Equinox - Night and Day
Kathy Loomis and Terry Jarrard-Dimond
Fabric and Embroidary Floss
Two summers ago I attended a workshop at QBL and took a class titled Expressive Stitching with Dorothy Caldwell. It was an interesting experience and has inspired me to incorporate some handstitching into my work.
The experimentation that I most connected with was an exercise where Dorothy had the class put on blindfolds and stitching following very specific directions. This might sound a little strange but from my perspective, the most expressive stitching that was done that week was while we were all blindfolded!!! It is not my intention to insult the members of my class with that statement. My sighted stitching was the most constrained of all. I like to think of myself as able to communicate and "express" feelings and ideas with my art materials but it wasn't happening until I worked blindfolded.
I did all of my stitching at my work table.
Fast forward to fall 2010. I became very interested in a SAQA competition titled Beyond Comfort which challenged artists to expand on the idea of textiles or textile techniques and "Blind Stitching" came to mind. Ultimately I decided not to follow that line of thinking but I did discuss the idea with my friend Kathy Loomis and we decided to do a collaboration where we would each spend time stitching blindfolded and then join the work into one piece.
I threaded the needles without the blindfold but I ended each length of floss with the blindfold in place.
Here is the process we followed:
- We choose a diptych format. One side black and one white. We drew lots and Kathy got the black and I drew white.
- We each individually decided on the color or colors of thread we would use and did not discuss it with one another.
- We each would stitch 12 hours making the piece "worth" 24 hours of blind stitching or stitching blind.
- We would not look at the work once we began until reaching the 12 hour mark.
- We would each select what stitch or stitches to use in the work.
This is now the fabric looked before it was stretched. I had not tried to keep things flat.
I'm very happy we decided to divide the 24 hours because I found out very quickly that it was hard to not look. While there was pleasure in trying to "see" with my finger tips, I found it tempting to peek and had to work hard not to do so.
Detail of Day
The best thing was that I liked the feel of what was happening on the fabric from the very beginning. I could feel puckers, bumps, tails, knots, tracks. I could visualize what was happening on the surface although not how the thread colors were working.
I selected about 24 colors which were placed in a paper bag. Each time I sat down to stitch I randomly pulled one skein from the bag, threaded 8 needles and worked until I ran out of needles. I made it without looking until 6 hours in and then I couldn't stand it anymore. I looked. I couldn't believe now nice the work was. I then reframed from further looking until I finished.
I did have issues with tangled threads and sewing in the tails but somehow it all looks just fine now that it has been finished. Kathy did the finish work and she did a bang-up job. Thank you Kathy. Each side is mounted to a stretcher frame and will be hung side-by-side but not attached to one another.
Kathy chose to work with a cross stitch and I did mostly a running stitch although I did work some areas into patches of stitches.
So what's the meaning of this? For me it is an example of how powerful our senses are. Artists tend to be very visually oriented naturally but I believe we also use the sense of touch, smell and sound - even when we aren't aware of doing so. Think installation or performance. In a very real sense Kathy and I created a performance work by quietly sitting and stitching allowing our fingers to communicate with our brains to tell us what to do next.
You are invited to visit Kathy's blog to see her photographs and thoughts on the process: http://artwithaneedle.blogspot.com
I have some ideas of ways to carry this forward. I'll keep you posted.
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