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A Brief Overview of the Life, Times and Work of Hannah Schleply


My late aunt, the celebrated Hannah Schleply,
founded what came to be known as The Post Utilitarian, Post Feminist, Suburban Needlework Movement, in her mid-fifties.

She had begun work on a simple knit pull-over with a dropped sleeve in generic acrylic, when a week of severe weather set in. Turning her chair to face the window and view the dramatic skyline, she found herself knitting the first of her iconic domestic pieces, "Pot Of Bean and Barley Soup In Three Dimensions." She completed the work as the weather cleared and stumbled onto her front lawn where she inexplicably vomited on the neighbor's cat. Thus the seeds of her reputation for inspired artistry and erratic behavior were planted.

There followed a period of feverish creativity. Still working in yarn, she abandoned all attempts to produce utilitarian pieces. Typical of this phase are her famous sweaters without openings for arms or head, cube shaped scarves and fan-tailed socks.

The initial post-utilitarian phase of her work was followed by her iconic series of knitted nudes including, "Seated Nude in Worsted Wool," and the astounding "Reclining Argyle."

My aunt was catapulted into fame and notoriety by a showing of several nude and domestic peices on youtube which went viral in the first three hours. But it was an article by Bettina St. Clair, blogger and needlework expert, which established my aunt's work as that of an artist and visionary:

"By utilizing the raw material and traditional craft of garment production to create unclothed figures in bleak landscapes, Schleply has demonstrated the destructive consequences of the cultural elevation of form over function. This is humanity itself, naked and bereft."

Previously known to a limited number of needlework purists for her technical expertise and t.v. show, "Knitting With Bettina," (which aired on certain PBS affiliates at five a.m. most Saturdays) Ms. St Clair was deeply moved by what she perceived to be the subversive nature of my Aunt's work. The controversy surrounding her article and its expansion into a best selling book has been well documented elsewhere. Less publicized was her expulsion from the small Kansas church of her childhood, following Reverend Reginal Ragworth's notorious denunciation of her article:

"Ms. St. Clair has colluded with the Satanic forces now threatening the nation to subvert the traditional craft of mothers and modest women everywhere..."

The controversy culminated in an exponential increase in the value of my aunt's work which she never acknowledged. My aunt despised Bettina St. Clair, often referring to her as a "prattling crackpot." "That dumb
Kansan cow is making a fortune off this crap!" I once heard her scream upon receiving an unsolicited, autographed copy of St. Clair's book which she hurled at the neighbor's cat.


To be cont. (hopefully by a member of Delectable Mnts willing to get down and silly with me.)
Jan/24/2010, 11:22 am Link to this post Send Email to ChrisD1   Send PM to ChrisD1
 
Patricia Jones Profile
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Re: A Brief Overview of the Life, Times and Work of Hannah Schleply


This is a delight for sure...please continue.

Pat

---
"Don't you worry--I ain't evil, I'm just bad".
~Chris Smither~
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Re: A Brief Overview of the Life, Times and Work of Hannah Schleply


Thanks, Pat, for speaking up. I confess I was reluctant to do so, not wanting to interrupt the flow. But I realize its okay.

Fun stuff indeed, Chrisfriend. Plese take it forward. And I see you want member participation too. Such a good idea.

Tere
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Re: A Brief Overview of the Life, Times and Work of Hannah Schleply


No takers, huh? A little more time, maybe?
Thanks for the encouraging comments, guys.

Chris
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Re: A Brief Overview of the Life, Times and Work of Hannah Schleply


In fairness to my aunt, it must be acknowledged that she was subject to inordinate stress at that time.

Followers of Reverend Ragworth had established the website, "smiteschleply.com,"
featuring her photograph and maps of her neighborhood. These events precipitated her move to a remote farmhouse in the country. She relocated her studio to the barn where she began work on her most ambitious project of that period: the towering, yet fragile, "Persona." This piece, constructed of seed pods, bubble wrap and frayed string, introduced the use of plastic products into her work and triggered the long-standing conflict between my aunt and the environmental movement.

more to follow.

Last edited by ChrisD1, Jan/25/2010, 11:10 am
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Katlin Profile
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Re: A Brief Overview of the Life, Times and Work of Hannah Schleply


Chris,

What fun this is! I love the way you are drawing on so many things in real life, knitting (you knew I couldn't resist), lampooning and spinning all the threads toogther into a delightful romp on the current circumstances. "Please, sir, may I have another?" emoticon
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Re: A Brief Overview of the Life, Times and Work of Hannah Schleply


Thanks Kat, I really do appreciate the encouragement. I'll keep adding to this for a while before finishing it off.

Chris

Last edited by ChrisD1, Jan/25/2010, 3:44 pm
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Re: A Brief Overview of the Life, Times and Work of Hannah Schleply


This letter from my aunt to her closest girlhood friend, reflects her disturbed state of mind at that time:

"Dear Trixie,

How's life at the ashram? Re: our recent falling out, please understand I was suffering from PTSD when I wrote to tell you of my near death experience, barely escaping a crochet hook to the heart. I had no idea Bettina St. Clair was stalking me. Thank God the neighbor's cat took a flying lunge at my face just as that whack job was rounding the corner.

I really felt betrayed and abandoned by you when all I received in response was a pressed lotus leaf and a koan. We used to be so close.

OK, I guess I went too far when I incorporated those items into my exhibition, "Poopy Buddha." My bad. Now those nerds at the NEA won't even return my calls.

Trixie, I'm sending this letter in hopes you will understand, dwelling as you do, in the place that transcends all understanding.

Your contrite friend,

Hannah"
Jan/26/2010, 12:41 pm Link to this post Send Email to ChrisD1   Send PM to ChrisD1
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: A Brief Overview of the Life, Times and Work of Hannah Schleply


LOL Chris, too funny! You are on a roll.
  I'm loving the cat's role in all of this.

Last edited by Katlin, Jan/26/2010, 5:58 pm
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Re: A Brief Overview of the Life, Times and Work of Hannah Schleply


Thanks for the link to the article, Kat, and for egging me on. "psychonauts," I'm off to read the article.

Chris
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Oops, I just came back to edit that's stuff about psychonauts out of my post, fearing it was too far off-topic, but you beat me to the click! I hope my silly posting proved serendipitous, and you found some grist for your creative mill there, Chris. If not, oops again: sorry for sending you on a wild goose chase.

Last edited by Katlin, Jan/26/2010, 5:56 pm
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Re: A Brief Overview of the Life, Times and Work of Hannah Schleply


I am still loving this, Chris...carry on, pretty please...

Pat

---
"Don't you worry--I ain't evil, I'm just bad".
~Chris Smither~
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Re: A Brief Overview of the Life, Times and Work of Hannah Schleply


Kat,

I enjoyed and bookmarked the article...coming back to this thread was a trip from the sublime to the ridiculous.

OK Pat, and thank you.

Chris
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The sublime and the ridiculous make a good couple, don't you think? The ridiculous, like coyote and raven, the trickster gods and clownish prophets, keeps us from getting too full of ourselves and too off in la-la landy. It reminds us not to trust anyone who can't laugh, especially at themselves. If you meet the Buddha on the road, don't kill him, knit him! LOL You see, I think Aunt Hannah has a crazy kind of wisdom that someone who is too serious might miss.
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Regarding my aunt's marriage to young Ezekiel
Ragworth, much has been rumored and written.
The following are the true facts.

Ezekiel was the eldest of the Reverend Ragworth's five sons and had been groomed to assume leadership of his father's growing congregation. It was Ezekiel who convinced his father that one website would reach more affluent sinners than a hundred revival meetings. The Reverend, who loved a good revival meeting nearly as much as a full collection plate, was heard to mutter, "Well I guess I didn't send that boy to the Oral Roberts School of Business for nothing."

But as Ezekiel's influence grew, his father became hostile and suspicious, undercutting the young preacher's authority and questioning his grasp of Revelations:

"His feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion, you dolt,
not the other way around! That's what the whole thing hinges on!"

Finally, having endured countless outbursts and being advised of a conspiracy to plant cd's of Broadway musicals in his study, the embittered young man struck out on his own. His plan was to seek out my aunt, offering to pose for a knitted nude, thus declaring all-out war on the senior Reverend Ragworth.

Meanwhile my aunt, now age sixty, was in the midst of her own problems. Exhausted from doing battle with the NEA, the IRS, PETA, Greenpeace and the DAR, she had taken to sleeping in the barn, twenty feet up on scaffolding rigged to enable continued work on the towering, "Persona." Encased in bubble wrap with a seed pod covering each eye, her preferred mode of repose, she was in the throes of a terrible nightmare on the date in question. Somewhat mummified in bubble wrap, she was energeticlly ripping the exquisite stitching of a Bettina St. Clair--in her sleep--causing her to flip off the scaffold, executing several full spins in mid-air before crashing to the ground. But for the bubble wrap, her injuries would have been grievous.

Young Ezekiel, having just arrived on foot, was making his way up the path when he heard the piercing sound of popping bubble wrap. Mistaking the sound for gun fire, he raced to the barn fearing the worst. There he beheld the struggling figure of my aunt and hastened to extricate her.

The two locked eyes and despite the difference in their ages, he was a mere twenty years old...well, the rest is history.

Last edited by ChrisD1, Jan/27/2010, 4:26 pm
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The last twenty years of my aunt's life were her happiest and most productive. Her work and the movement she founded were overshadowed for a time, by the neo-functionalists who advocated cable knits and scarves above all else. But my aunt lived to see a resurgence of interest in her work and its implications, "Crap, here we go again," she observed tartly. Financial security which had eluded her in youth was a great comfort in old age.

After ten years of blissful marriage to Ezekiel, they seperated. He had fallen in love with the ponderously spiritual Trixie.
Together, they founded the Institute of Evangelical Mindfulness. To this day, devotees of The Institute go door to door, spreading the sound of no hand knocking. Needless to say, few have heard of them and the rest doubt their existence.

Just last week, I attended a retrospective of my late aunt's work. As usual, I wore the sweater she gave me the Christmas before her great artistic breakthrough. As usual, I heard the collective intake of breath and admiring murmers as I entered the room, "Did you see that? An original pre post-utilitarian Hannah Schleply!"
Jan/28/2010, 10:12 am Link to this post Send Email to ChrisD1   Send PM to ChrisD1
 
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ROTFLOL! Chris, this is hilarious. I laughed out loud repeatedly reading the latest installment. So Aunt Hannah was a cougar? And her best friend, the enlightened Trixie, stole her man? Well, I never! Yay, it's good to laugh. Thanks for this.

Last edited by Katlin, Jan/28/2010, 7:49 pm
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ChrisD1 Profile
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Re: A Brief Overview of the Life, Times and Work of Hannah Schleply


You are very welcome, Kat. It's been great,
goofy fun.

Chris
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A Final Note From The Author:

Dear Reader,

Thank you for your kind attention to this writing. As I was researching some of the more obscure details of my aunt's life, I was unable to find documents, videos or eye-witness accounts which I am sure once existed and may still. Therefore I appeal to you, dear reader, to send along anything of interest you may possess or acquire. Any such item will be included as an addendum to this publication and credit will be given to its contributor.

Any bits and pieces of information which have a Schleply kind of vibe about them will also be greatly appreciated and most likely included. I'm sure you will agree this is fitting grist for the mill of any memoir in an era of truthiness.

Thanking you in advance,

Miriam Schleply-St. Clair
Jan/29/2010, 10:46 am Link to this post Send Email to ChrisD1   Send PM to ChrisD1
 
Terreson Profile
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Finally! Saturday afternoon and I get to read what you've been up to. In a way, maybe my timing is not so bad, as I get to read the chronicle in its entirety.

Never seen you do anything remotely like this, Chris. What an unallowed treat. What makes it all is the narrator's serio-comic tone. And how in the world did you come up with the aunt's art movement? Post-----what?

One idea maybe for an addendum. You pull in Oral Roberts and it makes me think of one of his favorite bishops he had to excommunicate. Carlton Person, a black evangelist who was high up in the Oral Roberts organization until one day God spoke to him. Pearson says he was watching the news. The Rhwanda genocide was getting reported on. It disturbed the bishop that all the slaughtered people would have to go to hell after so much hell on earth, since, they would not have accepted Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. Then he heard God's voice and it said something like: do you think I would treat any of my beloved children so? So Pearson first developed, then preached something he called the Doctrine of Inclusion. All of God's children, he holds, get saved. Needless to say he was ostracised from the Roberts church, lost his fotune, had to start all over again.

http://www.tentmaker.org/doctrine_of_inclusion_index.htm

So how about it? I seem to recall hearing that Carlton Pearson spoke at Aunt Hannah's funeral. Was that just a rumor?

Tere
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Re: A Brief Overview of the Life, Times and Work of Hannah Schleply


Tere, I've seen that guy interviewed somewhere. Way too good a guy to end up in this farcical thing, but thanks for reminding me of him. It really helps to be reminded of him. Hannah would have adored him.

Chris

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Chrisfriend, I've been keeping up with the reverend for awhile now. I so admire the kind of courage it frequently takes to be compassionate first, an idealogue second. I've also noticed he has quite a sense of humor. Something to think on maybe.

But no matter. I am just loving your prose piece. Oh. Is the rumor true that Aunt Hannah was buried with the neighbor's dead cat covering her face?

Tere
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It certainly was rumored but a search of the
records kept by the mortuary don't support it. Hannah once knitted the kitty as a corpse after stepping in his droppings on her lawn. Some think the knitted corpse was placed over her face just prior to the burial. Maybe, but by by whom? Any light you can shed on this would be much appreciated.

Come to think of it, Hannah kept a whole room full of knitted corpses; stabbed, strangled, crushed, decapitated. Well, she did have a very dark side, shall we say. Good thing she was able to channel it creatively. I shudder to recall the dozen or so Trixie corpses. One recently sold for a million and a half. Go figure.

Miriam

Last edited by ChrisD1, Jan/31/2010, 9:42 am
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Another rumor, perhaps unverifiable. That Hanna Schleply is a direct descendent of the great artist working in wax, Madame Anna Maria Tussuad.

If proved true, as Madame Blavatsky's visitations assure me is the case, we both expect acknowledgements and any royalty rights contingent upon your upcoming treatise on the case. Of course, with Madame Blavatsky dead, she has granted me power of attorney.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madame_Tussaud

Tere,

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As my aunt would have said, "Blavatsky, schmatsky." She firmly believed the dead had better things to do than hang around gossiping with the living. Also, she had an acute aversion to wax--something to do with a childhood mishap involving wax lips and a hoola-hoop.

Sorry, no cigar. No royalties either.

Sincerely,

Miriam
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Re: A Brief Overview of the Life, Times and Work of Hannah Schleply


You mean I don't have a chance with Hannah? I'm developing a crush on her.

Tere
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Well, not in a mixed marriage kind of way, between the living and the no longer living.
Beyond that? Who can say? You wouldn't be the first to be smitten with Hanah.

Miriam
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Hi, Chris,

I loved the way the story developed in your emails. You could even publish it as an email sequence and include all the encouraging comments along the way!

This is a very enjoyable character. I would love to be her, as she never seems to have doubts about anything.

The writing is great too. I wonder where this could go in terms of publishing.

Take care,

Auto
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Hi, Chris,

I loved the way the story developed in your emails. You could even publish it as an email sequence and include all the encouraging comments along the way!

This is a very enjoyable character. I would love to be her, as she never seems to have doubts about anything.

The writing is great too. I wonder where this could go in terms of publishing.

Take care,

Auto
Feb/2/2010, 5:55 pm Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
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Thank you, Auto. Makes me feel good to know you enjoyed this. When I grow up, I want to be Hanna too. Publish? What a fine compliment.

Thanks again,

Chris
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