May 26, 2017

Certain Kind of Slowness

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing 
There is a field. I'll meet you there.

-- Rumi

Enjoying a fat parcel in my own time. Clearwater, MB; May 2017. Canon E0S-3 / Portra 400

Last night I cycled through the city. The air was thick with the scent of Lilacs. First I picked up some textile ink from a cute house in West Broadway. As I was rounding back toward home, I felt the pull toward Ethelbert Street. I followed the feeling and ended up at my favorite table in Wolseley, the table belonging to my Aunty Daryl. We shared a pot of tea and I wept into her dish cloth. Why so sad? I am in a period of letting go I suppose. Letting go of children I have become very close with over the last year, Theo and Henry. Letting go of ideas and ideals. Let it go, let it go! Letting go of things in order to move forward. It is good and it is hard. As usual, I was perusing her bookshelves when my eye landed on one title running down a spine: "The Art of Mending". Can I borrow this? Sure. Just like that, a new world to take up residence in.

Mending! How fitting and hilarious considering that most of my idle time at home recently has been spent on a quilt I pieced together on a whim a few months ago. Frances, this ones for you. The colours are strange but strangely good and the overall feeling of the small quilt is very warm and soft. The blocks that are hand dyed in a neutral peachy tone are also stencilled with an old rose motif I carved out in 2013. Slow train comin'. The blocks that are untampered with came from the most soft twin duvet cover thrifted a long time ago thanks to the delicate floral pattern that initially caught my eye. My hand found it before my eyes did and the softness immediately reminded of my childhood blanket.

Technically speaking I have no clue what I am doing but the process of hand stitching a quilt feels like the most natural thing in the world. Almost as if these hands of mine have been doing it for a long, long time. In another lifetime. Over the past weekend, while friends played cards, I sat in a chair beside a fire and stitched to my hearts content. They laughed at the image of this young woman performing this archaic act but then this afternoon while sitting down with my new book I read two excerpts and all of the work I have been doing lately suddenly made perfect sense to me:

"My relatives still make fun of me for my love of things domestic, especially my Aunt Fran, who, whenever we visit, always tells me she's saved her ironing and mending for me. Actually, I wouldn't mind doing it. I like ironing. It's the physical equivalent of staring into middle space. I think it waters the mind, if you know what I mean. As for mending, I think it's good to take the time to fix something rather than throw it away. It's an antidote to wastefulness and to the need for immediate gratification. You get to see a whole process through, beginning to end, nothing abstract about it. You'll always notice the fabric scar, of course, but there's an art to mending; if you're careful, the repair can actually add to the beauty of the thing, because it is testimony to its worth. 

I make my living as a quilt artist, and for the most part the work I do is commissioned. I charge a hundred and fifty dollars a square foot, not without guilt. But I have whole days when I stand at my design board moving pieces of fabric around, and I don't sew a stitch. Then something clicks, and I hit the machine. The money I charge pays for the thinking time too; I explain this to my clients. And people pay it, willingly--I have more clients than I can handle. The wait for a finished quilt is four to six months, but people don't seem to mind that, either. I think there is a longing for things that reflect a certain kind of slowness; perhaps the pendulum is beginning its inevitable swing back".

- From Elizabeth Berg's 'The Art of Mending'.


Perhaps my pendulum is swinging back, yes. Maybe my natural inclination to blast full steam into the next quick project is ought for naught. Nothing quick about quilting. No Siree. With each pull of thread, I am reminded that Slow Art is Subversive. It is all about tension. Even a quilt can be subversive if you want it to be.

Tomorrow I take up yet another new path with a new boy called Bernie. We will find our way in the coming summer months, I have no doubt. The first visit is always a little raw and frightening. Time will tell.

Happy Lilac Week to all my steppers out there looking sharp!

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