Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Something Almost Finished...

I started this way back in Jude's Contemporary Woven Boro class, to help me think through the process of using found cloth.

The base is made of this sheet, a strip of a flannel sheet, part of an embroidered tablecloth and the lace edge of a pillowcase. I dyed the pillowcase strips with black walnut husks.

The bits assembled as appliques on top- Jude's mosaic method- are some of these cloths I wrote about a couple of days ago, and some from a quilt I found in the garbage years ago.

This little jewel was a gift from Arlee, and fell into place one day after I saw Grace at Windthread use her similar shimmering orb from Arlee here on The Daughter Cloth.

Arlee's gift to me (not to mention her gift as an artist) is reflected by this little jewel printed on a cotton patch from the wormy train track quilt. This is THE flaming pearl so sought after by the dragons that often populate Chinese textiles, symbolic of the human pursuit of wisdom. This one certainly did give me plenty to think about.

I used lots of stitches on this, in part because the base cloth needed it. It is a poly-cotton blend (it is a hospital sheet, made to endure the rigors of commercial laundering), and so it is tough. It is also very worn, and so it rippled, pulled and gaped. The stitching makes it supple, smooth and soft. Kind of evens it out.

I also used lots of these cross stitches. The yellow ones are from the embroidered table cloth that makes up part of the base cloth, and to me they look like sutures. So they function to hold the seams together. And I think they look like scars.

My initial feeling was that I wanted the tablecloth and pillowcase here to refer to a safe domestic life- that is what they mean to me. And I wanted them to confront the tragedy of homelessness which the sheet carries. I wanted to fuse them (back) together.

But that impulse continues to make me uncomfortable, because it oversimplifies the meaning of the sheet. 'Homelessness' isn't just the opposite of 'homed'. Sometimes it is also a story of autonomy and being 'vagrant', as in unrestrained and exceeding control, trespassing. My own habitual trespassing is why I found the sheet in the first place, and brings my world and the sheet's previous owner together after all.

So the orbs and these little off-grid squares remind me of this trespassing and passages-that-aren't-usual, but that have their own integrity.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Where Most of the Cloth Comes From

Deb G over at Bee Creative showed a picture of a path she walked along the other day- a former rail line now converted to a pedestrian path. Our city is considering the same kind of thing with some of the excess edges of the railway lines that crisscross our neighbourhood. I like the idea, because it would formalize the way many of us already use this space. These informal uses are illegal, of course, and while not really dangerous (we only walk the edges), we are of course treading on private property, no matter how unmonitored it is.

The railway lines are treated as an informal commons around here- this is a car-free shortcut between two homeless shelters, a quiet breezy space in the evening, even on the hottest day, a place to rest and have a break, a place to walk an inquisitive dog. This is where we find most of the cloth I use, left behind by people sleeping out rough for the night.

The railway lines are also an unmanaged green space- a wildlife corridor linked up to the river in fact. Moles, snakes, mice, rabbits, groundhogs all make a home here. Falcons and hawks hunt here. We found the wing of a wild turkey not far from where this picture was taken, late last fall, so big predator mammals find a home here, too.

As an unmanaged green space, full of the native meadow plants that can thrive here, it is also prime pollinator habitat, and every summer evening you will see any number of butterflies.

I worry, a bit, about the potential of formalizing it. I won't miss having to know the shift schedule of the railway police, but I worry a bit that we will lose the commonality of access this place has. If you are willing to risk passing some time with the train cops....

So this is where most of my cloth comes from, where it gets its marks. I think this place gives it identity.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Indigo Has Passed Away...

And so it seems my indigo vat has passed away. I now realize I missed its fermentation- waiting for something more obvious. But I think I learned a lot trying even this, and have enough indigo left for one more try when the weather turns hot again. I did soak a strip of iron pre-mordanted cotton in the vat after I was sure it had stopped fermenting for about 40 hours, and here it is after two real launders.

The colour is not bleeding when it is rinsed, but I am pretty sure the colour is just sitting on the cloth, and did not actually dye the fibers. But it is so lovely hanging on the line that it attracted a lovely little visitor this morning, who stayed around warming up in the sun.

She cast a lovely morning shadow, too.