Arlee B.

Go big or go obsessive? I've done/do both, combined and sometimes feel i'm ready to burn the t-shirt! At the same time, i can't *not* work this way. My note taking for work can be incredibly detailed as well, to the point of neuroses often, but always with the intent that if i lose an idea for that particular piece, it's recorded for future work.

One also has to define what "big" means to themselves though: is it actual size, the complexity of the technique used on it, or the point being made using this medium as the voice? Some may even question *my* "big", but when each element may take 15-41 hours to create, and there are 15 of them to work, well, it FEELS big!

Most of my work to 2011 had been a "comfortable" size, usually within the 20-28" range. It fit my worktable, it was easily portable, and it was finishable. I started questioning why i didn't get "expansive and gestural", feeling limited by the zone where it was easy to fit everything in, in a numbered fashion. Subsequently most of my work since then has been much larger, not only in inches, but in complexity and duration of process. (Pieces have ranged from 30×40 to 36×43 to 40x54) I've come to realize there must be a happy medium, both in size and in practice, due to the fact that my work is extensively hand embroidered. I know there is no race or prize for having a certain number of pieces done per year, but when i see only 3 things done over 12 months, i wonder how a body of work can be completed in a reasonable time for exhibits.

I've tried doing small exercises that could later be incorporated into larger work, i've deliberately set sizes, but in the end, the background fabric determines, literally, the size of the finished piece. Because i was intentionally creating these fabrics for future work, they were larger than the previous comfort zone sizes. This summer i will again be doing a residency to make more of these fabrics, and this time will cut down consciously a few in motif and area so that i have a stockpile of possibilities that are within my zone! This isn't a limit really, as pieces can always be incorporated into each other if i *do* want to go bigger again.

My "obsession" IS hand embroidery. Nothing else gives me the texture, the depth, the manipulation i need in my work. Part of my artist statement for one of these larger pieces : "An obsessive embroiderer, locked in her own mind, stitches her myopic and isolated view of time and sanity in daily recordings of hope and despair. A sampler, a diary, a medical chart, nature and personal tempo elicit responses to her internal and external wanderings, with thread and needle marking each day." It's a myopic way of working in a sense, easy to lose sight of the whole until an area is done and you can step back and see how it integrates into the whole.

I love the texture and the play of light and shadow on the density of stitch; the cloth becomes like a skin with all its marks of age, a wrinkle here, a lump there, excresences and scars all honoured and mapped. Colour is muting and fading, becoming a memory marker only, rather than a focus. Is this because as i grow older, i feel i’m fading into the background? Without the background though, there is no history. Sounds like artsy concept blahblah but that’s truly how i feel. I’m comfortable with this though—i’m not the point, the art is. I’d rather people look at it, than at me.

As to the "100", i believe i do that everyday--100 stitches at least!