Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Even while I was finishing up April's project, I was thinking about May.

This may be my passion but it's not my career and I'm not exhibiting or selling my work to the general public, so I tend to just avoid altogether the issue of what to call what I do--I've gotten too frustrated trying to explain it to people who are never, ever going to "get it." So I usually don't mention it.

I stitch in public fairly often, but then I can just hold up whatever it is I'm doing and say this is what I do. (And it's most often knitting, which many more people are familiar with, because I need more light and magnification to see to stitch.) But last week I sat outside a meeting of academics, stitching away. (There's only so much work I can do away from my office and computer.) And my project engendered some interesting and insightful questions. I was working on the last band for April--the trees.

Surprisingly, no one asked me anything more than what I was doing and listened politely. One of the attendees was a needlepointer, which was fun. But the experience has me thinking about the issue all over again.

Since I was a teen, I've described it as "I make things." I think most any kind of making can be a creative outlet. I've made with wood, metal, paper, the computer, and words, but it's fibers and textiles for which I feel the most affinity.

For some time now I've been intrigued by the Hamsa motif (also here). I received one as a gift from a friend a couple of years back and have it on my key ring (much battered but still keeping me safe). It's a protection symbol. I've stitched it a few times over the past couple of years, mostly as small tags and ornaments. To me personally, the hand symbolizes the making aspect.

I've also been thinking about a vaguely remembered quote about the difference between art and craft. I tried to find it an couldn't. But it was basically that if you just used your hands, it was work. If you used your hands and your mind, it was craft. But if you used your hands, your mind and your heart, it was art. I'm not sure I agree with those distinctions but I like the concept of being fully engaged in the activity for it to even approach art.

I've begun combining the to concepts to create a Hamsa with a heart and an eye in the palm. I think I'll do it in layered felt, something I've been wanting to work with more ever since I saw this pillow on the cover of Stitch. So, I think pastels and perle coton with the felt (and perhaps some Watercolors. I want the pupil of the eye to be iridescent fabric or perhaps a shisha mirror. To make my hand I've broken the tradition of five fingers for the Hamsa, which has a lot of symbolism and which probably makes it no longer a Hamsa.

I traced my right hand and then placed my left hand over it, matching up my middle fingers, so now I have a seven-fingered hand (or five fingers with two thumbs). I placed a couple of paisley shapes at the bottom, to echo the curve of the thumbs. I'm still playing with these. I may use the halves of a yin-yang symbol, but so far it's not working out like I want.

I've also sketched in a viney flower growing from my middle finger that I'm liking. I'm aiming for a tree-of-life feel.

So, those are my first steps. I have felt out and perle. I was too tired after my embroidery group meeting last night to choose colors so I plan to start in tonight. (oh, as soon as I remember where I put my pinking shears--I think they'll be perfect for cutting the paisley shapes.


Tanguera said...

I like the image you drew. Should look really nice stitched.

coral-seas said...

I enjoyed your description of how the design developed. I like the seven fingered hand cupping the heart and eye. The design looks somewhat like an exotic flower. I look forward to seeing your stitched version

Jane said...

The plant at the top reminds me of beauty growing out of what your hands make. The symbolism is powerful.


Lynne said...

I love the design, it should look great stitched.

Lin Moon said...

I really like reading a description of your thinking process when coming up with this design. A lot of design is trial and error, isn't it, and I tend to forget that...