Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thread Talk

© 2007, H. Hunter, Polihaliai Beach, mixed media
How often, after all, do we take the time to look back, review and in this way, renew our relationship to our work? Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking to a local guild of embroiderers about my artwork. I decided that if I was going to share some history with them, I needed to do some digging.

After some searching, I came up with three separate images: a stack of books, a marsh and an Amish quilt. Pretty disparate images--but like reducing a fraction to the lowest common denominator, I had come up with the structural bones of my creative process, each one grounded in some vital part of my history.

The books: I often spent my summer days stretched out on a sofa or a hammock, after carefully arranging a pile of books beside me which I devoured one at a time.
Michigan Marshland

 Marsh: a scene from early childhood in Maine where I spent time chasing peepers and later, growing up in Michigan, where instead of peepers, I gathered reeds for weaving.

"Amish Abstractions"

Amish quilts: when I saw my first one in the University of Iowa Art Museum, it struck me as a visual form of haiku. With only a few colors, a quilt conjured a landscape.

It tickles me that as I look at my present work, I find traces of the words, reeds and quilts which informed my early visual blueprint.

©2007, H. Hunter, Dancing Rings 1, mixed media
It makes me think that there is something something mysterious yet inevitable about the images which dwell within us and arise out of our experience, recombining in powerful ways that we cannot predict.

Succeeding experiences build upon each other and yet, as we work with them in our studios, they come into being, slowly but surely, like a photograph appearing for the first time in its alchemical bath.


  1. Your words about the "mysterious yet inevitable" images inside us resonate strongly with me. I've long felt that we have an essential sensibility that comes through, though acted upon by circumstance.

  2. Beautiful pieces Hannah! I always love seeing your art. You have a strong artistic voice!

  3. I think that is true Altoon. And given the chaos of images that surround us, how do we pull from these to form our work? I think this inner matrix of images is a determining factor.

    Thank you Kelley!

  4. Hi Hannah
    I so love the way that you've woven together this post. I wish I could've been there to hear your presentation. This glimpse is simply tantalizing.
    Second, what a joy that you 'excavated' the images and their earlier influences to help us all remember the ways that we, as artists, are always collecting and weaving, cobbling, and stitching our work out into the world.
    Third, I so enjoy seeing your earlier work and to notice the evolution into what you're creating bring beauty to everywhere my eye lights.

  5. you are so right Hannah, all of the images, sounds, words, experiences of our lives come together to form a mystical, magical collage that is the person we have grown into being...each moment of the past is woven into the present...and the future lies in wait for our next exquisitely wizened blossoming!

  6. Donna, thank you for your thoughtful comments. I love that notion of excavation--it's a kind of reverse motion to the layering of experience in the work and suggests we can go back and tease out the different threads of experience.

    Laura--your words have given me food for thought--and a possible piece. Thank you!

  7. Of course I was drawn to your reference of a photograph appearing in the chemical bath, but what you wrote is so true.

    There are so many layers to build on with our art. Our experiences, our increased knowledge of our craft (and of ourselves) and technology. I look at newer images and can see how all of the above influences helped create the final piece.

    Another beautiful and insightful post Hannah! Thank you!

  8. Lovely how the notion of layers applies to the craft of photography too-especially the new directions you are working in Dianne. For everyone; check out Dianne Poinski's post on "If it Isn't Broken...":

  9. I love the feel of layers in that top piece Hannah. The feeling of packages strung together leaving me wondering what is inside!

    I am sure the guild was pleased with their choice of speaker! I have a dear friend who belongs, I hope she got to hear you.

  10. Beautifully written, Hannah. I'm encouraged now to do my own 'history' and see what comes floating to the surface.

  11. Good question Lynn--the answer is lots more layers--but you've given me an idea here!--It could be interesting to expose some of the underlayers in a piece.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what bubbles up Patty!

  12. We are the sum of our experiences. Thank you for this beautiful and thought-provoking post. I clicked over from Tumblr, I love your mixed media works.

  13. Hannah, I'm sure I left a comment here 2 weeks ago! Anyway I loved the top collage so much that I posted it on Tumblr a few weeks ago. Just came back to tell you it has been greatly admired >>