Uncompleted Work

September 4, 2014 · Collections ·

As school starts back in session, I am reminded of many instances in my own childhood of the excitement that leads to that first day: the school supply shopping, the nerves regarding whether or not you would get the “good” teacher, and the wonderful idea of learning something new.  But the excitement of those early days and the smell of new pencils soon wears off and we go about our days plodding along to the weekend, trying so hard to get each bit of homework done before falling asleep at night.

And it didn’t always get done…

Pitkin Family Coat of Arms. About 1750-1755.  Gift of Jane W. Stone. 1935.10.1

Pitkin Family Coat of Arms. About 1750-1755. Gift of Jane W. Stone. 1935.10.1

 

Sometimes I would find myself in the same boat as Jerusha Pitkin.  For one reason or another, you just could not get it completed.  We do not know why Jerusha never finished this silk on silk embroidery of her family coat of arms, but in some ways, we are glad she did not get it done.  The majority of needleworks in the CHS collection are of beautifully made samplers and silk on silk embroideries that have been finished, and sometimes framed.  When they are finished, it is often hard to see the process of how these items were made.  But Jerusha left us some clues in her unfinished piece.  The design is painted on the black silk with white paint and we even get a look at the type of stretcher Jerusha used, plus how the work was attached for embroidery.

Memorial Picture. 1822-1826. Gift of Mrs. Helen J. Chandlee Ergood. 1964.40.2.

Memorial Picture. 1822-1826. Gift of Mrs. Helen J. Chandlee Ergood. 1964.40.2.

 

Sylvia Punderson left us similar information in the form of her unfinished memorial picture.  She embroidered each of the figures and the ground in silk, while leaving the information on the monument to fill in at some point in the future.  The figures are all headless, until you look closely.  Once you do, you notice the pencil sketches of the faces.  Likely, these faces were meant to be filled in with paint, a common practice of pictorial silk needleworks.  Although we will never know why Sylvia never finished the piece, it still exhibits the great skill she held with a needle.  The work also gives us a sense of the brilliant colors of thread used in these types of works, as it was never finished and hung, it never faded.

Needlework Picture. About 1800.  The Newman S. Hungerford Museum Fund. 2011.186.0

Needlework Picture. About 1800. The Newman S. Hungerford Museum Fund. 2011.186.0

 

This final piece, is the most interesting (in my personal opinion anyway).  Sally Strong created this needlework picture sometime around 1800.  You can see the indecisiveness in the picture itself.  If you look closely, you can just make out a few different pencil sketches.  The original sketch included a woman in the foreground dressed in contemporary costume.  The final rendition of a couple in the foreground, is more closely aligned with the trend to use classically dressed characters in needlework pictures during this time.  Although the woman’s white dress is reminiscent of the fashions around 1800, her companion is clearly meant to represent an earlier time.  Perhaps Sally dismissed the piece because the paint doesn’t completely cover the old sketch, or perhaps she just lost steam.  Many of us have encountered that problem on long, tedious projects.  Especially when you can’t quite make up your mind about what to do with them.

Many of you who have ever attempted an artistic pursuit of any kind (writing, sewing, painting, etc), know that sometimes you just don’t finish.  For one reason or another, the work gets pushed aside never to see the light of day again.  But just consider, what if that unfinished piece is the ONLY thing someone has to represent you 200 years from now…makes you think twice about leaving it only half-done, doesn’t it.  So, even though I received a few “incompletes” from teachers in my many years at school, I am starting to feel like perhaps those incomplete works hold a little more importance and urgency to get done than I used to…

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Please note, CHS will be undergoing renovations from Aug 28 – Sept 6. During this time, we will not be wheelchair accessible. We apologize for the inconvenience.