Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Chair Art, first time around

Sharon says I absolutely must tell you about a few of my past projects, so occasionally I will pull a memory or two out of the vault. The most commented on of all my ..er.. art pieces are the chairs. Way back in 2003, the Nevada State Fair announced it was having a Chair Art contest. I immediately thought of all kinds of textile-ish things to do to innocent, unsuspecting chairs. Allison Judge, aforementioned fiber goddess and artist extraordinaire, and I decided to work together on an entry. The idea was to needle felt an entire sculptural landscape onto a chair. Allison had taken a needle felting workshop, so she provided the technical expertise. I had never touched a felting needle before, but had that enthusiasm that can come from total ignorance of the process. I also had an old porch rocker frame languishing in my garage. First we "upholstered" the frame all over with towels and anything else we could think of that was squishy. Then we dove in with sharp-pointy needles and a box of bandaids (my, those needles are sharp!). Allison mixed up lots of green dye and threw in wool, mohair, and whatever else we could find in the recesses of our fiber stashes. I also had lots of blue mohair left over from an indigo dye day. White cormo roving made fabulous fluffy clouds. While I provided general landscaping, Allison took on the role of Master Shrubologist. The inspiration was to recreate a valley in the Sierras on a pretty summer day. We even added a sparkling stream (the only real use for glitz fiber) and a hiking trail. The finishing touch was a collection of HO railroad-scale hikers that we pinned in along the trail and a sign proclaiming the name of the piece: Armchair Vacation.

We won a lovely blue ribbon. During the fair the chair was displayed directly across from the spinning guild's booth, so I was able to witness a continual parade of folks who couldn't help from reaching across the rope to touch or stroke the thing.

That was just the beginning. During the months after the Fair, the Chair became more of a hassle than a joy. Both Allison and I have cats which meant that niether of us could take it home. At first it lived in my office. That became untennable since not only did it take up too much room, but complete strangers kept walking into my office to gawk at it, and of course, touch it. It began to look a little the worse for wear. Next it went to live in the front window of La Bussola, a cool little artsy shop, but it never sold. Finally it went into an auction to benefit the Friends of the University Libraries. I understand it now lives in the guest bathroom of the Dean of the School of Journalism. Must be a big bathroom.

Sometime, I'll tell you about the second chair...

1 comment:

beryl said...

This is a wonderful art piece that would have been a big hit at the early Taylor & Ng store in SF -- say about 1969 or 70. They had outrageous furniture and art pieces and this chair would have been right at home there. Question -- is it ahead of the times or retro?