I’m happy to report that the online workshop venture is a success, so I’ll definitely be exploring this more next year. Hopefully it will be a really positive way to keen sane and connected during the dark winter months ahead.
The workshop advertised on this blog was with The Virtual Thread – a seriously good natter and stitch where we put the world to rights!
The second, I ran today as part of the School of Art Research Week at the University of Brighton, which is an internal event where we staff staff share our research with other staff and students. Over 40 people signed up (my biggest turn out yet!) We explored some guided creative research techniques, contemplating the duster as a cloth that acts as a catalyst for the expression of our unique domestic experiences.
It was so lovely to meet new people and catch up with some familiar faces too, in each of these events. Thank you to everyone as always for your generous sharing and stitching.
Are you fed up with housework and the never-ending list of domestic tasks that somehow seem to land in your lap? Would you like to take part in a craftivist-inspired workshop that lets you have your say, using stitch to change the world (or just your home)? Then join me, Vanessa, for a fun evening of domestic ranting, celebration and stitchery, hosted by the wonderful Virtual Thread.
You will need a yellow duster (or closest equivalent if you’re not UK based), embroidery thread (ideally red), needle and scissors. A soft pencil or erasable fabric pen is also useful. (I recommend Sainsbury’s dusters – not their value range).
The embroidered duster you complete (or start) in this workshop can be treasured and displayed in your own home, or sent to me to join the touring exhibition collection. I’d also love to share all contributions on the Instagram page @domesticdusters
I was excited to be invited by Betsey Greer (whom I think I must cite in almost every paper I write, I’m a bit of a fan!) to contribute to her new project, which invites letters to textiles and their meaning in our lives. Naturally I wrote to my duster! She’s looking for contributors so do check out her site: http://www.deartextiles.com
Wow, this is an exciting month! Today I’m excited to be the featured artist on the popular textileartist.org site, which you can read here. I’m so pleased with this interview, which reflects my work and ethos so well, a huge thank you to their editors for making it happen.
Duster submissions are always ongoing so if you’d like to take part in the project please get involved and also visit our instagram site @domesticdusters to view some of the lockdown focused contributions. You can also find me on instagram.
Doll from a collection of seven, made from dusters, featuring archetypal female fairy tale characters and my own poetry.
During lockdown I was honoured to be part of a photoshoot about making and motherhood, with the organisation Mothers Who Make, which is run by the inspiring Lizzy Humber. My children are all in their teens and twenties, so it was interesting to reconnect with mums whose children are still quite small and to be reminded of the all consuming nature of mothering that age group. When they’re older it can be less intense but their need for you doesn’t go away.
During lockdown, two of my elder daughters returned home and as I took the opportunity to use my ‘spare’ time, which was usually spent commuting, to make and create, so did they. A reshuffle of bedrooms and spaces to make room for four home-workers and two extra bodies moved the sewing machine to the kitchen table, which sits in the adjoining conservatory. This space quickly became a hive of creative activity (read mess!) with the youngest dressmaking and up-cycling her clothes, another making cushions for her new flat and the other painting her leather jacket. I of course continued my obsession with dusters. I intended the shoot to be a reflection of this family-making-mayhem but a FaceTime conversation with the wonderful photographer Viola beforehand inspired me to take it a step further.
I’d been reading about domestic installation artists like Cathy Wilkes for my PhD and so, inspired by the cardboard dream sequences in Michel Gondry’s film The Science of Sleep, I created a duster world in my kitchen. Usefully I’d already had it painted duster yellow. On the morning of the shoot I was busy sewing dusters together into huge quilt-like sheets to pin around the kitchen island, having spent the night before covering an old iron in dusters. My elder children chose not to take part but my youngest rose to the challenge and baked a huge cake, iced in bright duster-yellow for the purpose. We used heaps of dusters from the collection as props, which we piled over the ironing board and out of the (now clean) food mixer.
I was so nervous before the shoot as I actually hate my photo taken, but Viola really put me at ease. Because of the Covid restrictions she couldn’t visit our house so we linked up over FaceTime on my husband’s phone. Through this app she was able to press the shutter whilst my husband clambered onto chairs and tables to hold his phone at the right angle for the best shot! Viola was on speaker so we all shouted suggestions as the ideas flowed.
I’m so proud of the result, which was so much fun, and I can’t wait to work with Viola again. Thank you Mothers Who Make for a wonderful opportunity!
The final six:
Some amazing portraits, which were such a laugh to make:
And a couple more shots from overhead. Yum, duster muffins!
It’s been an exciting couple of weeks and its been good to get to know so many new people, especially through the new Instagram site @domesticdusters
Here are a few of the amazing new submissions that are starting to come in in response to the new call, which is all about domestic experiences during lockdown, several of which are very relevant to the main project too.
This morning I was sent an interesting article in the Guardian, which I can certainly relate to. It presents and debates recent statistics that state just how many extra hours we women spend supporting home schooling and completing domestic chores whilst under lockdown, in comparison to male partners, whose jobs tend to be deemed more important.
How do we balance the desire/pressure to support our children, live in a clean home and still be productive professionally? Should we even have to balance this, surely it should be shared!?
Please stitch your domestic lockdown experiences upon a duster.
In response to the current situation, which sees all of us spending more time than ever in our domestic spaces, I’m renewing the call for embroidered dusters to express your domestic experiences and perspectives during lockdown, whatever they may be. For some it will be pleasure, others pain. For most of us it’s a challenge, at least some of the time! Statements, images, poems, celebrations, complaints and calls for moral support – all are welcome. Each submission will be treated with respect for women the world over, please just ensure your statements do the same.
The focus is your domestic experience during this time of Covid-19 crisis and lockdown,
The method is hand embroidery and the duster is your canvas.
(Ideally using red thread on the traditional yellow duster found in most supermarkets in the UK, but I appreciate these may not be available everywhere, so other cleaning cloths and colours apply. You are also welcome to include applique with paper or other cloths/fabrics.)
Skill is not important, your voice is what matters!
Once this is all over I’ll make address details available if you’d like your work included in a physical exhibition (I’m currently on the hunt for a venue – suggestions welcome) but in the meantime this exhibition will be online via Instagram. Please direct message the newly created Instagram site @domestic dusters with your completed artwork. I will then upload it with full credit for your work. Please use #domesticdusters and do upload to your own sites too. There are also examples of dusters from the main project on Vanessa’s Instagram.
I’m rather excited to have had a piece of my artwork, stitched onto a duster, featured on Greyson Perry’s new lockdown Art Club show on Channel 4 last night! (27th April, 2020)
I sent in a self-portrait that I’d drawn, then embroidered onto a duster, to represent the different aspects of my character and the different roles I currently perform in my domestic environment – artist, mother, academic etc. Like many others, the lockdown situation brings my different roles together under one roof, which can be both a challenge and a pleasure. The drawings are continuous line, a technique I love because it frees me from the pressure to get it perfect.
I’m really honoured to be selected for my 3 seconds of fame and, if it is even possible, am now an even bigger fan of Greyson Perry!