When Lunch is Dry…

There are times I wish my brain would simply see things for what they are and not a myriad of connections.

Today is one of those days. I have straw waiting to be sewn and later decorated. If I could just see the straw as straw, the ribbon as ribbon, the flowers as flowers, and feathers as feathers, things would be much simpler, much easier. But, no. When I am working with any of these millinery materials, my mind wanders, spinning around what each is, how it came to be, what it represents.

Straw, to me, is many things, so very many things. It is a way for women and children to make money for their families. It is a story of transition from cottage industry to factory. It is a winding of shape and movement. It is a beautiful golden plant that has an extra extraordinary glow when the sun is at just the right angle in the late summer. It is texture and smell and comfort. It is the earthly and ethereal plant engraved on my Grandpa’s coffin.

And, somehow, with all that, straw is the lightest of the materials that weigh on my mind at times.

Feathers, oh feathers, stunning combinations of air and light and color, that have a unique ability to defy gravity. They have this incredible beauty that can truly stop a person in the tracks or thought. Yet, with all
that beauty, vibrance, and color comes true horror.

I struggle with each feather purchase. I can not bring myself to purchase commercial new. I prefer pre-owned and vintage, as well as a speckling of feathers from birds I know by name.

When vintage feathers arrive or when I pick one to use on a hat, I can not help but wonder about its history. Did it previously adorn a hat or bonnet? Has it been sitting in a box for decades? Who did it come from? Was it taken by plume hunters? Did it suffer before its death? Was it a blinded or wounded bait bird? Did it have young who withered away when mom did not return?

I have this thing about petting the feathers. They seem prettier when they are petted smooth and loved up a bit. They deserve a little thank you after all.

You may have heard about my fascination with the depiction of hands ever since Davinci’s renditions caught my attention.

Flowers are more about hands for me. Millinery flowers have become part of that. There is a physicality to flowers that is much like straw in that there is a feeling of the movement of hands making them, each part in a rhythm , be it the folding and crossing of strand upon strand forming plait, or the layering and wrapping and glueing that becomes the bloom. But, they diverge. While straw plait is work up and sewn in the country cottage with the hearth fire going, cow clanking around in its hay, and birds singing, flowers feel like they are being made in the cold and dark and hard of the city, the smells of farm and wheat are replaced by dank and sewer. Much of this is mystery to me filled in by guesses and assumptions around numbers; numbers of production, numbers of illness.

There are a couple current videos of a particular flower making company who still uses traditional, early 20th century, techniques. I find watching the adult women’s hands layering on, growing each flower, petal by petal, so calming. It is like seeing what my mind and hands have imagined for so long, coming to life. There is extra sweetness in seeing they are smiling and warm.

And so my mind wanders as I work, or as I ponder work or as I poke at dry rice for lunch. I hope you don’t mind such an adventure through my thought process, or one of them. I promise, they are not all so dire or dark or drear.

Here is an older video of me sewing straw to cheer you:

Published in: on February 5, 2021 at 11:45 am  Comments (1)  

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Thank you for sharing. It is beautiful to see the world through your eyes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: