Fragments from re-potting; re-purposing crockery: only the best, 2018.
Reflecting more objectively on the first contextual questions around my practice, attention was drawn to the choices I make around the objects and materials I respond to and chose to work with. I am drawn to objects that hold some meaning or narrative, often related to an event or transition, or person of significance in my life. Specific objects include the carefully mended hanky I found in my nana’s drawer, my dad’s old business shirt, or a notebook of my nana’s she used well before I was born.
One of Nana Shirley’s water colours.
It is these evocative objects and materials that reveal traces of human interaction and connection, these are the things I think with (Turkle, 2007). I can discover or construct stories associated with them, as starting points for making. Choosing what to emphasise and what remains concealed, I may add further layers of meaning through re-contextualising these objects. I may manipulate them, disrupting the familiar associations, or I may reproduce and repeat.
Opening in Hospital Gown, study for There may be some repetition, 2017.
I feel as though my practice is sometimes an archeological process. Unearthing, bringing images and feelings to light, and assembling a history for these objects. This is an inquisitive and intuitive process, with the intention to honour the objects, and the person whose hands and heart previously knew or valued them. I search for details, as a ‘way in’ to better understand how an object came to be in front of me. These are cultural and social objects, and for me, hold meaning worth understanding, and maybe, sharing.
Pattern layout for There may be some repetition, 2017
It is possible to assemble a ‘self’ through objects; what a person choses to keep, and what is discarded speaks to values, needs and identity. Some of which change with time, others are more universal, such a the need for clothing or employment.
My current project, Exercise 45, is one example of how this may play out; I found one of my nana Joy’s shorthand notebooks from night classes she took as a fifteen year old in 1943. I was taken by her beautifully formed script, and the marks of shorthand that she was learning.
I have been studying signature quilts and teacloths, as social and historical objects, and handwriting as a means to convey personality, something of the ‘self’ in the mark making. Reconstructing pages from the shorthand notebook seemed a logical step.
Exercise 45, corrections, 2018, detail.
Deciding to embroider sections of her notebook in a format similar to the actual notebook pages or more traditional embroidery samplers has sparked questions for me. At the beginning of this process, I had wondered about this possibly ‘lost’ means of note taking, as well as my nana’s pressing need to find work to support herself and her mother as a teenager. Studying her writing closely is a means to become intimate with her at this time, and as handwriting becomes less and less a part of modern Western life, this object takes on even more meaning to me. As my nana passed away in 2107, it is a tool for imaging her life, I can no longer ask her specially, but ask other family members to speculate on this object and what nana’s life was like time it was made.
With a project like this, I find myself working closely with the details and materials, and becoming more intimate with objects that have an evocative history of their own.
Perhaps my work; in this case, the shorthand sampler, is a conduit between my nana Joy as a teen in 1943, and the viewer of my stitch work here in 2018?
A potential and ongoing challenge is maintaining some distance from my work, delving into deeply personal experiences and stories can be alienating for the viewer, and also feels risky; Is this too much information to share with a stranger?
Turkle, Sherry. Evocative Objects: Things We Think with. Cambridge, MA.: MIT, 2007.
Trinkwon, Mary Lou. When This is You See Remember Me: Sampler Making as a Material Practice of Identity and Selfhood. Paper presented at Textile Narratives and Conversations Symposium, Toronto, Ontario, October, 2006.
Wadman, Ashleigh. “Stitches and Signatures.” The Australian War Memorial, 23 January 2015. Accessed March 25, 2018. https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/blog/stitches-and-signatures