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Archeology of Memory

"Invention…does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos." Mary Shelley

I'm an archeologist of sorts…digging into stories, sometimes in the dirt, combing parking and building lots for metal bits and poking around thrift shops, abundant in my new home town with discarded, disregarded linens and lace. The ones I find of late, join a pretty vast collection already in my possession - holey, unholy tablecloths, post victorian collars, silk flamenco shawls, hems from discarded undergarments and virgin tatted trims. They span their as-is spectrum from bleached white to shades of ivory, malt and ochre, waiting to find renewal in my slowly stitched projects. Beyond blending the variety of textures and weaves is my fibers palette, I unify the range of colors by over-dyeing when the need arises. Often it happens before assembly, but when Cameo came to a design crossroad, I dared to immerse the laboriously stitched piece into a color bath of rust and tea. This is a higher stakes procedure, but occasionally, planning can be subordinate to what the process reveals.

I can identify three phases in my creative process: planning, stitching, review. But the steps are not always consecutive and often interrupt the planning, stitching or tweaking of projects already in the works. My preference for doodling sketches from my head, splashing around in a dye pot or stitching lines of thread into cloth is often the result of mood, energy level, how sore my fingers are or a pending deadline. The thing is, working in any phase is fertile ground for ideas. So are the book I'm reading, a dream I've had or what's for dinner. Thinking is threaded through real life like a loose and tangled tether, that zigzags organically, making connections and finding solutions. I try stay open.

Several months ago, I started a series about memory…a treatise to Alzheimer's Disease and my personal window into a profound well. As I began to scribble ideas and was three projects ahead of myself in planning, I came across a piece of fabric I had printed with a hand-carved block and some fabric paint tinted with turmeric. I had used it as a dye and knew it offered a shade of pale yellow that would contrast the muslin and taken in tea, it is good for memory.

When I worked on what I eventually called 27 stages of memory - the title emerging because there are 27 clumsy circles printed on that fabric - I would rest my needle-worn fingers while I unloaded new thoughts into the sketchbook. A thin pencil outline of another layout, concept words that emerged during stitching or a scrap of material or thread that fell serendipitously onto my worktable, were impressed on the paper to remind me what might be useful later.

When I was ready to begin Cameo, I returned to the drawing and the scrap of red mesh tucked into my notebook and had finished three other projects, the outcomes colliding with the drawings, the red mesh and the other notes dotted around the page. In the time between, the plan to insert a fishnet texture was abandoned. I had torn out and discovered new stitch forms, needled a jigsaw of fabric scraps into a Boston landmass, painted walnut ink shapes with a quill, bent wire into miniature fences, dyed paper with the dregs of my indigo vat and developed a shade of taupe dye that spun my neutral color wheel. The two previous projects and that thrift shop lace found its way to the worktable, then loosely basted to the foundation cloth.

All this and a couple of full moons had altered my view and reminded me of the practicality of work. Stitching changes everything slowly but spontaneously, whether good or not so. The lace pieces would be a metaphor of broken memory dampened by a murky gray to bring order to a story of chaos.

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