Friday, February 19, 2016

The Continuous Thread

1920's embroidery runner.

Before the death of my godmother Masha Arms in 2005 I was able to fly to Massachusetts and spend a couple of days with her. Those days were precious to us both. Days spent talking until the early morning light, reminiscing, looking at art, sharing favorite books, and going through trunks. How we ever started opening the trunks I don't remember but so many treasures came tumbling out; her Mothers beautiful wood carvings including a lovely little paring knife that I swear I could still feel her energy coursing through, a hand woven rug by her Great Aunt-in-law Nellie Arms, Scandinavian linens and cut work, generation after generation of memories. Then she pulled out this linen runner that her mother Clara Maria (From) Eriksen had started way back in the 1920's.

runner with circles of flowers.

What struck me at first was that the colors were still so bright, the blues so vibrant, and that the pattern was so obviously Art Deco with its geometric patterns. Clara's needle was still threaded and in the last spot that she had taken a stitch. She had never finished it and it had been lying in wait within the trunk for so many years.

Closer view of circle.

We unrolled it fully from its protective layers of tissue paper and discovered the original DMC floss still wrapped within. Some with their original paper wrappers still intact; a bright yellow for the center of the flowers, three shades of blue for the flowers, black for the outline and green for the foliage. DMC which stands for Dollfus Mieg & Co. founded in 1746, is still in business after two hundred plus years and I discovered that the companies floss first became available in the United States in the 1920's. I thought it perfect that the Dollfus family motto is; "From one fine thread a work of art is born."

Original DMC floss.

Masha handed me the embroidery and simply said, "finish it for my Mother and me!"  She knew that I had long enjoyed working embroidery so I am working on it. It is a project that I take up now and again. It is predominantly satin stitch and takes some time to work but someday I will finish it. I love the pattern and colors as much as Clara did and I am dedicated to continuing her project and keeping the thread going. A treasure passed from one woman to another, to another, and so on.

Runner completed! April 2016.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Emerging Face

An Emerging Face Spirit Doll.

In early January I was invited to attend a creative meditation class and the medium was to be felted wool spirit dolls, I was intrigued. Never having worked with fibers, let alone doll making I was very excited to see what would unfold. It has been quite a journey; working with the materials, learning the techniques, and the creative process itself. Who knew using a barbed needle to stab wool repeatedly into a form would be so freeing? Little did I realize the spiritual conversation that would take place as faces began to emerge from the wool...

Spirit doll congregation after first class. Mine is the oddly shaped 2 headed one on the far right.

The wonderfully talented instructor and artist, Andi Fasimpaur, took us first through the early stages
of the doll making; binding thick batting into the basic shape with thread, carding different colors of wool together and then, using the long, barbed needle stabbing the wool into the batting repeatedly until it weaves its threads together within the batting and sculpts into the desired shape. You can pierce the wool as much or as little as you want. This is where you slip into a rhythm and you start to see things shaping and patterns beginning to show themselves.

It was suggested to choose three colors but six colors called to me; soft pink, jade green, black, warm yellow, purple, and just a hint of smoke grey. I found it interesting to see the very different color combinations that we each chose and at the end of the first class to see the basic shapes that
had been born. In the picture above you can see the group picture of our dolls in their early stages.
My doll definitely had an odd two headed shape going on in the beginning but as I was binding it an image popped into my head of a carving I had seen many years earlier of a type of hand carved kachina doll with two large whorls of hair on either side of its head. I just went with the creative flow and let it happen. At the end of class Andi told us to start thinking about the face of our spirit doll; no face at all, or a pottery face, embroidered or painted. That night I went home and placed my doll on my alter next to the bed, leaning her up against a large cluster of quartz crystals. I fell asleep thinking about her future face...

Pain and Loss face.

So the very next morning upon waking my first thought was to look for a face for my doll and I thought to look through my many boxes of art materials and my "bags of bits" as I call them, bags of broken jewelry and one-of's, all the little things one keeps because you know you will work it into some sort of art project...eventually! However, first things first, in the morning I spend a couple of hours with my spiritual work-intention, inspirational reading, meditation, yoga and free journaling.

Every morning I randomly choose a reading from the "Sufi Book of Life, 99 Pathways of the Heart for the Modern Dervish" by Neil Douglas-Klotz. I was surprised that morning when I opened the book to Pain and Loss. It is a pathway that speaks about using the experience of death and pain as a doorway to a new way of Being. I know it well as grief and loss had been my companions for the past few years. I continued reading the meditation that followed and the very last line said;

"feel it (pain) as part of the loss and need that informs a universe filled with abundant diversity, of forms that die and are reborn with other faces."  

It was an aha moment. I knew right then that my doll would have two faces; the one she was leaving behind, the face of pain and loss on one side and another face that spoke of life and hope, and of promise for the future, on the other. 

I got to work and found a piece of an old earring with this face (above) etched onto its surface. It's funny I never wore the earrings because I always thought the faces looked sad. I spent time piercing the wool until the black tendrils stood out and began to look like long hair falling and this side of the doll was definitely darker in coloring. The dolls body also was starting to bend sideways. It looked like she was twisting down into herself. I then found an old silver earring that looked like tear drops and carefully took it apart and attached them to appear as tears. Then I thought to pierce her heart with a small Native American arrowhead that I tied, fetish-like with a tiny bird (yet from an another old earring) with sinew. I then decided that my doll needed a solid foundation on which to stand so I made a stand out of a flat stone and a nail. As you pierce sometimes the batting and threads shows through but my thought was that they represented her scars and I wouldn't patch them.

I started to think about the initial image that had come into my mind during the first class, that of the hand carved katchina. I decided to do some research and found that the figure I had seen was a Mana Katsina, a female katchina doll, a Hopi carving from a single piece of cottonwood. The large whorls, or buns on either side of her head  signified a woman that had come of age and her hair was dressed in this manner upon her marriage. Mana Katsina represent the spirits of nature and the earth, rain and water.  So discovering this I decided to wrap the top of my doll into two large whorls of hair that I tied off tightly and then surrounded in bead work, then using the barbed needle I pierced the hair tightly into a braided-look bun on either side. Then I decided she needed a head dress, an aura, and came across this jade colored  pendant. So here she was at last....

Pain and Loss spirit doll back-side.

After feeling as if the Pain and Loss Spirit side was completed I moved my attention to the other side that I knew now would represent the future and hope. I continued piercing and added a bit of shiny mylar threads to the front here and there for shine and as I said this side turned out to be more colorful in general. I decided to add a quartz crystal tied fetish style also with a tiny white bird. Quartz crystals are used for healing, balance, and energizing. Birds are messengers.

Again another thought popped into my head one morning and that was to include a seed of some sort to represent new beginnings, growing and movement. When I was a very young child my parents started a charm bracelet for me. I was given a tiny mustard seed charm within a silver heart of resin. I lost the charm bracelet before this particular charm was ever added to it and I thought could I still have it somewhere? I found it in an old jewelry box still affixed to the original card stock it came on, 40 plus years ago! The mustard seed is a symbol of growth and faith.

But what of a face...for a time my doll stood without a face. I went to class, I looked here and there and could not decide on a face. I went to the hobby store and looked for something to make a face with and came home with a bag of wooden discs and a thought to paint a face but it just wasn't right. Meanwhile I started another doll, this time, a seated spirit.

Going through my boxes of materials again I came across a silk flower and took it apart. I dipped it into Mod Podge to stiffen it and give it some gloss. I tried putting the wooden disc in the center and it still wasn't right. Back to the bags of bits...I found a disc of abalone shell; half darkened and half polished light. I added another pink earring top as a mouth, she's singing and painted on the eyes. Tiny pieces of turquoise became earrings. I glued the disc to the flower and I knew immediately it was her face. She looks like a Katchina, a flower emerging from the Earth, singing and dancing her self into life...

Emerging face spirit doll, front side.

I've read that creativity is its own language. It is something that connects us to that non-verbal center of our selves, a place where no words are needed. The process of making this doll took on a synchronistic flow, a personal conversation that I needed to have with my Self and the universe. But it is more than that ultimately.There is also something special that happens when a group of people connect on an inspired and artistic level. In Cherokee there is a word, Gaduji, which means "working together"  in a communal manner which is a word that is derived from their word for bread, Gadu.  It is a sharing of inspiration, space and consciousness. The act of creating connects us on a different level in a place where no explanation or interpretation is is nourishing to our collective spirits.  Ultimately it enables us to grow in love and understanding for each other.

'Sitting with Love' second meditative spirit doll complete.

My second spirit doll is called "Sitting with Love", a meditative pose in swirls of blue, purple and rose wool. Embroidery, beads, bits, a rose quartz for her lap and an abalone oval for her 'solar plexus'. I love the before and after, she really takes on an all new personality once she is complete.

Back of Sitting with Love showing embellishments.

Sitting with Love spirit doll still in process before embellishment.