For the work for this group of samples we are asked to create in dimensions of approximately 20cm. The ideal is to find objects with protrusions or a combination of objects that create complex shapes. We are asked to wrap in an experimental way, by taking the objects shape as a starting point. Any lumps and bumps can be an opportunity to change the direction of the wrapping.The suggestion is to be playful, using knotting, tying, stitching, braiding, or weaving techniques.
The first sample arose from a book I have been reading ‘When Women Were Drummers‘ by Layne Redmond *1. The goddess Hathor, or the Lady of the Horns, is one of the oldest Egyptian deities. Her image appeared around 3,100 B.C. At this time horned cows were deemed to be magical and sacred and some of them were retained in temples. Hathor is often depicted wearing an elaborate headdress with horns in honor of them. She was also a goddess of culture and used a frame drum in their sacred ceremonies. Below is my rendering of Hathor.
My finds for this wrapping sample were found in my husband’s sacred place (his workshop). They include old washers, a broken ratchet, a piece of electrical cable, and a plastic darning needle. I had plenty of separate pieces and I used stitch to attach them to each other and I had plenty of protrusions to work with. I used scraps of torn fabric, threads, yarn and gold wire.
With my husband away for 10 days, I moved into his workshop and searched for objects for my next sample. They were ready for the scrap heap, except for the bull dog clips.They all have interesting protrusions, I particularly like the curved piece of wood and the spiky object, I am beginning to see what I want to emerge from these finds.
I began by gluing some parts together before adding bulk to make this figure look more feminine and voluptuous. Next I began wrapping in purple fabric.
The story behind this Statue of Liberty look-a-like, is that Edouard de Laboulaye, a Frenchman, proposed the idea of a giant statue replicating an ancient goddess for New York harbour in 1865. It was intended as a gift from France to the United States. Laboulaye in France and Joseph Pulitzer in America, eventually persuaded their rich citizens to raise the necessary finance to create this sculpture.
The goddess was known by various names, and another Frenchman, the sculptor Bartholdi, who was commissioned to create it, referred to her as “Libertas”. Part of the intention had been to create a welcome signal to all the refugees, which at the time were finding a safe welcome in the new Americas. But it began as a gift from France to commemorate the friendship between the two nations. Finally it was also to commemorate the centenary of the Declaration of Independence of the United States. Libertas was also known to the Romans as the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, she was referred to as the goddess of personal freedom and liberty . This is my interpretation and process.
The colour purple was originally the colour reserved for the elite of Rome. Called variously, Tyrian Purple, Phoenician Purple, Imperial Purple, Byzantine Purple or Tekhelet. It was very expensive to produce (250,000 marine shellfish yielded an ounce of dye). The first designs for the Statue of Liberty were intended to have the robes made as a mixture of scarlet and purple, but it was altered to fit in with the final choice of materials used (iron frame and copper casing). I used their original purple idea with reference to Pliny the Elder’s book 8 Historia naturalis, explaining the method of extracting the colour from marine snails.
The 7 spikes on the Statue of Liberty have had several interpretations. Ishtar the Roman goddess had spikes radiating from her head as an early form of sun worship. The National Park Service say the spikes were to represent the 7 Oceans and 7 continents. My find has only 5 spikes, I wrapped them in purple felt and a first wrap of purple thread to keep them in place. My next wrap was in silvery blue thread, I liked the play of light from the silver thread and the next wrap was silver wire.
The torch that the Statue of Liberty is holding, was originally designed as a golden cup filled with the wine of freedom. The cup was made in Bartholdi’s workshoops, but the New York port authorities requested a different idea before it was shipped, so that an eternal flame could be used as a navigation aid. The cup was sold to the then Czar of Russia and in the following revolution it disappeared. I have used artistic license for the cup/torch idea on my little figurine and looked for something interesting in to be wrapped and stitched to Libertas. I discarded the heavy screw due to the weight. I attached all the other items together with felt, stitch and silver wire.
My final sample was inspired by an ancient European Cucuteni Goddess figurine.
She is characteristically shaped with voluptuously large buttocks, narrow waist, stumped arms and an anonymous head. She is also covered in incised lines and marks particularly a girdle like decoration. Archaeologist, Marija Gimbutus, in The God and Goddess of Old Europe suggests a date for this culture to be mid-fifth millenium BC.
Encouragingly, once I had engaged the idea of the shape, I visited the monthly charity sale SARA (which raises funds for abandoned animals in Lanzarote) for suitable materials that I could use. As you can see below, the wooden jewelry holder I bought for €1 was a really good starting point. The shape is barely changed from prehistoric cultures.
I only made a few adjustments, by narrowing the legs with a hand saw and enlarging the buttocks, next I created breasts from soft padding wrapped in fabric. I have a lot more protrusions to work with. I am getting quite astute at using tools other than needle, scissors and thread.
The fabric I decided upon for the first wrap, is eco-dyed 100% cotton sheeting. I used India Flint inspired ideas and shoveled dead leaves into the middle of the sheet, sprinkled it liberally with water and lemon juice and left it wrapped in plastic wrap hanging in the garden for two weeks, like a giant butterfly pupa. Some of the resulting marks also arose from unexpected mildew growth. Though I like the marks, I was disappointed that the fabric did not stain darker. Perhaps putting the fabric in a bath of tea or coffee might lead to the desired effect, or rust dyeing? I have yet to experiment further.
wrap of black thread
My final wrapping included lighter brown yarn and spiral stitched marks on the protruding buttocks, typical of the Cucuteni figurines. I could spend many more hours creating stitched markings on the rest of the figure, but this is a sample and I cannot afford any more time. It may be one of a series of ongoing goddess wrapped sculptures.
Overall I was pleased with all my choices and wrappings for these samples. I am confident that other objects can be wrapped with all manner of materials I have yet to explore.
The next wrapping came out of the story of an archaeological dig in northern Israel. It was said that, the find, which appeared to be a bundle of plant fibers wrapped around a broken clay pot, contained earrings believed to be 3,300 years old. Experts believe the earrings were used for trade purposes before the use of currency. “The jug and its contents appear to be Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age, in the 13th century BC, the time of the Exodus and wilderness wanderings described in the Hebrew Scriptures...” archaeologist Robert Mullins, an associate professor of biblical studies at Azusa Pacific University said “….This is one of only 20 silver hoards ever found in Israel.”
I have a box of old jewellery that I have been hoarding for such a project. The image of the find reminds me a little of one Shannon Webber’s more beautiful natural pieces (see below). It looks rather organic, not unlike a bird’s nest. The blue/grey tint of the Israel find reminds me very much of handmade felt. I have some banana plant fibers and wrapped wire and I want to experiment. Now where will I find a broken pot? Yes, I could buy something cheap and break it, but first I will search my stash of household objects and my garden as well as my husband’s workshop for other materials.
After a half day of research, I realised that I cannot mimic the Israel hoard without a lot more effort and time. Making the right type of felt will take a day, even if I had the supplies (which I don´t). I live on an island where getting hold of art supplies means that I have to order everything in advance. Shannon Weber can take months for her works to mature and I think this idea may be on that time scale. I have to be realistic, the work I do for this project is all about sampling and then maybe later considering how to evolve the idea. I have to use what is to hand, in my home and around the island. I have therefore gone with the banana leaf idea, wrapping some objects that look like the Israel earring finds. Oddly enough they did not arise out of my jewelry stash, but my husband’s electronics supplies.
The fresh green banana leaf idea did not work for the wrapping experiment, even though it is a leaf that I use to wrap fresh caught salmon and bake in the oven. Delicious! But I am rambling away from artistic endeavor.
The green banana leaf wrapping broke and did not yield to being wrapped around my small objects. I abandoned the idea and looked at the dried leaf alternative and cut them off the plant. I have plenty to choose from, there are 6 banana plants in various stages of growth and decay in my garden. I wrapped the objects and then tied them with cotton string. I left the strings long and uncut. I found a tiny wooden chest and placed them inside, like treasure. A very different outcome than I had first thought, but I was pleased with the process so far given the time frame.
2.3.4.UW: Finally I wrapped the box in shiny fabric, then a layer of thick string wrapped in felt which helped mold the wrapping into a more organic shape. The next wrap was torn fabric wrapped with thread. Two more layers of less dense threads criss-crossed each other in satisfactory layers and colours.
*1 When the Drummers were Women: A spiritual history of rhythm, Layne Redmond
*2 Statue of Liberty story http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/statue-history
*3 Marija Gimbutus, The God and Goddess of Old Europe
*4 Israel Dig http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/02/prweb11607980.htm