Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Weirdly-crafted Pieces

I don't know why I get such a thrill out of cutting things to pieces and then putting them back together in a different way. Part of it must be genetic, my grandmother was a quilter. I learned that art from her, back in the seventies, while I was still in high school. Like me, Granny sometimes had an oddly skewed perspective, particularly when it came to her propensity to pair purple plaids with brown and white striped fabrics.

The first quilt I made was to be a Christmas gift for a boyfriend I'd picked up over the sumer while working away at a camp. There were squares of fabric from clothes my mother had made for me. I remember there was one fabric with Winnie the Pooh on it and trees all around. True to my nature, I carefully cut a square out of that fabric where I had a nice tree trunk and I embroidered our initials on the tree trunk. As fate would have it, the BF broke up with me shortly after we exchanged Christmas gifts, and he returned the quilt to a broken-hearted me.

The quilt was a sore reminder of my loss in love, and I ended up giving it away to a friend who, I noticed on a visit to her home a few years later, used it as extra padding in her child's playpen. It was also sometime around the time that I found out it was my father who had sat and picked out all the offending embroidery threads that contained the intials on the tree and my declaration of life-long affections. There is something touching about knowing my father carefully removed the threads that gave evidence of a daughter's unrequited love. I am sure he did not know what else to do to make it better. He was also the one who burned the letters I had received after coming home from that ill-fated summer romance after it was clear I could not bear having them around, either.

I made a few more quilts after that, and still have quilt tops that need to be quilted. Come to think of it, I have one in my closet that sits, half-quilted, that I started for my husband back in 1983, when I was pregnant with our first child and preparing to quit work and thought I'd have all the time in the world to quilt. I guess I thought the baby would sit in a corner and be still and quiet while I worked and smiled at the little stinker, but alas, that was not the way it was! I doubt I will ever finish that quilt, for varied reasons, and I know the little stinker who was not still or quiet will never finish it after my demise. There may be hope that my youngest would discover it and take on the work of completing the thing. I certainly won't care, I'll be dead and gone.

Now, my journals, they are a different story. I will care about what happens with them. My journals are my room without mirrors where I escape the daily grind and yes, in them, it is possible to see myself. There has been some discussion on various blogs and groups I frequent as to what we as journal-keepers want done with our journals when we die.

Regarding this question, I believe there are two distinct camps (maybe three, but I am going to save discussion on the third group till a later time), and there are fundamental personality differences between the two camps. This realization dawned on me last week at school, during a general discussion about classes we are required to take that we would rather not take. Speech was the disdainful class they were bemoaning. One young man said he would rather be in the class with all Commercial Art people, because he already knew most of them. Another girl said she would rather "make a fool of herself in front of a room full of strangers" than people she knew and had most of her other classes with. I agree with her.

That is why I would rather donate my journals to a university (the equivalent of a room full of strangers) with a strong women's studies program or to a school with someone interested in doing pyschological research on personal writing, or to an English department rather than leaving them to the whims of my family (the equivalent of my fellow students). Don't misunderstand, it is not ego that leads me to that decision. I see donating my journals as no different than someone leaving their body to science. I am leaving my thoughts, my mind, my essence, my spirit--something-- for someone to study. Besides, my loved ones will probably not appreciate the journals anymore than they will appreciate the quilts. They will just see it as another of my quirky traits, not worth a second glance. And there may be one other small reason I'd leave my journals to someone who might actually look at them and glean them for some small value. It has to do with the saying that if you can't be a good example, then you will just have to be content to serve as a terrible warning. And yes, I know, that last remark actually was a little disrespectful, but I did say it, sort of, tongue in cheek. You know, self-depracating humor, my favorite kind.

But still, the researchers will probably find, once they wade through all my verbosity, that is, they will find the issue of self-respect to be one of the major themes of my life.


  1. I just found your blog and i LOVE your work!! I'll be back!

  2. These are so good. I really like looking at your art.

  3. Hi tj! Glad you stopped by and I look forward to your return!

    Captainwow, I am glad you liked the cards.

  4. wow. I like your cards. I'll be back to read more later.

  5. Thanks, cass! Feel free to come on back.

  6. your collages inspire me! what a great addition to the words in a journal - brilliant! i need to try that.

    my joke is always that little kids prayer 'now i lay me down to sleep, i pray the lord my soul to keep, if i should die before i wake, throw my journals in the lake'...

    i know i would love to have my mom's journals - she died at 43, and all of her writing is artificial - if i could understand her more i would find that to be a true gift indeed. i'd also love to have a quilt made by her too. all i had was old nightgowns, and i saved them (and slept in them) until they were threadbare during the years following her death. (wow i haven't thought of that in forever...)

  7. I'm glad you like the collages. I really like the little journal prayer! In fact, I think it might just be the start I need for my next entry.

    I am sure it would have been nice to have your mom's journals, so often we are guilty of forgetting that our mothers were real people with their own hopes and dreams even before they were mothers.

  8. Maybe there's another option: maybe all those old journals could themselves be made into collages! :-)

    Or at least papier-mache? I mention the later because I've never *burnt* any of my journals, but I have shredded several BY HAND and thrown out the tatters. In retrospect, it would have been nice to have a child or some artsy person make *something* out of all that ripped paper.

    I love the story of your Dad ripping out the embroidery!

    Zen Mama/aka Lorianne


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