Thursday, November 01, 2007

What's on My Desktop?

Aside from a lot of other random stuff, this image:


I found this on the wonderful blog Habetrot (home of all things woolly). This is the oldest known image of someone knitting! It was created by Meister Bertram von Minden in the 14th century.

I've cropped it a bit here (Will I go to Hell for cropping out Baby Jesus? Only time will tell.), but it's Mary knitting a little shirt for Jesus. Knitting in the round, I might add, which my internet sources tell me was the original method -- straight needles came later.

I found that this image really spoke to two major areas of my life: parenting and crafting. Mary is obviously one of the most archetypal mother images we have in the Western world. And to find her knitting, one of my beloved hobbies, was a revelation.

We tend to have either very prosaic images of Mary: the humble girl shocked by Gabriel's message, the tired, gravid wife riding that bony donkey 90 miles to pay her taxes -- or transcendent images: the Mother of God crowned as the Queen of Heaven. I love how this image incorporates both -- in her sumptuous halo and red and gold gown, and her skillful ability to create something quite mundane.

I find that this image helps remind me of the nobility of handwork. One way that I can show my love for others is by creating things with my own hands. I care for my family by making clothing that keeps them warm, and by making toys for the children to play with. I help my children learn the value of the unique, imperfect item filled with care and love, versus the mass-produced, unnaturally pristine and soulless item.

And, it's beautiful, no?

11 comments:

Charlotte said...

She is beautiful. I love the unique, imperfect item far more than the mass-produced soulless one.

Lovely post!

Helen said...

I love Mary art! I especially love the picture you've posted - I hadn't seen that one before.

You've given me a BloPo idea! I can scan my international Mary cards and put them up on my blog! Finding multi-cultural Marys is one of my weird little obsessions...

Kerryn said...

That is a stunning image of Mary. If only we'd seen more like that at school -- transcendent and real, at the same time.

I love the thought that something I have made is being worn and appreciated. It's that thought that keeps me going when the seams seem never ending.

Eve said...

Oh, I love that image of Mary knitting! I've never seen it before. And I also enjoyed your comments about it (and agree).

It's nice to see Mary doing something domestic, particularly knitting a little shirt for Jesus. Makes me go, "awwwwww."

Anonymous said...

This is such an appropriate image of Mary. She was, in fact a Queen of the Jews and we should always accord Her the respect given to royalty.

The image is also representative of the tyoical activities of noble women - artistic hand work, such as knitting, embroidering, needlepoint...

Henitsirk said...

Charlotte: Thanks!

Helen: Ooh, please do that! I love holy cards...even though I'm not Catholic, they are so beautiful and meaningful.

Kerryn: Poor Mary. She gets held up as this stainless, humble handmaiden, often without her awesome power and wisdom.

Eve: Thanks for stopping by. Isn't it funny that most images of Mary don't show her doing much, just adoring or weeping typically?

Anonymous: Queen of the Jews and Queen of Heaven! I thought about the noblewoman's handwork aspect too. I don't know offhand if knitting would have been the work of the noble class in the middle ages, but other needlework certainly was.

(un)relaxeddad said...

It is beautiful. And yes, you're probably going to hell but at least you can guarantee the company will be better. More seriously, the handiwork point is interesting but at the same time, those images definitely played a part in sealing it as "women's work".

Anonymous said...

Loving Nana's almost never go to hell, except maybe in a Coach leather handbasket. Those who do generally find someone with insufficient guilt feelings to haunt.

Let's not forget handiwork, like chainmail, made by men. Fine detail work indeed...

indianyo said...

Dear Anthromama, another Hungarian waldorf mama here to say thanks to you for publishing your thoughts - I savour them (do you use this expressin in the US btw? sounds quite Indian English to me)
Habetrot's is one of my fav and so is yours :-)
This idea of yours about Mary and handwork is actually mine too - but much better written than I would do it :-) Me being art and craft waldorf teacher - now sahm with a 1,5 yo miracle - always preach about using hands as the tool of spiritual and mental work. Somethimes I even succeed in convincing people :-)

Love, Viktoria

indianyo said...

oops.. not all Hungarian waldorfians make so many typos actually :-))

Henitsirk said...

URD: I'm not convinced that "women's work" is such a bad thing. Of course I say that having the choice to do handwork and not being restricted or defined by it.

Anonymous Nana: True, men were responsible for a good amount of fine handiwork then. Even today, some of the finest craftspersons are men, like Sam Maloof, or Jim Hrisoulas, whose amazing knives I have seen in person.

Indianyo: Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog, and linking here on yours. If you know of a good online Hungarian translator, please let me know so I can read yours!