I remember in early January of this year when her mysterious stitched squares began to appear in my Instagram feed. Each day I saw dark, bare trees embroidered across deeply colored, moody skies. And then suddenly the bright yellow sun burst onto the scene. I felt I was witnessing the moods of the winter itself. And each day a new piece was born.
Such is the Calendar Project, Lynn’s daily embroidered “sketchbook” in which she records the weather of her Toronto home and the mood of each day. To use Lynn’s own language, it is “visual poetry.”
The inspiration for the project includes a CBC radio program about the relationships between memory, anticipation and truth. She has always been to the impact of the weather, but the savage ice storm of 2013 in Toronto made her interest keener than ever. As she began tracking the weather, she became even more aware of the profound effect it has on her state of mind and daily activities.
As she describes her experience of the Calendar Project, “I wake up in the morning anticipating the creative process that will lead me to the day’s image; the image is shaped by photography and memory; and, I hope, reveals some kind of truth about how I experience the day.”
She began working in embroidery in 2007. Her verse novel, Moon Sea Crossing, was published a couple years before. But she admits that writing had always been a struggle for me her. “I had been envious of my partner Scott M2, an ambient musician, because he was always keen to get back into the studio to work while I was always finding excuses to put off writing. I wanted to enjoy the process of creating as much as he did. Embroidery gave me that.”
What follows is a conversation I had with Lynn via email in February and March of this year. She is a deeply thoughtful, reflective artist in the middle of an enormous creative undertaking. In addition to how much I enjoy her work, I was invigorated by her process and the way she articulates her vision.
What are the dimensions of each square and of each month? What is the ground fabric? What material is your thread?
Each square is approximately 1 1/4″ x 1 1/4″. The dimensions of each month are 9 1/2″ w x 6″ h. The ground fabric is medium weight ecclesiastical linen. I have been using a variety of threads, including stranded cotton, Floche a Broder cotton, perle cotton 12, wool, silk, and metallic.
I’m fascinated by projects that focus on a daily art practice. When I interviewed Mark Bierugal about his daily Stitch-A-Pose project, he described how, “the structure of doing something every day, to have to produce something, makes you not wait for inspiration.” What effect has the daily project had on your creativity overall?
When I came up with the idea for the Calendar Project last November, my motivation was to ensure that I spent some time stitching each day – no excuses. I experienced a fallow period after finishing the Aqua Reliquia 1913 project and, up to that point, a new obsession hadn’t presented itself. I often felt too tired at the end of the day to pick up a WIP so I barely stitched for over a year. This was a huge change from stitching for hours each day when preparing the Drone Cycle 2012 and Aqua Reliquia pieces. Since beginning the Calendar Project, my creative energy is running high and shows no sign of abating. I wake up in the morning excited to design and stitch a new square.
In January, I worked from photographs taken from our deck at various times of the day. We live on a hill with a south-west view; you can see Lake Ontario in the distance when facing south. In the face of unrelenting grey days in February, I took a more experimental approach. Some squares were inspired by photographs of the kind of day it was; others were the result of trying out a new idea or approach. As January progressed, I came to view the calendar as more of a sketchbook than a finished art piece. This freed me to take risks and be dissatisfied with some squares but to leave them be. I value the successful and unsuccessful squares equally. They are a record of what worked, or didn’t, that I can return to in the future when designing a new piece.
I love how some of the squares are actual outdoor scenes, with trees and skies. And some seem to be abstract walls of texture. Can you describe the creative process you went through for one or two of you favorite squares?
Feb 11 is one of my favorite pieces because, for me, color and texture are the main attractions in both painting and embroidery. For this square, I wanted to create the sense of heavily falling snow. To accomplish this, I worked the square vertically instead of horizontally and incorporated a variety of threads. I began with tapestry wool and then worked in stranded and Mountmellik cottons; the final touch was the white metallic thread to give the snow some magic (sparkle).
Feb 19 is another favorite for much the same reasons. This time, I wanted to depict a heavy snowfall at night so I stitched the background in navy blue. Then I added a tree with lazy daisy “snowflakes” falling on a diagonal. Using Floche a Broder and metallic white threads, I stitched long straight stitches to create the wind. Again, I feel that the metallic threads make the piece.
I’m struck by how this project brings so much creative awareness to the moods of the atmosphere around you, both the physical world and its relationship to your internal, emotional world. I think that is the magic of a daily art practice. You are also a poet. Have you explored a written component to the Calendar project?
Since I began to explore embroidery, the stitch has replaced the word as my expressive medium. I call it visual poetry.
Finally, can you tell us about any other projects you may have in the works, as you continue with this year-long exploration of mood, environment and stitch?
I plan to work on a series of seasonal pieces inspired by the Calendar Project (ranging from 3″ x 5″ to 6″ x 6″). They will be shown alongside the calendars and accompanied by an ambient film and soundscape created by Scott M2.
I also have another unrelated project in the works. In early January, Ephemeral City, dreamSTATE’s ambient album/iPhone app, was launched. The app inspired me to create a series of embroideries based on screen shots of the artwork. The artwork is a series of surreal cityscapes photographed and edited by Scott M2, the creative director and driving force behind this music album/iPhone app hybrid. The resulting images are more like paintings than photographs. They are comprised primarily of downtown Toronto buildings, sometimes spectral and other times representational, depending on the stage of metamorphosis in which the image is captured. The ephemeral nature of these slowly evolving images gives them a ghostly feel. Once the apparition is captured, the color and energy of the image can be translated into stitch.
One of the most exciting parts of my artistic practice has been collaborating with my partner, Scott M2. Fusing traditional handwork with contemporary electronic soundscapes and ambient short films creates surprising juxtapositions and unexpected harmonies between analog and digital mediums.
We are fortunate to witness the “visual poetry” of the Calendar Project unfold each day, like a sunrise.
Olisa Corcoran is a stitch artist and blogger living in Durham, NC. She speaks fluent Nuyorican and always keeps her dial turned to 11.