Why does this stitching, born solely of necessity, produce such compelling and powerful compositions? Does some perfect rhythm, some harmony with the universe reveal itself if we get out of the way?
And intertwined with the aesthetic appeal there is another sensibility about these patched and mended textiles. Stephen Szczepanek refers to Boro as having soulful beauty. I think that’s perfect, their unassuming and utilitarian nature and their absolute integration with life communicate an intimacy and humanity that is exquisite.
I chose some of my favorite examples of patched and mended old cloth to share with you below – click the images for the larger versions (all photos by Sri Threads).
There is beautiful evidence of time and use everywhere. I’ve been photographing my paintboxes for years, to record their transformations.
Like the Boro pieces I love them for their accidental beauty and for inspiration – there are so many things to think about and so many places to begin in them.
Note: this post was originally published in 2015 as part of my big creative year series and was edited and updated with new images on 4/6/2018
* Update – The workshop has sold out but please add your name to the wait list if you were hoping to join – cancellations do happen.
Registration just opened for “Natural History” a three day creative retreat with The Makerie in Boulder – September 22nd to the 24th.
Our assignment for our three days together is to create and document an imagined natural history. We will look for inspiration at the intersection of history, poetry and nature, working collaboratively as well as individually to create and photograph a collection of specimens. We’ll use textiles, paper, found objects and a variety of other tools, techniques, materials and inspiration I’m bringing.
I’ll guide you through improvisational (and fun) exercises designed to spark you creatively, help you dig deeply into your imagination and generates ideas. It’s a spontaneous, “yes and” way of working – each action builds on the previous – you work with what shows up. It’s less about finished works and more about making connections and recognizing serendipity and happy accidents when they appear. We will pull ideas and details from our experiments as a starting point for designing and making our plants and creatures.
On our last day together we will style and photograph our specimens individually and as a group. I’ll share tips for creating compelling compositions and moods, simple lighting hacks and other seat of the pants techniques that I use in photographing my own work.
This is a workshop about experimenting, collaborating, playing and getting out of your own way. That is a life long daily challenge for me and I love sharing what I’ve learned so far. I hope I can help you be a more intrepid explorer of your imagination, reach past the territory you’ve already navigated and expand your skills for sharing that world.
Sounds like fun to me and I hope to see you there! If you’ve got questions please send me a message – I’m happy to help.
*registration has closed but you can still join the wait list here.
It has such a spirit about it. And it even smells and feels like it was just unpinned from the clothesline. A lot of the Edwardian garments I get are formal, often black or brown – somber or special occasion things. The everydayness of this ensemble paints such a picture – the generous side pockets in the polka dot skirt, the wear on the front of the pinafore apron where hands were dried a thousand times or a laundry basket rested.
And that little straw hat – it’s tiny – pure style – not a sunshade – it would have been pinned to her head at an angle for walks in town.
There is another pinafore apron that came with the group that was very stained and is already soaking – I start with just hot water – sometimes that does the trick – then ivory laundry soap and if necessary a mild dose of oxiclean. All the buttons and fasteners are gone and lots of seams have let go but the quality of the fabric is extraordinary and much of it is sewable – the skirt has a bustle and that fabric is quite good. I love it. After pinning it together I did put it all on and swooshed around for a while.
I’ve had a string of good luck lately with garments after a long drought – I’m expecting more soon. The black skirt below turned up about a week ago – it’s ideal in every way. It has a big bustle and the fabric is good. The fades and patina are glorious and the brown lining is excellent – I’m already making dolls and owls.
And tiny doll news – I just added 6 new tiny dolls to the shop : miss rose, miss parsley, miss iris, miss carnation, miss pearl and miss birch. And thanks to everybody who made the tiny rag doll sewing pattern launch a success – I’ll share some customer dolls soon – if you’d like to be included you can email photos to info at ann wood handmade dot com.
You know – the good ones- not the messy ones overstuffed with un-filed receipts and mail and pens that don’t work (I have those too). The drawers with good messes – those are the ones I want to show you – jumbles of stuff I use everyday mixed with stuff I like to look at, the things that are part of my process and inspiration – things I love and things I’m thinking about.
For someone who is quite tight on space I am pretty frivolous with easy access storage – for example I keep my paper snowflakes in a drawer right under my sewing machine. It’s not the most practical use of that prime space but there is the significant spiritual benefit of seeing paper snow flakes cut by a friend everyday to consider. And – although it is unlikely – if there ever is some sort of paper snowflake emergency I am ready.
I like looking at peoples stuff – their treasures -what they choose – what they hold onto. If you feel like showing me what’s in your drawers – please use #whatsinmydrawers on instagram – (I’m @annwood there).
Did you know mica comes in black?! Well it does – blackish anyway and it’s lovely ( I got some here). I made a paper mache teacup and gave it a fancy, sparkly interior. The teacup reminds me of the black milk glass on my mother’s little shelf of treasures (P. S. – teacups make sweet Mother’s Day gifts).
Black is the color on my mind right now. I finished this scoundrel last week – he’s made of several antique bodices and a ancient moth eaten shawl – all in shades of black. I love the subtle variety in tones and the effect that limiting the palette has on my thinking and process. It made me wonder – what if I applied that same constraint to other ideas? I wandered around in my mind for a while and looked through my big note book of ideas – thinking about everything through a black lens. It was shockingly effective. That shift gave me lots of new ideas and curiosities and fresh eyes on so many that had stalled and gotten back-burnered. It was a great illustration of the massive creative power of constraint.
The simplest thing – the smallest shift can guide you to new paths, new ideas and new places in your mind – shine a light on something that has been just out of reach in the shadows….. I am on a life long mission to shine a light into each and every one of those shadows.
I think it could be interesting to do a series of color studies (maybe teal next). But here I am so I’ll begin with black. Right now I’m in the collecting, hunting, gathering, percolating phase.
For me percolating means – digging through treasures, making collections, experimenting, taking photos and generally messing around. I’m having an energetic and marvelous time. I’ll share what I come up with soon and if you would like to make your own study of black send me a link – I’d love to see.
She danced right in…..
It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve run into a perfect, ruined whisper of a gown. I haven’t been looking, and none have found me. Interests, fascinations have seasons I guess and I wondered if this particular season had faded away forever. This Edwardian lawn dress, perhaps a wedding dress, arrived last week – it has everything and just like that I am in love again.
There are particular qualities I look for in them – the lace is exquisite and the ideal scale for fancy little wedding birds – some of it is ruined by stains and tears but a great deal is in perfect condition. Looking for just this sort of lace is what sent me in search of a new /old gown a couple weeks ago. And there is so much more, the sheer cotton has worn to a silky sheen – it’s so thin and transparent it looks like it would disintegrate if you blew on it but it has a surprising amount of integrity and it makes the most perfect downy feathers for realistic birds, there is a subtle, lifelike iridescence. I’ve only come across it once or twice.
And then there’s everything else, the sweetness, the romance, the heartache, the mystery, if she made a sound it would be a far away, off kilter music box playing Chopin. She had come all undone but I stitched and pinned her together for her last photo.
While I sew I listen and learn. I love a day with a big stack of sewing to do and no other distractions or obligations and a days worth of podcast’s, interviews, ted talks etc. to listen to. There are some episodes I return to again and again. I’ve chosen a few of my favorites to share with you below and I’ll add to this list – please check back for more and if you have favorites to share please do in the comments. And listen with me today – at this very moment I’m packing kits for my Sweet Paul Makerie workshop this weekend and I’m about to tune in to Abby Glassenberg’s interview with Rebecca Ringquist. I’ve been looking foward to this one! I’m a huge fan of Rebecca and her work.
The Unmistakable Creative – writer Esme Wang – Diagnosed with devastating mental illness as teenager Esme talks about coping through writing – her story is powerful and she tells it honestly and beautifully.
Ted Talk – writer Elizabeth Gilbert – on genius, success, creativity, work and inspiration.
While She Naps – Jess Brown – I love Jess Brown’s rag dolls and enjoyed listening to how they came to be and the challenges, twists and turns in nurturing and growing a very personal business.
The Unmistakable Creative- MacGuyver creator – Lee Zlotoff – on creative work, ideas, and the power of your subconscious. I use the thinking tool learned here everyday.
The Unmistakable Creative- Founder of the 5 Minute Journal- UJ Ramdass – on the power of gratitude.
The Good Life Project – artist Debbie Millman – serendipity, fear and creating happiness.
I started collecting words accidentally. I almost always cut paper for paper mache ships in a particular way. For my top layer I like newsprint, cut rather than torn. I separate my strips by text size and weight and I prefer that the strips are horizontal – flowing with the text. When I’m cutting newspaper, things invariably jump out at me. There is some mood or meaning, some sensation or memory evoked by a word or phrase. And so I save them.
The original intention was to use them on ships and boats and I do, but something else happens when I take out my box of words – I get all sorts of new ideas. It has become an intentional practice. When I’m wandering and inviting inspiration I sort through the box – a single word can spark something, shift my direction just a little, send me to a place I would not have gotten to, intersections appear.
It is a kind of listening.
I love the happenstance of it.
Shadows of things to come………
A big creative year. That’s my wish and intention for myself for 2015. I’m committing to take action on ideas I’ve been sitting on, to look harder and deeper for inspiration and to make more time to explore my curiosity. Curiosity has always been my driving force and trusted compass. It’s so easy to become mired in busyness and lose sight of how important it is to make time to explore. I always intend to make time but the deep and inescapable truth remains that hope is not a strategy. There are though, tools and systems and practices that work if I use them:
The first is so easy and for me might be the most powerful – a note book and a pencil. It’s also the practice I’ve been most consistent with throughout my life. The more you use it the more effective it is. Record ideas immediately as they come to you – it only takes a moment and it must be on paper. I’ll go on and on about this in a future post – I love my notes and sketches but I could be so much more consistent.
Schedule everything – all that stuff I do that keeps the lights on still has to happen but it could be done more efficiently. A lot more efficiently. I’ve been experimenting for a few weeks with how I schedule myself and I’ve learned a bunch I’ll share with you later on. I’m also exploring systems and tools to make some of the less inspiring but important tasks take less time. There is so much available that could help – it just requires attention and planning.
Put ideas and exploring on the schedule, even in a small way. Ideas need space, time, support, discipline and momentum. Even when I’m super duper busy – there is time somewhere- even 15 minutes can be powerful if its truly focused and consistent.
Collaborate more- some of my most significant growth and most satisfying projects have come from collaborations. I finished 2014 with a big project with Fortuny that I loved and I’ll share that soon (the photo at the top of the post is a sneak peek). Below are a couple other favorite collaborative projects.
It’s such a simple question: What would you like to happen this year? Why not make it your big creative year too? Each Monday of 2015 I’ll share what I learn – what I’m experimenting with, what’s working and what isn’t. And I’d love to hear from you – what would you love to accomplish this year? What new practice will you try? What challenges you? What lights you up? What tiny change could you make to bring you just a little closer to doing something you’ve dreamed of?