I Love You
I can hardly imagine the millions of meters of linen smoothed by thousands of women centuries ago, using the various mangle boards pictured in Jay Raymond’s book, Mangle Boards of Northern Europe. I have to imagine those women into existence – history books rarely, if ever, mention the daily work performed by women: Smoothed linen, short shrifted.
Of course. I get it: It’s the mangle boards that survive. They are beautiful in their own right, lovely carved wood, worthy of admiring, preserving, and collecting. I enjoyed Jay Raymond’s stories of the boards’ origins. I understand his stated focus: “The fruits of my examination, this book, is an opportunity for us to feel the life of mostly common people, whose lives are not in history books and are lost to us except in this way.” As I carved my contemporary version of a mangle board, I did feel the lives of the men who carved these boards. I honor their labors.
It’s just that this pressing tale would have been infinitely more compelling for me, if even one woman’s voice had surfaced. Were some boards easier to use than others? Did she enjoy looking at the carved pattern on her mangle board? For whom did she smooth the linens? Did she have help?
As I cut, carved, and painted my mangle board, my thoughts occasionally wandered to the household chore of ironing, a task I abandoned years ago. As my thinking progressed, I came to honor the labors of humans worldwide for the work done to create beautiful, loving homes for our families. Synchronicity often happens in my work, so I was not surprised to discover that, unintentionally channeled into the design, an eye and a heart appeared, as well as several U’s. I flowed with the symbols’ meaning and the title became obvious: “I Love You”: With my mangle board, I honor the historic link between men and women – the carved mangle boards and the smoothed linens.