Velma, 2014, mulberry paper, thread, 6″ x 6″ x 10″
Velma Alverta (Crabtree) Siemering was my grandmother, and this light pink paper hand sewn dress is made in honor of her memory. She inspired me to become an artist by her everyday craftsmanship of scrap materials into beautiful things. She was born in the middle of Nebraska at the turn of the last century, and had twelve(?) siblings. Velma was one of the youngest of the ones who lived through the flu epidemic at the time. Her father worked on the railroad, and she, her mother, sisters and one brother figured out how to fix things and re-craft items they needed on their own. She kept copious hand written notebooks about how to make all sorts of things and patterns for toys and cloths. She lived with me for part of my childhood until her death in 1987. I often think if she had been born a little later, and in different circumstances, she would have been a designer or an engineer.
Velma married and had three boys. For someone who loved to sew, her skills were a little lost on them. She made the loveliest quilts and hand sewed Barbie doll clothes for all of the little girl grandchildren that followed, including me. It was a privilege to get to know her. She was very simple in taste, and wore mainly pink and turquoise house coats. A very practical person who tried to imbue some simple elegance into what she wore every day, with a place to put her pencils, scissors and notebooks for things she was thinking about. She hand knitted pillbox hats and kept then like a tower of Pisa in her bedroom.
As I have gone through art school and my career as a fiber artist, I think of her often. I come back to simple solutions to make my work. I recently had surgery on my hand from an old injury and taking care of a rambunctious kiddo. I could not close my hand at one point. For my first art piece after surgery, I went a little off from what I normally make and used tissue like pink paper to make a little house dress to represent her. It is all hand sewn, and I took a cross stitch pattern from one of her books to embellish it. It has helped in my physical therapy even, which I can do at home. My PT therapist thought my life in sewing has made strong, flexible fingers.
Working on some smaller projects for the winter, tiny paper dresses in production.
Please join me for a retrospective talk on The Lottery Project at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA, on September 21. In conjunction with the exhibit Fiberart International 2013, I will discuss how discarded items, particularly lottery tickets, were used to create the refined clothing pieces of the collection. My Captain America Suit, is on view in the current exhibition Fiberart International.
I had so much making this piece! Thank you to Mr. Fluevog for selecting me as a finalist.
Please vote here:
What I wrote for my submission Should I stay or should I go?
It is summer, and blackberries and raspberries are blooming and coming to fruit in my yard. The heady scent of all all of my garden, the bees and birds, insects and rainfall, reminded me of a particular passage from Jane Eyre, in the midsummer moment along antique walls, birds, moths, and cigar smoke, Jane and Mr. Rochester meet among the flowers and confess their love for one another eventually:
“Sweet-briar and southernwood, jasmine, pink, and rose have long been yielding their evening sacrifice of incense: this new scent is neither of shrub nor flower; it is–I know it well–it is Mr. Rochester’s cigar. I look round and I listen. I see trees laden with ripening fruit. I hear a nightingale warbling in a wood half a mile off; no moving form is visible, no coming step audible; but that perfume increases: I must flee.”
Jane is the embodiment of blooming and almost bursting desire. Will she run or will she stay? Her shoes will help her anywhere she needs to go, if her heart and mind tell them to.
Each of these flowers is hand sewn, quilled, or cut in a variety of papers and watercolor.
Can one also tell I happen to listen to The Clash a lot when I am working?
See you at the soiree tomorrow?
Learn more about all of the wonderful artists in this show.
Had a lovely session with Corey Grayhorse for a portrait at Claudia Curl salon in Providence, RI.
I miss being able to walk outside and being enveloped by stars overhead. I went to high school in Springfield, MO, but was not born there. I lived in several larger cities before my father found a job and moved our family there. I had a little girl a few years ago, and Springfield has been on my mind, as I live in a larger urban area in New England, and cannot see the stars at night, just a few planets and the really big constellations. Even the Big Dipper, Orion, Leo, and the North Star are hard to see. I bought an app on my phone that shows the universe at night and I open it up every evening and point up before bed. I do this as one of my favourite memories of living in Springfield is going out onto the back porch, putting out a blanket and just looking up. Feeling enveloped by the stars and safe. I was also a teenager at the time. Time alone was precious, time to think. That safety was shattered a year before I graduated when several classmates went missing and are still not found. The safety net felt ripped open. But, I would still would sit outside; sometimes my mother would ruin it by turning the light on if I was out too long. The sky would fade and yellow and white moths would appear above me. At the time it upset me, but this memory has new meaning for me. Flash forward to now-I am a mother of a bouncy 3 year old. I think about her safety constantly. I dream for her that she will have some space like this that she can dream in, to think of the future, to grow. I need to remember to look up at the stars, so I can let her do the same, and keep a few of the moths at bay.