Here is the letter Gwen sent to “Fiberarts” magazine about her new “Frameworks” creations.
Dear Joanne Mattera.
This is going to be a long story, so get a cup of coffee and relax, for you, Joanne Mattera and Fiberarts, have a lot to answer for and I’m going to tell you why.
On June 8th, 1980, I found myself home alone for the weekend. This leaving me alone is now something my husband fears, for I tend to get BIG IDEAS when left to my own devices for long periods of time– say a week or a weekend.
I had just gotten my copy of Fiberarts: Remember that one with your review of Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party?” I thought you would remember.
I went to bed happy and awoke at midnight. Now this is quite unusual for me, if it takes me five minutes to get to sleep I think I have insomnia, and I usually sleep all night long. I enjoy sleeping. I consider it my reward for having lived through the day.
I didn’t just awake, I AWOKE with this marvelous idea. I would do a needlepoint. I had come across a weaving I wanted to do (Prairie Flower by A.D, Xenakis in the Fall/Winter 1979, hand-woven) but I didn’t have the right loom.
However, I believed it would fit my canvas, so I found the canvas and yes, it was large enough and yes, I could do it. When I was sure I had the whole thing worked out I went back to bed, but not back to sleep. This fantastic idea was there and wouldn’t leave me alone. I would do a show of needlepoint pieces.
Thus was born ‘Frameworks’. The basic concept has never changed, although individual pieces have taken over their own destiny from time to time.
Framworks is a show–22 pieces–all in needlepoint ranging in size from 6” x 6” to 2 feet x 15 feet (I mean big). I find this rather peculiar even now, for while it is true that I am a walking encyclopedia of fiber art techniques (I know how to do it All!) needlepoint has never been my main focus. I had done two pillow tops, started and never finished a purse, started and never finished another pillow, and that was it.
I had been concentrating on my knitting machine, weaving and spinning for the past six-eight years, and indeed even called myself a weaver and spinner. But I’m not one to quibble about inspiration. I’ll take whatever I can get and I got a good one.
For the last few years I have been on fire about Frameworks. At this point five pieces are totally finished (that is ready to hang). One has needlepoint done but is not mounted. One is 9O% finished with needlepoint, and l3 are marked on canvas with yarn chosen and at least the pattern set. Two are in limbo but I have learned not to panic. Just when I think I’ll never get the next one, I wake up and there it is hanging before me.
I chose the number 22 because a numerologist’s son said 22 was a magic number and I figured I needed all the magic I could get. I had to redo one because the materials weren’t right. Does that count for – or against, or at all?
All of these pieces are an integrated unit. There is a lot more to this story than I’m going to tell now. That is for the book.
You could felt it coming, couldn’t you? I did like Judy Chicago and started a diary and have been keeping a detailed working log writing all about the whole creative venture.
I have always (since age 9) wanted to be a writer but it never occurred to me that I would write my book with a needle. Frameworks has a written as well as visual story. Sort of 3-D writing.
Are you ready to quit or can you stand more? I am beginning to think of this as my 100 year quest. It may not be a chronological 100 years but I am sure it will seem like 100 years. In fact it’s already got that feel.
The other day I was looking over the pieces and realized that I am probably half through. So I fell into one of those futile ‘What’s it all about, Alfie?’ modes and went to bed in a funk.
I awoke with a nagging little thought which I tried to get rid of but it grew and grew until here I am now embarked on another trail.
“What if?” I said to myself, what if I did the whole thing over in quilting. Thus was born the Quilted frameworks as opposed to the Needlepoint Frameworks.
I am really I quickly trying to get the whole thing down on paper, at least, as it comes to me for I have this horrible fear I’ll die before get the ideas down. Once, they got started, someone else could finish them.
When I said this to my daughter she just laughed. I have explained in great detail each piece, and when she sees it she is completely surprised. She is an artist, potter, and sculptor but she was never able to visualize my concept until she saw it in the flesh so to speak.
So now what? I jumped into this thing with great exuberance which is still with me. I haven’t lost any of the tingle or thrill even though needlepoint takes forever to do. I love it. Even now when a piece goes its own way in spite of all I can do, I love it.
Recently I have begun to see how the book works but how the show works is beyond me. These pieces are a unit and need each other. While I have tried to make each one as beautiful as possible, it is their place in the show, that makes that complete.
I have begun telling anyone who will sit still long enough about the show and invariably they ask, “Where will you show?” I always answer, “The question is not where but when?” but I can see an eventual when, so now I have all these questions–HOW AND WHERE –myself.
Since you and Fiberarts and Judy Chicago started it and now you are at Fiberarts–is anyone interested? The plot thickens when you recall that 1980, No. 3 issue was called Special Issue: Dreams, Mysteries and Visions.
Well, this is the beginning and I can’t wait to see how it ends.