Monday, April 25, 2011

Blind Stitching OR Stitching Blind 2

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:

I have some ideas of ways to carry this forward. I'll keep you posted.

Thank you for visiting Studio 24-7. I love hearing from you so Remember:

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  1. Wow I love this! I've never thought of stitching blind folded, now I can't wait to give it a try.

  2. Outstanding post on perceptions - many thanks for sharing the process !

  3. Wow. I was starting to cast around for an idea for my May 1-a-days. Now I know what I'm going to do. (I'll also be in a class with Dorothy Caldwell in May. Serendipity is a mighty thing.)

  4. This is superb! I am taking Dorothy Caldwell's class in a few weeks and this makes me even more thrilled to be able to do this. Thank you.

  5. What a fabulous idea! I'm going to have to give this a try because the blindfold will force me to give up control ... something that I think will be very illuminating. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thank you everyone! Kathy and I were very happy with the results and I too want to do more. I'm in Ohio this week teaching at the Crow Barn and will be back for Dorothy Caldwell's class. I look forward to seeing those of you who will be here!

  7. I always enter a learning space when I visit your Blog. These pieces give up much... Yours reminds me of s Seurat painting.

  8. Beata Keller-KerchnerApril 28, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    I enjoyed reading your observations to this experiment. I teach art for teenagers and regularly i let them draw blindfolded or with their non-dominant hands. I usually suggest they take a strong emotion like happiness, anger,etc. concentrate on it and let it lead them. The results can be very expressive and stunning. Just like this time. Thank you for sharing it.

  9. What beautiful rhythms your patterns have. And although I don't stitch I want to try the process with a stack of coloured pencils.

  10. Next lesson under the heading, "What If?" These pieces are worthy of further study in my book. Thank you for sharing this project!

  11. Thank you to everyone for your wonderful comments! Yes. I intend to do more of this type of stitching. The exercise follows right in the footsteps of blind contour drawing and drawing with your non dominate hand. It is another way to tap into our creative source without too much intellectual and judgmental interference.

  12. what a joy to do one of Dorothy Caldwell's classes it must be. I live to far away but I relate to where u write of ur sighted stitching feeling constrained. I did a workshop with artist India Flint that encouraged me to work in new ways and created a stitched and natural dyed cloth. Its make favourite work to date. I'm enjoying ur blog. Working with textiles is a love of mine too, though I have currently hung up my art work to raise my family. x

  13. Hi Ahipara Gir! Thank you for commenting.

    Yes, I was very excited when I was able to sign-up for this class and I just returned yesterday from a well in her Master Class. Dorothy is a generous person with a clear understanding of her own work as well as a sharp eye for assisting others with issues in their own work.

    I understand how hard it is to make art and raise a family but I encourage you to "keep you hand in your art" in any small or large way you can. It will be much easier for your to begin your explorations later on if you do this as opposed to starting from a completely disconnected place.

    Best wishes and thank you again for writing.