Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Gentle Domesticity week 10 book study...

A World at Our Fingertips

Moving on in the chapter about Texture we read Jane Brocket’s thoughts on the value of our hands.

“I like the way they knead dough, create stitches, hold yarn, thread needles, sort beads and buttons, and deal with fiddly machine parts.” (page 78)

This section really caused me to stop and consider my own hands, the importance they play in my everyday life and how I too often neglect their care.

“Hands are so vital to creativity that I can’t understand why we value the more useless parts of our anatomy more highly.” (page 78)

Jane describes two large Tessa Traeger black and white photographs which are hung in her home and how they are daily reminders of the beauty and design of the human hand. The photos were not in her book but I did find them online.

I really loved this one with the round bread loaf sitting on the aproned knee of its baker. 

Hands that knead dough, hands that create food to nourish tummies and feed young souls...these are the hands that I can relate to from my childhood watching Nana mix and chop and knead and roll and stir;  and now those hands are mine as I follow the same rhythms of making and baking in my later years.

The second Tessa Traeger photo celebrates the gnarled and dirty hands of the soil, the fruit of the gardener's toil. 

 “Our hands play a huge role in active domesticity. We employ them to carry out harsh activities…scrubbing, scouring, washing…yet these same hands are also our entrée into the kinder world of the gentle arts.” (page 78)

“The gentle arts exploit the often overlooked, underused cleverness and dexterity of our hands.” (page 78)

Exploit in this sense is a positive expression because Jane is referring to the skill our hands employ when attending to the detailed work of hand crafts, skills which are not commonly noticed when hands are predominantly busy at everyday chores.

“Softness, gentleness, warmth, coolness, strength and fragility are all at our fingertips when we knit and stitch and quilt and bake.” (page 78)

The Art of the Stitch

Just as in our previous chapters Jane takes us once again to the artist’s canvas to study paintings, this time a particular artist, Stanley Spencer (1891-1959) who had a keen eye for texture of the knitted kind.

(Portrait of Eric Williams 1954)

Though famous for his religious, ship building and pot-boiler landscapes it is Spencer’s domestic scenes which capture Jane’s eye with their detail of the woven and knitted kind.

“I know of no other artist who exploits the textures and colours of clothing and textiles the way Spencer does.” (page 80)

(Gardening 1945)

“Just look at the surface textures of the knitted garments in Hilda Welcomed (below) – the swirls, the bobbles, the entrelac, the Fair Isle, the ribbing, the rows. It’s like an illustration for a book of knitting techniques…” (page 80)

(Hilda Welcomed 1953)

“Virtually no other artist paints knitting and knitted stitches with the clarity and complexity that characterises Spencer’s approach.” (page 81)

The next photo is one of my own favourites. Mrs Baggett’s pearls immediately catch my eye, and the very precise way she holds the knitting needles – something I’ve seen other women do but never achieved myself as I tend to look somewhat clumsy in my knitting style. Also to my eye Spencer has captured the sheer size and weight of the garment being knitted – is it perhaps the back of a sweater for Mr Baggett, or maybe not a garment art all but an afghan?

(Portrait of Mr and Mrs Baggett 1956-7)

And then there is the graveyard through the window. Spencer painted this just a couple of years before he died – was he thinking about his ultimate end, the way an ordinary life one day fades away?
Mr Baggett talking on the red phone also captures my attention. The couple are pictured right beside each other, yet they are far apart in unrelated endeavours…and then there’s that graveyard in the background that once again stirs my imagination. Perhaps he was a vicar and Mrs Baggett is knitting for the poor?
The more I study each painting the more questions I ask, and the wider my perceived story flows. 

Are you enjoying the wonderful offerings Jane shares with us of domestic life through art as much as I am?

Let’s let our imaginations come alive this week.

Choose one of the Stanley Spencer paintings featured above and share your thoughts in the comments below or on your blog for this week's link up...

* What first caught your eye when you saw the painting?

* Did you imagine a story behind it? What was the story?

Next week we will be reading the final pages of this chapter, 82-87.

Every week in the Tuesday book study post I'm encouraging readers and lovers of the gentle domestic life who have a current blog and have blogged about Living the Gentle Domestic Life this year to link their relevant weekly book study post for others to come by, visit their blogs and be inspired. 

 Please do not link to the same post on your blog each week.  Your posts should be new and relevant to the current week's study.

NOTE: If your link is advertising or not a true reflection of the heart for living a gentle domestic life it will be deleted. 

I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts this week!

MISSED any of the book study posts?
Links to the previous nine weeks are listed in the Link Up below.



Allie said...

When I was young, I was very proud of my hands. A few friends tried to talk me into doing hand modeling. Now my hands are not so pretty, but I love them more with their flaws - they speak of long use, the skills they've learned, the brows soothed and quilts made to comfort. I look at the hands of my mother, twisted with arthritis, and yet still so good at showing her love, and helping her to express her thoughts. Still baking, still crocheting, still smoothing my hair.
I don't really care for this artist - he does texture well, but I find his people somewhat empty. The last one creeps me out a wee bit, lol. Not quite my style, I guess.

Kaye said...

Hilda Welcomed - When I first see this picture it conjures thoughts of love for someone and the whole family loves that person. Maybe Hilda is one of the parent's mother. I imagine Hilda knitted the clothing the people in the painting are wearing. She must be a loving, nurturing, caring person.
Jenny, my grandmother had arthritis as did my mother. I prayed my whole life that I would not get arthritis in my hands but I do have it. I've already had joint replacements in the base of both thumbs. My fingers are starting to deform and my wrist are painful as well. I fear for the day when I won't be able to use my hands but at the same time I pray that I won't lose my eyesight so I will at least be able to read. I think about those who are worse off than I am then I realize how worse off I could be. I'm then thankful for what abilities I still have.

Debby in Kansas, USA said...

I did my homework last week of feeling everything I could....without getting slapped, of course! My friend was wearing a wonderful hand-woven shawl on Sat. and I couldn't get enough of that! It was both coarse and soft at the same time. I put my palm over the top of a carnation and felt the firmness of the petals all mashed together. I pretty much touched everything that looked like it had a texture I'd enjoy!

The part about the hands took me back 26 yrs. to a weekend retreat my then fiancé (now husband) and I went on for pre-marriage workshops. One of the exercises we did was a study on our hands. We closed our eyes and the leader walked us through a life story of our hands in a marriage. I don't remember it all, but I remember it being quite an extraordinary experience that I had never experienced. With soft music, we held hands with our betrothed and couple took turns speaking each experience that each might feel, like "This is the hand that will touch your child's forehead to check for a fever." This is the hand that you will squeeze reassuringly in the doctor's waiting room."
I know I didn't pick great ones, but I hope you all see the idea. If I had been told about it, I probably would've thought it sounded silly, but it was incredibly powerful.

I never really thought about how often I must've looked at my mom or grandma's hands, but it must've been a lot! A couple of years ago, I was doing something and blurted out, "Oh, my gosh. I have my mother's hands!" As if they just suddenly appeared!! I expect to see my grandma's in the next few years, as I recently caught my lips pursing (sp?) in a way my grandma did!

I think my painting would be Hilda Welcomed. I first focused in on the couple, then the small children, & honestly didn't even notice the two others on the perimeter until taking more time! I imagined a mom coming home from a trip to care for a relative and the family just thrilled to have her back! Particularly the husband, who seemed to be kissing her repeatedly on her cheek! The little ones were gathered near her butt, the smallest as close as they could be, & the older ones being careful not to show just how glad they are. They seem to be extending their arms, careful not to include their bodies. I remember hugging relatives like this as a teen!

gail said...

I love the portrait of Eric Williams. There is a gentleness about this man that has me wondering. He’s a thinker and I would like to know what he was thinking as this portrait was painted.
This weeks study has been my favourite so far. I too, have hands that are sometimes painful because of arthritis, however when I consider what these hands have achieved over the years I realise how much I should really appreciate them.
Thank you Jenny for another lovely post, you have given me much to think about here. Blessings.

Beth said...

The portrait of Eric Williams is my favourite too. I wonder what he was looking at, I'm guessing out a window. It looks like he has a smile brewing. Maybe he spotted a bird, saw the suns rays through a cloud ...
His clothing reminded me of something my Dad used to wear, coming home from work in winter, pulling off his tie, and slipping on a jumper hand-knitted by my Nanna (his Mum).

Joanne said...

Hi Jenny,
Spring! Gardening! Gardening hands ...texture! Gardening 1945 painting...The warm colour, planting, a lovely gardeners moment in time. A very different climate than here. But just like the knitting needles, how does one really hold a spade? Nice clothes but I wouldn't want to weed a garden in them. After three hours this morning everything is in the wash! I will have to look up this artist. Thanks for the ideas!

africanaussie said...

that hand exercise sounds wonderful Debbie, thanks for sharing that with us all.

africanaussie said...

I like Hildas homecoming - I cannot imagine having the patience to dab a bit of paint on for every stitch. Over the weekends my hands become very grubby gardening hands, and then after a couple of very good scrubbings and a bit of lotion I sit in the evening knitting a little cardigan for my new grand daughter. Hands are very versatile. I have done a lot of knitting this week, being flooded in with the cyclone rains!

Carol said...

Thank you for posting the paintings. I didn't look them up when I was reading the book and am stunned by what I missed by not doing so. The Spencer paintings are so intimate they brought tears to my eyes. A few months ago I was filing my fingernails and saw my grandmother's hands right there. And they're just as work worn as hers were too, that's probably why I didn't recognize them sooner.