Late October, 2015, I had an idea. I'd walked past the tapestry I made a few years ago, and thought, as I often have, about how much I enjoy looking at that piece. I get such a sense of connectedness to the people who joined me in that project every time I see it. I find that especially encouraging when current events or personal challenges make it easy for me to feel alone. I thought I'd like to share that experience with whomever wanted to join me.
On Facebook and in an email, I asked people, if they chose to join me, to send me one piece of paper--something from their lives--and proposed to weave that into a larger tapestry with all of the collected papers sent to me. Once done, I would section it into parts, and share one part with each person who sent me something. I wrapped each as a gift for the holidays.
Below is the process that followed:
After I had collected most of the pieces of paper, I cut them into quarter inch strips.
Shortly after I received the last submission, I started waxing and weaving, using a clear encaustic wax on each strip before weaving it into the piece.
Slowly, it started to grow. I worked nonstop for about five hours that first night. Before I left it, I was around a third of the way done. It was so exciting to see the little parts that would reveal themselves, and consider the relationship of one piece to another, one person to another. The strength of it was impressive too. The symbolism of that strength moved me. I went to bed slightly stiff but fully pleased with my progress, excited to soon share it with those I'd carefully woven in.
The following day I worked around eight more hours carefully integrating the randomly selected strips to fit a size I had masked out to include all of the pieces I was hoping to share. Close to midnight I was done. It held together beautifully. I was so thrilled. That little face popping out in the lower right corner was not planned. None of the parts that reveal themselves were planned. That was part of the delight of the process for me.
I added one more coat of wax to the surface to hold everything together. The extra coat of wax added a layer that played with the obscuring and revealing qualities of the work. For me, the way wax both hides and reveals what it is placed over is symbolic of memory, time, relationships, and each our own individual nature. The finished complexity of the piece was perfect to me--not beautiful in the conventional way, but strong and meaningful for the effort people took to join me, the thought that went into each item shared, and the careful part I played in bringing it altogether with an unprejudiced, open-hearted touch. My son, Ethan took this picture of me holding the final piece outside, in the field beside our apartment:
Here's the piece altogether, before it was sectioned and shared.
I took only one photo of one piece matted before mailing, and unfortunately (or maybe most appropriately) it is out of focus.
Included in the finished weaving are a handful of leaves, hand-written letters, two typed letters, two cards, handmade soap labels, a certificate, one child’s drawing, one woodcut print, two works of calligraphy, a daydream, an assignment, a comic, an invitation, a work of art, a favourite song, and a story. It’s a collection of things that marked a place in time with each person who joined me. I really like the symbolism of that, and the idea of the tapestry being linked by the homes that house it now, and the lives that nurture it. I'm very grateful to those who joined me. It was a incredibly meaningful project for me. I didn't keep a piece. I wanted my part to travel with the whole, my place to be with all the others, linked by the making, touched by the memory.