Saturday, November 26, 2011

"Who wants to be alone in this shit hole world," he asked me.

Stopped to pump gas on Thanksgiving morning (after a lovely night celebrating my birthday) and I was greeted by a neat and tidy homeless man (leather jacket, shiny black backpack and gray braid running down his back) who was sitting on the curb, eating noodle soup from a tall paper cup.

He smiled at me in a warm, friendly, non-threatening way and said, “Have any men told you yet that you’re beautiful today, 'cause you are.”

I laughed, going along with his flirting, but also being honest, and said, “Well, yes another man did tell me that today, already. But thank you, anyway.”

He stopped smiling and cocked his head. “Good. That’s the way it should be. You should hear it all of the time. And you should hang on to this guy, OK?”

“Hang on to him? I will if I can, but how do you ‘hang on’ to anyone? What’s your advice?”

I'd intended this as a harmless question. Or, if not completely harmless, I thought that an older homeless man chatting up a friendly, happy woman on a warm, sunny morning could certainly take it. But.

“That’s a serious question, beautiful. One that I want to be able to help you with.” He laid his soup cup on the curb and rubbed his short beard.  “But I think you’re talking to the most broken man in the world when it comes to 'hanging on' to anything.”

I was simply being playful with a stranger about “hanging on” to a man I care about, but I recognized that I struck a vein.  I decided that, instead of regretting what I’d said, I’d sit next to him on the curb and hear his story.

The conversation didn’t get clearer after I plopped down and we’d introduced ourselves. The fractured nature of his thoughts quickly became obvious. What I did learn was that is name is Oscar, he thinks Eve was a small, dark-haired woman who looked just like me, that he greets people by locking pinkies with them, and that he spent 25 years in prison.

But the words that stuck with, what I’m stitching here on this scrap of silkscreened fabric by Rebecca Ringquist, are these:

“I can’t believe that I could do
what they say I did.

I’ve been going over it in my head for 25 years.

No way. I miss him so much.

You can’t imagine how much I miss him, O.  Now I’m alone.

Who would want to be alone in this shit hole world?”

Must confess to some guilt about not making this stitched piece prettier. But fast, rough split stitch suits my mood about it. It was a beautiful interaction. And it was profoundly ugly.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sketches for the Great Curve & a Stitchgasm

Still in the sketching phase of a self portrait. I know that I need to make the move onto fabric and just start thread sketching. Moving slowly but I'm making progress.

Playing with the image against blue Balinese batik

I envision the piece on the blue Balinese batik ground fabric above. I think. I'm attracted to the watery colors with patterns of plant life upon it.  Trying to simply the image my friend Alex took in May 2011. Layering it on the fabric and on other sheets of paper. I just need a basic outline and then I'll let the stitching guide me.

Simplified outline pattern

I think I'll go with this very basic sketch to start with and take it from there. Removed the fingers from my shoulder and changed the hair, which was in a pony tail. This is a slow-going project. I'm  playing and sketching with thread.

With the holidays coming, I have all sorts of simple stitched gifts to make for friends and family. Luxuriating stitching simple things for my loved ones. But I can't show the work in progress here because I don't want to ruin any surprises. I can say that I'm stitching names, words, lightening, clouds, bears, squirrels and rabbits... but that's all that I'll say!

Spinach quiche for my fiber arts group

Been cooking and baking a lot and experimenting with new tools, like the pie cutters I used to make the leaf design above. Trying to bring visual pleasure to the experience of tasting my food. Hardly an original concept! Haven't been an overly hearty eater of late -- the stress of this year killed my appetite but as I get happier, it is coming roaring back. But I love food and preparing for people I care about. And trying to make it as lovely for them as I can.

On the inter webs front, I was uber geeked to be featured in a Stitchgasm from MrXStitch for my Do Not Eat! and Do Not Enter! hazard signs! And I'm grateful to Denise Fenton at for blogging about my Big Yes! features. I have a new Big Yes! in the works that is going to blow your freaking minds, peeps! Keep an eye out.

Finally, take a listen to the Talking Heads The Great Curve. As David Byrne sings: The world turns on a woman's hips.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Big Yes! Flea by MimiLove

Prepare to be overwhelmed by a wild symphony of color, paint, stitching, textures and imagery.

Detail from Flea, 2011, by MimiLove

Welcome to the fantastic world of MimiLove! She is a furnace of creativity and energy. I've never seen anyone doing work quite like hers.  An talented painter, Mimi creates multi-textured images on canvas and fabric, bouncing the color and compositions of her paintings against the layers of luminous needlework.

Take a look at the detail from her piece Flea. Mind you, this is just one small section of the piece, but look at the way the near rainbow of thread colors and variety of stitches (pierced into canvas, for f#ck's sake!) forms a lovely, unexpected membrane over the wash of paint underneath.

Her artwork has a feeling of depth that is unique. I want to say her images are encrusted with stitch and paint, but that word sounds too heavy and static for the lightness and energy they convey.

Detail from Pig, 2011, by MimiLove

Take some time to explore Mimi's beautiful artwork on her flickr stream. And treat yourself to reading her playful, music-infused blog. (Her etsy shop keeps me lusting, too.) Her posts are wonderful... she give her readers a window into this expansive, warm, creative soul. I'm not exagerating. Plus she writes about and literally shows, through photos of her work in progress, how she creates her artwork. You see the actual layers come together, like she does in this post about Flea. (As a stitcher and artist, I find it very generous of her to share the details of her process with us.)

Ahhh... Big Yes! to MimiLove! She is sunshine and artistry in stitch and paint. And I bet she tastes like a wild, unexpected cakelet.

"Big Yes!" is a new feature on my blog where I will, with their permission, share a piece of textile art that has opened my eyes to the possibility of what we can create.  When faced with things that are truly beautiful or moving or that fill me with awe, I try to say yes. More than that, Big Yes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Do Not Eat! at sea with Salvaged Mutiny... And my fun at the seashore

In its new home on ship

Can I tell you how happy I am that Do Not Eat! finished its journey to Salvage Mutiny (a.k.a. the textile artist Joanne Donne)?  The little embroidery has a new home on her ship, where it will take other journeys with its new owner, surrounded by a crazy collection of unstitched hazard symbols like the one above. I'd be in trouble surrounded by all of those signs!

Joanne blogged about it here, on her wonderfully named blog, "A Crafter at Sea." Her artwork is amazing and worth spending gobs of time exploring.

Yes! It's a self portrait while biking...skillz!

I'm back from a beautiful weekend at Nags Head on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Feeling sleepy but recharged. I trekked over dunes at Jockey's Ridge, wandered along the beach, hiked through swaps and wetlands, rode bicycles (which made me feel like a 10-year-old, pony-tailed girl) and luxuriated in the sunshine, fresh breezes and new smells. And in the fabulous company and conversation of my traveling companion.

Please, no martinis at Jockey's Ridge, NC.
(Photo & caption by Andy)
Stitching my small gifts for friends and feeling more confident about my bigger self-portrait, which I plan to sketch and design this week. In my darker moments, I wonder how I deserve all of this pleasure, happiness and creativity and I fear that it will come crashing down upon me.

New hazard sign to create and stitch: "No Darkness Allowed!"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stitching small but living HUGE

Struggling with a self portrait that I'm trying to do, so I've put it to the side and I'm working on small, simple, playful embroideries for people I care about.

Big Thunder 1

Stitched up this riotous thunder storm for a friend on a bit of tropical fabric I've had for years. It's a very simple and tiny piece that I finished in a couple hours. I used shiny silver rayon thread, alternating between one and three strands (depending on the thickness of the lightening) and did it all in split stitch.

Lightening bolts in silver split stitch

My intent was for him to put it on his office bulliten board and to make him laugh or smile when he looks at it.

Alex shares my tongue-in-cheek appreciation for
Neil Diamond...

Now I'm working on another simple little piece for Alex using this crazy purple cloud fabric...

Something nutty for my girl Juline

...and one for Juline using this bit of Japanese cotton that I just adore. I want to make them laugh a bit. To feel some of my happiness and love for them. And lightness. So much heavy stuff in all of our hearts.

I'll find my way back to the bigger pieces, right?

For now, I'll keep showering my huge affection on my peeps with smaller stitches.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Big Yes! Two Satrys by Bascom Hogue

How do you write about someone who so inspires you?

Two Satyrs by Bascom Hogue

Bascom Hogue is hardcore. A complicated, vibrantly talented artist and soul. Can you believe the stitches in this redwork artwork of two satyrs? The expression on their faces. The gesture of the hands of one satyr in the beard of the other. Look at the hatch marks -- simple lines -- that Bascom uses to depict the body and facial hair. Look at the varying thickness of the stitches around the outer edges.

And the beautiful satyr on the right... his Adam's apple has vulnerability and poignancy to it that takes my breath away. I can imagine the mad-eyed satyr opening his mouth and ripping into his throat. Bascom has depicted them as wild animals in near human form.

Detail from Two Satyrs

We are so lucky to have access to Bascom's work. I'm beyond fortunate to be able to communicate with him online... to hear his thoughts and musings about the world. On his blog, Bascom describes himself like this: "I like reading, sewing, art, food, dogs (I love dogs), animals, and people. My mother is Jewish and my father is Mennonite. I have a tendency to see two sides to most situations."

Spend some time on Bascom's blog or flickr stream. (His work is also featured in Push Stitchery by Jamie MrX Stitch Chalmers.)  Prepare to be unnerved. In the best sense.

"Big Yes!" is a new feature on my blog where I will, with their permission, share a piece of textile art that has opened my eyes to the possibility of what we can create.  When faced with things that are truly beautiful or moving or that fill me with awe, I try to say yes. More than that, Big Yes.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Two feathers, unworried, drift away

My simple little feathers are on the way to Jude Hill's Magic Feather Project where they will join hundreds of other feathers in some master project created by Jude's insanely imaginative mind.

At Umstead Park, where I hiked with Katherine

So nice to work on such a small project.

Clear & complicated

The tall feather represents a friend. It is long, clear and strong, like he is. But as I was stitching it, I realized that the feather is far more complicated than it looks, just like him. The piles of satin stitch look crisp, but they are densely packed and layered. They have a unpredictable texture, thicker in some places and finer in others. It's as if life has worn it down unevenly since it departed its bird.

Weathered but strong

The second feather, mottled and weathered, represents me. It is less crisp, more bent. It's missing patches, just like I am. But it is lovely in its own, worn way.

The ground fabric is a scrap of a silkscreen by Rebecca Ringquist, a wonderful Brooklyn-based textile artist from whom I was fortunate enough to take two embroidery classes at Squam Art Workshop back in 2010.

Sending these feathers, which I'll never see again, to the Magic Feather Project reminds me of an experience that I had a Machu Picchu many years ago. I was standing alone on the Sun Temple in the unfamiliar Andean light. The wind whistled in my ears. I was sad and worried but I couldn't say why. I wanted to connect to the incredible beauty and strange energy of the place, but I didn't know how.

Sun Temple, Machu Picchu, Peru

As ridiculous as it sounds, I pulled seven strands of hair out of my head and made wishes for seven people in my life, including myself. Wishes for peace and laughter and moments of joy. And I released each strand of hair into the wind. I started to feel self-conscious, ironic and to laugh at my own attempt at a ceremony. But my laughter was overpowered by an unexpected gasp of emotion and, instead, I cried. Not bitter tears. Just tears for my own smallness and aloneness in the vastness of that place and of the world.

Next to Reedy Creek Lake
I did not cry while sending these feathers off. So much has happened since those tears in Peru, so much has been lost. Now it's laughter and joy at being alive.

Why worry?