Busy day in Salem. Traffic bad coming south. Looking forward to a long weekend with no plans other than to mulch a few garden beds and stitch down church windows and use pin board and index cards to map out chapters written thus far for “Blood and Indigo”.
The ceremony held yesterday to honor the victims of the Charleston massacre was well attended and moving. It included statements from the Mayor, prayers by a priest and a rabbi (sorry I don’t have names, I wasn’t there to take notes, and there weren’t enough flyers to go around). One long prayer was broken into sections and read by nine people (or groups of people), each of whom lit a candle in front of a large photograph of one of the deceased. Even reading out very short bios for each victim (church treasurer, pastor, retired pastor, track coach, librarian, great grandmother… ) lent a sense of the enormity of loss suffered by the community — these people were GIVERS. I should say: added another layer to the sense of the enormity of loss. The centerpiece of the ceremony was a rousing sermon delivered by a Reverend from the Myrtle Baptist Church (Alicia Johnson, I believe). She called upon us all to acknowledge the wound of racism (how wide and how deep) and then DO something about it. Surprisingly, there was a lot of hope articulated. “Amazing Grace” was sung by the LoveTones to finish and I might have cried (others did), but for the sound system’s wincing blasts of feedback. I wore a little nine patch on my chest — made that afternoon — to represent the victims. I also wanted to be able to include cloth in the “Hearts for Charleston Quilt” that had been in the energy of this vigil. My larger square was rolled up and tucked in my purse. And get this — do you see the woman standing in the middle of the picture above? I bought that very dress at Savers a couple of years ago and have been using bits of it here or there ever since. TWO STRIPS of it are woven into my Charleston square!! I literally gasped when she stood up. The dark strips below with ivory stamping on it, sometimes barely peeking out, are from that very dress. This synchronicity had a way of making me feel like I was in the right place at the right time, and now I wonder: does all synchronicity do that? Since she read a prayer for one of the victims, I determined that my square should be dedicated to her:
P.S. The heart above is not a ‘go’ but I like the idea of a tiny nine patch occupying its center. Among other things, doing so would give the suggestion of a fractal (if not an actual fractal) — which is a sophisticated style of patterning employed by many African societies (posted about here).
This morning, I revisited the little gem of a book, “Steal Like An Artist,” by Austin Kleon because it’s good and worth revisiting and because, well, seeing my blue indigo woven square on Instagram turned my stomach, just a little, because of how much it said, “Jude” to me. Not arrogance here. Rather: dissatisfaction. The thing is far from done and woven strips are kinda woven strips, but still, I thought I’d share some of the excellent things Kleon has to say about this, “this” being developing a style or a voice, even though the “Hearts for Charleston” quilt is not about this. At all. (and, as you take a breath, can you tell I’m reading Faulkner again this summer?!)
“A wonderful flaw about human beings is that we’re incapable of making perfect copies. Our failure to copy our heroes is where we discover where our own thing lives. That is how we evolve. So: Copy your heroes. Examine where you fall short. What’s in there that makes you different? That’s what you should amplify… ”
And: “Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.”
Also this: “… you don’t just steal from one of your heroes, you steal from all of them.”
[Who are all of them?!! The blog roll on the right is a starting place. This morning, Robert Rauschenberg, John Singer Sargent, the Gee’s Bend quilters, Susan Carlson, and Ruth McDonald all come to mind. Jude Hill (obviously). Maybe I don’t think about this enough].
“Nobody is born with a style or a voice. We don’t come out of the womb knowing who we are. In the beginning we learn by pretending to be our heroes. We learn by copying.”
“We’re talking about practice here, not plagiarism…. Copying is about reverse-engineering. It’s like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works.”
This is not hand-wringing, per se. Just follow-up to a little turn of the stomach. It’s important to follow up on little turns of the stomach. That might be a piece of advice I’d give an artist. Or just plain a person. It’s a little like Julia Cameron suggesting that we use a list of people we are jealous of as a laundry list of things we need. It works. Try it.
Meanwhile, I am in love with some new double exposures. I wish I could figure out what to DO with them!
These feel wholly mine. And yet? Thumb tapping? Digital code? What ARE they?!
And, not free of influence, obviously.
Watching “Reverend Obama” give Senator Pinckney’s eulogy just now, I thought: “He was BORN for this moment.” Surely, these are words that will be remembered for a long time. He covered everything — instilling hope, issuing a call to action, teaching history, and offering solace.
You can watch the entire eulogy here.
Between the knocking down of (yet another misguided, time-wasting) republican challenge to the ACA, the Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage, and the confederate flag in all likelihood coming down on public property in South Carolina, there seems to be some cause for hope right now.
I know this: because of the spirited, intelligent, heart-felt words of our president, I felt proud to be an American for just over a half hour this afternoon.
Does thinking about the nitty gritty offer relief in the face of the unthinkable? Perhaps.
This link provides short bios of the victims: NBC News.
I am rethinking the stitching of names onto the squares. Hold off on that for now, please. I think they might look better embroidered on strips that go all around the edge of the assembled nine block, rather than on the hearts or strips themselves. Some of the names are quite long and I don’t want them to get lost.
This weaving method is simple. Some of the genius variations that Jude Hill has created are listed in links toward the end of this post. I encourage you to take a look at just a quick sampling of her work– even those of you who have been following her. The method here is hers, the tricks are learned from her. The artistry will be all yours and mine — I hope!
Jude teaches two basic approaches. You can lay your strips on top of a backing cloth and weave (which is what I will demonstrate), or you can ‘anchor’ an uncut cloth to a backing with a single row of stitching, then cut that top piece into strips and weave into that.
The finished area should measure 10″. Please leave at least 1/4″ all round, or more, for flexibility at assembly.
I have chosen light and dark blue for a checkerboard affect, because symbolically I think that speaks to the intersection of people of different colors. In a checkerboard, each hue has equal weight. It is harmonious. So, I like that here. You are welcome to go in another direction.
It is easier to start in the middle and work toward each edge in turn.Laying a ruler or piece of cardstock on top helps keep things from moving around too much. When you approach the edge, the strips won’t want to stay folded back, so you might want to use a weight. A ruler is good. Here I use scissors.
Then, pin. I use a lot straight pins, knowing I may get stuck. As Mo pointed out yesterday, it might mean bleeding into the cloth. I can think of no better cloth to offer our blood to. But the point is (no pun intended), you may want to use safety pins. I find them too fussy.
Then, to adhere the layers with thread, it is up to you whether you want to do a LARGE BASTE, an INVISIBLE BASTE* a la Jude, or just dig right in and start stitching — across and down, in matching or contrasting threads. A woven square this large will flop around quite a bit without a lot of basting, so I will do a fair amount.
For both the basting as well as the initial finish stitching, it helps to have a firm work surface — one that a needle can encounter without you worrying. If you have a glass top table, that works. I have been using a laptop lap desk that a friend gave me. It has a hard plastic surface and is the right size. Once the layers are integrated enough, you will be able to lap quilt without these concerns.
The heart can be a color of your choosing. Except for the red, the ones I have shown are a little too big, covering up too much of the weaving. As mentioned earlier, I will use traditional applique (with turned under edge), but you may use raw edge applique.
Any fabric is good. I like, though, that so many of you have indicated that you plan to use indigo. This will unify whatever other fabrics come in, making it easier for me to trust this, the way one trusts a potluck. Just please do me the favor of selecting fabric that a needle will easily stitch (i.e. no batik!! no jean-weight denim.)
DATE: August 31. Email me for my address when it comes time.
So much inspiration from Jude at Spirit Cloth! It would be impossible to overstate how much I value this generous, extraordinarily talented, ever-evolving and yet humble and curious, artist. Here are just a few samples from her blog: ‘one step further‘, ‘weaving sanity‘, ‘just corners and squares‘ (this post includes a YouTube video), ‘creative growth‘, ‘some old moon‘, and ‘lining things up in December‘.
Here are a few of my weavings created after taking one of her online classes.
I’ve archived some of the heart pieces I’ve made or photographed on flickr, here.
* Invisible baste is when you grab just a teeny knick of fabric on the top and let most of the thread between stitches run underneath. That way you can leave the stitches in when you are done, even if the thread is contrasting.
Last night, about an hour and a half after they lifted the tornado watch, our neighborhood was bathed in pink light. Everything glowed. It was otherwordly. It was beautiful. The camera couldn’t catch it.
Heading to Salem, so more info on Hearts for Charleston needs to wait. A quick update though, Liz (imgoingtotexas) had the great idea of stitching the names of the deceased onto the squares. She thought one name per strip. I’m thinking each of the nine squares getting a single name. Also, she plans to maker her heart in reverse applique, which is another idea.
Have a great day.
But seriously, running off to final of 16 dog obedience classes, then I’m making lunch for one of my favorite people whose birthday it is today, then I have to babysit a delivery window (we are finally going to replace the rotting deck rails, and YES, with a rot-proof composite) and then it’s the Newton, Mass. Charleston Vigil at 6:30 at City Hall. So, a more detailed ‘how-to’ post will come tomorrow, not today.
But the quick answer to when and how big is: 10.5 inches square, nine strips across and down, a heart about 4″ across, and August 31 deadline.
Mo, I realized shipping from Australia adds time, so if this feels too tight, l’ll work with that.
I was going to ask for as much indigo as possible for obvious reasons, but people are already volunteering. So there will be a lot of indigo. Whatever else gets mixed in will work, I’m sure. I made my strips 10″ long and used nine each way of unequal length, but you are welcome to use more or less.
My heart is going to be traditional applique (meaning edges stitched under), but rough edge is okay, too. My heart currently might be a little bigger than I want. I’m guessing about four inches across would be good. I want to embroider a word on my square too — this is optional. At first I thought I’d stitch it across the heart, but now I think I’ll stitch it in the woven section.
A few extra squares are welcome!