Tuesday, January 24, 2012

King Tut, Bequests, and Cross-stitch

Beanie called yesterday to see how I was doing. What she really wanted was to talk, something we haven't done in a while. The connections seem filled with static with broken trunk lines.

We chatted, but what interested me most was a all she told me about. One of the boys called her a day or two after the funeral to apologize if he was inappropriate and ask if he could have the death mask of King Tut that I had cross-stitched and given to my mother. Beanie told him she couldn't do that because Mom gave Tut and Nefertiti back to me a few years ago. They hang on my living room wall. He never called and asked me about them and it has been nearly a week. I guess he'll wait until I die, take them down and take them with him when he goes after my funeral, except I am not planning on there being a funeral and I've considered donating them to a museum. The frames at least are worth something and I put a lot of work into both pieces. Mom always said I should have them appraised, but where does one go to have cross-stitch appraised and how would they be valued?

The value to me is obvious. I spent a great deal of time stitching the pieces, two weeks for each, working 8-10 hours a day for 14 days. I changed some of the materials, like using a 28-ct even weave cloth in navy blue instead of the Aida suggested. I don't like Aida; it's too stiff. The fabric I used feels soft and takes the thread and needle like a dream. The metallic threads that give the piece it's shine and rich look are hard to work with but worth the effort. I still have some of the thread I used for Tut and Nefertiti; I saved everything, including the metallic threads, and then I gave at least one box of the threads to a friend. Mom sent them to me in one of her junk boxes, a combination of things that belong to me and were in storage and whatever she thought I'd like.

Our tastes were so different. She preferred gaudy colors and knick-knacks and, while I like looking at knick-knacks, I don't like dusting or having them cluttering everything up. I gave up knick-knacks a while back and even then my dust catchers were different from my mother's ideas of tarting a place up with junk. I prefer crystal balls in ornate holders and porcelain statues of Erte's costume designs, and the occasional Greek goddess or god. There was a time I collected porcelain eggs, but that time is past. My shelves are more apt to be filled with books and DVDs than statues and painted marble or porcelain eggs. Fewer things I have to box up and move.

And the books are going, too. I'm donating them to the library and either Goodwill or Volunteers of America. Maybe both.

One thing we did agree on was Tut and Nefertiti, or at least my colored thread renditions of them. That's Tut's picture above. It's not a great likeness, but it's all I have right now and I cannot find my camera to take another. Maybe after I get rid of some more books it will turn up.

Since the first time I shared the pieces with her, Mom coveted them, so much she threatened to burgularize my apartment to get them since I refused to just hand them over. Neither piece was matted and framed yet, that was next on my list of things to do. I did allow her to take them to work to show people. She loved bragging and showing off, even if it wasn't her stuff she was showing about. When I got them back, I cleaned them up and took them to a framer's shop to be done. They cost $119 each, and that has been about 20 years ago. It was a lot of money but it was worth it.

I chose the mats and frames with such care, settling on a papyrus reed paper for one of the mats. The effect was stunning. I gave Tut to Mom for Xmas one year using one of my more devious methods and she nearly fell down the stairs getting to it when she finally realized it had been hanging on the hall wall all Xmas Eve. None of us had seen her move so fast, not with two knee replacements and her bad back. She clutched the large frame to her chest and ran through the house yelling, "I got it. I got it. It's mine. It's mine." Nefertiti follow a few years later, but I just handed her over once she was matted and framed without the elaborate gift-giving strategem. I had someone else to torture that year and I limit myself to torturing only one person a year -- per family.

Tut and Nefertiti hung in pride of place in the house in Hilliard and then in New Holland until the year Dad died. I came back to Ohio to spend a week with Dad and took Tut and Nefertiti home, wrapped in a faux mink throw. They -- and I -- made it safely home and they have been with me since.

Mom told me several times that she wishes she hadn't given them back. She missed having them close. Someone she knew offered to mat and frame them again, this time with glass between the work and people's hands, and did the pair for free. She didn't choose a papyrus paper mat and didn't use the same colors in the matting, but the frames are nice and the glass protects the work from the elements and people. I don't mind too much because it's not the frames or the mats that count, it's the work itself.

I'd no idea that my son had ever seen them or wanted them, but he must have seen them some time. That he remembered and coveted them still surprises me. There are so many other things to covet and ask to have. Mom had so much junk and lots of knick-knacks to choose from, but he wants Tut. Probably Nefertiti, too, if he knew about her; she did come later since it took a while to find a pattern and change the colors to match Tut's, and then the all the time to stitch and frame her. Getting either one is not an option now. I'm still alive.

And I've taken up cross-stitching again. I'm working on Xmas stockings for my grandkids. I've nearly finished the first one -- on Aida cloth -- and will hopefully finish the other four by Xmas. I don't have the time to spend 8-10 hours a day working on them and my fingers are not sufficiently callused yet so the needle doesn't hurt so much when I push it through the stiff cloth. I've a little callus building, but it's not ready yet. I'm ready though, ready to pick up cross-stitching and there are so many beautiful projects to choose. I even found some beautiful nudes that would be fun to try, almost as much fun as the 24 x 36-inch nudes I painted when Dave and I moved to Arizona after David Scott was born. I didn't work at first and on those rare occasions when my son was quiet or napping and I waited for the load of wash to finish so I could hang them out to dry, I painted by the numbers, blending the colors and changing some of the design, and created two beautiful nudes that hung on the wall.

I never had them framed and somewhere along the way they were either lost or given to someone who coveted them the way I covet colored and metallic threads and the way they change in my hands from thread to layers of light, shadow, and color to create beautiful images on cloth in some alchemical magic that delights and surprises me still. The process is calming and soothes the restless artistic spirit that overtakes me from time to time, reminding me of a time when brush and paints answered the touch of fingers and hands to bring the seeming of life to blank canvas for someone to covet and ask for -- or pay for -- with or without mats and framing -- and glass.

The night stand by the bed has a heap of tangled thread ends on it. I like to stitch in bed for a while before reading until I'm ready to fall asleep. The images on the instruction sheet come alive on the cloth as I stitch and I marvel anew that threads combined in a certain way create the subtle shading, shadows, and light that make the whole project come alive. I see the possibilities when I decide to buy the kit and it makes me want to buy other kits and make more projects. Bell pulls, tapestries, baby afghans and bibs, bits of cross-stitch for clothing, and so many other things. I imagine stitching and hanging them on the walls with appropriate frames and matting or hardware, or packing them in boxes and sending them to my sons to give to my grandchildren to enjoy. This need to cross-stitch will pass and another creative outlet will excite me for a while until only my true passion remains -- words.

Words on a page, threads on canvas, built letter by letter and page by page, a tangible reminder that I was here and left a mark for someone to covet after my death. I wonder which will endure the longest -- Tut and Nefertiti behind glass or these tangled words.

1 comment:

Nilu said...

The words...the words will long the longest for sure!