TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Friday, October 31, 2008

Favorite Halloween Projects by the Yin-Yang Knitter


My RSS feeds are a visual blast these days. Crafty bloggers are really busy turning out wonderful Halloween creations. Here are some of my Halloween picks from this season. Click on the images to visit the source.

My favorite of all, a Candy Corn bag. [Yes, I’ve added it to my queue…]

This charming young lady is modeling a knitted and felted bag.

And more on the candy corn theme: HATS!

by Sarah Nopper (a free Ravelry Download)

But, many more caught my eye...

Gruesome knitted eyeballs

What would Halloween be without skulls and ghosts?

And of course, funny things for your head?

A knitted Elvis wig, anybody?

Funky hats

Very clever and intricate “bokaclavas” after Bok,
a demon from “Doctor Who.”

Bats, too, of course...

[For some reason, she makes me think of a young woman I once saw on a subway dressed as a bunch of grapes…lots of purple balloons…]

…even one on a dishcloth…

And, lots of pumpkins!

Another dishcloth by blackrayne:

A bag for your treats:

Felted style, off the vine...

One of the children noticed that with their new triplets, this family had exactly the right number for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves!

This is just a hint of all the creative juices flowing out there! Great fun to see what people come up with!

Happy Halloween, one and all!

Diane Gerlach, AKA The Yin-Yang Knitter, is a regular contributor to Fiber Focus. An avid charity knitter who keeps both Afghan children and our military warm with her hats, mittens and socks, Diane is passionate about the world and all the stories it holds. She was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Micronesia in the 1970's and continues to have ties there through her adopted daughter. Diane is also a member of our Fiber Focus group on Ning.

The photo shows her with some of my monsters when she was here in Paducah. She took care of my babies while I was out of town and went through a minor but scary earthquake that shook them all up!


Monday, October 27, 2008

The Making of a Quilt: The Book of Kells by Donna Hussain

Illuminated Manuscript from Ireland, The Book of Kells

The image above, a portrait of John the Apostle from the Book of Kells, was my inspiration for making the quilt below.

Quilt by Donna Hussain: The Book of Kells

The Book of Kells, a national treasure of Ireland, is an illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament transcribed by Celtic monks ca. 800. The text is written on folios of calf vellum that are richly decorated with Christian iconography, intricate interlacing patterns, and figures of humans, animals, and mythical beasts. The Book of Kells was my inspiration for developing a way to draw knotwork designs and sew them with bias tubes on fabric. My article on this website, Interlacing Designs for Quilt Borders, September 26, 2008, is an introduction to this process. But my ultimate goal was to render the Apostle John from the Book of Kells in the fabric of a quilt. I realized that I could not replicate the masterwork of the manuscript illumination but hoped to simplify the portrait of John and pay homage to the religious themes and symbolism found in the manuscript.

When planning my quilt I could not arbitrarily assign a finish size. There were practical constraints to consider when sewing the interlacing designs within the four cross blocks in the border of John’s portrait. Two variables would affect the block size: the width of bias tubes chosen for the knotwork, and the pattern scale. I had to make several sample blocks to test these parameters before I settled on the best size to make the cross blocks for my quilt.

Interlacing Design in the Crosses

This knowledge enabled me to draw the entire quilt border on a large sheet of graph paper and to visualize the size of the center space where John’s figure would be placed. The graph paper I use is Drafting & Design Fade-Out Vellum from Clearprint, a firm you can access on the internet at http://www.clearprintpaper.com/. I buy a roll of 36 inches x 20 yards, l000-4. This last number means that my graph paper of choice has four squares to an inch. A roll of twenty yards lasts me for about five years of quiltmaking.

I next decided on my color palette (purples, blues, and greens) and selected fabric for the quilt. The decision on the background fabric was difficult to make so early in the project. Fortunately, my choice, a soft pink print, proved to be fortuitous. I also made a decision to appliqué John’s figure to the center of the quilt after I had sewn the background and border blocks together. I chose this assembly method in order to ensure that the border blocks were symmetrical and squared.

Assembly Map of Border Blocks and Background

All of these preliminary steps took months to complete. In spite of the fact that I still had to design John for the quilt center I decided to take a break. So I stowed the graph paper design and quilt fabric on a closet shelf. Normally I work on one quilt at a time and finish all of the quilts I start to make. Taking a break was a risky strategy for me, but served me well.

Several months later, reinvigorated, I took a class from Judy Mathieson, who teaches the drafting of mariner’s compass blocks and their paper-piecing. I wanted to learn her techniques in order to design and sew John’s halo. Since my halo is only a partial circle and John’s head covers the center I did not have to worry about sewing accuracy. Novice makers of mariner’s compass blocks often create a “volcano” in the center because of their lack of sewing precision.

Once the halo was sewn I was ready to draw John’s portrait. I tried and tried but never could get his proportions right. Fortunately I have an artistic son who came to my rescue and drew John’s outline to scale. I first made John’s head with curly hair and a beard as in the illuminated manuscript. Then I added big eyes and mouth. The result astounded me. My John looked so compassionate. Elated, unsure how that happened, I now had confidence that the time and effort I was spending on the quilt was worthwhile.

John’s Head and Halo

From the onset of the project, I planned to use purple fabric (for majesty) for John’s clothing. Instead of the voluminous robes in the manuscript, I decided to make a serape sewn with bargello strips. I changed the awkward position of John’s manuscript arms with arms I found in a book of medieval costumes. When people ask me why the index finger on John’s left hand is pointing, I have to admit there is no good reason, except that the hand was at the end of the arm that I chose.

Because the Book of John in the New Testament was written by the Apostle, John is usually portrayed holding a book and a pen in religious art. Instead, I placed a flagellum in John’s right hand. A flagellum is a liturgical fan that was used in the early Irish Catholic church to scare away evil spirits from the alter. Illustrations of flagella appear throughout the folios of the Book of Kells.

The Book of Kells Quilt, Detail: Liturgical Fan

Perspective was not well understood in the ninth century when the Book of Kells was being transcribed. So it doesn’t matter whether viewers of my quilt have difficulty telling whether my John is standing or sitting on the couch. The monks were also weak in anatomy. Look at the position of John’s legs in the manuscript. His knees are forward and his feet facing sideways. I copied this feature and added some whimsy by placing John’s feet on a balance.

The striped second border was added last. I also embellished the quilt with beads and charms but used them sparingly on John's figure in respect to his vow of poverty as a disciple.

California quilter, Donna Hussain, has exhibited in major quilt shows around the country, authored books, and is a regular contributor to Fiber Focus. Click on her name to see all of her past articles.

The photo shows Donna with her husband, Pascha.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Peace Villa: A Green Hospitality Dream Seeks Angel Investors

The Peace Villa, Travel the World in Paducah, Kentucky

Dreaming of a Peace Villa

This year is my 20th anniversary of working with handicrafts from around the world. I've managed an artisan's co-op, had three brick and mortar stores in Chicago, sublet a small space in Paducah, Kentucky (212 Broadway) and have been selling online for about nine years. The path has been a difficult one, always struggling with lack of capital and with the hard work involved of maintaining inventory, but it's also been a fascinating journey. I've met people from all over the world, have helped many small importers with their businesses, and now am part of an online community that has been inspiring and supportive.

As I look back, even with all the hurdles (I've learned almost every lesson you can learn through the School of Hard Knocks!), I still believe fervently in the importance of incorporating hand made products in our lives, of their cultural relevance, the economic development potential there is in production and marketing and most importantly of the bridges they build between people around the world.

Unfortunately, the ethnic market niche has cycled around and shrunk while competition has grown simultaneously. When I first started selling on eBay, I was one of few with certain items. Now sellers post their wares directly from Tibet, Uzbekistan and other remote (to us in the United States) places in the world. A few years ago, I began to think about a different kind of retailing, one that incorporated both the hospitality and retail industry. I spent several months studying bed and breakfasts, how they are run and marketed and found that the industry in the SouthEast corner of the United States, with Florida as an exception, basically catered to Victorian and Cottage looks, neither of which appeals to me very much. Florida and New Mexico, however, have many models that are inspired by SouthWestern, Mexican, and European decor. Further west, there are plenty of rugged cabins, yurts, and other alternative structures that are interesting and exciting. I thought that the perfect blend for me would be something that incorporated the ethnic flair and had a gallery attached. Then, I thought, why not have each room represent a different country and peacemaker (ex: India and Gandhi, South Africa and Nelson Mandela, Guatemala and Rigoberta Menchu)? The rooms would be decorated with that theme and everything in it would also be for sale. "Like your bed? It's from India. We'll ship it to you!"

The potential for creating different environments representing these places excited me. Visit an An Indian Summer and drool over all the collections of environments she has compiled! As I dreamed, the vision grew into something much larger with huts instead of rooms, acreage of space, a campus of activity and inspiration around the world. I documented some of this on my website and you are welcome to read more about the vision on a grander scale. After months of seeking partners and doing research, I shelved the idea. It resurfaces from time to time, and although I had mentioned it on my earlier post on eco-housing, I realized I hadn't really put this dream out here on the blog. Who knows? Maybe the right people will read it and the dream could come true! (Wouldn't THAT just be something?)

The Time is Right for Going Green in the Hospitality Industry
My love for craft extends itself out into the environment, for how structures can exist harmoniously with nature, blending in, enhancing, and leaving the smallest footprint possible on Planet Earth. I shudder at all the boxes we've built for ourselves and for our cities and towns, plastic covering everything. When I was researching this concept, the green movement was beginning to make its way into the hospitality industry. Now there are wonderful retreats, hotels and Bed and Breakfasts all over the world that both inspire the soul, heal the body and seek to maximize green resources for both construction materials and the operation of a building.

Google "green hotel" or "green bed and breakfast" and you will find wonderful destinations. Hacienda Nicholas in Santa Fe is one example of a beautiful place I could see myself wanting to spend some time, relaxing, recovering... And, the fact that they are environmentally conscious is a selling point in my book! But, here in the SouthEast, we see much less of that drive to go green. Residents in Paducah recently took it upon themselves to start a recycling program. Initiatives happen because people push them into existence and going green is finally making progress because it also makes financial sense in terms of saving money on the rising costs of utility bills.

Paducah, Kentucky as an Ideal Location for the Peace Villa
Paducah has been undergoing revitalization over the past five years. The Artist Relocation Program is now established and seasoned, several key buildings downtown have been renovated, and the City now has a second renovation neighborhood targeted, Fountain Avenue, where buildings and land are available at low prices in exchange for investment in rehabbing and new construction. This neighborhood is adjacent to Lower Town and very close to Downtown.

Paducah is centrally located, almost equidistant in the middle of a two-three hour triangle of St. Louis, Memphis, and Nashville. It's only a seven hour drive from Chicago or Atlanta. Because of this, tourists drive through regularly and stop at the Quilt Museum before getting back on the highway. If the city can continue to develop more magnets that will keep people here for more time, a business like the Peace Villa will just be one more added attraction.

Business Potential for Mixing Retail with Hospitality
Paducah has many of the chain hotels and a couple of bed and breakfasts, but residents of Lower Town clamor for more cafes, more places that they can walk to. I see the Peace Villa in my mind as a structure that resembles a traditional Moroccan or Spanish architecture model on the outside, with a gallery and cafe at the entrance, a large courtyard in the middle, with a swimming pool and tables. The accommodations rise up for two or three stories and there is a lovely roof garden. Can you see it?

I have found that one of the difficulties in selling ethnic textiles or crafts is that many people can't see in their minds eye how they can display them or incorporate them into their homes. In Chicago, we had several designers shop in our stores, but online, it's especially difficult to showcase a product on a low budget. In the Peace Villa, product would have visibility in many different environments and settings. Space helps sell the product, as well as having a memorable experience with it.

I can see the Peace Villa as a local hang out, a place vibrant with cultural activities, classes, presentations, live music as well as a destination that would bring more tourists to Paducah. This is a hot climate in the summer, yet there is only one public outdoor pool. Everything closes early. Nothing happens on Sundays. We could change that! We could offer a place of beauty to both locals and visitors.

Social Goals for the Peace Villa
The Peace Villa would also serve as an educational place on many different levels. The most important one for me is to continue in this work of promoting cultural dialogue and understanding. I think that this is the greatest threat to our national security: the ignorance we have of other cultures, their people and their aspirations. Lately, we have had all this press conference about whether Obama is Muslim or not. He states that he is a Christian, but why should that even matter? We lack a fundamental respect for people of other faiths and traditions that continues to instill fear and hostility. This translates into the decisions we make in our foreign policy and of how we treat our neighbors right here.

The Peace Villa can help awaken curiosity about other cultures by creating these spaces that educate about other traditions, customs and art. Schools could come and visit. We could develop presentations on the different cultures represented. And, on the green side, there is a local tech school here that has a carpentry program. Perhaps they could include the Peace Villa as a teaching tool about how to build green. The possibilities are endless!

The Dream Team for The Peace Villa
I truly believe in this dream. People are traveling less overseas as it becomes more costly and more annoying. Those who enjoy cultural travel will look for options closer to home where they can still enjoy some of the diversity or change of environment that they sought in going abroad. But, this is not a dream I can develop on my own. There needs to be a dream team and funding. I am not an architect or designer, nor have I ever had any experience in the hospitality industry. I do have twenty years of cultural knowledge, retail and marketing experience, and a passion for all of the aspects this vision embraces. I know that if the right people and the funding came into place, I could dedicate the rest of my life towards making it successful.

If you are interested in this concept, do contact me. My resume is posted on my website. I would also love comments about what the rest of you think about this idea or if you have been to similar places.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Flying Messages to the Dead by Erin Stoy and John Barrie

Kite Flying in Guatemala Honors the Dead

Communication and contact with ancestors is an important part of life for people in communities throughout the world, who often put aside a time each year to commemorate and honor this connection. In Guatemala, as in much of Latin America, this commemoration takes place on the first and second days of November, with the first (El Día de Los Muertos or ‘Day of the Dead’) being the focal point. Among many activities that take place across the country, one of the most striking can be found in the town of Santiago Sacatepéquez, situated at a distance of 25km from Antigua.

A Gigantic Circular Kite with its Barrileteros

An amazing spectacle appears in the first days of November: Gigantic circular kites up to 15m (50 ft) in diameter, bearing designs of breathtaking intricacy and color, are exhibited by their proud creators. Other kites of up to 5m (16ft) in diameter fly high above the crowds. The giant kites are constructed over a period of three months by groups of barrileteros (kite makers), who compete on November 1st for prizes in different categories. The prizes received are modest, but the honor and respect gained by winning are great.

The practice of building giant kites in Santiago Sacatepéquez is now in its 109th year, and -- while its origins are somewhat hazy – many people there view the tradition as symbolizing the communication between this earthly realm and the elevated sphere of the dead. Another popular view is that the flapping of the kites’ tails in the air scares away evil spirits, giving good spirits the freedom to enjoy the day with their still-living relatives.

Guatemalan Kites Communicate with the Dead
and Scare Away Evil Spirits

The great majority of those involved with building and flying kites in Santiago are Kaqchiquel-speaking indigenas (indigenous people), and many traditional Mayan spiritual ceremonies take place around the creation of the kites each year. The process of creating, showing, and flying kites in Santiago has become an integral part of the identity of the indigenous people of the town, something that is rightly regarded with enormous pride. The residents of Santiago are happy to share this tradition with outsiders, both Guatemalan and from further afield, and every year on November 1st the town is filled with visitors eager to witness the spectacle for themselves. Visitors are also welcome to attend the wider range of events leading up to November 1st. The people of Santiago Sacatepéquez invite you to witness their colorful festivities first-hand!

Erin Stoy, John Barrie and Little Azucena in Guatemala

Erin Stoy, a regular contributor of Fiber Focus, owns La Chapina Huipil Crafts. She is an American whoʼs lived in Guatemala for over a year and a half, caring for the daughter she and her husband are in the process of adopting. During her time in Guatemala,she has developed a passion for Mayan textiles. She has been selling arts and crafts she makes from used huipiles (traditional, hand-woven Guatemalan blouses) since October 2007. Her blog is http://huipil-crafts.blogspot.com/ and her Etsy shop, which is stocked full of treasures, is http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5857359. Visit her!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More Fun with Prairie Points!

What's a prairie point? Well, you take a square piece of fabric, fold it in half diagonally, do it once again, then bring the edges in to the middle. Sew it down. Repeat and make a long, long string of them. Now you can add these points on to anything, just as you would a trim.

In "Prairie Points Madness" I described how I became enamored with this folding technique. I'm back at it! I finished a couple of cuffs and hats (one sold before I could photograph it) and will have more ready soon. The pieces shown here are now listed on Etsy. Click on the images to go to the listings.

The photos below show cuffs that use prairie points. The same cuff is shown twice, flat and closed. They remind me a bit of Victorian accessories and are sure to get some attention when worn!

A friend of mine gave me a box full of rayon and linen strips that had been cut into rectangles. I imagine someone was going to make a bunch of quilts with them, which I might do, too, but I really like how the fabric looks when it is folded into these points. The sheen and shape resemble necktie tips, don't they?

Quilters often use small prairie points to decorate quilt edges. Many people do not follow the last step I mentioned of folding the edges in, preferring to have a simple triangle instead. This makes it lighter and saves on fabric. They can also be inserted slightly into each other, creating a layered triangular look, which is also very nice. If you decide to experiment with the technique I am showing here, know that the more layers you sew on, the heavier the piece will become.

I love how this hat turned out! Imagine a forest fairy darting around with it. Wouldn't it look great with a kilt? The inside is lined with black velvet, making it soft and warm.
Have you used prairie points in anything you have made? I would love to hear about how other people are using them and I'll make sure to post more photos when I have new things made.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

US Vs. John Lennon: Art's Place in a Democracy

The United States as a War Machine
Last night Jon Stewart had, as usual, a thought provoking show. He talked about the "Real" America versus the "Fake" America in response to Sarah Palin's constant reference to small towns as havens of patriotism and "correct" values. A couple of funny skits fleshed out this concept, then Stewart brought on his guest, Eugene Jarecki.

Jarecki addressed our historical inability to live in peace, saying that in the last 200 years, we have maybe had a total of a year or two when we have not been engaged in war. This war machine that we have constructed drives the political choices that we make and has embedded itself deeply into many facets of our economic engine. Jarecki says that this is not a party specific agenda, but rather that both Republican and Democratic leaders have fed this engine equally.

Eugene Jarecki believes our society is destroying itself by trying to obtain perfect security. Guest on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, October 20, 2008

I have often been told by family and friends that I criticize the United States too much. On the contrary, I think that I don't speak out enough! This desire to point to our national flaws comes from a sincere wish to see it live up to its potential. It also comes from a place of fear. Fear that if we speak out and truly seek peace, we will be shot, incarcerated or somehow erased. Growing up under a military dictatorship probably did something to my psyche, but seeing the constant destruction that we as a country inflict on peace activists and on other countries has more to do with it.

Taking a stance against war is dangerous both here as well as in other countries. Easily labeled as unpatriotic, weak, or living in la-la-land, peacemakers are first ridiculed, then discredited, then possibly threatened with loss of property or even of life. I think back on all of the leaders who have been killed or persecuted during my lifetime... it's a long list.

As I chewed on these thoughts, I channel surfed a bit and found a documentary on John Lennon that I had not seen before: The U.S. vs. John Lennon. Should have gone to bed, but, no... stayed up only to find myself even more profoundly disturbed. A night of bad dreams...

John Lennon and Peace versus Nixon and Victory

U.S. Vs. Lennon Trailer

I have seen tons of Beatles and Lennon documentaries in my life. But, somehow, either my memory erases knowledge with time, or I just never really got the connection of how profoundly John Lennon influenced the peace movement in the late 1960's and early 70's. I remember when he died, I grew up hearing the Beatles, knew about Yoko Ono and John's protests, but somehow I thought they were pretty much ignored by the government. Easily dismissed as pot heads and rabble-rousers by my parent's generation, I was struck by how politically astute Lennon was in the documentary.

How long ago did all of this happen now? 35 Years!!??? And, it's still relevant? I sat there, riveted, watching all of this old footage and it could have been scenes from today, just different characters. And, a lot less of a turn out on the street. Do we ever learn anything or are we just destined to keep repeating the same story over and over and over and over?

Nixon was actually scared of Lennon. He thought that Lennon's following was large enough to disrupt his presidency. So, he tried to kick him out of the United States. Lennon felt that his place was here, that this was his home and that he had a contribution to make.
In the end, Nixon need not have feared John Lennon as he brought on his own destruction. Sometimes the bad guys do get caught. John Lennon took Nixon's victory symbol and made it into one of peace. This is what artists can do: translate our language into something new, confusing tradition, questioning authority, and offering new templates for life.

Unfortunately, even as Nixon was exposed, we also lost a brilliant voice in the artist community when John Lennon was shot down. His message lives on through his music, his actions, and all the influence he left behind. I wonder what he would be up to today if he were still here...

Is Art Dangerous?

What about today? Are artists who speaking up about peace in any danger? Does Bono need to watch his back? I am not the only one disturbed by the state of our democracy. Things seem to be OK on the surface, but we have lost so many civil rights in the last eight years that we probably don't know who is being watched and to what extent. Morna (Wrapped in the Flag) posted about a group of journalists who were attacked and arrested at the Republican Convention. Horrifying!

I try to keep up with the news and with what is going on around the world, but I feel like a sieve, where there is so much information that it all just kind of leaks out with no real substance left behind. Instead, I just feel uneasy...

I don't really understand why we choose war over peace, violence over generosity, ignorance over understanding. Some say it is all about money, but as much money can be made through peaceful means as through violent ones. I have come to understand that "sin" is separation from God. If God is all that is life, beauty, and love, and our natural state of existence is separation from that, then maybe these choices make sense. Unfortunately, some of the biggest propagators for the violent way are also screaming that all of this must be done in the name of God. Hence, confusion. Symbols and language get mixed up into a tossed salad of nonsensical ideologies.

The political artist sees this mess and translates it. Is art dangerous? It obviously has been for many artists who have died or been exiled because of their message, but the biggest danger is to mute these voices who challenge us to live more honestly, and hopefully, with peace. As we go around the world, waging war in the name of democracy, art must have its place, and that place must be a safe one.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Dead Muses: Tombstone Rubbing Silk Scarves by Alissa Sorenson

"Infant Mortality" Silk Gravestone Rubbing
by Alissa Sorenson

“Over here!”

I heard her voice – excited and breathless – and saw her waving her hands to catch my attention: all in my head, of course. Leaves crunched under my boots as I walked, stopping at each grave stone, waiting to sense a presence, and then moving on to the next. It was a large white obelisk marked “Olive,” the only word still legible after 170 years of erosion.

"Olive" and her tombstone

“Quick! Take it!” she cried, as if I were photographing her, or sketching her portrait. Take her likeness, I thought. I felt her anxiety, as if once her name were completely worn away, she knew she would be utterly forgotten.

I traced the remnant of a word with my finger. “Wife.”

“Yes, wife.”

“Buried by a loving husband,” I thought.

“Yes.” She seemed very still.

“Age 27 years,” I read. “Young.”

She seemed to be sitting under the nearby, ancient tree, dressed in a white gown with the full skirt and petticoats of her era, waiting for someone, perhaps the husband who had buried her.
My mind was flooded with stories as I draped the silk over her monument and began moving my fabric crayon over the raised letters. Did he remarry and move on? Did he die somewhere else? Away at war? Are they forever separated? I'll never know. I can only imagine these things. Perhaps I am imagining all of it.

"Olive" Detail of Tombstone Silk Scarf
by Alissa Sorenson

But I see Olive in my mind's eye: dark hair, fair skin, pretty, young, and patiently waiting under the tree by her tombstone at Greenlawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio.

My desire to take the likenesses, as it were, of the long dead may seem strange to some. My father died when I was young, but I have sensed his comforting presence as long as I can remember. Perhaps this closeness with one spirit helps to develop the ability to sense the presence of others. I am no medium, and I never see the dead with my eyes, but I sometimes hear their voices and see their faces in my mind when they are present.

"Nouveau Decay", full length of the silk scarf and detail below.

As I enter a cemetery, I proceed slowly. It feels like most of the dead are slumbering, and I wait to be called by someone. I've noticed whenever there is a persona involved with a piece, the work will go more smoothly, and the finished silk will have a strange and unique beauty.

As I meander through the old sections of cemeteries, I watch for tombstones with optimum potential: raised letters, large graphics, and less erosion. Once I have developed a sense for who wishes to be remembered, I will usually complete the work using imagery from other grave stones, asking permission first of anyone who might linger. For example, with Olive, I used simple, floral designs to complement her sweet, endearing personality.

Floral details of "Olive", tombstone rubbing on silk.

Respect is my ultimate goal, along with remembrance. This is why I choose the oldest sections of cemeteries, making sure all markers were placed prior to WWII. What a horrible thing it would be to find a tombstone rubbing scarf for sale on Etsy of your beloved family member's head stone.

I am often asked how I came up with this idea. I had wanted to create my own textiles, and purchased Habotai silk, fabric crayons and rubbing plates. The plates did not interest me, however, and my supplies sat unused. This autumn, I went on the annual leaf gathering walk with my children. We bring the fallen neighborhood leaves of maple, elm, and oak home, and make leaf rubbings with crayons on paper, just like I remember doing in primary school. I realized I could do this with my silks and fabric crayons, and enjoyed the process of imprinting something real – contact with nature, more than just design.

When I began trying to think of something for Halloween, I realized I could use the same technique with tombstones, as I had done with chalk and paper in my youth. On my first cemetery outing, I wasn't sure what to expect. The call of the dead surprised me, but it felt comfortable. I enjoyed spending time with them and flexing my 6th sense, or imagination, whichever it happens to be.

"John Grim"
Details of tombstone rubbings on silk.

Sometimes I worry I might bring someone, or something, unfriendly home. After returning from my first visit, I felt a little uneasy, but decided to ignore it. I reasoned that any spirit so closely attached to a location wouldn't be able to stay with me for long. When my children came home from school, my oldest son, who has always been sensitive, walked into my studio and asked, “Who is in here?”

“Just me,” I replied.

“Oh. I heard someone say hello to me, and it wasn't you.”

“Was it a woman's voice, or a man's voice?”

“A woman's.” He looked around as if he might find someone else, sure of his senses, but then shrugged and walked away.

"Hannah Died"

I never told him where I had been or what I had been doing.
I had been to Hannah's grave that day, and I wondered if she might have followed me home, curious about my activity at her grave site. I feel she didn't stay long, though. Once the oil from the crayon has dried, the spirits seem to rest again, perhaps more content to be remembered a little longer.

"Olive" by Alissa Sorenson

You can read more stories and see more tombstone rubbing scarves on my blog: creatrixjane.blogspot.com.
Scarves are available at my Etsy shop: creatrixjane.etsy.com.

Note: Alissa is a member of our Fiber Focus group on Ning. Visit her page for more photos of her work. She also started the knitting group on Fiber Focus. Fiber Focus is a gathering place for people who are passionate about fiber art and its place in the world. Many of us are artists with stores on Etsy, but we also have interior designers, collectors and just people who want to be around fiber art discussions. We welcome new members!

The slide show below is of more of Alissa's work:

Find more photos like this on Fiber Focus


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