Tuesday, April 5, 2011

‘Cherchez la femme: remembering the mothers’

Another small quilt made quite quickly (in a day due to deadline) from ideas that had been gestating over quite a few months of thinking about the theme/requirements and the materials I had at hand. Made in response to an exhibition entitle “The Silk Road”, to be held at the Arts Society of Queenstown New Zealand, the basic requirement was that the quilt be at least $40% silk. Though I have used silk before, specifically raw Thai silk in my quilt for Litha (Summer Solstice), I usually work with cottons - but, like all quilters anticipating a challenge, I did have some silks in my stash! I wanted to keep the quilt small, and continue the idea given birth to in the previous quilt… to honour mothers and the acts of mothering. This has been a life theme of mine, since becoming mother almost 23 years ago – the experience gave me insights beyond understanding of what it means to ‘be’ and ‘become’ a mother.

The fabrics that inspired the quilt came from a ‘book’ of furnishing fabrics, salvaged and given to me by a colleague who knew of my quilting passion (thanks Cleona). Many of the samples for the curtains were from 100% silk – stitched and crimped - such luxury, but of course sizes were limited, being samples. The colours of the samples were so earthy, watery, elemental, reminding me of the earlier quilt and the influence of earth’s colours, in caves, of prehistoric images carved into and made from earth. Then I found other hand-dyed silks bought a long time ago - also in quite lovely earthy colours. These provided the 'background' to insert an image of Earth as Mother - ourselves as Mother of earth.

The image onto fabric from a screen print by Sue Swanson, produced when our children were quite young, was that of the Bird-headed Snake Goddess of early Egypt, symbol of re-turn to life re-newing itself (commonly referred to as 'fertility' from a male sexist point of view). Like all goddesses in prehistory, into the era of patriarchy, She too is hidden – as if behind a curtain, or veil, as many women still quite literally live out their lives and perform their life-sustaining and enhancing ‘duties’. 
For me this ancient image (deliberately hidden behind a 'curtain') inspires internal strength, courage in face of all odds, recognised in my own life experiences in be-coming woman, as a single parent for 22 years, and witnessed in the lives of other women - though the qualities exercised are most often overlooked, hidden and veiled.

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