luxury of cloth

odds & ends

JudeheartblogLife has become a new thing.  I'm glad I'm able to say that even though this particular new thing is unknown to a large degree.  In some ways it's defined by the old things I'm inclined to keep.  Or in this case, complete and then keep.  I know exactly what I want to do with this.  Made in a Jude class that had hearts in the title.   I also made this in the same class:

Georgeglassesthese psychedelic sunnies were inspired by this:

Beatle George Harrison tours the Haight, 1992 ...

and now that J works from home and keeps misplacing his special working mode spectacles, I'm going to to use the motif as can't-miss-it-embellishment on the case I'm going to make for those glasses.

GaiacuInstead of overdosing on news articles I've been spending the heat wave experimenting with getting more detail shots from some of my art quilts.  This is a detail from Gaia Heals Herself.  Considering gift giving in the coming season(s).  What will it look like?  I thought about printing postcards to bundle with other little trinkets that are useful and fun to share.  Really like the idea of generosity large enough to spread bits and pieces of our special personal treasures here and there.  Placed into new context and sparking unknown creatives to make something new of their own.

Gaiaheals
 As current events give us an opportunity to consider female power and potentiality I've been looking at a book that's new to me.  And I really love it.

Psychedlicmysteries

Sacredfeminine Artwork2 Artwork3
Wish there was more artwork.  The essays I've looked at so far have been nourishing and thought provoking. 

The plentitude of electrical storms have put a huge crimp in my stitching plans.  There's only so many times I can stab myself with a needle or drop a really sharp scissors on my bare foot before it starts to feel like a losing proposition altogether.  I want to be near cloth and thread, though, so I've been going through stuff, again, to see what might be bundled and re-distributed somehow.

The other day I wrote on my main blog about how much trouble I had not going to garden centers and greenhouse throughout the spring and early summer as I normally would have.  Have also had a lot of trouble not redistributing books, clothes, creative supplies, and so forth.  It isn't, for me, about de-cluttering it's about the redistribution of energy.  Something wishing to re-create its own relationship to sharing.  Not to mention discernment.

Gardenia71320


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


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. 


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.


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.


resiliency .1

Forgottensewingtin

Yesterday was largely recuperative without sacrificing a steady stream of small accomplishments outside, in the house, and here in the studio.  The years of debilitating physical illness taught me that small and steady is the only way to fly. The trick is to have enough faith in the process that it sustains commitment to maintaining both small and steady in an ongoing way.

Yesterday I asked my morning self how I could become more comfortable with a shorter attention span and more fragmented abilities to focus on any given activity or thought-problem. Then I had a day of answering the question by simply making note of how I flowed from one activity to another.   What I was drawn to eat or drink and when.   And - as always - how elastic time becomes whenever routines-of-running-around come to a full stop.

Within time's suspended animation I had a pivotal epiphany about how I set up my creative life prior to brain trauma. This is key to helping me properly sort out the rest of my studio space.  Had previously reached the conclusion I had innumerable boxes and tins and a few plastic shoe boxes crammed full of seemingly random creative supplies because I didn't inherently understand how to organize things 'properly' and was too impatient to learn.  But in yesterday's early evening I finally grasped what should have been obvious:  I mixed up my supplies so in the event of a drop-and-run emergency no matter what I grabbed-up in a few precious seconds would leave me able to make any number of different things from what was inside. 

Everything

Last night I discovered a long-overlooked supply tin holding the above contents. I decided to take pictures because I knew the process of setting them up would help me organize the grouping at a mental level.  I can tell just by the goldeny velvet circle in the center, the strip of turquoise dyed suede and the collection of threads in the upper right corner that this grouping evolved from Jude's second Cloth to Cloth workshop followed by the heart-oriented class.   Also had previously imagined I'd permanently lost the hank of faceted sunstone beads.  Reuniting with them has been outstanding!

Rosequartzstonefish
In the now, of course, preparing for a potential need to grab and go has been replaced by keeping still.  Isolating one set of possibilities and potential in order to to discover working with what's on hand at a whole new psychic decibel range.  This particular sewing box is destined for considerable retrofitting in order to make it functional.  For starters it needs a scissors and wider assortment of both pins and needles.   Some kind of straight edge marking device - maybe a six inch quilter's square.

  What I assemble will then become my working sewing box over in the house.  Raw supplies that don't fit my evolving needs are being reabsorbed into the relevant storage containers here in the studio or within the single plastic tote of fiber arts related supplies that will continue to live in the house.  House-based/dining room table/downstairs bathroom creativity becomes important to me during the parts of summer when it's simply too hot to be up here.  And have found stitching is easiest to pick up and put down in the spontaneous rhythms of the Outside seasons.

Beeswaxetal
While I was deciding how to best utilize the tin's oddly shaped space I had the sudden awareness that I'd learned to keep these kind of storage tins from The Sisters  - Grace & Pearl - for sure.  But more vividly and sensually I got it from my mother.  As a child I did what many of us do with off-the-rails Living Large if only in their own minds parents.  I mythologized her behavior and did everything I could to reframe it as mysterious rather than alarming and cruel.

To that end I spent a lot of clearly recalled time sitting on the splintered floor of a strange set of closets built between our two bedrooms.   I'd sit there as silently as possible - cradling a carved rosewood box I still have - and silently commune with the contents of the box in my arms.   They fascinated me.  There was liquid kohl in a small wrinkled tube and five or six mascara brushes.  I had no idea what they were until years later.  

Deets1

What some women would have kept as a straight-up makeup box became more of a magic carpet in my mother's hands.  She'd included a few gaudy shoe buckles I recognized as belonging to my grandmother.  Years later I'd hear her tell a neighbor lady who hung on her every word for almost 20 years that she'd 'filched' them from Pearl's traveling case so as to keep them from appearing at an impending wedding rehearsal dinner.

There were tiny pine cones and glittering chips of semi-precious beads from a number of broken necklaces.  A political button expressing support for McKinley that I've kept in the box all these years.  Paper scraps in her handwriting loaded with various writing ideas.  There was also a tiny red datebook from the year 1955.  It felt wrong to read it (and this remained true up until just four or five years ago) but I always sat with it pressed tightly between my palms.  Trying as best I could to create mystery and magic that could hold me steady during times when she frightened me into a state of silence for any number of reasons.

Introspection related to more tangled family roots seems like a luxurious albatross a lot of the time.  The self-involvement level of traversing and untangling every nook and cranny one encounters is, for me, achingly exhausting to maintain.   Although there's always an underlying context of fear involved with anything that speaks directly to our physical and cellular connections I'm also pleased on a daily basis with the positive and most meaningful ways I was shaped by my mother in a manner I authentically treasure.  

Clothshelves

Most of my fabric stash is quilter's cotton I collected between '87 and '05.  The latter date has no real significance in relation to compulsively gathering fabric in preparation for the stage of life I'm now in.  I simply knew Enough when I saw it.   Not all that long ago this collection was color sorted with separate 'category piles' for florals and leaves, specific topical themes etc.  When Mama first made it clear she intended to become a full-time studio companion I started shifting piles all around so she could nest and get her bearings in the first and second shelves.  The color coding system is still discernible but it's scarcely well ordered.  The unique pleasure of working and dreaming in the company of a studio cat is worth the shift.

The larger point is that I took most of yesterday to actively ground with outside work and time by myself here in the studio in which to feel raw and untested.  By last night the bedroom floor was empty and I'd put some drops of lavender and tangerine essential oils in the dehumidifier water.   Also put thought-time and just-being into the small third bedroom.   I'm glad to have liberated space so that it becomes a satellite evolving sanctuary of a room, as I originally envisioned it might be.    As we adjust to all being here all the time I've noticed this space becoming something of a small-scaled family room.  The atmosphere is livelier and more communal without the rolls of finished/not finished handwork and stacks of raw supplies absorbing so much vibrational energy.   Noticed that within hours of learning everything I'd removed wouldn't be coming back in the room T. began organizing his friends so they could have virtual meet-ups in the afternoon and evening.

Life's not good given larger contexts but it's definitely workable and contains many moments of sustained grace. The luxury of  being able to work a tiny piece of land is fomenting inner resilience and relative ease (so far) in returning to a place of inner equilibrium a lot more organically possible than I might have imagined when I didn't know what to imagine, really.  

for now we wait and sow seeds.


private chaos .1

Notsoprivatechaos

eta:  by the time it was tonight and T. was at last home from the end of his work shift until whenever, I was able to sincerely make light of my freakout.  J. was mainly on the stuff all over the floor track but T. quite kindly informed me that typhoid is a bacteria and that was what required so much burning.  Thought that was rather chivalrous of him.

Above is an unapologetic image of how my corner of our bedroom looked this morning before I had a few hours to contemplate and then begin to implement organization. The melange of finished work, WISPs and 'raw' cloth looks a lot more coherent at the moment.  My quest for this day and early evening  weekend is to have everything organized and at least most of it successfully relocated and stored up here in the studio.  As an unexpected bonus a box of family relics that's currently lurking in the studio will be going into the closet that used to be too full of everything above (but the pile of jeans and my bathrobe) to contain it.

Fiftyquestionmark

 Every now and then it's good to examine the contemporary embroidery sampler I made to commemorate my fiftieth birthday.   I worked on it mainly in a weekly stitching group that met just across a modest parking lot abutting our side yard back at the old place.  Other members of the group really liked the question mark factor.  It had been unplanned.  I merely "saw" a spiral of half a Century releasing an unexplored seed of promise courtesy of a beneficent cosmic Beyond.  The question mark overlay has come to mean a lot to  me over the past dozen years so.

Clothtoday

I'm sharing these particular words and pictures today because somebody known and accordingly cherished for her quiet wisdom suggested it might be good medicine for us to afford each other peeks into our individual scope of private chaos.  Specifically as we all evolve into something we've yet to become.  Indeed - here we all are in uncharted waters.  About to experience something unprecedented - and here in the US going through a profoundly unsettling existential crisis in an unpresidented condition.  While also constantly shedding layers of what simply isn't relevant to moving forward.

Hence the reason all this stuff is in my bedroom piled up like somebody was running for their life.  Right before I fell asleep for a few hours I thought:  what if one of us has to be sequestered in that room and then we have to burn ALL the stuff (as with typhoid) I've made and/or hoped to complete before

The End. 

Openstashboxes

That particular question mark woke me up and adrenalized just enough of my motor control to get everything cloth-related out of the room right then and there.  Also had the presence of mind to create a safe path around the bed's corner.  Only then did it feel safe/prudent/advisable to allow myself to rest.  When I woke up this morning I thought this abrupt change in life/style/focus is dis-ordering our minds because any real organization of thought in today's world has grown more precarious than most of us can realize or fully understand.  It was a daunting a-ha moment and I was pleased to burrow back closer to sleep until J. arrived home from his first foray into early seniors shopping hour.  He told me he was the only one he encountered who seemed to be actively practicing social distancing protocol.  

Alicesguesttowel

Above is a fragment of family predecessor Alice Mary's perfect needleworking skills.  She for whom I was named looms large in my sense of who I am not.  And that's a sentence that never would have occurred to me before perpetual crisis mode changed the kind of thoughts I'm having. A few are fairly astute - like my Alice Mary realization.  But a lot of them feel like lost ants who can't find the scented trails that will lead them home to the safe core of their society.

  I find it very uncomfortable to be unable to sit quietly with a thought or difficult feeling and slowly unwind it.  Sitting quietly belongs to a part of myself that reflexively packed itself away while in my first rush of baseline survival instinct.  Am now thinking that earliest part of my process might have been overly efficient because I've no clue at all how to be or what to do in the absence of longform attention span and ability to focus well within it.  It's something that hasn't been a problem - not even after sustained brain trauma - since I left my mother's sphere of influence back in my late teens.

All the same A is for Anxiety is back in a way that needs unwinding and sustainable deconstruction as and when necessary.  The other night I had two back to back 'attacks' (first since Kavanaugh shouting on that horrible summer afternoon ...) that went unnoticed by the household because that was what I deemed best.  And must have imagined I could rely on as a game plan moving forwards: Oh don't mind me.  I'll be upstairs out of the way freaking all the way out in a dark room by myself.

  As reality unrolls I have uncomfortable portions of each day where I confront personal unraveling in ways that make me realize I spend a lot of unacknowledged time thinking about what's best at the widest scale possible.   But this global situation - while embodying wide scale by definition - is also a spiraling-down process that pushes into the core of our sense of individual self as well as our sense of community, culture, and how close to larger reality we're willing to live at any given moment.

Thelittledyedpocket

Stuff in progress

In the process of sorting and folding and planning a major ironing binge fest I found things that are ready to be backed and bound for display.  Stuff to be pressed and stuff that can be finished or moved much closer to that end goal.  Stuff I can think about instead of spiking adrenaline every time I realize there's no existing plan on any level - not just my own universe of Place and family but you know - out there in the world beyond this place where we're actively waiting to be told we must shelter as best we can.

my to-hand bio/phyto-chemical self-prescription of the day and weekend to follow:  aromatherapy once the evening/back in the house portion of the day is at hand. Stitching a few easy seams on the long quilt until then.  This is not the time to compete with myself - and certainly not for the reflex reason that it's what I always do.  And you?

Bjps

[noticing big-time the way time is warping more than usual :  earlier today I asked J. if it had been two or three weeks since he started working at home.  He stared at me before replying It's just one week today.]