Needles breaking. Threads breaking. Again and again. Adjusting tension and trying little tricks to keep everything running smoothly.
It happens with hand stitching too. Knotting up, catching a thread on the back, tangling. Sometimes it’s that kind of stitching: tangling and knotting.
Learning to wrestle wrought threads.
This is the nature of thread work. It teaches me to allow anger in and out—no withholding of breath. Letting it be its own nature. Turn off power and tidy the sewing room. Go to relax and read a bit
morning. opening the sewing desk and do my morning ritual of preparing the machine with basic maintenance. Open the bobbin case. Get the dust remover, brush and oil. Ahah! The culprit exposed in the sunlight streaming through the window. A tiny speck of shredded rayon thread is barely visible under the auto cutter. Another fine long strand is found at the bottom of the case
I remove the threads, flush with air, brush well, oil bobbin and put it all back together.
Last night I did that twice. But I couldn’t see the small specks of thread. Even with my Ott Light.
Under light of day everything is exposed and seen with clarity.
Learning balance and timing, during fatigue and frustration was not the time to problem solve. Bernina sews like herself again.
jonas kept me indoors and stitching while the white flakes were flurrying furiously out of doors. stitching while drinking copious cups of constant comment tea. time to think while i stitch. stitching and staying present. the needle keeps my mind fresh and fingers nimble. watch the thread, like a bell, a prayer wheel, staying with it. mother reads and cleo snores gently. rory guards our home while we sit out the storm.
moving through the piece
sharing the process
time for more tea. Thoughts come. Go. Pass through the wheels.
Finally the unveiling. I wrapped up yards of silk with flowers from the garden and wildflowers and tree nuts found on the ground. The colors are marvelous, rich, subtle and enchanting! They need to be ironed after they dry and then we will see what we can make with the fabrics.
One photo shows the stitches close up. I am fascinated with Sashiko, a Japanese backstitch style, but I have adapted it to my style. Tradition is good, but Bessesdotter employs non-traditional work because there is a deeper feeling of self expression that makes the art close to me.
I’m in love with the look of the perle cotton against the ragged eco-dyed muslin. The muslin was a scrap from dressmakers patterns and is being put to good use instead of throwing it away. My golden stitches remind me of a spiders web or perhaps a comet with a tail. The sewing is slow–deliberately slow–but not intentionally placed. It is more of a ‘let the needle find its path’ type of sewing. Nothing is planned here–all is spontaneous working of the threads and fabrics together.
The second photo shows the setup better—I’ve recently acquired a Q-Snap Hoop and an Edmunds standing frame. It is more comfortable to stitch on smaller project like this one which is about 30″ x 18″ piece of muslin.
Deadheading annuals and perennials is no longer such a chore, now I look forward to gleaning the spent blooms to eco-dye fabrics that I can use to create intentionally embroidered objects.
Sunday I bundled a dozen silk fabrics with zinnias, hibiscus, maple leaves and some native Pennsylvania wildflower heads, with various tea leaves and spices, rolled them up tightly, wound into spirals and wrapped rightly with copper wire. Placing them into zipper bags with vinegar and then into a small washtub to wait…2 – 3 weeks before removing them and drying the fabrics which will then be ironed.
Its a hedgewitchy-alchemical process, the gathering, crushing the flowers, making these brews and the waiting. Its a slow process. And much slower than opening a tube of paint and squirting it out, blending and brushing it onto a canvas. It is spontaneous though and allows for much experimentation which I appreciate.
Wrapped Rose Petals
Red Cabbage Rose Hips
Locust Tree Nut Shells and Spices
Turmeric and Zinnias
A Dozen Working
This is part of an evolution that I am in—-slowing down—-making the art slowly, mentally absorbing the process documenting it. The waiting, wondering which blends will be favored and successful. When I woke this morning, I checked them first, as they reside in my bathtub, packed into a small red washtub, the aroma of flowers and spices hit me full in the face. What a pleasant way to make art.
Spirals are making their way into my work again, aboriginal and abstract, the essence of life, they are an image that seems to be often found in my art.
Like other Melusine’s I’m drawn to the woods, its not just the gloaming, but everything about the forest dwells in my heart.
The death-quiet, a merciless monument that I enter as a noisy intruder that I’m certain the residents resent. I imagine scurrliness messengers warble warnings, Shee-zeer! Shee-zeer! My imagination is more about me than I desire. I wish to be as Sleeping Beauty thinking they are noticing me. But they are more concerned with their tidy lives, made in instinct and lived moment to moment.
Quietly making my way along the tangled trees, brambles, briars and bracken I can pick out favored shelf fungus, crumbling lichens and indian pipes along the paths. There is delight in the decay as the forest makes itself over flourishing its broken down limb littered leaf-decayed floor.
There’s an aroma that lifts from damp leaves, moldy with ashey spots and black rip edges as they catch on my feet. Twining twisted vine twirl about me in a rage at the dying of the season.
A token of love
I bring man-made artificiality to the Nature. Diminutive in stature compared to the Nature, the human makes its mark in creating tawdry and putting a price on it.
We churn it, first in the making, then the marketing, the amassing and finally the discarding. We cannot dig our holes deep enough to contain the baubles. Steady streams run-off products and by-products and the empty worth trailing off into now-nothingness. Land. Ocean. Space. Will fill them all.
Tooth & Claw
An installation and self portrait I created in the woods 2002—Photographed credit: self.
People often ask how I create my watercolors. Next time I perform this process I will make a video but here is a description in the meantime.
I cover the floor with as many pieces of high quality watercolor paper that I have room for. I thoroughly wet the paper(s) with water by either using a spray bottle or large 4″ brush. This wetting is a throwback to a time when I soaked paper for printmaking. Next, I mix the colors I that feel or look good to me at the time. No planning, but I do select color based on how I am feeling at the time. I use the tools at hand, literally my own hands work the large washes along with huge mop brushes, but there are fingerprints, and a sleeve dragged (possibly) through the work during the original throwdown of paint onto paper. The brush does a loose dance and my fingertips direct the magic. I allow the wind, sand, bark or other fragments of the life from Gaia come into the work. Mother Earth has her hand in the painting as she allows a leaf to settle or insect to walk across the paper. Often I find objects or materials to use as resists. Some resists are added supplies from the kitchen–often an experiment and sometimes products that I have used before. Salt is a common additive, but oats might be chosen instead.
I allow the paint to pool in deep rich colors or pale watery shades. Then I leave. I rest and let my creations solidify. Usually, I sleep and dream about what is brewing on the paper, my dreams are strongly connected to the work at hand. I have contemplated how much my dreams direct the paint but it is speculation. My imagination though is given wings to soar from the dreams which in turn helps the creation move further along. Sometimes, at a point of partial drying I check back and add more pigments, squeezing the drops out of the brush and allowing them to fall, gravity does the work. Although I often work in series, every piece has its own method, its own manner of coming into being even though they are pointed simultaneously. They are living creatures that continue to thrive under my guidance. It is an intuitive process. I feel connected to the work and allow the paintings to emerge–letting the melange of images come forward and speak out. But its only the beginning. They need time, to flower, to open: to be interpreted further. After all the paintings are dry they are stacked and weighed to keep them flat until I am ready to proceed with adding ink. In Part 2 I will discuss the next layer – Inkwork.