Wednesday, 20 February 2013

'The Enlightenment of a Housewife' explained

Several people have asked me about the title of my Blog, so here is the story behind the title.

In December 2002 I received a letter that I was selected as a finalist in the Charles Henry Foyle Trust Award for Stitched Textiles. I was invited to create a textile work on the theme of 'Metamorphosis', which would then be exhibited in Forge Mill Needle Museum in Redditch and further at the Royal Society of Artists in Birmingham.

The theme of  'Metamorphosis' as a subject couldn't have been closer to me, then right at that time, as I was going to do a special meditation retreat, involving a major shift of consciousness and expansion.
I have been meditating on a daily basis since 1983 and have discovered a wealth of inspiration and insights which changed my life for the better, in many different ways. Without it, I wouldn't be who I am today. Whenever I can, and is appropriate, I like to express some of my insights into my textile work. So this is what I decided to do for the 'Metamorphosis' exhibition.

An old laundry drying rack, left in the airing cupboard by the previous owners of our house, was the starting point. It brought back memories and associations of the recurrent job of 'doing the laundry' from the 'cradle to the grave'. According to brand advertisers, a job, in which we would aspire to get the 'perfect white wash' if we would use the right detergent.  Ambiguity galore!

'Doing the laundry', and any other forms of cleaning, are some of the typical tasks of a housewife. They are part of her identity. Meditation is like a cleaning process in which we undo ourselves of all the different identities we tend to take on, in order to realise who we really are. Traditionally this is thought to be a goal realised by very few men, often monks who devote their whole lives to this and submit themselves to extreme measures of discipline and meditation. With this installation, 'The Enlightenment of a Housewife', I wanted to challenge this tradition and any other beliefs that the viewer might hold. Each transparent cloth is inspired by traditional towels and cleaning cloths, all expressing symbolically different aspects of a personal account of metamorphosis.

This is the original clothes airers with the original cleaning cloths.

There are 9 different cloths/towels to do with different aspects of cleaning: Baby towel/cotton nappy,  Bath towel, Tea towel, Dust cloth, Flannel, Dish cloth, Floor cloth, Cleaning rag and a Hand towel.

And this is how it looked after the symbolic metamorphosis.
The old laundry rack was wrapped with strips of calico and gold thread. The cloths were all made in a different way. I used transparent and semi-transparent silk, cotton and synthetic fabrics in white and gold, presenting spirituality for me. Other materials were silk and Angelina fibres, pelmet Vilene, hot water soluble fabric, HP iron on transfers, hand and machine embroidery threads in white and gold metallic and bonda web.
I wanted to use a variety of techniques to exercise and demonstrate the skills learnt in the 4 year of having done the City & Guild Creative Embroidery Studies. The techniques I used were: wrapping, reverse applique, cutwork, pulled work, shadow quilting, kantha quilting, piecing, bonding, weaving, laminating, computer transfer print on textiles, machine embroidery on water soluble fabric, painting and machine and hand stitch.

Unfortunately I don't have a lot of good photographs of every single cloth, as I didn't have a digital camera at the time. Although I did get the whole installation out of storage a few years ago to make some better photo's, I didn't make enough close ups to have a good record. It's another thing on my 'to do' list. Anyway here follow some more pics.

The long cloth was inspired by a bath towel which my sister gave me as a present when I left home at the age of 17 to go to work and study for a nursing qualification.

My star sign. I kept the towel out of sentiment for a very long time, but I had to get rid of it a few years ago as it was eventually completely disintegrated.

Here is the page of my sketchbook, as you can see I am not one of those exciting sketchbook workers. Note it was my birthday yesterday (I am right on the cusp of being a Piscean). I was going to post something yesterday about snowdrops, birthdays and new beginnings, but I was a bit overcome with emotions, as it was my first birthday without hearing Kiama's 'happy birthday, mum'.

Anyway moving on.

This was my favourite Dutch tea towel, bought on one of these family-visiting holidays to the Netherlands. The butterflies being of course highly appropriate for the theme of 'metamorphosis' and spiritual transformation.

As far as more symbolism is concerned. There were 45 butterflies in the tea towel and I had just turned 46 when I finished the making of this installation! And if you wonder, yes I did suffer from repetitive strain injury after cutting all these butterflies with a curved nail scissor because I didn't invest in the right tool for the job.

This cloth is inspired by the traditional English dish cloth. As the original cloth is knitted I couldn't use the same technique, as in my mind it then wouldn't be a metamorphosis.
So the cloth is completely created from machining threads on solvable fabric. The repeated gold lettering reads: 'metamorphoses of what appears to be'

This unusual clothes peg bag was made from painted pelmet vilene trapped in between 2 layers of sheer fabric.

A photo of the original one in my sketchbook.

Last but not least I want to show my interpretation of the English Face Cloth, which brings me back to the symbolism of birds, which I blogged about before.

In 1974 I read the book 'Jonathan Livingstone Seagull' by Richard Bach. From then on I was determined to find true Freedom. I even started collecting images of seagulls as a constant reminder of my search. One year I made a Christmas card with a cut-out seagull  and the in Dutch translated line from a song by Janis Joplin: "freedom is another word for nothing left to lose." After many years of experimentation, alcohol addiction, depression and feelings of 'losing my mind' (almost ending up like Janis Joplin) I came across the meditation I still practise today. More importantly it gave me that true Freedom and with it the realisation that there is absolutely nothing to lose, nor to gain, as everything exists within me.
I still kept that Christmas card and the design of this flannel is inspired by this. The movement of lines of the Kantha-quilting symbolises the realisation that everything, ultimately, is just pure energy.

Well you probably wonder how my house looks like with all that meditating, blogging, and textile work? I promise you, you don't want to know... Having said that, my washing machine is just finished and I need to hang out my laundry... forgive the pun.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Social Media and Growing 'Fields of Love'

I have been absolutely overwhelmed these last days with all the lovely comments and reactions, here and on Facebook, on the new venture of my blog. Thank you all and especially to my friend Gina for her kind and moving introduction of me on her blog

Although I have always been a bit hesitant and in two minds (Piscean speaking here) about using social media, this last year I have been shown on several occasions the positive sides of it. It was through Facebook for example that we could reach out and connect with all of Kiama's friends and inform them of what was happening to her, as well as inviting them to her funeral and life-celebration. I will tell in another post what we did with the hundreds of tribute messages appearing on her Facebook wall. I promise something creative! We are keeping her Facebook account open, as some of her friends are still posting their memories and feelings on her wall.

My main concern of using social media is the awareness or maybe better, lack of awareness, of how we present ourselves to the world. Everything in this Cyber space is fast and so called permanent. Our use of language, intentions and actions will be scrutinised and interpreted in ways we might not like or did not intend. So there could be consequences, like a news story today of a guy who's joke on Facebook of blowing up a plane landed him in prison. The thing is we are all human with various degrees of awareness, attitudes and expressions and above all, we are all learning on how to play or create the rules of this 'social media game'.

A couple of months ago I went to a talk organised by Herts Visual Arts (HVA), a county wide arts organisation, of which I am a member. The talk was on how to use social media to increase your artist's digital profile. The speaker, Adam Blackie, gave a great and informative presentation, including some fun and interactive participation of the audience. But the main thing I took away from the evening was something I had heard before but never in relation to the use of social media.
Adam suggested that when putting something out there on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and so on, we should always ask ourselves:

Is it True, Necessary, Nice and Helpful?

To me, that is what all good social interaction is about. We are all connected, not just through the Internet, but in many more ways. Perhaps far more then one could ever imagine.... So if you want join me and stay connected.

It has gone 2.30am on Valentine's day. I should go to bed, but first I want to give you...... my 'Fields of Love'.

It's a sample, created a few years ago as part of my unfinished degree course, which I will post about another time. My 'Fields of Love' was inspired by the song 'Sowing The Seeds of Love" by Tears For Fears.
Happy Valentine's Day

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Catching birds and 'letting go'

I haven't done any 'meaningful' textile work since Kiama passed away, my head was just not in the right place for it. I did however felt the need to do some creative therapy. Something 'textily' which doesn't involve much of my brain. So over the summer I started to do some crochet. I love doing crochet. Well you would do, wouldn't you, if you like me managed to crochet about 10 metres of café curtains during night shifts as a nurse in the 70's? 

I can't show the curtains any more, but I still have the booklet with the pattern in it.


 And this gives an idea of how they looked.

Anyway I wanted to do something more modern and trailed the internet and found this lovely bird pattern  by Lucy on her colourful blog Attic24.

So I made several of these little birdies with cute dangly legs and buttons.

They are hanging now from some wrapped and decorated branches from another, earlier project, which I will tell about another time. The branches are in a vase on the diner table and give a continues happy and colourful display, especially during those dark days and when we don't have real flowers in the house.

Initially I wasn't aware of why I chose to make birds, apart from the fact that they looked cute, but then I realised that somehow they symbolised a kind of ascension. Kiama 'flying up and away', to other realms perhaps...  Interestingly Ilana, my eldest, had started to doodle birds at the same time, so we also wondered if these birds were symbolising a part of our grieving process. Another layer of 'letting go'.

This brings me to another story. Just a couple of weeks before Kiama fell ill she phoned me one day with the question: "Mum, do you have any suggestions on how to catch a bird? I want to catch a bird and then let it go." She told me that it was for a short film, she wanted to make for an art competition, in which she wanted to present the concept of 'letting go'.  Oh the irony of this, as we keep on seeing the signs.... with hind-sight!
Anyway, I never heard anything more about this project until after her death, when one of her friends posted a very short video on her Facebook wall. It showed Kiama laughing and cautiously trying to catch some pigeons at the market place in Norwich. We later also found some journal writing about it and some sketches of birds flying of bicycles.

Responding to her half-Dutch roots Kiama had a love for bicycles and cycling. Many of her art, social and uni projects had to do with bikes. So the sketch on the right is there for even more striking, with the fallen bike and the bird flying up to the sky, especially when you know that it is the last proper sketch in her latest sketchbook!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Welcome to my world

It has been several years now that I wanted to begin this blog but the indecisiveness of my Piscean nature kept me in procrastination mode. So blame it on astrology, my parents and the universe - anything else but me - for the long wait of this peep into my life.
I have always had a great need to express myself creatively, it keeps me sane. I also have the desire and will to leave some kind of inspirational mark behind. Perhaps to justify my very existence, although I know very well that that doesn't need any justification, I am just who I am.

Although writing doesn't come that quick and easy to me (too much thinking and pondering) there have been several phases in my life that I seem to be attracted to pen and paper or tapping a keyboard. From my teenage years onwards I used to keep a diary, wrote poetry and tried my hand at some short stories. I even self-published a poetry book in Dutch with the financial support of friends and family.

The truth is I love words in all its forms and not-so-secretly belief that there is a book somewhere hidden in me. Although I don't know if it will ever come out of its hidden place.

My love for textiles and stitch stems from early childhood. I still remember the reassuring sound of my mum's sewing machine until the early hours of the morning. She was a dressmaker, born between the wars, with the 'make do and mend' mindset, now so fashionable re-invented as 'upcycling'.
Being the oldest girl of a 'good' Roman Catholic family with 13 children she had to stay home, from the age of 16, to sew and repair the clothes of her family. She was very upset about that, as she wanted to study, so when she was well in her 20's she took her chance and trained as a Montessori Kindergarten teacher. She married my dad, for those days, late in life (32) and it was more out of necessity that she picked up her sewing again.

My mum bought me a second hand Singer sewing machine when I was about 14 and taught me how to make some of my own garments. Later when I started my own family, I took great pride in making clothes and toys for my two little daughters. Living in my home country, The Netherlands, I started to follow adult education classes in all kinds of textile techniques and was hooked for life.

Before I go any further I want to thank all those creative inspirational people out there and in particular my friend Gina, whose blog 'kindled my fire' for the blogging world.

Though foremost I want to pay tribute to my daughter Kiama Petit, who suddenly after a short illness, passed away on the 11th of May 2012 at the age of 22. This devastating and most shocking event in my life is slowly opening up new roads, insights and inspiration. Last but not least it was the direct push to start this Blog, as Kiama showed me clearly that life is too short to waste it with procrastination.
She was a happy, enthusiastic young woman with a passion to inspire people to live a more positive, healthy and happy life.

Kiama was a 3rd year art student at Norwich University College of the Arts (NUCA) and was just weeks away from finishing her course in Visual Studies.
During the preparations of her funeral and Life Celebration, which we organised  ourselves with the help of friends and family, we discovered in her journal that she had written, several months before she died, a 'Bucket list' (a list of things you want to do before you die). As far as we know Kiama was, like us, unaware that she would die so soon and suddenly.
Her sister, Ilana, read 'My Bucketlist' out during the Life Celebration. It is such a moving and inspiring piece of writing that her friends and tutors at NUCA did ask our permission to make a poster of it and print out a limited edition. Ofcourse we agreed.

The students and tutors wanted Kiama's work to be part of the graduation show. She had done a particpatory art project, called 'Papergirl Norwich' and it was decided to present an impression of this through film, photographs and a wooden crate full of 'My Bucketlist' posters, which people could take away when visiting the graduation show.

They went out as hot cakes and the university ended up having to do several print runs, printing 1000 posters in total, and they all went. The graphic design of the poster was done by her friend, Luke Emery, and can be viewed and printed, for free, in high resolution via his website here.