Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Stitching and thinking: Mending at the Museum

This exhibition, incorporating the work of seven artists at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, is a response to the collection of darning samplers held in the Museum and is shown alongside some of these historical textiles. I found Janet Haigh’s vintage handkerchiefs with beautifully embroidered images and mottoes interesting, particularly as I include text in my some of my own work in a similar way (see a detail of ‘Patch grief with proverbs’, above). Making social comments using household linen, sewing techniques and wryly amusing text can be a powerful combination. I particularly like the way she includes a hand, needle and thread in each image emphasising both the handmade nature of the work and the artifice of the technique.

I also found the series of children’s aprons by Jilly Morris very effective (Mending takes time) particularly her contrast between labour intensive darning and the quick fix of a sticking plaster. Dawn Mason’s hangings in ‘Face to face’ explored the spaces formed between darned stitches in a sculptural way that linked to an essay in the catalogue discussing idea of thinking through making and how making allows thinking to develop in the ephemeral spaces that making opens up. In other work, Dail Behennah used wire to form ‘darned’ patches in ‘Holding it together’, while Jessica Turrell used bandages to repair and hold together the pieces of broken domestic ceramic objects. Basil Kardasis produced a protective cloak for his son from treasured ‘materials’ given to him by friends and relatives and Stephanie Wooster also used a mixture of knitted fabrics to form a composite base for embroidered text.

The Stitch and Think group was launched at a workshop in 2009, which explored the many uses of stitch as a visual language, and showed that for most participants stitching was ‘a meditative or reflective process that moved beyond the action of stitching itself’. Darning and mending were key themes for many participants, so a visit to the collection at Bristol Museum was organised, which inspired the work in the exhibition.

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