Monday, October 8, 2012

Throwing an Idea, or Three, into the Mix

I was unravelling the navy sweater some more last night; this has got to be the most indomitably constructed garment I have ever come across. I don't have a good knitting vocabulary, but where the separated pieces are connected, they've used a stronger, non-wool thread which, if I don't cut carefully without pulling, tears the cashmere. At the shoulders, they used a separate, non-cashmere knit-wool tape to protect the top of the knit-cashmere bodices. And the ribbed part of the wrist has another synthetic, possibly formerly stretchy thread plied with the cashmere. While parts of the knit-cashmere is disintegrating and I'm having to gently pull the cloth in all directions to see if the yarn is willing to come out in reasonable lengths. I don't think weaving with this as weft is going to be nice work; I might have to spin and try to incorporate these short lengths.

I must still be in the name-giving, blurb-writing mode from the exhibition. If I were to put a mean spin on "concepts" as starting points of worthy contemporary art, which in my rough and imprudent interpretation means a piece has a delicious back story, I couldn't stop myself last night. 

The title might be something like "Retelling My Story".

Blurb stories can be, (and I'm typing like I'd tell you a story, not how I'd put it on the gallery wall): 

Scenario 1) During WWII, my maternal grandfather lost three houses to bombing; luckily he had enough $ to keep moving and renting. What kimono my grandmother didn't loose in the fires, she traded with rice and other foodstuff to feed one husband, five kids and a small household staff, (and then she died, ostensibly from a common cold, a week or month after the war ended.) So Mom and sisters got next to nothing of their mother's silks. In Japan, until about the 60's or mid70's, a lot of women had their mother's, grandmother's and their own old kimonos dedyed and redyed, so the silk cloth was the heirloom handed down. I don't think Mom ever did this. Grandma's story was no unusual for urban women 70 years ago. (The kimono, not the dying.) 

Scenario 2) Referring to the wartime trade of "valuables" with foods in sadness and desperation, I wonder how much of the stuff is still stored away in country homes, and how much was sold off dime a dozen as country treasures since the 80's. Makes you think the next time you find a "vintage" Japanese kimono for $10, doesn't it? (Not that I'll unfriend you if you got some; they are attractive objects in and of themselves. But the next time you go at it with scissors, give these women a moment of recognition, please?)

Scenario 3) Ben and I have no kids so we have to be selective what we hand on to our nephews and niece; I don't think I have any garments or textiles worth doing that, so I'm the end of the road. I bought the navy sweater when I was invited to a weekend in the mountains by Ben's work group, six months after I decided Ben's the guy for me and six months before our first date. Needless to say, I couldn't throw it away; it still transports me to one late Thursday evening after work when I went shopping for nice casual clothes in the era of my life when I lived in tailored suits. (Tailored because I was too short/fat nothing in stores fit me.) 

Scenario 4) and this is probably the most "timely" one if I want to get the finished piece into an contemporary exhibition: in this day and age of disposable clothing, the notion of "heirloom" doesn't come anywhere near our clothes. At least not mine.

And all these lead conveniently to something like, "If I am to tell a story through cloth, I have to start with me, blah, blah." You get the picture.

All these scenarios are true stories, though Mom did get one kimono of Grandma's in 1997 when Grandfather died, along with a couple of her step-mother's. If I plan a project from these stories, (and Mean Meg is tempted to say if it's especially un-pretty and un-utilitarian,) it would fit the "conceptual/contemporary art" prescription  as I understand it. But I just wanted to recycle, because they are cashmere, and in the case of the navy sweater, I wanted to keep it in some way. And though I'm always up for a challenge, I don't think making un-pretty, un-utilitarian cashmere something-something for a challenge's sake is for me. Is it? 

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