• The Disruptive Designer

Woven In Kirkless - Threads of Life 08/06/2019

Clare Hunter in Conversation with Dr Claire Barker - University of Huddersfield.

Clare's presentation was part of the week long Woven in Kirkless festival. The topic of the presentation gave an insight into her new published book "Threads of Life" - A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle".

The book tells the emotional journey in Clare's life through needlework, giving the reader an insight into her extensive research and passion about the history of needlework and its importance in the world as a form of story telling, activism, political statement, personalisation and more..

Clare's work is mainly community focused, working on large projects collaborating with various types of people in differing contexts.. banners were mentioned a lot as commission outcomes, mainly for protests purposes. Clare believes embroidery is a voice, a voice that does not need words, and therefore transcends all language barriers. It shapes experience and is personal to the artist, creating a dialogue between creator and audience.Historically embroidery can be associate with luxury and upper classes, due to the time consuming craft and its exclusivity. The craft was carried out by mainly women, nuns and required extensive time in practice to achieve the highest quality.

Hand embroidery needs practice and time in order to achieve the highest of standards and detail. Embroidery samples created by prisoners, nuns and those committed in asylums or detention centres have shown a high level of skill and interpretations of style raising the importance and value of embroidery in narrative telling and communication. Symbolism, hidden messages, mapping, suggest embroidery could be used as a covert form of communication between parties.

Embroidery has been used in many forms to create an emotional reaction/response. Tailors Quilting, bayeaux tapsetry, comfort quilts, banners, community bonding, foundling hospital....

Transcends time, connects families, generations and is the ultimate in personalisation of craft.

Clare spoke about Agnes Richter a seamstress who was committed to a mental asylum in the late 19th century. When her verbal communication skills deteriorated she took up embroidery to communicate her emotions. The jacket in photo has been studied and analysed over the years as a form of communication.

German seamstress Agnes Richter (1844–1918) was a patient at the Heidelberg Psychiatric Clinic during the 1890s. While held at the asylum she would densely embroider her standard issue straitjacket, stitching the object with words, phrases, and diaristic entries in deutsche schrift, an old German script. The layers of language make it difficult to distinguish a beginning or end to the writing, and only fragmented phrases have been deciphered from the jacket such as “I am not big,” “I wish to read,” and “I plunge headlong into disaster.”

Over a century later, the jacket remains a powerful item, a lasting object that showcases how one woman transformed a sterile and impersonal garment into a rich record of her life’s journey. (via #WOMENSART)

Update: Sources vary as to whether this article of clothing was Richter’s straitjacket, a regular jacket, or part of a non-restrictive institutional uniform.

I spoke to Clare afterwards, in particularly about my MA work and she recommends I look at:

Subversive Stitch:

Tailors Quilts

Contact Chloe Trickett - LCF student doing a masters degree in textiles, focusing on Miltatry embroidery.

Games of Thrones tapestry - image quality of images for recoding purposes - high resolution allows audience to see close up stitch detailing.

This website is a great example on how digital technologies can enhance the story telling and experience in appreciating the craftmanship of embroidery to a wider audience. The interactive elements of the web app allow the view to zoom in to see each stitch close up, while scrolling tells the interpretation of the tv serious. Clicking on icons carefully placed through out the tapestry brings up more text information in relation to the image. Sub categories go behind the seen revealing the construction of the tapestry itself while subdued music plays through out to enhance the whole experience.

The construction of the tapestry is an example of how the relationship between cad and new technologies and hand skills can marry harmoniously.

Listening to Clare's presentation has got me thinking about the narrative of my owl and rat sample. I am in two minds about whether to submit it for the Hand and Lock or start a fresh new sample based on research and my topic of littering. The owl and rat canvas was a trial to attempt to combine multiple techniques in one image, questioning whether they could work together or not on an aesthetic level. The owl evolved with the addition of a rat caught in its claw. The rat was an attempt to balance the colourful and detailed owl with a bedraggled diseased rat.

The issue lies in the lack of narrative, one of the fundamental aspects of the Hand and Lock Competition. Question therefore is: Is it ok to create a narrative to set a context for a artefact after its production or would it be better to leave it up to the viewers interpretation?