I have been giving some thought lately to the value others place on the things left behind. I am an “enthusiastic” collector of vintage things–beautiful fabrics, hand-embroidered linens, travel souvenirs (especially cloth dolls), old beads and trims…the list can go on and on. I love things that show the hand of the maker; and things which have obviously been loved and treasured. In the past, I have bought (rescued) something just because it needed a “caretaker”; I don’t do that so much any more. One can take care of only so many things…and some, maybe even me, are certain that I have surpassed all expectations as far as that activity goes. These days, I buy only what I love. But, when left behind, will my treasure really be a legacy, or just a pile of stuff to be dealt with? I guess I have decided to not worry about that. There is no point in getting rid of something that I would just buy again. But, it has started me thinking about other “stuff”.
I recently had to empty the closet that holds all of my fabric stash for some house repairs. (Lots of other things live in that closet too: old beaded trims, feathers, ribbons…several pieces of needlepoint waiting for a chair, the marionette my father helped me carve, my trains(!)…many, many treasures…) And as I put most of it back (and set aside a pile to donate), I came across my quilt tops–NINE !!! of them. (I guess I like to piece far better than I like to quilt.) And though I know my kids don’t love all my “stuff”, I figure they will have a hard time giving away my work. And there is the problem. I just don’t think 9 unfinished quilts are a great legacy. And so, I have resolved to make this the year of the quilt…I am going to try to quilt a bit every day. Maybe I will be able to at least stay even–I’ve got a few ideas for some fabric that I found in my stash! Maybe I will manage to finish a few.
I know that it has been too long since I sat down and wrestled with the technology that makes this blog thing happen. Late Spring is always a tough time for progress in the studio…the New York winter has finally given up; inspiration and energy for new work is EVERYWHERE. But, deadlines and obligations insinuate themselves into the mix. Thus, the yards and yards of fabric that quietly stood in a corner of my studio for months had to become (not magically, believe me) the 39 pairs of curtains needed for a house that we have just finished renovating. Two miles of thread!!! are now, hopefully, holding them altogether. All are finally in place; I am home; my house is relatively neat, and theoretically, I should be ready to dig in. But it never works out quite that way. I dance around the piles for a bit; I have never been able to “just pick up the pieces” and start again.
The photo above is the work that has been keeping me company for the last two months (sort of my reward for measuring, cutting, sewing, pressing for days and days–a few stolen moments here and there to keep me going–just bits of play, now and then). Inspired by Sophie Digard’s scarves (look her up, they are amazing…but pricey), I have been attempting my own version of motif crochet using laceweight merino and/or alpaca wool. It is a pick-up, put-down, carry along kind of project–the work is quite “fiddly”–the goal of a “square inch a day” was just about perfect. Even if I stole the time to do another inch or two, sooner or later, it would be a relief to “get back to the curtains”.
I am still using the scarf to ease back into my “real???” work???” Typically, I haven’t figured out how I will finish it…am not really a crocheter. I did figure that whatever pieces I could join together as I worked was goodness…but I do think all those spaces need to be filled in somehow, if only to give the finished piece some strength and integrity. Not sure if the edges need to be anchored as well…if both can be done as one process that would eliminate hundreds of yarn ends to be worked back into the piece. But I am liking it: the process and the result. I always love playing with colors. So, day by day, I add square inches to my scarf and look across my studio to the stack of fabrics waiting…soon…
“Patience” is a small 12″ by 12″ fiber art piece headed to the Mahopac Library for the annual FANE (a group of fiber artists from New York and Connecticut) show this Sunday. I sent my kids an announcement postcard (showing off a bit, I suppose) on which it was featured. I was surprised that their response was that ” it made them sad to see the bird
on the nest, missing the party”. I guess that their view of it wasn’t too far off of my original thought. Mothers do miss some good times and some adventures while they are home, sitting on the nest, minding the flock-to-be–keeping it warm; keeping it safe.
But, here is a fresh look: As a mom whose kids have flown the coup and joined the party, that time on the nest was too short! ( Thought it would last f-o-r-e-v-e-r…) And look at that party going on…”Mom” has a bird’s eye view! Maybe the best seat in the house! And, here’s another fresh look: just see how those little birds turned out! (It is enough to make that momma bird do a little dance…maybe, sing a little song…) Worth every minute.
*For those who might want to know: Each of the fabrics used in this piece were hand-dyed, and/or printed or stenciled with found objects–the fireworks were created with an old plastic placemat! Trims are vintage sequins and beads.
I have been going through my old Selvedge magazines: re-reading, clipping, and trying to toss the rest…if you know the magazine, you might understand the dilemma…but that is not the point here. An interview of Sveta Dresher (J/F 2010) made me stop and think. I am still working through her answer in my mind.
The question: “What makes a handcrafted object special?”
Her answer: “Many things, but the most important is that the individual who makes an object by hand puts aside everything else to concentrate on that one thing they are making. The time spent on it is someone’s undivided attention. That translates into more than a handmade ‘look’–it carries people’s energy around the world. It matters how the person who makes it feels about it and whether she is conscious about the process…that’s what makes the difference.”
Sitting on my studio table at the moment is an old wooden hanger that someone took the time to cover in a pretty crocheted pattern. It is cleverly made to button onto the hanger. The two buttons (one on each side) are mother of pearl. The crochet makes the hanger work better as the clothes don’t slip off as they surely would otherwise; it also makes an ordinary thing into a charming, more interesting thing. How long did it take that woman (and we all know it was a woman!) to do that? What else was she “supposed” to be doing when she was working on this hanger?
There is even a bit more to this hanger’s story: Trawling one of her favorite thrift stores (a local church/volunteer enterprise) my mother spied the hanger holding a blouse–probably hung just as it was donated: on THE HANGER. When she went to the counter to pay for her finds, the clerk went to take the blouse off the hanger (just as one might expect) but my mom, to the surprise of the clerk, stopped her. Mom just wanted to buy the hanger! From the shop’s point of view, though an unusual request, that was even better yet–two things to sell! Everyone was happy.
I am now the owner of this hanger and am hoping it will add something to some of the photographs I want to take of my “artfully embellished” jackets and such. But, back to the question: why does someone cover a hanger with handwork? knit a dish cloth? crochet or weave a potholder…especially those, when surely in their use, they get stained, worn…and eventually, most likely…tossed? And yet, the work of an unknown woman, who spent some precious hours and some careful thought has enriched my life and made me stop and think. That is a legacy of sorts…a worthy one, in my opinion. I am still thinking about Sveta’s answer to the interviewer’s question…
Last Wednesday, Scraps came to my house to play. Strange name, we know. We have talked of changing it a few times…WAY before my time as a member, this was a very large group (25+) of traditional quiltmakers who called themselves the ScrapBaggers. By the time I was invited to join, the group was small, very close, and the members had grown into artists who made quilts–for walls, not beds. They called themselves “Scraps”, not as a name change, but just as the short-form…
In the past year or so, we have expanded our interests even beyond the art quilts…now, we are truly a fiber-art group. A knitter/felt maker and a weaver have joined us. Show-and-Tell is even more lively: ideas and inspiration literally swirl around in the air! And, the road trips– more possibilities! Every once in a while, the suggestion to change our name into “something more descriptive” is floated out there, but I think “Scraps” suits us perfectly. In a way, we are the “scraps”; we ARE what’s left of the original group. (In one of those very odd coincidences of life, our newest member is the daughter of the founder from 25+ years ago!) We ARE a scrappy bunch–we work hard to make art, we take chances and we try new things–and we each learn a lot along the way.
Hence, the rolling up of the living room rug, the setting up of tables and ironing spots, the clearing off of all flat surfaces. We each claimed a spot, pulled out scissors, mats and rotary cutters, cut up our old silk ties, laid pieces and parts in place onto pristine white silk scarves. Then, we rolled them onto pieces of pvc pipe, tied them tightly with ribbon, added vinegar to the water in the crab pot, and popped them in to boil for a while. After a bit, about a half hour (or until we just couldn’t wait any longer) the pipes were fished out of the pot, the ribbons cut, and each scarf unrolled to great ooohs and aaahhhs. We talked, ate, laughed as we worked…and made some very cool scarves. A great day.
Am feeling optimistic…after getting text and the photos!!! actually posted yesterday…all on my own. (Though, I have to confess, how it all came about is still a bit of a mystery.) But in honor of the day, I am trying again. Nothing like success to spur one on to another challenge.
These are part of a set of ornaments made to give to my family. I have been doing this for more than twenty years. They are out on my table because sooner or later I will master the technical complexity of my new camera and then, I will assemble a portfolio of my work which actually looks like the real thing. (Ever hopeful.)
Each summer as I cruise the aisles at the flea market I look for something to inspire that year’s ornament. For these, named Party Hearts, the find was the vintage beaded shoe bows! They are a bit quirky, but always make me smile. Happy Valentine’s Day.