Tag Archives: “slow cloth”

Original vs reproduction. Reading Walter Benjamin. 

Last weekend, I fInished two books. A compelling memoir by Ta-Nehesi Coates (below) and a slender volume called “The Ghost of Hampton Plantation.”  More on those later.  On our way to Salem on Memorial Day, a parade in Peabody forced a new route. We enjoyed hot dogs and beans with my sister.

A friend dropped by. We took Finn over to Crystal Lake where he found a dead fish to roll in. That was as gross as her gift of a silk kimono was delightful.   Of course, I couldn’t resist a little photo play with the wavy lines in the kimono.  Which leads me to this: I have been thinking a lot about “the made thing” (involving time, skill, energy, and occupying a place in tradition) vs. the reproduction. Mo kindly insisted I read an essay by Walter Benjamin on the topic (see comments a couple of posts ago).  I resisted. Even though it would be easy to discount what he had to say because he wrote the piece decades before Warhol and Rauschenberg, never mind digital media, I was nevertheless impressed. He supported his central thesis about the superiority of the original, crafted work to reproductions in a compelling way.

For those of us abiding in practices of Slow Cloth, Benjamin’s words stand as important reminders about why we do what we do — even when it makes no economic sense.

He wrote:  The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced. Since the historical testimony rests on the authenticity, the former, too, is jeopardized by reproduction when substantive duration ceases to matter. And what is really jeopardized when the historical testimony is affected is the authority of the object.  And:  One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence.     … the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice – politics.

Very provocative.

Not sure where that leaves double exposures created by tapping a teeny screen and hitting a “save” icon.

I mean, these are pictures that may never even assume the form of a print. Is that yet another level of degradation? And if the original work has elements of the religious, and the reproduction has characteristics of the political, what does the binary-coded “work” in the cyber sphere embody?

I would like to read a more recent essay on the same topic. One written post-internet.

Mazur drawings with reflections

Mazur drawings in Charles Hotel with reflections by dee at clothcompany

I can’t download today’s and yesterday’s pictures – probably because I made a video and something or other has to be installed first. Does this stuff get easier, I wonder?

So, in spite of the fact that I am reading  “Platform” by Michael Hyatt and thinking my blog SHOULD be more fiber-focused, today I offer this photo. It is a Michael Mazur drawing, hung with five others… all of trees. Very free, powerful lines and shading. But what captivated me on the way in to the Regatta Bar to hear a friend’s son play jazz, was the way the reflection of hotel curtains and rug and inset lamps made an overlay design on the glass. This was MORE interesting to me, I’ll admit, than the nine remarkable blue and white antique quilts hanging not thirty feet away in the stairwell.

Should I be paying attention to this preference, somehow?

Also, I offer a long but compelling On Point interview. The interview is with Elizabeth Cline, who has written a book relevant to many of the things I have been thinking about lately.  It is called, “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion“.  The blog link, “The Good Closet” further addresses some of the issues raised, chief among them – low, low wages for garment workers overseas; pollution; low quality clothing; the lost art of caring for our clothing.

Chronicles of a Garbage-Picking Crafter, II

See that beautiful poppy?

That was part of a cheesy jacket manufactured, oh, around 1972, I’d guess… you know the kind? Based on athletic wear, with knit cuffs and waist and zipper up the front and made of either polyester (the early gross type) or acetate?  Truly awful, in other words.

But, look how pretty that poppy is cut out, stabilized, and partnered with quality quilting cottons.

If you have a local clothes depot, real gems are waiting for you, too.

Cambridge, Mass. offers “Clothes by the Pound”. These are the articles that local Salvation Armies have given up trying to sell. They are heaped in piles on the second floor of an old office building near Kendall Square. One fills a bag, it is weighed, and off you go with a trunk-load of fabric for about $9.00.

While I’ll admit it’s not for everyone (the smell takes some getting used to, for instance), I love it!  One gets down on one’s knees and starts flinging garments around like a dog digging for a bone in the old cartoons.  If I’m there with fellow-treasure-hunter B., we might toss items between us, with commentary such as, “ooooh, an Ann Taylor — I can see you in that!”  The clothes piles invite a scrappy approach to acquisition that I seem to be more comfortable with than traditional shopping.  In fact, I am more comfortable routing around through used crap than trying pants on in an upscale clothing store at the mall (an activity I hate so much that for years I didn’t wear pants, and No, I did not go around half-naked.  I wore skirts.  They can be bought off the rack and fit fairly well).

One problem with a place like Clothes by the Pound is that it spoils you. I’ve gotten so that I wait for SALES at my favorite thrift stores, because $5.00 for a man’s shirt, even a very cool vintage Hawaiian, seems like, well, too much.

And, actually, another problem with Clothes by the Pound is that even though I’m not looking for clothing to wear, I often find great pieces — like a gorgeous 100%  wool J.Crew cable-knit sweater that was originally a Man’s Large, inadvertently shrunk — and now a perfect felted fit for a medium-sized woman.

I’ve learned to look for African fabrics, Indonesian batiks, and Indian madras. Also, anything from Hong Kong, because it tends to be hand-tailored and incredibly high-quality.

This quilt also features fabric from manufacturer’s headers (the green fish print).   Those are fun because fabric companies create sample booklets with colorways, so you would have coordinating prints, or a particular print in five different colors.  All swatches well-sized for a quilting patch.

Lastly, I recommend discovering a curtain maker or upholsterer in your area who would be willing to let you take some of their scraps.  This has been absolutely invaluable to me.  The real boon of a connection like this, especially if either of these sources work for upscale clients (and most people getting custom-made curtains and upholstery, are), is you avail yourself of very expensive linens and drapery weight polished cottons, for example, that you would NEVER pay for (many costing over $100/yard!!).

Happy Hunting!

The Chronicles of a Garbage-Picking Crafter, I

Today I begin a new series of posts about scavenging.

I hope these tips will be of value to all of my creative readers (and not just to those ‘on a budget’ as we like to euphemistically say). You could call these ideas ‘green’ and in keeping with some of the sustainability principles cropping up in Slow Cloth* and other environmentally-conscious circles. Or, you could call them the habits of the perpetual garbage picker…

In any case, during yet another session in the orthodontist’s office, I skimmed the latest Newsweek’s article about the ‘new rules of management’. These new rules are posited by the founders of “37signals” (read the founders’ blog here), and have fired me up to find ways to give away what I know.

But, first, you want to know what some of their precepts are?   Here are a few:

  • Avoid workaholics;
  • Hire the better writer;
  • You need less than you think;
  • Drug dealers are onto something, and
  • Emulate Chefs.

I am inspired by the last three, in particular. The idea of giving stuff away has been part of the internet business model since it was created (see, Lawrence Lessig’s book, “Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy“).  (So has theft and piracy, but that’s another discussion).  Nevertheless, I am inspired to find a way to give away what I know and to give away fabric, too (more on that down the road).  That’s the “drug dealers are onto something” tenet, which is to say, create something addictive and make people come back for more. “Emulate Chefs” is an important corollary to that rule and it posits the idea that great chefs give everything away and so should you.

What a lot of blather just to say — recycled clementine boxes make great fabric storage bins!!

They are a perfect size for what I like to call, “precious bits”. One can keep a crate near the ironing board as a quilt is being constructed and let the small chips of fabric that MANY would throw out but which could be useful down the road, land into the crate.  You’d be surprised (or perhaps, not) how many projects employ teeny scraps of fabric (see some of the Village quilts on my website, as an example). Look at how many of the fabric swatches in this quilt-turned-pillow cover are about the size of a postage stamp —

These crates can be stacked vertically like Lincoln logs, making good use of vertical space and preserving work surfaces.

People in my community throw these boxes out with remarkable consistency, making for easy picking (of course my city’s new restrictive garbage policies are bound to cramp my style in this regard — BOO!!)

And as if all those virtues weren’t enough, the blue and orange labels are cheery, and who doesn’t like glancing up at the word “DARLING” now and then?!!

*  if you are interested in Slow Cloth, visit Jude Hill’s site, Elaine Lipson’s blog, or Glennis Dolce’s site.  If you’re on Facebook, there is now a page devoted to Slow Cloth.

Script quilt in progress

I do like it when the machine gives me direction.
There have been too many times to count where the bobbin runs out just as I’m about to use the wrong color thread somewhere… or just as I am too tired to keep quilting with any control (but would have kept going had the thread not run out).

On this script quilt and its companion piece, I keep going to add machine quilting and something goes.  After breaking TWO needles and running out of bobbin thread once, I get the hint!