Button Box at Festival of Quilts

It’s been quite a while since my last blog post as much of my effort has been focused on my Women & Domesticity – What’s your Perspective? duster project and blog during this past year. However I have also been working on an exciting project with ladies from the Unfold textile-art group that I belong to. We have collectively responded to the book The Button Box by Lynn Knight, which charts the history and stories of women’s lives through the investigation of her Grandmother button box.

I chose to explore advertising aimed at women, as this is something that is repeatedly referred to throughout the book and it links well with my other research interests. Within my duster project I’ve been exploring collage using domestic advertisements from the 1950’s, so for The Button Box I extended this to beauty advertising. It struck me that this media positions a woman as a figure who should apparently always be striving for physical perfection, whilst seeking to get and then keep her man. Just as the choice of button displays and presents a variety of visual messages depending on its size, colour and style, so it seems does a woman.

The text included in all of my work has been lifted directly from real advertisements, mostly from the 1950’s post-war period. I’m interested in this period because it was a point in time when women were being put ‘back in their place’ after experiencing a comparative level of freedom during the Second World War. I had anticipated the need to subvert or change the text in some way in order to make my point, however the text is so ridiculous it was enough to simply apply it. It seems that we have been fighting these expectations ever since and I perceive that sadly little has changed from the adverts then to those we see today.

Text and images have been hand-embroidered onto vintage dressing table cloths and garments as a means of connecting the feminine art of embroidery with the declarations of female perfection presented in the media. The objects selected, the process of hand stitching them and the embroidered outcomes are each intended to reflect both the powerlessness and the pleasure of being a woman whist challenging patriarchal perspectives on a woman’s body.

I’ve loosely divided my response up onto four areas, which all relate to the expectation of enduring beauty.

As long as you’re beautiful!

IMG_2649IMG_2650IMG_2682

(Dressing table cloth ‘quilt’. Assorted cloths and messages presented at a dressing table – cloth with assorted trinkets, mirror etc)

This collection of hand-embroidered vintage dressing table cloths explores the idea that a quilt in its most basic form is a collection different pieces of fabric that are pieced together to form a whole. By isolating individual words and phrases, taken directly from make-up advertisements from the 1950’s, the messages are ‘quilted’ together and the absurdity of the language is highlighted. I’ve also snuck in a few messages of my own, such as ‘rebel often!’ The dressing table pulls all of these different aspects together into a female space that has perhaps become lost in modern living.

Inspiring quotes:

What price beauty?’ Page 111

 ‘When you’re really going to town your makeup must be Max-Factor Pan-Cake’ page 183

‘In 1958, Elizabeth Arden promoted a new foundation, ‘Veiled Radiance’. Page 238

 ‘Read fashion magazines and study advertisements’ page 87

‘Who sits at a dressing table now?’ page 240

 

Ways to get your man…

IMG_2654(Adverts on dressing table cloths)

These are exact copies of real adverts. I discovered several more with a similar theme. In each narrative the girl is offered a magic potion of sorts that will ensure her success in ‘getting her man’. Lipstick or soap solve the problem in these examples but it’s a small step to a magical elixir directly from a fairy tale. These narratives set the tone for expected behaviour as well as appearance.

Inspiring quotes:

‘Men ask, is she pretty? Not, is she clever?’ Page 110 

 ‘A good figure, large eyes, well-shaped nails, slender, to say nothing of a good figure – all those things add up to … one’s potential in the marriage market’ page 110 

 Tangee lipstick’ page 152

 

Feminine Niceties 

IMG_2680

Women are expected to do things to their bodies for the sake of appearing feminine and nice that are actually contrary to the natural state of things. Advertising has made this so normal that we often don’t question it further.

Vintage nighties or slips were selected because this is an item of clothing that is not actually necessary yet performs the purpose of perceivably making the woman become more visually appealing. I selected ‘normal’ changes that we make to our bodies: the removal of body hair; wearing underwear that impacts our shape (even the modern bra still does this); and dieting.

It was particularly interesting to see that weight is a fashionable consideration (rather than to do with health). Skinny is positioned as undesirable back in the 50’s, the exact opposite of now, with solutions and diets to put weight on rather than off.

Inspiring quotes:

‘The modern figure… must be corseted to be svelte. Be thankful that firmly woven elastic takes the place of whalebone’. Page 214

 ‘[In the 60’s] everything was being debated… you didn’t [even] have to shave your armpits!’ Page 255

The messages and expectations presented here persist. The Button Box offers an opportunity for women to question them and to present themselves with a button of their own choosing.

The response at the festival was overwhelming and positive. We hope to exhibit it again soon and I for one already have more ideas for embroidering onto dressing table cloths.

 

 

Advertisements

Embroidering postcard memories – inspired by Roy Voss at the De La Warr Pavilion

It’s been awhile since my last post, although this is more from being extremely busy rather than having nothing to blog about! Anyway, here is a little something I’ve been working on.

I visited the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill recently, which lucky for me is just down the road, and was intrigued by their current exhibition of postcards by Roy Voss, which presents a series of postcards as a sequence. He selects one word from the back of the card and turns it around to fit it into the picture on the front. The result is a series of narratives, built through sequence and juxtaposition, that relate both to the context of the individual card and to it’s neighbours.

This got me thinking as I’m always interested in new narrative contexts and like many artists I’m an enthusiastic collector of ‘stuff’, which includes old postcards. I have a small collection that includes notes on the back from the 1940’s, 50’s and into the early 60’s, recording visits made by an unknown person and their family to a variety of British locations. They simply say: ‘I visited, 13/8/58’ or ‘All 3 of us visited here 9/8/67’, in the same cursive pencil handwriting.

My response, inspired by Voss, was to turn these postcards inside out and to bring the records to the front by tracing the text and embroidering into onto the front of the card. I’ve selected embroidery because it is favoured method of mine that enables me to explore the material and it’s context in a physical way. After embroidering a few of these cards the hand writing has become familiar to me and although the author remains a stranger whom I could not hope to trace, I hope in some small way to have brought these memories back to life.

Here are a few postcards and work in progress: IMG_9397IMG_9398IMG_9399IMG_9395

Dusters on display at University of Brighton’s Grand Parade site and the ‘Storying the Self’ Symposium

The past few weeks have seen the growing collection of dusters from my Women & Domesticity project exhibited at the University of Brighton’s Grand Parade site. They are strung across the foyer outside the cafe and enjoy the perfect position for passing people traffic. It’s been so exciting to over hear conversations about them on days when I’m teaching at the same site, I’ve also received some fantastic feedback in person and via the blog.

I was also delighted to be invited to speak at the University about this project during the Storying the Self Symposium organised by C21 Writings, which was held on the 29th March and happily coincided with the duster exhibition. I shared a panel exploring materiality with two other fantastic speakers, Jenni Cresswell and Lyn Thomas, which lead to some really interesting discussions about the language of cloth and washing line!

I take the display down tomorrow to make way for a new exhibition, but here are a few highlights.

IMG_0519

I ran a workshop on International Women’s day (8th March) inviting staff and students to create their own dusters to contribute to the exhibition.

IMG_8542

Hanging the dusters with help from Martha, Freya and Nadia.

IMG_8544

New work (above) inspired by the workshop. I’m really enjoying the collage direction this is taking.

IMG_8545

View from the mezzanine level above

IMG_8547

A few of the dusters on display

DSCN0836

Tea and cake opening event – complete with a very yellow cake – iced like a duster!

P.O.V – Point of View Exhibition

I’m very excited to have a selection of new dusters from my Women & Domesticity – What’s your Perspective? project included in this exhibition.

P.O.V will show from 25th March to 15th April 2017 at Project 78 Gallery, 78 Norman Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, TN38 0EJ

It will include works by Lucy Ayliffe, Sophie Bates, Natasha Caruana, Paola Ciarska, Kate Davis,  Evie Hatch, Vanessa Marr, Phoebe McElhatton and Kari Robertson.

POV_poster_A3_A4

PRESS RELEASE:

P.O.V- the man receiving sexual gratification holds the camera herself.

P.O.V (Point Of View) describes a genre of pornography in which sexual acts are filmed from the male’s point of view on a handheld device. Project 78 Gallery showcases nine contemporary artists from different stages of their careers whose works interrogate the current state of sexual politics from an alternative point of view.

Phoebe McElhatton and Kate Davis have worked in collaboration to produce a video piece that pokes fun at mainstream heterosexual pornography and perfected artificial romance that is a product of capitalist consumer culture.

Artist researcher Lucy Ayliffe investigates how explicit online pornography has shaped attitudes towards women and modern day perceptions of female beauty. ToyBoy, 2016 confronts the viewer with SuitSupply’s spring/ summer advert campaign and is overlaid with an unnerving audio comprised of Lucy’s research archive and her interviews with focus groups asking about their pubic hair removal regimes.

Natasha Caruana’s photographic series Married Man documents her 80 encounters with married men, which she organised through online dating apps specifically designed for marital affairs. Natasha’s motivation was to ‘explore the narrative of what infidelity looked like today’.

Evie Hatch’s Wish You Were Here, a series of automatic orgasm drawings on postcards, uses drawing as a performative way of articulating female pleasure. The work’s title sarcastically subverts the expectation that an orgasm is ‘done’ to a woman, a notion that denies her an active role in sexual intimacy.

Kate Davis her print series Logging on to Love is an exploration into the development of sex robots and cybersex. This body of work encourages the viewer to question how technology impacts human interaction, intimacy and relationships.

Sophie Bates’s video Gushing and Gardening, 2015 presents research on female ejaculation and draws attention to the lack of knowledge and myths that still surround female sexuality and pleasure.

Paola Ciarska’s small-scale detailed paintings explore what it is to be a 21st century woman. The paintings depict private habitats and the acts that go on within them. Paola comments on her paintings ‘I wanted to create a self-portrait that would also function as a mirror to whoever laid eyes on it.’

Vanessa Marr’s work Women and Domesticity showcases an ongoing project in which she invites women to stitch their relationship with domesticity onto dusters. This exhibition will feature embroidered dusters created by Vanessa and a selection of other artists who have contributed to the collection. The project questions whether the expectations of women within the domestic sphere have really changed or progressed

Kari Robertson’s TOTAL CONTROL/FLATLAND/FLATPACK explores mediated forms of subject- and object-ivity through a meditation on 2d ‘flatness’, the digital and the embodied. The work is absent of any actual bodies but is a interplay between a number of agents; a torchlight, acousmetric voices, an animated mouth performing phonetics diagrams and a selection of mass-produced personal objects that spin, or dance, autonomously.

P.O.V invites the viewer to reconsider the endemically sexist and objectifying culture in which we live but have become inured to. In popular culture women are often presented as highly sexualised decorative objects that are invariably pouting or smiling, and almost always docile, submissive and unthreatening. P.O.V challenges this degrading representation of women offering a different perspective through an alternative critical lens.

P.O.V will show from 25th March to 15th April 2017 at Project 78 Gallery, 78 Norman Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, TN38 0EJ

Gallery Opening hours Wednesday- Saturday, 10am-5pm 

www.project78gallery.com

P.O.V will include works by:

Lucy Ayliffe

http://www.lucyayliffe.com/

Sophie Bates

http://sophiebates93.wixsite.com/sebates

Natasha Caruana

http://natashacaruana.com/

Paola Ciarska

http://www.paolaciarska.com/painting.html

Kate Davis

https://www.instagram.com/kaydikatx/?hl=en

Evie Hatch

http://www.eviehatch.co.uk/

Vanessa Marr

https://domesticdusters.wordpress.com/

Phoebe McElhatton

http://www.phoebemcelhatton.com/

Kari Robertson.

https://vimeo.com/user7339246

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exhibition hanging with Unfold 

A busy day was had yesterday with the textiles collective Unfold, of which I am a member. The exhibition ‘Curious as an Object’ opens this weekend with the Private View this Friday.

Below are a few examples of my work responding to the theme of the beach, which the group have been exploring for the past couple of years. As a relatively new member my contribution is quite small but I’m looking forward to exploring the new theme with them over the coming months. 

My embroidered discarded pennant flags stitch new narratives onto items that have a connection with the sea. The holes worn into them by wind and weather have stories of their own; I have carefully darned these to hold the piece together whilst leaving them visible to respect these marks of age and time.

My embroidered photographs mimic the shapes and patterns viewed close up through the lens of my camera. I used the macro option with my fisheye lens to create a sense of perspective. The blurred radius on some of the images was a happy accident. 

Letterpress Fun with Make Ready Studios!

A wonderful day was had earlier this month at Make Ready Studios in Hastings, which is run by designer and letterpress expert Andrew Scrase. It was wonderful to touch the type and to get hands on and inky with it for a change. He has a great selection of wooden type too, which made progress reasonably steady and certainly produced some satisfying results. Pictures of prints to follow once they are dry…

Thank you to Kateland Clarke for taking the photos.