i've always had a very difficult time mustering up a bout of creativity; inspiration comes to me in the most subtle of ways, and it's hard for someone who doesn't get "out into" the world very much to summon the flow of imagination we artists consistently crave. i don't subscribe to (or purchase) any magazines, i don't have a fast computer connection to enable me to hop and skip from one site to the next; i haven't set foot in (god forbid) a mall for years, and shops like anthropologie might as well, for me, be stationed on the moon. what to do, then, when the inkwell feels so dry?
a few weeks ago a reader/student friend wrote to suggest i go see the movie Bright Star, as she was reminded of my penchant for layered, quirky clothing, the hand stitched details, the use of beautiful words and quotes woven into the lives of two people falling in love. ben and i were able to see it one rainy, blustery evening twenty minutes from his house in atlanta, and i sat wrapped up in the comfort of my cashmere shawl enthralled with the imagery, the poetry, the watery color of the light. i remember at one point leaning over to ben and whispering that i wanted to rush right home and pull out my linens and lace and needle and thread. and so, as you can see - i finally, finally did. thank goodness the flow has returned. why did this movie appeal so strongly to me? the clothing, of course, for starters - the close up shots of a beautiful young woman stitching intricate details onto a ruffled collar, or embroidering a bare branched tree onto linen throughout the night (how could she see by candlelight?!), white undergarments blowing on the clotheslines in the breeze - the emotions, the countryside, and especially - particularly - the use of natural light beside the windows, all throughout the film. natural light - soft, ethereal, filtered. all of that. i long now for a sweater of intricate, tiny granny squares, multicolored and pieced together by hand: a wish, for me, then, in addition to the desire to be driven to stitch deep into the middle of the night. or, to write love notes that are folded and held up to the wavy glass of ancient windows, notes that can later be transferred to linen and sewn onto the heart that is worn on my sleeve. i'd like that - a valentine in linen form, embellished with bits of seed pearls and embroidered in the color of the heart.
for now, though, i've stitched a red heart onto a length of ribbon, a heart that dangles as adornment for the gypsy fairy queen. for the length of two days i sat quietly with a lap tray of needles and pins and embroidery thread, gemstones the color of wildflowers and moss; i sat and stitched and wrapped and embroidered until this little porcelain doll became the fairy that i imagined her to be. i couldn't leave well enough alone, you see, and the color of greens and deepest reds and yellows that i've crunched through when walking in these autumn woods have transferred themselves to a little lady of the glen. photographing these pieces of art has proven to be quite a difficult task, at this time of year when the sun angles into my southern and western windows with an unharnessed brightness i can't seem to tame.
i tried on my wild gypsy necklace of nature yesterday afternoon, late, the minute i finally put down my needle and thread; out into the sun we went, my fairy and i, out into the woods and the bright dappled sunlight, to see if the colors could be properly captured out in the fresh air. i closed my eyes, finally, to the light; and when i did, i could see the aura of trees and light patterns dancing under darkened eyelids. and my little fae friend? true to fairy form, she blends in well, in spite of her outspoken colors; true to gypsy fashion, she dangles with bold abandon on the one who summoned her from everywhere into here. it feels a little like wearing the lore of the woods around my neck, a little like magic and mystery. and all of this, for the classes i'll be teaching next july at valley ridge art studio - what fun to imagine the variety of victorian fairy and gypsy mayhem that will ensue while there...
so that is how it goes, this week, with this flow of mine, this final fit and burst of (long overdue) creativity - from ancient walks in british woods to current ambling under the autumn trees, through mossy streams, and finally to my own needle and thread with its quirky take on a gypsy fairy's dreams...xo
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors---
No---yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever---or else swoon in death.
- John Keats, 1819