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.
Keep them coming! 🙂
Vanessa Haley, Huddersfield, UK.
Bobby Lloyd. London. UK
Deborah Eddy, Brisbane, Australia
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!?
Opinions on a duster please!
Duster by Ali Trott, mother of two and Production Manager. Stitched in wool rather than embroidery thread for speed. Says it all!
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.
Thank you in advance for your submissions, I can’t wait to see what you have to say!
Vanessa Marr @vanemarr
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!
HOME Part 1: My favourite leather armchair. A place to sit and stitch.
During the current COVID-19 lockdown, we are forced into isolation from the rest of the world, cocooned or trapped, in the home space for 23 hours a day. Some are alone, others with members of their own household. Social media plays a huge part in connecting us during this time, along with the sharing of artwork, which allows us to express our humanity and document our experiences.
The desire to share through stitch is strong and social media has seen a spike in calls for shared artwork. One such call from the Textile Artist.org has collected twelve textile artists together and invited them to take it in turns to set a challenge each week, based on their own style or approach. Stitch is a task that can be completed alone, however it holds a legacy of group stitching as women have joined together to stitch for centuries, sharing the workload, childcare, and companionship. One of these artists is Cas Holmes, who works particularly with fabric collage and hand embroidery to create pieces that resonate with personal memories, narratives and landscapes.
Cas Holmes’ project invited textile collages using only scraps of cloth and paper found around the home. She suggested a neutral calico fabric base, but I selected a duster to provide an immediate domestic context and connection to my own work. The focus of home provided an opportunity to observe and reflect upon my personal home space, putting aside my usual preoccupation with the inequalities of housework and instead focusing in the experience of being within it. The dusters I usually purchase from Sainsbury’s have become scarce for the first time ever during this lockdown, so I’ve changed my typical throwaway approach to using them and cut it in half.
Cas talked about how she uses drawing to inspire her work so I took my sketchbook and began to draw my home. Two of my daughters were cooking in the kitchen so I sketched them in progress but was soon drawn to the quiet of the sitting room and my favourite spot to sit and stitch by the window. The light is good here and, in the evening, I can angle the lamp over my work while the family watch TV. It brings companionship to my stitch without the need to share the process.
I found a piece of brown leather in my scrap drawer, which referenced the tactility of my chair. The cross pattern on the net background suggests the windows behind me and the fabric swatch acknowledges the cushions and throws that we love to use in our sitting room. I had some wool left over from a natural dying workshop so I used that to stitch a cushion. It looks a lot like the cushion that often sits there, made with my youngest daughter at an arm-knitting workshop last winter. I also love to crochet, especially when I’m stressed, so it was important to acknowledge the various stitching processes I undertake in this space. I crochet manically through every 5pm MP broadcast and recently through pain following an operation. The scraps from a wool wrapper and embroidery thread are typical of the litter that piles up beside me as I work. Red thread is particular culprit. I drop around the house and has even been found in the biscuit tin!
I’m considering a series, based on the rooms in my home and the experience of being within them. A self-observation that is enticed and enacted through the collection of fabric and stitch, by the quiet contemplation of being.