Hive Variations, 2016
Waxed prints on Japanese paper derived from an embroidered matrix created on Bristol board and waxed linen thread.
I could start at the beginning with bugging my mother in Gimbles Department store in the New Green Acres Shopping Center in Valley Stream, Long Island, NY for an embroidery kit when I was six. The rainbow rows of shiny cotton floss were a visual candy store with just my kind of sweets. The kit with linen hand towels had pink shades of floss and I hated pink, but managed to persuade my mother to get shades of oranges and yellows. My mother taught me how to sew the stitches into rows of Magical XX”s that all hooked up if you did them right.
Or I could jump in with learning to block print fabric in Denmark: Stoftryk, with Aase my Danish farm mother, or knit socks at my folk high school and maybe I should recite my poem about Danish socks to go with Pablo Neruda’s Ode to his socks. Making things with strands of fiber has woven through periods of my life, although I never took to weaving when I was in the Fibers Department at Mass College of Art in the mid-1980’s and Marilyn Pappas was my teacher.
Alas my own narrative impulse was stronger than the seductive materiality of so many fiber materials, and in 1987 jumped ship from papermaking to printmaking. It’s a story for another time.
In 2013 I saw an exhibition: Zarina, paper like skin, at the Guggenheim Museum. Her pierced paper meditations on white paper were revelatory. My mother, my cross-stitch teacher so long ago, had died a few months earlier and the trip to the city to Zarina’s exhibit was a break from cleaning out our ancestral ranch house.
Sometime back in Somerville I had the urge to poke holes in patterns in cardboard to make a sewn plate for printing. A hive, a hut, they’re nearly the same. I’m a beekeeper. I often listen to Tom Waits’ Mule variations while I eat dinner.
At that time I sat and poked holes in Bristol board at my studio and sewed patterns into cardboard with waxed linen thread. My dog Ursie a sweet elderly poodle slept in her bed at my feet.
This is my embroidered truth: The sewing soothed me, and now since Ursie is also gone, I think of that time of poking, sewing and sitting with great warmth.
And here is another embroidered truth: Cocteau once wrote: “Do half the work and the work will do the rest itself”. The cardboard hive sat in my flat files after a perfunctory printing session for nearly 2 years. I became interested in
the title of this proposed exhibit and remembered my connections to embroidery. The prints in Hive variations flew off the press, flew onto the pancake griddle I use for waxing, and now land at the Nave for further stitches and further stories.