I would imagine that we all have ideas of what would constitute a world we would consider ‘perfect.’
For some it may be something like unlimited financial means. For others it may mean finding the love of your life and having someone to share the rest of your days with. For still others, it may be the end of disease or poverty or conflict. I think for most of us it is not one thing in particular, but a mix of many ideals that would make our lives feel safe, comfortable, and happy. But one thing is certain: the definition of ‘perfect’ is likely to be as varied as each person you may ask.
How many people do we know have what we would consider ‘perfect’ lives? I can’t think of any. I think that everyone we come across has some type of struggle they are going through or are working in some way to make their lives better. It is human nature to want to do better and improve. Even if we have things that are comfortable and make us happy, it seems we are always reaching for more. When we accomplish the goals we set out to do, most of us immediately raise the bar to set the next goal higher. It is how society and man in general has advanced throughout the ages and no matter how far we have come, we always seem to have further to go. There are always new things to explore and discover. The process is never ending.
As I think about this while writing to you all, it dawns on me that humans are maybe the only species that is driven in this way. I never really thought about it before, but it seems that other animals are pretty contented as long as they are surviving. Most animals hunt, eat, reproduce, and sleep as their main function on this planet. As long as their physical needs are met, they seem quite happy in their existence. While I am sure there are exceptions to this thought, for the most part, I think that is the way it is. I believe the ability to aspire to greater things – be it by building a better world or creating more comfortable surroundings or even figuring out the mysteries of the world – is what sets us apart from other species. We are perpetually in search of that perfect world.
As an artist I find that my vision of a perfect world may be quite different from most. While I want to be comfortable in my surroundings, I don’t find the need for opulence and excess. (This does not include excessive supplies to create artful things! In that respect, I can always figure out the need for something new!) In all seriousness though, I find that my perfect world consists of a sound home and the emotional real estate and mindfulness and time to spend my days making things. There is something about making something that I am emotionally tied to – be it a painting, piece of jewelry, or woodworking piece – that gives me the type of satisfaction and gratification that is sometimes difficult to describe to those who do not create. It isn’t about the financial gain or even about the finished product, but it is the process of creating that I find most fulfilling to me.
When I came across a photo of the piece of an embroidery sampler on the internet called “A Perfect World”, my heart skipped a beat. As a child and into my late teens I used to embroider as a past time. I had learned the basics from an elderly neighbor in my Chicago neighborhood and at eight years old was introduced to the basic stitches. During my days in high school and university, I used to spend evenings stitching from purchased kits. There was something about pushing that needle and colored threads and yarns through the fabric that I found to be so calming. Maybe because it gave me a chance to slow down after a busy day and do something without time constraints or pressure. It was truly soothing and and something I loved.
I saw the piece in 2014 and after much internal deliberation, I ordered the somewhat costly (to me) kit from Di van Niekerk in South Africa.
NOTE – REVISION: I am adding in this note to say that in no way did I think I spent ‘too much’ on the kit. I just meant that for me, it was a bit of an investment. The kit was packed full of ribbons and threads and there was much of it leftover for future projects. It was a wonderful value and everything included was of the highest quality and as I said – all the threads and ribbons were hand-dyed silk. I have subsequently returned to Di’s shop many times to purchase more materials. I have never been disappointed. ❤
I also ordered the 160 page instruction book that promised to teach the techniques used to make the sampler – known as “Stumpwork”. The kit arrived over a month later and was packed with beautiful hand-dyed silk threads and silk ribbons as well as the pre-printed cotton panel. I was so excited about it, but I was also a bit intimidated by the sheer scope of the project. My partner Keith mentioned that I “must be crazy” for choosing such an ambitious project as a starting point. After the (at the time) five years we had been together, he had never seen me pick up a needle, let alone make anything worthy of admiration regarding stitching. When he indicated to me that he thought I would never complete the project, it only served to fuel my desire to prove him wrong. I gave myself a year and hoped that I would be able to do just that – finish it.
The instructions were clear and concise and easy to follow. As with most huge endeavors, breaking things down into baby steps that were palatable made things less intimidating. I actually read things over first (several times) before even attempting to begin. Di’s beautiful way of explaining things really and truly made things “easy”. (YES! I said EASY!) After the first few elements, I knew I had this one and just continued on one element at a time. Each element taught a new technique and method and while I do admit to ripping a couple of things out, I wasn’t discouraged by my errors. I just tried again and learned from my mistakes and moved ahead. Every moment that I stitched brought me into my own “Perfect World”. I worked on it mostly in the evenings after long, sometimes chaotic days. While I was stitching, I was concentrating on each prick of the needle through the cloth and the satisfaction of seeing the design coming to life, one stitch at a time, brought feelings of accomplishment and awe to me. I was going to be able to do this!
It took a year to finish – nearly to the day. When I stitched the final stitch on the final panel, I actually felt a kind of sense of loss. Working on the project was my escape to a place where I felt calm, happy, and accomplished. Coming to the end of the journey left me wondering where I would head now for my sense of peace. I would never consider making it again, but I felt that what I learned from the project was enough to proceed on my own journey with my own designs. It was at this time that I began creating my own embroidery patterns and pieces and opened my Etsy store called “The Stitching Kitty” (http://www.thestitchingkitty.com)
While I may not have a lot of time to keep adding to it, I always find comfort in that it is there for me when I do. For the little time I spend cultivating The Stitching Kitty, it has been quite successful.
Fast forward to 2020. I decided to take some time ‘off’ in December to take a breath and do some organization. While doing so, I came across the finished, unframed piece buried in a pillow case in my closet. While it was never in danger of being ruined, I looked at it and thought of how much I loved it and I thought it was high time to frame it and display it here in my home. It would remind me of my reawakened love of stitching and needlework and remind me the Perfect World I enter every time I stitch.
Before I frame it however, I wanted to take quality photos of it. I did so this week and created a slideshow of each panel and its individual elements. When I saw the number of photos – (over 80!) I was once again reminded of just how much went into this piece. In looking at it as a whole, it is impossible to see the full details of its beauty. The link to the slideshow is here:
I hope you enjoy seeing it.
Our world is far from ‘perfect’. There will always be things that can be improved upon and changed for the better. But sometimes we need to carve out a place for ourselves where we can feel that we are happy, safe, and satisfied with our lives. My “Perfect World” doesn’t only include embroidery, but just about any type of creating. I often say I was put on this Earth to ‘make things’ and I don’t believe that anyone will ever convince me otherwise. I need to create as much as I need air and water. It is just part of my being.
Until next time . . .
(You can visit Di van Niekerk’s amazing website at http://www.blog.dicraft.com . She has a lovely blog and offers kits and instructions for beautiful dimensional needlework.)