Image from the book “Time” by Andy Goldsworthy

From an artist’s perspective:

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time. This expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open…”

Martha Graham


Tucholsky’s Holes and Goldsworthy’s Time

It’s astounding what you can do with a bunch of wood pieces when you are Andy Goldsworthy. For this month’s fabric play I chose to think about/stitch and create holes. Goldworthy’s book “Time” was my first inspiration:

The image on the left is a river bed where the mud has been removed and sticks put carefully in the hole. When I found the (nearly) perfect thrifted shirt of the same color, I was hooked,  but the end result was not as exciting as I hoped for. Next I read once again an old favorite, “The Philosophic Sociology of the Hole” written in 1931 by German-Jewish journalist/writer Kurt Tucholsky.

Here are some excerpts in German (with English translations underneath):

Das merkwuerdigste an einem Loch ist der Rand.
Er gehoert noch zum etwas, sieht aber bestaendig in das Nichts.
Das Loch ist eine Grenzwache der Materie! Das Nichts, aus dem das Loch besteht, hat keine Grenzwache: waehrend den Molekuelen am Rand eines Loches schwindlig wird, weil sie in das Loch sehen, wird den Molekuelen des Loches…festlig? Dafuer gibt es kein Wort.

….The most intriguing part of a hole is it’s edge.
It still is a part of some thing but looks constantly into nothing.
It is guarding the frontier of the material.
The no-thing has no guard of its frontier…..

Manche Gegenstaende werden durch ein einziges Loechlein entwertet; weil an einer Stelle von ihnen etwas nicht ist, gilt nun das ganze uebrige nichts mehr. Beispiele:
Ein Fahrschein, ein Luftballon, eine Jungfrau.

….Some things lose value because of a single small hole:
because in a part of them there is a “no-thing”, all the rest isn’t worth anything anymore.
Example: a ticket, a virgin, a balloon…..

Read the full German version here and the English one here.

The idea of something losing value, because it has a small hole, fascinates me. After all, this is precisely why mending is an act of rebellion against consumerism.

I wanted to make a piece of fabric, that has more holes than fabric and that’s exactly what I did. My husband looking over my shoulder remarked rather dryly that more holes than fabric translates into lace, and he’s right.

But, my coarse eyelets of wool on linen have nothing to do with lace; they are just a collection of holes with almost all the fabric between removed. The fabric piece looks like wabi-sabi tatting. I didn’t have the time (as usual, I started this week…) to experiment with different shapes and materials. Hexagons might look more interesting, because with Hexagons, there’s no extra fabric between the holes.

Ultimately, I ended up with this:

The outcome was not very exciting, but what was however, was how I spent my time creating it:  My original sources of inspiration, Andy Goldsworthy’s great book “Time” and Tucholsky’s writings were familiar but viewed entirely through a different lens.

Originally, I didn’t want to show this rather meager result of my mind’s meanderings, but then failure belongs to experimentation. They are joined however awkwardly at the hip, and who knows, it may also help encourage those of you who feel shy to participate…..It’s all about experimentation and play. And maybe this experimentation leads to a new revelation.  I’ll sleep over it.

For more ideas, visit suschna.

Six Words to Describe Your Life

Do you read in the bathroom?

I always thought everybody did, but then found out that it’s a no-no for many people. My whole family firmly belongs to the bathroom reading crowd with books, newspapers and magazines tucked away in every corner. My daughter hides her old Archie comics and reads them over and over, which makes her bathroom trips as long as shopping trips. My husband reads the Economist and I read whatever the others leave behind or what I can remember to bring. When the bathroom is bare (rare, but possible), the ingredients on my soap bottle will do, although that reads more like the content list of a dangerous insecticide.

My family also reads at the kitchen table when one of us is eating by him/herself. We do have a “no-reading- at-the-table” policy at family meals, so please don’t think of us as one of those dysfunctional American families with nothing to talk about when we’re having dinner. But when the grown ups talk politics (and how can you not right now), I watch my daughter tune out and read about the beneficial qualities of oatmeal and how it lowers cholesterol. Words are like gravity, they pull us right in.

My bathroom and kitchen table reading right now is this: “Not Quite What I Was Planning. Six Words Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure”, based on Hemingway’s famous six word story: “For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.

The title says it all and here’s a taste:

Poet locked in body of contractor.” – Marilyn Hencken

I still make coffee for two.” – Zak Nelson

Fell in Love. Married. Divorced. Repeat.” – Lori McLeese

Stole Wife. Lost friends. Now happy.” – Po Bronson

When it comes to writing a memoir, it’s hard to imagine a bigger constraint  than using only six words to express one’s life, but it’s surprising how much information and emotion can be packed into six words.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a party, where the guests had to sum up their lives in six words after dinner?

I’ve been thinking about my own six word memoir….What I came up with spontaneously is not Hemingway, but it became clear that all of them related in one way or another to traveling and being uprooted: “German born. Nomadic now. No regrets.” Or  “Now, where do I go next?”

Constraints do help remove the “noise” from what’s essential and worth listening to.

This one by Margaret Hellerstein is particularly good: “Followed rules, not dreams. Never again.”  Doesn’t that say it all?

Can you sum up your life in six words? What’s your theme or “red thread”?

Update: Forgot book info, here it is:
Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure
Rachel Fershleiser (Editor), Larry Smith (Editor)
ISBN-10: 0061374059
ISBN-13: 978-0061374050


John Cleese On How to Be Creative….

Do you remember John Cleese?  This video from 1991, which I watched last night instead of writing a post, features him and his thoughts on creativity. Cleese, you may remember is famous for his work with Monty Python, and if you can, watch the whole video. It’s worthwhile not just for his delivery, but also for his practical advice. And after all, who doesn’t want to be a bit more creative?

If you only have 10 minutes, here he is again in 2009 brushing up the theme.

Cleese describes creativity not as talent, but a modus operandi. He distinguishes between two modes of operation.

First, is the closed mode, which is our normal daily attitude, which repesents work, errands, family, friends and social media all of which are simultaneously competing for our attention.

The second is the open mode in which exploration is the main objective and goal. Kids call it playtime, the  mode where creativity blossoms. To implement a new idea or concept, both modes are necessary. Once a creative thought or insight occurs the open state has to give way to the closed one to implement the new idea or concept without hesitation or doubt.

To enter the open mode can be difficult. Life usually get in the way.

According to Cleese there are 5 elements to help set the stage for the open mode:

1. Creating space: Make room (physical and mental) to explore. Cleese calls it setting up a space/time oasis.

2. Time (quantitative) : Set aside an hour and half or so with unobstructed time. No phone, no email, no interruptions. There needs to be a clear separation between your daily tasks and “open mode time”. Nobody gets creative in front of a computer.

3. Time (qualitative): Wait for the mind to calm down (which can take up to 30 minutes or longer you may know this from meditation or trying to get to sleep at night) and stop your mind’s chattering, if that’s possible. It can be hard in the beginning, but the mind does get quiet faster over time. Think about something interesting like two juxtaposed concepts and explore how they connect. Ponder until your time is running out. If something occurs, great, if not, don’t worry. Wait or sleep over it.

Good ideas often need time to “incubate” below the threshold of awareness. Cleese also warns off getting get rid of the discomfort of not having an answer/solution right away. He says that the most creative people are prepared to tolerate the discomfort of “not knowing” longer than other people. In other words, don’t grab the first creative idea or insight that comes to mind. Wait on it and even more creative ideas could follow. I thought that this is crucial.

4. Confidence: Don’t let the fear of failure get into the way. Don’t expect anything to happen. Play and experiment without aiming for a result. I find that the hard one. We are all taught to view “play time” as losing, or worse wasting time and are always concerned with setting and reaching goals.

5. Humor: Humor is a fast way to change from the closed mode into the open one.


The lecture is peppered with Cleese’s usual humor and the end memorable when he explains how and why creative people pose a threat to the establishment.

I will take his advice to heart this week and spend less time in front of the computer and more in my own space/time sanctuary.

Flower Thread Doodles

Thread doodles on black linen. Fall brings back the embroidery floss.

This pin was  inspired by a book cover design…

And this one to remember that it is never too late to be creative and learn something new…

Enjoy your weekend!


Foto Lucas Gölén from the book “Yllebroderier

Ever since I’ve discovered Hallandssöm last week, I’ve been exploring the world of Swedish embroidery.  Thanks to very helpful reader M. I spent more time on the internet than with my family last week. She sent me a wealth of information and links to explore the many talented brodös, which is Swedish for embroiderer.

Yllebroderi, or in English: wool embroidery dates back to the 17th and 18th century,  a time, when Mary Delaney created her wonderful botanical compositions of hand cut flowers all mounted on black background. When I saw yllebroderi for the first time I was instantly reminded of her botanicals, even though the nature of her work is quite different.

Hemslöjdens Förlag in Sweden publishes beautiful craft books including this one: Brodera på ylle.

and also this one: Yllebroderier (see close up at top images):

On my Scandinavian internet journey, I also discovered Frida Arnqvist Engström, who writes the interesting blog Kurbits, covering embroidery, arts and crafts.

Lina Holm offers wool embroidered accessories translating traditional designs into modern accessories.

And here are more craft/art/embroidery blogs (all in Swedish). WARNING: Don’t visit, if you have any plans for the day.

As for my own experimentation with wool embroidery, I decided to make coasters experimenting with wool, which is completely impractical and was prone to fail. And fail it did.

What I discovered it that counting and making a precise pattern is not what I like doing. It worked when creating the initial sample for the fabric manipulation, because at that time it was a brand new challenge. Subsequently I saw myself creating many beautiful designs and projects using Hallandssöm.

Reality looked more like this: Yes, the pattern is still great, but I discovered that I didn’t like to do this this kind of “almost thread count”. It usually happens that the “figuring-out-part” is what interests me and after that’s done, my interest wanes. Or better yet, it pops, just like a balloon. Not that I don’t appreciate the technique and the end result, but it’ll end up in my “future projects bin”.

Small scale free hand embroideries are next on my list.

I secretly hope to discover one day a technique/theme/material that ignites my passions so strongly, that I would explore in great depth and detail.

But, I’ll be patient; after all Mary crafted her whole life before she “discovered” collage at the age of 72.

Till then, more ideas, more experiments, more wandering.

ESMOD – Sustainability in Fashion

If I lived in Berlin, I’d definitely go to the ESMOD Fashion Show on October 13 – 14.

ESMOD is the International University of Art for Fashion and offers an International Masters Programme for Sustainability in Fashion.

At its Berlin branch, twelve pioneering students will showcase their work, which will include a collection of sneakers made from Austrian Lederhosen to celebrate sustainability and culture. Just that alone is a reason to go. Another has created a luxury collection in cooperation with an Nepalese NGO using banana fibre, wood and metal for textiles and accessories. And those are only two of the many brilliant ideas.

So if you’re in Berlin and curious of latest ideas in the world of sustainable fashion, this is for you. Meet the young designers in the video below, or see them in person at the show.

Saturday 13th October 12:00 – 18:00
Sunday 14th October 12:00 – 16:00

PLATOON Kunsthalle
Schönhauser Allee 9
10119 Berlin

(R) Restricted Embroidery – Some Nudity

Did the title make you click? I was originally taken by the texture, shapes and form of the ribbon and didn’t at first notice the stylized undressed figures moving and dancing. The work is by Susanne Klinke, a German artist from Meschede and there is not much about her or her work on the internet. Is that even possible in this day and age?

I found Klinke’s work through browsing the book “Contemporary Embroidery“; and while there are many talented fiber artists within, this one was my favorite.

Isn’t is amazing, how these figures come to life?

Fabric Manipulation or Hallandssöm Is Not A Place In Sweden

This week I encountered Hallandssöm embroidery. At first I thought Hallandssöm was a quaint village somewhere in Sweden, birthplace of this interesting technique, but google maps didn’t  back me up. So I’m not sure from where it derives its name.

Embroidery manipulates a fabric’s surface. What I did here, using this process, is not true fabric manipulation, which includes twisting, knotting and/or folding, transforming a piece of fabric dramatically.

But when I found this image through pinterest, I wanted to give Hallandssöm a try. Here is my very first attempt which looks wonky and nothing compared to the neat example in the blog:

I usually don’t venture into precise “counting-stitches-territory”, but the possibility of making a complex looking surface with two very simple stitches was tempting:

The procedure is simple. Draw a circle (or square) and make a grid. The above sample uses wool. As there were no instructions available, I simply stitched a star on the alternating squares in diagonal rows. That’s probably not the proper way, but it’s easy enough to do while watching a movie or following a radio show.  Once the sample above was finished it became clear that matching thread colors look far better than contrasting ones.

My favorite experiment is the one below using just one kind of thread.

The grid was made with a double strand of pale green thread, and as for the stars just a single strand of the same color and thickness was used.

It looks a bit like chair caning, which is what I was after.

Of course I didn’t get as far as intended which was covering a whole piece of fabric with this stitch, but the image above shows its potential.

There is not much information on the web regarding Hallandssöm embroidery. Here are a few examples of the classical look with instructions, and here are some more…both are Swedish blogs. If you happen to know any more about the topic, would you please let me know? I’m interested in how this technique has been applied in a more modern setting.

For more fabric manipulations, go visit Lucy, who is collecting this month’s manipulations.

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