About late start studio

I think the blog title says it all!

a job well done

I think the job has been done well but time will tell . . . it depends on my expectations about how long I have extended its use, which in turn depends on how much care I am ready to take as I spread the quilt out on my bed, whether I lie down on it to read or take the time to move it aside . . . will it last another year or five?

When I began mending my old Indian bedspread (another beginning) I knew there were quite a few rips and holes where the sun had eaten entire patches of colour away and that the fabric was whisper thin in places.  First the rips where no patches were needed were mended and then the holes, where a piece of recycled unbleached calico was underlaid and stitched in place.  As I worked I inadvertently created a few more holes . . . ending up with somewhere in excess of 120 (I stopped counting).  If the mending had not given rise to so much reflection I doubt I would have persevered . . . I have a low threshold to boredom.

As I worked I gave a lot of thought the what I hold as precious, what beauty means to me, that crossover between practical and beauty as if they were on to separate continuum and the was a sweet spot where, for me, the meet.

If something is truly practical, it does its job better than I had hope for, perhaps the look doesn’t matter so much . . . perhaps the truly ugly tights I wore under my ski pants, the rusty old bottle opener (although there is sentiment attached to it).  And if something is gobsmackingly beautiful, that alone is enough . . . beauty is its use perhaps?

And then there is age and sentiment. From newly minted, the loveliness of the just created right through to decayed, not wearing but truly worn, when an object, or person, can take on a new beauty, one where sentiment plays a part, where life is visible in every crack, every scar, every wrinkle.  Is there a sweet spot where the continuum of new to old crosses over the others?   (This could turn into a rant about human beauty, societal expectations, roles, power . . . but that is not my intention or at least not this time.)

So I pondered on all of this as I sat patching in pieces of cloth on a bedspread I am not quite ready to hand over to recycling . . . running stitch, back-stitch, simple stitches in simple cotton cloth.

Simple stitching around the patches, frayed edges visible, scars exposed.

Simple stitching around the patches, frayed edges visible, scars exposed, fabric whisper thin.

A wonderful week

Last week I had the privilege and pleasure of spending the week learning alongside 7 other wonderful women . . . Lucy Worsley and 6 other workshop participants on “Stitch it together with collage”  organised by Fibre Arts New Zealand.   I took the workshop as a challenge . . . collage is not my strong point by any means although I’m a dab hand on the sewing machine and recently I’ve enjoyed hand stitching as well.

At first I struggled because I was looking at the image more than the colour and texture it would impart to a background.  Once I shifted my way of viewing the materials I had on hand I began to explore abstracts based on a cruciform composition.

What I ended up with was a series of three images where I was able to incorporate my love of topographical maps and texture.

Topography Series #1

Topography Series #1

Topography Series #2

Topography Series #2

Topography Series #3

Topography Series #3

So what have I learned?  Listen to feedback and then decide for yourself what to do, step back, sleep on it, return and decide.    Pare back . . . less is sometimes more, don’t allow a desire to use materials to swamp good design, in short, let materials speak for themselves.

I felt so encouraged when the first of the series sold as it hadn’t occurred to me to offer it as this was an exploration at a workshop however another participant loved it.  So there is was at the showing with all the work from the other workshops with a little red dot . . . how happy was I!    Before I left #2 and #3 were also sold . . . Goal #1: ‘To make work so appealing and interesting that people would want to own it’ achieved.

Happy, happy, happy!  Now, to work towards Goal #2 . . . I’ll let you know what it is when I achieve it.

 

a gift

When you  make something to give away you never quite know how it will be received . . . but you give it away and hope.  Like watching a child leave home because you put everything into it that you could at the time.

Yesterday I received a gift in return.  Spontaneous words of appreciation.

“Nanna, you know that book you gave me for my birthday.”

“The nature one?”

“No, the one with the photos.”

“Yes.”

“I really like it.”

And she gave me a cuddle so at this point my heart melted all over again.

Yes, a delightful, inquisitive, cuddlesome monkey.

Yes, a delightful, inquisitive, cuddlesome monkey.

One day Meg could be an animal trainer.

One day Meg could be an animal trainer.

She loves being at her Nanna's house

She loves being at her Nanna’s house

But the beach is what she loves most.

But the beach is what she loves the most.

Three weeks ago for her seventh birthday she received a book with 5 years worth of photos of her taken at my house . . . but I received something much more precious.

another beginning

I have started to mend the Indian bedspread.  After some lines on paper I chose to use simple untidy running stitches that are wonky and without much of a pattern.  Like me they travel west to east, north to south so that they show up on both sides.   I’m not one for taking the needle through to the back and then to the front . . . I scoop, several stitches at a time.  I guess this has been my approach to life . . . take a stab, draw up all you can and trust that it will all come through okay.

The side with rents in it, now mended, strengthened.

The side with rents in it, now mended, now strengthened.

The side without holes but still strengthened.

The side without holes but still strengthened and lending it’s strength to the injury.

The birds in the centre have a problem.  The sun has eaten their orange feathers so some patching is needed . . . some soft unbleached calico set into the holes and leave the edges raw?  Perhaps.  Or patch them over with some old table linen I have found in my efforts to clear out the things that are trying to take ownership of me.

A bright bird . . . from the fold protected from the sun.

A bright bird . . . it wisely hid in the fold and was protected from the sun.

The sun has weathered away the orange feathers . . . it has lost its ability to fly.

The sun has weathered away the orange feathers . . . it has lost its ability to fly.

I’m loath to hide their scars, the ravages of time, any more than I feel the need to hide what time is doing to me.   And so the metaphor continues . . . time has an impact that can be read if you use eyes, and ears and heart.

There are many who would simply discard this cloth, deciding that with so many holes (about 30) it has reached the end of it’s decorative life.   But it can still serve its purpose because I have turned it over to the birdless side.   It has a place keeping warm someone who remembers as she stitches.

cloth as a metaphor

I have a very old Indian bedspread that has worn so thin that  I cannot mend it much more despite trying to reinforce it with a lightweight interfacing here and there.  The Here and There are meeting and it is in danger of falling apart so I am considering cutting into it and preserving parts, stitching it to a strong foundation . . . the parts where the Here and There meet and the parts where it remains strong.
Or perhaps I can reinforce it with small pieces of calico behind the cloth and use stitching, boro style, in hope it will last another summer.

This cloth means so much to me.    Much more than the memories, the journeys where it has kept me company, kept me warm on lonely nights and provided a soft place to lie in the sun.

A still bright corner.

A still bright corner.

The meeting of Here and There

The meeting of Here and There

This cloth is a metaphor for me, a little worn in places, bright and as good as new in others, such is the power of cloth.  I don’t want to overlay it with patches and cover over the imperfections any more than I want to hide the lines on my face or the grey in my hair.  I want to respect the wear, respect its history.

I wonder, what you would do with it?

another book

I wanted to return to my son some of the gift he has given me . . . images of my grandhearts taken over the last four and a half years I’ve been back in New Zealand.

The album has a dyed calico backing, a paint-stained baby wipe, embroidery and a few washers.  The pages are tea stained paper bound with coptic stitch so it will lie flat when open.

Adam's Album

Adam’s Album

The baby wipe was stained from wiping off paint or cleaning up bits of acrylic paint as I worked in a journal or monoprinting papers. If you smooth them out a bit when they’re still damp with paint, they dry quite soft. You can also work them in your hands a little so they’re even softer. They aren’t hard-wearing of course and the pattern is quite random which dictated where the stitching went.

I save stuff just in case it comes in handy . . . I have several more.