LayersOfMeaning – 2005

June 2005


Layers of Meaning was my blog on art, design and textiles.  It was active mostly between 2001-2007. This period  was in infancy of blogging. The earliest pages were written on a blogging platform created as an experiment by a local college.  The software eventually collapsed and two years of writing vanished into the ether.  The entries shown below are a snapshot of one month  in 2005.
See more at the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine

Singer Teachers Textbook Of Machine Sewing

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

The First Practical Sewing Machine, 1851The Singer Teachers Textbook Of Machine Sewing is now mine. I didnt realize that I craved it at first. I read several pages of it in a bookstore, but didnt buy the book then. I have reflected remorsefully at this lost manual, so I went back today and made the deal. Its mine!

The first edition of this book came out in 1915. The book begins with the treadle machine and moves through many of the various Singer sewing machines until 1951. Use and maintenance of all the machines is covered, as well as all of the attachments that were made over the years.

The picture opposite is from the book, and is entitled The First Practical Sewing Machine, 1851. They dont mention how it was powered (steam? coal? treadle, with the works hidden within the box?) or the sounds that it made. (click picture for a larger image)

The section on the vibrating shuttle machine caught me immediately. A other curious people few folks have written me (with questions) about the vibrating shuttle machine. For them, I now present the very short Vibrating Shuttle Sewing Machine Manual (for the Singer 127) – warning this is a 4 mb pdf; it may take awhile to download, if you have a dialup connection.

In keeping with all copyright concerns, this information is presented only for educational use. Any attempt to make money from this arcane knowledge will result in a curse on your sewing habits and your bobbin thread will knot.

Art as Tribute

Sunday, June 26th, 2005Emma is the Night's Garden by Missy Stevens

Missy Stevens sent me the link for her embroidery work, Emma Is the Nights Garden (left), which she made after her dog died. What a wonderful tribute! I think that I need to get back to drawing and sewing!


Evinstallation by Serena Fentonoking Other Lives

Sunday, June 26th, 2005
Images of clothes hanging, waiting to be stepped, into are so evocative. They seem to be inviting us to step into another persons life. Years ago, I did a storefront installation in New Yorks east village, which consisted of (painted) clothes and cats flapping on the line in the breeze.

The inspiration was the phrase sailcats. This is a term from my youth that was euphemistically used to described what other wise might be labelled in harsher terms, such as road kill. I am guessing that sailcat came from all the silly cartoons where the cat (or person) was run over by a steamroller and then flies away on the breeze.

The first image in this theme of clothes, waiting to be inhabited is et une petite robe verte (above) by a mysterious French woman named pita. The flowers of the two are interlaced echoes of color and shape. The colors and textures are immediately transporting to another place and another time.

Dog Love

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Whoopi - by Susan SorrellA bit of self indulgence, humor me, please. My dog, China Rose, died on Wednesday, after 13 wonderful, loyal years. She was worlds largest AKC registered sheltie. Most people thought that she was a border collie. I miss her terribly and am a bit obsessed with dogs today (even though I have three cats who are willing to cheer me up). I decided to spend a bit of time in the world of dog quilts (pictorial image, not quilts for dogs).

Sharon Malec has created a set of very charming and surprisingly realistic dog and cat quilts. Normally, I find quilt kits to be a bit restrictive (for me). These kits have a sense of immediacy and spontaneity derived from the liveliness of her depictions. Even the animals in repose seem to emanate character. One of the local quilt shops has the Siamese cat quilt made up. It looks just as delightful in person as on the web site.

Tanya of Berlin Embroidery creates some hyper-realistic dog portraits, all hand stitched and done from your snapshot of your pet. I am amazed by her ability to create a photo realistic image using embroidery floss. At the same time, I wish that there was a touch of passion in the works. Her cat portrait gets a bit of the sassiness of the subject. In fact, I expect that cat to whack me with her claws at any second.

Creative Chick Studios, (a.k.a Susan Sorrell) has the animal portraits that come closest to my heart. Her works are wild, energetic pictures of animals that get to the heart of how I feel about my pets, rather than focFlossusing on how they actually look. The dog above is by Sorrell, who describes her work simply: Whoopi Wear is a tribute to my dog and studio helper.

Floss (right) is a book that I discovered on the day that China Rose died. It could have been written about her. Rework a few of the white patches on Floss, and you would have a portrait of China Rose. More importantly, it tells the story of the dogs love for soccer. China, in her youth was also known as the Rainbow Soccer Dog, unofficial mascot of a local soccer club. Yes, she could head the ball and out-maneuver any 12 year old kid. She had a bit of a problem with the concept of the goal and scoring points. She just played for the love of the game.

Elizabeth Gomez Freers iconic images

SuOil on canvas, 34nday, June 19th, 2005
Elizabeth Gomez Freer is a young San Francisco artist whose paintings, silk screen prints and mixed media pieces reflect a world of magical realism and poetic beauty. The women of her paintings, both heroines and peasant girls reside in a world inhabited by nature as portrayed by the Northern Renaissance painters. Unicorns/goats reside peacefully in pens, moths flutter in the moonlight and flowers gracefully adorn the landscape. The colors are intense and hint at an inner life of mystery and depth.

Into this classicism, Gomez Freer injects pop art sensibilities and contemporary young women and children, who seem perplexed and entranced at the state of their world.

In her artists statement, Gomez Freer writes:

All my pieces present women interacting with animals, in a juxtaposition that depicts my feelings towards nature and culture. In the natural world the strongest hunts the weaker which in turn hunts the weakest in a strict predator/prey hierarchy. It is a cruel world but one that supports an ongoing balance. The young girls in my work are portrayed at the moment of loss of innocence as they understand that in this world something or someone must die to give way to other life. They come to terms with their natural self.

In other works we meet women that have come to the realization that the life-death cycle that is balanced within nature, is at risk when culture is involved. These women have understood that the natural model of the survival of the fittest has jeopardized balance in the cultural world by validating as natural episodes of injustice such as men overpowering women or the have ruling over the have nots.

These women are searching for a new self to harmoniously encompass the natural and the cultural: the ecological self. The old self would be reinvented beyond individual concerns to include the environment. This evolutionary stage of our consciousness requires a more closely integrated relationship between the masculine and the feminine components of the psyche.

Dragonfly Village offers a slideshow of Gomez-Freers work.

Latest in Sewing Machines (1887)

Friday, June 17th, 2005

ring shuttle has been achieved in the oscillating form, invented by Mr. Phil. Diehl, and known as Singer's1887 Scientific American considers the technology of the sewing machine. Here we are 125 years later and many of the inventions are still in common use today. But there is the matter of the intriguing single thread machine. Wouldnt it be wonderful to just jettison that bobbin?

The number of special attachments that have been successfully adapted to plain sewing machines has multiplied so rapidly of late, that only one or two of the more notable can be spoken of on this occasion. Perhaps the most generally useful of these is the trimmer, an arrangement consisting of a vibrating knife, which trims off the superfluous edge of a seam as the machine stitches it
The setting of the needle in a sewing machine was once quite a task. Ofttimes it had to be adjusted by chance, in other instances by certain guiding marks upon the needle bar. It is gratifying to know that all this has been done away with, and that the needle has only to be inserted into the bar, and fastened by turning a small screw. These are styled self-setting needles, and are usually so arranged that they cannot be adjusted wrongly as to the position of the eye.

The author never foresaw the arrival of an electric home sewing machine, nor for that matter, the revival of the hand crank machines:

Domestic machines will probably always be driven by foot power, spring, electric, and water motors notwithstanding. But the age of treadles in the great manufacturing trades is a thing of the past. It was not necessary for Parliament to step in and protect the workers, as was frequently suggested by alarmists. The commercial interests of manufacturers themselves were at stake. Machines driven by power could do 25 per cent. more work than those moved by foot.

quotes taken from A recent lecture before the Society of Arts, London(1887)

Jim Woodring – Comic Art

Sunday, June 12th, 2005

images by Jim WoodringI love comic book art and I love the Pacific Northwest (at least I do in the summertime). I have just stumbled onto the perfect combination of the two: The Frank Book by Jim Woodring. Woodring has color, humor and a peculiar grace. Best of all, his tales are wordless narratives.

In this quote, Woodring talks about the power of image and the necessity of empty space. It seems that this could be as applicable to the traditional quilt square as it is to the comic book.

The power of the comic art, he says, lies in the human ability to instantly recognize images. A human face, he argues, can be more effective the further it is from a photographic replication. By stripping literal detail and making an image more iconic, the artist can direct the readers focus.
The gutter of space between comic panels is a magical place, he says, because thats where the reader invests imagination and supplies transition to the next scene. The difference between one panel might be a shattering jump in time, space, even subject, but the reader usually finds an explanation.

Woodring has created a fantasy world that combines elements of Loony Tunes with classical realism – all with a slight twist. His furniture appears ready to dance and his walls are poised to speak. The color is wonderfully overwhelming. Unnamed creatures sport yellow and purple spots arranged over psychedelicly intricate linework. Most compelling is the way his art overflows with singular vision and full force conviction.