So, it’s been just over a week into the lockdown. I’ve been transferring all my research into new note software called Notion, which exports the notebooks in html format, enabling to make both internal and external links (hypertexts again!), so might actually be useful as a research output in itself. While I did initially feel like I was simply procrastinating, it’s actually proving really useful to revisit all the musings and looking back on the research ‘journey’.
Anyway, today I spent making a gift for a friend’s birthday. It was not something I was intending to do, as we’ve already booked a trip later this year as a group birthday gift – the plan was to have a large party and present him with the tickets but as things have changed and we can’t get together, I thought something physical to open would be nice. I would normally purchase a gift but, again, that wouldn’t be possible at the moment, so I decided to make him an embroidery. This got me thinking about the long tradition of making embroideries as gifts and how, even though the motifs I stitch are modern, I’m still working within that tradition – stitching pieces with symbolic meaning to give as a gift. The motif I chose is the logo for the St. Pauli football team, as a symbol of the trip we are going to take together (a large group of friends traveling to Hamburg to celebrate his birthday and (hopefully) catch a match) but it’s also symbolic to our particular subculture, St. Pauli being an anti-fascist, collectively owned football team, largely supported by those who identify as left-wing and punk.
It got me thinking about the nature of symbolic motifs and how these have particular meanings to those both inside and outside of the cultures that use them. The St. Pauli logo is black and white skull and crossbones, a fairly universally identifiable symbol but here it’s very specific, used and displayed by those who identify with a particular cultural group. I’m thinking a lot today about the sort of imagery used by the particular sub-culture I belong to and how it is understood by ‘insiders’ (and possibly misread by those ‘outside’), it’s use of aggressive imagery and subversive messages (often politically critical), usually in graphic black and white – I wonder if that’s what attracted me to Blackwork to begin with, it’s graphic black and white?
Anyway, today I made an embroidery for my friend, stitching a common identity in a shared symbolic motif. And it was wonderful to simply sit and stitch. My mind wanders when I stitch, hands working almost automatically in that ‘flow’ state, and something dawned on me – I think through making but I also think while making. I felt this to be something of an ‘a-ha!’ moment – I’ve always had an intuition that I do my best thinking ‘around the edges’ as it were, when I’m walking or sleepy or doing something with my hands – I’m sure there is something going on in the brain, like by doing something consciously that is not too mentally taxing I have spare capacity to ruminate on thoughts, almost without noticing… it’s odd. I also wonder if that’s why I have a constant urge to fidget with my hands and fiddle with things? I also wonder if this could relate to the idea of the flâneur? Wandering the streets similar to the wandering mind, a detachment that comes when wandering….