TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving's Day of Mourning: Plymouth Pilgrims Slaughter their Native Hosts

Samoset speaks English to the British colonists

Today is the last day of a long Thanksgiving weekend here in the United States. As a Sunday, many of us are recovering from too much food and from the beginning of the Holiday shopping season. Friday is called Black Friday here, where for decades now, mobs swamp department stores in search of good deals and discounts. In response to the post I did, Lincoln's Thanksgiving: What They Wore, a friend sent me an e-mail with the following article. It's depressing, a downer, but I feel compelled to post it.

Let me couch it with a couple of things. History is subjective. Period. Anyone recording what they see and experience do so from their perspective and that is always limited. However, in order to aspire to a "bird's eye view", stories should be told from a variety of perspectives. The story of Thanksgiving as an inter-racial bounty between whites and natives is so deeply ingrained in our American psyche that most of us will pass that on down to our kids.

I don't know what children are learning in school these days, but growing up overseas, we were fed beautiful stories about how this country developed. There were about 15 other American families in our city and the adults all made every effort to instill in us a sense of identity as an American, so we celebrated all the holidays.

I remember one Thanksgiving play we did in our church, all of us kids dressed up as pilgrims or Indians. I have a vague memory of making a silver buckle out of foil, so I think I was a pilgrim. The most vivid part of this faded memory is that there was a popcorn popper that failed to work when it was supposed to, but came to life in the wrong scene, making us all fall down with laughter. So, maybe we didn't get the historical facts down right. Do we just toss it out? I know that Thanksgiving has been a time in my life where giving thanks and honoring friends and family has been important.

I guess we could just dump the historical side and make it a simple day of thanks. Or, maybe we can acknowledge history for all the good, the bad and the ugly it represents, and aspire towards those values we wished the Pilgrims and Native Americans shared: cultural respect, sharing of resources, and the building of community.

I've found some images that relate to the article. Click on them to visit their source.

The Real Thanksgiving

Quoted from: The Hidden History of Massachusetts

Much of America's understanding of the early relationship between the Indian and the European is conveyed through the story of Thanksgiving. Proclaimed a holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, this fairy tale of a feast was allowed to exist in the American imagination pretty much untouched until 1970, the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. That is when Frank B. James, president of the Federated Eastern Indian League, prepared a speech for a Plymouth banquet that exposed the Pilgrims for having committed, among other crimes, the robbery of the graves of the Wampanoags. He wrote:

"We welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people."

But white Massachusetts officials told him he could not deliver such a speech and offered to write him another. Instead, James declined to speak, and on Thanksgiving Day hundreds of Indians from around the country came to protest. It was the first National Day of Mourning, a day to mark the losses Native Americans suffered as the early settlers prospered. This true story of "Thanksgiving" is what whites did not want Mr. James to tell.

What Really Happened in Plymouth in 1621?
According to a single-paragraph account in the writings of one Pilgrim, a harvest feast did take place in Plymouth in 1621, probably in mid-October, but the Indians who attended were not even invited. Though it later became known as "Thanksgiving, " the Pilgrims never called it that. And amidst the imagery of a picnic of interracial harmony is some of the most terrifying bloodshed in New World history.

The Pilgrim crop had failed miserably that year, but the agricultural expertise of the Indians had produced twenty acres of corn, without which the Pilgrims would have surely perished. The Indians often brought food to the Pilgrims, who came from England ridiculously unprepared to survive and hence relied almost exclusively on handouts from the overly generous Indians-thus making the Pilgrims the western hemisphere's first class of welfare recipients. The Pilgrims invited the Indian sachem Massasoit to their feast, and it was Massasoit, engaging in the tribal tradition of equal sharing, who then invited ninety or more of his Indian brothers and sisters-to the annoyance of the 50 or so ungrateful Europeans. No turkey, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie was served; they likely ate duck or geese and the venison from the 5 deer brought by Massasoit. In fact, most, if not all, of the food was most likely brought and prepared by the Indians, whose 10,000-year familiarity with the cuisine of the region had kept the whites alive up to that point.

Massasoit and Governor Carver

The Pilgrims wore no black hats or buckled shoes-these were the silly inventions of artists hundreds of years since that time. These lower-class Englishmen wore brightly colored clothing, with one of their church leaders recording among his possessions "1 paire of greene drawers." Contrary to the fabricated lore of storytellers generations since, no Pilgrims prayed at the meal, and the supposed good cheer and fellowship must have dissipated quickly once the Pilgrims brandished their weaponry in a primitive display of intimidation. What's more, the Pilgrims consumed a good deal of home brew. In fact, each Pilgrim drank at least a half gallon of beer a day, which they preferred even to water. This daily inebriation led their governor, William Bradford, to comment on his people's "notorious sin," which included their "drunkenness and uncleanliness" and rampant "sodomy"...

The Pilgrims of Plymouth, The Original Scalpers
Contrary to popular mythology the Pilgrims were no friends to the local Indians. They were engaged in a ruthless war of extermination against their hosts, even as they falsely posed as friends. Just days before the alleged Thanksgiving love-fest, a company of Pilgrims led by Myles Standish actively sought to chop off the head of a local chief. They deliberately caused a rivalry between two friendly Indians, pitting one against the other in an attempt to obtain "better intelligence and make them both more diligent." An 11-foot-high wall was erected around the entire settlement for the purpose of keeping the Indians out.

Any Indian who came within the vicinity of the Pilgrim settlement was subject to robbery, enslavement, or even murder. The Pilgrims further advertised their evil intentions and white racial hostility, when they mounted five cannons on a hill around their settlement, constructed a platform for artillery, and then organized their soldiers into four companies-all in preparation for the military destruction of their friends, the Indians.

Pilgrim Myles Standish eventually got his bloody prize. He went to the Indians, pretended to be a trader, then beheaded an Indian man named Wituwamat. He brought the head to Plymouth, where it was displayed on a wooden spike for many years, according to Gary B. Nash, "as a symbol of white power." Standish had the Indian man's young brother hanged from the rafters for good measure. From that time on, the whites were known to the Indians of Massachusetts by the name "Wotowquenange, " which in their tongue meant cutthroats and stabbers.

Who Were the "Savages"?
The myth of the fierce, ruthless Indian savage lusting after the blood of innocent Europeans must be vigorously dispelled at this point. In actuality, the historical record shows that the very opposite was true.

Once the European settlements stabilized, the whites turned on their hosts in a brutal way. The once amicable relationship was breeched again and again by the whites, who lusted over the riches of Indian land. A combination of the Pilgrims' demonization of the Indians, the concocted mythology of Eurocentric historians, and standard Hollywood propaganda has served to paint the gentle Indian as a tomahawk-swinging savage endlessly on the warpath, lusting for the blood of the God-fearing whites.

But the Pilgrims' own testimony obliterates that fallacy. The Indians engaged each other in military contests from time to time, but the causes of "war," the methods, and the resulting damage differed profoundly from the European variety:
  • Indian "wars" were largely symbolic and were about honor, not about territory or extermination.
  • "Wars" were fought as domestic correction for a specific act and were ended when correction was achieved. Such action might better be described as internal policing. The conquest or destruction of whole territories was a European concept.
  • Indian "wars" were often engaged in by family groups, not by whole tribal groups, and would involve only the family members.
  • A lengthy negotiation was engaged in between the aggrieved parties before escalation to physical confrontation would be sanctioned. Surprise attacks were unknown to the Indians.
  • It was regarded as evidence of bravery for a man to go into "battle" carrying no weapon that would do any harm at a distance-not even bows and arrows. The bravest act in war in some Indian cultures was to touch their adversary and escape before he could do physical harm.
  • The targeting of non-combatants like women, children, and the elderly was never contemplated. Indians expressed shock and repugnance when the Europeans told, and then showed, them that they considered women and children fair game in their style of warfare.
  • A major Indian "war" might end with less than a dozen casualties on both sides. Often, when the arrows had been expended the "war" would be halted. The European practice of wiping out whole nations in bloody massacres was incomprehensible to the Indian.
According to one scholar, "The most notable feature of Indian warfare was its relative innocuity." European observers of Indian wars often expressed surprise at how little harm they actually inflicted. "Their wars are far less bloody and devouring than the cruel wars of Europe", commented settler Roger Williams in 1643. Even Puritan warmonger and professional soldier Capt. John Mason scoffed at Indian warfare: "[Their] feeble manner...did hardly deserve the name of fighting." Fellow warmonger John Underhill spoke of the Narragansetts, after having spent a day "burning and spoiling" their country: "no Indians would come near us, but run from us, as the deer from the dogs." He concluded that the Indians might fight seven years and not kill seven men. Their fighting style, he wrote, "is more for pastime, than to conquer and subdue enemies." (photo: Narragans & Roger Williams)

All this describes a people for whom war is a deeply regrettable last resort. An agrarian people, the American Indians had devised a civilization that provided dozens of options all designed to avoid conflict--the very opposite of Europeans, for whom all-out war, a ferocious bloodlust, and systematic genocide are their apparent life force. Thomas Jefferson--who himself advocated the physical extermination of the American Indian--said of Europe, "They [Europeans] are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of labor, property and lives of their people."

Puritan Holocaust
By the mid 1630s, a new group of 700 even holier Europeans calling themselves Puritans had arrived on 11 ships and settled in Boston-which only served to accelerate the brutality against the Indians.

In one incident around 1637, a force of whites trapped some seven hundred Pequot Indians, mostly women, children, and the elderly, near the mouth of the Mystic River. Englishman John Mason attacked the Indian camp with "fire, sword, blunderbuss, and tomahawk." Only a handful escaped and few prisoners were taken-to the apparent delight of the Europeans:

To see them frying in the fire, and the streams of their blood quenching the same, and the stench was horrible; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave praise thereof to God.

This event marked the first actual Thanksgiving. In just 10 years 12,000 whites had invaded New England, and as their numbers grew they pressed for all-out extermination of the Indian. Euro-diseases had reduced the population of the Massachusett nation from over 24,000 to less than 750; meanwhile, the number of European settlers in Massachusetts rose to more than 20,000 by 1646.

By 1675, the Massachusetts Englishmen were in a full-scale war with the great Indian chief of the Wampanoags, Metacomet. Renamed "King Philip" by the white man, Metacomet watched the steady erosion of the lifestyle and culture of his people as European-imposed laws and values engulfed them.

In 1671, the white man had ordered Metacomet to come to Plymouth to enforce upon him a new treaty, which included the humiliating rule that he could no longer sell his own land without prior approval from whites. They also demanded that he turn in his community's firearms. Marked for extermination by the merciless power of a distant king and his ruthless subjects, Metacomet retaliated in 1675 with raids on several isolated frontier towns. Eventually, the Indians attacked 52 of the 90 New England towns, destroying 13 of them. The Englishmen ultimately regrouped, and after much bloodletting defeated the great Indian nation, just half a century after their arrival on Massachusetts soil. Historian Douglas Edward Leach describes the bitter end:

"The ruthless executions, the cruel sentences... were all aimed at the same goal-unchallengeable white supremacy in southern New England. That the program succeeded is convincingly demonstrated by the almost complete docility of the local native ever since."

When Captain Benjamin Church tracked down and murdered Metacomet in 1676, his body was quartered and parts were "left for the wolves." The great Indian chief's hands were cut off and sent to Boston and his head went to Plymouth, where it was set upon a pole on the real first "day of public Thanksgiving for the beginning of revenge upon the enemy." Metacomet's nine-year-old son was destined for execution because, the whites reasoned, the offspring of the devil must pay for the sins of their father. The child was instead shipped to the Caribbean to spend his life in slavery.

As the Holocaust continued, several official Thanksgiving Days were proclaimed. Governor Joseph Dudley declared in 1704 a "General Thanksgiving" -not in celebration of the brotherhood of man-but for [God's] infinite Goodness to extend His Favors...In defeating and disappointing. .. the Expeditions of the Enemy [Indians] against us, And the good Success given us against them, by delivering so many of them into our hands...

(Governor Joseph Dudley pictured in photo at left. He was also somewhat involved in the Salem Witch Trials and was later accused by Boston merchants of being in league with smugglers and illicit traders. Wiki)

Just two years later one could reap a ££50 reward in Massachusetts for the scalp of an Indian-demonstratin g that the practice of scalping was a European tradition. According to one scholar, "Hunting redskins became...a popular sport in New England, especially since prisoners were worth good money..."

References in The Hidden History of Massachusetts: A Guide for Black Folks (C)(C) DR. TINGBA APIDTA, ; ISBN 0-9714462-0- 2

Interview of Samoset with the Pilgrims


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lincoln's Thanksgiving: What They Wore

The hat Lincoln wore when he was assassinated.

Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, a National Holiday. President Abraham Lincoln made it official in 1863, 145 years ago. The country was a blood bath: Civil War, Native Americans and white settlers fighting for land, slaves escaping through the Underground Railroad, all leaving misery in their wake. Today Thanksgiving has been reduced to "Turkey Day", a topic I looked at on yesterday's post. We gorge ourselves, indulging in the sin of gluttony, surrounded by people we hopefully love.

My intention is not to belittle the holiday, on the contrary, I think it is a beautiful occasion where we can stop, take a breath, think about the blessings we have been afforded, and rest with people who are important to us. But, we teach our children and uphold falsehoods about our history. The story about "pilgrims and Indians" can be looked at another day, as I zoomed in on Lincoln and his time for today.

Lincoln at the Battle of Antietam, 1862

I had not read Lincoln's proclamation before, so I looked it up and found it quite interesting. Instead of dissecting it with my sermonoligies (new word! like it?), I offer it to you with some images of the time. What people wore tells stories more vividly than I can with words. Click on the images to visit the source, many of which are fascinating! (One note, though: The official celebration of Thanksgiving was a political statement on the Union, rather than a memory of thanksgiving for the Native Americans who saved the first settlers.)

Proclamation of Thanksgiving

Washington, D.C.October 3, 1863

This is the proclamation which set the precedent for America's national day of Thanksgiving. During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders like this. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving.

Sarah Josepha Hale, a prominent magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on 28, 1863, urging him to have the "day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival." She wrote, "You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution." The document below sets apart the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise."

According to an April 1, 1864, letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln's secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. On October 3, 1863, fellow Cabinet member Gideon Welles recorded in his diary that he complimented Seward on his work. A year later the manuscript was sold to benefit Union troops.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

Mary Todd Lincoln in her inaugural gown, 1861

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Black Soldiers

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

Confederate Uniforms

Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

Emancipated Slaves, White and Black

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers...

Chief Quanah, Comanche leader against white settlers, 1870's

...in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Thanksgiving in Camp, 1862

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,Secretary of State

Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler.

We have come a long way since Lincoln's day. Having Obama as President Elect testifies to some of our progress. Much work remains, but today, like Lincoln, my wish is for peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union for you and yours!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fiber Turkeys on Etsy! Plus, Some Fun-and-not-so-fun Facts on the Bird...

Credit: Jurek D.
Copyright: Creative Commons Attribution

"Some 46 million turkeys will be eaten on Thanksgiving Day, about the same as in previous years, said Sherrie Rosenblatt, spokeswoman for the National Turkey Federation." (Gator Sports)

I like animals, all of them, and in my head I am a vegetarian. But, in real life, I am a weak carnivore and deeply ashamed by it. I don't really have an issue with animals being eaten, at least not philosophically, in an environment where they are also deeply valued as esteemed fellow beings- you know... old fashioned farms where they get to exercise, frolic, get nipped by a herding dog, mate, have their young ... or shot with an arrow by a sinewy native who then says a blessing as the animal's light fades from its eyes... (romanticized versions, of course!), but I do have a moral problem with the meat industry and how animals are treated in order to meet the quotas our society demands.

I was just going to write a cute post about turkeys on Etsy. There are some wonderful turkeys there! Like this sock turkey! Isn't it just the cutest toy for a kid?

Sock Turkey

Or, look at the elegance in this blockprint! The artist said she was inspired by the wild turkeys that run around where her parents live.

Blockprint Turkey Towel
artgoodies $15

Turkeys really are, even with all the fleshy head stuff they have going on, beautiful birds indeed. Here's a dandy from the 1800's:

1867 Turkeys

Meanwhile, back at the turkey ranch...
"More than 255 million turkeys were slaughtered in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. That means the average American consumes about 17 pounds of turkey meat each year. ...

Most of today's turkeys are intensively confined in crowded, dirty sheds with no natural sunlight, let alone fresh grass or woods to forage in or trees to roost in. Millions of tons of waste from these farms pollute nearby waterways and cause other environmental damage.

Selective breeding and growth hormones have been a boon to the meat industry, causing turkeys to grow very large over a very short period of time. But the birds, unable to withstand this unnatural size, suffer numerous chronic health problems."(ABC News)

And, good ole' PETA, of course runs in defense of the turkey. Their Peta Files, listed Top 10 Reasons to Pardon a Turkey. The first one is because turkeys are really smart birds who love to play. They compared it to eating your pet cat. Number eight might be more convincing to the health conscious:

8. Turkey consumption might kill you.
"Turkey flesh is brimming with fat and cholesterol. Just one homemade patty of ground, cooked turkey meat contains a whopping 244 mg of cholesterol, and half of its calories come from fat. Turkey flesh is also frequently tainted with salmonella, campylobacter bacteria, and other contaminants. And a vegan meal won't leave you sprawled on the couch, belt buckle undone, barely able to move.


On the brighter side of life, fight all that bacteria with a nice turkey sachet:

Turkey Spiced Pumpkin Sachets
lynchgirl 2 for $5

Some things I didn't know about this poor bird, culled from baltimoremd.com:

- Turkeys originated in North and Central America, and evidence indicates that they have been around for over 10 million years.

- Until 1863, Thanksgiving Day had not been celebrated annually since the first feast in 1621. This changed in 1863 when Sarah Josepha Hale encouraged Abraham Lincoln to set aside the last Thursday in November "as a day for national thanksgiving and prayer."

- In Mexico, the turkey was considered a sacrificial bird.

- Domesticated turkeys (farm raised) cannot fly. Wild turkeys can fly for short distances at up to 55 miles per hour. Wild turkeys are also fast on the ground, running at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.

- Only male turkeys (toms) gobble. Females (hens) make a clicking noise.

- The heaviest turkey ever raised weighed in at 86 pounds -- about the size of a large German Shepherd -- and was grown in England.

- Mature turkeys have 3,500 or so feathers. The Apache Indians considered the turkey timid and wouldn't eat it or use its feathers on their arrows.

- More than 45 million turkeys are cooked and 525 million pounds of turkey are eaten during Thanksgiving.

- Ninety percent of American homes eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Fifty percent eat turkey on Christmas.

- North Carolina produces 61 million turkeys annually, more than any other state. Minnesota and Arkansas are number two and three.

- Benjamin Franklin, the great American statesman, thought the turkey was so American it should have been chosen as our national symbol rather than the eagle.

- The fleshy growth from the base of the beak, which is very long on male turkeys and hangs down over the beak, is called the snood.

Would you like some turkey feathers? Get them from Rana Muck, who harvests them sustainably. Lots of other great bird feathers can also be found in this shop.

4 Wisconsin Turkey Feathers
RanaMuck $4.25

As I was traveling around Etsy, looking for cool turkeys, lo and behold! I found something in my own shop! I had completely forgotten about this mola, and I must say, it really is a nice one!

Turkey Mola

So, tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the United States. 46 million turkeys, put out of their misery, will be hacked and consumed. I heard someone say once that if we eat happy food, we will also be happy. But, if what we consume is misery, than we will certainly be miser-able. Hmmm... an interesting play on words there. Get it?

Without any more dampening of the celebration, we do have much to be thankful for, at least I know I do! And, in that spirit, I wish you all a wonderful time with family and friends. Enjoy your pumpkin pie, your corn and squash, pass the rolls and give me some of that cranberry sauce...............

......gobble, gobble!


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Anne Lamott Made Me Laugh Today

I was working on inventory, listening to NPR. This American Life was on with an old story by David Sedaris that I had already heard. Still good, chuckle, chuckle, but not new. Sarah Vowell followed. I had heard that one, too. Must have heard the whole show a long time ago... Yep! It WAS originally aired in 1998! What a memory! Except that I didn't remember the third guest, Anne Lamott. In fact, I don't remember ever hearing about her, ever, ever, ever before! How could I not? As I worked away, I almost peed in my pants from snortling. Well, not really, but I loved what she was saying and how she was saying it and I wanted more, more, MORE!

Anne Lamott is a writer, so I'm sidestepping a bit on the fiber focus here, except that I think what she has to say is relevant to all artists, in fact, to anyone interested in life. Swimming her way out of alcoholism into a life of grace and faith, Lamott is my brand of Christian. It colors everything she addresses, but in a sarcastic, self-deprecating and humorous voice more often heard by progressive Jews. Not apologetic, she embraces the name of Jesus with as much foracity as any born-again Baptist. But, it's done in a way that makes me flutter with joy inside.

I googled her and of course, there are gobs of interviews out there and some videos. The story I heard on This American Life was a great introduction and you can hear it on their site. I also found her as a guest on the Colbert Report:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c

Finally, I listened and watched the following interview. It's an hour long and I didn't really want to spend that much time on it, so I figured I could watch a bit and turn it off. Nope. Got sucked in and enjoyed it to the last minute. She talks a lot about her work, how the creative process develops for her, and about the emotional and financial realities she experienced through different phases. This, I thought, is good fodder for all creative people (who, I assume, are the corps of my readers...). Give it a try! If you roll your eyes or get bored, you can turn it off:

Anne Lamott is now on my reading list. The grabber for me was her humor. Then she pushed the hook in with intrigue. She was obviously working hard to do the Jesus thing while having a really hard time looking right-wing Jerry Falwell types in the eye. Anti-Bushonomics Christians are not found in abundant supply around here. And, often, progressive Christians are so depressed about everything that they aren't much fun. Well, Anne Lamott made me laugh today and I thank her. Whatever your walk in life, I can guarantee that if you have a sense of humor, are interested in people, art and politics, then she will make you laugh a bit, too. Something I believe we all need these days!


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Baby Fiber Artists

Rachel Biel Taibi, AKA Rayela Art
Campinas, Brazil, 1962

These photos were taken of me when my parents first arrived in Brazil, still unpacking. I think they are my favorite baby photos, partially because they combine three of my great interests: travel, clothing and fabric. A baby is a clean slate. Any doting mother might look at their child and wonder with awe and great trepidation, "Oh, Lord! What will become of this little one?"

"Please! Listen to my prayer!
Anything but an artist!!!!"

Said in jest, but with a grain of truth... Several years ago my mother asked me not to give her anymore art. She would rather get nothing for Christmas than something I made. This comes out of a practical frustration of not having enough room to display all that she already has. And, the cleaning and dusting and clutter effects...

Looking back, I wish that I had a "real" trade, or one that provided a secure income. Some artists are able to make a living from their work, but most of us struggle along, facing poverty or living on the edge. That's fine in your twenties but becomes more difficult with age. Looking back once again, I know that this has been my road, unavoidable and rich in texture. My parents played their part in this, encouraging me at a young age to learn everything that interested me. They paid for painting classes, embroidery tutoring, piano lessons, and gave me an allowance to spend on paints, threads, and other art supplies. I learned how to carve, work with clay, draw, paint, refinish furniture, and finally settled in the fiber arts.

My mother read to us every night, up into my teens. Her voice trained my ear to later indulge in NPR and audio books. Love and care was the signature of my childhood. Creativity, laughter, and tactile experience abounded. These fibers wove themselves into a tapestry of wonder.

I invited members from our Fiber Focus group to submit images of themselves as a baby along with some text. Such tenderness!

Charmaine Manley

"Here's a photo of my mother holding me when I was tiny. I've dabbled in quilting and embroidering, and a little bit of sewing. Mainly, I oggle. I'm very good at appreciating the work of other fiber artists!"


Catherine Salter Bayar

"November 1961 - Nomad in Training: I'm 9 months old and have just been peeled out of the backseat of our mauve colored, tail-finned Imperial automobile of massive proportions by my Aunt Martha, in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. I've ridden all the way from California with my parents and my grandmother, who apparently complained the entire time. This was the first road trip of many I've taken over decades now - for pleasure, for work, with family, friends or by myself.

I used to travel the world to design and weave textiles for big manufacturers; now I travel Turkey for our handwoven textile shop. I knit, felt and weave...though not as well as those nomad women of years gone by."




Is there a common denominator that grows a baby into a fiber artist? Nature vs. nurture? In my family, my Dad's side is loaded with talented hands, mostly woodworkers and painters. My Mom's side has sprouted literary minds. The four of us here as babies all seem to have had plenty on the nurture side. I am sure that we are the lucky ones and that there are many fiber artists with less fortune in terms of being a happy baby.

In times past, many fiber art traditions came from moms, grandmothers and aunts who made quilts, knitted socks, and sewed curtains, clothing and other functional items. Many of us now have no role models within the family, but look for knowledge through books, the internet and peers. We sometimes embrace function, but often push beyond the scope of what our ancestors would have considered appropriate.
Baby fiber artists! Yarn, straw, felt, fabric, thread, raffia, grass, reeds, wool, silk, and yes, even polyester... Imagine the world without us... Wouldn't that make you feel sad and cold?

Rachel Biel Taibi, Brazil, 1962

Would you like to add your baby face to this post? Use the Contact Me link in the third column of the blog and send a photo (attached as a jpeg), your text and links and I'll add you on!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Help Needed Identifying Horse Tack on Vintage Printing Blocks

I recently acquired a bunch of printing blocks from a local Paducah resident. They are from a harness business that closed in the 1950's. Although I now live in Kentucky horse country, I have no clue as to the particulars of horse business.... The blocks were used to produce catalogs similar to the one pictured above. I was able to find information online on one of the suppliers, A.D. Jackson Saddlery, as the block, very similar to the horse collar in the above catalog has a stamp with that name on it. Fred B. McAfoos & Co. has a nice historical page which describes how the family business evolved. Today, they sell lawnmowers and outdoor power tools.

Fred B. McAfoos of Benton, IL in his harness shop

Fred B McAfoos opened his business in Benton sometime around 1918. Previously he had worked with his father and brother Ollie in a retail lumber business in Whittington Il. It is said that most of the lumber that originally built Sesser Il came from the Whittington yard. In 1918 a spark from a passing locomotive started a fire that completely destroyed the lumber yard, after that, Fred moved his family to Benton and started a new venture.

The new business was located on East Church near the C & EI railroad office and sold feed and farm stead equipment. In his first year of operation Fred sold 50 Delker Brother’s buggies, the next year he only sold 2. It was the end of an era and the beginning of the mechanization of agriculture. Feed, flour, and cream separators were the main commodities sold, much of which was delivered by horse drawn wagons. In the 30’s Fred added a harness shop, and in the 40’s moved just east of the old Webster JR High School in Benton. The harness shop finally closed in the 50’s but the feed and equipment business remained in the same location until 1968.

I listed the blocks I could identify on Etsy, but am stumped on several others. I love old things in general, but I find these blocks especially interesting and would like to get more of them if I can move the ones I got. Etsy's search system is made up of tags that describe the item, so it's important that I use the right words to describe these blocks. I imagine they will be of special interest to anyone who loves horses, Western and Southern history, and printing techniques. The blocks are still in decent shape and can be used on both paper and fabric using a brayer and inks. Maybe someday I'll have the time to play with them and see what happens.

Meanwhile, if you know what the correct names for the items below, it would be a great help to me. Leave a description in the comment section referring to the item by number. The more specific the description, the better. We have 14 keywords to use per item on Etsy, so if a horse harness has a certain function, then it would be good to know that. In my ignorance, I imagine there are items that might be for show while others for work and that there are distinctions by type as in English and Western saddles.








I also sell textile stamps from Central Asia, so if you are a printer, make sure to take a look at my selection. They are vintage but functional and a favorite among artists working with fabric, batik, clay, and paper.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Paradise Found: A Mola Quilt by Rayela Art

Paradise Found, a mola quilt by Rayela Art

For years and years, I have been promising my friend Diane that I would make her a quilt. Guilt has plagued me as for those same years and years as Diane has been one of those friends who walks the talk. She has consistently given support in the form of advice (as a chemist, Diane is a well of knowledge in all household and textile care tips), as a customer, as a knitter (I have benefited as the recipient of wonderful woolen goodies), as a book pusher (many of my favorite authors came through Diane's guidance), and much, much more.

Diane, AKA The Yin-Yang Knitter here on the blog
and DLouse on our Fiber Focus group.

Last April, Diane came down from Wisconsin to help me with my booth during the Quilt Show here in Paducah. I had just purchased a bunch of molas to sell on Etsy and we decided that I would finally make true on my promise of a quilt, using bird molas as the basic theme. Our booth was next to Bob (also a Fiber Focus member) and Helene's, who were selling fabric. Diane scoured through and picked a selection that she liked:

Aaargh! For all that we do have in common, our color palettes are not one of them. I prefer earthy, more subdued colors, while Diane's favorite color is bright yellow. However, I admit that her choices work well with the bright colors the Kuna Indians like to use in their molas. For months, the fabric sat in a pile- I just couldn't see what to do with it. Then, leafing through a quilting book I have, New Cuts for New Quilts by Karla Alexander, I saw what I could do.

The book shows different techniques for "stacking the deck", where layers of fabric are stacked and then cut in free form. Rotate the layers and you get repeat blocks, but with different fabrics. The quilt is very busy, so it may be hard to see the blocks, but the center is made of big, bold leaf designs, alternating the flaming oranges with lighter fabrics. The border on the top and bottom is another set of stacked decks and the sides alternate larger molas with forest greens. Perhaps some symbolism can be read into the reds and greens, referring to the destruction of our forests around the world and the hope that this paradise may somehow continue to exist.

Small molitas are appliqued throughout the center with large leaves protruding from behind them. The larger molas on the sides were sewn into the quilt as part of the piecing.

The quilt looks a lot better "live" than it does in the photos. Some close ups will help show the details.

Border Medium Size Molas:

Small Molitas with Big Leaves Appliqued in the Middle:

The Back of the Quilt
I like to bring elements of the front to the back of the quilt. In fact, I really like the simplicity this brings and often prefer my backs to the tops I've made. Most of the quilts I've made have been for other people so their tastes or designs have been dominant over what I would prefer to do. I long to play more with these ideas.
I also like the prairie points that go around the border of the quilt.

There was absolutely no way that I would be able to quilt this thing! Molas involve layers of fabric appliqued and reverse-appliqued so that they can often be quite thick. Diane hired our friend, Pam (another Fiber Focus member), to do the quilting. Pam is a professional long-arm quilter and did a great job! I told her I imagined vines and tropical leaves throughout the piece.

Pam Heavrin, Professional Long-Arm Quilter

Pam knew exactly how to translate my idea into reality! The quilting shows up best on the back.

Paradise Found is also about friendship and the collaboration we do together with our interests. Diane saw the vision, Bob and Helene had the fabric, I put it together, and Pam made it all stick! Plus, there is the international touch with the molas, bringing people and nature together. If the quilt were mine, I would have overdyed the whole thing to tone the colors down, but Diane absolutely loves it and that is what counts.

Molas are wonderful center pieces to work with and I hope this piece inspires you to look at the ones I have listed on Etsy. This quilt used 16 molitas, which could become quite costly, but simpler versions could be done. Molas are sturdy and work great to applique on pillows, jean jackets, bags, and other accessories. If you have ever made any mola projects, leave a comment and give us all some more ideas on how to use them!

Books on the Kuna, Molas and Stacking the Deck,
available on Amazon

Purchases through this widget help support this blog.

Note on Commissions: I am available for commissions. I enjoy doing them, especially if I have some freedom in coming up with ideas. A similar quilt to Diane's (in terms of labor) would be around $1,500 plus cost of materials and another $300 or so for Pam to quilt it. I especially enjoy working on memory quilts that honor a person or occasion. I will not be able to start on any new projects until after the New Year, but will happily work on commissions after that.



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