Featured

Stitching My Sketchbook

At the top of our neighborhood is an intersection of two roads. One is named Silver Dapple Lane. It is one of my most favorite places on earth. Down this road lies a beautiful farm with cows grazing on fields of clover. In another direction from this intersection is a field of wheat leading to another farm and a tranquil neighborhood. Yet another direction leads me home. On my daily walks I go through this intersection and I think how very much this is my life as an artist. I am forever walking down new paths of creativity as well as the older, well-trodden ones. I’m endlessly curious and fascinated by color, texture and line. Finding a way to blend my loves of drawing, painting, stitching and textiles is fascinating and enchanting.

Who knows where this new path will take me? I have no idea. Nor do I know how long the path goes on for, or how long I will choose to stay on it. For now, I’m stitching up fragments of textile art…pieces of collaged fabric held together by both machine and hand-stitching. The hand embroidered lines are taken directly from the drawings in my sketchbook. Florals, landscapes, still-life and more from over 10 years of sketchbooks filled with drawings of my daily life.

I appreciate your presence here. And your patience. If you follow my work on any of the many blogs or podcasts I offer out there, you are justified in a good chuckle as I embark on another tangent. It’s really all the same thing, just different mediums. I’m holding to that! And stitching my way through life.

-Jennifer Edwards

jenniferedwards.com

Ocean Observations :: Day Four

I’d like to be a sea oat stalk. It grows tall and proud by the Ocean’s Edge despite dry, sandy soil. They lean and bend with the whim of the weather. In certain lights their wheat-like hair glows. They appear to thrive on very little attention, content to face the ocean or the sun, bowed slightly as in prayer or worship. Their root system must be intricate and strong to stand firm in shifting sands and ruthless ocean storms.

It would be a simple life, but for the storms. And though they appear very singular in their comportment, they are always surrounded by friends and family, swaying together in a beautifully choreographed dance. This morning in particular they seem delighted with the abnormally cool temperature and easy breeze as they bob and nod, swaying side to side.

I’ve been watching them for half an hour now, mesmerized by their tai-chi-like moves…a perfect meditation for mid-week at Ocean’s Edge. I’ve also begun to stitch them into the Ocean Fragment. I am not quite capturing their delicate yet strong essence. There seems to be a bit of magic holding that tall skinny stalk straight while bearing the weight of the fringe at the top. I will likely stitch more sea oats in other fragments when I return home.


The crazy thing about these slender flagpoles is that they are crucial to the stability of the dunes. I like that. Could it be that we, living our ordinary lives, facing the Sun, rooted to one place and bending with grace to the winds of change; could it be that we, you and I, are essential to the stability of the environment in which we live?

Perhaps I make too much of this. But it is good to be reminded that I matter in the grand scheme of the cosmos. Facing the vastness of ocean and sky, getting lost in the churning breakers, one can feel quite small and insignificant. If our Maker deems it necessary that sea oats help maintain stability and hold back erosion, does it not follow that we too are important to the stability of our families, our friends and communities in which we live? You and I are stitched into the dunes of our lives for a reason. How wonderful to find sea oats an unlikely testament to this truth!

Ocean Observations :: Day Three

Being at the Ocean’s Edge is like having a figure drawing session available at any time of the day. Morning runners and walkers, ambling shell seekers, strike poses perfect for gesture drawing. Afternoon sun bathers sitting and lying down on bath towels provide more interesting angles to draw the human body. And evening sunset seekers standing around casually or walking in the direction of a fiery glow offer yet more shapes for quick sketches of movement, form, and energy. One could draw people full time here and not exhaust the many poses the human figure is capable of.


I love trying to capture a few of them, and I’m certainly going to include one or two stitched into my Ocean’s Edge Fragment. These sketches, as nearly all gesture drawings, are worked fast, catching only the tilt of the body, the movement or energy  therein. One fella in a red shirt kept changing his position over and over as he sought the perfect shells. I have four different poses sketched quickly so as not to get my brain too involved. It actually helps to draw fast…your analytical brain can’t keep criticizing and correcting you and your intuitive brain can take over. I’d love to live there all the time!


The beauty of gesture drawing is that you tune into the energy in everything! I’ve been fascinated by the sea grasses this year and will certainly stitch them into the fragment with their flowing lines of wheat-like hair bent in the sea breezes. Clouds have a gesture of such breathtaking beauty I never feel I capture them adequately. And even the breakers…yes, the churning frothing waves have gestures ranging from ferocious to lilting and everything in-between.


I doubt I’ll be able to include all of these in my stitched fragment, but it is worth recording in some fashion the dynamic energy in all that surrounds me. Perhaps I can carry it back home to Life in the Breakers. But I shan’t think of that now. I am here!! And there are several more delicious days ahead of people watching and sketching and stitching.

Ocean Observations :: Day Two

All is calm at the end of Oak Island today. I have walked here this morning, noticing that the breakers are quiet and petite. I’m thinking “breakers” is not the word for these gentle rolls of frilly lace. I sit here listening and longing to be lapped up in them, a coverlet of lace flowing over me.

It is all due to the wind and rains we had yesterday evening. Perhaps worn out from the ordeal, these breakers no longer roar, but rather gurgle at Ocean’s Edge. I too feel this within me on our second full day of vacation. It takes me a day, when I first go to a new place, to feel settled. Breaker living gets ratcheted up a notch in unfamiliar surroundings and a bustling house of dear folks with whom I am unaccustomed to living. Upon waking that first morning it seemed the best thing would be to just draw, just make some lines on a page. Pencil felt like a good choice as there were no hard lines anywhere in my view from the deck. Today I’m thinking only watercolor will do it justice.


Sketching, knitting, and stitching throughout the day serves to anchor me. The winds die down a bit and give way to peaceful rivulets of gurgling joy.

This is the way of living it seems. Storms giving way to quiet inlets. Making things serves as a boat for me to ride out all of it, make sense of it, even find beauty amongst this ocean landscape. Along with daily sketches, I’m stitching a pre-collaged fragment of the ocean. It feels like the perfect way to stitch down thoughts, images, and experiences of a week lived at Ocean’s Edge.


Walking back to the beach house, I notice the breakers are starting to roar again. The day is waking up. The ebb and flow of life goes on and cannot be stopped, try as I might. I can only ride in my boat, observing the days, drawcumenting them in a sketchbook, and stitching them together.

Ocean Observations :: Day One

There is an expansiveness here where big skies meet water that unfurls to its sandy edge. A soul can breathe easier here. Lungs get to expand further than daily living allows. The expansiveness seems to occupy three areas – the sandy beach, the watery depths, and the huge panorama of clouds meandering across an azure backdrop. I however, live in the breakers.

Being here heightens this sense that life back home, though it is a lovely life, is nevertheless the frothy foamy churn of daily to-do’s, worries and concerns, work and endless errands, anxiety about the future and all manner of emotions. There, in my waves and breakers life, I work diligently to stand, as the paddle boarders and surfers do. Here, I don’t have to work so hard…the breakers dissolve into a gentle, clear water with just a hint of foam along the edge. Here I get to lift my head and take in the 180 degree view.

It may be more like a 220 degree view. This year we are very near the end of Oak Island and from the deck of the beach house we can see for miles down and around the tip. I walked there this morning, taking into my cramped heart the delicious space all around me, breathing in the quiet, broken only by gulls and the occasional jet ski.

We do not have great wi-fi service here. But I’m thinking I’ll write each day Observations from the ocean’s edge. The thing about expansiveness is that it releases worries and anxiety, the grief of holding on so tight, and gives way to ponderous thought and an effervescence of mind and heart. I will not send out alerts as to having written. If you, dear reader, receive this, then I am glad of your company here at  Ocean’s Edge for the week. Perhaps we’ll both expand and release, lifting our eyes from the churning breakers to the incredible skies all around.

Slow Is As Slow Does

From the beginning of the year I’ve been searching high and low for ways to live Slow & Simple. I have not achieved this lofty ideal. And perhaps it is unattainable as an ongoing,  moment by moment reality. I have had, thankfully, some hours, minutes, perhaps even a day here and there where Slow and Simple were tangible states of being. I am ever so grateful for these moments, places to breathe into and gain a sense of equilibrium, even if it is fleeting.

I had no idea at the beginning of this year that I would be delving back into a medium that is even slower in its approach and process than any of my previous ways of creating art. Drawing and painting can be everything from painstaking to dashed off. I seem to like the fairly free and loose approach which is somewhat quick yet thoughtful too. Knitting is always a time-consuming work, but it can also be mindless, fast knit & purl, or a slowed chart-reading affair. But embroidery seems even slower, if that is possible. Needle up through the fabric, needle down through the fabric, pull up, pull down. There are times when I can work down & up in the same motion, thus speeding things up a smidge. But not always. The pre-work (or post, in this case) of creating a collaged fabric upon which to stitch, drawing, tracing, transferring, any machine embroidery, etc…this all adds to a slower method of working. It is one I am currently relishing in all its facets and phases.

The thing about Slow, whether in life or in art, is in the doing of a thing. It’s a matter of doing each task slowly, thoughtfully, mindfully. I sometimes daydream about a monastic life of stitching, knitting, crocheting and artful work. I read somewhere that if you want to live a kind of monastic life right where you are, you must slow down and do one thing at a time. You must eat lunch and only eat lunch. Not eat lunch while working, or while checking Instagram, or while making a grocery list. Guilty, guilty, guilty.

This one-thing-at-a-time way of living would really slow me down. Yet I need very much to obey that inner voice, to actually attend to one thing at a time, to do slow so that I can live slow. It shouldn’t have to require me moving into a monastery. I should be able to live this slower and simplified life right here. Right? But it will cost. It will actually cost me not accomplishing as much as I want and feel I should. Slow will only BE in my life if I am willing to DO slow. Just like my stitches. Down, Up, down, up. One stitch at a time.

Love

We were out on our back deck, my youngest girl and I. At 15 years old she was texting her friends in and around our conversation over mason jars of water with lemon and strawberries. I picked up my stitching and put the needle into the fabric, pulling it through.

“Oh my…”

“What mom?”

“Why do I love that sound so much?”

“What sound?”

“The sound of a needle puncturing fabric and then the whoosh of it being drawn through?”

“I don’t know mom. I could look it up. It might be an obsession.”

After a bit of a chuckle, during which she just grinned at me, I thought well…perhaps it is so.

The thing is, I fall in love with stuff like this. With the sound of a paintbrush swishing around in water. The clickety-clack of knitting needles and the feel of yarn in my hands. It’s the process, always the process, that holds an enchantment quite apart from the finished work. This explains why I can be so pleased with what may be a bland end-product. It is the memory of each stroke, every stitch, how it felt, what was going on while it was being made…that ties my heart to it.

Obsession? Possibly. But I prefer to call it love.

Love in the stitched fabric of life…no matter the outcomes.

At the Crossroads

Creatively speaking, I seem to be at a crossroads often. I do not understand this about myself. It is cause for quite a lot of consternation. I have been actively and professionally making art for 20 years now. Mostly paintings and drawings. Knitting and crocheting are at least equal passions that I engage in daily and have done so for perhaps longer than the artwork. Tapestry weaving was a recent devotion. And now stitching. The kind that uses a small needle with embroidery threads, fabrics, ribbons and the like. Why can I not just stick with one thing? What do I make of this?

It is as if I walk along the creative path and come to this crossroads with numerous paths leading off in different directions. They all look so interesting and inviting and my curiosity is peaked and I can’t wait to sketch something out, or cast on or make a few stitches. Before I know it, I’m completely ensconced in an enchanted world and my hands and heart are full with merry making in whatever mediums that world offers.

I do not stay in that one world for long. I’m back at the crossroads walking down another lane, sometimes doing so numerous times in a single day. Painting and sketching in my sketchbook, knitting rows on a poncho design, a crocheted one too, and transferring a recent drawing to a collaged fabric fragment, ready for a simple embroidery stitch. Oh. My. Heart.

Each time I set off in a new direction, I want a clean slate, a wide open, airy space in which to work. Designating a blog entirely to that craft seems a perfect way to at least mentally have a little focus. Never mind that I have a main blog that attempts to cover them all, a blog for my pilgrim drawings, another for the grace of knitting. Somehow weaving escaped having its own blog. Perhaps it didn’t stick around long enough. It must’ve been a very short little trail off the beaten path. I don’t know. Truly it all baffles me.

But this stitching work has taken hold. I have tried, over the last couple of years to think  of it only as a side path, a small, every-now-and-then fascination.  Perhaps in a month or a year, I will be walking another, quite different creative path. But for now, I am captivated by these lines of stitches taken straight from my sketchbook, translated into stitches on collaged fabric fragments.

I want to hang out in this enchanted world of stitching for awhile, and to write about it. This blog feels like turning the page for a new chapter. It might be a short one. Or long. Who knows? All I know is that this stitching path feels right to me and I’m hearing a voice behind me saying, “Walk in it.”