Monday, August 26, 2013

black/white





What I do when I weave is to think about a place, though, "thinking" describes something much more intentional than what feels like a drifting off, into a place, maybe in the past, maybe in the North. It's hard to pin it down, but I do recognize the drifting, and I'm finding my way there much more easily. Once in, I try to weave things for that place, or, that would fit in to that place, if it existed anywhere outside of my imagination.

These are a series of wash cloths I wove, for my imaginary Finnish savu sauna, the old chimneyless, blackened interior of the smoke sauna.  Windowless, they have only a small hatch with a funnel shape of black smoke marking the log wall above it on the outside, where smoke escaped, after at least a day and night of heating.  I saw several of these early saunas, in Finland, with their blackened walls, ceilings, and benches, low doorways, wooden ladders,  and the black patina on the benches, where I saw some white, handwoven, linen bench cloths. My kind of epiphany.

And, no, the black doesn't rub off.  But, it does smell lightly smoky, but not the harsh, acrid smell of walking into a burned out building. The savu sauna takes a long time to heat up, but stays steadily hot, and is slow to cool down. Women used to birth babies in the smoke sauna, because it was so clean. The smoked interior was antiseptic. It would certainly have been a warm place for a newborn arriving in my imaginary Finnish winter.

Off the loom, my set of cloths looked good as one, long piece, but now I've cut it into the small, face cloths I first intended.  Wash cloths interest me because they are the least regarded textile, and yet, they are a part of the simple daily ritual of washing.  We each wash our faces in private, and then walk out to meet the world. I like the part the cloth plays, in this transition. There are 8 of them,  8 variations.  I've been hand hemming them this morning.

 I've recently been enamored of Primitive American Paintings, by Jean Lipman, and a book of Shaker hand drawn and colored maps of the Shaker villages, and the "gift" drawings.  Oh, Sister, feeling the inspiration--and drinking coffee, black.

Baby in Red High Chair, c. 1790  oil on canvas






15 comments:

msvos said...

These are so beautiful. Maybe my favorite thus far, though I do really love all of your work.

Joanne said...

Lovely sentiments and lovely face cloths!

textilepractice said...

I said it here few times already - your work is very inspiring. Always.

I used to spend all my school holidays and most of the weekends at my grandparents and they had such black sauna, everybody in that village had such saunas, and they still have. Saturday is a big sauna day, normally. if your sauna is still hot after all your family has washed - you invite some old neibour lady, who lives on her own and don't use her sauna as often. First go the young adult people with strong hearts (when it's the hottest), then teenagers, and the last are the elders. And yes, the smoky smell, the healing quality - it's good against all kinds of cold and reumatic problems. And then you go home and drink hot tea from samovar with fresh honey.

margery meyers haber said...

If we could all begin our days with something so lovely, and greet the day with the same care that obviously went into the making of these beautiful cloths, the world would perhaps be a much different place. Nicely done!

Susan said...

msvos, and Joanne. thank you.


Alfia, Your black sauna memory is so nice. Thanks for telling it. I like the order of who goes first, the people with the strong hearts, and the old neighbor lady, too.
Sauna is very social. The cold dip, or shower, or snow is important, too. I wish I could have tried the savu sauna.
The old people are so nostalgic about them

Margery, thank you.

Lori ann said...

oh my this is so beautiful. i'm visiting from vibeke, i love your work.

Patrice A. said...

beautiful piece as one
weaving memories
and thread


Jenny said...

Simply beautiful! I wish I lived nearby...

Karen Barbé said...

Hello Susan,
Loved to discover your creation process. Such a beautiful story involved :)

Karen Barbé said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amanda said...

I have a handwoven wash cloth I made for myself too. It's not beautiful, but it has become one of my favourite pieces - possibly because I use it every day. It does have a certain intimacy other textiles don't.

Your lovely cloth is always so beautiful - and it's nice to hear what you 'do' when you weave, I am still settling into my drift...

Susan said...

Lori ann, thank you for visiting.

Patrice. thanks for tuning in to my way of touching these shadows

Karen, I like to know how other creative minds work. It may be very different from what I do. I am fascinated by how creative thinking works

Amanda, Yes. These cloths, a favorite dish towel or something we hold and use every day, becomes a part of our daily life more than many other art forms. So ordinary that we may not notice, yet we do. I always notice the feel of the towel, the wash cloth, my clothes. The experience of using the cloth becomes a small part of our lives as we live. Isn't it great to be able to make useful cloth?

Judith said...

Yes!
I have a book called The Quiet Eye with The Baby in the Red Chair
A smile spread across my face when I saw that photo combination with your weaving

This entry of yours was wonderfully contemplative, practical and imaginative, unusual to find that sweet spot... Super!
Just what I needed amidst the chaos and upset of moving ....Thank you

Susan said...

Judith, Ha ha. that book was on my work table when I was hemming the wash cloths. Suddenly I saw that the baby looked all tucked in. It made me smile,too. Good luck with your move. It has to be a good thing to act on a desire to be in a new place. I hope you'll like us, too

Alice said...

That's an interesting comment about the private/public aspect of the washcloth. Beautiful work, as usual.