Sunday, February 24, 2008
The Thief of Time
I got an email today with some sad family news and it led to an afternoon spent working in my studio with periods of reflection on time, family and loss. I would find myself sitting and staring blindly out the windows, my mind wandering down pathways of the past. The news was not unexpected and indeed was merciful in its own way, but sad nonetheless. There was also news of another relation, a person I have always felt close to in spirit- a first-cousin of my father's, so my first-cousin-once-removed. Just as with my Great Aunt Jean Webb, she was a powerful creator; she is still with us but again, time has taken its toll.
Where is all this leading... I took an image of her housewarming gift to me when I purchased Thrums End in 1993. She made a mirror frame that is as laden with references and memory as it is with wit and inventiveness. The frame is a wooden bracket from the house my father grew up in in Jamestown, PA., the house burned down but some architectural bits were salvaged. The covering is a scrap of a quilt top I gave her when we were holidaying in Grasmere, in the Lake District of England many years ago. We were staying in a lovely house immediately up the hill from Dove Cottage, William Wordsworth's home- so some lines from one of his poems are stamped on the frame. There are also twigs and dried, pressed ferns gathered during that sojourn, and small photographs of the landscape vignetted in the circular cut-outs.
This piece is so typical of her creativity and sly wit. I love this mirror and proudly show it off to visitors and tell its story.
The rest of the decoration of the small anteroom is my own work -the mosaic tabletop and the freehand leaves painted on the walls. The tabletop rests on an aquarium stand gleaned from a yard sale. There is also a house-blessing written on the lintel over the doorway into the rest of the hallway: "Pax intrantibus, Salus exeuntibus, Benedicto habitantibus.*" Even though the space is small, scarcely 30 square feet, it is one of my favorite spaces in my home. The mirror and the other pieces made by family members that I am fortunate to own remind me that I and my work owe so much to my genetic and aesthetic forebearers.
* "Peace to all who enter, Health to all who leave, and Blessings on all who abide"
I found these words in a Quaker meeting house in Rye, England, that had been converted into a lovely B&B.