art as autobiography

Sympathetic Evolution (tm jude)

Creatorstone My response to recent community truth tellings and the resultant supportive growth tendrils pushed me all the way beyond words.   Obviously where-ever I was going expressively would be cloth driven.  Somewhere around 2 a.m. on Thursday I understood I wanted to make a tribute/protection quilt for the community jude created and has tended in much the same style I tend to my gardens. 

I've never wanted to do this before.  For one thing - precision and math.  Planning that's focused rather than a rough suggestion.   For another - I learn best when I incorporate rather than emulating.  But for this purpose it doesn't feel like my expressive style serves the purposes.  So what's coming to life is a bit sympathetic magic and a little evolutionary cloth/work approach and whole bunches of sympathetic evolution.    I don't remember when it was that jude put her stamp on that phrase and its brilliant articulation recurring throughout her work and teaching development.

Wheelassquarebegin She sent me this I don't even know how many years ago.  It was last resurrected for ongoing contemplation shortly before the shit hit the fan COVID-wise here on the east coast.  I thought I would like to make it the center of something bigger and somehow aquamarine-ish. 

Wheel transferIn this busy multi-plexic portion of the growing season yesterday afternoon was sending me to the big bad tizzy place.  I realized cloth work would help slow the revs as well as elevating my perspective of the moment.  I sat down with my intentions to just go in the sympathetic evolutionary magic sense - having earlier stolen 10-15 minutes to anchor stitch the green and blue/turquoise fabric to the under-side of jude's corduroy base. 

 once this was done I sensed the soft collaboration I was seeking.  And remain pleased that I gained the most beautifully moody moon circle to dream over.

Next will come a border of small four patches.  To adept lovers of small piecework the size will probably feel overblown (1" finished) but for me this level of literally scaling down is an exercise in trust that time and providence can hold the care I'm taking. Last night after I got this far I adjourned to fictionland but not before I located my embroidery hoops with today's stitching time in mind.

***

Appliqueing the stone into position was so gratifying at a stitch level.  Was a little worried I'd cut too scant a turn to prevent the corduroy unraveling but there was no such problem.  Later today  I may stick it in a hoop and do a little noodling but that could well be a plan to procrastinate marking and cutting the little squares. 

slowly but surely I'm coming around to the understanding that neurological abrasions shouldn't keep me from stitching just because I can no longer manage a fine seam.  I probably could if I spent more time with it but that's the Catch-22 that this endeavor may help me mend a lot more effectively.

Backsideofstone


so here we all are

Collageadditions72120Last week I found my way back to paper collage.   You might recognize the bones of the above because it was my Above/Below/Within creation during the collage challenge.  Within the remake I'm speaking to the experience of my uncovered eye gazing out at the inferno of psy-ops and dis-information.   What I can personally do to counter-act it, sure, but for me the true lede centers on the fact that it's a pic of myself when I was quite ill.  In re-working the original statement I see that Below hovering somewhere between my sense of energetic taproot and a constantly roiling sense of fragmenting reality/root chakra I remain sickened. 

I mean ... I know that intellectually and experientially.  I also think at this point I'm perceiving everyone I talk to or email in a mutually honest way to be sickened.  We often use the word repeatedly.  Some are very clear what it is.  Some don't know but they realize it isn't any closer to normal than it mirrors their organic comfort zone.  Some are painfully aware of their escalating mental health issues.

When this whole debacle first started debacle-ing there was only one thing that was really clear to me.  We'd all collectively been thrown feet first into an abusive relationship (a-hem...) the [utterly pathetic] likes of which the world has never seen.  And given that fact pretty soon the whole world got dragged into what happens when you let a country simmer and stew in its own exceptionally un-exceptional juices for far too long.

The entire planet and all its life forms are now engaged in an existential corridor of life: not-knowing when or how exactly but being unable to always completely forget that It is out there.  And now it's got the overt totalitarian paramilitary backup Howard Zinn illuminated as inevitable once a country lets such a regime gain a viable toehold.  I think about those lectures a lot - and I think of the direct impact it had on me and all his other students through the years.  But especially then being carefully and thematically awakened back when the world seemed fully dystopian to our still-young eyes circa '80-'83. 

WhatisaliciaThis is the first collage I made after a 4 month absence.  The ongoing farce of meaningful existence in the face of an endless bad news monsoon season has baked my noodle to the point of one night telling J I need an entirely new brain while you take this one through the car wash for me.

2020 being the absolutely brutal annus horribilus that it is I found I had no taste for taking pieces of things that used to be whole and recombining them with other no-longer whole things.  In order to express what, exactly?  And why was it my job to do this kind of work?  Shouldn't, I don't know, this be added to a certain son-in-law's portfolio or something?

Projection, internalization, personal grievances galore endlessly piling up in my psychic mudroom because I left them there to wither-down before I dealt with getting it all composted.  Creatively I found myself with a bad attitude.  not a vibe I wanted in this space - not in my home/summer studio or up here in the real thing on cool enough days - that's a haven for much light brought to bear upon dark things.

LettherebelightA lifetime of somatizing disavowed feelings has taught me not to do it anymore.  But what could I do?  Where could I put the stuff that was my honest response to insanity layered-over with all the unique strength/endurance qualities those of us who are trauma survivors have been leaning into all along?

The voice I heard the loudest wasn't even my own.  It was a considerably younger subset alterna-culture voice - the voice I most identify/empathize with in today's world three quarters of the time for sure but definitely not my own.  This merged with Dee Mallon suggesting my fictional characters might be getting restless.  Well hell yeah, yes they were!  And one of them was top dead center the loudest voice I heard in my head.  So my imagination swiftly gave him a brother in arms level of friend that could solidly (reading and writing-wise at least) ground the narrative by spinning through the necessary thematic calls and responses in between major plot exposition points.  Or maybe at least in part so a reader wouldn't notice that mechanical moving along stuff happening quite so much.

And then!  I was driving home from an errand when I was struck with that all too rare but also true pure creative thunderbolt of awareness that the person who'd just helped me in a store was also part of that call and response.  BAM so okay.  As I'm driving home I felt my mind reshaping absolutely everything I thought I might be doing in the fictional sense.

But that was last week which feels like several by the now.  So I'm relatively adjusted to the reality of doing something new and mildly terrifying if only because it boils down to meaning I wasn't really very deep into my characters until this other character showed up fully formed so as to fit right in and amplify the true terrain of a story that hadn't quite articulated itself upon its initial resurrection.   Kind of happy and gratified to be pressing forward with a more fully layered tapestry of generational skews.     the next time I post concerning my word slinging ventures you'll see some of the results in a bigger chunk of text that relates to itself sentence by sentence. 

hopefully anyway.  There's a piece right past the middle of the section I thought it would be fun to share that's still pretty murky in a way that clunks rather than evoking mystery, magic, or even plausible mayhem among the sentences.

SameoldcavalryThis is my favorite movie quote to include in visual journals.  It's from Thunderheart and over time I've used it as a tl:dr footnote of administrative terrorism and 'soft' forms of genocide.  


old ideas forming a new shape

Hermituprightcommercially printed cotton fabric glue-stick collage mock-up of The Hermit card from an unnamed oracle deck of my own device.  Tarot-centric but only as a jump-off in terms of symbology and its placement throughout the deck . 5 x 5 recycled cookie packaging substrate.  circa 1999.

 One of my long-term ultra slow creative endeavors involves collaging a full deck of tarot card prototypes with quilter's cotton prints.  If I can get that managed I've envisioned painting myself a one of a kind deck - thinking I'd use the prototypes as reference for creating and completing the deck.  I mentally committed to this in the late 90's a/k/a a time when today's calender numbers felt waaaaay in the future.  All the same I've always kept the cards readily to hand as if I might re-commence engaging with the process at any moment. 

About five years ago I unearthed an unrecognized and uncharacteristically small notebook in which I'd written (undated) about the specific types of wisdom I'd gotten old enough to appreciate as a matter of ongoing progress and process -- the tricky business of having more confidence expressing myself in relationship to both painting and successfully creating a viable tarot deck to use for my own readings.  Am now planning to start working-out the concepts as rough graphic mock-ups in my current favorite sketchbook.  Maybe collect and collage a few relevant color stories and also a small glossary of relevant glyphs and similar stripped-down symbols to fit the themes of the cards.

turn something chronically loose and fancy free into something actively structured and officially recognized as a Thing I'm doing with intention to complete it in whatever way providence wills.

Kingofearth Earth Alpha (king)

For the earth cards I'll be embedding the original five pointed star from the traditional assignation of pentacles.

***

In recent times I've been spending 3-5 hours most work week days in fictionland.   Really like what's happening with both the novel's particular story arc and also the way it's had such a positive settling and grounding impact on my daily ebb and flow. 

When I'm out in the garden I tend to think more about non-fiction writing endeavors and goals.  More specifically I think about my planned organization (and far more to the point - congruent elucidation) of subjects related to areas of long term interest.  It's frustrating me how long it's taking that seed of intention to germinate effectively.  Feel like I need to give this level of planning enough form so I understand why I'm drawn to continuing. 

~*~grace's influence.  know why before proceeding. it might change what you bring along with you and also what you choose to leave behind.~*~

Over the past five evenings I've spent something like 1.5-2 hours a night reviewing individual segments of accumulated daily writing sessions.  Bringing both the text and its story-serving context to a stronger voice so as to get this draft beyond the skeletal stage one paragraph at a time.  It is as tedious as it is engaging.   It's also somewhat unnatural or at least well past contrarian (whenever I'm not actively engrossed in writing or thinking about writing, anyway ...) to prize and consistently foster an ability to disconnect from reality simply so one might develop A Story and then persuade others to engross themselves in something that doesn't exist right along with you.  Avoiding distraction - especially those caused by some place/somebody/something real - so that I can commune instead with one or more imaginary people during any given block in time.  I like to keep in mind that's what I'm doing in the final pragmatic analysis.  It keeps me real and consistently demystifies the process as well.

In any event all the imaginary people live in real places so I suppose there's that tenuous connection between hemispheres of cognition.

Bigmedenchantthe deck's first of two sacred pairings bond male and female energies traditionally called the Magician and the High Priestess.  I re-named those archetypes Big Medicine and Enchantment respectively.

Bigmedicine I began making these cards after much encouragement from some UK friends who felt I had the chops to do it even though I did not.  Chose at once to work with a square because I very much liked the idea of geometric grounding/containing the experience of creating and reading these cards.  It also gives my reading interpretation a little more room to grow on both its vertical and horizontal axes.

EnchantmentI've not designed a lot of cards or otherwise come close to justifying how long it's taking me to get immersion-level engaged.  But I do have an excellent reason.  At a certain point I grasped I'd have to start learning to paint one slow step at a time or I'd have no idea how to succeed once I was ready to paint these cards and then tried to learn how.  Learning  to simply handle paint of various kinds is proving to be far more compelling than creating cards to match the vibe and feel of what I started so long ago.  Especially since I set them aside, as one would, after the ongoing burning passion phase of tarot involvement seemed to have left the building.  Until it came back rather suddenly and without preamble.  That occurred maybe 3 months before the collage challenge and Liz sharing ongoing additions to her splendid Texas Tarot project.

It interests me - how things once central to our sense of creative engagement can recede and yet rather than compartmentalizing it off to the side a person could let that medium and methodology stay relevant enough in their ongoing life to return to slow moving projects at other points in time.  Creatively this often brings a level of subliminal cohesion and mapping ability into play at the design level even/especially when an idea is very fresh.  

FertilityAs for the other sacred archetypal pairing within the Major Arcana  - The Empress could only be distilled as Fertility.

VolitionAnd the Emperor as Volition. 

Most of the prototypes I've created are major arcana.  I also created all the aces, an alpha/king and the minor card that dismayed me the most at that point in my life.  At the time the 9 of swords (arrowheads in this deck) showed up so much that I stopped reading for myself and spent that same amount of time and level of effort in routing-out my seemingly endless inner cascades of fear & anxiety.  One thing that helped a lot was articulating how the card felt to me any time I saw it there on the reading cloth.  And then translating that to a prototype:

Acoyotes9ofarrowheadsIn recent times I've been re-considering these cards and the others I created so long ago.  Never actually put them away or otherwise 'cancelled' them.  They've always sat on the long artist's altar in the studio.  One day when I was walking past them I glanced in their direction and asked myself a question:

what if tarot cards are like flower essences in that those that interest you the most - the essences you feel you really need - are those you need to learn from in order to express slow but clear understanding that what you feel beyond words also has the capacity to express itself in spoken and written language? 

It would seem that, for me, "needing to learn from the most" relates quite tangibly to my ongoing creative lessons that all seem to boil down to learning how to complete things to my own satisfaction level.  In the past I've always believed if I put something aside I would pick it up again when I had the chops to complete my original idea in some form.  In this case I don't need to successfully paint a deck of cards that I actually use or share with others.  But I do think I owe it to myself to finish collaging the proto-deck and sketch-level paintings.

Have also been journaling of late about my seeming disconnect to collage more generally.  This led to an awareness that this unwelcome development first bloomed right around the time my style and construction objectives became some other previously unknown thing the more my rational mind imploded many times a day.  For all the same reasons so many other peoples' minds have been similarly imploding plus my kid being so ill.  The point is that the shifts in style are actually perfect for digging into the nuts and bolts of creating more collaged tarot card mock-ups.  Not to mention getting my desk set up for more  sketch and paint exploration. 

I seem to be coming back around to where I'd originally hoped to be by the end of February in terms of how I'm using studio space as well as my time within it.   Maximizing my creative output is the most reliable way I know to keep an effective counter-balance to the mayhem and escalating sense that all of life is becoming one harsh dividing line after the next. 

JusticeJustice


first studio day since last post!

Chrysochollawetfrombowl

Since then I've been spending most of my waking time outside in the sun-struck gardens.   Temps have been high enough to make this space largely uninhabitable even in the productive phases of early and middle evening.   I've brought painting and stitching supplies downstairs to the dining room and more or less found storage space that's functional.  

As I sit here and compartmentalize how I've been using my energy I see that not a lot of active "official" creativity is in evidence.  But there's been a lot of gestation time related to both writing and Pearl's log cabin deconstruction.

FirstglimpseinsideThe day after my last post I followed through on removing the log cabin borders.  Cut solidly through all layers and then carefully looked inside.  Saw just enough to need to see more.  To know Pearl's life in the cloth trail of, well, threadcrumbs.

Stood in front of the studios big front window with a candle burning on the cleared coffee table workspace.  The work of literally cutting ties with what the object of quilt used to be was as energizing as it was meditative.  I was moved through and through with a sense of my grandmother's spirit urging me forward:  Know me.  Understand the larger context of what you recall being told of my life's history.

I cut each tie with mindful care.   A couple of times I heard myself saying aloud "I believe this belongs to neither of us".  There was a lot of sadness being released.  I suppose from me but mainly, as the doer, I was conscious of confirmation concerning my original hunch that Pearl made this quilt in large part to stay constructively occupied while she healed more subtle layers from her despair to suffer two miscarriages after moving to the house where I was raised.

 I told the floating sense of dissipating sadness that I understood.   And me too'd what remained as drifting residue until it too had dissipated.  By then all the physical thread ties were cut and I'd gently pulled them free.  I peeled aside the cotten sateen then flipped the quilt face-up and did the same for the piecework.  What remained as a batting was a layer of brown flannel that Pearl had pieced to size. 

FlannelbattingStaring at that line of double-threaded running stitches I saw how honestly I come by all the things that I do - and yet.  When it came to needlework Pearl hoped to turn me into the second coming of her husband's sister, for whom I'd been named.  Thus she stressed methodology and a layer of excellent execution she didn't ask of herself - at least under the duress of what I presume is an accurate interpretation of where her head and heart were at during the time of construction.

The quilt is entirely handpieced.  She sat with the comfort of cloth wherever she could find it and moved steadily forward one strip of self-made life at a time.   And I came to realize how my ongoing yearning to know more of her as a woman who survived a great deal and never failed to go to bat to me until she was too sick to bat for herself was being fulfilled in an unexpected and entirely tactile way.  I smiled and imagined gently washing the pieced layer of living soul's comfort.  Became focused on rinsing it after washing and then doing a second ceremonial renewal clearing with rosewater added to the rinse bowl. 

As groundcloths for the individually constructed 3.5 inch blocks Pearl used serviceable scraps from old clothes.  This was a whole ongoing category maintained by the two sisters.  When handmade cloths were too threadbare for other purposes they were still given due respect because parts could still be salvaged for their serviceable scraps bundle(s).   In this case the scrap groundcloths (here and there I found some pieced examples) were sometimes oversized and in other instances barely serviceable.  All of the backgrounds appear to have been scavenged from old clothes representing her youngest married life.  It's as far as I'm going to deconstruct her efforts. Am not going to attempt a cleaning of the top's outer layer but I'm going to continue clearing the entire be-ing of it of sadness and other energies for as long into this calendar year as the windows are consistently open to keep residue moving out and away.

BlockbackingsectionSome portions of the inner quilt are quilt clean, as directly above, and then uncomfortably soiled in others.  Am beginning to wonder if at least some of the most corrosive looking damage is actually accidental water spillage (or deliberately spewn florida water) damage from times over the years when I employed this quilt as an Ancestor altar cloth.  

I am still immensely surprised by how poorly her joined seam lines are worked.  It was another tangible clue that she was keeping her hands moving without a lot of mental and emotional hook-ups firing as they did in my years of knowing her. 

***

Concurrently I'm going to consider making low-loft patches I plan to apply to the surface of piecework. Have decided I do want to have this quilt contain elements of my direct matrilineage but I don't want to use the worn gauze of a garment I took-over from my mother after her death.  At which time I inherited unused yardage of the gauze.  Sold most of it to my friends and other friends of theirs in three yard lengths.  Then had to deal with the unanticipated dissonance of going through a few summer seasons of seeing various people I knew using it for summer wear of their own style. 

JoycegauzeI have two pieces of roughly the same size.  Ripped in half at two in the morning a few nights back because I realized I wanted a curtain in our front kitchen window that wasn't thrown together from an ancient sheet until I came up with something better.   And then belatedly realized this cloth was less than useless in filling the need at hand. Sure would have been quicker than what I'm very simply and slowly stitching by hand but this is a lot more satisfying. Every time I start to over-graze the not unrelated territories of civil unrest and bottomless corruption I put it down until my head's in a better place.

obviously enough that's why the time it's taking to complete the straight forward endeavor is way overdue even by super slow standards.  Didn't quite put that together until this moment.


one of Pearl's log cabin quilts

Pearlslogcabin

Hand pieced and tied baby quilt made by my grandmother Pearl during her reversal of fortunes/young mother/diligently frugal wife stage of life during the 30's.  She does not appear to have pre-sorted her scraps or limited the scraps' color/design nature or type of fabric.

Jude's focus on baby quilts and quilts still in their infant stage(s) has slowly pushed my mind into a state of active inspiration related to what's on hand and already of strong interest to me.  To the point where yesterday I planned to start deconstructing the quilt above.  Have been previously inclined to work with the blocks just as they are but separated from the heavy cotton sateen borders and backing.  The sateen used to be a not entirely unpleasant acid green that made the somewhat subdued color range of the quilt sing more prettily.   

Pearl had a knack for clashes that work.  I didn't realize that was something I came by honestly until this past weekend when I sat with this quilt on my lap and carefully studied each individual block.  I chose to spend the better part of an afternoon that way in honor of the many hundreds of afternoons I did not have a chance to spend with Pearl.   Despite all the more pressing and seemingly non-negotiable things that needed doing I did this instead.

zero regrets.  A much stronger and radiant heart center.

Over decades of me hanging this particular quilt on one indirectly lit wall or another the color has faded considerably and is now completely unpalatable to me.  I think because, before it faded, it used to hang on a wall where it should have looked smashing but it didn't.  At the time I thought that was the fault of the wallpaper in that particular apartment hallway.  But now I think it was the fault of non-existent light sources beyond recessed fluorescent light bars.   Since moving to mid-state places I've hung it in spots with enough light to properly showcase the way the bright green enlivened the smatterings of bright strips in the primarily muted tones of her scraps to hand.

I loved and admired my grandmother passionately for (a) making palatable and effective creative resolutions with whatever was right there in front of her.  and (b) the wisdom to understand the profound satisfaction (as well as self-sustainability) of wasting-not.

Quiltcu4

Unless she was making something special and tailored to specific tastes Pearl worked at making patches from the ubiquitous paper grocery bag not quite hidden beside her place at the dining room table.  By the time I came along she wasn't sewing as she once had.  The grocery bags were vintage scraps she hadn't gotten around to using.   She was very un-precious about her piece work.  She'd pick up one thing and then another and sew them together.  

In my youth I thought this was an example of how girls raised "in the old days" were taught domestic skills as a form of robotic conformity.  But now I see what's obvious and far-more likely.  She was selling hand pieced and tied quilts made from wool scraps by the time she was 11.  Undoubtedly she kept an ingrained eye on the clock to insure maximum return on her time and skill investment.

It's obvious to me this top was made from quilt blocks pieced in the moment and without a lot of pre-amble.  in terms of her go to underlying traditional pattern structuring - she focused a great deal the dark/light contrast design staple of successful patchwork quilts that are timeless in nature.  She also took care (AL. WAYS.) to space the red scraps evenly throughout the piecing.  That was one of her Things:  Red scraps were highly prized and a mandatory inclusion whenever possible -  but also she felt the color to be inherently tricky and thus subject to innumerable rules/taboos of her own device. 

The immediate present tense source of construction/design inspiration also comes from jude and her working methods that are equal parts construction and subtraction.  I don't generally have compulsions to stitch through layers that are barely existent but having spent some quality time with the Summer Bitch in my hands as I prepare for the coming season - I can definitely understand the appeal of such working.  So I got it in my head I would liberate the pieced blocks from the borders and backing - then tell some kind of relevant (appliqued and stitched) story upon them.

Thought I would indulge in a super-soft collaboration and stitch-in cuttings from a scrap jude sent a staggeringly long time ago.  a scrap from her grandmother's silk kimono.  I want to tell some kind of story to Pearl in these choices and what I make of them.  I guess it's kind of the inverse of what grace does with her blog - as a chronicle of self for Emrie to keep as providence wills.  I want to bypass time and sequencing all together.  Just showing my grandmother's spirit who I am and how much of her I carry within me.

Blockscu1

All these ideas and frames/spheres of influence & inspiration has been a nice thing to consider slowly as the weeks move closer to the season of life force's rapid growth.  In that time I've grown accustomed to handling this quilt as Pearl herself probably handled it.  Previously I've been careful with its heirloom nature.  In the past twenty years I've often kept it rolled within the top layer of a cedar chest full of family linens and needlework.  But now I've been carrying it around so that I can arrange it in different ways in different places.  Trying to learn what it wishes to become.

For starters I decided it wished to become two distinctly different things.  I envisioned working with the ground of pieced blocks.  Assumed the cut-off sections of the border would be repurposed.  Perhaps as a book cover for an album of family photos I'm amassing.  Thought it seemed like a summer project so I put it aside until last week.

Then, once I had it out and had solidified the practical steps of initial transmogrification something happened that's happened before.  I have never liked the green sateen finished treatment because it wasn't the right green to harmonize in my eye's mind. I think it would sing a lot more convincingly if she'd gone with a rich dark jade.  Think how the BLUE would have popped then - as well as the darker rusty reds and browns. Not to mention the glimmering radiance it would lend the whites and light pastels.

Indeed I have come to this moment of truth four or five times now.  I get exactly this far (my goal used to be to get one of those glass-topped table display cases for displaying and contemplating the deteriorating pieced blocks) and then I see the places with visible stitching lines and marvel at the knots of cording - all chosen and placed with my grandmother's hands.  And I just can't bring myself to undo the work.  So I thought I'd do what I can and in the process approach much bigger work.

Cabinblocks

I'm not going to undo all the ties and thus create sight-based cutting lines.  I'm going to cut away the sateen in strips just shy of the seam lines.  Will pick out those stitches and then see how much I can or cannot de-layer.  And I think questions to myself over and over such as:

Will I repair anything?  Or just let it be with some kind of very delicate binding and then whatever I make on the 'other side' If I decide to go all in on the symbolic family lineage I may use as a ground cloth a very well worn cotton gauze nightgown of my mother's.  It was floor length but after she died I cut it down to a short swingy sort of lounge top or a mini dress.  On the other hand - I'd just as soon keep her out of this.  So I could use some of the same fabric but crisp and new rather than worn thin.  There'd be more strength and body to it.  Hmmmmm.

 The blocks themselves are a trove of fabrics my grandmother used to outfit herself, my mother, and all the windows, tables, etc.  She also made men's dressing gowns and camp shirts for hunting excursions arranged and guided by my godfather.   I spent a bit of time really studying the blocks and touching all the fabrics.  Letting the sensitive edges of my finger tips linger over the confident knots she made without a single one slipping over time.   
Logcabincu2

For the center chimney squares Pearl used a shiny silky gold fabric.  I love the places that are worn-away.  I thought of here and there very lightly needleweaving.   I thought I might ask her questions I've so wished I could ask over the years.  stitch them here and there.  Or maybe I will just think the questions as a rolling mantra while I work on this in whatever capacity.

have wanted to do something of this sort for 46 years.

and in doing so grieve her death as I did not have the ability, on any level, to grieve at the time when she died.

So I am going to cut-away the faded green panels, leave the ties in place and dye the pieces in a mourning color - either deep purple or grey.  Perhaps a bit of both.  Have a strong hankering to do this with ink rather than dye.  Then I will piece them back together and include fabrics I have that I would like to be able to share with her.  To see what she might create from the scraps. 

And also I really need to speak a quiet language of sorrow that's gone unexpressed until now - that she didn't live long enough to see my ways of embracing the things she taught me that have become the most significant cornerstones of my life.

it's finally do-able.  this particular release & goodbye...

Things that fit.  One step at a time. 


beyond words (plus words)

Graceinclusion

Longcloth6220

Moonmadness6220

*****

wrote these words spontaneously after re-working the Lunar Annal title page background and creating some equally spontaneous collage pieces.  less than a day before shit got real in the most effed-up way yet.  bearing witness to our country literally going up in flames has given the implications of what I wrote a much deeper collective context.

*****

dark black elliptical shattered

broken scary moons.

moons to haunt the dreams of the dying

as well as the merely alive

amidst unending disconsolation.

 


mending & growing

Mendingheart

Think the title of this post might be the name of the long cloth I'm making.  As is my usual process with jude-related classes I seem to be riffing on her stated themes and what they evoke in me more than I'm following along in a more direct kind of way.    Yet this is the most direct interpretation I've attempted so far as well as soft collaboration - jude created the lovely silk pink moon with just the right size of waxing crescent to represent my birth moon.  Also Glennis created the heart and those two combined energies are one of the most natural pairings I can imagine.  The heart didn't have a tip so I patched one from the cutaway scraps.  Not sure if I'll fill in the little 'nick' on the left or if I'll embroider a rootlet/something else.

Originally I had put together the layout below.   Ultimately the silk kimono scrap wasn't working for me at a structural level.  I like to have a whole cloth ground as my base  for multi-technique sewing.  But in this case felt that defeated the purpose of piecing something directly on top of it.   So I decided to eliminate the silk section and further decided how it might be included in a different form.

Longcloth1stidea

Day before yesterday I sewed the two indigo pieces on either end of the brighter fabric.  Pieced small borders on the top two pieces to make them the same size as the bottom scrap.  Moved the indigo 'seed' down into the root section.  Will add two small seeds on the opposite side of that section and stitch their life force rising to the surface. 

The heart migrated of its own accord from one side of the image to the other.  I have ideas for how to finish this piece with an additional panel at both the top and bottom.  If I follow through in a faithful manner that part will be as time consuming as this one was simple and quick to piece once I finally got that far.  Maybe I will modify my current plan so it's less labor intensive but these days I find I really want to make exactly what I want to make a lot more than I care to be expedient. 

Longcloth51420

This morning when I took a picture of the the basted heart I had to move it around to prevent distracting light and shadow patterns made by the woodworking of my studio's front window.  But the shadows did successfully distract me all the same with their potential suggestion of leaves and stems that would be made with subtle stitch work or something more overtly embroidered.  Design options are good so long as I don't flood my mind and its eye with too many at a time.  In theory I could mark a design over the whole top using the window's larger pattern of light and shadow ...

Shadowgrowth

(also I am enjoying the fact that the hole in the heart is letting the MOONlight through.  Feels more true to my life experience than Leonard Cohen's cracks letting the light in which I always picture as something more directly solar and sharp edged than the same illumination reflected through a lunar window of glowing diffusion.


Altering the Dark-Dreaming of Grief Today

Dreamingspines

Yesterday I focused my studio time on the Lunar Annal I've committed to documenting and sharing in a step by step way.  But the resulting 'steps' were largely a matter of walking into various walls of my own making.  Need to synthesize how and why that happened before I can explain it coherently to anyone not-me.  Also my significant results were largely internalized in nature.  More needs to actually occur in an outward manner before there's any point in sharing with a dedicated post.  At the very least I need to reach a couple of firm conclusions rather than opening more and more doors of possibility.

***

Above is a picture I took this morning of my first altered book project which I began back in the mid-aughts.  Its thematic nature leaves it perpetually incomplete but I'm honing in on a shrinking number of blank pages.   Sooner than later the book will be filled even if the topic remains a work in progress to me.   Back when I started I was following through on the curiosity and interest raised by studying blogs that were devoted to various forms of master-class level collage as well as altered books.  It was clear to me that I would not be able to truly embrace such a project by choosing a theme and then finding a book and everything I felt needed to put in it. 

Such a format didn't interest me long enough to gather basic art supplies I already had on hand let alone ring my chimes enough to consider doing something with them.    Recall, if it's relevant, the kind of projects "everybody" was doing during that window of time. I had/have zero tolerance for even thinking about flea markets let alone 'haunting' them in search of the perfect vintage this and that.  And back then there seemed no way OUT of - let alone around - the rigorously exalted Vintage Fixation. 

Still - my hands and mind itched to alter a book my own way.  So I readily forgot what I knew about altered books that was based on what I'd been reading.  What did I actually want to do?  Landscapeofculture

For starters I needed to select something that was personally meaningful from my own bookshelf.  It would need to be a book that held great meaning for me - something I'd read more than once with sustained interest but felt certain I wouldn't have a need to read again.  Time after time I came back to my copy of Dreaming The Dark.  It had a glued rather than a sewn spine - which absolutely everybody on the internet strongly advised.   After a week of cogitation I decided to ignore the looming shapeless form(s) of Everybody saying (and then making ...) the same thing.  The first picture in the post illustrates why people stress the importance of a sewn spine and removing at least one folio per sewn signature.  It's because creative choices - just like elections - have consequences.

Crystalsstars

When my book began to fall apart I took it in stride once the initial reality check hit home.  It honestly didn't bother me and still doesn't - although for the record I've altered a number of books since then and they've ALL had sewn bindings.  When the spine split for the first time it broke my favorite spread in the book in half.    My fondness for the spread centered on the fact that it's the point in the book where I chose to begin the active alteration process in a "fun" way.  Prior to that I'd been focused on prepping all the pages by gluing three together with Yes paste and then pressing the results under a stack of books with the glued pages separated from the rest of the text block with sheets of wax paper. 

Now I'd start a lot differently but I'd undoubtedly make other mistakes because that's how I learn best and most quickly in the creative sense.   It's also the way I'm happiest learning.  And that's something I didn't know until this particular project fell apart right there in my hands.  Now I know why a sewn binding is important in a way I'm unlikely to forget.

Matrix spread

All told it's been a far easier lesson in releasing attachment to outcome than most others have been.   A book I was changing into some new thing fell apart and that's pretty much all that happened.  Then it fell apart again and yet a third time.  

but before any of that occurred

I picked a theme:  The Sisterhood.   I envisioned filling the pages with various impressions and conclusions I've reached about primarily positive and empowering female relationships.  It didn't occur to me at first to actively include things from women who had that kind of bond with me but I quickly caught on how invaluable it would be to make that shift.

Completingthespectrum

The page above is a good example of such incorporation.  There's a laconic note from Jude and two tiny rune cards from a deck I received from a friend in the UK.  The Tibetan Wishing tree is a photocopy of a postcard I received from a friend in Berkeley.   The batik fabric is from a friend who, for a time, lived close enough that we regularly exchanged fabric and paper scraps as well as plants and seed packets.

Turtlebirch

Some pages, like the one above, are tributes to women who shaped the woman I've become.  This particular page relates to my Grandmother - Pearl Margaret.  When I was young I used to spin out a lot when things were overwhelming and impossible for my mind and body to process gracefully.  I've written before about her practice of reading aloud to me from Walden Pond until I was calm.   When I was still too young for that to work - she used to put us both in the car and drive me to a certain rocky river bank a few miles from our home.  It was nearly always crowded with a large colony of snapping turtles.  She'd read Guidepost magazines while I observed the turtles.  Quietly because those were the rules.  After a certain vacillating known-only-to-Pearl block of time she'd announce that if I could that for the turtles I could do it for her and myself back at the house.  

(if whatever made me spin out involved my mother we wouldn't go right home.  We'd go to a fast food hamburger place pre-dating one of the big chains that now dominate.  I would be ordered a plain hamburger which I ate in dainty bites while Pearl inhaled most of a large order a fries with a few here and there doled out to me because there I was, after all, stuck with my mother and her many terrifying guises.  This is how I learned it was possible to leverage dysfunction and unhappiness - and more to the point, that others would willingly do that for you in ways that gave you access to things normally denied or outright forbidden.

When we eventually got home from the kind of thing I to this day mentally visualize when somebody says the words pity party - I'd be allowed to look through Pearl's curated clippings of sales throughout the region.  Depending on what level of awful my mother had been, I might be awarded a pair of shoes that were never as cute as anything full price, a new hat I didn't (ever) want, or some type of educational book on a subject important to me.  This, unfortunately, is how I learned that if somebody causes you disturbance or emotional pain you could always bribe yourself past it with Something New yet sensibly priced)

Also when I was super young Pearl and her sister Grace used to construct booklets out of birch bark.  one of my older cousins tried to "help" them one time and it turned into the kind of fracas that to my mind should have piled us all in the car to view the turtles for a good long while.  I smile as I type all these things.  I smile a lot any time I look through this book.  

Nocirc

I also add to it any time I see something I feel belongs to The Sisterhood as I've experienced it.  Above a photocopy of some gifts I received from a French friend who traveled to India.  We've lost touch but I always hope she might find her way to my main blog or this one.   I included a sticker that was further embellished with a different sticker by Jeannine Parvati Baker.   Many years after her death, the first time I saw a selection of Social Justice Kitten postcards, I thought of her with great longing.  I wanted so badly to send her the version I wound up including in this spread.  Any time I look at it I think about how deep and wide-ranging our friendship became BANG! just like that once I introduced myself to her in an email.

Emilydimnobody

And of course there are also pages dedicated to other people who are "gone" whom I never actually knew but feel deeply connected to nonetheless.   Emily Dickinson is right at the head of that list for all kinds of reasons.  Once I was describing my kinda unusual relationship to my written output in terms of how little I cared if I ever became 'known' for any of it. I happened to be talking to Jeannine who kept making appalled and disbelieving noises the more I warmed to my theme.  Finally she interjected in a scandalized voice.

"You - You're - You're just some sort of Emily Dickinson aren't you.  You probably have a WHOLE TRUNK (actually at the time I had two but there's been a lot of burning and other forms of shedding since then...) full of writing that nobody's ever SEEN! -" and when I said yeah maybe she positively exploded with a specific type of frustration that wasn't new to me.  Various people have gone through the but think of the recognition!!  Don't you want it?  Or at least feel you deserve it?? shtick with me many times but nobody's ever come close to saying what she said.  So that I wound up feeling seen and heard and understood - if only through a back door way In to that - rather than alienated and lonely and very much wishing to scream why doesn't anybody ever accept a person who has a whole different orientation towards Meaning and Success?  Why is it assumed we have some kind of 'problem' that must be fixed in the same way everybody else imagines it ought to be fixed or else an individual's life will have no true meaning or value?

For once I was not inclined towards such inward screaming.  In a very back-of-the-mind kind of way it occurred to me that perhaps we were having our own unique version of an argument.  Should that concern me?  Before I could answer the inner question Jeannine brought out her really BIG guns.

I mean you might as well be Emily's direct reincarNAtion!!!

Despite how affronted and rebuking this very unique and irreplaceable friend clearly felt - I fell over sideways on my bed in pure delight.  There was no higher compliment/soul recognition a person could have offered me.  When I told her that she made a final noise of complete vexation and informed me she hoped this would be the very closest she'd ever have to come to feeling she had no choice but to hang up on me.  This ... was revelatory on a whole other level.   Levels of levels because that's how she was and how I am and damn do I ever miss her still to this day.

The Sisterhood is eternal and never-ending.  Grief only feels that way.  Addressing the conclusion of something that doesn't ever end while beginning something that sometimes doesn't know how to begin let alone finish feels - and I'm gonna say this sincerely rather than cynically as I usually do - very much on brand for me..  I hope the combination and juxtapositions will inspire you somehow.

Who's your Emily?   What friendship lives eternally within a longing to have it last just a few more hours or days?   If you had to pick one book from your shelves that you loved and learned from in more ways than you can even remember - what book would it be?

What way(s) are you happiest working?  Were you taught to work that way or did you cobble it together for yourself over time?


piece by piece .1

Crazylimpetcrystalnest

I'm still having trouble making friends with my radically altered attention span.  As in:  I don't know what in the hell I'm supposed to do/accomplish without one.   And since that symbiosis has always been one of my defining characteristics I'm forcing myself to think farther out of the box.  To apply lateral right brain un-logic as a way of making each day consistent within some type of ongoing theme here in the studio.  I figure if I string enough seemingly disjointed actions per day into an ongoing chain I will eventually see there's been cohesion even in seed form.  Such is my plan any way.

  The two piles of complete and incomplete hand stitching output that I brought over from the house are guiding me closer to some new form of process.  Simply by being grouped as they were at whatever time I left them in the room they give my consideration of them a structure.  That means I'm currently organizing and evaluating my stitched-based creations in layers of time as well as technique.  And that's allowing me to also discover themes that jump the track of their specific linear timelines.

*** 

Embroidery and I have a long and entirely happy history.  About fifteen years ago I began to understand I was doing the work I did each day as an ongoing sense of forever-inadequate penance borne of very deep rooted survivor's guilt.  Something so glaringly apparent also came as a shock to my self-perceptions.  Once I more fully understood how profoundly guilty I felt to have survived a series of things that many people do not - I questioned the reason, wisdom and purpose of that survival. And in the absence of clear-cut answers treated myself impatiently and without due compassionate consideration for a good long number of years.  Understanding this part of the healing process was non-negotiable I focused on finding ways to gentle-down at least the edges of what proved to be relatively successful sub-basement psycho-logical excavation.  

As an outgrowth of finding some semblance of imbalanced-balance I started exploring the what-if of early retirement and all that implies.  What else might I do with my time that was a lot gentler and mindful of the fact I had virtually nothing left to prove about what I could "take" without total collapse? I mind-mapped what that question evoked for me in the form of a colored pencil freehand mandala.  I drew the mandala as if it was composed of embroidery stitches.

Butterflypansy

This activity prompted led me to explore/research contemporary embroidery classes being offered here online.  I had some killer books on the subject but such is not always sufficient for those of us who need to ask questions that are answered in order to fully learn so it sticks.  I chose Sharon Boggon's Creating a Personal Library of Stitches.   Subsequently took a heavenly texture-oriented embroidery design class with her as well  - and a studio workhorse journal that's been pivotal in how I keep track of my creative surges and burn-outs.  To this day I am off-and-on obsessed with her blog and following the links she posts.   The details featured in this post are from a crazy quilt block I made specifically so I could refine my understanding of certain stitches that I really came to love during her embroidery classes.  In the linear timeline sense this piece is an outgrowth of the initial Library class.

 I chafed against (and swiftly abandoned) the first Recipe Rule of contemporary crazy quilting: first we cover all the seam lines.  The fact that I wandered off that course soon into things, and that the foundation block itself was machine sewn, means I can conceivably cut it up in ways that preserve both the hand stitching and good structural support.  I can work with just parts of it arranged either vertically on birch board or more horizontally within a book.  Am on the verge of thinking I may have realized at least the cutting apart option in the past but didn't have a concrete plan or spark of vision.

The other alternative I've kicked around over the years we've lived here is to simply join ALL my elaborately embellished fiber arts pieces in a continuous horizontal strip.  Cut that into workable sections for our wall spaces and then rotate in different places /stored resting time as mood and situation require.

Twoshellseque

The palette and feeling tone of the piece is so relentlessly purple because it was born when my son reached an early teen phase of noticing things about me that he would sometimes speak of if he thought his observations would be helpful.  And they often were.  In this case he'd noticed that although I loved the color purple and often got a little delirious if we visited somebody with a purple themed flower garden he'd never seen me sew anything containing much purple.  I said it was because some - in fact a lot - of people don't like purple at all.  He waited until I looked up into his silence and our eyes met.  We said in unison but I/you am/are not one of those people

Sunandmoon

In response I began this piece which vexes me in the disparate arrangement of darks appearing in hulking clumps and tone-deaf application of the underlying crazy/scrap quilt principle the Old Nanas of my older childhood lived by:  don't pre-sort.  life's more exciting that way.   At the same time this working evokes a sense of love.  It continues to inspires me because so many successful what-if's are involved.   And I really do like how it came to exist and the memory of our son-to-mother conversation.

Crazyworld

I will cut it apart for sure.  Maybe.  Perhaps just cut apart the bits I'm most drawn to working with in a different way.  Hmmm. Bulletins as and when ...


resiliency .2

Heartcenter

Am sitting on the couch watching snow flurries through the big front window.  Above is a close-up of the flaming heart I recently unearthed.  I hadn't done more than in the ditch foundational quilting so I devised a learning challenge for myself.  On the right hand side of the heart I stitched patterns that followed hints of ripple in the silk gauze taffeta and dupioni .  On the right I picked an organic shape of moving water cooling the flames of the heart's receptive side and then quilted around it.  I see now that any stitching pattern at all will produce the overall rippling call and response of the fabrics.  Have always in the past assumed the nature of the fabric dictated the rippling rather than the ongoing tension of the stitch.  Seems so obvious but all the same that's my enlightening moment from yesterday.

StitchingheartIP

I'm going to finish this center portion of the quilt by sewing gold beads to the orange center of the yellow starbursts above.  Am very grateful my bead stash remains sensibly stored and sorted by color with a fw "special" mixed bags of equally special beads made of stone, clay and wood.  Have been collecting them - with sporadic devotion to using vast quantities - since my early thirties.

J. just called from his office in the house to tell me our state governor has issued stay at home orders effective tomorrow.  He's going out to fill the tanks in his truck and my car in case they close or severely limit gas purchase for non-essential vehicles.  Am relieved to have the question of when answered at this level.