Hear this read aloud below
It all began in childhood.
Life itself did not feel safe. With mostly myself for company, few friends and a feeling of alienation in my own family, I turned to the first thing I identified with love and safety for comfort. It was my blanket which I affectionately called “Bonkie”.
Bonkie was a pink and cream colored woven baby blanket with pink satin ribbon sewn around the edges. The feel of the satin between my fingers gave me a sensual experience that I came to associate with love.
Bonkie went with me everywhere. Without it I felt lost, exposed and unsafe so whenever I misplaced it I panicked. The only other object that gave me close to the comfort that Bonkie did was my stuffed monkey, called, of course, “Monkey”. Both of them were irreplaceable because I knew precisely the feel and smell of each one and nothing else would do. So, at the few times I lost one of them and it was replaced with a substitute, I rebelled.
I knew the real thing and I was inconsolable without it. Real, true and authentic….
the roots of my quest for all that was
real and true in life.
As I grew up Bonkie was no longer an appropriate companion for me though I secretly hid a piece of tattered and worn fabric in my room. It was literally in shreds and tied together in knots to keep it from totally falling apart. It still had the smell and feel after all those years and I treasured both. Monkey was long gone. I think I tried to flush her down the toilet in an attempt to give her a bath and that was the end of her.
But Bonkie was my one true love, one that never let me down and never gave me the feeling that I was too much, a burden and a chore to take care of, a disappointment, or simply unlovable.
I have spent an entire lifetime
seeking the love and comfort contained within that little piece of fabric.
As I entered my teen years my aunt taught me how to sew and my attachment to and love of the feel of fabrics found a new life. I recall going to fabric stores just to walk the aisles and feel all of the wonderful pieces of cloth, each one unique and holding the promise of the love I was seeking. I made many of my own clothes throughout my school years, but never thought to pursue sewing or designing as a career. My grandparents had started a knitting mill when they came to this country as immigrants so working in textiles was in my blood. However, anything that I loved was deemed foolish by my parents so I tucked it away deep within my heart where no one could touch it and ruin my secret passion.
My mother was always knitting something. She taught me how to knit when I was very young and I recall the sense of closeness I felt when we knit together. It provided something, a way to feel accepted and wanted by her, that I rarely felt. The feel of the yarns was also seductive to me, reminding me again of the sensations of the satin ribbon on my blanket as I lay awake at night afraid of the dark and sleep.
Physical sensation of this sort was my touchstone for love and safety, for comfort and acceptance, for a sense of belonging. Without it I was lost.
When I got cancer in 2017 it began an unraveling of all that was not real and true in my life. I remember the terror of feeling like there was no time to waste because I had no idea of the outcome of my proposed treatment.
As I recovered enough to do some creative work the thing that called to me was fabric. It brought me back to the sense of safety and comfort and the desire to create it for myself when all around me felt so tenuous.
I had had a dream of bringing the energy and love, the truth discovered through painting, into fabrics. How incredible would it be to wrap myself in that energy, to remind myself with physical sensation of what is real and true to me?
I dreamed of transforming the jewels of my inner journeys which I had painted many times, into colors and textures that could adorn my home and my body. I could actually wear my truth if I wasn’t yet ready to speak it.
I was still afraid of who I was, afraid to be fully myself out of a lifetime of conditioning that taught me to hide myself for safety. Designing these fabrics was one step away from actually embodying my true self. It was a safer step, but it was also a calling. I found myself unable to stop working on the first piece I designed. I was transfixed with stringing gems and stones onto the shawl that would become my touchstone for all that was to come after.
Hour after hour, stone by stone, I found myself in that piece, a self that I thought I had lost as a frightened, alone child. And then I knew that this was what I had to pursue, not instead of my painting, but as an expansion of it.
The blankets, pillows and wraps I make now are my grown up “Bonkies”. I began by making what I needed and it has transformed into a mission to extend the same love and safety and comfort that I was seeking to others.
It began with painting so many years ago, a way to find myself amidst the chatter of the outside world. It began as a way to chronicle my inner journeys and bring the jewels of my treasure hunting into the light. Now it has expanded beyond myself, with an eye on who I can serve with my work. The frightened lonely child clutching her “Bonkie” still lives in my heart, but she isn’t hiding anymore. Creating and sharing what I create, speaking my truth, has helped to heal my heart. I believe that it can help others as well.
These pieces, paintings and textiles, that come from my heart and soul, are the touchstones of love, safety, belonging and comfort in a world where there is little of it. Yes, they are beautiful, but they are more than that. They are my way of saying “You are seen and loved. You are worthy. You belong. You matter. You are not alone.”
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