Posts Tagged ‘Embroidery’

The Yurt

Friday, June 7th, 2013

The Yurt began it’s life as a concept, and as a Tipi.TOSHIBA Exif JPEG

The concept was the circle.  The sacred circle, the circle of life, the ritual circle.  Rae’s Tipi was at the end of its useful life, but the goddess figures from its interior were mostly still OK.  The Tipi was a home and a sacred space.  Living and worshiping in the round fascinated Rae, and she was drawn to the yurt concept even when she was working on the Tipi. She collected pictures and articles,  looked for details of construction, etc.  Rae bought a book in 2003: Tipis & Yurts: Authentic designs for Circular Shelters.

She considered buying a Yurt, or a Yurt kit, but the expense was considerable, and we had most of the skills.  Rae wrote to a yurt company for info, and they sent her a sample of their construction of the khans, the latticework that comprises the frame of the yurt.  It was made of clear pine 1 X 2, riveted with large aluminum rivets.  Most of the do-it-yourself instructions had either traditional string/twine, or 1/4″ bolts (which leave a lot of ends, can work their way loose, and added up to a LOT of bolts.
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So we found a place that sold rivets wholesale, took our sample, found a match and bought 1000 plus an industrial rivet tool.  1 x 2 lumber is very seldom clear, but you can find 2X6 that is fairly knot-free, so we figured out the ideal width for the rivets (about 5/8″), and ripped a mess of them from 2X6 Douglas fir, set up a jig to drill the holes in exactly the same place in each piece, and riveted them together.  For ease of storage, we divided the khans into 2 parts, connected with bolts.  The calculations for where the holes went, were complicated, had to take into account the height we wanted (finished size with the roof had to fit into a standard room with 8′ ceiling), the circumference (she chose a 13′ circle, of course) minus the door, etc.

Black canvas was found for the walls, and sewed into 6′ by 37′ panels, one for the inside, one for the outside.  A waterproof top was found, and made into a form-fitting dome by cutting a wedge to the center, and having that heat-sealed by a local boat-cover maker (Marine Tops Unlimited, thanks Steve!).TOSHIBA Exif JPEG

We devised a method for rafter attachment at the center, non-traditional since no smoke hole was needed, added a track lighting setup, and attached a couple of hundred eye-hooks to the underside of the rafters, to hang  small plexiglass mirrors, cut into random shapes to represent broken stained glass, representing the “stained glass ceiling” limiting women’s roles in mainstream religion (picture below).  The door frame and door were designed and decorated, the 5 individual goddess figurines attached to the canvas, and it was ready to go!
yurt_open yurtgoddessmirror  glassceiling

 

The goddesses all had upraised arms, forming crescents around a circular mirror in place of a face.  each piece is special, and has a story.  Earth,  Spider, Fire, Water, and Buffalo.  They include stuffed-work, embroidery, bead-work, shells, and felting.

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The interior floor is also canvas, with a painted pentagram, and religious symbols from multiple traditions stenciled around the edges.
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This was Rae’s largest piece.  We are considering taking the 5 goddess figures and mounting them separately on frames, and offering them for sale.

Guadalupe

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Available! $1000

Central Core: Roots of Faith
wood, textiles, beads, silk flowers.

Rae did not quite finish this piece, and it was never in a show.  So the name is from a list she had for a recent show, one that did not fit anything else that was in that show, and I am assuming it referred to this piece, which was several years in the making.

The main structure is a section of a tree trunk, maple, with a large cavity, surrounded by the distinctive almond-shaped scar (hence the “Central Core”, look it up) where the tree continued to grow and try to heal over the opening.  The top of it, indeed the whole shape, is suggestive of a torso, and so Rae saw it, and planned the piece to take advantage of that.  The bottom was not large enough to balance and support the rest, so a separate tree stump was used, attached and carved to fit.  The joint is obvious but subtle.

Rae removed all the bark from the outside, but left the callus, the healed section around the opening, and removed a lot of soft, punchy wood from inside.  The outside was then smoothed and dyed with red and black, covered with clear varnish, and I leave it to you, as she did, to determine what it evokes in you.

Inspired by the wayside shrines of Europe, the kapliczki, and the art and craft around the Lady/Mother/Goddess represented by the Guadalupe shrines, she embroidered and beaded her own Lady to fit inside the piece.  She finished all but a few square inches of the sequin/bead fill at the top of the image, which was completed by friends visiting the house in the days after her death, so the piece could be fished for her “Birthday Party” May 16th 2009.

Mounted in the opening, surrounded by silk flowers, the piece was done and looks incredible!

Caged Heat

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Maple, copper, textiles

Caged Heat is a not at all subtle political artistic statement.  For Rae, politics was personal, and spiritual, and personal.  Some of you might recognize the title from a 1974 exploitation film about women in prison.

Since Rae server her time in 1973, and was still on parole in 74, it came at a time she was a bit sensitized to some of the stereotypes in this and other shows.  The basic idea is that if you put a bunch of women together in close confinement, lots of violence and sexual abandon will result.

Rae was always a sexual being.  She was an incest survivor as well.  And a feminist.  These things are not separate, but integral parts of her and a result of her life experiences.  Caged Heat is about the oppression, including self-repression, of the sexuality of women.  The heat is the sensual, sexual, generative power of the female body.  The cage is the Burka, Habit, Wedding Dress;  it is the shaming, the peer pressure, the law;  it is myth, story,  parable, custom; it is rape, abuse, mutilation.

The story is told with textile art, 7 small vignettes in embroidery and applique:
The story of Pandora
Woman as property, passing from father to husband, represented by the wedding dress and land title.
The biblical story of Eve
The Chastity Belt
Female circumcision
Heat-to-toe clothing
The Witch-burnings

The centerpiece is a large copper, um, well, see if you can figure that out yourself.  One little surprise for folks is the mirror inside the slit.  Rae even had a good reason for making it that size.  Take the more common size of female pudenda, get the ratio to a newborn head.  Now increase it so a fully adult head could fit through.

The cabinet the pieces fit in is made of slightly spalted maple.  Closed, it looks shrine-like, open vaguely lunar.  She was making a statement about organized religion, too. But the exterior of the cabinet also has some detail, she carved parts to appear that the wood was actually woven, like a basket, with some parts coming out, perhaps unravelling.  The message overall is that the heat will not be caged.

Rae was very fond of Caged Heat.  She even requested in her funeral instructions that it be placed on her wheelchair. And so we did, with 3 live rose plants, which we later planted out back at our house.

To end, here is in Rae’s own words her artist’s statement on Caged Heat:

Caged Heat

Women have long worshipped at the shrines of our own apocalypse.  The aspects of our horsemen are: Sin, shame, control, fear, temptress, uncleanness, vassal/vessel-hood.  This shrine represents these aspects, aspects that have caged our passions and actions on conscious and sub-conscious levels our interior lives.

These subtle and not so subtle stories, myths and practices have guided our actions, interfered in our relationships and even guided the laws and morals of many of our societies. And women have fallen prey to belief in these aspects.  We believe it of our selves, of other women, of our heroines.

Sin — in the figure of Eve, causing expulsion from the Garden of Eden

Shame — because Pandora released all the sorrows on to the world

Temptress — We cannot be left alone, we cannot be trusted, we can not control our own actions or bodies

Control — Her hair, her skin, and her body must be hidden so as not to tempt or be tempted

Fear — women might judge a mans ability, demand more from him or even seek her pleasures somewhere else, and there is always the fear — that she won’t offer him the best vessel for his pleasure

Uncleanness — Women bleed, we leak milk from our breasts and fluids from between our legs…

Vassal/vessel-hood — we hold the next generation, and we must be “protected” “wedded”  “bedded”…

Women have been reclaiming and struggling for their rights for the last 100 years.  For each step forward, weighted down by these stereotypes and myths, we are dragged back. In the form of backlash groups, woman to woman sexism, legislation, younger women redefining immediate past history, the ongoing ritualization of women’s lives, the lack of equality in almost every country in the world, the ongoing economic and employment sanctions/limits placed on us, etc.  And somehow, the majority of women still assume that the balance of power is still justified, that men still know more, understand more, are generally more trustworthy then other women, and so on.

This shrine was created within ritualized processes to make a change in the world.  With each stitch I visualized a world where women where respected, where we were valued for who we are and what we did, and we had equality.  Each image was created and researched to bring to light the myths that do effect the world view within many cultures.  The shrine was created as a form coming undone, while the vulva shape was created in a size that is of an equal ration to the human head — to symbolize the birthing of new ideas in adults.

These icon images were done in simple embroidery stitches.  Stitchery is an art form long used and perfected by women, and it has a long history of encouraging revolution.  It is also my first art form, begun around the age of 5 and continuing.

Bridget: Lady of Faith Lady of Infamy

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Bridget piece open

English Oak, Mahogany, embroidery.

This piece is breathtaking, truly.  The images I’m posting here do not, cannot do it justice.   Rae worked on this for over 3 years, researching, collecting images and stories, designing the embroideries, finding the wood.

Detail, center section

Bridget: Lady of Faith Lady of Infamy is a tribute to the Irish Goddess and Saint.  It contains images from each iconography, and deftly shows how they interact and mingle. The three panels represent the goddess on the left, the Saint on the right,

and in the center, an image of the woman who was both, surrounded by the many names given to her, and symbols linked to her: Horseshoe, Acorn, Holly, ferns, a yellow flower I don’t remember the name of…  She also put a copper cauldron, in the style of her Water Cauldron, below her image in the center panel.

detail of Goddess panel

The left panel features a sacred spring, with a flame rising from the water, and an ancient Oak tree shading and sheltering it.  The pool is circled with rocks, there is grass, a small Rowan tree, the sun setting in the distance. (or is it rising?)

The right panel has the tower from St. Brigid’s Cathedral in Kildare, a celtic stone cross, and the eternal flame

tended by the Brigidine nuns, who are “unlike any other Catholic Order, for they embrace the Goddess aspect of Brighid and honor that fully.”

Detail right pane

The triptych is embroidery floss on linen, and I watched it slowly form.  I even timed Rae working on a section, calculated how long a square inch took to finish, and then extrapolated.  There are over 600 square inches of embroidered area in the piece, and it took her between 3 and 5 hours to do a square inch, depending on how many different colors it included, how often she had to change needles or thread, and how much attention she could give it.

I had some scraps of English Oak from a project long ago, and so Rae was familiar with the deep brown, open grain.  We found some at BVC Hardwoods (Thanks, Larry!), and Rae designed the cabinet/frame to look cathedral-like.  When closed, you see a pair of Mahogany Celtic crosses, with velvet behind them.

Doors closed

Overall, a true object of devotion and beauty.

Birth Tear 3

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

© Judy Chicago 1984 DMC floss on silk, 14" x 19.5"

From The Birth Project, design by Judy Chicago.  Embroidery by Rae and Kate Cloud-Sparks.  This piece evokes a lot of emotion, and I hesitated somewhat putting it here.  The thumbnail at left links to a larger version, if you wish to see it.

I don’t know how she got involved with this, actually, but Rae did have lots of friends in both Femiist and Artistic circles, so it is not that suprizing that she would know of Judy Chicago, and the Dinner Party.  I remember that she was excited by the fact that the Dinner Party had embroidery featured in it, as well as the ceramic place settings.  So when the call went around to find folks to help create the Birth Project, she and friend Kate Cloud-Sparks got involved.  Rae worked on it while we lived in Ames, Kate in Iowa City, and they both finished it in Madison, if I remember right.  While in Iowa City, Rae worked with the Emma Goldman Clinic for Women, and was an apprentice Midwife.  Ethan was to be born at home, but when she was 3 weeks late, the Midwives got nervous, the doctors talked us into a hospital birth.  Not very pleasant.  The women in her family all took longer to come to term, her mom used to joke that she had the gestation period of a horse.  So we braved it for Casey’s birth, and that went just fine.  Obviously from this image, and many of the otehrs in the series, Judy Chicago had a somewhat different view of birth.

Rae had done embroidery since her grandma taught her as a young child.  She made some samplers, some really cool designs on a pair of jeans I used to have, and often included embroideries in patchwork quilts.  The techniques she used in this piece developed ofer time, and she describes it as “painting with floss”.

Close up of stitching detail.

From the book produced of the entire Birth Project show:

“This piece was executed jointly by these two stitchers.  Rae did the blended outline stitching in a variation of the long and short stitch.  The blending was achieved through her unique use of as many as seven needles at a time.  Kate used a long and short interlocking chain or satin stitch on the body, working back and forth over the surface.  She used the thread to suggest anatomical forms, as she wanted the arms to show muscle strain.”

Judy Chicago wrote, in the Birth Project book, page 86:
“There are three embroidered versions of the Birth Tear, and each one is quite different.  I hand-drew the images onto silk for the pieces executed by Jane Gaddie Thompson (preceding page) and (jointly) by Rae Atira-Soncea and Kate Cloud-Sparks (right).  The embroidery by Etta Hallock (far right), was begun very early in the project; Etta transferred the black and white pattern I gave her to fabric herself, which makes the quality of the drawing quite different.  I specified the thread colors for all three pieces and did color studies for the piece embroidered by Rae and Kate.”

From Rae:
“Working on this piece and dealing with the energy radiating from this woman, who is obviously torn, made me work through what my hospital birth was like, what my home birth was like, and how birth is dealt with in this country.”

While this piece is technically not one of hers, I know she was proud to work with the other “needleworkers”, to be part of a large collaborative effort.  And I’m sure the experience helped build confidence toward accomplishing other projects that involved slow, meticulous detail.  She knew that the work did finally result in a finished product.  Like the Bridget piece, and the Guadeloupe.

Floss and scissors hanging from embroidery frame.

Sampler/Color Study