Monday, March 29, 2010

Pillow talk

It's spring (almost) where I live and I've been busy with minor renovating projects. The mood to change things in my physical space always hits me a the end of winter. Between my latest renovation project, finishing my series for a show and working part time (as a decorator), I seem to be slipping on my blog posts. My idea today is to combine all three pursuits and add a little information for your edification - thus pillow talk. No! Not that kind.

The pillow has a long history that extends back to the Mesopotamian city state era (7ooo BCE) but it was the Egyptians that put pillows on the map so to speak. They considered the head to be sacred and pillows were lavished with decorations fitting the job of holding this important body part. Pillows were also a status symbol in Ancient Egypt.

As sophisticated dyes and sewing techniques came into use pillow design became an art form and they were prized commodities first in China and Persia and later in Medieval Europe. With the industrial revolution and the mass production of materials, pillows became more accessible to the average person.

Pillows are not always those soft, fluffy things that the word might conjure up for us. Traditional Chinese pillows are often hard boxes made of stone, wood or metal because it was believed that soft pillows robbed one's body of energy and vitality. In medieval Japan, noblewomen had elaborate hairdos that required customized pillows. To protect the fancy hairdos pillows were constructed of wood that cushioned the back of the neck and let the hair hang free. Not orthopedic consults in those days! Until the 18th century it was believed that sleeping was best accomplished sitting up so bolsters and pillows were a necessity for good health.

We are familiar with feathers, fiberfill or foam but there's more variety out there. Traditional fillings were straw, feathers or down. In Asia buckwheat is a common filling and the pillows are smaller, while in India cotton is used . Then there are pillows that are filled with lavender, herbs etc. that are touted to improve your well being.

Some people like their pillows on the funny side. Check these out.

Then there are pillows from different countries and antique pillows too rich for my pocketbook or any practical use.

I love textiles and decorative pillows are akin to an art form in my house . My walls and furniture are usually neutral, unassuming colours so I express my wild side with pillows.

modern, geometric in satin

psychedelic and mesmerizing

crochet raffia with dainty buttons, graphic linen

crewel work with circles

satin, linen and shag, spring yellow and green, my latest treats

cut velvet and plaid satin in my favourite colour

They lift me up, inspire the use of texture in my art work, support my back, provide a topic for conversation, add a little luxury...

Are there pillows in your life?


Tina Steele Lindsey said...

Oh - I can see why they inspire you, they are great. I was just talking to my husband today about doodling, when I was a kid, it was always circles and geometric shapes. I saw me in your pillows! I think they focus the brain perhaps, I've always loved them. Fun post to read for me, thanks! Best wishes, oh, and when do you go to your summer house?

Kathy said...

What a great post, Margaret! I really enjoyed the funny pillows - really clever. I rely on great pillows since I have three ruptured discs in my back and I must be properly cushioned at night. Even without that problem, I like the appearance of pillows on furniture and the more unusual, the better.

-Don said...

ZZZZZZzzzzzzz.... huh?.... oh.... sorry... pillow talk has a tendency to put me to sleep...

I have the flattest pillow, ever, to lay my head on at night - otherwise I get a crick in my neck. Every chair and couch in the house has to have a pillow for me to put behind my back for lower lumbar support when I sit. None are really pretty to look at, except the one in my desk chair which is in the shape of a football helmet with a big star on it...

Fun post,


Sherwood Harrington said...

Pillows like yours speak for themselves, but others require a context to speak their full vocabularies.

Speaking of context -- my wife, Diane, and I are busily charting out our summer's visit to Ireland, and Birr, and the Demsne. A lot of my time, of course, will be taken up with astronomy history investigations, but we'll take a lot of time, too, to re-visit things that surprised and delighted us in 2006.

As we're planning, we thought that no one, anywhere, would be more valuable than you in one respect:

If you had the chance to go back to the Demesne, what would you want to bring back?

Jeanette said...

I like the textures in your pillows and the history of them was quite interesting. I'd never considered their origins previously.

As for my pillows - feather only for sleeping. They must be soft and moldable, but they are very utilitarian.

In other forms, I seem to move towards texture and tapestry. Your crewel work pillow is very appealing. This weekend I browsed through decorative pillows looking for the perfect one and embellished pieces caught my eye, even if I didn't buy. Pillows can be works of art I believe.

Margaret Ryall said...

I've always been drawn to geometric shapes too and choose them quite often in textiles, stationery etc. It is the order of the arrangements that appeal to me. If I'm not choosing geometrics, stylized flowers are my next favourites.

As for my summer house, we are going to officially open it for 2010 on April 10! Our schedule for being there will change a little this year because I will spend more time in the city for my part time work. It will be interesting to see how that all goes for us. I may not have a part time job for very long!

The funny or unique pillows were entertaining. My back also calls for pillow support. There's no reason why something functional can't be attractive to look at. I have a friend who has no (decorative) pillows in here house. I guess you can see from this post that is not a problem for me.

I'm glad you have a pillow friend in your life and one that supports you!

I remember the picture you linked too. The scene to me is the essence of total contentment. As for what I would bring back from the Demesne, I'll write about that in a post . Now is a good time as I near the end of my series. Keep watching.

Most of the objects we take for granted have interesting and long histories. Knowing them makes objects more interesting and it also gives you a sense of continuity with the past.

Shayla said...

I loved the history lesson- especially the Egyptian's viewpoint- and it's nice to see a professional's taste in pillow function. I'm guessing you don't have a funny pillow ;)

hwfarber said...

Interesting post. I have used the same bean hull pillow for neck support during sleep for at least 15 years--I have a small one for travel.

On my leather sofas, I have linen pillows which I hand-painted with designs. They look great but friends move them to a pile in the center when they sit.

Mary Paquet said...

Neat post and I like how your love of pillows, so exquisite in the interior design world, inspire your fine art.

My best pillow for sleeping came years after having a stiff neck that I attributed to carrying my stress in my shoulders. Why I never sought advice from a specialist is beyond me. I slept on a thin pillow. I tried some special neck pillows without luck. Then I realized while sleeping at a hotel on a lofty pillow, that my neck felt better. Purchase on lofty pillow on sale -- no more neck problems.

I also have some designer pillows that please me. Like Hallie's, they end up in a heap on the floor when people sit down.

Your latest piece with intricate vine is superb. I can easily identify it as your work.

Lynda Lehmann said...

Yes, there are pillows in my life! I like the way one can change the feeling/mood of a room and even drastically alter a decor, with those little touches--pillows and interesting objects that add color and texture.

The pillows you've chosen are elegant!