Surfacing is 14 Mile Farm's tribute to the seal maidens in the folklore of my northwestern European heritage. I remember reading stories and tales of the Selkie as a child and they always left a taste of sadness, of longing, and great depth lingering like the taste of salt after a visit to the shore. As you may know, the Selkie is both seal and woman. She puts on her fur coat to swim with flippers amongst her kin and she takes it off to walk with legs on the land of men. She is a shapeshifter, living liminally between two worlds.
The sea speaks symbolically to our emotions, to the tidal pulls of love and desire or sadness and grief. In the same way that our inner workings of heart and soul may be invisible to the casual acquaintance, there are currents and cross currents, whole worlds unseen beneath the surface waves of the sea. The sea is a great Mother, nourishing all her children who live within and about her depths. She follows the pull of the moon, creating tides, just as woman's womb follows the cycles of waxing and waning in the night sky. The sea is deep, powerful, and ungoverned, as untameable as the soul.
The tales of the Selkie that I grew up on were tales of love and loss. The Selkie would doff her sealskin to become a comely lass with liquid brown eyes and dance naked on the sand. She would fall in love with a fisherman or a farmer, a handsome lad from the village. He would steal her sealskin and hide it in order to keep her on land. They marry and have children and are very happy. But as the years go by the woman grows first restless then sad, her eyes always drawn out to sea. Neither her children nor her husband can comfort her in this nameless grief. Then one day she finds her bundled sealskin where it was hidden by that handsome lad become loving husband. She unwraps it down by the shore, puts it on, and dives as a seal into the waves. Her children and their father mourn for her when she does not return. But from then on, on certain days, a seal with liquid brown eyes watches the family from the rocks on the shore.
As a child I was captivated and heartbroken by the pathos of this story. Now, as a mother and artist, I seek to bridge the worlds of shore and sea. The Selkie is drawn by that which is most integral to herself, she surrenders to the deep sea-pull on her soul.
This warp asks the questions: How can we honor the work of the woman's soul? How can we support her deep inner work without requiring the sacrifice of love and family life? How can we create a legacy for our daughters that does not demand they sacrifice either themselves or those they love? As mothers, how can we integrate the wild sea that pulls at the secret depth of the soul with the warmth of hearth fire and the home?
Surfacing will be woven in a network drafted twill evocative of waves. The warp is 100% long staple Egyptian cotton. There will be a variety of wefts including Seacell, Marine Silk, and 100% seaweed viscose. I'm so deeply pleased to be able to weave with seaweed for this particular project.
Artwork by Jessica Shirley. Buy an art print here.