Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Marriage Bed

This is the story of my entry into Dare to Differ 2015.

THE MARRIAGE BED
My kombers en jou matras en …*
(My blanket and your mattress and …)
*Part lyrics from an old Afrikaans folk song
When we got married, most of our furniture were hand-me-downs from our respective childhood homes. Our bed, however, was brand new. The first piece of furniture we bought as a couple – a symbol of two lives becoming one and a place where we could dream and plan a future together.
The bed served us well for 15 years and even came with us when we moved to different countries. It was our refuge where we escaped the world, where we felt saved and loved, and the cradle where our family was conceived and cared for.
When it was time to replace the bed, I saved the frame and started working on the blanket, using yarn from my stash collected over the years from different parts of the world. They all represent a time and a place where we shared our lives. The blanket and the mattress are made separately and then stitched together in such a way that it cannot be separated again without destroying the whole thing.
THE MARRIAGE BED represents our marriage. Two separate entities becoming one. Each one with different characteristics and different values, which when put together cannot be taken apart again. The one provides strength and support, the other provides warmth and safety. Together they create a home and a family.
The lyrics come from our childhood, they don’t define us, but they anchor us. They make us belong.
As with any marriage, this one is not perfect. Dropped stitches, tension variations, messy colour changes, wires poking through in odd places, and loose ends – mostly hidden out of sight but still there. Looking closely you will see many flaws, but standing back, you will see a harmony of colour, the words will become clear and make sense, the structure will be strong and organised, and the threads will hold it all together.
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knitted strips

knitted strips

This project started way back in 2011. At that stage, we were living in Dubai and had just bought a new bed. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to make, or rather what I wanted to say, but had no fixed plan of how to go about it. I knew it had to involve the mattress frame and a knitted blanket. The snippet of lyrics served as the inspiration.

The plan I came up with eventually meant I had to knit the blanket in strips, weave it through the mattress springs and then stitch it together through the wire afterwards. It was the only way to get the knitting inside the steel springs. It took a bit of trial and error to get the right dimensions for the blocks and strips, which I then used to draw up a pattern and eventually a graph for each letter.

The Marriage Bed patternThe blocks are 16 stitches wide by 80 rows long. Five blocks in a strip, times 24 strips. I started out with the blank strips at the side, using different stitch patterns, but I soon realised that it won’t work once I start the intarsia knitting for the letters, so I kept most blocks in plain stitch.

I used the yarn that I had, adding as I needed or ran out of colours. The plan was not to plan. My only guide was that the whole letter, which spans three blocks, had to be in the same colour and to not have two similar colours next to each other. I used different thicknesses of yarn but the same needles throughout, which means the tension differs, but I think that is quite appropriate for a marriage!

AssemblingI knitted over time with periods in between when I didn’t do anything. My dear husband patiently allowed me to have the mattress frame packed and shipped with the rest of our household when we moved to Australia in 2012. I have no idea what the packers thought when they had to wrap it up in bubble wrap and load it into the container to ship across the Indian Ocean…

The knitting was coming along well but was still separate from the mattress when earlier this year I decided to force a deadline on myself, just to get it done. My mind wouldn’t allow me to start anything else before this one was out of my system, so I decided to submit it for the Dare to Differ exhibition. Now I had something to work for, and even if it wasn’t chosen it would still be finished.

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes

Putting the knitting and the wire frame together took less time than I thought. It was a bit tricky at times to get my hand in between the wires and I had several scratches on my hands and wrists by the time I was done.

My husband made the stand which I think came out really good and goes well with the rest of the work. I like the big bold wooden bases and the fact that the steel supports are almost invisible.

So there we are – a marriage bed with a story.

What will I do next?

Dare to Differ 2015

From the point where you enter the gallery, it is clear that this is not your average quilt show. If you were expecting log cabins and pin-wheels you are in the wrong place.

According to Suzanne Gummow, one of the judges and organisers of the exhibition, for the purpose of this show, the definition of a quilt is that it must be predominantly fibre, be composed of at least two distinct layers, and be stitched together throughout.

That sounds simple enough until you look around and see in how many diverse ways this has been interpreted.

D2D 2015 Samantha Pope CBD

CBD Pojagi

Samantha Pope’s CBD Pojagi is the star of the show. On first glance, it is obviously a map of Adelaide CBD, with familiar landmarks like Victoria Square and the green belt easily identifiable. True to the purpose of a map, it is the first thing you look at when entering as if trying to find your way around. But also true to the purpose of a map, its sheer fabric lets you see what is beyond – opening the way towards the rest of the exhibition. The fusion of what is familiar (Adelaide) with what is foreign (pojagi) embodies not only the spirit of our city but also the spirit of the exhibition – the familiarity of quilts with the unfamiliarity of the Dare to Differ interpretations.

D2D 2015 Wendy Thiel Art in the Negative Space

Art in the Negative Space

Following the layout of the room, the first work you will come across is fellow judge and organiser, Julie Haddrick’s Garden path. Her use of Japanese fabric is the start of a subtle theme which recurs three more times.

Wendy Thiel’s Art in the Negative Space is one of the larger works and one of the few which reminds of a traditional quilt. Her use of white as negative space emphasising the art of the printed Japanese fabric, as well as her choice of quilt design inside the white areas, are very effective.

D2D 2015 Betty Morse My Chiku Chiku

My Chiku Chiku

Staying with the Japanese theme, Betty Morse’s My Chiku Chiku creates quite the opposite effect. Filled to the borders with printed fabric, it dares the eyes to become overwhelmed, but the order and stillness of the sashiko stitching are calming on the eyes and restores order. Her work is inspired by renowned sashiko artist Akiko Ike.

Julie Abbott’s Circles gives yet another interpretation of Japanese design. She uses the simple form of circles in well-ordered rows and let the fabric design take centre stage.

Moving away from the Japanese theme, a few others stood out for special mention:

D2D 2015 Madelaine Hedges Homage to Thoth

Homage to Thoth

Madeleine HedgesHomage to Thoth is excellent both in design, choice of materials and execution. Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom is usually depicted as an ibis-headed creature which Madeleine interpreted by using Ibis feathers collected along the Torrens River, combined with ibis printed sheer fabric. Two things in this work stand out to me: The subtlety with which Madeleine manages to combine her Egyptian roots with her Adelaide life via the iconic Ibis, and the judges’ decision to place the work in the exact spot where the draft from the AC continuously stirs the ibis feathers ever so slightly. It adds an extra dimension to the work and brings it to life.

Was that intentional?

D2D 2015 Valerie Robinson Prehistory  Women

Prehistory – Women

Two works that touched me with the understated way in which the artists used limited colours and well thought out stitching, conveying a deeper story, are Alison Muir’s Carbon Sink 2, and Valerie Robinson’s Prehistory – Women. When you look at it, take your time and really study the way every stitch is intentional and every slight colour change has a deeper meaning. Both are exceptional works.

D2D 2015 Margaret Knapp The gallery experience

The Gallery Experience

Margaret Knapp’s The Gallery Experience is a true experience and needs to be studied in detail. She celebrated the graduating exhibition for students of 2012 Cert IV Visual and Arts Course at Marden. Her work is built up with three layers consisting of a traditional quilted foundation layer and two layers of appliqued clear organza. The space between the layers adds to the feeling of the depth of the gallery and the movement of the visitors. The ‘art in the gallery becoming art in the gallery’ concept is intriguing and well executed. She deservedly received the Encouragement Award sponsored by Sue’s Sewing World.

D2D 2015 Joy Harvey Doorway

Doorway

Joy Harvey’s Doorway is a striking piece of highly detailed contemporary reverse applique – a technique Joy has perfected and made her own. Based upon one of the countless doorways of the Alhambra in Spain, Joy reworked the design to ‘bring it home’ and make it her own. By incorporating elements of local architecture and heritage, like inserting the inscription ‘Ut Prosint Omnibus Conjuncti’ (United for the common good) from the Adelaide coat of arms, Joy succeeded in creating something truly local, yet ultimately exotic, like only she can.

There are 44 works in the exhibition. Each one is deserving and worth exploring. The well thought out way in which Suzanne and Julie curated the exhibition, placing each work in a way that fully expresses its artistic merits, is exceptional and worth mentioning.

Don’t miss Dare to Differ 2015. Go and see it. But take your time – the more you look the more you see. The quilts on show are definitely different, and truly daring.

*Featured image: Circles by Julie Abbott