storm, more like a gentle breeze.  I researched fences online that would act as a wind break.  There were none available in Arizona.  I would have to order them, and they would arrive after the opening of the exhibit. I decided to punt and use duct tape and drop cloths if needed to keep the booties from going airborne.  Paper booties were filled with coins to weigh them down.  Ceramic booties helped to weigh down aspects of the installation (like the altar cloth) and stabilize them.

Late on Friday afternoon (March 29), we completed the installation.  The awesome installation team of Mitch Anderson, Ana Martinez, Kathleen Koopman, Janet Windsor, Valerie Galloway put it together in under 4 hours and it looked great.  The question was, would it stay that way until Tuesday morning when the show opened?

Photo by Dan Buckley.

Click here for a link to Dan Buckley’s cool time lapse video of the installation.

The Installation

When I arrived at 9:00 sharp on Tuesday, all was just as we had left it (we had secured the booties and rest of the installation with vinyl drop cloths and heavy rocks).  It looked like I was home free, and the installation was ready for viewing at 9:00 a.m.

The Little Elegies installation, all wrapped up for the night.  It looked the same when I arrived on Tuesday morning.

But about 1:00 on Tuesday afternoon, a gentle breeze blew in.  By 3:00 there was some wind gusts, and the occasional pair of booties went tumbling like so many tumble weeds you see in the old westerns.  I put up the drop cloths behind the fence with duct tape, which promptly fell off.  ( I must have looked quite the sight battling the winds, the drop cloths, and the duct tape all at once.)

The wind came in from the west, directly into the courtyard, and I realized that the focal point of the installation was surrounded on three sides by the screen fence.  So I covered the installation about an hour early, and went home to figure out plan B.

I had dinner that night with my husband and sister Kathleen AKA The Knitting Machine and told them the problem, that I needed ‘something with grommets’ to attach to the fence with zip ties and screen the wind.  They had both used plastic tarps in the past and we headed over to a local hardware store and found just what we needed, in gray.

The next day, The Knitting Machine and I moved the entire installation 20 feet east, where it was better protected from the wind.  Then we installed the tarps behind the existing fence.  All on Wednesday morning, before the winds picked up again.  It was so great to have Kathleen there to help.  She sure knows how to whittle down a To Do List, and she’s fun to hang out with, too.

Thursday was busy with preparation for the panel discussion.  Panelists Bonita Katz of the International Childbirth Education Association, Stacie Wood, TMC’s Perinatal Safety Officer, and Laura Vargas, March of Dimes Advocacy Fellow gave great presentations on how we can begin to make improvements in our infant mortality rate.  Click here for an edited video of the discussion and learn more about the problem.

Friday morning we had a bunch of local makers in for a photo shoot with the installation.  Stay tuned for a picture of that.  In the meantime, here are some views of the installation throughout the week.  Scroll down to see some of my photos of the installation.  And then you can read about the BOOTIE HABOOB.

There are three banners that accompany the installation. This one describes the installation, and the other two discuss the problem of infant mortality.

A rare view of the full installation with clouds. Banners designed by Janet Windsor flank the installation.


We added booties to the installation every day as makers came to see the installation.


This shot shows the bootie count as of Thursday evening. At takedown, it was 3,223.


Detail of a corner of the altar cloth. The cloth is made of vintage handworked linens that were over-dyed and collaged together. It is patched in the Japanese boro style. Maker Merle Eintracht’s quote is embroidered on a vintage baby dress. Crochet work is overlaid over the base cloth, which includes many hand-embroidered, pieced, and applique textiles.


My favorite view of the installation, at dusk, by candlelight.


My sisters Nanci (left) and Kathleen (right) came in for the installation. Together, they have made about 500 pairs booties (so far!).

No Booties Were Harmed

So, all of that happened, and Friday passed without windy incident.  Until about 4:00 on Friday, the exhibition over, and it was time to start collecting the booties.  The sky had started to darken.  By 4:30, half of the booties were packed.  Then a HUGE gust of wind came from the east, behind and up and over the building, and it swept a whole bunch of booties around the altar and up against the fence.  It happened in about two seconds.  And I so wish I had video of the bootie haboob to show you, but you will just have to imagine 1,500 booties tumbling in the wind.

It was just one hellacious gust, and we (JK, Nanci, Kathleen and I) scrambled to collect them all. No harm was done.  All the booties were collected and undamaged.  I have a better idea to hold the booties down IF there is another outdoor installation.

Do you see your booties in these photos?  Please make some more!  Make them black, white, and gray, knit, sewn, or crocheted.  Be sure to send in your booties by Mother’s Day, May 12, and we will extend the deadline if necessary.  We still need 20,000 more pairs to honor each American baby who dies each year.  I know you will want to be a part of this important project.

And thank you to all the makers who have submitted booties to date!  The Mourning Project is possible with you.

PS–Watch this blog and our Facebook page for professional photos of the exhibition.  I’ll be using those to apply to different venues for the exhibition around the country.  If you have an idea about where we should apply, let me know!

Haiku I

Haiku I

 Haiku I became a study of sorts for a larger work (Haiku II) and launches a new series.  Both feature hand-dyed sheer silk fabrics over-layed with synthetic sheers, and machine stitched.  This allows for a fascinating interplay between colors, values, and repeating shapes.  Haiku I is more intense, and reminds me of a Rorschach test, if you had double vision.  The namesake poetry, and the dyeing technique, shibori, are both Japanese.

Haiku I by Mary Vaneecke, 2016. 29.5'' x 22''
Haiku I by Mary Vaneecke, 2016. 29.5” x 22”

Of course, I had to write a haiku to celebrate this new series.

Haiku I

Two colors: red, black

Layered to affect the mood–

Simple yet complex.


Frozen in Time II

Frozen in Time II

Frozen in Time II is a translucent art quilt that incorporates many hand-worked and underappreciated vintage crochet pieces layered between hand-dyed sheer fabrics.  It hangs away from the wall to allow for shadow play behind the piece.  Rust-dyed and machine stitched.  This was included in the Visions Art Museum show, Iterpretations: Conversations exhibition.  Photo by Jack Kulawik.

Frozen in Time II is perhaps an elegy for lost arts and loved ones.

Frozen in Time II, 50'' x 34'' by Mary Vaneecke
Frozen in Time II, 50” x 34” by Mary Vaneecke
Frozen in Time II by Mary Vaneecke, detail.
Frozen in Time II by Mary Vaneecke, detail.
Frozen in Time I

Frozen in Time I

Frozen in Time I, with detail.  (Photo by Jack Kulawik).  This new art quilt combines new hand-dyed silk fabrics with vintage handworked crochet (makers unknown).  Rust dyed, layered and stitched on eco-felt.

This piece continues a new series utilizing under-appreciated handwork of unknown makers.

Frozen in Time I by Mary Vaneecke. 43.5'' x 34.5'' 2016.
Frozen in Time I  by Mary Vaneecke. 43.5” x 34.5” 2016.


Frozen in Time I by Mary Vaneecke detail
Frozen in Time I, detail. By Mary Vaneecke


Elegy for the Beautiful Son

Elegy for the Beautiful Son

The Beautiful Son, hand-dyed, hand-worked liturgical linen (maker unknown), layered and quilted with the names of African American boys and men killed at the hands of police, and burned.
Elegy for the Beautiful Son, hand-dyed, hand-worked liturgical linen (maker unknown), layered and quilted with the names of African American boys and men killed at the hands of police, then burned. 36” x 33”.  It is part of the Sacred Threads 2017 exhibition.  
Elegy for the Beautiful Son by Mary Vaneecke.
Elegy for the Beautiful Son by Mary Vaneecke, detail.