Grandmother/Spider, 2018, hand-pieced & quilted salvaged fabrics stretched on a bamboo embroidery hoop.
I’ve had a long preoccupation with spiders. I was very scared of them as a child, but as an adult, I enjoy observing them in action. I’m also interested in the spider as a symbol. Spider stories are found in many traditions, and are often associated with women and, unsurprisingly, textile craft. It is an appropriate symbol for me right now, as I am preoccupied with my own personal history related to textiles - a general ‘inheritance’ for any woman attracted to weaving and needlework and a more specific relationship to the work of women in my own family. My mother was a textile designer, my grandmother sewed her children’s clothes when they were small, two of my great grandmothers quilted, and there is a woven cotton blanket that has been passed down that was supposedly made in the 19th century by an even older grandmother. In Fall 2015, I wrote a blog post with 8 stories/reflections on spiders. At the time, I had just moved to Dublin to begin my Fulbright project. Very early on in that experience, I became pleasantly distracted from my project by historic textiles and I was thinking a lot about home and my identity. It’s been two years since I returned from Ireland, but some themes from that time keep resurfacing…
I’ll end with an anecdote from Annie Dillard: While at Tinker Creek, she observed a bird, a jay or something, that looked like it had been through the mill. Ruffled feathers, some tail feathers missing…it looked like it just narrowly escaped some predator or mishap. “Life catches you by the tail,” she says. If a bird or insect or small mammal survives at all, it survives with scars and missing limbs.
I have often seen seven-legged spiders around the farm, and they always remind me of Dillard’s story. They’ve narrowly escaped some bird or had to extract themselves from a landslide of pebbles or some such adventure. I like the seven-legged spider as a symbol and reminder that we’re all carrying around some personal or cultural history. We have to be gentle with ourselves and others. That’s grandmother wisdom.