I first came across memory cloths last year in Helen Klebesadel’s blogpost here about Leslee Nelson’s work itself inspired by a 2005 exhibition of South African women’s textile pieces ; and finally got round to starting work on machine embroidering some of my mother’s handkerchiefs this week , more than 2 years after her death . I chose 3 with recognisably Spanish touristic-type scenes hand embroidered on them and arranged them with 3 plain ones like this : –
She loved Spain and admired the superb counted thread work found on so many Spanish sewn pieces , even (then) souvenirs .
I planned to machine embroider because I am better at that – and maybe I wanted to avoid trying to write on them . Leslee Nelson refers to a Hawaiian family healing mantra – “I love you , I’m sorry , I forgive you , Thank you” – which she stitched on one of her pieces . I had it at the back of my mind this week (not so clearly) as well as Oscar Wilde’s “Children begin by loving their parents ; after a time they judge them ; rarely , if ever , do they forgive them .” The problem is it seems the most colossal cheek for me to be forgiving my mother . And so I can’t help feeling I won’t be forgiven myself . Well when words fail me I do some work with my hands and sometimes that clarifies things .
This is as far as I have gone – I was planning 2 shades of gold thread further . The machine stitching has puckered the very fine fabric , maybe particularly because I was doing loops ? I’m not sure what I will do with it when it is finished . I couldn’t sell it – not least because I didn’t do the fine cross-stitch ! – and can’t imagine hanging it up . Anyway I will have to do the 2nd piece I have planned which involves 4 handkerchiefs of different sizes – 3 featuring blue and 2 with her initial . She hated her name Khadija , although like most of us Muslim women she admired the 1st one . I think it was because English speakers could never pronounce it . She also disliked the colour blue but late in her life told me it was because her mother had said it was only for white people with blue eyes and blonde hair .
As to the pottery I have nothing new to show ; it seems to take a long time for stuff to be fired and I am still carving the arabesques into the double spouted pot . One of the other students asked me if I had copied the idea from someone I had not heard of which underlined for me how very old and unsuccessful I am ! He must be after my time and yet well-known . In 28 years as an artist I’ve just become nameless history .