Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Brought to bed - put to paper

Before the modern hospital birth, women mostly delivered at home. This period of labor, delivery and post-pregnancy, or “brought to bed,” was when mother and newborn could heal and nurse until they felt ready to be presented to the world.

Those with other children to care for (to say nothing of housework) spotted the flaws in this expression right away. So the phrase became just that. A slogan rather than an endorsement.

Much as I would have liked to have spent gluttonous amounts of time getting to know Lydia from the comforts of a pillow bank I, like my foremothers, had other children to give attention to. So there was no brought-to-bed – except for the occasional cup of coffee (which I was grateful for).

There has been quite a bit of sitting though, just as there has been time doing things with one hand. And much as I wanted, time for art has not been part of the equation. Reading books had to take a backseat for a while. Until I caught on to large-format books: picture books read from my lap to the twins and large, glorious art books. It is a perfect way to spend time while feeding a newborn. 

Although most handwork had to be put on hold, I committed myself to one finished piece during my maternity time. Something as simple as a greeting card.

And now nine weeks later we have just that.   

Lydia was Baptized on July 20, and I spent the week following reflecting on how it could be presented in a thank you to those who were there.  

I decided on a watercolor of Lydia’s gown with art masking fluid and a blue wash on watercolor paper. The paper absorbs the paint and resists the masking fluid. So what comes through is the pure white cotton paper. 

An appropriate and simple image for the Sacrament of Baptism. 

I started out out with a rough sketch and traced it onto watercolor paper. And painted on the masking fluid and taped the paper to a flat surface. I wet the paper, lay the wash, let it dry, peeled off the masking fluid with my fingers. And there it was. 

I scanned the artwork and used InDesign to turn it into a 4.25 x 5.5 card. And if you’re blessed to know a printer (as I am) you write to your father in-law and beg him to print your file and score them.

They even arrive all wrapped up. 

For me, art is what you can put to paper. Even one-handed. 

I did a book reading in March at a local preschool. During the question-period, the teacher offered that I describe my studio. I fumbled with a response:

“I don’t have one.”

“Oh, then tell us about where you do your work,” she offered.

I hesitated. “I work in my bed propped up with pillows. I spread out my work to dry and look at.”

So I guess we refresh old habits. Because what is one to do when there isn’t a studio to go to or even a few minutes to sneak away and create something?

I guess you do as your told – you bring it to bed.

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