Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Symbiosis of Needlepoint and Writing

This is a Beth Russell needlepoint kit based on a William Morris design.  He was a leader of the Arts and Crafts movement at the end of the 19th century and his many designs for fabric and wallpaper are still much in use today.

I love to write during the daylight hours, and have been spending lots of hours lately--as most of you know--transcribing those World War II letters of my father.  I'm now on letter #198, have transcribed 116,354 words of my father's purple prose to my mother, and have about 70 more letters to go. 

I wonder if these letters used up his entire lifetime quota of words.  For the rest of his life, he was such a quiet person.

Anyway, with so much writing work ahead, I find myself wanting to take a break in the evenings.

If I don't go out with friends, I curl up under a blanket and read or I turn on an old movie and work on my needlepoint.  You can think and dream when you needlepoint, so doing it can be part of the creative process.  At least for me.

A few months ago I captured a picture, as you may recall, of one of the members of the yard bunny family hiding in plain sight, amidst the leaves of one of my shrubs.  I sneaked out my iPhone camera and got a pretty good picture of the creature which shows how good they are at camouflage.

Yard Bunny in BDU (that's Battle Dress Uniform--fatigues--for the uninitiated). 

I looked on the Internet for the William Morris/Beth Russell needlepoint kit from England that was a dead ringer for the scene I'd just photographed.  It looked like this:

Beth Russell needlepoint of William Morris pattern.

The kit did not include yarn, so I used some of the leftover yarn I had around here. Then I had Linda at Old World Designs in Menlo Park help me pick out the yarn for the leaves.  My colors turned out to be a little brighter than the original, which is fine with me.  I think I won't use such a dark color in the background either.

A finished needlepoint canvas almost always comes out looking different in fact than it does in the picture on the pattern cover.  I think the Yard Bunny needlepoint is going to come out just fine and be a nice addition to the pillows on one of Fort Chapman's couches.

But speaking of backgrounds--which I haven't yet chosen for the needlepoint above--I have another background to choose.

I finished the interior design of a small rug several weeks ago, and I've been staring at it ever since trying to figure out what color to make the background.  The choice in this case is going to have to be memorable.  The rug is the biggest thing I've ever done in needlepoint and I'll really be stuck with whatever color I choose.  

I suppose all this is not dissimilar from writing a book.  The project is big and at some point the decisions an artist makes will determine the entire tenor of the project.

That's why a creative person has to chose carefully with both words and colors when creating something she hopes is going to last a long, long time. "Longer than deeds," wrote Pindar, "liveth the word."

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