Beginning as a quick experiment in 2007 I made a sketch in my artist journal and decided to see if it could work as an embroidered picture. A couple of years after making this sketchy stitching I designed a new project examining the connections between textile art, feminist theory, and sociological and class issues. These aims were explored though extensive research and essays culminating in a body of artwork first shown in a two woman show I curated in 2010. We Are MAADE Women was as small scale exhibition I quickly organised and presented at Norwich University of the Arts. Although it was a little rushed the work received good critical feedback.
When designing this project back in 2009/10 part of my focus was a scrutiny of how craft is usually assigned to women as a means of creative expression. There was a quest to examine who crafting, and the artefacts produced, was really for. Were there issues concerning class and feminism involved? I wanted to push back against the idea that embroidery was a twee pastime with which nice ladies could quietly occupy themselves. As it goes the idea of embroidery has changed significantly in the last seven years. Instagram is awash with “hoop art” depicting all manner of fabulous designs.
Meanwhile my own practice has developed into a long term project, Drear Diary, where the act of stitching is part of my visual dialogue. Since that first embroidery I have generated a strong collection of work and have organised two solo exhibitions. Still preoccupied with gender politics, society and politics in general, the premise of Drear Diary became self reportage and story telling. Looking at human behaviour, how people move and react in day to day situations, confrontations and/or happiness, the pictures in this series are about daily experiences and observations.
Although the work has a grounding in real life events I try to retain an attentiveness to abstraction, ambiguity and concept. I like the potential embroidery can present. How a whisper of stitches can translate a cacophonous meaning. Stitching has provided me with a subtle language like the beauty of a crack in a wall or the imprint of a leaf shadow on a paving stone.
Finding the best way to display the embroideries has been tricky. They are both 2D visual and nice objects to handle. There are aspects to the material that would be lost if they were traditionally framed at the same they are delicate so would not work as a soft furnishing. For the first exhibition We Are MAADE Women, I attached the embroideries directly to the wall with plain dressmaking pins. This worked as a short term solution but it didn’t make them feel like finished pieces. When preparing for Drear Diary and Other Cheery Tales my mother had the idea to attach the embroideries onto unprimed canvasses which worked really nicely. I used another method again for Which Side of the Line?, this time I used Kiko glass frames which give the feel of encapsulation. The moment is held in glass.
Drear Diary continues. I still have scrawls from the last few years that could be made into pictures. Obviously it keeps growing on a daily basis. As of 1st January 2017 I have been making and posting a picture a day from my diary. Some of them are quite slapdash, sometime’s they’re rushed in order to get them done. They’re all true. Not all of them will be become embroideries but I like the idea of making a progressive daily project like this.
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