A surprise parcel that provoked some thoughts:

Through the week I had a wonderful surprise, as a parcel from Jennie Adcock arrived out of the blue. To fill you in on the background a couple of months ago Jennie dropped me an email with an offer to post some goodies from her stash as a thankyou gift for the stitch dictionary and images of my work that are online. At various times she has printed them all out and has them in file. Jennie told me that she often draws on them for ideas when she is stuck which is good for my ego.

Since I can’t resist gifts particularly gifts of the stash enhancement kind. I emailed her my address and forgot about it. This was before I opened the textile-textale: yarns that clothe the thread of our lives project so it was simply a generous offer from Jennie. It is the sort of offer that in part provoked an aspect of the textiles project.

The community of people who love and work with textiles have always struck me as a particularly generous group. Giving gifts and sharing special materials is part of the social exchange. Not only are gifts given freely but information, technical tips and tricks are also freely shared.

This surprise in the mail is an example of the gift giving practice I speak about. This practice of gift giving binds a community of people together and I think it plays a particularly significant role when the communication medium is the internet. It indicates to me at least that someone has gone that little bit further to make contact and establish a social tie.

Needless to say I wrote to Jennie to say thanks and asked her if she would like to include these items in the textile-textale project but she had forgotten what she had sent, hence the images here this morning. They may act as a mental reminder to Jennie but I have them here for a second important reason.

Looking at this selection that Jennie sent me, I thought of a possible way to tie this project together. If you have not already done so make a cuppa and settle down as I hope to be able to tease out a few ideas here this morning.

In all areas of textiles traditional motifs and patterns appear, and reappear. They are copied, manipulated and reshaped for different techniques, shifting and changing according to cultural need. These brocades that Jennie sent me all have traditional designs on them or source traditional designs. Even the insect motif derives I am sure from traditional embroidery patterns. I have spent a couple of evenings trawling around in my books but don’t have a clear source to point to, if anyone sees one please email me. Not only does the recognition of a particular motif mean that someone is included in the community but motifs often have meaning and stories associated with them – see my previous post today for instance – and those within the community know them and retell them. This retelling of narratives also binds a community together.

Unfortunately this tradition and derivative practice has also led textiles to being perceived as simply a mindless copying craft. During the period of Modernism the original visual statement reigned supreme now in the contemporary art world a review of this philosophy is underway and many creative practices are being seen in a new light.

As I have said this project will have 3 parts. The website I will build, the pieces in the gallery and this ongoing journal of the project. So at the moment I am trying to decide on how it will be handled. The way I am thinking at the moment is to take the sampler format because it allows for motifs and patterning yet speaks already of textile traditions. To shift these items away from the domestic sphere in the viewers mind I will work them large and in a contemporary manner. (Have a look at some of my previous work in the Samplers and sampling exhibit) To point to the constant reworking and reshaping of traditional designs I will reshape them too. Probably take some aspect of the design to an extreme in order to make my point.

I don’t want to silence individual contributions and stories in the process of designing this. This is where I think the website can come into play. A key aspect of this project is narrative and how it winds its way throughout our lives. I have been thinking about using hypertext to tell these stories. The way it would work is each story would be on a separate page but within the story if for instance the word button or lace, or sewing machine, or grandmother (what ever is applicable) appears if you click on that word the reader is taken to another story that is somehow linked in theme. This type of format would I think hint at the numerous retelling of narratives that goes on the community. I would of course provide some sort of index so that people could go straight to ‘their’ contribution and of course these stories would be illustrated with the designs creating from the items or visual material sent to me. Hopefully this interlinking would hint at the rich texture of narratives that surround textiles. This is something I am not sure achieved in the Shareware project.

Anyway – that is more than enough rambling for today I think its time to launch illustrator and do a little more work on Marilyn’s contribution.

Ukrainian embroidery:

I have been poking around the net looking at Ukrainian cross stitch (khrestyk) embroidery. The motifs and traditional patterns are built up using a type of cross stitch referred to as “Nabiruvannia”.

Often traditional stitching is referred to as folk art but I see it as a living craft because people are adapting, creating and still using this type of embroidery. Used in costume , to decorate domestic textiles and in religious rituals, particularly the embroidered ritual towel many of the geometric and floral patterns that predominate hold deep symbolic meanings.

There are a large number of traditional Ukrainian embroidery charts available online provided free which could be worked using traditional techniques or converted for knitting.