Last week I received two parcels filled with vintage linens for my project. This work is without a name, which isn't unusual since titles often don't come until I'm deep in the process, but it would be helpful to refer to it as "The (insert brilliant title here) Project." I sometimes call it "The (expletive-expletive) Mouths," which they sort of are, but this project is more than kinky body reference and me being annoyed that I can't totally immerse myself in this one yet (also -- can you believe it -- "The Scream" is already taken. Drat). This project, like much of my work, is about voice and reverence, the created and the discarded. It's about history and narrative and distance and time and effort, it's about what is beautiful and what is hideous. And why. It's about work and process and destruction and rebirth. I've been meditating on it as I fall asleep each night, sure that by morning the Muse will have whispered a name in my ear, but so far she's silent. And this is fitting, because right now the items I'm collecting and the old handmade things women have sent all remain silent as well.
When you are a discarded thing, perhaps you become this way. Maybe you give up your voice, or lie dormant, or close your eyes and die. I've written about spirits dwelling within objects before.
This project is going to rattle them awake.
But first they are finding their way to me.
And we are receiving them with great curiosity and joy.
All the smells of lives lived and meals cooked, all the energy and spirit of the women who have made these things, all the lurid and the vivid and the obscure spilled into the room the night we opened this parcel from my Swedish artist friend Boel Werner. It's her second shipment to Alaska. I think she's having fun.
These are Swedish grytlappar -- very fancy cotton crocheted oven mitts and hot pads. Have they been used? A few of them, but most look pristine. As my good friend Oona always says: Save the best for never.
Some are created with layered doilies, some incorporate 3-dimensional flowers.
Others ... they are completely ridiculous. And charming. And from such a different era, constructed with leftover bits of this or that.
But the strangest discovery within the two latest parcels of mystery, was finding that the most "authentic-looking" Swedish grytlapp didn't come from Boel's shipment, but from the one my friend and fellow textile artist Roxanne Lasky sent.
You know, from the Scandinavian hinterlands of South Carolina.
Roxanne was beyond pleased with her bad self when she found this in a charity thrift shop. Can you blame her? Of course, we don't know if it truly originated in Sweden, or if it was really made in 1940, but I'm 99% sure. We think it's commemorative, so if anyone knows more about this, I'd love to have that information.
(My daughter, age 7, below: also pleased with her bad self. Of course you should make a rainbow. Of course.)
I hesitate to reveal the second item of interest that Roxanne was also pleased to send, because this is, after all, a family-friendly blog. However, it's just too hilariously crass to not share here:
Whoa. Just, whoa.
My 9-year old boy, mind blown, said: "Mom. Why would somebody ... make that?"
Indeed. Luckily there are plenty of outhouses in Alaska (and that, my friends, is not an open invitation to send more toilet seat covers, I'm officially cutting that off), however I have other big plans for this item.
But back to these oven mitts for a second:
I've been told the Brits call these "pan rests." So, what do you call them? The language is the other emerging piece to this project that feels vital, so please comment and let me know where you're writing from.
If you are new to this blog and wondering what in the world is going on here and why my home is overrun with doilies and toilet seat covers and why my husband is throwing up his hands every time he opens the mailbox, please pour yourself a cup of tea and check out a little backstory:
Box of mystery.
A second box of mystery.
A third box of mystery.
Splitting open the idea.
If you, too, would like to contribute to this effort, please contact me and I will send further specifics.
And lastly, a year ago I wrote this post: Better.
It's a good one. I should probably re-read it.