Nowhere on the Horizon

I want to thank my readers for sticking with me despite my negligence in posting the past few weeks. Almost immediately after I finished dealing with all the holiday happenings and the post-holiday take down, I was viciously attacked by a nasty flu bug bent on world domination… or, well, at least the domination of my immune system. After almost a week of full on war, the entire flu army has been obliterated. Somewhere in my sinuses there are still bits of mutilated flu bodies scattered around, and on a cell wall is a photo of some of my white blood cells in combat fatigues and helmets, climbing over a tonsil and raising the flag of victory.

Now that life is settling back into it’s normal rhythm, I’m back to work, sewing away. I’ve been doing most of my work on the Nowhere Man.  Have a look at what I have been up to:

Adding the second later of diamonds...

Rather than applique the star onto the back of the jacket, I decided to replace the entire back panel. I ended up using one of my collector knives as a seam ripper because I had lost mine. It actually worked rather well, however I did get a proper seam ripper as a replacement for Christmas.
I wanted to replace the entirety of the back panel, so, it’s obvious that I needed to add more diamond layers. One thing I would like to point out now that ended up turning into a huge pain later on: Do you see how the original panel is sewn together in 3 sections? Notice how they are curved? It’s a seam trick that makes the garment a little more form fitting — this is a woman’s jacket afterall. It also does not allow the fabric to lay 100% flat, there is an ever so slight curvature to it. With the way the star is put together and laid out, I can’t very well replicate those panel sections. So, I had to alter the shape of the entire back somewhat to accommodate my design.
I toyed around with the idea of orienting the star in such a way as to designate the cardinal directions (North, South, East, West) in red and using the grey for NNW, NNE and the like.  I also, ultimately, wasn’t able to do this either once my star was big enough to cover the majority of the back.
All the diamonds come from old jeans. The bigger chunks of denim come from scrap material left over from when I made myself a pair of bell bottoms 4 years ago. I save everything. I have some scraps of fabric I have been toting around since 8th grade that I’m still not sure how I will use. Maybe someday I’ll make some twined rag rugs or maybe I’ll get really industrious and use the smallest bits of fiber to make my own paper. I don’t put it past myself. The point is, I do not want to waste anything if I can at all help it.
Right now, I am actually in the process of installing the new “Nowhere Man” panel into the jacket. I still need to pick up some more yellow denim thread to do this properly, so all the current stitches are just temporary stay stitches. Something else that’s going to be super fun (and a super pain in the butt): Do you notice how those big chunks of new denim are so much lighter cleaner than the rest of the jacket? Left alone, it probably won’t look right once the installation is done. That’s right… I’m going to have to manually age/dirty those sections so it’ll fit into the surroundings better.  That’s something I have never done before.. so, on one hand, I am excited. On the other, I am nervous and worried that I might end up ruining this piece that I have spent so many hours toiling over. This is how I learn though, I play around and experiment.

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The Original Lord of the Dance (Stand aside Michael Flatley)

Last week I talked about the Batman quilt I am making for my brother, and I mentioned how it all started with that center panel. Well, I have an idea for my next quilt, and the concept is similar. I have another centerpiece that I need to design around. I don’t know where it originated, but I stumbled upon it at the Goodwill in Champaign, IL.

This is the Nataraja. The name comes from the words nadanam, meaning “dance” and raja, meaning “lord” or “king”. The image is of the Hindu god Shiva dancing tandava, which has the power to destroy and re-create the universe.

Now, I am not Hindu, in fact, the only thing I ever learned in High School about Shiva was that he is “The Destroyer” and is part of the trinity in Hinduism (Brahma – The Creator, Vishnu – The Preserver, and Shiva – The Destroyer) and that he pretty much just tore up the universe and was this destructive force. I have, however, done my own research and reading since then.. and I find the legends and the stories fascinating, and just because I may not worship a particular deity, does not mean I shouldn’t treat it with proper respect.
And so it is that while wanting to incorporate this Nataraja panel into a quilt, I feel I should approach the design with that respect in mind. What kinds of symbols are important? Are there any mantras or poojas (prayers) that belong to him that would be appropriate to applique somewhere? Being the script lover I am, I think it would be beautiful to try to work some text into the design.. but I want to make sure it’s appropriate before I just do it. So, I’ve been trying to do some research this afternoon, trying to learn more about Shiva and the tandava dance.

Here are the basic characteristics of the nataraja, according to Source 4:

Though there are minor variations, the characteristic features of Nataraj are as follows: he is shown with four hands, two on either side. The upper left hand holds a flame, the lower left hand points down to the demon Muyalaka, who is shown holding a cobra. The demon is being crushed by Shiva’s right foot; the other foot is raised. The upper right hand holds a drum, the lower one is in the abhaymudra, ‘be without fear’. Shiva’s hair is braided and jewelled, but some of his locks whirl as he dances; within the folds of his hair are a wreathing cobra, a skull, and the figure of Ganga. The entire figure stands on a lotus pedestal and is fringed by a circle of flames, which are touched by the hands holding the drum and the fire.

There is so much symbolism in that image alone, and because I do want the image to be the central focus, I want to be careful not to make the background too busy.  Here are a couple of very simple concept drawings:

With this first concept, I am considering the fact that Shiva brings about both creation and destruction. One corner begins as solid blue and increasingly breaks apart (becomes destroyed) as it moves closer toward the center (where Shiva is). As it progresses onward toward the other corner, pieces of pink begin to form, solidifying more as you arrive at the bottom corner (something new has been created). I chose the colors blue and pink not only because they are present in the panel and will look nice, but also because Shiva in one sense (Ardhanareeswara)  is also both male and female.^3   I have also put columns on either side of the main panel where I might be able to incorporate appropriate text (depending on space, this could be appliqued or embroidered).

This second concept incorporates some other symbols related to Shiva. Specifically, he has a crescent moon on his head from which the Ganga (the Ganges River) is supposed to flow. According to source 3:

Shiva bears on his head the crescent of the panchami (fifth day) moon. This is placed near the fiery third eye and this shows the power of Soma, the sacrificial offering, which is the representative of moon. It means that Shiva possesses the power of procreation along with the power of destruction. The moon is also a measure of time, thus Crescent also represent his control over time.

The other symbol is the snake, which Shiva wears as a necklace (though in the nataraja images the snake is around his waist). This is supposed to signify that:

Shiva is beyond the powers of death and is often the sole support in case of distress. He swallowed the poison kalketu for the wellbeing of the Universe. The deadly cobra represents that “death” aspect that Shiva has thoroughly conquered. The cobras around his neck also represent the dormant energy, called Kundalini, the serpent power. The snake curled three times around the neck of Lord Shiva depicts the past, present and future time. The snake looking in the right direction of Lord Shiva signifies that the Lord’s perpetual laws of reason and justice preserve natural order in the universe.

As yet I am not entirely satisfied with either of my concepts, but it is a starting point. I’m now more interested in doing this quilt than I was previously… I have always been keenly fascinated by duality- good/evil, creation/destruction..    and I find it a fitting link to the fact that a lot of the textile work I do involves creating new projects from old clothes or other fabrics.. destroying several pairs of jeans to cut out small diamond pieces and shaping them into a star, tearing apart an old dress and re-inventing it with some lace.

Sources

1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bksp8mpTeYY – A basic intro video about Lord Shiva

2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nataraja – The Wiki article about the Nataraja (Shiva in his dancing form)

3) http://www.mahashivratri.org / – A very informative site with legends and festival info as well.

4) http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/southasia/Religions/Avatars/Natar.html – The main site itself provides a wide variety of information about India, on everything from religion to social issues to history to the diaspora. Very good, and created by a History Professor at UCLA.

5) http://www.deeshaa.org/tandava-shivas-cosmic-dance/ – A blog post which breaks down Shiva and Nataraja in such a way that it is easily understandable by someone not totally knowledgeable about him (i.e. Me).

 

Reigning in the Muse

It is the curse of the creative mind to constantly be thinking about the next project. Inspiration is always showing itself to me and my mind plays around with all kinds of new scenarios. I might see some new fabric or an old jacket and can just see how these items can be used to give life to new art or some new purpose. And yet, I must be self-disciplined to not simply jump in and start some new project each time the muse strikes me. Otherwise the projects I have already begun will never be finished and my room will become overcrowded with newly started works in progress.
As of this moment, I have 3 projects I am working on.. the Nowhere Man I talked about last week, a double knit scarf and a quilt I started last year that was intended to be my brother’s Christmas present.  Maybe he’ll get it this year… maybe.  Since I am reigning in my muse and not starting anything new until this is completed, here is the progress of my quilt (don’t worry, I’ve already shown it to my brother, he likes it and is anxiously awaiting it’s completion. lol):

Playing around with design schemes..

This is actually my mother’s fault. I had found this Batman panel of fabric and had originally thought to make a simple wall hanging out of it for my brother, because he loves Batman. I asked my mother what she thought and she said, “well, you know, he needs a new blanket..”.  And so, I got to work trying to create an original design that incorporated the panel but made it a central focus rather than taking away from it.

The final design

And I set to work cutting out the pieces, after doing some math and figuring how many inches each of the squares on the graph paper were supposed to equal.

Organizing the cut pieces

This is the quilt entirely pieced together.  I machine pieced it, but am hand quilting it. This is also my first quilt.. and I had no idea just how long and tedious the process is.

To give you some idea, the bed which it is draped over is queen sized.

All that is really left is to applique the little bats in the corners (in the yellow.. the corners are meant to resemble the bat signal that would appear in the sky that called Batman into action). After that, I will finally be able to ship it to my brother and begin the next quilt. 🙂