Eggs march up, down, and sideways on the cover of Elaine Scarry’s little book “On Beauty and Being Just.” None of them are exactly alike. And it’s precisely these slight differences in size, pattern and color which keep our eyes roaming up and down the eggy rows, much like a quilt which isn’t quite predictable keeps us standing in front of it for awhile.
The idea that starts the engine of this remarkable little book is this: when we see something beautiful we humans have an immediate urge to reproduce it in some way. Our fingers may itch to pick up a pencil and sketch the tree/flower/cloud/egg/bird/building/face. We may run for the camera to catch an image of it to share with others. Or we may describe it in written or spoken words, even going so far as to write a novel.
Working with fiber these days, when I see something compelling, I start itching to scrabble through my stash of yarn or fabric. Creating a representational landscape in textiles doesn’t usually appeal to me. But I do need to find just the right hues, put them next to each other in a way I hope will recall that first glimpse and the little gasp it inspired. Even the word inspired means to breath in.
I’m stuck right now on one of these projects, like Superman who’s lost his powers in the middle of passing through a wall. It all started with this coleus plant, whose mother I found in a huge planter outside a local mall. It was late fall, and I knew a brutal frost was going to kill it in a day or two. So I pinched off a couple of cuttings and sneaked them home to root. As you can see, it’s a velvety glory and very happy with its extended life.
I love this plant so much I want to wear it. So I started a yellow sweater for myself from goldenrod-dyed wool. I’ve gotten as far as the yoke. I broke my own rule of not trying to exactly duplicate something, and am trying to make the yoke pattern look like the leaves of my love object. All the rules say you don’t want to have droopy hammocks of yarn hanging down inside your sweater, so I had to do and re-do the math. And all the colors I wanted weren’t available from the same company, so I’ve also had to settle for some yarn variations. But I think I’m ready to head into the home stretch.
A young designer friend visited recently, and commanded me to finish it SOON. I want her to think well of me, so I will try. Also winter is coming and I’m getting cold.