textiles · exploration · misadventure




Tip, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Scarecrow flee the Emerald City on the sawhorse.

Tip, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Scarecrow flee the Emerald City on the sawhorse.

Wendy and I grew up with a great attachment to the Oz stories by L. Frank Baum. Our Grandma would load us into bed along with a giant bowl of malted milk balls, and read to us for hours.

The first Oz book,The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was illustrated by W.W. Denslow. Four years later, Baum’s The Marvelous Land of Oz was published, but because of a falling out between Denslow and Baum, up-and-coming John R. Neill was hired as illustrator instead, and proceeded to hit it not just out of the park, but into the bay.

The Nome King, Roquat the Red

The Nome King, Roquat the Red

Neill’s wild and wonderful illustrations cemented his place as Royal Illustrator of Oz, and he went on to illustrate at least forty Oz books, including three of his own, in both black and white and color, with art that sends my brain whack in the best ways ever. Despite this success, Neill’s work is underestimated and not widely known.

Neill's new Dorothy, older, more 1900's, less 1880's.

Neill’s new Dorothy, older, more 1900’s, less 1880’s.

Neill introduced an updated, older Dorothy, and a sense of the magical bizarre that suits the material better—in my mind—than Denslow’s plainer, more workaday imagery.

My recent illness has lead me down some odd literary paths lately, including a rereading of old Oz books. Along with simply loving and enjoying the illustrations as much as I always do, I found some inspiration for the tragically grease-stained oxalis dye.

Despite its stains, it really is a beautiful piece of cloth. Its layered yellow dip-dye reminds me of a sandstorm; it inspires a lot of drooling, and makes me feel deep textile lust.

I have always been drawn to the way John R. Neill depicts clouds, wind, and movement. Somehow, I always stop at those particular windy illustrations, and ponder Neill’s strange curves that so mysteriously convey the wildness of weather.

I was in just the right mood when I came across this particular, very familiar depiction of dust and sand and wind, a picture I have been looking at, over and over, for over forty years:

Trapped in the dust storm, The Emerald City of Oz.

Trapped in the dust storm, The Emerald City of Oz.

I got out some blue chalk, and tried to capture the movement of the dust and wind right onto my oxalis dye.

001 marked (2)

And then I started stitching. Yikes!

1 round one stitching (2)

6 thoughts on “Underestimated

  1. Love the story about Grandma reading to you and Wendy, I didn’t know that she read to you. This brings up warm and fuzzy feelings for me about mom reading to me at bedtime.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, really? You didn’t know she read to us? I didn’t realize you didn’t know! We read at least the first seven books together. I’m glad it brings up warm and fuzzy feelings for you! We don’t none of us get enough of those.


  2. I love your solution to the grease stains! I also wish (not for the first time) that I’d read the Oz books. I might just have to pick them up/check them out – I love the illustrations!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I might applique over those grease stains yet. It’s definitely still a work in progress. And YEAH, encourage you to check out the OZ stories sometime. I see new things every time I look at the illustrations. There’s one illustration in The Land of Oz where the witch Mombi is working magic… and she literally has a jam jar on one of her bare feet. It’s just a mad illustration and I love it.

      Liked by 1 person

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