Having decisively stated not more than three days ago that the Tree of Life project was firmly on the back burner, I found myself newly inspired to look at it, and I now have a revised and revamped Tree with an addition, a cleaned-up set of drawings, and detailed notes.
Looking at my change of heart more closely, I realised it fitted in with what appears to be a wider trend in my stitching. I’ve been adding water to things. More specifically to greenery. Twice in the past few months I’ve taken a design which had either a tree or grass in it, and added running water.
The first was a willow tree inspired by the logo of a pop-up café in Leiden. In the logo, it sits on top of a sun and is surrounded by an irregularly drawn double oval. When drawing my transfer pattern I ignored those, but added a few lines to indicate water (not very visible in the photograph – the blue arrow points to it). Well, willows often grow by water, don’t they? Perfectly understandable.
The second was the Rabbit and Carnations design which I cobbled together from two crewel embroidery books (thank you Jane Rainbow and Barbara Jackson). Neither of the original designs had water in it. But I felt it needed water. Unfortunately you can’t tell from the transferred pattern – I haven’t actually drawn it in as I want it to play freely around the grassy knolls and stones and therefore be stitched completely freehand, but the two blues in the selection of crewel wools are a bit of a giveaway…
Then there was the Tree of Life, which managed to inveigle itself back into the forefront of my mind. And I began to have an inkling of what was going on. It’s rivers. Rivers, and my mother.
Right from the start the Tree of Life, although it occurs in many cultures, for me has been connected with the description of the new Jerusalem in the book of Revelation (the very last bit of the Bible). It is why I surrounded it with words from that book, “and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations”. Now when my mother was very ill and knew she was coming to the end of her earthly life, she was greatly comforted by the image of the River of Life, which comes from that same description of the New Jerusalem; in fact, the Tree of Life is said to grow by the River of Life! Suddenly all that embroidered water made sense.
And now my Tree of Life has been given its River of Life to grow by. My husband says it looks more like a sea, with the tree on an island, and he has a point – but I didn’t want the grass to extend to far as it will be stitched relatively densely compared to the rest. So I’ll just pretend the tree is on a little grassy peninsula jutting out into the river .
PS isn’t it interesting where inspiration can come from? Having looked into crewel work a bit more these past few weeks I decided I wanted to do something with a squirrel and some of those unlikely-looking Jacobean flowers. And would you believe it, last Friday I noticed that the carpet adorning our church’s coffee room has just the right sort of flowers on it!