Much of my recent work revolves around handspinning raw chaotic fiber into orderly line and shaping ordered line into tangled mass within drawings and sculptures as a way to navigate the nebulous space between order and chaos, chance and control.
Thread is often regarded as a liminal material, always in transition towards a larger whole, whether sewn, knit, or woven. As such, I find the material itself – especially fresh off the spindle, wriggling and writhing against its new form – fascinating. I’m both discomfited and mesmerized by the amorphous tangles that take shape beneath my hands when a new thread is let loose. We humans seem to be uneasy with abstraction; in cloud gazing we make a game of finding recognizable shapes in the sky, while in more oracular traditions significance is wrested from coffee grounds and ink blots. My own unease with chaos manifests itself most often through the repeated creation and preservation of tangled masses in the attempt to find comfort within delicate systems of complexity. The use of tangled lines also highlights our often ineffable relationship to time. Time is linear, but our experience of it is not: the present moment overlays with our memories of the past and our expectations of the future.
The inclusion of handspun within my work, either as the object or the record of its production, acknowledges two types of archetypal human creation: spinning as an ancient gesture of the hand and the storytelling which has accompanied it through the ages. The process of spinning has been with us for many millenia; perhaps for as long as language. Prior to industrialization, every cloth (besides felt) was first formed as individual threads. Each of those threads contains the mark of the hand however skilled the hand or subtle the mark. In our attempt to derive order through creation, we humans rarely if ever achieve perfection, but within the tradition of handcraft that doesn’t seem to deter us from trying. Spinning’s pervasiveness meant it was often a group activity. As the hands of our ancestors danced the ancient spinners’ dance, the spinners’ mouths spun stories to fill the ears of their companions. In this way, thread is tied to language and becomes shorthand for those collectively told cultural and personal narratives now lost to ether of time.
“I love walking around and around this piece watching the tangles disappear and reappear and disappear again just for a split second.” -Sharon Emery