Material Witness will focus on extreme textile process. Images will be posted here showing the history of my work, new work, developing projects and inspiration.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Object of Affection

Object of Affection #1 (2005) Patricia Chauncey
I have been working on a series of complex textile pieces. The work has been slowly produced during the last two years and was the first time I worked with a writer and another textile artist. Both are younger men and this presented a whole range of challenges I wasn't expecting.
The work was done while I was recovering from treatment for metastatic breast cancer and has allowed me to explore issues around life, death, continuation, pain and the erotic.

The textile artist is a young man who has a similar health challenges to my own. He is HIV positive and is studying textiles and making work related to his life and the life of his gay community. His positive and enthusiastic nature have delighted me constantly and have allowed me to consider what can come from deciding to live and become immersed in creative process. He came with an amazing mother and wonderful friends. He has moved away now to study at the other side of this country and left me lovely bones to care for until he returns.

The other is a writer who has served as my muse, model researcher, travelling companion and dear friend. He arrived at the darkest time for me and pulled me from the depths of discouragement and pain. His presense allowed me to consider other parts of my long journey with this illness and not just fall into the hokey, positive , sticky pink world that women are expected to live in when they have this disease. He challenged me to look at the darker sides and explore more fully hidden aspects of myself and those I love. We parted a few times during this journey because it was hard and confusing and have returned to our own lives.

Both arrived when I really needed to start looking outside of my family for what had happened to the world when I was struggling for air. I love both for generosity that made me beleive again that the larger world was an inspiring and wonderful place.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Ghandi Makes Me Crazy

How amazing that we can take something as simple as cloth and create entire economies with it. This fact can be applied all over the world. The Incas, the Chinese, the Indians, and North American West Coast Aboriginal people valued cloth more than many other riches. My family were once sheep ranchers near Pendleton, Oregon and my husband's family were once mill owners in Howarth, England and dependant on cloth production for their livelihood.

Yesterday I opened the door of my studio and the winter sun enhanced the beautiful wood of my studio mate Jay's spinning wheel. I love spinning wheels and looms and am always moved by the history and ancient technology required in making one. I love the rythym and music the spinning wheel makes . There is nothing like homespun yarn for texture and touch.

The truth is harder to admit. I love everything surrounding weaving and when first studying textiles fantasized my immersion in the craft. The truth is, however, that Ghandi makes me crazy and I hate to weave. My entire body knots itself up when I do it. My fingers are double jointed and they slip out of place, my back goes out, my legs cramp up something fierce. I can't tell you what it is like string the heddles with an astigmatism and how there is always one thread out of place. I look at Ghandi's serene face and I feel tormented, I hide his images.

When Ghandi used weaving as a politicl act to reclaim the Indian right to produce cotton for export and personal use, my great grandmother was raising lambs in the harsh prairie climate near Trochu, Alberta. She was well read and I can't help wonder what she thought. Her family had been caught in the cattle sheep wars in America. Sheep Creek and Sheep River in Alberta were named after my families sheep. She gave me a gift of two lambs when I was a child. Lolly and Lollipop. She wrote me telling me of their progress. I cuddled under a very old cotton quilt with a felted lambs wool batting when I was a child. I know where the lamb batt came from but where did the cotton come from?

Perhaps the cotton was woven in one of my husband's great grandfather's mills or from India? It looks like it might be a faded Indian Madras cotton with a looser homespun weave. If it was woven in Northern England in my husbands great grandfather's mill I have no doubt what they thought of Ghandi. They relied on cheap cotton for their wealth. Did they also rely on cheap wool? If the size of their homes in Howarth is any indication they may have helped fund the fight against what Ghandi was trying to do.

It is suprising how often we repeat family history. I may love what Ghandi did as a man but I can't weave or spin to save my life. I am a textile artist and I rely on the weaving others do to produce my product. I support the work of the Maiwa Foundation to help women doing traditional textile craft in India and buy fair trade cotton and goods. I also buy cheap polyester to create my textured pieces but don't always know where it is made. Oh and some of the little bit of mill money my husband's mother left helped buy the house that contains my textile art.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Crooked Sticks

Hive detail 6"x6" (2002) Patricia Chauncey

My first inkling that I could make something festered in my small brain for days. I was four or five years old and visiting my grandmother's farm. I sat, like I always did and listened to the stories the old ones told by the greenish glow of the kerosene lamp. Insects surrendered to the flame and filled me with horror and awe. I tried to save them or pushed them closer to peril depending on whether they were deemed to be “good” bugs or “bad” bugs.

I looked at them so carefully and studied their structure, colour and eventual demise. I looked so hard at the flame that patterns emerged on the scorched retina of my eye. Eventually I noticed the tiny sock or lamp mantle that was so carefully knit. Doll stockings! I would sneak them from the lamps or beg for them after they were discarded.

My patient grandmother knew my games and curiosity. She gifted me with two crooked sticks and some kitchen twine and told me to keep my fingers out of the lamp and knit my own. I sat, tongue hanging out, and twisted and twisted the twine and sticks for hours trying desperately to create a cloth. Sometimes the twine would twist itself into a shape.Sometimes it would ravel and unravel despite my compulsive effort. No sock developed but determination and passion did.
I would invent garments and plan carefully the patterns the sticks would make. I brought the sticks to everyone I thought might understand but they just saw sticks and not the hope they created for me. They certainly didn't understand the little socks.

My parents gave me a tiny doll's undershirt and two doll socks for my birthday when I turned five and I welled up with gratitude. That year my grandfather taught me to thread a needle and sew a running stitch. He patiently explained to my very anxious mother that I was old enough to hold a needle and operate the scissors. My chest swelled up with the pride that big girls feel. Unfortunately I immediately dropped them and had sharp scissors lodged in my tiny foot marking it even now. But I can use scissors and thread needles when the light is bright enough.
Sometimes I still sew and knit tiny clothes.

I taught all of my children to sew a running stitch and watched as little tongues hung out in concentration. Recently I revisited knitting with crooked sticks. It is challenging but I think if I try hard enough I'll get it!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

first threads

Return to Mecca (2001) Patricia Chauncey

Well....this is my new blog and my first posting.

I will be discussing all things textile and will focus on extreme textile process. Images will be posted here showing the history of my work, new work and developing projects.

I hope to connect with other textile and mixed media artists. It will be interesting to talk to learners as well as experienced surface designers.

Every cloth begins with the first thread.