South Carolina’s Susan Lenz uses found and otherwise everyday objects — from buttons and bottle caps to clock parts and curtain rings — in her layered, hand-stitched mixed-media art.
The company/studio: Mouse House Inc., a custom picture framing shop in Columbia that Lenz and her husband Steve Dingman started in 1987. The couple live above the shop.
It wasn’t until 2001, at age 42, that Lenz decided to become an artist. It took two years to turn the shop into a gallery and studio.
The artist: The Ohio native graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. She started graduate school with the intention of becoming a museum curator but quickly learned she didn’t want an administrative position.
In 1986, Lenz and Dingman moved to Columbia, SC, where they live and work.
Her art start: Without the slightest bit of education in studio arts, Lenz decided to get a rental space and start making artwork. All she knew was that her natural inclinations were found in fibers, especially in embroidery.
The art & materials: Currently, obsessed with her new mixed-media “Found Object Mandala Series” ($195 to $1,200), which she started in 2020 during the pandemic.
Materials include pieces of old quilts and found objects, including paper clips, keys, nails, plastic spoons, corn-cob holders, paper cigar labels, plus dominoes, film reels, old toys and holiday decorations.
The process: Lenz hand stitches multiples of objects into meditative, concentric circular patterns on sections of old quilts.
- Hindu and Buddhist practices that use concentric circles as a meditative, spiritual journey.
- Use of vintage, antique and found materials to evoke memories
- “When stitching, I often think about the stories these objects might tell if they had a voice beyond the one I’m giving them.”
Fun or special commissions: Steinway Carolina Gallery gave Lenz an old, upright Steinway with ivory keys. It had a broken sound board and was beyond repair.
Lenz dismantled the piano and created three Found Object Mandalas. She gave the piano gallery owners the right of first refusal. Amazingly, they purchased all three.
- Her “Found Object Mandala Series” debuted at the 2021 Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show and was part of the 2022 Smithsonian Craft Show.
- Artisans on the Square in Greenville, GA, invited the work for a solo show, through July 16.
What’s next: The “Found Object Mandalas” will return to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, Nov. 11-13.
Where to buy: susanlenz.com. Also the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville.
- Facebook: SusanLenzFibersAndInstallations
- Instagram: @susanlenz