On silver thimbles and beautiful tools

Having the tools you need to do your work is a way of telling yourself that your work is important. We all know how to make do and get by. Making do can be a great well-spring for invention. Coming to your workspace each day, however, and handling your tools that support you and carry you along through the dark and the rough is a reminder that your art has worth.

Do you have a favourite tool at this moment? Appreciate all it does for you.

Have you been postponing your work for lack of a functional tool? Sharpen your scissors. Borrow a friend’s palette knives. Start a fresh notebook.

The photograph above is a bespoke silver thimble cast in honour of those who crusade with Magic & Medicine. Beautiful tools, like the thimble, are our invitation to pick up the needle.

Textile Sports (Weaving Project i)

There are multiple versions of the Greek myth of Arachne; a mortal woman bestowed with the gift of artful weaving.

In each version Arachne and the goddess Athena engage in a weave-off.

Competitive tapestry (weft-faced weaving on a loom) is not the national sport of anywhere. Perhaps its time has come?

 

 

Mother of necessity

In 1974, John Petrakes, a Patent Examiner in the USA, approved the patent number 3855915. The invention was manufactured by MH Products (Inventors: Marjorie and Harold Hoyt from Shawnee Mission, Kanas).

In 2017, ‘Aunt Marge’s Egg Blower’ was dug out from the top of our baking cupboard and used to empty, dry and dye our chicken’s eggs in celebration of Easter.

Thanks Aunt Marge. And thank you to all the unnamed women who gave their time, and devoted their energy, to improving, inventing and fashioning for those of us in the future. Patented or not, we make our art today under the guard of your creative shadow.

Egg

Crochet doily: a humble and enduring form

Today’s beautiful photographs shows some of Dianne’s contribution to a collaborative art project, Retro Galactic Communitree, installed in 2017-18. While part of the strangeness of the project generates it appeal, today’s post delves into the history of how a tree may come to be cloaked in looped yarn. When we look at the project we recognise a distinct crochet form from the past, the doily.

The crocheted doily, a small starched mat, reached production heights in the 1930s and 40s. Doilies were made by women in their home. The popularity of doily making is attributed to women’s desire to temporarily break from the weighty reality of economic depression and the volatile political environment. Rationing strategies of this period shaped the rise in doily as the small round mat could be made with a simple tool and minimal yarn.

The domestic commonness of doilies tends to mask their versatility and ingenuity. Doilies were often used as a table mat to protect wooden furniture, as chair covers such as an antimacassar, as covers to protect bowls and jars of conserves and chutneys, as plate ornaments and a framing device under cakes and sandwiches, and as cushions and bedspreads.

Doilies of this time were often made using one monochrome colour such as white or bone. This simplicity in colour is counter-balanced by tremendously complex geometric patterns in design. Doilies are deceptive; as a small-scale object they can appear to be a quick and easy project. Yet, this false sense of simpleness and ease betrays the skills of tension and stich which are only visible in a doily when absent.

Crocheted doilies have undergone a revival in recent years. Where original production in the 1930s and 40s reflected ideas of industrial processes and modernist ideals of precision and symmetry, many of today’s crocheted doilies seek to represent community, connection and the values of women’s hand-crafted labour. Doily yarn-bombing brings together ideas of protective cloaking, holding together and loops that gather women from the past and the present.

crochet 2

Do crocheted octopi help babies in neonatal? Part Two.

As discussed in our last post, ‘The Tentacles for Tinies’ is a 2017 pilot study of the efficacy of using crocheted octopi in the neonatal unit of the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.

This week we will analyse the social and emotional findings of the study. In addition to measuring biological markers of the babies engaged in this study, the researchers surveyed impressions of the crocheted octopus project from parents of the subject babies. According to the report, 100% of parents surveyed said that they liked the project. More specifically, every surveyed parent reported

  • they perceived the project to be beneficial to their baby, and
  • the project helped them improve their involvement in their babies care.

Good-will, hope, confidence, encouragement are difficult to measure compared to heart-rate and blood pressure. It is, perhaps, unhelpful to seek validation of these positive qualities through quantification.

Other reports (not research studies) on the use of crocheted octopus reveal similar sentiments. For example, Poole Hospital in Dorset, England called for volunteers to crochet octopi to supply their babies in NICU. In response, an article in Modern Healthcare (20/2/17) says,

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the kind response to our appeal for crocheted octopi,” said Daniel Lockyer, matron of neonatal services. “Patients are already telling us that their babies seem calmer with an octopus friend to keep them company so we’re looking forward to continuing the project in the future.”

Similarly, TCA Regional News (5/1/19) reports from Thumbay Hospital Fujairah, UAE, that Mohammad Ali, father of a 33-week baby girl in the neonatal intensive care unit said,

“After being introduced to the crochet octopus last week, our baby seems to have become calmer and is responding well. I am thankful to the doctors and staff for this initiative.”

The perception of the babies as calmer is cited as anecdotal evidence which implies a degree of unreliability or untrustworthiness in the claims. Yet, is any other sort of reliable evidence possible under these circumstances? Is evidence of hope during hardship and peace during uncertainty even an appropriate request?

Returning to the social dimension of the study from Rotunda, Dublin highlights broader, immeasurable benefits. For example, some of the crochet volunteers had themselves experienced premature birth, birth complications or loss. Participating in the project, for these people, reportedly provided an unexpected positive therapeutic dimension. Similarly, staff at the hospital experienced community support in ways that were otherwise not possible.

The good in a human activity is not reliably measurable through a medical or scientific method. Accounting for the social aspects of the crocheted octopus project in a respectful and comprehensive fashion is complicated but worthwhile.

If you want to be involved in our Octopus Crochet project comment below or email for more information. Don’t know how to crochet? No problem. We’ll give you everything you need and support your every stitch.

Private dreams in public spaces

The private dreams we hold for ourselves can be the most timid, submissive and easily silenced part of ourselves.

Monica is happy to report that after many empty intentions, and several false starts, she submitted an embroidery for judging to the Royal National Agricultural Show. She did not win a ribbon, nor was she awarded a place, but her work was framed, and hung, as though it belonged and deserved to be there.

The best thing about realising her aspiration, about turning this small dream into application, is not the sense of achievement but the new space that opened beyond the ‘I wish I could…’ and the ‘One day I will…’. Seeing the artwork hung in this peculiarly special venue opened a door into new chambers of possibility that Monica never realised were there, all the while waiting for her.

Check back with us in February 2020, or sign-up to have these posts emailed directly to you, as rumours indicate Monica may have something spectacular taking shape on the hoop.

Why poverty? Why excess? Why numb? Why neglect?

At Magic & Medicine we think art, creation, is for its own sake. Often, our art is a reply to the world; we make to be heard, to broaden the conversation. We answer the Why that we read every day in our worlds. Why poverty? Why excess? Why numb? Why neglect?

We do not create in order to bring about change. Art is not a means. Dianne and Monica live in two very different worlds, different cultures, different nations. Our reply to the Why is from two differing, but coinciding, spheres. We both speak to the destruction in our worlds with the creation of art as an end itself.

Embroidery speaks evidence

Embroidery is a busy stillness. It is a full silence. Each day so many mouths talk at us, so very many fingers point towards our deficiencies and our needs. To pick up a needle and attend to our fabric is our blotting paper for the excess of existence. Is your husband ignoring you for a perceived misdemeanor? Embroider through it. Are your children pressuring you to buy buy, supply supply? Feel the quiet completeness of curling thread into a French knot. A friend wants to talk herself through her problems, again? You can listen and sew. You can embroider together.  At day’s end nothing may be solved nor secured but you will have, at least, lived out some moments in creation. You have stitches that show you lived through this day.

Why is it a rejection?

We recently received a rejection from an art gallery for our embroidered letters project. It was a generic, distant rejection that communicated its message: no thanks.

We’re still embroidering letters to each other on interesting and outlandish fabrics. We’ve learnt that when you embroider a letter by hand you really want to mean what you say because it is, clearly, a commitment of time. And in this project, time = love.

Why is it a rejection? It’s not. It’s a chance to do more, stitch more, love more.

We choose to create, not consume. We stitch, not swipe. We hold a hoop, not a phone. That’s magic and medicine. 

Photo 28-08-2018, 9 15 52 AM

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