Whenever friend Marilyn and I see arts and craft pieces we like, such as Polaroid transfer prints, we examine them from the perspective of whether we could create something similar. We often decide we can, rarely appreciating the complexity of the object we are studying, and usually discover we can’t.
In the case of Polaroid transfer prints, we found we could. However these tend to be the exception.
My latest inspiration came from an exhibit at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, informally known at “The Wing.” One of the displays was named “Sacred Seattle.” As I recall from our guided tour, the idea for the exhibit came from a newspaper article alleging that Seattle was the least religious city in the US. The displays focused on ways that Asian immigrants had found to bring particular religion or spiritual practices to this country, whether they be in the form of setting up a home altar, wearing a crucifix belonging to a now-departed loved one, or formally establishing a religion brought from the home country, such as Buddhism or Sikhism.
The art piece that members of my tour group were most taken with was a tea bag tapestry called MEM: memory • memorial no.7 scriptorium, by Naomi Kasumi. Specifically, the tapestry sections were made from used tea bags (politely called recycled tea bags in the flyer) and inscribed with Japanese characters. The artist used thread to tie the tea bags together. While we didn’t come out and say, “We could do that,” we all want to learn more about how Kasumi did it, just in case. I commented that I couldn’t imagine how used tea bags would work, as they so wrinkled when they have dried out. Someone in our group said, “I imagine you have to iron them.” I was then imagining myself at home, working on this project when the phone would ring. It would be a friend calling. “What are you doing?” she would ask. “Oh, just ironing dirty tea bags,” I would answer. If I ever attempt to make a tapestry, I think I’ll keep quiet about it until it’s completely finished, or at least not answer the phone while I’m working on it.