The Things You Live With

When you walk into someone’s house you see what it is they live with. What things matter enough to see every day, all day. Hopefully this person’s house is not a package setting such as “Rooms to Go” or a section of Ikea that looked like it should come home in boxes to be assembled to look like it was in the store. Hopefully the person whose home you enter has things that have stories. And the stories are why it still sits on the shelf, hangs on the wall, crowds the floor.

Thinking of how to pare down our belongings I decided to do a blog of details of the things around the house that I take for granted. These are vignettes of a much larger space. These are things that the cleaning lady swipes a duster over twice a month with no idea of why they are there.

The reason they are there is because of their story. They tell me the story over and over again each time I look at them. They sit next to other stories and make up new ones just by rubbing elbows with each other. I am spending more time with them and will take at least two blogs to cover the ones I photographed just today.

Above is the detail of a long painting/drawing on a wood panel that hangs on the wall between upper and lower cabinets. It is above where the liquor is kept below and the dinner plates above. On it is written some of the text from a poem I wrote about the “Position of Periphery.” Being on the edge of not belonging, not getting involved frees a person from expectations. I love this piece. Here is another end of the panel.

Carolina wrens perch along a stick that comes from the mouth of a Xian warrior. I got the idea from a picture I saw in art history classes of the first attempt to put sound into artwork. A small Asian monk had a stick from his mouth with birds perched on it….at least that is how I remember it…..the book is still here not fifteen feet from this but if I look it up to be sure, there is a chance that the story would have to change. I will leave them apart and stick to memory. The wooden bowls were turned by a local wood turner whose wife also turned bowls and had jazz performances in her studio on Saturday nights after her husband passed. One of them has a wine stopper my husband made that I keep handy to plug into red wines only. Just a small pat on the man’s head and the wine is sealed. The large clay vessel is a gift from a friend in the Art Group. Pouring wine from this jug is a performance…..and it takes two hands. I like how these things look together and when I see the wooden turned bowls move further away from the jug, I bring them back and let my fingers linger on their smooth surfaces and think of quiet old Knude and his wife Lissi.

Further down the same set of cabinets is another wooden panel painting with the sugar molds holding bees wax candles and waiting for the next holiday dinner party.

The other end of the same panel has the earth pigments from here as background for a Gaston Bachalard quote about childhood and the discovery of a nest. I think his book, Poetics of Space is my most favorite “art” book. In front are some cups that hold Turkish coffee in just the right proportion with a bit of cream. They were marriage ceremony cups made by a bride and groom who did not stay married. More pottery and a bowl turned by my husband that has dried weeds that a friend and I picked to decorate the Thanksgiving table maybe four years ago. And I still taste her contribution of shredded wheat rolls when I look at these dried up stems too fragile to dust.

The long trestle table my husband made sits along the length of those cabinets. It is made of wormy chestnut salvaged from an old building we bought in town years ago. The wooden bowl on the table sits on a Mexican tapa cloth given to me by the same guy who made the jug. The wooden bowl was carved by my father and husband when they first met fifty years ago. I filled it with these strange balls someone called “monkey balls” and burned driftwood from a friend in Australia and Aboriginal carvings of goannas. The bird with burned markings like the carvings was the perfect addition when I found him in a shop filled with clever things…a shop called Sugar Boo. I think I bought it the same day I saw a woman in there wheeling her therapy pig dressed like Sherlock Holmes around in a baby carriage. Other bits and pieces in the bowl make this such a magic place to dip your hands in and remember.

Just off the end of the dining table is a pair of book cases. On top of one sits an upended packing box that held Japanese tea bowls. Now it houses gum nuts and a sharks egg in one cubby, a beaded basket from Bali in another. But the best part is the little antler family I found in a museum shop in Vancouver. I saw just one in the case and fell in love with it. She said, “We have more”. I said, “Show me.” I stopped her after four. They were so hard not to keep together. They are a family. Those little carved faces with drilled eyes and mouth. Their arms and legs swinging on strands of sinew….all that and made by an Eskimo in northern Canada.  And next to this box is this.

There are three hens or chicks (not sure which) in a soap dish from Africa. They are watched over by this wonderful stoneware bird….a bird with a smile on its face. I like this kind of pottery. The marks of the hand are all over it. The stoppered piece behind the big bird is made by an Japanese potter living and working in Asheville…..a gift from a friend. The three chicks were made by an older woman in Penland. She took a class I taught there and this was a way of bringing her home. I love how she pressed shells into the clay to look like wings.

Over on the other book case sits a collection of Indonesian bottles made from wood and horn. Very intricate designs. The head for the one has been knocked off again and is likely lodged between the book case and the wall. We put them in bamboo cups when they tip over too frequently and now it seems they belong there. A wooden Balinese mask hangs on the wall and a complex weave snuff basket stays close to these figures. A small basket made by a friend in Australia hangs off a branch. All of these things feel good in the hand and bring back the stories of being in Bali with friends from Australia. They stay away from the Eskimo family….like two different tribes that have only me in common.

More dried things are on the wall just past the window by the bookcases. They are from our lotus plants in the water garden outside the front door and are stuffed into a piece of bamboo brought home from Japan. There is an African doll and a Peruvian doll hung between two forks bought in a shop on my first trip to teach in Australia. It was a wonderful big old place in Mittigong. The basket I bought to use for serving crackers, but like most things took on a preciousness because of where it came from.

I will do another blog another day…..there are so many more pictures of things that I live with in this large room of kitchen, dining and living space.

Now I am getting ready for company and the eclipse tomorrow.  And during the past two weeks Sadie and I are still working on the shawl.


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.


Oops! That Pesky Earth Pigment – Carl Green Green

So it looked good a couple of weeks ago on my soy milk treated linen scarves from Beautiful Silks. Granted the Carl Green Green was a bit gritty but there was lots of color there and it went on easily in a paste of pigment and soy milk. All the colors looked good then…looked like they might take.

So last Friday I took one of the small scarves and rinsed it out. I found a bit of a hole where one of the green dots were.

The loose weave of the linen was not conducive to holding onto much color but the reds and yellows showed promise if I left them another week. One scarf and one shawl left on the table to wait.

Showing different things to the Art Group on Sunday, I included the linen scarf with the small hole and said that I would just put a patch of something over it and maybe stitch more remnants on the piece. I told them it could be quite interesting and soft. Might even look like it was pulled from a mummy…..which is something I would be more interested in wearing than something new.

But this morning I got to thinking that maybe it was not a good idea to let them sit under the penetrating green pigment too much longer, so I “rescued” the other two. Good idea. Here is the green patterned end of the second scarf.

And here are some images of the shawl.

Those are pretty big holes because I made large circles or squares with the green pigment. But I have to admit that I like the feel and the tatteriness of them. So I will sacrifice the least holey of the two smaller scarves to patch the holes of the other two…..especially the large shawl. I might also add some scraps of contact printing from leaves on silk/wool just for more interest.

I made this a few years ago with the spare parts of more or less ruined shirts. I love this scarf and wear it often. And it never fails to get compliments and questions.

Of course those tattered scarves do remind me of the middle stages of some of my shifu papers using earth pigments.

I think that there is something very appealing in the raggity look. My spell check did not like that word “raggity”…..suggested “fragility”…..which is where these linen scarves are right now out there drying in the sun. They look rotted and dug up from the earth. I think there are possibilities abound with them. They could be fragments in a book or wall piece but I think right now I want to wear them. And I am trying very hard to not make things that go on walls and require framing, glass and a place to show.  Of course now that I have said that and started thinking about it, pieces of the scarves and unspun shifu  would be very interesting worked into collage with prints and more pigments……

Anyway just an early blog on the latest development here in the studio. Maybe next time I can have them patched and stitched….at least one of them anyway.

Til then.