My Personal Favorites
Here is a small collection of my favorite work:
there are just five.
I will tell the story of each as I post it. For several, I have told the stories many times, others this is the first time.
This is my Time Sampler stitched in 2005, now 14 years ago. Doesn't seem possible.
Here is its very personal story.
The Passage of Time
The Story of My Time Sampler,
Part 1 A Very Personal Story
Hollyhock House was my Sanctuary. I like to remember that I more or less moved there for the months I worked on it. My world was too difficult and I wanted to run away, so I moved into Hollyhock House for the months I stitched it.
After I finished Hollyhock House I moved back to reality. I knew I wanted to stitch a sampler but I needed some distance.
Then one day I thought today is the day and I started the sampler. By then I had thought quite a bit about it and knew that it would be about the Passage of Time, its official name.
This sampler is all about the symbolism of time: the sun, the moon, a clock, the passage of the seasons and a tiny hourglass which, I hope you notice, is not expired because we, my father's descendents, live on.
If you look carefully at the small bands crossing behind the clock and the seasons, you will see Roman Numerals. They note the important dates and numbers of my father's life; the hands of the clock are set at the hour of his death.
It is my most personal piece of work.
The Passage of Time
Part 4 Teaching the Sampler at Callaway
Like Hollyhock House, I never intended to teach this sampler. I remember how Jody Adams talked me into teaching Hollyhock House at Callaway, but I don't remember exactly how and why I taught this sampler. I thought it was way too personal to teach. I seem to recall that a friend talked me into doing it by telling me this: did I think I was the only one who had been through tough times? Didn't I think this might help other people too? I'm not sure now, but that's what I remember.
Whatever, I signed on the dotted line to teach this sampler at Callaway one year (sorry, I don't remember the year).
I couldn't have predicted it but I am here to say, it is the only great class I ever taught and I would like to write why.
I told my students from the beginning, I have given you a structure so you don't have to start from scratch, I have also written the instructions for the sampler exactuly the way I stitched it so that you have a safety net; but this sampler is my story; I want you to write your story for your own sampler.
We spent large chunks of the class talking about motifs and stories and ways to fit them into the sampler.
I did teach students an easy way to design:: draw a scant bit of a drawing, use tracing paper to rework and refine the drawing,, then go down to the copy machine, size the drawing to fit in place on the sampler. Bring back the copy, cut it out, put it on top of the outline, see if it works, if not exactly what you want, draw again to refine it, back to the copy machine, etc.
People told their stories, about the important things in their lives and they helped each other think of motifs to draw, and everyone drew her own. Everyone. I don't think I did a bit of drawing for anyone. Some of them had never done any drawing, yet they could do it if the emotions were strong and memories were important enough to them.
So here's the part I love: sometime on Day Two, my Callaway boss came and fetched me out of class. She said to me, 'what is going on in here?' She said there is a long line of my students down at the copy machine and they were crying their eyes out to one another!'
For four days we all learned how strong and important memories can be. If you reach inside yourselves for something important to you, you can do magical things: you can draw, design and make wonderful artwork all on your own. That's after all what the cavemen were doing when they did those wonderful cave drawings.
As I said, it was the only great class I ever taught.
The Passage of Time
Part 3 Eternity with My Needle in My Hand
I guess I have never spent a lot of time thinking about Eternity until Joseph Campbell came into my life. In my pre-Joseph Campbell years, if you had asked me, I would likely have said, Eternity is vast and forever. In my Joseph Campbell years, I learned another idea about Eternity and I wanted to write about it here because I think it is so entwined with our needlework.
Joseph Campbell's notion of Eternity is different from vast and forever; it is a point where you are so in the present that there is no past, no future, only this moment, purely a state of mind totally immersed in the here and now.
Isn't this what we experience when we immerse ourselves in our needlework? We lose ourselves in the colors, the textures and the rhythm of it all. I think of the times that people write to me about receiving their kits, taking them apart, stroking the threads and imagining the joy of the project. I think of times people write me about finishing a piece and being happy but in another way sad that it is over. I have a theory that this is one of the central reasons for our passion about our stitching.
If you think about it, isn't our needlework a form of meditation? On one level the saying on my sampler is directed toward our needlework itself.
The Passage of Time
Part 5 From My Callaway Class till Now
My memory is, that I never taught the class again, but I may not remember correctly. I don't think I ever posted the sampler online; a year or two ago I posted the clock and a couple of the motifs but I didn't post the whole sampler. Last year a friend and customer asked me if she could buy it, I had a kit and sold it to her. I don't know how she knew about it.
When I posted the clock on my facebook page, people wrote and asked me about it. I don't know how they knew about it either. Maybe they had an old Callaway Catalogue, or knew someone in the class. As well as I remember the sampler has just been hanging in my front hall for years; it has never ventured out, far as I recall.
For years I thought Hundred Flowers was my best piece of work. If there is a challenger, I think it might be this sampler. I can never make up my mind and DH always asks me why I have to decide. He's right, I don't.
There's a third contender. The third is one I've never taught, never posted, never done anything with. It was a study project for me and it had a huge impact on my stitching, in fact it changed the whole way I designed. More about it next time.
The Passage of Time
Part 2 My Favorite Parts
If I'm honest, there's not much I don't like about this sampler, likely as much for the symbolism as for anything.
The design elements came from several sources, the most dominant from Tiffany's Atlas designs. If you look at a piece of Atlas, it has the hands of a clock, but the hands don't move: to me this said 'time paused.'
The moon came from a Tiffany charm, and the sun grew to match the moon. The milky way is one of my favorite composites: it flows and it is jagged too, and in my mind the jagged part fits the sampler.
I borrowed the waves from traditional samplers. What I love best about samplers: how they reduce complex design elements to simple expressions and these scrolls are a good example: they are such abstract symbols of the waves but they convey the message.
My favorite is the clock. I managed it so simply, but it looks to me just like an old-fashioned mantle clock. It has always made me want to do a spot sampler of antique furniture. Now that I'm looking at it yet again, I think yes, indeed, I should put such a sampler on my bucket list of things to stitch.
Above: a closeup of the clock,
Next: the Moon, the Milky Way and the Sun
And Next: the scrolling Sampler waves.