Gathering Blue

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Kira’s Cloth / Thomas’s Carving Symbol Analysis

Kira’s Cloth / Thomas’s Carving Symbol Icon
The artists in Gathering Blue have special objects—a cloth, a carving—that seem to communicate with their owners and let them see, or at least sense, the future. For Kira, and especially for Thomas, these objects remind their owners of a time when they were at their most creative—before the Council of Guardians took them in and controlled their art by ordering them to work on art for the Gathering. Lowry, a highly experienced writer at this point in her career, may see the cloth and carving as symbols of artistic inspiration and creativity. Artistic inspiration, or the daemon, as some writers have called it, is a strange thing: many great writers have reported that their daemons seem to know the right words or images before the artists themselves do. It’s as if there is a part of the artist’s brain that can predict the future. In many cases, the rules of society limit artistic creativity: we see this very clearly with Thomas, and later Kira—indeed, Thomas was more creative as a small child than he is as an “employee” of the guardians. The cloth and carving, then, externalize what all great artists (including Lowry) say they have: a voice in their head that tells them how to create and is always fighting to be heard.

Kira’s Cloth / Thomas’s Carving Quotes in Gathering Blue

The Gathering Blue quotes below all refer to the symbol of Kira’s Cloth / Thomas’s Carving. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Houghton Mifflin edition of Gathering Blue published in 2012.
Chapter 4 Quotes

Now, secret in her hand, the cloth seemed to speak a silent, pulsing message to Kira. It told her there was danger still. But it told her also that she was to be saved.

Related Characters: Kira
Related Symbols: Kira’s Cloth / Thomas’s Carving
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Kira clutches one of her prized possessions--a tiny piece of cloth. When Kira is feeling anxious or uncertain, she touches her cloth, and usually feels better. In this situation, Kira is preparing to listen to the Guardians' verdict about whether or not she'll be allowed to remain in the community.

Kira's cloth is an important symbol of the way her mind works. Unlike most of the people in the community, Kira is thoughtful and has an "inner life"--she has ambitions, sympathies, anxieties, etc. (It's hard to imagine Vandara, for example, thinking deep thoughts.) Kira's thoughtfulness and introspection seem closely tied to her talents as an artist. Many artists say that they have an "intuition" for creation--without knowing why, they're able to make artistic choices that lead them to create beautiful music, art, literature, etc. Kira's cloth, then, makes the artistic process something more literal and even fantastical. Kira doesn't know why her cloth is right, but she trusts it--in other words, Kira's cloth works in the same way as her creative intuition.

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Chapter 9 Quotes

"It's a lovely thing," he said, seeing the small cloth. Kira stroked it before she closed the lid.
"It speaks to me somehow," she told him. "It seems almost to have life." She smiled, embarrassed, because she knew it was an odd thing and that he would not understand and could perhaps find her foolish.
But Thomas nodded. "Yes," he said to her surprise. "I have a piece of wood that does the same. One I carved long ago, when I was just a tyke.
"And sometimes I feel it in my fingers still, the knowledge that I had then.” He turned to leave.
That you had then? No more? The knowledge doesn't stay? Kira was dismayed at the thought but she said nothing to her friend.

Related Characters: Kira (speaker), Thomas the Carver (speaker)
Related Symbols: Kira’s Cloth / Thomas’s Carving
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, Kira and Thomas compare their prized possessions--Kira has a cloth; Thomas has a piece of wood. Both possessions seem to serve (or have served) a similar purpose: they inspire the owner's creativity, in a way that's impossible to put into words. Thomas and Kira know that their possessions help them think creatively and intuitively, yet they could never teach their creative process to someone else--it's a mystery even to them.

It's important to notice that Thomas is speaking about his piece of wood in the past tense: he once had a strong creative streak, but his time working for the Guardians has restricted this creativity. The passage foreshadows Kira's realization that the Guardians control artists by limiting their creativity: if Kira spends enough time with Guardians, then her cloth will stop speaking to her, too. The passage also suggests that young people in particular have a natural creative tendency, which often vanishes when they get older (although there are many exceptions, of course).

Chapter 11 Quotes

The fabric gave a kind of answer but it was no more than a flutter, like a breeze across her that she would not remember when she woke at dawn. The scrap told her something of her father — something important, something that mattered — but the knowledge entered her sleep, trembling through like a dream, and in the morning she did not know that it was there at all.

Related Characters: Kira, Christopher
Related Symbols: Kira’s Cloth / Thomas’s Carving
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point in the novel, Kira's creativity and intuition fail her. She's been told that the "beasts" that supposedly surround her village are just myths, and she's beginning to distrust Jamison and the other Guardians who rule her village. And yet Kira isn't sure what the future holds. Basically, she's beginning to doubt the reality of her community, but she doesn't know what to put in its place.

Because Kira's cloth is a symbol of artistic creativity and intuition, the quotation suggests that Kira, in spite of her obvious talent, isn't a full artist yet. Previously, Kira's creative instinct has helped her decide how to interact with the Guardians; now, however, she's clueless. By the time the novel is over, Kira will have discovered a way to use art to tell the truth, exposing the Guardians' lies to the villagers. For the time being, though, she'll have to wait for artistic inspiration to hit her.

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Kira’s Cloth / Thomas’s Carving Symbol Timeline in Gathering Blue

The timeline below shows where the symbol Kira’s Cloth / Thomas’s Carving appears in Gathering Blue. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...signs of strength as a baby. In her pocket, she feels a small square of cloth she wove long ago, and how she came to be a great weaver without any... (full context)
Chapter 4
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
...that exceptions can be made. As he does so, Kira feels the small piece of cloth in her pocket, and thinks about weaving. Katrina taught her how to dye threads; in... (full context)
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
...change in the guardians’ behavior, in her favor. Vandara notices it, too. Kira clutches the cloth in her pocket, which suddenly feels warm to her. She wove the cloth when her... (full context)
Chapter 6
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
...The rock feels small and cold, and doesn’t bring her any comfort. She touches her cloth, which she’s placed under her pillow. The cloth feels warm and comforting. Kira falls asleep.... (full context)
Chapter 9
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
...large place at the top of the ruin staff where Thomas will add his own carvings. He also gives Kira a gift: a small box, carved to resemble the plants Kira... (full context)
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
...that she’s doing a good job. Her hands are tired, but when she takes her cloth out of the box Thomas gave her, she feels calm. When Kira goes to visit... (full context)
Chapter 10
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
Later that night, Kira tries to explain how her cloth warned her about Matt, but finds it difficult to explain. Thomas suggests that the cloth... (full context)
Chapter 11
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
...what could have happened to her father. As she falls asleep, she thinks about her cloth—the cloth tells her something important about her father, but when she wakes up she finds... (full context)
Chapter 13
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
...Kira that she’s doing an excellent job with the robe, and leaves. Kira touches her cloth, but it brings her no comfort. She thinks she can hear a child crying. (full context)
Chapter 15
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...the future. She points out that she and Thomas have similar forms of “knowledge”: Kira’s cloth seems to speak to her, and Thomas’s carving speaks to him. Perhaps this is a... (full context)
Chapter 16
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
...wait until night falls. Without knowing exactly why, Kira tells Thomas to bring his wood carving with him when they go to find Jo. Kira takes her cloth. To muffle their... (full context)
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
Thomas and Kira quietly walk to the Jo’s room on the lower floor. Kira’s cloth tells her that they’re not in danger. Thomas uses his key to open the door,... (full context)
Chapter 18
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
...quest to find blue, even though he’s been gone for many days. Kira touches her cloth, hoping for consolation, but she feels none. Sometimes, she hears Jo chanting repetitively downstairs. Occasionally,... (full context)