Invisible stitches are as important to the artist as visible ones: Roots and Branches

Oak Tree Top January 14, 2021

Because I am a fiber and textile artist, my inspiration and my process comes from multiple sources and media. I have proficiency in some of them, and when I need other skills or knowledge to bring my imagery from concept to execution, I take steps to learn whatever it is. Right now, my work is created from tiny pieces and thousands of stitches, both stitched to be seen in contrast against the cloth, and invisible stitches that hold the pieces together from the inside.

I read an article by Austin Hackney this morning. In it, he states, “Creativity has nothing to do with how you feel.” I can attest to this. I often go to my studio and just stitch, or arrange dyes, or journal, or sketch a picture of an oil can, just to keep that part of me active. In addition, when there is a commission deadline or other external pressure, I sometimes keep going even in despair; that accountability to the client eclipses any ideas I might have whether I am creative enough or have the right color… sometimes its the wrong color, and there is a deadline, and I have to use it anyway, and then add other colors to it to make it work.

The oak tree above is at least a century old. I have forgotten how many times I have to lean into it, arms outstretched, to measure its circumference. The branches spread wide, and when I walk beneath it, I remember that truth of trees: that the roots mirror the branches above. The branches reach into the air and the roots into the soil, and the life of the tree comes from both above and below, dancing the Siva Nataraja dance of life and destruction.

This morning, after reading Austin’s article, I walked outside, just as an experiment, to see how long it would take me to find an image that would serve to articulate the way his statement impacted me this morning. I imagine that I could find symbolism and description in my tree/creativity analogy if I looked for it. I do not pretend to be a wordsmith. My hope is that in writing I can get my point across.

When I work with stitch and dye students, they often wonder what color to put in the pot. They will say things to me like. “I am not creative like you”. I say, “ You do not need to be creative to think of a color, let me help you find something that will convey your thoughts and ideas”. I like the idea of adding, “ it’s not about how you feel; there is a path of reason we can use.”