Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Expressive Stitch

I returned home 2 weeks ago from Quilting by the Lake where I took a course with artist Dorothy Caldwell. The workshop was entitled The Expressive Stitch and was focused on the use of kantha embroidery as used in India.

Dorothy shared her passion for this form of stitching and brought large pieces the size of bed coverings which showed how this type of stitching is used to make what I call "story quilts." I don't think Dorothy used that term but the pieces do tell the stories of the events of day to day life as well as important events in the villages where these women live. Unfortunately, the photos I shot during this class are of such poor quality that I am not going to post but a few. My description of these works is that there are designated women who do the planning and drawing of the work and then the stitching is shared among the group. They take sections of the pieces home and work on them and then assemble the entire work when completed. They are both simple and complex and very charming despite some very serious cultural depictions such as bride burning, widow burning etc.

We were given the assignment of creating a group of 4 images that related to one another using something that was very topical in our lives (forgive me this point that is my memory of the assignment) I choose to start with a funny little man who sat next to me on my flight to the workshop. He was too big for the seat and smelled bad. I then did his "girlfriend", his dog and his snake.

Stinky, Marcella, Little Pup and Curley Q

In all honesty, I am not sure why we spent so much time on these pieces but something interesting did happen. I am not a writer, but as I continued to work on these images a story began to develop about the relationships between the four characters and I spent several hours yesterday writing a 7, 800 word story about them. Trust me, I have never done that before in my life unless it was an assignment. The relationships were so clear and the story just sort of flowed out. I am going to edit just a bit and send the story to my workshop classmates and Dorothy. I may post here later but I'll have to really think about that.

Wall of Small Works

This is a shot of some of the small pieces done by other members of the group. They do make an interesting group. Wonderful to see all the different images.

Time Lines

The second exercise we worked on was a Time line. I won't reveal what we did or how but the above image is only part of three different time lines done by three different people. The one on the bottom is part of mine. These pieces allowed us to explore more free form ways of using stitching and again, there was a wonderful array of approaches demonstrated.

Dorothy's lecture showing the work of artists who use stitching was fantastic as were the printed materials and artifacts she brought to share. She also spoke with us briefly about her own work and did a private "consultation" with each member of the class who wanted this interaction. The private time I shared with Dorothy was meaningful and insightful.

I personally have been feeling a desire for change in my work brought on by my weekly textile constructions and this workshop has also contributed to new "words" in my art vocabulary. I have completed 2 new WTC's since returning (they will be posted soon) and I used stitching in both. Thank you Dorothy.

This Monday I will be posting images of the Second Stage of Compositional Conversation as well as a mini-profile of Rebecca Howdeshell. Hope to see you then.


  1. love your four pieces about stinky, marcella & co - as well as the story behind them!

  2. I can't wait to read your essay. I'm still incorporating all the things we learned into my brain. It seemed like when we were in class we weren't "doing" a lot of work, but I have taken so much with me from that week. I am just slowly turning over little snippets that come back to me during my day.

  3. Yes, it is interesting. The workshop seems so simple on the surface but it is very powerful.