Serpentine Sheddings, Visceral Wisdom

From Sweeping Changes.

Ironwood, pig gut

This process of putting Rae’s pieces in this blog, of presenting them with as much of their stories as I can, has been a healing one.  It also has brought me tears, frustration, and joy.  One strange thing is the deja vu.  I am certain I remember writing about this piece in detail.  But I cannot find anything, and now I must draw the conclusion that I either described it in a dream, or told the story at either her memorial/birthday party or some other gathering of folk.  Ah, well, here we go again.

Rae had a lot of fun with this piece, from the rather simple design to the very complicated implementation.  I found a snippet in Rae’s Master’s Thesis, which I quote below.  For Sweeping Changes, she wanted a snake, shedding it’s skin, the skin becoming the skirt of the broom.

From her MasterSweepings manuscript:  “The first step of this breathing out is the process of thinking.  Thinking isn’t limited to intellectualizing — for me it implies a whole brain involvement to convey something that is felt, seen, and thought about.  This is followed by finding, which is a free ranging and instinctual process — and an allowing and a trusting that what I need will be found.  An example of this can be seen in the broom Visceral Wisdom / Serpentine Sheddings, for which I needed a snake handle that was shedding its skin.  My process was not to think, “now I need a 6 foot stick” — it was more like: “now I need the snake” — and then I waited/sought the snake, and accepted it when the right piece of wood came.  Then I begin the act of making — not just constructing an object, but responding to the construction and materials while “thinking” is engaged.”

The stick was a found piece of ironwood, with bark beetle grooves in it.  The skirt, to emulate snakeskin (she had no desire to either buy or collect enough actual snake skins to do it) was hand-painted pig intestine.  Yes.  Pig gut. (“visceral” wisdom…)

You can get pig intestine from a butcher shop, usually used for stuffing your own sausage into.  It comes in about 60′ lengths or longer, in a brine to preserve it.

We lived at Eagle Heights when she was making this piece.  We went outside with the gut, and stuck a bicycle pump into one end, and pumped.  It inflated like an insane balloon-animal, getting longer and longer but not thicker.  She then tied off the ends, and we strung it up like a clothesline to dry.  It shrank and flattened when it dried.  Did not hold the air very long, but long enough to make it ribbon instead of string.

Rae cut this 3/4″ – 1.25″ ribbons into even lengths of 4 feet.  She painted them with one of her favorite paints, a “Pearlescent” set of pastels that fairly glowed.  The effect was a magical multi-colored semi-transparent ribbon that did look a lot like a colorful snakeskin.  The ribbons were folded in half, leaving the fold at the top, and a colored string used to attach them to the stick.  Originally crisp and fluffed out, moisture form the air and time have left them more limp now, but still just as colorful and inspiring.  The same colored paint was used to trace the grooves left by the bark beetles in a crazy, random meander around the stick.

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