It was just over three years ago when I first began this project.
At the time, I was participating in a book challenge, reading one book from the 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die list every month. Breakfast at Tiffany's was my book of choice in August 2008.
Capote wrote with efficiency, every word carefully selected to express and serve a purpose in describing the charm and character of this woman whom I was growing to love.
And yet she completely shocked me. She describes herself as "top banana in the shock department." And she was.
I knew nothing about the book or the movie at the time, my only influence being the many media images of Audrey Hepburn I'd seen since childhood. Images of her wearing that simple black dress with her chignon, pearls, and tiara...sometimes smoking, sometimes with a cat on her shoulder. My impression of Holly was...
Elegant. Iconic. Audrey Hepburn.
I was surprised to learn that Holly was a high-society call girl. She sought men out for their money and she performed services in the powder room! Holly's roots weren't glamorous at all. In fact, she was a poor, orphaned country girl from Tulip, TX, just one of hundreds of girls who head to the big city trying to make it for themselves.
Not anything what I expected. And yet, I was charmed by her wit, her carefree approach to life, her love of freedom, and her independence. Published in 1957, the story presaged the free approach to love and sex in the '60s.
Holiday Golightly, Traveling is what the calling card taped to her mailbox reads. The perfect name for a woman who treats life as a holiday and treads through it lightly.
I was charmed. And her elegance reminded me a bit of my mother, whom I had just lost to leukemia a few months prior in March 2008...and her favorite color to wear, because it matched her eyes...was Grammy Aqua or what you might refer to as Tiffany blue.
After my mom died, I couldn't get enough of that color. I was attracted to it no matter what I did. I chose books from the library with aqua covers, I bought iced tea with aqua labels, I bought aqua underwear and kleenex in aqua boxes. And my obsession bled right into my needlework habit.
In fact, I was beginning to amass quite the collection of aqua-colored fabrics, ribbons, beads and threads. Items that would be perfect for use in a needlework picture inspired by my love for the book in a color that reminded me of Mom.
I put the project away for two years and resurrected it this past Spring when I finally took the time to acquaint myself with the entire phenomenon that was Breakfast at Tiffany's...the book, the movie, the Tiffany & Co. store, the "little black dress"...everything...while sewing into my work, some threads from my own life.
Early on, I had traveled to NYC and taken the picture of the store name that eventually was stitched onto my work...using new skills I had learned in this class...
I chose to illustrate the classic, opening scene from the movie where Audrey Hepburn gets out of a cab in formal evening attire, in the morning (!), with a cup of coffee and a paper bag...to gaze into the beauty and peace of a place where she believes nothing bad can ever happen.
A trip to Tiffany's was Holly Golightly's drug-of-choice in combatting the "mean reds", an anxiety worse than fear. And that notion struck me.
The idea that beauty can comfort. Beauty can soothe. Beauty can heal.
And isn't that what creating and gazing at beautiful needlework does for me? Needlework is my own drug-of-choice...it's my own Tiffany's.
So I set about to stitch something beautiful for beauty's sake alone. Something that would make me feel good just by looking at it.
When my Mom was young and newly married, she had had an Aunt who had left her some money when she passed away. With her unexpected windfall, my Mom decided to purchase a piece of beautiful furniture, a china closet that stands in her home to this day. It was the first impractical piece of furniture my mother bought...a china closet...a place to house beautiful things.
That unexpected gift meant a lot to my mother. So when she passed away, she left each one of her children some money. The story about her Aunt and the china closet was written in a letter to each of us. I was touched by this thoughtful legacy from my mother, and just like her, I bought something equally impractical. But beautiful.
Something for my home. Something I would never buy for myself but I would love to have. Something that would remind me of my mother's love of beauty every time I turned it on. A light. A chandelier.
That's when I put the block away in 2008.
The Lace Flowers
This past Spring when I pulled it out, we were in the throws of Royal Wedding fervor and I was enamored of another young, stylish woman, Kate Middleton. It was the wedding dress that Sarah Burton designed, and more specifically the lace that the Royal School of Needlework had applied to that dress, that led me to incorporate the lace technique into my Breakfast at Tiffany's piece.
All the while, I was continuing to study my subject. It was time to finally watch the movie.
I was appalled. They made it a love story! There was no love story in the book at all. In fact, the guy upstairs in Capote's story is gay. And though he loves Audrey, the love is strictly platonic.
So the idea of them getting together??
Yuck. That was SO not the Holly Golightly in Capote's novella...Holly was a traveler, she never got used to anything and if she did she "might as well be dead".
Needless to say, I admired the movie as a stand alone but could not reconcile it with the book. The book was soo much better.
Which caused me to question: Why would Truman Capote ever agree to that screenplay?
Which led me to read the book Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman. A great read. It turns out that Capote had sold his novel to Paramount and didn't have any right to review the screenplay. When the movie came out, Capote was pretty vocal in his disdain for turning Breakfast at Tiffany's into a romantic comedy. Evidently, to Paramount Pictures, Holly was a little TOO modern and the only way they saw to reconcile Holly's life as a call girl was to partner her with a man. I really did hate that part.
But sleuthing out the real story behind the movie was fascinating, and led me to uncover the relationship between fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn. A relationship which led to the advent of the "little black dress". A transformational symbol to the young women of the day...a sign that fashion could be accessible to every woman not just the wealthy or movie stars. You could be an every-day girl...like Audrey Hepburn...and still be fashionable.
Because she is staring into the window at Tiffany's, I had always wanted to stitch seam treaments inspired by real jewels from Tiffany's collection. In reading Bejewelled by Tiffany 1837-1987, I found the company history was another true American success story...and was thrilled to find that Tiffany & Co. dazzled the world with their showcases of diamonds and gems in the world expositions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tiffany had a long history of dazzling its customers.
I even went so far as to imagine using real jewels but I just didn't have any diamonds lying around.
Luckily, my friend Sheila did. And even though I hadn't voiced that desire aloud, Sheila heard my wish and sent me Mr. Miller's stick pin.
And it was that piece of jewelry that inspired the butterfly and became its thorax...
I really have been traveling.
Discovering unexplored territories, uncovering new secrets and finding delight in all the details that went into researching and stitching this piece.
I have enjoyed every minute of it and I will miss Holly Golightly greatly.
Thank you all for traveling with me.
Though I may not have had the time to respond to all of your comments, I read each and every one. You were the added joy to the journey.
So now it's time to move on.
It's time to frame my piece and hang it on the wall...
And look at it on those days when I have a bad case of the "mean reds".
And...I think it's time to blow the two-years-worth of dust off that box in my garage and hang my mother's chandelier.
I've traveled long enough.
P.S. This next picture is for Maureen. She asked for a picture showing the scale of the piece. The finished block is 8"x8". Here it is next to a beer bottle (I think the red neck side of Holly would approve...) and sitting on top of a curio cabinet. Hope that helps Maureen...
P.P.S. If you're just visiting for the first time, you can read all the posts regarding the creation of this piece here.
P.P.P.S. Tomorrow's my anniversary and Jim's taking off from work. I'll see you all on Monday ;)