This morning I put the finishing stitches on my TIF for January. I worked quite a lot on it yesterday to get it done so I will have a few days before getting the February challenge parameters.
I used an uneven blanket stitch and separated strands of Caron Watercolours number 060 Slate to finish the border. It really complements the backing/border fabric well and picks up the greens and violets in the overall design while adding some slate gray that actually works quite well with the rest of the palette. Next I added some Kreinik Metallic Balger Braided Ribbon in a bright yellow-green (don’t know the color number), tacking it down with beads. I placed it just as it came off the roll with a nice twist that suited my design plan perfectly, except that I took it through the center instead of off to the sides as originally planned . I had originally planned to use bright pink ribbon here, but found I had this green and liked it better.
At that point, I should have been finished, according to my design plan, but I decided the piece was just too flat. It needed more dimension and dynamic, so I played around with the corners and decided to fold them in and tack them down, accomplishing two things: more dimension and movement as well as another little peek at that gorgeous backing fabric, that unfortunately is mostly hidden.
I tacked the corners down with french knots using the Watercolour thread.
It still didn’t seem finished, though, so I took a piece of Timtex, added on some color with lots of water and Lumiere paints applied with a sponge, let it dry and made a backing, to which I tacked the quilted embroidery piece. Now it’s finished except for a signature.
And I do believe I’m going to have it framed in a shadow box with glass to protect it from dust, bugs, etc. and to keep the Kreinik swirls from drooping.
Here’s my description and reflection on the concept and explanation of the symbolism I used in designing this piece:
“Who do you look up to and admire? Why? What is it you admire about them?” –I had to think about this for a while because no one come immediately to mind.
I settled finally on either Pauli Murray or Alicia de Garcia, then decided to do both, because they share many of the traits I desire. I gelled their constellation of admirable qualities into these four:
Risk-Taker Faith-Holder Peace-Maker Vision-Seer
As I’ve been working on the piece and reflecting on these two women’s lives, one more has come to mind:
I had originally planned to embroider these words on the piece, but decided that wouldn’t work well with the design. I may still paint them on the background piece, but most likely will write them on the back once it’s framed.
Pauli Murray died on July 1, 1985. How I would have liked to have met her! I picked up her autobiography from the library in 1988, along with those of several other amazing women, when I was struggling with the question of how to find and make meaning in my life.
Pauli Murray was a “Black Activist, Feminist, Lawyer, Priest, and Poet.” She led a fascinating, risky life, doing things unheard of for a woman of her time and race. She also became an elected official in Baltimore, so she was a politician as well.
When I picked up her book, I didn’t even notice the word “priest.” I read the entire book with great interest and admiration for her, but when in the very last chapter she writes about her ordination, I heard the first words of my own call to something totally unexpected. It was a call I initially rejected and literally ran away from. But I continued to remember that Murray was not ordained until she was 60 years old, and it was an unexpected calling for her as well.
I met Alicia Emelina Parmeno de Garcia in 1996 in El Salvador. I traveled there with a group of pastors and seminary students on a cross-cultural immersion study trip focusing on “Spirituality and the Suffering of God.”
Alicia was the leader of the COMADRES–Mothers of the Disappeared–who during the long civil war in El Salvador demanded, at great personal risk, an accounting for their loved ones (mostly husbands, sons, and brothers) who had been “disappeared” through the terrorism of death squads backed by the government.
These women confronted power with truth and went into the city square of San Salvador by the thousands and shouted out the names of the disappeared. They were, as Alicia said, “like biting ants.”
Although the war was ended when we traveled to El Salvador, the COMADRES were still demanding an accounting. In addition they were spreading their activism to “teaching for peace,” beginning in the home, teaching a new way at looking at the roles of each family member.
I did not intend this piece to come out in the shape of a cross, but it is fitting that it did, since both of these women are persons of deeply held and actively lived out Christian faith.
The “zigzags’ in the mandala represent the great highs and deep lows each of these women have experienced–the mountains and valleys of their journeys. The flower petals in the center represent the calm center, faith, and sense of conviction out of which each lives. Although that center is frequently challenged, it remains firm and calm. The beads in the central square symbolize how women of faith and conviction are linked together. The bright green, unfettered ribbons flowing from mountain peaks to calm center are the leaps of faith–the risks each has taken–and the vision to see a new future even in the midst of darkness.
Although not in the original design, the folded over edges held in place with french knots represent hope for the future–seeds planted through the courage, foresight, and dedication of these two amazing women.
(Pauli Murray’s Autobiography was originally published under the title: Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage. The revised title is Pauli Murray: The Autobiography of a Black Activist, Feminist, Lawyer, Priest, and Poet.
As I was finishing up this piece I read these words in Christina Baldwin’s Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest:
Whoever we admire mirrors what we want to learn. We test our readiness against the standards of behavior we see in the role models we choose. Could we be as courageous? Could we take such a clear stand? could we make this or that sacrifice? How would we handle such success? such failure? such tragedy?
As a result of choosing and watching our models, and listening to our heart’s voice, we can teach ourselves to behave as we desire. By choosing every day, even in small ways, to do what we know is right–acts that always require some level of risk–we develop those qualities of greatness we admire, and we become role models ourselves.
P.S. Jacqui took me up on my Inner Critical/Inner Creative Voices challenge and did not one, but two interpretations of each. Take a look at them on her January 26 post on her website, and scroll down to my January 24 post to find out more about this challenge.