Starting on the Land of Lethe Journal

Here is the opening or “Title Page” of the small leather journal. I had private students here for a few days and I worked on this when not needed to lend a hand. One of them reminded me that those marks of four slashes and then a diagonal one across is referred to as “tally marks.” I had forgotten that and really like the name. It has always been a favorite doodle mark for me….just marking time is how I thought of it…not really counting things by five….just like doing it.

I wove a bit of shifu thread that had been colored with soil from some place special to me and then tied it onto the page. Here is the back of the next page that is a weaving made by making slits into the paper and then plaiting through strips of more Thai kozo paper that were colored with a greenish soil. The back of the title page was not so interesting….just the ties and back of the tally mark stitching.

At the base of the green paper weaving I did some more stitching with favorite threads and then cut a hole to make another weaving with shifu threads over warps that have been stitched into place. These are two of my favorite tools for doing small weavings with paper. One is the bone needle that a basket maker in Tasmania made (I have several because although I buy them for gifts, I find I can’t part with them) and the other is a small comb that I purchased at Wafu Works in Hobart. It is so perfect for picking up threads and lifting them out of the way and then packing them into place.

Here is that page finished.

And the back with lots of tally marks on the next page.

I like the backs and will likely go back into them with more memory marks. This heavy print making paper is nice to pierce and then stitch through. Like the old learning to stitch cards that we had when were very very young….just put the bright colored yarns into the eye of a very big needle and poke it in and out of the holes. I think we were supposed to be making something by following the direction lines, but I am quite sure that I just filled the entire surface with yarn until I could not get the needle through.

And the back of this tally page with some small coppery scraps stuck in place. On the right is a small knotted shifu thread basket holding a small flat round stone.

And then the last page of a patchwork cloth of shifu weavings sewn together.

I have made a start on this journal. This signature now has something on each page. It is a signature that used slightly smaller folios than the other five signatures.  It seemed that they should all be treated similarly. I will continue to back into them before starting on the next set of pages. It could be that I am avoiding writing on the pages and will just make marks using cloth and stitch. I might put scraps of our clothing in it.

I did that with this very large wall hanging when we were married for thirty some years….about the year 2000. It is made up of coffee filters with comments written on them, spun into threads and holding scraps of our clothing together. Coffee filters were also used in the block-like quilt designs to make up the calendar month of October. On the square where the 27th would have been that year is a copy of a picture of us before we were married that my husband kept in his wallet all those years. This year will be our fiftieth wedding anniversary. Anyway this piece hangs in the guest room and I think needs to be put away soon….maybe harvested for parts.

It covers one wall almost completely as each square is over twelve inches in each direction.

Here are some details. It all had to do with how marriage works….some days things are held together nicely and some days a bit messy.

I liked doing this piece but maybe it is time to take if down from the wall of the guest room. I never gave it a thought that some people staying in that room might be wondering what in the world it was. I do like these details though and may just cut some up to put into my Lethe Journal. Put some coffee stains in there too because we still start our day with that….sipping coffee.

Til next week.

Back to the Stitch

This is a detail of a very large quilted paper piece that asked the viewer to record on scraps of paper the first stitches they remembered learning.  The response was mostly predictable ….. from grandmothers and mothers teaching them how to sew. I still have this somewhere I think. Anyway it seemed that stitching was always there for me. Poking that needle in and out not with the intention of making a good stitch but more about holding ideas together.

Or making marks…

Sometimes the stitching went with words as part of illustrations. Like this in my artist retreat book. After all our time together as artists came to an end I made this book about what that felt like…to be with others who were just as passionate about their ideas. We all had egos to match our intentions and I love how I saw that and then recorded it here. The sound this book makes with the stitched in rattly pages is just wonderful. I love this book…the words, the images, the sounds and the stitches.

Then there are the books that are held together by stitched spines.

Many of them remain blank because they became about the binding and not about the content. I should go in there and mark them all up….maybe just stitch on the pages.

And this book was all about mending. I steamed and pressed the paper to get the pages to feel more like cloth and receptive to needle and thread.

Sometimes what is happening on the back side is a better story.

And this print on cloth done in undergraduate school. I was warned that I was getting “dangerously close to craft.” I love that and understood exactly what my advisor meant back then and held off on stitching into these prints until after graduation.

And another use of print with stitch and cloth.

I find it harder to thread the needle and notice the feel of the cloth more now. It needs to “feel” like what I am trying to say with it. So with the tattered shawl now being about dementia and the holes left by what we took for granted and now can’t quite put our finger on, I am working slowly on the holding it together part. It feels good….it really does.

And it has sparked a return to the shifu threads colored with the soils of home and travels. These will be used in my journal of the Land of Lethe…a map of what may or may not have happened.

I have moved all this cloth and threads and shawl over to a corner because I have two of my favorite students arriving for an extended time working here in the studio. What is important to me today will not begin to be as important as their plans starting tomorrow. I will be in their heads and well out of my own.

And the good news is I have been asked to talk about my artist books to students at my undergraduate university in a few weeks. They will be receiving many of those books along with my extensive pop up collection. It will be good to share them and talk to students who want to not just know how to do something but why to do it.

And in looking for images for this post I found this one. An altered image of cloth and stitch. It is sort of the essence of something. It is like poetry I think. More will come of this….later. But in the meantime it is an evidence of things held together. It is the holding close by jabbing something in and out that drags a line along behind it….knotted at both ends to stay put. Some very rich stuff in that I think….or it could just be sewing.

Til next week after the students have left me….maybe they will let me post images of their work and talk about the why….or maybe they won’t. Passions are sometimes hard to talk about.


Patches and Stitches

This is the linen shawl that was much thinner than the scarves so the damage of the natural pigments was greater. I pulled out some of the pieces of silk that were scraps tossed in with contact printing while in Australia. They looked like they might be just the right thing to patch the holes by placing the scrap behind the holes. At this point I was thinking I would wear this shawl like I would wear the scarf below. Remember last week I said I would add some beads for color…

I just randomly filled some places or followed along with the earth pigment marks. I like the double thickness of this and I like the holes. It feels good to the hand. And while selecting the earthy colors of beads to go with this scarf, I decided to rid myself of about seventy-five percent of my beads and jewelry findings. It filled a duffle bag and the recipient will make good use of them.

Anyway back to the shawl. I also had a selection of very old silk threads that I had purchased at Wafu Works in Hobart, Tasmania. It is a lovely tiny Japanese cloth and sewing shop that I manage to go to each time I am there. And each time I bring home a little something. Here are the threads.

The spooled one is a thread made in France but purchased in Goolwa, South Australia this past March. And now you can see the silk scraps pinned over holes.

And how it looks from the other side. At this point I am still thinking I can wear this.

Then removing the embroidery hoop from my stitching done to reinforce the frayed edges, I put my thumb right through the cloth. Maybe this is not so wearable after all.

Sadie likes it.

And I still like stitching on it. I still like how the silk looks. I am going to continue with it because held up to the light, it tells a story. A story of fragmentation, holding together, making do, not letting go. Plus I am guaranteed good company while I stitch. Now I am adding areas of metallic threads and am thinking of how the cracks in pottery are filled with gold to emphasize the special-ness of an everyday item.

I am also mindful of the other side and now am backing some patches with other gauzy cloth on the opposite side. Note the small whitish patch on the lower right. And then the opposite side from it.

I am not a very good stitcher but I am good at carrying on.

When I finish this and go back to my printmaking I don’t know what I can do to keep this fun little companion away from wet ink.

Til next week.



On The Mend!

I have put the two badly damaged linen scarves that were the same size together and stitched them along the edges with threads harvested from the warp or weft of a lovely scrap of cloth that I contact printed with leaves in Australia. Each thread was made up of three smaller somewhat furry threads that might be wool. And of course they are naturally variegated due to the coloring process of the cloth. I was trying not to harvest too much from the scrap because what remains could be a lovely tubular scarf. The colors are scrumptious and there is a good fringe on each side due to the pulling of threads to sew the linen scarves together and emphasize holes.

The scarred linen scarves became very soft after rinsing out the earth pigments. Sort of a nice drape.

I worked with some interference and managed to hold the two pieces together with the threads I did have. It is a bit washed out looking but I love the feel of it. And it does actually look like it was borrowed from a mummy. Here are some detail images.

And the finished scarf.

I am tempted to now add some small beads to this one to give it a bit of color. The mummy likely would have had them there. This piece strikes me as genuinely “boro”. Putting together worn and ragged pieces together in the hopes of extending the life and use of a piece of cloth. Adding beads will certainly take away from that idea….but still, color can be a good thing here. If you ever see me wearing it, you are welcome to touch it. It feels, for lack of another word, “loved”. And I do love it.

So does Sadie.

On the next piece….the large linen shawl that was even more eaten up by the green earth pigment….I am going to patch it with scraps of silk that were printed at the Botanical Studio in Australia. These pieces of silk were just remnants from the bin that I tucked into my very serious attempts to get that quintessential Australian look of leaves on cloth. And they were very successful scarves indeed with a few more to give to friends. See below.

And here are the silk scraps with the very holey linen shawl that is now folded in half lengthwise to make even another scarf.

The linen weave and threads on the shawl are much finer, hence the more damage. But it too is very soft now.  I am wondering whether to use the silk scraps behind the holes between the two layers or cover over the tops with edges turned under. I might do all the patching while it is still not folded in half to avoid so many stitches showing on each side. It is going to be fun to work on and the bits of sheen from the silk should give it a whole different look than the first one. If this came from a mummy, it was a mummy of means, I am sure.

I am not the only one ready to start in on another rescue.

Next week the this one should be finished. Til then.