Remembering through stitch

I’ve finished my piece for Lewis, my oldest and dearest friend who took his own life in February.

The piece has become a long strip of fragments of fabric stitched together in an unplanned way.  I’ve dyed both fabric and thread with various natural materials – mud, leaves, rust, vegetables – and selected thread and fabric quite intuitively.  The form of a long scroll grew intuitively too and I think reflects a sense of narrative –  not so much a beginning and end as an ongoing process of fluctuation and change which is after all what life is.  The stitching is plain, kantha-style – no attempt at representation but I feel reflective of the mood of the forest and the natural world that Lewis loved – the movement of the wind and trees, water and the undulations of the hills.

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I picked it up whenever I missed Lewis, thought of him or wanted to reflect; the process of stitching provided a meditative space, a focus for my hands that allowed my mind space to rest and dwell on my thoughts.

What next?  At the moment it’s a comfort to pick it up and hold, as a kind of aid to meditation and grief. I  might keep it for the comfort it offers.  But I might also at some stage let it go – maybe tie it to a tree in the forest or bury it in the forest floor for nature to take its course.  I’m not ready for this yet but I can see this might be a form of letting go when the time is right.

I’m taking a break from my textiles degree at the moment but I’m noticing how my ideas and interests are shaking down in this quiet time; it’s like a sifting process going on unconsciously.  Much of the degree has been about challenging my accepted notions and ways of doing things, making me see things in different ways and try new approaches and materials.  Often I’ve been way out of my comfort zone and that’s been great.  I really don’t want to return to pre-course ways and my old comfort zone.  But it’s as though this pause in studying – and maybe also Lewis’s death – has given my mind space to shuffle things around.  Priorities have risen to the surface and these are things that are surfacing in my ceramics and things I’d like to carry forward when I resume my course:  slow processes, tactile ways of working, an examination of wabi sabi, of the natural world and natural processes and our place in it; moving freely between media; a sense of making marks and exploring surfaces rather than representing the world.  Hand stitch, organic and found materials, clay, print.  Simplicity and clarity.

Nothing new in all of this – I’ve re-asserted the same thoughts a number of times throughout my studies – but it’s good to check in and see that the work I’m doing has that ring of personal authenticity.  I’ve spent too much of my life doing things because I could or should; now I want to focus on doing things that I want to and that feel important to me.

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