The Alchemist



Here is my second collaboration with composer Joe Donohoe. This one, The Alchemist, has quite a different feel to Kiss the Book, in that it is brighter, both musically and in subject matter, being more of a "straight" love poem than the more cynical Kiss the Book. This time around I sent Joe the text of the poem and he composed out of that, recording my vocals afterwards. Joe used composing software to simulate tuned percussion and violins, and I think the results are very beautiful.




A few shots of the embroidery which accompanies the sound piece


The text of The Alchemist reads:

The Alchemist

My words always did look prettier in your mouth,
you alchemist
Always taking lumps of coal and dreaming them into diamonds Making something out of nothing with the slightest
Sleight of hand or
Flick of the wrist;
You undid the buttoned-up British stiff upper lip at the collar,
Slipped that starched white surgical ruff off of the
Draft diamond, gave it room to respire,
A pause for a breather;
Then went mining beneath its varnished veneer,
Told me to take my medicine when i told you i belonged back in the coal scuttle,
Only just no longer merely a minor, so why don’t you try her,
Before she slips back down the mine shaft to try for another?

I want to kiss you on the mouth; I want to kick you in the teeth, Oh take out your molars and string ‘em up into a necklace and
I’ll wear you always, strung up and strung out and resting soft as clouds of
Cubic zirconium all along my collarbones;
Oh boy you just about knock me out.


Today I am sewing my next piece (which will remain shrouded in mystery until it is unveiled), listening to a lot of angry girl music (such as The Horrorpops and The Dresden Dolls!), and checking out internships at The Tate. Got a few more collaborations on the way and very happy to be busy.

Kiss the Book




This is the result of my first collaboration with Joe Donohoe; we recorded my monologue/prose poem, and Joe then added atmospheric sounds of East London at night, together with an out-of-tune chord harp. The embroidery in the video illustrates one of the lines from the monologue.







The embroidery is currently on show at the Pharmacy of Stories as part of the Here Is My Heart exhibition. 

The title Kiss the Book is a reference to a line spoken by Stefano the drunken butler in Shakespeare's The Tempest. The "book" of the line is in fact a bottle of alcohol.

The text of Kiss the Book imagines a romance between two self-styled tortured artists:


Kiss the Book

In later days the latter day lady lit her Marlboro Light and skipped lightly to the front of a 10,000 strong queue waiting on cheap thrills not one of us could afford (yes, we sold our very souls for the promise of a Parker pen and possible publication).

The background noise of barely mentioned sexual tension’s got me jumpy, buzzing in my ears like a pneumatic drill setting my teeth on edge.

So bring your lips to the battle and I’ll bring a bottle (the truth is I haven’t been kissed in a while), and we’ll wear our best black boot polish berets atop dreaming (a)spire heads. Blacker-toothed and blue-lipped, let’s riddle ourselves with writer’s cliches like other teens catch sexual diseases.

But don’t sweat it babe, bard, it’s quite legit, I carry a Poetic License for use in the event of romantic circumstances like these. If you amuse me, I’ll have you with my morning museli. You’ll briefly be my brightest burning muse. And valorously, vaingloriously, we’ll fur our teeth over with velour, spooning with a desperate fervour, for revolution, for a resolution to our private privileged hells.

Our teeth are furred over like cheap velour by cheaper wine whilst we worry the kerb, licking biro-bled blue-black lips, cursing the orange sky, cultivating Scrooge sentiments, stoppering our hearts before a drop is spilt. Dry ice breath puncturing the air, punctuating our sentences with commas, a brief breather between my romantic comas.

You and I might be the last remaining sufferers of Celia Johnson Syndrome, forsaking feelings for public decency, drinking to loosen stiff upper lips, awakening to find starched white surgical ruffs buttoned back up beyond the collar. Still, we are still so young and lost, on booze, lust, wanderlust. Wilted English roses grown pallid and wan, wandering moors, moaning “Willoughby, Willoughby” at thin air for hours.

Joetta Maue

Joetta Maue explores familial love through her textile art. She embroiders intimate scenes of herself, her husband and infant son sleeping together. She posits the bed as the site of love, between husband and wife, and mother and son. These pieces are large in scale (life size) but simultaneously incredibly intimate; insights into a private life lived together.

With My Boys

My Love

Him and You

In her project Waking With You, Maue documented daily her emotions on waking, as well as the bed itself in photographic format. The "You" of the project's title refers to her husband; the posts on the project's blog concerning him are incredibly touching. In one, she writes "I thought how unbelievable it was that I woke with you everyday of my life and have been for 10 years... and you still take my breath away". The project culminated in an exhibition at the Elizabeth A Beland Gallery in Massachusetts, the centre piece of which was a hand stitched self portrait bed installation, shown below.


Waking With You

In addition to her figurative pieces, Maue also creates text-based works on found antique linens. Many of these also focus on love; familial love (once again), romantic love, and the loss of love.

Breaks My Heart
A Fragile Heart


Skin

Together

Maue has said of her work that "By using found, used linens that have been hand made by women of the past I am able to connect my everyday experience with that of my heritage. I pay homage to the women that have come before me and connect to the lineage that I have with them in the domestic, everyday sphere of life." Through embroidering onto found linens and those handed down to me by my grandmother, I also hope to connect to this lineage.

Interview With Iviva Olenick

Iviva Olenick is a Brooklyn-based artist who refers to her work as "narrative embroidery". She works on a small scale, juxtaposing image and text. In her project Were I So Besotted, Olenick hand-embroiders anecdotes from her experiences of dating in the 21st Century. Her small-scale embroideries form a hand-stitched blog. This embroidered blog is accompanied and documented by the Were I So Besotted weblog. Here she offers an insight into her creative process, and muses on "finding love in a chaotic, distracting urban environment".


Embroideries from Were I So Besotted




Pieced Together


Love Fire


Play


Iviva's other project is The Brooklyn Love Exchange. Rather than telling her own personal tales of love, in The Brooklyn Love Exchange Iviva collects love stories from Brooklynite friends, acquaintances and strangers, in an attempt to map love in the borough.


Embroideries from The Brooklyn Love Exchange




Prospect Heights - "It Wasn't Love At First Sight"


Cobble Hill

Brooklyn is "that" girl...



Iviva kindly agreed to answer some questions on her practise for me.


Why and when did you begin embroidering?
I began embroidering in 2002-2003. At that time, there was an amazing quilt exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art, "The Quilts of Gee's Bend, Alabama." I had also recently broken up with a boyfriend, and possibly for comfort, started stitching on things I had at home. The third influence was a quilt-making class: I took a 3-hour workshop at the Brooklyn Museum, and finished a very small quilt completely by hand. After that, I was more or less hooked on hand sewing.

Could you tell me a little bit about what drew you to map Brooklyn’s lovelife?
One night about a year ago, I was walking home from an art opening in Brooklyn featuring the paintings of my then love interest. On the way, I passed a number of spots, bars and restaurants, where I had been on dates with other men. I also walked past the apartment of a former boyfriend. That's when it occurred to me that the borough itself was a map of my romantic life, and quite possibly could be for others, too.


I find it interesting that the name of your current project is The Brooklyn Love Exchange. What do you feel is being exchanged in this process?
When people are in love, they exchange all kinds of information and energy through touch, through speech, gestures, behavior. More specifically for this project, I receive stories, and in exchange, I embroider them. The stories are a gift, in my opinion, as is the freedom to reinterpret them.


You call your work “narrative embroidery”. Why do you choose to render the stories you collect in stitch rather than another medium?
Sometimes, I feel as though I draw with thread. Occasionally, I feel as though I paint with thread. Intuitively, this medium feels right to me. I now think with my needle and thread. I was at a friend's studio once, and she had built an installation of a tree from paper and cardboard. She asked visitors to draw on a leaf of the tree. She handed me a pencil, and it felt like a foreign object. I was momentarily lost without my needle and thread.


Do you think there is a similarity between writing and embroidery? Do you think writing translates particularly well to stitch, and why?
I think writing and embroidery compliment each other, but I don't think they are necessarily similar. Embroidery is a physical act; writing is more of an intellectual act. I like the tenderness and intimacy in prose stitched by hand. It's emotive and immediate.


Do you have a background in writing as well as fibre art?
My formal training is in French Literature and Psychology. I went back to school 6 years ago to study textile design. Embroidery was not included. Weaving and designing prints for fashion were the focus. I found embroidery on my own.


I’ve read that you refer to the text in your pieces as “post its”. Are these extracts from longer pieces of writing?
I call some of my pieces "post-its" because of the size of the final piece. They are not formal excerpts of longer pieces of writing. I sometimes think in catch phrases. We do live in a digital world, where speed is valued. I like the idea of packing a lot of punch in a few sentences or a single sentence or phrase. It seems appropriate for our shortened attention spans.


Do the fabrics you use to sew on have any sentimental value?
The fabrics I sew on gain more sentimental value through making the embroidery. Like you, I have a fair amount of my grandmother's linens. I have not been able to sew on them because I want to try to preserve them as she last used them. It's in fact harder for me to sew on items that already have sentimental value. Those tend to be tucked safely away in a drawer.