Sunday, March 02, 2014

From the ages of about 22 to 27, one of my top interests in this world was, oddly enough, colourful vintage plastic dishware. I searched every single crevice of every single antique market, thrift shop, and junk store for the stuff, as if it were as valuable and rare as the finest china.

Called "melmac", but made by a multitude of companies, this midcentury invention was marketed as the unbreakable dish dream for housewives who were tired of sweeping up the shattered pieces of dishes after every mealtime accident. Or so I assume.

What originally drew me to melmac was the nostalgic dream of summer camp dishes and picnics at the campsite, where its lightweight and sturdy nature would be welcome. It reminded me of fruit punch swigged from plastic teacups and the clatter of plastic plates at the camp sink.

My mother worked in a summer camp kitchen for much of her early 20s and was thrilled when she inherited an entire set of melmac "camp" dishes from her church. These dishes were often used in setting such as this- for large church suppers and camps or anywhere where many mouths needed to be fed and many dishes needed to be bought (many inexpensive dishes).

Melmac comes in almost every colour of the rainbow, from the palest pastel pink of the 1950s to the muddy chartreuse of the 1970s. Some plates even bore designs- flowers and leaves that gently washed away to faded memories over the years. My two most coveted colours were pink and robin's egg blue. Something about them, with the soft lines and their creamy colour, is heaven to me.

I have slowed down considerable in my collecting of melmac, but something about them still speaks to my heart

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Thank you, Internet

I have been quiet on social media for a few days now, not keeping up with blogs or tumblrs or facebooks or anything of the like. I sometimes lament at the fact that the internet moves so quickly, that everything we write and post is so ephemeral. I feel this way especially about tumblr, where my dashboard is a constant stream of posts and I end up missing the tiny little snippets of life that my favourites post. They are lost in waves of images and gifs and inspiring photographs.

I love to hear about people's daily lives. Just the little things they do- cooking or organizing or making a space feel more special. There is something about these types of posts that makes me feel connected to the act of living life and more aware of how beautiful and different we all are. I think that living - just the everyday act of making it through the day - is a creative act and that in practicing that creativity we are able to express ourselves and the way we feel about the world.

I'm very interested in people who actively attempt to make the internet a more human space. There has been so much written about how impersonal the internet is and how it feeds our feelings of isolation and loneliness. But I have not found that. I have found that the internet is a place where I can open my heart to strangers. I know that it is not always a safe space for all people and that I am lucky and privileged to have the positive experience I have had with the internet.

I have made some friendships that I truly value through this web and I have met people who consistently inspire me. I even met the person I want to spend all my days with through the internet. For me, the internet is a gift that I am lucky to receive.

So when I see posts and photos and tiny little snaps of other people's life I can't help but feel full. I can't help but feel connected. I can't help but feel love.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Last night I became enthralled with the collection of samplers and needlework in the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum's online database. I spent hours staring at the screen until my heart practically exploded. So many of the creators of these pieces are unknown, and yet they are so strikingly beautiful.

While many of the pieces are samplers, there is also a collection of embroidered purses and letter carriers to marvel at. Can you imagine a time when one accessory required such detailed and fine handiwork?

It continually blows my mind to look at objects from the past, knowing that they had to be made, each by hand, one by one. My imagination comes alive, trying to create stories around who created these objects and who owned them.

Who was Louise? And what did she dream of as she sat, stitching this sampler. And did Mary Anne Wilson know that one day, over two hundred years removed from her needle's stitch, people would be marveling at the complete and utter beauty of her work?

There are so many stories tied up in the things we create, whether they are objects meant for aesthetic value, utilitarian purposes, or simply meant to practice techniques needed for "real" work.

If you would like to look through the collection yourself, you can find it here.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Stitches on stitches on stitches

I am almost certain I could open a home for neglected needlework with all of the doilies, pillowcases, and table cloths I have collected over the years from thrift stores. I cannot pass them up and embroidering on top of them is one of my favourite ways to stitch.

Earlier this new year, I came across a book by Ann Collier called "Using Textile Arts and Handcrafts in Therapy with Women: Weaving Lives Back Together". Hand embroidery has always been a therapeutic process for me. The stitches are slow and meditative and often done in silence or with Joanna Newsom playing in the background. The only thing that matters is each stitch after the other- stitch, pull, sigh.

I was immediately drawn to Collier's words about repurposing old textiles in one's work. The following excerpt articulates what I have never been able to.

"Lace, needlepoint, and clothing are typically not labeled and hence the artist is frequently anonymous. Women reusing these materials can be very validating for the artist. [...] Artists (eg. Nancy Rakoczy) have commented on feeling a need to use materials that are cast aside and unimportant as a way of acknowledging women."

"Old quilt squares, those small fragments of the past, are oddly moving. They are remnants of other women's hopes and aspirations, glimpses of colours and patterns that inspired gluttony and hope, a link with our female ancestors."

I love this idea.

Yesterday I found myself stitching one of my favourite lyrics onto a doily featuring some unknown needle artist's work. I picked up the doily at PTO thrift shop, and immediately knew that I would refashion it into a hanging wall pendant. I think of this kind of work as a collaboration between me and the previous stitcher and I love the idea of "women's work" (domestic ART that is given little value) being a collaborative process, a collage of women from different eras.

You can immediately discern my work from the work of the past, and I think there is something quite lovely about my haphazard lazy daisies strewn across her much finer daffodils (in the most perfect stem stitch).
I am so excited to give this piece a proper backing, and to attach it to a dowel so it can be hung on a wall. Also, very excited about these perfect little yellow chick peas that I roasted.
Both remind me that spring, with its daffodils and newly hatched chicks, is on its way.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Pleased to Make Your Acquaintance

It feels like there should be some sort of formal introduction when beginning a blog. So....

Hi! I’m Rachel. I live in Ontario, Canada and spend a good deal of time in and around Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I love gardens and vegetables and handmade stuff and folk music and secondhand things and the woods and Joanna Newsom.

In fact, I love Joanna Newsom so much that I sell little embroidered patches and hoop art featuring her wonderful lyrics on etsy.  Here is some of my work. It's my very favourite way to spend time, stitching away.

When I am not doing that, I like to sew and garden. Sometimes I even wear things I have sewn in the garden.
I'm starting a blog so that I have a place to write about my day to day life and share some of the things I am excited about, thinking about, or making.
Thank you for visiting!