It was very pleasant two evenings ago to pick up my fine needle and make a start with embroidering my hawthorn tree image onto a girls handmade nightgown. After a long search for the right dress I purchased the nightgown in a vintage shop in Cromford, Derbyshire this February.
Resting on its small wooden hanger, haunting my living room, the dress called to me begin, begin... It had to be patient and wait but, finally, tiny grey stitches pierced their way through warp and weft. Picking up my needle brings me closer to myself, it makes sense, it brings me home.
This hawthorn tree is near my childhood home, I'd photographed it recently and created the tracing, musing upon my childhood, the forest, the lack, the wonder, the meaning behind taking needle to cloth for this solitary tree and the solitary girl.
Life drawing from last night, 10 minute, 25 minute and 45 minute poses. It's an untutored class run by Jennifer Wolf, click here for details. Fantastic model yesterday and a different model each week, popular class with materials provided and focused atmosphere! Apologies for the average photos and nasty auto enhance - best I can do on a dull London morning.
15 years separate these images. At 32, during my MA in Textiles at Goldsmiths College I returned to my childhood stomping grounds to work within the landscape using white acrylic wool, a camera on a tripod and a laser to create a floating white boundary line within the trees. This work led to my final piece, There's no place like home, exhibited at Goldsmiths during the summer show of 2003. Click on my artwork section to view this piece.
Over the years I've kept an eye on these trees, leaving the wool in situ, curious as to how it would weather and degrade. On a walk with my sister a couple of weeks ago (who helped me install and photograph the work in 2003) we revisited the site and I decided to return with scissors and remove the wool. Mostly out of concern for the trees, but I began to ponder making something with this weathered material...
Today, I journeyed on the Central Line to Debden, cycling to Epping Forest, past the street I was brought up on and my childhood home. There is something magical about being alone in a forest, birdsong filled my ears, I spotted a treecreeper perched on a trunk, noticed solitary bees buzz and bumble, searching at ground level. The rush of an unseen steam, full after yesterdays persistent rain added a consistent sound layer as I marvelled at soon to be obscured tree forms spangled in green expectant buds. The air had a warmth in it, the forest calm, holding imminent promise of ping and pop as spring roars in.
One by one I unwound wool from the trees, disturbing tiny translucent slugs that I'd not noticed before. The wool created a damp and spongy base for lichen and moss. Unwinding, paler wool was revealed appearing white against the tree, but grey when placed on the forest floor. It took time. Some trees appeared unaffected by the wool, bark smooth, unblemished, others retained indentations, reminding me of scarification marks in skin. While untangling I thought of myself, a different person from the one who wrapped the trees in 2003, 15 years is a long time and so much has changed. Only once did someone pass by, a man who commented that what I was doing looked 'very scientific'. I was wearing my fluorescent vest for cycling, so may have had an unintended workman like appearance. I was happy when he wandered off with his bounding black labrador.
Now the wool rests on my living room floor, untangled and drying. 3D forms will emerge using my beloved hand stitch and knit. I've no rush for an outcome, it can come to me when it's ready.
A light drizzle spotted my camera as I captured these images today. Completely undisturbed I sat with the work and the grave, carefully placing the knit onto the headstone and finding it a perfect fit. The grave is lovingly tended, a remembered place with daffodils in their spring prime, their yellow blooms hopeful as we turn towards the light.
Slowly, slowly my Close Knit project is nearing completion. The knit for my uncles grave was finished a couple of weeks ago and soon I'll revisit Slough and photograph it on the headstone. I've hesitated over beginning the piece for Mum, but have cast on 107 stitches and made a start. The colour I selected for her is Sailor Blue, she had a jumper in that shade that suited her.