Thursday, March 20, 2014

Something new

Battery hens (detail)
It was the peak of my flu, when I spent most of a day lying in bed with the curtains drawn on a headache reverberating through my whole body, even between the agonising coughs.  I was missing out on a long anticipated weekend of festival going with a friend from out of town, and I should have felt more miserable than I did. But inside my fevered mind, half dreaming, half hallucinating, electrical connections were sparking between memories and desires, concerns and pleasures, requests and distractions, to become a roaring fire of new ideas for making.

It's not the first time I've been inspired with fresh art ideas in the past 18 months, but its the first time for a long while that I immediately upped tools and then didn't fizzle out.  As soon as I could lift my head and move from the bed  I grabbed fabric, threads and needle on my way to the couch.  Then I stayed on the couch for three more days, barely moving as my body worked through the flu's painful, tiring, disgusting symptoms. Whenever I had the energy to have my eyes open and my hands moving I was lying there, taking simple stitches and imagining more complex interpretations to come. Straight lines were the foundation for my feverish journey, inspired by photos of Kantha quilts, and practiced as distraction without direction to ease my social anxiety at a symposium earlier that week.

Four weeks later and several pieces are taking shape, as my embroidery slowly creeps across flat pieced blankets that I see as wall hangings, something like little woolly quilts. Simple, and not-simple, stitches are becoming a vocabulary for telling stories about industrial farming.  Here is a V to represent chickens, the shape of a beak or the scratch of their feet.  Here is combination of two uneven detached chain stitches pinned into parenthesis by another pair of small stitches- 12 piercings of the cloth by my needle to complete each hoof-print to signify cattle- and thus painstakingly slow.

Dirty Dairy (detail)
I am  interested to see that quilter Kathryn Clark is simultaneously developing another textile vocabulary of quilt patterns to address  "Issues like climate change, the digital era, migration, water and food security, etc." The same kind of issues I've been concerned about in my work for the past six years.  It seems as though there might be the possibility of the conversation I've been hoping for might finally be developing a language in which I can contribute along with many others.  Kathryn's intention is to create " something that could be used by others to generate new pieces and new ideas.    Her vision of creating  a body of work to start the conversation.  is so aligned with my own vision, yet expressed more explicitly that I am inspired by her generosity.

I know I said I wasn't going to blog anymore, but it seems that was no more likely than me saying I would blog every week. So, yes, here I am again but with a new blog policy of only posting when I have something compelling to share.  Right now, my desire that's been building for a month to share this new series is being shaped by a renewed desire for conversation through textile art, with makers like Kathryn Clark. And so I expect I'll be posting again, sooner than later