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Spirit cloth - or where does it become art?

I consider myself very lucky that I could go and do a two-year textile teacher course at Umeå University. I needed the qualification, but I learnt more than what I am using in my job. I feel I managed to unleash some creativity, some freedom, som kind of courage in myself. Not fully, not yet, but I am on my way. :D

Since May, when the course was over, I have been planning to finally have lots of me-time in my crafts. Don't have to do any more homework. I have lots of sewing projects planned, clothes, bags and patchwork, but I was mostly looking forward to get into my most favourite of all crafts: embroidery. Even though I was working with it all this last term.

I have been looking at works, blogs, books by many textile artists and I have been accumulating inspiration. Then quite recently I found the concept of Spirit Cloth and a video course by Jude Hill, and I could wait no longer. I had to try my hand at it. Love the way Jude explains her work process, how she does not stress over things, how she builds up her pieces organically, almost randomly, with lots of improvisation. I thought this might be the right way for me.
I was also looking a lot at Karen Ruane, and Amy Meissner's Inheritance project ( I am even sending her some of my old fabric pieces for the project). I, too, love old fabrics and want to incorporate them in my work, want to give them new life.

So a few days ago I started, as if it was a lesson plan, by sewing three pieces of fabric together, like Jude says, in a landscape format. Then I sewed them on a very thin fabric. And old bit of linen, with the badly frayed edges became the bottom, a colour catcher that came out of the washing machine with this pretty peachy colour, forms the middle. The top part, the greenish-blue piece was originally my ironing cloth, which obtained the colour when I was trying to iron a pile of tie-dyed pieces. (They were done in my school in a science experiment and obviously the colour was not fixed because it all ended up on my iron and on my ironing cloth.)
I was really lucky with these colourful accidents, wasn't I?

After this, I added one element after the other. Old embroidery, doily, selvage from a nice fabric, a machine embroidered gauze fabric, leftover tulle pieces... a bunch of linen (or perhaps hemp) thread... lots of fraying edges... I was improvising. I added some figurative elements, like the birds and the flowers, but other parts are totally abstract. I used couching and applique.

I also added some embroidery stitches to enhance the shapes, but then I stopped myself thinking that I can continue with this when doing the "quilting". This is not going to be a real quilt, but it is three (or more) layers, and the backing fabric needs to be sewn together with the top layers. For backing I chose and old kitchen towel, looks like it might be hand woven. A bit thick, and a bit battered up, but it works well in giving the whole piece some stability.

I started the quilting, but not finished yet. I also started sewing down the "binding" - that is I just folded over the edge of the backing fabric. I left one side unsewn for the time being, in case the layers shift a bit in the quilting process.

You can see the quilting in the back, so far I was echoing the shapes on the front with matching thread - so the back will have different colours. But it's all right because most of them are muted and close to each other. Have I mentioned that I am also using some vintage thread? Bought them in a second-hand shop years ago. They are lovely to sew with, roughly the same thickness as 6-stranded floss, but 4 strands, and each ball is 40 meters. And I had an exact match for the linen and the peach fabric. I wish I had more colours.

I am enjoying the process. This took me about 4 days (not doing this all day, of course) so it is not so slow as one might think, considering it is all done by hand. But I am a bit unsure. My long term dream is to create textile art of my own. But I was reasoning like this: if I am waiting to become an artist before I start making things, it will never happen. It is better to get started, even if I am using methods learnt from others, even if I am not all that very original in my theme (like birds flying in the blue sky :P ) and just keep going. Sooner or later perhaps I will develop my own style, my own technique, my own little textile world.

This is the question that perplexes me. When does a piece of work become art? When does it become all mine - even if I am using motifs, like birds and flowers, that others also do? Will I know? Or is the doubt always part of it?

Anyway, I am going to be bold and name the piece. A piece of art (original or not, good or not) should have a title. So this is going to be Serendipity I. (The number indicates that there are more coming.)

If anyone has the answer to my questions, please don't hesitate to share :D

Happy stitching, everyone.


Christine said...

That is a beautiful piece of work and definitely ART.
I would hang it as it is but others might frame it.
Congratulations on your first, very beautiful, steps along the Artist road.

Christine said...

P.S. I have found that the doubt is always part of it.