I was recently contacted by art student Tracey Bainbridge, who is in her second year studying BA Textiles with the Open College of the Arts. She has been inspired by this project to create a duster-themed installation constructed from household dusters and embroidered in crimson, which is in tune with the aesthetic of this project. It includes a sewing basket depicting female gender stereotypes associated with the home and textiles crafts basket, which contains a crocheted granny square to suggest a duster, an embroidery hoop, pin cushion, a homemade mask and yarns. Additional embroidered dusters feature sewing paraphernalia, covering a chair and a 3D stitch mug. This alludes to the idea that chores must be completed to earn a cup of tea, along with the sewing basket that even while sat and supposedly resting the occupant will be knitting crocheting, sewing or mending, continuously working.
It has been so exciting to see the project grow and develop in new ways through the imaginative responses of different artists. I caught up with Tracey to find out some more about her relationship with domesticity as a means of inspiring artistic practice:
What does ‘domestic’ mean to you?
Quite simply being at home. Stereotypes of housekeeping, homemaking; cooking, cleaning and child raising.
Which women have been most influential in your life and/or upon your artwork?
Ultimately my mum, she taught me all my basic textiles skills as I grew up, sewing, knitting, dressmaking. We share our makes regularly exploring and experimenting new craft ideas. Despite her crafts being based in home making, she has always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted, enabling me to develop these traditional skills as I studied art and textiles at college (its not a proper subject apparently)and then much later, currently at university, continuing to do so. My Nan, went into service as a scullery maid having left school at 14. Even in her 90s as we visited her in her care home the 3 of us would crochet together, chatting and reminiscing as we did so.
Artists That have been most influential
Ai wei wei, I was completely overwhelmed by the exhibit at the Royal Academy, Grayson Perry, even more so since the Art Club series and Tracey Emin, especially her carthartic textiles pieces (and the shared name).More textiles based, Micheal Brennand- Wood and Mister Finch (especially as he said I didn’t need a sketchbook when I met him at a book signing at YSP.) However I feel I am more influenced by what I see around me, my environment, and personal experience, objects which evoke memory.
What are the key messages/stories your artwork seeks to portray and what inspires you to tell them?
Art work has often been related to my studies and it is only recently that I realised what it is that I want to show within it. I have a growing passion that my work uses traditional textiles techniques exploring themes that raise awareness of societal injustice, exploring stereotypes, misconceptions about textiles as a craft, its perceived lesser status than the fine arts, and the theme of memory.
Have the Covid-19 lockdowns had any affect your creative process?
At the height of the pandemic, shielding from family and friends I found it hard to focus on my studies. I became much more a stereotypical house wife, baking weekly, cleaning and housework were much more regular. Chores which had previously been shared I now took ownership of, despite working from home. I felt I needed to be practical, making face coverings with ear protectors, and scrubs bags, for a local care home. I’d crocheted for a couple of years, mainly granny square blankets, but taught myself to make 3D crocheted animals for my granddaughter along with summer dresses and a fully refurbished dolls house. At the time my textiles needed a purpose other than that of decoration but I was prolific in my making and doing, just that I could not manifest this in study.
About the work
Written in Dust- a narrative exploring traditional textiles techniques and their associations with female gender stereotypes and the home. Embracing textiles skills taught to me as a child by my mother and grandmother, constructed from household dusters, a recognisable symbol of domesticity and embroidered in crimson.
Written in dust comprises of a sewing basket containing a crocheted granny square to suggest a duster, an embroidery hoop, pin cushion, a homemade mask and duster created yarns. Additional embroidered panels feature sewing paraphernalia, illustrations of mending, these cover a chair. The head rest is protected with EARNED this alludes to the idea that chores must be completed to earn a cup of tea, (also formed from dusters on a stained tablecloth) that even while sat and supposedly resting the occupant will be knitting crocheting, sewing or mending, continously working. The cushion, an object that I associate with first sewing projects, has PREPATELLAR BURSITIS stitched on one side this is the medical term for house maids knee, the other side ELBOW GREASE, again reflecting on the physicality of housework. BUDGET is a purse, I remember Nan hiding hers behind her cushion, Mum having a separate purse for housekeeping. The front panel of the chair emblazoned with DOMESTIC GODDESS, a way of glamourising housework,crossed out and replaced with ENGINEER comments on the need to “man up” (a phrase that I find extremely uncomfortable! )to make certain activities more masculine to make them supposedly more acceptable. Finally the housewife uniform, an apron, the bib depicting an anatomical heart, as the cliche home is where the heart is! The skirt made up of three dusters featuring a peg, dust pan and brush with cleaning supplies, and a stack of saucepans; cook, clean, wash.
The pieces combine as an archive influenced by childhood memories of both my mother and grandmother; Nan ironed everything..even dusters, there was always one in her apron pocket. That and a couple of golden wrapped butterscotch sweets and a tissue. I can’t remember her not wearing an apron. Both my Mum and Nan rarely sat down, there was always another job to be done.
Tracey hopes to continue to develop the theme of domesticity incorporating other traditional textiles techniques onto the dusters as part of her third year studies.