Tuesday, August 29, 2017

tales of childhood

when i was seven we moved to our newly built house in a completely different area of whitehorse

having lived my whole life in the downtown portion of the city, being out in the country was a new experience... businesses and sidewalks gave way to houses on large lots with loads of trees
the new school was one block away
and no longer would i leave school every noon hour to go to my grand-parent's house for lunch

i loved lunchtime
my grandfather "papa" came home from work, as did my mom - they, my grandmother, and us four kids made for a pretty lively lunch hour... i was going to miss that terribly...

but my mom had a plan and it involved the lady next door

she had three small daughters, and was very young herself... a stay-at-home mom who loved to sing whilst she worked... cooking and cleaning, baking her own bread, washing and ironing... i can never, to this day, do housework without singing "scarborough fair"

we went there for a hot lunch five times a week and again after school until mom and dad came home from work

one day she was hand embroidering on a piece of the softest flannelet... it was the yoke of a nightgown for her middle daughter... three little heads, full of wavy hair, each one different...

as she stitched she sang the poem

"wynken and blynken and nod one night sailed out on a wooden shoe..."

i never forgot it, nor have i forgotten how i felt about what she was doing... a nightgown with an embroidered yoke for a three year old? 
i knew even then that wasn't a commonly thing done, even if it was 1968

devotion - and not just to her daughter, but also to the making

this poem then, for me, is all wrapped up in a beautiful telling of the imaginative workings of a child's mind, and the devotion of a mother, in time and thought in an artful practice
i've long wanted to make something inspired by that most wonderful of poems and now i've finally begun

i'm stitching the story, the poem "wynken, blynken and nod", making a little cloth book, complete with text and illustrations of my own design

 it's taken me a long time to work out the construction details but i finally have a plan that i think (and hope!) will work

one page with the text written out along with a few stitched details

and a facing page that illustrates that portion of the poem

it's a bit of a challenge as there aren't really many "scenes" but i'm making the most of every nuance in the verse

the details are tiny, time consuming, repetitive

but i don't mind

some of the applique is needle turned but much of it is just overcast along the edges

it'll rough up a bit as it's handling but i'm ok with that - i think it will just add to the tactile nature of the book

the pages will be about 6' square so just the right size for little hands to hold and turn

and a nice size for a scene - simple illustrations, fun with the details

i'm not just stitching a story though... i'm stitching a memory

a lasting memory of a very special person who has had a great influence on my life, and even more clearly, on my work


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

a bird in the hand...

 last year i decided to try my hand at weaving and bought myself a "wee weaver"... a tiny weaving loom for weaving swatches and samples

wanting very much to take it with me on our travels to the uk, i made myself a little pouch to carry it about in
 it's made up of a pieced section with embroidered seams and a plain area of light coloured linen on which i embroidered a little wren, taken from a watercolour of edith holden's

and take it i did...

on our journey, we had the amazing good fortune to meet up with the most wonderful couple, spending several days in their company whilst visiting the peaks and their lovely little village of hayfield

they wined and dined us and took us to the most wonderful places... beautiful country drives, a tour of a grand estate, a musical experience we'll forever treasure - the list goes on

we joked about their "typical english life" but they way they welcomed us into their lives for those four days was in no way typical at all

it was magical

the highlight for me was the day christine and i hiked up in the hills above hayfield - up to the moor, to the heather - to wide open spaces i'd dreamt of and read about in the words of charlotte and emily bronte
oh, that wide and windy moor... i loved it

but those were the things i knew of the moor - christine knew of another and she was keen for me to know it too

the curlew, the bird of the english moor, with a cry as distinctive and haunting as the loon of our north american lakes

a bird of place

not long into our hike, there was first a rustle, then the feathered-thrum of a bird in rapid flight and finally the sound of the curlew floated back on the wind, back to where we stood, and straight in to my own heart

i had wanted to take my little loom and weave a bit up there, to put the essence of the place into a small scrap of work, even down to using some of the grasses and plants along the path

but with the threat of rain, it was too cold to linger and so we hiked ourselves back to her cozy and warm house where, with a cup of tea and warming lunch, she played with my loom and i read from her amazing textile book collection

and so passed my favourite day in england...

i wanted to make something for christine that would embody that day, capture that memory, and seeing how much she admired the carry bag i made for my little loom, i resolved to make her one of her own

 a quick sketch from an internet photo

laying in the under feathers

trying for a feathered, not furred, look

not so easy i found out, especially with these markings...

switching off to the heather now and again for a bit of something easy

at one point i lamented to my son how hard it was to stitch, to get the feathers right, to get the distinction between the wing, body and underbelly

he said at least i could be thankful christine's favourite bird wasn't the peacock...
true enough, but a small mercy!
but i persevered and each stitch brought the image of the curlew to life

i wouldn't say i did her justice, but i do think it's close, and i learned so much - there is an order to thread-painting that i think makes it easier, and whilst there is a very strong desire for "exactness", i am learning that "representational" is often a better way to go

and now there are two

 the curlew and the little wren...

one for each

Saturday, August 5, 2017

little bitty...

like the song, it's alright to be little bitty...

i love it actually - there is a special quality to that which is diminutive

perhaps it's the smallness in size that makes us sit up and take notice of special details...

perhaps "small" lets what's special shine

whatever the attraction, i find these little stitched samples rather entrancing - they draw you in, the loose lower edge is irresistible
they have to be lifted, if only to look from a different angle

eleven weeks now, a daily patch
not always finished daily but i'm working on that - it's an untidy heap, each week's worth, as i stitch on this one and that, ideas building, one to another

 these ones are among my most favourite - tiny bits of fabric, loose, raw edges, embroidery on the surface

i can't tell you why, but the one above with the star stitches is probably my most favourite of all

 though these stacked up ones come a pretty close second

 for the first eight or nine weeks there was no plan - whatever i felt like doing i did

pick a swatch, choose some fabric and thread, think for a minute - go

 then one day i got into the buttons and suddenly, a series was born...

variations on a theme, embroidery surrounding buttons - stitching the buttons themselves down in ways that differ from the ordinary

the little white one on the bottom of the swatch above was a treat to do and joy to look at

 and after that i tried out the same sort of technique with scraps of fabric

 the two above were borne of a hankering to play with my favourite colours and favoured materials... a geometric, scratty lace and embroidery thread

the scraps are used as they come from the bowl - fitting them together, like a jig-saw puzzle

and then i thought of weave...