When granddaughter Cora came for her spring visit, we rode the light rail to the Textile Center, played hide-and-seek among the looms in the Weavers Guild, and I bought a beautiful children’s book about one of my favorite artists, Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois. It is not exactly written for three-year-olds, but Cora loved it, and insisted I read for many nights running. The first night I thought, “Uh-oh… I hope she doesn’t dwell on this part.”
While she was still a student, her mother died. Louise was heartbroken. She felt abandoned and all alone. A thread, broken.
She did, of course, and asked a few pages after that, “Is her mother still dead?”
But that was just a small part of the experience, as Cora was most interested in having long discussions about many of the illustrations, and in particular, all of the items on this page.
Boat shuttles and stick shuttles — teach them early!
This book, with words by Amy Novesky and pictures by Isabelle Arsenault, is a beautiful meditation on the central place of textiles and weaving in the life and work of Louise Bourgeois. Even without the amazing experience of sharing it with Cora, it would remain one of my favorite books of this year.
Weaving was her way to make things whole. With the remaining fabric of her life, Louise wove together a cloth lullaby. She wove the river that raised her — maternal pinks, blues in watery hues. She wove a mother sewing in the sun, a girl falling asleep beneath the stars, and everything she’d ever loved.
Cora returned for her fall visit. We continued to read the book, and one day, visited the studio of Kala Exworthy and Ann Masemore. Ann had a tempting bright rug on her loom and Cora tried out weaving!
Cora pushed through a few shots of blue, and then looked up at Ann and said, “May I have another shuttle?” All right, Cora — she remembered her lessons from The Cloth Lullaby.
When we left the studio, I asked Cora if she’s like to go to another studio to visit my friend Kelly Marshall. Thinking Cora right be impressed, I said, “Kelly has a really really big loom in her studio.”
Cora looked up at me and asked, “What’s a loom?” Whoops! She might know about tapestry beaters and shuttles from our reading, but I missed a basic lesson.