Body of a Goddess

I’ve been quieter than usual on this blog because I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo this month.  Of course because I am me and I can’t do anything the way it is supposed to be done, I’m working on a non-fiction book rather than a novel.  It’s a sewing book, which means I’ve been working on designs and prototypes, as well as writing.  I have no expectations of actually finishing the book in November.  The plan is to have a rough draft by the end of December.

Writing, sewing, remaking a design two, three, four times, has been strangely reassuring.  Each iteration gets me closer to the finished version in my mind.  Working with my hands keeps me anchored to the world.  And the work gives me a sense of forward momentum.  I need that most days.  The medication I’m taking has helped tremendously with the depression, but I’m still struggling with it, especially with the seasonal change.

Pin reads I have the body of a goddess--the Venus of Willendorf
The pin that started it all, resting comfortably on my convention badge board.

Which brings me back to Willendorf.  Part of my focus this month and next is on myself.  Making things for me, to wear and to decorate my space.  When I made the Venus of Willendorf design I tried a variety of sizes and designs.  One was a little back stitched goddess with french knot hair.  I love how tiny and cute she is, but I didn’t have a project for her.  She’s sat in the pile of my doodles, waiting patiently for me to come back to her.  Now, with these two months of relative downtime, I was ready to do something with her.

So here is my little Venus, round and soft and cute, standing next to the text of one of my all time favorite buttons.  I wanted to keep the design focused on the message, thus the simple border.  The pink was just the first color I grabbed, and can be substituted for any other color one desires.  The design was stitched on white 14 ct. Aida cloth, with one strand of floss for the back stitch and two strands for the cross stitch.  Click here to get a copy of the design for yourself.

If you decide to make one for yourself, please share a picture in the comments. I’d love to see it.

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.