Friday, August 11, 2006


It really amazes me how an artistic or intellectual passion feeds opportunities... I'm part of a loose confederation of women who get together every Thursday night to do cross-stitch and embroidery, and I've been doing it for a couple of years now. My friend Jen Core has a degree in Folk History with a specialization in created practical "art", which tends towards antique textiles. Anyway, she has started a survey research project called the Tennessee Sampler Survey, in which she is trying to document at least 150 samplers of Tennessee origin from before 1900. Jen hears about them or people contact her, then she professionally photographs, documents, and researches the samplers. I've attended 2 of her talks on the subject - she shows slides and talks about the similarities, the regional differences, etc. - and it's just fascinating.

Last fall, Jen and I had the idea of creating a sampler that would take elements from some of the prettiest samplers she's collected, and that we'd make it a group project - each month she'd design us a new band, and there'd be 10-12 bands that we'd work on over the course of 2006. There are a dozen women doing it in Nashville, and about that many in Knoxville. Each woman is given the charts and color codes, but you can make any changes in color or stitch you prefer, always keeping in mind that we want to try and keep it within the realm of work typical to Tennessee, but also allowing personal taste and preference. I may be one of the few to actually try and stick to her original design as closely as possible... and even I've departed more than 2-3 times from the original!

Anyway, we've already begun to make plans for a few museum and art guild showings of all of the completed samplers, as well as some of her photos and research of the survey, and I think it could go further as well... I'm hoping some grant money might be forthcoming for the TSS. I'm about 2/3 done with mine, and as you can see there's some blocks I still have to fill in. This is what we call a Band sampler, and it's VERY long compared to modern samplers. I doubt I'll ever be able to frame it, it'll be so wildly expensive! It's funny; individual elements aren't that pretty to most of us - we've all done motifs we liked better - but when you stand back and look at the combined work, it really grows on you (if you LIKE that sort of thing).

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