Birth of my Pure-self Portrait


Earlier this week, if you’re a friend on Facebook, you may have seen this photo I posted with a very brief blurb about how I hate acrylic paints and I’m a “needle & thread girl” blah blah.  I wanted to elaborate some because, I feel, this is something that I think a lot of us face, on some level.

A Brief History of Laurey’s Artful(less) Life

Growing up, my mother was a major influence in my life in a great deal of ways, some good, some bad.  She was, in my youth, a ceramic hobbyist.  She would frequent a small ceramic shop close to our house and made friends with the owner, a lady that happen to also live in our neighborhood.  As I grew, so did my mother’s love of ceramics.  Eventually, she ran a couple businesses of her own and because of this, I grew up in a ceramic shop, in some form or another.  To this day, I adore the smell of greenware dust, the smell of the liquid slip and the metallic scent of the underglazes.  I have a small cache of extremely happy memories associated to those times in my life, but I also have a much larger (sadly) stash of bad memories.

Now, I believe that at any given time, all any of us can do is live our lives from a place of where we currently are.  Duh.  😀  What that means, though, is that if I am currently hurting, this is the place I am living my life from.  All of my actions towards others are filtered through this hurt and the hurt becomes the lens of my life.  So, let’s say, if I felt passionately about ceramics and it became what I turned to, to heal my hurt and I became so deeply attached to it that when my youngest daughter showed an equal interest in it, because she loved her mommy and wanted to do things with her that she knew her mommy liked, maybe that hurt I’m looking at everything through, would make me see something else, like my baby girl is trying to take this special thing that is mine and I would have to share…and I would react from a place of protection, like an alligator over her clutch, or an older sibling upset the younger sibling was taking something that was “theirs”.  I have no idea what the truth is on my mother’s part: it’s her story to tell.  I just know that how I was made to feel and how those feelings permeated every aspect of my development of “self”.

Another aspect of ceramics, that I didn’t mention in my “happy memories” is the kiln fired stage of: bisque.  This is what happens when you fire “greenware”.  You can underglaze greenware fire it, then put a clear glaze over it and fire it again to get the glass-like finish or you can just fire to the bisque stage and paint with…you guessed it, acrylic paints.  The ones that were used seemed to be like they were marketed towards ceramists but I am 100% certain you could use the shit craft paint from the dollar store since you would have to spray a finish over it at the end, no matter what because you cant fire the acrylics, they would incinerate.

Anyway, there’s more to ceramics than that but I’m only explaining because I made this association, recently.  The acrylic paints Im using for art journaling are bringing up irritation from this time of my life.  I’d already drawn the connection between my obsession with the eyes on the ladies I draw and paint feeling dead and wrong to my mother because she was so good at painting eyes that students in the classes she hosted always begged her to paint the eyes on their figurines.  This was after I explored why I hated drawing/painting faces.

Pin-Cushion Fingers

So, having all these negative feelings around something that I’m supposed to be liking, something I’m paying money to learn to do, just adds pressure and stress.  It occurs to me, “This is not who I am.”  So then one has to ask, “Okay, who are you, then?”  I don’t know.  I search back to the earliest moment I can remember feeling creative, what was the source of that joy?  A little brown sewing basket.  It had a pair of scissors (super dull), a tapestry needle my momma threaded for me and the two pieces of preprinted Carebear doll fabric  (Cheer bear, fyi…yeah, the pink one….*shiver*) my mom cut out and started stitching for me.  I was so proud to sew the fabric together, even if the pretty sides were touching and I couldnt see the doll yet, I knew it was there, I knew it was coming and it was gonna be awesome because *I* made it.

So, if sewing and stitching are that creative spark, it makes sense that I love fabrics and textures, as well as colors.  It makes sense that when I moved in with my sister, whose artistic pursuits have never been denied or questioned, my first magnetized action was towards embroidery and cross-stitch.  I loved the freedom of the embroidery stitches but everything was Christmas trees and Easter baskets, so to cross stitch I went because even if its just a million little x’s, I can use those like pixels and create anything….well, in theory.  Cross stitch lead to knitting and crochet which lead to accusations of being an “old lady”, even though the name-caller was older than me.  So into ‘hiding’ I went.  I sewed some beads I had, onto a piece of felt with a sewing needle and thread, one day.  Everything about that object made me happy but when I showed it off, with pride, it was answered with the dream-killing, “What’s it supposed to be?”  Creativity is so fragile.  Little did I know, in this dark time, I found my saving grace.  A little picture on Pintrest, a close up of a woven embroidery stitch that wasnt a fucking easter basket, it was just there….no apologies, no excuses, no purpose other than to be what it was, beautiful.


If you’re still with me, wow…thanks.  Fast forward to now.  I am truly free to not only explore who I am but to be whomever I decide, without judgement.  In the process of therapy, I’ve come to refer to the voice within as “My Pure Self”.  This is the voice that tells me what is right for me, some people say it’s God, some say it’s intuition, I say it’s the person I would be if I wasn’t “living my life from the place I currently am on my journey.”  She is, my essence and I listen to her, as staunchly as I can.  Doing so feels authentic, it feels purposeful and appropriate.

So when I see this interview with the creator of the woven stitches that so warmed my heart, Arlee Barr, I read slowly, taking the time to not just read the words but think on them.  I examine all her works of art and am struck by her piece, Sad Self Portrait.  It just clicks.  All the faces I’ve struggled to be happy with, created in paint/pen/marker, it was to create this face to stitch.  That piece of fabric I tried a “tie dye” technique on, using watered down fabric paints, that ended up a big spiral with a fractured arms, what if I put the center of that on the “third eye” of a face I drew…I could stitch it, and stitch other colored fabrics to it, and cover it with textured stitches, a lotus, my hand, circles and more loosely stitched lotus, she would be the image of what I imagine my pure self to be.  She would be my, Pure-self Portrait.

So it begins





Stitches were too light so I used a water soluble marker to darken the stitches.  Below is how they looked wet.


This is the stitches after I ironed them dry.


Still not dark enough so I used a black fabric marker from Pebeo.  Much better


Here is the basic layout of the other painted fabrics and an old bedsheet.


And here is the sketch I created for basic fabric layout and appliqued lotus placement.


To be Continued…



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