Friday, February 16, 2024

Poet in Love

He seems to me equal to gods that man who opposite you

sits and listens close to your sweet speaking 

and lovely laughing -- oh it

puts the heart in my chest on wings

for when I look at you, a moment, then no speaking

is left in me

no: tongue breaks, and thin

fire is racing under skin

and in eyes no sight and drumming

fills ears

and cold sweat holds me and shaking 

grips me all, greener than grass

I am and dead -- or almost

I seem to me.

Fragment 31, Sappho

I received this white whole cloth quilt that was beginning to rot away from passage of time.  The back was the worst with big holes and disappeared batting so first I covered the back all over with new batting, some of which was not batting at all but a felting material (pre-felt) and then I added a layer of silk and rayon squares that had been dyed with and marked in the centres, all odd sizes, with large circles.  And then after that, on the other side, I added easter egg shapes of silk velvet and then I quilted the piece, echoing and renewing the earlier maker’s thick blue thread only I used a pinkish avocado thread instead. 

We used it on our bed during that velvet egg patching time and the colours were so very bright because they were from the pandemic dye experiments my artist daughter mixed up and the colours – well the colours were like spring and gave a renewal feeling of softness to that side.  When I quilted it, echoing the interesting and beautiful whole cloth pattern from the original, I went through the velvet and the original quilt and then it was done.  I washed and dried the thing in the machines – subjecting it to life and a kind of drowning death and then rebirth and oh wow, the pre-felted parts reacted and shrank and turned it into something older, or perhaps I mean more human.  The amazing texture in the now quite misshapen quilt, is no longer usable as a bed quilt but too interesting to not look at and touch. 

I look at it and think I want to wrap myself in this weird courage – this cloak of resilience and mistakes and time past and isolation-colour experiments. An object originally made by a woman I do not know but I admire nevertheless, a cloak from the pandemic when we didn’t know what we were doing or what would come next, when I was so afraid, but poured my fear and desire to protect my family into this cloth of many colours.   A softer than soft quilt.  An emotional cover up.  A close listener to my sweet speaking and lovely laughter and my breath.

I think of my quilts as poems, and for me, this one is like Sappho’s fragment 31, her love poem that describes how she falls apart when she looks at the beloved.  How she is greener than grass and also feels dead.  Her tongue breaks and fire races under her skin and in her eyes no sight and in her ears drumming and cold sweat holds her and shaking grips her. "Greener than green I am and dead, or almost I seem to me."

And how this quilt fell apart, dead or almost – but now it is greener than grass on the inside.  Dull on the outside, bright in the inside.  Your sweet speaking.  Your lovely laughing.  

I am not the original maker of this quilt, but I followed her lead and quilted along her beautiful lovely laughing lines, I listened to and then enhanced her sweet speaking.  I made something that is greener than green but also wrecked.  Something to wrap around a poet.  Something to represent a poet.  A poet in love.  A poet’s bittersweet dream cloak.

Fragment 31 is perhaps Sappho's most famous poem.  In this post it is translated from the original Greek by Anne Carson.  Fragment 31 was a key reference in Carson's long essay about the creative space of yearning, of not knowing but wanting to know and being in love with that erotic wooing or seeking, that human lovers and artists and thinkers are familiar with.  Eros the Bittersweet, was selected by the modern library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time.

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

The books of Louise Bourgeois

At the age of 91 years, Louise Bourgeois created Ode a L'Oubli, (Ode to Forgetting),  a book of 35 fabric pages made from her own saved clothing.    (2002)  

In the catalog for the 2022 exhibition, Louise Bourgeois: The Woven Child, Bourgeois' books are shown as grids so that we can see all the pages at one time.  Each of Louise’s pages is about 11 x 12 inches.  If you want to see how this book looks when it is closed, or opened page by page, go to this link:  MOMA.  

In 2004, she made another book, The Woven Child

All of the pages in The Woven Child were woven from strips of fabric.

Within the grid of straight weave, she depicted her favourite motifs.  The hand, the house, the female body, the pregnant body, the human head.

She used her own clothing to make the pages, saved for decades.

Ode a la Bievre was made in 2007, when the artist was 96 years old.  It is about the river that she grew up on in France.

She made The Fragile in 2007 as well.  Not a book but a suite of drawings/paintings relating to mother/child ideas of the artist.  She said that her mother was like a spider, always able to repair the web, a strong and yet vulnerable being.  One of Bourgeois most famous works is her set of several steel spiders, made in many versions and stand as large outdoor sculptures outside of the world's great art museums.  See the Guggenheim spider at this link.

Eugenie Grandet 2009

A suite of embroidered illustrations that interpret the main female character in the novel by Honore Balzac, which was about a young woman named Eugenie who was not able to be romantically fulfilled because of her tyrannical father.  Read more about it and about why Louise Bourgeois wanted to make this suite of embroideries in this Guardian article from 2011.  

Louise Bourgeois died in 2010, at the age of 99.   That she carried on creating original work until the end is very inspiring for all of us.  The work she made in her 80's and 90's is uplifting, personal, and made from memory cloth.  It is inspiring for anyone who works with stitch.  I have studied her work for years, and have written about her many times on this blog (10 times!  click here) and also twice on the Modernist Aesthetic blog.   

The newest post on modernist aesthetic is Louise Bourgeois: The Woven Child

Sunday, January 28, 2024

lucky pillow and pinwheel quilt


I put one of my embroideries into a pillow and called it the Lucky Pillow because seven is a lucky number and my granddaughter turned 7 last week.  

I finished it on the drive to Toronto to visit the family.

The seven year old has a 3 year old little sister and they play together.  Here they are playing with the small quilt that I am making for little sister.

It's made from hand pieced pinwheels, one of my favourite ways to place half square triangles together.  To up the playful feeling of my hand dyes, I visited local quilt shops and purchased some new printed fabrics for this wee quilt intended for a new person.  (she's only the ripe old age of 3)   

Suvi's quilt is one of the hand work projects I took with me to Mexico.  I loved being able to put the pieces into a baggie and sew it on the plane using a thread cutter rather than scissors or take the baggie with me to the beach or pool.  In the above photo, I am putting a nine-patch of pinwheels together in the lobby of the resort during a period of waiting for one of our families to arrive.  

I prepared this project beforehand with rotary cut squares that were machine pieced together with a single diagonal line.  I cut off half of the tiny square and discarded that part, then pressed the squares open.

It is a very portable and cheerful project.

This baby quilt is one of two hand work projects I took to Mexico, the other one being the one patch quilt I wrote about last week.

I keep looking at it on the wall because I am cautious about using too much red fabric.  I want a light as air feeling that's interesting far away and close up.  

The lucky pillow as a hat for grandad.

the pinwheel quilt.  xo

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

and this quilt it is so safe

Kindness is our only hope.

We were with our family in a Mexican resort during that unreal time between Christmas and New Year's.  We had a very beautiful escape.  

I took my handwork with me and there were moments of quiet when I turned to it, mostly in the early evenings in our very clean and white room when it was a relief to be away from the sun.

I am pleased to finally be able to share on this blog that I have been invited to mount a solo show at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham England this coming August.  For the exhibition, I plan to finish up the quilt tops I put together during the pandemic so that I can display mostly all new work.  And this is one of them.

Quilting it surprised me.  When I hand piece a quilt, I usually need to strengthen the seams by quilting them 'in the ditch' and that is the case here.  However, this is the first time that I have added a secondary grid and that simple stitching made the old damasks express a softness that I had not expected.  

It became a quiet safety net full of PEACE.

A traditional one patch quilt has a timeless quality, not innovative or risky.  Quilts like this make me think about my 50 year marriage to Ned.  We celebrated it in Mexico with our children and there were many speeches and teasing about our long marriage and one of the kids asked me what my favourite thing about being married to Ned over the years and my answer  was that I felt safe with him.  

I'm a timid person. It's a scary world and I am afraid of it.  

And this quilt.  It is so safe.  

and my love is poured.

Our world goes to pieces. We have to rebuild our world.  We investigate and worry and analyze and forget that the new comes about through exuberance, not through a defined deficiency. We have to find our strength rather than our weakness.  Out of the chaos of collapse we can save the lasting: we still have our right or wrong; the absolute of our inner voice.  We still know beauty.  We still know freedom and happiness, unexplained and unquestioned.  Intuition saves us examination.  We have to gather our constructive energies and concentrate on the little we know, the few remaining constants.  But how?  We neglect a training in experimenting and doing.  We feel safer as spectators.  We collect rather than construct.  We are proud of knowledge but forget that facts only give reflected light.  If we want to learn to do, we have to turn to artwork, more specifically to craft work.  We learn that no picture exists before it is done.  The conception of a work gives only its temper, not its consistency.  Things take shape in material and in the process of working it.  Anni Albers

Monday, January 08, 2024

two trees at fifty years

Ned and I celebrated our 50 years married at a resort in Mexico over New Year's.  Our four children and their families celebrated with us.    

There were eighteen in our party. It was a blast and I am so very thankful.

A note about the t-shirts we are wearing in this beach photo.  Created as a surprise for us, the youngsters marched into our room in a large group and they each wore a t-shirt.  The one year old twins, the school age sisters, the teen boys, the adults in their 30's and 40's.  They had a playlist from their childhood / our marriage.  They brought shirts for us to wear.  

The design is of two trees:  a white pine for Ned, referring to the Georgian Bay family cottage and an Elm tree for me, referring to the Elm tree on my parent's farm near Fort Frances.  Each tree is growing form its own root system, tall and strong, side by side.  

I've written about this 50 year thing before and I promise that this is the last post about it.  Shall we go on into the new year?  Best wishes to your family from mine for 2024.  xoxo  

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

World of Threads installations and weaving from the USA, Spain, Finland and Canada

Pacific Ocean by Bonnie J Smith, California USA

Indigo dyed  cloth and thread 

While walking along the shore every day I gaze to the west and view the vastness and beautiful Pacific Ocean.   

My thoughts while creating this installation were for the viewer to love the Pacific Ocean as much as I do.  My belief is that when someone loves something they will also want to take care of it.

Ecologically all oceans represent what is happening on this earth.  Let us keep them in great shape for future generations.  Bonnie J. Smith

Hand Woven Tapestries by Anna Kocherovsky from Michigan USA.  Anna used wool, linen, cotton and metallic threads for all these pieces.  

Pictured above:  Travel Diary, Fox and the Forest (two panels). Star Light, Star Bright

Star Light, Star Bright by Anna Kocherovsky 

The Memory of Nature  Jaizkibel III by Lourdes Elizalde from Basque Country, Spain

Handwoven tapestry, plain weave and soumak technique, wool, cotton, silk threads

Inspired by my love and concern for Mother Nature, my desire is to express an intimate, joyful and deep sensation.  Climb those cliffs, enter their hollows, feel the sun on your back and the humidity in the shadiest areas.  Touch the roughness and feel the softness of the sandstone slipping through your hands.   

detail of  Memory of Nature by Lourdes Elizalde

installation by Theda Sandiford from Jersey City, USA.

(made from black zip ties and library ladders)

Her statement:  Racial gaslighting hides in plain sight in everyday conversations.  It subtly shifts dialogue from a raciesst topic at hand onto me, the accuser, forcing me to question and re-assess my response to racism, rather than racism itself.  "are you sure it was about race?"  "I'm sure he/she/they didn't mean it like that."  These comments are a convenient way for people to avoid uncomfortable conversations about race.  The questioning, twisting, and undermining of my truth, manifests in insomnia and anxiety.  In this installation, zip tie blankets draped on library ladders expose the sting of micro-aggressions to dispose of this trauma.

Laurentian Forest

installation by Ixchel Suarez from Oakville, Ontario
cotton, silk, wool, linen, jute, tulle, rope, raffia, human hair, all hand stitched

The soft sculptures presented in Laurentian Forest interconnect trees, forests, and our bodies, visually weaving human-nature bonds.  They reflect on time's juxtaposition with nature, mirroring our evolving, aging, and transient existence within the natural world.  This art prompts contemplation of impermanence and fragile beauty.  It serves as a visual narrative bridging time and nature, inviting viewers ot escape into the timeless harmony between them.  Ixchel Suarez

The Pure Soul in a Dream by Paivi Vaarula, Finland

One morning I woke up and the shade of a dream was still floating in my mind.  There was this person with such a pure soul.  I just had to translate that into a textile.  I chose transparent and white wool yarns and woe these wings to reflect the dream I had.  

Handwoven on a floor loom, the folds  were stabilized by steaming.

 Time of Joy by Paivi Vaarula from Hameenlinna, Finland

Everyday life consists of joys and sorrows.  In this work, I interpret those moments of joy.  My starting point was the joyful times with my sons.  I dyed the yarns with natural dyes, wove the fabric with a traditional floor loom and steamed the folds to stabilize the form.

World of Threads in Oakville, Ontario Canada, is on view until January 14, 2024.