From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Archive for the ‘embroidery’ Category

social fabric

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photo(7)Write Me for Art continues… I tested out a new fabric for the machine text today.  Or tried to.  Funny how sewing machines can cause sudden fits of swearing.  Embroidery machines are another level of complex, and therefore a lot more obnoxious (especially when many different people work on them and do who knows what to them each day).  That said, I think the fabric is a perfect fit for the project.  Second round of text-size adjustments.  I still don’t have single correctly printed statement yet, but I think I’ve found the right size, embroidery method and fabric.  Whew!

Mail for the project trickling in most days.  I love it.  There is something so wonderful about getting actual, physical mail.   I have postcode-stamps from New York, San Francisco, Vermont, Portland Maine, Iowa, Chicago, and France.  So far just French and English, but I’m hoping some of my Spanish ones come back (I did  some instructions in Spanish and handed out a fair few.  I think I should make a Chinese one for passing out here because That would cover the three most spoken languages in SF. So many statements!

One thing that has surprised me is the similar feelings that people chose to share- even with less than fifty so far there are some distinct trends.  The hand embroidery goes slower now that the semester has started but I’m pretty pleased with the results so far.

In other news it seems like I have an exciting commission piece coming up in the summer- a new Particapatory Installation that will take place over the course of years.  So exciting!  It’s wonderful when you are so on the same page with someone that you don’t even have to ask the question “am I willing to sacrifice my artistic integrity here?”  Something I tend to say No to as a rule.  I’m flexible and good at fitting ideas into harmony with mine, but outright against I won’t do.  This project is exciting enough to be a little distracting, but knowing it will be there waiting for me in the Spring is a wonderful feeling.

Written by Mary Corey March

October 7, 2013 at 9:01 am

Machine tests

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machine test2Here is the second test for the machine-embroidered text in the “Write Me for Art” piece.  If you’re just joining me here, I’ve been passing out envelopes to people all over with personal questions inside.  They answer one question in their own handwriting and send it to me anonymously.

I then hand-embroider the response in their handwriting.  I will also be doing the same words all in machine handwriting.  I’m still working out different ways to program the embroidery, the font and ways/sizes to do it, the fabric, etc.

This is the second proper test on the machine.  It failed midway, but it showed me enough to go on with.  The poly satin used on the wrong side has the artificial and shiny qualities I wanted, but it’s pretty damn squirrely under the machine which can make the writing and fabric irregular.  We’ll see.  There may be something that both works better with the machine and has the visual qualities I’m after.

I’m also have tempted to leave the machine’s little working lines in there, and am considering hiring someone to do these once I have the process down.  Just as the ones I am personally hand-embroidering using the actual handwriting are full of attention and touch I want these to be on the other side of the scale, so removing myself entirely from the actual making once I have the process set might fit into the piece.

Written by Mary Corey March

September 30, 2013 at 5:14 am


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photo(7)So tonight I passed out more envelopes for “Write me for Art” backstage at the Opera- to all sorts of people from the top of the production down- makeup dept, dressers, chorus and others who will remain unsung as it were.  I’m very pleased with this project so far.  I’m getting new mail coming in every day from all over the country and outside it!

I’m enjoying the exchange with people when they see me working on the project (as at the Opera) and ask me about it.  I then get to explain and hear their reactions and give them an envelop.  I like having people actually see the care that I put into each person’s words as I embroider them so that they know how their words will be treated.

I made sure to pass some out at the airports in Chicago and New York, on the planes, in the shops…  I pass them to waitresses and cab drivers, on buses…  wherever I can to as many different kinds of people as I can.  So far I’m personally passed them out in Vermont, New York (twice), Chicago, New Hampshire, Boston, and SF.  Friends have taken them to Chicago, Iowa and Maine.  I’ve even gotten one or two in strange envelopes from out of the country which may have begun here online.

I do not want to comment on the sorts of responses I’ve gotten and how they relate to the project, but believe me, I’m thinking about it plenty.

Tonight I also started blocking out the files for the machine-embroidered versions of each response.  As I get more responses I’m starting to get images of how I want to put them together as an installation.

PS: If you were wondering how or why I was backstage at the Opera it’s because I’m on stilts in the SF Opera’s production of Mephistopheles.   I’m a supernumerary , which is the Opera way of saying “extra”, but we get called “supers”, which I love.  I did it because I can and because these are the things that feed my art- a life rich with varied experience.  In this case I think this particular stilting experience may have spawned a new participatory piece- I’m still thinking it through.

*If you want to be included in “Write me for Art” follow the link.

Written by Mary Corey March

September 21, 2013 at 10:33 am

Let it go

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let it goThe latest two in the “Write me for Art” project.  It’s coming along in stolen moments, but it is coming.

The writing is from responses to questions I asked sent in to me by hand or mail in each person’s own writing.  If you want to participate, follow the link.

The other half of this project is computer-mediated.

Written by Mary Corey March

August 20, 2013 at 10:35 am

Write me for art: first letters…

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IMG_2993A few days ago I got my first mailed-in responses to the Write-Me-for-Art project.  I am nearly done hand-embroidering  the envelope of responses from the hospital, so I’m glad!  I also got an installment from a friend who brought me an envelope full of responses from a party.

I’m enjoying the variety of ways and kinds of responses I’m getting so far.  I’ve passed on the envelopes and instructions to friends and family in Chicago, Vermont, Maine, and Iowa.  I’ve passed the out personally in SF, New York and New Hampshire.

I try to do a large variety of people- age, occupation, location, style, culture…  I sought out a cousin who is more on the right-wing NRA type side of things because I do want a VARIETY of voices and if I’m left to the people I’m likely to see of talk with in the places that I would normally go that just won’t happen.  I’ve been stopped waiters, check-out counter folks, taxi drivers, riders on the bus, people in the park… so many different kinds.

If you want to be included in the project follow the instructions here. Please note the “handwritten” and “less than twelve words” parts!

There will be a tech component to this piece as well… coming.

The “Access” piece is still turning in my mind, but I’m putting it on the back burner until I finish this iteration of Identity Tapestry.  The “Write Me for Art” project is absolutely intended to be done in the between moments.

Written by Mary Corey March

August 16, 2013 at 12:31 am

listening to the materials

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Continuing updates on this project which involves hand-embroidering responses to personal questions I (mostly) receive in the mail.

This is about the actual size.  It’s funny, but it takes such a short time to start to feel acquainted with a person’s writing when you are paying this close attention to it.  You’re on your third “e” and you think, yes, that’s how their “e” goes.  It’s such an intimate exercise, but with people I may never have seen.  In this case I was told the story by my nurse friend who left an envelope for responses at the hospital, because the writer told her.  What came before this response was a series of losses and tragedy and this was the first healing moment following them.

As painstaking and time-consuming as this project is and will be, I’m already loving it.  It’s funny, it will be viewed as “obsessive” work, but in the balance for me it isn’t.  It’s meditation.  More, such work has a practical place for me.  I travel.  When I am traveling, this fits into a tiny bag.  I can work and not waste the time.  I also have a fairly serious back injury that puts me out of commission periodically.  When I can’t stand (I’m never supposed to sit), I can do work like this.  Mind you, when the back isn’t bad I can dance (including performance seasons) and climb, etc., just not sit.  Still, it’s important to plan work that I can do lying down so that I’m never wasting time I could be doing work.  My other projects tend towards a larger scale.

As I’m embroidering these responses I’m letting other parts of the piece unfold in my mind.  I wanted the computer-text versus hand text, but I needed to know why my subconscious needed it to be embroidery too.  Today the reason the contrast text must be machine embroidery in a commercial font became clearer.   It’s that illusion of intimacy, careful attention, personal touch, etc. that the machine embroidery is offering, and failing at.  Next to the real thing I suspect it will be so obviously a completely different thing as to be alien. If it were just printed text on paper or text on a screen it would lack that offered illusion.

I’m getting glimmers of arrangement ideas but I’m going to wait until I have a lot more of them and have them alongside the machine ones.  I’m done with this idea that conceptual artists (or ANY contemporary artist) must have fully conceived and practically written a paper on the artwork before they even touch the material.  Bullshit.  Visual artists work with visuals and materials.  In the process of working with a medium it talks back to you.  It’s a conversation… or it should be.  I’m listening as well as talking. 

Written by Mary Corey March

August 2, 2013 at 8:52 am

Self Location

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I just realized that I hadn’t put up the finished piece “Self Location (Aurora Hunt)” that I finished this spring.  Since I’m currently working on a new embroidered text piece it made sense to put it up.


Mixed Media: Embroidery on computer-printed linen and silk organsa, map pins. 5’x 5′

This gives an idea of the composition as a whole.  Here are a few detail shots as well.

topleft detailThis one gives you a peek at the inclusion of online elements.  I find that even when using computers less and being somewhat more “off the grid” and working by hand computers and the internet seem to maintain a background presence at all times now.  They are a huge part of how we locate ourselves in the world both physically and socially.

The transparent layer is a traditional road-map and the top layer of my own experiences is in hand embroidery.  Below you can get an idea of the effect that emotion can have on even the same person’s hand-writing (mine in this case).

kiruna detailEach postcard-sized print was a location we stopped at.  These two were a strong contrast in experiences and the contrast comes out in the writing.

This is part of what I’m exploring in this new participatory piece using embroidered text- what handwriting tells us which digital print does not.  What becomes more person and meaningful when it is done by hand.

Written by Mary Corey March

July 30, 2013 at 12:11 am

First Responses

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responsesContinuing on the Write me for Art (working title) project…

I’ve completed two responses so far out of the hundreds I expect. I’ve already discovered how huge a range there is in how easy one type of handwriting is to embroider than another.  Curves take more stitches, and getting details correct is involving multiple tries at times.

These are from the responses my nurse friend got at the hospital in San Francisco.  There are a lot of sad ones in this batch, but they are really beautiful too.

It will be interesting to get more in the mail because besides the postmarks I will have no clue which groups of people (if there was a group) they were from.  I passed out a few to people around NYC who looked interesting to me in some way or who I talked with- on the street, in the bus, the subway, etc..  I passed some out to a few people in the line for the Rain Room piece at MoMA (partially on the basis that these people might be seriously dedicated to art, but also as a way of participating in an art project, since some of them might not make it in).  I incidentally heard about the piece when it was in London and planed my trip to the East Coast this summer around going when no one had heard of it.  Then it became a Thing and there was just no way.  I went in the short line to see it in action, but didn’t wait the 7 hours to interact (not with a 4 year old!).

One insight from watching that was that I never want to do that to people with my art.  So many of these things have limited access.  I want to make more work that everyone can experience and be part of.

Written by Mary Corey March

July 27, 2013 at 9:47 am


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The first responses are coming in for Write me for Art.  This is so exciting!  A nurse friend of mine took an envelope and some copies of the call to the hospital and came back with some wonderful ones.  From her description people seemed to have a similar reaction to Identity Tapestry on a smaller scale- moments of introspection and being very happy to be part of something.  I’m very glad to hear it.  I’ll be checking my studio mailbox at the end of the day in case there are any more that got mailed in.

I’ve also been thinking.  This is as much a participatory project as Identity Tapestry or any of the others, just in a more private space for the participant, on their own terms.

Tomorrow I leave for New York and now I have a little pile of responses to take with me and work on.  Embroidery was absolutely made for journeys.

Written by Mary Corey March

July 20, 2013 at 10:36 pm

many little envelopes

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envelopesI’ve been working on my new project, working title “Write me for art” which will probably  not be the name of the actual piece, but it is what I’m asking people to do.  If you want to be part of it, see the instructions here.

I’ve been hunting responses from strangers.  So far I’ve posted a call here, but more importantly I’ve wandered around a little- I’ve passed out the instructions with a stamped and addressed envelope to a person on the street, a group of elderly friends on the bus, a cab driver, a parent at a kid’s birthday, a nurse, a wine-tasting bartender in Napa, a couple at an art opening (not in the gallery, but on their way out).  All different ages, different walks of life.  And I asked each of them them to try and find a person or two to do it and add to their envelope before they sent it to me- the more different from each other the better.  I intend to bring a big stack to my upcoming NYC/Boston/ New Hampshire trip to distribute at will.

I’m curious what will happen.  How many will I get and what will they be like?  I’m expecting at least a hundred, possibly hundreds over the next few months.  It’s the sort of thing that will spread over time.  I’m giving myself until the end of the calender year to collect responses and hand embroider them- then I’ll see where I want to take the piece from that point.  There’s other components to the complete piece, but I’ll leave you there for now.  Some of it I’m waiting to decide until I see how the process unfolds and the ideas it gives me.  And  yes I do realize the time commitment.  Yes, I’m that kind of crazy,  This is not news for my practice.  I love challenges.

In the meantime I’m working on what looks like a commissioned permanent Installation (details still in negotiation process) and continuing work on the Access piece (which also involves talking to strangers).

I love working this way.  I meet so many different kinds of people.

Written by Mary Corey March

July 17, 2013 at 9:18 am