Friday, 11 May 2012

Cloth and memory: Choosing the cloth

I’ve been trying to decide what cloth to use for the Cloth and Memory exhibition. The cloth is so important as it carries the narrative and I want something that will be scarred by the pins and needles. It also needs to be semi-transparent, like a net curtain, but strong enough to hold the weight of the pins and needles I’m going to add to it. Another problem is that because it’s a public space I need fabric that is flame retardant. At first I thought this would mean spraying my curtains with flame retardant but I was glad to find a section in the Whaleys catalogue of flame retardant material so I ordered a selection of samples.

Most flame retardant fabrics seem to be designed for theatres so are quite thick and heavy. The only suitable fabric for my purposes was muslin cotton so I ordered 3 metres to see what it felt like and how it draped. I tried it at the windows in my studio and thought it would work well and then tried it in the exhibition space, which confirmed that it would look like a net curtain and would hang well. It is a more solid fabric than I’ve used before and cuts out more light but that is more suitable for the site and certainly gives the feeling of being enclosed in a claustrophobic room. It also focuses the gaze on the curtain and the pins and needles, rather than on the view behind and reinforces the idea of the curtain being a barrier to the outside world. It also looks like a woven cloth that could absorb memories within its fibres rather than a slippery nylon fabric that memories would slide off.

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