I started using copper wire in my textile pieces around 2004. It was then an adjunct to frame the fabrics, lending strength to cloth I had taken apart thread by thread and rendered virtually thread
I moved away from this practice. I found it laborious even then to work with the wire. But, after a gap of many years, around March this year, I decided to pick it up again - using the same copper wire to embroider with. It was awkward to say the least. Earlier, it was intended as a support for the fragile nature of fabric I had created, this time I tried to integrate it into the fabric structure itself.
Although it is relatively malleable as far as most wire is concerned, this copper wire is still tough to work with - to get it to do what I want. It goes all over the place, reminding me of how difficult it can be dealing with people who are WIRED differently.
When I stopped trying to control the gleaming russet wire, its wilful meanderings brought elements into play that thread could never do and started me thinking.....
I have persisted with many ghastly results but slowly we are finding a way to make things work. Or so I think... ..!
Compared to needle and thread which is delicate and so amenable, the copper wire makes these grand but clumsy sweeps. I don't use a needle. It works as needle and thread in one, but its point is not as sharp as a needle, so it isn't easy to penetrate the layers of fabric that I like to work with.
I won’t blame anyone for thinking its sacrilege to add this rather crass, awkwardly meandering thread alongside the delicate Kantha and chain stitch. I am in two minds about it myself.
It takes a lot of work to marry their disparate elements but there's also something about the wire, which sort of eggs me on to keep working with it, despite the awkwardness.
I let the wire thread its gauche way through the fabric and then I spend hours covering its naked audacity with floss, using a half hitch knot[i], which is similar to a buttonhole stitch, except that the latter catches a loop of the thread on the surface of the fabric, while the half-hitch knot is traditionally used without a needle to secure some object with rope to a hitching post. Anyway the process of covering this wire with three strands of untwisted embroidery floss takes forever and the thread gets so twisted that I cannot continue. So I have to turn the piece upside down, let it hang a bit, to let the twisted thread unwind, then get it back up again and start the process all over again.
I liken this, to what I feel myself, when life is challenging and it seems that I have to stand upside down, to be able sort it all out.
When I stand upside-down the whole world is perfect.
It’s when I have my feet on the ground
that everything looks upside down.
I have to admit that working with the wire has been getting to me of late - not quite enjoying it as much as when I started out.
The gawky gestures of the copper wire are alien to the delicacy of stitch, yet also evocative of some part of me that is restless, impatient and insecure, wanting to live larger than life, even if it’s just occasionally so, before I am brought down to earth with a thud.
And it happened one Sunday evening six weeks ago, on 30th June to be precise, when I collapsed after a swim, shivering with a sudden rise in temperature to 103 degrees. I panicked, more at the fact that in the middle of a summer evening’s temperature of 38 degrees Celsius, I lay under a light Jaipuri quilt, without a fan on, my teeth chattering, while everyone around me, in the same room, had sweat pouring down their cheeks. To add to my consternation, even my yoga teacher had left a message, earlier in the day, to say that I should take it easy with the regimen.
Things had been hectic and I was exhausted, but I thought: it can't me more than that. Anyway, I went through the blood tests nonetheless thinking, that at worst, I must have picked up some viral bug. Eventually I was diagnosed with typhoid which is why the pages of this e-journal haven’t been written in for a while.
[i] The half-hitch is an ancient knot which is a simple overhand knot where the working end of a line is brought over and under the standing part. It cannot stand on its own and is usually tied around a pole or some structure, even rope. It has however been incorporated into beading and other embroidery methods.