Wednesday, 23 April 2008

postcards week two

After long deliberation, and with a certain amount of trepidation, I have decided to include here the "what was she thinking?" ones, because I think you can learn as much if not more from failures than successes and I would certainly find it reassuring to dicover that someone else had failures too.

The week two challenge was to use scrim: I have a stash of hand-dyed scrim crying out to be used: I love its texture and its ability to soak up dye; I've also used some of what we in the UK call muslin and those of you in the US and Canada call cheesecloth.

WARNING: some of these are downright ugly/clumsy/amateurish but publishing them is important to me in coming to terms with my hangups about failure.

Sunday and Thursday I played with chenille, a technique I hadn't got around to earlier, the snake being Sunday, the abstract Thursday: my chenille technique improved between the two but everything I'd learnt in Liz Berg's class went out the window (lesson - even speedy projects need a bit of forward planning) in the abstract one:

Can't make up my mind about the Monday and Tuesday ones - broadly I think I haven't got there yet but there are things worth exploring, especially the way it's possible to layer scrim and stitch to get a painterly effect.

Wednesday's effort is cringemakingly embarrassing: a real "what was she thinking of?" moment.
I felt distinctly lacking in ideas that day and could only come up with the idea of contrasting scrim with satin, chucking bits on without care or planning: I didn't even realise how unbalanced the shapes were till I took the photograph. Apologies. I think I've learnt my lesson though.

Friday's piece was speedy, enthusiastic and exciting to do, and came together like a dream: I'm not sure where the dolmen shape comes from though I'm familiar with it coming originally from Oxfordshire/Berkshire which has its share of them. Saturday's piece, which I like a lot less than Friday's is a less successful attempt (it went dead on me) at portraying standing stones from the end of the lane where we once lived - the local legend was that a man his horse and his dog had been turned to stone by a local witch.

Of them, I think there's only one that I'm happy about at this stage (and I shall probably develop strong reservations about that as my standards improve. However even one makes the week worth while, and I learnt far more from week two than from week one when I played safe!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

The Elusiveness of Memory

This is about a memory I thought I had. My mother was a GI bride; she met my father whilst doing war work in Birmingham; he was stationed in Sutton Coldfield, a suburb of Birmingham. Early in 1946 they were married. I was born in April 1947. Somehow I had assumed that my father had stayed on in Birmingham and did not return to his home in New Bedford until a year or two after I was born. Looking back this is I think an assumption I made rather than anything I was told. I knew my mother missed the boat (literally) because my grandmother was ill and she did not want to leave; as time went on she then seemed to get cold feet about going to live in the USA; in the end my parents were divorced.
Recently I made a discovery that - whilst it was unsettling at the time - presented me with a slightly different version of events which made better sense than what I'd believed before. Migration records were published on the family history sites and I discovered the date of the boat my mother was to have taken and the alternatives - all three in the Autumn of 1946; soon after my mother would have discovered I was on the way, I suppose, almost as if I was a parting gift to her from my father, though of course he would have assumed she would be following him in a couple of months' time.
My parents had been very young by todays standards, (22 and 23), both from close communities and away from home for the first time, during wartime and the immediate postwar period when everything was disrupted. Though I spent some years of my life feeling unhappy that I didn't have a dad of my own, only a stepdad, and had a tendency to hero-worship the dad it now turns out I'd never met, I can see at this distance that it was a difficult and unhappy time for both my parents and can understand much better why they made the decisions they did.
So how does this fit in with my earliest memory? Well, what I remember is my mother taking me with her to a large railway station to meet a man whom she hugged and kissed; in my memory I had assumed this was my father, but now realise it can't have been (on reflection I think it might have been one of her cousins who came to visit her and my grandmother at that time - he and my mother had grown up together and were like brother and sister - I have a couple or recollections of his visit).
The piece here, however, portrays the memory that didn't exist. Two faces, poised as if to kiss; two faces turning away; onlookers in the background; all done in layers or various organzas to suggest the ways memories sometimes seem drifting and insubstantial.

Monday, 14 April 2008

a change from what I haven't been doing

For some time now I seem to have been beset by inertia - part physical (my body really doesn't like the dark months of the year) and part mental (the vicious circle of not meeting challenges I've signed up for, feelings of failure and of the fear of failure if I try something new and so on. I am about to retire from paid employment and I have plans for all sorts of things I want to do, but I reckoned that if I wasn't careful I'd spend my life sinking deeper and deeper into the sofa if I didn't take myself in hand.


I came up with an idea that seems to solve that particular problem. I have given myself a further challenge: to make a fabric postcard every day. This is the first thing I do each day after breakfast or after returning home from work. There's very little investment in terms of time and materials. I'm finding that for once I don't mind if something doesn't go as well as I'd expected: I can always do another one tomorrow! Ideas are churning and I'm working on other things too, including catching up on challenges, notably the Take It Further challenge. I'm also exploring new ideas and ways of doing things. Most important for me is that life is suddenly becoming more enjoyable.

I will admit I played safe with the first batch, which I started a week ago (week 2 is riskier because I have challenged myself more) - all use fused applique and free-motion stitching which are techniques I am familiar with, and are based on plant forms (mainly dead plant I still have to weed out of my garden - I hadn't thought of this as being symbolic till now but maybe it could be). Anyway - here are the first five, Thursday to Saturday in order: