Thursday, 10 March 2016

Embroidery Musings

"The act of sewing is a process of emotional repair"

- Louise Bourgeois, French-American artist

I have been a knitter for a long time. It was one of the first things that I did in the textile arts and still the method I prefer and am most comfortable with. The reason that I took so strongly to knitting, and other textile crafts I subsequently took up is a little mysterious to me, even today. I know that I wrestled with knitting like an obstacle to be won, a problem to be unravelled. And I still remember the aha! moment I had when I fiiiiinally figured it out, almost instantaneously, after coming home from a family vacation. So, there's the thrill of figuring something rather clever out, which you still get on a regular basis by making new things or using new techniques (throwback to turning a heel for the first time!).  And, obviously, the thrill of making something physical and tangible (and soft and hopefully useful). That never gets old. 

Sadly, finishing pieces of a thing is less satisfactory. Single sleeves are not quite so exciting as a whole sweater.

There are other things that make textile arts fulfilling for me: their ability to tangibly embody thoughts, feelings and ideas through the process of their creation. This embodiment is the reason knitting can be such a perfect gift: it can wordlessly express love for someone important to you. In cold climates, knitting some a hat is personally giving them protection, wishing them warmth. It is a type of love that endures every time that person puts on their hat; a durable method of taking care of another. I imagine this is one of the reasons why it has survived so long as a mainstream(ish) hobby. 

Asides from all the positive emotions textile arts can communicate, there is also a darker but still very important role they can fulfill. Textiles can and have been used to express confusion, despair, sadness, anger, grief and insanity. This can happen on an individual level, like Agnes Richter's jacket, or on a social level, like Chilean arpilleras

I don't know why these kinds of textiles are so poignant to me, but their ability to embody the human condition is remarkable. It is more than words on a page, or any kind of speech. It is a deeply intimate physical expression of emotion that is able to communicate intangible experiences and injustices. It is meaningful for the same reason a gift of a hand knit hat is meaningful: it takes time and effort. It is purposeful. It is done for a reason and it means something.

As for me, this sums it up better than I ever could:

Found on pinterest, sadly I couldn't track down the original artist.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

List of Things

1. I went to Montreal again. Due to several twists of fate, I spent much of the time alone. Interestingly, traveling alone again was like a breath of fresh air. The ability to discover as I wish, and to only have to consider one set of needs suits me (does that make me sound unfriendly? Maybe I am.). I do well on my own. And, since I last traveled solo, I have gained a smidgen more self-confidence, in myself and in my language skills. Learning another language requires vulnerability, especially when trying to accomplish everyday transactions. Feeling uncomfortable in a language can paralyze you in social situations, making it near-impossible to make connections, usually when they're most needed as an isolated foreigner.

It helps that you will likely never see any of the people you interact with again.

Except you, Sir John A. I'll definitely see you again.

But one thing that solo travel has taught me is that positive interactions, even with strangers, are very important. Positive interactions are easier to achieve if you're not irrationally frightened of everyone you meet.

2. I went here. It's an exhibition space, but also a library and research centre. Most of this happens in the new, larger building they have, but visitors can check out the 19th century stone mansion that lives behind it. Here's a picture of my feet, some original hardwood, and some not-so-original but still wonderful tiling:

I spent 3 hours there. It was the best, most unexpected thing I did in Montreal.

3. I was exceptionally amused by all the Québecisms.

Photo prise spécialement pour les Français qui se moquaient de moi.

4. I did embroideries with all my free evening time.

5. I am now back home. It smells like spring, likely one of the best smells in existence. To be specific, I'm talking about Edmonton spring: the melting snow/wet pavement/unthawing earth smell that more than makes up for the inherent grossness of Edmonton spring (yayyyyy dirty snow and gravel piles everywhere). It's much too early for spring optimism, but for a winter that was not supposed to have any snow at all, I can hardly complain.