every couple of years, when it gets to be this season of pining for the sweet smells of new growth and earthy moss and budding fruit trees in the spring, i walk over to my huge old antique armoire and pull out the denim jacket that my grandmother mimi embellished with her own freehand embroidery designs, back in the mid 70's. this incredible work of wearable art was something she spent god knows how many hours, days, weeks, months stitching for my uncle bob, who at that time was living the big city life in the skyscraper vista of lakeshore chicago. thankfully, this incredible sampler has ended up in my hands, and on occasion when march rolls around, then turns in its feisty, fussy way into the promise of april, i'll pull it out of its wardrobe darkness and wear somewhere that has birdsong and open sunshine. every single time i pull it out to hold and touch the garden stitched across every spot of this lowly denim garment, my mind flips out all over again. i can't fathom the amount of hand labor that my grandmother invested in this piece. i'm no textile expert, never have been, although i, myself, was wont to stitch a few chambray shirts for myself and for friends, back in my high school years; my stitches could never achieve this sort of precision, this spot-on depiction of flowers and leaves, insects, birds. there is a butterfly, a grasshopper, a perfect hummingbird. i stare at the wings of a bumblebee and shake my head in awe. amazing. to say that talent runs deep in my family is an understatement, as vain a sentence as this sounds; my own creative efforts pale when placed next to the work of my grandmother, my mother, my sister. anything they ever did was art in its truest form - cooking, painting, sewing, basketry, needlepoint, doll making, knitting - anything, and everything. on this rainy, dreary morning, even walter is taken with the glory of this true work of art. i'm thankful that i have it as a reference sampler to which i can turn, when the longing for stitchwork strikes. my own efforts pale, so pitifully, in comparison. but the desire is there, and i feel my grandmother's spirit and encouragement guiding me whenever i take needle and embroidery floss to cloth, to books, to jewelry.
all of this - the inherited histories, the way that i strive to express myself in all that i do, seems to be a continuous thread that has woven itself all through this life i live. and i'm happy to say that i truly love what i do, no matter how much of a struggle it can be at times, no matter how much i worry or fret. all in all, when i've come to a point where i can stand and look back - at my life and decisions that i've made, as well as at a finished piece of art - i am finally, when all is said and done, happy with the results.
i must admit that i put a heavier burden on my little "blue skies" endeavor when i shared with all of you the various steps involved, up to a point. i worried, when it came time to sit down at the studio table, rather than comfortably curled up on the sofa with needle and thread, that whatever, however the necklace design decided to become would not be worthy to display (for that is how it seems, more often than not; this work takes on a life of its own, much like a character in a novel). i worry too much. i love this crazy, glorious piece.
i love the primitive embroidery, the chipped, worn mother of pearl. i love the crazy baroque pearl clouds, the glint of blue in peruvian topaz, the soft hazy sky blue of african opal layered with antique mother of pearl sequins. the birds. the soft glove leather backing, the notion of a blue sky dream. the word "remembered", found randomly on a little studio shelf.
when i look at these photos, i smile - like a kindergarten student - and think, "i made this!". i do. and it came about in its own honest way - not by being 'inspired' by another similar piece, not by someone telling me what to do, not by throwing together random bits of vintage jewelry findings, but by lovingly creating focal components and then step by step, allowing my heart to lead the rest of the way. by remembering and honoring my longings for lost arts and connection, by letting a sunny day lead me to needle and thread, by letting needle and thread stitch me into something that came out of the sky and the clouds and the views from my window, into here. right here. and that, dear reader, is how this piece was made - from the view up over the mountain, from the emotions that washed through me as i stood on the deck that blustery day, from the desire to pick up blue floss and aged linen, from allowing myself a little sunday quiet and turning it into what you see laid out there on the studio table. a sweet story, i think, a fable of birdsong and blue skies. so here's a tender nod to my brother ben, who loved, so much, the wizard of oz, and who would always call, without a word, whenever the movie was on tv and hold the receiver up so all i could hear was dorothy, singing her young heart out, to the black and white sky. to me. xo
"and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true"
(added note, in afternoon: after walter and i went for a walk in wet woods, i came back for one last glance at the jacket before folding it to put in the bedroom chair. something told me to peek inside a front chest pocket, where i was surprised and delighted to find a yellowed, creased index card with my grandmother's sketch of the flowers, with their proper names. what a find. what a gift...)