So how did it go then?

Tea time in the refectory; 1 1/2 hours to go!
It was said to me that the half hour or so before one's exhibition opens is a magical time, and how true this is. Nothing more can be done to tweak any part of the work or the way it is hung, dusk is falling and causing shadows to fall across one's efforts, and one has a feeling of 'job done' which is perhaps the best thing about it. Pleased that I have managed this with very few after-midnight sessions. Doing ten pieces meant that small deadlines could be set rather than one big one, and pleasingly I managed to keep up the pace (and I'm not the only one surprised at this) and finish the last piece a few days before the final deadline, and that left just the ten small pockets that hang below, and a little heap of samples-to-feel to sort out. I could of course have done with 'just one extra day.....' which is NFV (Normal For Viv).

SEITE book launch
Simon is 2nd from left
Happily, the same day saw the launch of a new book by Simon Stocks on the structure of the lines that make up the psalms, upstairs in the same new wing of the cathedral (lovely building eh?); Simon's book gives attention to what makes up a psalms line, looking at to the most minute details, and perhaps he had a similar anxiety to mine when I worry about my work being scrutinized by the embroidery police. It meant I started the evening already stoked up on wine too.

Unfortunately, last year's other two prizewinner exhibitors  - Ruth Joy and Tony Kenyon - couldn't be at the private viewing, which was a shame, and it would have been good to have a few more guests there who would surely have accompanied them.

Unusually, I hadn't prepared a little speech, even though it seemed likely one would be asked for; I just relied on judging the mood at the time and just talking about aspects of making the things on view, and their raison d'etre (which is to make objects behind which a story lies... just like the things on the mantelpiece, but in this case, the story is there long before the object....) But I did feel a bit lost for words, which is unusual, due to a bowled-over feeling caused by the sight of my work now out of my control, and of many of my supporters assembled, who would now need several telephone boxes to house them even tightly packed.

The overwhelming feeling was one of gratitude to all the people who had made it possible; you get to the moment when it's 'your day', and become acutely conscious of how much it is a team effort (a cliche I know). Even embroidery done in seclusion requires a husband to pay for the haberdashery (I sew, he saves); a husband to fit the room (my 'lair') out with shelves and cupboards (sexist I know, but he is better at it); encouragement along the way from friends and relatives; friends to help me mull over how to proceed along the way; a man to make the boards to hang them on; men to help me tie all the bows (very un-sexist, this) and hang it all on the wall - not as easy as you think; and very importantly, people to be interested enough to come and look at it. This is all in support of an occupation that looks very solitary.

Although it is all about the psalms, the Bible, it is still difficult to say 'God told me...' without feeling that some kind of proviso is expected such as, 'I don't mean literally spoke.... to me'; but actually I did have that feeling as near as dammit early on in my making a stab at entering the competition: God told me that if I worked at it, then it would make my life better (whatever that meant). I don't know how to explain how it can be that any of us have thoughts or feelings (Which is it? Both.) that seem like the voice of God saying something: a of feeling of urgency that assures you that to follow the hunch is not to waste time; that in fact that not to follow it immediately is to waste time.

Ps 104 in progress
I was asked (and thank goodness they asked me questions to help me out of my speech-less-ness!) which would be the one piece I would take with me if fleeing the house in the event of a fire, and I think I may have given the wrong answer, although the one I named - Psalm 104 - is one that really am very pleased with, partly because it is done using a method which I think I may have invented or at least developed (using a crocheted mesh like a canvas), and it is indeed a piece I love; because the one I would pick up would be 'Daisies'. The reason I didn't think of it was possibly because it seems to be set apart from the others in being of the most personal connection to me and my family; the things that made it happen reach right back into my childhood in around 1960, and further back even than that as I will explain, and to the childhood of my grandchildren unfolding now.

Part of 'Daisies'
'Daisies' ' manner of creation owes a lot to the house being extra-crowded last Christmas, which forced me to do handwork in a chair (oh how I loved being woman-in-chair doing handwork!), and thus was begun in the presence of four generations of the family, and with one member having just died and awaiting burial. So that one seems to be one in which the 4-D aspect of the work is most present; life and death, the yearly round, the celebrating of light in darkness and thankfulness for what has gone and what is to come. When great-gran knelt by the Christmas tree and stretched her hands out to the youngest (by a few minutes - preceded by his twin sister) little Rowett, who tottered towards her (he had maybe only seen her twice for a very short time in his little life so far) as though he knew that she needed him to trust her, I think that something of that rather wonderful Christmas began to seep into the little scraps that would become that piece, with its faded but rich green linen and other loved cloths, and crocheted dish-cloth string dyed to resemble jewel-colours. The whole of the psalter could be summed up in this piece, which is that God has created a world that has enough to sustain all of us simply but richly 'through all the changing scenes of life', if only we will let him lead us.

Eight so far, in the summer!

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