Henry the eighth I am I am

Well, apart from the somewhat more than frustrating fact that my favourite person is too far away for my liking, things are going quite well around here. The thesis is progressing in its own inimitable way. Which means: sometimes fluently, sometimes excruciatingly. But it grows. Revising my latest chapter sometimes feels like putting gilded roofs onto a beautiful castle, and sometimes like attempting complicated surgery. The body of the chapter lies sprawled before me, broken and bloody, as I try to remember what I’m supposed to be doing to it.

When it all gets a bit too much, I do a bit of this:

I’ve been working on this for years, on and off, and I’ve still got a long way to go. I’ve nearly finished Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard, but there’s another four wives, as well as the border adorned with Tudor roses, and all the back-stitch and French knots and beads (yes!) to go on at the end. But there is something immensely calming about working on such a long term project. Especially as it involves no major decisions or structural problems. I follow the chart to the letter, and it comes together! I’ve worked on this cross-stitch in York, Leeds, Norway, Austria and Germany. The threads bind my life together.

This kind of thing reminds me of both my grandmas. My mum’s mum knits and makes bobbin lace. She also used to make lots of clothes for us, and several wedding dresses! (We’ve been informed homemade wedding dresses are no longer on the menu – fair enough too.) My dad’s mum has painted and dressed hundreds of china dolls, made many lovely teddy bears, embroidered huge tapestries, and now makes the most amazing quilts. As a young girl, I loved nothing better than sitting with one or other of them, tapestries or bobbin cushions on our laps, watching tennis on tv into the wee hours.

At about the age of fifteen, I decided craft was a waste of time, as I was an artist. Now I suspect the distinction between art and craft is not quite so clear. Even what I would regard as art involves a fair bit of craft – skill, and attention, and time. And, counted cross-stitches aside, much of what is called craft is actually art anyway. It’s nice to have it to turn to. I like the richness of the threads, the motion of the needle piercing cloth.

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5 thoughts on “Henry the eighth I am I am

  1. hello Meli,
    I have thought of you much over the last few weeks. Seeing Leeds on the train destinations was tempting, but sadly, just a little too far out of reach. I was so challenged by the lack of communication anyway, but next time I am going to hunt you down for a coffe!
    anyway: craft. The needlepoint is beautiful, and yes, to do them is calming, and I wish I had time. I have one I have had for ten years, every so often I pick it up and do a few stitches, I make it up as I go along. Its very peculiar looking. I see it as a piece which will accompany me through life…
    I thionk craft seems to be gaining an authority within the arts as something which is both memory-inspiring and affective, as well as something which demands time.

    glad the writing is going well. it will be a golden castle indeed.

    best wishes!

  2. thanks fifi! i’m glad you had such a nice trip. leeds isn’t the top of the list for tourist destinations… yes i saw the most incredible embroidery as part of the documenta: flowers and body parts and sea creatures, in very fine thread like pencil drawings.

  3. I too have worked on many stitcheries…
    The art craft debate…
    I have many moments in my painting – more as I get older – when the momentum is more meditative than manipulative…
    Does that mean more craft than art?
    I guess there’s no equivalent debate with writing…

  4. I don’t know… Much of writing is meditative as well. And… you repeat yourself all the time – formulae with variations. I’m realising this more as I teach and think in detail about the structures of paragraphs etc.

    Not sure where that leaves us.

  5. Pingback: Slowly « northern lights

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