3.30.2009

So . . . a Groundhog, a Lion and a Lamb walk into a bar . . .

You see, I'm good at writing the beginning of jokes -- just not so good at writing the middles. This one is about springtime in Minnesota, obviously, which already is a joke so I guess nobody needs to write it.

Peaceable Kingdom, 2004, 7.25" x 7.25", Collection of L.M. Boyd
Or today we could call it "Spring Still-Life with Pink Bird"


Okay . . . we do get a few really beautiful spring days. It's just that the joke is always on us, because they keep throwing winter back into the mix to keep us off balance.

I think I do have an end for my joke, however. It's something like "only an April Fool would expect anything different."

Therefore I'm keeping my shovel handy for the lion that's heading our way this week. Ick.

So in an attempt to cheer myself up after watching the 10pm weather report last night, I turned to one of my favorite old needlework books. I used to spend hours poring over my art books, but now they are mostly very dear friends that I haven't called in awhile.

Yesterday at dinner Russ and I were talking about excellence. It's something we discuss from time to time -- I don't remember how we got there yesterday, but Russ said something about the fact that it's kind of sad to be (like most of us in the world) pretty good at a bunch of things but not truly excellent at any one thing.

After I thought about it for a second, I said, "I guess the closest I come is that I'm really good at hand sewing."

(Of course most girls and women used to be really good at hand sewing, because they did it a lot. In today's world, however, I feel I can take extra pride in it.)

But truly excellent?

It's good to refresh your memory on some of your heroes from time to time, because it reminds you of what you want to be, what you ought to be striving for, and why you started the whole journey to begin with.

Sometimes show deadlines and sales figures dull my mind to the art, and that's when I might just as well be a sewing machine. Thank goodness the depressing weather forecast sent me to my bookcase looking for a mental boost.

Say hello to Rebecca Crompton.


The Magic Garden, 52cm x 52cm, 1934
(be sure to click on it to enlarge it!)

Ms. Crompton was a pioneer of of mixed-fabric techniques in England in the 1930's. She combined plain with patterned fabrics, incorporated lettering, texture, and raw edges (which horrified conventional embroiderers who criticized her work for being carelessly executed . . . . excuse me????!!!)

It was her freedom in mixing fabrics and techniques which led to artists taking an interest in embroidery as art.


Detail, The Magic Garden


This is one of my all-time favorite fiber images. To me, one of the (many) stunning things about it is its "soft busyness", which would look like a jumble if I tried to execute it. The blend of color and pattern and texture is so perfect that my eye fails to register its complexity at first glance.

When I look at the same picture in black and white,




I'm always amazed by the sharp tonal contrasts. Her use of superimposed stitching to combine shapes and patterned fabrics into such a seamless design -- stitch used neither to outline nor provide detail -- is remarkable.

Rebecca Crompton said:

"The creative worker should view a drawing as a painter would view a slight preliminary sketch, from which ideas can be devloped as the work progresses."

Which reminded me of a Picasso quote that I love:

"You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea."

Being a somewhat rigid person (no laughing, please), this working-freedom is the thing I would most like to develop. It's really hard for me. The creative unknown definitely tends to intimidate rather than liberate me.

Stitching a really fine seam is great.

But the ability to follow that seam (rather than the outline of drawing) as it winds away into uncharted territory would be a lot closer to true excellence.




I've still got a ways to go.
Or Grow.





Something to do
while we're waiting
for May.

3 comments:

Library Gal Quilts said...

Thank you a whole field of flowers for that wonderful and truly humbling story about Rebecca Crompton. Wow, wasn't she so ahead of her time? Your colors always make me smile and I think, wow I wish I could be as creative as Susan M. Hinckley. really. xo Pam in Chico p.s. I love that my "word verification" to leave this post is "sockma" maybe it's a sign :)

Marjorie said...

So, what is your favorite old embroidery book? I love the Rebecca Crompton design--amazing--especially in b&w. Thanks for sharing it. We had snow this weekend. We're far enough south that it was gone by Monday--the only remaining trace was a large and lovely snowman on a neighbors lawn.

susan m hinckley said...

Maybe we'll do a "book tour" of some of my favorites -- thanks for the great idea, Marjorie!

And Library Gal, thanks for your nice thoughts. I'm glad you appreciated hearing about Rebecca. My sister wrote me an email comment saying that (alas) neither she nor I could ever make anything like that because we'll never be able to create with so much abandon. I know she's right (know thyself).

But then she pointed out that Rembrandt probably couldn't paint like Picasso, but they were both great artists.

So thank goodness there's room for all of us to do our thing and inspire each other, even if it's in small ways.

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