Sunday, October 25, 2015

I feel as if I know her

 This embroidery is from South Africa.
It was stitched by an artist named Leah.  Leah wrote a note and tacked it to the back of the piece ( about 14 x 20 inches).  The note said that she liked lions because they are strong animals.
Because of her hand work, I feel as if I know her.
The above embroidery is also from South Africa.  The initials of the artist are prominently marked on the left.  The size of this piece is also about 14 x 20 inches.  There is a wide variety of stitches.  Look at the seeds and chicken foot prints on the ground, the cloud in the sky, the comb and energy feathers over the larger hen.  The border.
The reverse of the embroidery is also powerful.  Seeing work like this I wonder if I am correct to advise others to try to make the back as neat as the front.  Why?

Valerie Hearder shared these (and other beautiful pieces) with us last week at Penny Beren's home in Nova Scotia.  I went there for four days to enjoy a most nourishing retreat with these old friends.
Valerie Hearder, Penny Berens, Margi Hennen, the two dogs are Kayla and Shandy
I'll never forget that we watched the Justin Trudeau majority results together.
Q:  Why do I like these embroideries so much?
A:  They have integrity.
      The marks are varied.  They are bold.
      The artist spent time and thought on her work.
      I feel as if I know her.  I feel her hands.  
      I understand that she observes her world and that it is urgent for her that she communicates about those observations.


  1. What a beautiful way to connect with a piece--to feel as if you know her. Much to contemplate here about the making of quilts in these days of patterns and templates. Thanks!

  2. i really love how you honor the work of the hands of others.

  3. I feel as if I know you every time I read your blog. My hands speak with the language of stitch too.

  4. I hear you about the back of the pieces. When my great-grandmother made me come in and wash my hands and sit down and work my "lessons", I was a very unhappy five-year-old. I wanted to be outside playing with the others. The real lesson I learned is the back has to be as nice as the front. At the end of my lessons, she would turn it over and look at the back. If it didn't meet her standards, she would undo the stitches and make me do it again. I learned very quickly that I better slow down and do it "right". I am certainly no perfectionist today. I learned to think it through, go slowly, and do it right. My friends get so mad at me when I see a mistake in my knitting. I immediately start tearing it out and starting over to correct that mistake. They think I am OCD. I am not. I was just taught to be careful, and to do it right. I think it teaches us pride in our work. I don't advocate anyone do what my great-grandmother did, but teach the next ones that it is okay to go slowly, it is okay to pull out stitches, and to take pride in one's work.

  5. I'm thinking more about the beautiful back question... and I wonder, if the back is not the place for messiness, non-planning, ugliness, and letting go, then what is? If we make backs as intentional and beautiful as the fronts, then where does the grounding, balancing darkness go?

  6. This discussion about the front vs back is valuable, and I thank you for participating. For myself, I have the idea that the front of the piece is what is presented to the outside world, and the back (if that is what it needs to be called) is more about what is not presented to the outside world. More about our inner thoughts and dreams and true feelings.
    I often do make both sides visible - I ask that my work be hung from the ceiling or away from the wall so that both sides become the right side.

    However, Mariana, your question about where does the grounding balancing darkness go has made me think about this issue some more. Thank you.

    Thank everyone for comments - always appreciated. x

  7. for me, this is so kantha like, that is designed with fields of simple stitch. the back for me has always been just the other side, sometimes i like to work on the other side to get the right look on the "front" . I have come to be able to imagine how it is forming. as long as the threads don't get too tangled u, or hang off and become dysfunctional i always feel it is ok to be visible. the back has become more popular in recent years as we have learned to honor process more, right?.

  8. "that it is urgent for her that she communicates those observations"
    Thank you so much for this post

    for me, the other side shows all the wandering it took to get that Urgency out and

  9. Yes Jude and Grace- working from the wrong side with intended messiness and urgency and seeing how those stitches look like when they are out there - on the front side.

    It is so real. It is how we actually live our lives. We react to things with our hearts and hands - and then they are out there, for the world to see.

    I made a piece over the summer working from the back - and loved how it freed me. It gave me ways to get the urgency out there.

    thanks for your comments.

  10. I can't seem to work from the back. I get too flustered. It takes talent. ;)

    I always liked to keep the back part of my sewing neat, but now, I don't know. I like the honesty of how I'm always both neat and messy, right and 'wrong.' But I like, as you do, recognizing that both sides should be seen, and both sides of us are valid.

  11. So important to set aside time to share with other artists and friends! It is nourishing. I recognize Margi who came to my house for dinner and of course Penny.
    I also have some of those embroideries from my trip to South Africa 2 years ago. First thing I did when I picked one up was flip it to see the back...habit?? Then I also asked myself why I had done that.!! The back was just as interesting as the front.

  12. Oh Judy, wait until you see the work that Jubu is making now! In just a year this woman ha s loss omen into an incredible artist. I bought 6 small pieces by her. She is one to watch. Her developement in only 1 year is extraordinary.


Thank you for taking the time to connect. Much appreciated.xx