"No object is mysterious. The mystery is your eye."
A woman I have never met, who I know appreciates fine cloth and good gin and is an extraordinary book binder, has sent a box from England to the darkness of Alaska, knowing that the contents will be appreciated.
How can this trust exist? Perhaps this is the biggest mystery of all.
I contacted Kate Bowles over a year ago -- I'm not even sure why, maybe just to say, "I love your work" -- and we've kindled a small relationship based on common interests and a kindred spirit of appreciation for the old linens, mending and handwork. I participated in a blog hop last year and she was one of the artists I passed the hop onto. In response to an online request I recently made, she contributed items that she doesn't need or want, has tidied up her cupboards, and inserted some excitement into a cold, dark northern afternoon.
Many of these doilies are likely Scottish in origin. I'd like a magnifying glass for some of the work because it's so fine, the gauge much smaller than the pieces that have come from my own family.
Kate said doilies make excellent kindling. She said this twice, but I'm going to assume she doesn't know about this first hand. We did find some fantastic things to do with these doilies right away and still managed to warm up the house without setting anything on fire.
Kate's work* was recently featured in Claire Wellesley-Smith's book Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art. This book highlights work by a number of textile artists I greatly admire, and if you haven't picked up a copy for yourself, you probably should (or at least have a frank conversation with Santa).
If the eye holds mystery and objects do not (as Elizabeth Bowen claims in the quote above), then my eyes hold and look for mystery everywhere. I want to know about other makers, current and past, and see evidence of their lives in the items they've created. Much of the current generation doesn't hold these items in high esteem. They are seen as garish, frilly or vestiges of a time when women's heads were bowed and their thoughts silenced, buried and stabbed into these time-consuming symbols of domesticity and uselessness; but look past this and know the great beauty is in the intent. As a contemporary maker, my own intent is to gather this energy and channel these voices into new work. To this end, I'm gathering the unwanted, the discarded and obsolete and giving them all a voice, honoring as much history as I can, even if their history is labeled "unknown."
If you are curious about this work, or have toyed with the idea of setting fire to your own mass of burdensome domestic linens, you can contact me and I'll send more information on what I'm seeking and how to cathartically contribute.
If you think this is insane and you'd rather sit back and watch all this unfold, that's super, too. Just know that while we light plenty of fires around here, none of these boxes of mystery will find themselves in the box of kindling.
*Kate Bowles uses recycled fabrics, papers and assorted vintage haberdashery ephemera to create hand-bound notebooks and journals. She lives in Yorkshire, England.
Kate's ideas & inspiration are dictated by the discarded & found materials she uses. Her love of vintage haberdashery items and papers (much of it with little commercial value or status) compels her to salvage and reincarnate these items into functional, beautiful books. Most importantly, these pages are meant to be filled by others, so the creative process continues when they leave her hands (for her this is “the best bit”).
Exposing the stitching on the spine, plus embroidering and darning the book cloth, is her nod to women of the binderies in the 1800s.