Even as I wrote last week’s post, I knew there was something not right with the cartoon. It just wasn’t me, it was too sincere and too uptight. But I woke the following day with an entirely different take on the image. Actually, I woke with just a fragment of it, the angle of the head, but once I drew that everything else fell into place immediately. It is looser, I am more comfortable with it, and it is more akin to Maides Coign. So I think I may be going with this. It does seem less about my ancestor in those last minutes before she drowned herself and more about the legacy of that act to subsequent generations, but that is no bad thing.
I usually scale up cartoons by drawing a grid, but was conscious that using something like an overhead projector would be much more easier. I posted on my Facebook page asking if anyone had one I could borrow, not really expecting an answer knowing they are pretty obsolete these days. But my friend Fiona from The Stitch Society had a brand new one sitting under her sofa that she never used and would be happy to let me have it. It is a great piece of kit and I am terribly grateful, I drew up the new cartoon in very little time. I was going to redraw it and play around with scale but came down with a cold. I knew I had to go to London this weekend for a meeting with fellow trustees of the Heritage Crafts Association so I pinned myself to the sofa in an effort to get shot of it in time.
It was frustrating trying to force myself to do nothing, when in fact I have so much to do and eventually little bits from the studio began trickling their way down the stairs including my sewing tin. As an archaeologist I have, of course, long lamented the relative absence of textiles in the archaeological record. This became acute when I was looking for material for a lecture on early tapestry. I was thrilled to discover references to tapestry fragments found at the famous Anglo-Saxon shop burial at Sutton Hoo, but of course all that is left are scraps of colourless threads. The finds that are celebrated are the jewellery and metal work as above, yet the textiles would have been just as lush and rich and well executed. The skills, the vision, the hours of toil by the spinners, dyers, weavers and embroiderers is lost, unseen, and unsung.
I am beginning to accept I am never going to be able to weave small tapestries. My heart simply isn’t in it, they are not what I want to weave, I struggle to see them as tapestry. But I have several events this year and can only weave so many large tapestries and I am faced with empty walls. I began to wonder if instead of my tapestry weaving I could make use of my cloth. I wondered if there was a way to explore the idea of woven textiles of the past being out of sight and out of mind. I threw aside my blankets and hot water bottle, stumbled through the tubs of vicks and bottles of cough medicine and reached for my sewing tin and tubs of weaving scraps and began to experiment. I’m beginning to wonder if there is something to celebrate in the elements of weaving that make it weaving, the exposed warps and weft, the frayed edges, complex structures, a landscape of its own making. Placing value on worn and scraps of fabric has links with recent interest in traditional Japanese techniques such as boro and sashiko, the slow stitch movement and visible mending and the work of contemporary textile artists such as Claire Wellesley-Smith.
I don’t know where all this will lead, but I am willing to find out. At least I am panicking less about my empty walls. And although my tasks next week are exactly the same as I stated in my last post, I feel I have achieved quite a bit and that is despite being poorly for most of it!
Ta ta for now x