Friday, December 10, 2010

'Growing' Flowers....

Well, the term has ended at university -- at least class sessions have ended (we set aside for the moment the inevitability of seminar papers and final examinations and smaller comparative book reviews, and so on, most of which comes home to roost a week from yesterday).  For the moment, I am at peace in my big late Victorian house, with a black-and-white not-quite-adult katten (compound word) demanding attention by rolling on the floor, digging at door bottoms when I dare to close them, mewing pathetically.....outside, snow has fallen just enough to coat the inner and lower parts of lawns, patios, steps with icing -- as if somebody spilled a big bowl of it and tried to wipe it up but couldn't get at the joints and interstices, and ....Here I am, thinking about flowers -- woolen ones especially.

As a child, flowers were one of the few pure pleasures -- alongside practicing the piano in the morning (yes, I looked forward to it....I could be alone, completely private, lost in beautiful spaces somewhere in the back of my mind); walking in woods with my big, goofy, sorely missed father; crocheting a lace curtain.  In the gardens of childhood, at my grandparents' house in South St Paul, Minnesota, or in our own (which always had vegetables and perennials), I would spend hours pulling up weeds that dared to intrude, digging up the unbelievably broad, heavy clumps of tulips and daffodils in order to split them for next season, making dolls with huge, voluptuous skirts out of the frilly, upside-down blooms of hollyhocks.  The soil was always warm; the smell was like nothing else on earth, full of promise. 

....and then there were the flowers that my brilliantly resourceful mother and I made out of felt, cloth, pinwheels, all kinds of shapes and materials, to decorate everything that seemed to need some attention.  We invented some felt tray covers, embellished them with felt flowers and beads/sequins, and then had the idea that we could sell them as kits -- So off we went to buy bolts of cheap felt, some stencil paper, bulk sequins, and we made kits with a label that said Van Bee Originals (I am NOT making this up).  Mom then took the kits to big department stores, where one buyer actually ordered three dozen (!!!!).  They didn't re-order; in retrospect, the kits were pretty amateur, with their mimeographed labels and stapled tops.  But what a joy to see our flowers and plastic-backed circles of felt in a Donaldson's department store window!

...and I think, more recently, about Val Devine, whose crocheted flowers embellished shawls and jackets and coats -- Mags Kandis, who encouraged two students at a Stitches camp in Riverside, CA, to cover over a less-than-artful section of a small handbag with ravishingly beautiful embroidered flowers -- and of course Karen Klemp.  I saw Karen recently at the annual crochet and knitting guild conference, and hauled her around to one side of our booth to show her the big tray of crocheted flowers.  She smiled and smiled -- no doubt recognizing that some of them were inspired by a class that I took with her at a TNNA meeting so that I could reconnect with some of the blooms of my own past.  I especially love the idea that we can cover over moments of pain or ugliness with beauty, simply by crocheting or knitting or embroidering shapes that originate in gardens.

....a customer came into the studio the other day in search of crocheted flowers.  She bought one of mne and then asked me if I could make a dozen more for her.  She designs scarves around individual blooms.  When I cut the price, she was astonished. bring peace, don't they?  They take us back to those long-lost gardens of childhood, where hollyhocks could be dolls.  Such joy to make flowers for her late at night, when the world is utterly still.  I can be 12 years old again.


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