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.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day with Mother

Today my mother showed up and I had a chance to grill her for names. And arrival times in Canada` from Ireland and England.

And we sat there holding some sad facts. Her mother and her mother's mother were dedicated to textiles. My great grandmother was placed in an Ursuline Convent in Quebec when she was very young and like many Irish girls of the time were essentially enslaved to embroider white work to make profit for the Catholic Church, She was very clever and considered beautiful.

Her strength was legendary. One day a masked man came into the shop she owned in Montreal. He had a gun and in an instant reaction she leapt on the counter and slapped him hard a cross the face and became a ferocious being and grabbed his gun. He was so shocked he ran fast from the store with Mary Josephine cursing him all the way down the street.

The Church continued to control part of her life well into adulthood until the priests told her she had to bury her mother in a High Mass and pay for it. She only wanted to pay for a Low Mass. She had already dedicated much of her life to helping them raise money. After working very hard for every dime as did her husband. So she would not. She held her ground. Fiercely. And she won. But it changed her dedication to the Church. And it changed my grandmother's dedication who chose to leave when she married.

And one daughter only to each of them. Except me. I have only sons.

A few years ago my mother chose to return to the Church.

My mother is giving me my Great Grandmother's picture. Mary Josephine. I have seen it once or twice. She had beautiful auburn hair. But my mother and her mother had jet black hair. I am blond like my father. We are Hiberno- Norse genetically with a little Spanish Armada on that side of my family.

My hands have run over the leather of the Prayer Book from Ireland and the Rosary beads.
Stitches on this done by Mary Josephine, Mary, Kathleen Mary, Patricia Kathleen .
French knotted silk stitched on hand drawn linen. Started in the 1920's but an ongoing project.
Beautiful carved black leather and silver clasps. When I was twelve I went through it page by page. Generations of women had placed blossoms on the pages to press. And there were writings in the margins. My Grandmother writing that she was struggling but deciding to leave the church. "My Lord I forsake Thee!" in a childlike and emotional hand. I cried. The same Grandmother called "Nanny". I have the dresser from  Mary Josephine's house. And my Nanny had crawled underneath and drawn a picture of Mary Pickford in a beautiful pencil drawing that she had managed to etch the wood with. My signature from first grade with the girl with braids picture I drew.

Nanny was my primary parent when I was  young. I watched die as a little girl. And my mother Katy had to reclaim me. But I was completely lost and abandoned. I did not belong to her. I did not know about gene pool.

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