The View From Here

This week the village has come back to life. Our phone has been ringing and we’ve hosted our first guest. The Place in front of the maison is now full of cars. People are coming and going. For myself, I haven’t yet ventured outside our gates and haven’t felt desperate to do so. I have my nice chaise longue on the terrace and a beautiful view from our apartment windows. These make me feel much less restricted. Tomorrow, however, we intend to take a nice long drive and stop for a walk in the countryside. I haven’t been in the car since March.

I did some oil painting this week. I really wanted to do some abstract work but I find I don’t know how. I push the paint around and never have any idea what to do with it. I decided that I would try to make some abstract figurative images, which are popular at the moment and I have seen some fabulous examples, loose and expressive. However when I started painting I didn’t feel quite confident enough. Instead I came up with something semi-realistic. I decided to try using a limited palette, just four colors (two sets of compliments) and white. I don’t think I’m quite done, but for the moment I am putting it aside.

I also got back to finishing a couple of etchings which I began weeks ago. The first version of this one was a plain line etching. It improved when I added a little texture, with little etched marks, although I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the result.

I decided to add some aquatint, which is a technique a lot like half-tone, used in old photography. Resin is adhered to the plate and when put into the acid, allows grays to be added to an etched image. It brings it to life.

Practical Boro and Sashiko

When I made this self-portrait in 2008, the robe I am wearing in the etching was already ten years old. I bought it at Nordstrom and it was the best robe I had ever owned. It is blue plush cotton velour, warm, soft and comfortable. But even the best clothing begins to fall apart after a certain moment. By the time of this image, the robe had a big hole in one of the pockets and one at the hem line.

For Christmas I was given a new robe. I tried to be grateful, but the truth was, it just wasn’t nearly as nice as the one I already had. It was then that I embraced Boro, although it would be years later that I first heard this term. I decided, as I returned the nice new robe to the store where it was purchased, that I would never ever buy a new robe, because there never ever could be one that compared to the one I have. I bought some felt in a similar blue color and patched the two large holes.

Since then I learned that the Japanese call their patchwork Boro. Originally a garment that begins to tatter and fray was patched for the simple reason that the family could not afford to purchase a new one. But, as with many things, the Japanese turned this ordinary activity into a high art.

This beautiful jacket is over 100 years old. I was given permission to publish it by a company in Japan that will sell it to you. Ironically, this fisherman’s tattered and torn coat is now worth well over $1000.

I have recently had a few more holes to patch on my own robe. Perhaps someday it will turn into a object of folk art, but for now it’s just my practical way to keep my garment alive and functioning.

This time when I mended the worn out parts I didn’t try to hide them. I like using felt as the patch, as it is very strong and does not unravel at the edges. They aren’t as decorative as the fisherman’s coat, but they serve their practical purpose.

During the last year I have made a certain number of wall hangings created from pieces of my eco-dyed fabric. Once they are sewn together, which is all done by hand, I add some decorative stitches.

My daughter, Emily, introduced me to another Japanese textile art form called Sashiko. It too was begun as a kind of practical mending stitch, but has developed into decorative and very formalized patterns used to embellish. I found an on-line class at which taught me the basics.

Traditionally sashiko is done with white thread on blue fabric. It is very beautiful. More recently it has been adapted to moreĀ  eclectic western tastes.