Sunday, February 08, 2015

Winning hands

It strikes me again and again that the person who benefits most from fibre art is the maker.  To my mind the overwhelming reason for using fibre, cloth, thread, etc. is because of the feel of it - and yet once it is made art it must no longer be touched.  It is often admired and judged by photograph - a two dimensional reduction of a whole body experience which can powerfully include smell in the case of huge sisal weavings, rope crochet, oiled wool knitwear, dried grass baskets, even paper ....  I love combining ideas, thinking, drawing and digital collage, and the two dimensionality of printmaking - those intellectual pursuits - with the haptic pleasures of working the needle through the cloth.
Of course it is not just fibre which gives this pleasure: the handling of clay, slip, wood, stone, - the holding of a pen, etching point, knife, chisel as well as the wielding of a needle and scissors all bring their particular joy.  But perhaps because fibre deteriorates first, after the piece is completed, if it is deemed to be art rather than artefact it is handled less.
How lucky we makers are to handle, to feel, to manipulate, to stroke and be stroked, to use the fingers' fine nerve endings to distinguish the subtleties of soft, to gauge just the right amount of strength, pressure to use to turn, to fold, to pierce (and be pierced!), to pull - not simply to use those fingers to point and drag.  Handling fibre helps us to see in fine focus as well as in broad perspective, and in making by hand we make time for ourselves as well, gradually building our self portraits.  When I handle one of my basket collection I feel an urge to be making a basket.  When I see a weaving or tapestry I admire, I feel the urge to be weaving in order to appreciate it more.  It is the fantasy of handling the materials which is seductive.

How much my mother, my grandmothers, my aunts all enjoyed the social stitching of items for family and friends.  My Scottish grandfather too, the tailor, enjoyed the feel of a good tweed or twill in his hands.  And now I have the added exciting challenge of trying creatively to combine intellect and emotion with the haptic pleasures in the repeated attempt to express myself artistically in such a way that the two dimensional representation of the finished article will somehow convey not only a meaning but also the story of the making.

Are we makers not fortunate indeed!


  1. We are indeed so lucky. You express exactly how I feel about the whole process from initial thought, through small sketches and photographs, experimentation and trial, right to the final restful stitching and completion. How lucky I feel to have found this challenging and rewarding pleasure in my retirement.

  2. Words are difficult for me Olga, but I always read and enjoy your blog posts, they often reflect how I feel, and especially this one, 'winning hands'. I have always felt that my creativity is best expressed through my hands, they seem to 'know' before my head does exactly where, what, how a piece of my work will evolve and become, it's all about the process for me, and I am addicted to that process, because it feeds all my senses. Thank you for your inspiring words.

  3. Oh I wrote a comment and it got eaten. ;-(

    Anyway, These images are so beautiful. The third one seems very full of energy...sometimes the making act is energetic and furious.
    And I love the very poetic words. I am glad you think big thoughts and can write them so they connect with the maker in me (and others).
    Sandy in Bracknell

  4. A great post Olga: from the sentiments/thoughts so eloquently expressed, to the images, to the title...

  5. Thank you all. And welcome Cath.

    Sandy, the third pic is of a small quilt entitled Stitch in time, and was inspired by me lazily mending a tear in a curtain while it was still hanging!

  6. I've already commented over on the Ragged Cloth Cafe, but I just wanted to add here how much this post touched me. It expresses so beautifully all the reasons I work with fiber.