So, I’ve started on a very ambitious project.  A project whose subject matter is twofold.  It is both an exploration of folk symbolism in embroidery and a portrait of one of my favorite places in the world, Bona Dea Park located on Lake Dardanelle/Arkansas River. 

This wetlands park is a place that I have spent time since I was around eight years old to the present.  To me it is a sacred space much like a church is to most people in this region.  I have done so many things here, spending time with family members and friends, bird watching and documenting plants, to drowning Morena (last photo).

The top photo is the portion of this piece that I want to highlight today.  The second is of the entire piece to date. The third is a photo of a Slovakian piece that inspired the beginnings of the project.  The rest are images from the park.

I’m not sure what birds the original folk artist intended to represent but I see them as ducks circling around a pond.  There are many, many ponds in the Bona Dea wetlands area and they harbour a wide array of duck species, especially during the winter months.  We are a part of the Mississippi Flyway.

I changed the center of the pond slightly, using a sown field motif (a fertility symbol dating as far back as the Neolithic and Paleolithic period in Eastern Europe) as the object that the ducks are circling around.  I have blogged about the sown field motif here.

Elizabeth Wayland Barber on birds and other egg laying animals as folk motifs:

“What do frogs, birds, and fish have in common?  they lay eggs.  And eggs, as we have seen produce life–hence their use at Easter and other agrarian spring festivals to symbolize resurrections.  As a seed is to the plant world, so an egg is to the animal world: the mysterious capsule of life, the miraculous little starter.  No wonder the spring feasts consisted of dishes made from eggs and grain.  No wonder the Dancing Goddesses took on such forms as birds and fish.”

So in my piece I am imagining the sown field as an egg rather than a literal field.

Ducks are important in the cosmology of many cultures.  I shall quote here a piece about Slavic cosmology, as that is where many of the motifs in this piece originate from:

Svarog then came upon a lone duck floating in the sea called and asked her help. Here we can see this duck is actually the Goddess Živa, well known in the Book of Veles for her avian shape-shifting exploits. At his behest she thrice dove below the ocean’s surface to retrieve Mat Zemlja from the depths. On the third try she came up with a small piece of earth, but unbeknownst to Svarog, she kept a portion for herself hidden in her bill. Svarog took the soil, rubbed it in his palms and, like any good smith, commanded the elements of air and fire together. The wind blew the dry dust from his hands and as it fell the sun Dazbog shone upon it causing the oceans heat up rapidly. The water evaporated and the Earth grew out from the formless depths. The duck could no longer hold her portion as it grew as well. She spat it back into the ocean, and as it would happen, it was the mystical stone used by Rod to break throughout the cosmic egg. Soon the stone became a great mountain. This was a sacred place that bridged the world of the gods with the world of humanity.

In Cherokee myth is is a water beetle who brings the mud to the surface:

When all was water, the animals were above in Gälûñ'lätï, beyond the arch; but it was very much crowded, and they were wanting more room. They wondered what was below the water, and at last Dâyuni'sï, “Beaver’s Grandchild,” the little Water-beetle, offered to go and see if it could learn. It darted in every direction over the surface of the water, but could find no firm place to rest. Then it dived to the bottom and came up with some soft mud, which began to grow and spread on every side until it became the island which we call the earth. It was afterward fastened to the sky with four cords, but no one remembers who did this.

I have blogged about birds as folk motifs here.


Oh well, to be honest, in terms of the big picture, this week properly sucked. However, there were some very sweet moments giving me the energy and will to keep working on Alan, which is great… Can‘t hide the fact that I’m just a teeny-tiny bit less excited about stitching, since I finished that sweet sweet lovely face, but, despite of being so challenging, the shirt is coming along just as well. When I get the feeling that my eyeballs are about to jump out of their sockets and roll around the room, I just switch to that solid black area on the right, and this gives me a bit of a break..

Whatever it was causing hives on my arms, it seems to be gone now. I do think those were some kind of bugs biting, and with this week being all so rainy they probably went away. It’s a juvenile explanation, but as long as my arms don’t get so freakin’ itchy, I’m going along with it.

I’ve been thinking whether I can finish this canvas around Alan’s Birthday, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? If I want to do that I have to order thread online, I can’t rely on the local shop, because most of the time they don’t have the colours I immediately need, so I shall look into this matter now… So, yeah, that’s how we’re going. X)

Selected Journal Entries.

Boxing Day

“Not awake twenty minutes and already drinking heavily. Times are getting bad once more. I am terrified of everything. I am terrified of getting ill, terrified of moving on in life, sleeping with women, settling down, getting old, getting fatter, getting thinner, becoming somebody, becoming nobody, talking, not talking.”

Hand embroidered by Harry Thomson ( @hardie-k-t ).