Achieving Myself


Achieving Myself
Achieving Myself

I’ve tried to do some drawings on some of the smaller linens I have, but I can’t seem to make them work.  For some reason it’s the bigger pieces that call to me.  The ones that are worn and torn and stained. The ones that someone loved so much they used them enough to wear them out and then, still keep them. They have character, history.   Drawing on them is like painting on the side of a rock or the ceiling of a cave.  It’s like a personal graffiti.

And for me, every time I draw on linen, it’s a liberation.  When my grandmother died, we found in her house, a gazillion crocheted doilies, and most of them were exactly the same.  I never saw my grandmother crocheting, so I don’t even know if they were hers, but I imagined her sitting night after night when she got home from sewing at her factory job, crocheting the same doilie over and over again.  I thought this is what a  creative woman might find herself doing in the 1930’s and 40’s.   An obsessive outlet for her creative urges. Perhaps one of the few creative outlets available to her.  And I thought of all the women over the years who wrote letters instead of publishing books, or embroidered linens instead of painting masterpieces, because they were prisoners of their own minds in a society that created then reinforced their beliefs about themselves.

Now I’m sure this is not true of every woman who crocheted a table runner or embroidered a pillowcase, but for me these linens have become a symbol of my own enslavement to my mind and the beliefs I have been trying to shed my whole life.  The ones that, because I’m a woman, make me feel inferior, not worthy, not enough.

So in a way, each time I take a marker to linen, I’m liberating the artist, not only in me, but the artist in the person who sewed the lace or embroidered the flowers on the edge of the  linen.  And hopefully that liberation is more universal and  extends beyond the two of us to anyone man or woman who looks at it.  Helping them to see the possibility of being free from whatever it is that might hold them captive.

And I think this is what happens when we become and know who we truly are.  We are liberated from other people’s and our own incorrect ideas of ourselves.   Which is why I called this piece Achieving Myself.  Yesterday I listed to an interview with late Civil Rights leader Vincent Harding.  He spoke of James Baldwin’s idea of “achieving ourselves”.   He said, “Are there some things that are even deeper that we are meant for, meant to be, meant to do, meant to achieve? Jimmy Baldwin used to like to talk about us achieving ourselves, finding who we are, what we’re for and making that possible for each other.”

When we achieve ourselves, it not only makes life better for us, but for everyone around us.

Detail of "Achieving Myself"
Detail of “Achieving Myself”


17 thoughts on “Achieving Myself

  1. I love that phrase “achieving myself”. The whole post is beautiful and empowering. Though the idea of doing the same doily over and over sounds like another sort of prison. Maybe it was calming for her.

  2. Maria – This is an exciting piece! It’s even more special because of the vintage linen that has become your canvas.

  3. These are just wonderful and the liberation aspect touches my soul…..lovely work. Do you use a stabilizing material such as freezer paper while you do the drawing on these old fabrics? I find it works wonderfully and peels right off when the drawing is done.

    I can see that you visit to Gee’s Bend was very influential in your work and your mindset. So happy for you.

    1. I don’t Marcia, but I might try it. I do like the way the fabric resists the marker at times, I like the line it makes. I have less control over it and I think it has lots of feeling that way.

  4. The idea of achieving ourselves is fabulous. I have not heard the term before. It sparks a place of hope deep inside me. Thank you.

  5. A great thing to do with old doilies is to sew them together to make a tablecloth or wall hanging. If there are white ones you can dye them to be different colors and make a tablecloth of many colors sizes and shapes of doilies.

  6. Dear Maria!! These thoughts from your soul are so beautiful and enlightening that I wrote some of them in my diary. Annie

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