Tent Making

“… and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them”

Acts 18:3

There is a tide of fabric that rises to cover our living room floor regularly at the moment. I am mid-project and it is the largest, flattest surface in our basement suite, so it has assumed the role of ‘cutting-out table’. Some days there has been room to walk through and avoid fabric underfoot, at other times, not.

A la Paul, I am in the business of making a series of tents. Five tents as soft-sculpture, an art installation for my ‘final project’ at Regent College. The IPIAT, Integrated Project in the Arts and Theology, is a chance for me to explore a theological concept raised for me during my course and respond creatively. Another project I did allowed me to explore a theology of textiles and ‘clothing’ in the Bible – and I remember being fascinated that the first big textiles ‘moment’ of the Bible was God’s commissioning the tabernacle. It was such an important demonstration of God’s commitment to His people, to dwell with them, to travel with them, to be their God, and it was made of fabric. Artisans of all stripes were involved in its production. It was this especially holy place, home to the localised presence of God, and yet, was made of yarn spun, woven and embroidered by the Israelite people. The language of John 1 picks up a similar theme – although there is no actual tent this time – we are introduced to the Word, the Word “who became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood” (John 1:14) as Eugene Peterson puts it in the Message. In Greek, the words we read as ‘made his dwelling among us’ in say the NIV, mean more literally ‘set up His tent’ among us. We continue on, further into the New Testament and see Peter referring to our bodies as ‘temples of the Holy Spirit’ and Paul using the tent as a metaphor for our own earthly lives. He himself is a tentmaker – along side his kingdom work.

There is something profound here I think. Two things perhaps. Firstly, the material and the mundane are the place of God’s presence. From desert-worship-space to Son to our Spirit-indwelled lives, God is not afraid of turning up in this material world He has made. Our earthiness does not bother Him or offend Him. He has made His home here, with us. Secondly, God is relentless in pursuing closer and closer relationship with His people. Each move is more intimate, till He is within us – filling us with His own Spirit, and then, finally, a face-to-face-forever relationship.

And so, as I try to wrap my head round this Immanuel-Dwelling-Material mystery, I’m making some tents. They will tell the story of ‘everydays’ that are at once both mundane and miraculous, spiritual and physical, in a word, integrated. That is the plan.

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Material expression: the Lamb slain

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The following reflection was written to accompany one of my creative projects at Regent College. The class is called Christian Imagination and focuses on the connection between Christianity and the Arts. As well as reflect on art work and write a theological paper, we were asked to produce something, to ‘make art’. This piece was made for that assignment.

A Heritage: Covered by the Lamb, Slain
“… the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” Revelation 13:8

“If you offer a lamb, you are to present it before the Lord” Leviticus 3:7 … as sin offering (Leviticus 4:32) and friendship offering (4:35) for guilt (14:21) and atonement (5:6) … (among other references)

“… the lambs will provide you with clothing”  Proverbs 27:26

“… he was led like a lamb to the slaughter” Isaiah 53:7

“the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” John 1:29

“… with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect”  1 Peter 1:19

” ‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’ ” Isaiah 1:18

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony … ” Revelation 12:11

“And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’” Revelation 7:14

“For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'” Revelation 7:17

My grand mother made woolen cot blankets for my younger cousins, heirlooms embroidered in wool thread. Flowers, furry critters, their initials – often in a wreath shape – a little bit of their story, stitched in time.

A few years ago Loren Wilkinson, one of my lecturers at Regent, brought that verse, Revelation 13:8 to my attention. The lamb slain – for forever, from the beginning. There was something deeply poignant and almost poetic about the phrase that has kept it coming to mind.

As a lover of textiles, I began to wonder about the different metaphors we use in describing salvation and sanctification. Many of them seemed to me rather closely associated with the textile medium. We talk about washing, wool, whitening, having stains removed in a manner similar to the way we would speak regarding clothing. While I realise that the discussion is far deeper than a lesson in doing the laundry well, there seemed to be a way of speaking to the physicality implied in these words by engaging this especially tactile medium. I wanted to tell this story, our story, in textiles, in wool.

Instead of a wreath, I used the circle of a Celtic cross. The ‘cross at the centre of the world’ is the central piece of our heritage as children of God. First there were the fiery sacrifices teaching us that though sin brings death, death can bring life. God designs atonement. Then there was the language of God as shepherd, teaching us what true, costly love can mean. God makes a way, protecting and providing. Then there was the perfect, unblemished Lamb, Jesus, slain and risen. He was crowned with thorns in death, but is now enthroned in Heaven. His death made a way for our stained lives to be washed, fresh and new. Instead of staining, His blood was the most effective whitener the world has ever seen. His innocence has renewed our own. This is our heritage as His children, for “this is what we are” (1 John 3:1).

Shirt maker

Just wanted to share a few pictures of the man’s shirt I made over the holiday break. The fabric was the model’s choice – a patchwork-quality cotton he spotted at Finch’s Nest Patchwork shop in Geraldton when we were shopping there in the closing-down sales late 2013. He asked for a shirt and I reluctantly agreed, taking six months to get myself to the shop to buy a pattern (Vogue 8759). My reticence was not about sewing for him, or even sewing generally (which I really like), but stemmed from my understanding of the complexity of making a shirt (and knowing the standards I’d hold myself to!). Well thankfully, by the end of the year sewing from a pattern was about all the creativity I could muster so I actually started to make some progress on the shirt and, a few months later, here it is! The only significant change I made to the pattern was to include a few more enclosed seams than the instructions suggested to eliminate all the raw edges of fabric I could (I didn’t have access to my over locker so it seemed like the best alternative for a neat finish). It wasn’t nearly as bad as I was dreading and it also looks quite nice on! As soon as the photos were taken it made its debut in the music teaching classroom – it seems he’s happy with it too!

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Red Dress

A dress for my Minnie, this project was a team effort and I was the last runner in a relay of people involved in making it – which kind of means I get (perhaps unnecessary amounts of) the glory! I’m so glad its finished and I was able to help you out Min, hope it keeps you warm and makes you feel lovely inside and out. Worn with a cute belt and a smile I’m sure it will do the job! Hope it arrives soon!

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Skirts and Sewing Circles

A cozy sewing circle gathered in the little dinning room at Grosvenor Rd a few weeks ago. A little band of family surrounded the busy HSC student who was diligently (and only slightly desperately!) working on her Major Textiles project. The sea scape inspired piece of textiles art she was creating kept her, and her textile-teacher cousin (me!) busy, while our grandma gave my mum advice as they tried to figure out how to move a knitting pattern I’d attempted (and given up on about a year ago!) along! My aunty, mum to the slightly stressed teenage seamstress was there for support; moral and otherwise … and last but far from least, was the littlest sister. Miss Lily has watched on while Ally and I have sewed for most of her life – collaborating to create colourful skirts on summer holidays when she was very little. After checking in with her mum that the colours I’d found would be well received, I got to choose the fabric and then it was up to her. Deciding where the trim should go, how long to make the skirt and sewing nearly all the seams – it was really up to her this time. Didn’t she do a wonderful job?

The first time; three years ago …

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This time; in the holidays just past … (the shoe was missing so she didn’t speed on the sewing machine!)

 

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Here is to a HSC Major Textiles Project handed in this time last week! Hooray! Great work Ally!

A little apron

The same little friend who inspired the bag a few posts back was the happy recipient of this cute little number. The draw-string means its adjustable – important as toddlers have quite large heads for their bodies (which is, of course, what makes them so cute!). She definitely looked cute when I took it round and tried it on. Satisfied with it and unfazed by the arrival of an unexpected gift, she quickly went back to watching a little television show, apron clad and happy. Hopefully it will inspire future kitchen help (for her mum) and adventures! Now to make a big-brother sized one …

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