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  • Writer's pictureamanda haran

The Autopsy & Soul Of A Slow Stitched Textile Art Piece

What makes me, me? What makes my mindful textile artwork mine?

Lockdown has encouraged art research, connection and trying. I've had an emotionally inspirational two days by:

  1. Having the great fortune of joining an experiential story cloth circle hosted by Rachel A. Cohen, Tally Tripp and Lisa Raye Garlock of Common Threads Project of New York, United States. I've been fascinated by their work and impact using stitch as a therapeutic tool, for a long time and, have used their inspiration in how I approach my work. I cherish their phrase, 'stitching the unstitchable' because it epitomises how I, use embroidery for my own well being and, encourage the valuable pastime in others.

  2. Watching the virtual exhibition footage of Tracy Emin/Edvard Munch's 'The Loneliness of the Soul' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK. I long to see these works in the flesh one day. However, virtually still 'stopped me in my tracks', as the Guardian had predicted. The sheer amount of pain that oozed from each canvas was almost smothering for an empath. The essence of Emin's words echo in my head those of, 'real emotions…real feelings…heartfelt…rooms full of true emotion…not just something pretty...'

  3. Being led by Louise Orwin in her week long course 'How to Begin - Artist Adventure' ( #HowToBegin ). Today started with a 7am call to action email introduced with the quote, 'I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do' (Georgia O'Keeffe).

All three opportunities encircle and delve into the experiences of global women; different, yet the same in their courageous intraspection and then willingness to portray and share their inner 'not…pretty' worlds. All of these considerations led me to dwell on what makes me and my stitched textile multi-media creations mine?

Last week I finished stitching a piece using part of one of the unused sashes from 'Processions,' a mass participation artwork which celebrated one hundred years of votes for women. Seven days of slow mindful stitch, not always calmly executed.

The sash base is beautiful in the colours of suffrage but requires careful handling to apply stitch - flimsy, transparent, prone to losing its shape, fraying at the edges, complete distortion. An irony in itself. It forces slowness and care. Mastery does not come easily. My artistic process had to include breath, bodily and emotional awareness - how did/do I really feel?

Scattered around my studio are 'precious objects', things discarded by others that still have the potential to be beautiful and useful. Relevant items were collected into a stash that reflected my disposition - a used dishcloth, squashed Corona metal bottle lid found in a supermarket car park, rags and small pieces left from other projects, Guatemalan worry dolls, pieces of wire stripped from the inners of cables, broken jewellery too treasured to throw away, a mottled sweet, parcel string from a received package and of course, a used tea bag.

Janek Schaefer's album 'Unfolding Luxury Beyond The City Of Dreams' forms the soundtrack; I get comfortable, breath deeply and, ask how I feel? Words and phrases form and I write them down on the big blank sheet I have stuck down on my work area. As thoughts arise, more is scribbled to capture them quickly as they sail on by. I am fixated by my impending divorce and the stream of consciousness reflects this, as does the placement of treasures onto the sash section, the arrangement of my scraps which pay homage to Emin's 'Hellter Fucking Skelter' quilt and, the words chosen to stitch. Kantha stitches bind everything together, but instead of a stack of old saris I stitch through dish cloth, discarded bead and, ditched scrap, to create a type of Nakshi kantha.

One of my favourite stitches is one I have no idea of its name. I love hanging off the edge of a piece and creating an area of randomly inter-stitched new fabric where there once was nothing. It makes me feel hopeful.

I look at the piece from a distance as Tally Tripp had taught me earlier. How do I feel about it? I turn it around in my hands and I know what it needs - an arpilleras. Common Threads Group understand the power of these pockets usually sewn into the back of a story cloth which contain special messages that the creator wishes to share. My pocket sits purple and proud beneath and, conveys the message in mystical form that, 'You are safe.' I think this must be a subconscious nod to Elizabeth Gilbert, another inspirational woman that trots around my psyche. However, it is fitting, as I really do hope that we all find that place through pattern, paint, performance or prose where we can be safe with our emotions, pain and ultimately who we are.

Journal Of Success Entry

Enjoying story cloth circles with Common Threads Project; joy of sharing important stories and therapeutic arts interventions; new friends and contacts; finding Louise Orwin and her tribe; indulging and wallowing in Emin/Munch exhibition; friendship and generosity of Janek Schaefer; having the courage to recognise and express my inner dialogue; having the opportunity to stitch on the Processions' sashes; linking to influential and inspirational women



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