Friday, February 10, 2012

Safeguarding our Stories along with our Stuff

I've been reading this very interesting book...

It's the subject of a panel discussion I've been asked to participate in as part of the American Craft Council show that is coming to Baltimore, February 24-26.

I LOVE the ACC craft show and have attended every opening Friday for the last 15 years. In fact, it's the one place that I not only arrive on time, but I get there 20 minutes early. I don't mind standing in line in order to be one of the first people to travel down aisle after aisle of amazing artworks: textiles, glass, jewelry, beading, furniture, rugs, name it. And the quality of the workmanship is amazing.

Sometimes I find a treasure, but mostly I attend with notebook and pencil...taking notes and writing in a fury of inspiration. When I was working, I used to play hooky just to go.

So I was delighted when I was asked by Celeste Sollod to read The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal and to participate in her discussion panel. Celeste is a blogger and writer on Baltimore books, authors and literary life and has shown past interest in my pieces inspired by books like The Giving Purse (The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein), The Right Alice(Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carol), and Traveling (Breakfast at Tiffany's).

Celeste gives a great synopsis on this post of the book...but ultimately, it's a memoir that traces a collection of Japanese netsuke (small hand-carved sculptures that are used to hold money purses to Japanese kimonos) back through five generations.
The family was a huge Jewish European banking family on the level of the Rothschilds as far as their wealth and influence. But during the Nazi occupation, all of their fortune was lost and all that remained was the collection of netsuke.

It's a very thought provoking book and it leads me to think about our "stuff". Which of our things end up being family treasures, worthy of safeguarding and passing down through the generations...and which things are tossed or given away for lack of a caretaker. The stories of who bought them or made them and what inspired them to do so tends to be lost too often along with the person's death.

It reinforces the need for us to include the stories of our works along with the pieces that we create. Should my needlework pass from the hands of my family for lack of interest, perhaps there will be someone else out there who desires to be its guardian for a while.

And they will be much more likely to care for the piece if they know a little more about it.

We can only hope, right?

I wrote a guest post for the ACC blog that touches on this subject in a different way, Stitched by Hand, which you can read here.

The American Craft Council has recently launched a whole new website with lots of special interest stories about artists, craft and all things made by hand. It's worth checking out. And if you live near Baltimore, Atlanta, St. Paul or San Francisco...consider attending one of the shows.

And I highly recommend The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance. It's a great read.

Happy weekend everyone and thanks for all the interest in my Needlebook E-course. If you signed up, you'll be receiving an email from me today.


An excerpt from Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal:
"How objects are handed on is all about story-telling. I am giving you this because I love you. Or because it was given to me. Because I bought it somewhere special. Because you will care for it. Because it will complicate your life. Because it will make someone else envious. There is no easy story in legacy. What is remembered and what is forgotten? There can be a chain of forgetting, the rubbing away of previous ownership as much as the slow accretion of stories. What is being passed on to me with all these small Japanese objects?"


Teresa said...

I just read your guest blog. I now have a new appreciation for stitched pieces.
Thank you for your insight.
Teresa's Heartfelt Stitches

Laurel's Quill said...

Do wish I lived in Baltimore (did I say that?). Beyond that, writing about the things we love, capturing it somehow with a lense is what blogging is all about. Laurel

Cassandra and Alex said...

Ooh! That book looks fascinating. Thanks or turning us on to it!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely. It's why, when I work a commission, I include "Something for the Archives", to give the owner (not always the commissioner!) some insight into the process and thinking behind it.

Sarah Sequins said...


I wish I lived closer to Baltimore, because the ACC event sounds like heaven!

The book sounds interesting and gives me a lot to think about. It makes me think that when I start selling my beadwork pieces, I'd love to tell the story behind them to customers. That way, they'd feel a larger connection to the pieces and know more than just what materials I used!

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

So funny that you posted this today. Terry and I have been having an on going conversation about just this subject..from every angle. He has kept so many things (collections) that are important to him that he want to hand down to the boys, but they have no interest in some of it. It breaks his heart that they don't, but that's what makes us all unique.

The book sounds like an interesting read. I'd love to see the History Station do a series like that on collections.
Happy weekend. I'll be checking your links.
xx, Carol

Vicky aka Stichr said...

my comment just got trashed, just like a lot of other things i have created...time to add notes to them.

by cracky.

Miriam said...

I have a number of pieces of crochet and embroidery that were given to me and that I inherited from various family members. I just wish I knew who made them originally. Mostly they were made by my mother, my grandmothers and great grandmother. It would have been great if their initials were embroidered somewhere.

Cathy said...

Thank you for this beautiful, thought-provoking post, and your articulate guest blog. You made a great case for those of us who cherish these works and the tools used to create them. Guardian - yes, that’s what I am, too. And what better justification to collect and appreciate these treasures than to safeguard and pass them on - with whatever stories we can collect - to future generations? Hugs, Cathy

Suztats said...

How true! I just read your guest post, and agree totally. I am the caretaker of some of my mothers' crocheting, and use and cherish the doilies and dresser scarves. Where will they be once I am gone?
I think I should record the information about them now for their future caretakers.
Thank you for this post.

Anonymous said...

You said you went down the aisles with your notebook and pencil in hand gathering inspiration. I do the same thing when I read your blog. Many times you have sparked inspiration in me. thank you, Jane in MO

WandarArt.Stitch said...

Susan, it's probably going to be beautiful, like everything you create, inspire, and memories, memory is always important and beautiful,
lots of hugs, cool wekendu, :)))

Margaret said...

I was touched by your thoughts on our stuff and our stories. I am at the point where I am going to send a mass of my stuff to The Needlepoint Guild. It is that or risk having it all end up either in the trash or Goodwill bin. Either way, it will all go into the world alone. Does it matter? Probably not.

Sweetpea said...

I MUST read this book, Susan...thank you so much for writing this thoughtful post. This subject has been on my mind so much recently, just more pieces coming together, I think...

Ingrid Mida said...

Dear Susan,
Congratulations and good luck with your reading. What an honor. It sounds like a wonderful book. And yes preserving stories is so very important.

Createology said...

I have many times thought of what would become of my treasures that no one else cares about or listens to my stories of what I know about some of the items. It saddens me. Congratulations on your honor. I know you will enjoy every possible thing your eyes will see. You have posted before about telling your story of what you have stitched and that really touched me. Thank you so much for sharing this post. Happy Hearts Dear...
P.S. I am reading backwards as I can to get caught up from being gone so much. I have missed a lot.

Karen said...

Susan, will you be making more needle book kits any time soon? For those of us that weren't quick enough to jump on your offer, there is still a demand.

Also, in scanning through your blog, I haven't been able to find any mention of how the eight pieces that you submitted for competition fared. Could you let your faithful readers know?

Thanks for your blog. It inspires in more ways than you can imagine.

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