If you’ve been following along for a while I think you’ll notice the way I jump from doing one thing to another. For a spell I might be obsessed with embroidery, and everything I post about will be related to that. Then I’ll get into bookbinding, and embroidery will sort of fall by the wayside. Lately I’ve been into drawing and painting, to the exclusion of everything else. To someone following this blog (and who probably subscribed because he/she really enjoyed seeing just that one dimension of creative expression I happened to be working on at the time) this hopscotching back and forth probably seems really capricious , undependable, and erratic…a kind of craziness.
The funny thing about this is that, for me, there is almost no difference between painting, stitching, sewing clothes, or binding pages together. For one thing, the principles you absorb by doing one craft or art form are carried over into all your making. The mind is not a hard drive and can’t be partitioned so definitely. Hands practiced at one form of work will take what they know—that sensitivity, that intuition—and apply it to the next task.
A line is a line is a line…you seek variety and expressiveness when you make a line, be it in ink or thread. In all practices a line can be a dot that went for a walk; it can be an arrow that shows the way, or a guide that leads the eye; it can be a road, or a boundary, an edge, a bridge across an abyss, an umbilical cord, a ball of thread that will take you into the labyrinth, and then lead you back out again.
Layers can be pages, can be leaves, wings, curtains, veils. They can speak about concealment and revelation, can talk about light and shadow, about translucency, about juxtaposition, about sequence, story, the what-happened-next, what-lies-behind-the-next-hill, and who is the monster a the end of this book? Ultimately, all are statements about the passage of time.
Ideas about form, space, edges, progression, texture, the what-ness of the material, its intrinsic qualities, its limitations and how to push the material beyond those limitations, are all part of some greater, all-encompassing journey to expression of Being…to integrity, or maybe even some kind of Truth.
Jude Hill’s What If Diaries approach to making is a key that unlocks the door to a thousand doors. It’s a marvelous question, hanging there in the space around your work table when you are trying to push your own boundaries, trying to give birth to monsters or gods. Just by reading her own posts, where she asks “What if…?” over and over, like a mantra, you absorb the habit of asking the same thing of yourself.
When you finally stop trying to imitate Jude’s work (a natural compulsion, but you won’t get anything of your own out of it…Jude asks “What if?” and dives off a cliff, and you just follow along hanging on to her coat tails?) and really start to ask your own What Ifs, magic happens. Things come into being. And they are yours. Rough, maybe, or too plain, but the making gives delight, and the thing made is something new (to you, anyway). And from there you see other doors…directions, a fork in the path. I could go this way with it…or I could go that…
Holding firmly onto the end, toss imagination’s ball of string out in front of you, and let it unroll down the path, around the bend, and out of sight. Now reel yourself in.
I stopped making lists and thinking about things, yesterday, and decided to do something physical. Scoured the boat for whatever white-ish fabrics I had (for the Whispering Whites part of the Diaries) and found 10 meters of white cotton gauze (I was going to make a mosquito net, once upon a time), a few bits and pieces of lace, crochet, and damask, some brand new ladies handkerchiefs, those stained white bedsheets I dug out of some hotel’s rubbish, and some great triangular cotton bandages from an Army First Aid kit.
To heck with looking for fabrics that carry memories for me, those colonial drawn thread and fillet lace gowns or rotting church veils, some bride’s trousseau or the doilies my grandmother made…I don’t want to build an altar to the past. I want to work with my head and heart firmly planted in the present, and push out from here. Synthetic organza? Poly-linen? Fusible web and spray-on adhesive? Wire to give structure and form? Acetate for strength that lets light through? Sure, why not, if these are what I have and know how to use? I firmly believe that if women of the 19th century had access to these things, they would have made no bones about using them, too. They were practical women.
Also, as with everything else that I do, I will dance my wild hopscotch between painting, paper craft, printmaking, sewing, embroidery, and anything else I care to add into the mix. Because I am not partitioned.
What if the thing I love the most about white fabric is the way that light glows through and around the fabric, and shadows or silhouettes of varying intensities are the counterpoint to that luminosity? What if white could become a vessel for light? What if I worked with the idea of vessels and three-dimensional space, rather than stick to the flat Nine Patch?
The Nine Patch squared?
The Nine Patch cubed?
*eyes wide* OHHH………
Origami balloon, made from a single square cotton handkerchief, four seams, and some tiny, tiny stitches to keep it from opening up.
There it goes! My ball of string, jouncing along down a hillside and out of sight. I’m off after it. See you later!