Monday, April 30, 2012

Drinking in Bettye's Gift

One of my greatest joys is photographing beautiful embroidery.


I consider it a quasi-spiritual activity and it gives me quite a rush.

It happens to us all when we see something beautiful.

Our hearts race, our energy levels immediately get a boost, and we feel wonderful!



That's because looking at something beautiful releases all the same chemicals in our brains -- epinephrine, dopamine and endorphins -- as when we fall in love, achieve a runner's high or take drugs.  These chemicals are largely responsible for our feelings of enjoyment, motivation and happiness.

Therefore, it follows, doesn't it, that photographing something beautiful might just extend the duration of those happy chemicals being released into my brain?


And not just that.  As my eyes have aged, I have found that my camera's lens has better eyesight than me. Taking photographs allows me to linger over details and make discoveries about a piece that I wouldn't necessarily see from a casual glance.

Even when I think I'm staring at a piece and taking it all in...my brain really isn't. I don't even realize how much I've missed until I upload the pictures to my computer and begin reviewing them. It's then that the "oohs" and "ahhs" really reach their climax.


I'd like to blame it on our modern world where we are barraged with information delivered in quick spurts and sound bytes.  I believe my brain has been re-wired to scan quickly and move on...even when I think I'm being deliberately slow!

And so today, I hope to share my happy chemicals with all of you as you gaze upon the photos I've taken of Bettye's gift. This antique embroidery is a fragment from a chinese coat and was gifted to me by my needle friend, Bettye Fennell.


She asked only that, when I take pictures of it, that I give them to her.

Taking pictures allows me to capture the luster of the silk thread.


And to realize that there were five different shades of pink used to create the petals of this flower. 

And it inspires me to want to try this ladder approach to embroidering a flower. I've never done it before. I've also never added front legs to my butterflies like the guy below.


And I enjoy seeing the staggered diagonal stitches used to make those curly antennae.

Photographing this piece, captures a moment in time. It's Spring and the peonies have started to bloom...


The peony is considered the Queen of Flowers in many Asian cultures. And the embroidered peony is stunning on this piece...


From a distance, we can appreciate the beauty of the entire piece...


But the camera gives us pause...letting us fully slake our thirst for its detail and artistry.


And we notice that those flower centers just might be buttonhole wheels with satin stitch petal extensions...


And that the center is created by couching the spokes close to the middle and using a stiletto to create a defined hole...


And the endorphins surge again as I anticipate trying this new approach on my shell piece. For, if you remember this post I wrote about the happy chemicals your brain releases when anticipating a new project, you'll realize that now my brain has received another dose of dopamine.

Maybe it's why Pinterest is so popular. It allows us to collect beautiful images and re-visit them as many times as we like. It's addictive. Just like food. Just like sex. Just like drugs.

It seems to make sense to me that the more we can see beauty in everything, the happier we are likely to become.  Seeing the beautiful compounds our happiness...it's all chemistry.

So, Bettye. Thank you for the gift of this exquisite embroidery. Thank you for the chemistry lesson.  And thank you for the boost to my brain and my soul.

Not only have you shared a treasure with the world, but you're keeping us off drugs as well.


Happy Monday everyone!

20 comments:

Mary Ann said...

Wow...just beautiful. Thank you:)

flower friend said...

Thanks Susan for making me stop awhile to take in the beautiful embroidery on this piece.I must try to pause and savour more often.

Cari said...

I am actually salivating...swallowing to make sure I don't drool on the keyboard and short out the Mac!! This piece your friend gave you is stunning. You are blessed to have such a friend. I really make me want to embroider something... We'll see. Thanks so much for sharing Susan. You've made my day !!

Wendy said...

Oh my goodness gracious! This is absolutely stunning in detail! I am drooling all over my keyboard as I type this! And the butterfly with his little legs just made me giddy! Thank you for sharing such an awesome treasure! Just the break I needed today!

verobirdie said...

Thanks to both of you for this beautiful Monday.

Sheila said...

Oh, it's so beautiful! Those are all the colors that make me think of you, Susan. You often use those in your work - I'm thinking of the Sailor's Valentine you did a while ago... I love your photography. It makes me happy, too! Have a *WONDERful* Monday! :D

gracie said...

Magnificent! Thank you for sharing.

Marty52 said...

Ahhh... better living thru chemistry... the natural kind! Beautiful embroidery, beautiful photos and beautiful prose... thanks, Susan.

Catherine said...

Well, Bettye's gift wouldn't be as magnificent as it is for us to see without your gift with your camera! Thanks so much for sharing such a pretty piece!

Judy S. said...

Very interesting post, Susan. I enjoyed seeing the details of this piece through your camera lens. It was fun to compare the two butterflies. My conclusion was that the first one is a side-view. What do you think? It looks to me as if you can see both its front and back legs? I wonder how many hours it took to stitch this? What is the stitch on the one flower that looks like french knots with a hollow center? Thanks for sharing!

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

Wonderful Post and insight.

Years ago before I knew anything about gardening, we moved to this home with MANY peony plants. I spent so much effort killing the big black ants on the buds. I can laugh about that now. You have a way of bringing long ago memories back.
xx, Carol

vicki said...

Oh my goodness- what a beautiful piece! No one takes pictures of handwork as well as you- these photos should be in a gorgeous book. You are a wonder woman with that camera!
Vicki

Createology said...

Your photography skills are amazing and you have described the joy and bliss of what your photos truly show far better than we see with our eyes. Thank you Susan dear...

Ati. said...

Thank you for sharing Susan. This embroidery is breathtaking. It is wonderful that you can make such beautiful photos to share with us!

Rachel said...

Well, at least the highs we are getting are natural, self-developed, and don't involve vast sums of money. Come to think of it, I've never heard of an embroiderer addicted to anything synthetic - maybe the rehab centres should try teaching it?

It's a fabulous piece - thank you to you and to Bettye for allowing us all to join in the excitement!

Allison Aller said...

Lovely, Susan!!!

Elizabeth said...

Wonderful pictures, wonderful prose of your drug of choice!! beautifully done all around!! Your friend Bettye knows you well!!! Got to love those ants! Without them our peonies would not open!!!!!
Hugs!
E

underatopazsky said...

The even rows of french knots really blew me away!
Your comments (and the subject matter) reminded me of something Georgia O'Keeffe once said about her flower paintings:
"Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small. We haven't time - and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time.
"If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it no one would see what I see because I would paint it small like the flower is small.
"So I said to myself - I'll paint what I see - what the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it - I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.”
Georgia O'Keeffe

Wanda-Maria Roszak said...

Beautiful Susan !!!

Faith said...

Oh, yes! Lots of happy, natural chemicals with this post. I love Asian embroideries. Same as I get with your own embroidery. I'm still high from your January block!

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