Taking Things Seriously (4)

By: Carol Hayes
December 6, 2019

One in a series of posts reprinting true stories about significant objects from the 2007 collection Taking Things Seriously (Princeton Architectural Press), edited by Joshua Glenn and designed by Carol Hayes. For contemporary reviews of the book, click here; for info on Josh Glenn and Rob Walker’s ongoing Project:Object operation, click here.


There it was: “THOUGHTS”! How could I not have seen it before? I was sitting at the dining room table in my aunt’s house in Massachusetts when I looked up and noticed this needlepoint sampler for the first time. Holy shit, I almost said out loud. Had it been there for a long time? When did my aunt make it? What was she thinking when she made it? What could it possibly mean?

I have the same inner conversation every time I look at it. Thoughts? Is it thoughts in general, or specific thoughts? Thoughts about a person? Memories? “I’m thinking of you”? Was my aunt trying to express the feeling of going through the mental process of deciding what needlepoint pattern to make next? The sampler’s vagueness plunges me into philosophical confusion. The mystery of it is what attracts me, but it’s also what bothers me. You think thoughts, but how often do you think about thoughts?

My aunt could tell how much I liked the THOUGHTS sampler and a few months after I spotted it she gave it to me as a gift. I took it home and hung it on the wall. Sometimes I would stare at it, and I’d get frustrated every time. Other people who came over and saw it reacted the same way.

My aunt never explained what she meant by THOUGHTS, and I didn’t think it was the kind of question I could ask her. Eventually I had to put the sampler away because it made my head hurt. The idea of my aunt making a picture of the word thoughts in needlepoint amazes me. I never would’ve thought of it. It’s the perfect combination: profound expression and humble craft.

TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY: William Drenttel on ARTICHOKE | Dmitri Siegel on BIG BOTTOM EXCITER | Greg Klee on SANTA | Carol Hayes on “THINGS” SAMPLER | Tom Frank on WWI HELMET | Beth Daniels on PENCIL SHARPENER | Chika Azuma on GRAMMYFOAM | John Keen on COMPUTER CABINET | Josh Glenn on BAUDELAIRE DEATH MASK | Luc Sante on POSTER FRAGMENTS | Becky Neiman on CHEESE BOX | Rosamond Purcell on BREAD | Paul Maliszewski on RUBBER STAMP.


SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS at HILOBROW: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | PROJECT:OBJECT newsletter | PROJECT:OBJECT objects (Threadless shop — all profits donated to the ACLU) | POLITICAL OBJECTS series (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS series (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS series (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 series (4Q2017) | FLAIR series (2Q2018) | FOSSIL series (4Q2018) | FETISHES series (2Q2019) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 2 series (4Q2019) | MOVIE OBJECTS series (2Q2020). ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.