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Dancing with Helen Martins*

It was really windy.

I chose to stay inside and print most of the day. I need to replenish stock, since I have two markets coming up in late November.

Though I was printing black on grey, I needed no artificial lighting. The clear autumn sunlight danced around me, tinged and coloured, fractured at times into pure prism light, by a random collection of glass on the kitchen windowsill.

As the low angled winter sun moved, the prism light moved across my printing.

Recently I have been disturbed by skeptical (ignorant) customers in the market place who ask me "where does this come from?" Implying I have imported the block printed cloth from some developing country and not, as my labels state, designed, carved and printed it myself in my home in a dusty, maverick little trailer park town on the banks of the Rio Grande in the northern Chihuahuan desert.

The dancing light made me feel better about what I am doing with this moment of this one precious life. Well that magical light, and working again block printing fabric. Block printing has repeatedly been solace and saving grace in my life, bringing back the light, at times when things go dark.

I no longer use the Egyptian name of the Great Mother, Queen of Heaven, in my marketing, but I remain in Her service. Re-membering. Putting the scattered fragments of the story together.

It's a different handmaid's tale: a hand made tale.

It's a path of integrity, authenticity and honesty where the currency of reward is the purity of prism coloured light.

*For those who don't recognize the title reference or the last few images: Helen Martins (1897-1975) was a visionary artist who lived in Nieu Bethesda, a small town in the arid semi desert Karoo region of South Africa.

Though she was derided and shunned by her neighbours during her life, and killed herself by drinking caustic soda, today Helen Martins is celebrated, has been the subject of doctoral research and literary works and is best known for her Owl House (interior) and Camel Yard (exterior) which have become a tourist attracting museum.

Read more here





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