Kinship with cloth

It’s funny how one sample leads to another with almost no effort, and how each adds a little more information to the incomplete picture of where it’s all leading.

Still the same sort of size (10″ x 10″-ish), this one was made by layering a piece of plain linen over a layered and collaged ground.

I stitched around each motif shape and then cut the linen to reveal the collaged fabrics beneath.

Outlines are made by couching and very simple straight stitches.

While I’m doing this, I’m thinking about the difference between carving this image into rock, which is permanent, and stitching it onto cloth, which isn’t. There are hardly any surviving samples of prehistoric cloth because, being plant or animal matter in origin, it disintegrates and rots away to nothing. Just like us, in fact. The impermanence of cloth is one of the reasons I choose textiles for expression rather than paint. I like the way it wears, tears, fades and generally shows its age; the way its physical substance becomes less robust the older it gets. I like the fact that one day it will cease to exist, in exactly the same way that I and my mortal remains will cease to exist. Cloth grows old alongside us in a way that paint or carving on rock doesn’t. You almost can’t help feeling a kind of kinship with something that behaves like us.

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14 Responses to Kinship with cloth

  1. lovely stiching and a thought provoking post today.

  2. Absolutely one of your finest posts and clothS. The bond between is clearly spoken. Thank you

  3. Flaming Nora says:

    This series is so beautiful. Your thoughts on the permanence/ inpermanence of art are very thought provoking. Interesting stuff!

  4. Penny says:

    Beautiful work and lovely post. I have a posting regarding ephemeral art on my blog today also — our minds must be working together.

  5. annie! says:

    A few people have said things to me, like…”this will be an heirloom for generations to come” or something to that effect…when speaking of mine or others cloth-work and I always think….”It’ll be long gone by then”!!! So your description is something I’ve never thought through in the same way…but I have to say…I totally agree. For now though…it’s heaven.

    • Karen Turner says:

      I think most quilts should survive a few generations; there are still many antique quilts – ie 17th/18th/19th century – in existence around the world. Not much left from, say, the Dark Ages though! Strange to think that there will be virtually nothing left of today’s cloth in a thousand years.

  6. Loralei says:

    Wonderful post- I love the couching around the reverse appliqué. Thoughtful comments, though I am not so sure of the absolute permanence of anything, really, as even the carvings on the rocks wear and fade over time. Without question, though, cloth represents us in so many ways- durable yet fragile, and definitely not everlasting.. Thank you for this post today.

    • Karen Turner says:

      Yes, I agree – rock is subject to wear and decay from weather conditions, especially acid rain. I guess nothing remains the same for ever.

  7. Rachel says:

    It’s also good to see how simple stitches and techniques combine to create something greater than themselves..

  8. Els says:

    Karen, love the layers and cutting away ! Kind of “Crazy Mola” (might borrow it one day …)

  9. helen salo says:

    To repeat so many of the above…very thoughtful post and beautiful stitching. I love how this looks , absolutely wonderful.

  10. Sally jo says:

    I love your stitching technique. It is like a surprise once the linen is cut away. I had never thought about the life span of fabric – you make an interesting point.

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