Wednesday, June 1, 2011
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.