Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cultivate Choice


When Helen gave us her spicy palette, I didn't know what asafoetida was, so I looked it up. Imagine my surprise when I found out it's myriad uses both culinary and medicinal!

Though I liked the apothecary direction, I kept coming back to asafoetida's relationship to a similar ancient plant called silphium, and silphium's usage in birth control. Maybe it's recent political posturing that has me riled up, but I believe strongly in a woman's right to make her own choices when it comes to her family and her body. So my decision was made.

I decided to try the somewhat subtle route of just showing the plant and letting it's implications wait quietly for discovery. My image of the plant is based on a Roman coin design (silphium was so valued at the time, not only was it depicted on currency, but it was harvested to extinction). I tried to machine stitch the image with fusible thread to which I attempted fusing gold foil, as reference to coins, but it didn't work as well as my test swatch. So, I hand embroidered the image on top and then added a little more gold foil using foil adhesive. I needle felted a wool heart shape is for the heart shape of the seeds (also on coins) and because wool was used in the ancient world as we would now use pads or sponges today (the wool was soaked in silphium "tea" according to an article I read). Finally, the background is upholstery fabric in a design I thought reminiscent of oriental rugs -- a nod to the region in which silphium grew (present day Libya). The border is wrapped fabric scraps because they looked harmonious, and referenced women in both clothing and personal hygiene usage.
It's not my best work in a technical sense and maybe not even in an aesthetic sense, but it's a good story, I think. An abstracted apothecary may have looked better, but this one means more to me.

17 comments:

Diane said...

Very striking and there is so much depth -- both visually and in terms of your symbolism. I love how it has a sense of a botanical image but there's so much more going on underneath. The embroidery and beads are wonderful-- love the effect of the chainstitching. And the wool and tapestry are perfect backgrounds. I think it's very successful!

Elizabeth said...

Ilove this piece!!! i love the symbolism and the thought and planning that went into it!! Wonderful work!!!
You and i speak the ame language both with this issue and your needlework!!!! Bravo!!

Lisa Flowers Ross said...

There is so much spicy goodness in all the pieces. You can see my play-along quilt on my blog. I really liked the color theme of spice.

Renate said...

The thought that you put into this piece is amazing. I think it is technically inspiring. It seems to draw your attention to all of the little details that you have included! It would fit very aesthetically in my front room!

Karen said...

The symbolism in this quilt is really wonderful, I can appreciate all the research you put into it. The stitching around the edges ties it all together for me.

Nikki said...

Wow! Your attention to detail and the symbolism behind everything is amazing. I love the variety in texture -- very rich.

Terry said...

This really has a feel of something old and precious and very much made by hand. The binding/border/edging is incredible. I love the scholarly bent of so much of your work and that I learned something, but it is so beautiful it can stand on its own even without the story. One of my all-time favorites!

Brenda Gael Smith said...

When I saw your sneak peek of this piece, I thought I saw a heart. Now I see that it depicts another organ system. Such a rich work on so many levels, connecting back to your Chocolate, Chair and Pink pieces too with the feminist themes. And that ribbon-esque binding is genius!

Gerrie said...

I love this! I love the old world quality of this and the details that you have incorporated. Then there is the story that it tells. And, I want to touch it!! Guess I will have to wait for that.

Diane said...

The funny thing is that when we all finally see these in Houston, WE are going to be the ones touching the quilts as we've been wanting to see and feel them for so long! Shall we all bring our white gloves? LOL

Brenda Gael Smith said...

I'll be packing two pairs of pink gloves. I can loan you a pair!

Diane said...

I guess we should set a good example, but I want to touch them with my bare fingers! We'll have to have a private viewing/touching session.

kirsty said...

Ha ha!! I can verify that, yes, indeed, Brenda's gloves ARE pink :)
The richness in this quilt is extraordinary, Kristin. Like Brenda, I was reminded in some ways of your chocolate quilt which has always been one of my favourites from our first series.

Terri Stegmiller said...

Wonderful quilt and great information to go along with it. Look at all that fabulous hand embroidery. I love the complex background design and I totally love that edge treatment.

JB said...

When I first started reading your post I was assuming that it was an Old World representation of silphium. As I kept reading and discovered that this was your challenge submission I was amazed. The history and women's issues presented were an added plus. What a great conclusion to the spice challenge.

Deborah Boschert said...

I must also say that I love the bound binding. It's really wonderful!

I am especially impressed with the design of the plant... it's graphic, yet realistic, traditional, yet contemporary. Of course I love the French knots and the chain stitch and I think the foil is a lovely addition.

Françoise said...

Beautiful quilt Kristin. And I like the story behind it. We tend to take all these choices for granted now, but of course so many women in the world don't have this freedom yet.