Tag Archives: stitchery

Cruel crewel world…

Too hot and humid Saturdays sent us to ReStore many more times than usual over the summer. Wintertime usually means thrifting time, but when it’s too hot to hike or work in the yard, it is the second best option to staying cooped up in the house.

(We sadly only made it to the beach once this year – the dog wasn’t ready to be on his own for more than an hour or so for much of the time, and Sundays are the better day to go around here to avoid the crowds somewhat anyway…)

I’ve already yammered on about some of my recent thrifted fiber, functional storage, and furniture acquisitions of late, but I also picked up some more knitting pattern books (a tale for another day) and other’s abandoned stitchery works-in-progress.

I’ve been mildly interested in doing some woolly embroidery projects over the last couple of years – not enough to actually plan and start any, but enough to pick up random skeins of crewel wool.

crewel-yarn

Again and again…

crewel-basket

(There’s an antique mall in the sticks close to family we visit that has a never-ending supply of the stuff for like $1 a baggie – it’s also the home to other great fiber finds – especially this basket and this basket.)

But I haven’t gotten much further than this except to page through my mother’s old bargello book and idly think about re-creating her optical illusion pillows of my youth (that no longer exist – at least one was partially consumed by the family dog) only in colors I like rather than the popular ones of excrement in the ’70s – browns and golds, while lovely on the forest floor, will always be poo and pee to me in home decor – though I think one of the pillows (the one that was chewed beyond repair) was browns and oranges or just orange with ombre browns, which I do like…

But regardless, I guess I did think about it some, but not overly so, until I found a complete, just started crewel kit over the summer.

I really liked it – squirrels and frogs and owls and caterpillars and all weirdly similarly-sized – what’s not to love? And I imagined stitching it up in a cabin on vacation and then making a pillow for my spinning chair out of it. But for shits I looked up what it might sell for and though it varied widely, it could easily bring over $10. $10 is usually the limit by which I bother to sell something online. But I figured it was an okay sacrifice since I’d only paid $1, and I’d be honing my embroidery skills and getting something I truly liked.

crewel-picture

But then I looked closer…

crewel-frog-bunny

And the original stitcher used the wrong colors – the frog was supposed to be more grey-green, and the bunny grey not brown…

Now, I am so not about “the rules” and I rarely follow instructions completely (though there are times when I should a bit more) but in a kit,* I get a bit itchy  about this stuff – is there enough spare wool in the right colors to fix it, or if I don’t, will I end up with a grey instead of a brown stick? And though it’s minor and I could let it slide, I’d still like better contrast between the greens of the frog and the greens of the reeds, and then the fact that this kit has such a wide range of colors is partly why I found it so appealing, so use the whole range of colors, dammit!

But then it could be sad – the original stitcher could have been loosing her eyesight… Abandoned projects found at the thrifts always come with a bit of melancholy – either whiffs of things coming to and end with fingers and eyes and minds, or frustration, or death and disposal – but that is also what I find appealing about them – a chance to resolve themselves and become the things they set out to be, or different from their earlier failure and abandonment but redeemed nonetheless.

But this little froggy and bunny will probably go to auction after all…

*I’ve never made something from a kit beyond a latch hook horse pillow 30 something years ago, so kits in general make me itchy.

 

 

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Filed under collecting, home decor, sewing, thrifting

Child stitchery (not in a sweatshop)…

On a trip to visit my folks (I won’t say home because they tragically (for me) sold it some years ago) earlier this summer, I finally found this little fabric picture that used to hang in my bedroom.

Birdscene

The scene is one I drew, and drew quite often as a slightly obsessive little sh*t, and at the dumbsh*t age when I didn’t comprehend that the sky wasn’t just up there and therefore depicted it as a stripe.  So let’s say I was four, or should four-year-olds understand how the sky works?  So maybe I’ll say three…  Regardless, my mother deemed my “Bird In Flight to Nest” precious and decided to turn it into a sewing lesson.  I’ll say that it was my first, but I really don’t know.  She cut out the pieces, sewed the margins on the machine, and gave it to me to applique.  I do clearly remember getting somewhat bored or frustrated with it, and it is also quite clear that she finished it for me and then added a few embroidered embellishments.  I don’t know if this took place in the span of a day or I abandoned it for some time and she got tired of having it only partially completed for weeks or months.  I also don’t remember if it was during the one truly massive blizzard of my youth (though I think I was down with the chicken pox then) or in the leisurely long days before I had to go to school.  Either way, it was something I did as a child wherein my hands and mind were engaged (and it wasn’t so traumatic that I didn’t want to do it again).

Birdscene-det

This was before the recent cringe-worthy days of fashionable “upcycling.” Smack in the 1970s when fuel crises, a renewal of the back to the earth movement, thoughts of Silent Spring, and the birth of Earth Day were kicking around.  My parents left their urban home to escape air pollution, overcrowding, and to grow wholesome organic food on a few idyllic acres.  We were also broke-ass poor, so recycling old clothes into craft projects was both a necessity and entirely practical – how many thousands of years have we just used what we have and then used it some more?  Why should this now be a trendy buzzword to help sell our crafty stuff?  Convince the buyer that her materialism is ok because it’s upcycled and therefore she is a conscientious fabulous person?

Fabric is fabric is fabric… and is infinitely re-usable.  Sometimes the perfect print is on a bolt, sometimes it’s a pair of pants… you’re not special for using or buying either one.

But back to the picture.

The components are:

Sun:  I assumed the terrycloth sun was salvaged from a much abused towel, but my mom said it was leftover fabric from some shorts she made for my brothers as small children in the 1960s… I’m not sure I’d like terrycloth shorts… they seem so, absorbent?

Tree trunk:  Yep, that’s my dad’s old tie – gotta love plaid neck wear…

Sky:  Leftovers from a quilt my mother made for me of yellow, green, and blue gingham to match my wallpaper of the same colors (only the wallpaper also had puke tones in it too).

Flowers, eggs, bird parts:  Felt scraps – who didn’t have random felt scraps lying around?

Nest:  Burlap feed sack – we lived on a little farm with little animals and a pony.  Food for them came in burlap bags.

Bird:  This is an odd denim/oxford cloth hybrid that was probably clothing in its former life.

Grass, leaves:  We can’t remember what these scraps are from, but I wore various homemade calico skirts, shorts, halter tops (remember, 1970s over here) and dresses.

Background:  This could have been leftover paining canvas or material for rustic curtains.

And even though this turned into a rage against the preciousness of upcycling, it was originally meant to be a rage against not teaching children how to sew or make bread or brush animals or do anything constructive with their hands.  Yeah, there are a few schools that teach such things, but as a whole we’re becoming such boring dumb-asses with our iSh*t.

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Unwelcome anniversaries and considering the future…

It’s been about a year since we sold our house, leaving my old studio and city behind, and we still haven’t found a new place to live.

And it’s been over a year since being becoming vastly underemployed, partially unemployed, and a beaten-down depressed chronic job seeker with no prospect in site and more rejections (or just silence) than a sane person can handle.

unemployment

For the first six months I was generally stunned, then I started this blog to force myself to organize my projects and to start writing again – an act that grad school pretty much killed well over a dozen years ago.  My graduate degree is a practical/professional one and though it has led to wonderfully interesting jobs dealing with other people’s art and historic things, I’ve long been thinking of going for a MFA.  I have a BFA in studio arts, and I’m a little hesitant to tell you that it’s in photography, specifically darkroom photography.  And I’m reluctant to say so because I still can’t get the hang of or love for this digital thing and I’m struggling with an aging cheap-ass point and shoot that goes to absolute shite in less than bright light, and chooses its own color schemes for life… I think that is the whole white balance thing… so don’t judge me based on my blog pics (and I’m talking to you DSLR fairy).  But back to the school question – last fall I visited some grad school open houses and felt a bit stunned again.  I thought I wanted to keep pursuing photography (and that’s where my portfolio is strongest) but the “studios” were windowless offices with computers.  Sure, they had a few darkrooms but they didn’t seem to be used, and the professors’ work didn’t appear to be wet… I felt very old and sad.  On a whim, I checked out the fiber arts studios and whoopie!  I felt so much better but I don’t have much of a portfolio of fiber “art.”  And herein lies the rub and the shreds and threads of my thoughts:

I like photography partly because of the extra semi-nonthinking processes involved – you could always print when you hit a slump just like with fiber you can always spin/cut up something/trim/baste/back/dye/card, etc.

My original beloved medium of wet/darkroom photography has nearly gone the way of the Dodo, and yet I’m still attracted to aging/ancient practices that have no footing in “technology.”  (Maybe I need to start a group for Paleo artists!)

A MFA won’t necessarily aid in securing employment but would compliment my other degree and open up teaching opportunities (yeah, like those aren’t scarce too… yeah, yeah).

And oh, by the way the only way I could afford it is if I got some sort of fellowship/scholarship/TA position, so I should just stop thinking about this now.

And art schools specifically don’t want unemployed people in them who are choosing this time to go back since they can’t get hired.

But the only themes I keep circling around for developing a portfolio deal with unemployment, so I need to either portray myself as making a statement about others, or embrace it and own it and make it big and mine.

But fiber art is still not considered an art (but a craft) by some (which is also a bit of a problem with photography as well).

Fiber art is still largely considered a feminine practice and that carries various implications, many financial.

Art school has a huge population of those stinking to high hell of bullsh*t.

I would have to be earnest and appear to struggle with some existential/feminist/socialist/inter-planetary/scientific/somethingistic ennui that is reflected in my work lest I be considered just a bored housewife dabbling with a hobby.

And if I don’t get the legitimacy of a terminal degree behind me and just stick with my own thing, won’t I always be stuck in the darkening hole of selling more affordable, practical, crafty things at shows and online?

Craft is now all over the place and exciting and annoying and everything in between, but turning more and more annoying, really annoying – commercial and saccharine and too much group think and fan clubby.

So many “crafters” are making amazing art and some “artists” are making crappy craft, where is the line?

And fiber crafters have a large conservative population who can get their panties in a bunch over a quilt that says “fuck.”  Really?  Good god, there are some many horrid things in this world that your politicians and corporations are doing and you deem a quilt offensive?

And Etsy etc. has really f*cked up the independent crafter/artist.

Technology has been a mixed f*ckery as well – I hate social media yet it is required these days and can really get you out there, yet an “artist” can’t look too approachable lest she seem more of a “crafter?”

And don’t get me started about the f*ckery of images being stolen from artists on the web – I’ve been following this blog about an artist who got massively f*cked by online image theft, or of clothing companies blatantly stealing indie designer’s work.

So these days artists have even more opportunity to get f*cked (unless they can already afford to be one through independent means and then are you an artist or just a rich kid with a paintbrush?).

And then art museums are full of fat-cat f*ckers and funded and run by people I generally despise.

And ultimately I just got majorly f*cked by the museum world so why would I want to skate so close to it again?

Yeah, everything is just a little bit f*cked up right now.

fiddlyfuck*

(But it could be worse, much, much worse so I can’t complain toooo much….)

*Title courtesy of N’s late salty old grandfather who used the term in noun form when the grandchildren weren’t doing anything productive as in, “Quit playing fiddlyf*ck.” 

And I keep using the * in “bad” words in an effort to deflect censorship/filters, etc. – does that even work and/or is it even necessary…?

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Filed under art school, sewing, unemployment

Who’s my momma?

thrift stitchery

In the sometimes sad cruel world of thrift shop discards, I occasionally come across some artistic foundlings.  Who wouldn’t dream of finding a lost masterpiece/rare historic document/load of cash hidden behind a paint-by-number rendition of a horse in the desert?  But sadly, the only hidden score I’ve ever made was five bucks stuck to some used gum in a jacket pocket.  But once in awhile I’ll come across some decent handmade items – amateur paintings that are crude but appealing, wonky but charming efforts from a ceramics class, or stitchery – much in the way of beautifully embroidered home items.  With vintage stitched tablecloths, napkins, dresser scarves and the like, I assume they were made by a long ago grandmother.  They were lovingly kept, passed on, and possibly used for decades until the family ended, someone had to make a significant move or downsizing and was sad to let them go but had to, or the maker was a mean old bag and no one wanted her crap.  But these two wool canvas work pictures caught my eye since they didn’t seem to fit the mold of someone making them long ago or an assignment for a community arts class or freshman art 101.  One was framed professionally, and the other somewhat sloppily.  I’m dating them to the 1980s since the whale pattern reminds me of the cotton lining of a kelly green rubber raincoat I wore with navy duck shoes* that I had then.  The primary colors in the other also make it a good fit for the decade, or perhaps as early as the late 1970s.  I haven’t dismantled them enough to see if the canvas was printed and thus a kit, and thus I wouldn’t really be interested in them anymore, so I don’t want to know quite yet.  So I am seeking opinions, identifications, possible makers, reference leads – help?  I found them in a Goodwill in Mahopac, Putnam County, New York last fall on the way up to Rhinebeck 2012.

*Links for visual references only, I’m not pushing this Etsy shop, nor is it mine.

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