Pearls of wisdom, beads of hope, threads of tradition…

January 22nd, 2009

They say they’re coming out of Gaza. The protest quilt is done, a white-hot quick flash — like the news of this war as a flash amidst all the other themes in the news these days: gloom and hope, change and crumbling systems, and this flash of conflict against the always-looming dark clouds of the Middle East. Like I said, I don’t pretend to understand it.

I finished an amazing novel today. In the Skin of a Lion. The kind of novel that had me sitting at a cafe table longer than I intended in the 35-degree heat, clenching and unclenching one hand on the empty table (my plate long-gone), reading out the last few pages. Impervious to office boys in suits, yakking close at the next table. Close the book with a deep sigh.

It’s probably the sixth time I’ve read Michael Ondaatje’s book, but I keep hazy memories of it every time — only an image here and there (the men off to work in the dark morning; the red dog, August; sleeping amongst mushrooms in Italian darkness; the blue man on the roof). Beauty, sorrow, violence and pain — the feelings I had while I was stitching that Protest quilt — they’re all there in the book.

Somehow the heart glows amidst militarism; sometimes it’s spiky. We walk large in the skin of the brave lion; we become something else; we are small and we slip through – to dance, defiant.

What do I protest about?

January 19th, 2009

There are so many things to protest about.

- clearing forests, burning rainforest, laying waste to land

- landmines, injustice and totalitarianism

- apathy. About the real environmental cost of what we buy. Apathy about labour conditions for factory workers. About water use and food crises. Apathy is the worst of all.

I was going to make a quilt about apathy. The design was partly worked out, and the core meaning was absolutely clear to me: “Live your life with your brain on. Look and see. Now don’t just lie there, eating and buying stuff — do something!”

However small a contribution, actions and caring blast apathy out of the water.

But something else started to happen, and my quilt became a different thing. As I laid out your package of fabrics on the desk, Jennifer, I was listening to the radio. And there were missiles falling in the middle east again: Israel and Gaza: Gaza and Israel.

Some of my childhood memories are of the half-understood news of these kinds of conflicts. Images on the news at night, Israeli women soldiers, young, bombs in streets, families — and there’s me, living a sheltered and happy life in a quiet part of the world. Not guilt, but horrid fascination. Awareness of how things could have so easily been different: I could have been born in Afghanistan, the middle east, Angola, Cambodia — one of any number of countries ripped by wars I don’t, and won’t understand, in the years since I was born.

So this quilt became a record of anger, dismay and concern. Not understanding. A complete failure to understand why war is what happens. I stitched while the news reports came in, and finished as the land invasion began. My quilt is finished, but it’s not over – not for anyone on the ground in these cities, families and friends of local people, and anyone who is concerned, not apathetic about war in our world.

Bev

What do we want? A protest quilt!

January 2nd, 2009

- When do we want it?

NOW!

The protest packet

Just last week, a protest was under way in Melbourne, and I heard that age-old rally cry. What do we want? Fair Pay! When do we want it? NOW!

It seems that there’s a lot to protest in our world, and fitting that I should be doing it on New Year’s Day. Sewing up a storm, stitching the world with the protest packet you sent me, this quilt lept through my hands and into the sewing machine, and it’s almost done already, only 48 hours later.

 

What’s that you say? You want consistency? (A slow quilt, a quick quilt… will she ever get this right?) 

Sorry – quilt a-coming through! I hope your TV craft spot goes well and that you can join me over here where I’m a one-woman, craft-mad protest chick.

What’s it all about?

Tell ya tomorra!

Bev

Green man for a southern summer

December 31st, 2008

Hi Jennifer,

Whew! The whirl of Christmas is over, and the new year is here (in Australia it is… I can’t remember if you’ve crossed the dateline yet in North America… hazy memory tells me that you must be just about on midnight as I type this, late in the afternoon of New Year’s Day).

wisteria

They say you should start the year as you mean to go on. If that’s the case, this will be a good year! I started with a burst of energy, and a brisk one-hour walk all the way to the top of the Big Hill (say that bit in a deep voice), with a big bag of library books to be returned.

The main street is quiet after the New Year revels. Some bottles here and there, yuck. Unusually quiet: all the shops are shut.

We live in an area that was populated mainly by Italian and Greek immigrants in the mid-20th century, and although it has changed a lot, become a mix of the older Europeans and the younger students and couples, it’s still a street of one-family-owned small businesses. Italian wedding boutiques. Mediterranean gardens. Tiny houses. Cafes, cafes and cafes. A Greek market: big cans of olive oil stacked high in the front window. Dress shops, alterations and sewing classes, mmm, sewing classes…. More cafes. Only the Internet Cafe and the IGA were open this morning: one with a solo backpacker inside, and the other attracting the usual half-dozen wrinkled old Greek men to the benches outside. Kalimera. Good morning!

The other good things about today, as I mean to go on in 2009 are:

  • Reading a good book – I finished my fifth book in five days – bring on the holidays, I say.
  • Cooking up a storm: I’ve made Tuscan flatbread (schiacciata Toscana) with sea salt and rosemary, and olive oil drizzled into the knobbles; a fragrant stew, and some slow-cooked bolognaise sauce
  • Sewing my latest Posted Stitches quilt!

I was cheerfully zipping away on the next quilt, when I realised that the Green Man quilt had not been fully explained and shown in photos. He’s been sitting quietly on the side while the wild rumpus of Christmas flowed through the house. And here he is.

Green Man quilt

I have been wanting to do a Green Man quilt for quite a long time. This one was first drawn on paper, then I went over the pencil lines of my drawing in thick black pen. I could see these pen lines through the white cotton, so I traced the lines onto my cotton, and painted swirls of green, brown and yellow textile paint into the fabric until it was saturated wet with colour.

A night on the line, and it was dry: I ironed my fabric to set painted fabricthe colours, and started some stencils for the next step. These were simple leaf shapes cut out of freezer paper, which I ironed to the fabric (use a low setting). Once they were stuck to the fabric, out came those brushes, a sponge and the textile paints, and I painted or blotched in the leaves.

I also painted some extra fabric, which I cut, free-hand, into leaf shapes and swirls. Then, weeks and weeks of slow embroidery and random stitches. That was the part I found hard to leave behind!

He’s all done, and ready to join the rest of my PS quilts in their special plastic case. What are we going to do with them all when we have achieved our year’s worth of quilts?

cheers

Bev

So the secret is out!

December 12th, 2008

Jennifer,

You crack me up! And so does your husband. Only you would beautifully stitch quilting lines that suggest the – er – richness of odour. Only you would relate the conversation about the quilt!

It’s such a cute car, and a fun story… my old man (no, I am not referring to my husband!) looks somewhat of a different creature in contrast. My myths quilt is much more on the traditional legendary line! So I had to leave him for a day or two to let the air clear – so to say (can I use all of my bad puns in this post — please?)

I seem unable to insert images today, so I’ll post this, and be back later with pictures and the full story of the Green Man of Melbourne.

Bev

The Myth of the Man Who Didn’t Fart

December 7th, 2008

I’m sorry if this quilt challenges your sensibilities, but I created it with the support and encouragement of my husband, the man farting in the quilt above.

I was driving him nuts obsessing about what kind of quilt I would make for the “Myths & Legends” theme. I was wavering between depicting “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and stitching Athena, the goddess of craft. But neither of these ideas really excited me.

Then we had this ridiculous conversation that went something like this:

Jeff: What don’t you do a quilt about my gas?

Me: (laughing) What?! That’s ridiculous.

Jeff: You believed I didn’t have a gas issue. That’s a myth.

Me: Yeah, that’s for sure. Are you okay with me making a quilt about that?

Jeff: Sure.

Me: Then consider it done.

Immediately, I knew what I had to do.

More than 12 years ago I fell in love with Jeff and proceeded to date him for two years before making the toxic discovery that he farts.

I know, I know, we all do. But not like this.

Soon after our summer 1998 wedding, my wonderful husband let his guard down and I started getting  gased out by noxious fumes. One day, after the air cleared I asked, “What the heck, dude? What’s going on? Did you just develop a post-nuptial condition? Where is all this gas coming from? You never did this before. Seriously, this is unbelievable.”

Jeff confessed to hiding his gas problem from me and explained that he took advantage of every opportunity to fart without me noticing while we were dating. The most common scenario is the one depicted above. While we were dating Jeff would open the car door for me and, once my door was closed, fart all the way around to the driver’s side of the car. This method worked great. He got to relieve pressure and I was left with the stench-free impression that he was a gentleman. Nothing like a marriage to shake out the truth.

I never imagined I would ever stitch a fart quilt, but I guess that’s part of life’s grand adventure – you never know what’s going to happen next.

And just because I’m feeling a bit vulnerable unveiling a quilt about farts, I want to share a short interview I recorded yesterday with Ryan Greaves, a young artist who is making fart art, too. Apparently this is a trend, people. Check it out…

Return to PS

December 5th, 2008

We’re here! You would be forgiven for thinking that the project has been abandoned as everything went quiet over here at Posted Stitches central. Rest assured, there’s been a lot of quiet stitching going on off-line, and plenty of activity.

Piles of work

After a hiatus of several months, and my round-the-world trip, I’ve started a new job. Not just one, but three, not being one to do things by halves. Thank heavens they’re all part-time! However, I’m discovering that it’s true: part-timers put in extra hours, and work harder in the days they are at the desk. I’ve been feeling the crush a bit, and the sewing time got squeezed. There was a bit of late-night sketching and a few crazy early-morning sessions, but fun time got cut down a lot.

I’m getting back on top of it now: perhaps I need to learn from Jennifer, who juggles more than I thought it was humanly possible for one two-handed crafter who needs to sleep sometimes.

But now we’ve both finished our Myths and Legends quilts, and we got together yesterday for the usual very long Skype chatter-fest with guest spot appearances by dogs and husbands, including disembodied voices off-stage (Jennifer’s husband) and 3-minute stand-up pontifications from the Professor (my husband). It’s a whole lotta fun – and the quilts look great.

So, sit tight: the reveal is happening. We’re back!

Bev

Catching Up With My P.S. Quilt

November 7th, 2008

Hi Bev.

October was a a wild month that came and went and I’m still stitching and will be through the weekend. It didn’t help that I’ve been particularly indecisive as far as subjects and fabric choices. As I suspected would happen, I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the freedom we’ve had to choose are own fabric. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I’ve changed my theme a “myths of marriage” instead of Greek mythology. (I’ll explain later.) I’m a little nervous about it, but I think it will be interesting to see if I can pull it off. Wish me luck and happy stitching!

Cheers,

Jennifer

P.S. As a newspaper feature writer, I wasn’t involved with any of the election night news coverage. But I did wear my “Craft the Vote” apron to the polls that day, and I brought an embroidery project to work on while I waited to vote. This worked out well, because I ended up meeting a woman who makes hooked rugs. I smell a craft column coming on.

Wild man of the green

November 4th, 2008

It’s the middle of the afternoon here in Melbourne, and nearly midnight in the Eastern U.S. I’m glued to the computer to keep tabs on your election results. I keep hitting that ‘refresh’ button on the BBC’s vote counter to see how things are stacking up. As a journalist, this must be a wild and woolly week, elections being what they are. I hope you get some stitching time soon.

Myth in the dark

A few nights ago I sat down late – it was almost midnight here – to paint a Green Man. It was a wild a windy night; perfect for an elemental spirit, and when I went to hang the dripping wet square out on the line in the dark, it glowed.

I’m still stitching on leaves and bark, bugs and buds, but I wanted to let you know that my Jack o’ the Green is on the way, soon to be revealed.

Bev

You’re going Greek? I’m going green….

October 27th, 2008

I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t think about or plan out a part of this Myths and Legends challenge. It’s such a great topic, and I want to do so many images to explore myths and their place in modern life.

But I’ve decided. I’m making a Green Man.

Green Man

Green Man carvings – and they are nearly always men – are often found on churches in England. When we lived in Oxfordshire, we used to look for them every time we visited a country church. They’re often at the top of pillars or perched in a corner, looking down on the church nave through the mask of foliage and leaves that sprout from their mouths, sometimes from their nose and ears as well.

Sutton Green Man

Green Men can be disconcerting and they can be surreal, they often invoke shadows of the power of the ancient religions from the time before Christianity came to Northern Europe. Wood spirits, folk deities, ancient gods and spirits, they are associated with Pan, Herne the Hunter, Jack in the Green and the Old Man of the Woods. Some say the Green Man is a source behind the Robin Hood legends and Peter Pan, even early images of Father Christmas.

It’s an ancient myth – as old as the hills – that strikes a chord with me for the basic love of the earth and the seasons, and the quiet power of the forest; sometimes benign, sometimes dangerous, always powerful.

A quick search for good material about Green Men gives me three interesting articles:

An Introduction to the Green Man

The Mystery of the Green Man

Wikipedia entry for the Green Man

Life is busy at the moment, but I’m going to enjoy creating my own version of this ancient symbol. Stand by for reports: Wednesday afternoon is open for crafty business, and I’ll start my Green Man then.

Bev