Now and Then #1 a reversible improvisational quilt by Maggie Winnall
This is my story
To celebrate words
To stitch a song for Ms. Morrison,
Leonard and Bob.
For winners and for literature.
Song and dance man
Living with lyrics
Lines emerge in a pulse
City of rhythm
An engine turns over.
© Maggie Winnall
I’m practising my learning curves, in more ways than one. Literally in the sense of stitching curved shapes together and metaphorically to practice and learn to be humble in the face of mastery. That I somehow expect to be able to just do things without any sweat or toil or effort …. that it will all fall into my lap as a gift… but the gift is really the learning curve…. sometimes you just have to admit that it’s not as straightforward as you think. The dilemma of constructing the #State of Mind Map ‘bubbles’ has to be resolved.
This is why you have been dragging your feet, because you don’t know how to do it! Contrary to what your head is telling you, which is to work it out in your mind’s eye and visualise the end result. You know by now that all the mental planning is aiming for the perfect result and is nothing like how it will be in reality. Thanks to my Coach for this prompt, that if you know what it’s going to be like, there is no room for surprise and this is what we want after all.
So I’ve humbled to the process to practice a technical skill at which I will improve, the more I practice. Practice makes perfect …. that word again… practice makes better, improved, growing, good enough. There, that’s better, new and improved iterations of curves and learning how to stitch them together. I have a book that escaped the book cull of last year, which has instructions on how to do the same. It’s all about notches, lining up the edges, marking them so the edges match and easing the concave side to fit the convex side. The first attempt ended up with little gathers, which became tiny pleats when I pressed the cloth flat. Still, there are more to make and it will become easier.
I tidied the table and was left with a pile of cloth that I don’t know what to do with, so these bits and pieces will be used for my #learning curves. It will be fun to see them pile up and improve, be surprised at how they look together.
A “Mantra” is a sacred utterance , a numinous sound, a syllable, word or phonemes or group to words in Sanskrit believed by practitioners to have psychological and spiritual powers. A mantra may or may not have syntactic structure or literal meaning. WIKEPEDIA.
Hands up if you read this definition of mantra and understood it, straight away ? No need to read further! Go and put your feet up and relax with a cuppa……for this is my quest to find out exactly the meaning of ‘mantra’, what I think it is v what it actually is.
So here goes, I’ll share my version : ‘ Mantra – is a saying – an ethos/ a repetition of words that endorse an idea/ a belief/ feeling/ philosophy.’
Then I read the definition above which sent me thumbing through the dictionary. First up, I do not know what ‘numinous’, ‘syntactic’, or ‘phoneme’ mean.
They are technical words and sound scientific. Even now after I have learned their meanings, I keep reading to grasp some understanding.
‘Numinous‘ means to have a strong spiritual or religious quality and suggest the presence of the divine.
‘Syntactic‘ relates to Syntax which is the arrangement of words and phrases to create well formed sentences. It also has a meaning relating to computers, which is where the scientific part appears.
‘Phoneme‘ is a sound which is distinctive when heard amongst other similar sounds, the example given was this: ‘pat, pad, bat, bad ‘ a bit like a tongue twister I think.
The Official Version :‘
Mantra’ originates from the late 18th century: Sanskrit, literally ‘a thought, thought behind speech or action’, from man- ‘think’, related to ‘mind’ and as a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation, originally in Hinduism and Buddhism.
“a mantra is given to a trainee meditator when his teacher initiates him”
* a Vedic hymn.
“her high, sweet voice began chanting the mantra of life”
* a statement or slogan repeated frequently.
“the environmental mantra that energy has for too long been too cheap”
I was right about the ‘repetition of words that endorse an idea’ which is described as a ‘slogan’ above and so off the mark with the rest. A mantra seems to be much more than endorsing a belief, this I think is an affirmation, it seems to be much more than endorsing a philosophy, if the first description above is to be believed, a mantra it seems, holds a powerful energy.
So I did some research.
Transcendental Meditation is the meditation practice that uses mantras. It is a technique for avoiding distracting thoughts and promoting a state of relaxed awareness. The late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi derived Transcendental Meditation from the ancient Vedic tradition of India. He brought the technique to the U.S. in the 1960s. Practitioners are given their own personal mantra to chant. The mantra has no specific meaning per se, it is a sound to focus on as it is repeated over and over. Film maker, David Lynch practices Transcendental Meditation and travels the world to promote it, he does Q&A’s for the curious and his talks are interesting.
So if a mantra is a repeated sound then what is cloth when it repeats itself? It is a pattern. in music it’s a riff, rhythm. A mantra has the edge, as it has a numinous quality, but then so can stitching, so can writing, it all depends how deep you go into it, how focused and intent you become, whether you reach the flow state.
The emphasis is on repetition, and like anything you repeat, in action, like sewing, like learning to write, doing the same thing over and over, you get into a rhythm and improve as you go, You become familiar with the process and as you move more into it, you notice and learn, make observations, notice changes. Is this what it’s like to repeat your mantra?
As I begin my ‘Word’ State of Mind Map, logic tells me to start at the centre and to follow the way it was drawn. For some reason though, ‘prayer’ keeps pushing itself forward as the first contender. Going to and fro, from the centre to the side, considering the technicalities of how the words and fabric will connect, I realise that prayer is calling, quite definitely.
So who am I to argue? To work from intuition is to learn to listen to that inner voice and to recognise prompts from other sources.
As a child I recited prayers in English, ‘Our Father, who art in …’ in Welsh ‘O dad yn deuly dedwith…’. School was the one and only place I encountered religion. I didn’t consider prayer to be anything special, it was a bundle of words, like a poem or like reciting the times table.
As an adult though, being outside a religious system, the ritual around prayer and worship has held a fascination, being mysterious, appealing. But it what was something other people did. So that day, in the kundalini yoga class, it was the sweetest revelation, to find myself in prayer ! where the session began with ‘Om namo, guru dev namo’, with singing sprinkled between the poses, then a prayer to close.
Another beautiful introduction to prayer is in ‘The Lotus and The Lily’ by Janet Connor. She leads a process for you to create your own offering. It took quite some time to form my first prayer, it seemed so taboo, even in a world where most probably, the majority of people are praying to one god or another.
I was sorting through my postcard collection, when I came across this card of Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha, three Hindu deities. Lord Ganesha is the remover of obstacles, to whom the Hindus pray at the start of a project. It is encouraging to me, that there is a concept acknowledging the struggles that occur in creativity which can be addressed by prayer and ritual. Here is a recording of a Temple Priest singing to Ganesha. I can’t decipher or understand the words, and I quite like that, just to listen to the voice as an instrument.
Hand stitching is a meditative experience. I pray regularly as well, before yoga and then afterwards with my own fashioned prayer. So it makes sense that ‘prayer’ is the opening word to be stitched, to start the work as it is to go on.
Thank you for visiting and I hope you have a prayerful day.
2016 was my Year of Finishing. I completed projects I started, by the book, by ecourse and online challenges. I learned to follow through on commitments yes, but possibly compromising a sense of autonomy ? I like to think of it as training in life skills that up to now have eluded me.
Here’s what I have done and what I’ve learned.
January I completed a commission for my number one collector.
February I completed Cynthia Morris’ Free Write Fling*, an online writing class, Free writing everyday for 28 days. My coveted reward for everyday writing was a copy of ‘Cross the Finish Line’ : Overcoming The Hurdles to Completion’ Cynthia ‘s excellent e-book.
I simultaneously worked through ‘The Lotus and The Lily’ by Janet Connor, a spiritual guide book to help define your year ahead using journaling and the exercises provided. This is a thirty day process which is drawn from both Christianity and Buddhism . For me it was an introduction into prayer also . I did ‘The Lotus and The Lily’ in 2015 but didn’t complete with the final flourish, to create an personal mandala. I created a beautiful mandala for 2016.
In March I worked from Marie Kondo book **** ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying’ I finished the clothes part of the process, edited my book collection and worked half way through the ‘papers’ section. I can testify to her methods because since then, I only wear clothes that I love and the drawers are always neat and tidily folded. I can find everything!
Then I moved onto the studio and on a whim, I decided to make a sewing table with drawers. I cut a table top in half lengthways , lined up both sides together sandwiching wood batons between them along three sides. With some random pieces of wood that I found in the studio, and some Left over peg board, I made the drawers. Then added legs with swivel wheels and brakes. The process was organic, intuitive, I worked it out as I went along. I love this way of working. I can’t help but think this spontaneity might have to be reined in, if I am to create some big work next year. My reward for finishing the table was a trip away to see my son and his beautiful family.
Next up was the #100 Day Project*** in April which I was wary of starting because I stopped at 80 days in 2015. I was wracked with shame since I failed to complete 2015. Beginning to think about doing the project activated the inner critic big time. So I Free wrote the objections ( see the knock on benefits of the Free writing class ? ) I countered each one and came up with a plan.
My solution was to keep my project simple, do-able and within the same format, every day. I even took my pieces of cloth away to Corfu in July. My strategy worked and I completed all 100 pieces, on time.
Another class I had started and failed in 2015, The Focus Course** resumed in July. I joined in with this and bingo! Another success. This forty day class has daily actions to learn the elements of focus as to be applied to any area of your life. Shawn Blanc takes the best from self help books and presents a daily program to help you discern and activate your priorities.
In June I completed my Grandson Zac’s quilt, which was lovely experience to use saturated colour and lively pattern, keeping his personality in mind as I worked.
This bring us up to October and I joined Ms Morris*and friends for another Free Write Fling. This time I concentrated my Free Writes on my #State of Mind Map project, exploring topics that I want to share. Octobers’ class morphed into an add on program, ‘Write On !’ During November and beginning December. It is set up to take your writing practice to another level. Write On! is writing with a single focused project in mind. It is the perfect place to begin to learn your own writing process , ( if you don’t already have one). Who knew it could be so dramatic ? Life participated in the program also, uniquely showing up for each of us. It was encouraging to see how every one rose up and rode out challenges. The level of accountability intensified ( for me) the challenges and made me face them – which I would not otherwise have done.
And the good news, I stuck with it and learned so much. So much. The level of accountability and support from the participants and Cynthias presence and attention, really does help to keep your project in mind. As I hinted above so many diversions raised their ugly heads, and in times past I would have succumbed and abandoned every thing.
What have I learned?
That to complete a project brings the lasting reward of quiet confidence. Lasting, because it does make your heart stronger and give you courage to commit to progress in the things that matter.
When you repeat an experience, it deepens your learning to the point where your find own way of doing things. You find your process. That these teachings can be revisited time after time and you can fine tune your learning.
Online classes have a greater level of sustainability than learning from a book. Probably because you receive the benefit of the presence and participation of the course leader. I’m sure Marie Kondo’s clients keep on top of their tidy spaces because they have benefitted from her direct help. Although it’s fair to say that what I did complete from ‘The Magic of Tidying’ has remained with me. This just needs to be revisited, is all and will in the new year. And isn’t it that decluttering is a perennial challenge anyway ? At any rate, learning is best from experts and the internet brings access to these.
You meet some amazing class mates, who support, help and encourage you along the way.
And most of all the investment in your time and effort is well worth it. Having the level of accountability from the group, coupled with your financial investment, makes you want to do well. It debunks my laissez faire attitude of not needing accountability, that actually given all that I completed this year, accountability can work.
I learned that I can focus, but only on one thing at a time. 2017’s activity is to rinse and repeat and to merge all of the above, to blend my activities into a shorter time frame, instead of spanning the year.
It sounds like a routine is approaching…..big booming footsteps on the horizon with a giant clipboard in hand ….with ‘TIDY’ heading the list.
*Writing my year review was inspired by Cynthia Morris, you can read about her jammed packed year and her courses – here.
** Shawn Blanc and the Focus Course starts again soon,
*** The Hundred Day Project was set up by Elle Luna, I expect it will resume in April, look out for it on Instagram.
**** And finally If you’re planning to start a new year Tidy Up you can get Marie Kondos book, come back to check my clear up progress to prepare for my #State of Mind Map project and let me know how you’re getting along also.
Ps. Last but not least ‘The Lotus and The Lily’ by Janet Connor. And it strikes me that all these topics, books, courses, present the same message in different packaging. To keep on keeping on.
#State of Mind Map is my new textile art series. It is inspired by journal writing and the visual representation of words.It builds on two 100 Day Projects, #100 Days of Beautiful Words and #100 Day Result, my Affirmative Applique Oyster/Card series and my #Yes I Can mini quilts.
They all use hand cut fabric letters with machine or hand stitch embellishment and express a cheerful side, to reach the beauty in life.
Nothing beats the first time thrill of recognising the vibrant beauty of colour as laid out in that box of wax crayons, aged four. Each #State of Mind Map starts as a quick draw pen on paper association to the key words :’word’, ‘cloth’, ‘colour’, which I see as defining aspects of my work. Working with colour now is to strive to recreate that moment over and over.
With my foot on the treadle, power stitching, as the fabric surface is transformed with coloured thread, the sewing machine becomes a painting tool, Cloth as a medium provides colour in swathes, it is familiar, comforting and versatile. It can be worked in a whole host of ways, dyed, printed, painted, cut, burnt, fused, sculpted, quilted, embroidered, stitched, by hand or machine.
And Words, well they bring their own love, their own salvation. During the period in my life when I turned away from visual art, I invested my creative energy into journal writing. Words became my expressive outlet and my teachers.
So far I’ve been working from the pen and paper mind map you see above, writing about the topics first, then responding with needle and thread. This is my process for the first piece and begins with ‘words’. It is to identify what they mean to me, it is pausing to take the time to look at the word associations I quickly reeled off, to go a little deeper.
So it’s now time to learn some more, with words in glorious technicolor and fabric and stitch. I invite you to see how it all unfolds.
I was mentally searching for the right word to put on here. I found ‘grow’ among my box of tricks. I had a choice of pink or green/white. ‘The right words at the right time’ you’d be mine’ Lyrics from Tracy Chapman float into my head.
I like how the densely stitched shapes create an undulating surface. The bicolour letters blend in and out of the back ground colour. Not too obvious.
Initially the letters were fed into the sewing machine , one snapped needle later and a chorus of profanity I decide it’s better to hand stitch through the layers.
I love the sensation of stitching into quilted cloth. it’s meaty as the needle sinks in, passes through and the tug of thread as it tails out, tautens, comes to a halt.
As I stitch all manner of thoughts come and go.. It creates a space to think, the hands are occupied .
Four more letters towards my #44lettersmore project. I have 30 letters so far. I’m unsure if these are done , they might need something a little darker. Also my spectacles crashed to the floor and split in two. So I’m working with an older pair… This might explain a lot .