Sunday, March 22, 2015

Stitched Selfies: Rotten to the Core

The third in the Stitched Selfies Series, "Rotten to the Core" echoes a refrain I heard frequently whenever I misbehaved as a child (as in, "You are rotten to the core").

In amidst the textile pattern of repeating little girls (me circa 3 years old on a lawn in Georgia) we see the little girl's rotten inner core. We could go into the deep psychological implications of this piece, but let's not. A sense of humor serves as a balm to the most questionable of memories.

As with the other pieces in this Selfies Series, the techniques include digital photo manipulation, collage, iron-on transfer, cloth, and embroidery.

Still haven't quite figured out why I am doing these or what I am going to do with them, but I don't think I'm done yet. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Stitched Selfies: The Solipsistic Nature of Memory

Click to enlarge

The second in the Stitched Selfies series, with a big title for what is a very simple idea: We are each at the center of our own universe. In The Solipsistic Nature of Memory I am featured in a classic kindergarten photo from the early 1950s. My classmates, long since completely forgotten, are shown here as a blurred horde that serves only to highlight my unique wonderfulness. Throughout childhood I kept expecting an adult in a suit to step forward at some point and declare that, after covertly observing me for a period of time, the powers that be had arrived to acknowledge that I was unique and wonderful, at which point they would whisk me away to a far more fabulous world than the seemingly mediocre one I found myself in. 

The fact that I look vaguely like a young, blond Frida Kahlo in this embroidered rendition is sheerly by happenstance.

As with all works in the Selfie Series, materials include photo transfer, fabric, and cotton thread.

Next up in the series: a trip to the dark side.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Stitched Selfies: Running with Scissors

Running with Scissors

A new Stitched Selfies series inspired by the long history of artists' self-portraits and the 21st century mania for selfies. The process involves new and old photos, photo transfer paper, Photoshop manipulation, free-hand drawing, and lots of stitching. This is the first in the series: Running with Scissors.

Close-up (click to further enlarge)

One half (the right side) of this self portrait is from an actual selfie - a photo of myself captured with Photo Booth. The image was then converted to grayscale and manipulated in Photoshop and printed onto iron-on transfer paper. Finally, the image was ironed onto a piece of silk fabric. The other half of the portrait (left side) was free drawn directly onto the fabric.

Stitched grayscale 

Stitched free-hand drawing

More in the selfie series is currently under way, using photos that go back in time and explore the nature of memories.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hari-Kuyo: Honoring Old and Broken Needles

Sending old sewing needles and pins to a sweet grave

Ever since I heard about the 400-year-old Japanese festival of  Hari-Kuyo, I have been waiting all year to celebrate. Every year on February 8, Japanese women bring old sewing needles and pins to Buddhist and Shinto shrines and stick them into soft chunks of tofu or jelly to honor them, show gratitude for their hard work, and acknowledge that even the smallest, most ordinary objects have a soul. Burying the needles in tofu or jelly symbolizes rest for the needles, wrapping them in soft tenderness. The festival is also about the sorrows the women experienced and passed on to their needles through many hours of sewing, and about putting those sorrows to rest.

All in all, an absolutely lovely idea. I used a small, antique Jello mold to create a soft, sweet bed for my needles. However, I realized as I was searching through pin cushions and sewing boxes for old worn needles worthy of this honor that I had thoughtlessly tossed out bent pins or dull needles on more than one occasion in the past year. I need a way to save old needles on an ongoing basis, in preparation for the annual Hari-Kuyo celebration.

Resting reliquary for old needles

I stitched a little cloth reliquary that may be worn as a seamstress necklace. As needles dull or pins turn wayward, the reliquary provides a place to store them until the next Hari-Kuyo festival. The interior cloth is silk from a very old temple sari; the exterior is a scrap of black cotton cloth.


One side of the reliquary is stitched with the Japanese symbols for "used." The other side is stitched with the symbols for "old."


Seamstress reliquary necklace

Now none of my needles or pins need ever suffer any anxiety about their future. Happy Hari-Kuyo to all, and to all a good night.

* Postscript: You may be wondering what happens after the Jello or tofu stage. In Japan, the soft substance with needles embedded is wrapped in paper and then placed in water, presumably sending the needles to a watery grave. This doesn't sound entirely ecologically correct 400 years down the road, so I am still trying to figure this out. Meanwhile I may place the needles in the reliquary or in a miniature funerary vase where they can anticipate their sweet immersion in Jello once again next year.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Reincarnation (de)Installation

Out with the old

During a recent frenzy of sorting and tossing, the piece above, installed in my dining room, caught my eye. It was titled "Reincarnation: What about the Cow?" (click on title to see full piece, including aerial figures) and completed about 20 years ago. I tore it apart without a second thought, stored the wood part of the piece for future recycled use, shoved some of the little people in my pocket and headed out into the world. Several days and several trips with a pocketful of little people later, I realized they were indeed being reincarnated. If you were walking around Lake Merritt in Oakland about three weeks ago, you may have spotted them. They all disappeared within a day of placement, onto yet another incarnation.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Embroidering Parallel Universes

Growing up, our grandpa was our hero in every possible way. We were completely unaware that while he was building us a playhouse, taking us on walks through the woods, teaching us how to garden, and telling very corny jokes, he was also a prominent engineer filing a series of patents and writing engineering textbooks. Here, world collide in an embroidered photo transfer collage combining a 1950's photo of my sister Judy and I with one of his patents.

Click to enlarge

Monday, December 29, 2014

Braving the Urban Frontier with Cargo Pockets

A garment without pockets would be more useful as a dust rag. Pockets are power, which is why women's clothes frequently have less pockets than men's. The more pockets you have, the more self-sufficient and unencumbered you can be, leaving handbags, clutch purses, and all other totes behind. Happily, there is no need to toss out your pocketless clothes or bypass pocketless garments on a thrift store rack if you're handy with a needle.

5 pockets from one cannibalized pair of cargo shorts

The cargo shorts craze has created a glut of second-hand cargo shorts at most thrift stores, and they usually go for just a few bucks each. Manufacturers have been wildly inventive when it comes to configuring pockets to fulfill every sort of survivalist, lost-in-the-wilderness fantasy, and you may score up to five or six pockets from a single pair of shorts. Once you've harvested the pockets you may hem them, dye them, or leave them raw and untouched, and stitch them onto any item of clothing sorely lacking in pockets.

Above is a used Eskandar sweater vest with a lovely drape, rendered absolutely useless due to lack of pockets. Here, the added cargo pocket edges were left raw and secured with a blanket stitch.

Blanket-stitched raw edges

Accessorized with bamboo fabric scarf

In the second example below, both the thrift store garment and the pockets were dyed and then stitched together.

With pockets like these, one could go away for the weekend without bringing a suitcase.

A third pocket adds visual interest and added functionality to the back of the garment.

Ready for any scenario

The final example involves a thrift store Bryn Walker t-shirt that is long and asymmetrical. Not only did it lack pockets, it was so long that it would prevent access to any pockets you might have in your pants. Once again, cargo pockets solve the problem.

asymmetrical pockets for an asymmetrical t-shirt

pocket with hemmed edges

Related Posts with Thumbnails