Monday, 17 December 2007

Why don't I feel the need for speed?

There has been a lot of discussion about slow clothes recently. Much of the conversation has taken place on SharonB’s Blog, In a Minute ago and Sharon has provided links to several posts on other blogs. From all that I have read, I think that Nuido - The way of Embroidery fits very neatly with the concept of Slow Cloth. I briefly mentioned Nuido in a post two weeks ago, and although it is a concept developed by the JEC for teaching Japanese Embroidery, I think that the philosophy applies equally well to any embroidery and indeed to any craft.

The word Nuido is made up of two parts; Nui, or embroidery (also shishu), and Do (the way). The way of Nui refers to the acquisition of technical skills and knowledge. Do refers to the development, and constant discovery, of the spiritual components of the art of Nuido. Nuido has three aspects: the acquisition of technical skills and knowledge (rationality), the development of artistic sensitivity and awareness (sensitivity), and understanding the spiritual aspects of shishu (Spirituality).

I am a slow worker (not only in embroidery) and although I do not think that being slow necessarily qualifies one as being a slow practitioner, I think in my case the two are intrinsically linked. Part of the reason I stitch slowly, cook slowly, read slowly, write slowly is that I am nearly always lost in thought about whatever I am stitching, cooking, reading or writing. I know that it is a source of frustration to some people around me that I cannot pick up a task and simply do it.

I take an eternity to read a book because I keep going back to reread something I have not fully understood, or to check details that I have forgotten. Preparing meals I like to make whatever I can from basic ingredients. Watching me make sauce for a prawn cocktail, my partner will ask "wouldn’t it be easier to buy it ready made." Of course it would, but where is the satisfaction in that. If I bake a cake (which I don’t do often, because my baking leaves a lot to be desired) I like to mix it by hand. I don’t think this is a ‘better’ way than using a food processor, I simply enjoy creaming the butter and sugar far more than getting the machine out of the cupboard and listening to the awful noise it makes. Why make a rubbish cake, if you don't enjoy the process of making it?

I can take months to stitch a design. Before I start stitching, I spend hours admiring the threads and fabric, contemplating the design. When it comes to actually stitching the piece I work in a slow, almost meditative fashion. If it is something I want to stitch I care little about how long it takes to work and rework the motifs. If it is something that I have no interest in stitching, I would struggle to dedicate 5 minutes to it.

I like ‘quick’ projects (something that takes me less me than a month to complete) and may have several on the go along side my ‘serious’ embroidery. I also like workshops that allow me to ‘dabble’ in something completely new to me but now that I have come to terms with being ‘slow’ I find it deeply satisfying to spend several hours couching only a few rounds of imitation silver to a butterfly wing!

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching

PS. I took me more than two hours to write this and as I type I am still contemplating the title. Now I am going to cook stir-fry prawns (a quick meal but one I will prepare from scratch) while I think of a title that I like, even if it is not very inspired!

PPS. This title came to me while waiting for the water to boil to cook the noodles in. If I'd used 'Straight to Wok' dinner would be ready but I might not have a title yet!


sharonb said...

This is great post and touches on some of the ideas and philosophy I meant.

Grangry said...

Ah, some of this plucked a chord in me! I can sit, happily hoop in hand, working TAST stitches for hours in a world of my own! I never thought of this kind of work as 'slow', just relaxing, contemplative, studious even, because it doesn't matter how many times I redo it in order to get it right. Done just for the love of it.

KV said...

Your post is so insightful and well done. If we all were alike in how we do things, it would be no fun at all, right?

The butterfly is looking wonderful!

Kathy V in NM

Hideko Ishida said...

"Do" means not only "the way" but "philosophy". In Japan we tend to search this "do" in every activity. "Sa-do"(tea ceremony), "Ka-do"(flower arrangement), "Ju-do" etc.
I think your attitude is very Japanese.
Your butterfly is so beautiful.