Did I miss a spot?

Friends, let’s talk about showers. Yes, you know, the ones we do for hygiene. I indulge in long steamy morning showers to induce deep thinking before the onslaught of the workday. This means, over the years, I’ve developed a routine in the mists, working top to bottom hitting all the spots, so that I don’t need to concentrate on the scrubbing hubbub. It works, as long as I stick with the set plan.

an old shower shot

But sometimes there are mornings when–who knows why?–the mission gets thrown off-track. And then I spend the whole day worried about a missed spot that’s exuding an imagined funk. Knee cap funk? That’s alright. But other patches of possible funk can occupy my mind a little more than they ought to. I’ve been a bit off-kilter (in a good way) for a few months now and this shower scenario has played out too often. Gotta get back to the plan.

But why do I mention this today?

This happened:

Well, so this happened. Congrats on your PhD, Nova!!  I am humbled and speechless.

Yes, my virtual knitting friend, Nova Seals, just earned her PhD with this dissertation. Holy moly! The title and abstract kinda say it all. She did an in-depth philosophical study of my artwork, this 10 year-old blog, and my other social media outlets.

Although she interviewed me a couple years back, we were both mindful of me not knowing what she was researching so as not to change my activities due to her work. And I’m so glad, because I would have had chronic phantom funk syndrome just from worrying about what she might find!

What’s on your stack?

She just recently sent me a bound copy of the thesis. [Since she plans to publish it as a book eventually, the dissertation is embargoed for the moment.] That it is covered in glitter just makes it all the more wonderful. [The glitter is not normal with dissertations, of course. It comes from the wrapping paper she used and caused me maybe a little bit too much delight last night.]

Anyway, I picked the tome up the way I do any (scholarly) nonfiction book and started from the back. The bibliography of a book gives you a sense of the foundation of knowledge that buttresses the arguments inside; it can regulate expectations. And then, spoiling the punchline, I always read the conclusion first.

Afraid, really, of indulging in reading about myself I let the pages continue to fall backwards nonchalantly as I accidentally caught a chunk or two. And here’s what happened: apparently this one time on this blog I told y’all about how I read books, in a paragraph similar to the one that precedes this one. And there it was full-justified in the middle of a page.

I was doing the thing she was talking about me having talked about doing.

Okay.

Did I miss a spot in the shower? How’s my funk ratio today?

It’s going to take me a while to get around to reading this book from the front to the back, but I’ll do it. And the whole time I’ll just be proud of my amazing friend, Dr. Nova Seals.

She’s got a good funk ratio, herself.

xo,
c

waiting.

My birthday is coming up in a few weeks and I have so many wants for the world that one candle to blow out will never suffice. Some world peace, sane and sensible government, yada yada, you know, simple stuff. It’ll take a long time for us to get these things, but one can wish and one can keep working towards it, right? We have to wait.

Birthdays are for navel-gazing, huh? I have whispered my personal birthday wish out into the universe and, of course, I have also done things that could make it come true. Wishes aren’t only about magic, after all.

This wish makes me think a lot about waiting.

Don’t get me wrong: I have a deep cavern in my heart and soul that is filled with patience. Patience is a different virtue than the ability to wait, although I guess patience could help with the waiting sometimes. But I guess I mean to say that, for the most part, my problem with waiting isn’t always just a sign of impatience. [There’s a long digression on patience that is bursting outta my head as I write now, but I really want to keep this short-ish. It’d be a dense footnote in another medium, but instead I’ll just save it for later. Marshmallows appear there too, naturally.]

Waiting.

Waiting for good things to happen can require hope. And that’s probably what makes it hard for me. I can lose hold of hope too easily no matter the small signals of progress. This holds me back in RealJob and RealLife and RealLove all the time. It used to look more like just a short span of attention in these realms but that’s hard to fix without addressing the hope problem. Though hope can come from happy wishes coming true from time to time, so there’s also an element of self-fulfilling prophecy in this mode of living. And, really, I have more hope than I think I do but it’s not winning the fight with fear every time.

Hopeful waiting is also brave waiting.

This ruminating will continue. It turns out that in my (nonpublic) sketches (drawings, patchworks, etc) I have been exploring the tentacular theme of waiting for the past 5 months and I’m liking their cohesion in this light. It’s a good place to settle in for the long winter ahead to make (public) things.

A good place to wait a while.

And I’m also literally waiting for paint to dry.

Waiting.

More about that later. Maybe.

Happy Holidays, friends!

xo,
c

there’s still some left

Someone is using my sugar bowl and stealing the spoon.–a 2011 tweet from a knitter friend who was disgruntled about a workplace foul.

The gears in my head spun like crazy on this delightful tweet and I immediately asked her for permission to make a quilt out of it. It was a quick patchwork, that 2011 version, and yet the longarm quilting went less than great. A blog post then about my disappointment and my drastic decision to scrap it garnered my first deluge of over-assuming, patronizing, and demonizing commentary catalyzed by quilts. The words on the quilt were obscured, no one knew; I felt attacked. It was a good learning experience that helped me find my footing, clarify my values, and dare to go on.

I circled back this summer, determined to work this one out again. Just starting out literally. Sugar bowls weren’t a prominent feature in my life, although suddenly I neeeeeeed one.

There’s still some left.

The color palette I chose is inspired by these traditional (sorta minimalist( sugar bowls. But then I threw in some handdyed orange-pink as a color foil–a bit of Sweet ‘N Low, maybe?

There’s still some left.

Found this staid stack in a resale shop, Sew Green in Rochester, NY across the street from the place where Susan B. Anthony illegally voted in 1872. They are a wool suiting with a beautiful strand of blue thread woven throughout, a rough weave of creamy wool, and a cotton linen blend in blue. (The pink pops in below.)

There’s still some left.

Abandoned the suiting because it’s cute but filled with spandex. Later found a similar (though lighter grey) Italian suiting without stretch. Whew.

But what about those words?

If you shake it all up and think about sugar in society and relationships, you’ll start to make the connections. It’s a statement about sugar, sugar in bowls, spoons, control, ladyparts, sex, control, sugar, sweetness, control,…whatever you like. But it’s about sugar bowls and ladyparts. And it’s about the Atlantic triangle trade, of course.

Let’s get explicit. (Heh.) It’s all about the blues. Let’s start with “I Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl” sung by Bessie Smith in 1931.

Lyrics:

Tired of bein’ lonely, tired of bein’ blue
I wished I had some good man, to tell my troubles to
Seem like the whole world’s wrong
Since my man’s been gone
I need a little sugar in my bowl
I need a little hot dog on my roll
I can stand a bit of lovin’, oh so bad
I feel so funny, I feel so sad
I need a little steam-heat on my floor
Maybe I can fix things up, so they’ll go
What’s the matter hard papa
Come on and save your mama’s soul
‘Cause I need a little sugar, in my bowl, doggone it
I need a some sugar in my bowl
I need a little sugar in my bowl
I need a little hot dog between my rolls
You gettin’ different, I’ve been told
Move your finger, drop something in my bowl
I need a little steam-heat on my floor
Maybe I can fix things up, so they’ll go
Get off your knees, I can’t see what you’re drivin’ at
It’s dark down there looks like a snake!
C’mon here and drop somethin’ here in my bowl
Stop your foolin’ and drop somethin’ in my bowl

In 1967, Nina Simone sang her own much sanitized version.

I’ll spare you a narrative on the various forms sugar and sugar bowl songs have taken in music in the past century. Rest assured, friends, I’ve started a brief informal dissertation on this topic. [Do send along your favorite sugar song if you get the chance.] There are more earworms than one might imagine with such a sliver of a musicology inquiry.

There’s still some left.

Of course, my interpretation is also ancestral and personal. This comes out in the spoon too. The spoon is the vehicle for moving and/or using the sugar. It’s about control and exploitation, among other connotations.

There’s still some left.

[the back of the quilt is some reproduced feedsacks]

See this work and others in a show, Passing Bittersweet inspired by Ross Gay’s Book of Delights. The show will be in the Williams Center Gallery on the up-top campus at Lafayette College. Jan 7-Feb 9, with opening reception on Jan 12. [Details available through that link.]

There’s still some left.

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The Details
Title: there’s still some left
Materials: cotton, linen, wool
Techniques: handdyed, improvisationally machine pieced, hand quilted, hand bound
Finished size: about 36×49″
Started: October 2019
Finished: December 2019

still not

Every time I sit down to write about this quilt, I am paralyzed with fear, slowed down by obstacles, and overflowing with rage borne from inhabiting this society as a person who is not a white man. The outline turns into a textbook about US history and persistent willful inequities, which is wearying and demoralizing.

It will be tone-policed. It will bring more invalidation. And I will die from containing the rage.

still not

I fear I will be told I don’t understand. I will be told that NOT ALL men do that. I will be told that ALL LIVES MATTER. I will be told where not to shop. I will be asked why I don’t make quilts about love. (Umm, I do.) I will be told to dress differently. I will be told to wear a nametag to garner respect. I will be told that things are much better now. I will be told to just let it go.

still not

Because I am told I don’t understand. I am told that NOT ALL men do that. I am told that ALL LIVES MATTER. I am told where not to shop. I am told not to make these quilts. I am told to dress differently. I am told to wear a nametag to garner respect. I am told that things are much better now. I am told to just let it go.

still not

You don’t understand. Men do that. Black lives matter. You shop where you like without commentary. No one tells you what not to make. You dress how you like. You don’t need a nametag to garner respect; you just show up. You don’t have to do anything to call yourself an ally.

cottoning_on_0064

This quilt is a quiet scream. See how “i” recede into the background even as “i” declare an intent to march on.

71146099_938889106474597_6836264415289933824_o

See you next time.

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The Details
Title: still not
Materials: vintage scraps from mid-century clothing, quilting cotton, denim, cotton sashiko thread
Techniques: improvisationally machine pieced, hand quilted, hand bound
Finished size: about 72″ square
Started: January 2019
Finished: June 2019