"A Disparate Patch-work" - Writing and Sewing



In her essay Sew to Speak: Text and Textile in Eudora Welty, Geraldine Chouard describes the process of writing as "editing "with needles and pins," shifting and assembling textual fragments, in a fashion very similar to patch-work quilting."

Indeed, it could be said that my own writing practise is akin to "patch-work"; I have assembled the texts I have used in The Cure for Love out of various "scraps of material" garnered from different poems and short stories.

Not only that, but the various art forms explored throughout The Cure for Love (text, sound art, embroidery, and, in the near future, video) are combined together into a "patchwork quilt", comprising the project.

I almost always write, like Chouard, in "strips - paragraphs here, a section of dialogue, and so on."

Chouard goes on to explain that "A text is always a second-hand piece, made of words which have had a life of their own in previous arrangements, as are the fragments of a patchwork quilt which have served other purposes and which, stitched together in a particular fashion, form new patterns."

I concur; to paraphrase Cixous, when we write, we collaborate with all writers who have gone before us; all texts; all language.

Cixous writes of "a spokesperson I, the social I who votes, who represents me. I have an I who escapes me. I have an I who answers for me. I have an I who knows the law. The I who writes gives speech to all the other Is." Is this "I" not the same as Freud’s “ego” ?

The "speech" which the "I who writes gives (...) to all the other Is" is thus the canon of writing passed down to the "I who writes" over the passage of time. Through drawing this conclusion, Cixous arrives at an ideology in her own writing of never asking herself "who am I?" (qui suis-je?)", but instead asking herself  " “who are I?” (qui sont-je?)"
All writing, therefore, is patch-work.

"To speak is to thread and the thread weaves the world"

Liz Whitehouse introduced me to this gorgeous poem by Cecilia Vicuña (translated by Rosa Alcalá). Thanks Liz!


Word & Thread

Word is thread and the thread is language.
Non-linear body.
A line associated to other lines.
A word once written risks becoming linear,
but word and thread exist on another dimensional plane.
Vibratory forms in space and in time.
Acts of union and separation.
*

The word is silence and sound.
The thread, fullness and emptiness.

*

The weaver sees her fiber as the poet see her word.
The thread feels the hand, as the word feels the tongue.
Structures of feeling in the double sense
of sensing and signifying,
the word and the thread feel our passing.

*
Is the word the conducting thread, or does thread conduct the word-
making?
Both lead to the centre of memory, a way of uniting and connecting.
A word carries another word as thread searches for thread.
A word is pregnant with other words and a thread contains
other threads within its interior.
Metaphors in tension, the word and the thread carry us beyond
threading and speaking, to what unites us, the immortal fiber.
*
To speak is to thread and the thread weaves the world.

*
In the Andes, the language itself, Quechua, is a cord of twisted straw,
two people making love, different fibers united.
To weave a design is pallay, to raise the fibers, to pick them up.
To read in Latin is legere, to pick up.
The weaver is both weaving and writing a text
that the community can read.
An ancient textile is an alphabet of knots, colors and directions
that we can no longer read.
Today the weaving no only "represent," they themselves are
one of the being of the Andean cosmogony. (E. Zorn)
*
Ponchos, llijllas, aksus, winchas, chuspas and chumpis are beings
who feel

and every being who feels walks covered in signs.
"The body given entirely to the function of signifying."
René Daumal
A textile is "in the state of being textile": awaska.
And one word, acnanacuna designates the clothing, the language
and the instruments for sacrifice (for signifying, I would say).
*

And the energy of the movement has a name and a direction: lluq'i,to the left, paña, to the right.
A direction is a meaning and the twisting of the thread
transmits knowledge and information.
The last two movements of a fiber should be in opposition:
a fiber is made of two strands lluq'i and paña.A word is both root and suffix : two antithetical meanings in one.
The word and the thread behave as processes in the cosmos.

The process is a language and a woven design is a process re-
presenting itself.
"An axis of reflection," says Mary Frame:
"the serpentine
attributes are images of the fabric structure,"
The twisted strands become serpents
and the crossing of darkness and light, a diamond star.
"Sprang is a weftless technique, a reciprocal action whereby the
interworking of adjacent elements with the fingers duplicates itself
above and below the working area."

The fingers entering the weave produce in the fibres
a mirror image of its movement, a symmetry that reiterates "the concept
of complementarity that imbues Andean thought."
*
The thread dies when it is released, but comes alive in the
loom:
the tension gives it a heart.
Soncco,
judgement and reason, the wood's core, the stem's central
fiber.
The word and the thread are the heart of the community.
In order to dream, the diviner sleeps on fabric made of wik'uña.
is heart and guts, stomach and conscience, memory, judgement and reason, the wood's core, the stem's central
fiber.
The word and the thread are the heart of the community.
In order to dream, the diviner sleeps on fabric made of wik'uña.

A few thoughts on my interview with Joetta Maue

Much of what Joetta wrote in my interview with her chimed with my own thoughts on the process and connotations of embroidery, and with many of the contexts I am exploring through this project.


For example she wrote about the therapeutic quality of sewing, both metaphorically, in that sewing on fabric is reminiscent of suturing flesh, and literally, in that the quiet, meditative, repetitive action of embroidering soothes. 



Joetta at work
 (Just because I like to be contrary, I have to note that this, at least at first glance, appears to jar with the feminist artist and embroiderer Kate Walker's view that "passitivity and obedience (...) are the very opposite of the qualities necessary to make a sustained effort in needlework". However, in the interview Joetta goes on to write that, rather than using what is "thought to be a very passive form of expression" to "keep idle hands busy and docile", she uses her "hands and the medium to celebrate the vulnerability and strength of the female experience".)

 A fellow blogging embroiderer and Londoner, Emma Parker, goes by the online alias of Stitch Therapy. The banner at the top of her blog states that "A stitch in time saves your mind".


I certainly found sewing both soothing and (thankfully) absorbing during my long recovery from an illness.



Emma's banner for her blog Stitch Therapy
 



Joetta also wrote that one of the things which first attracted her to embroidery was its history as a woman's craft. Joetta grew up around embroidery and craft, and, like me, grew used to seeing her grandmother sew from an early age.


As she began to incorporate embroidery into her practise, she relished its ties with the domestic and thus chose to embroider on vintage linens. Like me, she feels that previously owned linens "bring their own history of women's voices and hands as well as the history of the homes they have lived in".


However, as Joetta is a professional artist and sells her work, she feels uncomfortable sewing on "inherited fabrics", whereas I sew almost exclusively on linens passed down to me by my grandmother, thus adding another layer of historical and familial context to the Cure for Love project. Joetta, however, sews on acquired vintage linens, but in a subversive fashion, while simultaneously acknowledging "the roles of the home and intimacy within the identity of the modern female". 


Though my intention in the Cure for Love project is not specifically subversive, I have created subversive embroidery in the past and imagine I will do in the future (particularly considering that a friend and I are now discussing creating a feminist zine... but more on that at a later date).


Don't Be An Art School Arsehole, an example of my slightly more subversive embroidery

Joetta also had some interesting thoughts about how "being feminist" does not mean "that you cannot embrace and choose to be feminine". She argues that the point of feminism is not "to force women to feel like they must do it all and succeed at it all and judge themselves on if they are being "feminist" enough". This nagging doubt is one I can relate to, as, being an artist writing and making art about love, I sometimes worry that I come across as some soppy dippy moonstruck teenager (which admittedly I am, save the teenager part). My current body of work is not overtly feminist, other than reclaiming a trivialised and traditionally feminine craft for contemporary purposes.


Drink Me In, one of my contemporary embroidered love poems reclaiming women's craft

Another of the points Joetta made is that autobiographical, introspective art (such as Tracey Emin's) is no bad thing, as it is often this that is most raw and universal. For example, Joetta's own work is about the universal experiences of "experiences of love, loss, joy, doubt, etc". This universal quality is something I aim for with the honesty of The Cure for Love.

Lots of interesting food for thought in my interview with you, Joetta. Thanks again!