In the past, they burned us
Because they thought we were witches.
Because we knew what to do with herbs outside of the kitchen.
Because we knew how to dance, and seduce, and pray.
Because we moved with the cycles of the moon.
~ Fleassy Malay
Recently I have been exploring crocheting doilies. I am seeing a great potential for contemplative crafting in the ever widening rounds, that are essentially mandalas. Mandalas are spiritual, or ritual symbols that emerged from ancient Indian religious traditions. The word mandala is Sanskrit for "circle". Now we apply the word to any circular, and sometimes square, geometric pattern. Creating a mandala originally was symbolic of the wholeness of life and the cosmos, and representative of the interconnectedness of all things. In creating a mandala, everything depends on everything else for its structure. In Buddhism, mandalas are used to help with meditation through deep contemplation of the image. These mandalas are also created through meditative practices, with each color and shape, even the process of creating it, holding symbolic meaning. Some may be familiar with the Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas. Mandalas spread to Christian and Islamic faiths, in which they represented the individual's initial separation from and journey to the divine.
Today outside of the traditional spiritual guidelines, mandalas primarily serve a psychological and aesthetic function. Carl Jung introduced using creating mandalas as a tool to explore the unconscious mind. He believed that creating mandalas were effective in organizing and integrating our inner and outer lives. The many layers of the mandala, representing the deeper layers of the unconscious, allowing the individual to experience oneness with the universe.
Doilies are a fairly new craft, appearing sometime in the late 1700s or early 1800s as a Victorian craft and served as a form of etiquette. They covered areas of furniture, like the head rest and the arms (called Antimacassars or Chair Sets), under cups and trays, to protect the furniture and beautify the home. The name doily comes from the surname "d'Ouilly" of a prominent London firm of linen manufacturers of fringed napkins.
Over the years doilies have fallen in and out of favor. Recently, they are on the comeback. Some appear in their traditional use in protecting wood surfaces or table tops, using white or natural color thread, while others move toward mandala-like creation, using color and texture in its creation.
I am interested in the latter approach. Taking a traditional craft form and exploring its use as a contemplative tool, both in its creation and in its use. My first doilies have been fun and playful in design, as I learn the method and techniques in creating them. However, as I dive deeper into the craft form, I expect I will explore traditional, even antique, patterns, and eventually begin creating my own designs.
Posted here is what I call the Dancing Witches doily. It is a design by Valerie Fuller. I changed some of the colors, but the design is hers.
I am looking forward to exploring this craft form as a contemplative tool and see what I discover in the process!
About My Work
Before I became a monk I made a living creating art. When I took the five Buddhist precepts in 2002 I was given the dharma name Do'an (pronounced Doe-ahn), which loosely means "path of the eye". From that moment on, the focus of my art shifted toward contemplative practice, in which I used meditation and breath to facilitate my creativity. I studied Asian brush painting and calligraphy techniques, which had a great influence on my painting style and composition. In 2008 I discovered fiber. I learned to knit, spin yarn, needle felt and weave.