For seven years now, I've referred to this as the "the week". The week that starts with my father's birthday and ends with the anniversary of his passing. You see, his birthday is November 10th. In 2002, on my birthday, November 15th, I got the call to "come home". And on November 18th, with my mom and siblings gathered around his hospital bed, my dad lost his short battle with mesothelioma, a type of environmentally-caused lung cancer (and yes, I realize it's actually eight days, but it's still a week when you're living it.)
In the Bible, seven is a rather pivotal number. God created the world and on the seventh day, He rested. When the Israelites marched around the city of Jericho seven times, the city walls came down. Seven is used throughout Revelation, the final book of the Bible. When asked how many times we should forgive another, "Seven times, Lord?" Jesus replied, "Seventy times seven!" And in Deuteronomy, every seventh year is considered a Sabbath year. Slaves were set free, debts were cancelled, it was a year of release. It would seem that seven in the Bible reflects a sense of completion, a work finished, a type of perfection accomplished, a resulting freedom.
Last year was the seventh anniversary of my dad's passing. So this year, the eighth year, I decided I would look at "the week" a little differently. On November 10th, I intentionally began a new fiber piece that would honor my dad. The fiber base, allowed to be free and flowing in shape, was made by wet-felting Tunis wool, both lamb (the lower portion) and adult (the top portion). Tunis was the kind of sheep my dad raised. The squares were cut from fabric dyed using scrap metal and a mortar tub found among my dad's treasures in his barn. On the morning of the 13th, likely right about the time my dad's body was beginning to develop complications from his lung cancer, I hung the piece and created the hall exhibit outside my apartment for an Open Studios event taking place that day. On the 15th, as I left my apartment to head out to enjoy and celebrate my birthday, I was able to step right into the exhibit and in that moment, lovingly remember my dad and what a special and generous man he was. And today, on November 18th, the anniversary of my dad's passing, I am completing "the week" by sharing this post on my blog.
Below is the exhibit that honors my dad and the statement I wrote to go with it. So ends "the week", born again into a new perspective.
Dad, this one's for you. I love you.
My Father's Stuff:
Lamb and adult Tunis wool, muslin, flannel.
rust-transfer dyed, cut, sewn.
What I really wanted to do was cast an old beehive of my dad’s in glass. But the overwhelming weight of my constant struggle with limited, and often non-existent resources, pushed me in another direction.
I was in the barn and as I turned from examining the old beehive being stored there, I spied a box on the floor of rusty odds and ends. Bolts, nails, things I didn’t have a name for. I was inexplicably drawn to them. No idea of why or for what or how come, but they were part of my father’s stuff and so I was curious. I squatted down and picked through the box, selecting some of the most rusty. I had heard about rust-transfer dyeing and so maybe I could do something with these. I looked over my shoulder at the old beehive as I started down the stairs to head out. A glance back to take another look at something exciting to create in the future. And in my hand, old and discarded bits of what was now, passed. Maybe.
An interesting challenge for this piece came when I had to push myself to tear apart what turned out to be intriguing and actually, quite lovely, pieces of rust-transfer dyed fabrics. They seemed so whole and finished all on their own. Though I knew they weren’t, still I clung to the first three samples for several months before moving on to create a larger amount of rusted yardage.
Those nondescript and random pieces of rusty metal are all that were used to color the fabric. In tearing them apart, I was able to see a new whole, all the while not losing sight of the original. That process of constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing brought me a sense of peace, hope and healing. What might have been considered the end instead was the beginning. What might have been discarded was instead reborn.
My father passed away on November 18, 2002. Suffice it to say, in my own personal process of deconstructing and reconstructing, this piece has been a long time coming. It is just one of what I expect will become a body of work. But just as with my father’s stuff, those original pieces of rusted metal have not been lost for the end result, and what was born original in me hasn’t been either. My father is gone and yet he remains. The original will always be rooted throughout my journey, always present in the always evolving, ever-new whole.
And that cast glass beehive is still out in front of me, encouraging the journey.
Dedicated to my father.
E. Eugene Lacey
November 10, 1931 – November 18, 2002
Beloved husband, father, brother, uncle, grandfather and friend. Entrepreneur, animal lover, avid gardener, Tunis sheep farmer. Caring, generous soul.
My Father's Stuff: Testimony
Muslin, rust-transfer dyed