Last week I received in the mail my City and Guilds Level 2 Certificate in Design and Stitched Textiles. It was a long journey from the beginning in 2016. It was an amazing, enriching, challenging course that I throughly enjoyed! I learned so much about stitching and textile design. I learned to push the boundaries of my creative work and express myself through my work.
There are two pieces that I produced for my final project that I haven’t shared with you, my readers. These are not my usual embroideries of pretty flowers worked in silk and gold or Bayeux Tapestry scenes or Crewelwork pieces with many different stitches. These are pieces about my experience with breast cancer.
These are pieces from my heart, from my soul. If you choose not to look at them because you may find them upsetting, unsettling or difficult to see, I understand. However, if you want to see how deeply this course changed what I’m able to do with thread and fabric, then you may want to take a few minutes to look. If you had asked me even 16 months ago if I thought I would ever produce something like these pieces I would have said absolutely not. Never.
For the first time, stitching became more than a peaceful place to reflect or withdraw from the world for a while: it became a place where I could confront fear and uncertainty, where I could rage and recover.
I want to thank my tutors Tracy A. Franklin and Julia Triston, for guiding me through the process that helped me find another way to make textile art.
The felt book, below, contains pieces I embroidered by hand during the time I was diagnosed, making decisions about treatment and undergoing surgery and recovery. Each piece was embroidered in hand (not in a hoop) and the soft, felted wool and wool threads felt comforting in my hands.
The videos, below, are the front and the back of the second part of the project, an accordion book. During the entire time of diagnosis and treatment my daughters were texting (and calling and visiting) every day. Their love, support and ability to listen to their mother talk about things that were frightening was amazing. I printed some the the texts and fused them to the back of each page.
Here is part of what I wrote in my evaluation;
“When I step back and look at the two pieces I made for this project, I am proud of both. The hand embroidered pages that make the first book are reminders of a very difficult (but mercifully brief) time. The machine embroidered accordion book is far more powerful and I feel speaks to a larger audience. It isn’t as personal. It expressed uncertainty, fear, rage, sadness, healing and recovery.
I wouldn’t change the act of hand stitching as therapy. It is, and always has been, a place of quiet for me. However, the machine embroidery on a larger scale is a first for me and allowed me to approach my experience and put it into art. This process was painful. It was the most “honest” piece I’ve ever done and the most personal.
There isn’t anything I would go back and do over – except never get cancer.
Most of my work is inspired by history and I’m very comfortable there. This work was inspired (or propelled) by my experience and the process and outcome are very different from what I’ve always done. I liked it, even though it was difficult. And I am proud of, and like, the work I’ve done.”