Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Struggling with Story

Sometimes I feel like I hit a wall, especially when my pieces feel like they've become soulless. I was at that point so was very happy to start an online class with Jude Hill on Story Cloths, hoping to get back to something deeper in my work. The thing I most admire in Jude's work is her connection to the fabric and the deep meaning behind every stitch she takes--something I felt I had been drifting away from.

The online class is, as to be expected, wonderful, but I've found myself struggling with the concept of using a story in my work. Jude uses the term "story" pretty loosely. Sometimes there might be a clear narrative and figurative pieces that have almost a fairytale quality to them as a story unfolds. I like seeing others do this, but it is not me. Sometimes, for Jude, a story is more nebulous, more the way the cloth speaks to you as it goes. (At least I think that's how she interprets it.)

After wrestling with the concept, I decided my piece had to be about where I was right now. I wanted to create something about emerging from periods of darkness.

I started with a solid black background, a base of darkness. Then layered on dark pieces that had vague bits of light to them.

Thinking about how moods always cycle in and out, I added some circles of dark and light, using a technique for frayed edge applique that Jude showed. (oh how I love this technique--it's hard for me not to use it for everything now!).

I stalled on my story until I found this Persian proverb in a book I was reading:

That seemed to give me direction. I wanted a face that was vague and uncertain, with some lightness emerging out of the dark.

And stars that appear as cracks in the darkness.

It's funny that when I started laying it out all together, it looks much more bright and joyful than I thought it would:

Another nice thing that has happened along the way is I've returned to my love of faces. I have been collecting pages of "what if" ideas for doing fabric faces, some so old that I've forgotten what the notes mean. I've been inspired by my friend Z'anne--who is making a pair of earrings every day for a year--and decided to give myself a challenge, with a much lower bar, of posting a new face experiment every day for a week.


...louciao... said...

By some sort of synchronicity in the ARTmosphere, I too have suddenly produced "a face...vague and uncertain, with some lightness emerging out of the dark." It's very interesting to read about your explorations on cloth and watch them unfold, being given an understanding of what goes into each piece of the puzzle that makes up a story.

lynne h said...

robin, this post was very interesting to me because i feel like i can't do any art unless it's a story. EXCEPT on fabric, and there i seem to be able to leave the story thing behind. for once i can be 'abstract'. so even though now and then i think about adding an animal or a heart (while stitching these flags i've been making), i don't because it's freeing for me to get away from the story thing. in fact, i think that may be the main reason why i'm stitching now instead of painting.

i do love this story cloth... it feels very free to me. and also, 'on her little boat' was such a delightful piece of story!

thank you for sharing your thoughts...

jude said...

this piece has emerged as something quite powerful if think. don't you? I feel a definite storyline here, in each and every detail. really great and honest result.

ger said...

Yes, very interesting... - much into faces myself at the moment...

Robin Olsen said...

Thanks everyone. Interesting Lynne, about not using story in fabric but needing it in your other work. I do think there's something pure and beautiful about the interplay of textures with fabric that might take the place of story.

lynne h said...

I do think there's something pure and beautiful about the interplay of textures with fabric that might take the place of story.

yes, i think this might be it. xo