It takes time.
No one can know what our allotted time might be, some may have a rough idea what time is left, but the importance of time is what we choose to do with it. Today time is often seen as a currency, where the young are rich and the old are poor, however society’s demands and the pace of life leave many in their later years to wonder what it was all about while the pressures on the young to achieve often leaves them with little or no free time. Life is more than accumulating the symbols of success. Man has over the past century done the utmost to invent ways of saving time from doing the mundane or laborious. The washing machine and birth control liberated women so that now they can become as time poor as men. With two earning that means more to tax as well as increased spending power, and what will we buy with that extra cash? I would always advise converting that currency into time. If today having the time to do what you want is seen as a luxury then I am indeed fortunate, but time alone is of little use if you don’t know what to do with it. I have seldom been troubled by boredom as I’ve always seen that as a natural route to creativity. In those efforts to save time the tools of the trade have been abandoned for mechanical automation and handmade has become a thing of the past and yet the handmade still holds a charm that is human and we are more than ever fascinated by what the hand eye coordination is capable of.
The first time I saw a 17th century box covered with stump work I was transfixed by the fact that it had been executed by a girl of only 11 years and I marveled at just how impossible that seemed. One would certainly need very good eye sight for such fine work but also the time to do it. If schooling was not an option and the family was sufficiently rich then sowing was seen as a suitable gentile pastime before marriage and with time on ones hands creative excellence can flourish. Stump work is uniquely found in relatively wealthy households and was not something that would have been purchased or mass produced as with tapestry hangings.
While with age I become time poor so I find myself with more freedom to choose what I do with it. I have no patience when waiting at the supermarket checkout but when it comes to the creative I have it in abundance. After many years in the antique trade I realized I would never be able to afford to purchase an example of stump work but I could have a go at finding out just what it entailed to stitch such work and I soon discovered that all it takes is time.
My aim in exhibiting this stump work is to emphasize that in our computer generated age and mechanization the human hand is still capable of producing beauty.
The exhibition at the Victoria Gallery in Bath has taken three years to put together and runs from Feb 25th to May 10th 2017. The choice of a biblical theme seemed quite natural given its place in the history of needlework although I myself have no religious belief. The display boxes when open show the relevant text from the bible both in English and Gaelic. The work is relatively easy to transport, and when travelling I often find myself stitching in public on train boat or plane and the reaction of people without exception is fascination and amazement.
I am working at present on a 17th century style box covered in stump work tapestry which I have estimated will take about six months to complete and will continue this work during the exhibition.