More Embroidered Paper Art

I’ve been playing around with making paper and now have a good sized stack of sheets.  There’s something very satisfying in taking all the junk mail, school flyers, paid bills and telephone books and turning them into something else.  Plus, shredding paper is very soothing.

I really enjoyed the embroidered gift cards and holiday cards I made last year, so I’ve been playing around with other embroidery work.  Other than cross stitch, I’ve never gotten into embroidery on fabric.  I always viewed embroidery as too difficult for me to learn.  But switch the medium to paper and all of the sudden I’m spending hours on the internet researching different stitches to try.  Go figure.

Below is a gallery of the embroidered paper art I’ve done so far.  I’ve been playing around with various stitches, some beading and stickers.  I like the depth and texture of the images.  And I’ve even gotten to the point where I’m okay with the back of my work looking like a shattered bird’s nest.  When I’m not trying to make the back look as good as the front, it takes off a lot of the pressure and I can enjoy the process.

The hardest part is poking the holes.  I have to be careful not to tear the paper, not to poke myself, and not losing my needles.

I’ve got some other ideas for designs.  I want to play around with flowers and leaves in the paper.  I’ve got several specimens from the yard being pressed right now.  I’ll post more pictures as I make them.

 

Putting a Face to the Jerk Brain

As long as I can remember, Jerk Brain has been with me.  My earliest memory of it was in kindergarten where it pointed out how my coloring wasn’t as good as the other kids around me.  This voice, coming as it did from inside at all hours of the day and night, I just took as being part of me.  If I ever thought about it, I figured it was my very own demon Jiminy Cricket.  A critical voice telling me like it is; keeping me honest and on task by reminding e that I had to always be on guard against my natural inclination to be lazy and a waste.

It hasn’t been until the last year or so that I have become able to treat the Jerk Brain as an entity separate from my person.  Therapy helped with that when one therapist asked me to give it a name.  My first instinct was go with “Adversary” or “Nemesis”.  But I rejected those ideas as granting that critical, inner voice too much stature.  I settled on Jerk Brain as the most honest label.

Giving it a name helped, but only so much.  The voice is still there, quick to criticize and blame.  I’ve come across other suggestions on how to diminish or weaken Jerk Brain’s prominence in my thought processes.  There are techniques of changing the tone of Jerk Brain’s voice, making it sound like Mickey Mouse, or turning down the volume like on a stereo.  Another suggestion was to minimize it like an annoying pop-up window.

None of those solutions worked for me.  Having lived all those years with it, I have a hard time dismissing it.  When I have tried, it fights back, accusing me of ignoring it not because it doesn’t have my best interests at heart, but because I just don’t like what I am hearing.   I engage with that line of thought, get dragged into a debate on why I should be able to ignore Jerk Brain.  It is exhausting to find my mind a hostile place where i have to constantly justify my existence.

Which brings me to the realization I had a few weeks ago.  I needed a way to undermine Jerk Brain, to cut it off at the knees before I got treated to yet another chorus of “You’re not really depressed, you’re just lazy and here’s the proof.”   And I thought to myself: if my Jerk Brain was a person I was actually living with, I would have moved out long ago.  On the heels of that thought came the image of someone in my life who has been thoroughly unpleasant to me the entire time I have known them. This is a person who has said truly hateful things to my face and when called out on their unkindness responded with “But it’s true!”

In other words, this person is the Jerk Brain personified.  More importantly, though, I know nothing they have said to me is true. I have no problem ignoring their words because I know they are calculated to hurt me.    It was that realization that has changed how I interact with Jerk Brain.

For the past couple of weeks I have been able to tell Jerk Brain, “I didn’t ask for your opinion.”  And because I can say it with confidence, it works.  Jerk Brain, in the guise of this person, shuts up.  It has been one of the most satisfactory feelings I have had in a good long while.  I can picture Jerk Brain’s sour, puckered mouth, the hunched shoulders and crossed arms, just as I would see in the real life person who has been so nasty to me.  I don’t even feel the twinge of guilt that would otherwise follow the satisfaction of telling someone off.

I don’t know if this is a permanent solution.  Jerk Brain is a tricky creature, capable of evolving it’s tactics in response to my defenses.  For now, I’ll take whatever respite I can get from my jerk of a brain.

She’s Got It, Yeah, Baby, She’s Got It!

On the bullentin board behind me is a pin I bought years ago at a Worldcon.  It reads: “I have the body of a goddess—the Venus of Willendorf.”  A guy friend who was with me at the time said, “roach, you aren’t fat.”  While I appreciated his attempts to soothe what he saw as my mocking my body, he missed the point of why I wanted that pin.  I wanted it because I thought the wording was clever and I love the Venus of Willendorf.

I have several reproductions in stone and clay throughout the house.  I like how they feel in my hand when I hold them.  Of all the goddess images I’ve encountered, hers is the most pleasingly tactile to me.  When I started playing around with creating my own cross stitch designs, I knew I wanted to eventually make my own Venus to hang on the wall.

I will admit to being a little intimidated when I started out.  I don’t view myself as an artistic person.  I tell myself that I can’t draw, that my color sense is limited to a base functionality.  The rune designs I’ve done so far were easy-peasy in that they were just straight lines.  Here I was faced with curves and perspective and shading.  It felt like jumping from stick figures to Rembrandt.

The technical details weren’t the hardest part to overcome, though.  As I was creating the first design, I found myself constantly fighting the automatic inclination to slim her down.  I kept shaving down her curves, dechubbinating her thighs, giving her breast reduction surgery, one stitch at a time.  I found myself trying to figure out how to make her breasts even, how to round her face more.  A lifetime of living in a society that reduces women to cardboard cutouts was fighting to whittle this goddess image into a Bratz doll.

The process was difficult and halting.  Every time I caught myself making her less than she is, I had to go back and see if I had missed other instances.  She and I had talks about her rejecting the tyranny of symmetrical breasts.  I took to calling her “Boobs McGee” and referring to her “bodacious tatas” while I worked.  It was as much about ripping out all the ugly stitches of body shaming, as it was about creating a piece of embroidery to hang on my wall.

Venus hangs on the wall near the front door, now.  She is a constant reminder that bodies are meant to take up space, big and small.  She tells me to lead with my tits when I walk out of my house.   She informs me that I am an artist, just working on a different canvas.  And she passes on a message from Sheela na Gig, “Time to finish up my design.”

If you like the Venus of Willendorf design, I’ve put it up in my Etsy store for sale.  If you make it, please share pictures in the comments.

Baking with Dandelions

Dandelions are one of my favorite flowers.  They come up early, they bloom all spring and summer long and they don’t care where they grow.  They were brought over by European settlers for food and medicine and now people spend hours and tons of money to get rid of them.  They are flowers disguised as weeds, and anyone who knows me can probably understand why I like them so much.

Everyone gets dandelions from Ben.  Everyone.
Everyone gets dandelions from Ben. Everyone.

With two kids at home I am the recipient of daily dandelion bouquets.  Charlotte walks through the door every day with the ones she’s deemed prettiest and hands them to me.  Ben will come up to me with a hand behind his back and tell me that he has a surprise for me.  He’ll hand his dandelion over with a flourish and wait, expectantly, for me to gush over how it is the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen.  I do, and I mean it every time.  I can’t bring myself to throw these tokens of love out, so the house is littered with dried blooms.  Every so often I gather them up and into the fire they go, votive offerings of love to Hestia.

This spring, as I am working on learning more about the various flora in our yard, I thought I’d try my hand at some herbalism and baking.  So this morning I went out with two baskets and foraged the front and back lawns.  I’ll only take from my land because I know we don’t spray (much to the annoyance of the neighbors, I’m sure).  I thought Ben would love the activity, but he doesn’t like the dew on the grass.  He also forbid me from blowing on the white seed heads because then they wouldn’t e beautiful any more.

The fruits--or rather flowers--of my labor.
The fruits–or rather flowers–of my labor.

Even leaving the flowers on the parkway, by the property line and the driveway, as well as leaving plenty for the bees, I filled up the basked in about fifteen minutes.  The backyard yielded another basketful and you can hardly tell I was there.

Picking was a pain in the back, but the real work came once I was in the house.  I had to wash and then proccess the flowers.  Processing them involved snipping off the petals and discarding the leaves and buds.  That took the better part of an hour.  Most went into a jar to soak for dandelion wine.  One and a half cups of petals went into a batter for dandelion muffins.

Dandelion muffins!
Dandelion muffins!

The muffin recipe is actually for bread and comes from here.  I decided on muffins, because why not?  And they came out tasty.  The dandelions seemed to really only add to the aesthetics.  Or it might be that the honey hid any of the natural dandelion taste.  Either way, I think the muffins would work for use in pagan rituals, or maybe as an accompaniment to a tea and tarot party (since divination and dandelions are linked in magical herbals).

All in all, I call this my first success in backyard edibles.  I’ll have to wait six months to judge how the wine turns out.

Baking with dandelions, petals for the muffins.
I trimmed the petals with scissors. This was what went into the muffins.
Baking with dandelions, petals for wine.
And the rest of the petals went into water to soak for the wine.