~FAMILY JEWELS . . . PERUVIAN WEAVING . . at home
or: WHAT I DO . . . !!
DEDICATED TO: TRACEY EMIN. (I’ll tell you why – next post. 2 hints: ‘STRANGELAND’ & QUILTS !!)
I like to go out and see art. that’s why I live in New York City. all kinds of art.
I like to photograph what I see as a record – and I guess my photographs are informed by my artist light-seeking eye.
for many years my art journeys used to inform my watercolors, and then since 2005 . . . they began to inform a web blog, my ‘blog’, horrible word. this page – aka artlovers.
but they also, these journeys, they also . . . inspire my ‘repairs’.
usually I repair quilts – American quilts of any kind, in any way . . . that makes that quilt strong enough to see another hundred years. and yet also resonate with the spirit and intentions of the original, mostly anonymous maker.
just as no quilt repeats another, neither does the repair.
I have been doing this since the 80s when I arrived in New York, and vintage quilts were easily found, maybe tattered, maybe torn, often stained – but cheap !! in the thrift shops that used to dot the Lower East Side, when Basquiat and Haring ruled.
I am self-taught.
I came to New York from Montreal, Quebec, French Canada, though I am most definitely NOT of French heritage. where there was NO history, NO tradition of quilt making. at all. period. end of story.
I guess they used furs !!
maybe it was the lure of the unknown, maybe it was the young family I had just begun to raise, who needed bed covers, warmth, and as much magic, spiritual protection – as I could find them. maybe it was a rage against the ‘scene’, maybe it was intellectual revolt against acrylic paint, big paintings, big egos, staged photographs, too much theory. maybe it was my just . . . my kind of ‘appropriation’ ?
maybe it was simply a love of history, and ‘recording’, archiving. maybe it was a heightened sense of the fast fleetingness of our specific times and, in general: of life. maybe it was a nod to the rich colonial, (woman’s) history of the new land I had just immigrated to. maybe it was just ancient ‘knowing’ running through my fingers . . . my friend Dan Asher caught the last giant icebergs, I rescued the thrown-out quilts. Alfredo did the guns, I did the quilts.
America in a nutshell.
ever heard of the perfect storm – well, I am the perfect outsider.
usually I just say: I repair quilts.
but really, I restore ‘artifacts’. in a most serious, and absolutely sensuous, hand-stitched way.
yep, all by hand. stitch by stitch. by stitch. the quiet skills, woman’s workmanship. preservation, timelessness. stories to discover, stories to tell, sentiments on pass on. memories. not quite Russian Imperial miniatures . . but getting close. Amish diamonds, colonial bear paws, flocks of flying geese. Baltimore album quilts, Gee’s Bend work denims. Texas Lone stars and Appalachian Double Wedding Rings. Trees of Life and trees of thorns. Drunkard’s Path.
the backside, under a sewn-on patch or ribbon – showing the damage-control.
some pieces need a lot of stitching, some: just a little. some take years, esp if you are addressing dye ‘drop-out’- or, if you need to ‘re-quilt’ the whole thing. could be up to 2 years on one project – and some, well they – take just a week.
some like this one, just sit there for decades, till the right moment – strikes.
people don’t usually get what I mean by ‘repair’, and they sometimes don’t get what I mean when I say . . . my art journeys inspire this repair. there is a dialog between what I see and what I do.
mostly, they can’t make the leap to what a ‘photog’ . . . could know about ‘handiwork’ skills. people really like to peg you. in.
mostly, the art part – goes right over their heads.
so this is a little ‘blog’ journey that came to mind . . to illustrate what happens when I see art, as in when I go to an exhibit, that then works it’s way into . . . MY photos and MY artworks, and in specific – what happened when I saw the Faberge show at the MET, this past summer 2012.
it’s mostly about c-o-l-o-r. jewel tones, rainbow tones, color. hue.
then, it’s about a craftsmanship. history. beautiful old things that speak to us. endurance. expression. narrative. poetry.
if yin is to yang, than skills . . . are to sex ?
passion, love. drive and desire. little rocking boats – on big moonlit Greek seas.
(that’s the Tracey part !!).
I think it kinda speaks for itself, but here’s a little helpful text.
this is my ‘repair’ of a old vintage Peruvian weaving. I had it lying around with a little bit of damage in tiny parts – since the 70s, when I had acquired it directly from a friend who had just returned from a trek in the Andes in 1970. yes 1970. and it was already old, vintage at that point, 40 years ago.
you can tell from the fine, ‘miniature’ weave patterns and warp threads, the quality of the brilliant yet dark earthy hues . . . of the splendid multi-range hand-made dyes, and in the very fineness (!!) of the cloth itself.
the only thing separating it from the wondrous, exquisite . . . timeless beauty and workmanship of the Faberge Russian Imperial jewel work – is that the workmaster’s ‘name’ is unknown. at one time the weaver’s individual ‘signature’ was probably known and incorporated into the pattern – but that knowledge – oral history, has long been lost. there is probably a record of the village and of the decade – of the maker’s origin, but no record of the specific maker, herself. yes, another difference . . . these weave dream masters – were women. yes, of course – women wove these.
but treasured they were, even way long ago.
it’s said these intricate and endlessly various in pattern, native Peruvian Indian woven textiles were considered by the ruling Incas – more precious than even the gold the Spainards sought. they were treasured just like the Russian czars treasured their tiny wrought Faberge.
ok. back to the ‘repair’.
that is one of my vintage ribbons, ‘gems’ really, carefully foraged through the years – though most of the best and most ‘treasured’ are from Broadway below Houston back in the day – when ancient old wood floor creakin’ dry goods stores lined the street. they had stuff like, like real pearl buttons and calico trimmings, straight out out of HOME ON THE PRAIRIE, and I’m not kidding. they lasted so long, and then they were gone. . . H&M, PUMA and OLD NAVY, now.
precious vintage ribbons and patches that jump up, me me me !! – from the small collection stored in old biscuit tins and shoeboxes all around me. my ‘gems’. my precious ‘hoardings’. talk about quatre-couleur gold !!
I kept the ‘repair’ to a minimum – just over the few 5 or so, unraveled parts. just to make it strong for use again, plug up the holes. stop the wear. but it’s such a marvel to begin with. . so well-made, so strong and durable for such a finely boned textile. from the get-go.
obvious: the sense of history was just as pervasive as the skills. Faberge. touche.
sorry don’t know how to make French accents on this keyboard.
of course, I’m also interested in the HISTORY.
the history of the thing I photograph, record/preserve, whether really old or bleeding cutting edge . . . as well as the: man-made accomplishment.
these ponchos, and blankets of Peru were made by descendants of the Inca empire – who bye the way have the longest continuous textile record in the world, and knew of every kind of weaving technology there is know worldwide, under the sun – though mostly they are masters of what they call: back strap looms.
this is one is particularly fine. it is the kind of ‘artifact’ and ‘story teller’ that is handed down generation to generation, just like our quilts often are. it is, like all traditional Peruvian textiles – hand-spun and hand-dyed. the colors are like the rainbow. and are all plant derived. this alone speaks to great and ancient knowledge.
it is said the Inca nobility had storerooms full of these weavings, which they had gathered, and traded for, and demanded from . . the native Indian tribes they ruled . . . and that they treasured them so much – it’s said, they only wore each . . . once, and then put it away, and even if that’s just legend or metaphor, it speaks volumes.
and yes, they treasured them so much, they wrapped themselves up in their favorite weaving – for that final ride into the sunset – also known as: the journey to the afterlife.
the afterlife. there it is. google it. Incas. burial rites.
so you know what I felt – when I read that !! walk like an Egyptian.
not to mention – how absolutely wild, and TRIPPY – it would be to live, and weave all day !! up in the mystery, drama, and magic of the Andes. where it’s said they have more stars in one night – than we have in a year, well that’s what they say.
I believe this is what they call a K’eperina – a large rectangle ‘carrying’ cloth worn by women over the back and knotted in the front, into which children and goods are securely held.
‘WHAT I DO’ – ESSAY on MY (!!) ARTWORK – NANCY SMITH, SEPT 10, 2012. NYC.
TOP PHOTO/ARTWORK: FABERGE FROM THE MATILDA GEDDINGS GRAY FOUNDATION COLLECTION – NOW ON VIEW AT THE MET
ARTWORK: HAND-STITCHED REPAIR OF A VINTAGE PERUVIAN K’EPERINA – BY NANCY SMITH
ALL PHOTOS: NANCY SMITH
watch: TRADITIONAL PERUVIAN WEAVING