It just keeps getting better! I walked in this morning to the following message from a visitor I was wondering if that would happen, and I'm pleased that the message was polite. I wonder if the guard said anything to the person... or maybe the guard did it!
People stopped by who came to crochet nights in the fall; I had a returning crocheter who brought another friend along; someone who works for the Regional Arts & Culture Council (the partial funder of the project) sat down to crochet a few links... News is spreading: I sent an e-mail to the Portland La Leche League with info about the show, and it got distributed to their list! A naturpath on the list read it, and today she came to crochet. And she brought a friend, too.
And finally, a young couple walked in to look at the piece with their sleeping 5-month old baby. I couldn't resist asking whether they would lie her down nestled in the roots. They did, and we all took pictures. That completes my visual for this paragraph that I wrote in the project proposal: The threads in “Mother Tree” symbolize the lifeline which connects all women to their past (to their mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and so on) as well as to their future (to their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on). Each mother is alone and unique as a tree in a forest, but also in community sharing the same stages of life with other mothers. Creating the piece in a sewing circle with a group of women symbolizes that we are all one. Our presence, as well as the presence of this sculpture, will create a quiet sturdiness in the space.
And there are still 2 weeks left!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Today I had a lovely group of crocheters: Mary, who came to my open studio last fall and has recently moved to Portland; Eleanor, who took a class with me and then interned with me – I thought she was in NYC but she has returned to Portland; and Susan, who lives in Los Altos, CA and visits Portland frequently to see her daughters – today she and her husband were looking at public art. Each one of them needed crochet lessons, and they all caught on fast.
People seemed interested in the paper today: What is that material? How did I make it? Did I stitch the designs in the paper? The paper is a double layer of abaca (my favorite translucent fiber from a banana plant). I embedded string patterns in between the layers and air dried the sheets to give it some texture. These were then glued together into eight panels, which were hand stitched to form the dress. (Since someone asked, I'll tell you) the arm holes are reinforced with a thin bamboo reed.
I forgot to mention some of the characters from yesterday. Among them were a 911 operator and a woman who was able to quit smoking by crocheting!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
When I walked into the space today, a class of preschoolers and their teachers were looking at The Mother Tree. I'd spoken to the preschool office about having the kids join me for some finger crocheting. The teacher polled the class and most of them were interested, so we'll be doing that in a few days. One of the kids told me that the sculpture looked like a rocket ship. Peter (my steadfast crochet buddy) was there and immediately made the connection – that the roots on the floor were like the fire of the rocket. I love what children see! When I was about 16, I babysat a 2-year old named Megan. I brought her to my house a few times, and she always mentioned the puppy in the abstract painting that hung in our family room. I never did see that puppy!
The yellow strand is hand dyed with turmeric. Reminds me of the luscious colors I saw years ago in the Turkish spice markets!
The word last night was touch. When I came in this morning, there was a note in the guest book that said "love being able to touch it". I thought the note referred to the paper sample that I have tucked in the guest book, but once again, Peter had an interesting insight. He thought that the reader had read this as permission to touch The Mother Tree!
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
There seemed to be a theme today: several people asked me why I made The Mother Tree. One guy walked up admiringly and after I told him the history (read on) he said he liked the piece even more.
The inspiration for the project comes from this experience: Nine years ago, a father walked by me as I was nursing my newborn son at the Portland Japanese Garden and pointed me out to his children, stating: “That is one of the most beautiful things in the world.” As a first-time mother, it meant a lot to me—that he could see beauty in something I took for granted and even hesitated doing in public. The Mother Tree seeks to visually portray my subsequent reflections about that chance encounter. It serves as a symbol of the vulnerability, strength and sense of community I feel as a mother.
When I was a new mother, I was also new to Portland with no family around, which was quite an isolating experience. It has been so rewarding to sit with the sculpture for the past six days and see it as a living network. I am connecting with people daily - old friends and new. People are coming to visit from near and far. They are spreading the word to others. We had seven crocheters at a time today and several other visitors. I can't wait to go back tomorrow and see what will happen next.
Monday, February 22, 2010
By coincidence, someone came and crocheted with me who I spent a weekend with 10 years ago, when the seeds of this project were planted. We took our 3-1/2 month old son, Willam to Opal Creek for the weekend, and it snowed and snowed, so much that we couldn't get our car out after we'd walked 3-1/2 miles to get to it the last evening. Luckily, there were other people leaving the parking lot and I hitched a ride home with the baby. Ted and the others slogged back to the cabin, stayed overnight and were able to dig the car out the next morning. Now that there are more roots on the sculpture, people are beginning to see it in a different light and ask about the meaning (not so many wedding dress comments).
The Mother Tree serves as a symbol of the vulnerability, strength and sense of community I feel as a mother: vulnerable as a mother learning how to do something with great responsibility for the first time; strong in the knowledge that we mothers can provide our children with everything they need; and in community knowing that mothers before me have nurtured their children and mothers after me will continue to do so.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Today I had the most crocheters at one time so far... four! I'll need more chairs if more people show up. It was fun! I had a guest all the way from North Carolina - she'd contacted me last week about renting my studio when she is in town (her daughter and family live here and she visits frequently) so I told her to come on down and she did.
Someone messed with the word last night - it looked like it had been stepped on.
I tied two unusual roots on today: human hair (pictured) and daffodil cordage.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
My new friend Peter, the traffic engineer, is a regular now. He comes to crochet for about 30 minutes each day. He keeps an eye out for colleagues and tries to rope them in. So far no takers, but I think a few might come around. Today I met one of the women who sat on the panel which selected the artists who exhibit in the space; there was a gentleman who was looking at the piece from afar, so I started a conversation and we chatted about rock formations (the shape of the dress reminded him of formations in the Gobi Desert); and I spoke to a woman whose son goes to preschool in the building, among others. At the end of my crochet session, I walked over to the preschool to invite the older kids to come and finger crochet with me one day. Hopefully their teacher will connect with me and set something up.
There was also a flurry of activity on Twitter and Facebook today about my project pointing to: http://portlandopenstudios.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/helen-hiebert-awarded-racc-grant-and-opens-a-new-installation/
Hopefully this will bring some folks down to the space.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
It was a gorgeous day outside, so I'm sure that everyone headed for the streets at lunchtime to soak up the sun. My intern Claire joined me for some crocheting, and Peter visited again to refine his skills. I'll have to talk with him about recruiting others - he knows a lot of people in the building. I sent a note to the Mayor's art person, inviting her to come see what I'm up to.
I'll be adding roots for 19 days total, so I'm taking approximately 1/19th of the strands and adding them to the sculpture each day. These are all strands I've received by mail. I am still receiving packages each day. On the side wall there is a line with cards from each contributor with a fiber sample attached.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Today was a good first day. I talked with many people about the project, added the first roots and sat and crocheted with a few visitors. Some of the comments were amusing. "Is that a wedding dress?" wins the prize for the most asked question. One gentleman asked me if it was an advertisement for growth hormones. The Mother Tree is 7 feet tall, afterall.
Peter, a traffic engineer who works in the building, came by a few times and finally sat down and let me teach him how to crochet. We talked about boat knots and he's going to show me how to tie some one day soon. I've been wanting to connect with people who use occupational knots for a long time, so here's the first one!
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
I installed The Mother Tree in the installation space today. All went smoothly. Here's a snapshot. I plan to set up a tripod and photograph it each day so that I can make a time-lapse movie at the end of the installation period, showing how the piece grows over time.
Over 150 people have sent crocheted roots, and the postcards with crochet swatches are hanging on that line in the background. I'll begin adding actual roots next Tuesday, which is official opening day. There is not an opening event, but I will have a closing celebration in mid-March. TBA.
Here's one more image which gives a sense of scale.