Friday, December 6, 2013

Writing from Sewing's Rhythms

There's a rhythm to sewing that comes when I'm making something. The sound of the thread going through the fabric, the pierce of the needle (a tiny pop), the knot being pulled under, the machine whirring through a seam, or the endless buzz of free-motion quilting.

Piecing creates a rhythm of its own, too, and that's why often like to improvise. When I'm improvising, I move between putting fabrics together, stepping back to look at them to decide if there's balance in color, and sewing them together. It acquires its own pacing, different for each quilt, and when I'm caught up in it, the quilt comes together quickly.

I like how this sewer describes her sense of rhythm in sewing: Simply Sewing Studio

The same is true for writing, and though I don't move from sewing to writing in the same space of a day, I do the same kind of composition, paced with stepping back and thinking. Put the parts together, caught up in the rhythm, and then step back to see if they fit. Is there a sense of balance? Writing has its own heat and cool, tightly-composed and loose patterns -- quickly paced dialogue, intense disagreement or tension, a lull in a description of a landscape.

How do the pieces fit together? Is there harmony or dissonance? (Well...that's a sound analogy but it's all the same -- where is the friction, the differently weighted fabric, the flash of color, and where do the colors shift subtly from one to the next?)

I love what Lyn Hejinian has to say in "Against Closure." It explains, in part, why I'm interested in nonlinear novels and nonfiction, like Carole Maso's work and Claire Donato's Burial, and why the quilts that I'm making now are often unbound and show the traces of their making -- knots on their surfaces, etc.. This is also a move stolen from the 1960s Postmodern fashion, and Alabama Chanin's work, whose clothes I love with their reverse applique and knots left on the surface (thanks to my friend Amy B. for introducing me to them). I also love how Kathryn Clark uses the technique in her work of foreclosure quilts.

How do writers make their moves explicit? I guess that's often in narration and voice, as in some of Alice Munro's stories (Silence, for example), where the narrators shift from present to past, taking the reader along with them without any explication of those leaps in time. We come to understand the leaps as the story moves along, but the "seams," the leaps from time to time, are left unfinished and rough. They're not explained and made pretty. It's not the front of the seam that we see, but the back -- the back made front.

This is becoming an essay, for another form and time.

Happy making.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

School & Sewing

Now that the semester has begun, the time for sewing is pretty limited. But, I'm still making entries in my fabric notebook, and got to take the train to NY for an overnight last week for a heavy dose of art and literature. Good times.

The MOMA gave me lots of inspiration, starting with some photographs by Georgia O'Keefe (I'd never seen any of her photos before). Strangely, my own hands are reflected in this woman's:

On my way out of the museum, I spent some time with this piece by El Anatsui; I'd seen it through a doorway when I walked to the second floor, and was saving it for last. The Boston MFA has one of his pieces as well, and I saw another in Paris; I soak them up where I find them. I love the combination of pounded-down caps and bits of metal in this great woven piece, and I learned on this visit that he allows the exhibition staff to bend the piece as they see fit--an interesting element of interaction/collaboration.

 The dripping red is haunting in this one. I've been thinking a lot about labor and consumerism, and this piece with its hundreds of bottle caps and metal scraps makes me think about that. And in one of the classes that I'm teaching, we're reading work by Chinua Achebe (from Nigeria, of course, where El Anatsui lives and works). We'll look at El Anatsui's work in class. The most marvelous Art21 has an episode about him available online: There, you can really see how flexible the pieces are (he calls them "fluid") during an installation.

And, his work was recently shown at the Brooklyn Museum, and here's what they have to say about it: 

"The metal wall works, created with bottle caps from a distillery in Nsukka, are pieced together to form colorful, textured hangings that take on radically new shapes with each installation. Anatsui is captivated by his materials’ history of use, reflecting his own nomadic background. Gravity and Grace responds to a long history of innovations in abstract art and performance, building upon cross-cultural exchange among Africa, Europe, and the Americas and presenting works in a wholly new, African medium."

I also saw one of Andy Warhol's Rorschach pieces:

and came home and made my own, sewn ode to Andy's:

I think it looks like a deer head. What do YOU see?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hand sewn

I've been doing a lot of stitching by hand, and my wrist is sore. So, today is for writing here instead, forcing myself to give my arm a break.

School is starting soon (any day now!), and I'm still relishing in the work-mode I got into while here this summer:

I started a new project, and wrote lots on a project that was already underway. Lucky times.

More to come soon, as teaching gets underway, but I'm also REALLY looking forward to this show, which Danielle Krcmar, Babson's Artist-in-Residence, and I co-curated. Most of the quilters are part of my book, which is coming out oh so soon...And I'm looking forward to seeing them, and their quilts, in person!

Sept. 18-Nov. 1, with an opening and artists' talk on Sept. 18 at 5pm in Hollister Hall foyer at Babson College.