Thursday, July 30, 2015

Possible textile applications

Starting to think about textile applications I have re-visited the method used to ‘create’ the fabric for some bowls made many years ago, by cutting fabrics into small triangles, overlaying them and then stitching back and forth to anchor them. For this 3D installation of three textile bowls, I was working with the theme of Virgin, Mother, Crone, as THE Source. The triangular shape used represents the pubic triangle, a symbol used from earliest times and understood to signify the seat of all life expressed through the female body. There is no other way of interpreting this reality: it is not ‘faith’; it is physical fact. Consequently, I have started to cut some smallish triangular shapes, mainly in white – but think I’ll need red also, with Vliesofix backing (iron-on glue) to enable attachment – but still unsure of how they will be used. Below is the red bowl, symbolizing the life-giving blood of Mothers on the inside. The outside is covered in black to represent woman as Crone, growing old in the mystery that is her wisdom.

I have started making some sketches in order to consider how the concepts might be fitted into the form. Here's the first drawing...more to come no doubt. this one shows the symbols for the constellation of Cancer (crab) and the cluster of the Pleiades, including the seven point star also represented on the Australian flag. I want to include other imagery: moon phases, the life cycle of stars, fire-crackers (at the request of Jan...would you believe?) It's starting out towards the light.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Universe quilt unfolding

While thinking about Jan’s quilt I have realized that the Universe story has featured in many of my previous quilts. Here is one, which I titled ‘Harvest moon over the blue planet’. Though the colour representation is not very good in this image (taken on my phone tonight – I do have slides, but they need converting – my website has a good image), I’m putting it up to be inspired! Next blog will have some drawings, thinking about for the overall design.

This is the quotation inscribed on the back of the quilt in the previous post, which inspired its name:
“That which blossomed forth as cosmic egg 15 billion years ago now blossoms forth as oneself, as one’s family, as one’s community of living beings, as our blue planet, as our ocean galaxy clusters. The same fecund source – then and now.” 

(Brianne Swimme, 1996, p.111, “The hidden heart of the cosmos”, Orbis: NY.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Gestating ideas and images

In answer to a FB quiz question ‘what is your strongest quality’, I answered the 10 questions and received the answer: intellect. I wished it had been ‘creativity’, and then realized that my creativity does find its source through the intellect. All of the quilts I’ve made for the Wheel of the Year series have been didactic in origin and intent – to raise awareness is the role of the artist, no?  Jan’s Universe quilt is not different in the first intention, perhaps a little different in the second, it being a personal commission. It may still have interest for others in the story to be told of the influences.

 Though I love the dark skies lit by myriads of stars on a clear night, I’ve never had a deep interest in the science of astronomy for this quilt, though I do know the names of some of the constellations - and of course love the Southern Cross. Art making is always a learning process for both the art maker and the recipient - but more on this later.
I’m currently honing up on the story of the Universe  as a personal story, from inclusion through birth, death and regeneration. I’m inspired by a comment from Jan in an email, in which she said that she looks at the stars every night before sleeping (she lives on a property away from city lights), feeling  “surrounded and held” by the Universe. Rather than being a small and insignificant part, as is often the way people express their relationship with the greater Universe, Jan feels gratitude at being part of the ‘immense, creative, expanding consciousness’, that IS the Universe becoming manifest – as do I. My consciousness about how to develop her quilt is expanding as I keep searching online, in my heart and soul, to represent Jan’s sense of place in the Universe. Shown here are some images I’ve been collecting, as seeds gestating in the dark. Not sure how, or indeed whether they will show up in the quilt.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A version of the Pleiades

The Pleiades...hmmm pretty magical. Aboriginal story takes inspiration from this consellation - have to check it out. More to follow.

A “Universe” quilt, commissioned by Jan (January 2015)

The starting point: in the dark!
It’s not often that one is asked to represent the Universe in a quilt – let alone a small quilt to hang on a wall. I have fabrics cut in preparation for my own Universe quilt, which I hope one day I will sleep under – when it is finished! My quilt is quite simple, based on a design fom a quilt book. Using mostly hand-dyed cottons cut into various widths and pieced together quite randomly is the idea – though “random” is hard for me since I have to relinquish control.
I made a quilt for friend Jan a few year ago, which was called “The magpie quilt”, and was based on her memoir “Coming home to myself” (previous blog 6/12/12). Jan has asked me to record in fabric for her walls another (unwritten) chapter of her story: the influence of the bodies and energies of what we know as “the Universe” (– though we may not really know its extent).
Jan tells me in a brief email about her concepts of the Universe, revealing possible underlying themes, which could include stories of the ‘feminine and the sisterhood of all women’ as ‘expressions of the universal essence as is all form that is manifest – from the tiniest to the grandest… all the vitality and unity, manifested in different forms – often very fleeting – eternal and fleeting.’ Jan recognizes the paradox in this exchange of the fleeting nature of universal energy, becoming manifest and returning to energy, and although I ‘get it’ in my mind/body system, I wonder how such can be represented – manifested in a small quilt, big ideas in a small space is always a challenge.

Then some symbolic representations are provided: ‘moon, sun and the seasons, and stars.’ Important stars are the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, which Jan looks at with the naked eye, as well as seeing them through telescope: ‘they are beautiful and magical'. Jan acknowledges the wide range of myths associated with the constellation, where so often the female aspect of these stories is ‘subsumed into the male stories’. So, this is the 'brief', in brief, and the spark of inspiration germinating in the dark. Next installment coming very soon.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

More on the ‘economy’ of the gift

Lewis Hyde’s reference to the gift as an ‘erotic’, biophillic exchange applies to this quilt; it promotes 'flourishing' (Grace Jantzen, 1998, Becoming divine: towards a feminist philosophy of religion). The small label that was stitched to the back of the original tablecloth is now on the back label of the quilt (as shown in previous blog, and here again). 

It reads “Soul catcher”, which I feel is epitomizes the elements of a gift exchange, where the soul or spirit of a community of people – here quilters – is recognized and flourishes in the ‘’moving”, the handing on of the object. My soul received nourishment in the receiving, as I believe did Annie’s in the stitching, and Sheila’s in the finding and seeing the value of the cloth.  Without art for its own sake, offered, received and moved on as a gift, the economy governing creativity can become at best artificial, or at worst, oppressive – which is the threat of a capitalist democracy’s unreserved reverence for ‘market triumphalism’ as Hyde calls it, (as though the market were a person). Certain values we hold important cannot be held by a market economy derived by the unregulated, exclusive and individual search for personal gain, without some things losing out. Things such as pure science, art and a spiritual life (unlike a ‘religious’ life), cannot be included in the economy unless by way of a gift; it is a contradiction in terms. And what is required to make sure these values remain active? The recognition of our indigenous spirit and the methods provoked and engendered over multiple generations for maintaining our communities and reciprocal values. There are different ways people do this. I do it through the recognition of the seasonal cycles of Earth as a means for informing and re-storying my indigenous consciousness.

While Hyde uses folk tales to demonstrate the power of the gift exchange to demonstrate the necessity of the arts and sciences as ends in themselves, recently the film “The woman in gold” did so for me. With a Klimt portrait as the central image, with its value to the community (of Austria) and the rightful ownership (by a Jewish family during WW2) being disputed – the artwork moved on. In the movement achieved the purpose of the artwork as a community 'be-longing': the value of the work as a market commodity was retrieved and distributed by the owner to many other community foundations. It is not uncommon for women who have made quilts to gift them to others. After the 2013 October fires in the Blue Mountains, in which over 200 homes were lost to the fires in only a matter of hours, mostly in the close vicinity to where I live. The result of a call for donations of quilts to help those who had lost all was unbelievably generous, with well over a thousand quilts being donated.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Art as ritual gift as community

“The Gift: how the creative spirit transforms the world” has been called a type of ‘manifesto’, written by Lewis Hyde and first published over thirty years ago. It seems to have had various subtitles with different editions, but is essentially about the mysterious role and purpose of creativity and the artist in the world of a market economy, such as has developed over the last four or five decades in particular – when the essential act of creating art has no material value and cannot be bought or sold. It raises question about how we place value on the creative arts in our society: as a commodity whose value is governed by market forces or as a gift to enlighten and nurture us, to maintain community bonds and express underlying shared values? Treating art purely as a commercial enterprise, are we in danger of ignoring its deeper, eternal worth? Or can we allow our art to be expressed in a context where ‘the true commerce of art is a gift exchange,’ the fruits of which is a ‘creative spirit whose fertility is not exhausted in use’ and which contribute to ‘the sense of plenitude which is the mark of all erotic exchange… as agents of transformation, and to a sense of an inhabitable world – …towards a civilization in which the realized gifts of the gifted stand surety for the life of the citizenry’ (p.161). His use of the term ‘erotic’ is in the sense of procreative, the ‘life-giving’ role of art in its relationship with a social economy, ‘…for a true image has a life of its own.’ Underpinning all claims is his assertion that there needs to be movement between the gift and those who accept it, a ‘passing along’ in order to fulfill its role of ‘increase’ to the society through its redistribution (pp.34-37).
There is much more to this exploration of the role of the arts than can be satisfactorily summarized here – it takes much thoughtful reading! But in the gift bestowed of the hand-quilting of the Celtic tablecloth I am conscious of the ideas coming into form as an image of the mystery that is the gift of procreation, for the maintenance of the life of the group. Gift-giving is a ritual so much more important as nourishment for the soul (either of the individual or the group) than religious dogmas and observances.