"Muddy Fork Farm: 3 of Wooden Spoons (wands) in the Kitchen Tarot" and its small companion piece, "Mini Muddy."

by Susan Shie Contact me

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Below are many images of "Muddy Fork Farm," most of which come after a very long artist's statement. There is also a smaller art quilt, "Mini Muddy," that goes with this large one, and its images are at the very end of this page. Both pieces were made for the exhibition "Earth Stories," which opened in May, 2014 at the Michigan State University Museum in East Lansing, MI, and will then tour as the 25th anniversary exhibition for SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates). 24 artists are in this show.

Muddy Fork Farm. full view. ©Susan Shie 2013.

"Muddy Fork Farm: 3 of Wooden Spoons (wands) in the Kitchen Tarot."

©Susan Shie 2013. 72"h x 72"w. inventory #456. Peace Cozy #56.

Began 8-5-13. Finished 9-2-13. Lots of detail shots of this piece are below this long statement.

Plus a small companion piece, "Mini Muddy." ©Susan Shie 2013. 14"h x 12"w. inventory #457. Begun and finished same dates. This piece was made in tandem with "Muddy Fork Farm," as another requirement for the exhibition "Earth Stories."

Materials for both pieces: White kona cotton, airbrush paint, fabric paint. AURifil cotton machine thread, Artfabrik perle cotton embroidery thread, one Green Temple Buddha Boy bead. Nature-fil bamboo and organic cotton batting. Backing fabrics include Lunn Fabrics batiks.

Techniques for both pieces: Whole cloth painting. Freehand black line drawing and color areas painting made with Aztek double action airbrush and Createx airbrush paint. Small, black writing made with Silkpaint.com’s basic Airpen and Jacquard Textile Colors black fabric paint. Crazy grid machine quilting, and one row of hand stitching with perle cotton thread (just on the border edge.)

Statement for both pieces:

About the tarot card: The 3 of Wands, which are Wooden Spoons in my deck, is the card I drew at random especially for this piece, about Muddy Fork Farm. Threes are for harmony and strength, and wands are creative energy.

About Earth Stories: SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) is having a 25th anniversary exhibition that will tour, called Earth Stories, and the show prospectus asked interested artists to submit images of six of their works and a proposal for a piece they wanted to do for the show, about a person or group that's doing something to improve the Earth. I was one of 25 artists selected, and we each are making a large piece 72"h x 72"w, along with a small companion piece, 14"h x 12"w, and a journal to accompany them as the exhibition begins at the Michigan State University Museum in East Lansing, MI, next May, and then tours.

Statement about my topic, Muddy Fork Farm: My piece for the Earth Stories project is about Muddy Fork Farm, a small, local, sustainable organic family farm, owned and run by Monica Bongue, who is a farmer, organic and local food activist, and artist. The farm's name is from the Muddy Fork of the Mohican River, which runs through the farm. I met Monica here in Wooster years before she and her husband David Francis bought the farm in 1997. This was from mutual friends, who were from Colombia, where Monica is also from (with grandparents who immigrated there from Holland.) When Monica and her family moved to the farm in 1997, she soon started selling her organic asparagus, blueberries, and rhubarb at our Wooster Food Co-op, and from there she expanded her crop inventory continually, over the last 16 years.

Monica is on the boards of several organic food organizations, besides working her farm herself, along with a few hired workers. Monica and David both have PhDs in Biochemistry, and he works at the OARDC (Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center) as a research doctor, specializing in tomatoes, while she runs her farm, using her science skills to improve traditional farming methods. You can read all about Monica's Muddy Fork Farm online. I chose Monica and her farm for my Earth Story, because she and many farmers like her all over the world, are making a huge difference for us all, by going back to the farming style used everywhere, before mega-farms, GMOs, and other sophistocated chemicals and methods for farming came along. I love that she works with her crops mostly by hand, only bringing out her old tractor for spring plowing and moving heaving things around. Monica believes that we can save the Earth, reverse Climate Change, etc, if we all work toward going back to natural and organic, sustainable lives, including farmers working their own small farms and supplying their communities with wholesome, local, seasonal foods.

Statement about this piece and its mini version, too: Where to begin? After making my decision that I wanted to spotlight a local, organic farmer in my Earth Story, I talked with Monica and went to see her on April 6th, this year, when the farm was barely waking up for the growing season. I went out with our mutual friend, Carolyn Robinson, and we all had a great time, but we knew I needed to come back again, when the crops were ready to harvest. So I went back on August 5th, this time with Carolyn's brother, Chuck, another mutual friend, whose kids had worked summers on Monica's farm over the years. That time Monica fed me a ripe peach, showed me everything that was getting ready to harvest, or in some cases, was already done for the year, like lettuces, rhubarb, and asparagus, and talked with me about the bee crisis in the world and how it had killed 3 of her 5 hives last winter. We sat in her kitchen, where Monica was slowly heating milk in a big kettle, for making yogurt and cheese. I took lots of pictures on both of my field trips to Muddy Fork Farm, and that day I went home and randomly drew the tarot card for this piece. It was the 3 of Wands - I mean, Wooden Spoons, and after that kettle of yogurt-milk, I thought big stirring spoons were really appropriate for my painting! I was ready to go.

I always sketch before I make one of these big, complex airbrush paintings, because I have to work out what goes where, even though I don't really copy from the sketches, but use them as plans. I often make 10-15 sketches for a large piece, before I start airbrushing. But this time I made one very small sketch. I loved it. I made two or three more, bigger sketches, just so I would think about it more. But that first sketch was it! I think that, since I'd been planning this project for so long, I was pouncing!

On August 6, the day after that second trip to the farm, I was cutting out and sewing together the big white cotton panel, making calculations in how big it would need to be, to end up 72" square, after shrinking from painting, expanding from adding the border, and shrinking again with the quilting. I don't have the luxury of trimming the edges when it's done, so I had to get foxy and think it through well. I also cut out the little white cloth for "Mini Muddy," as I'd be working on both pieces at the same time, through all my processes. On August 7 I was airbrush painting all day, having a great time and trying hard to get all the images in my head to fit into the pieces! It seemed like I'd been waiting a year to make this project, and really, that's not far off, because I'd been accepted into the Earth Stories project about that long ago.

Here are some of the diary entry topics I wrote about on "Muddy Fork Farm." I didn't really have room to do stories on "Mini Muddy," so all of these are on the big piece. I only write down what I wrote about, after I write the first and longer version of it, right on my painting. I write with airpen and fabric paint, so it's permanent. Here are some topics on this piece:

8-10-13: I started my airpen writing and did a long intro about Monica. Then I wrote about the Late Blight my tomatoes had gotten, and how it was destroying many people's tomatoes in many Northeast states. I've never had to rip up tomato plants before. What a heartbreak! Monica escaped the blight, because she has her tomatoes in greenhouses. Whew! The Blight was so bad, because of the cold, over-wet summer we had. Sunlight kills blight spores, but we didn't have enough sunlight to save us this year!

8-11-13 I wrote about Monica's red telephone booth out by the chicken house, and how the phone booth is really a privvy. :) Gretchen and Eva came yesterday, and now Eva's here for the week, like she is one week out of every month in the summer. She's working on her big summer reading project for when school starts. She'll be in 3rd grade!

8-12-13: I wrote about Monica making yogurt and how I used to make it, too, before we could buy yogurt, and how I could go back to it ... Monica takes her produce to three Farmer's Markets: Shaker Square in Cleveland, the one in Medina, and the one in Akron at Stan Hywett. She also sells at Local Roots, a local food store in Wooster. I wrote about my Uncle Harold and Aunt Mary Jo's small farm, from when we were kids, and how I loved to help with the egg gathering, etc, with my cousins Ellen and Carolyn. I wrote about Monica's goats and her CSA plan - Community Sponsored Agriculture. Then I stopped writing for a few days, to spend a lot of time with Eva, while she was here. We were working pretty hard on her school project, besides cooking, walking Libby, etc. :)

8-18-13: My father worked at Amstutz Hatchery in Orrvillem when I was little, so I got to see a lot of chickens, mostly baby peeps. My folks had a little flock of chickens then, when we moved out to the country, outside of Smithville, when I was five. I wrote about the Daily Record article about Monica and her farm, from when she was on the OEFFA farm tour in 2010. OEFFA is Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. In the article, she said she likes to plant different colors of lettuces together in the greenhouse in early spring, because she likes the variety, but also because she thinks it looks like a pretty quilt pattern. On her skirt, I wrote the list of all the crops Monica offers with her CSA over the growing season.

8-19-13: I told about how deciding to draw that duck on Monica's left shoulder ended up making it look like the two of them were having a staring contest. I couldn't change it, after I put the duck there, as you can't erase airbrush paint, especially black. It's always a known commitiment, no erasing. Just paint! I wrote about Monica's new clay pottery up in her barn loft, with that big, heavy Skutt kiln up there! and about Scott Anderson's new book about Lawrence of Arabia, which I HAVE TO read! I love history, and I love that movie!

Monica painted barn swallows on her barn door, so it looks like they're flying into the barn. And she has long panels of purple silks hanging in the barn. She said the girls used to do gymnastics on them, and it looked like dancing in the air. I wrote about Attorney General Eric Holder's August 12 speech about crime reforms, in which he hopes to reform the prison system and how minor criminals are treated.

8-20-13: I'm drying herbs from my garden: basil, mints, catnip, cilantro. Most tomatoes are done now, either rotted by blight or not happening, but a few still ripening. Musings on mosquito bites, bee stings, poison ivy - garden hazards. Protests in Egypt, re Morsi ouster and military takeover. Mubarak may be released from prison. Brotherhood and military killing each other. Al Jazeera America goes live on TV today, not on our cable company. Carolyn has been training with them in DC. Libby got herself stuck under the bed two nights ago, and I had to pull her out. Growing? The summer was mostly too cool and wet, but now it's dry, and I watered for the first time in a long time. Plants are dying, as if it's fall already. It's in the 80s now, warmest in a long while, and we haven't had to run the AC for a long time. Yea! Today in Pakistan they indicted Pervez Musharraf for Benazir Bhutto's assassination in 2007. I wrote some history of this story.

8-21-13: It's my friend Kathleen's birthday, somewhere in Yellowstone! They're preparing for a 50th anniversary March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, for the 23rd, to protest Trayvon Martin's murder case and the demolition by the Supreme Court of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, besides celebrating the 1963 march with MLK. Today I started figuring out how to get this big piece to end up at exactly 72 x 72" and cut out the batting. I laid out fabrics for the backing panel, which is always a big quilt of its own!

8-22 and 23-13: Sewing the backing fabrics together. 8-24-13: Sandwiching the layers and pinning. 8-25-13: Sandwiched Mini Muddy, the small piece, started quilting both pieces. 8-26 and 27-13: I've been listening to 3 digital books so far, during this sandwiching and quilting the paintings stage. Now it's Annie Leonard's Story of Stuff, a really good book about how making things, using them, and dumping them hurt the environment.

8-28-13: Still quilting, then chose where to put the Peace Cozy, which I always decide AFTER the quilting is done. Where will it fit? And that placement needs to make sense to me. I chose putting it on the chicken that's sittling on the big kettle of honey. This is to bring Peace to the chickens of the world, most of whom are living in gigantic mega chickenhouses, suffering a lot. And it's to bring Peace to the bees of the world, who are dying off in droves, due to a mixture of problems caused by humans' destructive actions. I've been hand sewing the borders of the two pieces, and am trying to get that done. I usually do it late at night, before we go to bed, sewing on the couch, watching late night TV or a movie. It takes several days.

I got Monica's email reply to some questions I still had, so am airpen writing those in on Muddy Fork now. Monica has 4 goats, 16 sheep, 4 ducks, and 2 dozen hens. She has a BSA in Botany from U Mass, Amherst, and a Masters and PhD from UC Davis, in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. She has no Late Blight on her tomatoes!! She rotates her crops through all three greenhouses: Nora, Marley, and Farley. Yes, she named her greenhouses. :) Her dogs are Lindi and Panda.

Dr Viola Startzman died today at 99. She was a really important leader in Wooster, pretty much being the cause of us having a low-income patients' medical clinic, which has her name. I made a piece about her that I donated to the clinic's auction two years ago, and because of that, I spent time interviewing Dr Vi and getting to know about her amazing life! She was a real trail blazer and inspiration to me! Today is the actual anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, tho this year's actual march was on 8-23. President Obama, Jessie Jackson, John Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, and members of the King family gave speeches today at the Lincoln Memorial, where MLK gave his "I Have a Dream" speech 50 years ago. NPR said that at the 1963 march, they asked to have the minimum wage raised to $2/hr, and that if you convert that to our dollar value now, it'd be $15.27/hr.

8-29-13: On Aug 21 there were chemical weapons attacks on civilians in Damascas, Syria, with over 1,000 killed, including children. Over 100,000 have died in the Syrian Civil War so far. Here in the US, the Treasury and IRS announced that same sex married couples wil now have the same federal tax rights as other married couples, and other rights, even if they don't live in a state where same sex marriage is recognized. And Eric Holder, Attorney General, announced that the Dept of Justice now recognizes Colorado and Washington's new marijuana laws. There were protests across the US today, demanding a $15 minimum wage, which is probably double most states' current rates.

8-30-13: I finished hand stitching the border of the big piece, added more writing, and did another heat set. I use a dry, very hot iron, and I wear a respirator, while I iron the fabric paint, so it becomes permanent. I iron on the back side, before the painting is in a quilt sandwich, and then I iron on the front of the piece, once it's quilted, using a press cloth on top of the painted surface. I heat set many times during the making of a piece, and remembering that the airpen has fabric paint in it, you have to heat set the writing, too, not just the painting. I did some more quilting, to make the rows of sewing closer together at places, and I wrote on Mini Muddy. The big piece turns out to be almost exactly 72 x 72"! It's a miracle! :) I'm making the rod casings for the two pieces now.

9-1-13: Finished both casings, which are blind hem, hand stitched. Sewing on a Green Temple Buddha Bead on both pieces.

9-2-13: Wrote in background on Mini Monica, even tho I'd thought it was too small to write on. I hadn't wanted it to get visually confusing, but I think it's ok. I just wrote a little bit. More writing on the big piece, and drawing Peace Roses here and there on it. Wrote the start and end dates for the project, August 5 and Sept 2, and the dates of my two field trips to the farm: April 6 and August 5. Thanked Monica in the bottom right corner of Muddy Fork Farm, next to the buddha bead. Made labels for both pieces,

I put the big piece up on the photo wall, but took it down again, so I could write on the apples and peaches in their big kettle, about Diana Nyad's swim today from Cuba to Key West, the first swimmer to do it without a shark cage. She had tried 4 earlier times and had to quit. Imagine 53 hours of swimming 103 miles! She's 64 years old, and made her first try 35 years ago!!!

9-3-13: Photo shoots, edit pix, start web gallery work for these pieces.

9-4-13: Finish statement, photo edits, put everything on the site, announce it on FB, make a little album of finished images for FB, too. Copy statements to my word files, and add pieces to my inventory files. Make index cards for inventory records. Wow, this time I wrote all the gory details of the background work for making a piece. Artists have to be their own support crew of photographer, publicist, record keeper, etc, etc. :)

There are many images of Muddy Fork Farm and a few of Mini Muddy, here on this page, below.

You can view a big album of me painting this piece, even if you're not on Facebook. And the finished images album is there, too.

My Etsy Shop, SusanShieArt has a wide price range of my smaller works up now. It includes small drawings on paper and prints, as well as small paintings and small art quilts.

If you are interested in studying with me, please check out my Turtle Art Camps at my home studio, and the classes that I'm teaching "out" at other places listed on the main page of this site.

Read all about my Turtle Art Camp - how it works for your weeklong artmaking experience here, and see the changes I've made to the plan. I have all new and large photos on that page this year, so you can really see what's going on. I think you'll especially want to come when you find out you can draw and paint all week on paper or canvas, instead of drawing and painting on cloth, if you like, and you don't even have to try my airpen and airbrush, or my sewing techniques, if you don't want to. I'll be working on cloth, as will most students, I think, and I'll demo how I quilt my paintings, and you can quilt one of yours, too, if you like. We'll all be doing a lot of drawing and/or writing in our sketchbooks each day. We're doing this art camp thing together to get you more opened up to letting your art flow out, in whatever medium you want it to be in. Just come!

Many thanks, Susan, aka Lucky

Susan Shie, Wooster, Ohio, September 4, 2013


Muddy Fork Farm detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Muddy Fork Farm detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Muddy Fork Farm detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Muddy Fork Farm detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Muddy Fork Farm detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Muddy Fork Farm detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Muddy Fork Farm detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Muddy Fork Farm detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Muddy Fork Farm detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Muddy Fork Farm detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Muddy Fork Farm detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Muddy Fork Farm detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Muddy Fork Farm detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Muddy Fork Farm detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Muddy Fork Farm back. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Muddy Fork Farm label. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Below are images of the companion smaller piece, made to accompany "Muddy Fork Farm" in its touring exhibition "Earth Stories." This piece, "Mini Muddy," is 14"h x 12"w, and also can't have its full view image shown until after the May, 2014 opening of the first show venue, at Michigan State University. So as with "Muddy Fork Farm," this piece is presented as a top and bottom half shot, and a few other detail views. After the opening, I'll add full view images of both pieces to this page.
Mini Muddy detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Mini Muddy detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Mini Muddy detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Mini Muddy detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Mini Muddy detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Mini Muddy detail view. ©Susan Shie 2013.


Turtle Moon Studios: Outsider Art Quilts and Paintings
Susan Shie

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