Big Sister Revisited

What an odd day.  I had some very sad news this morning, after my celebration yesterday of my 7th anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, one of my very best friend’s was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I’m so sad for her, this is such an epidemic, that I almost feel like it isn’t a matter of if, but when…  The good news is that it is in a pretty early stage and with careful treatment it should all be fine.  But that doesn’t help right now, you still have to go through the misery and fear of a diagnosis, not everyone responds to your news in the best most supportive way, and the road will be a thorny and uncomfortable one.  But like I told her this morning, what ever side of the spiritual fence you sit on, I firmly believe that the universe sends angels, lots of them, to guide you through this maze, and they are always there in disguise, you just have to know they are there and look for them.  The fiber community really rallied around me when I was diagnosed, I got some lovely cards, handwoven scarves, cookies in the mail from Connecticut, love and support through phone calls and emails.  Oddly enough my favorite emails came from Duchess, a lovely black Labrador who had also just had a mastectomy and we corresponded through her owner for a couple of years.  Oh, and I loved the email from some wonderful angel who said to me, “You can’t die, because I haven’t taken a workshop with you yet.”  That might sound like an odd thing to say, but it gave me a good laugh and kept me going through another couple of chemo treatments, it lifted my spirits in a way that said, I was so much more than this disease and I wasn’t done here yet.

I also had a phone call which thrilled me, the rumor from a very reliable source, is that Pellon will eventually be printing the red dot plates onto a pattern medium they already had in the archives with seems to be identical to the base fabric of the original red dot tracer from HTCW, which has sadly been discontinued.  If you haven’t followed this thread of the blog, I’ve been in hot pursuit of a suitable pattern tracing medium to replace the discontinued Red Dot Tracer, and it seems I only have to wait a bit longer.  🙂

I had to switch gears today, I wanted to send a piece to the members exhibit at the Surface Design Conference in Kansas City.  The deadline is March 1st.  I was under the assumption that they wanted an image by March 1st, but when I reread the prospectus, it calls for the actual piece, 18″ square to be sent to them by that date.  I had been planning to use the photo of the 16″ version, and if accepted would weave the 18″ version.  But alas, they need an actual piece.

release_backingSo I brought my table loom over to the cutting table , which is really convenient because I can stand and cut the strips as I weave them in.  The second or third blog I wrote back in December described the process and gave the draft, using a Theo Moorman threading. I weave about a quarter inch of ground fabric, then lay in on top a thin strip of silk, and hold it down with poly sewing thread which is warped in with the cotton ground. The strip is part of a childhood photograph I printed on 10mm silk Habotai, which comes on an 8.5″ x 10′ roll, pretreated for ink jet ink, and mounted on paper for easy transport through the printer. I got this from Dharma Trading. By running two  lengths of this silk, 8.5″ x 16″ long, I could print a much larger image, since I’m stripping it anyway, it doesn’t matter if it is in two  pieces.

table_loomIn the first photo, I found if I score the paper backing with a sharp ruler edge, I can get it started easier than fumbling with the corner.  In the second photo, I am peeling the paper backing off the silk.  In the third photo, I am remove_backingcutting the strips of silk, I cut them about 3/16″.  You can see there are two big sections that make up the image.  The last photo is of the table loom, you can see I have two strips woven in already.  I’ll describe more about the weaving process later.  I figured out a way to do a pick up of the tie down threads so only the ones I need are actually held out, the rest on the side get woven into the ground.

This will be a slightly larger version of one I sold, called Big Sister. The photo is from around 1957, of my younger sister and me, caught in an intimate moment. The photo  is the smaller version.  In the December blog, I was weaving the same piece, but 24″ wide.  My sister saw it on my blog and tearfully requested one for her, she even offered to pay me, but since she is the other child in the slice_photophotograph, it is only fair she gets this one once I have exhibited it.


I had to write a second entry for today, because this is a really important day for me, it was right about now, seven years ago, 2/22/2002, that I woke from anesthesia and my surgeon told me the news, that I had breast cancer.  There is no way to predict or describe how one feels or reacts to that kind of news, numb, stoic, shock, indifference because you are groggy and not processing anything being told to you, denial, this of course can’t possibly happen to me.  No fear, not yet, that comes later.

Seven years later, though the experience is still fresh, it has clouded over by time, and it has been, properly in my opinion, reduced to just one chapter of an interesting and creative life.  To say that this experience changed the way I view life would be an understatement.  Ask anyone who has tasted mortality, and they will tell you that each day becomes precious, and that fear dissipates, what’s the worse that can happen, I might die?  Well I’ve been there.  I remember being on a tiny plane, tossing about in the sky, on my way to the Pendleton ANWG conference not long after I finished my treatment.  I was coincidently sitting next to someone who was attending the conference as well.  As we were tossed about, there was an odd calm between us, she had also been through a medical issue that allowed her to see her mortality, and we both knew there was nothing to do but ride out the storm.  And if it wasn’t in our deck of cards to survive, well then there was the trust that the universe had a plan, and we were a part of it.  I know that all sounds like a bit of pontification, but survivors know, it isn’t about what happens in your life, it is what you ultimately do with it.

I did survive, seven more years, and I’d like to think I’ll be around for another 7, or 14, or 28 or more.  And I’d like to think that in that time there will be many more pieces to create, and grand adventures to experience.  I created a piece of artwork, that made the memory of my experience very visible, yet celebratory, titled Survivor, which I won’t post here because it is a graphic piece, but just click on  the title and you can view it.  I rewove the piece in miniature for the Small Expressions show and for the Economies of Scale show, both talked about in earlier blogs.

Life isn’t about how many body parts you have or don’t have, it isn’t about the body at all.  It is just a vehicle to get us through the life we have at the moment, and making the body we have do what we need it to do to celebrate each day.  So every 2/22, I celebrate my own personal anniversary of survival, and remember to seize each day, and make the most of it.