On Abstract and Narrative

I went to an arts high school, where I learned drawing, painting and sculpting from teachers who were artists themselves. We learned art history, too, but our art history teacher was also an artist. She taught us to look at art from the point of view of artists: to analyze a piece by looking at its composition, colors, proportions.

In college I majored in art history and East Asian Studies. My art history professors had an entirely different approach to art. They looked at art, and tried to find hints to traumas in the lives of the artists who created it. They tried to apply stories and shallow psychoanalytical interpretations where they didn’t belong. In other words, they tried to enforce a narrative on something that addressed entirely different concerns. I never warmed to this approach, and so I ended up specializing in Chinese history.

Now, as a textile artist, I feel most comfortable with abstracts, but some of my pieces have a narrative, too. Many (though not all) of my abstracts are just that, however: a play with the different components of art. One such series was the Spark series, which I blogged about a while back. I had no underlying story when I created this series, no big idea I tried to express. It was all about colors, shapes, lines, play. I didn’t even name the different pieces, just gave them numbers.

The Question

I shared parts of this series on social media. When I came to Piece No. 7, something interesting happened.

Spark Mini Quilt Series, Quilt #7

Someone commented as follows: “It reminds me of an opulent bedroom in a castle somewhere in Europe. 🏰”

I never thought of Piece No. 7 as a bedroom in a castle, but once this person said that I could see what they meant. All of a sudden, this piece made ME think of Elsa’s ice castle in the movie Frozen. After that, whenever I looked at it that’s all I saw.

So I decided to share it in one of my favorite Facebook textile artists’ groups. I posted the picture and asked a simple question: “What does this make you think of?

I expected fellow artists to talk about colors and shapes, but got none of that. People were looking at my abstract piece, the little game I played with myself and my scraps, and saw different things. Surprisingly, many of them agreed on what they saw, and the great majority aligned with that first comment above.

The Answers

More than a hundred people commented on my post. I found their answers so interesting, that I decided to analyze the first 100 responses. I copied them all, and divided them into general topic groups.

Dwelling

Of the 100 people, the great majority–87 people–saw a dwelling of some kind in my abstract. This included a house generally, a bedroom or bed (with a significant minority seeing Van Gogh’s bedroom), a dwelling associated with water, other kinds of dwelling or a trailer/caravan.

General Room or House

Of the 87 dwelling-seers, 37 saw a general room or house. A few didn’t project any emotions onto the houses they saw:

An old house.”

House with the window. Actually just the side.”

Student living.”

Room with a view.”

Some attached a positive feel to the house they imagined:

A cozy house.”

A door and a window to something lovely.”

An empty house with possibilities.”

Home, the acceptance of things in life not being perfect, the familiarity of the imperfections of your own life – they are yours, you own them and accept them. Peace.

A house, worse for wear, but home, a refuge.”

I include in this groups the four people who were reminded of an elderly relative’s house, mostly a grandparent.

Others saw sinister tones:

Abandoned house.”

Broken home.”

A room that a tree crashed into.”

A derelict abandoned house.”

The texture and feel has a very camouflage kind like something wants to hide in greens or mountain and the roughness of edges gives a very broken feelings for me it reminds of war times broken houses and people in camouflage suits.”

It reminds me of a still from a scene in an Alfred Hitchcock type movie … an attic bedroom with the bedhead, and a dagger.” 

Bombed out houses with remnants of domestic life exposed.”

Bedroom or Bed

Twenty six people saw a bedroom or a bed. This number includes seven people who were reminded of Van Gogh’s painting of his bedroom. Six people saw a poster bed. Once again, some associated positive feelings with this bedroom or bed: “A bed surrounded by tapestry in a movie set in medieval times…,” “A warm, comfortable bed to snuggle in when it’s stormy outside.” Others had more negative associations: “Fear of the marriage bed.”

Water Dwelling

Eleven people imagined dwellings near or on water. These included entire cities or towns, like Venice or the Philippine town of Ukay on the island of Bohol. Others saw a cottage by the sea, a shipyard, a boat house or a cabin on a boat.

Other Kinds of Dwelling

Eight people were reminded of other kinds of dwellings or structures. Those included the South African city of Soweto, a Chinese village, a fishing or hunting cabin, a barn or a yurt.

RV/Caravan/Trailer

Finally, five people thought of a caravan/trailer/RV. Here, too, opinions ranged from positive (“looks cozy to me. Maybe in an RV“) to more negative (“Trailer abandoned“).

Other Associations

The reminder thirteen people thought of other things. Those included positive things like aerial/drone views, landscape, or the Golden Gate Bridge, and negative things like winter, life’s obstacles, Godfather Part 2, and murder. One person was especially nice and wrote : “It makes me think that you’re a great artist.” Thank you for that!

Thoughts

I found all the answers really interesting, especially as they were coming from artists. I was wondering what made people see things in my own work that I myself never thought of. Was it the question I asked, that implied there WAS something to see? Or perhaps it was our inherent human need to reflect our own narrative on art? Could it be that people see their own experiences even (or especially) in abstract? It could be me. Maybe my college art history professors were right after all, and it was MY experiences, as an artist, that were reflected in my work, to be seen by others but not myself?

I don’t have answers to this. But here is a thought: I created this art in December 2020, A year plagued by Covid 19, marked by lockdown after lockdown. Most of humanity was locked up at home for nine long months by the time I created this piece, and almost a year by the time I shared it in February 2021. Is it really that surprising that most people saw my work and thought of dwellings? Could people have reflected their own enclosed experiences, both positive and negative, on what they saw? Did I, sub-consciously, reflect my own lockdown experiences in this series, too? Would people’s answers have been different had I showed them this piece during a normal year? In summer?

I’ll leave that for you to decide 😉

Spark Mini Quilt Series

What do you do to get yourself motivated?

2020 was a challenging year, with lots of ups and downs. Locked up at home, I often found myself turning to art as an escape from the world. There were times during the year, however, when I couldn’t muster what it takes to create at all. When this happened in spring and summer, I went out to the garden and kept myself busy there. But in winter things got a bit more difficult.

After I finished my Desolation series at the end of the year, I was left with a kind of deep emptiness. I often feel this way after completing bigger or harder projects. I went into my sewing room, and … wasn’t sure what to do next. That, despite the huge UFO pile and the long list of projects in my head… 

In the past, simply organizing my scraps helped ignite my creativity. But in December I didn’t feel like doing even that. And so, after several days of doing absolutely nothing, I decided to give myself a little creative challenge, just for fun. A small game to spark my creative juices. Hence, the Spark series 🙂

I made up some rules:

  • Nine days.
  • One mini quilt a day.
  • Each piece will be 6″ x 6.” Small and manageable.
  • Use only scraps.
  • Use the existing shapes of the scraps (but cutting them to fit was OK).
  • Each quilt should use at least one fabric from the previous quilt.
  • Use only black thread to outline shapes.

Here is the result: The Spark Mini Quilt Series. Can you find the fabric/s in each piece that I also used in the piece before it? (Hint: the very last piece also uses fabric from the first, closing the circle):

Did you find it/them? Which is your favorite?

Hopefully this will inspire you to create a Spark Mini Quilt Series of your own. It’s fun! And it does help rekindle creativity 🙂

Desolation Quilt Series

In March 2020 we went into a pandemic-induced lockdown and everything closed. For months, places which were once crowded and bustling were suddenly deserted. The streets were empty, as were shops, movie theaters, libraries, places of worship. Everything remained abandoned for months. Then some places opened, only to shut down again when case numbers spiked .

Desolation prevailed wherever you went. Inside and out.

In September, the California wildfires restricted everyone further. Unable to go outside, I went back into my sewing room and tried to lift my spirit up with some bright colors. A small quilt formed, but it was all sharp angles and confined spaces. I tried to soften it with some lace, but the lace, too, ended up as a border, restricting. Mazes within mazes, escape routes blocked, small, confined spaces, sharpness. And yet, there was also some beauty in it all, just like in the real world…

This is Fenced Garden. 10″ x 10.”

In the following months, slowly and painfully, more quilts in this series emerged. Emerged in-between other projects, as if on their own, designing themselves. Some took weeks to complete. This was not an easy series.

These quilts evoked abandoned streets, taped-up play structures, empty squares, and boarded-up shop fronts. They portrayed cities that lost their citiness.

This is Eerie Streets. 10″ x 10.” The emptiness of streets in that first lockdown, deprived of both people and cars, was one of the most striking differences between the “before” and “after.” And the quiet that accompanied it. A deep, screaming quiet. The quiet was nice, actually.

The quilts in this series shouted barred cathedrals, churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. They whispered of locked museums and closed schools.

Here is Locked Cathedral. 10″ x 10.”

These quilts hinted at abandoned structures, quiet public spaces and things falling apart.

For my family, one of the hardest aspects of the March Lockdown was the closing of theaters. Both of my daughters were in a youth theater production at the time. They practiced for months, getting ready to perform over two consecutive weekends. The first weekend still happened, albeit in front of smaller, spaced-out audiences. By the time the second weekend rolled by, however, we were already in full lockdown. The disappointment was bitter.

Fittingly, the last quilt in this series is Shattered Theater, 10″ x 10.”

And yet, each of the quilts in this series contains some beauty, too. In pleasing colors, the softness of textures, or in rounded shapes. In each, there is some hint of nature, in the form of leaves or the silhouette of mountains. And each has the silver lining of lace, pretty even when constricting, bringing hope…

Looking Back at 2020: An End-of-year Summary

2020 is about to end, which means it’s time for that end-of-year summary, by now a tradition. It turns out that this is my fifth end-of-year post. ANY Texture is now five years old! 

How do you summarize a year like 2020? A year in which the sense of time itself has been compromised? The world as we knew it shifted. Time got warped. Our lives were turned upside down and we all went on a wild emotional roller-coaster ride. Many of us emerge from this year somewhat altered…

Life Changes

For me, this year led to both physical and lifestyle changes. The physical changes were relatively quick: We had to adjust our house to accommodate distant learning and everyone being home all the time. We moved large pieces of furniture, rearranged rooms, assigned new functions to old spaces. My kids confiscated the glider chair that sat in my sewing room for years, and which housed my huge pile of unfinished projects. That forced me to try my hand at reupholstering… 

There were changes in the garden, too. After several years of neglect (ANY Texture’s fault!) I finally managed to spend a lot of time outside, digging, pulling, pruning and planting to save my sanity. The garden almost resumed its pre-ANY Texture glory.

The lifestyle changes have been more gradual and are still ongoing. My life slowed down. I’m in less of a hurry. More and more, I’m enjoying the small things, the little moments, the here and now (perhaps because the future is so unpredictable, and any plans are susceptible to change). I’m finding more time to read books, to watch movies, to practice yoga, to learn new things. I have a better balance between life and art making. With everyone home, there’s been more cooking, baking, eating, spending time together. The upsides of a dire situation.

Art Changes

ANY Texture was born after I got the Bag Bug five years ago. Following a few months of intense bag making, however, I started creating other things, including art quilts. For a couple of years I’ve been meaning to make more fine art, but haven’t quite gotten to it. When my father passed away last year, I realized that life was short, and that I should concentrate on the things I want to do and spend less time on the things I don’t enjoy. So I made less bags, participated in less craft shows, and completed my first quilt series, the Calendar Quilts. Then 2020 arrived.

Jacket

I kicked the year off with a boro jacket to honor my dad.

Right when I was finished, the pandemic happened. Shows got cancelled, online shopping halted, everything closed. I no longer needed to create inventory. Instead, I turned to art as a refuge, a means of expression, an escape from the world.

Animal art

Insects

We entered the first lockdown in the spring. I spent much of it in my garden, where insects, birds, squirrels and the occasional cat kept me company. I found it to be the perfect time to further explore the shape of insects and beetles, something I’ve been meaning to do more of since I completed my Dare! quilt in 2017. I made more butterfly brooches:

Art in Times of Corona: Textile Butterfly

Then the Amazing Beetles series.

Art in Times of Corona: Beetle quilts

And I was finally able to play with three-dimensional beetles as well:

Four fabric beetles

Birds

For several years I’ve been wanting to try Ann Wood Handmade’s owl and bird soft-sculpture patterns. The pandemic gave me the time to get to it. I first made owls.

And also wrote a tutorial for a small owl my daughter made based on something she saw in Japan:

Then I worked on a flock of birds.

And finally created a series of small bird quilts:

Cat

My sister and mother were supposed to visit in the spring. Their much-anticipated visit got canceled like everything else. So I made my sister a quilt of her cat Trini:

Trini the Cat art quilt

Abstract Art

My true passion lies in abstracts, and this year I got to play more with that. Interestingly, I am realizing more an more that even my abstracts are strongly influenced by nature…

Early in the year, I completed the Colors of the Day series, a series influenced by landscapes I enjoyed on past travels.

Later, I created a series of mood-depicting Textile Poems. These drew much of their inspiration from my garden.

I also explored the textural variety of Tree Bark, something that was on my to-do list since my trip to Japan a couple of years ago.

Art Influenced by Current Events

2020 was an unusual year, and I couldn’t but respond to it in my art. This year, I created three of what I think are my most powerful art quilts to date: Interdependence, Ashes and 2020.

I also made Black Lives Matter, Wildfires and Let the Mending Begin.

Other

Early in the pandemic, I made wall hangings of the Jewish Blessing of the Child for my children, just in case…

Before Thanksgiving, I made a textile card for my mom:

Thankful for you, mom

And in the fall, the maple tree outside my window inspired me to make an Autumn Leaf wall hanging. You can find the tutorial here.

Autumn leaf wall hanging

After completing all these art quilts and more in one year, I decided it was time to finally join the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA), something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I’ve been really enjoying all that they have to offer. Check out their website for some gorgeous textile eye candy!

In December, I was honored to be included in an article on recycling in textile art, written by Heidi Ingram for the TextileArtist.org blog. Check it out here.

So here we are, at the end of 2020. Back in a second lockdown, with Covid numbers skyrocketing, but with the promise of a vaccine in sight. My sewing room is still messy. The Unfinished Project pile is taller than ever (I didn’t even touch it this year!), and is now homeless. My scrap boxes multiplied from three to seven, and are all overflowing (even though I used mostly scraps this year… This will remain a mystery).

Next year? Tackle those UFOs, perhaps? I have ideas for more art quilts than I can possibly make, piles of jacket-worthy fabrics, and a long list of things to learn. In other words, I’m excited to keep experimenting, learning, and growing as an artist… The adventure continues 🙂

Thanks so much for accompanying me on this journey!

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year. Keep safe and cozy.

The Tree Bark Quilt Series

I’ve always enjoyed textures up-close. Textures of man-made things like old structures or rusting tools, or the textures of nature: lichen, rocks, cracked earth or tree bark. But it wasn’t until I visited the island of Hokkaido three summers ago, that it occured to me that it would be really interesting to make a tree bark quilt series.

The Birth of an Idea

In Hokkaido, we visited a local museum. One of the displays included felled trunks representing the different native trees of the island. Put together, the contrasting textures were striking. When I saw them, I immediately realized they must be turned into quilts.

Alas, I when I came home I got busy and distracted, as I often do. I archived the idea of tree-bark quilts in my head, alongside many other creative ideas.

Timing is Everything

Then came the 2020 Lockdown. I spent most of the pandemic-sticken summer in my garden, surrounded by wildlife, flowers and trees. My only outings were walks in the neighborhood, on which I noticed the plants and trees in my neighbors’ yards. Some were truly beautiful, like this tree right down the road from my house:

The California wildfires, which started in mid-August, smoked me out of the garden and into my sewing room. The unhealthy air made it impossible to leave the house. That, in addition to the pandemic, was a lot to deal with. I desperately needed to treat myself, to somehow uplift my spirit. So I decided to buy myself something I didn’t really NEED but that I’ve been wanting for a while: a big box of thirty variegated 12-weight thread spools!

I didn’t use them immediately after they arrived. I wanted to first finish my pandemic quilt, and the fire-influenced quilt I started. But I saw them, and drooled over them, every time I came into my sewing room.

Then, one day, it suddenly hit me: these spools were made for the tree bark quilt series!

The Process

I decided to make six quilts in this series. Like all my work, I meant them to be a study of shapes, colors and textures. An excuse to play with forms and color combinations I don’t normally use. I wanted to utilize my new thread, and also to practice my free-motion quilting, something I haven’t done much of.

I began by searching the web for pictures of tree bark, and settled on six general types. My idea wasn’t to copy them, just to use them as inspiration. For color combinations, I was inspired mostly by pictures of Rainbow Eucalyptus and Gum trees that I found online.

I used many layers of fabric and stitched over them, raw-edge-applique style. It took a lot of playing and tweaking to get the stitching right.

I was absolutely smitten by the thread, but my machine didn’t like it at all. It squeaked. Potested. Broke the thread again and again. It did strange things with the bobin. I had to change the tension over and over. My jean needle wasn’t good enough, so I tried a top-stitch needle instead. I also had to clean the machine often, as it turns out that 12-weight thread sheds. A LOT.

The Quilts

Each quilt taught me something. In each, I played with slightly different techniques. They each have little flaws and blemished, but in general I’m pretty happy with how they turned out.

This is Tree Bark 1:

Tree Bark 2:

Here’s Tree Bark 3:

Tree Bark 4:

 

Tree Bark 5:

And last but not least, Tree Bark 6:

I hope this series captures some of the diversity that nature offers. We live in such an amazing world with so many interesting lifeforms. Maybe my work will propel people to notice, and more importantly–to CARE. Care enough to help preserve the beauty that is already here…

So what do you think? Which of the tree bark quilts do you like best?

A New Art Quilt: 2020

2020 is such a round, even, symmetric number. A pretty number, even. After a difficult 2019, in which I lost my father, I was very much looking forward to that beautifully-numbered year. 2020 promised a new, better decade, a fresh beginning, a rosy promise…

Well, as you all know, it didn’t quite deliver…

2020 turned out to be unlike any other year. It brought one calamity after another, in unrelenting waves, from all directions. A worldwide pandemic. Numerous natural disasters everywhere. Daily news depicting one outrage after another in devastating speed. Blow after blow after blow. And then there were personal catastrophes, too. Really bad things happened to really good people that I deeply care about. It just didn’t end.

Some mornings I wake up afraid to open my eyes, afraid of what the day might bring. There are entire days in which I walk around with a lump in my stomach, hardly able to breath. Sometimes I find it hard to function at all. I’m not depressed. It’s just that this year has been really trying. The world seems to have gone awry, and the light at the end of the tunnel feels far away and dim. It’s been overwhelming. 

Somehow, out of all of this, a new quilt idea was born.

The Idea

I had this vision in my head: A narrow grotto with overhanging boulders, threateningly squeezing a small human figure. I could see the scene in my mind, but it took a while to decide how to translate it into fabric.

One day I asked my daughter to take a picture of me in a fetal position, depicting how I felt. I wanted to use the picture as a study, a model for the human shape I wanted to embroider. She took several pictures, and I chose one and printed it on paper. I cut it out and started planning the composition.

Although I was in the midst of working on another series, a series that is marked by bright, cheery colors, I chose to select dark grays for this quilt. 

A Self Portrait to Represent Us All

The human shape, at this point, was still paper, and I wracked my brain trying to decide what to do with it.

Although I originally meant to use my picture only as a study, the more I progressed with the quilt the more I wanted to leave it the way it was. This wasn’t any human form, it was me. A self portrait of sorts in which I am seen on the outside, but am entirely unrecognizable. The quilt itself, or course, is more “me” than my picture, because it depicts how I feel on the inside… This self portrait wasn’t just a self portrait, however, because this year many of us feel the same. This meant that I could represent all humans. 

My daughter took the picture on a regular, Covid-Lockdown day, just like any of the other two-hundred-and-something lockdown days we’ve had so far. I was wearing my Day Pajamas: comfortable, broken-in, unsightly sweats. The outfit, I decided, represented the times we live in and was therefore just right.

The Process

Not quite abstract but not realistic, either, this quilt pushed me to try some new techniques.

I printed the picture of me on fabric, something I’ve never tried before. It turned out washed out and ghostly. I thought that that, too, was appropriate…

For the first time ever, I added details in acrylic paint.

I glued and then sewed the human form into its position. It looked out of place, not really belonging to the world around it. Exactly the way I feel about my world right now, which morphed under my nose into something unrecognizable.

I stressed some of the rock details with crude thread painting.

I didn’t like the white highlights on the boulders, however, and later spent quite some time pulling them out.

Final Touches

The composition was just as I intended, and yet the quilt still didn’t depict the internal and external turmoil I wanted to convey. So I took a picture of the quilt as it was, printed it, and drew different quilting options over it. Once I knew what I wanted, I free-motion quilted big squiggles on the cliffs of both sides, in big, crude stitches (because I didn’t have heavy-weight thread in the color I needed, and the fabric would have “swallowed” small stitched in the thin thread that I did have). That was more like it. In the process, I broke TWO machine needles. I often go months on end without breaking a needle, and have never before broken two needles in one sitting. Somehow, though, with a quilt called “2020,” I wasn’t really surprised…

Finally, I added a touch of red shadow, and my ANY Texture logo in a Chinese, chop-signature way.

I left the edges fraying because, really, which of us isn’t fraying a little at the edges at the moment?

This is 2020 in all its repressive glory.

A suitable quilt to show four days before a crucial election, don’t you think? Can you tell I’m also suffering from a server election anxiety???

How to pass the next four days? Apply every self-care strategy in your arsenal, breath deeply, and hope that the election won’t drop another boulder over our heads…

“Interdependent,” My Lockdown Quilt

Everything about this quilt took forever. It is the second instalment in my Hands Series, made almost four years after the first piece, Give a Hand. It took six months to make, start to finish, mostly because I left it untouched for long periods of time in between.

Give a Hand kept me distracted during the November 2016 election. The idea for Interdependent came to me during the first week of Lockdown, in mid March 2020. It slowly evolved from there, both in my head and in the real world. I guess the Hands Series growns in times of crisis…

Stage One: A Strange Kind of Euphoria

When the Covid 19 pandemic started spreading around the world at the beginning of the year, there was a lot of anxiety, but also some hope. People all over the globe went into quarantine together. It was the first time in history that the whole of humanity shared a common experience in this way.

Pictures of death and despair were intermingled with reports about shows of solidarity. Italy had some of the highest death tolls at the time, but the news also highlighted Italians singing on balconies. Videos from Hong Kong circulated on social media, showing sports and dance teachers giving lessons from rooftops. People shared pandemic-related jokes and memes on all communication channels, in all languages. There was a feeling of oneness, a perception that we were all in this together. Scientists from different countries collaborated to find cure and a vaccine. There was hope that human intelligence will overcome the virus quickly.

That was the original idea behind this quilt. This connectivity of all humans, regardless of skin tone, religion, or nationality. That is why I chose different shades of the same color.

And why I thought to depict a circle of hands holding each other.

Stage Two: A Sobering Reality

As the Lockdown dragged on, however, more sinister tones began creeping in. It slowly became clear that a vaccine will not materialize that fast, that this will take longer than anyone had expected. Rivalries between nations resurfaced. Racial tensions and inequality in the US came to the surface with a powerful, emotional Black Lives Matter movement. Economic inequalities between people and nations became more pronounced as economies strained. Political tensions grew all around.

Meanwhile, the Earth protested, too. Massive fires. Record-breaking heat waves. Melting glaciers. Floods. Locust. Powerful storms. The planet showed us who was in command. For centuries, humans took and took and destroyed, exhausting the natural resources of our habitat. Now, without leaving our homes, we acutely feel the result of our accumulative actions.

The quilt wasn’t about hope and solidarity anymore. It became more complicated, more malevolent. Dark, like the grays of its background. Yes, we are interconnected, but in intricate ways, both good and bad. Because in a super-connected world like the one we live in, with people moving about widely and quickly, viruses that emerge in one part of the earth spread worldwide within days. Polluted air or water originating on one side of the globe travel quickly, too. As do pests, species which then become invasive, ideas, protests, corruption. And now–wildfire smoke…

The things that threaten humanity became a part of the quilt. As did the self-inflicted threats. I started embroidering some of the major ones all around, on the outer borders of the quilt. First, in black and gray, the natural threats, including the ones influenced by human activity. Then, in red, some of the threats that are entirely self-inflicted, caused by human shortcomings, stupidity and limitations.

At that point, working on the quilt became emotionally difficult. Instead of being distracting and meditative, the embroidering process started taking me to bad places, to pull me down.

I couldn’t work on it for long periods of time. I had to take a lot of breaks. Then, when summer came, I took one very long break.

The massive wildfires that engulfed California in August brought me back indoors, into my sewing room and back to this quilt. I forced myself to finish it. I put in the last stitches under the strange, orange light of a smoke-filled air.

Stage Three: The Good and the Bad

Interdependent highlights the connections between all humans, connections made stronger by the things that threaten our existence:

Climate change. Mega eruptions. Pandemics. Environmental degradation. Global warming. Asteroids. Mass extinction. Deforestation. These are some natural threats, that include the damage that humans brought on the environment. And yes, I know that climate change and global warming are almost the same thing, but I wanted to stress this further, as I believe this to be the most prominent danger of our time.

There are many self-inflicted threats as well, caused by human shortcomings and shortsightedness. I only had room for four: Racism. Xenophobia. Antisemitism. Sexism. Imagine a world without those!

There is hope, too, however. In the form of the things that make us uniquely human to begin with. The things that have been holding us together and pushing us onward. I embroidered these on the inside, at the heart of the quilt, since those are the things that lie at the heart of humanity.

Kindness. Compassion. Empathy. Benevolence. Dignity. Resilience. Love. Creativity.

These, and other unique qualities I didn’t have room for, are the hope of our spices and the planet we olive on. These are the things that might help us overcome the existential and self-inflicted threats we’re all facing. The things that make us human and unite us. These are also the things we desperately need more of.

Lockdown Diary: Writing Poems in Textile

Our seventh (!) week of lockdown is coming to an end. Like many of you, I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions… Some days were good. The weather was nice, I enjoyed having my family around, I felt productive. Other days were tolerable, and I managed to do some things. Then there were the hard days, on which I just couldn’t ignore the news. Close friends started losing loved ones to Covid 19. I missed seeing family and friends in person. I wanted to go places and couldn’t. Foods or products we needed/wanted were unavailable. I started realizing that the normal life we knew will not return any time soon. That this will be long. That the world, in fact, might never be the same again… On those days little things irritated me. I felt sad, despaired, frightened. I couldn’t get myself to do much at all…

So I’ve been taking it one day at a time. Doing as much as I could on the good days. Trying to be kind to myself on the not-so-good. I found that spending time in my garden helps a lot. Once the weather improved, I’ve been going outside daily, doing some garden work or just sipping coffee among my plants. Spring is still happening, and nature is beautiful. The flowers are blooming, the pollinators are working diligently. One morning we even had ducks visit our backyard.

Art, as always, continued to be a lifesaver, though I still don’t have patience for hand stitching. And then there’s yoga.

Those of you who practice yoga know that Child’s Pose is a pose that allows rest and recharging. In the last few weeks I started to realize that abstract is my artistic equivalent of Child’s pose. I find myself going back to it in-between other projects, and it helps me stay creative and centered.

Textile Poems

After I finished working on textile insects, I felt the need to return to abstract. I started a series of small fabric collages, 8″ x 11″ in size. Improvised and intuitive, they allowed me to keep playing with colors and textures. Some came together quickly. Others took days or even weeks. They are each composed of many fragments, and the placement of each of those had to feel “right.” Sometimes getting the fragments to where they should be took a lot of trial and error, moving around and looking at the piece with fresh eyes, over and over again.

From the very beginning I thought of these pieces as textile poems. They combine slices of fabric instead of words, but each captures a moment in time, a mood. They reflect the weather, my garden, my fluctuating emotions.

The green ones are the colors of fresh plants and blue sky. The blue poems are the colors of rainy days and sadness.

The warm-colored ones reflect the colors of spring flowers and content. Of happiness, even.

Most of these poems don’t have names yet. Except for this one, which I call “Silver Lining.” It’s as dark and gray as the times we live in. But it has some hope, too. Because even the worst of situations has a silver lining.

For me, right now, slowing down and getting to spend more time with my family is a silver lining. What is yours?