Week 17 ✂ Wheatear Stitch (TAST 2012)

Wheatear Stitch (TAST 2012)

This week’s stitch was Wheatear Stitch.

I’ve done a small, no-frills sample on a piece of fabric patchwork that is going to become a blank journal’s cover. Not very spectacular, but it gives a nice spot of hand-stitched detail to the otherwise machine-stitched patchwork. The book’s just mocked-up, in these pictures…haven’t turned the patchwork into a case, yet.

Wheatear Stitch (TAST 2012)

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This small embroidery sample is for Sharon Boggon’s Take a Stitch Tuesday 2012 Challenge

über embroiderers : : Jakkai Siributr

I’m trying to keep up a sort of regular ‘feature’ on über embroiderers on The Smallest Forest: These are the big kids, the crème de la crème, the leet of needle and thread…that runts like me long to play with, but will never even exist in the same universe with. *stabs herself with a #24 chenille* Oh, crewel world!

(Note: compiled from several sources…please click on an image to visit its source)

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I love the busy, quirky, narrative-style embroideries by foremost Thai textile artist Jakkai Siributr. Something about all those random little seed stitches producing a quilted effect on padded fabric really makes me happy.

Also, I’m powerfully drawn to what resemble thread drawings of scenes from Thai life (more often than not satirical) His anthropomorphic animals and crowds of little naked people are irresistibly humorous. The works are highly ornamental, detailed, beautifully executed, and even when drawing on contemporary Thai religious kitsch, have been reined in by Jakkai’s manipulating to reflect a slightly edgier aesthetic, as well as a potent message.

Not all just sugar dust and powder puffs,  Jakkai Siributr’s work is highly politicized and charged with his personal views of Thai cuture and society…particularly the materialism and commercialization of Buddhism in his country. He uses “an iconography of popular but bastardized versions of Buddhism: from the idols of a current cult of amulet worship to the forms of the Thai yantra, designs that sponsor luck, power or protection…to address the hypocrisies, and occasional nonsense, that attend pervasive local versions of Thai culture and politics. “

As he states in an interview with some young art enthusiasts in an Art Babble video (embedded below) he hasn’t exhibited in Thailand for a while—fortunately, he says, because the political and critical message of his current work would probably incense quite a few people in his native country. Brave of him, in that he is the  great-great-great-grandson of one of Thailand’s most beloved and revered monarchs. One wonders how Jakkai’s work is received by his family…

Siributr’s use of craft—embroidery and textile design, in particular— as the means to get his message across is unusual and effective. Craft methods are (still) an unexpected outsider in the art world, and their use defies categorization. It is precisely this “outsider” status that signals a works aim to be disruptive, unconventional, and subversive.

Artists who employ craft, from Grayson Perry to Ghada Amer, are diverse; and the politics and history of craft are skewed by the current contexts of a global labour force that is predominately female and forms of advanced capitalism that can assimilate the so-called alternative of the handmade*. —Brian Curtin for Frieze Magazine

(*Italics are mine)

From a PDF on mousework archives is this brief artist’s cv from a past exhibit:

While Jakkai’s tapestry paintings are overwhelmingly contemporary, his artistic lineage and significant ancestry provides a fascinating glimpse into royal court life in Thailand, hinting at some of the psychological and societal pressure that meld his art.

Considered one of Thailand’s most influential artists of his time, Jakkai’s grandfather was HSH Prince Subha Svasti, a grandson of King Mongkut (Rama IV), the monarch made famous in the Anna and the King memoirs. A keen painter and photographer who often depicted the pomp of court life, Prince Subha Svasti’s works include a magnificent portrait of his cousin King Prachathipok (Rama VII).

Born in Bangkok, Thailand in 1969, Jakkai Siributr graduated with a B.A. in Textile/Fine Arts from Indiana University in 1992. He received an M.S. in Textile Design from the Philadelphia University (Philadelphia College of Textiles and Sciences) in 1996 and was awarded a Bellagio grant by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2001.

a matching Lotti ❤ pendant

matching Lotti pendant

Couldn’t help myself…I had to make a matching little felt pendant to go with the doll. For Lotti to wear or hang from her little handbag (has Lotti got a little handbag? Maybe I should be making that next?)

“And WHERE is your Cretan stitch sampler for TAST, Miss?”

“Uh…oh, he he, it’s right here, be done soon, I promise! Maybe even in time before Sharon B. announces the next stitch friggin’ tomorrow?!?”

Short and sweet, I got to get back to my embroidery hoop. *sigh*
Lotti pendant (back)

Star of the Sea

star of the sea
star of the sea

Sat quietly on the boat yesterday, embroidering this little feather star, my Stella Maris…a simple project, using just straight stitches and some iridescent DMC stranded polyester floss. Signs of the coming wet season fill me with a gentle melancholy, and the lovesick madness that inspired my last post has passed.

I woke up Monday morning as though from a long and bizarre dream…shook my head to clear away the last drifts of fairy dust, and knew it was all over. “Madness,” I call it, thinking myself free and restored to sanity after that week of lunacy (I am convinced now that it was the full moon) though last night this passage from Henry Miller’s Nexus seemed to speak directly to my experience, and left me smiling at the poignancy of it all:

Fleeting though such a love may be, can we say that there had been a loss? The only possible loss—and how well the true lover knows it!—is the lack of that undying affection which the other inspired. What a drab, dismal, fateful day that is when the lover suddenly realizes that he is no longer possessed, that he is cured, so to speak, of his great love! When he refers to it, even unconsciously, as a “madness”. The feeling of relief engendered by such an awakening may lead one to believe in all sincerity that he has regained his freedom. But at what price! What a poverty-stricken sort of freedom. Is it not a calamity to gaze once again upon the world with everyday sight, everyday wisdom? Is it not heartbreaking to find oneself surrounded by beings who are familiar and commonplace? Is it not frightening to think that one must carry on, as they say, but with stones in one’s belly and gravel in one’s mouth? To find ashes, nothing but ashes, where once were blazing suns, wonders, glories, wonders upon wonders, glory beyond glory, and all freely created as from some magic fount?

If there is anything which deserves to be called miraculous, is it not love? What other power, what other mysterious force is there which can invest life with such undeniable splendour?

And it’s so true. The craziness that took over my life last week may have been unnerving because I seemed to have so little control over my own feelings, yet I felt thrillingly alive because of it. I had vivid dreams, and walked through the world on a tiny little roller-skate-shaped clouds, and everything was intense, humming and wonderful. I wanted to ravish the world, and it seemed to want me back.

The return to sanity is, in a way, the end of magic.

goodbye, winter...

The dry wintery weather may be gone for good, I think. Up at 5 this morning, waiting for the sunrise, which never quite blazed forth. Instead, a milky light broke wanly from underneath a long, smoke-dark cloud that stretched across the harbour, and a windless hush came over the water. It started to drizzle soon after that, and went on for about an hour. The air smelled of wet leaves and watermelon. Don’t ask me why the sea sometimes smells like watermelon, it just does, okay? Trust me.

Moulin D’Or…in thread and paint


Part of the set that includes the green camera embroidery is this work-in-progress embroidery of the old Zassenhaus Mokka Kaffeemühlen that my Dad gave to me 11 years ago.  I love it, and the steady crunching sound that it makes as it grinds freshly roasted coffee beans into a fine, fine powder.  Still works perfectly, though it must be around 45 years since he bought it in Germany.

I don’t know how I feel about the embroidery, yet, though I suppose it will look okay when more of the ground has been worked. The colors and pattern were chosen with less confidence than those of the camera, I felt.

moulin d'or

I wanted to explore other treatments of the same subject, so I started a painting today, as well…this as far as I got, starting at around noon today. Happy so far, though that pink horizon line is too far up. Already I like this painting better than The Sulking Chair. Trying not to be so heavy-handed this time…keeping the touches, the colors, the movements light, light, light…dancing over, just kissing the canvas…here, there…moving around and not brooding over any one detail.

(And yes, that is a tree on our deck…it’s about 2.7 meters (9 feet) tall now: a Moringa olifeira…Filipinos eat the leaves, they’re fantastically loaded with vitamins and minerals. I never make a soup or curry without throwing handfuls of the small dark-green oval leaves in. Yum!)

moulin d'or

picture of a contemporary Zassenhaus coffeemill in beechwoodNote: Zassenhaus of Germany is still producing its wide range of fine and beautiful Kaffeemühlen for the discerning coffee connoisseur, and each mill’s metal components are guaranteed for 25 years. German craftsmanship, what a wonderful thing in this Made-in-China-today-throw-away-tomorrow world.

I still like my 50-year-old one better, though…the wood has darkened with use, and the knob is shaped like a little mushroom.

The juggling act

a stack of rainbow felt from Bumble Bee Crafts

I think I might have piled too many projects onto my plate, these days…which is why I haven’t been posting regularly, or keeping in touch with friends, family, and people whom I owe things to. Most are small projects (imagine the sort of person who tries to make a meal out of the hors d’oeuvres at the opening ceremonies of a new wing for the local hospital) but even the little things require time, energy, and a disciplined method for bringing several things to fruition at roughly the same rate…three resources I don’t have an abundance of.

WIP strawberries and kiwis

There are 8 project models to be finished for my new class at the CSC Adult Night Classes, which I have named—for better or for worse—“Felt Sew Funny(*groannn* Hey, I know, okay? But it’s more vivid than the very dry “Felt Sewing Projects”.)

We’ll be making 8 small, cute, quirky projects—

  • a pair of baby shoes,
  • a zippered pouch,
  • a bird softie
  • a triangle clutch (so sue me if it’s a touch hipster, yeah?)
  • a wee mouse softie,
  • an ice-cream sandwich (that is also a little trinket box)
  • a biscornu pincushion,
  • and a mustachio necklace (for those times when you need to sport a mustachio right away!)

—using felt, a bit of embroidery, and hand-stitching. The idea is to be able to work on these items easily: in your lap, at home, in front of the television, during your commute, among friends or while waiting in the doctor’s reception—no need for special sewing skills, nor sewing machine, nor a special room or block of time devoted to sewing.

Term 3 at CSC’s Adult Night Classes begin August 8th.

For some reason (well, okay, for the money) I have accepted a job sewing curtains for a friend’s big motor vessel, The Shiralee. Because the fabric is pre-lined, and posh friend Salty 🙂 wants both sides of each curtain to look good, I am doubling up and working with 4-metre lengths, 1.5 metres wide. The largest of the curtains weighs 4 kilos (8.8 lbs.) And here’s me, with my little avocado green vintage Singer sewing machine, and a cheap plastic-bodied overlocker that rattles when you use it. On a boat with a small room and one writing desk for a sewing table. It could be “character building”. We shall see.

When I had unrolled the full 13 metres of upholstery-weight fabric out on deck for cutting—great rippling lengths of coarse yellow-grey hessian-ey weave stretching out like the wheat fields of Nebraska—my spirit balked and I had a little panic attack. I’m  recovered now, thanks in part to my godmother’s dog-eared copy of Reader’s Digest’s Complete Guide To Sewing, and to having picked the brilliant mind of a really lovely elderly German lady, who runs the most successful curtain and drape-makers shop in Darwin: Thode Interiors. Salty and I bought the necessary hanging bits at Thode yesterday, and now that I know what I have to do, I just have to find the time and make room on deck to do the job.graphics from The Reader's Digest

I’ve never actually done curtains before, though I’ve mucked around with the rudiments of general home and garment sewing…and one kind of sewing’s not so different from the next, I figure. It’s one helluva way to learn…say “Sure I can do it,” and then scramble about trying to figure out how.

WIP allium on coarse linen

I‘ve also applied to join about a dozen local craft fairs, from now till Christmas, and so I’m trying to put together a big bunch of journals, as well…some painted, some embroidered, some leather ones. Here I’m embroidering yet more allium journal covers, in perle cotton on circles of dyed crepe. The ground fabric is an off-cut from the curtains I mentioned above…it has a nice coarse-weave look to it, and the colors have sort of grown on me…I’m starting to love this grey and flaxen straw combination.

Nutmeg. Wings coming soon.

Nutmeg, my homegrown wren softie, is yet to be finished. I’m working with version 1.3 at this point, having taken the first two apart, and dismissed 1.4 as a dead-end. Nutmeg 1.3 is far from perfect: I messed up on his legs and feet (he doesn’t balance), I’m not happy with his furry beak, and I have yet to make his wings (but that part’s easy)…but the act of putting him together yesterday was all the ‘research’ I needed to iron out these problems. So now I am excited to be done with v.1.3, and start on the final version of my little wren, because I know how I’m going to do it, and I can see the finished wren in my mind, already.

Nutmeg. Wings coming soon.But the wren softie is only half of this project…I also have to draw up the list of materials, re-draw the pattern pieces, write up instructions, photograph the steps, move everything to digital format…then submit the whole package to the publisher that asked me to develop this project for their magazine. And then cross my fingers…

so far...
lowSly getting my ass into gear for an exhibit at the DVAA in November, too. Working title is Random Acts of Crewlty (& Bondage), and it will feature crewel embroidery and bookbinding, will explore loneliness, possibly human suffering, maybe even cruelty, though at this point I don’t know any more about the exhibition than you do. It may even include the above embroidery, which I have been telling everyone was to go into the show. Now I’m not so sure it fits, or that I want to even finish it.

When I do the work, and only then, do I get what the piece…and the entire show…is about. Until then, it’s all just vague ideas, false starts, wild goose chases, mysterious images, and compelling urges…