Running With Stitches

"Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction, and somewhere in the terra incognito in between lies a life of discovery." Rebecca Solnit

When I played softball in the '70s, the rule of thumb was that there are no do-overs. Once pitched, hit or caught, the count counts. But this maxim contradicts my idea to revisit a piece of my textile work. No matter how many times I look at it, I'm haunted by the visual subtext of edges and lines and the words sketched by sewing machine into the terrain. After several of these ominous encounters I've decided to delve further into the reason by designing a "do over." It's a new ball game, because In art the rules are pliable and it's time to examine the parts of a piece I call "Orphan. De- and Re-construction is the best practice I know for getting to an understanding of what is demanding my attention.

Pressing forward into this unknown reflects to some extent the vastness of uncertainty that inspired the original. It is now 10 years since my father passed away, just over a year after my mother's physical departure. This scenario brings one to the cusp of mortality salted with an accompanying awareness of loss and abandonment. Maybe I'm still searching for clarity among those emotions and the art adventure is my vehicle of choice.

In the meantime, over the past couple of years I've been solicited to share work on several FB chain art-challenges. They are an interesting balance between compliment and nuisance that requires the participants to add images of their work and name other artisans to participate. The dailiness of posting demands rapid planning, whether shooting pictures or poring over digital files, deciding on a theme, or not. But forcing myself to reconvene with prior work had spurred some positive discoveries that deepen my connection to that work and the stories it tells. The sharpened needle points to rebuilding the "Orphan."

I started with a sketch of the contrasty parts, where the values invariably draw my eye - the dark horizontal ladder of fabric strips against the paler foundation. I decided to use this cropping of the whole as an automatic indicator of "new orphan's" new direction. I began to construct the foundation patchwork according to the drawing - light, medium, medium dark, dark -while referring to the original for fabric choices. Ten years ago I used fewer hand dyes, relying on commercial Indian and Guatemalan wovens, batiks and prints. I chose to dig into my stash for similar materials as part of the challenge, but also substituted value for texture and pattern when necessary. Edge quality is still a very important consideration.

When the foundation pieces were arranged and basted, I began to add the "ladder" elements. This time, because of my current working methods, I chose from selvages which have length and the frayed thread of raw edges. I began to draw with the strips, testing twists and turns that resonated with the feeling of the original piece. These were stitched in place in various ways, tacked or couched, incorporating the stitch as a visible element or burying them in folds. The raw edge "island" of the original was reinterpreted in reverse appliqué. I layered contrasting cloth beneath the surface, considering, then cutting with certain uncertainty to stitch with broad or narrow satin embroidery.

I wasn't pleased, but kept stitching, cutting more openings in the surface, tracing imaginary channels in a range of stitch patterns, seeing clown faces laughing back at me from the cloth as I attempted to honor that orphaned girl.

Then I drowned her or at least drowned the hopeless return to past work, failed ideas and flawed memory. But when the tide of indigo retreated into the basin twice, the landscape of cloth had softened into smudges of new blue stepping stones to the mainland of my next project.

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