Sunday, November 2, 2014

Finding 'Stumble-Stones' while Cruising Up the Rhine

     Implanted in the cobble stones of many European streets are over 27,000 brass-topped, engraved, four inch square, hand-made memorials - all of which are intended to collectively serve as one large memorial to all of those who were targeted because of their ethnicity, religion, politics or sexual preference by the Third Reich. 
     These small memorials are called stumble-stones or stolpersteine and the intent is not for you to physically stumble over them but to "stumble with your heart and mind" when you see them.
     German artist Gunter Demnig began his project of making and implanting stumble-stones in 1995 and for 120 Euros anyone can sponsor having a stone put in place. Demnig began his art career as a designer and sculptor of large stone memorials that were commissioned by organizations or governments.
     The stumble-stones are usually placed at or near the last known address of the person or persons being remembered and information about them is well documented on a web site for further research.
     Although I have been to Europe before, it wasn't until my last visit this fall that I became aware of these stones. If you are not looking for them, they are easy to miss. Our guide in Heidelberg quietly pointed out two of the stones at #7 Market Square and I found out later that these stones were sponsored in 2013 by the Heidelberg Association of Tourist Guides.
#7 Market Square, Heidelburg, Germany
Stolpersteine in front of #7 Market Square, Heidelburg, Germany

     So what does all of this have to do with rug hooking and art?
      We often read in an artist's statement regarding their work that they are working towards raising the viewer's consciousness about an issue, trying to make a statement about a situation or expressing their views. Sometimes the artist doesn't need to verbally say anything as their work speaks for itself and our hearts and minds stumble over the stumble-stones that the artist puts in front of us.
     The plight of all of those remembered by the stumble-stones in Europe was tragic for them - and not meaning to blithely draw a comparison but to make an observation - I think of Elizabeth Martel's recent project "Hijab" (Sunshine Rug Hooking) where she was inspired by a photo of Malala Yousafzai. 
     I also also think of Rachelle LeBlanc's early pieces where her subject was the deportation of the Acadians from Atlantic Canada in the mid 1700's.
     Taking it to a lighter level, I also think of Laura Kenney's rugs and how she makes our hearts and minds stumble over the  demise of lighthouses on our Atlantic coast - a metaphor for anything that becomes outdated and not useful.
     When traveling, I'm always looking for ideas that might be used later in a rug design. The lock in the photo below is part of a door in an old German castle that leads from the room where the wine was stored. The idea is that if you put your key in any space around the key hole, the ridges will guide your key to the hole. Very useful if one has spent some time in the wine cellar enjoying the wine! With a little adaptation I thought it might make a pattern for a border.
Or, how about this mosaic 

or these little creatures and designs that are carved into a stone gate pillar?





  1. Thanks for the explanation about stumble excellent metaphor for anything which creates pause and thought and new awareness. Great post!

    1. Thanks Carol - I was really moved when I saw them.