Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Intro to Embroidery

If you are in the NYC area and would like an introductory crash course on embroidery, I am teaching a 3-hour workshop on Tuesday, May 19 from 6:30-9:30pm at Etsy at 3rd Ward in Bushwick, Brooklyn. For details, visit 3rd Ward's web site.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Maudlin or Meaningful?

My fear is that there is a maudlin quality to my work, and that by sharing my personal experiences, anecdotes, and feelings, it's as if my audience has walked in on me in the bathroom. I have tried to mediate the confessional nature of my work by creating fictional characters and sharing viewpoints/voices other than my own. Yet I still wonder: is my work slight because it is about the human need for lasting connection rather than a cry against the social/political ills of our time?

My work itself seeks connection. As I work on a piece about a specific person, I often think, "I feel as though I am stitching us together." Each time my needle enters the fabric, I am creating an opening to fill with thread. And if I create an opening within myself, I leave open the opportunity of allowing someone to enter.

Image at top: "Stitched Together." 2009. Embroidery and applique on fabric. See my web site for more info.


Should I call again? What if he didn't get the first message? Does technology fail to connect us, or do we, as humans, sometimes fail to make an impression? What do you do when someone says no, or fails to respond to your advances?

I have heard some argue that to "succeed" in dating, you have to be able to withstand multiple rejections. This is not so different from selling a product, making it into grad school, or making it in the art world. I know I have submitted artwork multiple times to the same institution, hoping that this time around we will be a better match. Is it okay to approach the same love-interest more than once, even if he or she says no or is non-committal the first time? How many times is too many to express interest in the same person before he/she says yes?

Piece above: "And wanted you to know..." Embroidery on fabric. 4.5" X 3.5". 2007. Excerpt from unanswered love letter. See IvivaEmbroiders.etsy.com for more info.

The text says: "and wanted you to know that I found you sweet and warm and playful and unpretentious. I enjoyed talking to you about art, and felt comfortable with you, moreso than I have with anyone in a while. I was actually surprised by my sense of ease with you and am still" 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

If Only

He would make a great husband, if only he would stop drinking! She would be a great girlfriend, if only she could kick her depression! I want to spend the rest of my life with him...if only he would stop messing around behind my back!

What do you do when you've fallen for an "if only"? Do you stick around and hope for transformation, or do you tell yourself someone "better" is on the way?

image at top:
Everything He Ever Wanted. Embroidery on fabric. 2008.
"I am everything he ever wanted, as well as some things he could not have imagined. We're about to have our third kid, and he still hasn't removed his internet dating profile!"
Contact Muriel Guepin at Shop Art Gallery for more information: contact@shopartstudio.com. 

See also the Affordable Art Fair in NYC, May 7-10. 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ambiguity: when you are sick of "maybe"

In my last post, I included an image of "Always I return to you." There are two streams of thought in this piece. The first, "hold onto me or let me go; darling hold onto me," is embedded in my hair. The second appears alongside my sneakers: "Loving you is like running uphill..."

In the first bit of text, I am asking for some certainty. In the second, I am claiming that I love even though it is difficult and uncertain.

This piece is about ambiguity. At what point does ambiguity overpower your enjoyment of another person? Do you ever get fed up and decide you need to "know where you stand" or you will move on? How long will you wait for someone to make up his/her mind?

Ambiguity is a necessary part of forming bonds. There are subtle shifts in all relationships, whether they are friendships, or relationships with coworkers or family members. Even in the most committed romantic relationships, there may be times when one person gives more than another. For any relationship to last, there needs to be a balance in the work and the care. In these times of extreme economic uncertainty and job insecurity, is ambiguity in our personal relationships too much to bear? Is a lack of clarity with a lover a reflection of a stormy economy?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Always I return to you.

Piece at left:
"Always I return to you." 2009. 4.75" wide X 8.5" high. Embroidery on fabric.

"Loving you is like running uphill—there is construction on the side of the road, the streets are out of order, yet I move forward. Always I return to you."

In my hair, I say "hold onto me or let me go. Darling, hold onto me."

Please see the previous post, April 15, "Generation 'Maybe, I don't know.' Hold Onto Me Tightly, or Let Me Go (piece in progress).

In finishing this piece, I realize it is a love poem for running, and also for someone I'm close to right now.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Generation "Maybe, I don't know." Hold Onto Me Tightly, Or Let Me Go (piece in progress)

I have noticed that some dating-advice columnists are describing themselves as "single-ish" or "kind of single." Do a lack of commitment and a lack of clearly established boundaries define today's romantic relationships?

I feel as if I am part of generation "maybe, kinda, I don't know."

The above piece, still in progress, expresses how I feel trying to get close to someone who can be alternately available, warm, and receptive, and uncommunicative, unavailable distant. My quest sometimes feels like running up a never-ending hill.

As this piece says, "Darling, hold onto me. Hold onto me tightly, or let me go."

Hold onto me or let me go. 2009. Embroidery on Fabric. Still in progress. Final image to come.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Facebook, blogging, Twitter: social commentary, social networking, self-promotion, catharsis or all of the above?

I sometimes wonder: Are blogs by their very nature garish? Are the confessions in "Were I So Besotted" merely gossip? Is it unfair to excerpt conversations I've had on dates, or to report about an experience without the knowledge of the person I describe? Why expose the embarrassments of rejection and disappointment at all? Why point out a sense of failure when it comes to dating and mating? In short, is this work simply a diary of he-said, she-said? Furthermore, how is "Were I So Besotted" different from the stream of confessions and ephemera posted on Facebook and Twitter?

Through my embroidery and through this blog, I am hoping to create a community with others who feel there is a gap between experience and expectation when it comes to love and true emotional intimacy. The stories and aphorisms I present are about me, but at the same time, are simply about being human. The voice I use is not always my own. At times, entries are culled from my own diary. At other times, I try to adopt a male voice and get inside the head of the last guy I've dated. I care what he thinks, too. I truly want to understand what happened in a given exchange, and how the way two people inter-relate can lead to lasting intimacy or a month of awkward dating.

At the end of the day, I want what we all want: to step into a shared space with someone who won't be scared off or turned off by my quirks or intimidated by my talents. I want a partner, and I am willing to expose the good and the ugly, in myself and in a given interaction, along the way. Although at times I may feel ashamed, ultimately, there is no shame in any of it. Let the games begin.

Piece at left: Shayne Punim (such a pretty face). Excerpt from conversation I had on a date several years ago. 2007. Embroidery on fabric. Approximately 4" wide X 3.5" high.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I want you. I don't want you. Now that you're here, what do I do?

The start of a relationship can feel like a dance. There are steps forward and steps back; letting the person in while protecting yourself from caring too much, being too vulnerable, wanting or expecting. This dance is like a waiting period, an extended interview, a pause before we get to the really good part.

What happens when we can't seem to move beyond the step forward-step back dance? When and how do we decide to move on? Why is it that some relationships move beyond this point while others fail?

In my experience, the unrealized love can be the most painful. You start to get close to someone, things seem to be developing, and that wonderful person you've been sharing with pulls away. Did he hit the panic button? Did I want too much? Or did his ex-girlfriend come back into town and send him on a destructive spiral?

It's painful when your pursuer pulls away when he/she realizes you intend to stick around and see things through. And it's sick when someone denies a romantic and intimate connection exists because now that he or she has got you, he/she just doesn't know what to do.

Piece above: Please Put it Away. completed April 7, 2009. See www.IvivaEmbroiders.etsy.com

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How long can I wait for you?

You know how it goes. You're at a party and you meet someone wonderful, only to find out an hour into the conversation that he/she is already dating someone. You exchange business cards, and promise to send information about a potential job lead. Really, you're hoping to be too charming for your new crush to resist a lunch date.

How long is too long to wait? Have you ever waited for someone to become available? And if they do, does the resulting exchange live up to your expectations?

Piece above: He Wears His Heart on His Sweater. Embroidery on fabric. 2008. Prototypes of men I have dated, avoided dating, and loved.

The man's sweater says (excerpted), "It feels as though our time has come, but waiting has worn you down. What do I have to do for you to feel secure? I want us to happen. What do you mean I took too long to make up my mind? Hon, our time is now."

Sunday, April 5, 2009


In addition to the 8.5" high by 5" wide pages I have been posting here, I have created a series of snippets of conversations, which I think of as embroidered "post-it notes." They capture synapses in thought in how we relate to each other in this new era of romantic and sexual entanglements.

Many of these are available for sale on Etsy:

Friday, April 3, 2009

Yes, No, Yes, No, Yes, No. The possibilities are endless

In this age of Facebook and internet dating, where the opportunities for meeting people seem endless, how do we select potential dates and partners?

As a formerly avid internet dater, I found myself overwhelmed by the number of profiles I viewed and emails I received. How did I choose from among many men? Once I began email exchanges, how did I decide whom to meet face-to-face?

Perhaps even more interesting is the question of when to take a leap towards intimacy: when does one have a first kiss or spend the night with someone new? How do we navigate sexual decision-making in an age when the boyfriend-girlfriend paradigm is passé, and access to potential sexual partners has hypertrophied?

The rapidity of communication via internet dating sites seems to encourage and coincide with premature coupling. After sharing a handful of coy emails and a couple of coffee dates, I found myself compelled to feel as if I knew someone enough to go home with him. Of course, this timeline is completely out of sync with the attention and care it takes to develop a real sense of another person.

It was all too easy to become swept up in the pace and culture of the medium of internet dating. I believe I was seduced by the promise of intimacy and partnership via the internet rather than by any of the men I met. This sense of promise prompted my premature forays into intimacy, and my ultimate sense of disappointment when the men, who were, of course, strangers, did not meet my expectations.

The piece above, "Chastity bracelet," says "go home alone. wait another date." (See my Etsy shop for more information: http://www.IvivaEmbroiders.etsy.com.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009


As many single people will contest, the once-clear category of boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other seems passé. Or maybe these roles were never so clearly defined as I believed growing up. While "marriage" seems to be a pretty concrete concept with some widely agreed upon tenets, what does one call the friend one occasionally sleeps with, the ex-boyfriend or girlfriend with whom one occasionally gets together, or a collection of one-night stands?

I am curious as to why the term "lover" is so seldom used in this country. It sounds affected and strange whenever I hear it. Maybe "lover" needs to make a comeback. If we referred to that guy or girl we picked up at the bar or met online as a lover, would we would inject our behavior with a little more thought and lovingness, in the absence of a more maturely developed love?

Image above: So Besotted -- embroidered adjectives for "beloved." Completed 2008, with some linguistic help from a friend (see scrawled journal entry at right).