Everything in between

   

This chair, with its lovely patina, can be found at Rex, a coffee shop on 10th street between 56 and 57 in Manhattan. It is not the most comfortable chair. But it sure is pretty.

  

I have a thing for chairs, if you have not noticed. Artistically speaking, chairs equate to nudes for me. When I started writing Inspired to Quilt, I was asked to cut back on placing nudes within the book. This was in the hope of attracting the broadest audience possible. So, I moved to depicting chairs (and birds, always birds).  Chairs allude to the human form, we rarely walk into a room without coming upon a chair. People recline, rest, wait, gather while sitting in a chair. So when I come upon an interesting chair, I draw, or in this case, photograph it. It is good form to do so, taking notes, snapping pictures, keeps items and ideas accessible.

  

There are two color ways of this chair print in my first fabric line, Meadowlark by Windham. If I get my way, there will be more. Once we alight on motifs that impress us, spark the imagination, it is a good idea to honor it and continue on the quest of expressing your appreciation of the idea. In the photograph that follows, you can see a bit of hand printed chair in the lower right.

  

While sitting in the aforementioned chair, I worked this piece. It is my goal to make my small work art quilts as similar in style and nature to my journal pages as I am able. When working with different media and hoping to carry ideas over from one format to another, we must realize there is quite a difference in media. Applying paint with a brush to paper is much different that applying dye to cloth, paper is smooth and has finishing agents that hold the paint in place, where cloth is much more absorbent, and I haven’t even mentioned the difference between paint and dye. What I am trying to suggest though is, there is no direct correlation between mediums. We need to bridge the gaps we experience as we come across them.

The journey to finding these parallels began to occur prior to writing Inpired to Quilt, and continues to this day. For example, in the piece above, the finches were drawn using a ruling pen and paint, on silk organza. Silk organza is the equivalent to tracing paper in my journals, it is sheer, it can be layered and allows what appears underneath to show through. The ruling pen itself is a parallel to a pen, and allows for fine line drawing on cloth or paper, using any color you are able to mix in either dye or paint. 

I have a good handle of the tools needed to cross media. What I am working on is creating imagery that can flow and jump off the page and find a continuum on cloth, my preferred medium. This is the fun of being an artist and following where the visual and artistic journey brings us. I continued this exploration within Dreaming From the Journal Page: Transforming the Sketchbook to Art. And honestly, I think this will be my journey for many years to come.  

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Today I went to my 4 month check up with my oncologist, all is clear. I am good to go for another four months. 

I need to ‘talk cancer’ for a moment and I hope you are ok with this. Cancer sucks. I am happy that I seem to be in remission, I have the ability to beat this and I know that not all folks do. Within my support circles, I read and keep in touch with folks who are experiencing stage four cancer, where keeping the cancer in check is the only option and some of my friends and acquaintances have passed from this disease. I do not mean any disrespect in talking about something as trivial as hair, but I find I need to.

It has been about four years since I lost my hair to chemotherapy. I was bald, I didn’t wear a wig, I didn’t feel the need to. When my head was cold, I wore a hat. I was told that my hair might return different than it had previously been, it might come back thicker, curly, it might change color, or come back thinner. Secretly, I hoped it might come back curly, as I have always had poker straight hair. Instead it came back super thin. I used to struggle to wrap an elastic around it twice, now, I bet I would need to wrap an elastic 5-6 times. I have had to change the part in my hair so that my head does not show through as much. I have been trying to grow my hair out and I realize, my hair has become my krytonite. I can handle being breastless, I had to make a choice, I did, I went with it. But my hair? Not so much.

I saved my life, I exercise, I am eating healthier, I am alive. Now, I need to accept, this is the way my hair is now. I am glad to have hair. It sure beats being bald, or dead for that matter. I don’t know if I can grow my hair out-I have gotten tired of cutting it and haircuts are expensive, here in the city, I am going to give it to the end of the summer and decide at that time. Whatever I do, I need to stop the conversation in my head, the negativity and disappointment I feel, when I look at my reflection and see how thin my hair is. The experience of breast cancer and its treatment has made me shine a fresh and bright light on beauty ideals, how they affect me (and us), and has encouraged me to break down my assumptions and become a stronger more vibrant woman. It is time to apply what I have been learning to my feelings and thoughts about my hair. 

Thank you for sticking with this post, it was a long one.


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Comments

  1. Karen Christensen says:

    Loved this post, all of it! I just recently started a piece that is a direct copy of pencil sketch I did ages ago. I wanted to try to transform it to cloth ( my fav. Medium ) and chickened out for over a year! Why!?! I have bitten down on that scaredy cat and am doing it! Learning as i goI, by the seat of my pants. The hair thing, after all you have been through ( and still go through ) that hair is the stumble for you! I get that though, somewhat, as my once thick hair is going thin with menopause, not chemo not so extreme of course, but it pisses me off! Really love your birds and your honest heartfelt posts!

  2. I bought your book inspired to Quilt years ago and took it out two weeks ago for more inspiration. This post is so timely about the chairs. I’ve been trying to free up my mind to paint a small series in my journal about an oil lamp and I love your creativity with your chair series in the book. I understand the publisher’s point of view, but it’s a shame they are so hung up about nudes. I would have loved to have the two you did Wandering in The Garden and Gentle in the book.
    I’m glad you are such a strong spiritual being. Hold on to that so that the changes in your body can be accepted. Best wishes.

  3. Holly mcLean says:

    I’ve been dealing with a bit of depression as I am losing my ability to walk without difficulty due to osteoarthritis. Also, I love to knit and I’m having a hard time to sit and just knit away like I used to. I know that none of these challenges are fatal, so I’ve been feeling a bit guilty about being down. I think I get the hair thing although I don’t want to compare my issues to what someone with cancer goes through.
    Melanie, I love to read about and see your artistic process but I’m always touched when you raise ‘real’ issues. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for talking about this! I got the thin and curly hair. And I don’t like it either. I want my my undamaged brain and my real hair back. I know that seems trivial. I miss my old brain and I miss my old hair. I hate that my scalp shows through my hair now. I hate that it curls whatever way it wants, and generally that is the opposite to the way I want it to. I dislike intensely that my brain, in all its ADDness doesn’t work or behave in the way it used to. Or even remotely the way I want it to. If I had to turn back the clock I certainly would undo the chemo, but not the mastectomies. I believe chemo, for me, it was a treatment too far. while I am enjoying being in remission and hope to stay there for a while yet, I miss my brain and hair on a daily basis. jmho, your mileage may vary

  5. Hi Melanie
    First I loved your post —the whole thing! It’s honest, pure, real, and although we have not met, makes me feel like i know you! I do admire your ability to experiment on your journey and try new things–leaving the worry of what if behind! I find your art and techniques inspiring ! Keep going on this wonderful journey and keep being fearless!
    Secondly, never feel guilty about how you feel, as human beings it’s only natural to feel a wide range of emotions. Blocking how you feel can actually be the damaging element! Your emotions are completely justified! So your a bit pissed about your hair —that’s okay. As long as you get the main idea of what is truly important , you still have a right to like and dislike particular circumstances—again that’s what makes you human! Years ago I had a miscarriage, it wasn’t a first —I became saddened and also angry —then I felt a bit guilty for my anger —and shared this with a catholic priest (fearing his answer that I had no right to feel angry if it’s Gods will)—-his response was just the opposite of that—-he made me feel comfortable with my anger, stating I had every right to feel angry! This was the best offering he could have shared —-letting me get angry, allowed me to work it through and get over it! So in short I guess what I’m saying to you is feel your feelings (even negative ones) it’s okay —just don’t let
    the negative take you over, put them in check and move on! In the end let the joy and positive shine through and allow yourself to be happy where you are right now! Happy always feels so much better! Hope this was helpful on some level, and as always——
    Blessings for a happy and creative life!
    By the way I’d love to have you join me at my opening reception on May 1st! @The East Fishkill Library, Hopewell Junction New York! 6:00—7:30PM
    Hugs,
    Renee

  6. I am finally home so I could read your post without distractions. I absolutely love how you are taking your journal page and creating it in cloth – swoon!!! I too love chairs. (Well, doors, windows, architecture, boxes, and cupboards too.) I like home things, especially old wooden ones. They have a history. Remind me to tell you the story of the Farmhouse rocker and my Dad.
    Hair- This is an issue for those of us without thyroids. The thyroid hormones affect hair, nail, bones, etc. So, when you don’t have one, you have to make up for it. There is a FB page for us thyroidless ones and there is always a discussion about shampoos. The theory is you need one that is high in biotin and is organic – especially no sulphides. The ladies claim that coconut oil based shampoos are the best and the recent favorite is Nature’s Gate. I haven’t tried it yet, but those who have swear by it. It is available on Amazon, I think and might be worth trying.
    Have a fabulous week. Much love to you, D, and Peach!

  7. Sharon Johnson says:

    I think you are lovely.