One of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered in being a mother is guilt. It comes from so many different sources every day and it’s exhausting. When I thought about how to depict this ubiquitous, and sometimes conflicting guilt for my parenthood series, I kept coming back to the feeling of being pulled in different directions, which brought me to the image of being caught in a spider web.
The first thing I did was create a list of all the sources of guilt I feel and I came up with eight: my kids, my partner, my friends and family, my art, my office job, the house/housework, volunteer work (or current lack thereof), and societal expectations. Then I started writing down the inner monologue creating guilt for each category. Pretty quickly, I had enough to make a test strip in Photoshop. I started by printing the text on a strip of paper and taping it to my design wall to get a sense of the size and color (below left). Next, I tried printing a couple strips onto fabric: one with a yellow gradient that got darker as it moved outward (below middle) and another on white fabric which I painted white to yellow (below right). I created tubes from each and stuffed them with piping cord. The painted fabric was going to be too hard to keep consistent for all eight spokes, so I decided to go with the printed yellow/gold.
I then went back to my lists and made sure each one was approximately the same length. Once I was happy with the lists and the way they were laid out on strips 18″ long, I had to convince my printer to print on the fabric roll through the back feeding slot. I almost gave up, but it finally worked and I could cut and sew the strips.
To turn the strips right side out, I put a safety pin on one end and fed it through the tube until it came out the other side and I could pull the tube right side out.
To get the piping cord through the tube, I put packing tape on one end of the cording so I would have something firm to feed through the fabric tube. It worked so well, I kept going and got all eight tubes on the cording.
I cut the pieces apart, stitched one end of each closed, fed wire through to give the piece structure, cut the wire the right length, and stitched the other end closed.
I then arranged the spokes, pinned them to the design wall, and stitched them together.
Next, it was time to make a little person to show how I feel stuck in the middle of all this guilt – caught between the pieces of my life, just trying to hold on. I set my phone up to take a selfie and printed the picture out as a pattern. I sewed right through that paper printout and two layers of purple fabric. Once it was completely sewn (leaving a couple inches for turning), I cut it out and used fray block to keep the edges from fraying.
Once the Fray Block was dry, I used doll making tools (thank you to my mother for letting me borrow hers!) to turn and stuff the figure.
Once the figure was ready and hanging in the middle of the spokes, I needed to create the connecting pieces for the web. I decided to print matching yellow/gold strips, but I had to change the ink cartridge and the color changed dramatically (oops). So it was time to come up with another plan. Off to the fabric store to try to find a yellow that would work well. I found a couple possibilities and brought two home to sample them on the design wall (below right). After stepping back and staring at it for a while, changing my mind, and staring again, I decided to go with a yellow that had a subtle swirl print in it. Not only did the color work, but the swirl added to the feeling of chaos in this web of guilt.
Once I made a couple pieces, however, I realized that the connecting pieces couldn’t be the same width as the spokes. I needed a smaller piping cord.
I soon discovered that it was harder to get the piping cord and wire through the smaller tubes, so I decided to do both at the same time. I put packing tape on the end of the cording, put a hole in it with a seam ripper, used pliers to loop the wire through the hole, and stuffed the cording through the tube. Having the wire in the packing tape helped me push it through the tight tube.
Then I could sew the connecting pieces to the spokes to create a web.
Once they were all in place, I stitched the purple figure in the middle.
And the piece was then ready to hang! Come see it in person at the Harrison Library this May!