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Painting with Thread!

Experimenting with thread

This was my first attempt at embroidery. I learned that to compose a painting with thread, I'd need to rethink my usual tools for creating value and form, as there is no physical mixing of colors. Instead, I'd have to problem-solve with layering stitches, delineating shapes, harnessing line-directions, playing with thread-color saturations, and leveraging the proximity of colors and shapes. 

My Mama (detail), in progress

This image represents 3 weeks of work. When I got started, I didn't realize the now obvious metaphor of painting my mother in thread: the act of pulling long fibers forward and back again; the effort of stopping to untangle matted parts; the peace of accepting that certain knots would remain; these things, I realized, were a literal construction of the fabric of our relationship over time.

This embroidery project started as an experiment during a teacher-training day two years ago! My district department chair brought in a facilitator who gave the group embroidery hoops, fabric, and a little tutorial. 

Aside from a brief flurry of stitches in junior high school, I had never tried embroidery, and I had no idea where it would take me. All I knew was that it immediately felt natural, even luxurious. 

And being luxurious, it seemed rich to indulge in it all the time. In fact, I only ever worked on the piece during vacations. But every time I started stitching, I had a little fantasy about making full-sized portraits with the medium. Of course, the idea seemed ridiculous, since it's so slow, so I always dismissed it.

Recently though, my daughter convinced me that I should give it a try: “Just look how much you’ve done since we’ve been sitting here, mom,” she pointed out. “If you spent three hours on it every day, you’d be able to make a whole portrait.”

And so here I go…

This series will be an investigation into two concepts listed below. The first is an overarching exploration into my latest wonderings; the second, an anchor that ties together the subjects in each piece:

1) Things that take time
2) Biracial/bicultural identity

More about this as I go along…