Friday, June 13, 2008


I awoke this morning feeling as if I had not cleaned my teeth last night. I realised that it was probably because my sense of taste was returning. I have had a rather nasty cold, and completely lost my sense of taste and smell. It was a distinct disadvantage on Bounty Day. I had piled my plate from the wonderful array of dishes everyone had provided for our festive lunch. But I found myself pushing it aside when only halfway through, because it all tasted like sawdust.
Fancy not being able to taste this wonderful feast - the photo only shows about one-third of the food we had there!

The loss of smell was a distinct advantage when changing William's nappies while I was minding him during the week. But I got to thinking - as I often do - how we should really value our senses for the way they enhance our lives.

Most of us speak about the "gift of sight", and there is no doubt that it is a great asset to us for both practical and aesthetic reasons. For me, colour is abundantly important. I could talk about colour, and how it affects me, for ages - and perhaps I will do just that in a future posting.

Some loss of sight and of hearing is something we all have to come to terms with as we age, and I wonder if we truly recognise how lucky we are to live in an age when spectacles and hearing aids have enabled us to retain an enjoyable quality of life for years far beyond those of our forbears. The image of grandma sitting in her rocking chair has been replaced by images of grandma sitting at the computer, playing scrabble, delivering a well-directed bowling or tennis ball, and participating in clubs and education courses - largely because these aids have enabled her to continue to experience the world with her senses.

One sense we very much undervalue is the sense of touch.

We know how important cuddles and kisses and stroking are. But we experience so much of our world from how it feels. Even the texture of our food is just as important as the flavour. Think about the sensation of chocolate melting in your mouth, the crustiness of freshly baked bread or biscuits, the fresh tingling coolness of a gelato.

For a crazy patchworker and textile artist like me, colour and touch go hand in hand.

We see through our fingers and feel through our eyes.

I love a surface that is richly embellished. When we have added lots of embroidery, lace, buttons and beads and ribbons to a surface, we call it "encrustation" and it really delights our senses.

For me there is a sheer delight in running fabrics and ribbons and laces through my fingers. And there is an incredibly sensuous delight in holding a cool glass bead or button to the lips. I love hankies, and have even made myself several out of the beautiful soft but crisp Liberty cottons. While I have had this cold, I have needed to borrow Bernie's - and I found some lovely tartan ones at the back of his drawer. It is almost worth having a congested head to be able to use them!
Two handmade Liberty handkerchiefs, with a man's silk handkerchief from England (an Op shop find)

I minded William this week for 3 days. It is just wonderful to watch him exploring his world with both his hands and eyes. In the hallway, I have some wallhangings, including this seascape that I started in a Judith Montano workshop. Each time Willian passes it, he stops to run his little fingers over it, feeling the beads and buttons and textures. I do not stop him - it is meant to be enjoyed that way. The handling may shorten the life of the hanging - but hey! Isn't it the quality of life - and how much pleasure you can give - more important?

On the opposite wall is my button wallhanging. Because it hangs up higher, I lift William to reach it, and he takes great delight in pointing at and grasping the different buttons. Perhaps I should make him his own button book? With the buttons vewry securely sewn on, of course!!
Now we probably learn to love particular textures, just as we have favourite colours and tastes. For my part, I know I love the feel as well as the look of silk. I adore the feel of the fur of my cats and dogs. As a small child, I can even remember fondling hairy caterpillars! I also love glass - for its cool clean smoothness - and for its honesty! This is some of my blue glass collection that I have in the bathroom.

Other craftspeople have learned to love the feel of wool and yarns, and are rarely without a pair of knitting needles or a crochet hook to ply their magic with their chosen medium.

I have often thought I would love to learn to do "Freeform Knitting" as in the beautiful work of Prudence Mapstone. I just adore the colours and texture and variety in her work. It would be so satisfying to the senses! But I think I will stick to what I know best. And I would need a million years to explore all the possibilities in the media I already work with. Meanwhile I will continue to give thanks to the Lord for all my senses, and hope they continue serve me well and delight me.

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