Friday, December 31, 2010

Adieu to 2010

rabbits dancing toward the sun
As the year closes, I find myself in a space of gratitude, feeling like one of these bunnies, holding hands paws with a more spiritual double, skipping toward the sunshine, grateful for my husband and family, meaningful friendships, space and time for making art, opportunities to explore and learn, support and inspirations found through blogging, another year of good health, our beautiful world, and so much more!

Sometimes seeking pleasure and happiness seems to get in the way of experiencing it... the seeking itself takes over and becomes the goal. Duh~ I am more mindful of that trap now, more open to seeing simply what IS with delight.

Looking back at 2010, I blew it on some of my goals, yet there were many accomplishments, some completely unexpected. A few reflections:

Bead Journal Project: I dropped the ball on both blogging and stitching after August. My September piece still sits unfinished. Although I did make progress in collage art and using words in my art, I also learned that setting multiple rules for myself hampered my enthusiasm. I don't know if I'll ever finish the last four pieces for 2010. But here's the good news... my exuberance for 2011 is steadily growing!

Personal stuff: One thing most cyber-followers of Beadlust don't know about me is that I've struggled with weight, overeating and compulsive binging for most all of my adult life. Being pretty good at periodic dieting, I've never gone higher than 240 pounds (gaaaak!), yet always ballooned right back to my high after every diet. Finally this year I faced the fact that I have an addiction going on and that I'm powerless to do anything about it. I joined Overeaters Anonymous, miraculously became free of obsessions with food sugary-fatty-crap, have gone from tight size 18 jeans to good-fitting size 12s, and most importantly, with the support of my OA group and higher power, I'm beginning to get in touch with emotions long suppressed by compulsive overeating. (My recovery journey is here.)

One other personal note: My husband and I came close to divorce this summer. Fortunately he is willing to get help and fortunately we found an excellent marriage counselor. A lot of my energy is going into spending more time with him... more quality time, more communication, more connection. I'm grateful to be in our marriage at the end of a rocky year.

New horizons: Beading, my passion for 25 years, is extremely important to me and I know without a doubt that it still holds amazing potential as a creative outlet. However, this year has been a year of exploring other things like quilting. Right now I'm making a God's Eye quilt using scraps saved from many, many projects over the past 20 years or so. It's thrilling to make the blocks, each a mini-journal in fabrics. I'll post some pictures soon. I'm also hand-quilting a large 1930's reproduction 25-patch quilt. Weaving a foundation for a wall quilt from re-purposed silk garments (with bead and thread embroidery embellishments) is calling me too!

As I've been dealing with addiction recovery and marital difficulties, failing in the process to keep up with the many blogs which delight and sustain me, I'm aware that connections are breaking or lost. This is a sad side-effect of shifting my focus. I hope plan to do better in 2011!

If you're one who is still following Beadlust, I thank you for your support and wish you all the best in the year ahead!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Kantha, Embroidered Quilts of Bengal

Ever see a book that gives you instant goose bumps, heart palpitations and the feeling of mine-mine-MINE?

Kantha, the Embroidered Quilts of Bengal, book cover
Certainly Kantha, The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal is just such a book for me!*

Here are a couple of pictures to whet your appetite for this distinctive type of thread embroidery.

Kantha quilt with mandala center
Kantha quilt
Kantha quilt, detail showing embroidery of a fish
Kantha quilt, embroidery detail
Disclaimer... Sadly my pictures, photographed from pages in the book, don't do it justice at all. The abundant images are so exceptionally good that one could classify it as a photography book. We get large, full color pictures that show not only the quilts in their entirity but also many exquisite detail images that one can study for hours, looking at both technique and design elements. You can see more (and better pictures) here and here.

What I especially love about Kantha embroideries are the strong, story-telling designs, the simple yet effective stitches used to illustrate the designs, and the pull of primary colors toward fundamental truths. Maybe that's the real beauty of them, an unpretentious, honest story, told by a stitcher who never for even a moment dreamed her work would one day be in a book or hang on a museum wall and who would be amazed at the offer of even the smallest amount of money for it.

Take a moment to click on the pictures in this post, to study them. What do you see? What attracts you about them? What do you imagine about the life of the woman who created each of them? To me, they beg that kind of attention. With greatly aroused curiosity, I wonder about the life and intent of each story-teller.

Considered to be a sign of thrift, Kanthas are made from small scraps of well-worn fabric from clothing, no longer useable, stitched together and then embellished with colored threads pulled from worn textiles.

Stella Kramrisch, a legendary figure in the history of South Asian art, writes that the foundation, made of rags, exemplifies that nothing is being wasted, useless bits are joined and acquire wholeness and a unity of meaning. This act of perservation carries with it and becomes the technique and symbolic form of an imperishable knowledge. It belong especially to women. The needle and thread string together the single parts of the object and also the maker of the object.

In concept, I am reminded a little of quilts made by the women of Gee's Bend. I wonder what might have developed with their quilts if one of them had concieved the idea of telling stories with thread embroidery on top of the quilts which already told a story with worn fabrics from work shirts and the like?

*You can read more about the making of the Kantha book from an exhibition of 85 pieces at the Philadelphia Museum of Art here. The large, 300-page book includes a wealth of information about the history, religious beliefs and self-taught art of women of all classes in two regions of South Asia known as Bengal, or today as West Bengal and Bangladesh. It's currently available from Amazon for $40, or hopefully from your local library.