Tuesday, August 31, 2010

india flint - BODO cloth

Old Indian pouch close-up.
A travelling friend brought me a wonderful old Indian pouch. I do not know what it would have been used for.  I look at the stitching, the thick thread, the regularity and detail. Who was it for? Why was it made? What conversations, hopes and hurts does it whisper? Then I contemplate the unravelled stitches. Like unravelling another history I wonder who, among my ancestors, stitched, hoped and dreamed for me? Who, long, long ago, prepared the world for my soul? Can I meet them through these Indian stitches? It seems some cloth is quite explicit in the history it carries. An example of this is the traditional Japanese BODO cloth.

I'd like talk further about india's fantastic posting on BODO cloth as I believe it has consequences that go to the heart of my creativity. When presented with such a rich and evocative article it is easy to feel bereft of tradition within our western culture. I have commented that I believe in order to have depth of understanding, empathy, rapport with (women) from diverse cultures, we, in the 'west', need first to plead our own traditions to ourselves. We need to seek them out and wear them as a badge of honour - our own identities. Even in a consumer driven culture we enact significant things that women have done for eons. Yet we feel we have no traditions. Or worse, shallow traditions. But are we really that skint?

It may be exceeding difficult, at first, to find depth of tradition within consumerist society. However, I am sure it is here.  Our own pearl, for each of us to find. I write this because my conviction that we need to uphold our own traditions, whether they be the way our table is set, or the how and why of gift giving, directly impacts creating storycloth. All we believe and do seeps into storycloth.

I see a political aspect to creating storycloth. I cannot avoid it. Through my creations I am making  political comment. The raven as trickster is not unlike consumerism where we are 'tricked' into thinking our existences are so shallow that we need to constantly replenish our souls with some tacky piece of plastic which promises to assuage our emptiness. Consequences meted out by Spirit Bear could be construed as political events. To varying degrees, each of us who makes cloth, creates with cloth, is stitching a testament to tradition and status, western or otherwise.

When faced with the rich, intriguing, seeming unattainable traditions of another culture I ask myself what portal of understanding can this open for me about my own traditions. What can I glean from this that will strengthen my ability to communicate my own depths of ancestral wisdom. As with the BODO cloth, I too, have a long, long unbroken chain of wisdom bearers from which to draw succour and strength. I, too, struggle to remember this truth. Yet I seek it further with each new stitch I make.

Happy stitching, Gilly


  1. interesting, thoughtful blog...love the link

  2. i have a couple of those pouches that i got in the north of pakistan. i was told or read that they were used by women to carry a few personal items... tobacco being one or beetle nut. the stitching on yours looks like the stitching on mine!i feel so lucky to have these items hand made by women for women.

  3. I too believe hand made is a political act. I´m thinking these days that the only effective political statements are actions. from storytelling I have learnt to look for the actions behind the words.

  4. I think everything we do as we live our lives is a political act. The food we choose to eat, where we buy our clothes or if we make our clothes, how we get to work, what we do with our time...the list could go on and on.

    I really like what you have written here.

  5. i agree deb, i have never thought of myself as political but now i realize that i am in my choices... the food id a big one. i buy locally as much as i can. and time too. we have not had a tele for 20 years. its the little daily acts that make the big difference... i believe that peace truly begins with me and each of us.

  6. Hi ff - thank you and I am very glad you found this interesting and thoughtful. I am trying!

    Oh Nandas - thankyou - I, too, feel very priveleged. And I must call my friend to be reminded exactly where she came across it.

    Interesting Manya - I am wondering what eaxactly you mean by 'actions' in this sense. I understand activism, but I think you may be referring to something more?

    Deb and Nandas - yes, I concur - every action is political. Thus , every word we write...

  7. I have read the post on the BOdo which had a link to your blog which when reading conjured up thoughts of where I have come to this creativity that I live with every day. I am an artist and even though I am only new to the idea of using needle and thread I have been throwing around ideas in my mind about all the clothes I have that I no longer wish to keep. I had considered doing paintings with cloth by glueing them onto the canvas and I have now changed to the idea of the sewing. So now my thoughts have centered on the history of sewing in my family and I know that my mother sewed all of mine and my sisters clothes when we traveled from places abroad to the US and back. I know that my grandmother sewed some clothes for us also until arthritis took over her hands and I sit here realizing i have this overwhelming desire to have some of those items but upon realizing I have nothing from my childhood that my mother or grandmother sewed i have a great sense of loss. Just knowing that they sewed it would give me something to hold on to. My mother always sold old items in yard sales and never seemed nostalgic about holding onto anything. I will have to ask her soon if she still has anything that she sewed. I don't think that she sews any more. I guess why I mention this is that when i treasure hunt in the many thrift stores that I go too, I am generally drawn to textures and fabrics and anything that looks handmade. Pieces of crocheted laces or intricate pieces of fabric and if I on the rare occasion spy a hand made quilt I snap it up even though it is warn and am so moved by all the work that goes into it. I am so shocked usually that someone discarded it and I feel compelled to give it a proper home. This connection I believe with the maker is what I seem to long for. Knowing that when someone sits and sews and puts needle and thread to cloth there is so much more that seems infused into the final work that I can't help but want to be a part of that. I want to pass this along to my daughter who is another one that discards old items with no sentiment for where it came from or from whom it came. Perhaps I can inspire her with a gift from me. Anyway forgive the length of this comment. Your writing inspired it. Thank you for letting me see your words and share them. :)

  8. Hi Dreamer, thank you for this wonderful selection of your thoughts regarding cloth and the stitcher. I feel priveleged. I have been thinking about your words overnight and think you may already know what you want to do regarding cloth, and I encourage you on your journey. You recognise the value in hand made works and I think you will pass that undertsanding on to others, with sensitivity. I hope you will post your sewing. Thanks, Gilly x

  9. I like your ideas - cloth can evoke so much.

  10. I love what you have to say about claiming our own heritage, our own culture, before delving into other cultures that may seem so much richer than our own. We do have a deep and rich culture, but because it surrounds us we can't really see it. I was born in 1956 and grew up in rural Texas. I come from a rural, poor, white, Southern culture. My childhood was spent surrounded by women who stitched everything from underwear to quilts to upholstery covers and window shades. They didn't use patterns, instead relying on their own sense of proportion, color and line. What they made was, in every sense, art. It's all gone, tossed away by granddaughters who buy their dry goods at the store. But those cloths bind my heart to my heritage. I am not good enough to call myself an artist, but I am working. I hope more of us, younger women especially, can find the beauty and grace in our own history and the stories of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers and the marks they made on cloth.