Serendipity connections : Vietnamese reverse appliqué and Louise Bourgeois

Vietnamese reverse appliqué

The present unexpected continuation of that rare climatic creature – an English heatwave – makes it just too too unpleasant to lug boxes about or to worry about working our way through the heaps of things for the time being out of sight in the garage. Unpacking has stalled. So, hooray for Wimbledon fortnight, the perfect excuse for two weeks of almost complete indolence and indulgence. To justify a long afternoon sofa bound, cool drink to one side, knitting and notebook to the other, during the morning I distract myself  with small, easily ticked off but somewhat unimportant tasks, like sorting the pillowcases, tidying the tool box or attempting to label random unattached electricity cables (not to mention signing on with doctors and dentist). Small successes achieved on this front, I give the kitchen surfaces a quick wipe over, plump the sofa cushions, generally whizz away any untidiness visible from my chosen seat, then on with  the television and relax. Luxury! The vicar joins me from time to time but his chosen place of indolence – er, I mean research – is as usual at the table in the garden under a large umbrella,  Ipad to the fore and pipe on the go (or from my observation not quite on the go as it seems in constant need of relighting!). The cat is somewhere hidden in the bushes but undoubtedly with a direct view of him who feeds her as she rarely lets him go far out of her sight. All quite perfect.

Vietnamese reverse appliqué: detail

We have still to find the box of kitchen implements or the clothes from the hook on the back of our previous bedroom door but happily some lovely unexpected things have appeared, including a few more Vietnamese purses (whose hand sewing is far too good for harbouring heavy coins) and one of my grandson’s picture books, which somewhat surprisingly is devoted to the artist Louise Bourgeois. Such different treasures but suddenly it came to me not so different. The Vietnamese reverse appliqué first blogged about here  falls in with one of my own favourite design themes – maze-like lines where, so to speak, you don’t take your pen off the page until there’s no where else for it to go (like this and this). All who visited the Tate Modern Gallery when it opened in 1987 will remember Louise Bourgeois’  giant spiders in the huge open spaces of the former turbine hall and they were giant works in more sense than one for they quite overshadowed her smaller, quieter textile works where you can see her love of these sort of graphics too, curls and spirals  to the point of obsession – whether roughly sewn, embroidered, patchworked, printed or painted. Strong colours, especially red, predominate.

Vietnamese reverse appliqué (sadly stained during recent house moving)

For me discovering these little works came much later and though I was sometimes a bit uncomfortable with her often rough sewing, I found the exuberance and use of colour exhilarating. But it was her fabric scrap books that really won me over – the Ode à l’oubli  (ode to forgetting) made in her nineties from fabrics, large and small from her previous living. Couldn’t we, shouldn’t we all be doing this? Each of my girls would love to have a tangible record or reminder of the fabrics that accompanied them in their lives. We may not all be Louise Bourgeois but we each have our own story to tell  – why should it not be in fabric, instead of, or as well as words. To see more than I can show you, try Louise Bourgeois fabric scrap books  and read this from the Moma website on Ode à l’oubli. Then start making your own unique fabric memory.

Vietnamese reverse appliqué (stained during recent house moving)

Vietnamese reverse appliqué

More about Cloth Lullaby, The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault  in my next post. Meanwhile I hope you will enjoy looking at the fine stitching in these photographs (about 75% of the original size.)

Cloth Lullaby, The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault


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  1. Posted July 10, 2017 at 4:14 am | Permalink

    It sounds like I have a new artist to explore! Thank you. The Vietnamese work is as always lovely.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

      Glad to introduce you to Louise Bourgeois. She only died in 2011,aged 99 so her life and work saw many changes.

  2. Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    The idea of a quiet afternoon doing nothing strenuous is very appealing right now. It was far too warm for concentration last week!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I hope it won’t be quite so hot as I’ve got to go to London via Oxford this week and lounging around can’t continue. Then again, I’m not ready for rain either. Do I take my raincoat or not?

  3. Becky
    Posted July 20, 2017 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Hi. Not related to your very interesting post, but I mentioned a pattern that I always knit for little girls. Usually in cotton. It a pattern called Lottie in the Rowan Junior book by Kim Hargreaves. If you find it on amazon, there are pictures of a sleeping little one in it. I do have a copy I can send to you if you would like it.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted July 22, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      It is sweet – similar to the Debbie Bliss Chanel style one but with raglan sleeves which I prefer. Did you feel the need to add more than the one button? Knitting has slowed down recently but I would love to have a copy to make when unpacking and sorting is over- it’s very kind of you to offer it, many thanks. I’ll email address to you separately.

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