Blanket Sea

Arts & Literary Magazine

Tag: art

Art by Lia Pas

“body map”

(An outline of a naked woman is embroidered on linen in the same bone white colour as the linen. She stands legs together, her right hand covering her groin, her left hand palm up, extended slightly to her side. She looks to the right. Her body is covered in squiggles, dots, and lines in blues, burgundies, greens, and greys. Some of the markings are done in thick stitches, some in thin lines. Her belly is clear of markings. Her face is a mask of green lines, feathery lines cover her shoulders and chest. There is a thick band of intricate burgundy stitching around her waist. Her forearms and hands are covered in thick undulant lines. Her right leg has bands of burgundy along the muscles, with small dots around them. Her inner left leg has a thick line of blue running up it, with thin branches spreading towards her outer leg.)

“Hand (paresthesia) 1”

(On bone white linen, there is the faint outline of a hand, fingers apart. The hand is filled with thick dark blue lines intertwining and crossing over. There are finer thin lines in bone white beneath the thick blue lines. At the wrist, the thick blue lines end in strands of thick thread, hanging over the edge of the linen.)


(On a pale natural linen, there is the pale outline of a woman’s lower legs and feet, heels together, toes apart. From the soles of the feet, thick red/orange lines coil beneath. From the big toes moving upwards, thick blue and off-white lines rise up through the inner calves and branch off at the knees. These lines coil and intertwine in a brain-like shape, and then move back down in wavy lines like a wide skirt around the ankles.) 

“Neural Overload”

(In the centre of some bone white linen, there is a spine embroidered in a thick satin stitch. Emanating from the spine are thick burgundy lines in an undulant oval shape. This oval is bisected across the middle. In the top half, there is a section outlined in burgundy filled with coiling blue lines and a similar section in the bottom half. The rest of the undulant oval is filled with fine coiling burgundy lines. The spine is very straight, the rest of the embroidery is very coiled and busy. )

“push, pull, and tingle”

(On a deep purple linen there is the outline of a left hand in a slightly lighter purple. The hand is palm up, fingers slightly curled inward except for the pointer finger which is straight. On the pads of the tips of all the fingers and thumb are miniscule white dots. On the tips of the fingers and in the centre of these pads are white knots. These knots are connected to two triangles in lines of white thread, the peak of one directly above the tip of the thumb, and the other peak below the palm. On the left edge of the top triangle is a star shape in light blues and whites. In the centre of the palm is a grouping of tiny golden yellow knots. On the palmar pad of the thumb are tiny light blue knots connected by small stitches in a map-like design. Leading out from the pinky is a similar map-like design in navy blue. Between the two blue map-like designs is an area of tiny purple knots.)


Artist’s Statement

I am a multidisciplinary artist who works in text, music, sound, and image. Until 2015, most of my work was performative and incorporated music, video, and movement. In 2015, I became ill with ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and was unable to move much at all. I was also so sensitive to sound and vibration that even listening to music was painful. Reading was confusing, and writing extremely depleting. While watching a period drama, one of the women characters was told to “take to her bed and work on her embroidery,” and I thought, “I have taken to my bed. Why not do some embroidery?” My mom had some embroidery materials, brought them over, and I was smitten with the process. ME/CFS demands rest and calm. Embroidery is a slow art and something I find very restorative. 

My initial subject matter when I started embroidering was some of the text/image pieces I had created before my illness based on old anatomical illustrations. It was through these pieces that I honed my craft in hours spent reclining with needle, thread, and hoop in hands. Then one day during a meditation session I began to see all my neurological symptoms: pain, tingling, and twitches, as lines of stitching on cloth. It is at this point I began to illustrate my invisible ME/CFS symptoms and have named this series “symptomatology.” I embroider primarily with cotton thread on linen but have also started experimenting with silk thread recently. For my symptomatology pieces, I start with the shape of my body or whatever body part I am focusing on. I use old anatomy illustrations or photographs of myself as a guide and then meditate on what I am feeling in the moment, stitching the sensations freehand in the moment. 



Lia Pas is a Canadian interdisciplinary creator who makes work as text, sound, movement, and image. Since becoming ill with ME/CFS in 2015, Lia has focused primarily on textile-based work exploring anatomy and symptomatology. An essay on her current creative process is forthcoming in the In Copore Sano anthology (The Operating System, 2019). Her poetry has been published in numerous literary journals as well as in her book what is this place we have come to (Thistledown Press, 2003) and her chapbooks vicissitudes (Underwhich Editions, 2001) and Husk (JackPine Press, 2008). Her videopoem about the heart—susurrations (2009)—can be found on Vimeo. Lia’s music has been performed by chamber ensembles, used as soundtracks for short films, and broadcast on CBC and BBC radio. She has worked extensively with movement artists and was composer/librettist for Fihi ma Fihi (2015), a full-length dance-rock-opera with La Caravan Dance Theatre. She can be found online at, on Instagram and on Twitter.

The Nightstand Collective: An Art Project by Emma Jones

Emma Jones has spent much of her life navigating chronic illness, which inspired her curiosity about how others make space for their illness, create tools for resilience, and, most importantly, make meaning of their illness experiences. Through her project, The Nightstand Collective, she explores the lives of the chronically ill through the intimate space of the bedroom nightstand, and the items we keep close in times of vulnerability.

Fibromyalgia. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. (More photos, description, and list of items here.)

Artist’s Statement

When I first became sick, I took my symptoms to bed, imagining that I could treat them with rest. I had to stop the life that I had so carefully dreamed of, arranged, and created for myself. I did not bounce back to my old self and slowly realized I had to organize a different way of living. In the beginning, there was a certain novelty to being in bed; as an incredibly active person, giving in to the resting medicine was not easy.  I had no name for my symptoms. By the time that I was handed them, my life had become very small and I felt unrecognizable.

Major Depressive Disorder. Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. ADHD. Neurological Damage due to Fetal Alcohol Exposure. Head Trauma. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. (More photos, description, and list of items here.)

For a long time, I was unable to read, watch TV, or follow narratives of any kind. My world became my bedroom and the items on my bedroom nightstand. The things that I kept close were very carefully curated for specific purposes; some were medical, but most were possessions that I just enjoyed looking at, that brought me comfort. My nightstand was a way that I could strategize my energy use by keeping the things that I would need for a whole day close by. It was also practical, held some art, some magic, items from friends, items from my old life, bits of the natural world; some things were to encourage and to inspire.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. Fibromyalgia. Celiac Disease. Occipital Neuralgia. Asthma. Major Depressive Disorder. Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Insomnia. (More photos, description, and list of items here.)

My nightstand was my nest, and while it was small compared to my old life, it reflected my growing inner world. I would look at my nightstand and wonder about all the other people out there struggling with the “unnamed” disorders that had taken their life down, and I would think about their nightstands. I spent a great deal of time imagining nightstands around the world, and I was curious as to what tools people were using to help them create a bigger life. And what did a bigger life mean to them? Folks who are dancing with chronic illness are remarkably adaptable, incredibly strong, and creative, yet they are never recognized as such; and it was these misconceptions that became the seed that led to the creation of The Nightstand Collective. I wanted a quiet space where the items could speak for themselves and show the life behind them. 

Chronic Pain Syndrome. Fibromyalgia. Nerve Damage. Thoracic Bone Spurs. Cervical Bone Spurs. (More photos, description, and list of items here.)

I have been working on The Nightstand Collective for two years now and have had submissions from people from all over the world. I have had the most incredible communications with some of the most resilient and fascinating people I have ever had the pleasure to chat with. Many of us are canaries of the world, and I am curious about how they make their life, adapt to their symptoms, what tools they use to lead a nourishing life. I am still learning about how people are managing their illness and what are the things that support them. I have a yearly book list of all the nightstand books and it gives us a window into some of the inner work that people are doing; people are diving into some intense and transformative topics.

Lyme Disease and Co-Infections. (More photos, description, and list of items here.)

I have had folks tell me that my website is depressing; I don’t find it so. It is a matter of fact that we will all have to dance with illness at some point in our lives, and others can be our guides into all of the ways that a life can become full. There are many people out there creating art, leading vibrant relationships, having spiritual experiences, and finding beauty all from the small space of their bedroom nightstand. It is true that some of the nightstands reveal a frightening reality of some awful diseases; some are stark and some are taken over with medical equipment, but somewhere there will always be one little item that tells a story of that person beyond their disease. I do hope to keep collecting nightstands and at some point start compiling the data on the objects that can reveal some patterns. It has been a great honor to peak into these very intimate spaces.



 Emma has a background in theatre and film both in front of and behind the camera, and has recently started working in audio featuring narratives about healing from traumatic injuries. You can hear her work at Her project, The Nightstand Collective,  has been featured in Huffington Post UK, Mashable Social Good, The Mighty, West Journal, and The Italian Endometriosis Foundation.       


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